Apocalypse for a Dissociated Creator
by Bertil Falk
|2. The Second Seal|
Perver John, the librarian of the planet Bavaria, was completely taken aback when he discovered that his old acquaintance, Mother Saulcerite, had been promoted from cardinal to the status of female pope. He was even more flabbergasted when she not only remembered him but designated him as the librarian of the secret Vatican Library. That was the same position the present cardinal and former enemy of the new Mope, Doctor Mervil Tojas, had occupied in the good old days. However, Perver John kept his head.
He would give the matter a little thought.
After finishing his work for the day, he went to the open-air garden restaurant. There he sipped a Bavarian slurp while the moons spun their cocoons of orbits around the planet. The shining double suns were on their way out of the firmament. Their rays were refracted by the diamond moons, and they spread constantly varying lights and shades of the spectrum across the sunny side of the planet. When a light evening rain fell, rainbows stretched their zigzag spans over heaven.
Perver John pondered about his promotion. Why? In a way he had betrayed Mother Saulcerite, of course without knowing it, when he reported the peculiarities of Paxinterra. On the other hand, he had supplied her with a lot of literature over the years when she was at work upon her never-completed historical studies.
As far as he could make out, she had since put aside those studies in order to dedicate herself to practical things, such as converting the heathens of newly discovered planets to the true Catholic faith.
The horned dreamer rolled up its Pleiades, which stood out like a copy of the Big Dipper and swam in his Cyclops-like white visage. It greeted Perver John with a courteous smile that changed into a broad, scornful but silent laugh when Perver John turned his back to it.
Perver John did not notice anything. He was rejoicing in his new role. He admired the beautiful collections, the wonderful books, the hand-painted pages, the unprecedented calligraphy, the forbidden scripts!
And the office, the historical room, where the librarian Mervil Tojas had fought the fight of brains with Mother Saulcerite! It was here that Mervil Tojas had raved when Mother Saulcerite led him up the garden path. It was at the entrance to the silent crypts of the dark catacombs, where tourists had no admittance, that she took a step into the darkness behind the ropes and with a shining blade like a caste mark on her forehead disappeared down into the endless crypts and sarcophagi.
And now she was Mope, and Tojas was a cardinal, and they had long since been reconciled. The androids had been received into the ranks of the mankinds, and they had also been involved when the latest pope accepted a sinless mankind among the mankinds. In spite of their inability to sin, the sinless ones had been accepted as perfect examples of God’s own image.
But times had changed. The opposition to accepting androids had already subsided and was now part of history. Millions of marriages and cohabitations between human beings and androids showed how fast prejudices drown when two beings look deeply into each other’s eyes. Then does neither complexion, origin, carapace or hairiness matter.
The crossbreeds that had occurred on Earth in the past had their equivalents in the galactic sphere of varied and mixing mankinds. Medical development in gene manipulations, DNA changes and chromosome adjustments had made it possible for people to mate with crocodiles, ants with elephants, Sirians with Gallimatricians. Researchers were already busy seeking to make it possible for carbon-based organisms to mate with silicon-based creatures.
Perver John felt a mental suction, chromium-plated temptation in a golden frame. He walked along the sloping passage toward the chasm, felt the cool draft of the breath of the dead, perceived the screaming silence that seemed to arise from the embalmeds’ timeless return to zero.
He did not hesitate but stepped across the rope and permitted himself to sink past the papal sarcophagi, all the way to the far end of the tunnel. Blue lamps were set out at irregular intervals along the walls and spread a trolsk moonlightish corpse-shine that illuminated the path ahead of him. A path farther on made a sudden vertical dive down towards a tableau.
He almost fell but managed to check himself. Below him, a world of graves stretched out towards a small lake, the gloomy surface of which was totally immobile. There were huge monuments, white marble monstrosities bedecked with black, diaphanous veil banners. Leaning iron crosses stood out in vague relief against heavy tombstones. Above everything rested a brownish, daylightish saturation.
He saw the little winding staircase that was carved into the mountain and turned like a DNA-tunnel down through the cliff. He walked along the meandering stairs down through the mountain wall and stepped out into the heavy field of the churchyard.
Cracked, asphalt promenades wound between the sepulchres. The fluctuations of fashion were reflected in the design of the sepulchral chambers and the shaping of urn vaults.
Here, a streamlined crypt with everlasting flowers thrust into old, green vases. There, a columbarium with chalky ash pots. Here, a coffin-formed relic. There, a tublike sarcophagus. Here, a lopped-off column. There, a three-dimensional pyramid. Here, an ancient wooden epitaph about to rot away. There, a green funeral oration written on a piece of white marble.
Perver John walked across the cracked asphalt, which turned into an unraked gravel path leading to a wharf. There was a small gaff-rigged sloop with an extra mast at the back for a steering sail. Classic dimensions: 11.2 meters long and 4.27 meters wide. It was a copy of a heroic feat in the past, furnished with an outboard motor with old-fashioned jet propulsion. Such was good fortune: there was no way to sail close-hauled by the non-existent wind.
Perver John stepped into the boat and peeped into the cabin with its two bunks, bookcase, and compass. He touched the engine. It purred like a Saturnian pissrat. He looked across the lake. He saw no end to it. It spread out into the underground far, far away.
But with the motor at full power, he soon discerned the opposite shore, where the oldest catacombs spread out under Italy, all of the Mediterranean and the northern part of Africa.
He went ashore and hesitated as to what gallery to choose. He read the signboards. Above one of them he could read the capital letters.
Then he felt the sucking force again. The sucking that had caused him to leave the library for this unknown world, where the dead waited. He entered the chosen gallery and walked along a path with walls of paintings. Abraham in the process of sacrificing Isaac. Jonah under the castor bush, Daniel in the lion’s den, Jonah thrown into the sea, Moses and the burning bush, the suffering Job and Christ raising Lazarus from the dead, the baptism of Jesus, an anachronistic painting of Isaiah together with Mary and the child. In an alcove was a skeleton exposed with the horrible caption on its cranium: VIXI QUEMADMODUM VOLVI QUARE MORTUUS SIM NESCIO VIATOR NOLI MIHI MALEDICERE NEQUEO IN TENEBRIS RESPONDERE.
And the skull was obvious to everyone. It could not answer Perver John out of the darkness and he bent his head in a humble bow and did not curse the dead as he passed by.
More inscriptions: IN DEO, IN DOMINE, IN PACE, IN BONO. At least something: God, Lord, Peace, Bliss. Here they all rested, the sweet Sofronia resting in God, Adiutor in Peace after partaking of Communion. And the eternal intercession, not for the living, but for the dead seven years old:
IN ORATIONES TUIS ROGES PRO NOBIS QUIA SCIMUS TE IN CHRISTO.
With dread, Perver John walked between niche graves with undisturbed skeletons, open graves that had been desecrated, graves that had been bricked and never been opened again. Christ monograms, glass plates built into the walls, forgotten oil lamps of terra cotta, formagraves, sarcophagi, martyr-coffins, cinerary urns and stone stools for the dead to sit on. The path became stairs down to the next level and more stairs again and again, deeper and deeper down into the desolation created in the hollowed-out tufa by total death and an all-embracing silence.
And then emptiness!
And more emptiness.
And all of a sudden dead stop! A wall, completely bare without any inscriptions or paintings, only a door with a seal in the form of a brand-new padlock, brand-new but with distinct traces of having collected rust and dust for thousands of eons. He felt the appeal as he stood there and when he stretched out his right hand towards the sealed door, his forefinger was formed into a key and he opened the seal.
The door slid open and a reddish mist came towards him. There was a sultry odor and he felt a vapid taste in his mouth. And out of the opening came a flaming red dragon. The dragon’s rider would consume peace and serenity, and he held a sabre.
The burning glow was the red color of Hell. The sabre was the falseness of evil that destroyed the truths of the good.
Perver John regarded the scarlet centipede dragon, which ran at a gallop through the galleries of the catacombs, filling them with the rich colors of evil.
He felt no fear, no pain. All this had been prophesied, but it was unexpected that he, not the Son, would be the one to open the door.
The next moment he was back on Bavaria. He was sitting at the garden restaurant and sipping Bavarian slurp while the moons spun a cocoon of orbits around the planet. The shining double suns had left the vault of the sky, hiding behind the play of lines under the horizons. Diamond moons stretched the dusk of spectrum across the night side of Bavaria.
And the evening and morning were the second day of the new Mope’s pontificate.
Copyright © 2002, 2009 by Bertil Falk