forgive me father, for I have sinned [story part 36]
October 5, 2012 § 2 Comments
We spiraled up on three different flights of stairs and we ultimately ended up in some kind of an office building, Vatican style, full of priests. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Half way through the busy corridor, another flight of stairs took us to the third floor, where two people were guarding the top of the stairs, then another two were guarding the massive door that was right in front of the stairs.
The two men guarding the door, upon seeing our small party of four, already started opening the massive doors, each grabbing a handle and pushing in towards the inside.
A big desk in front of an even bigger window, behind which a cardinal or high priest or whatever they are called, was waiting. Me and Regina entered. The two accompanying priests retreated and left.
Behind the desk, one man. He stood up.
From top to bottom he was dressed in weird red and golden clothes, with a an even weirder hat on his head.
The whole dialogue below is a very vivid reconstruction, and is by no means exact. I’m adding reactions and facial expressions as I think they were, but I don’t actually really remember the whole thing. I mainly remember only the start and the conclusion of the whole thing, but here it is how it went, mainly…
“Eminence.” Regina said as she sat down. The priest gestured me into taking a seat also. I did.
“Your highness.” He said looking at Regina, and also sat down behind the desk.
What was this, the battle of the titles? It seemed like a cheeky comedy where three or four doctors meet and they all greet each and every one with “Doctor”.
“Doctor” – “Doctor” – “Doctor” – “Doctor” – “Doctor”. Oh come on.
“Are you the pope?” I asked.
Regina couldn’t help it and cracked up laughing.
“No, I’m not the pope kid.” – He was talking in a perfect American-English accent, and sounded to me more like a cowboy rather than a priest. For starters, he didn’t address me with “my child” and didn’t finish the talk with “bless you”. He was a priest, but not really. If you know what I mean.
The priest turned towards Regina preparing to say something, but then I saw on his face than in a split second he changed his mind in saying that, and just glanced for a second at me and then went back to Regina, prepared to say something else.
“I don’t mean to intrude or ask who this is, but you do understand how sensible this is…”
“Do you think that my children are so famous worldwide because I have problems in deciding who knows what?” – This of course was a rhetorical question. Her “children” weren’t famous, or known at all. She however, dodged the question. Which the priest caught. Most people didn’t, and didn’t ask the question again, but alas, he was no ordinary man I figured, or knew Regina really, really well.
“Don’t dodge my question.” He said. And then looked straight at me.
“Who are you?” He asked me directly.
I looked at Regina then back at him.
“If you’re not the pope, I’m not telling.” I responded. Regina was pleased, she smiled, and he frowned.
Before he got the chance to say anything else, Regina intervened.
“I’m changing everything. The kinship is changing.”
Is it? I thought. If so, this was the first time I was hearing about this.
“He’s part of that change.”
Oh this was becoming more interesting by the second.
“Do you know for how many centuries I’ve been alone?”
“Do you know how many mates of my kind I had, to keep me company?”
“Do you know how many humans I’ve turned in my whole existence?” – Regina said, leaning forward towards him.
He didn’t answer to any of those. They were of course, all, rhetorical questions, and he was waiting for the answer.
“Three.” She responded to the last question herself, and laid back in the chair.
His eyes widened.
“Yes, that’s right. Only three humans.”
“And from those three, two weren’t really planned, and as you already know, Viktoria is not exactly what you would have in mind as a queen.”
“So you’re saying that he….?” The priest tried asking, but was left with his mouth open.
“He’s been with me for a long time, and I plan to keep it that way…” Regina responded.
“Now wait just a second here…” I intervened.
“He doesn’t seem to agree.” The priest intervened also.
“No. Wait. Shut up.” I responded and turned towards Regina.
“We talked about this.” I said.
“Are you not my mate?” She said.
I ignored the question and tried continuing with: “You could tell me your pla…” I didn’t finish.
“Are you or are you not?!” She asked again.
“I am.” I said.
“Then where’s the problem?” She didn’t really want an answer, because she turned towards the priest again.
“In any case, like I was saying. Three.”
I just gave up, would pick it up another time. This wasn’t the place for that discussion.
“That’s why I’m here actually. Because of them.”
“We’re glad you returned, because there’s a little issue of our own that you might see too.” The priest said.
“First my problem.” She said.
“Very well.” He waited.
I remember the clock behind me. I couldn’t see it, but because of it, I realized how silent the whole building, the whole Vatican was. Right there, waiting for Regina to say something, which couldn’t have been more than two seconds, I felt that hours went by. Just because I heard the clock and realized time is going by fast.
TIC TAC TIC TAC
The sun behind the cardinal was orange. A sign it was close to sundown. Regina knew that also by instinct, I was sure.
Sundown meant a lot for us you see. For most people sundown means fatigue and finally, sleep. We were functioning on reverse, this was our waking hour. Regina was starting to blush and open up. You could literally see the energy flowing through her. Even her lips seemed more plump and her hair seemed to have more volume. Yep, sundown was nearing fast.
“Like I said, I have only but three of my own. All of which were attacked in the same night, thousands of kilometers away. Gunnar, the middle one, was taken.”
“I need to know who is behind this and you can help me.”
“How could I do that?” The priest said.
“We’re moving a large number of the kinship to Istanbul…”
Wait, what? War is coming?
Regina continued to explain to him everything that has happened, and the fact that there were currently some people around Turkey that knew about the kinship, and that needed to be solved. She explained about Viktoria, by whom and how she was attacked. He seemed to understand and agree with everything. In a way…
“Very well, I’ll make the necessary arrangements and grant you permission.” The priest said.
And for the first time, I realized there was so much more I didn’t know about what was going on. I felt like I was on top of the world, before this, I felt like I knew almost everything there is to know, but day by day, Regina continued to show me even more, things that not even her own kind knew, for example where she lives, or her “agreement” with the Vatican. I understood that the safety of the whole kinship, and at times, of a lot of other people, were truly in her hands, and her hands alone. She made herself queen. She made herself responsible. It was her duty. That’s how she felt. 1You cannot comprehend the amount of power and influence this girl had. It’s simply mind-boggling to even think about the number of silent agreements and contacts she had made over the centuries to keep the kinship not only safe, but hidden… And at times, one needed to be sacrificed for the other. That was one important lesson, that I learned, by myself, right there on that chair.
I learned that she, like all of us, was forced to compromise at times. Compromise the secrecy, in front of a select few from Vatican, to guarantee safety for her kind. And then again, sacrifice safety, by putting herself and a lot of dear ones, in front of- literally – a smoking gun, in order to preserve the secrecy – which was something about to happen in Turkey.
There was so much more I didn’t know, that it made me feel helpless and in awe, all the time.
What was happening here? I’ll clarify it with you before going further, something that Regina also did for me.
A select few, this cardinal, the other two priests, the pope himself (I think) and a few inferior-rang priests and nuns, they knew very well who Regina was, what she was, who the kinship was, and more importantly, they were well aware about the need to protect them and keep them hidden. But to my understanding, that’s all they knew. That they existed and were not a myth. Vatican was playing hand-in-hand here with vampires, but not in a game of conspiracy to control the world. It was a game of keeping each other in check.
Regina was in times long past, the sworn enemy of the Vatican, and like-wise, religion in general was the sworn enemy of the kinship. They each wanted the other eradicated, thinking it’s for the best. An agreement was made, a silent one, over the years. We act under your permission and observation, in important matters, and you do the same.
were are priests in almost each and every vampire territory in Europe, passive, observant, non-intruding and generally out of the loop – but there. In the same respect, Vatican itself – right at the very top – has its own share of the kinship. Observant, silent, non-intruding – but there. The same. A wolf among the sheep. Two, three…?
In hindsight, The Da Vinci Code is NOTHING compared to the extent of this piece of information right here. And you know what? Just making such a statement puts me in a very, very delicate position. Trying to actually prove this, I believe, would be even more impossible or deadly than trying to prove that vampires are among us. Unlike Regina, the Vatican would stop at nothing at shutting me up. Nothing.
But back to the story.
Permission? Regina needed permission to go there? Is this why Turkey, most of it, was out of reach for the kinship? In short: Yes.
In a longer version: Turkey isn’t christian, Vatican has no influence there. However, what Vatican has there, is interest. Interest in keeping it stable, interest in keeping good relations with Ankara, interest in ensuring that they never, ever find out what the Vatican is hiding right under its floor – literally. An army of vampires. An army which was to be en-route to Istanbul very shortly.
So yes, Regina needed permission to go in that specific place. Nowhere else really, except Turkey and another irrelevant far-away land.
By herself, I don’t think she needed any acknowledgement, and by all means, she could have just went there without any notifications, given the fact that apparently she checked in once every 10 years or so, but sending so many of them there, that was another story.
The cardinal agreed with everything actually, he was rather interested in the matter also, because the personal interest of the Vatican was at stake here. Someone “from the other side” was hunting vampires, and that shouldn’t happen.
“Well, you know very well, I need higher approval for this. And as a coincidence, this comes in direct contact with my little own problem.” The cardinal said.
“I’m listening…” Regina added. I was listening too, now more than ever.
“As you may be well aware, Paul died last year…” – This guy right here was referring to Pope John Paul the 2nd.
“And just like it so happened before, there’s trouble in paradise.” He continued.
They were having a discussion only they knew what was about.
“Again?” Regina asked.
“I’m afraid so.” He replied.
And we stood up right there, and left. All three of us.
as always, the truth lies just beneath the surface [story part 35]
September 25, 2012 § 14 Comments
And tomorrow did come, and home we did go. But home wasn’t for her what was for me.
Getting to the airport was a blast – I don’t even want to remember it. When we did get there, for the second time in a very short period of time, we were once again buying tickets straight from the airport. No reservations, no pre-booking, no man to wait for her and hand her the tickets as she walked in.
I wasn’t sure if this was “going towards normality” or “going towards chaos” – for her, because for me it surely seemed more normal.
In any case – there we were.
<Arrivals> – <Departures>
“Left! We have to go left!” – I said.
“Regina, left!” – I said again while spinning around in circles not knowing if she’s following or she has other plans.
“Wait here, I’m going for tickets.” – Now I don’t really know whether she actually bought them herself or not, but it seemed like it.
Only when we got near the gate did I realize we weren’t actually going to fly in a direction known to me.
Above the gate towards which we were rapidly approaching there was a big LCD reading “A2 – Departures – 12:15 – Rome – Boarding.”
“Ummm I don’t think we’re at the right gate.” I said.
“What do you mean?” Regina replied.
“Well these people are going to Rome…”
“So are we.”
“I’m sorry. What?”
“Where did you think we were going?”
“Yes. Home. That’s where we’re going.”
“Wait I think we have a bit of a confusion here. Whose home are we going to, to be more exact?”
I said nothing. I just… adopted a neutral face and looked in the distance.
“What? You didn’t think I had a home?”
“Well… no, not really. I mean you don’t seem to act like it. It seems to me you’re always on the go…”
This time she was the one who didn’t say anything. The line started moving. We were boarding. Well, that’s that I thought. Apparently I was going to Rome. Hurray?
By the time we got to Fiumicion Terminal C I was already at peace with the idea. After all I was the one who got confused, and nevertheless, getting the chance to see “home” – whatever that meant – was a too good to be turned down of an opportunity.
We took the train from the airport for… about half an hour. We were almost downtown Rome. Now we were heading towards the subway.
And the fun part began here.
It was always like this with her. Never knowing the plan in advance. Never knowing where you’re going or what are you supposed to do. And for some people that might be the most stressful thing in life, not knowing what comes next. The unknown scares us for the most part, and we don’t really want to have anything to do with it. On the other hand, there are the few that are always attracted by the unknown, looking to see more, to do more, to explore. I’m talking about climbers or explorers, cave explorers, any explorers. Those that do not fear the unknown. I wasn’t part of them, but I wasn’t scared of it anyway. Call it a neutral feeling.
We descended in the subway, and instead of getting into a train, Regina seemed a bit confused.
She kept looking left and right, left and right, until there was no subway stopped and nobody around.
“Are we waiting for someone… some… thing?”
And she jumped on the tracks. “Come quick.”
And I did. Without saying anything, without opposing the idea that I might get electrocuted right there and then. I had no idea which track “you shouldn’t touch” – but I did know that one of them was not cool with being touched.
We only walked about 40-50 meters, and then she suddenly turned a right, opened a door, went down a corridor, turned another right and then we were faced with a pretty long corridor that apparently went on forever, and which was also flanked from 5 to 5 meters or so by large square stones, asymmetrically arranged spanning across the full length of the corridor. On top of each of these stones was a thick steel beam supporting the ceiling. I figured they were support beams, considering how old the town was and everything.
Regina looked closely at each and one of them, and then stopped in front of one. She pushed the beam aside and then started pushing that stone rock like her life was dependent on it.
“If you’re taking me in another crypt I’m not coming. I’m telling you now, Sweden was enough.”
“Shut up and help me.” – But that wasn’t the case, because before I had the chance to fake helping her, the stone started moving and revealed an access hatch connected to whatever was downstairs by a metal ladder.
“I really do hope we’re just taking a detour and there actually are easier ways in getting to wherever we’re going.”
“Mmm maybe, but I’d rather not open other doors.”
Before going further, you have to know something: Rome has the biggest and oldest underground network ever discovered. It’s a whole town, the old Rome, buried under the new one. There are literally streets and buildings, rooms and passage ways that haven’t even been discovered yet, or only seen by a hand full of people. If you want to know more read this and this.
I had always imagined her without a home. But ever since I found out she actually had one, I imagined it more in the style she was. An old building, big, imposing, secluded, and yet modernly equipped and with quick access to a large city. Maybe even a butler, who knows.
But no. Instead, we were descending into the depths of hell, because that’s how it felt like. Cold and dark.
We walked and we walked and we walked.
And finally we ended… nowhere. We were faced with a large, thick, old and rough block of stone, the size of Jupiter, which marked the end of the tunnel. There was no right or left, no way around it.
But sure enough, Regina found a way, because the left side of it wasn’t made of rock. It wasn’t even old. It looked like the same material, but was mostly clay and on top of that – it was smart clay.
It had a soft-spot. It was either the material which was special, or the way it was made. Either way, it wasn’t more than two inches thick. Regina felt the whole left side (which was about 20% of the whole thing) with her palm from top to middle and stopped in one place then quickly squeezed her hand into a fist and pushed in a short – but powerful – burst. The whole thing came down in front of us.
“Welcome home.” She said.
“Where the hell are we….?” I asked as we were descending once again through a tunnel.
“Yes, but where exactly in Rome?”
“I don’t have an address if that’s what you’re asking.”
“No, I mean what’s on top of us…? Aren’t you in danger of like… someone wanting to make a subway line through your living room?”
“No… not really. There are mostly only old protected buildings above us.” – We were, after all, in Rome. It only made sense and I didn’t give it another thought.
“We’re actually under the Vatican.”
My heart stood still. For several reasons.
“You’ve got to be joking. I mean seriously. From all the places in the world, you decided to live in the Vatican?! Can you mock everything more than this?”
Seriously. You just can’t make these things up. Movies can’t even describe such a thing. But there we were. Under the Vatican, me and a the vampire. This was just too much. Of all the things I had seen – of everything – really weird, unexplainable (some) and just plain hard to digest things – this was the worst (best?). The irony and the degree of mockery cannot be properly described in words. I had later to learn that this was no case of irony or mockery, and it did serve a very, very special purpose.
OK that was the first reason my heart stood still. I just didn’t know if I wanted to go further or not. Because we weren’t actually inside anything that even started to resemble a house. We were more in a basement.
We were crossing a very small and narrow bridge, that went over nothing, but looked like a bridge, a stone bridge, and in the distance, on each of the sides, there was a straight white marble wall with a cross sculpted into it and blackened with what seemed like coal, or graphite, or something like that. It wasn’t paint, it didn’t look like paint. We were under the Vatican alright, and what a view, and what an irony.
We finally arrived to what seemed like a door, but there was no door there, just a very narrow arch that quickly turned to the left and then went up in a small, narrow – but short – corridor.
At the end of the corridor, we were finally there. All in all, from getting off the train until stepping inside the “house” – took us just over two hours. I figured she could be quicker by her own, but no way you do this under an hour.
As soon as she turned on the lights – a combination of candles, lamps and light bulbs (yes, there was electricity down there) – I was in awe.
We were standing in a big hallway that was shaped like half a circle. We came from the back, and in front of us, there was the arched view of the circle, with three rooms – like choosing your fate.
You could see in all of the three rooms from there. They had no doors. It was more like one big arch with two walls separating three separate entrances. Each of the rooms was huge, and they were connected among themselves also through a second arch in each of them, in the middle of the wall.
One of the rooms served as a bathroom. All of it. It was huge. These were no ordinary rooms. Imagine the inside of medieval church, each room being at least 50 meters long and at least 20 meters wide, and with ceilings that spanned upwards until it became too dark to see. You literally could not see where the ceiling ended. They were that high. The echo in each of these rooms was just plain amazing, and annoying in the same time, and with Regina’s hearing I could bet she heard anything and anyone from a great distance.
The room that served as a bathroom had its own pool – with continuously flowing hot water – that overflowed all the time in a reservoir. Other than that, it had everything a bathroom needed, equipped with modern and old things alike. The whole front wall was taped with mirrors and the whole room was rather dark, only illuminated by the light in the pool and later a few candles in one of the corners of the pool, which also had around it, within reaching distance, a half empty bottle of wine.
The second room was more of an entertainment/training/living room. One side of the room, all across it, 50 meters long, had a bookshelf full with books. It was a damn library. I didn’t recognize half of them. The very end of the room had three chairs around a small but sturdy, brown oak table. Right at the entrance, to the left, there was a training area of around 20 square meters – there were ropes hanging from the ceiling and most of the equipment was just non-moving steel bars and handles made for climbing, staying in balance on them or god knows what. The right hand side of the room had everything your heart could desire in the matter of electronics, from large screen projectors to stacks of hard-drives, servers, and hundreds of CD’s. Old and new were merging together, like everything here, from CD players, VCR, to old gramophones, from stacks of hard-drives to stacks of diapositives. A whole library and in the same time an entertainment room. A small wine selection was laying in a shelf near the big leather chairs and the table, and other than that the whole thing, the whole room, was tapered in paintings looking down on you.
The third room was the bedroom. It was both the quietest and most peaceful bedroom in the world, and also the most horrifying one.
There wasn’t really anything there. Imagine a 50 by 20 meters room, that you can’t see the end of it or the height of it because it just seems to have none of those due to the low light. This room had a bed in the middle of it – a bed the size of which I had never seen. It could easily fit at least 10 people on it, maybe more. It was the size of maybe 6 or seven king-sized beds put together in a perfect square. The whole thing was covered in layers and layers of huge, thin purple silk sheets. You could go under one, two, three, ten or more layers, as many as you wanted. This was also the most sad bed in the world. One single small lonely pillow in one corner. That’s it. That whole gigantic bed and one pillow.
One single thick rope was lingering above the bed, it was attached to the ceiling and when looking up at it you couldn’t exactly see where it led. It was just a rope descending from nothingness above the bed. In case of trouble I figured.
Regina pulled down a thick wooden door – more like a wall – after we entered, and sealed it by pushing it into a perfectly fit shape in the wall. We were sealed there.
The whole area, the whole place was covered in a thick black dust and spider webs the likes you’ve never seen.
I didn’t say anything, and nobody started cleaning. We just cleaned whatever we used next.
She started lightning more and more candles from one room to another room, and more and more lamps and light bulbs, until the whole area became rather visible and bearable. It was cold and damp as hell and stank of mold, but slowly it started getting warmer, more welcoming, dryer and the smell started going away, as we started actually staying there and stirring things up.
Regina headed straight for the pool and leaned in to check the water with one hand. She smiled.
“Eleven years… and still warm. Now that’s what I call welcoming.”
“Wait, you haven’t been here in eleven years?”
“No, I don’t come that often…”
Well that explained the dust and everything.
She undressed and was in the pool taking a bath before we finished speaking. I followed. The feeling of swimming in a catacomb was overwhelming, eerie but pleasant and quiet in the same time. Just like taking a bath in a warm-ish lake during a summer night.
After that we went in the living room and she started turning on one thing after another, computer after computer, screen after screen, they were all turning back to life, shedding their dust outer shell and aligning into a smooth, soothing humming sound, after the beeps and lights calmed down. The whole room started glowing and getting a whole different kind of light, with images reflecting from one brick to the other.
She then headed slowly towards the piano in the corner and sat down…[audio http://k006.kiwi6.com/hotlink/ss5hunhhh3/beethoven_moonlight_sonata_sonata_al_chiaro_di_luna_.mp3]
I slowly approached her and put my hands on top of hers and gently started playing together with her until she took her hands down and left me to continue. She just stood there, frozen, without saying anything, with me lingering above her head, smelling her hair and playing one of the only three songs I can play. I can’t play the piano, not really, I just learned them by heart.
“BANG” “BANG” – I stopped playing and we both jolted up. What the hell. Who’s there, what’s happening, who knows we’re here. We’re trapped. Oh god…
“I can’t even have five minutes for myself…” She said angrily while heading towards the bookshelves behind us.
She pulled one of the shelves away and pried open a door an iron door locked from top to bottom with three metal bars going across it from left to right.
I was already prepared to run.
Upon opening the door, a small figured appeared, an old man. A priest.
WHAT?! Oh this can’t get any better.
But it did. The priest bowed his head, looked at me and then looked back and said something in Italian. He moved aside and from behind him, a taller, more imposing man appeared, also a priest I figured, but dressed casually with only the collar giving him away and the cross around his neck.
Regina kissed his hand and they both bowed their heads slightly to one another.
Well, I thought, this is something else…
The old man handed us both a suitcase with clothes in it. How the hell did he know I was here? How did they know anyone was here? I later asked Regina about it and she pointed up all around us. There were cameras, all around us there were surveillance cameras! I couldn’t believe it! She agreed to let herself filmed?! Granted, as long as she didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, there was no need for her to worry.
She told me that “All weapons can fire in two opposite directions” meaning that she had as many reasons to worry for being filmed as they had for filming her. I wondered if it was recorded. It wasn’t, apparently. But you never know.
Regina and the priest talked in Italian while we both got dressed. She took of the clothes that she had on her right there in front of the two priests like they weren’t even there, while they were still talking casually, and she got dressed. I followed. This seemed way too awkward for me, but I kept pushing and pushing myself into putting myself into her shoes. I kept trying to imagine how I would feel about each and every situation if I was her. And apparently the less ashamed you are of your body, the less pudic you are. In that regard, I don’t think she would have had any problems walking naked through Trafalgar square.
From what I could muster in my broken Italian, I understood that there were others that knew about her, there was someone else we had to talk with about the attacks in Turkey, and that they would help her in any way possible. I also understood that we had to go.
We were given two crosses to put around our necks, which we both did. Seeing Regina dressed as bland as possible, in a gray skirt and a gloomy shirt, with a cross around her neck and her hair tied behind her back, I couldn’t help but laugh. They all looked at me like at some distracted kid, which I was. But you have to give it to me, this was too ironic and too funny to not at least smile.
It was like in those times when something so unbelievable or unexpected, but most of the times bad, happens to you, that you just give up and jump over being angry, straight to laughing… out of self-pity. I didn’t pity myself, but I just laughed in the same way. Just like when you’re too tired to even think anymore and everything seems funny. It was out of this world for me, seeing her like that, knowing what she is and knowing what the whole world thinks about her kind.
We followed the two priests up a corridor, out of the house (crypt, catacomb?). One priest in front of us, one behind us. And as the old priest closed the door behind us, through where they came from, I could see sculpted in rock above the door, three small words.
Ancient latin letters. There were others like it, all around the house, and before entering it from the other side, but they were all half of word, erased, some meaningless, some without any context, some were names….
However this inscription… this inscription read something else.
I’ll leave you to decipher what it said, and because I lack the means of actually writing in ancient Latin here, I wrote it by hand.