Tuesday, December 27, 2011

John 1:6: The Call

A phone rang in the dead of night. It echoed throughout the cold dark manor, fading hauntingly from one room to the next, resonating off thin egg shell walls. It rang as if thrown into a bath filled to the brim with water, gurgling with a slow struggling ring that increased in both pitch and volume demanding its call be answered. It would plead for several more rings, until finally a long slender hand plucked the receiver from the hook. The caller waited for a moment, turning the volume down on a small black and white television nearby, when finally someone said sleepily, "Even God rested on the Sabbath."
     "There is no rest for the wicked, especially one who pretends to serve such as you, Patriarch." The caller replied unamused.
The sleepy-eyed voice was now awake. The voice speaking to him was old, vaguely familiar and yet distant from memory, like a face in an old photo he could not quite place. It would not take long to jog the memory.
     "The Motel is open and fully operational. There is a very special room waiting for you, if you ever need to...get away."
Now the memory was clear. All the Patriarch needed was to hear the word "Motel" and he immediately recognized who the voice belong too.
     "I must thank you for your contributions, Patriarch. Without Bishop Verrelli the Motel would not have been possible. It is only a matter of time before your own sacrifice will come to fruition, sharing with me in the fruits of our labors."
 The Patriarch's silence was all the demon needed to know that, like all the others before him, his agreement had been forged in a pit of doubt, thinking his Lord would never allow such abominations to exist. That His forgiveness would supersede the sins of man and wash away the treason with the ingestion of a few wafers and sips from a community chalice. Never would his LORD and savior stand idly by and watch the world burn. Never would the forces of good observe evil as it reigned across the land unabated by the hand of justice. Marquis Sabnook replied before he had the chance to speak, having had this conversation countless times already.
     "I can hear your thoughts. He will not come to your aid. He will not answer your prayers. He will not step in and save you from the hell you assisted in bringing upon the world. And, above all, he will not help you and do you know why,  Patriarch? Because you have given him no reason to. Two hundred years of blasphemy, denouncing Him and his son. Spreading your lies to advance your World   Order, proclaiming the Gospel as truth where only lies lay, dividing your people into religious sects in order to maintain your control over your flocks, separating the bond He built into each and every one of you monkey's.  There is no need to sob. Besides, the guilty do not cry, they leak tiny droplets of  respect in order to make room for more dishonor in their hearts."
     "You are mistaken, demon. I do not shed a tear for me or my fellow man. I do not worry about God or his Plans, nor do I worry about you and whatever devilish debauchery you have planned for me. You're a mongoloid, a grunt, a thug in Lucifer's horde. You do as you're told and obey as instructed by your master. The Deal I signed up for was one that benefits The Holy Bridge, which spans far and wide, high and low, above and below the surface. I may have given you a way back to Heaven, but, in turn, you have given us a route to Hell and that is what really matters to us, Marquis. The existence of your Motel is just a distraction to the overall goal of the Holy Bridge. Enjoy it, while it last."
The Patriarch was now full of himself. Confident and cocky, so much so, he spoke with a slight chuckle after his words. The Motel was supposed to be a secret. It's purpose an impossibility that the clergy was willing to take in exchange for the power offered to it by the Legion of Hell. It had been a long and difficult journey, beginning with the arrangement made just before news of the Atom bomb had reached President Truman's desk in 1945. Ever since that moment, when the world stopped and took a long hard look at itself, Hell and the Holy Father had worked in tandem with one another, each with his own agenda and never disclosing the details to anyone not within the Black Circle.
     "Hmm, yes. You speak of the Judas Priest."
The name startled the Patriarch. There were only three men in the world that knew of his existence. How could he have known?
     "Admittedly, I was surprised to learn of him. I was further impressed with his knack for avoiding certain death, even when I intervened personally. Had I known that the faux priest was Judas himself, I might have been a bit more tactful when disposing of his wife and unborn child. But the moment he emerged from the spiral and sprouted wings, well, even I was impressed. Had it not been for Loki, he might have even killed me. Alas, that was then and this...is now."
     "You speak as though he is no longer among the living. I spoke to him personally just yesterday."
     "When was the last time you connected with the outside, Patriarch? I suspect it has not been for days. Here, allow me."
In front of the bed, a light flickered on the television screen. Moments later, the channel turned until it found a local news station, where a young woman reporter was live on the scene. She wore a thick heavy fur coat and her lips were purple in color from the cold. The patriarch listened as she reported of another approaching storm front, growing from thin air, that spanned the entire continental United States. The producer cut to a digital map as the reporter attempted to try and explain what she had seen. The Patriarch jump out of bed and quickly shuffled over to the window. Outside the manor was at least a foot of snow and falling steadily.
     "A nice touch, if you ask my opinion."
When Hell freezes over, he thought. He looked far beyond the large iron gates out front. Somewhere out there, buried in an accumulating snow drift was Santa Fe, New Mexico. According to the map on the television screen, snow had blanketed North America and, if the projections were right, South America would be covered within a day, and Australia by weeks end. There was defeat in the Patriarch's voice.
     "Where do we go from here?"
The answer was just as unsettling as the obvious reality before him.
     "You can go to hell, for all I care. You all can go to hell as far as I am concerned."

The Patriarch paced the floor, periodically looking out the window, racking his own brain on what to do next. Everything relied on the Judas Priest. He must have stood still for over an hour, before his legs stiffened  forcing him to sit on the edge of the bed. He reached for the phone when he suddenly stopped. A small blinking LED light took his attention away from the dial and on to his metal briefcase. He walked over to the small desk, where the briefcase sat, and opened it. The LCD screen lit and his eyes widened with delight. ON the screen was the seal of the Holy Bridge, along with a single line of information. It read.

The Motel is a Time Portal.
The Patriarch looked up from his briefcase. "John."

The Genesis Seed. That is what they called it. I had thought it to be a thing of flesh, something tangible that could make sense of all the things I had seen and yet to bare witness. I had spent months tracking the activity of the Motel, learning about the people who had disappeared there only to learn that some of them were actual versions of myself, caught up in some kind of sadistic time warp that has left me a shattered reflection of the events that lead up to my rebirth. I had come into this a man of doubt. Someone who could make sense of that which had no explanation, no reason, no purpose to the surface. Since opening that door, I have learned that there are many mysteries to the world, most of which come without answers and more that never had them to begin with. I entered that Motel a broken man and emerged, somewhere in time, as an avenging angel of God. My own memory is shot. Just pieces of times when I was one person or another, with flashes of places and people I do not recognize , but feel strongly for nonetheless. I am guided by impulse, which I can not explain nor control. I am pulled towards something that calls to me, when I am awake, when I am asleep, when the wind ceases to blow I can hear it calling to me. I am not sure what it is, but I know I must find it. I know that if I do not, the images I dream about will come to fruition and fire will rage uncontrollably across the plains, burning everything it touches to the ground and killing everything within its path. One thing is clear to me, however, that drives me. It is a solitary grave, without an inscription, standing alone inside a massive graveyard. There is a church ahead lined with demons, standing guard at its gates. Whomever this grave is for is key to it all. I will learn the truth. I will slay  the demons in my way. I will kill whomever I need to seek the truth. I will do so in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Lord have mercy, for the Angel shall not!

John stood, hovering over the lifeless demons at his feet, and stretched his wings. His wings arched and caught the air, lifting him. He smelled the air and caught scent of something far to the North. He wasted no time, catching a southerly jet stream under his wings, and darted forth without fail.

Friday, November 25, 2011

John 1:5

It was dark out. The streets and alleyways glistened beneath dull luminous street lights and the occasional flicker of partially lit neon signs, hanging above shotty looking doorways, hummed along with the drizzling rain. Had I not seen the event unfold before my very own eyes, I would have said that it was all some kind of twisted drunken nightmare, but my clothes still reek of blood from that man and beast that ravaged him like a ragdoll caught between the teeth of a rabid stray just a few feet from me. The way he screamed...his howls would have woken the dead. I lifted the rain heavy cardboard up enough to see without being noticed, my location, wedged between two metal trash bins, allowed enough dark to remain hidden from view. The horrors still haunt me. 

Detective White sat the cup of steaming coffee down before the shaken man. He was visibly disturbed by whatever he had witnessed and no amount of free cigarettes were going to calm his nerves anytime soon. Detective White pulled up a chair and sat. He then lit himself a cigarette, offering another to the man who reached nervously stating; "Are you going to release me?".
     "You're not being charged with anything...Charlie. You're free to go whenever you like."
     "Please. You don't understand, I want to be here."
     "Why don't you start from the beginning."

When Charlie opened his eyes, his ears were instantly filled with horrific screams. He had lived and walked these city streets for years, never really knowing why or how he came to be there, finding solace in the dark alleys in hopes that he could somehow remember. He had seen a great deal of terrible things on these back alley streets, drugs, gangs, rape, robbery and even all at one time on occasion; but, he had never seen anything like this. As he peeked out from underneath his cardboard house, he saw a man hoisted into the air by the creature, trapped in its jaws like a banana inside a vice grip, pounding his fist against its massive head, begging for the help of God for no man was going to come to his aid; not now, not ever. Charlie thought about running, but his body had already shut down on him. He remained as still and quiet as his own fear would allow, watching helplessly as the creature bit through the man with ease, catching his upper torso with its mouth and devouring it whole. The man's legs slapped against the wet ground, twitching just long enough for the signal to run off the end of a severed nerve into nothing. The creature then stood perfectly still in the darkness as though listening for something. Could it hear his heart pounding against the cold wet ground? Perhaps his gasp had echoed off the metal trash bins and resonated the alley, fishing the beasts attention from its victim his way. Charlie was not a holy man, but, the moment the creature turned towards his direction, he quickly found God and began to pray. 

     "That's when I heard the footsteps." Charlie said puffing the last of the tobacco from his cigarette.
He held the smoke in his lungs for some time, before blowing it out, and then drank the last of his coffee.
     "It happened too quickly for me to see the face, but the result was the same. Blood. Blood was everywhere. There was no way to escape without getting some of the stuff on you."
At this, Charlie leaned back so that the light could shine onto the front of his rags, stained with a weeks worth of dirt and grime, pointing to the peculiar substance that did not look like blood; but, whatever had killed that poor bastard wasn't human either.
     "This creature you speak of, there was nothing found at the crime scene except half a corpse and your prints all over the place."
     "But you said I was free to go."
     "And you are...for now. I am just giving you the facts, pal. Your story, thus far, is more fanatical and crazed and I have enough cold cases to fill a room. I need substance, especially if you hope to get away without being labeled a suspect."
Charlie laughed.
     "A warm dry bed, three meals a day and bars keeping me safely away form the outside? I'd confess if I thought it would help."
     "So someone approaching scared off your boogieman who just finished eating a full grown man?"
     "You didn't let me finish, did you? The footsteps were hurried ones, not some casual stroll on a Sunday morning."

A flash of lightning lit the entire alleyway, which was the moment Charlie noticed the hooded figure leap through the air as though it walked on the wind. For the figure, everything slowed so that each second felt like an entire minute to the cloaked being, bouncing effortlessly from one wall onto the next. Charlie could only witness a series of images. Each drawn by mother nature's natural light that depicted a long slender blade that trailed the flickering light, chopping in one direction and then slicing in another, leaving in its wake silver beams of light that hung in the air for a very brief time, and then faded into the darkness. The figure moved hastily, bobbing and weaving away desperate strikes from the creature, each miss penalized by its own blood being spilled onto the pavement a little more. Moments later, the creature had fallen to its hands and knees. He could see now that the creature nearly filled the whole of the alley with its thick bulky frame. The creature hissed and wheezed, sucking air with punctured lungs, gripping its claws into the ground, stunned by the ease of its defeat at the hands of the hooded figure standing victoriously before it. The figure wiped the blood from its blade, pulling back the cloak, sliding the sword back into its sheath. It then moved partially into the light from a nearby lamppost. 

     "That's when I saw her face." Charlie said.
     "Her face?"
     "Yeah. It was real quick, but I know a woman when I see one. And this woman was...she was beautiful. And when she spoke, I could not hear all that was being said, but she spoke to the monster and the damn thing listened too."
     "I suppose this monster of yours spoke too, huh."
     "Sure it did. It might have said a lot of things, but the moment it uttered a name, the woman freaked out and went complete psycho!"

The creature lifted its disfigured face up to its executioner. 
     "Deus tuus tibi reliquit, meretrix!.
     "And yours has failed to protect you demon."
The demon then realized that the human it dealt with was special. Not only did she have the face of an angel, but the protection of one. Light sprung from the back of her, spreading its wings far and wide, producing a flaming sword that humbled the demon ever more. The hooded woman then took from its sheath her own sword and in tandem, swung it as the angel struck its own sword through the heart of the beast. Shrieking and writhing with a pain never felt before, the demon begged.  She then leaned down, where only the creature could hear her words. She then stood and waited. 
    "Marquis Sabnock!"
The name grabbed hold of her heart and squeezed. 
The archangel guided her, moving her as though she were a puppet at the end of its delicate stings, as she severed its head from its body, turning on her heel and then stabbing the sword through the skull, shattering the bones like a hammer smashing glass. The corpse of the demon caught fire and quickly burned up, leaving nothing behind. Charlie watched as the angel's apparition dimmed into the darkness. She then turned, clasping at the silver cross hanging at her chest and lowered her head. 

     "You mean like at a funeral?" Detective White asked.
     "Yeah, I guess. She then looked right at me, or at least in my direction, smirked as though she enjoyed knowing I had seen it all unfold, and then ran. By the time I realized what all had happened, the law showed up to bat clean up. And here I sit."
     "She was a nun."
Charlie looked quizzically at the detective.
     "Sure. I suppose one could make that assumption."
     "And the name?"
Charlie thought about this.
     "Marcus...sobknot...no...sobnook...Marcuse sabnook."
Detective White sat still, for a moment, collecting his thoughts.
     "So, she is here."
     "Wha? Who?"
Charlie now seemed to agitate the detective. He stood up and then approached him, leaning close to the side of his head.
     "What I am about to tell you is not going to make much sense to you, but I assure you that it would not matter even if it did. I am going to leave this room, and then some detectives are going to come in here and charge you with murder. The nice thing about this is that you will plead your innocence and, after your appointed attorney gets a look at the security footage, he will plead innocent by way of insanity. I am not sure if this will help you much, considering the level of cruelty against you; but, one can always hope for a hung jury."
     "Wait a minute, what are you talking about?"
     "And you did mention how being behind bars is much safer for you, so everybody wins." He said opening the door.
     "I am not a loon. You do believe me?"
     "Oh yes. I do. But I am not the one you need to convince."
The door closed behind detective White. Charlie wasn't sure what to make of his conversation with the man, who quickly made his exit after getting his name. Perhaps he had already known of the man. If they needed a witness to the crime, he was more than happy to assist. He sat quiet for a few minutes, when the door opened a second time. This time, however, it wasn't detective White. Two men entered, one holding a laptop under his arm and the other two cups of coffee. They sat down in front of Charlie. One opened the laptop and turned it towards Charlie. He saw himself onscreen, sitting quietly as he now sat. But then the man on the screen began to act odd, perhaps even a bit crazed, talking to himself, acting like he was drinking something, coffee maybe, and smoking. He listened to the man.

      "Are you going to release me?"
      "Please. You don't understand, I want to be here."
Charlies eyes began to water. Confusion crept between the cracks of doubt, as his story unfolded to an empty room. The taste of coffee and cigarettes lingered on the back of his tongue, yet not cup or butts were before him.
      "That's when I heard the footsteps."
      "Yeah, I guess. She then looked right at me, or at least in my direction, smirked as though she enjoyed knowing I had seen it all unfold, and then ran. By the time I realized what all had happened, the law showed up to bat clean up. And here I sit."
Charlie knew he wasn't crazy. He had seen what he had seen and no one was ever going to remove the images from his mind that would haunt his dreams for months to come. When the video ended, the two detectives only looked at him. Charlie recalled what detective White had told him. He was going to need a lot more than words to get them to listen now.
     "Mister Harley? Could you state your name for the record."
Somewhere, deep inside his conscious, a voice screamed. It was a voice from the past, long forgotten by the man occupying the same space, but a familiar voice all the same. Charlie suddenly realized who he was.
     "Charlie. Charlie Harley."
     "Well, Charlie," the second detective began, pushing a photo of a man across the table, "What can you tell me about this man; specifically, why you mutilated him and where the rest of Father Riley Day is!"
Charlie laughed. It was all that he could do. If he was going to have any chance at all at freedom, he would need to play the only card he had.
     "Have I told the both of you about the time I was an angel in the army of God?"

The curtain pulled back and a woman, dressed in a black cloak, stepped through. She approached the seat, flanked by men in polished armor with the crest of the Holy Bridge branded on their chest plates, and knelt before her pontiff.
     "What news do you bring me?"
     "I was too late. I could not retrieve any information about The Black. Whatever Father Day had planned on sharing remains a secret he will take with him to his grave. Every time we have something of substance, The Black is always one step ahead of us."
     "A Cerberus."
     "A hunter? Interesting. Having a Hunter is a huge risk, especially if anyone ever caught sight of one. I am surprised The Black even made such a bold move."
     "There's more. The beast gave its master's name- Marquis Sabnock."
The look on the pontiff's face alone troubled her.
     "Who is he?"
     "Not who, but what."
     "I don't understand."
     "No. I would not expect you too. Very few understand the hierarchy of hell. Mostly because in order to know of it, one must have been there. The only reason I know is because of Dante."
The Pontiff rose. He walked over to an altar, where a book rest and opened it.
     "The Demon Hunter?"
     "Dante was much more than a demon hunter, my dear. Unlike you, Dante has literally been to hell and back again, seen the likes of monsters of which make a Cerberus look like a puppy dog and squared off against The Dark Prince and live to tell about it. His exploits into the inferno are the very building blocks of the Holy Bridge. All that you know now, your skills, your faith, your guardian, all due to Dante's quest for the Ark. For centuries, we have been able to sustain the horde and Lucifer, until recently."
     "And why is that?"
The man stood, back turned to his most experienced warrior and lied.
     "I do not know."
He took a key, placed inside a hollowed out section of the book, and walked towards the end of the room where a door stood, locked and made of iron where the others were wood. He knew that there was no other choice but to share the knowledge beyond the doorway with his nun, for she was the only one who could possibly deliver what waited in the cold dark depths of the room behind the iron door.
     "What I am about to share with you must go to your grave and never leave your tongue, unless in the presence of myself or the man you are to protect. Do you understand?"
     "What man?"
     "The one you have been training to protect since the day you entered my chapel, alone and soaked from the heavy wintry rains ten years ago." He said, sliding the key into the lock.
There was a click and a series of chains released inside the door's mechanisms, and then it opened outwards to them. The Pontiff did not hesitate, stepping into the cold black air rushing out from inside.
     "Dante was more than a man, yet, unlike you, he did not have the grace of an angel watching over him. That is why I asked you here, why I am going to show you what only a handful of people have seen and why  you will die a thousand deaths before breathing a single word of what you are about to see. Come, sister Aeglaeca, there is much to explain and very little time for me to do so."

Rome continued to push onward, life moving at the speed of everyday people completing everyday process, work, school, holidays, family time. No one had seen or heard anything about the Priest, Father Day's, murder or noticed how the weather had changed suddenly and drastically, like how it had started out the morning at a warm 83 degrees, but by noon, the temperature had dropped down to 50. By rush hour, it had dropped further, down to 30. The entire Italian police force has been on alert, since the day before, told to be on the lookout for a woman who was dressed like a nun, perhaps may have even been an actual nun, for all anyone knew, and to know that she was armed and dangerous. It had been a very long afternoon for many officers, but none of the woman they had stopped matched the description given to them. But there was one among them, though not official in any way or known by anyone as a fellow officer, who knew exactly what he was looking for. He stood high above the city, looking over the ledge of its highest building with his cellphone pressed against his ear. It rang only once.
     "The nun is in Rome."
     "The bitch moves quick. I also understand she is quite lethal, besting a Cerberus is no easy feat."
     "I have made sure that her travels in Rome are not as easy. I have also picked up her trail inside Vatican City. I will-"
     "You will return to the states, detective. Your services are better used here."
     "My assignment?"
     "For now, take yourself a well deserved vacation. In fact, I know of a wonderful little place outside Arizona you might be interested in. The Motel there will certainly provide you with plenty of leads to follow."
A long slender hand placed the receiver back onto the hook, spinning round slowly in its thick black leather office chair, meeting the gaze of his Chauffeur.
     "Uz send dee detective tuz da'  Motel?"
     "Detective White is a Neutral. It should make for great fun once he arrives at my little den of sin."
     "But Baphomet-"
     "To hell with Baphomet! His way is old and outdated. Even Lucifer knows when it is time to modernize one's thinking and I am not about to lose the opportunity presenting itself to me."
     "There will be consequences for your actions, Loki."
     "There always is when dealing with the Devil."
Loki walked over to the small window of the mobile home. Outside, the framework for the Motel had been completed. Within a week, the walls will have been raised and the conduit placed within the main building. Loki had never felt so strong. Of all the power both Lucifer and the Devils of hell had, none had ever been able to do what Loki and his Motel was going to achieve. He noticed, pulling into the dirt drive, a limo coming to a rest outside the trailer. His guest of honor had arrived. He turned and opened the door to greet the guest.
     "Ah, Victor! So good of you to finally make it here."
At the passenger side of the limo, a silver liquid oozed from the cracks of the door, pooling outside, settling at the feet of Loki and then built itself into the shape of a man from the ground up. It was a tiny man, but one with an intimidating glare who moved to the back end of the limo and opened the door. A second older taller gentleman pulled himself out from the car and greeted Loki.
     "The pleasure is all mine. Please excuse Spurt, I have been working on his mannerisms. Clearly I still have a ways to go."
     "Are we still on schedule?" Asked Victor.
     "Ahead in fact, the conduit will be in place by end of week and we can then begin to piece together your machine. I am very anxious to see how far you've come with your work."
     "Yes. Sowing the fabric of time into a quilt in which one can travel is no simple process, but one I feel confident in achieving with the help of your Motel."
Loki opened the door to the trailer, waving in the professor.
     "Then come, Professor Krull. There is much to discuss."

Saturday, October 29, 2011

John 1:4

Morning called upon the waking world with a blanket of sunshine that enveloped the open real estate, where a grand cathedral once rest. The sun crept higher to the east, while a full moon continued to linger, resisting the dawn of a new day, fading behind an ominous arrangement of clouds overhead. Construction had already begun for a new site, but no one had seen the first sign of dump trucks, bulldozers, cement trucks or the first worker in months. The last time anyone had seen another person was on the last day of May, when the final bricks of the church were hauled away by curious looking men who looked nothing like construction workers, donning hazmat suits and strutting EPA logos on the sides of their vehicles. All that remained of the church was a dirt field that would pool rainwater and attract geese from all around with its instant watering pools, most people choose to avoid the work site because of the stories that grew from its unfortunate demise, nearly a year before. Then, one day, a lone black Cadillac drove along the roadside, turning right into the muddy drive and continued until it was about center ways of the property. The car idled for several long minutes before the engine shut down. The passenger side door opened and a large black man, wearing a pressed gray and black suit, stepped out and walked to the backseat of the vehicle, opening the door. A second man, dressed in a black tuxedo, wearing a fedora hat and fur collared jacket with polished white loafers climbed out from the back, placing a cigarette into his mouth that his assistant lit for him. He took a long drag from his cigarette, snapping his fingers at the much taller assistant, who took from his pocket a cellular phone.

As he waited for the call to connect, he knelt down and jabbed a stiffened finger into the soft mud. His finger easily pushed down to the knuckle, which most mud would not allow with such effortlessness, but this was not exactly wet dirt. It was something much more precious and rare. Those within the Black circle knew it as Lament. Corpse Sand was another moniker of the phenomena that had not been seen by humans in over two thousand years. Its growth was fertilized by blood, which gave it the reddish clay like texture and color it now had. In a few short weeks, the foundation would be fully transformed and ready for the first phase of Genesis.
"Where is my Motel Loki?"
"In a week, sire. I am testing the soil as we speak."
"Another one of your games?"
"Hardly. I have spoken to the good doctor and he has assured me that everything will go accordingly to plan."
"For your sake, Loki, I sure as hell hope so."
The call ended. Loki had never liked direction and listening to his master made sense only when he could be as mischievous as possible. In a weeks time, his playground would be among the living. Loki could barely contain his excitement.

Father Neight was accustom to darkness, spending much of his time with the Black inside the Quiet Room. An 8 x 8 coffin of a room cast inside total darkness, with only a chair to sit in and a small bucket that collected water from somewhere above that doubled as both a place to piss and shit and quench a heavy thirst brought on by severe heat exposure. The temperature of the room never fell below 89 degrees and the bucket was collected only periodically, when he had either fallen asleep or past out from the intense physical test that was his initiation and own personal hell. There was no food, he remembered, for the first week and after clinging onto the cusp of starvation by ingesting roaches and the occasional insect, food came only once every three days. It was the Black's pestilence, to walk among filth and emerge from the cesspool into society stronger, more determined, with a keen sense of survival where only death roam. But he had survived and spat in the face of all evil that touched his soul for that infinite summer so long ago. Now, as his eyes opened to a new darkness around him, one thing was certain, wherever he was he was not alone. He could feel the occasional hot breath at the back of his neck. He heard the dull growl that crawled up his spine and settled. But it was the smell that shook him the most, an old familiar scent of brimstone and seared flesh that propelled his youthful spirit back to the Quiet Room years before. He knew what he was up against and that somewhere around him was a demon and a very old and powerful one at that.
     "I remember you." He said to the darkness.
     "The Son has fallen into the Black, where demons and devils roam stand at each others backs. In His holy church Four shall seed, to rise against the Lord's chosen Breed. To poison the well of all His people, stripping and raping their children beneath his holy Steeple. When the call of the Black sends forth its Soldiers, who shall bring Hell upon Earth and watch its world Smolder," the slithering voice speared through Father Neight's skull, gripping at his conscious like nails against a blackboard, "Finish the lines to enter the Black Circle."
They were words said hourly and the only words spoken to him for that long sentence inside the Quiet Room. They branded his deep consciousness like a brand against the hide of sheep, which he could not forget no matter how long he had not said them.
     "The Four shall stand by the side of their Dark congregation, bringing upon the Lamb's people eternal damnation."
     "Indeed. Welcome back, Josef."
The world exploded in a deep orange hew, sucking up the darkness with its radiant sheen, thickening and pouring alongside him, stretching outwards running along the emptiness in front of him, bending into a corner and then another and another, until Josef found himself inside a great hall. From within the walls, hands pushed through the veil and stepped into reality in human shapes with a variety of animal heads; a deer; a frog; a bull; a snake; a wolf; a eagle and a beast of ancient decent that sat upon a throne at the end of the hall. All of the beast migrated towards the giant being sitting, with its thick scaly arms crossed at its chest, its head was that of a dinosaur, a tyrannosaurus with gaping jaws and rows upon rows of jagged knife-like teeth. A huge tail coiled around the throne down towards the floor and rattled at its thick hoofed feet. What kind of demons were these abominations? Josef felt the hand of a demon push at his back. As he took a step forward, the foundation rippled like the wind kissing the surface of calm water. His feet were no longer human, each step taken sent another vibe across the floor that met the base of the throne and exploded into a spring of color, much to the delight of the High Demon waiting. Josef then noticed his hands, cracked and peeling as though the flesh no longer mattered to the leathery hide beneath, his fingers fused together, pinkie to ring, middle to index and his thumbs fattened proportionately forming his new twin-fingered hands. Josef realized then that his true form, a demon like the rest, had decided to shed its human clothing and join the rest of the horde. 

Father Day had never been a big fan of Halloween. He often wondered if the parents of the children, who dressed up as demons, monsters, vampires and Ghost, knew what significance this seemingly harmless time of year brought to everyone. Books and Hollywood movies touched on the magical theme of Halloween with wicked witches wardrobes and demonic possessions be it spooks, kooks and other nasty things that went "bump" in the night, but no one ever came close to what this day truly meant. If they had, the day would have been grossly under appreciated. No candy. No costumes. No pumpkin carvings. No trick or treats, just another day to mourn and dress up to soothe the wound with the spirit of the holiday. He had never liked any of the traditional holidays most observe; Christmas; Easter; Thanksgiving and the list of other man-made observances that meant something only to those with 9 to 5 jobs and who have old war stories to share and battle scars to display. He had a few stories himself to tell, but was never one to openly speak about his tour in the Middle East. In fact, it was because of his wartime service that he joined the clergy, once he returned from his tour of duty, to escape the awful truth of war and seek solace in God, for the numerous lives his M-16 rifle took without mercy. The church was to be the one place he could escape within and lose himself inside the gospels, seek penance for his sins and humble himself at the feet of the Almighty, all forgiving, God. But this peace never came to his heart and his soul never rested the moment he met his tutor and spiritual guide in Father Neight.

Father Neight was the oldest, next to Bishop Verelli, among the priest. A motivated man and scholar with several degrees in Demonology, Theology, Cosmology and linguistics, which stuck out like foam fingers at a pep-rally to the Bishop, who gave him house reign over the rest of the parish. Father Neight never spoke to anyone not named Father Day, or Father Emilio. The three were very close and rarely seen by any of the other Priest, outside their own little circle of trust. But it was on the Sabbath that the three men all found a common goal, during the morning confessional of sin, with a fourth influential figure, who had spent much of his priesthood under the radar of the Vatican and his bishop, Father Sims. Each, unbeknowst to the other, had confessed doubt and prayed guiltily day in and day out because they felt their own faith waning. Doubt had always been the beast of burden for anyone of the cloth, especially among the Cardinals and Bishops of the world. And it wasn't so much doubt as it were the feeling that came with doubt. The feeling of hopelessness that too often anchored those drowning in its wake. Doubt is a powerful tool, inspired by the dreams of man and carried out by the crafted hands of their personal demons, the sins that slowly wash the world asunder. But, under the roof of the holy, doubt held a much deeper grip on those within the clergy. Doubt was the makeshift insignia painted along the surface of alley walls, above the doorways of secret organizations and beneath the bridges and overpasses of highways that told of a dark underground, a society of misfits that grew in number each day. Outside the rules of the church and its often outlandish doctrines, these signs would warn of gangs, but inside, among the ranks, doubt was the villainous hand of The Black that quietly recruited souls, while awakening sleeper cells. On that cold wintry sabbath day in January of twelve, The Four were woken from their trance-like states. By the time the afternoon mass had come to an end and the covenant gathered inside, along with all of the Priest, addressed by their beloved Bishop, the moment would come upon them as the Archangel, Marquis Sabnock, appeared before them all and spilled the blood of the guilty and called out to the four priest who lay dormant among the church's pews.

And now, on Hallows Eve, Father Day sat alone on his porch looking up to a blood red moon hanging overhead as little children, dressed as ghost and goblins, call out the words that send shivers of joy down the spine of Loki himself. "TRICK OR TREAT!" The poor misguided fools, he thinks to himself as he hands out a fist full of candies to the children. They had no idea what they say or what it means. Father Day could not help but to laugh. After all, what more could he do? It was not that long ago that he had walked among demons and ate with the enemy of the Lord at his own table. The guilt of pledging to The Black ate at him till this day, but he was here now, free from the watching eye of Loki, Baphomet, Marquis Sabnock and the horde of hell. But it was only a matter of time, before his own trickery would be discovered. The real Father Day left the parish years ago, after seeing the final sign himself. He knew then, the tide would turn in favor of Lucifer and hell would unleash without a single ray of hope in sight, which is why he chose to leave The Black. He had promised his friend that no harm or trouble would come to him and that his transfer from the Church of Saint Lucius in Mexico would be a smooth transition to Saint Thomas. Since the two looked so much like the other, and the fact that each of the Four never really knew what the other looked like, spending much of their time shrouded in secrecy and separated by a confessional booth, having someone stand in for him was not a difficult task to achieve. He lent down and grabbed the glass of wine, drinking it down in a series of gulps, finishing it and setting it aside. He then reached for the newspaper. The news made the front page: "Church Burns Mysteriously to the Ground!" If the headline was not chilling enough, the story detailed how everyone inside had managed to make it to safety with the exception of the church's bishop and Four Priest whose names he knew all to well. The fact that it had happened almost a month ago left him with some sense of safety, but there was never enough distance between him and the four that he felt safe enough; especially, on a night like Halloween.
     "I'm sorry my friend." He said as he poured himself another full glass of wine.
By nine o'clock that night, the children had diminished from his doorstep and the empty bottles of wine had taken effect. Father Day drifted off for a second, before hearing another "Trick or Treat!" but the words did not originate from the mouths of kids. They were low and vibrated against his chest. His eyes sprung open and he saw before him demons. Each one stood in the open night, a goat-headed fiend whose scent burned his nostrils and a second whose face was marred by a thousand years of penance in the deepest reaches of hell. He attempted to move, but his body lay frozen in his seat. Fear had a way of managing one's bodily functions and Father Day no longer controlled his, pissing himself and attempting to speak.
     "You've been a bad man, father." 
     "Your double sends his most precious jewels as a thank you for your deceit."
Father Day winced and wretched at his lap, a bloody scrotum lay in a small pool of blood before him that he swiped off into the bushes along the porch as an involuntary action.
     "Fiends!" He attempted to reach for his cross tucked inside his shirt, but felt the hot grip from one one of the demons at his throat. The air was immediately cut off from his lungs.
     "Trick or Treat!" Said two voices from behind them.
There was a tense moment of pause among the demons and Father Day, who tried to speak but forced himself into silence to retain the few precious seconds of air he had remaining, before the goat-headed demon reached down past Father Day and took a plastic pumpkin filled with candies. The demon turned to the teens, each covered in fake blood and torn plastic skin that hung from their faces, and studied them. The teens, who excitedly complimented the level of detail to the demon's costume, eventually realized there may be more to this house than first thought as they strolled up the driveway. Before any had the chance to react, the demon reached into the pumpkin and pulled out a swath of chocolates, dropping huge handfuls into each of their pillow cases, and then snorted thick grey smoke from the end of its ringed snout. The teens turned on their heel and raced down the drive and away. This would be the most memorable Halloween of each of their young lives, because neither knew how close they both had actually been to being dead on this night rather than pretending to be. The demon turned its attention back to the priest who had started to lose the color to his own face and said: "The Archangel wishes to see you."
The porch caught flame and burst into a bright ball of orange glow that spread across the front of the house and engulf it too in hell fire that burned it to the ground before the first firetruck ever rolled up to the scene.

Finally, the Four were once again among each other and beset among the court of the dark prince sitting atop his throne. Father Day, now seen in his truest form a bat-like demon with torn wings and scars plaguing over his entire body. The Archangel, Marquis Sabnock, stood up from his throne and pointed to his treasonous demon with haste.
     "You offend me, Pagan. Your exile was not to become one of them and turn your back on your horde. Lucifer will be most dissatisfied with your transgressions and, I hope, stern in your punishment."
     "Marquis, I-"
     "Josef has told me all that I need or want to know, Pagan. Your one role was to bring forth the Bishop and, once disposed, return to hell with the others."
    "For what? Raise hell and then do what?"
    "You question?"
    "Is that not what He did?"
    "I tire of this. Josef, take Pagan away. Perhaps there is something you can do for him that he once provided you. There is much to do before the first snowfall."
As the demons drug Pagan into the depths of hell, his words echoed the hall. His doubts fermented the air with uncertainty, but it was quickly dealt with by the Archangel.

Somewhere a fire raged out of control. It mirrored the same intensity that Saint Thomas church fell victim to and it brought the attention of the Holy Bridge to the forefront. A panel of men who only knew the other by their own rank gathered across the world wide web via video conference. Their location was known only by the one in charge of the entire operation and their faces were never shown, just images that represented each of their sects who listened intently to the heated conversation.
One said: "We can no longer wait for the Judas Priest to come around on his own."
One said: "What about the nun?"
One said: "She has confirmed that The Four are no longer among us. If this is true, and I have no reason to doubt her, then hell marches onward."
One said: "If we cannot bring the Judas Priest, everything we have done up to this point will have all been for nothing."
Another said: "Without my son, the Judas Priest will only be a minor threat to Lucifer and his horde. Without my son, there is no hope for you. Without my son, there can be no existence for any of us."
With this, the conversation ended. A decision would be make to expedite the Judas Priest's resurrection. Far off in another place and another time, a car screamed along a wet and slippery road. A heated argument among husband and wife took the wheel and coached it off the road, just enough to send it into a tailspin that ended with the car a twisted heap alongside the road.

"No, please God, No!" Shouted John. 


Monday, October 3, 2011

John 1:3

The world was insanely loud all around him. Things, images, faces, spun like hamster wheels inside his intoxicated head, reaching for anything solid and stable enough to hold his weight as the tour bus rolled along the dirt road highway. He stumbled towards the back of the bus, where his bunk waited for him, along with a naked girl, legs spread and calling to him. She could not have been no more than seventeen years of age. If he was lucky, she would yet have been mauled by the rest of the band, sickened at the thought of sloppy seconds and thirds, his stomach churned violently as he fell into the bunk and into her embrace. Even if he had wanted her, sex was the furthest thing on his mind, swimming in a sea of darkness and dread, the events from the Motel still fresh and vivid. He rolled off to the side, his back against the side of the wall, pushing her from his bunk. In the instant his eyes caught the face, he had sworn that the girl was the very same from the Motel. Her face was pinkish red, like a rare steak served to him on a platter of mortal sin, her lips pink with strawberry lip gloss that soothed his stomach for a moment. She took him by his scruffy bearded chin, pulling him closer to her. It was then that he saw her face morph into the scowl of a angry and mauled corpse, licking at his cheek with the tongue of an Asp. He ran his hand under her chin and shoved her out from his bunk, which caught fire to the curtains hanging over the entry to his bunk. He fall back against the wall again, kicking at the curtain with his feet, ripping it from the rod. He then noticed the girl was no longer there, pulling himself from the bunk to find that both the front and back ends of the bus had caught fire as well. Wade had been trapped inside a burning moving coffin. From the fires emerged the other band members, their flesh burning away from the bone as they walked towards him, agony echoing inside the bus geared towards seeking out redemption by sharing their pain with him. He dropped to his knees and threw up his arms in defense, begging mercy for what was about to unfold. He then caught a glimpse of another presence that was neither there and all around him at once. "This is not for you." A voice said. And then, Wade Keller woke.

His bunk was saturated heavily with his own sweat, piss and bile, his head burned along the top of his scalp, his skin crawling still from the vividness of his dream. He was also crying. His tears flowed freely as though they were not his own. He rolled out from the bunk, stumbling along the walkway to the front of the bus. The driver, Steely, was staring straight ahead, an Ipod plugged into his ears, as he drove and took pulls from his tallboy.
     "Stop the bus."
Wade tapped Steely onto the shoulder, stuttering through a second plea: "sstop thhe busss."
When Steely refused to acknowledge him a second time, Wade then ripped the headphones from his ears.
The doors unfolded to the bus. Wade jumped from the bus onto the gravel median. There was a chill in the air. At some point, during the night hours, it had rained and left behind a dense fog that hugged the one lane highway, veiling over the side of the road and the tree line running alongside it. The others watched, shouting to Wade, as he made a mad dash into the woods. The fog swallowed around him, his voice trailed off somewhere beyond the eerie curtain of mother nature never to be seen or heard from again.

In the foggy bathroom mirror, a man stood, his face partially shaved, looking at the transformation occurring before his very own eyes. It was amazing to the man how a shower and a shave altered one's appearance, along with a haircut to complete the makeover. He leaned closer, placing the razor against his cheek, next to his ear, and removed the scruffy side-burn, washing the hair from his razor in the sink.
     "What is your name?" A voice asked.
     "Where are you from?"
The man thought about this.
     "A man of God answers only to The Father. I am from the dust of ages, created by the love of the Lord, to serve His will and lead my fellow man to His Kingdom, recruited by the light to hold back the dark and seek out the truths of our Fallen Son."
His razor slid smoothly along his cheek, then up in single careful strokes back to where he began. He looked in the mirror and greeted a total stranger. The face looking back was a youthful one. The wrinkles of drug abuse and long nights had magically erased from his eyes. The man he knew was a man teetering on the line of death. A man who had long lost the will to live and walked among his peers as a dead man walking. Now, he had buried that corpse, born anew and given life back to the person he had so selfishly abused.
     "Whom do you serve?"
     "I serve no one. I act on the impulse of truth. I seek out the light and wrap myself inside its warmth. I fear no man. I fear no demon. And I stand against The Black."
     "Good. You have come along wonderfully, Wade."
Father Jessley stepped up behind the man in the mirror, helping him with his black flowing cassock, and snapping together his neckband to complete his outfit that stretched over his broad powerful shoulders.
     "I feel like a new man."
     "As you should. Now, finish up and join me in the kitchen. I have something I want to show you."

John, he thought as he wiped his face clean. Of all the names in the world, he got to be the next John. he conducted his Dear John letter to himself, while he cleaned up his mess. His life as a rock star was now in the past, buried with the man who fled into the woods several months before. That life was no longer. Now his life consisted of enlightenment and knowledge, the hidden truth buried beneath a mountain of lies that poisoned the parishes of the world. He had been introduced to a life that was both unsettling and inspiring at once, terrifying while satisfying a rush that no drug could come close to fulfilling. Deacon Jessley had opened a door to him that, once stepped through, did not offer any return. the benefit was absolute truth, but the pressure of having such responsibility had too often overwhelmed others who had attempted this same path. He had almost ran from this role, but he had something that those before him had not. Deacon Jessley had called it, Guardianship. The blessings of an Archangel that no man had known since the First Possession. What little he knew of this sent frozen chills down his spine. No one knew the whole truth of the First Possession, only that it reached well beyond the understanding of men, even those who were there to witness it. The rumor mill had successfully banished the truth deep within a thousand years worth of deception. Not even the Pontiff knew for sure what it was or how it had happened. Because of this lack of knowing, a uniquely developed faction of men were fashioned from the Ideals of Peter. The only human to ever grace the doorstep of heaven and return as a Godsend: "See you on the flip." John said to Wade as he turned the other cheek, shutting of the light as he closed the door behind him.

When John walked into the kitchen, Deacon Jessley sat waiting at the table, a thick brown leather bound book rest in front of him,  with a silver polished metal briefcase to the side of the it. On top of the briefcase was an emblem, a gold Crown of crowns, separating two keys that crossed over the other; one made of gold and the other of platinum. A white sash hung from the crown and wrapped around the teethe of both keys, while a red cincture, looped into the shape of a cross, bound the ends of each key loop.
     "Have a seat, John."
     "What is this?"
     "The only things you will need from this day forward." Deacon Jessley said unlatching the lock on the briefcase.
He lifted the top of the case and turned it to John. Inside was a 13 inch LCD display built into the casing, its screen blank for the time being. The lower half of the briefcase contained a keypad and keytop, with a slot for scanning documents to one side and a second bay to scan objects which created a 3D panoramic scale of the object."
     "This is your sanctuary. Everything you will ever need is here. Treat it as though it were a living thing, and never lose site of it, for this briefcase holds a knowledge base of two thousand years of human history. All that you come face to face with form here on will be found within its data banks. If you do not find it here, it's because no one before you has ever seen what you will undoubtedly discover. It is a direct link to the Patriarch and his many factions. Once you receive this, you will no longer be under my supervision. You may not contact me. You may not speak of me. You may not ask of me. Upon your first linkup, you will be assigned a Bishop. It is he who you will report to and carry out the orders of. Do not question your orders, regardless of there direction. Do you understand?"
John sat back in the chair, his eyes never leaving the emblem.
     "John, do you understand?"
     "Yes. And the book?"
Deacon Jessley touched the book, his eyes closed for a moment like it had connected with his very soul the moment he touched it. It brought him great comfort. The words contained inside its pages were older than anything he knew. A kind of power man only dreams of, an instructional blueprint in how to understand all things. It was the Alpha Codex, the most holy of books. Every known story in all capacity of religions took root from its pages. Whispers that turned to rumor the moment they left the mouths of those who knew of its words, spawned an endless root from the tree of knowledge that had evolved throughout time.
     "Those of us inside the Holy Bridge know it as the Alpha Codex, but you, as well as all people outside us, know its watered down version as the Holy Bible, the Qur'an, the Bhagavad Gita, the Torah, the Avesta and all others like them."
     "You speak like Moses spoke after his journey down Mount Horeb." John said with a smile that was quickly removed at the glare from the Deacon.
     "You will notice this thumbprint on the side of the binder. You shall carry this with you at all times inside the sanctuary. If you take it outside, you will never lose site of it. In the event that you are mortally wounded and this Codex is not safely inside your sanctuary, you will engage this thumbprint at which point it will release a corrosive agent from its bind that will destroy it. Do you understand?"
     "Yes. But why would you give me such an important historical artifact, if it must never go beyond the scope of my own eyes?"
     "Because you will not be able to continue your path without it. The Alpha Codex will challenge you in ways no other man can. Its words will question things you never took the time before to consider. It will take you beyond the horizon of modern thinking and propel you into a world that cannot be explained, only visited. This book is the link between you and God, my son. I bequeath it to you as both a gift and a curse."
     "But why a curse?"
     "Knowing the truth is never a pleasant thing. Even with the knowledge I possess, I remain uncertain."
     "About what?"
     "The future."
They shared a few long moments of silence with one another. Then, leaning in and taking the Alpha Codex, John nodded to the Deacon, placing it inside his sanctuary.
     "I don't believe in fairy tales, Deacon. But I do believe in those things which I can see and feel, and I have taken an oath to you and the Holy Bridge. What is it that my Brothers have me do?"
Deacon Jessley got up from his chair. He walked over to the door and opened it, ushering John onto the porch.
     "Go. Live. Though you serve the Priesthood, you do so as an observer and given pass by the highest of authority. Find a place to call home, nest within a parish of your choosing and live. Study the Codex as often as you can and make it part of you, as if it were your own hand that inscribed it. When the time is right, seek sanctuary and linkup with whomever your Bishop is. Then your true potential will finally be revealed, whatever that may be."
He hugged John as he would his own Son or Brother.
     "Never forget how you came to be here on this porch, my son. You were called by God for reasons yet unknown to us, but you also have the guidance of an Angel. That must count for something."
He grabbed John's hand, shoving a set of keys into his hand.
John turned and started down the steps of the porch.
The sunlight has cast a line of brilliance over the young man.
     "What is your name?"
     "John...Writhe. Father John Writhe."
     "Tell me Father, do you believe?"
     "I believe in those things which I can see and feel. I believe God has a purpose that eludes those not looking. I believe I can find this purpose and deliver it from evil." He said. John carried on towards the Jeep in the driveway, setting his briefcase in the passenger seat, climbing into the driver's chair. He adjusted the rear-view mirror, greeting the man looking back at him. His smile now matched his own.
Deacon Jessley clutched at the emblem of the Holy Bridge on the front of his dalmatic tunic: "Let your disbelief be your guide, my son." He then stepped back inside the house, closing the door to the outside world. He could only pray that Father Writhe continue to question what he would see before him, for the moment he began to suspend his disbelief would be the moment in which he too failed, like so many before him had done.

The world continued to spin. 

John had spent the better part of a month traveling across the country, stopping only to sleep and seek solace inside his sanctuary, learning more about the Holy Bridge and the reason of its existence. During his travels, John decided to follow his instincts, as well as his curiosity, stopping to see some of the relics and miracles the codex mentioned as footnotes, left by those who wrote them, within its pages. This was not a requirement given to him, but a need to see the things which often left the masses to push aside as clever human manipulation that preyed on the devout followers of God. First he visited Boston, where a statue of the Madonna rest, said to have blinked its eyes as it was carried through a religious procession. Since the procession, thousands of people flocked to the chapel and clubhouse of the Madonna del Soccorso di Sciacca Society where the statue was kept. He did not spend much time here, for the priest, who ushered him inside and allowed him a more close and personal encounter with the statue, were asking questions that he was not yet prepared to answer. As he was leaving, an elderly man, kneeling with his head touching his chest, reached out from a pew and grabbed him by the hand.
     "You're new here." The man said without looking up from his apparent prayer.
     "Just passing through."
     "A sight-seeing priest, is it?"
     "More like one miracle worker greeting another." He said as he politely pried his hand free from the man's grip. "May the Lord be with you."
     "Oh, he is. I do not doubt that at all, father."
It was how the man had said this that disturbed John for the remainder of the day. He wasn't sure why as it was an innocent enough reply, but there was something more to his words, as though each of them had been dipped in malice prior to saying them. As much as he wanted to leave the man in Boston, his words remained with him to Kentucky, for yet another weeping miracle, which then took him up to Ohio for more tears from paintings, statues, paintings of statues and one account of a woman who wept blood at the feet of the Sacred Heart. All accounts without conclusion, and those within the church were locked down as though millions of dollars worth of diamonds sat on a satin pillow. And yet, not a single mention of the Virgin Mother graced the pages of the Alpha codex. This left John at an impasse, where one direction was down a slippery slope of blind faith and the other a gauntlet of suspicion marred with heretic implications if he mouthed the slightest disagreement. By the time John had reached his destination, deciding on a permanent place of residence to call home, outside Mesa Arizona, to a town called Peeblelark, his head was swimming with more questions than a life of answers could satisfy. Just as Deacon Jessley foretold.

In another place, at the exact moment of John's deluded epiphany, a warm and gentle hand reached out and touched the shoulder of a woman, desperately in need of consoling. She reached up and felt the hand of the Angel and pressed it against the side of her face with her shoulder. It had nearly been a decade since she last seen the Angel.
     "You came."
     "You called."
     "I am lost. I have seen the face of my enemy and it is wretched and more evil than anything I have ever seen...or felt."
     "A demon?"
The Angel lightly squeezed her fingers.
     "Fear not, my child. There is someone waiting for you. He will be a great ally in our cause. Perhaps more so than I."
The woman looked up to the face of her Angel and shielded her eyes from his radiance.
     "Who could be greater an ally than my own guardian Angel?" She asked with a playful laugh.
     "The Judas Priest." He answered her with uncertainty trailing his words.


Friday, September 23, 2011

John 1:2

The long oblong table was still and quiet. On the table were two stuffed turkeys baked in butter and filled with Duck dressing, three honey baked hams, a whole roasted pig, six baked chickens, stewed potatoes, steamed carrots, broccoli, canned yams peppered with sugar cane and cinnamon, a copious amount of vegetables and an abundant amount of greens with a carafe full of balsamic vinegar. Six bottles of, uncorked, vintage wine dating back to the third crusade sat within reach of the twelve men huddled around the table. Above them, tiny flames flickered from two massive chandeliers, hooked to long chains that dangled from a steel track in the ceiling, spanning the entire length of the table, that burned more than two thousand separate pillar candles each, providing the only source of light in the dining hall. The candles slowly burned, their wax collecting into silver stem holders that would overflow before the candles ever melted halfway down. As the wax flowed out from the holders, the chandeliers lightened as the chains lifted them up to the ceiling that triggered a tension spring above the concrete rooftop. The spring lever would then release a series of mechanisms that controlled a propane tank within the machinery above, sparking a constant stream of fire that lit the two thousand wicks on two more chandeliers that lowered from the ceiling, starting the whole morbid process over again. Those who sat at the table were quite familiar with this pre-ritual dinner, which took place once every one hundred years. It was sadistic and beautiful in both its symbolism and process, meant only for the highest ranking men of the cloth. Among the twelve participants, only the Vicar of Christ knew of this thousand year old ritual and even he was too haunted by its practice to bare witness. As sick and twisted as this ritual was, it was also vital in keeping the world above in its current state of control. It was called the Rite of Cleansing, and it was one of seven rituals to take place in secret underground churches all across the world.

Before this day, six other similar rituals had been completed successfully. Only the Rite of Cleansing remained and it was the most important ritual of them all, for it called for the highest leaders and tested the faith of those who were supposed to be the next holiest men aside from the Vicar himself. If this ritual ended like the other six before it, God's blessing would come forth and wash away the sins of the world. It would bar evil for another hundred years from manifesting into flesh. The men ate and drank their wine and soon became intoxicated and fat and spoke of sinful wants and desires and needs. As they shared their playful side with one another, the table grew heavier with the wax from the candles. Their food splattered with film that went unnoticed when consumed by their glutenous mouths, swallowed by the swine of man and jovially at that. In time, the wax had covered the entire tabletop, but this did not stop the men from eating and pouring their wine until their golden chalices ran dry, which then collected the candle wax that was happily consumed. The men, like the table and its contents, grew heavy. Their arms fought to lift their glasses to their lips, their tunics and cloaks covered now and their faces stung from the hot drippings. By the time the second set of chandeliers had lowered from the ceiling, the men were weak and groaning form both the burn of the wax and the burden of its weight on their bodies. Candle wax had set their feet against the ground and fixed them to their seats. Their stomachs ached from the food and the wax and the wine each had consumed as the other told stories, some terrible and others so distasteful and crude that it was suspected that demons had found their way inside them. Twelve hours in and the room was nearly cast in darkness. There were no more stories. No more eating or drinking. There was a curious smell to the dining hall, pleasant and yet grotesque, like someone had ignited sulfur in a room full of Jasmine. As the final blip of firelight died out, casting the dining hall in pitch black, a voice filled the room. It said, "This time the Black shall overcome."  

There was a series of knocks against the old wooden gates of the Shad'villa parish. They were hurried knocks that begged for an equally hurried response, which would not come. The gate broke open with a firm kick that tore the lock from its hinge that crashed against the cobbled path, bouncing aside in the tall unkempt grass of the churches courtyard. Heeled shoes clanged off the cobbles as the nun rushed up to the door of the church, trying the knob to find it locked. The door was cast iron in construction, its hinges discolored by the rust of time, but still firm enough to keep out anyone not wielding a siege battering ram. She looked for a knob but the door was without such devices, which meant it would take more than a simple twist of fate to open. It was dusk out, and a slight cold breeze blew up onto the landing. The nun turned, drawing her sword from beneath her habit, readying it in front of her. 
     "There is no need for that, sister." The small dwarf man before her said. He did not flinch and carried himself as though he were expecting her. 
     "You are too late." He said.
     "If that were so, I too would already be dead." 
     "The Vicar's whore has come to save the wicked has she?" 
The dwarf wore a white cassock with a black and white stole draped around his left shoulder, his thick hammy hands clasped in front of him, wrapped in rosary beads in constant prayer, trying not to succumb to pleasures of the flesh. His comments were not taken lightly, feeling the air beneath his legs as they were kicked out from under him. He cracked against the pavement, with a forceful pressure at his chest that was her heel digging mercilessly above his heart.
     "Give me one reason I should not collapse your chest and run my heel straight through your black heart Deacon."
The dwarf fought for air, lungs burning as he sucked wind as best he could.
     "Do your worse wench! But...you shall not gain entry...without my blessing."
She bent down, grabbing the Deacon by his collar, hoisting him up into the air and against the door. Every bone in his back shattered against the iron door, whatever air his lungs managed to take in had been knocked out of them by the blow. Her worse was still to come, but, first, she wanted to hurt him, punish him for his lack of commitment, judge him for being such an unforgivable Judas Priest and make him bleed from the ducts of his eyes.
     "You will regret permitting me such guiltless access to do as I will."
She took his head, slamming it against the door. The world went dark for a moment, brought back to light by repeated slaps that stung each side of his face.
     "God would never...allow such cruelty no matter the cause." He said weakly.
She took the beads from his hands and wrapped them around his neck, each pass around his head tightened the chain, cutting off the air, teasing death's doorstep.
     "God is not here, Deacon. I will give you only one chance to open this door now stained with your own blood. Continue to stand your ground and I promise I will make you a temporary fixture."
The Deacon had reached the moment in life, when a split second determines whether you continued to live or die and your whole life flashes before you, where he must choose a path of the righteous or that of the spoiler. He had been sworn to secrecy and, more importantly, commissioned by the Patriarch as herald of the New Sun for his services. The Shad'villa would fall under his rule and, in doing so, he would become a bishop shortly after. The strain of his own rosary around his neck forced instinct to act where his will had finally broken. His hand moved across the iron door to a space where the facing of the door sunk in the shape of a hand. His fingers spread over the grooves in the door and with a final desperate act of survival, he pressed in on the grooves. There was a click somewhere inside the doors inner workings and a series of wheels turned, sliding the steel bolt from its post unlocking the door.
     "Wait here."
She held the Deacon's hand against the pressure plate, stabbing it with her sword, completing her promise to make the Deacon dwarf a temporary fixture. She left him to his screams outside silently agreeing with herself that, if he was still conscious, she would dress his wounds for his troubles upon her return. She stepped inside the dark church, fading into the grey darkness as screams pleaded with her to reconsider.

The door opened to a young man standing on Father Jessley's porch. He was dressed in plain clothing. His hair was pulled back into a pony-tail behind his head that ran down to the middle of his back. He wore a sleeveless, tie-dyed, shirt that exposed his long lanky tattooed arms that stiffened at his sides once the door opened. His right arm, he noticed, had a red, fire breathing, dragon inked onto his bicep, its tail coiling down around his forearm ending at his wrist where the word "rock" was also tattooed on each of his knuckles except for his thumb; this knuckle was branded with a star. His pants were torn and poorly patched and he was bare-footed and bleeding from the bottom of his feet. His skin was clammy and he was sweating profusely, even on a mild day such as this one. It was not in Father Jessley's nature to turn a blind eye, but this young man unnerved him, and the way he stood there eyeing him as though they knew one another only added to his jitters.
     "Yes?" He said cautiously.
There was a slight pause in a reply. The young man was uncertain how to approach the priest. He had wanted to wait until morning, when the church opened its doors, but he did not have time to wait. The authorities were already searching for him and his was certain his friends had already ratted him out.
     "Fff...father, I...I have come a long way to find you. You are the only one who can help me. Clear my name or convince the police-"
     "The police?" This was something he was certain that he did not want to involve himself in, regardless of how he felt about helping others. "I'm sorry. I cannot help you." he said, shutting the door quickly and locking it.
     "Please! I have nowhere else to go."
The Priest stood behind the safety of the door, waiting, listening, for the man to leave. He had hoped this would not result in him having to call the police, which he added from behind the door.
     "Step away from the porch please and I will sit out some food and water for you, but that is where my charity ends. Understood?"
There was desperation in the young man's voice as he asked for just a moment more of his time.
     "I know this will sound crazy, but...you must believe me Father. God...he...I was sent to you by God."
Another crackpot, he thought to himself. It was not uncommon to have a man or woman, down on their luck, show up at his doorstep every few months in search of charity or shelter, when the weather called for such measures. Generally, at the threat of phoning the authorities, they would leave or adhere to his offering of a quick bit to eat at a distance, but this was not so this time 'round. He heard something thump against the other side of the door, as though the young man had placed his head against it. If he was going to go to jail, he was going to go with a clear conscious, telling his story that began as he woke up in a hotel room the day before with a dead hooker in his bed and a world of trouble unfolding inside a drunken haze. The door unlocked again, opening slowly, to find that the young man had sat at the doorstep, his back against the door frame, as he continued with his story.
     "I ran. It was all I knew to do at the time, father. What else could I have done? I could not stay and explain to the police how a dead woman ended up naked in my bed. I could have told them the truth, which was I had been partying throughout the night, after playing a reunion gig at the Pony Express, and combined with the drugs and alcohol the whole blessed day is a total loss of memory. But, what authority would believe that as a defense?" The young man turned his tear-ridden face to Father Jessley and burst into a fit of emotion. "I could not bring myself to stay behind...and I set up the room to make it appear as though another man, who was passed out in the closet, was in the bed with that woman instead of me!"
Father Jessley was at a loss. For the first time, he did not know what to say or how to approach the grief stricken man before him. He did not need to rely on faith to know that his words were sincere and true. He reached down and placed his hand onto the man's shoulder.
     "Come inside, my son. Allow me to address your wounds and provide you with food and something to drink."
He assisted the young man to his feet, helping him inside. He took him to the kitchen and sat him at the table, while he poured him some water, which he quickly drank. Father Jessley then took to his fridge and took form it a plate of assorted cheeses and deli meats, which he had brought home from the morning's mass, sitting it in front of the man.
     "Tell me, what is your name?"
     "Wade." He said reaching for a sliver of brie and a piece of ham. "Wade Keller. Please, you have to help me father. I did not kill that woman," Wade paused as he chewed, considering his own words, questioning them on the inside and hoping like hell they sounded honest enough on the outside, "I do not deny being there with her, only that it was not me who took her life."
Father Jessley was an older man, a man in his sixties who was nearing retirement from the cloth within the next few months, planning his life after his servitude to the LORD. His service in the church was long and fruitful with its spiritual wealth and existential prevalence within the church, serving as Parish Priest and Deacon to the Holy Simpatico. His role as both Priest and Deacon had provided a plethora of challenges, but none more plagued with moral obstacles than the one before him. If this were confession, he could deem the man's confession as spiritual guidance and remove any civic duties from his conscious. But the man was not sitting inside a confessional. This was a man sitting at the table of another man confessing his innocence to a murder and asking for God's asylum.
     "Why are you telling me this?"
His question, as expectant as it should be to any man, came across insulting to Wade. His neck crooked and his bottom lip began to quiver.
     "Have you not heard my words father? Because She told me you would help me."
     "She who, Wade?"
     "The Angel. She was the one who directed me here to you. I thought it was some kind of hallucination, an aftershock to all the drugs from the night before, but she was no hallucination or dream father. She was...surreal to be sure, but her touch was just as honest and real as this food I now eat, or the hurt from my wounds on the bottom of my feet. Her words were like my own thoughts motivating me, helping me clear my head and get off that bus, before the police caught up with me."
Father Jessley had filled a large aluminum bowel with warm water, sitting it at Wade's feet. He then took a towel from the cabinet, some antibiotic solution, along with some band-aids and gauze from the closet nearby. It was both a gesture of kindness and an act of his faith to help a stranger with his wounds as others had helped Jesus as he carried the burden of his cross. It was also to keep his mind from wandering into the realm of fear, for he was not convinced that his life was not still in danger.
     "This might sting a little." He said as he moistened the towel and applied it to the bottom of Wade's foot.
His feet were mauled, cut throughout the pads of his feet and heels by rocks and sticks, with tiny blood clots forming beneath the skin. His wounds were concurrent with someone running without regard to the terrain, assisting with Wade's continued confession of how he ran into the woods, once the tour bus had come to a stop, never looking back as voices shouted for him.
     "I must have ran for hours," Wade was saying, "I am not sure if it was drugs or a combination of drugs and adrenalin, but no matter how much damage I did to my feet, I still ran never feeling any pain, even now. When I was not able to keep pace, I refused to stop or address the wounds. I just kept walking. The Angel had told me that in order to redeem my soul and exonerate my spirit, I would have to find Father Jessley of Saint Patrick's Parish. As I walked, still coming down from my high, I found my way here to your doorstep." At this, Wade stopped and looked down to the Priest. "I have no earthly idea what state or city I am in, Father. How could I have possibly found my way here, without some kind of heavenly guidance directing me?"
Father Jessley was quietly shaken at this. He never told the man his name and there was nothing to indicate such outside the church. Even more unsettling was his tale about the Angel visiting him, both in his dreams and manifesting itself in reality as though he were talking to it as he now talked to him. There was an element of honesty with his story that disturbed father Jessley. Not because Wade had named dropped him, but because of how his story correlated to Deacon Jessley's affairs and not Father Jessley, Parish Priest. He moistened his towel in the crimson water bowel and addressed the wounds on Wade's other foot.
     "Did the Angel tell you anything else?" He asked inquisitively.
     "Only that you would know what to do."
Father Jessley rested on his heels.
     "I do not believe your wounds need any stitching. You are very lucky not to have done any worse." He said taking the bowel over to the sink emptying it. "You will need to stay off your feet. I am not a doctor, but it doesn't take a medical degree to know that your cuts need to heal a little before you trample them again. Plus, maybe there are some fresh clothes and shoes that fit you in the donations room at the church. Finish eating your food and I will run over to the church to see about some clothes. What are you, 36, 34?"
     "34, 34."
     "My mistake. I will see what I can do for you." He said starting for the door.
     "Father...Can I trust that you will not phone the police and lock yourself away inside the church?"
     "Trust not in me, my son. Trust in the LORD as I have by allowing you, a stranger, inside my home."
Father Jessley opened the door and stood for a moment.
     "And, for you, I am not the Father Jessley. That title is for those in need of the Lord's forgiveness. You need something much more; therefore, you may call me Deacon."
     "If I do not need forgiveness, Deacon, then what is it that I need?"
The door closed. Wade sat alone at the table, eyeing his surroundings. By all accounts, it was a simple house whose kitchen came with simple instruments; a blender, a toaster; a kettle on the stove; a microwave and a wall phone with a Post-it note stuck to the receiver. On the Post-it note were the words "take out" scrawled beneath an 800 number. Wade closed his eyes only for a moment, which was all the time his body needed to shut itself down and fall asleep. His fate was now literally in God's hands

The nun stood at a stairwell that spiraled down into a dark shaft located inside the church's northern transept, which was not a part of the church's original blueprint construction and only known by the Deacon and his Major Bishop. Knowing the layout of The Seven Churches of Sodom as they were known, was part of her training and taught to her by Mother Strange. Moments ago, she had slid her finger along the marble flooring, finding the small groove within the marble, lifting it to discover the stairwell. Her sense of smell was instantly bombarded with the scents of Jasmine and a faint odor of death that quickly permeated the transept, flooding the Crossing and into the Nave and Chancel. Knowing what waited for her, she covered her mouth and nose with her hand and pressed onward into the darkness below, carefully finding her way in the dark one step at a time. It felt like she had traversed a hundred steps or more, before she had to stop and control her gag reflex from failing. What she first thought to be the smell of death was actually Sulfur that was now burning her eyes the closer she came to the dining hall. Her training came to mind, hoping this would detract her from the fact that the smell was beginning to sicken her beyond her means. The Rite of Cleansing. A sacrifice in His name for the sins of man against his only son, and part of the Dead Sea scrolls recovered inside long forgotten caves along the West Bank.

The scrolls told of the Last Rites of Man, which were then sent to the Vatican and sealed by order of Pope John Paul I, along with the Secrets of Fatima. The Rites of Man, as memory served, were translated and preached as the Seven Deadly Sins. To the masses, these were biblical lessons of morality, individual riches that never fulfilled God's desires for man, providing comfort to the wicked where only praise and faith were needed. But, to the threefold order of the church, it meant something far more sinister and unkind. It was the undeniable truth behind the veil of lies the church had spent two thousand years trying to bury. She only understood bits and pieces of it, containing this knowledge because those who pulled the strings and worked the levers behind the curtain had employed her to carry out their will. Then, one week ago, everything changed. A chink in the armor of God was exposed and the enemy of good had taken advantage of the moment. As she understood it, the line between good and evil was slowly beginning to blur. An Angel had appeared to her parish, cutting the throat of its bishop, bleeding him like swine. It had spoken in tongues she did not understand, but Mother Strange understood all to well. She was protected, while her home burned to the ground and by the hands of an Angel. Everything she knew about her faith had been turned belly-up and exposed. She recalled the words Mother Strange had spoken to her that morning, before mass was to start.
     "Do not question these words child. If the first snowfall bestows an early winter, you will go to Alexandria. There you will find the Rite of Cleansing and begin to walk your chosen path."
It did not mean much to her at the time, but now they fused to her psyche like barnacles on the bottom of a cruise ship. She reached the last step and stood in the darkness, wishing she had kept her sword and its security. There was nothing on the walls around her to indicate a switch to bring from the darkness the light of sight, recalling the zippo she had swiped from Detective White. She reached into her habit and found the cold metal casing, pulling it from her pocket. Unsure of what to expect, she steadied herself, flipping the top of the lighter, thumbing the wheel that sparked a small flame. For the first time, she recalled that fear she felt  each time her father came into her room as a child.
     "What in God's name."
It looked like a scene plucked straight out from Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, except not as sculpted and chiseled down to its most minute detail. This monstrosity was demented in its construction and morbid and, even more unsettling, self-inflicted. All of the men were sealed from head to toe in wax, some of which dried as it repelled from the chandeliers above, like frozen stalactites found inside limestone caves. Their skin had fused to the wax, turning it pink in color that bubbled and blistered as the wax dried. Their grief stricken faces captured, like fossilized creatures encased in amber, some moaning and others caught within a scream. There was one, in particular, whose face was calm, free of surprise and guiltless, whose head was straight, but his eyes looked up to the ceiling. His body was unique, relaxed, unlike the others. He sat at the head of the table, one hand gripping his chalice while the other clutched at his pectoral cross to the point his hand had bled, but it was his headdress that captivated her the most. It was large, dome shaped, with three separate rows of diamonds and jewels encrusted into its base and had a single golden cross adorned at the top. To her own eyes, it was a crown of crowns, one resting atop the other, mended by its gems and forged by its gold that was the massive crown of wealth sitting upon his head, slightly polished by the wax now covering it. She did not recognize the face below the crown, but recalled where she had seen the crown itself   in a painting that hung in one of the adoration rooms in Saint Thomas Parish, which had been reduced to ash last time she saw it. As she moved the lighter closer to the man's face, she fought desperately with her memory to recall the name associated with the painting. Was this man the same man in the painting? An impossible question to ask, yet one that warranted an answer she was not yet prepared to accept.
     "Clement?" She heard herself say.
Was this Pope Clement VIII? If this were true, it would make him 475 years old, simply an impossible number regardless of the miracles she had seen. As the flame neared, the eyes of the man turned to her, causing her to lose balance and fall backward onto the ground. The lighter top had snapped shut and fell from her hand as she tried to stop her fall, throwing her back into darkness, echoing across the concrete. Her breathing picked up, her heart raced inside her chest, as she searched the floor around her for the lighter. She tried to tell herself that it must have been a trick her mind played on her that it could not possibly be whatever crazy concocted story her mind made it out to be, but a lot had happened over the past week and she had witnessed things no one could relate to in any way, unless they had seen the same things. She focused on her breathing, slowing the pace of her heart, regaining her composure in the darkness, only to lose it again when the lighter clicked open. The flame illuminated an area about four feet in front of her. The hand that held it was, she could see, bloodied and dripping onto the floor.
     "Novice." The voice said. "Have you learned nothing in all your years of marriage to your spiritual husband? You do not force your way inside another man's dwelling without knocking first. You do not rummage through his things and you certainly do not have your way about his home coming and going as you please."
The flame lifted to the end of a cigarette, tucked into the mouth of the Deacon dwarf. The end of his cigarette caught fire, ignited in a bright red glow, for a brief moment, showing part of a man's face and part of something else far from human. The sight of the Deacon sent chills up and along her spine. He then showed her the sword she had run through his hand, inching it in front of her face, growling like an angry volcano from his throat.
     "I am not...afraid of you, demon."
     "An unwise thing on your part bitch." The Deacon snapped, inching the end of the blade closer to her throat.
     "Why are you even here? You cannot possibly understand what you see before you, for it dates back to a time when humans were just elaborate skin suits for those of us who walked among this realm. You were nothing more than temporary vessels then. A temporary rental car for us to utilize, while applying the finishing touches to what is rightfully ours." The Deacon said.
It was all she could do not to break down and forget all of her training. the sight of the demon was a reality she had only been told about, warned in how to avoid, given the tools needed to survive when possession was threatening; but this, this was flesh and moved in the same existence she occupied. She did not think or have the will to ask if she would ever be confronted by another human, possessed by a demon, and have the right to murder it in cold blood. And the demon knew this.
    "Still on about the War in Heaven? I feel like this story has been told already and it has humans reigning as the victor, if memory serves."
    "Another invalid tale, spawned by monkeys to inflate their own egos. I suppose you believe a talking snake cast your mother and father from the Garden of Eden too." He mocked.
    "Your blasphemy will be your demise!" She spat, daring the blade to touch her skin.
    "And yours will be key in opening a new door for all of us!"
    "Go on then, coward! Slit my throat and bleed me where I sit."
    "Oh, how I wish it were that easy." He said, lowering the blade. "My role is one of far greater importance than to bleed you dry, but, I promise you this, I will eat your heart soon enough."
With this, he tossed the sword to her and flicked the lighter shut, casting them in the darkness again. With her security policy back in hand, she swung blindly in the dark, slicing through the air, finding nothing. She sat still, listening for any sign of a footstep, ready to cut through it the moment a noise registered. What had the demon deacon meant by "rightfully ours" and how did this have anything to do with the Rite of Cleansing. She closed her eyes tightly shut, trying to find that moment where all things were safe from harm, her personal get-a-way from the outside world, where she first met the Angel. She had not spoken with him since she was a child and wasn't even sure if he was real or just a figment of her own creation.
Her skin warmed under the bright sun. Waves rushed up onto the shore tickling her feet as she sat on the beach, digging her fingers into the sand, grounding her spirit inside this moment. Her eyes remained closed, fearful that, if she opened them, she would lose sight of the beauty around her and, for the moment, she needed something bright and beautiful in order to face that which was dark and ugly.

Father Monroe had not been called "father" in some time now, as Patriarch to the North American Parishes his role in the Catholic faith had reached its highest order. Everything that happened inside any church within the thirteen colonial states did not happen, unless he authorized them too. His territory was the oldest in the country, therefore, the earliest settlers brought with them the history and traditions of the church from the motherland, which also contained the secrets of all the brotherhoods. During his time as Patriarch, he had managed to remove most of the stain of history from his churches, but not all things could be easily removed by order alone. There were those who still believed in the old Orthodox ways, preaching the gospel as it was intended, by men who no longer lived in such times yet still force fed the masses with old ideals. He first received word about the burning of Saint Thomas less than a month ago, after a lengthy telephone conversation with the local authorities and Father Tremble, who had explained how four others, Father Nieght, Father Sims, Father Day and Father Emilio had left the church at the Angel's request.
     "I beg your pardon, Father Tremble, but did you say Angel?"
     "I have asked myself that repeatedly and can honestly say I am still unsure of what it was that I witnessed."
    "I want you on the first flight to Philadelphia. Do not speak another word of this to anyone else, do you understand?"
And that was that. He would meet with Father Tremble and take his statement to the Vicar of Christ for further council. Until then, he would do all he could to keep the events at Saint Thomas between the church and the local authorities. Which is exactly what had happened since, the police were no longer investigating the arson, a false report was put out for the media to consume and any other deflection would come straight from the church, which was quite skilled in such public matters. Then he received a letter, addressed to him personally, with his civic name and not that of Patriarch. It was addressed to him by an individual who went by the name, Marquis Sabnock. The name instantly brought a cold fevered sweat to his forehead. He sat back in his chair and read the note;

Dear Patriarch, 

My firm is very interested in a certain plot of land your Parish holds title over. I believe it was once home to Saint Thomas' parish, which, regrettably, burned to the ground. I have on good word that you do not plan on rebuilding the church and wish to be the first to offer you a sum in the range of five million dollars cash for development rights to this land. My firm is very excited about this opportunity and wishes to advance this purchased as quickly as possible. If you are interested, feel free to contact me at the number listed on the enclosed card. 

With your blessing, 

Marquis Sabnock

Patriarch Monroe scratched at his bearded chin. Real Estate was a lucrative business and there was a lot of money on the table for 6 acres of land, scorched by fire and painting black where only green grass once grew, which sounded too good to be true. Still, he thought as he eyed the pile of folders on his desk, each one a different lawsuit, a separate but equally embarrassing class action against his division all asking for money from his Parishes already tapped bone dry from out of court settlements. In his heart, he knew there was something nefarious about the letter, especially with a name like that belonging to the one who penned it. There were whispers among the Episcopate and Presbyterate and Diaconate orders of a unholy uprising unfolding like a ladder, section by section, reaching all the way up through the hierarchy, some had said in the quietest of shadows, even to the Pontiff himself. In any case, there were pressing matters that needed his attention now. It had always amazed him, as both a participant and witness to the influential pressures of Greed and how its reach penetrated even those hearts of men who proclaimed to be next to godliness. With a single phone call, Patriarch Monroe distanced himself even further.