As is the case when strange places scrape against distant realms, my family was granted voice. My sisters called out in unison, the sting of steel playing small and sharp within their shrill singsong speech. “Oh, my dear brother, might we stay and play here for a while, where the madness is raw and tender? What a feast two small girls with bottomless appetites could have here, among the mad and the undying!” Before I could answer them, the twisting and crooked thing that was Deleriael’s hand attempted to close around my much-restrained body. A foolish move, even for an angel of madness.
In a blur of steel and teeth, my sisters freed me and stabbed themselves into the delicate spaces underneath the angel’s outstretched claws. Deleriael yelped like a gigantic dog struck by a rolled newspaper, recoiling from the pain. My sisters’ voices rose to a screech as they called out to the angel, “Withdraw, you wicked thing! Lest we slide beneath your skin as we once slid beneath our sheets when the monsters of midnight came for us!” Their words were accompanied by a deafening chorus—whether it was laughter or screaming I couldn’t say, but it was glorious. “You stand the same miserable chance as they!”
I rose to my feet upon the stained and shifting mattress, shedding the last vestiges of bondage. The angel reared back, spreading several pairs of strange wings impossibly wide, their tips disappearing into the distance on both sides. The many shackles and irons holding it fast clinked and rattled in protest, making for a rolling dissonance like an army of tormented ghosts tethered by the chains of past sins. “Why you careless little beasts! You’ll get your comeuppance for that! I’ll have you praying for the safety of your beds!”
“Oh please, big brother, let us play with the soft wet toys that lay behind those big funny eyes of his! Please, we’ll make such a beautiful mess! You’ll love us for it, we promise!”
I was never one to refuse my sisters their fun and fancy, so I let them fly where they may. “My sweetest sisters, I could love you no more than absolutely, beautiful mess or no. But please, have your sport with him.” They smiled like serrated blood moons as they plunged into the bulbous eyes of the mad-maker, bursting them like overripe fruits. The angel shrieked as blood poured from it like a draining pig at slaughter.
While my sisters explored the cavities of madness reposed behind the angel’s excavated eyes, I took up my impatient father. “WHAT SISTERS YOU HAVE, WHELP! SEE HOW THEY THRILL IN THE BLOOD AND DEATH? YOU COULD LEARN FROM THEIR WILD ABANDON! ALL YOUR CLEVERNESS IS BUT FOREPLAY AFORE THE AGONY! NOW BOY, FEED ME BLOOD! FEED ME DEATH!”
My father’s unchecked rage became my own, and I bellowed with such fury my throat bled from the strain. I leapt over the stricken, restrained creatures of the endless bed, my father held high like a killing sun, my rage hewn of solid fire.
The insane angel was desperately digging my sisters from the depths of its skull when my father crashed like a thunderclap into its sternum. Our blow landed with such force the creature’s straps and manacles snapped like twine. The momentum sent us flying over the heads of the lesser creatures, my father and I drenched in Deleriael’s blood as the three of us sailed through the air, connected at the spurting chest wound. The angel landed on its back with a crash, despite the mattress. I stood towering over Deleriael, dripping blood and panting with rage.
Suddenly, I understood. As my family and I committed ourselves to the madness of killing, so too did we sever the bonds that imprisoned the angel. A clever creature, indeed.
“You’ll sup no more madness from us, angel!” I yelled.
The creature’s faux caterwauling turned to laughter as it brought its bloody hands away from its ruined eyes. “You can’t blame me for trying, can you, Family Man?” Deleriael lifted its head from the bed, proffering the gory pits my sisters had made of its eyes. I plucked my now frowning siblings from their wet burrows. Crouching down, I placed my father’s pommel on my shoulder and ground my boot into the angel’s midsection. Pushing up and forward, I wrenched my father free of Deleriael’s chest, the creature unperturbed by the sickly sounds of sucking meat and cracking bones. Stepping down from its chest and placing my father upon my back, I waited for the creature to right itself upon the bed.
After settling cross-legged upon the filthy mattress, its legions of lunatics gibbering madly from all directions, the angel chastised me anew. “You continue to make the wrong choices, little artist. You endeavor to fight in a contest you might lose for only the slightest chance at ruining reality. Yet all I ask is that you sever a few straps!
“Think of it, Donald—thoughts would cast chartreuse shadows, gophers could sneeze out the sun, the stars of space would glitter like ice chips from a fish’s scale. I would erase the laws of physics and replace them all with show tunes! Could you imagine her wretched face, that shambling mass of rotting pale pudding who rules this worthless world, when I stroll out from the blackened basement of the universe, spreading madness like the bubonic plague? But you would deny us both that pleasure, and for what? A murder god’s word that—well, he hasn’t even specified what you’d win, has he? But so long as she wishes you to play along, off you go, like some blind idiot dog, tail wagging behind you. So, naturally, I was forced to trick you, as you’d rather be an obedient pup than a proper wolf.”
“WHAT FOOLISHNESS, THESE TRICKS AND GAMES! I WOULD HAVE SEEN YOU FREED, ANGEL, HAD YOU BUT ASKED! WHAT MAYHEM AND DEATH YOU MIGHT HAVE WROUGHT! BUT NOW MAY YOU ROT FOREVER UPON YOUR STINKING MATTRESS!” My father was clearly embarrassed by the creature’s act of being felled by his blow, but we should have known such a being would be resilient to an easy butchering. As for myself, I was somewhat ashamed for having stopped short of freeing Deleriael, but I was now uncertain that insanity was the kin to dreams, as I had once believed.
“I’m sorry you feel that way, great big talking axe, but madness is never a straightforward affair,” Deleriael replied wryly. “It’s certainly farther afield than your no-nonsense approach of destroying everything. But should either of you have a change of heart, all you have to do to find me is lose your mind!” The angel and his endless bed of lunatics laughed mindlessly as they began to fade into twilight’s confusion of light and darkness. Deleriael’s grinning maw was the last to disappear, a Cheshire cat to the very last.
I laid my weeping sisters back to sleep, assuring them as I placed kisses upon their foreheads that they would soon meet Mister Hide, from whom they might elicit a more authentic murder.
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