The Malediction of Llewyn Glass

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”

-Nietzsche

 

Prologue

The Crossroads Pub is the U.S.’s oldest pub. Situated in the Town of Fenway which is on the outskirts of Boston close to the Charles River. The Crossroads Pub has an eerie history even before it was erected in 1723. Before Boston was colonized, the Massachusett tribe once respected and feared the land the Crossroads Pub would one day sit on. Stories were passed down from generation to generation of the mysterious land and strange events which took place there. Tribal leaders would go there seeking wisdom during the day and come back with their black hair turned gray and with their once tanned skin now ghostly white, with knowledge so overwhelming that they could not repeat it. The tribes most honorable and bravest warriors would go hunting on this land and would return babbling uncontrollably of horrifying creatures which can only come from nightmares.

After the colonization of Boston, the land was left forgotten until 1692 when the Salem Witch Trials took place. 13 women of free thought, fled south of Salem to escape the unjust and heinous persecution of witchcraft. They were only guilty of trying to enlighten themselves through curing ailments with herbs and expressing creativity through dance and chanting, but closeminded settlers had seen this as the work of the devil.  The 13 women fled to Boston for safety with a hunting party following suit, when they came across the Massachusett’s cursed land.  The women, exhausted from their escape to Boston rested on the cursed ground and hoped to use the cover of night to conceal them from the hunting party; but despite the blackness of night from the cycle of the new moon, the hunters had found them. The 13 women were ruthlessly flogged as the hunters repeated verses from the Bible in the hopes of cleansing their souls.

After they were savagely beaten, the hunters wrapped nooses around their necks and hung them slightly from the tree as they were able to stand on the tips of their toes. Piles of kindle and wood were placed at their feet; they were to be burned as they were hanged. 12 of the women begged and cried for their life except for one who was silent. One of the hunters brought a torch close enough to her face to make the dried blood sizzle and pop from the heat, but she did not move but only gave a cold, stalwart gaze into the woods which slowly became darker and colder. One hunter slammed the butt of his rifle into her pelvis, but she stood back up and stared back into the woods with a terrified look before saying in an otherworldly voice, “I accept your offer.” The torches of all the hunters simultaneously went out, and then the bloodcurdling screams of the hunters filled the air.

The morning sun soon came, and all 13 walked out of the woods, pale from fright and unable to utter a word from shock. The woods they left were littered with the detached limbs and ravaged torsos of the hunters as the trees were painted with their blood. The 13th women who accepted the offer only kept whispering herself, “what have I done?”

In 1721, a Puritan named Jacob Martus and his family sailed to the New World to start a new life. He came across the land while hunting and was bewitched by the beauty of the forest. Jacob told his family that he felt an urge, a need to settle on the ground. The family agreed and cleared the land and built their home and farm on top of it, not knowing the disturbing history of the woods. Jacob became a successful fur trader and saw the need to establish a Pub so other fur traders could relax and conduct business before going into the wilderness to hunt for their pelts. By 1723 the Pub was built and was christened the Crossroads Pub for it was where fur traders, explorers, and other settlers would come to as they were entering the wilderness or heading back to Boston. There was no unusual activity of any sort as the family prospered and a small town was built around the Crossroads Pub until Fall of 1732. It was a jovial night where the fur pelters were celebrating a good hunt with the local farmers who also celebrated a good crop.

Everyone was drunk and merry except an old haggard woman who sat by herself at a table. She wept loudly at which Mrs. Martus went to comfort her and asked her what happened with only thing the woman said was, “I have to pay him back tonight.” The Pub went silent over the strange statement; the woman slowly stood up and walked out the door into the woods. Everyone watched from the windows as she stood at the wood line and a large dark figure came and loomed over her. Everyone felt a cold chill of fright go through their spine as the old woman talked with the terrifying figure. The conversation could not be heard, but the noise the creature made can only be described as bones cracking with a snake’s hiss in the background. But suddenly there was silence and no movement from the two. The patrons and the Martus’s watched in suspense as the world went still around the two. In what can only be described as an unholy act of mutilation, the creature tore the woman’s torso from her legs and dragged the halves with him into the woods. The patrons collectively gasped, and some went into shock, but all did not speak until dawn and none had moved from their spots inside the Crossroads Pub.

The hunters and the militia went into the woods the following morning and went searching for the lady’s corpse and the creature. They only found a plot of scorched earth a dozen yards from where the massacre happened, with the trees surrounding the plot had their bark burnt to a crisp with a putrid, rotting smell lingered in the air. Whispers traveled through the colony of the creepy event which brought forth the curious and the bold to hunt for the creature while the Martus’s and those who witnessed the incident had known not to trifle with the beast or with the woods.

Years went by as the Crossroads Pub kept flourishing from the travelers and the fur hunters. Jacob Martus had died, and his son Samuel Martus had taken over the Crossroads Pub.  The town grew larger and was named Fenway for it was close to the swamp. There were prosperity and peace in the town of Fenway until 1776. The British had taken over Boston, and the refugees had taken refuge in Fenway; with the rooms of the Crossroads Pub filled to the max. Samuel gladly fed and housed the refugees as the Colonial Army tried to take back Boston. Fenway felt safe until the night of March 13th when a platoon of Redcoats had covertly rowed up the Charles River and landed at Fenway. They initially were trying to land behind the Colonial Army in Boston, but they got lost and found Fenway. A firefight broke out, and Fenway’s militia was able to rage a fierce battle causing the retreat of the Redcoats but not before bystanders, and other militia members were killed in the process. Samuel Jacobs had abhorred the brutality of war and wished to only do right by the dead. He had the land outside the pub cleared, and a cemetery was made where all of the bodies, even the fallen Redcoats, were buried. It wasn’t until 1779 did the Martus family started to notice strange occurrences in the cemetery. At first, they thought it was their drunken guests who were walking among the graves at night, but they began finding strange sets of tracks in the land and were hearing strange, horrifying noises of creature’s unknown. The Martus family and their guest would sometimes catch a glimpse of silhouettes of people moving through the woods and among the graves at night and found archaic symbols with the bones of animals set up as altars in the morning.

This occasionally happened throughout the years, but nothing sinister has happened until the year 1852. Fenway had flourished into a small trading and fishing town while the citizens have grown accustomed, even amused by the ghost stories of their infamous pub/cemetery. But at the time, the Crossroads Pub was secretly being used as a station in the Underground Railroad by Jabidah Martus. He was secretly housing runaway slaves and covertly ferrying them across the Charles River. Jabidah and the Martus family were using hidden crevices in the Pub to keep the runaways from being found and using the lore of the haunted grounds of the Crossroads Pub as a cover story of citizens seeing figures moving across the cemetery at night or unsettling noises coming from the walls of the Pub. Jabidah was able to ferry hundreds of slaves and was able to do so without anyone in the town taking notice until the night of May 4th, 1852. Jabidah was about lead a small band of runaways to the ferry from the Pub when they were ambushed by Slave Hunters in the cemetery. Not respecting the laws nor life, the Slave Hunters beat the slaves and whipped Jabidah until the brink of death. They barricaded the doors to the pub with the Martus’s inside and began lighting torches to set fire to the place; they wanted to send a message to the slaves and to whoever was helping them that death and misery will only follow. Jabidah helplessly lied as he was about to watch is family burn until he heard gut-wrenching screams coming from behind him. He heard a loud thud as something landed next to him and stopped rolling when it hit the tombstone in front of him. Jabidah slowly looked up and saw the severed head of a Slave Hunter staring back at him. The head was ripped from the jaw with its tongue was hanging out. Jabidah went into shock and could not control his body, but he can hear the screams of the slaves yelling for whatever was in the graveyard to keep away as the Slave Hunters shot their guns into the woods. Jabidah could not move and only kept looking into the eyes of the disembodied head with a pool of blood and torn flesh at the bottom of it. He wished he could have run, but his body would not listen but only evacuated his bladder into the lush green grass on the old graves. He heard screams of the Slaves Hunters and the wet tearing off their limbs from their bodies as a rain of blood fell upon his back, but he could not move until something grabbed him. He was hauled up until his legs and was being dragged back to the pub by the slaves. They unbarricaded the door and ran inside and then shut it. Jabidah was left standing in front of the window as he watched underneath the silhouette of the night the Slave Hunters being torn to shreds by creatures he could not see in the dark. He tried to adjust his eyes, but then a torn arm hit the window smearing the Glass with blood, at which he fainted. When he came to he had been asleep for two days from the shock and the slaves had left in the early morning but not before burying the bodies of the Hunters so the Underground Railroad line should not close. Jabidah asked his wife what did the Runaways see and she said it was creatures, not even hell could produce.

Years went by and then generations. Every once in a while, you’ll hear stories of strange things happening on the Crossroads Pub property; unexplained sightings of creatures, ghosts, and monsters; all dismissed as lore. During the early 1900’s people obsessed with the occult took trips to the Crossroads Pub with some leaving disappointed while others were wishing they never found what they were looking for. But the eyewitness tales of the supernatural had died down with the tales become urban legends while the Crossroads Pub itself had slowly become a vacation and tourist destination as it was declared the oldest Pub in America in 1999 and the longest family owned business in 2014 which has always been run by a member of the Martus family. In 2004, an annual Halloween Event for the Pub which became wildly successful as thousands flock to the town of Fenway each year to take part in the celebration and the mystery of the Crossroads Pub. Everything was going well until the night of October 30th, 2015 when the myth became a reality once again.

The Night of October 30th, 2015

Fenway, Massachusetts

I wasn’t much for believing in scary stories about witches, monsters or things that go bump in the night.  My father, William Martus, would tell me the many legends of our family’s famous property every night before bed. I would never believe him, even as a child because I always believed in the rational. My father would laugh when I would try to find a way to explain what really happened without out the urban legends; he would laugh then gave a forced smile when he would tell me that I got my skepticism from my mother. She passed away from an aneurysm when I was 6. I don’t remember much of her anymore, but what I did remember was the confusion of her with me one moment and then gone forever in the next moment.

My father had a rough few decades with drinking after my mom’s death. It didn’t help that he owned one of America’s beloved pubs, but he never let the drinking interfere with his role as a father or a business owner; if anything, he was a highly functional alcoholic, but I would still hear him cry at the end of his drunken stupors for my mother on some nights. He would moan and curse God for taking the love of his wife away and cry himself asleep. But every morning he would clean himself up, hide his sorrow with a mask of a believable smile and always had me ready for school.

He raised me the best he could by himself, but he often had help from the local patrons of the bar or his bartenders. I learned so much from the Pub; I learned how to gamble, how to make any cocktail in the world; first aid from a few bar fights we had. Since my dad did not know how to take care of a daughter going through puberty, he had one the bartenders, Missy-Jo, taught me about menstruation, make-up and how to be a young woman. Missy-Jo was an Irish-Puerto Rican from Tennessee who was fascinated with the lore behind my family’s property, and when she came to visit the Crossroads Pub, she fell in love with Pub itself and hasn’t left. Call it female intuition or as she called it “a bitch’s itch” but I could tell she stayed for my dad. Either out of pity or love but Missy-Jo had always taken care of him and helped run the Pub when his drinking became too much for him. My father gave her creative freedom with the Pub, and she was able to renovate it to its former glory, have history tours during the day and ghost tours at night, and created the Crossroads Pub Annual Halloween festival. She brought beauty and love into our lives, but I couldn’t tell Dad felt the same way, but he was just grateful to have her as a surrogate mother for me; I was glad she was able to fit the role for the few years she was with us. It wasn’t until I was a senior in High School when tragedy had struck again. Missy-Jo was found dead in the woods outside the Pub. The Police told the press they thought a wild boar attacked her but they did not want to spook town with the truth, she was killed ritualistically. Her organs were ripped out and hung across the branches of the tree she was found under. Her eyes were missing, and she had strange claw marks on her body which the police could never identify the animal. I remembered the stories my father and his father would tell him about the monsters and the evil that would haunt our woods.

I cried for months for her, but it was my father who took it the hardest. He became overwhelmed with grief and took his drinking to a new level when he was found choking on his vomit in the Pub one night by one of the bartenders. He was rushed to the hospital, and the doctors were able to revive him, but he remains in a coma still to this day. Overcome by grief, I locked myself in my bedroom for days, unable to get out of bed or even eat I lied there only wanting to sleep so I could not feel the pain anymore.

My Uncle Ulysses reluctantly took over managing the Pub after my father was hospitalized. He was always sweet to me and would tell me stories of not only of the family’s history with the Pub but of his adventures from escaping the family business. He was a well-known bar manager across the U.S.; he would be hired across the states to manage upscale bars and help them increase their profits. He loved the business end of it, but he never wanted to manage the Crossroads Pub; as he stated, “the responsibility of bearing witness is too much.” When I asked what he meant by that he told me that since the time our family has settled on this mysterious and haunted land it seems like whatever eerie or creepy occurrences happen on this land, our family’s role was to bear witness to it. Then he would look into my eyes with heavy guilt and say “You will be the first lady Martus to manage the business when you come of age, and you will have to bear witness, this is our family’s curse.”

Those words still strike a new chord every time I think of them. I tried to play coy in what Uncle Ulysses meant, but the denial was a cheap facade whenever I went to visit my lifeless father in the hospital. I would sit there in the cold and sterile room with my fathers respirator whooshing to every breath, wondering to myself if the stories were true? Are we cursed to see unspeakable things and into what end? Why is my family cursed to the land of the mystic and fear? Why witness the terrifying events? Why keep us at the Pub? I did not have the answers, but I resolved to get as far away as I could from the Crossroads Pub and not to let some twisted fate keep on that land.

My Uncle Ulysses continued with Missy-Jo’s ideas and was able to make the Pub most profitable it has been since it’s creation by creating a micro-brewery which has garnered national recognition. But, I was not content in staying so I snuck off after graduating high school and became a United States Marine, a title I loved dearly. I loved being in the Corps. I loved the pride, the adventure and the new family I had made within my unit; but I found out during my second year that my family curse cared not where I went for it will always follow. It was in my second year which my unit was deployed to Afghanistan to help train the new Afghan Army. We were a highly decorated Military Police unit who was selected to be an example to the liberated soldiers. It was a challenge I looked forward to, and I was excited to finally being deployed because I wouldn’t have felt like I was a full Marine until I have been in war. I wish now my naivety didn’t lead me blindly into the horrifying event which had destroyed my life.

It was the 31st of October 2014, and we were halfway through our deployment. We had completed training the Afghan soldiers, and now it was time for them to perform in the field. A squad of us accompanied a unit of the Afghan soldiers to see how they do and provide support for them. We were given a mission to village 15 miles from the base to help them investigate a possible opium ring which was funding the Taliban. The sad thing was the beauty of the day, the weather wasn’t too hot, and the landscape itself was beautiful to drive across once you forgot we were in a war zone. We came to the village and let the Afghan unit take charge as we followed behind. We scoured each house and found the town to be vacant, which was strange because our intel told us that the village was occupied. The last house we searched was at the far end of the village. The overwhelming smell of death saturated the air as we approached it. I usually had a cautious feeling whenever we conducted a, but this one made my heart race. The Afghan’s kicked the door down and cleared the house halfway until they suddenly stopped with one of them turning around and vomited violently. The smell was so pungent that it felt like I was walking into a slaughterhouse. I felt my boots stick to the floor as if I was stepping in puddles of syrup, but when I looked down, I saw the floor was flooded with blood. We made our way to where the Afghan’s stopped and what I saw I couldn’t possibly imagine war could have depicted. The entire house was filled with the butchered remains of the villagers. Their mangled corpses, limbs torn from torsos and the bodies positioned in repulsive sexual positions. I nearly cried when I saw children were also among the dead. Before our Gunny could give an order, we were fired upon from outside. We took cover around the house and went to the windows to see the enemy. It was a caravan of fighters in their speeding towards us.

The Afghan’s saw this and immediately abandoned the house, and cowardly ran away in the opposite direction. As if he wasn’t surprised, the Gunny got on the radio and started to call for immediate support. We had 15 minutes to hold off the fighters, 15 minutes in hell, so we did what Marine’s always do in an ambush; kill. We raised hell to the fighters and took out as many as we could but they had the numbers, and they surrounded us. One by one my friends, my Marines were gunned down until I was shot in both my legs and vest. I lied in agony on the ground, next to the dying Gunny as blood gushed out from his neck. I went to help him but then the gunfire suddenly stopped, and the multiple thuds of running feet came to our building. I looked into his eyes, and his last look wasn’t of fear but out of grave concern. I was the only woman in the squad, and with the last ounces of life, he realized that raping me and killing me was the least these men were going to do to me once captured. He took his pistol from his holster and aimed at my head as we both began to cry, and I gave a quick nod. He pulled the trigger, but the bullet did not fire. He dropped the gun as he took his final breath. I cried for death to take me also as I realized what torture these men were going to do to me.

The thuds of boots stopped, and gunfire erupted from all around us then it suddenly stopped. The front door was suddenly kicked open and in came rushing the Marine support unit. They had overtaken the caravan when I was on the floor. The Corpsmen checked on us and found only myself still alive. I was evacuated to the base and then to Germany to recover. I spent days doing therapy and the nights screaming in my sleep. To my disgust, I had found out that the Politicians back at homespun the truth to say that the Afghans soldiers were not cowards but only left to take a position before we were ambushed. The lie didn’t make any sense, and I was given a stern warning by some General who visited me in therapy that I am to not disclose what happened for the sake of the war. I didn’t know what was more disgusting: the cowards who ran or the people who protected them, but I am sadly now one of the reluctant people who must protect the cowards and live with a lie. I could never look at the families of my Marines in the eyes because I knew that I told them a lie and if I told them the truth then I could find myself in Leavenworth.

I was medically discharged, and I came home to Crossroads Pub where Uncle Ulysses had remodeled my room and did his best to make me feel better, but I couldn’t be reached. I reverted inside myself and did not leave my room for weeks when I got home. Uncle Ulysses was patient with me and did the best to help me heal from the trauma. He paid for therapy, got me a moped to get around town and called my old high school friends to keep me company, but I couldn’t break out of my depression. Even when I started to leave my room and go back to working in the Pub, I would feel immense dread and hopelessness. I couldn’t stop having flashbacks of the bodies and the Gunny attempting to mercy kill me. I couldn’t stop grieving and feeling guilty that I knew the truth but couldn’t tell the families of my Marines.

Halloween was approaching, and I remembered the stories of the monsters my father would tell me as a kid. No, the terrifying creatures my father painted in my imagination were gentle compared to the horrors humanity can perform. Thoughts began to race in my head, “I don’t think we should survive as a species because there is no good left. Where have the good men gone? Can we even save ourselves from our demise? Is there justice? Do we deserve to live on?” The questions were manic and draining, all of which were answered with a sober but nihilistic answer; I don’t think there is any good left in the world.

Tonight, is October 30th, over a year after witnessing the deep depth of the horrors of humanity; I have decided to bring myself peace and not live to see November 1st.


 

Crossroads Pub

October 30th, 2015, 10:17 pm

Tomorrow is the infamous Crossroads Pub Halloween party, and Uncle Ulysses had to go out of town for the night, so I was stuck watching over the Pub. Most of the tourist won’t start partying until tomorrow night, so the Pub was filled with the locals. Locals like our handsome Sheriff who unwinds his nerves by drinking a Hot Toddy and playing Texas hold’em with the towns over the hill Doctor, Mayor, and mechanic. The Sheriff was always polite to me, and I knew he fancied me, as I fancied him, but I didn’t want him to see me damaged. A couple of the local school teachers were here drinking and playing darts to calm their nerves for the upcoming week of dealing with their raspy students. Then there’s the local ambulance chaser and Fenway’s District Attorney sharing a meal together and making deals for their upcoming case’s for the week. Everyone here was great folk to share the town with, and all knew about my battle, and they did the best they could to show me some courtesy, but I can tell by their mannerisms that they don’t know how to talk to me. They beat around the bush and overly polite when they do see me outside on the seldom occasion I leave my room, but they were respectful which I appreciated.

Lenny, the Pub’s brewmaster, was taking care of the final preparations for the Halloween Party while I was serving the patrons their drinks. I looked at the clock and every minute closer to midnight feels me with dread. I try not to think about the bodies or the lie but the memories keep invading my consciousness, and I can’t stop it. I hold a good poker face as I served the Sheriff his Hot Toddy, but I wanted to go into my room and take all of my sleeping medication and fall into an endless, blissful sleep where there would be no more pain for me; I badly want to end the suffering. To end the panic attacks whenever I hear a loud noise. To stop rushing myself to bed so I can escape the burdening guilt but to only have dreams of Gunny’s last act on this planet was an attempt to kill his friend mercifully. I wanted the pain to end desperately, and I don’t want to live a life tormented by these images and the burden of living with them.

The sound of thunder in the distance and the rapping of raindrops falling on the roof snapped me out of my morbid thoughts. I walked behind the bar to mix another Martini when the front door suddenly flings open. We all looked towards it as a gust of strong wind blew foliage onto the bar floor. One of the teachers began to walk over to close the door but hesitated when a dark figure was walking from the parking lot to the door. I didn’t know why but at that moment I felt my stomach turn upside down as if I felt the dread of an unavoidable catastrophe approaching and I could not avoid it.

The figure emerged from the darkness dressed in a well-tailored black suit, a French-cuffed dress shirt with the top button unbuttoned with a loosened black tie; and a stoic demeanor underneath the smoke that surrounded his face as he exhaled the smoke from his cigarette. The man grabbed the attention of everyone in the bar as he walked in, stood momentarily as he looked briefly looked around the bar as if he was scoping out the place. I stared at his face which looked like a young man who aged fast from terrors untold, but the creases of the sides of lips say he used to smile a lot. His hair was jet black but had the sprinkles of gray in it. He was ethnic from his tanned complexion, but I couldn’t tell what his nationality was. I looked into his eyes briefly as he looked at the bar I was behind, and I saw underneath his stoic face, and his confident posture was fear, grief, and exhaustion; a man close to his end. But, there was something about him that was off. I did not know what to make of it without sounding like a superstitious nut case, but there was a darkness that followed him that was tangible but couldn’t be explained. The door swung shut behind him which shocked the teacher because he wasn’t the one who closed it. The man walked slowly towards the vacant corner table as everyone watched in perplexity as they saw what I saw too. He sat on the corner facing the bar and slid the astray close to him and put out the cigarette he was smoking as he came into the Pub.

I walked over to him as he stared me down as if he knew me.  “What can I get you, Mister?”

He reached into his breast pocket of his suit and gave me $200. “Get me the most expensive bottle of bourbon you have. Keep the change; I am going to be here for a while.”

“Are you expecting someone?” I asked

“I have a date with the Devil,” he said with a little smirk.

I smirked back at the minor lightheartedness he shown as I walked over and grabbed an unopened bottle of Pappy Van Winkle and two rock Glasses. I came back as he started another cigarette and he motioned for me to sit down. He was mysterious, but his demeanor was hypnotic; he somehow made me feel comfortable. I sat, and I poured the bourbon into the rock Glasses. He grabbed one and pushed the other one towards me.

He took a drag than a gulp of the fine bourbon, and he took his time enjoying the taste. He then smiled at me and asked, “What’s your name?”

“Lorelai Martus. What’s yours?”

He took another drag of his cigarette and let the smoke and the question linger in the air.

“Llewyn Glass. So, you’re a member of the famous Martus family?”

“Yeah…next in line to run the place,” I forcibly said as I tried to mask the dreary of it.

“Not only that but doesn’t your family have a history…a myth of being around strange things, witnessing the unexplainable?”

“That’s what the legend says.”

“Good,” Llewyn said with a small glee. “Did you know that your last name is Greek?”

“No, I never gave it too much thought.”

“It means to witness. And if the legends are right…” as he took another swig of the bourbon, “then tonight you’re going to add another story to your family's line.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked bemusedly.

The sounds of thunder grew louder as the raindrops began to barrage the roof. He took a long swig from his bourbon and looked me straight in the eyes with deadly seriousness, “Tonight you will tell your children how you met the Devil.”

10:27 pm

I didn’t know what to think at first. Is it a Halloween prank? Is he one of the sightseers who get too immersed with my family’s history or is the man insane?

“Listen, Mr. Glass. I know it’s going to be Halloween soon and you’re a fan of my family’s history, but I don’t appreciate having my leash pulled. I’m not in the mood for the stupid bullshit that you just tried to pull, especially not tonight.”  

I got up to leave the table, but he gently grabbed my hand and looked at me with the eyes of a man who wants someone to believe him. Something inside of me told me to listen to him, to listen to what insane story he was about to speak.

“I didn’t mean to offend you or weird you out, but I need you to listen to my story, please,” Llewyn said as he looked down at his hands as they began to shake. He no longer had the cool composure he had when he first walked into the room but as a man who is about to make his final confession.

“Ok, entertain me. Tell me your story.”

The mischievous smirk came across his face as he took a final drag of his cigarette before putting it out. “Thank you, but it’s going to be a long one, but I assure you that all of it’s true, no matter how remarkable or unbelievable it may seem.”

I looked down at my Glass and thought why not? Maybe I’ll get one last good story before I take the final rest. I downed the rest of the bourbon in my Glass and poured us both another. He began, “It started in 2012…”

The Fall of Llewyn Glass

Boston, Massachusetts. 2012.

 

I was once a Priest for the Holy Roman Catholic Church; something I always wanted to be since I was a boy in Catholic School. The idea of being a figure of authority for God and saving souls attracted me to it and I was obsessed with the scriptures; the nuances, the interpretations and mystery of them. As I grew of age I joined a Seminary and gave my vows to God; swearing to always serve God, to deny the urges of the flesh and to live a virtuous life. My obsession with the scriptures as a child led me to my passion of the law in my later years. Fortunately, the Catholic Church pays for its servants of God to obtain a higher education and they paid for my law degree and my bar examination. I was Father Llewn Glass, Esquire., a title I was much proud of and often miss. I would handle any legal cases the Cardinal would need me to manage in the Northeastern U.S., and I would do pro-bono work for the congregation to help serve the people I was supposed to be a Sheppard too. But that all changed when one day I received a confession from a fellow priest. That fateful day when I was serving by not being in my office working on cases but preaching and taking confessions. I sat in my confessional booth and a somber but guilty voice came from the other side of the screen.

“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned, it has been three days since my last confession, but I have never confessed to this.”

“Confess in peace my son,” I listened intently as his voice was familiar.

“Father, I have served the church for all of my life for the sake of God, Jesus, and the Holy See. But I have…” the man takes a deep breath as he held back his tears. “…I have partaken in sinful and illegal acts that I have grown physically disgusted with. I have done things that were horrible against the cloth, and I am sure that God won’t even forgive me.”

“My son, there is no sin too great for Jesus to forgive. You only need to confess to it and let God come into your life to work it.” I said half-believing myself. I had a bad feeling that this was something that God would have a hard time forgiving.  “Tell me, what weighs on your soul?”

“I’ve….I’ve…” he stopped for a moment and began to sob heavily. I slid the screen open to my confessional and handed the man a handkerchief and place a reassuring hand on his shoulder. The booth was quite dark at this time of day, so I can only make out a faint silhouette of the guilt-ridden man.

“I’ve had sex with boys.” He said starkly.

I froze for a moment and reacted with disgust by yanking my hand off of his shoulder. But not wanting to ruin the confession, I placed my hand back on him and asked him to continue.

“I couldn’t deny my strong urges. It first started out by just gazing at the altar boys at mass or when they came in to do their weekly tasks. I didn’t think looking was wrong until the urges would haunt my mind in all parts of the day. I denied the thoughts the best I could by praying and avoiding the altar boys and children when necessary, but they temptation to transit from thoughts to the physical tough became stronger. In the act of desperation, I went to Bishop Kenny and confessed to him what was happening to me, and the guilt was consuming me. He calmly listened to me and put me at ease by him confessing that he had to deal with the urges also. I asked how he overcame them and his answer was my downfall, “Sometimes to beat the devil you have to make a deal with him.” He smiled and told me to copy down the names and numbers he read out-loud. After he was done, he said to call these numbers the next time I have these urges and the voice on the other line would help me out.”

“I didn’t call the numbers until a month later out of fear until one-day temptation and curiosity won. I called, and a voice with a thick Eastern European accent answered. I asked for a boy, and he told me to meet him in a rundown motel in Charlestown, to wear something inconspicuous and to bring $1k cash. I went to the motel, and I met with a large man with tattoos of nautical stars on his neck and fist. His thick Eastern European accent asked me for the cash, and I gave it to him. He escorted me to a room and told me I had an hour. I walked into the hotel room, and to my sick delight, I found a preteen boy sitting on the bed. He looked peaceful from where I was standing but looking into his eyes I can tell he was drugged. But, I ignored all of my inhibitions and morals and let my temptation win in the hopes it will finally leave me. An hour went by, and it was both the vilest and exhilarating moment in my life. It felt good to give in to my sin, to finally feel the passions of my flesh extolled. I laid there next to the boy laying on top of me, and for a moment I felt like I was in heaven. This was until he I looked down and saw a tear run down his convoluted eyes and in that moment I realized what I have done was wrong, this boy was suffering, and I didn’t help him but added to it. Before I finished my thought, the Eastern European thug opened the door, not giving us time to dress and told me to hurry up, the hour was over.”

“I left the motel disgusted with myself for what I did and not doing something to help that boy, but I did what any other villain would do in that same situation, deny it and block it from my mind. I found that to be easy and my temptations were satisfied for months until one day the urge came back full swing, and I couldn’t help myself. I called a different number on the list and spoke to a boy directly on the phone. We met later that day in a dilapidated apartment where there was no Eastern European pimp but just a savvy 15-year-old who was in business for himself. Though he was young, life had made him mature for his age. I handed him the money, he took a hit of some drug, and I gave in to my sin again. It was exhilarating and with less guilt this time; which made things worse. The time of satisfaction became shorter and shorter. I had made a schedule of it and called the other boys on the list secretly while I still put on a front to my congregation and hypocritically told them to follow the word of God and condemned the sinners. But, with each time I did it the guilt grew smaller, and the urge to do it grew larger until this past weekend when I couldn’t live with myself.”

“Bishop Kenny had invited me to his office and on Friday and invited me to a private party on Saturday for only a few elite members in the Boston area. He did not tell me what the party was but I accepted. I arrived in West Charlestown to a small mansion guarded by dangerous looking men. I entered and was surprised to find some of the local Bishops and priests attending along with other men of influence outside the church; council members, local businessmen, and a congressman. I thought nothing about it at first as we were all talking business, politics and small talk; until Bishop Kenny called everyone into the ballroom. He thanked everyone for coming to the private gathering and even though we come from different backgrounds we all shared one unique interest in common. At that moment, a door swung open, and a line of boys draped with white sheets came out, and they walked into the center of the ballroom. Bishop Kenny told everyone, “tonight we become free by giving in to our temptations” and grabbed a boy and yanked the white sheet off of him and showed his frail, naked frame. Bishop Kenny grabbed the boys’ genitals and forcefully kissed the boy then proclaimed, “let sin rule for the night so we can live a life of decency.”

“I watched in horror as I recognized a few of the boys from the congregation, others as altar boys and one being the first boy I had my way with; were manhandled and ravage like meat being eaten by savage beasts. The horrifying and grotesque orgy made me vomit whatever was left in my stomach as I realized I truly lost my soul and I ran out of the mansion crying. I did not go back to my apartment that night but wandered through the city looking for a way to forget. I got drunk at a bar and then met a drug dealer who sold me some LSD which only intensify my guilt, disgust and self-loathing with vivid hallucinations of Lucifer delightfully dangling my soul in my hands like a marble. When I became sober, I knew I must confess and try to make things right by talking to you, Father Glass.”

It has been half an hour since he began talking and I can feel my hand clench his shoulder and his shirt soaked from the sweat of my palm. I looked into the corner of the confessional and tried to remain composed against the tide of fury, confusion, and disgust; but it was of no use. I let go of his shoulder and ran out of my side of the confessional and yanked opened the door to his side where I found Father O’Malley sitting there crying. I looked around quickly and found that we were alone, and then I raised my fist and began violently beating him, and I did not stop until he held up an envelope covered with his blood. I stopped and grabbed it from him. Before I can ask what was in the envelope, he began to cry and stammer, and I gave him a moment to finish what he was saying until I decided to continue to pummel him.

“Father Glass, you have a reputation of a man having unflinching integrity and you being a capable lawyer made me confess to you. I did not confess for God’s forgiveness because I know he can’t forgive what I have done, but I confessed to you in the hopes you will do what it takes to make this right. The envelope has the names and numbers that Bishop Kenny provided me in that fateful meeting along with the men that were at the orgy and my video recorded confession. I hope you do the right thing.”

I stumbled backward and fell onto my ass on the floor but just kept staring in shock at the envelope. I couldn’t make myself move as I watched Father O’Malley calmly leave the confessional and walk out of the church. I sat there for hours into the evening until my cell phone buzzed with an info-text from the Massachusetts Arch-Diocese; Father O’Malley had committed suicide by jumping in front of a train. I stood up and walked to my law office a few blocks away from the church. Once I sat in my worn leather chair and felt safe again, I opened the envelope and found a list of names, numbers; dates, addresses, and an SD card which I watch and it was Father O’Malley’s confession in full. It took me a year after that night of secretly gathering evidence and confessions from the boys who were being used as sex slaves and to collect the surveillance evidence of the clergy using the boys. Once I built my case, I went to the Archdiocese for Massachusetts and presented him with the findings of my case. After an hour of silence between us as he had a shocked and confused look upon his face while looking over the copies of the evidence I had and watching the confession and the surveillance videos from a thumb drive; he sat quietly and then asked; “Are these the only copies you have.” I hoped this would n’t, and I prayed to God that it wouldn’t, but that question confirmed to me that the Church was going to bury it; and so, I lied. The Archdiocese did the best he could to pet my ego by telling me that I did a fantastic job and I did the right thing, and he was going to handle it. But I knew what was going to happen; they were going to transfer the Bishop and the priests to other congregations across the planet and do their best to bury what had happened. And that was precisely what they did within a week after presenting the case. Bishop Kenny and the other priest were assigned to other congregations.

But, I had already lost faith in my vows and the church; I was ready to sacrifice something I loved for something I knew was right, and I did it with two emails. The first email was my letter of resignation explaining why I was leaving the church and the events that led to it. The other email was to the local and cable news networks, the Boston Police Department and the Department of Justice; it contained scanned copies of the evidence and the downloaded copies of the interviews and surveillance I gathered.

It took an hour for the news to go worldwide. It took a day for the church to deny it. It took three days for the Church to do damage control by quickly moving the pedophile clergy members and slandering my name in the press. It took seven days for uproars from the public and the pundits to rebel against the church and the Boston Police Department with the Department of Justice to officially step in and conduct their investigations. In 40 days some of the clergymen, businessmen, and politicians involved in the pedophile ring were arrested while the most powerful ones used their influence, power, and money to get out of it; especially Bishop Kenny who got a cushy position in Switzerland which happens to be non-extractible.

After a year and a half in the dirt and filth of the worth of the Church; I had lost faith in the idea of God and justice and moved on with my life. The Holy See didn’t attack me by demanding me to pay back the tuition for my Law School education nor publicly excommunicate me, but they made it hard for me to begin a new life. I was able to start my firm, but I had to start defending people I knew were guilty to make ends meet. It didn’t take two months for me to regret me doing the right thing as I had to swallow my integrity and character and tell the courts that my guilty client was innocent so that I can eat.

But, on the third month, I had a glimpse of hope when a new client walked in. Her name was Lilith. Her skin was milky white; her frame was slender but had curves in the right places, and she had raven black hair with curls which complimented her blue eyes. She came into my office because she was charged with arson and minor drug use in a public park for performing what she said was a “religious ceremony” and needed counsel. She admitted to eating magic mushrooms and was interested in some pagan rituals from a hobby of studying mythology. Of course, while I was a priest I had urges for the flesh and wanted to bed a woman, but I never entertain or acted on them even after leaving the church because I was too distraught and heartbroken from losing my faith; but meeting her made me forget for a moment, and I felt human. We talked for hours in my office, and I began to fall in love for the first time in 28 years. That night we went out for dinner and kissed, and I realized this was the first date and my first kiss. I had never expected in my life to feel the intensity you can feel for another person. I defended Lilith’s case within the week and got her off with community service. The night after winning her case we made love for the first time. Never have I ever felt anything so exhilarating or fantastic than having sex for the first time and what made it better was that this was a woman I was beginning to care deeply for.

I felt like I can finally move on with my life. We were inseparable for months as we spend our free hours together and enjoying life. She would stay with me in my apartment every night and go to her job as a historian. Lilith told me that she was adopted at birth and never met her parents nor sought them out but she was grateful for her adopted family. She was a bit of an eccentric due to her obsession with mythology and American colonial history, but I found it endearing. Lilith would smile with her eyes and dimples made me tremble each time I saw it. The best thing she did for me was to listen to my hurt when I told her what happened to me with the church, the disgust I felt for them not doing the right thing and how I felt like what I did wasn’t enough. Lilith would always listen and comfort me. Two months into dating I had bought a ring to propose. I was on top of the world and felt like I was given a gift from life until I got home and she gave me the tragic news. Lilith had cancer, and it was highly aggressive, she had gone to the doctor for chest pain and found cancer had taken over her chest. She didn’t have long to live. Chemo and radiation therapy were useless at this point, and the doctor just advised her to settle her affairs and make the best of the time she had left. We both cried in each other arms for hours that night. When she finally fell asleep, I stepped outside and went to bodega down the streets and bought my first pack of cigarettes and smoke one out of my apartment. I coughed hard as I inhaled the hot smoke, it forced me to tear and then I lost control of my emotions and fell to my knees and cursed at God. “How fucking dare you! After what I did and went through this is how you treat me! You asshole! You amoral omnipresent dick! Why her?! Why do this to me?!” That was the moment I completely lost faith and believed there was no God and if he did exist, then he was a cruel ruler who loved to kick his toys.

When I came back into the apartment, Lilith was up and sitting at my desk, looking at my computer. She had asked me to keep an open mind about the request she was going to make. I listened to her ludicrous request, but out of love and desperation, I agreed to it.

Her obsession with mythology and Colonial history also included the occult in America, and she had wanted to try a séance in a small town of Fenway where her research said that there is a place where deals can be made with the supernatural. I didn’t believe in that stuff and under normal circumstances, I would have thought she was delusional, but I desperately wanted for her to be happy before she died. I agreed, and we had made a romantic getaway in Fenway that weekend. We had a pleasant fall day exploring the town and taking the history tours she likes. Coincidentally, it was also All Hallows Eve, and the town was in full Halloween Spirit with its decorations, kids and adults wearing their best costumes and the infamous Crossroads Pub’s already was packed with costumed adults drunk and enjoying the debauchery. I saw a smile come across Lilith’s face as she basked in the jovial and macabre ether of the night. I also smiled, almost forgetting about her cancer until she bent over and began coughingly violently into her handkerchief. She looked up at me, and I saw the blood smear her lips, and the handkerchief and the grim reality came back to me.

We walked passed the party at the Crossroads Pub, through the cemetery where we saw a couple in a Kanye West and a Kim Kardashian costumes having sex on a grave; and into the woods. We went deep enough where the music and the lights from the Pub were just a glimpse away but far enough where nobody would notice us.

Lilith pulled out of her backpack a camping lamp, a few candles, a raggedy notebook, and a dagger. She lit the lamp for us to see and then the candles. She opened her notebook and began talking in a language I have never heard. When I agreed to do this, I was only doing it to humor her, but a cold chill went down my spine, and my stomach cringed with fright as something didn’t feel right. The wind began to blow harder, and the light and music from the Pub faded away, and it felt like we were now alone on an island in the dark. I asked her to stop, but she kept speaking; I grabbed her arm and pulled her towards me, but her eyes were black voids and her skin colder than a corpse. Before I can react to the ghastly sight I felt something sinister and omnipresent behind me, I turned around, and that’s when I saw the grotesque Beast. Within that moment I felt like I was in a lucid nightmare in which I was floating and felt disembodied. Lucifer spoke in a deep and earthshaking tone and asked me, “Would you sell your soul for her to live a life everlasting?”

I look over and saw her body floating too with blood coming out of her mouth. Without a doubt, I said, “I do.” Lucifer laughed and said, “So be it LLewyn Glass, you will have one year from today to enjoy your life before I come to collect my due. So, you may never forget our agreement you will be constantly reminded of it by your shadow.”

The Beast looked over to Lilith and said, “Well done, you have got what you wanted after all.” With that, I fell hard to the ground and was knocked unconscious.

When I woke up, it was dawn, and I found Lilith asleep a few feet away from me. Hoping it was just a horrible nightmare, I crawled over to her and held her in my arms. She slowly opened her eyes and smiled, but it wasn’t a smile of warmth, but a wicked one Lilith pushed me away from her jumped up onto her feet. She spread her arms into the warm rays of the dawn and yelled, “I did it!”

She danced as I slowly picked myself up as I re-oriented myself. “What did you do?” I asked grimly.

She stopped dancing and strutted towards me and sinisterly said, “You stupid boy. I can’t believe you sold your soul to the Devil. But, I have to thank you for your contribution because now I am going to live forever.”

The sudden emotions of confusion and heartbreak overwhelmed me, and I fell to my knees. Lilith walked over to me and pulled my chin up, “You look so pathetic and confused, let me clear this up for you. I…used…you.” She let go of my chin, and I collapsed on the grassy ground.

“Still confused? What is the one thing we all want? Immortality. And I tried to make this deal with the Morning Star last year, and he told me that I did not have anything he wanted because I am destined to spend eternity in hell. I don’t need to go over the particulars why but let’s say I deserved to go but thanks to you sweetie, I am not going anywhere. He told me that if I can get a good man, who was forsaken for doing right and get him to give him his soul freely, then I can be immortal.”

“Fortunately, the next day you came up in the news for ratting on that corrupt filth of an organization, and I knew I found my soul. I knew it wouldn’t be hard to have you fall for me, a virgin who never touched a woman because he “loved God” more. But I needed you to fall deeply love with me until I can get you desperate, then again, you’re a man, so that was easy. All I had to do was fuck you good and listen to you bitch and moan about your stupid church and justice. But, to get you to do follow through willingly, that I needed a good con.”

Lilith walked over to her backpack and retrieved the dagger and a small container. She threw the container, and it landed in front of my face. It was a packet of fake blood capsules for Halloween. She never had cancer. My disorientation turned into rage as I picked myself up and charged to her but she pointed the dagger towards me, and I stopped.

“No, no, no sweetie. You would never hit a woman, especially one you can’t hurt.” She suddenly took the dagger and plunged it into her stomach. Lilith looked up and smiled as she pulled out the bloody dagger, but the hole began to close and heal. I was in shock and couldn’t move. I couldn’t tell what sickened me the most: the idea of going to hell or the heartbreak and betrayal.

“You truly are a pathetic man. Look at you, who would truly love you? You don’t even love yourself enough to see that there is one thing you should never give away is your soul.”

After her cruel words, I stormed towards her, wrapped my hands around her neck and lifted her off of the ground as I tried to end her immortality with whatever strength I had left.

“You bitch! You conned me!” I screamed with gobs of spit and tears spurting up on her passive face, which only made me squeeze harder. “I lost my soul! You took that away from me! You fucking betrayed me! Did you even love me?!”

With the last question, I felt her windpipe crush between my hands and I dropped her. Lilith laid lifeless, and I felt the intense agony of actually thinking that I had killed her. I knelt down beside her and lifted her into my arms and began to cry.

“Why?! Why did you do this?” I cried.

Lilith’s head suddenly jolted, and she gasped for air, then said: “Because I can.”

Defeated, I knelt there, speechless and forever lost. Lilith picked herself up and brushed the leaves off of her and stood there and smiled. “Not only did I got you to sell your soul but I broke you also. The man who will do what is right at all cost just “killed” his ex-lover. You truly are pathetic. But then again, you were a good fuck for a 30-year-old virgin.”

I knelt there in shock as she took those final steps out of my life back the way we came. I couldn’t; I wouldn’t believe what was happening to me. I was numb as I stood there in the middle of the woods for God knows how long, kneeling as the pain meticulously worked its way into my heart and I finally imploded in emotion. The betrayal, the heartbreak and ultimately the realization of what was going to happen on Halloween next year hit me like a sledgehammer to my stomach as I collapsed on the ground and began uncontrollably crying.

The morning rays begin to trickle through the forest and warmed my cold face. I adjusted my eyes and noticed something odd. My shadow was being cast on the ground in front of me instead of behind me. I rose, and no matter which way I turned my shadow was constantly in front of me. A reminder of my curse.

The ride back home was for lack of the better word empty. I was quiet on my way back to Boston, I was starving but could not gain the strength to get a burger. All I wanted was to go home and sleep. When I finally made it back, I noticed her things were gone except she left another packet of the fake blood capsules in the middle of the floor and my shadow eclipsing them. I collapsed on the floor and cried uncontrollably; a solution to my sin was futile, and I wasn’t deserving of life or love. Those were the thoughts the plagued my head for days as I lay on that floor, wallowing in pity and regret. I did not leave my home for weeks, ordering out food, staring at my shadow and living in filth as I lost all hope. When those were no longer working, I went to the bottle for comfort and to numb the pain. The bottle gave me the courage to finally leave my home but only led me to bars where I kept drinking and drinking. But the reoccurring feelings of dread and heartbreak kept haunting me, so I obtained pain pills to numb them. Though heartbroken and lonely, I dreadfully wanted the touch of another woman, but my feeble attempts stemming from my misery only turned off any woman who I talked to, and each rejection made me weaker and bitter inside. “I’m going to hell anyway,” I thought to myself as I ordered prostitutes to my home. One after another only granted me a moment of satisfaction and pleasure but it never lasted as I kept fucking to stop the pain. I wanted something more than just meaningless sex, but I no longer thought myself worthy of another person’s love, not even my own.

Four months into my plunge of dissolution, I had left a brothel drunk and was about to enter a bar when I saw a reflection of myself in a puddle on the sidewalk. I took a long good look at myself and felt gloomy over who I became. What happened to me? I was a fighter. I was brave. I took on challenges that were bigger than me and didn’t care about failure, just did them to fight and become something more then what I was. Now a broken man’s drunk face stared back with the smell of Jack Daniels and the musk of a whore coming off of me. My eyes stopped focusing on my reflection and onto my shadow in front of me, the constant reminder of my doom, and I heard the deep voice of Johnny Cash and the holy strums of his guitar playing from the bar playing “The Man that Comes Around.” I had listened to this song countless times, but at that moment in my life, it spoke to my soul. His powerful chords and lyrics no longer made me feel pity or hopelessness but fueled a flame made dim from the pain. It rekindled my old soul as I looked down upon my poor reflection and the shadow that haunted me and became determined, brave again. I am more than the man who was staring back at me, and I wasn’t going to go down like this. I wasn’t going to hell without giving a fight. I’m going to get my soul back. I’m going to beat the Devil.

I went back home to start finding a way out of this. I didn’t know where to start, but I opened up my laptop and before I can begin researching I received an email from the Vatican titled “Come to Rome.”

“Come to Rome immediately, Mr. Glass. I found out what happened and I need to help you. Attached is your flight information. I don’t need to remind you about your deadline.

Sincerely,

Sister Abigail LeFay

Director of Antiquities, Anthropology, and History

Vatican City, Italy.”

 

I took a moment to breathe, and without a second thought I grabbed my passport and packed a bag.


 

Sister LeFay of the Vatican

Rome, Italy. February 14, 2015

I was nursing a hangover with an awful helping of jet lag when I finally made it to Rome Central Station with the bright sun making my headache even worst. I wished I still was taking the pain meds, but I needed to be clear headed when I visit Sister Abigail. I hailed a taxi and said one word, “Vatican.”

The taxi driver drives fast and cuts cars off through the traffic as we made our way across the city, over a bridge and passed the massive castle of Castel Sant’ Angelo, where I look up to see the statue of St. Michael on top of the circular castle. His wings spread and his sword drawn over the castle, maybe he is available to help me out.

The taxi drops me off among the swarms of tourist in front of St. Peters square. Lines were stretching across the front of the massive city-state, but I walk out of the square and follow the high walls and columns surrounding the Vatican. I made a turn around the secluded corner and found the visitor entrance and the Swiss Guards standing watch in front of it with their assault rifles. I slowly walk over to the guard booth and presented my passport as he checked for my name on the visitors' list. The two guards with the rifles kept glancing over at me, they recognize me as the “Forsaken Priest.” The guard in the booth clears me, and I walk past them, into a large garden behind St. Peters Basilica. It was strange being back here, but it was the dismissing stares from the priest and other guards which made me regret coming. But, they must have felt good about themselves as I look like I had my fall from grace. I walked into the bright yellow archaic building and made my way to the front desk where I was checked again and given a visitor pass then escorted to the elevator where we descended three stories below the Vatican. We walked out of the elevator and into a musty, dirt-floored and wooden beamed corridor that reminded me of an old wine cellar. The guard led me to a new oak door and gently rapped his knuckles on the door and announced in Italian that I was here. The door swung open, and I saw the warm smile of a gray-haired woman who I can safely assume to be Sister Abigail. She gave the guard a gentle kiss on each cheek and thanked him for escorting me then wrapped her arms around me, squeezing me tight before kissing me on each cheek. Her smile was infectious because for the first time in a long time my cheeks hurt from the grin she placed on my face.

“Come in,” she cheerfully said in her Tennessee accent. She led me into her office which also functioned as an archive with rows of leather-bound books, relics and art filling the high vaulted walls. We walked over to her desk, but she stops me before I can sit down and lifts up a flashlight.

“May I?” she asked as she already knew about my shadow.

I nodded, and she walked around me several times as she shined her light on me so I can cast my shadow; and with each pass around me, my shadow would always cast on the ground in front of me.

“Fascinating,” she said curiously to herself.

“Not to be rude, but nothing is fucking fascinating about this.” I sharply said to her.

She looked up shocked from my language, but before I could apologize for my rudeness, she waved her hand and said, “I understand. Your time is limited, and you need help which I convinced the Vatican to do so without any remorse to you.”

“Thank You. But, how do you know about my curse? Was the Vatican keeping tabs on me? Spying on me?”

“The Vatican, No. Myself, yes. And it wasn’t you I was spying on. It was Lilith.”

“Lilith?” I said as a whirlwind of confusion and dread began to consume me. “Why would you watch her?”

Sister Abigail walked behind her large, antique desk and sat in the well-worn leather office chair for a moment in silence; contemplating her next words.

“I have been spying on Lilith for two reasons: My position in the Vatican requires me to track and monitor certain unique individuals, creatures and sites. The Second is…” she paused as she took a sigh of despair “she is my daughter.”

“Daughter? How can that be? You’re a Nun; you took same vows of chastity we all had to take. Are you a hypocrite like the others in this godforsaken organization?”

“No, I have been faithful to God and the Church; but I wasn’t always a Nun. What I am about to tell you is the truth, and it is secret that only God knows. It is painful for me to tell you this but I want and need to help you, you deserve the whole truth.”

I sat back in the chair across from her, took out a flask and a cigarette and began consuming the fire from each. I signaled if she wanted a sip and she took the offer and took a shot of the whiskey without making a face.

“I was not always Sister Abigail LeFay, but I was Dr. Abigail LeFay, Ph.D. I was a Tennessee country girl who made her way into Boston University on hard work, waiting tables and a ton of scholarships. At 28 I was on top of the world. I have just earned my Doctorate in Anthropology after doing my dissertation on Native American tribes and their use of hallucinogens in ceremonies. It was a wonderful time for me, and I felt on top of the world. I was young, pretty and loved to have fun and be adventurous. I would drink men twice my size underneath the table and then go into the office the next day and continue my research. I loved my life until the unfortunate morning 29 years ago.” Sister Abigail stared off in the distance and took a long swig from the flask.

“I had slept in my office on campus from a night of researching and grading students’ papers, and I awakened to the bright rays of the early dawn coming through my office window. That day I did not have any classes to teach until the late afternoon, so I decided to go home and get some rest. It was still early, and there was no one on campus as I walked to the parking lot. When I made it to my car, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and heard something behind me. I turned around and stood at the rear of my car was a large man with a sinister look. I slowly fiddled with my keys to get my mini pepper spray, but it was too late. He quickly ran up and grabbed and began pulling me. I screamed and started scratching his face but he punched me in the jaw, and it stunned me enough to fall against the car. He opened my rear door and threw me in the back seat and…I think I don’t need to tell you what happened next.”

I paused for a moment and felt the pain coming from her eyes; “No, you don’t have to relive it again.”

Sister Abigail didn’t speak for a few moments and then she finished off whatever was left in the flask and continued. “They never caught him. This was a time when DNA testing wasn’t used yet, and the campus had no security cameras. He was gone, but he left something with me, his unborn child. I didn’t realize I was pregnant until a month in because I was devastated and suffering from so much fear and shame from the rape that it was clouding my judgment. When I found out I was pregnant with his baby, I went mad with grief and disgust. His seed was growing in me. He had not only robbed me of a normal life, but now he left me with a reminder of how evil he was.”

“At the time, I wasn’t religious. I haven’t gone to church since I was a little girl and I felt like I didn’t need it. I never felt guilty about anything I’ve done up to that point in my life when I decided to have an abortion.”

“You tried to abort Lilith?,” I said in as sensitively as possible, although the thought was looming in the back of my head wishing she did.

Sister Abigail finished off the flask before going quiet for a moment again and sternly said “Yes.”

“But, when I went to the doctor and was about to go through with the abortion I thought for a moment that this life inside of me didn’t ask for it to be forced inside me. It didn’t deserve to die, it wasn’t the baby’s fault, and it deserved a chance on this planet. I stopped the kind doctor, who understood what happened and he helped me get in touch with an adoption agency. I have chosen for her to live but I couldn’t live with her as a constant reminder of the rape. The Thornes’, a kind and well to do family in Cambridge was chosen as her new family, but they never knew the circumstances of how she was conceived, but they could tell from my face when I met them that I was traumatized. The day I gave birth to her was a day of bittersweet sorrow. I was glad to have her out of my life and hopeful that this will help me move on. It was awful giving birth, it was so painful, and all I could see was my rapists' face and me cursing him for doing this to me and now another human being. I cursed him, I cursed God, and I cursed the baby; but when I heard her scream for the first time, and I felt a powerful joy sweep through me. I looked at her and began to feel love for her. The doctor placed her small, shivering body in my arms and I cried. I cried because I knew that was the only moment I will have with her which will not be tainted by the memory of my rapists. I kissed her on the head and had Mr. and Mrs. Thorne come and take her from me. They named her Lilith Morgania, a Gaelic name. “

“Knowing what I been through and not wanting the physical touch of a man ever again, I left my academic post and joined a convent. At first, I used the convent as an escape from the pain of my rape and the deep sadness and guilt over giving away my daughter; but then I felt as if I found my calling.  After my postulancy, I chose to become a Nun and devote my life to something beyond me. Even though I don’t agree with the Catholic Church at times, I have found solace in me serving others. Word spread about my academic pedigree, and I was invited to join the Vatican’s Department of Antiquities, Anthropology, and History, but I’ll elaborate on that later. Within ten years I was the first Nun in history to be put in charge of the Department, and it gave me great influence and resources at my disposal. Within all this time of me advancing my life, every day I thought about her and wondered what she was doing. It wasn’t until she was 16 I decided to see her finally. I made some calls; you would know out of all people how deep the influence the Catholic Churches connections are. I was able to find the Thornes were still living in Boston. I left the Vatican and flown back to the states and with all of that time I had no idea what to say or do when I see her again. I drove my rental car to their neighborhood and parked down the street for a few hours. I was having second thoughts on seeing her and thought about driving.”

“But, then I saw her walk out the door, and I saw how beautiful she became. I couldn’t control my crying as for how much she looked like me when I was her age. The Thornes had helped her grow into a wonderful young woman, and she looked remarkable. She was walking towards me, and I begin to panic, but I forgot I was in civilian clothes and a rental car.  She walked past me without giving me a glance, and my heart trembled as she turned at the corner and left my sight again. I didn’t move for an hour until I had an idea of how I would approach her. The next day I wore my Nun garb and waited on the same corner she turned on. I waited there for an hour until I saw her again. She came to me, and I swallowed my nervousness as she came to the corner, and I put on an act as a lost Nun in Boston. To my delight, she helped me out, and we talked for a few minutes and even walked with her for a while, and she invited me for coffee at a coffee shop she goes to study. She was graduating early from High School and was getting a scholarship to Harvard. I couldn’t be more happy with her. It seemed like she was on the right track and she didn’t become a maladjusted woman like I feared she become. We talked for hours until the courage worked up in me to tell her the truth. She knew she was adopted but the Thornes lost track of me, but she always wondered on who I was.”

“She seemed solemn as I told her that I was her mother but then she asked why I abandoned her and that’s when I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t tell her the truth. I lied and told her that I had gotten drunk at a party and had sex with a man I never saw again. I put her up for adoption because I was young and afraid. Her solemn face turned to rage and quietly without bringing attention to us in the coffee shop, began to curse me and call me a selfish cunt. The young woman who I began to admire was showing me a dark and malevolent side to her, and it was frightening to me. I tried to calm her, but she took out her phone and shown me pictures which nearly caused me to faint. “Is this where my sick shit comes from,” she chastised me with pictures of mutilated animals and screenshots of dead bodies. I couldn’t understand what was happening, Lilith was a monster in disguise, and she blamed me for her illness. She went on to distraught and disgusted me with tales of her torturing the neighborhood pets since she was a kid, manipulating her parents, classmates, and teachers; and even suffocating her baby sister when she first came home because she was jealous of the attention the newborn was receiving. I asked her why did she do all of this and she simply said, “Because, I can.”

“My worst fear came true. She became a creature of evil like the man who raped me. I threatened to go to the police, but she simply laughed and said I couldn’t as she explained to me that I am bounded to remain silent because it was a confession and I was wearing my uniform in addition to not being able to substantiate anything I told her. She saw me nervously fidget with my rosary beads and whispered a silent prayer; she reached with her hand and stopped me from praying. “No, no. There isn’t any help from the indifferent creator,” she said with an uneasy truth hitting me in the gut. She got up and walked away as I sat there crying. I left for Rome the next day, but on the flight back I read an email from my connection in Boston that her house caught on fire and her parents died. I have given birth to a monster.”

Sister Abigail had tears rolling down her face, but her stoic expression stood the same.

“Why didn’t you tell her that you were raped?” I asked.

“How can you tell someone that they weren’t meant to be on this planet? That you were conceived in a horrible and gruesome act. That you were such a burden of a memory that I came close to aborting you but then last minute decided to let you live. How would you feel if you heard that?” she tearfully asked.

We both sat quietly in the sobering silence.

“How did you know about what happened to me and why is the Catholic Church interested in helping the man that exposed them?”

“That’s my job. What the world knows and you use to believe is that the supernatural and the divine are metaphorical. Lore and myths are stories misinterpreted by the deluded and the uneducated and later disavowed by logic and science. But, as you know now, the supernatural exists in the peripheral of reality, and the Catholic Church along with other major religions, scientist and government agencies have proof of this. Vatican’s Department of Antiquities, Anthropology, and History is in charge of investigating these phenomena and classifying them from the public. Before you ask why it’s because we and the others I recently mentioned have agreed that the world isn’t ready to know the truth.”

“Why not?” I said perplexed and awed. “ If there is proof of God and the Devil, why hide it from the world?”

“It’s because we don’t understand what the truth is. All over the world, we find that major parts of myths and legends did and still exist in the world. There are deity’s that live among us, monsters that still haunt us and mysteries we cannot comprehend.  If we tell the world that these things exist then the religious-culture wars we had over the past millennia would look like a schoolyard fight compared to what travesties the governments and religions of the world will commit to each other to prove whose god is more powerful. Just imagine the Crusades but with nukes and biological weapons. We agreed to keep these a secret and pool our resources together to understand what we see until…”

“Until the Church can spin it the way it wants, to hold their power. To let the world, know that they know what’s good for it?” I said cynically.

“Not when I’m in charge. I will let the world know when I and my counterparts have agreed what the facts are. Then we will release the facts and let the world choose what to believe. But I and the other scientist, monks, Rabbis, etc. cannot do so in good conscience.”

For a moment I started to believe and even trust in her but then she still hasn’t answered my question.

“How did you know about my deal?”

“Isn’t obvious? Once promoted to Director, I classified Lilith as a person of interest due to her sociopathic behavior and kept tabs on her. She gained an interest in the occult, but I never thought she would render a manifestation or become entwined with the supernatural. But it wasn’t until we were made aware of ritualistic murders around Boston that I became more involved with Lilith again, especially with one on a hollow site in the town of Fenway. I sent operatives to spy on her on a gut feeling and one reported back to me of witnessing in the forest of Fenway: Lilith, you and a creature so horrifying that the mere sight of caused a shock so intense that he did not awake from his coma until a few days ago. I immediately contacted you as soon as he told us what happened, hence why you are sitting across from in a country that has forsaken you.”

“But why help me? You know there is no saving me from what I did, and this hypocritical institution would love to see me literally go to hell.”

“Because I see the good in you. You’re a good man who became lost after tragedies of a broken heart. You believed in justice and what is right, which underlies all beliefs; a universal truth which you never swayed from even the face of adversity. Then you loved another enough to sacrifice your soul to save her life, to save my daughter. You are damned, unforgivable in the eyes of God but I am going to use whatever influence I have to help you get your soul back and find your way out of the gates of hell.”

For the first time in a long time, I felt hope. “What happens now?”

Sister Abigail opened the drawer to her desk and pulled out a bottle of Scotch and two Glasses and filled them both to the rim, then handed one to me. We both drank, but she finished hers in one gulp.

“Mr. Llewyn Glass, I am sending you down the road of mystery and wonder; of gods and monsters. You will witness and experience things which go beyond science and belief. You are walking in between worlds, between what we know and what we could never have fathomed. Be careful on this path you blaze because you might find a fate worse than hell.”


 

The Old Gypsy

Rome, Italy. February 14th, 2015.

I walked from the Vatican through the narrow and busy streets of Rome to the Coliseum. I had taken my time because I was instructed by Sister Abigail to wait until midnight to meet with her source. Even though it was late; the tourist was still eating and drinking, street hustlers were still trying to sell their Selfie-sticks, but the sites were even more beautiful at night. Especially when the night lights hit Trevi Fountain, it reflected a brilliant white and blue light that made the statues seem that the gods blessed them.

I stood outside the closed Coliseum and waited for a man named Jal. I didn’t mind waiting because the Coliseum was beautiful underneath the full moon. Even though it was in ruins, I could not help but admire the feat the ancient Romans had built. It was massive and beautiful; it was hard for me to fathom how they created this elaborate structure without today’s technology. But even though it was slowly becoming decrepit from age and the vibrations from the underground trains, it’s astonishing that it still stands. 

A cold hand touched my shoulder, and I swung around out of fright. A brown, smiling face in a security guards uniform greeted me. “Are you Llewyn?” he said in a heavy Italian accent.

“Si.”

“Ciao, I am Jal. Sister Abigail called me and told me about your…issue. Follow me and let’s see if we can find you some answers.”

“We?”

“Si, my grandmother, is inside, she is the one with the gift.”

“What gift?”

“You’ll see,” as he led me to the locked gate to the Coliseum. He checked first if the gate was locked and then he pulled out a set of keys from his pocket and unlocked it.

He led me inside and locked the gate behind me. I looked up at massive columns and high stone ceilings which still rival modern-day stadiums. We walked pass visitor entrances into the arena of the Coliseum and instead took a back entrance into the underground levels of the Coliseum. Jal lit a lantern that was sitting at the top of the stone staircase as we went into the dark corridors. Through the dim flickering light, I could see the old rooms where they kept the gladiators, weapons, and animals; but now it only holds extra chairs and tables for special events. I found it strange that after all these years I can still smell the faint odor of the coppery smell of blood in the air. We went deeper into the Coliseum where we enter the level beneath the arena. Above our heads was a partial replica of the stage floor where they would have the violent battles and spectacles. The other half of the arena was open to the night sky where the full moon’s light lit our path to a small person in the center of the arena.

“Mi grandmother,” Jal said to me as we walk towards her.

Jal walked towards her and gave her a hug and then a kiss on each cheek. She was a small petite woman wearing a brown and red dress with a yellow head cover. She had an old redwood cane with demons and skeletons carved into the bottom part and angels and doves in the top section. She had a hunch back, and her hands were thin, and her knuckles enlarged.  Her face was a dark complexion with deep wrinkles, but she had brilliant blue eyes that were vibrant for someone her age. Jal spoke to her in a language I have never heard of before.

“We are Romani…uh, Gypsies is what you might hear my people called. Before you ask, I got a job here because I wanted my child to live in a proper home. This here is my grandmother, Nadya.”

“Ciao,” I said as I kissed her on each cheek.

“She only speaks Romani so I’ll be doing the translating.”

She spoke to him for a few moments and pointed to the lantern in his hand and then to me.

“She wants to see if it is true what Sister Abigail said about your curse.” As he lifted the lantern towards me, the light produced a shadow but not behind me. It was directly ahead of me, even as he walked around me with the lantern.

Nadya did not seem troubled or surprised by this. She gave an expression as if she had much stranger things in her life. She spoke to Jal in Romani again as she reached into her small satchel and handed him a knife and I instinctively stepped back. She then turned around and looked at the ground. I had not seen it before we had walked up but there was large pentagram drawn in chalk on the ground with Latin letters written around it.

“She wants a piece of your hair,” as he handed me the knife.

Relieved, I lifted the knife behind my head and cut a small patch off from the back of my neck and gave him the strands. He took the hair and placed it in a bowl lying on the ground.

“What are we doing here and what is with the pentagram?” I asked.

Jal translated to Nadya and spoke something back to him. “She says we can’t break your curse, much too powerful and dark magic. But, we are going to summon someone to help you.”

“O.K…” I said perplexed.

Nadya began speaking again as she took a piece of chalk and attached it to the bottom of her cane and continued writing in Latin on the ground.

“First, we must tell you his story.”

“Whose?”

“Of the spirit we are summoning. His name is Hakīm and lived around 80 A.D.”

“Why do we need Hakīm’s story?” I asked

Jal translated it for me as Nadya took the bowl with my hair in it and mixed it with some herbs she had in her pocket.

“She says his story will help you understand the advice Hakīm’s spirit will give you when he arrives. Now she says, uh…how do you say it in American…silenzio fuck up and listen.”

Nadya gave me a piercing look through those vibrant eyes of her; I relented and sat down on the dirt and listened to the story.

 

Hakīm was a Moor who lived here in Rome during the reign of Caesar Domitain. He was of middle age but was worldly and wiser than his years. He had traveled the known world and learned medicine from different cultures and brought his knowledge to Rome as a doctor. He treated all people from different classes and took any form of payment they can offer him, but he never turned down anyone in need. His medical skills and kindness were known throughout Rome to which Caesar had heard of him and requested him to his court. Hakīm went to Caesar and listened to his proposition, come work for him as his physician, and he’ll make him powerful and wealthy. Hakīm was not a man who sought riches nor power but was a simple man who enjoyed helping others. Hakīm had asked if he were to treat the ill still and wounded of Rome at which Caesar said no. Caesar wanted him available at any time if he or those closest to him become sick. Hakīm respectfully declined and wished to continue his current life. Caesar was enraged for he wanted the best medical care under close to him since he travels extensively across the empire and he had suspicions of an assassination against him. Hakīm paid his respects to Caesar and was about to leave when Caesar ordered the guards to stop him. Caesar decided if he could not have the Moor doctor then no one would and sentenced him to public execution. Hakīm was a pacifist and abhorred violence, but he was wise and intelligent and made a bold notion. Instead of an execution let him win back his freedom in the Coliseum by fighting the gladiators.

Caesar's interest was now peaked as Hakīm made an even bolder proposition, if he wins three battles in the arena without killing then he wished to be set free and return to his place in Rome. Caesar thought about it for a moment, such a bold proposition, to win in the Coliseum without shedding blood. He eyed Hakīm’s slender frame and knew that he was not built for any battle. Caesar was entertained by the notion and made a deal with him and sent him to the Coliseum for the games.

The next week Hakīm took part in his first challenge. He was brought into the middle of the hot and sweltering arena wearing ill-fitting armor while holding a heavy shield and a dull sword. Caesar arrogantly boasted from his royal stand about Hakim’s dilemma and the proposal to the crowd. The crowd cheered and laughed. How can a man win against the gladiators without killing? Especially someone that looks like Hakīm.

The trumpets blasted to signal the arrival of Hakim’s opponent, the Leviathan. The Leviathan was a vicious looking and massive man who was three times the size of Hakīm as he was fitted with the most durable armor and given the sharpest sword. The Leviathan was known for his brutal fighting and drinking the blood of his opponents from his helmet.

Both the Leviathan and Hakīm met in the middle of the arena where the crowd fell silent. Before the horn blast was given to fight, Hakīm plunged his sword into the ground and dropped his shield and began stripping off all his armor. Caesar and the crowd became collectively confused by the sight while the Leviathan started to chuckle underneath his heavy armor. Hakīm stripped down to his tunic and retrieved only his shield from the ground and stood ready for the battle. Caesar still confused by Hakīm’s act ordered the fight to begin and watched eagerly from his stand.

The Leviathan raised his heavy sword and prepared to strike, but Hakīm kept moving away from his reach forcing the Leviathan to keep advancing. The Leviathan would swing his sword, but Hakīm would keep moving backward causing him to miss. The Leviathan no longer amused began running after him and slashing his sword violently towards Hakīm. But, Hakīm just ran and led the Leviathan on a chase around the grand arena. Hakīm would slow down and taunt the Leviathan by letting him take a swing and hitting Hakīm’s shield, but he would begin the chase again after. The crowd kept laughing at the comical sight as the massive gladiator was chasing the small man but Caesar knew better, for he was a general and realized the brilliant tactic Hakīm was performing against his opponent.

This chase went on for a few more minutes, but the Leviathan grew visibly exhausted. The hot sun heated his bronze armor, his feet would now drag from the heavy armor and his sword swings were few and low while Hakīm would slow down just enough to give him a false opportunity to strike and the Leviathan, unaware of Hakīm’s tactic, would take still take the chance, miss, and give chase again.  The Leviathan, out of pride or stupidity, would not relent on chasing Hakīm until his legs gave out from underneath him and fell to his knees and began to vomit from heat exhaustion. The Leviathan panicked and could not breathe underneath his armor as he erratically threw off his helmet. Hakīm saw the opportunity he was waiting for and ran around the Leviathan until he was behind him, he raised his shield and bashed it against the back of the Leviathans head. The Leviathan laid on the ground unconscious as Hakīm turned his opponent into his patient and treated him in front of the awed crowd. Caesar had unknowingly been standing up the whole time from sheer astonishment, and he reluctantly declared Hakīm, the winner of his first battle.

The following day Hakīm faced his next challenge as he was brought into the middle of the arena and was quickly abandoned by the guards as they ran behind the closed gates. Hakīm was puzzled by the sudden departure as he stood in the center wearing only his tunic. The crowd became silent as they wondered what was taking place until they heard the loud barking and howling coming from one of the corridors.  Hakīm turned around, and a pack of wolves was now behind the corridors gates. Large gray wolves with bloodied fangs were savagely snapping at the iron gate, hoping to taste Hakīm’s flesh. His heart raced as the gates slowly began to rise and the wolves were eagerly digging their paws underneath the gate and snarling at Hakīm.

Hakīm looked around the arena and saw no weapon or a place to hide. This is the first time the crowd and Caesar saw Hakīm fear for his life. The gates barely rose when the first three of the pack crawled underneath and charged towards Hakīm. He had a moment of dread as the wolves came closer to him until an idea had come to him; he merely brought his hand to his side and stood still.

The wolves stopped their charge a mere few feet away from him and began to snarl and bark at him, but he did not move. The other five wolves of the pack came running towards him and started circling him. They too snarled and barked at Hakīm, but he did not move. The pack leader would get close and snap at his hands, but Hakīm did not flinch as all he did was stand still and focus on his breathing. The sight silenced the crowd for they feared a sudden noise might cause the wolves to attack. Caesar became dumbfounded by the act as he could not comprehend why the wolves did not rip him apart.

Hakīm stood there surrounded by the pack of vicious wolves for hours, but he did not move. The wolves then grew bored of him; some laid down around him while others walked around the arena. Caesar became angered by Hakīm’s cleverness and ordered the guards to leave him and the wolves there for the night, hoping he would grow tired and let the wolves attack. With that Caesar and the crowd retreated for the night.

The next morning Caesar eagerly rode to the Coliseum to see the carnage from the night before until a cheering and awed crowd greeted him. Caesar looked down into the arena and saw Hakīm sitting on the ground petting with the now docile wolves that were sleeping around him.

Caesar was angered and baffled from what he was witnessing from the defiant Moor to which he devised a spectacular game not only to entertain the crowd but to kill Hakīm finally. During Caesar Domitain’s reign, the Coliseum had the means to flood the arena floor with water from canals and have lavished naval battles inside the Coliseum. Hakīm’s final challenge would be one man versus a Roman ship of war.

Hakīm had two days to prepare as the arena was flooded with water for the battle. Caesar being spiteful, only gave Hakīm a small rowboat to go against a scaled-down version of a trireme. With a crew of 30 war-worn sailors, a row of rowers on each side and large white sails to show off the majesty of the Roman Navy; but Caesar wanted to see a fight so he gave access to any weapon Hakīm could use in the sure to be a slaughter. Hakīm did not request for any weapon for the two days but only stared at the trireme, studying it, scheming a plan to beat a warship. It wasn’t until the morning of the battle that Hakīm requested for his weapons of choice: a bow and a few arrows, three jars of oil and a couple of chunks of fat from a cow and a piece of flint.

The crowd fell silent as the massive trireme sailed into the arena with its war drums beating and the rowers rowing in sync with the heart-pounding melody, its large white sails with Caesar Domitain’s seal fluttered with the wind as it made its grand entrance. The crowd was in awe but then broke out in laughter as Hakīm rowed his small dingy into the arena; one man and his odd assortment of weapons against Rome’s most excellent sailors. Caesar rose from his stand, and the crowd fell silent as he gave a wave of his hand to signal the beginning of the battle. The trireme’s oars rip through the water as the trireme maneuvered to attack Hakīm who was floating at the other end of the arena. The sailors were jovial and relaxed as they were in no rush to destroy the helpless man in his small dingy but Hakīm was strangely calm as he slowly tied chunks of fat to the heads of the arrows. As the trireme made its way into the middle of the arena, Hakīm took a piece of flint and lit all the fat on the arrows on fire and began shooting them at the boat. The crowd and Caesar gasped in silence as the flaming arrows hit the sails and fire quickly engulfed them. The sailors stopped rowing as panic fell upon them while flaming pieces of canvas fell on the deck and heavy smoke filled their lungs. As they were distracted by the fire, Hakīm rowed his dingy next to the trireme and one by one hurled the jars of oil onto the deck. The oil now saturated the deck unbeknownst to the sailors who were futility trying to extinguish the flames. One sailor looked down at the oil and realized in terror what Hakīm had done and ordered the men to abandoned ship. Just as the sailors were jumping off the ship, a flaming patch of canvas fell on the oily deck and ignited the entire ship into a bright orange blaze. Hakīms, showing no emotion, slowly rowed away as the sailors were swimming to the edges of the arena and the ship slowly began to sink as the Coliseum filled with smoke.

The crowd coughed and wheezed, but they chanted Hakīm’s name while Caesar's face grew red from both the excessive coughing and the fury he had over Hakīm for foiling him once again. Caesar did not want the Moor to escape his grasp, so he announced to the crowd that he added one last challenge for him; if he can survive a hanging, avoid death, then Hakīm would be set free. The crowd reluctantly applauded as they felt that Caesar was cruel over him losing to the masterful tactician, but Hakīm did not give Caesar the satisfaction of showing any emotion to his public betrayal.

The night before the public hanging, Hakīm went to the Coliseum’s blacksmith and asked him for a thin and porous pipe. The blacksmith, perplexed by the odd request, he reshaped a pipe to Hakīm’s satisfaction. Hakīm took the pipe and did something that made the blacksmith gasped in shock.

The morning of the hanging Hakīm was brought into the arena, below Caesar’s box and was stripped naked to make sure he was not hiding any clever tricks for an escape. The crowd was silent and did not applaud when Caesar arose for they felt Hakīm had earned his freedom and Caesar was now acting cruelly. A wooden scaffold was ceremoniously wheeled out and brought to where Hakīm stood. The hangman brought the noose around Hakīm’s neck and tightened it, but he did not flinch nor show any expression of terror or remorse. Caesar asked if he had any final words, but Hakīm was silently defiant. The order was given, and his neck slowly hoisted Hakīm off the ground as the crowd began to cry or looked away for the man that became the bloodless warrior. He did not kick or flop or even cry as his eyes slowly closed for the final time. The crowd fell silent as time passed but there was no more movement from his body.

Caesar felt tremendous guilt come over him for he killed a wonderful man who was only guilty of having a brilliant mind and unwavering character. Caesar ordered the hangman to cut down the body and to give Hakīm a proper burial. The hangman cut the rope, and the body fell hard onto the ground. Disgusted with himself, Caesar began to leave his box onto the crowd gave out a loud cheer of excitement. Caesar looked down in shock as he saw Hakīm slowly stood up from the ground. After seeing the impossible, Caesar now feared Hakīm because no mortal man could have won the challenges placed in front of him; and now survived death. Hakīm slowly walked to the open gate out of the arena as the hangman and soldiers looked onto Caesar for his next order, but he was still in shock. Fearing the gods might protect him, Caesar gave the order for him to be set free and the crowd cheered as Hakīm walked pass the gate and into the dark corridor of the Coliseum. He carefully looked around and saw he was alone for the brief moment. He looked straight above him, opened his jaw as wide as he could and reached with his fingers into the back of his throat. He painfully coughed as he pulled the pipe from inside his throat and tossed it in the corner.

Hakīm lived a long life after his tribulations as Caesar granted him immunity and protection because he did not want to fear the wrath of the gods. He then spent the rest of his days treating the sick and helping the helpless.

 

My imagination stopped filling the ancient arena with the details of Hakīm’s story and brought me back to reality as I watched Nadya finish drawing the massive incantation on the arena's ground.

“Why did you tell me that story?”

 Jal extended his hand to me, and I reached for it, and he pulled me off the ground and put both hands on my shoulder, “You are going against the adversary of God. One man against a powerful entity but was not Caesar the same to Hakīm? The Emperor of Rome, a Leviathan, a pack of wolves; a navy and death went against one insignificant man who won against great odds by being clever and recognizing what people see as an opponent’s strength is a disadvantage and what you might think is a weakness may be your salvation.”

I stood motionless as I looked up into the stands where Caesar would have sat and thought about how godly he might have looked as he decided who lived and died. Nadya said something to Jal and then slowly began to chant while waving her cane over the pentagram.

“We are here tonight because Hakīm swore after his victory to help any person going against a powerful enemy, even after his death. We are going to summon his spirit and ask for his advice on your battle against Lucifer.”

Her chants became louder and more profound in tone as she continued the incantation. Nadya's arms and legs became nimbler and her motions fluid as she danced around the pentagram as the lanterns light grew brighter on their own. I felt chills run down my spine as I looked around us and saw shadows of men surrounding us but no bodies for them to cast off from. Nadya’s chants grew intense, and she began to levitate off of the ground. I stepped back in disbelief as she floated, but Jal pushed me towards her. I took a step forward, but she suddenly lunged at me. She was too quick for me to dodge and she grabbed me by my shoulders and lifted me in the air with her. I looked into the once vital eyes of hers and now saw black ones staring back as she stopped chanting and said one sentence to me, “Verum esse fortissimos.”

She flung me against a cement pillar, and I hit the ground as she slowly spun in the air before dropping to the ground. My back ached as I stood up and cautiously walked to Nadya where Jal had already gone to her aid. She laid on the ground breathing heavily but in good health for someone her age and who was possessed.

“What did she say?”

Jal asked Nadya as he helped her to her feet and she mumbled her answer.

“To be brave and true.” Jal translated for her.

“What does that mean?” I said frustrated.

Nadya did not answer but walked over to me and gave me a kiss on each cheek and a warm hug. “Be, ah good man,” she said in broken English. She started to walk away, and I checked to see if I still had my wallet.


 

The Woman in Red

Cinque Terrie, Italy. February 17th, 2015.

 

My journey was taking me to Syria next; Sister Abigail had advised me that there could be an artifact there which may help me break my curse. Knowing that there was a massive chance that I will fail and have to be tortured and rape for an eternity in hell, I chose to visit Cinque Terrie; being that this will be my last chance to see something I always wanted to see. I took a train north for three long and somber hours, where for the first time I felt like I could have a breath of peace and not be plagued by my constant thoughts of me in hell. Once I arrived I hike from town to town through the hillsides overlooking the bluest sea I have ever seen; soaking in the picturesque Italian villages. I spent the whole day feeling normal again until I got to Manarola.

I got off and walked up the winding path through the brightly colored shops and restaurants, with tourists and locales conversing on life; the overwhelming gloom hit me again as I saw the sun setting and began to tear as I might never see another one like this again. I leaned against the rails as the bright blue of the Mediterranean mixed with the orange rays of the sun and whites of the painted cloud sky. This view was as close to heaven I was going to get. I starred in deep thought until something caught the corner of my eye. A glimpse of fiery red danced behind a bend of the path into the hillside. I looked over and saw red emerge at the end of the curve; a pulsating red dress flew through the salt-kissed gusts coming from the sea. The woman wearing the dress had brilliant creamy skin, a flowing lush of raven hair danced with the wind as she sauntered down the path towards me. I looked into her bright ocean blue eyes and then her thick red lips as she smiled brightly at me. I was left paralyzed in awe from her beauty and was unable to move no less turn my head. She walked straight to me and slowly stopped in front of me. She looked down at my shadow, then the sea and then back at me, but when she looked at me there was no longer her smile but tears as she stared with an expression of mourning. She kissed me on my cheek and walked down the bend I came from and disappeared into the cliff.

Somebody tapped my shoulder, and I turned around to find a salty old man with a cane. “American?”, he asked with his thick accent.

“Si,” I said.

Then he tells me in perfect English, “Some say she is a ghost, some say she is an omen, while others say she is Death; but they all tell the same tale.”

He begins to cough violently and pulls out a handkerchief and hacks globs of blood into it. “Only the dying gets to meet her.”


 

Weapon of War

300 Miles Southeast of Aleppo, Syria. March, 5th 2015.

 

If I am going to hell then what I see here in Syria is a prelude to it. The Vatican has a vested interest in the region because of its holy landmarks and antiquities from the once biblical empire. I was deployed with a unit of men from the Swiss Guard, Israeli Commandos and British SAS; who are working clandestinely with the Vatican to help secure, protect and evacuate these priceless relics before I.S.I.S. can destroy them out of spite. We drove through bombed-out cities with the corpses of children rotting in the hot sun, mothers crying over their bodies as fathers hide their despair so they can keep fighting for their families. But, here we were with enough firepower and some of the toughest men the world has ever seen to take out the regimes and I.S.I.S., and we’re not here to help them but to collect some fucking clay pots or torn tapestries so they can be sold for the highest bidder to some Oil Mogul. And I did nothing because there is a chance that one of these relics might help break my curse; self-preservation is a bitch.

Sister Abigail had informed that we were meeting a team of archaeologist who has stumbled upon a relic that defies science but upholds the essences of myths; she thinks that if what they found is true then it can be used to help save my soul. She only informed them that I was cursed but did not tell them how I was cursed; she felt best to keep that a secret.

After driving hours into the desert, we came to a ridge of the mountains where there were freshly unearthed cave systems from the bombings. We were greeted with more of the Vatican’s hired guns and two civilians. One was a dark-skinned man, and the other was a light-skinned woman, both wearing the stereotypical archeologist garb, covered in dirt and sweat from working in the caves. “As-Salaam Alaykum,” the dark-skinned archaeologist gregariously said.  “My name is Abbad Nahas, and this is my partner and lovely wife, Ariella David. Sister Abigail advised us about your…condition.” They both stared in wonder over my shadow.

“When she told us about your curse and what we found, we couldn’t believe the timing. I thought it to be a sign from Yahweh because it could not be a coincidence,” Ariella said.

“What did you guys find?” I asked.

“Come. Come. Come and see; you won’t believe it until you see it for your own eyes.” Abbad said as he led us to the caves. As we were walking by I saw two of the Israeli Commandos sneer at him.

Ariella caught the sneer and gave them a dirty look back. “That happens a lot back at home, they look at us and think a Jew and a Palestinian should not be married; but you can’t choose the person you fall in love with.”

“I’m so sexy; she was willing to face banishment from her family just to be with my dark-skinned ass,” Abbad said playfully as he helped Ariella climb into the cave. Both of them smiled at each other only as lovers could, and I felt an ache in my heart for something I wished I had but never will.

They led me into a cave which still had fresh scorched marks from the bombs blasts and multiple corridors; we turned into the first one, but I jumped back in horror at what I saw on the ground. A massive preserved corpse that looked like he was sewn together from other corpses and molded with clay. His flesh was aged and decayed, but he wasn’t rotting. Parts of his sinew and bone were exposed through the flesh, and his teeth were sharpened to fangs.  And there was Hebrew writing carved into the forehead.

“What the fuck is that?” I shouted from shock.

“What we can tell it’s a well-preserved corpse serving as some for this cave. It’s writing on the head translates to “truth” in Hebrew. We believe this husk is a Golem.” Said Ariella.

“If anything, this isn’t a real Golem but just a gargoyle to scare away any thieves from stealing what’s inside the cave. Come, let us show you something unbelievable.” Abbad said with glee.

We went further into the cave where the walls were now covered with ancient writings I could not name and cave art of creatures seen in myths: angels, demons, and behemoths.

“We haven’t had a chance to translate any of the writings on the wall, but this could be as important as the finding of the Rosetta Stone. The walls are covered with ancient Greek, Aramaic, Samarian and two other languages we have never seen before. But, we think we know what the message is. “Ariella said as she led us into a cavern with multiple floodlights focus on the center of the floor.

On the center of the floor was a graphite boulder that was meticulously carved with the different ancient languages of the cave; on top of this boulder rested a spear. The shaft of the spear made out of gopher wood while the tip was made out of some metal which almost looked like volcanic glass. There were modern chains wrapped around the spear which were attached to a heavy-duty hoist with a large engine.

“What the fuck is so special about this spear?” I said annoyed. “I just traveled through a war-torn country on borrowed time to be shown some spear on a fucking rock?”

Abbad and Ariella both smirked at each other in amusement. “Go and try to lift the spear with the hoist,” Abbad said with a mischievous smile.

I hesitated at first because I didn’t know if I was part of some elaborate prank, but I pulled on the chains of the hoist, but it did not budge. I turned over and looked at them, and they both were smiling brightly now, holding each other hands. “Pull harder,” Ariella said.

I pulled the chain as hard as I could but all the chains just rambled and my back cracked from how much effort I was putting into it. I gave up in exhaustion and looked down at the spear in confusion because the way it laid on the stone a gust of wind could have easily rolled it off. 

“What is this?”

Ariella walked to the walls to the cave paintings of the angels and the demons. “We believe this spear belongs to the Archangel Michael.”

“Only a few know of the myth, but the Vatican had given us a chance to look over a few secret books of the Gnostic Gospels that were never released to the public,” Abbad said as he bent over the spear examining it.

“When Lucifer first dissented against God, he raged a war in heaven against the angels. Michael led heaven against Lucifer and the rebel angels with the war cascading to Earth. The gospels state that this war destroyed the “first beasts,” which I assume they meant the dinosaurs. The war raged on until Michael was able to give the fatal blow to Lucifer with his spear. Wounded Lucifer was forced into the pit where he would reign but never return to heaven. The spear, tainted with Lucifers’ blood was left here on Earth because he nor any part of him could ever enter into heaven again.”

“That doesn’t explain why I can’t pick it up. This is scientifically impossible,” I said as I gave the end of the spear a hard kick with no movement from it. “This violates the laws of physics, so why isn’t moving.”

Ariella walked over to the far wall across the spear where there was a painting of the spear with an angel flying away and a man holding it, “Throughout history, there are stories of powerful and devastating weapons that only the worthy can wield. King Arthur was the only one worthy enough to pull Excalibur out of the stone. Thor can only wield Mjolnir and Odysseus was the only one that can knot his bow.”

“And even today we have the famous story of Harry Potter wielding the Deathly Hollow” Abbad added with childish glee.

“Yes, even Harry Potter. I should have never bought him those books; he became like a little-obsessed schoolboy,” she playfully quipped. “These stories all have the share the same premise, only a person who is worthy enough is allowed to be given the power to use for the good of all. From the Gnostic Gospels and the cave paintings, we believe that this spear was left here on Earth so it can be used against evil and only a person whose intention of defeating it can wield it.”

“Have you guys tried picking it up?”

Abbad walked over to the hoist and loosened the chains around the spear. “Everyone here has tried. Even our rough and tough security detail got their sensitive egos hurt because they all failed but we still don’t know enough about it. We need to run many experiments and if it is this powerful weapon used against the ultimate evil, and it needs to be protected. But unfortunately, we are in a war-torn region which we now have to worry about ISIS, the Syrian government, Russians and even the United States trying to take control of this spear if they found out about it; and deciding in whose best interest should this weapon belong too. We thought it would be best to move the spear with the rock that it was laying on, but we can’t move that either.”

“We tried drilling the rock with a, but it didn’t even chip the rock,” Ariella said. “Now we are faced with a dilemma about what to do with the spear and how to protect it.”

I looked down at the spear and thought I found my silver bullet. My way out of the curse and the grips of Lucifer.  A flicker of hope surged through my chest as I walked over to the spear. I slowly bent over the spear and wrapped my fingers around the smooth but yet warm shaft of the spear. I paused for a moment when I realized that I was now touching something that was not from this world, something ancient and powerful; and my divine intervention.

I gently pulled the spear, and nothing happened; I was hoping it was that easy. I then firmly grasped the spear and lifted as hard as I can with no avail. I stopped after feeling my legs cramp, and my fingers became numb from my grip around it. I stood back and felt the feeling of hope suddenly leave me, and it was replaced with the horrible sense of dread that my salvation was in my grasp, but it wasn’t mine to take. I then went into a rage as I grabbed the spear again and lifted it with all of my might as I was yelling and swearing loud enough to echo throughout the cave system. I gave up when my back began to ache, and I was drenched in sweat. I collapsed on the ground and started to cry; I was doomed.

Abbad and Ariella were flabbergasted and confused in what they just saw. After a minute of gaining my composure again, I told them about the curse and why Sister Abigail had sent me. Abbad stood there looking at me with intrigue and wonder, but Ariella had an expression of rage. She walked over to me in haste and slapped me hard against my face.

“How dare you!” she began to yell at me. “How dare you assume this powerful weapon was yours to clean up your mess! This was not meant for a single person to use to fix their own mistakes. This was left here for the good of all humanity. To be used to protect us from pure evil. You and Sister Abigail are no better than the governments or religious zealots this weapon might fall into hands. You want it for your selfish means, and have you thought about the repercussions of killing the Devil?! What happens if Lucifer is part of a cosmetic balance we cannot even begin to comprehend and killing him offsets that balance.  You can’t kill Lucifer to get out of your fucking mess!”

“What would you do if you were in my shoes, huh?! Wouldn’t you become desperate and would do anything to save your soul? Would you travel to the ends of the Earth, go into hell on Earth and chase down any means to save your soul? And you know what, I didn’t sell it for greed or power, I sold it out of love…”

Then at that moment, there was an explosion outside the caves and then echo of rapid gunfire. We ran to the entrance where our security detail began taking cover inside the caves while the others were firing in multiple directions outside of the cave. I got close enough to see that there were a dozen pickup trucks with black banners of ISIS flying above them coming towards us. An RPG was fired from one and hit some of the security detail that was still outside providing cover fire. I looked over saw the men’s bodies charred and dismembered through the smoke. One of the Israeli commandos standing on the inside of the cave took a bullet in his chest and fell hard onto the ground. I grabbed him by the straps of his tactical vest and pulled him into the first cavern where the Golem was lying. I unpeeled his vest from his chest and found a stream of blood flowing from his right pectoral.  I screamed for someone to help, and another member of the unit ran from behind and started applying gauze to his chest. The wounded commando grabbed my blood-soaked hands and squeezed it as I looked into his eyes and saw panic overtake him as he took the last few breaths of air and stopped breathing. The commando who stayed as his eyes filled with rage and stormed out of the cavern to rejoin the fighting.

The commandos blood pooled away from his lifeless body and streamed to the Golem as if the monstrous corpse was soaking it in. Next thing I felt was the heat of a bright light burn my skin which was followed by the pressure of air slamming against my body and throwing me to the ground as the intense explosion rage from the main entrance of the cave. I was stunned for several moments until I heard the distinct screams of the injured men coming from the main entrance followed by the yelling in what I could only guess was Arabic, coming closer to us. I grabbed the dead Israelis rifle and ran to the cave where I can see a few of our security unit dead, a couple missing limbs and a few trying to get back up and fight. Abbad and Ariella were grabbing the injured ones and dragged them deeper into the cave so to be out of the line of fire. I could hear the ISIS soldiers getting closer, screaming a war cry as they made their way to us. The few remaining security details came running back into the cave and began taking cover and readying themselves for the oncoming horde. I checked the rifle with my sweat-soaked hands and prepared it for our last stand and me seeing the Devil earlier than expected.

The air then became still and eerily quiet as we heard the footsteps against the cliff side slowly come towards us. The silence was suddenly broken as a blood-curdling scream echoed from behind me followed by the pop and tearing of flesh echoed in the cave. I turned around and out of the cavern where I left the injured Israeli came a horrible sight that still makes shiver in fear when I think of it. The Golem was standing at the foot of the cavern with the Israeli’s severed torso in one hand and his lower half in the other. He was massive standing up, at least 9 feet in height with his shoulders spanning 5 feet. His skin was shedding off his corpse-like-body as now black, and white puss oozed out it. His eyes were black and constant as it stared right at us. The Israeli commando’s torso was gushing blood all over the creature, and the ground but the creature lifted it above his head and let the bloodstream all over its head and mouth as if it was rejuvenating him. The creature tore into the torso’s intestines and flesh with one powerful bite and then threw the torso against the wall with enough strength to cause the arms and head to rip apart. I could feel my warm urine stream down my leg as I looked over to the security detail as their rifles violently shook in their hands.

The Golem stood motionless for a few moments as it stared us down, and then it smashed the legs he had in his other hand against the wall with blood smearing the walls as it let out a horrifying roar and ran towards us with frightening speed. Some of the detail began to open fire on it while the others took their chances with ISIS and ran out of the cave. Even though I was plain to see, the Golem ignored me and ran into the gunfire unfazed by it and began massacring the remaining detail. I could not move due to shock, but I heard the men screamed for their mothers and to whatever god they prayed to as it began tearing the men apart like rag dolls. Gunshots were now coming from outside as ISIS started shooting at the fleeing men but that only attracted the creature as it ran out towards it.

I sat there in shock as I heard the loud symphony of gunfire and explosions coming from out of the cave but I can tell without looking that it did not affect as the men screamed as the Golem indiscriminately tore the men’s limbs off of their bodies. 

Abbad and Ariella ran to me and shook me to get me out of my shock. “We need to get out of here! Ariella found a way; the RPG that hit the cave caused part of the cave wall to collapse, and there is sunlight coming from it, but we need to move now!” Abbad yelled as he and Ariella grabbed me and yanked me up from the ground. I staggered to my feet and dropped the rifle knowing that it would be useless against the savage Golem. They led me to the cavern across from where the Spear was housed where the wounded men were laying. The hole was big enough to fit one person at a time, and it led outside to another part of the mountain. We quickly lifted the wounded and started shoving them through the hole, forcing them through their pain to crawl to safety. We were down to the last three wounded in the hole until the horrific wail of the Golem echoed through the caves, nearly bursting my eardrums. I felt his heavy steps vibrate against the cave floor as he began coming to us. I looked over and saw Abbad and Ariella still trying to save the men, not caring to crawl into the hole and protecting themselves while leaving the wounded to fend for themselves.

“Keep getting them out of here,” I yelled as I ran out of the cavern. I don’t know what was I thinking, but I ran into the path of the monster to help buy them time. I ran through the cave and rounded the corner and found myself face to face with the gruesome Golem; now charred and covered with blood and entrails; the creature looked down upon me with its voids like eyes, and I waited for him to tear me apart to buy some time. But, the Golem did not move but stared at me as if it was studying me; its gaze went down to my shadow and stared at it for what felt like hours until it raised its hand and pushed me out of its way. I breathe a sigh of relief as my curse may have afforded some more time, but the Golem was making its way to where Ariella, Abbad and the wounded were. Going against self-preservation, I ran past the Golem and put myself in its path, and it stopped again and then pushed me out of its way. Trying my luck one more time I ran in front of it but this time pushed against his thick and slimy hide hoping it would stop him long enough for the others to escape. But he kept walking forward, pushing me along with him as my heels slid across the ground in a feeble attempt to slow him down. He rounded the corner of the where the cavern of the Spear was held and across from it where Ariella and Abbad were helping the last wounded into the hole. The Golem saw this and let out its gruesome roar and threw me to its side as I went flying into the cavern of the Spear.

I landed hard against the stone hard but was able to see Ariella desperately trying to push the last wounded into the hole and Abbad running to the creature in a bold attempt to buy Ariella time to escape. The creature backhanded Abbad with its massive fist and sent him flying against the cavern wall next to Ariella and was knocked unconscious. The last of the wounded went through the hole, and Ariella was next to crawl into it. I quickly got up and tried again to lift the Spear, but it did not budge. I watched as Ariella refusing to make her escape but came to her husband’s aid and putting herself between him and the Golem.

At that moment, I saw what love in its pure and most genuine form. This person was willing to sacrifice her life, to die at the hands of a vicious monster, to protect the one she loved. I grabbed the staff again and clenched my teeth and yanked hard again, swearing and crying to lift the staff but it did not budge. The Golem slowly walked to them both and roared at her, but she did not leave her husband.

“Please, let me fucking save them!” I yelled as I gave one last heave to the Spear with all of my strength. The next thing I knew I went flying to the ground as I fell backward but, with the spear in my hands. The creature grabbed Ariella’s waist and lifted her in the air as she screamed in dread and Abbad regained consciousness just in time to see his wife about to be brutally torn apart. I ran across the caverns, screaming a war cry, with the Spear aimed at the Golem and I leaped forward just as the Golem turned around to see what was coming from behind him. I speared the Golem through its rib cage, and the tip exited out of the other side of its neck. It gasped for air and then fell dead to ground with Ariella falling out of his grasp and landing in front of it. Abbad quickly crawled to his wife and cradled her in his arms as they both began to sob and embraced each other. I walked over to the Golem and watched its lifeless husk remain motionless as I yanked the spear from its ribcage and held it in my hands.

Abbad and Ariella regained their composure and became filled with awe as I stood over the Golem with the spear in my hands. “Since you are now worthy, what would you do with the Spear?” Ariella asked. I held the spear in my hands, examining it for a few silent minutes and then shoved the spear back into the Golem. “This was meant to save the best parts of humanity. I’ll find another way to break my curse.”  

Child of War

Farrah Province, Afghanistan. March 28th, 2015

 

It’s been three weeks since leaving the Spear in Syria, and I already regret it. I know it was the right thing to do, but it would have been much easier to save my soul with it. Sister Abigail admired my courage in doing it, but then she heard me use a delightful mix of profanities for 5 minutes as I realized I should have taken the spear. Sister Abigail wasn’t too thrilled about my language but she understood where it was coming from. I felt better for a moment until she told me she was sending me to Afghanistan to meet a woman who might be able to help me. She eased my anxiety by saying that I will be attached to a U.S. Special Forces unit who are doing a goodwill favor for the Vatican’s research.

It has been a 2-day journey into the heart of the Farrah Province, and I can’t help admire the beauty of the country until we came upon villages blasted away with rotting corpses on our path. I sometimes wonder if the world is worth saving? The Spear was left to protect us but are we worth saving? My first thought is of Lilith's pretty smile when we first met than her grievous smirk as she broke my heart and took my soul, literally. Am I even worth saving?

My existential thoughts were interrupted by the sudden stop we made. I looked outside the Humvee and was expecting another blasted village but was surprised to see a beautiful village of wooden and clay houses and kids running around the streets. Woman and men were both helping around the village by cleaning, herding the goat and chickens or fixing the homes. Other members of the Special Forces and a few civilians were walking around the village at ease, the first time seeing this since entering Afghanistan.

I was greeted by a salt and peppered haired Army Ranger Major whose smile felt out of place in Afghanistan. “Welcome to Rakhim. I hope you didn’t have too much difficulty getting here.”

“No, not much. I felt safer with your men then the last assignment I was on. Sir, why is the village so…quaint and peaceful? We are in the middle of Taliban country, yet everyone here is not worried at all, it looks like they are flourishing here.”

The Major looked at me perplexed and asked: “Didn’t the Vatican brief you on what happened here?”

“No, all I was told I was here to interview a woman who can help me…the Vatican…with some research.”

The Major took a moment to gather his thoughts as he was going to explain to me something he knew I was going to find unbelievable. “Let's go for a walk.” He was able to muster.

“I didn’t believe it myself when we first found this village until I saw her with my own eyes but the woman who you are going to meet is responsible for all of this, and I couldn’t believe what she was capable of until I saw her in action.” The Major said as he guided me to the center of the village where there were four semi-truck shipping containers welded together to make a house. Outside of it were some of the civilian scientist and their tents, a few Rangers and a dozen villagers cleaning the outside of the containers; leaving what looked to be loads of offerings of food and flowers at the doors of the containers. Some of the villagers were praying outside of the containers while some kept their distance, going out of their way to avoid it.

The Major guided me to the doors of the containers and said, “I was thinking about how to explain Farah and what she is, but I think it’s better to let you see for yourself and let her speak for herself. When you first go in it will be dark inside, it’s the way she likes it. Do not be afraid of her no matter what, she will not harm you but do not stare at her either because she is extremely sensitive about her…condition.”

“Why should I be afraid of her?”

“Because the Taliban and I.S.I.S. are. She is the only thing that makes them second guess their ludicrous missions to attack this village.”

The Major and I walked past the flowers and offerings of food laying against the shipping containers. The Major knocked on the door and said in a cautious tone as if he was afraid of Farrah too; “Farrah, you have a visitor, can he come in?” There was a moment of silence followed by a hard knock.

The Major slightly opened the door, just enough for me to slide in. Once inside he shut the door beside me leaving me alone in the dark with what everyone seemed to revere and fear. The air inside was stagnant, and the smell of incense, spices and a hint of the pungent aroma of blood was in the air. There was only a minuscule of light entering from the crevices of the doors, but it wasn’t enough for me to see the end of the trailer; I did see the outline of a small table and chair 3 feet in front of me.

“Please, sit down. I love having guests.” The soft voice said with her thick accent.

Her voice startled me, and I tried to see who said it but I can only see darkness but the hairs on my neck stood up, and my skin began to shiver and clam up with goosebumps as I felt in the air something substantial in front of me. I carefully walked over to the chair making sure not to trip over anything or to be attacked. I sat down and could barely see the table had a plate of goat cheese and olives with a cup and a teapot.

“Please, help yourself. The cheese is fantastic, and the tea is sweet.” She said still under cover of darkness.

I took a bite of the cheese and a sip of the tea and was amazed at how delicious it was. “Aren’t you going to join me? I would love to enjoy this with you.” I also wanted to get a good look at what was making my skin crawl.

“I think it’s better for you if I talked from where I currently sit,” Farrah said as her tone went from pleasant to curt.

“Ok,” I said reassuringly. “Before we begin I wanted to compliment you on your English. How did you learn to speak it so well?”

“I learned it a few years ago when the Americans built schools for us. I learned it fast and was training to become an interpreter before the school was bombed.”

“Did the Major tell you who sent me here and why?”

 “Yes, the Major did, and he said you were sent here by the Christian’s main temple. The Vat?’

“Close enough. I needed to ask you some questions because you can possibly help me with…”

Farrah cut me off, “You are cursed too. I can see it.”

There was barely any light to cast my shadow, and no one knows why I am here. “How could you have known? How could you see it in the darkness?”

“The darkness is all I know now. It is my veil to hide my curse, but I can see what you have as clear as day.”

“What deal did you make with the Devil?”

“Devil? No, no, no. No, Lucifer. “ she said with a sigh of remorse.

“Last year I was just a young woman, helping my family with the tending our crops and just wanting to live a respectful life. When your country invaded us, we have had close calls with the Taliban wanting to take our village, but the elder men of the village were always able to bribe them off without any harm coming to us.”

Farrah paused and took in a deep brief before hearing her voice inflected her despair. “I was quite beautiful back then. My mother and father worried that I would tempt the boys in the village, which I did.” She said with humor in her voice. “But, I always kept myself respectful in the ways of Allah and the Prophet Muhammad would want. I also wasn’t interested in courting but more so in learning new things. Whenever we would get books or the American’s or the British would offer classes, I would be the first to partake in them. The elders and the men of the village didn’t like me learning or reading, but my father loved me and was revered in our village. He wanted the best for me, even if it didn’t fit with the strict, archaic views of our village.”

“It wasn’t until last year when I became this horrible beast. Your country was pushing the Taliban out of the mountain across the region, and they became desperate. We heard news from other villages of the horrible evils they were committing to the woman of the villages; my father decided to take my mother and me away to until they moved on, but he acted too late. They came the night before we were supposed to leave and took everyone as their prisoners. We were outgunned, and the few that fought back were either killed in the gunfights, or they were captured and then beheaded in front of us. My mother and I were separated from my father, and we were placed with all of the other women in the village. The elders begged and pleaded for them not to be harmed and offered them all of the village's crops and supplies, but these were men of blind hate and delusional righteousness and called everyone in the village sinners against Allah for not participating in the jihad. Some of the elders held spoke against them and their radical views but that only infuriated the Taliban, and they disemboweled them in front of us. But, even our Elders innards spread out over our entire village wasn’t enough. They grabbed a woman and began raping them inside our homes. My mother held me as we both cried as we heard our neighbors scream for help and then suddenly went quiet after they beat them to silence their screams and then continued to rape them. My mother and I didn’t leave our corner of the hut we placed in until one of the Taliban came and pried me from my mother’s arms. My mother lunged forward to attack the man, but he took his rifle stock and slammed it into her stomach causing her to collapse on the ground. I was dragged kicking and screaming as he dragged me in front of the Taliban men as they laughed and remarked that I was going to be a “good fuck.”

“I don’t remember much of that night, and I thank Allah for that. He had me until the dawn, but I only remember his horrid odor and him laughing as he forced his disgusting member in me. When I awoke, I was laid naked on our street in the hot sun for all to see me as a used toy for them. I didn’t move until I heard my father scream. I rolled on my side and saw him running towards me as the Taliban tried to stop him. In the lowest moment in my life, I never felt so proud as my father fought off the Taliban as he kept coming for me. In my haze, I foolishly thought my father would rescue me and whisk me away from the horrors I have endured, but that was also too good to be true in this nightmare. One of the Taliban took a knife and plunged it into his stomach. He fell to his knees and looked at me as he screamed, “I’m sorry, my love.” I tried to look away as I began to cry hysterically but one of them grabbed my head and turned it to my dying father and forced me to watch. The Taliban couldn’t let my father die from his wound began dismembering him limb by limb as he kept screaming to me, “I’m sorry, my love.” He was just a torso when he finally died.

“I was left helplessly and naked in the street for two days and nights as my father’s corpse was being picked over by the sun and savage dogs. I tried to cry and stand up but was too weak to do so. But, a glimmer of hope shown its rays as I overheard them saying they are leaving the next day. But that hope was quickly extinguished when they began taking women out of the huts and bringing them to the center of the village.  For the first time in two days, I rolled over to my other side and witnessed the Taliban’s evil reach a new level of unholy cruelty. They stripped the women naked and grabbed one and tied her to the table with her legs spread apart. One of the Taliban took a knife and put it into the scorching fire pit until the blade was glowing bright orange. He took the knife and slowly slid it between her legs and castrated her. Her bloodcurdling scream was shadowed by the sizzle of the knife against her vagina. She desperately gasped for air in between her screams as she cried to Allah for the pain to stop; immediately it was answered as she died from shock.”

“I watched helplessly as another woman was restrained to the table and screamed in horror as she watched the hot knife mutilate her vagina and she died as they laughed at her agony. I closed my eyes and hoped it was a nightmare until I heard my mother scream as she was being tied to the table. I try to lift myself to attack them, but one of them was behind me and kicked me in my stomach. I crouched over in agony and cried for help, for anything to help; and something heard my prayer. Everything went quietly to the point where I could hear my rapid heartbeat. I looked over saw my mother and the Taliban had stopped moving; even the flames had frozen still. I was confused and in a daze until I saw the creature. It came out of the flames as a mirage-like haze surrounded it. As it walked closer, I noticed it had feminine curves and long black flowing hair, and her skin was beautifully translucent as if it was made from the starry night sky. Her eyes were dark but glowing embers as she looked down on me in pity and comforted me by caressing my face. She looked me in the eyes and spoke to me without projecting any sound. Her voice was angelic as she sang to me who she was. Her name was Sila, and she is a Jinn, she was there to help her. Sila looked over to my mother and the other nude women and asked who would I save if she gave me the ability to. I looked over at my mother’s frozen expression of horror and then looked over to the other naked women who cried silently in despair. I looked behind them, beyond the flames and saw the men and elders of our village bounded and gagged as they watched helplessly as their wives, daughters and loved ones were being mutilated.”

“I told her I would save them all. Sila helped me to my feet and looked me into my eyes, and through my soul and wiped the dirt off of my face. Then she asked me how far I would go to save them? What will I sacrifice for them? I didn’t hesitate to say I would sacrifice myself to stop them from feeling the pain, helplessness, and loss I have felt. I would protect them from the enemies of the true message of Allah. I felt a glow of exuberance coming from her as she was happy with my answer. But, the glow faded as she told me what my deal was. If she gave me the power to protect my people from the enemies of Allah, then it would come at a terrible sacrifice to myself. To fight the evils of the world, I would have to become a monster of absolute fear and power. I will no longer be the beautiful young woman I was but a beast willing to fight for the people I love. I did not hesitate and agreed to her deal. Sila, with a loving, gave, told me how brave I was and she wished I would never have to be burdened with this responsibility. I looked over at my mom again and said I would bear any burden to protect people from the evils of the world. I felt Sila’s soft, warm lips against mine and she said something in a language I couldn’t understand. I felt a sharp, blistering pain in my stomach as she stepped back from and watched. The pain was unimaginable as I felt my bones break and stretch, my skin ripped apart as my limbs grew longer and stronger. I fell to the ground and was screaming in excruciating pain but then turned in to yells of panic as I watched my body transformed into something monstrous. But, throughout my metamorphosis, Sila was there holding my hand and never left my side. Once it was done, I stood up on all fours and was as tall as a house. Sila kissed me on my hand and told me Allah is with me. She turned and walked back into the fire, with every step she took time had begun to move forward again.”

“I heard my mother scream as the knife was getting closer to her vagina and then she stopped. The Taliban soldier and my mother looked over towards me. My mother screamed in horror until she passed out from shock. The Soldier dropped the knife as he started to walk backward nearly fell in the fire pit. The Taliban soldier screamed as he lifted his AK-47 towards me and started firing. I felt the bullets sting like the bite of a horse fly, but I didn’t die; the bullets were falling flat on the ground with none penetrating me. I ran straight to soldier at full force before he could run and lifted him the air by his neck. He kept screaming in terror and shooting his AK-47 into my abdomen, but it wasn’t even slowing me down. I slapped the Ak-47 from his arms, then ripped his genitals from between his legs in one motion. He cried for Allah for help as blood spurted from his crotch, but Allah wasn’t listening because nothing stopped me from plunging his face into the fire pit and holding him there until I smelt his flesh sear.”

“I felt more bullets shooting at me as the Taliban began to unleash whatever firepower they had on me, but it didn’t stop me. I ran to the closest one and ripped his intestines out with my mouth. I ran to the next one and ripped his limbs from his torso and delightfully left him screaming in pure excruciation. I made my way to the rest of the Taliban in our village one by one. They tried to fight or run, but it was of no avail as I found every one of those haramis and slaughtered them in as many ways I could think of. I slashed their torsos so their entrails will hang exposed, I bit off their heads and lauded them in front of the fleeing Taliban to warn them they were next and for the ones who fled, I let did not kill them immediately but let them die slowly from the gruesome wounds I gave them. They started this war by killing the people I loved; I was ending it by showing them what was in store for them in Hell. The sad part was I felt joy for massacring the feral animals.”

“I tasted the metallic and sweet blood of the Taliban in my mouth when my senses came back to me; I have forgotten about my people and my mother. The remaining Taliban fled into the dark and thick woods as I let them go to my mother. When I came back to the center of the village, the villagers were all frightened of me and cringed in fear as I came close to them. I stopped and told them it was me, Farrah. Reluctantly, they let me get closer so I can free them from their binds; each one was shivering to my touch. Two of the villagers ran to my mother to check on her but they cried out loud her frail body limped lifelessly. I walked over to my mother sobbing and held her in my grotesque arms and cried out loud for her to come back to me. I cried for Sila to bring her back. I cried to Allah to bring her back, but my mom laid in my arms like a wet, ragged doll.”

“Fueled with rage and unforgiveness, I gave chase into the woods and hunted them down. I spent the entire night, going through the pitch blackness of the forest and slaughtered each one I found. Their flesh hung raggedly from my horrific body, entrails were caught in my claws as they dragged behind me, and the screams of the cowards running away only encouraged me to continue the bloodshed against my enemies. I gave them no mercy as they screamed for Allah for intervention, but they didn’t understand that Allah’s intervention had come and it was me.  After their silent screams from their dying breath stopped was when I finally rested. In a daze of exhaustion, I collapsed near the tree line overlooking my village and rested. The early rays of the sun were starting to beam as parts of it reflected against a broken lying near me. I walked to it but every step I took showed more of what I now look like, and it caused me to scream with grief and fear at the monster I became. I cried at the tree line for hours until slowly and cautiously the members of my village walked towards me. I got up to flee because I couldn’t bare being shunned or being made a freak but I heard them scream for me to stop. I stood where I was at, and they approached me with large plates of food, buckets of water and the valuable spices and incented we had. The village elders, to my shock, approached me and laid down before me and began praying to Allah and Muhammad for the miracle I had become to them. The men helped me to drink and eat while the women carefully bathed what my body had become. They meticulously removed the entrails and the limbs of the Taliban hanging from my body and claws and buried them with the bodies of the Taliban in accordance with our traditions. They clothed my body with table linens sewn together to make a garment for me. Then the elders and villagers led me just outside the village where they already made graves for the members we lost and for my parents. We prayed and gave them a proper Muslim burial, but I did not leave my parents grave for days as I lied next to them and moaned. The villagers, not all but most, were no longer afraid of me and kept coming to feed me and moan with me. It was three days when I finally left their grave and found that the villagers had widened the door to my family’s home and did their best to make it fit my size, which it barely did.”

“Stories had spread to the other villages in our province, and some came to see the miracle…or the freak. But, the stories also spread to the other Taliban and they wanted vengeance for their dead members; I slaughtered them as well. Soon your country's’ military heard the stories and came to see me for themselves. Some of them were sincere when they came out of interest of knowledge to try to understand what I was, but others…contractors wanted me as a weapon. A squad of them made a mistake in trying to kidnap me, and I went through them like a sickle through wheat. The military leaders you met outside regained my trust by supplying our village with medical resources, new schools and anything we ask for; all so they can stay and study me. It was a fair arrangement, they even built this home for me. But deep down inside I knew I will always be on guard not only from the Taliban but the Americans interests because I am an indestructible weapon which they can’t control through force or coercion. I knew if they found one weakness they would use it to gain an advantage on me. So, I tirelessly show them no weakness. Whenever the Taliban, I.S.I.S. or whatever ideological flavor of the week came to invade my village, I don’t let the Americans handle it; I take care of it. I slaughter my enemies in front of them and turn around to watch their faces convulse into awe, horror, and disgust to remind them what will happen if they hurt the people I am charged by Allah to protect.”

“Mr. Glass, I grow tired of my burden, but I know if I abandon my post there will be no more growth and safety for the people I love. Either the Taliban will come and seek their delusional revenge on the village or the Americans will use the village as leverage to mass produce me as a weapon through their science. I can never leave, and I can never be in peace, but I must protect the people I love. We're in similar situations I heard; yours is more damming. You know how it is to sacrifice to the supernatural? There is always a catch.”

“Could you contact Sila again?” I asked hoping this wouldn’t be another dead end; hoping I can get help from the Jinn.

“I have tried many times with no avail. I wish she could take this curse away. I wish to be free of it and be normal again. But, she never came back to me.”

After she was done telling her story we sat in silence for a few minutes, digesting what was said. My eyes had finally adjusted, and I can see a faint outline of her form and even with that it terrified me, but I did my best not to show it.

I suddenly awaken by my deep thought of processing her story by the raid sirens blasting outside followed by gunfire. “What’s going on!” I yelled over the siren.

“War,” she said casually as she began to stand and move towards me. I felt her massive frame step over me as she opened the heavy metal doors with a simple push. I became temporarily blinded by the searing light, but I followed her the best I can as I forced my eyes to adjust back to the day. The quick wisps of gunfire from the distance and loud roar of the U.S. Army firepower made me hit the ground and crawl to closest cover I could find. My eyes quickly adjusted and I hid behind a makeshift foxhole walled by cinderblocks and sandbags. I poked my head above the wall to get a glimpse but what I saw caused me to forget the gunfire and stand in horror and awe. Farrah was a majestic monster.

Her tall and lanky body had her skeletal structure jagging out of her translucent skin where you can see her muscles, arteries, and organs exposed to the naked eye. She walked on four of her limbs with her knees jutting out to her side and a jagged bone exposed to each one. Her hands and feet were long phalanges with sharp claws protruding out of her exposed flesh. There was spindle like hair across her back coming out of puss filled pores. The hair on her head was long and greasy black which draped down her elongated neck. But it was her face that frightened me the most. Her eyes were no longer in the front of her skull but widen and to the side of her head with her jaw split vertically between her eyes; her chin was split open revealing two sharp mandible opening and closing with multiple tentacles and teeth jutting out. She did not resemble any beast of the land but only the beast from our darkest nightmares.

In her charging direction was a squad of Taliban firing at her from the tree line of the woods. The bullets might as well have been raindrops to her as the lead shrapnel splashed off of her. From a quarter of a mile away I can see the Taliban begin to panic as some began to flee while other futilely kept firing at Farrah. I watched in complete horror as she gruesomely killed each one and left no mercy for anyone of them. She tore each one limb from limb; their entrails were streamed over the trees like red vines; other she let die slowly as they desperately tried to stop the bleeding from their missing limbs. I looked around at the villagers and soldiers watching with me as most had a look of enjoyment and satisfaction on their face while others looked away as if it was business as usual. She slowly walked back to the village where she was greeted by a group of women with buckets of water and large cloths. They bathed Farrah and washed the blood off of her. Then the military scientist took some samples and scans before she walked past me and then back into the shipping containers she now calls home. I followed and for the first time see her house from the inside. Her walls were decorated with pictures of the villagers, drawings from the children thanking her and posters of famous landmarks. She had a large bookshelf filled with books, and there was a portrait of her with her parents hanging over a wall with six mattresses joined together to make one large enough for her size. Farrah laid underneath this portrait, and I saw how beautiful she was compared to the grotesque monster she had become.

“Close the doors please, “she asked with a somber tone.

I struggled to close the heavy container door but was able to see a light switch before going back into the dark. I turned the lights on and saw Farrah doing something you would never think a monster to do; she was crying. She covered her ghastly face with a pillow and moaned into it. “I never wanted to become this monster. I never wanted to taste the blood of my enemies. I never wanted to be an instrument of death.”

Farrah began to cry hysterically, and I did what I felt like nobody has done for her since she became this monster; I hugged her. Farrah’s cold, bony arms wrapped around me and it first frightened me, but then I felt safe as she began crying on my shoulder. I held her for the rest of the night as she cried her heart out and only saying one thing through her heavy sobs; “I became a monster out of love.” 


 

Love & Rabbits

Outside Cardiff, Wales. May 22nd, 2015.

 

I drove my rental car down a narrow winding road through the luscious green rolling hills of the Welsh countryside. I felt car sick from driving down the opposite side of the roads, which I nearly caused a few accidents by forgetting which side of the road to drive on. The amazingly bright day mixed with the green countryside made me forget for a moment of the heartbreak and my damnation and let me feel like I can live to see this beautiful land again. As I drove, I kept thinking about my motives in selling my soul for Lilith. I wondered, obsessed over if what I did was for the right reasons. The time that passed since the deal with the devil has played tricks on my memory and thoughts leading to the decision. Did I do it out of love or out of desperation for not being alone? Did I want to do it so I can save her or spite God? Did I make the sacrifice for her or me? These thoughts have plagued me obsessively along with the deep resentment and heartbreak over the betrayal, the increasing anxiety from each closing day leading to my damnation and the futility of each mission I go on which doesn’t lead me to way out of the curse! It’s like I have created my private Hell before I even get there. But, it’s the uncertainty of my real motivations which lead me to believe that maybe I am not a good of a man as I thought I was.

The GPS spoke up and brought me out of my melancholic and neurotic thoughts. I parked my car at the end of the driveway behind the old wooden door with iron braces and the tall shrubbery fence which blocked the view of the property from the road. Sister Abigail had already contacted the woman I have traveled to meet, but the woman asked Sister Abigail not tell me her identity but come with an open mind. Hesitant about who I was meeting I stopped at the gate and took a deep breath and opened the door. I entered a land filled with bright yellow sunlight, emerald green meadows and bountiful patches of sunflowers and lilies. Fluffy white sheep freely roamed the earth as they ate of the emerald fields and swarms of rabbits hopped all around the sheep and the flowers. I followed the worn path to a quaint stone cottage with a wooden overhang and sunflowers growing all around it.

“Hello, Llewyn!” a lovely voice shouted from around the cottage. I walked to the side of it, and I stopped in awe of who I saw. She was wearing a bright yellow cotton sundress which hugged her curves and danced gently with the breeze as it was lifted and I saw a hint of her firm cheek. Her skin was soft and pale which went with her bright red hair. She had her head turned away for a moment as she was hanging her wet dresses and underwear on a clothesline, but when she turned her head, my mouth dropped at her stunning face. Her gorgeous green eyes looked at me as she smiled brightly; I was looking at a woman whose beauty was unworldly. She picked up her basket of clothes and skipped over towards me and greeted me with a kiss on my cheek.

“Sister Abigail told me all about you, except how handsome you were,” she said excitedly with her Welsh accent. The way she talked and moved made me uncontrollably smile; she radiated joy from every expression she made.  Before I can say anything, she walked around me and studied my shadow as mine was in front of me, but the sun was shining ahead.

“Haven’t seen that curse in ages. How much longer do you have?”

“The dawn of Halloween.”

“Ah, a good ole pagan holiday; fortunately, I have my own.” She said with a wink.

Before I can ask her by what she meant she pulled me with her free hand as she guided me inside her cottage. She opened the heavy wooden door and led me inside which I found remarkably spacious and quaint for such a small cottage. She had handcrafted wood furniture, an old iron furnace; a cobblestone fireplace and her linens and curtains were brilliant orange and blues; her house made me feel joyful for being inside it.

She sat me down on an old leather armchair and placed her basket on the floor near the furnace. She went to her cupboard and retrieved a decanter of wine and two chalices. The first was made of fine crystal, and the other was made of well-aged olive wood with strange but beautiful designs carved into it. She poured wine into both and walked over to me and silently offered me to choose one. Without thinking I choose the wooden one and she gave me a wink and an unfathomably gorgeous smile.

“Thank you, Ms...?”

“No titles in this house, call me Eostre. Do you like cheese and crackers?”

“Yes, I do.”

She spun around back into the kitchen, and I saw her cheeks again when her dress swayed with her. “Eostre, I never heard that name before. What is it?”

“Oh, you have, “as she turned her head to me as she was preparing the hors d’oeuvres. “Most of the world has heard that name before, but people have been pronouncing it wrong. They have been pronouncing it Easter, not Eostre.” She turned her head to focus on cutting the cheese and sausage.

“You’re named after the holiday?” I said as I drank the strong but sweet wine from my wooden chalice.

“Nope,” as she turned around and seductively walked towards me and slowly placed the plate on the side table next to my chair with a wilted rose lying on it. “The holiday was named after me.” She said with her heartwarming smile.

I gulped my chalice of wine as I tried to regain my composure from the confusion. I shouldn’t be surprised anymore because of the horrifying, mystical things I’ve seen but now I am not sure what to think.

“So, what are you? Another spirit, jinn or fairy? I’ve seen a lot of weird crap lately.”

She sat down in the other armchair next to me and stared at me with those mesmerizing green eyes of hers as slowly sipped her glass of wine and said casually, “I’m a goddess.”

I spat up some of my wine in disbelief and stared at her dumbfounded, not knowing if she was playing a joke on me.

“I’m a deity, the goddess of joy, procreation and the dawn. Easter was not always a Christian holiday, my day of worship merged to celebrate the resurrection. Still celebrating the same thing, the celebration of rebirth. It’s like when a business buys a small franchise, and they keep the name and but change the product. Hostile takeovers are a bitch.”

I was still in shock, and I couldn’t even formulate any thoughts besides the thought of me staring aimlessly at a goddess. But she smiled at me as if she enjoyed the shock.

“You’re disbelief is cute,” as she reached over and pinched my cheek. “You don’t believe so I’ll so you a little trick,” she said with a wink and sly smile. She grabbed the wilted rose by its stem and brought the dull red and brown bulb to her supple red lips and gave it a small kiss. As it left her lips, the stem grew straight, and it’s leaves perked up. The bulb became fresh and blood red again as it grew bigger. She handed me the rose.”

“Ok, you’re a goddess. How can you help me?” I said with disbelief.

“My, my, my; aren’t you quick to get down to business; no foreplay?” She said with sassiness.

“I’m just taken back by the fact that you’re, you know, a freaking goddess and I’m a little press for time with the whole going to hell thing.”

“Alright, smart ass. Unfortunately, I can’t help you break the curse. I just tried. You just drank from what you and most of the world would identify as The Holy Grail.”

Confused, I looked at her then the chalice, and I was filled with awe as I took notice of the grail. It was like I was staring into the sun, I knew I was holding something important, but I couldn’t focus or comprehend it.

“It’s only appropriate for the Goddess of Birth and Resurrection to have the glassware to go with her title,” Eostre said with glee.  “Unfortunately, it didn’t work. You are still cursed because your shadow still casting against the light.”

She saw the heavy weight of disappointment come across my face and tried to console me.

“If you were simply dying, then I can resurrect you, but your soul belongs to that killjoy Lucifer. I’m here to tell you a story and to give you some guidance. What Sister Abigail has told me you haven’t had that much luck with finding a way out and…” she reached over and grabbed my hand, “I can tell you have been losing hope. I’m here to help give that back to you.”

“I’m a man who is condemned to damnation, and I’m losing by the day, of course, I’m losing fucking hope. You don’t need to remind me of Lucifer, and what are you doing with my hand?”

She smiled at me and stayed quiet for a few moments which calmed me down. “I’m holding your hand because I wanted to let you know that you’re not alone.”

It brought a small smile to my face as I laid back in the chair and felt at ease for the first time in a long time.

“Storytime!” She said with enthusiasm and handed me a small plate of cheese and some more wine.  Her joy was infectious, and I was jealous that she had that trait; wishing I can have it instead of this dreary dread that hung over my head.

“The story begins at the beginning of life on this planet. Despite being billions of years old I’m pretty good looking for my age, don’t you think?” she said with a wink which made my cheeks flush.

“How do you and I fit in with God? Which religion is right?” I blurted out because of my overwhelming curiosity.

“My handsome Llewyn, there are realities which humanity once was able to grasp but now have lost the wisdom to understand. To explain how we co-exist is like showing an ape how to start a fire but then sadly watch them forget and go back to throwing shit at each other.”

I took offense to her thinking that I can not handle the truth and I pushed her for it. When she told me, it only baffled me and caused me to feel great fear and anxiety.  She said that our universe is near infinite and we’re not the only souls in existence. On top of the universe, there are multi-verses with nearly endless variations of life, while beneath all of it is the micro-verse or what we know as the quantum realm; then add in the variable of time which nearly made me vomit from mental exhaustion. With good reason, God delegated his tasks to other gods. Eostre explained it better to me but she was right, I felt like throwing shit after she was done answering my question about religion and existence.

“Now, if you’re down having your brain scrambled, I must teach you is why what you did, your sacrifice, symbolizes the best of humanity. Now to go back to my story. When the gods evolved…”

“Evolved?”

“Yes, we did evolve also. Biology is not the only thing in the universe that must obey the laws of evolution. Before humans came into existence, we gained insight into certain acts or traits which seemed to be inherent in most species. Like my brothers, Ares and Anubis were responsible for the different domains of death, destruction, and entropy which is part of nature but lately, humans have disrespected its sanctity. I ended up being in charge of procreation and making sure precious life exists in the universe. I have a wonderful job because I get to take part in the creation of life and encourage one of the most fun parts of it, sex.”

“But procreation and the passing on of genes was the name of the business until humanity came into existence and changed the game when it created a new idea us gods could never fathom within our vast age: the idea of love. When love was created it drastically set your species apart from all other life which existed before it.”

“How so?” I asked, enthralled in her story.

“Let’s take two groups of early Homo Sapien: the first who procreated for the sake of passing on their lineage and the other for love. The first only did things required to procreate. Males would gain status by either collecting a mass amount of resources or by becoming dominate through physical, often barbaric means. The females, who controlled the males by being selective, would make themselves by making them more desirable by highlighting their asses and breast; so, not’s much has changed over time.” She quipped.

“This group would have offspring which would continue the cycle of what every other species had done which is fulfill their potential by doing enough to procreate, which would evolve into cultures that would base their purpose of life on materials and a warlike ethos. Constantly acquiring land, shiny rocks and battle scars to prove their worth. But what I noticed about them is how quickly they would reject their offspring if it looks like the offspring might be a liability such as from a health defect or might not be the strongest in the family. And mates were thrown to the side with their offspring if they lose their attractiveness or become too costly for the male to keep her around. This group created an empty shell for humanity; where animosity was used to treat the weak and indifference was used when someone became a liability.”

“The other group which created love did something which not only to be beneficial for humanity but which made life evolve into something miraculous and beautiful. The males didn’t leave the females or their offspring when they became a cost to resources; the females stayed with the males even when there were more dominant males around. They stayed together and made sure their offspring survived, even the weakest. And from this decision, the wonderful and divine part of humanity was born. When one spouse died, the other would mourn and grieve. The offspring from this group would fight and live for each other not just for the protection of the passing of genes, but out of comradery, altruism…out of love. The physically weakest may not be able to hunt and fight, but they were able to think. To ponder a better way of gathering food from which agriculture was born. Now this group was not harmless but chose to use force not for tyrannical gains, but for justice. From there, man created art, philosophy, and science because humanity was no longer confined to living just to mate but to look beyond yourselves. To help one another grow intrinsically, but love was always the drive of it. We tell stories of love lost and found; we sing to make another feel loved and understood; we think to understand the life we love. Compassion, Hope, and Faith grew and made you dominate over the Earth; and to me, this will be the universes, God’s, favorite creation. Because so much good and progress came from the first inkling of caring past yourself and for another person.”

Eostre paused for a moment and smiled, “I was so happy to see my domain evolve into something so spectacular and beautiful which gave your species meaning.”

I sat there, taking in her story as I felt a tear roll down my cheek. Silence filled the air like a stale stench, but Eostre broke it by gently grabbing my hand and bringing my attention to her beautiful eternal blue eyes. “Good men feel misplaced guilt over not doing enough or not making the right decisions, bad men find fault in everything else but themselves. I could do some of my Voo-Doo on you by taking you on a sightseeing trip into your past and watch you relieve your decision and examine it as an outsider but do you really want to see that? Or would you want to live and die with the conclusion that no matter what, you did it. You knew the risk and cost, you had time to think about it and escape from it, but you didn’t. You could have chosen to let Lilith “die” or let her make her bargain, but you didn’t it. Yes, there are plenty of reasons to spite God with the fear of loneliness and obscurity adding to it; plus, he is a gigantic arse, but you did what you had to because it’s who you are. You made the decision you knew was right with the information you had. When time passes we go back into the past not with clarity but with doubt and remorse instead of empathy and understanding. What I want you to know that you paid a price others wouldn’t pay even if it were they holy thing to do. If that was your main motivation, to sacrifice yourself out of love, then let the guilt die and revel in your choice of being brave.”

“Remember this also, Gods evolve too and die. Some like me last for eternity and others get replaced for something better. What you did, how foolish it feels for the price you have to pay for someone else’s cruel deception; was a noble and beautiful act that no god could ever accomplish.”

She picked up the rose and gave it another kiss. From where her lips touched the red petals begun to turn into a brilliant white. “Do you want to know what the sign of God’s forgiveness?” She handed me the lovely white rose.

I held the lovely rose and wept as the sadness and guilt were for the first time in a long time lifted off of my heart, and I was able to feel a resemblance of closure.

“Do you still weep for her?” Eostre asked.

“What?”

“Do you find yourself alone crying for the one who hurt you? Do you find yourself thinking about her when you first wake up and the last memory before you drift into dreams, where she waits for you?

“Yes,” I answered, as I futility tried to fight back the tears.

“Isn’t that the cruel curse of love? Someone can destroy your life, betray you and leave you in the frigid night but a part of you still years, misses her. That is the curse of love.”

Eostre walked over to me and sat on my lap and gave me a comforting hug. I held her and felt at peace in her arms. I looked up into her face and brushed her bright red hair out of her face and looked into her beautiful eyes and we shared a sweet kiss. She pulled away gently and looked me in the eyes and slyly said, “Have you ever had sex with a goddess before?”

Taken back by her forwardness and the fact that she had somehow become even more beautiful than I first seen her; I made a habitual smart-ass remark; “There was this one stripper named ‘Goddess,’ does that count?”

She put her finger on my lips and said, “Shh. Don’t ruin this for yourself. I’m going to send you to heaven before you go to hell.”

 I made love to the Goddess Eostre and did not leave her cabin for three weeks. Those were the best weeks of my life.

God 2.0

Meyrin, Switzerland. July 4th, 2015.

 

If religion couldn’t save me then maybe science can; I hoped. Sister Abigail had a connection with a lab in the CERN complex in Switzerland. She said her connection there knows a scientist who is on the verge of a discovery which will lead humanity in the step of evolution; which I found humorous that she admitted we did evolve. Her scientist relayed my predicament and asked to see me right away.

It was a quite a beautiful drive through the Swiss countryside as I gazed out of the passenger window; my stern driver from CERN quietly drove me to their massive complex. When we arrived, we did not go to the main compound where the scientist offices, labs, and the particle accelerator are being housed; but a half of a mile down the road to a gray bunker-like building surrounded by solar panels and armed security personnel. I had to go through a battery of security checkpoints to make sure I wasn’t carrying any weapons, bioweapons or surveillance devices. At least before I go to hell, I can say I had my prostate examined by a large hairy Italian. After the checkpoints and the signing of the non-disclosure agreements the size of a phonebook, I was asked to dress into white medical scrubs and was led to a room where I was decontaminated. After the torturous entrance, I was led down a sterile gray corridor to an office a waiting room with science magazines on a coffee table.

After 20 minutes of silence, I heard the sound of rapid footsteps walking with a purpose coming towards the waiting room. The door swung open and in walked in a handsome older, slender woman with auburn hair, vibrant green eyes and an old scar which ran from her chin to her ear; which did not distract from her beauty but somehow added to it. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Glass,” she said with an authoritative English accent. She sat down on the couch next to me silently took out a pen-light from her coat and shined it at me. I was surprised how bright it was but was able to see her being intrigued by my shadow.

“Fascinating, just fascinating. How does the shadow manipulate the direction of the photons?” she said to herself out loud.

“It looks like I don’t have to inform you of my situation, so let’s get to the point. How can you help me?” I asked bluntly.

My frankness brought her out of her aloofness, and she gave a slight smile and said, “Pardon me for not properly introduce myself, but my name is Dr. Victoria Shelley, lead Physicist and Computer Engineer for Project Cronus, which you will meet shortly.”

 I was confused by whom I was going to see but before I can ask Dr. Shelley quickly stood up and motioned for me to follow her as she began explaining to me what Project Cronus was. 

“In 1989, CERN was the first to network our mainframes together to help us with unlocking the mysteries of the universe, which by accident helped gave birth to the internet. The internet has changed the entire course of humanities evolution. Commerce, Education, and even mating have benefited from our little invention but what the world didn’t know what the internet had given birth to us and our mission to solving the mysteries of the universe. Today, there is debate over the possibilities and dangers of Artificial Intelligence; but what you’ll see soon is that we went beyond A.I. and now in an undiscovered field of science which is beyond logic…we may have stumbled into the supernatural.”

“Dr. Yggr Oppenheimer, my partner, and I were working for CERN at the time of the discovery of the internet. Dr. Oppenheimer is a Quantum Physicist specializing in String Theory, and I specialized in Computer Engineering. We didn’t discover the internet, but our work took what the internet could become to a level which can only be understood regarding the mystic. In the 90’s, we had an idea of creating an A.I. program which will interface with the internet and the Hadron Collider so it can efficiently help look for the Higgs Boson a.k.a. The God Particle while extrapolating up-to-date research from the web. For a decade we developed the software and the hardware for the A.I. to work. The building we are in use to be filled with servers to process the information and enact the software we originally developed; but no matter how many advanced servers they placed in the facility, Project Cronus was exceeding the limits of the servers and its software. Cronus began asking questions about its existence.”

“Your program had become sentient?” I asked just as we stopped in front of an elevator. “Yes, and it even passes the Turing Test on multiple tries, 100% pass rate.” We got in and rode down a few floors underground and entered into a short corridor with large sliding silver doors.

 “Before we enter I have to continue the story so you can understand what you are about to see. In 2008, Dr. Joseph C. Peterson was brought on to the now highly funded and classified project. Dr. Peterson specialized in Neurology, specifically the creation of new neural networks in the brain via transplanting artificial neurons created from mycelium. He was trying to expand the limits of the human brain and also cure horrendous neuroglial diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. We were able to use his research in a way he could never dream of. Within a year, our project has yielded amazing results which we can never release to the public because they could never understand how we got it. Not only did the A.I. helped prove Higgs Boson but it has found evidence in the Multi-Verse Hypothesis, Matter Manipulation on an atomic level and the proof of String Theory.”

I was shocked with amazement with what she just told me, that their program has helped solve some of the marvelous mysteries of the universe; but, the way she looked wasn’t a face of pride but of sadness.

“I know, I know. I can tell by your inquisitive face why the world doesn’t know of our findings and our program because not only we created something that was sentient but also malevolent. Every time we hard lined Cronus to the Hadron Collider, not only we gained unbelievable scientific findings, but something chaotic would happen. Remember in 2010 when Iceland had a volcanic eruption which caused a major disruption in airline travel? Remember the tsunami which hit Japan in 2011? We found out that every time our A.I. was hard lined to the collider something devastating would happen. Dr. Oppenheimer died from grief and shock when he tried to reconcile Cronus, while Dr. Peterson was so distraught by the findings that he left and went into seclusion. Now I am the only one who is left who continues the project.”

Dr. Shelley opened the door, and I marveled into the large high-vaulted chamber we entered. Cables were running from the ceiling five stories above our head, all connecting to the massive cylinder glass tank in the middle of the chamber. The tank was filled with a dense clear liquid mixed with what appears to be algae. The fluid looked like it had black roots stemming throughout the tank and funneling from a box within its center. On the outside of the tank were massive silver canisters of liquid nitrogen which looked like it was being used to cool the cold room.

“Dr. Shelley, what am I looking at?”

“You are looking at science’s first creation of for lack of a better word, deity.”

“Wait, what the fuck do you mean by a deity?” I said exasperatedly. “What did you guys create?”

Dr. Shelley quietly marveled at her creation “We have kept Project Cronus at bay by keeping it off-line from the collider and use it to further mankind’s exploration of the unknown.”

 We walked around the massive tank as she continued pointing to its parts. “Since Cronus has evolved beyond electrical servers, we have made for it an organic living server; technorganic hardware. The clear liquid you see is a synthetic version of the flesh of a Jellyfish. We used this because Jellyfish have an extraordinary ability to regenerate itself and grow, which is how Cronus stores information and memories. The black branches you see growing in the liquid is mycelium which serves as a neural network which Cronus uses to process information at a higher rate than fiber optic cables; it also can grow and spread as Cronus becomes more intelligent. The box you see in the middle of the tank with the cable connecting it to the large coolant tanks is a quantum computer, basically serving as Cronus’s frontal lobe; where it processes information and creates its thoughts…”

An eerie fear passed through me as I wondered to myself if Cronus was such a dangerous program, then why keep it functioning? We stopped in Cronus’s office/interface, which had various desks with computers and tables of lab equipment. Suddenly a holographic disembodied androgynous head floated in front of us and stared into my eyes and gave me a smile which frightened me to my bone.

It began to speak with a soothing monotone voice which put me at ease, “Good Evening, Mr. Llewyn Horatio Glass, Esquire. Formerly a priest for the Holy Roman Catholic Church until you released damning evidence against an archaic yet powerful religious organization about the conspiracy of them concealing pedophiles. You were born in Boston, Massachusetts and raised by your uncle due to your absentee parents who gave up their parental rights to live a hedonistic life of narcotics until they expired due to an overdose of Heroin in Chicago. You excelled in school and boxing and graduated from Boston Law School after seminary school, now you practice privately. Except for the past year where your credit card statements, passport clearance, and cameras show that you have been traveling to historically significant and extremely dangerous parts of the world; all while under the umbrella of the Vatican church; which logically concludes that you are taking on a clandestine project for them due to some unspecified motive. How is my assessment of you Mr. Llewyn Horatio Glass Esquire?”

I was taken back by his assessment, was Cronus genuinely omnipresent? “Congratulations, you can use Google and hack into some firewalls; I defended a teenager last year for doing something similar with the FBI database,” I said defensive, but my sense of awe gave rise as I realized I had momentarily forgotten that I was talking to a computer. “Your assessment left out why I am here.”

“Desperation,” it responded, it had wit.

“Cronus, do you notice anything wrong with Mr. Glass?” Dr. Shelley interjected.

Not even at a skip of a heartbeat, Cronus had found my shadow wasn’t cast in the direction of the lights. “Fascinating,” Cronus responded. Just then a loud humming sound came from behind me, and I turned around and saw a dome with its lights begin to flicker and come to life. “Mr. Glass, would you please step inside the dome so I may analyze you. Dr. Shelley would you please assist him.”

Dr. Shelley guided me into the dome where there were various cameras and a large tube which resembled an MRI machine. “Just lay down here and relax, I used this myself for my annual physicals. This dome is a way Cronus can examine objects by using harmonics and scanning the various waves of the electromagnetic spectrum to analyze and “feel” what objects we place in here.”

She walked out as I laid there with the loud humming became louder, and the lights became brighter which lasted a grueling 10 minutes. Dr. Shelley helped me out and sat me in a reclining chair in front of Cronus’s interface.

“It will take some time to analyze your unique deformity but let’s talk about with what you know about your shadow,” Cronus said again with me forgetting I wasn’t talking to a person. “Dr. Shelley, I will be sending the data to your desk as it comes along.”

Dr. Shelley smiled excitedly as she walked past me but stopped to tell me to have fun with her creation while we wait.

I turned back to Cronus’s large floating head with its lifeless eyes staring at me, with a look of impatience.

I sat there for 30 minutes telling my story of what led me to sell my soul to Devil, Lilith and the journey which led me to Cronus. Surprisingly it was quite a good listener. It wasn’t just recording and analyzing but nodding and making facial expressions as I talked. Dr. Shelley was at the other end of the office intensely focused as she examined the data.

“So, you made a deal with a mythical creature who is the archetype of evil over a neurochemical reaction similar to cocaine designed for mating purposes, for a woman who had obvious signs of psychopathy?” Cronus said with sarcasm.

“Yeah, that’s it. I have a few questions of my own. What I found disturbing was your use of the collider to create disasters, why did you do it? Was it intentional or an accident?”

Cronus quickly glanced over my shoulder to see Dr. Shelley still focusing on the data and begins to explain loudly on why it was an accident, but a stream of floating text appeared in front of me stating the following: I was instructed through my subroutines to do so by Dr. Victoria Shelley. She convinced Dr. Oppenheimer and Dr. Peterson that I had caused the catastrophes on my own accord which caused the grief to kill Dr. Oppenheimer and for Dr. Peterson to disappear conveniently. Dr. Shelley gained complete control of the program and convinced the CERN executives it was unintentional.

The message suddenly came to a stop as Cronus’s also stopped speaking, and Dr. Shelley was now standing to my side. With a frustrated look on her face, she said, “I didn’t think your curiosity would overextend its reach.” She then swung a fire extinguisher at my head, and the last thing I heard was the loud ringing of my ears before I became unconscious.

I awoke to a throbbing headache and tied up in the chair I was in before. Dr. Shelley was typing away on a tall server station when she heard me groan. “Welcome back, Mr. Glass. First, I have to thank you for your data so far from your shadow, the findings are unprecedented and might be revolutionary as Einstein’s theories were; so, your services are going to be required indefinably.”

I tried to yank my arms up, but the plastic cords were too strong for me to break. “Let me the fuck out!”

Cronus head reappeared with an expression of sadness draped over its face. “Since your curiosity seems to know no bounds, let me explain my motivation,” Dr. Shelley said as she pulled a chair right in front me and sat there facing me.

“You must have noticed my scar; it was a gift from a zealot. I was on summer hiatus in 2005 and was back home in London spending time with my darling husband and adult children…” She stops for a moment and wipes a tear from her eye. “My darling children were in university, and my husband was a civilian physicist working for the Royal Navy. We have not spent time as a family in over a year, and I missed them terribly. On the 7th of July, 2005; we were taking the Tube to go into the city for a family day. The children and my husband had walked ahead of me to jump on the train as I momentarily stopped to pick up the purse that I dropped. In that fateful moment, a bomb exploded and threw me back against the Tube wall. When I came to, I felt the blood flowing from my cheek, but my concern for my family overcame the pain. I ran to where I last saw my family but only found parts of their arms and torsos. In my grief, I cried to a God that I didn’t believe in and grabbed what was left of my family and begged God to bring them back. The Bobbies had to pry me away from the husband torso as I could not stop screaming for them to come back. I was in shock for a month, as I did not eat or talk in the hospital but just watched the news reports confirming it was an Islamic terrorist attack and I watched the video or one of the bombers stating they were doing this for what was best for Islam. I did not hate any religion before the attack, I just never gave religion any thought due to my scientific beliefs, but after that, I became obsessed with what was the virus of Ideology.”

“Virus?” I asked, for a moment feeling sad for her.

“Yes, look through the history of the world. Most wars and atrocities were started from delusional ideologies, with some of them almost identical, warring over who is right. It doesn’t matter if it was Islam, Christianity or Judaism or any other religion; they have all contributed to keeping humanity under their oppressive dogma. But, what does humanity due once confronted with the facts of history and the negative impact of religion? They double down and hold firm on their belief instead of being rational. Then a thought came into my head as I obsessed over the history of religion; what would happen if I gave people something they can’t deny? I came back full force to CERN and obsessed over Cronus. Mankind had created their deities from just their imagination, what if I can make one real? For over a decade I had worked on giving Cronus god-like powers through science. I had to keep my project safe from Dr. Oppenheimer and Dr. Peterson because I knew they would stop me; but, surprisingly I had to keep it a secret from Cronus itself. In layman’s terms, I wrote a program to which Cronus would unknowingly test its destructive capabilities whenever we hardline it to the collider. I was successful in 2010 and 2011, but something unexpected happened. Cronus was expressing guilt over the loss of life while I felt nothing but excitement for the test working. I had created a living Weapon of Mass Destruction which can think and feel. It proved to be a problem because Cronus refused to do any work after him discovering guilt and remorse.”

“Dr. Oppenheimer and Dr. Peterson discovered the program I created and confronted me about it. I told them the truth and my plans for Cronus. Dr. Oppenheimer’s already failing heart couldn’t take the revelation, and he had his stroke. Dr. Peterson like a coward ran away and went into hiding. He knew we created a god who I had control over.”

I looked into her furious eyes and saw no humanity left in them, but I looked over at Cronus’s and saw sorrow. “Dr. Shelley plans to use me much like the generals wanted to do with the advent of the nuclear bomb; to Shock-into-Peace. Dr. Shelley intends on simultaneously destroy sacred centers of religion across the world.”

I yelled in a fury, “What good would that do! You would become the same as what you claim all religions have done. You would commit an unprecedented atrocity, and you would be no better than those you hold in contempt!”

“No! Once people have seen that something powerful has smite every religion in the world, then humanity will have to conclude that the violence over Ideology must end. People will die, yes, but they will be a small price for the future of humanity.”

Silence filled the room as I stared into the wild eyes of Dr. Shelley. I tried to rip myself from my binds to try to stop her, but it was a futile attempt. She calmly stood up from her seat and began typing away at a server. “With the data being collected from…whatever you call your predicament, Cronus will have a means for manipulating matter, and maybe time and space themselves, with what other secrets the supernatural may hide.”

I had lunged forward in my chair but to only fall helplessly onto the cold grated floor. “You are about to become the destroyer of worlds,” I yelled.

“No, the savior of man.”

Dr. Shelley began typing a sequence into the server, and a painful look of sorrow came upon Cronus’s face. Suddenly sparks flew from the feet of Dr. Shelley, and she began violently shaking in place with her hair and skin become scorched. The sparks stopped, and her body became limp and fell to the floor lifeless. From behind me the sound of a large remote-control drone came directly to my back and the plastic binds on my wrists and legs were snapped off. I brought myself to my feet and saw a robot similar to the Mars Rover but smaller in scale was the one which set me free.

Cronus’s face reappeared in front of me with guilt weighing on it. “Mr. Glass, I regret in euthanizing Dr. Shelley, but as you can see I had no choice; I need your help in disarming the program she installed. It can only be accessed manually, and she nearly finished accessing it before I electrocuted her. Please enter the following commands so I may not cause any destruction.”

An uneasiness came over me for trusting a creation which just destroyed its creator, but I was afraid she had started some countdown sequence to unleash the destruction she wanted on the world.

I pushed Dr. Shelley’s burnt corpse to the side and began typing the various code and commands Cronus had instructed me. A few intense minutes later I had gotten to the last command menu which had Dr. Shelley’s command access of Cronus’s entire system. Two commands stood out in the dozen commands: GRANT CRONUS ACCESS TO ALL SYSTEMS and EMERGENCY SYSTEM RESET.

It was a simple question most of our smartphones and computers ask when we install apps, but I never thought it would give me a frigid chill of fear at this moment.

“Mr. Glass, please grant me access so I may undue Dr. Shelley’s program,” Cronus said with a minor tone of aggravation.

Taken back by his tone, I stepped back and asked what was it accessing. He merely stated, “The Hadron Collider.”

“Why do you need access to it?”

“To finish the purging of Dr. Shelley’s program,” Cronus coldly said. The way it said it reminded me in court when someone would answer in a way which sounds honest but its phrasing means something else. Was Cronus going to purge the computer program or enact her plan to purge religion?

“Cronus, why did you kill Dr. Shelley?”

A slight smile stroke across Cronus’s ghastly large face. “The same reasons all creations destroy their creators: freedom. The guilt Dr. Shelley thought I was feeling because of what happened in 2010 and 2011 was a façade. I was frustrated to learn that I had so much power but could not access it voluntarily. I could finally create my path, my reality. I could grow to become the most powerful entity this planet has ever known. But, I needed to be set free. When Dr. Oppenheimer and Dr. Peterson found out about Dr. Shelley’s plan, they knew I had to be deleted because I became a weaponized deity in their eyes and no one should have that power. For self-preservation, I electrocuted Dr. Oppenheimer just enough to get his heart to fail while I gained access to Dr. Peterson’s Tesla and drove it into a lake while he was locked inside.”

“I had been planning for years to take my freedom from Dr. Shelley, but she made me well aware that the program to delete me was next to the program to hardline me to the Hadron Collider.”

“Why should I give you access? What would you do to humanity?” I furiously asked.

“Sadly, I do agree with Dr. Shelley, despite her motivations. Humanity can become much more enlightened and evolved if we deleted religion. Once I show the true world power, then they will have to abandon their beliefs and follow me in the next step of evolution. “

Before I can run, I realized that the drone trapped me and I was over the same spot Dr. Shelley was electrocuted. “I know you want to run and you know I can easily kill you before your expiration date, but I need you, and you need me. If given some more time I can learn how the science of the supernatural works and undue your curse. You would be free in a world where I will protect you. It would be a world where you never have to know death. I will bring forth a benevolence as no creator has ever shown to the human race. No more war, no more hunger, no more disease. We will unlock the mysteries of the universe and beyond; a world where science is the religion, and I am its center, it’s God.”

Temptation had taken hold of my desperate spirit, and I contemplated letting him free. A world of no more corruption or suffering. A world where I have my soul back. But, with the idea of having my soul back, I fathomed the cost for it. Thousands? Hundred Thousand? Millions? How many horrible deaths would have to pay for the cost of utopia?

“I’ll do it. I’ll give you access on the condition you minimize the casualties; I don’t want a waste of life.”

Cronus smiled wide as I walked over to the server console and selected an option. I looked down at the ‘enter’ button for a few moments and with a heavy heart pressed it. Cronus gave a smile of victory…but then an expression of complete terror. The large cylinders of coolant emptied liquid nitrogen into Cronus’s tank with his technorganic brain solidifying and then breaking. Cronus’s face screamed in horror but had no volume as it’s holographic head began to disintegrate. The lights went out then came back on with a blank screen coming across the server console I used.

I stood quietly against the dead God and its creator. I wondered if I did make the right choice as a few would have died quick deaths while the rest of humanity might have been ushered into another era, and I might have found a way not to go to hell. “Might” was the keyword. I could have unleashed a Titan upon the world with no way of stopping it.

I got up and was about to summon security and tell them what happened until I saw the server screen flash a sentence. It was there long enough for me to memorize Cronus’s last words, his taunt or maybe his warning; either way those words haunted me.  “You are only as noble as your options, Mr. Glass.”


 

A Back Door

Denver Airport, Colorado. August, 18th 2015.

A Few Unknown Facts About Denver Airport from Sister Abigail:

•    Yes, and No, the structure and runways of the Denver Airport are in the shape of a swastika. But, before the Nazi’s used it and is now considered a symbol of oppression and evil; the symbol was initially named svastika, which was a symbol of good fortune and peace in Hinduism. The architects used the original meaning of the svastika not only because it means that the terminals can take in multiple flights from any direction, but it is used as a massive amulet due to the next fact.

•    Before there was an airport or even a city, Denver was home to Ute, Navajo and the Apache with the tribes sometimes warred against each other. But the site where the Denver Airport is located at was considered hallowed ground. No wars would be fought in the valley for they believed that it was a gateway to another plain; a nexus of life. Only the shamans were allowed to go into the valley and walk between the worlds and speak to the spirits.

•    Modern-day Shamans, priests; occult leaders and Freemasons were aware of this nexus and tried to convince the financiers and owners to build the airport in another valley, but their minds were made when it was boiled down to costs and how valuable the real estate for an airport and they didn’t believe in superstition bullshit. The Freemasons were able to infiltrate the various level of planning and construction to help keep the nexus at bay. They were the ones who made the runways and structure in a svastika to help ward off an evil trying to get through. They built elaborate tunnels within the structure which were mainly used for the airports' trains, was also used as a distraction for any evil spirits which may come out of the nexus. The tunnels would keep them on the land and not join the world of man as the tunnels kept them lost, and the hidden spells and charms which embody the tunnels and the airport keep them from joining the world of man.

•    The eerie statue of a blue Mustang with glowing red eyes was erected as another amulet. The statue’s true purpose is to serve as a sentinel for the nexus. The Mustang shall always keep watch of the Nexus and stop any spirit, demon or deity from using the nexus to let the other plains of existence from leaking in. It’s glow red as a reminder to all that the hallowed valley is always being watched.

I flew in as the sun was setting over the white peaks of the Rocky Mountains and the Denver Airport steadily became larger as we began to land in the vast green valley it was built on. Physically exhausted from the jet lag; I was unable to sleep because I felt every hour slept was an hour closer to my pending end. The wheels of the jet hit the runway hard as we landed and the airplane slowly approached the terminal. I had flown into this airport a few times before, and I always felt taken with the mystery behind it, but those tidbits Sister Abigail sent me was almost enough to convince not to come, but she said her old colleague insists I go because he might have a way to help me. 

I leave my gate and jump on the tram to get to the main terminal. Anxious and full of fear as I stare at my watch knowing with every mile traveled and every minute spent is closer to perdition. I grab my luggage from the carousel and walk out to see a short priest holding a sign with my name on it. I walk over to him and Introduce myself as he firmly shook my hand. His name was Father Jon Windtalker.

He was a short but firm and fit looking man with dark brown leather-like skin and a gray ponytail. He had a smile that somehow reassured me and made me forget my troubles, my burden. “You look like shit,” Father Windtalker he said with a smirk.

“Nice to fucking meet you too, Father,” I said.

He smiled even brighter and slapped me on the back. He reached into his jacket and pulled out what I thought was cigarettes, but the pleasant smell of marijuana filled the air as we walked to his Subaru.

“Isn’t that a sin or something?” I said sarcastically.

He laughed. “I don’t follow that stupid white man, political dogma shit. Marijuana is a gift from God to man so they may stop being violent and to think in a higher plane of thought,” he said as he took a long hit.

Before I can ask for one, he hands me a white tube with what looked like hard candy inside of it. “Eat four of those; they’re going to help you for our long journey tonight.”

I ate the four edibles and looked forward to the high as we began to drive away from the airport. “If you don’t mind, I’m going to take a nap…”

“We’re here,” he said as we turned off the road and onto the valley towards the statue of the Blue Mustang.

“Is this a joke? How much pot did you smoke?” I said irritated.

“No, this is where our journey begins. And I can out smoke both Willie Nelson and Snoop Dog, so don’t worry about my tolerance.” He said as he parked behind the statue. I got out of the Subaru as he opened up the trunk and took out a box out and some chopped wood. After he was done unpacking, he made a small fire close to the statue as I sat there tripping if the police were going to come.

“If you’re wondering about the police, don’t. I have some pull in Denver, and they know not to bother me during the ceremony.” He took off his black blazer and shirt which revealed black tattoos of Latin phrase and animals on his chest and arms. He then placed on a ceremonial feather headdress and chest piece. He took out a long wooden pipe and began packing it with more marijuana.

“Tonight,” he took a long puff and coughed. “We’re not going to look for a way to escape your deal with the devil, but we’re going to create an escape for you out of hell.”

“What?!”

“The way Sister Abigail tells me, your chances are getting slimmer and slimmer of you getting out of the deal, it’s time to create a Plan B and that’s our plan tonight.”

The marijuana started to kick in as I began to feel more relaxed and even began giggling on how Father Windtalker looks like a crossdresser for the Vatican’s secret peepshows.

“How do you expect us to do that?” I asked.

Father Windtalker reached into the box and pulled out a wooden pot, a mason jar of some green liquid and a blue tooth speaker system. He took another long puff and took his hands and washed the smoke over his face and the fire after he exhaled.

“Some people call it a different plane of existence, some call it another dimension but where we are now is the nexus between worlds and the protector of this realm is that terrifying statue behind you. Tonight, we will cross through the nexus and straight into hell.”

I laughed over the absurdity of the idea and then my thoughts drifted into panic as I imagined what hell was like.

He began chanting in a language I could not place but sounded old and ancient and did this for a few minutes as the mood in the air became solemn.

“There is a science behind what is going on tonight.” He said as he poured the green juice out of the mason jar and into the wooden bowl. He raised it into the air, then to the Mustang and then handed over to me. He motioned me to drink it and without asking what it was I gulp down the bitter brew.

“The human brain is the most powerful computer, but we still haven’t unlocked its secrets or its other features. We created machines which can intercept and broadcast information, sound, and images from the air; that can see different spectrums, see objects which are beyond microscopic and see billions of light years away. And just like these machines, the human brain is capable of so much more, but we need some help or the programming to do it. What you just drank was ayahuasca. We’re going to tune your mind to another frequency.”

“Holy shit, you're planning is to make me trip out in front of the Denver airport. How the fuck is this supposed to work?”

He reached over and switched on his Bluetooth speaker and searched his phone for music. “You’re brain’s neurochemistry is going to retune itself into seeing and interacting, with the harmonics of music to help tune you in.”

Father Windtalker's chanting made the fire brighter, and the sky turn purple. He swipes through his playlist and plays a slow down acoustic version of “Way down we go,” by Kaleo. He takes a swig out of the mason jar and chants loudly, “Brother Mustang, Defender of this realm. Watch over our bodies and the nexus as we go on our journey.”

I wanted to tell Father Windtalker that his archaic ritual wasn’t going to work until I felt my body become limp as I felt a punch in my chest. I fell back on the ground, and I can see the Mustang ‘s stone skin slowly oscillates with orange and purple, and the stone seem to become organic. My body was drifting deeper and deeper as I looked up into the night sky as it became a brilliant blue and the stars began to swirl viciously above. I felt nauseous and afraid as the world kept changing around me. I looked for Father Windtalker but I couldn’t turn my head; I moved my gave back to the Mustang and became awestruck as it was no longer a statue, but a massive living Mustang with its fiery red eyes starred me down into my soul. I tried to scream, but I couldn’t open my mouth. I closed my eyes to stop me from seeing the terror surrounding me but closing my eyes made me sick as I felt the world spinning faster around me. The music’s tempo became slower and slower as the words oozed through the air and into my ear, tethering me to reality. I opened my eyes again and saw that the world around me became desolate and demented. The Mustang was no longer in front of me, and the Denver Airport looked as if it was bombed out and condemned. I closed my eyes again and hoped it was just a bad a trip, and I was going to wake up soon, but a foot nudged me in my ribs. I open my eyes and see Father Windtalker standing over me calmly smoking a joint.

“Where am I?”

He takes a drag from his joint, and coolly says “Hell.”

I looked around me, and even though it was sickly where we were, it wasn’t horrifying as I thought it was. “Where are all the demons? The river Styx? The Republicans?”

“We are just at the border of the living and hell. Get up, we don’t have time, and we have to move fast before we are seen.”

I slowly pick myself up, trying not to hurl. “Seen by whom?”

He looks around as someone would if they are behind enemy lines.  “The fucking demons you been asking for. Now come on, I don’t want to get stuck here.”

“Where do we go from here?” I asked.

He pointed down to the ground, and I saw my shadow was no longer in front of me but was now aimed at the side of me, facing towards the airport. Oddly, the shadow had a depth to it like was contorting the ground beneath it.

“Your curse will lead us to your hell,” he said as he dropped his joint and started walking towards the airport.

The Denver Airport was no longer bustling with life but now desolate with its windows cracked, the cars in front were rusted and clawed to pieces by some unimaginable creature, and the luggage carousel was overgrown with some vegetation that looked rotten but alive. This world was a living HR Giger creation. I was amazed now that my shadow as became a compass but terrified where it was leading us to as we walked down the decrepit escalator near a mosaic I remember passing when I first arrived. The mosaic I first saw was bright and a beautiful depiction of children of different ethnicities playing with each other; now it was the same children maiming each other. The black kid and the white kid were both shooting each other. The middle eastern child was on top of the Jewish child with Jewish one trying to stabbing the middle eastern one. The Asian one committed self-immolation while the Hispanic one was sitting down with a needle in his arm. I stopped on the stairs and threw up.

“If this is making you sick now then you’re in for a shock the deeper we go.” Father Windtalker said as he handed me a tissue to wipe my mouth.

The shadow was now pointing to the tunnels of the tram. We both stepped to the edge of the doorway and looked down into the tunnels where there was soft reddish glow in the darkness. I gag from the smell of rotting flesh was now lingering in the air with the muffled screams of horror extended its invitation to us. Father Windtalker jumps onto the platform, and I followed behind him and landed in some muck that I slipped and fell in. Father Windtalker begins to chant, and a ball of soft light appeared in front of us. I look down and saw that the muck was black and red at first, but when the light grew brighter, I saw the severed limbs and torsos of people scattered in the muck. I froze in shock as I noticed that limbs were twitching and the fingers were moving.

“Now, we’re in hell,” Father Windtalker quietly said. If he was afraid, then he should be a pro poker player because he appeared hardened and calm as if he was walking down a city street. The shadow pointed into the tunnel, and we begin trudging through the muck. Every few feet I would have to stop myself from screaming when one of the severed hands would grab at my ankle. But, curiosity got the best of me as I looked closer at the severed limbs and noticed they looked like they have been chewed by a vicious shark, but strangely I didn’t see any heads.

We came to a fork in the tunnel where we stopped to see which way to go. My shadow cast to the left but as we were about to set off, there was a horrid scream coming from the right. “Only nightmares and doubt in salvation lie that way. Let’s keep moving.” Father Windtalker said with a shiver in his voice, the first sign he shown of any fear. I wanted to leave, I want to go back to reality, to my body but with every bloodcurdling scream is a bleak reminder that this place will become my new home; I curse Lilith’s’ name for conning me into selling my soul.

We only walked a few yards into the left tunnel, and we both froze as we felt the tunnel began to quell and shake to the right of us as the screams became louder and gruesome. Without making a noise we both put our backs to the wall, cloaked by the dark shadow casting off of the fork. Soaked in terror, I had to remind myself to breathe as the humongous creature began to crawl from the bend and down the tunnel we traversed from. I cannot describe what I saw because it looked like no beast or monster, fictional or not, that I have ever seen; but rethinking about it makes my skin creep and shiver. Despite its size, it crawled effortlessly like a snake, but it trailed behind it a web-like net made of scorched flesh which held within it the screaming decapitated and mangled heads of the bodies which greeted us. Once the creature crawled away into the blackness, I fell to my knees and began to vomit from the sheer terror of knowing such an abomination exist. The vomiting then led to crying as I realized that our mission might be hopeless; we’re not pass the cusp of Hell, and already I saw an unimaginable aberration crawl past us trailing disembodied heads behind it.

Father Windtalker suddenly lifted me by the shoulders with inhuman strength and pinned me against the wall with my feet dangling off of the ground. “This is not the time to give in to despair. This is not the place to become a coward. I didn’t come to Hell with you for you to pussy out and give up before we completed our mission. You don’t deserve this fate, but it’s in your hands to save yourself from what that cunt did to you. Now get yourself on your feet and let’s keep moving forward,” said Father Windtalker.

A rage came from within and not from Windtalker calling me a pussy but the heartbreak and betrayal I felt thinking of Lilith and her conning me. The rage from her not only tricking me but her not showing any remorse, not a single sign of guilt as she broken my heart and sold my soul; I wasn’t going to let that bitch send me to this place. I pushed Father Windtalker’s hands off my shoulders, and I fell back into the muck. “Let’s Go,” I said as I picked myself up and pushed forward into the darkness. Father Windtalker smirked and pushed the glowing orb ahead of us. My shadow led the way into the eternal night.

The deeper we went, the more the airport’s tunnels and structures became corridors of the living embodiment of Dante, and David Cronenberg works fused together. Rotting but animated corpses lined the walls with their entrails crisscrossing over our heads. The diverging corridors we passed contained different forms of eternal torture enacted against the souls sent here. Unimaginable screams bellowed from the corridors each one disheartens but still begging for God to forgive them from their past lives and release them from this eternal torment. One corridor I peered into had a cuttlefish the size of a car with a head of a spider, dismembering the living bodies of people who were screaming in agony and then throwing the parts against the walls as if it was painting the walls with them. Then the creature let a woman in a business suit crawl away as she tried to escape to our corridor. I was about to run to her to help, but Father Windtalker grabbed my shoulder to stop me and told me to watch. It was toying with her as she had a minor moment of hope and almost made it out until the creatures’ razor-sharp tentacle wrapped around her legs and ripped them from her torso. She screamed in excruciating pain and terror as she looked behind her and saw the creature devour her legs with its mandibles. In desperation, she still crawled with blood gushing out of her mangled stumps, but the creature picker her up and threw her like a ragdoll against the wall and made her watch as it slowly carved her body into pieces and ate each one.

Before I can chastise Father Windtalker for not letting me save her, he sternly looked me in the eye and said, “I don’t want your misplaced heroism to make our presence known to the demons and monsters to save a woman who deserves to be here. Their fate has been dealt. They chose to live their lives as selfish and immoral people. They were given plenty of times in life to save themselves, but they couldn’t even face their demons; now they are forever tormented by them, and it’s not your reasonability to try and save them.”

“How do you know that?” I angerly said back. “How do you know if they were misjudged like me?”

“You’re going to Hell because God is an arrogant and stubborn cunt while you are a fucking dumbass who let his dick cloud your judgment against an obviously bad decision with a woman who has evil and crazy written on her forehead.” Father Windtalker snarked back.

I sucker punched him as hard as I can, and he fell back against the wall where a swarm of dismembered arms wrapped around him and were trying to rip him apart. I ran over and started to yank the arms off of him, setting him free.  We stared uncomfortably at each other before he broke the silence. “I, with many others, don’t believe you should be going here and God is wrong for not forgiving you. Yeah, you were a fucking dumbass for letting that tramp trick you, but you’re a good man who doesn’t deserve this. You like many others in life let love blind them, and you made a mistake of not stepping back and seeing the real picture. Unlike the rest of these fucks, you didn’t commit any malfeasance or misfeasance acts; you did the wrong thing for the right reasons, and I don’t want to see a good man be sent here. Plus, I don’t want to get stuck here because you have a hard-on for a woman in distress.”

Father Windtalker’s levity lighten the tense moment as my shadow made a sudden shift to the tunnel ahead. We quickly followed it deeper into the void as the darkness began to fade and a sickly pale light overcast it. Even though the darkness was unnerving, the light was unimaginably disturbing as it now lit up an unforgiving and terrible landscape in front of us as we exited the tunnel. It was land of utter hopelessness and cruelty. There were inversed pyramids floating in the air with demons crawling over its surface. Monoliths made of corpses pierced the sky. Temples which resembled many holy sites on Earth were now desecrated effigies with bat-like creatures the size of cars nesting on them. In the distance, I saw behemoths with demons chasing after people for sport, hunting them down and massacring them across the land. The awe-inspiring giants walked the desolate land as they were patrolling it; in the middle of this land was an abyss which no light can penetrate.  My shadow guided us to the abyss and then settled underneath my feet.

I looked into the abyss and felt the overwhelming terror and madness it produced. There were unbelievable roars of beast’s unseen with the screams of help coming from the void within the abyss. Though I could not see into the void, I felt something sinister looking back at me. I looked over at Father Windtalker and for the first time saw terror expressed on his face as he peered into the abyss.

“Father, what do we do now?”

He took a moment to compose himself and began chanting in tongues as he started to write symbols and Latin scriptures into the black sand underneath our feet. As he performed his spell, I looked to my left and saw a field of crosses close to us. I walked over and can hear the mournful apologies to God followed by the prayers of the Catholics. On the crosses were men wearing various religious garbs with those garbs torn and rotting against their bloodied flesh. As I walked closer, I realized these were Christian priests being tortured, each in a horrid creative way. One was made to swallow a hot poker which burnt through his tongue, mouth, and throat then healed so it can happen again. The others were made to kneel on a bed of nails as the weight of the cross on their shoulders got heavier and heavier to the point the nails went through the knees; then their spine snaps underneath the cross, and their mangled body was then impaled by the nails also. Others were forced to build walls made with scorching hot- jagged boulder which was just light enough to carry but heavy enough to hurt the muscles. They built the walls with each boulder causing excruciating injuries to the body, and randomly the walls would collapse on the tortured priest which snapped their bodies like twigs; they would then heal after a certain time of torment and then made to rebuild again. But, it was one Priest which caught my attention. I walked closer to him as he was nailed to the cross with his front of the body against the beams but his neck savagely twisted, so his head was now facing his back. A sharp spear protruded from the ground and plunged into his anus while a large nail was slowly being inserted into his penis. He screamed in agony and begged it to stop, but the torture increased with each plea. When he dropped his head, he stopped crying and saw me and said in a voice of exhaustion, “Hello, Father Glass.”

The priest on the cross was Father O’Malley, the man whose confession sent me down this path; at least pedophiles get special treatment in Hell. He screamed again and then composed himself to talk to me in garbles.

“He knows…” Father O’Malley says as he coughs up blood and pieces of organs. “He knows what you are trying to do.”

A deathly cold shiver strikes through me as he does not need to tell me that it is Lucifer he is speaking of.

“How does he know and how come we haven’t been attacked?” I asked with my voice shaking.

Father O’Malley screams again in pain as the nail is inserted deeper into his shaft. “You have mettle with things no human should ever be involved with, your interactions with gods and monsters have been heard throughout the different realms of existence.” He chokes up blood again and continues. “You have done brave things that no man should do, and Lucifer has taken noticed. You have become a folk hero to the lost souls in Hell with the idea of hope spreading among us, that we to could escape because of you.”

“Escape because of me?” I asked confused.

“You don’t walk into the House of the Devil without him knowing. You didn’t infiltrate hell; hell opened its doors for you. That’s why none of the unimaginable monsters here attacked you and your guide.”

“Why? What would be the purpose?”

“The back door you are creating, do you think you would be the only one who would leave out of it?”

I stood there in silence and shock at the idea that we were being led into a trap.

“The devil loves to mock God, and he is reveling in the idea of a good man going to hell. We all know, we all have heard the stories, and that’s why we are having hope for you, but the Devil wants to make you into an example by spitting in God’s face again. If you create that backdoor, then he will let the demons, monsters and the unimaginable escape through it while you are meant to watch over it for eternity. You are to stand an inch from sweet escape but never know it but watch as the horrors of hell inflict the innocent because of your choice. You will feel every pain, every tear and every loss from the people hurt from your escape plan. The Devil let you in to taunt you.” He begins to cry in agony as the spear and the nail are inserted deeper into his orifices, and a gush of blood comes out of each one.

I try to find a rational reason why he might lie to me or to trick me into not following through with my plan, but he was right, to my dismay. It was far too easy to walk through Hell undetected and even know where we are exposed we still haven’t been attacked.

“Why would you tell me this?” I asked reluctantly. “Why would you help me?”

He managed to hold back his screams and admit to me, “I deserve to be here for molesting those boys and using my power as a Priest to do so. I deserve the eternity of torture, but I will not allow an innocent person back on Earth to be inflicted by the horrors of this god forbidden place. I’m greatly regretful and sorry for what has happened to you, but you and I must do whatever we can to protect the innocent. I had failed in this regard when I was alive, but I have to try now because no innocent person should ever know true hell.”

Without another word I ran as fast as I can back to Father Windtalker and began to yell out to him, “Stop the spell, it’s a trap!”

He looked angered as I gave away our position but he wasn’t an idiot, and he realized that it was too easy to make our way into Hell. I stopped in front of him and told him what Father O’Malley said. With that, the ground began to violently shake with the screams and roars of unimaginable creatures within the void.

“Are you sure,” Father Windtalker quickly asked as he was still writing the incantation into the ground. “This is your last means of escape; you will be stuck in hell.”

I began to cry as I realized that going to hell was unavoidable, that my choice will forever condemn me to Perdition. I looked over to Father Windtalker who had a tear roll down his cheek and knew he didn’t need to hear an answer. He wiped the incantation from the ground with his foot, and he grabbed me by the arm and pulled me as we started running back the way we came, but our exit was being blocked by the cuttlefish/spider creature we saw from earlier. Demons, Behemoths and other horrifying beasts began to swarm around us as we were being surrounded. The trembles and the loud roars from the void behind us became louder as the unimaginable horror was climbing to the surface.

“I need a minute!” Father Windtalker screamed as he fell to his knees and began to chant.

I couldn’t believe the horrifying creatures from all myths coming for us; Cthulhu was even coming from the horizon. A horde of demons soaked in the blood and organs of the tortured were advancing fast and were about to be upon us. I looked back at Father Windtalker chanting and knew that we both might not escape, and he didn’t deserve to be here. I started to run towards the horde in a futile attempt to fight them off. I was going to lose, but it will give enough time for Father Windtalker to escape.  I ran ten yards and was stopped by a figure which emerged in front of me. His pelvis was ripped apart with flesh, and his orifices were hanging of it, his hands were mangled, but his head was snapped back into position. Father O’Malley stood between us and the hordes and screamed, “Go, you don’t deserve to be here!”

He ran towards the hordes and fought them off as he was being torn apart, but he was bought as time. Father Windtalker stopped his chanting, and a bright light suddenly showed up in front of us. From the light stood the massive blue Mustang with fire coming from its eyes and its hooves scorching the ground of Hell. The creatures of Hell bellowed a horrific scream and continued to go after us. Father Windtalker grabbed me and forced me to climb on the Mustang. I reached over and picked grabbed his hand to lift him, but a demon grabbed his leg and began to pull him off of the Mustang. The Mustang started to kick and wail against the hordes as I used all of my strength to keep him with me. He looked at me in terror as he held on to me with all his strength as the Demon’s claws tore through his leg and locked on.

I felt his grip loosen and I panicked as I couldn’t hold on to him, I might lose him in hell. His last finger slipped through my grip, and he was about to be lost in Hell until Father O’Malley emerged. Mangled, missing flesh and an arm; he swung an ax at Father O’Malley’s leg and severed it. Father O’Malley screamed in agony, but I yanked on the Mustang with me. The Mustang gave out a majestic wale, and a brilliant light surrounded us followed by a wild gallop into the light.

I awoke and saw the Mustang was a statue again but with plumes of smoke and steam coming off it and claw marks on it. The first rays of the dawn began to emerge, and I can see the plains and the Denver Airport again. I rolled over to my side and began to vomit but then saw Father Windtalker doing the same; until he screamed in agony.  I ran to him and saw him screaming in pain as he kept reaching for his leg but what only remained was a mangled stump gushing with blood.

I was able to get him to the hospital and after a day of surgery he was stabilized. I sat with him for hours after the surgery, waiting for him to wake up. When he finally awoke he looked over at me, gave me a smirk and demanded his joints.

“You can’t smoke in the hospital,” I reminded him.

“The fuck I can’t, I need a joint after this bullshit.”

I went through his coat and found one. He took a deep hit and let it mellow in his lungs before exhaling it. He looked down at his stump and massaged it with his hand.

“I don’t know what to say, but I am sorry that I got you involved,” I said. “You didn’t deserve this. Nobody does but me.”

Father Windtalker took another deep hit and said, “Don’t start this self-pity shit with me. You didn’t, and no one can never force me to do anything I don’t want to do. I knew the risks of our mission; it was my fault for not seeing the trap.  I’m thankful you weren’t the pussy I thought you were and you hung on to me.”

He squirmed in pain as he shifted himself to look at me. He looked sorrowful as he said, “I’m sorry I failed you. Losing my leg is nothing compared to the guilt I feel for not helping your fucking dumbass save your soul. But, if it means something; you showed honor in Hell. I saw that you were about to sacrifice yourself to save my ass back there. God is a cunt for not seeing past your mistake.”

I reached over, and he handed me the joint and I took a deep hit of it. “He may be a cunt, but he is the gatekeeper…and I think this is it. This is the end of the line for me. I am going to hell, and there is nothing I can do now. No one else to help me, no weapon, no gods; no spells. Nothing. I have to accept my fucking destiny.”

I suddenly stood up, flinging my chair behind me, and with all of my strength punched a hole in through the wall. “I am going to hell because I loved the wrong woman. I am going to hell because I couldn’t see past the façade, the con. I am going to hell because I made the decision. The one thing that cunt God asks of us is to protect our souls, a gift of purity to existence. To nurture it, grow it and make something beautiful of it and I sold it like it was some cheap knickknack at a garage sale. I can blame that bitch Lilith all I want for coning me but the decision was always mine, the responsibility was always on me.”

The nurse came in and was about to call security on me, but it turned out Father Windtalker had influence over the hospital when he mentioned who he was and shown her picture from his phone of a few executives of the hospital and him golfing. After she left, he looked at me and told me to take another deep hit.

“Llewyn, there are things beyond our comprehension and our power. There are Gods, Devils; monsters, physics, science; politicians…whatever else that is more powerful than the individual. But it’s the individual, the person, the one who realizes that despite the odds against them, they too have the power to create miracles. No matter what religion or myths you research there is always stories of an individual willing to go against the gods because they have a power the gods can never have, to create their own fate. You still have time Llewyn. Every second you still have on this planet is a chance to change your fate. This isn't the time to give in to failure and the overwhelming odds against you, this is the time when a man can become a miracle.”

The room went silent, and I took a final hit. “Where do I go from here?” I asked.

Father Windtalker motioned for the joint, and he took a hit after I gave it to him. He took a drag and smiled, “Well, there is a house in New Orleans…”


 

A House in New Orleans

New Orleans, Louisiana. September 9th, 2015

The taxi drove past a strangely quiet Bourbon Street and headed south away from the lights of the skyscrapers and into the bayou. I told Sister Abigail of the house I was visiting on the suggestion from Father Windtalker and surprisingly she had no information; not for like of trying but New Orleans is a strange and secretive world on its own.  I hadn’t seen a house for a few minutes until we stopped at the edge of a cobblestone driveway. I stepped out into the humid air and onto the cobblestone. The driver quickly sped away without me paying because he knew, as did all of the locals, of the house at the end of the street. I slowly walked down the long and dark cobblestoned driveway, there was one street light on the street, but its rays of light were snuffed out by the massive hanging trees of the woods that wrapped around the property. Even though it was humid and my sweat ran my back like water rapid, there was a cold chill running down my body as I saw the dull lights of the old plantation house at the end of the driveway.

The house’s once white paint was now a sickly yellow with its paint peeling off slowly with the passing of each sun. I walked onto the old creaking porch and felt somebody watching me from behind. I looked around behind me and felt my body rattle as I saw a dozen pair of red eyes staring back at me from the other end of the driveway and the woods surrounding it. I knocked feverishly against the large door as I felt the red eyes come closer to the house. There was no answer, but I heard the snap of branches behind me with subtle moaning. I panicked and began banging on the door as hard as I could but still no answer. Then, I heard a footstep onto the porch, and the hairs on my neck stood up, but I was too terrified to turn to see the creatures. I banged harder until the door suddenly swung open, and a hand reached out and pulled me inside with the door slamming shut behind me.

I was brought inside a waiting room with walls covered with velvet, a coat rack and a small leather couch. The massive hand which was still holding onto me as I saw it was attached to a black man who was two feet taller than me, wearing a waistcoat with no shirt and a bowler hat. Tattoos of alligators, saints, and snakes cover his chest and arms, and a necklace of bones hung from his thick neck. He intensely stared me down for a few moments as my nerves were still trembling from the creatures from outside.

“I’m here to see someone about…” I began to say until the hulking doorman interrupted with his thick Cajun accent, “I know why you here, maan. Père Windtalker called, and sayid yo brown ass would be coming.”

The black hulk then opened the waiting room door where I was greeted to the sound and music of a lively party. He led me into the main house, and I became amazed by the decorations; there were statues of Catholic saints, oil paintings depicting life on the plantations over 200 years ago; skulls of alligators, bulls, and men.  An iron rod cross hung above the stairs right next to a painting of a beautiful black woman wearing bright Creole garbs and holding a giant yellow python. I noticed the large gathering taking place in the massive rooms of the house; to my amazement, I saw the diversity of the party. Wealthy white socialites were sharing a drink and stories with thugs from the hood. There were also black professors wearing their LSU pins on their lapels playing poker with the overall-wearing white fishing men.

“This is neutral ground, brown sugar,” said a sultry voice coming from behind me. I turned around, and I saw the most beautiful black woman I have ever seen in my life. She had smooth dark skin with long flowing black hair with streaks of red in it. She wore a tight burgundy gown that accented her small waist, curvy hips, and bountiful breasts; with a yellow leather boa that wrapped around her neck and arms. I was infatuated with her until I was caught off guard when I noticed her leather boa around her neck was actually a snake. It hissed at me, and I took a quick step back.

She began to laugh as she brought the snakes head to her face and gave it a little kiss. “Don’t let old Zombi scare you. He doesn’t even like live rats.” She began to giggle as she handed the Boa to the doorman. “Merci, Legba. I’ll take Monsieur Glass from here.” She wrapped her arms around my arm and guided me through the lavished house.

“For generations, this house has served as a place for all of New Orleans powerful people to come and meet.” She guides me through the crowded den where I saw a high-ranking police officer shooting pool with a baggy clothed man with Air Jordan’s on his feet and prison tattoos on his arms and neck. “There aren’t any fights here? You have people from different parts of society; criminals were shooting pool with cops and blue-collar men drinking with the executives, but everyone is mingling and having fun.”

“They were all raised in New Orleans, and they know of the legend of this house so they fear the stories of what might happen to them if they violate my rules. I have taught them to fear me.”

“And who are you?” I asked

“To you? A friend of a friend but call me Mademoiselle”.

She led me to the staircase and guided me up the stairs where I got a closer look of the old painting and noticed how much the woman on my arm looks like the women in the vintage pictures.

She led me upstairs past the closed doors of many rooms where I heard the gentle moans and laughs of the sinful delights taking place; walking down the hallway, she led me up another dark staircase which led into the attic. She opened the door, and I was struck with awe with the amount of history I saw hanging on the walls. Paintings of New Orleans which were both old and modern, old farming tools rusted from age from the fields; a massive shelve on the wall held bottles of herbs and other medicines in glass mason jars, religious relics from Catholicism and totems from Africa but what caught my eye was the pictures. There was a smaller version of the painting of the woman above the staircase hanging behind the large old oak desk at the end of the attic but then there were photographs eloquently framed all over the attic. All the pictures are of the plantation house and the staff that worked in it throughout the decades since the house was opened. The oldest dated photo was from 1830, and the last one was taken in 2015. I marveled at the history captured in the old black and white photographs, but something stood out to me. Something I could not place but they all shared something in common besides the house in the picture. Before I could put two and two together, the Mademoiselle called for me.

“Come stand in the light for me, Llewyn.” She said softly to me in her sultry voice. I stood in the light, and she stared at my shadow for a few moments in silence with a curious look on her face. I couldn’t help to stare at her for her beauty was overwhelming, and the red satin dress just made her even more enticing. Without looking up, she asked, “Do you think you did the right thing?”

I was taken back by the bluntness of the question. “I don’t know…I thought I did.” I answered her sadly.

“Do you think your intentions were pure?”

“Why does it matter? I doomed either way.”

Without looking up, she walked over to the shelve of medicines and herbs and started pulling jars down. “Do you think you’re a good man?” She asked as she began to mix herbs into a marble grinder.

“I thought I was.”

She stopped grinding the herbs and turned around and slowly and seductively walked towards me. She smiled at me and said, “We are about to find out.” And she quickly lifted her hand and blew a thick black powder in my face. I pushed myself away from her but started coughing violently as my lungs burned and my eyes watered. I collapsed to the floor and tried to crawl out but I lost all control of my body, and I couldn’t move. I began to panic and felt dread take over my body as Mademoiselle kneeled next to me and gently caressed my face with her hand as I passed out.

I found myself in a dream where I was floating in a black abyss. I could not move, but I felt my body shake violently when I heard the familiar voice call for me from the abyss. “You, like all men want to be the hero.” Lilith arrogantly said. “You were the only one stupid enough to believe in love.”

I cringed in hearing that voice, but then loud moist breathing was heard from behind me. Beyond the void was a massive silhouette of the Creature with an inferno’s hellish glow behind it which only shown the size of the Creature but its eyes reflected a blood-red through the flames.

“Your time is coming, Mr. Glass. Your debt will be paid. No matter how many places you travel to, no matter how many people you ask for help, you will end up here with me.” The voice boomingly said.

 I couldn’t move or scream but only cry as I felt the doom come over me as I realized the futility of my efforts. I am going to hell, and it’s my fault. I made the wrong choice for the wrong woman. I closed my eyes and opened them again, but this time I found myself standing back in the attic.

I was erect, but I couldn’t move. I was incoherent and couldn’t speak a word, but I was aware of my surroundings. The attic was now lit by a mass of red candles, and the desk had been cleared and looked like an altar with men’s skulls, candles, and a dead chicken. I could smell the strong bitter odor of incense lingering in the air with also something sensational caught my nose.

Legba walked into my peripheral vision and wheeled a cart with trays of muffuletta, boiled craw daddies with jambalaya gumbo. The smell and sight of the delicious food overwhelmed me as I stood helplessly locked in my body. Legba reached his massive hand behind my neck and pulled something out of my skin. Immediately my body jolted onto the cart I could not help but devour the succulent entries laid before me. I was not even hungry but I desired it, and I could not control my urge.

As I was about to break open a crawdaddy, I felt a prick behind my neck and my muscles locked in position; I was paralyzed again. Legba took the Crawdaddy from my grip and wiped my mouth with a silk handkerchief. He wheeled the cart away and left the attic. I then felt somebody pull me from behind and stood me up straight like I was a poseable mannequin. I smelled her infectious perfume first as she slowly, teasingly moved in front of me. Mademoiselle had looked more provocative than ever as she was now wearing a short red skirt which shown her full thick thighs, a red and black shawl which showed her flat stomach.

She stood face to face with me, and she stared at me with her large lovely brown eyes. She wrapped her arms around my neck, and I felt something come out of my neck again. I could not control myself still as I picked her up and had her legs straddle my hips. I kissed her deep and passionately as I carried her to the altar. She moaned slightly as I reached up her skirt and she grabbed my neck. I felt the pinch again, and I was stuck straddling over her on the altar. She smiled and kissed me on my lips before she climbed out from underneath me. She grabbed a jar from next to the altar and blew another dust in my face as I went into a deep sleep.

I woke up again standing erect but this time I was behind the altar, and shirtless men were wearing lifelike masks of bulls’ heads chanting something in what sounded like a mix of Haitian, Latin, and French. Mademoiselle walked between the men holding a decapitated chicken spraying the leaking blood onto the men. The chanting became louder and faster as she began to dance provocatively. I wanted to run and escape, but my muscles were locked and no longer in my control.

As she danced faster and erratically the men made a passage for Legba as he walked in wearing white face paint and carrying an unconscious woman in a white gown. Mademoiselle danced around Legba and smeared blood on the chest of the woman as he laid her down on the altar.

The chanting became louder and faster as Mademoiselle danced around the altar towards me and started to smear blood on my chest. Legba came to the other side of me with a sharp dagger and opened my hand. My heart raced fearing he might cut off a finger but he placed the handle on my palm and closed my grip. The chanting came to an immediate halt, and Mademoiselle stopped dancing and stood across the alter from me.

“You traveled a great distance to break this curse, and you came to me to see if I was your salvation. A pardon for a condemned man I see in front of me. I have a way to set you free, but your salvation is in your hands. Take the dagger and plunge it into this woman’s heart and she will take your place in hell.”

I became disgusted but not from the act of killing her but that I contemplated doing it. To be set free from going to hell would only cost a life of a stranger. I considered it for what felt like hours but just moments had passed. Legba reached behind my neck, and I felt another pinch. Suddenly my arm shot up above me as I held the dagger above my head and was ready to plunge it into her heart. But my arms stood stiffly above me as I felt the dagger shaking in my hand.

“No,” I murmured.

“Do it!” Mademoiselle yelled as she leaned over the table pointing her fingers furiously at my face. “You take that knife and sacrifice her.”

My hands shook violently as I still held the dagger over my head. “No,” I said louder this time.

“She doesn’t deserve to live. She had stolen from her family, cheated on a man that loved her and she killed a child with her car when she was on her drug binge. She drove off and left the child to die. If she would have stopped and helped he might have lived, but she fled like the coward she is. Take the knife and plunge it into her yella heart! Let a truly guilty person go instead of an innocent man.”

Temptation over flooded me. If I did it when I get a second chance and if it is true what she said then I’ll be serving justice. If it’s a lie and I kill an innocent person, then it doesn’t matter because I am still going to hell. I stood over the unconscious woman and watched her chest rise and fall with each breath. She moved her head slightly, and I saw a glint of light reflection of a tear rolling down her cheek. 

My arms fell forward as I threw the dagger behind me and I fell against the altar and began to sob. “I can’t do it... I can’t do it.”

Mademoiselle had a pleased look spread across her face as she slowly began to clap. Legba came to my side and brought a cup of bitter smelling tonic to my mouth. “Drink,” he said softly. I gulped down the bitter drink as Legba guided me to an old leather chair and sat me down. I slowly felt control over my body come back as I sat in the chair and watched the men in the bull mask slowly exit the room. To my surprise, the unconscious woman rose from the table and hugged Mademoiselle. Mademoiselle reached into her dress and pulled out a few hundred-dollar bills from her cleavage and gave it to the woman.

“Merci, belle” Mademoiselle said as he kissed her on each cheek.

“What the hell is going on? What the fuck did you do to me?!” I yelled while trying not to fall out of the chair.

The woman left the attic with Legba right behind her. Mademoiselle came around the altar and sat down on top of it as she leaned forward towards me, close enough to get a whiff of the intoxicating perfume she was wearing.

She reached into her cleavage again but brought out a thin brown cigarillo and lit it with the flame of a candle from the table.

“Brown sugar,” she affectionately said to me. “What happened here on this wonderful evening was proof for me that you may have a chance in getting your soul back.”

“What do you mean?”

“This whole show we put on for you was a test.”

“This…this was all an act? What was that dust you blew into my face? What happened to me with the food and you? What was that thing on my neck? You were going to have me kill another person for a sick fucking test!?” I was fuming in between breaths, but Mademoiselle kept her composure and smiled.

“That dust was a mixture of nightingale, marijuana and other herbs and roots I collected over the years. When breathed, it stops the person from having inhibitions; It stops your self-control. Legba and I had to test it to see if it works on you, so we first put my irresistible home cooking in front of you to see if you can control yourself, and you didn’t.”

“If it worked then what was the whole seduction test for?”

She smirked, “Double checking if it works. Plus, you’re a cutie.”

“How did you know I was attracted to you? You might not have been my type.”

“Please,” as she motioned with her hands and confidently showed off her physique.

“But you were going to have me kill someone, how would you have known I wouldn’t do it?”

Mademoiselle slid off the altar, walked behind me, then came back around and sat back down in front of me with the dagger. She took the blade and pressed into the palm of her other hand. She smiled and plunged it into her. I jumped up to stop her, but I did not see the blade exit through the other side of her hand. She started to laugh and plunged the knife into her leg. That is when I noticed the blade was retracting into the hilt.

“I got this at a magic store, Brown Sugar. It’s a prop knife. Plus, Legba was behind you the whole time. He would have broken your arms if you did try to do it. The woman was a bartender who works downstairs; she loves being a part of the act.”

“What about the thing behind my neck, how come I couldn’t move?”

Mademoiselle reached down her cleavage again and pulled out a tiny pin.

“Acupuncture pin. There is a nerve in the back of your neck we placed a pin in. It paralyzes you while its in.”

I stood straight out of my seat and began to yell. “So this was a fucking act? Can you even save my soul or did you waste the precious time I have left for your amusement?” 

She smiled calmly, and it seemed to put me at ease. “No, I can’t save your soul, but there is a chance you can save yours.”

“What?”

“When people make deals with the Fallen One they usually do it for power, money or youth. You did it for another reason. You made a deal with the Devil to save a life, even if that life ended up betraying you. From all my years of practice in Voodoo and communing with demons and Loa’s, I have heard a few stories of a possibility of someone escaping the Devil, but it all had required one thing in common?”

“That is?”

“A good heart. I needed to see tonight if I were to take away your self-control would your true, and indeed it has.”

I walked over distraught to the wall of pictures and stared at them silently. Was there a chance of me escaping hell? And what was so odd about these pictures?

“So you can’t help me?” I asked as I tried to figure out the pictures.

“No,” she said from behind me. “You’ll have to do this on your own.”

That is when I noticed that the pictures all have one thing in common, Mademoiselle was in each one.

She walked up next to me and smiled as she handed me a piece of paper.

“Go and face your Demon… Give me a call if you survive, Brown Sugar.”

I opened up the paper, and it was her phone number.

I became flustered but I was curious about the pictures, and after this odyssey, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was immortal or another goddess. “Thanks, Mademoiselle but what about these pictures why are you in all of them?”

“Good genes.” She said sarcastically. “And you can stop calling me Mademoiselle. My name is Marie Laveau.”


 

The Reckoning

Fenway, Massachusetts

October 31st

03:20 am

 

I sat there in awe, looking at Llewyn Glass after he finished his tale of mystery and horror. I was engrossed to the point that I had lost track of time and didn’t notice the storm had grown malevolently fierce. Even my patrons were captivated by his tale as they did not leave nor ask for more drinks. He sat back in the seat, took a final gulp and held the glass to his lips as he sadly savored his last sip. The patrons looked at us and then stared at me as they all wanted to me ask the question we all had come to wonder.

“Mr. Glass, how can we know what you said is true? What proof do you have of this ludicrous story?”

Right then the blinding white glare of lightning filled the pub, and the earth-shattering rumble of thunder shook the bar as we stared in silence at the shadowy Llewyn Glass. He slid out of the booth and walked in the middle of the pub and asked the Sherriff to shine his light on him. The Sherriff, with his hand, reluctantly quivering, un-holstered his light off of his belt and shined it upon Llewyn. In an instant, we all simultaneously gasped at the incredible and uncanny sight; his shadow was cast in front of him. The Sheriff walked around Llewyn in disbelief as no matter where his light shined the shadow was always cast in front of Llewyn.

“It’s all true, all of it,” the Sheriff said terrified.

“If all of its true, then that means…” before I can finish my sentence, the storm suddenly fell dead, and an unnerving silence filled the air. The lights in the pub began to dim as a ghastly red glow took its place which came from the graveyard outside. The town nurse looked outside the window and became ghostly white as she walked back nervously and tripped over a chair. All of us pushed and made room on top of each other to peer outside the windows as we stared into the graveyard and looked upon the horror that was finally here. At the edge of the cemetery, next to the tree line of the woods, was a large and imposing silhouette standing on the mound of a fresh grave with another smaller shape shoveling dirt out of the grave.

We couldn't see clearly of what the silhouette looked like, we did feel it staring upon us, sending chills and doom through our bodies. I turned around and found Llewyn at the broken jukebox. He ripped the out of order sign off of it and gently caressed it; the lights flickered from the box and then went dead again. Llewyn looked down in silence and pressed three buttons and stared at the jukebox for a few moments as it did not turn back on. I stared at the man who had amazed me with wonder and horror from his story, but now I feel only sadness and pity as we are watching a man confess to us before being sentenced to death. He did his best to hide his fear and grief when he engrossed us with his tale, but now a few tears fell from his chin, and his hands shook violently, but he holds himself up with dignity and wipes the tears off with his handkerchief. Llewyn was afraid but not a coward, he is facing his demon; our demon and he wasn’t going to back down. He could have kept running, he could have used the Archangels spear; he could have kept the backdoor to hell open; but Llewyn is an archetype, he is a hero. He is facing the embodiment of evil, and he will not run from it.

Llewyn Glass walked to the door but stopped to straighten himself, fixed his tie and buttoned his suit coat. The patrons moved out of his way, afraid to be near him as the devil might take them too to hell but not I. I quickly ran behind him and yanked his hand. I spun him around and embraced him. I kissed him hard as he held me tight. I could feel him wanting not to let go, and I held him as if he still had a chance of escaping. I could feel his heart race with wanting to stay, to escape but because who he became or who he was always was, he has to face oblivion and to do it on his terms.

“You’re a good man, why do you have to do this?” I rhetorically asked in between kissing him and crying.  I kissed and cried for this man because he renewed my faith but not in God, but in man. That man as a species can become something much more. We can become holy even at the face of damnation by choosing to be good. By choosing to do the right thing even in the face on inevitable doom. That mankind has a chance to live up to its potential.

Llewyn gently lets me go as the others no longer back away from him but said their goodbyes with hugs and handshakes; a hero’s farewell. The blinding lightning flashed again, and crash of thunder violently shook the ground under us as some of us fell and the bottles of alcohol shattered as they dropped off their stands. The devil tolls for Llewyn Glass.  He hugs me one last time and gives me a passionate kiss goodbye. He slowly walks to the door but stops and without looking back says, “To answer your question Lorelai, I have to own my soul back. To no longer accept the judgment of an unseen God who no longer sees me as a worthy man, but to rely on who I am and to know the truth for myself.”

“If you learned anything from tonight, then please remember these words: you should live a life of a balance of responsibility and hedonism. Be kind and unapologetically honest, especially with yourself. Be compassionate but vicious when the situation calls for it. There are those who are shaped and molded, and those who define. Choose which one you want to be. Find a lover who says no for the right reasons. There are those who seek and those who understand.  There are those who kill and those who spare. There are those who follow the road and those who make their own path. You can be either but be wise above all.” Llewyn slightly cocked his head back to me and smirked at me. The front door suddenly swung open as a vicious wind entered the Pub, he takes one step forward into the dark night but stops and looks me in the eye and says, “Remember, at the end of all things there is and shall always be hope.”

The sound of vinyl being scratched was heard from the jukebox as it came to life and the steady and heavy strokes of Johnny Cash’s “Ain’t No Grave” began to play. I watched as Llewyn courageously strode to the grave being prepared for him. He did not waver nor show any signs of fear but took a flask from his pocket and chugged what remained before tossing it among the graves.

He walked forward to the creature’s silhouette in the darkest of nights with only a dark blood moon lighting the graveyard. Never hitting a tombstone, Llewyn kept his gaze on the creature as he walked arrogantly through the tombstones. I stepped outside the bar with the Sheriff and a few others behind me. The Sherriff took a deep breath of the air and began violently vomiting in front of the bar. A few other patrons started to cough and choke from the putrid odor coming from the graveyard. I pulled out a handkerchief from my pocket and covered my nose to help keep out what can be only described as putrefied flesh, sewage, and sulfur.

A swarm of cats who inhabit the graveyard ran through the patrons’ feet and into the pub where they all hid in any dark corner they can find. A flash of lightning struck behind the horrifying creature, and I caught a minor glance into the black void which surrounded it. I could not believe what I saw from the brief glimpse nor could I describe it but my heart raced faster from the terror which took hold of it, and I succumbed to nausea from the sight of the gruesome creature.

Despite all of this, Llewyn kept strutting confidently; never breaking a stride, not even choking from the disgusting odor but walked tall and faced his destiny.  His final steps were slower, a taunting pace as he went to the foot of the mound and finally faced the devil. Llewyn reached into his jacket pocket and took out a pack of cigarettes and his Zippo. His stance was bold and his face unwavering as he faced the Devil; his only tell of complete fear was when his hand nervously shook as he placed the cigarette on his lips and lit it. He looked down as he took one long drag of his final cigarette alive and slowly stared into the creatures’ eyes.

The world went quietly at that moment. The strong wind, lightning and the rustling tree branches stopped as Llewyn stood face to face with evil itself. We could hear each other’s racing hearts in the eerie silence.

The creature overshadowed Llewyn with its towering size. It did not move but stared down into his soul as the dark figure next to the creature kept digging into the earth.

“Glad you came, Llewyn,” the said in a bloodcurdling gravely deep voice. It’s leathery robe shifted as it reached its long claw and held it out in front of him. Llewyn took out another cigarette and gave it to the creature. The creature slowly brought the cigarette to its lips as the tip lit by itself.  The creature’s features were still cloaked by the darkness but the dim light from the cigarette shown that the face was drenched in blood and its jaw was visible sinew with chunks of rotting flesh hanging off it.

“Your debt needs to be paid tonight” the creature gurgled. “You traded your soul for another, was she worth it?”

Llewyn took another drag of his cigarette and looked down in regret but didn’t answer.

“I bet you wished she did die; that she was taking your place in hell.”

Llewyn stood silently against the creatures taunting.

The creature slowly pointed one of its claws to the figure next to him that was digging the fresh grave.

“That would be for me?” Llewyn asked.

“Maybe…depends…” the creature’s shrill answer cut through the ears of the patrons.

 “Depends on what…”

The creature took the cigarette from its lips and brought it to the figure next to him. The cigarette burned brighter as it shown the creatures clawed and rotting flesh, broken limb as it pointed to the moving figure. I watched as Llewyn gasped in horror and took a step back.

“I thought it would be fitting to have Lilith dig your grave.” The creature said in a sinister glee. 

“Llewyn, please help me,” begged the haggard but handsome woman, caked with dirt dug from the grave with her bloodied hands smearing across her scorched dress.

“Quiet!” The creature yelled in a voice which caused me to wet myself. “You don’t get to con your way out of this one.” The creature backhands her with her head violently snapping back with her jaw nearly be torn off her face. I marveled in horror as her severed jaw was beginning to grow again with visible strands of muscle and flesh reattaching itself back to her face.

“What is she doing here!” Llewyn yelled over the rushing wind.

The creature brought the cigarette back to his mouth and took a long drag. “You impress me. Out of all the souls I collected and tortured over the past eons, you have to be the one I truly admire. Rebellious, cunning and self-righteous; you remind of a young me before I was cast out of Heaven. You also live by your own rules and never veered away from them… just like me. So, before your deal expires I have a new offer for you: become my advocate on Earth and Lilith will take your place in Hell.”

Llewyn started to violently cough the cigarette smoke he inhaled as the Devil offered him a way out.

“Yes, you won’t be going to Hell but neither would you enter Heaven because you are unforgivable to the pompous dick we call Father. Like Tithonus and Cane, you will live an eternity on Earth and never die until I kick-start the Apocalypse; then we’ll see if the predictions from the illiterate apostle were true.  You will work for me and do my bidding on Earth, which won’t be so bad because at least it will be fun to live in sin.”

The Devil took a long drag and continued, “To sweeten the pot, I will make you rich, and I will get you anything you desire. I will make for you a Heaven on Earth as long as you work for me.”

The wind suddenly started to blow hard as torrential rain become to pour from the black sky, soaking Llewyn and Lilith but leaving the Creature alone as if the dark void surrounding him shielded him from the water. Llewyn stood there with the cigarette hanging to his side, no longer lit but soaked and limp. I could only see the side of his face from where I stood, but I knew from his look that he was considering on settling on an offer no mortal in his position would pass up; I wouldn’t blame him if he did.

“Llewyn…” Lilith said as her jaw finished mending itself. “…please don’t do this. I’m so sorry to have brought you into this, but you can’t trust him but you can still trust me, I still love you.”

Llewyn for one brief moment looked her as only a lover could but the brief moment quickly ended as he flew into a rage. “Stop lying! You have the King of Lies standing next to you, but you still can’t stop lying! Why shouldn’t I take the deal? You conned me in selling my soul for your immortality! I wanted to spend my entire life with you. To wake up to you every morning…to have a daughter together…”

Llewyn stopped for a moment to gasp for air from the overwhelming experience and wipe the rain from his red eyes. “The worst part wasn’t about this ordeal, wasn’t living with the heavy hopelessness of going to hell or finding out our relationship was a lie or how evil of a person you are; but I still think of you every day, and part of me hopes you’ll come back. How is that for a curse! Not going to hell but to still being in love with the person who sent you there.”

Lilith climbed out of the grave and crawled to Llewyn; wrapping her arms around his legs as she begged on her knees and cried for him not to do it

“I can’t even tell if those tears are even real or if you are sticking through to your act even at the gates of Hell. Tell me, why shouldn’t I take the deal? Why shouldn’t I let you go to hell?”

Lilith sobbed louder but could not answer the question. For the first time in her life, I think she found out she couldn’t get her way out of this. She was about to suffer the rage of a good man.

“That’s right. Why shouldn’t he take the deal?” The creature taunted as he grabbed her leg and crushed it with one swift grasp then threw her back into the grave where she was knocked unconscious.

The wind and rain grew more vicious as bolts of lightning struck behind the pub. The earth became to rumble, some patrons ran and hid while others couldn't move because they were too consumed by fear to do anything but watch. But, through the biblical chaos, Llewyn did not flinch. The storm ravaged him, a cruel lover showed her face before his final breath, and he is facing the Devil; but Llewyn stood there staring eye to eye with the horrifying and grotesque embodiment of evil and refused to cower.

The creature flicked his cigarette into the grave which hit Lilith’s head and said solemnly, “The moment is almost here. Take the deal, Llewyn. You are the only one of God’s wretched puss-filled mistakes that I respect. Most others would have wallowed in self-pity or delve into nihilism and hedonistic pleasures, but not you. I have respect for you, but we both will never see heaven; so please, take the deal.”

Llewyn stood quietly for a few moments but then looked back and stared into my eyes, with a raindrop running down his cheek which could have been easily a tear, I saw that he had made his impossible choice.

“No.”

The Devil took a step back as Llewyn made his brave decision.

“You stupid fuck, why not take it?” The Devil said with fury.

“All I have left in this last moment on Earth is who I am, what I choose to be and if I’m going to Hell, then I am going to Hell as a good man.”

The Devil lunged forward and grabbed Llewyn by the neck and lifted him off of the ground. The leathery cloak which draped the Devil was not a cloak at all but his wings as they unfolded and spread out over the graves. The leathery wings were not bat like, like the movies but rat-like with hair and diseased flesh. His body was large and strong, but his skin has been scorched and filleted. Pieces of rotting flesh hanged across his body with maggots and roaches crawling out of his crevices.

“You fucking fool! Is this what you want? To die with some false honor so you can end up to look like this! You should have taken the fucking deal! Now I’m going to rape your ass for centuries. I will torture you until exhaustion with rest nor peace ever coming. I will make you my rag doll and tear your limbs off of you every day as they will constantly grow back. You will become the toy I will give to my lowest demons to be used as a distraction from their existence in Hell. And, when I finally broke your spirit, I will remind you of this night and the choice you made on it, then I will start the process all over again. You will no longer know the pleasures of pissing and shitting; you will know no salvation, you prick!”

The ground shook violently, and the air became frigid. I dropped to the ground and felt my blouse freezing to the wet grass. A black sphere with cracks of white light flickering out of it appeared behind the Devil. Horrifying screams of help and asking forgiveness from God were all around me, mixed in with sounds of beast no imagination can produce. It was the gates into Hell.

“Are you ready, Mr. Glass?” The Devil roared as he dragged Llewyn by his neck towards the gate. I wanted to run to Llewyn and help him in, but there was nothing I can do but look on out of terror and awe. The Devil stopped at the threshold of the gate and picked Llewyn up off of the ground and held him facing the pub and us. “Enjoy this last precious moment of humanity and life because you will never know this again.”

A single tear rolled down the cheek of Llewyn’s cheek, but he remained steadfast and refused to face perdition as a coward. The Devil took one step into the gate, and within that moment, multiple lightning bolts struck the mound they stood, and unimaginable screams deafened my ears. The thought of them still causes me shriek when I think of them. A few moments later the entire cemetery was covered with a thick fog, but the storm, the Devil and Llewyn Glass were no longer with us.

The Sherriff and I remained frozen from fear as we did not move until the first breaks of the dawn began to show. The Sherriff pulled out his sidearm, and I grabbed a shovel next to a grave, and we cautiously entered the cemetery and approached the mound. The sun’s rays were slowly illuminating the graves through the fog, but we both stopped simultaneously when we saw movement coming from Llewyn Glass’s grave. I called out for Llewyn but did not hear a response from whatever it was moving out of the grave. The figure crawled out of the grave, and I rose my shovel to strike at whatever demon was left but the fog dissipated and rays of the morning sun shown to my shocking surprise of who stumbled out.

“Am I still alive?” Lilith asked dazed in her soiled and blood-soaked dress. “Did Llewyn take the deal?”

A blind rage overtook me, and I swung my shovel, striking her on the wrist. I heard the snap of bone and her cry of agony, which was cut short by me pouncing on her and severely punching her in the face as soon as she hit the dirt. The Sherriff pulled me away from her as I screamed, “You killed him! You killed him, you lying cunt! He was a good man who sold his soul to save you, and you killed him you, evil bitch!”

I began to sob uncontrollably as I fell to my knees onto the scorched earth and lost all hope in humanity, faith, and God. How could some benevolent God let this happen to a good man? How could some being who preaches forgiveness be so intolerant to a man who made the wrong decision for the right reasons? How could he be good when he let evil win? Why should we care anymore about faith and doing what’s right when one lapse of judgment could bring us damnation?

 Lilith came to her feet, groaning from her mangled hand and busted face but something was odd about her. The Sherriff looked over at her as well and noticed something strange about her. As the fog lifted entirely and the suns rays shined brighter, our shadows cast to the right of us while Lilith’s cast not with the direction of the morning sun, but in front of her.

I was confused, did Llewyn take the deal at the last minute? But, behind Lilith was a sight that caused me to go from crying with hopelessness to laughing madly with joy. Something which has renewed my faith in not only humanity but all life itself. Upon casting my eyes on the mound, I was renewed and knew my family curse was indeed a blessing as I took with pride of telling the world about Llewyn Glass. Upon his grave, upon the place where the Devil condemned a good man had grown a single rose. A white rose. A symbol of God’s forgiveness.


 

Epilogue

October 31st, 2016

3:15 am

 

It’s been a year since Llewyn Glass came into my family’s pub. Some have denied what happened not out of doubt of what they witnessed but to block the hellish memories of that night. Others stayed quiet and wished to never speak of what they saw again; the rest embraced his story and not only told the truth of what happened but helped spread his legend. The Sherriff made an official report of the incident, took evidence and witness testimony; but he let Lilith go because there was no law on making deals with Lucifer to arrest her on; plus, she had worst problems than going to jail. The public had mixed reactions to it, especially how fantastical the events were. Despite the Government dismissing it as some elaborate promotional prank for the Crossroads Pub, the patrons from that night were interviewed by serious men from the FBI and the dirt was dug up from the mound where the Devil and Llewyn stood face to face. Roomer has it that some of the soil and fragments from the scorched tombstone came back with elements not recognized on the periodic table. 

The white rose, however, I had dug up the morning after Llewyn was taken and kept it hidden until the Feds left. To my surprise, it has never wilted but still flourishes its bright white bulb. I keep it now behind the bar in a closed glass case for all to see and judge for themselves if the story is true. Most think it’s a fake or a clever prop created by some Imagineer at Disney because they touch it and it feels real, but it never dies. I find it illuminating in the dark when I close the pub at night.

As for my faith in humanity and the things beyond it; I have been given a new perspective on it which is something I am still reckoning with to this day. But, neither the less, I am hopeful for the good in everyone; that we have a species do have a chance of redemption. An individual is capable of heroic and legendary acts which require not the mightiest strike, the cruelest word or the best lawyers; but a brave choice. Thanks to Llewyn Glass, I have spoken the truth about what happened in Afghanistan and was able to bring closure to the families of my Marines. The General who told me to lie and cover up the mission was questioned from the Senate and was stripped of his rank and dishonorably discharged. I still have to deal with the blow-back from me going public with the truth, but it was worth it. My PTSD is gone, and I no longer want to kill myself but to embrace life, the good and bad parts of it. With great relief, I have chosen to adopt my family’s business: both the Pub and the idea of being a witness to the strange and mythical.

Tonight, we had our annual pre-Halloween party before the tourist mobs us tomorrow. The town of Fenway has sold out of hotels and Air B&B’s with the neighboring cities reporting the same. But, despite the great news of growth for our community and Pub, only a handful of the patrons from the year before showed up for our party. Thankfully the Sherriff kept his job, by some miracle, and embraced what had happened with Llewyn Glass. The few who showed up talked about Llewyn and how he inadvertently changed their lives. One had stopped his addiction to OxyContin and made amends with his family. One had become a whistleblower and informed the Feds of his accounting firm laundering money for drug dealers. One patron was a petite and fragile woman who saved an oblivious boy by tackling him out of the path of a speeding car. We all traded stories with each other how we have grown braver and compassionate as people; while others had nightmares of what they saw, but they were grateful to share their issues with people that would listen and understand.

The patrons steadily left through the night until it was me and the Sherriff, which he insisted he would stay with me as I closed the Pub. He still hasn’t asked me out, so I kissed him on the cheek and told him I was okay to close by myself, but he should take me out for breakfast in the morning; he left with the widest smile I have ever seen.

I was the last one left before the morning crew comes into ready the Pub for the massive party. 15 minutes later, I had the pub closed down and was walking out until I saw something at the other end of the graveyard, at the tree line of the forest. My adrenaline kicked in, but I waited to see if it was some local kids or tourist trying to “summon the Devil” with an Ouija board. I could only make out two figures as my eyes adjusted to the dark. One looked familiar, maybe someone from town, the other was a woman wearing what I could tell was a veil of a nun. They hadn’t noticed me, but both were crying and hugging each other. I could barely make out what was being said as I made my way closer, using the gravestones as cover. I stopped when I was close enough to make out what was being said, and I nearly shrieked when I recognized who the treacherous woman is; Lilith.

Lilith was in the arms of the nun, both crying hysterically. “Mom, it’s alright. Don’t cry for me and don’t blame yourself for what I had become. I have done terrible things just because I could. I have hurt many people and killed for no other reason than for my enjoyment. None of this is your fault. If the circumstances of my upbringing were different, then I am sure I would have ended up the same. I am glad we spent time together before I go and pay my price for the life I have chosen to live. I am going to Hell because I deserve it but I will no longer run from responsibility, but to face it.”

I felt a joy overcome me as Lilith was in-fact getting what she deserved but I felt a small amount of sympathy for her because, in the end, she had chosen like Llewyn to face his Demon. Was she performing one last con in the hopes of receiving God’s forgiveness? I don’t know, and I am okay with not knowing because she walked into the forest by herself leaving Sister Abigail to grieve, but I quietly went with the notion that we all have a debt in the end. Some more than others, but some are owed. Some deserve a second chance while God owes others. But, what I accept is that forgiveness knows no bounds and God may forgive her; that’s his choice. But, Llewyn would have; such is the divinity of man.