Pedro came to the edge of the tent-flap, peered inside. He almost dropped the 9mm in astonished disbelief, but managed to tighten up. “Fuckme,” he whispered. El Cristo was there, sitting on a folding metal chair. A huge snake coiled all around her. Immanuel’s head was being swallowed by the same serpent Pedro saw in his vision. Pedro’s heart did a pounding flutter-flip. Dizzy now, he blinked at the sight of his Savior being swallowed whole. He came wading in before his rational side talked him out of it. With 9mm raised, he marched swiftly toward the chair. The snake sighted, Pedro squeezed the trigger. He’s gonna blow that motherfucker apart! Michael became visible. He stood there, majestically, between Pedro and the snake. The slug hit the angel, dropped harmlessly to the floor. The shock snapped Pedro back like a stuntman blown through a stage wall. He landed on his ass. Michael came and hovered. Pedro pointed the gun at the celestial being out of instinct. Michael covered the gun with his hand. He gently pushed the weapon lower until it pointed down. “Who the fuck you supposed to be?” Pedro asked the angel. “I am Immanuel’s guardian,” Michael told him. “Then get that snake off her,” Pedro said, made to rise. Michael placed a firm hand, Pedro fell back. “This has been decided,” Michael explained, “long ago.” “Decided?” Pedro asked, incredulous, “There is a snake on her head!” Michael smiled. Pedro tried to rise again. The angel, none too gently this time, knocked Pedro down with the slightest flick of his wrist. “Stay,” Michael ordered. Pedro stayed, the angel stared. “What can I do?” asked Pedro. “Nothing.” “I’m sworn to protect her!” shouted Pedro. Michael shook his head slowly in the negative. “Not on this day,” he told Pedro. Pedro sat and watched, blocked from helping by an archangel, his Lord and Savior being consumed by a giant viper. And there was not a thing he could do about it. The Diabolous stood beside Immanuel on a snowy mountaintop. Together, they gazed into the far distance. The devil showed to her the world and everything in it. “All you see before you,” he stated, gesturing grandly at all the Earth offered. All its extremes, its naughty diversions, “All shall be yours,” he told her, “If you would only fall to your knees and worship me.” “No,” she told him, “I am the Son of God.” “If you are truly of the Father,” dared the devil, “hurl yourself from this mountain. For it is written not one hair on your head shall be harmed.” “I will not test the Father,” she replied. Immanuel turned from the world’s venial and deadly sins, facing him squarely. “You are a petty deity, Satan,” she began, “You were created to worship and serve the Father. It is your ruin not to accept this truth.” The Diabolous stared daggers at her. He shook his clenched fists at the heavens. Enraged he shouted: “Take care your tone, Savior, for I am Lucifer,” he exclaimed, “The most exalted one, loved above all others. I am Morning Star,” the devil insisted, “I am Lucifer!” Immanuel shook her head at the devil’s outburst. “You were,” she agreed, “There was a time when you were cherished by God above all He created,” she told him, “Then you sat upon His throne. You procured His scepter, named yourself Lord.” The devil fumed, but didn’t interrupt. “The only fixation you were warned against and you did it anyway. You were no more able to resist temptation than the humans you despise.” The devil’s face became a mask of purple tension: a violently rattling lid on a boiling pot. “Vanity is your downfall, my brother,” she continued, “Now your beauty destroys mortals with disease. Our Father no longer seeks your council. You have nothing left but the damned.” The Diabolous stared bitter cold at the Christ. His hatred made him puff up, swell. His naked torso cut from granite. Striations of hard muscle came and went; tightened, released. He stamped a foot, a quake erupted. The ground split open. Demonic underworld poured forth as an army. They grouped behind the devil, hissing and fighting. He glanced slightly over his shoulder, they became still. He looked back to the Christ. “I shall crush you, Savior,” he spat. Christ stood her ground, stared down the devil and his army. Nothing could be heard but the ugly thoughts of Satan’s minions. “Not then, not now,” she assured him, “and not ever.” The Christ stepped back, held hands aloft. The Diabolous saw Immanuel grow skyward and stretch beyond mortal boundaries. She looked down upon the master of this earthly plane. “Get ye behind me, Satan,” Immanuel commanded, “and trouble me no more. Know that I am begotten and blessed of the Father. His power and His glory are within me,” she told him. “I shall roar as a Lion over your bleached bones, Fallen One. Know that I am He,” she stated. I knoweth both the time and the place of my reckoning. Ye are powerless to stop me.” The Diabolous threw back his head. The pot lid blew off, he laughed aloud. Lucifer stomped about the Earth, made it tremble. He pointed at pristine valleys, made them burn. His army took wing, flew and dove and swooped all around. His power ballooned frigidly. Needle-sharp slivers of ice fell from the sky. The ice rained upon the land. Cries of the impaled mixed with shrieks of the demonic horde. “We shall see,” he told her. Belches of cold mist expelled from the devil’s mouth. He winked out and was gone. The sky now empty, it was clear and still on the snowy mountaintop. With the devil and his hordes gone, all El Cristo could hear was her own heart pounding away. She sat a boulder and closed her eyes. Angels came to minister unto her. They were surprised to see Immanuel’s hands trembling. Michael appeared, stood beside her. He placed his hand on her shoulder. She reached up, grabbed it. Immanuel, eyes still closed, pressed Michael’s hand to her cheek. “The things I do,” she told him with a sigh, “for my children.”

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