CODEX Part 4: Among the Living

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The Bells Ring at Vatican

The Vatican is usually a quiet place where people come in order to visit but mostly to pray. The Pope, the utmost important figure of Christianity lives at the Vatican and so do cardinals and priests from all over the world.

The silence is rarely disturbed by the sound of the bells. Not the ones everyone hears, the ones that echo through the piazza and make believers stop. There are bells that only the higher cardinals can hear, the one hidden in the depth of the city that do not ring for men but for otherworldly beings.

“Capture him! He’s escaped again!” A man dressed as a priest yelled to the others.

They all had wide fearful eyes but that did not mean they were about to disappoint their Lord. Each ran his own way, searching for the escapee.

“Brother Bartholomew,”

One priest, however, did not move an inch from his seat in the garden. The ruckus was behind closed doors, outsiders couldn’t even imagine what was happening inside. He was dressed in his black robes and he was reading from a book. It was not the Bible nor did it seem to be a book about religion. It looked old, the cover was made out of sheep skin just like old manuscripts. It didn’t have a title and it wasn’t even that thick.

“I told you he needs special attention. Creatures like him go to great sufferings in order to gain advantage.” Bartholomew answered getting up. “Do you need my assistance?”

“Actually, sir, they called for you. It’s about the Holy Brotherhood.”

Bartholomew couldn’t help but smile.

“At last.”

“How long are we going to keep him locked? He’s a human being!”

“He is not himself. He asked us to chain him and even kill him if it gets too far!”

The voices were so loud that Bartholomew could hear them from outside the door. He tried to cover his content expression and forced himself to frown as he entered.

“Bart! Tell Rodrigo that I am right. We cannot foster possessed humans, not even if he was once one of us.”

Rodrigo scoffed and started to scream in Spanish. Bart watched them for a while longer, going back and forth between the fear of unknown and the fear of knowing.

“We all know the reason behind his possession is the Devil.” Bart started calming the others.

“And yet the demon does not speak of the Devil nor of any other demon. He rambles on about loyalty to his commander.”

“I could be allowed to talk to him.” Bart said knowing they were all going to react negatively. They never let him around possessed humans, not after he tortured one. But right now his proposition did not sound bad.

“Wait outside while we decide.” Rodrigo said.

Bart nodded and walked out very relaxed. Very few priests and even fewer cardinals liked him but that was because he was a man of extremes. There was no middle ground with him, he wasn’t reasonable when taunted. Bart knew that but he also knew he was their only hope against demons rising from Hell.

“He could make the demon talk,” One cardinal stated, having only the greater good in mind.

“He is insane! Why is he here? He went behind the church’s back and exorcised people! They were not even possessed but he turned their families against them! He is dangerous.” Another cardinal said.

“He is loyal to the church and to God and he really wants to protect God’s creation. He knows how to speak to demons.”

“I can’t agree with his ways. If you, Mathias, open the door and welcome him back then we are no different than the likes of him. He will compromise the Vatican.”

Mathias sighed heavily and sat on an armchair. He rubbed his forehead as he pondered what to do.

“The Holy Brotherhood was created by the church. We need them in order to-”

“To murder innocent children? The story of the Devil’s secret child is just a story and it died with the end of this horrible ritual.” Rodrigo explained feeling cross with his colleagues.

“Then why are demons rising?”

Mathias made a sign for them to stop and he rose.

“Let’s have a demon answer that question before we take an unnecessary decision.” He said and opened the door. Bart was waiting patiently leaning against the wall. “Let’s go,”

On the way to the basement, Mathias was seriously rethinking his whole approach to their on-going problem. Demon possessions were extremely rare until a year ago when certain events opened doors to Hell. What was even more annoying was that the Vatican had no idea what created these doors nor how they could close them. Glancing at the former cardinal, Mathias couldn’t believe it had gotten to the point he needed Bartholomew’s help.

“I know you hate me just as much as the rest but I am your only hope.” Bart said looking ahead as they approached the basement.

“Even if you get involved, I don’t want the church to suffer. The Pope knows very little of your cult and-” Mathias mumbled feeling his hands get sweaty.

“Nothing’s changed.” Bart said as he took a quick look at the nervous cardinal. “I will take full responsibility for the Brotherhood, just like all my predecessors.”

The demon was caught, luckily, and he was dragged into the most secluded area where no one could hear his profanity. Or at least that was what priests believed because he was cussing them out a lot. As soon as Bart’s face came into the dim light, the demon tilted his head to the side curiously.

“My, my, such fiery eyes.”

Bart didn’t say a word, just followed Mathias inside the prison. The demon was chained up, his feet were not touching the ground. He smelled bad, like a combination between piss and feces but he didn’t look dirty. His eyes were the most poignant characteristic and that because his face was so sucked in and pale that those black orbs looked bigger than they were.

“...well?” The demon asked expecting some type of holy speech.

“Where is the Devil?” Bart asked.

“Devil? Which one? There are so many, one for everything, even for little kids,” he said and chuckled to himself.

“How did you crawl up from Hell? Who asked for you?” Mathias asked knowing there must have been a human naive enough to have called upon him.

“Mommy?” The demon was playing with them, there was no seriousness in his answers.

“Did you really raise because you were bored or because you were afraid?” Bart asked approaching the demon. “Who is in charge down there? Is it Lucifer?”

The demon kept his mouth shut. The priests in charge of the demon whispered to each other in the back while Bart saw fear in the eyes of a beast.

“Is he? Or is there someone else? Someone more dangerous.” Bart continued knowing demons are chatty creatures. “Something must have happened, right?”

“You seem to know a lot so why ask?” The demon finally answered. “What is it that you want me to say?”

“The truth. I know that’s a lot to ask from something like you but something happened recently. Did you come here in order to mess with a human or did you come because you are afraid of what’s down there?” Bart asked his eyes darkening, making him look like a lunatic.

The demon stared into those eyes for a while before he laughed.

“Lucifer is gone.” He leaned closer and hissed. “He has no power in Hell anymore. The rules have changed.”

Mathias’ eyes widened and the rest gasped, their whispering getting louder.

“Then who rules Hell?”

The demon chuckled before he actually started to scream profanities again. Once he calmed down he looked Bart in the eyes and growled.

“The one they all fear, the one monster that even demons are wary of. She has a mark on her palm and a serpent on her back. Beware, priest, for the ruler of Hell is a human.” He spoke before he laughed.

Bart stared at him silently for a few seconds before he hurried out. He couldn’t help feel nauseous so he ran up the stairs and into an open space. He threw up everything he ate that day and when he finished he fell on his bottom.

“What did he mean by that? How could Lucifer be gone? And how could a human rule Hell?” Mathias asked approaching the former cardinal.

“You ask that although you know the answer. I shall take care of this problem and call unto the Holy Brotherhood once more.” Bart said wiping his mouth.

Zoe was at home that night, drinking tea in the living room while also looking over a few documents. Fauggerdy’s case was still on-going and so was Stefan’s although the police were leaning towards suicide for the latter. There were so many details and she had already gone through enough for one day.

“A coward! You are praying and respecting a prince that knows nothing about the world. He is selfish and will never answer you. This is the lair of a fake!”

Zoe groaned remembering what she said back in that pub. It really wasn’t her right to judge people and their choices, especially considering how her first and only love was the worst possible.

“I’m here.”

She stopped and placed the files aside before she lied down and screamed in her couch. As if it wasn't enough, she grabbed a pillow and covered her face before she screamed again. It was only his voice so why was her heart beating so fast? She left because she knew he will only bring her back on the cliff and wait for the right moment to push her then why did she miss him so much?

As if it wasn't enough that her heart stung, Zoe's eyes widened when she felt a stab in her back. The serpent was shifting for some reason and it hurt a lot more than expected. She whimpered and rolled on her back, forgetting that her couch was rather small thus falling on the ground loudly. There was nothing she could do to stop the serpent so in the end all she could do was to lie there helplessly until it was over.

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