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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 12: Housekeeping

The roof of the basilica collapsed. Rows of pink limestone pillars remained, however, and seemed to gather together as they proceeded to the splintered templon, which divided the altar from the nave.

Film clung to gold frescoes of the Apostles on each pillar. It gleamed around their faces. The mosaic floor was cracked, sandy with its own debris. Daylight fell through the roof to illuminate the floor’s disrupted geometry. Satan had a lot of work to do.

Turbaned priests, Mar Shimun and Mar Djibri, started the midday mass. As always, Mercedes remembered every name and honorific. Their girded albs were radiant, contrasting with their dark skin. They sang the Lord’s Prayer beneath a crowned, nine-pommeled cross. The melody was beautiful:

Nethqadash shmokh
Tithe malkuthokh
Nehwe sebyonokh
Aykano d-bashmayo
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
As it is in heaven

Although Mercedes was the mass’s only attendee, they did not see her. She hovered high above them. It was simple, then. She changed the contents of the thurible: instead of incense, it emitted a soporific.

The priests slid to the floor in a cloud of sulfur. The chalice dropped and spun between their bodies, clanging against the tiles. The priests dreamed of continuing the mass uninterrupted. She stored their bodies in the sacristy.

Mercedes sealed the roof, repaired and reordered the mosaic floor, hung gold lamps with blue flames. She polished the pillars, restoring the Apostles, whom she hated. Piscatores hominum! she scoffed, and cullers, too, damming up the secular sea for an easier catch.

No. These words didn’t capture the whole meaning. She only fed off the sensory jolts of creation itself. Everything else, his big argument, was an empty post hoc. “We both feast vicariously,” she said, “so I set the table to surprise you with novelties.”

She replaced the Eastern cross with a Latin crucifix. Then a crowd of white worshippers rushed into the nave, and Presbyter Marbode — a French cleric with a black mitre and long white bangs — circled by ruddy English deacons, rose from the altar where Shimun and Djibri had celebrated their mass. Everywhere, pale faces now twitched with excitement.

“Sing and jubilate when they come,” Satan said. “Give them what they want for a reasonable price.”

The new congregants nodded in consent. The Church of the Nativity waited for Soror Liuve and Fèlix.

Proceed to Chapter 13...

Copyright © 2017 by Michael Díaz Feito

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