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The Relic-Mongers

by Michael Díaz Feito

Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Chapters: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,
7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

Chapter 3: Hercules

As the boat jounced to sea, the Roman lighthouse receded into the frothing bay. Soror Liuve, disguised as Frater Luís, stood on deck. She watched the ashlar façade of the lighthouse glow like a honeycomb in diffuse light. Three stacked cubes of decreasing size under a cracked rotunda, the ancient farum Brigantium signaled from another plane that somehow an era had elapsed since Liuve left the abbey. She saw the dilapidated future in this squat, familiar lighthouse. The rubble to which she would return. How exciting! she thought. I won’t be homesick.

Stifling a smile, Liuve said to Fèlix, “Abbatissa Antía teaches — or she’s written — that time is the erosion of material. Do you think so?”

“Everywhere is the same,” Fèlix said. “You’ll see. Travel teaches that.”

“But not the Holy City, right? It can’t be like this backwater.”

Striped bonitos leapt from the waves. They skipped past the bow. Fèlix was quiet.

“Well,” Liuve said, “I have traveled, too.”

She had not. But after six years of enclosure, she was outside not just the abbey but the town. The bishop did not disapprove, of course, because he did not know. There was no public record of her exit, so she had not broken the solemn vow, either. She was obedient to her abbess, that was all. In a sense, as Nonna Antía herself suggested, Soror Liuve had not even left. Frater Luís had. And who is he?

“Monk!” a toothless sailor said. “Pray for our journey. That we don’t get sodomized by any storms.” His laugh was black and forceful, vibrant as the hellmouth illuminated in Nonna Antía’s manuscripts. It welcomed Frater Luís to the world.

Fèlix watched her, waiting for a response to the sailor. He really is hideous, Liuve thought, dark and pimple-scarred like a sick weed. Something honest in that.

Canticum graduum,” she finally said. “Levavi oculos meos in montes...

While other sailors rowed, struggling against hulking waves, the toothless sailor who had asked for prayer sat idly by the mast. He mumbled along with Liuve’s recitation. He chanted nonsense but it followed the psalm’s cadences. The boat’s hull staggered a beat off the water. This beat wrenched emphasis from their voices, Liuve’s and the sailor’s, at odd intervals.

Lust flushed Liuve, detaching her from the psalm: She wanted to strangle this illiterate sailor. She wanted to squeeze his windpipe till it creakily stopped; and, thrillingly, she imagined he would be glad if she did. Frater Luís is strong and jealous, she realized.

Usque in aeternum. Amen.”

Proceed to Chapter 4...

Copyright © 2017 by Michael Díaz Feito

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