It’s the bass and the drums that’re driving Aristotle forward against the darkness. It’s the beat and the power.
That the fiddle also screams is but a bonus as he contends.
Somewhere in the ruined metropolis still runs the Maccabees Device. The brainchild of Raven John Zakkai, the golden mirrors and pyramids of this device form a harmonic Chanukah convergence—they trap the energy of eight sacred days within the repetition of the names of God.
It has answered the needs of a world crying out for oil; a sevenfold increase in what was, a thousandfold increase in what remained.
It was Kenneth Lay who’d found Aristotle’s skeleton in the desert: the bones of a giant of a man, thirty-eight feet in height, some primal beast from the ancient days.
“It’s only natural,” the talking heads on the news had said.
“If there’s more oil, there’d have to be more fossils, and not just dinosaurs, too.”
Scientists exploring the bottom of the sea had found the ten-mile corpse of Leviathan. Mary Sesvin, at an undisclosed location in the Carpathians, captured at last the scattered insectile remains of Dracula—patriarch to the thousand generations of vampires whose rapid decomposition now proved a viable source of cheap oil for the world. The forests were filled with the horns of unicorns and the teeth of dragons.
And Kenneth Lay had found Aristotle, and, following the sensible management procedures that made Mr. Lay a modern American icon, distributed five pounds of radioactive isotopes amidst the bones to restore Aristotle to a giant radioactive mockery of life.
The darkness is the core of a gathering fog. It has shape: clammy lengths of it, and motion, and things like claws that tear at Aristotle’s flesh. It has perception: there are gleams that could perhaps be eyes or teeth. There is the sense of watching. There is mind.
It has no body. Aristotle’s arms flail and his muscles are taut as the giant strives to force the darkness back. It is to no effect. There is nothing he can touch.
There is only mind.
But he is driven on by the drumming and the bass.
It’s Raven John Zakkai who’s on the drums. Aristotle cannot deny that Raven Zakkai is good.
He is very good.
It is galling to admit that, because Aristotle hates Raven John Zakkai, but he will not let it stop him from moving to the beat.
If I do not let it show, thinks Aristotle, then it is as if the hate does not exist. It will wash out from my heart. I will be clean.
The Maccabees Device is out of tune.
Kenneth Lay had been at fault. The man was arrogant. He’d thought himself better than Raven Zakkai. And so he’d ignored the warnings. He’d stood before the Maccabees Device, with the giant Aristotle holding the crowd at bay, and tried to seize its power for his own.
He’d chanted the sacred names of God.
He’d harmonized with the spirit of Chanukah.
He’d become as one with the miracle of the oil and risen into the sky like a burning god.
Now Kenneth Lay was dead.
I’d loved him, admits Aristotle, quietly. Not for who he was, but for that he dragged me back.
Death had not been kind. It had been a dark and murky cave to the giant, a clouding of the mind and spirit, a dimming of the senses. It was dreary, being dead, until the radiant glow of five pounds of deadly isotopes seared Aristotle’s eyes and showed to him the path to stumble towards the light.
Or was it light?
Kenneth Lay had risen into the sky. And for the the first time Aristotle understood that his benefactor had been wrong.
That the sacred names were out of balance.
That the harmonic convergence was broken.
That the dark side of the Chanukah miracle was leaking through the borders of the world into the Earth.
“There is no stopping it,” Raven Zakkai had said.
And the guilt had eaten at Aristotle like rats eating at an imprisoned man.
“It is not physical. It is not tangible. It is an expression of how we have faltered on our paths. That,” said Zakkai, and he gestured at the cloud of darkness gathering above the Maccabees Device, “is our imperfection; and to hit, or shoot, or nuke our imperfection brings nothing but more sorrow.”
And Aristotle knelt before Raven Zakkai, and he touched his forehead to the ground, and he said, “Please.”
Please. Let me help. Let me answer for the crime that I have done, in service to the man I loved, who’d saved me.
And he hated Zakkai for this humbling and the death of Lay but he kept the flames still in his heart.
And Zakkai had hesitated, and then he said, “You may wrestle the darkness, and my band will play; but it will not save us, unless it is the will of Adonai that we are spared.”
The darkness is leathery and slimy and cutting like sharkskin and Aristotle has lost great swathes of flesh.
His flesh returns to him. It grows anew, driven by the burning power of the radioactive isotopes within him.
He has taken more punishment than any man could take, a dozen times over, even the tall and hardy men of Aristotle’s time; and he’s still strong.
But he is losing.
The darkness tears more from him than he restores, and beneath his flesh the purple-white glow that drives him is leaking out into the dark.
“It’s pointless, you know,” says the fiddler to Zakkai.
And without pausing in the drumming, with sweat covering his forehead and gathering in his beard, Raven says, “The Lord shall make his judgment; but it is good that we contend.”
My heart is foul, Aristotle thinks.
He is being torn apart. It is futile and he is torn apart and only for the drumming and the bass does he remain upright to strive.
I would rather have walked away, he thinks. Left others to deal with this problem I had made. Or given up when Zakkai had said there was no hope.
He gathers great clumps of darkness in his hands and hurls them back.
But no one will ever know how far I fell.
The life of the giant stutters out. His mask of flesh ruptures. Shafts of brilliant purple-white light burst out from his chest, his mouth, his head.
The light grows searing. The radioactive isotopes go critical. There is a flood of power like veins in the darkness: an explosion of tangible force that spins and shuffles and adjusts the mirrors and the golden pyramids of the Maccabees Device.
The purple-white that burned in Aristotle leaks out through the darkness, and carried on the glow there is the endless repetition of the sacred names of God.
Aristotle blends with the bass and the drums and the fiddle and the Book of Maccabees, and there is light.