Paradise Lost: A Contemporary Adaptation

Ned Hayes


Book I

lines 1-75

Calling the Angel of Song

Let’s agree to tell the truth, for once, about that first time: the deadly fruit
They ate that night, the lethal lust that spreads still through the universe,
An eternal poison eating like acid through our once-perfect little world.

None of us can get back through Heaven’s door, until that One comes for us:
But only you know this story, only you can tell what happened. Oh creature
Of the stars, I was in love with you once and I’ll still sing any song you choose.

For I long for your music, oh Muse of every angel-dusted poet from here to eternity –
Lover of Moses and Marvell, Byron, Blake, & Burroughs – help me sing something
No one has ever heard before. Come to me, sweet Spirit, take me to a higher plane.

I know you were watching as the quanta winked into time, when the lizards
Crawled out of the slime, you nested infinitely on the Mountain of Dream,
Spreading your wings vast over the deep, until the void gave birth to light.

Now I toss and turn, straining to open my blind eyes, wanting to know God
Trying to understand something I’ve never had the guts to believe before:
I’m begging you, please, bring into my great darkness some kind of holy light!

The Fall of Satan

Where does this story begin? On the skyscrapers of Heaven, or down in the
Hellstorms of the Pit? Tell me one thing: that’s all I want to know: Why?
What caused those two great lovers to throw all our lives away?

Once, I know they had it all, and yet they smoked everything away.
They ruled the world, yet like any dream of a new world, it couldn’t last.
You’ve told me how they could not resist that last taboo – the one restraint.

So they fell with broken wings and empty hopes, betraying all they had.
I swear he was a lying snake from Hell who dealt her that first hit:
That shit was pure envy and revenge, and he lied as he put the needle in.

For he’d seen them living large on the beaches of Eden, a lordly life he’d had
Before he’d made the hostile takeover attempt, and split the infinite Company
Into shareholders and outcast useless rebels, Heaven’s union broken forever.

In his own fantasy, he was still CEO, an Executive staff and an Angelic masseuse
At his beck and call. He didn’t plan on the business ending in gunfire and death.
But he did pull the first weapon, he fired the first shot in God’s own Boardroom.

The conspiracy revealed its plans for takeover during the attempted assassination
Just before his bomb detonated an explosion more powerful than any loaded 747.
Heaven’s immense towers burst into fiery shards and fell. All Hell broke loose.

Yet the battle was in vain: each of the conspirators were launched into dark depths.
In unbreakable chains, they were hurled into orbit towards some hideous prison.
All those who defied the omnipotent law were destined for that eternal smoking pit.

Time twisted and tore on the voyage: pain was all they knew for nine days and nights.
He’d met the worst fate an immortal could imagine: a place of endless anguish.
His friends lay stunned, half-buried in the lava sea, but his agony was interminable.

Rage pulsed through him at the memory of lost happiness and the torment of defeat.
When he opened infrared eyes, a deluge of flames seared away every last hope;
Yet even this scorching vista gave no radiance across the plain, only darkness visible.

Their world had been destroyed by Justice, their lives rendered into a burning prison,
Utterly dark from any sun, it was a sulfurous wasteland in which to blaze and die.
Or, for these immortal rebels, a place to suffer forever and to long for their lost light.


Book II

lines 650-720

At the Gates of Chaos

From light-years across the cosmos, Satan could see guards standing at the Gates:
The first one had tits and a lovely pair of hips, but her legs were gone, only
Rotting snake skin coiled incessantly over the rest of her body, and a stink rose

From the mouths of the hell-hounds that were welded into her reeking thighs.
The dogs howled until the stars quivered at the sound. Then they ripped their way
Back inside her sick cunt, the sound of their howls resounding through her flesh.

You’ve heard the old tales they tell about Hecate, the mother of all witches, who
Hurtles yowling through the night, called down by the blood of murdered babies?
You’ve heard how she dances insanely until the moon drowns in gore? This was worse.

The second guard at the Gate was hardly there at all, but Satan shuddered a moment
At the Absence of it, a shadow emptier than any night, a nothing terrible as Hell.
The thing had no limbs – not even any coiling snakes or clacking spider-claws.

On the head of this black fury a red crown glowed radioactive in the endless gloom.
Satan watched as a hollow hand held out a stinging spear throbbing with dark energy.
Then the shadowy monster walked to him, space itself shaking apart under his stride.

But Satan feared nothing that could be created in the universe except God Himself and
God’s unearthly Son. He sneered at the wraith of doom that stood before him, and spoke:

“What kind of damned terror are you to hold me up here? I’ll tell you now that I’m going
Through the Gates of Chaos and I’m not asking permission. You mutant spawn of Hell –
I am the One born in Heaven itself, so get the fuck out of my way, or taste annihilation!”

The perverse shadow raised its voice and roared back at him: “Are you the Traitor?
Are you the one who obliterated Heaven’s eternal peace? Are you the one who was
Too proud and rebellious to bow – and took a third of the Stars of Heaven with you?

“You swore to destroy the Highest, and for that I know you were condemned to Hell
And you still have the balls to claim you’re an Angel in Heaven’s Company?
You’re doomed to spend eternity in agony, yet you’re still breathing defiance –

Even here, where I myself am King of Chaos – and let me twist the knife for you –
In this Place, I am also your Master and your Lord. Get the Hell back to that pit,
You lying sack of shit, fly fast on wings of fear, or I’ll lift my endless whip of

Scorpions and flog your lying ass! If you’re slow to go, I’ll fire a volley into you too,
Sending volts of unbelievable pain that will resound through centuries in your soul!”
The shadow grew as it spoke, deforming into something ten times more dreadful.

Yet Satan stood still upon the deep, indignant and incensed, flaming like a Comet
Whose deadly tail wipes out constellations, he burned across the cold night-sky,
And when he shook his head with fury, pestilence and war rang across the galaxies.

Each of them aimed to land a lethal blow, one that would end the battle immediately.
Their faces were contorted with rage; they moved like two immense thunderheads
Frozen over a reflecting sea of night, lightning shattering from them as they hovered

In deep space, a cosmic wind forcing these two together. Hell would falter and
The galaxies darken under their vast weight. Each of them had met their match in fear.
Yet then the coiled snakes of the Sorceress by the Gate hissed and rushed between them:

Her voice was a hideous screech, echoing between the suns: “Oh Father!” she cried.
“Why are you killing your Only Son? And you, my child, what kind of hatred
Would cause you to slaughter your own Father? You think you’re serving God,

“But God has damned us all – He sits above and laughs at your slavish devotion.
God calls this screwed-over mess Justice, but one day He’ll turn the guns on
Both of you!” She howled, and Satan’s great foe shrank back against the stars.

Book III

lines 318-395

God Speaks to His Son

“You, My Son, will be Executive Supreme over all the Company of Heaven,
For all creatures will bow to you, in Heaven, on Earth, and even those in Hell
And I will grant you an entourage of Angelic warriors when you appear in the sky

Then you will send the Arch-Angel to appear and sound a final warning to the Earth,
And from every direction, the Dead from time immemorial will rise out of the ground
Roused by the resounding notes of that last trumpet call from their everlasting sleep.

All your chosen Saints will help you choose between Evil and Angels.
Those condemned by you will sink back down beneath your judgment, and
When Hell is full of demons and their kin, You will lock that pit forever.

The World itself will burst into flame, and from its ashes will be created
A New Heaven and a New Earth, and those chosen by Justice will live there.
Their torture will end in golden days of bliss brought by their golden deeds.

The Joy and Love of our kingdom will triumph, and we will know its Truth
Finally, you’ll be able to lay aside your Dictatorial Duties and your Royal Sceptre
We’ll have no need of Kings or Queens, for even God will no longer need to rule.”

The Almighty’s light blazed out as bright as dawn: “Now all you Gods and Servants
Of my Kingdom, I command you to praise My Only Son, the Ruler, who has chosen
To die, so that we might bring all things back to right. Honor him as you would Me.”

The sound of the Almighty’s voice had barely died away when the collected crowd
Of Angels began to shout, an infinite echo of His voice repeating without number.
Heaven’s towers rang out with joy, and happiness spilled over in an eternal flood.

Solemnly each one of them bowed, and with a heartfelt reverence they cast
Every one of their gold and jeweled crowns to the ground. As they rose again
Each eye saw the immortal amaranth, an undying flower, once planted on Earth

By Eden’s Tree, now brought to the center of Heaven for safety. They saw this flower
Bloom above the fountain of Life, its petals shading the stream of endless happiness
That flows out of the eternal reaches, a molten river of golden light that never dies.

Decorating their hair with beams of this light, Heaven’s Spirits glowed themselves,
Refracting like rose-colored diamonds, they danced along Heaven’s glassy walks,
And took hold of the glittering instruments that hung like weapons by their sides.

The song of a unceasing symphony rang out, rapture sweeping across the spheres
A melody of sound that was irresistible, as every voice joined in the harmony.
The chorus went: Omnipotent Executive! Immutable, Immortal, Infinite, Eternal King!

You are the Creator of all life – the fountain of Light itself, Invisible, All Powerful!
You are Bright Glory on an inaccessible throne, and we must wait for you to shade
Yourself, to draw a cloud around your radiance, so that we might see your Glory!

Dark with shining brightness we see the edge of your garments – you dazzle us!
Even the strongest Seraphim must use their wings to shield their eyes from your
Glorious Light, oh God! We sing to You of the endless multitude of your Creation,

And we sing of your Only Son, whom you have now chosen to make Executive
Supreme, the one ruling Kingdoms, Thrones, Princedoms, Dominions, Powers!
You’ve laid the mantle of succession on his shoulders – for you are all powerful!

For He was the One who put down the first insurrection, let loose the terrible Thunder
Of God’s immortal wrath, charged out with flaming swords and righteous anger
And cried as Heaven’s great structure shook to its foundations! Oh Warrior Strong!”

Book IX

lines 725-793

Satan Causes Eve’s Fall

“If, as you say, God did make all things, who put Wisdom into the leaves and
Fruit of this Tree here? Why would He make it possible for someone to eat?
So where, I ask you, is the wrong in doing what is natural with this Tree?

After all, if it’s possible for you to know – you should know! And how,
I ask you, would the fact that you know something hurt the Company?
After all, you’re owned by Heaven, and so is the Tree – you’re just part

Of the same Family. You don’t envy the Tree’s inborn Knowledge, do you?
I can’t believe that a beautiful woman with such incredible breasts would envy!
God you’re so wise and beautiful! I’ve given you all the reasons, but most of all

I know you’d like a hit!” Satan ended with a smile, his words laced with lies
Dripping into her veins, a needle sliding easily, deep into a beating heart.
Transfixed by the hanging Fruit, his speech sang through Eve’s empty ears.

In her own mind, all he said seemed persuasive, impregnated with logic,
And she was hungry: the mere smell of that Fruit gave passion to her desire
She longed to touch it, to taste it. She watched it swell in the mouth of the snake.

Yet she paused, unable to take her eyes away, and talked, as if to herself:
“God made you a Great Tree of Knowledge and the best kind of sweet
Yet He’s kept it from his creatures – making it impossible for us to eat.

So where is the wrong in doing what is natural with this luscious Fruit?
After all, the merest taste of it gave human speech to this forked-tongue beast
And shouldn’t we praise God by knowing you – after all, He made this Tree.

Of course, the Company prohibits us from touching you, from tasting you,
Yet we are part of the same Family, for we are all made of Good, are we not?
To be clear then, he forbids us to be good – and that kind of law is not a law!

And if we die in eating such a Fruit, then perhaps it would be better to be free
Perhaps it is our doom to simply eat, and die. Yet look again at the Snake –
He ate the thing, and look – he lives, and knows, and even speaks so wise!

I saw him yesterday, and he was deaf and dumb to me. Is Death only for us?
Or is it only that we can’t become smarter – only the beasts can get wise?
It’s not envy that beats so passionately in me, but joy at the good in this snake.

For he has found great good, it seems, and shared his discovery with all so free.
He doesn’t lie or fake what’s happened to him, and so what do I fear?
I live in ignorance – I don’t know Good or Evil, God or Law or Death.

I am sick with stupidity, and here, in front of me, is the cure for my ill.
On the Tree it grows, this divine Fruit that will take me to a higher place:
Beautiful to look at, incredible to the Taste, and oh – so full of Wisdom!”

As she spoke these final words, she reached out rashly and plucked the Fruit.
It was an evil hour when she ate, the planet shuddered apart from the stress,
And the universe quaked on its moorings, bleeding from that fatal wound.

All was lost, and quickly the serpent slithered away through the quaking bushes.
It didn’t care anymore: Eve was slurping up the taste, intent on getting more.
She felt she’d never known a fruit so ecstatic, yet perhaps this was imagination.

For she thought of endless knowledge as she ate, and of becoming a Goddess too:
Everything spun in drunken frenzy as the lust for that Fruit sang in her veins.
She gorged herself without restraint, and yet was blind as she ate her Death.


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