Rest In Peace

The delivery of a headstone prior to the demise of an intended recipient was an extraordinary circumstance, but then the recipient himself was no ordinary individual.

"What do you think?" asked Claude, unveiling his masterpiece with a flourish. Stephen, Isidore and Bartholomew, all of whom were engaged in the business of building, albeit at a far less grand level, gasped with awe. "Absolutely magnificent," whispered Stephen. "An exceptional piece," muttered Isidore. Bartholomew simply stared.

It certainly was an object worthy of wonder. The delicate meandering veins of tawny gold embedded in the block of highly-polished ebony marble, gleamed with an inner glow. The immaculate amber tracings created an intricate, seemingly aimless, pattern which, upon closer inspection, revealed finely-detailed scenes that captured crucial moments in the lengthy existence of the one who, willingly and joyfully, had now decided to surrender up his soul. A sacrificial suicide in an attempt to atone.

Catherine, a connoisseur in artistic matters, ran a slender forefinger over the arched surface which formed the top of the stone. She nodded with satisfaction and admiration. Not a rough edge or nick or even one tiny flaw marred the brilliant finish. It was smoother to the touch than exquisite Oriental silk. Inclining her head in acknowledgment of a responsibility well executed, she stepped back into the heart of the assembly.

Realizing it was almost time for his assigned duties to be discharged in full, Joseph approached the figure who had chosen to spend his last hours within the casket which would be his eternal place of rest. He glanced for a brief moment at Antony, flushed and soaked with perspiration due to his labors with the heavy spade. The trench was well-nigh bottomless. An unfortunate necessity since they could not risk exhumation of the body. Many would come looking to defile, bound and determined on desecration. Equally as many would gather in despair, hungering for a resurrection, lost and without direction now their Commander had deserted them. Neither event could or would be tolerated.

From the depths of the lacquered, heavy oaken coffin, lined with pale ivory satin, echoed the unmistakable rattle of death. The congregation, as a single entity, moved forward to witness what was for some, a transformation...for others, a restoration...and to all, a metamorphosis.

"Do you think he will?" asked Thomas of nobody in particular. He indicated the engraved inscription, chiseled by Francis with supreme skill and unmatched proficiency upon the black marble tombstone. "Rest In Peace, I mean," he added by way of explanation.

For that judgment call, the multitude turned in unison to the one who had known him best. The one who had been both ally and adversary in his time...the one who had been a beloved friend and detestable foe.

Michael watched as the horns and lank, coarse hair of the corpse were replaced by a nimbus of radiant light. It was good to see the face of his former brother once more serene, free from misery and corruption. Such was the face he had loved. He clasped the still-warm hands, now devoid of wicked claws, into a position of benediction around a small, silver crucifix, gratified that the body no longer squirmed in rebellion at the sacred touch.

He stroked the lustrous flaxen curls and gently closed the fragile lids over eyes which had gradually changed from red, to purple, to indigo and, finally, to the original clarity of their brilliant blue. He sighed and signalled for Gabriel to spread the news...on high, on low and all planes inbetween.

Thomas, ever the doubter, ever the skeptic, posed his question again. With a seraphic smile, Michael presumed it was left to him to provide an answer. He prayed all had been forgiven. He offered a silent plea for mercy in the wake of honest repentance and heart-felt remorse. There, but for the glorious grace of God...

"I do hope so," he murmured. "Good Lord willing, of course, but I do hope so."

Lucifer Morningstar

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