He was walking toward the lighthouse along the trail, but the moon was hemorrhaging blood into its silver circle, and he knew that terrible things must have happened to Earth for the moon to be dying, to be about to fall out of the heavens. The oceans were filled with graveyards of trash and every pollutant that had ever been loosed against the natural world. Wars for scant resources had left entire countries nothing but deserts of death and suffering. Disease had spread in its legions and life had begun to mutate into other forms, moaning and mewling in the filthy, burning remnants of once mighty cities, lit by roaring fires that crackled with the smoldering bones of strange, distorted cadavers.
These bodies lay strewn across the grounds approaching the lighthouse. Visceral were their wounds, bright the red of their blood, loud the sound of their moans, as abrupt and useless as the violence they still visited upon one another. But Saul, as he walked among them, had the sense that they existed somewhere else, and it was only some hidden pull, like a celestial riptide, that drew them to manifest in that place, while the darkened tower of the lighthouse rose shrouded in a spiral of shadow and flame.
Out of this landscape Henry rose, too, at the lighthouse door, with a beatific smile on his face that kept growing larger until it curled off the edges of his jaw. Words erupted from him, but not aloud. And God said, Let there be light. God said that, Saul, and He has come from so far away, and His home is gone, but His purpose remains. Would you deny Him His new kingdom? There came with these words such a sense of sadness that Saul recoiled from them, from Henry. They spoke to all that he had put behind him.
Inside the lighthouse, Saul found not stairs leading up but a vast tunneling into the earth—an overwhelming spiral that wound down and down.
At his back, the moon had filled utterly with blood and was plummeting to the Earth, descending in the midst of a flame so hot he could feel it at his back. The dead and the dying had taken up the cry of approaching oblivion.
He slammed the door shut behind him, took that sudden path traveling down, his hand trailing against an ice-cold wall, and saw the steps so very far below him, so that he was either watching himself from a great height or his body had become as tall as the lighthouse, and each footfall occurred stories below him. But Henry remained at his side, unwanted, and the stairs were also filling with water with a great rush and growl of fury, and soon most of him was submerged, Henry’s fine shirt billowing with water, while Saul still walked down, down, until his head was beneath water, taking no breath, teetering, and he opened his eyes to see the fiery green-gold of words on the wall, being wrought before his eyes by an invisible scribe.
Even as he knew the words came from him, had always come from him, and were being emitted soundlessly from his mouth. And that he had been speaking already for a very long time, and that each word had been unraveling his brain a little more, a little more, even as each word also offered relief from the pressure in his skull. While what lay below waited for his mind to peel away entirely. A blinding white light, a plant with leaves that formed a rough circle, a splinter that was not a splinter.
When he woke up, he was sitting in a chair outside the lighthouse, with no idea how he’d gotten there. The words still lived inside of him, a sermon now coming out whether he wanted it to or not. Whether it would destroy him or not.
Where lies the strangling fruit that came from the hand of the sinner I shall bring forth the seeds of the dead to share with the worms