January 5, 2004

Fides Immortalis

His eyelids rushed open with a start, and was instantly greeted with the pain of saltwater. He tried to scream, but as he exhaled, water filled his lungs.
No! I cannot die now!
He struggled to keep his eyes open despite the now-overwhelming pain, and searched frantically for the surface. He spotted the green tinge of the sunlight hitting the water, and mustered the strength to reach it. He was far, but he could make it. He had to make it. Or he would be another lost soul. His lungs burned, and his eyes wept, but his resolve drew stronger.
He broke the surface, and fell into the air, and finally, into darkness.

“Hey! Wake up!”
The voice was far off; it echoed quietly around him. In curiosity, he drew in closer. Something was striking his cheek in this tunnel of darkness, but he could barely feel it. Another bucket of freezing water was splashed on him, and in an eternal instant, he rushed forward and came to consciousness.
“Its about time,” said the man. “You have a visitor. Compose yourself.”
Almost groggily, he opened his eyes. His gaze was instantly met by an old man. He wore a simple white robe, and a dark brown cloak which nearly enveloped him. The priest walked up to him, slowly, and made the sign of the cross before him.
“In the name of the Lord,” he began, “I have come personally to accept your confession, and to excise you of the devils that plague you.”
“I.. I am innocent. I have nothing to say to you.”
He was surprised at his own voice. It was failing, and dry, and weak. It used to be powerful and commanding. Legions of men would flock to his word, and obey without question. Now, he was a broken man. No, perhaps not a broken man, but a broken body with a gleam of life left within. He wondered how long he had been down there now. Two days? Two weeks? He wondered how much longer he had to live. He wondered if he would be free again. No. It was all gone now. The moon, the sun, the bustle of the market, the laughter of the children. Soon there would be oblivion, and the fires of the Church was his only escape.
“Oh, but you do,” said the old man. “God commands it so.”
The old man smiled. Through the smile, he saw immediately the terror that was to be unleashed. This man did not smile out of pleasure of someone else’s pain, nor of the blood spilt before him. He did not smile because heretics of his decree were slaughtered by the thousands, or of the power he held over any one human.
He smiled because he believed. No army could ever defeat any one man with true faith. And this man before him wielded faith as though it were a blade of the finest Spanish steel.
“Commence the confession,” he said. Although this time, his voice was that of glass. Authority and power and conviction flowed from his words. The men beside him obeyed immediately, and took position on each side of the rack.
“As you wish, Signor Torquemada.”
Torquemada turned to him. He no longer looked the old man. His movements were precise, his demeanor mightier, his tongue sharper.
“I know you extinguished the life of that Christian child," he began. "The only punishment for such a slaughter is death itself. But before you are purged from this chaotic world, you must make your amends to God. Confess before me and before God of your sin, and through the fires of redemption shall you be absolved of it.”
He spat at Torquemada.
With a deep sigh, Torquemada signaled to the inquisitor beside him. "I am truly sorry that I could not save you, my son."
The inquisitor turned a lever, and the world sank into blood and pain and despair. In the distance, past his screams and pleas, past the prayers of men, past the cries of his loved ones, he heard the wind whistle softly through the grass, and the ocean lapping upon the shore.