“Marcel, hurry up.”
White-haired Cardinal Antonio Marozzi puffed up, pruning himself before the full length mirror. No hair was out of place and the garments that signified his station in the church were crisp and starched. “This ceremony is vastly important, Marcel. I am renewing my vows before His Holiness. All must proceed smoothly.”
Marcel nodded his head in agreement and bowed with respect. As he raised his eyes, something caught his attention at the top of the mirror. A slimy olive and brown tendril retracted to the back of the frame, flinging greenish gunk onto the forehead of the Cardinal. Marcel gasped in horror.
“What is it Marcel?”
The young priest raised a shaky finger, pointing at the Cardinal’s forehead. His stammering was unintelligible.
“Really, Marcel. If you want to find success at the Vatican or for that matter in the priesthood, you must learn to assert yourself and maintain a sense of dignity.”
“Yes Eminence. I apologize. I thought I saw something amiss.”
The Cardinal turned back to the mirror. Shifting his weight from foot to foot, he bent back examining his robes. Satisfied, he extended his hand and Marcel bent to kiss his signet ring. A bit of green gunk had landed on the back of his hand and Marcel made every effort to avoid brushing his lips into it.
What kind of treachery could this be? How could the Cardinal not see the filth dripping from his forehead or on his hand? Marcel felt nauseated. His mouth was dry, yet perspiration drenched his body in a desperate attempt at cleansing.
The Cardinal floated out the door and Marcel watched, terrified, as a larger-than-life reptilian creature emerged from behind the mirror. It stood on two legs like a man, but its olive limbs were bony and bent at unnatural angles. Immediately, it turned its attention toward the young priest, cracking its neck at an odd angle. Its eyes burned like red hot coals. Green slime oozed from all over its body. Then, as if in frustration, it reared back unleashing a piercing shriek that reverberated around the room, throwing Marcel to the floor in fear. Recovering from the shock, he looked up to see the creature following the Cardinal out of his chambers, its tail leaving a twisted green trail upon the marble tile.
The young priest hurried down the corridor following Cardinal Marozzi and the creature, marking their progress by the sound of clicking claws on the tile floor. Vatican priests and other bishops and cardinals offered the Cardinal their blessings and congratulatory wishes on his forty years of service to the Church, but none acknowledged the presence of evil trailing behind.
Marcel whispered a prayer of supplication in his native tongue, beseeching his Lord’s help. At the mention of Jesus’ name, the creature shrieked as in agony. And it was in that moment that Marcel truly knew what this creature was.
Entering the ancient sanctuary, the creature sprouted massive visceral wings and flew to alight upon one of the stone supports near the ceiling. Green filth continued to drip down upon selected members of the clergy. Marcel surveyed the audience, noting those who remained clean and those who didn’t.
“I have given you eyes to see and ears to hear, my child.”
Murmuring continual prayers, Marcel tried to maintain his composure, all the while wondering if he was the only one in the cathedral who could see the creature. It roosted in the dimness, high, high above the brethren. Out of sight of most, but ever watchful, waiting to spew its venom. Marcel shuttered at the thought, appalled that he had never noticed it before. Had it been there before? What had changed?
“You have, my son. Your heart is pure. I will save this Church for your sake, Marcel.”
The young priest’s heart warmed. His prayers intensified for the Lord had spoken.
Cardinal Marozzi knelt before His Holiness, receiving a benediction all the while his bright red vestments spotted with green. Marcel sighed with relief for the Pope’s white garments gleamed in brilliance, spotless and true. The priest offered praises of thanksgiving for those who remained true and intercessions for those who had strayed.
The creature bellowed from the rafters, its claws scraping the stone in desperation. Marcel marveled at the power of his humble prayers.
“The prayers of a righteous man can accomplish much, my dear son.”
Marcel smiled . . . relieved that the Lord was on his side.
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