“I know your sort,” the pontifex addressed a bloodstained man sprawled beneath a pillar. “You really fancy yourself – we get your type in here all the time – when it comes to degradation you are in your element. Today you live for kicks, tomorrow you’re the kicked – don’t come to me looking for tea and sympathy.”
The man staggered to his feet and looked at his bleeding hands, his stigmata, wincing as sharp pains blotted out his thoughts. He tried to shut out the castellated images that floated before his eyes.
The hierophant drew nearer.
“Oh, yes, to your jaded palette life is dull. You judge things entirely by sensation. How many secrets have you betrayed?”
The wounded man staggered forward. Behind him were a door and a blaze of golden sunlight. There was a mangled corpse and blotches of blood staining the ground. He tried to speak but all he could utter was an inarticulate croak.
“Fool!” exclaimed the priest, “I cannot help you, this cannot help you…” he gestured at the gaping aisle of the cathedral. He spat in the face of the renegade, then, turning on his heel, he was gone.
The renegade writhed in anguish, realising he was outside the law, outside human comprehension. He was beyond the understanding of other beings.
“Remember,” laughed the crazed ecclesiarch from the shadow of the confessional, “suicide is as contemptible as procreation!”
The renegade looked at the blackened thing on the ground outside. He sensed the miasma of death and burning flesh, the incineration of the victim’s soul. How many more?
It was gloomy and cramped on the spiral staircase; his feet rustled on petals, the bricks of the wall were scorched as though some mysterious fire had drained them of all substance. He made his way through the desolate cathedral. There were open spaces. Gravestones lay at awkward angles. Scrubby plants with pallid, white flowers fought the grass for nutriment. There were cracked stones and splintered beams. Tarnished monuments leered from the gloom. Shattered windows opened onto dark inner rooms and torture chambers littered with skeletal remains.
Eventually he came to a shadowy chamber – he came to a door rotting in the wall. The slats were so decayed that, with very little effort, he could prise away a sliver of decomposing wood and stare through into flickering torchlight.
He could hear straining, gasping sounds – lewd, vile sounds.
In the oblong cavity of an exposed tomb lay the archpriest; his sacred robes dappled with stains and messy blotches. His eyes were staring. His mitre lay discarded on the floor amid the detritus, amid the bones and rat’s skulls. One arm was held out at an angle, the hand clenching and unclenching in the putrid air. On top of him was a white female form, its mouth fastened to his neck. The two bodies swayed convulsively, now this way, now that. She was sucking the life from his veins, his contorted face blazing in a paroxysm of ecstasy. His whole body seemed to flow into her mouth.
All around lay those white flowers in decomposing heaps. Dying floral scents, visible to the hyperactive sensations of the observer, arose and twisted about in the sluggish, narcotic atmosphere. All around bizarre figures carved from precious stones and metals leered with antique faces and rigid priapic organs. The crypt was a chapel of Hell. Jewels and glass artefacts littered the floor in a profusion of otherworldly excess. A great inverted crucifix, studded with blood-red gems hung above the scene, suspended on rusting chains formed like human hands, suspended in a zone of shadow. Guttering candles the colour of human fat stood in a wide semicircle, completing the picture.
The renegade gasped. He was transfixed.
Then he gasped again – not because of what he saw – that could have been a dream – but because of a footfall behind him. It was the sound of tortured, mangled limbs sliding along the floor, oozing along the corridor, driven by revenge, driven by hate. It was an incinerated soul, luminous in the dark with a single eye staring in pain – unbearable, unutterable pain – the cumulated pain of every victim in the world. The miasma of burning flesh assailed his jangled perceptions. Castellated images floated before his eyes as he turned, involuntarily, to confront his still-living nemesis.
The renegade descended into the abyss, a living hell of infinite remorse.
A C Evans.