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The Glen of Fire

A Highland Eschaton




The Acid Burn


The raven feeds.

Death drives desire.


Inside the circle gneiss ghosts writhe. The mountains are aflame. Fires behind all eyes: dark and smokeless. From the middle of our foreheads a burning light shines, illuminating abominable copulations.


The hyperborean Enochian temple; selling-place of souls, enters its final phase. Huge ragged ancients return to the marketplace.


Consumed. We are gods. Walking the precincts drowned in oil. We sail the oceans. We sink into lava. We build towers to heaven. The great ones walk among us. The oil of stars rains down on us. Torrents of petroleum. We offer strange fire in the wilderness of the holy mount. The trees are destroyed. No fruits or herbs are found. That has perished which yesterday was seen. The grain has gone. A hail of stones smites the fields and breaks the forests. A wind has arisen to destroy us. A destroying cloud has come: first of fine dust, then course dust, then fine sand, then coarse sand, then grit, then gravel, then stones, then pebbles, then boulders, then hillocks, then hills, then mountains, then lands.


Carbon and hydrogen under huge pressure. The fire of the lord burns among us. Thick darkness for seven days. No light can penetrate it, we cannot move. We cannot speak or hear.


Collision of stars. Hurakan destroyer. Mighty wind sucks at the world. Dark blanket of breath. Evil wind of Marduk. The ocean flees. Here comes Typhon! West wind so strong. The heaven-lord descends, displeased. Red, blue and green fire serpents cross the night.


I shall reverse the world. I shall bid the rivers flow upward. The sea shall become a wall.


The sky cracks. The eye opens. A disc forms. Further forces sense burned apples from the magic tree. Black rain falls in the acid burn. Cleared village. Firewater veins succumb, and if you suck, and if incubi fuck your life away; succumb to a star in the ruined house, a star in the ruined room too bright and too hot. A star that has got into the house. It’s shining shining out of the windows into the night. Shining bright and the door is opening slowly see the star is moving from room to room. See the shadows shift. What will emerge?

Filled with groans of dying people was the fair Earth, home of humankind. Marduk versus Tiamat, Isis versus Seth, Vishnu versus the Serpent, Ormozd and Ahriman. Fiery dragon versus crooked serpent, Venus crescent like horns over a pyramid. Bull’s head or golden calf. Burning Naphtha covers us.


Years of noise... years without end of noise. O that the world would be silenced.



All the hills shall melt[1]


It’s Sunday morning near Easter. We are walking up a familiar glen in our church clothes. I am reflecting on the words nec tamen consumebatur – ‘and it was not consumed’, which were written around the burning bush image that was the symbol of the Free Church, draped from the pulpit.

The glen has the fresh lushness of spring - luminescent greens and birchy purples. The air becomes haunted, amber, and the glen takes on the appearance of a kind of Highland Samuel Palmer. Transfigured.


A huge trumpet blast sounds in the sky, growing steadily louder. A light appears at the top of the glen, in the cleft between  two hills. I feel an increasing sense of panic. I strongly suspect that it is the Light of The World returning for its own. The light appears with the strong odour of old leather-bound bibles, increasing as the sky opens into a procession of latticed arch-windows and peeling white paint on impossible slopes of wall. The churchy smell reaches a crescendo as the light begins to burn over the land and the  trumpet blast quivers our ears. Crosses fill the air. I am dismayed. I know I am not saved and that God knows this. Huge rays of light shoot from the sky and break up into tentacles that penetrate our bodies through the top of our heads. It seeks inside our bodies for the seal of Christus. I am asked to confess if I believe or not. I know that God would know anyway, so I say ‘No’. My name is not written in the Book of Life. The trumpet blast continues. Hordes of people are flocking and flowing over the hills towards the source of the blast and the light which seems patterned like fish scales. Somehow I can detect the lives of all living things and can penetrate into their deepest secrets. Some ribcages seethe with horrors. The Christians’ bodies are glowing like white fires. They are singing metrical Psalms to tunes like Moravia, Free Church, St Kilda. I realise that my family do not share my dismay, and my horror increases when I see that they are ecstatic, happier than I’ve ever seen them, and have begun to run towards the light which is now burning my retinas, and towards the sound which threatens to bust my eardrums. I call after them in terror. They turn round, slowing their pace, but just laugh at me and continue their holy flight. An eternity of bliss awaits them and they know it. An eternity of torment awaits me. I know it is useless running.


So this was it. The church was right. In Gospel-thick areas’ fields were thick with jubilant Christians bursting from their houses and churches. Psalms are sung in Gaelic. Rich and reverberant; coruscating with unfettered grace-notes.

I run from the glen and find parties everywhere. Marquees are set up with trestle tables full of sandwiches and tea. Rows of laughing church-goers scoff at us the lost as we peer in through openings. I am utterly alone outside. The trumpet sound becomes a roar and great shafts of pearlescent light rain down over our heads. They do not affect us, but suddenly the roofs of the marquees are lifted and the Christ-ones sucked from the earth in single file, forming a towering ribbon of singing, flailing brethren spiraling upwards beyond sight. All around the landscape are streams of people flying up towards heaven. Two men are working at the foot of a croft by the glittering sea. One is taken up and the other left. Two women were gossiping outside the supermarket. One is taken and the other left. I try to see my own family but they are lost in the seething crowds. I look across to the churchyard over the other side of the loch and see a lot of movement amongst the gravestones. I see dark figures emerging from the ground and prancing a terrifying dance over the wall and down towards the loch. Other graves are opened by a beam of light of unknown colour that reaches down and sucks out the luminous bodies of the saints. All over the place I see the ground forming a wee hillock like a blister then bursting open to release a person that either shoots up in gold glory for the heavens or bleeds terrified on to the earth.


I run for the woods and their familiar dingly dells. In the dappled light it is a different world. I hear rustling above and see pairs of trousered legs disappear through the foliage as more Christians are hoovered up by God. I glimpse shoe-soles as the leaves return to their places as if nothing was happening. I realise, however, that all leaves and flowers have turned to face the new light that shines.


Knowing that the fire is coming, I leave the woods and run for the shore. The sky has now turned a dazzling gold and there is a beautiful sonorous drone permeating everything. All is transfixed by the sound that thickens the sky. The gold shimmer moves slowly aside like a sunroof to reveal limitless black. We realise that the shining gold was a huge ship that had sailed into the sky and was now departing. It must be thousands of miles long and wide and seems to be bowl-shaped. Intricate designs of unbelievable beauty adorn the sides of the ship, filigreed with strangely winking lights. Banners and jangling bells are tied to the rear of this vast craft and they made melodious jangles that also fade away slowly as the wondrous ship disappears from one horizon to the next. The drone dies to a tremulous wail, and a sickly red light dimly shines on everything.

I am sucked into a dark knot of sinners who are wailing and gnashing their teeth in extreme terror as their loved ones leave their sides to join the celebrant throng. One was taken and the other left. Horses and cows rush to drown themselves in the loch. Dogs and cats cast themselves from the cliffs. Birds fly fast into rocks and are shattered. Ants file singly towards the booming surf. We beg each other to be killed. Many are beheading each other, or slitting each other’s throats with knives. I decide to make for the cliffs and jump off. I realise that the beheaded are pursued by their heads and their heads fly back on to their bodies. Wounds close up. The cats and dogs fly back on to land, alive. I cast myself off the cliff, but an arm of light grabs me and hoists me back on to the land. There is no escaping the judgment. I look around and see that already there are skeletons and drowned corpses joining this motley crowd of anti-revelers. The trumpet sound has now slowed to a sinister throbbing rasp. The sky has closed up and a new colour fills the earth. Some guys are firing guns everywhere at everyone. We run from them, for we still feel pain although we seem to be invincible. Out at sea, ships are hauled from the sea-bed and their silhouettes ripple with life renewed seeking death.

The whole land seems alive now with fleeing animals, seeking a place to hide.


I run like the clappers for a wee ravine I know in the hills, up through the woods by the burn. I want to be alone. I burst into the woods again – this time there is a stink rising from the ground. Fungi are sprouting as I watch, and insects seem to grow more limbs. I press on up the hill. The grass comes out in my hands as I ascend. I find my wee nook and sit fast. From here I see the whole glen widen out into the strath. The river runs pure black. Black threads are running through the air, joining up in web- patterns that form a dense net on the horizon. The trees around me begin to convulse and groan. Branches come crashing down over me and huge rocks tumble past. The sea begins to dry up, receding from the shore like a turbo-charged ebb. Out towards the horizon I see loathsome shapes rear up from the deep bowl of the dry seabed. I decide to climb higher. Rocks feel like marshmallow and  grasses feel like razorblades. Some areas of the air have turned into barely-visible, razor-sharp honeycombed prisms that come crashing into me, cutting me to shreds that instantly re-assemble. Sometimes I look at myself and all I see are trees of nerves, or hands that look like glowing maps.


It is getting very dark now. I keep climbing and below turns to a deep red sea as the shadows grow. As I struggle upwards, huge throbs of metallic power surge through everything, actually separating all my bones then rejoining them. This is very painful, but still I climb. I no longer recognise where I am. The ground has been rearranged into a series of huge terraces like a vast staircase for giants. I clamber up each terrace, noticing that the air is getting steadily lighter, and perfumed gardens growing on the terraces. Soon, after the fifth terrace, it is bright sunlight and I feel an increasing sense of happiness and gladness. I notice a huge crystalline blue waterfall on my left that sings with polyphonies of impossible beauty. Amongst the arcing birds and humming insects I can glory in the omni-death that still rages. Joy increases to ecstasy. A dazzling light shines from the topmost terraces which are obscured by spiral-fringed clouds. I climb above the clouds effortlessly and stand atop the hill that I see now is a pyramid. It is very very high up. There is nothing to see anywhere but dazzling light. I am shrouded in this light as a high pitched note rings in my head. Deep rumbles ebb and flow below. Then all becomes silent. The air crackles crystalline. I realise that there are two other people at my feet, kneeling. They are adoring me. The silence is punctuated by cracks and pops that then pour into a well of voices as I am spun in a clockwise manner and feel my being sinking into the pyramid hill. I first break through the shell of my skin and bone. My sinews mingle with the debris of millennia. Masonry and metal; plastic and wood, I sear through them down deeper into seas of blood enfolded by spikes. Thick red blood forming fronds around curving black spikes. They rattle and ooze, painful as martyrs. Thousands and thousands of corpses that have met a violent death. Shredded bodies in bloody soil cleansing itself. Vegetation layers then minerals then the crystalline and beyond to the still small chamber.

Away, away within in the innermost. Walls within walls. Secret passages with dummy passages leading nowhere forever. This one passage leading down there and inwards. There is nothing nearer God than silence. Flaming seraphim flutter around my head that is now heavy with a burning weight that has been placed on it. I feel its pressure round my cranium like a crown. Silent singing. Holy silence.

I am brought back up to the surface again and find myself on the bright hilltop. There is a friend with me now. The friend tells me it’s time we went back down. I had forgotten what was happening. We both glide back down, lightly springing off each terrace in dazzling light. I step from the last terrace and am plunged into thick darkness. As I run down the slope the air smells bitter and creatures dart from burrows in the ground as I step over them. Over to the left I can just make out the shapes of a man and a woman running down the slope and keeping exactly level with me. Finally I reach the edge of a precipice and fall for a long time in the deep darkness.


When I come round I am drenched in a burning slime and a stinking sack has been thrown over me. I am picked up by who I presume were the two people I saw on the slope. They carry me roughly and then tip me out. I roll painfully over some rocks and come to rest on a black thorn tree. I am racked with pain and the stench is nauseating. Skeletons of eagles hang in the twisted dead trees. A herd of deer carcasses rot in the burn. As I try to move the tree stirs and a skinny cat leaps on to my shoulder and starts to eat my ear. I shake it painfully off. There are smoking houses below me. Skeletal humans are reciting some sort of poem in unison – even though they must be out of earshot of each other. A grim smoke writhes through the air, and the church building is hanging suspended in the air, upside-down over the standing stones. A shock like an electric charge passes though my body and I am propelled downwards towards the great bowl of the empty sea. Again, the muscles spasm to the shock. I notice all beings being propelled to this place in the same way. Soon we have formed deathly rings around a gaping black hole in the centre of the sea-bowl, like iron filings in a magnetic field. Fire begins to fill the bowl of this red desert, issuing from that grim well. I hear sounds and see shapes and know now that demons are real. The fire roars closer. How long till we are consumed? How long? O how I thirst...


[1] Amos 9:13 (King James Bible)

Published in Cheer Up... It’s not the end of the world (Edinburgh Printmakers, 2012)

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