aka the Antichrist
What was looking over the hedge should be described at this point. What Anathema saw was, she said later, something like a prepubescent Greek god. Or maybe a Biblical illustration, one which showed muscular angels doing some righteous smiling. It was a face that didn’t belong in the twentieth century. It was thatched with golden curls which glowed. Michelangelo should have sculpted it.
He probably would not have included the battered trainers, frayed jeans or grubby T-shirt, though.
“Who’re you?” she said.
“I’m Adam Young,” said Adam. “I live just down the lane.”
“Oh. Yes. I’ve heard of you,” said Anathema, dabbing at her eyes. Adam preened.
“Mrs. Henderson said I was to be sure to keep an eye out for you,” she went on to say.
“I’m well known around here,” said Adam.
“She said you were born to hang,” said Anathema.
Adam grinned. Notoriety wasn’t as good as fame, but was heaps better than obscurity. (114-115)
The Antichrist (the Adversary, Destroyer of Kings, Angel of the Bottomless Pit, Great Beast that is called Dragon, Prince of This World, Father of Lies, Spawn of Satan and Lord of Darkness) is delivered to Earth on a night that was neither dark nor stormy. Two Dukes of Hell, Hastur and Ligur, bring the infant to a cemetery and entrust him to the demon Crowley. Crowley delivers the Antichrist to a hospital in Tadfield run by the Chattering Order of St. Beryl, a Satanic sisterhood. The nuns are supposed to switch the Antichrist with the newborn child of the American cultural attaché, but an error occurs. The Spawn of Satan is instead given to the Youngs, a completely ordinary English husband and wife.
With Mrs. Young asleep after delivering her own child, Sister Mary Loquacious helpfully suggests several names for the boy, such as Damien or Wormwood. But Mr. Young prefers “a decent English name” (28) and chooses to call the boy Adam.
With the attention of Heaven and Hell focused on Warlock Dowling, the boy they incorrectly believe to be the Antichrist, Adam grows up without divine intervention or satanic influence. But, true to his nature, he warps the world around him to his own desires without even knowing it (54). Adam’s power focuses on shielding and protecting the things he loves: the people around him, the village in which he grows up, and the surrounding countryside. It manifests in unusually temperate weather conditions, unchanging demographics (187), twisted ley-lines (189), and a feeling of affection surrounding the place that both Aziraphale and Anathema can sense (75, 190).
Adam’s best friends are Wensleydale, Brian, and Pippin Galadriel Moonchild, who insists she be called Pepper. With Adam as their leader, they form a sort of gang, the name of which changes according to Adam’s interests, but which disapproving adults refer to as simply Them.
Adam’s bucolic life begins to change when he turns 11. The Infernal Powers send him a hellhound on his birthday, to protect and guard him from harm. Just as the first Adam named the creatures in the Garden of Eden, great significance is attached to Adam Young’s naming of the hellhound. It is an act that confirms the Antichrist is in full possession of his powers and that Armageddon approaches on schedule. But Adam defies expectations, wishing for a “proper mongrel” and choosing the simple name Dog. The hellhound is bound to obey, and instantly transforms from a big, snarling, wolfish creature into a small canine with one ear turned inside out, an overwhelming love of its Master, and a mad urge to wag its tail (63).
Adam’s horizons expand when he meets Anathema Device, a newcomer to the village. Anathema is interested in the occult and she loans him several issues of the Aquarian Digest. Adam, who had been “starved of anything more occult than a harvest festival” (119), is fascinated by what he reads about the Hollow Earth Theory, the Lost Continent of Atlantis, UFOs and Charles Fort. Reality changes in response to the new ideas firing Adam’s imagination: UFOs land, the continent of Atlantis rises, and Tibetans appear in England from holes in the earth. More importantly, Adam discovers the threats posed to the planet by species extinction, rain forest destruction, ozone layer depletion, and nuclear war. Suddenly, there are more things on Earth that he passionately wishes to protect.
A voice deep down inside begins to whisper to Adam, telling him, “Yes, it’s a rotten world. It could have been great. But now it’s rotten, and it’s time to do something about it. That’s what you’re here for. To make it all better” (183). Storm clouds gather, thunder rumbles, and Adam changes. His gaze becomes grey and blank, and he speaks to his friends in a strange voice about destroying the world and starting over.
The Them are horrified. Adam’s innate tendency to wish to make the people he liked happy (121) clashes with the voice advocating destruction, and Adam suddenly understands everything (268).
Foreseeing the impending arrival of the Horsepersons of the Apocalypse, Adam leads his friends by bicycle to the Lower Tadfield Airbase and equips each of them with a symbolic weapon. As the hosts of Heaven and Hell poise for battle in the skies, the Them face off against the Horsepersons, and Adam decrees a halt to the impending Apocalypse (308).
The Metatron and Beelzebub appear to remonstrate with the Antichrist, and Aziraphale and Crowley chime in to support Adam. But neither the Voice of God nor the Prince of Hell can prevail over Adam’s will, and they both leave to seek further instructions. The gathered hosts of angels and demons dissipate, and the threat of Armageddon is forestalled (317).
The ground begins to shake, presaging the appearance of Adam’s father, Satan, who is extremely angry with him. Aziraphale and Crowley, along with Shadwell, Newt and Anathema, prepare a desperate defense. But Adam is now sure of his power, and alters reality so that his other father, Mr. Young, is the angry parent who arrives on the scene (323). Adam and the Them pedal furiously away on their bicycles.
The events stemming from the averted Apocalypse sort themselves out in a benevolent manner for those involved, except for Adam, who is grounded the next day by Mr. Young (340). But it only requires the boyish pretext of trying to stop Dog from running out of the yard for Adam to make an escape (343). He finds an old apple tree and, like his Biblical namesake, enjoys eating some stolen fruit (344).