"We have made a covenant with death,
and with hell are we at agreement...."*

Also better to serve in Hell
       than die in Heaven....

                                             Icarus fell.
                                       Did you hear her screaming,
                                               half the galaxy away,

Silt grated under our struts,
A wind so strong we swore its taste bled
       through our protective suits
rocked the ship. Icarus stumbled.
We stumbled.
                                 no, I don't remember whom
                                   can't remember
                                                won't remember

on it.

                                                           The Pit.

A fissure, a gash, a rupture cut deep into the crust,
as if some giant's hand wielded a scimitar against the
earth itself.
       An odd concept, don't you think?
       The earth of Z'ha'dum...
       The earth of an alien planet,
       And I held it in a gloved hand, let it crumble
       between my fingers.

                                           Did it scream?
                                         Or was it a silent wound?

A well, gaping into blackness, the depths shielding
secrets, tempting us, tantalizing us...
       We were a scientific mission.
       Seekers. Scientists. Hunters. Searchers. Curious.

                                   Curiosity killed the cat.

Our instruments, silver and black,
       cautious dainty delicate extensors
       long needle-like eyes and fingers
               reached into the chasm.
                                  Silence. A long silence.
                                            A wind drowning all our
                                             insignificant sounds.
                                         An ebony well,
                                 darker than a black star.

And then...
Fire and pain.
Fire and pain and knowledge...

                                   "Hot as hell".
                                   I still laugh at the words.
                                   Hell--a place so frigid
                                   the cold consumes you.
                                   Imagine--can you?--
                                an arctic fire raking your skull open,
                           axes with frozen blades striking
                               rending flesh and bone
                               brain and heart and soul...

They wakened. They rose.
They offered us a choice...
They offered eternity

                   one way or another.

Eternity, power, knowledge,
a universe where we walked beside Them--
The stars paled beside Them
as They rose from their forgotten graves in sheltering dark
turned crimson eyes to the star-littered sky
and offered us--the choice.

                   I heard them dying,
                                   the fools...
                   in the dark, the frigid desert.
                Tell me, hero, would you
               cling to your sentimental
                pride, nobility, ethics...
               the giants rose and stalked you?
               you have condemned your wife
                   to die like that...
           An animal writhing, begging to die...
                                   I heard them.
                                    I heard them.
                           I hear them... still...

First, I served.
Then I learned.
       We learned.
Now my presence increases, my influence
       rises like the smoke from the chasm.
I am Shadow and Substance.
I watch you
       and laugh where you cannot hear.
Your petty schemes,
       your little mongrel alien pet

                        After Anna,
                       what does Delenn offer?

your plans and posturing
drop into the rift, the black hole of failure
once you destroyed a Black Star
       by trickery, tactics of misleading.
The Shadows exist outside time, outside reality...

           Into the dark, the ice-enlaced dark
                           where no song, no light
And you threaten me,
       you death-frightened, light-blinded
shaking your little fists against the Shadows
       climbing the walls with needle feet...
Pathetic infants struggling to light feeble candles.
Eternity dangles beyond your fragile fingers.

                                           Eternity in hell,
                                   eternity in the dark.
And I--
       I reach above you,
       I hold the universe in my hands,
Shadows spill over my fingertips.
I hold the universe in one cupped palm,
       reach down
               and pinch out the little star-flames
as I please.

                                           Dark. So dark.
                                           The light dies,
                                   and there is nothing
                   with which to warm myself...

*Isaiah xxviii. 15.

-- Deborah Laymon

(This first appeared on the Babylon 5 fiction mailing list <b5-creative@lists.best.com>)