He’d awoken in these ruins with no memories of his past life and bruises all over his body, as if he had fallen from a great height. He’d been moving through the ruins of the city for days now, and the young humanoid hadn’t seen a single sign of life since he’d arrived. Now, as the sun reached its zenith, he slipped into the cool shadows provided by some majestic structure of broken stone that even now reached into the sky to a dizzying height. The interior was much more magnificent than he could have imagined from outside, though it was a mess, a ruin of crumbled stone, toppled pillars, and rotted wood. Images carved into the masonry depicted solemn faces of men long gone, all looking almost sorrowfully down upon the chaos of the place, their faces frozen in time. A great pane of stained glass, broken and covered in dead and dying mould, bathed the vaulted room with a kaleidoscope of colours. The sight took his breath away. As he walked, he realized he was moving quietly, even gingerly, as if the very nature of the place demanded respect and silence. As he came near the central altar, the abundance of skeletons clustered there made his heart skip a beat. A collection of almost fifty dead, was nothing but brittle remains now, crunching under his sandaled feet. At the centre of the mass sat what might have been just another skeleton, but this one was robed in black with a white collar. The man stepped forward his hand shaking wildly as if he half-expected the dead figure to rise and curse him before crumbling into dust and snatched the shabby, leather-bound book from its bony grasp. He flipped through the pages, smelled the incense-saturated leaves, and cautiously withdrew, stepping out of the light of the glorious windows. He looked over everything in his wake, scanning the room with his keen eyes, just to make sure the dead would not rise. Turning to face the nightmare emptiness of the world outside, he opened the book near the beginning. Something in his mind stirred; he could read the ancient scrip within. His heart began to beat faster as he realized why he had been drawn here; there was power in this book, if not magic, and he clutched it to his chest, raising his gaze skywards as he pondered the meaning of the passage he had just read.

Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden. He drove out the man and placed at the east of the Garden, Cherubims, and a flaming sword that turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Paradise Lost

azurefire