My Name is Legion - Chapter 1
The city was alive with its usual hum and lenient bustle, the growing smog hung about it like an elegant boa. The marigold yellow sun hung over head and beat down its rays onto the Italian city. It washed over Father Georg Falkenrath's head as he stepped out of the rickety metallic cased plane and descended the rolling steps. The rush and rattle of the midday air field thrummed in his ears. Despite the ill feeling that the loud noise of the spinning engine gave him, he could not wipe the smile off his face. He raised a hand to shade his eyes as he walked along to the airport, the heat coming off the tarmac in great waves. It washed along like the spray of the ocean's waves and wiggled its way back up towards the sky. It was warmer down here closer to the Mediterranean than any place he'd ever been before. Germany was never this warm, not even in the summer, but he liked it. It did him well for he felt he could move his slowly degrading bones easier then he ever could before.
He held the black suitcase in his hand as he walked along. There was a limp evident in his step as he strode along through the airport, his black shoes squeaking along the tan colored carpet. An old war wound that the ex-chaplain had received in Russia. That old war wound and a combination of gout on the occasion made his right foot hard to walk on. Father Georg was not tall, barely standing in at five and a half feet; he had to look up to talk to most people including his companion on this trip. Despite getting along in his years, his round face still held traces of its boyish hue. His grey eyes were hidden behind the rims of his glasses; his black curly hair was thinning and was going grey in patches. Today he had managed to tame his usually wayward hair back against his head with pomade. The traces of his salt and pepper beard were across his face as he forever tried his best to mask the scars across his cheeks from the war that were still very present in jagged lines. The very tip of his nose was gone from frostbite. The ends of the cassock that he wore were caught in the slight breeze of the inside of the airport. He preferred the cassock to anything else he could wear because in his mind it masked the protrusion of his stomach better.
"S-Sevastian, hurry," the little priest called in his excitement as he looked over his shoulder.
Sevastian Metzger was in his third year of seminary, despite that he looked like he was still going through the motions of puberty and getting used to the too tall body he was given. His build was thin to match his gangly frame. His face had grown long, though his mouth had seemingly matured off kilter, sitting lopsided on his face. His nose was evenly proportioned, however, and his eyes in unison made a pleasant T shape across Sevastian's face. His eyes were the color of a stormy sea, steely blue grey, and sat under sloping eyebrows. Even though he was still in his early years of seminary, he had chosen to wear the collorino today instead of his normal clothing because of the place that they were going to be visiting: Italy, Rome, the Vatican and Basilica. A stray finger tugged at the collar unconsciously. As much as he loved the prospect of serving the church, the constant grating of starched fabric against his sensitive neck was aggravating and was not helped by the raising temperature.
Sevastian picked up his pace to match the hurried waddle of his mentor. "I'm coming!" he called back, the patter of his shoes and his long stride making a strange accompaniment to the hurried squeaking coming from Georg's.
"Y-You're walking slow still," Georg teased
The seminarian pouted, "The heat! It's slowing me down
" Sevastian tried to blame the growing swelter in the weather.
The two were out of place within the airport, carrying nothing but a single, small suitcase each, their black robes and white collars out of place amongst the western glitz of the Italian elite and wealthy tourists. Georg carefully led Sevastian along, trying to be as cheerful as he could. Even twenty years after the war, there still was the strange feeling that somehow, someone would know that there was a German and a half German amongst them. There was always the fear that some how the world would find out of these two being so far out of their designated "pen", the fear that a veteran's wrath would come down upon them because of their blood. Sevastian never saw war, but was a product of it. A product of war that Georg had helped tend, Sevastian was just a little boy in the years following right after Germany's capitulation. The older priest had watched the young man grow up from scared youth to the young lad that he was now.
The little priest and the gangly seminarian made their way across town from the airport to the hotel that they had been designated to stay at. Although it was not the Ritz and the bed mattresses held faint outlines form former customers, it was still a far step up from the room in the Rectory that Georg called home and the dorm that Sevastian would sleep in. The place did not have its own air conditioning, so two loud fans rattled in each of the rooms two windows. The ceiling fan squeaked loudly as it thrashed its blades around in a circle as it pushed itself to cool the room. The two small beds were neatly made, but had no flashy covers or pillows. The rug was cleanly vacuumed, but just as uninteresting as the bed sheets and curtain covers. Even the lamp shade was a pale, unobtrusive color. As soon as they walked into the room, the seminarian claimed the bed closest to the two windows. Tossing his shoes off and flopping onto the bed face first, he lay there unmoving, trying to cool off from the heat. One half of his body hung off the bed, his knuckles dragging along the floor.
"D-Don't fall asleep now, w-we need to go exploring," Georg said as he carefully hung up his clothing in the small closet, the stumbling stutter that he was born with still evident upon his words. As much as he tried, the short little man could never rid himself of it.
"But I was hoping for a nap, this heat is mad." The seminarian tried to defend himself, speaking into the bed sheets more then to Georg. This would be the first time in a long time that he would be able to take a legitimate nap without having to sneak away form classes and into a confessional to do it.
After the priest was done putting away his clothing, he walked over to the side of the gangly boy's bed, "Pl-please, A-At least lets go to the Colosseum or s-something?" Georg asked pleadingly. When he got nothing but a mumble from a heat beat Sevastian, he put his hands in his pockets. With a devious grin, Georg drove his knees into the bed sending the precariously placed seminarian onto the floor.
Sevastian let out a strangled sound of surprise, "What was that for!?" His eyes wide with shock at what the priest had just done to him.
"F-Fantastic, now that y-you are up, we can go explore," Georg wore an innocent smile.
The seminarian's mouth hung open, dumb struck as he took the old priests hand to help him up off the floor. "That was a very
crafty thing!" that was the best insult that Sevastian could come up with on the spot as he stood there, shocked that his mentor had even thought of throwing him on the floor as a way to get him to move. That was one thing, for certain; the old priest's plan had definitely worked.
The Colosseum was bathed in red in the fading facets of the suns rays. After several hours of getting distracted, the two finally made it to the famed structure. Georg was the one that ended up being the worse offender. He had to stop several times at various street vendors to sample the local fair, constantly assuring Sevastian that he would still be able to eat dinner. He was the one that also ended up chasing after the local population of stray felines, managing to snag a rather lazy, white fluffy one that would let him pick it up and pet it. The little priest paid no heed to the patches of white hair that now clung to the front of his cassock. Between getting lost because they had no maps and only a vague understanding of the Italian language, and stopping to view the ancient and new architecture of the great city, it was a wonder that they managed to find where they were originally headed at all. Sevastian could do nothing but put up with it, though he was not one to complain. It was the little things like this that made Father Georg who he was and the seminarian would not have that changed.
The crowds were not as bad as they would have been at the earlier hours of the afternoon, though throngs of stray tourists still mulled about the ruins and leaned up against the gates that had been installed between each of the ancient archways. Both Georg's and Sevastian's eyes grew wide as they approached the rock building; its crumbling sides cast shadows around the open square which it sat.
"L-Look at it, Sevvy," the little priest said in awe as he stood in the wake of the Colosseum.
The seminarian mouth hung slack as he looked straight up the wall before his sleeve was grabbed by his mentor and led long through the first archway that was not clogged by a line of people or closed off by a locked, black gate. His eyes followed along the lines of the sloping entry and then shot straight up as soon as they were into the main level's first hall that ran around in a circle under the bleachers of the stadium. Like the foyer before the entrance into a grand opera, the ceilings were high and imposing. Although the decoration had long since been ground away, it still shrunk them. The clatter of flapping pigeon's wings was magnified around the area as they fluttered away from the ground they pecked at in hopes of getting a few scraps of food. Groups of people still wandered around the covered hall before they would slide into the open air amphitheatre like those people of ancient Rome.
it's so big." Sevastian managed to squeak out as he finally tore his eyes away from the ceiling and turned them toward the inside of the Colosseum.
Georg's spectacled gaze followed the seminarians out onto what would be the main plaza where the spectators would have watched gladiators fight and prisoners squabble. The little priest could not help the sign of the cross that he made over himself. "H-How many of our brothers and s-s-sisters lost their lives here?"
The gangly youth looked down to the older man next to him with a small frown and nodded his head as he bowed it slightly, "Who knows, lots and lots I suppose
like Saint Ignatius and Saint Vitus."
"S-Saint Euphemia" Georg added on as he timidly entwined his fingers together in front of him as he came forward through the nearest arch that lead out onto the open air. Sevastian followed along right on his heels, wary of letting his mentor get too far ahead of him. The gangly seminarian did not want to loose his "adult" in the crowd of people. Even though Georg was the only person wearing black robes, the young man still felt the creeping paranoia that the little priest was suddenly just going to disappear.
The sounds of the city seemed to evaporate within the confines of the Colosseum. Despite there no longer being a high ceiling over their heads, the imposing air was still hovering about them. They now were out under open sky, but they were still shrunk even more against the backdrop of corroded stones and crumbling structures that, even though it was almost millennia old, stood seemingly omnipotent. Georg tried to imagine what it would have looked like all those hundreds of years ago, brand new, sparkling white. He tried to imagine what it would have felt like, the static energy, the smell of sweat and various powders. The little priest licked his lips as he walked up to the safety rail and leaned over it. He kept his eyes closed as he tried to imagine the sounds of the crowd as they cheered on the slaughter of their best warriors and innocent Christians.
Sevastian came up beside the older man and leaned against the rail. "It really is something isn't it? Going back on what you said, it really is amazing, but hundreds
maybe thousands of people were killed right down in there." He motioned a careful finger down into the now floorless stage. Where once great planks of wood held up the earth of the floor of the stadium nothing resided. Now exposed to the elements were little squares that were once the cells of condemned men.
Georg opened his eyes for a moment and looked out onto the floorless stadium. "J-Ja," He said softly. Suddenly out of the corner of his eye he caught the flash and flutter of something down in the cells. He blinked behind his glasses and leaned in further over the rail to try and catch sight again of what he had seen. A feeling of sickness begin to gnaw at his middle, the constant ringing in his ears grew in intensity if only slightly.
"What is it, Sir?" Sevastian asked as he leaned over as well, trying to see what on earth had so sharply drawn his companion's eye.
Georg rubbed his temple, "I-I don't know, I saw s-something." He reached out and pointed.
"It was probably a cat or a bird."
The ex-chaplain shook his head, "N-No, I don't think it was that." He squinted and caught the flutter once more. "L-Let's go down and find out what it was." With a smile on his face to mask the unsettled feeling in his belly, he took a hold of the seminarian's sleeve and led him once more. For all of the sleeve grabbing that Georg did to him, Sevastian did not seem to mind being led around in such a way. It was amusing to him.
The cell area was cooler than the main level. The two clerics were thankful for that. Even with the shadows up above, the city heat was still present where they had just been standing. It smelled damp down here and Georg did not want to imagine how rancid it would have been back all those years ago with people, prisoners, sandwiched in to these mud boxes. Some would not have even been able to see any light. The mere thought of being denied light made Georg's legs weaken as they wove their way through the first line of cells. In a way, he understood what the poor people who once resided down here felt, the stinking air, the emotional breaking, and the inability to see the sun. He understood.
The little priest did not see the first ones until he turned the corner, the flash of movement and the small glimmer of light as they ran across the walk way and disappeared through the wall was an all too familiar sight. "Th-there." Georg said as he pointed, stopping in his tracks as Sevastian strode up alongside him.
The gangly seminarian gently bumped into the older priest, placing a hand upon his shoulder. "What's there?" he asked.
"Th-The ghosts, th-they are all down here." The little priest said as he let his eyes wander around, as soon as he said that, the faint outlines of some of the ghosts becoming clearer as they grew curious as to the two new comers in their midst.
A small smile came on to Sevastian's lips as he gripped Georg's shoulder tighter. "Are they
friendly, at least?" He trusted his mentor. When he was very little, he learned of the older man's ability to so easily be one, see and speak to those who are dead. As a child, Georg told him that the stuffed animal that he held so close to him at night was inhabited by a spirit. A guardian angel, Sevastian had been told, and he believed the little priest. He still believed the little priest. When he was old enough to understand what that really meant, Sevastian did not scorn the older priest, in fact he embraced him and promised to keep that secret between them. The seminarian had his own share of dealings with the supernatural and he trusted the older man in front of him to know what he was doing when interacting with the dead.
Georg nodded, "Fr-from what I can see." His grey eyes roamed about as more and more of the flashing glimmers came out. The little priest returned the smile to the young man before he stepped into one of the cells. "H-Hello, there
" He kept his hand on the wall; he knew very well that he looked like he was talking to thin air to anyone else who could not see the spirits. "I am not going to hurt you." Despite that, the headache was still growing within his skull.
Father, its getting really cold in here." Sevvy commented as a shiver shook his body. Now that was odd, he put his arms around himself.
More and more of them were coming out now in front of Georg. "I-I know, th-that tends to happen wh-when they gather." The little priest turned around, with one hand on his head, and instantly felt the color drain from his face.
"What is it?" Sevastian asked as he watched his mentor's face go slack.
When Georg had last looked behind him, there were only a faint few that hovered close to the other living thing in the area. Now, it looked as though hundreds had suddenly crawled from the ground, slid from the walls and had assembled themselves in a cluster around him. There were so many of them that they blotted out Sevastian from Georg's view. All of their hollow eyes, their frightened faces, were fixated upon him. They were expecting him to do something for them. As soon as Georg lost sight of his companion, he began to panic. Only at one time in his life had he ever been confronted with so many at one time and the sheer number present made him physically ill. He threw out a hand to try and clear them from his sight. Almost in response, the spirits, instead of retreating, reached out to him. Icy hands and freezing fingers took hold of him and instantly his body convulsed to try and get them to let go.
"L-Let me go," the ex-chaplain shouted.
Sevastian instantly jumped forward and took a hold of Georg's shoulders, "Sir! What is wrong?" his voice raising in fear. The older man's body caught in the seminarian's grasp was freezing cold. Why was he so cold?
"Pl-Please! L-Let me go!" the little priest cried out louder this time, more insistent. Georg trashed once more. The pounding in his head grew, his stomach felt like it was turning inside out. The tightness settled into his chest and clawed at him. To him, he was drowning. Sputtering like he was a fish snatched from its watery home, he drew a great screeching breath before his legs gave out. Only the view of those who were dead swam before his eyes before he plunged into blackness.
Sevastian screamed as Georg went limp in his arms, "Father!"