The Devil's Game

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Paris - 1266

The sun shed no heat onto the narrow, tightly lined streets. The sky was cloudless. Residue of snow lay on the ground. The town was silent. People stayed indoors. The few that needed to be outside tried to keep themselves warm in any way they could.

A nobleman, dressed in a long coat, wrapped his large handkerchief around his ears. A woman crouched against the base of a tavern wall, staring at the small fire in front of her, her two little daughters next to her. She threw another log onto the dying flames.

The stillness suddenly broke. A man ran down the tight alleyways. He pushed people out of his way as he passed them, not slowing down, stumbling over his feet.

He was dressed in priest’s robes.

Sweat poured down his face, a cold sweat. A sweat out of sheer terror. He stopped at a corner to catch his breath, pressing his back against a wall. The woman and her two daughters watched him silently from the tavern. The man’s eyes bulged as he gasped for air. He squinted up toward the sun.

“Dear Father, please protect me,” he muttered between gasps. He then kissed a cross he pulled out of his pocket.

He carefully put it back and looked around. He began to run again.

Dear God, please forgive me, he silently implored and tried to pick up his pace. The weight of his legs was pushing him toward the ground. He did not dare to stop again.

They must not catch me.

He could only imagine what would happen to the fate of humanity if they did. He knew that only he could end what he had started. He turned into a small alley and stopped. Again, he looked around.

The priest fell onto his knees and reached once more for his cross. He dug his hand deeper and deeper into his pocket, but the symbol of his faith was gone. Despairing, he clasped his hands together and lowered his head.

“Dear God, please hear me. I have betrayed you. I have turned to evil. Please understand my reasoning. I admit my weakness. I confess my sin. Dear Father, please, I beg you—forgive me.”

His voice trailed away into an agonized whisper. His hands, still clasped tightly together, turned numb.

He crossed himself hastily, stood up, and brushed the snow off his knees.

The fear seemed to have passed. The prayer had given him peace. He turned toward the building next to him and opened a small, wooden door. The rusty hinges groaned loudly as he pushed it open. He ran across the empty nave of the church. Sunlight filtered lazily through the large, stained glass windows as the sound of his steps on the stone floor echoed through the nave. He hurried down a spiral staircase and entered the catacombs, hardly noticing the damp darkness as he continued down the passageway to enter a small room with a desk and a chair. On the desk was a quill, an ink pot, a candle, and a single large book. He lit the candle, sat down, and started to scribble into the book.

I have found a way to defeat Him. Because of what I am about to do, I can only pray and trust in God that it will work. If the Evil ever finds a way to begin again what I am about to end, read the following, and you will know how to defeat Him. Follow the instructions exactly or you will fail.

Voices echoing from above caught the priest’s attention.

“He must be here somewhere. This is his church,” a man’s voice sounded from above.

The priest hastily dropped the quill and grabbed the candle. The flickering light revealed a rope hanging from the ceiling. He moved the chair under the rope and put the candle on the floor. He stepped onto the chair and placed the rope around his neck.

He prayed again silently, crossing himself rapidly. He glanced one last time at the door. Now no one could stop him.

He moved his feet carefully to the edge of the chair. He folded his hands together for the last time. Eyes shut, breath calm. He kicked away the chair.

The rope dug into his throat. Despite knowing that this was his choice, his body desperately fought for air, fought to live. Images flashed through his head—his church, his congregants, the open fields surrounding the town—they calmed him in his last moments. His final act would protect them from the Evil.

A roulette wheel interrupted the peaceful images. An image of a baby followed. He realized his death would not change anything, that he had not won. He was unable to stop what he had set in motion. He wanted to fight to free himself from the rope, but it was too late. His life was already leaving his body. His feet twitched once, twice, and then stillness, his lifeless body swaying gently on the rope.

His hands still clenched together in prayer.

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