The Vatican's Gate
Updated: Jan 16, 2022
It was Cardinal Juan Sebastian's fifth visit with the Pope in the last two weeks. Every visit was a thirty-minute session that delved into the Father's past, his views on modernistic religion, and the evolving dynamics of the Church's influence when it comes to war. Most intriguing of questions to the Cardinal were his views on violence. The Cardinal knew these sessions weren't just "tea-time" the Pope wanted with one of his leaders. Instead, he knew it was some kind of interview. The Cardinal tried to guess what for, but nothing came to mind. There was no existing role or position that needed a change. For a change surprisingly, everything in the Vatican organization was working well! If this was something new, the Cardinal sinfully prayed he wasn't being sent to some shithole in the middle of nowhere.
Days passed and Cardinal Sebastian was ordered back to the Pope's Chamber. Today was his sixth interview and he was starting to become exhausted, not just with the interview process, but with the Pope. There's only so much of one man that anyone can take - even if he is the Pope, he thought to himself, making sure not to utter any of that aloud. As he walked through the chambers, he saw a younger man in military uniform, an American uniform. He thought it was a bit odd, but again, the Pope entertains many.
Cardinal Sebastian's six-foot frame felt too big for the waiting chairs outside the Pope's chambers. The seventy-year-old chairs were meant for someone other than an adult man, the Cardinal thought to himself as he fidgeted in his seat and searched for a comfortable position. He continued muttering and complaining to himself one thing after another. To any onlooker, he appeared like an abstruse old man. After minutes of agonizing discomfort, the large man found a comfortable position, and that's when he heard the chamber doors swing open. He saw the Pope's assistant stick his head outside the room and he watched him call his name. A few seconds later, the Cardinal was standing before the Pope. Without hesitation, he instantly dropped to a knee and kissed the crossed-ring on the Popes' left hand. This was a formality the Cardinal executed with precision. The Pope was not much for formalities and he quickly ushered Cardinal Sebastian back to his feet and asked him to step into his chambers and make his way over to a desk with numerous photos on the table.
"Take a seat, my friend", the Pope requested in colloquial English. The Cardinal was amazed at the Pope's ability to master multiple languages on top of his mastery of everything required to administer the Church. In front of the Cardinal, laying on the desk, the Pope pointed at six pictures. Without much warning, the Pope dropped something equivalent to a mental bomb on the Cardinal. "These pictures are of children under the influence of a sub lord from hell." Father Sebastian didn't know how to respond. The statement sounded ludicrous, almost insane, but it was coming from the Pope himself.
"Do you mean a possession?"
"Something much worse!"
"Tell me more, your holiness!"
"As you can see, they are all children. All of them are no more than thirteen years of age, the youngest is ten years old. They live amongst one another, in the United States, in a small town in Arizona.
The Cardinal still didn't know how to respond. This is one of those times where he just needed to sit and listen, but his mind was going a mile a minute. Mostly, he was contemplating the sanity of the statements and the mind of the Pope. He felt wrong for feeling what he was feeling, and asking himself whether the Pope was going crazy, and questioning whether the elderly man was still fit for his office? He thought this man needed to retire like the man he preceded. Before the Cardinal could continue spiraling himself into a frenzy that would probably only get him in trouble, the Pope turned the lights off and picked up something on the table. A projector sparked to life and displayed an HD video that spanned much of the plain white wall in the Pope's chamber.
"Cardinal Sebastian, I know this is hard to comprehend. You must believe me to be mad. But we have proof." The Pope turned to the wall and played the video that was paused showing a large mansion. The video started and it was grainy. Cardinal Sebastian could tell it was filmed at night and through an opaque window. It didn't take him long to realize that the video was taken secretly. After a few seconds of no movement in the frame, a stream of individuals entered a seemingly empty. Every individual was dressed in dark, long hooded coats that ran to the ground. From the camera’s angle, The Cardinal couldn't discern the gender or age of the people on the screen. He counted thirteen people and saw build a circle in the room. Everyone in the room carried a lit candle, and after each member found their spot, they lay the candle in front of them, between their feet. What followed was a low, monotone chant. Within seconds, the chanting started getting much louder. The men recording the video, who accidentally filmed themselves as they tried acquiring a better angle on the room, were dressed in dark, military uniforms. This instantly piqued the Cardinal's attention and he jotted down the note on his personal notepad he had stuffed under his belt. What surprised the Cardinal more though was the voices of the men. The men's voices quivered with fear, and he quickly learned why. The candles at the feet of the people in the room changed color and grew significantly brighter. With that queue, the chanting stopped, and the candles all went out on their own. The room grew dark, and the video camera quickly adjusted to the room's darkened interior. At that exact moment, six children, the children in the pictures on the Pope's desk walked into the room. The children entered the center of the circle made by the people wearing the long, dark hoods. The children too carried a candle in one hand, and a black, curved saber in the other.
Each child in the circle stood between two people. The man operating the camera spoke quietly into the camera's microphone. "The children are whispering to the people before them, but our equipment is not good enough to pick up what they're saying." Before the man could continue, the children dropped their candles to their feet and began stabbing the people before them violently. The children swung their sabers with ferociousness, a type of wickedness that the men in military attire could barely fathom from crazed adults, let alone children. It wasn't long before the screams, and yells of agony succumbed to a dire end.
Beyond the grasp of those lay dying, the candles now burnt stronger as if gassed by the blood. With their wicks growing brighter, the children each picked up the candle now brimming red. Each one of the children allowed the candle wax to melt over their hands. With their waxed hands, the children reached down to the deceased and pulled at the dead, extracting the warm, beating hearts from the fallen, and devouring every bit of flesh in their palms. With every bite, the children's eyes glowed a stronger, incandescent orange. The men recording the incident were without words until the children turned towards them in unison. Fear and adrenaline instantly flooded through the men. The two men had experienced the hells of war, but this was different. They knew they had to make a run for it. Calmly, without making a sound, they dropped their equipment and ran. That's when the video ended, and the Pope turned on the light. The Pope could see that Cardinal Sebastian was at a loss for words.
"Cardinal Sebastian," the Pope said calmly. "What are your thoughts, questions?"
The man's trembling voice struggled to ask, "What happened to the men? The two that were recording the event?"
"We do not know. They have not been found. We assume they're dead."
"How did you get this video then?"
"This was a live feed, which was being recorded by an international military group."
"Who was coordinating the mission?"
"It doesn't matter. What does matter is what you decide to do next, now that you have this information."
• • •
Five days later, the Pope requested Cardinal Sebastian for another meeting. The Cardinal hadn't slept much since he watched the video. All he could think about was the children and the atrocious events they had perpetrated. Most pressing to his mind was the Pope’s alleged claims of possession. To the Cardinal, this could have been some crazed cult. The only thing the Cardinal couldn’t rationalize were the children's eyes, and how they changed as they cannibalized the sacrificed. Was it a trick? And, what happened to the uniformed men? It was all too much. The stress was more than he could handle. This was nothing like he had ever seen before, even in his time with the French Foreign Legion.
Upon arrival at the Pope's office, a young priest, who acted as the Pope's assistant led Cardinal Sebastian into his office. Inside, he saw the priest sitting at a round table with another man in his mid-to-late thirties; someone he had never seen before. The man wasn't part of the Vatican clergy - he knew them all. At first glance, the man looked fit, healthy, and full of vigor. He would stand out in a group of old, grey-haired men, who looked as if every bone in their body ached. This man stood tall as he wore a well-fitted, Brioni Suit, which was black with red buttons. It instantly reminded the Cardinal of the Simar he was wearing, but sleek and modern. He was a bit jealous of the man's look.
The instance the Cardinal entered the room, the young man stood and walked towards the Cardinal with his hand extended out. "Cardinal Sebastian, it is my utmost pleasure to meet you!" The man was so nervous that he didn't even introduce himself.
The Cardinal smiled, reached out, and shook the man's hand. "The pleasure is mine." He didn't ask the man's name. It wasn't important unless the Pope deemed it important. Without hesitation, the Cardinal walked to the Pope, kneeled before him, and kissed the gold, crossed ring on his index finger.
The Pope quickly waved the Cardinal back to his feet and instantly introduced the two men. "Cardinal Sebastian, allow me to introduce Lieutenant Colonel Martinez, who comes to us from the United States Army."
"The military?” asks the Cardinal. "The Lieutenant Colonel is a Chaplin. But, he's also an experienced intelligence officer who has worked with the Vatican for over a decade." The Pope cleared his throat and looked at the Cardinal, suggesting with a nod, that this is a secret that should stay between the two. "Mr. Martinez has some information to share regarding the video we watched five days ago, which I'm sure you recall."
The Lieutenant Colonel quickly came to his feet and began speaking calmly, but with an authoritative tone. "Three weeks ago, we learned about a cult that was taking children and performing experiments on them. We intercepted a particular communique that we shared with the Vatican's Pontifical Swiss Guard's Security Forces. That message eventually made it to the Pope. After some consultation and several meetings, the Pope requested our support, which led to the recording of the video you watched with the Pope. The Cardinal simply nodded at the man and allowed him to continue. "We cannot allow this to happen any longer. To do so, we must do what hasn't been done in many years." The man paused as he saw the Cardinal tilt his head with a bit of confusion. The man asked the Cardinal for a few minutes to explain. "This phenomenon is a sort of possession, where a host acts out the wishes and commands of a demon. In this case, Demotretus, a sub lord of hell who attaches himself to children with a particular precondition. The last time we experienced this phenomenon, and it went unchecked, the British Empire conquered half the world. Like these children, six other children were allowed to grow unimpeded, and they eventually assumed positions of great power. These children, once adults, reigned terror upon humanity. By the time the Vatican recognized the threat, the British Empire had enveloped control over a quarter at the planet, and in their wake, millions perished."
The Cardinal thought that the man was crazy, but he couldn't say otherwise as the Pope nodded at every word that left the man's mouth. "What is it that you suggest we must do?"
The man looked at the Pope before responding. With a simple nod, the military man continued. "At the deepest level of Vatican City lies a portal. It is a portal that leads directly to the lair of the demon, Demotretus."
"A portal?" The Cardinal responded. "To hell? Here? In the Vatican?"
Before the Lieutenant Colonel could respond, the Pope did in his stead. "Yes, Cardinal Sebastian. A portal to hell. We shall take you to it within due time."
The Cardinal couldn't believe what he was hearing. He thought both men were mad! The Cardinal simply nodded and with forced calmness asked another question with forced tranquility. "Are you saying that I must enter this deep portal and kill this demon?"
"We cannot kill the demon! But we can stop it from influencing and controlling these children."
"What are we waiting for then?" the Cardinal said with hidden sarcasm. He still didn't believe a word out of the two. So, the Cardinal put on his politically staged courage. "We must go then. Now!"'
"You have to know something before we go. The mission is a one-way trip. Once we go in, we won't come back. Only a small few have returned. The Pope is the last one alive, who has gone in, and returned."
Cardinal Sebastian's face said it all as he looked at the Pope. The Pope nodded and said to the Cardinal. "I know this is hard to believe. I can read it all over your face and the way your hands are strangling your palms. I felt the same way when I was in your position many years ago and was briefed. Like you, I did not believe it, until I saw it myself. I promise you; I would not ask this of you if I could do this myself. But I am too old, my son."
The Cardinal simply kneeled and again and kissed the Pope's ring. "I will do as instructed, your holiness."Behind the Cardinal, the Lieutenant Colonel nodded to the Pope, and he continued. "We must do this quickly. Once we enter, we must find the souls of the children and free them, or the Earth will be doomed."
• • •
The Pope led the way down a long, empty corridor, which was surprisingly immaculate and beautiful. The hallways were hidden underneath the Vatican’s Basilica, an area that Cardinal Sebastian never knew existed. Secrets are almost impossible to keep in the Vatican, and he was surprised that he had heard never about even a syllable uttered about this place. Large copper sculptures of men and women, gilded in attire befitting a warrior, lined marble hallways reminiscent of the Taj Mahal or now abandoned Greek buildings. After a few hundred feet into the hallway, the marble floors turned into a deep red, which contrasted the white walls. The marbling on the red floor had an onyx flair that gave the hallway an eerie, gothic appeal.
Every few feet, the passageway got narrower and the gang of three could feel the declination increasing. With every step, they slowed down and relied on each other evermore. After two minutes of non-stop walking the team came to the first of thirty switchbacks that led to the bottom of the cavernous hallways. At the tenth switchback, three guards waited by a large steel gate, who quickly ushered the Pope and his two warriors without question. After twenty minutes of walking passing the guarded gate, another set of guards awaited - these though were heavily armed. Again, without question, the guards released locks, which were much larger and heavier than the previous. Before he let the three men through the shorter of the two guards spoke in broken English. "Gentlemen, before I can allow passage you must strip of your clothing. You must also don the following attire made of a material that will protect you from the menacing world that awaits you beyond this gate."
The Cardinal and the Army Chaplin looked at the Pope with concern growing in them. The Pope simply nodded requesting for the two to comply. Minutes later, the three men looked at each other as they wore medieval armor which was cladding their bodies. The Cardinal and Army Chaplin were instantly reminded of the men and women adorning the beautiful hallways they passed and thought that maybe their statues would line the walls in the future.
Upon reaching the end of the last switchback, the Pope stopped. "Before we get to the gate, I must give you each one of these." The Pope pulled a satchel from his armor and extracted two large necklaces, with crosses glimmering in jewels, unlike anything the two had ever laid eyes on. The shimmer from the necklaces seemed to be alive as they danced and hypnotized their senses.
"These necklaces, they are the only items known to man that will stop the demon's influence."
"What do we do with them?" the Cardinal asked, which was the same question on the Chaplin's mind.
"Upon passage beyond the gate, you must find the demon's home, and find where it is keeping the souls of the children. Upon their discovery, you must place the necklace around the necks of the children until their souls are released back to Earth. You will know this has transpired when their souls disappear."'
"How will we know where to find the demon and the children?"
"Upon passing the gates to hell, it won't take you long to find a small building; something akin to a family farm. It's the only building you'll find. Nothing else is around." The two men stared at each other and looked down at the necklaces in their hands. Their godly mission is starting to become reality, and an overwhelming fear started brewing in them, but they persisted.
With no other options, the two men nodded and bowed before the Pope one last time. With their gilded armor and necklaces protecting the two men, they walked the last few feet toward the unassuming gate.
A few steps passed the gate's threshold, and the men were blinded by a bright light more stunning than lightning in a desert night. It took only seconds for the dizzying effects of the sudden and brilliant light to subside, but the fear running within the two men was just getting started.
The two men found themselves on a grassy patch of land. At the center of the grassy knoll was a small, unassuming farmhouse - just as the Pope had described. The farm was surrounded by the thickest woods either of the men have ever encountered. The two men felt trapped by an impenetrable, fortress wall of green pine trees and other bushes they couldn't discern from one another. They could see that not a smidgen of light could wiggle through the interlacing lacing of the trees. If it wasn't for the gate behind them, the two would be trapped.
The two men swiveled their heads in all directions as they inched closer to the home. The Cardinal and the Army Chaplin could only imagine the horrors that awaited them, but what they saw as they neared the farm home left them dumbstruck. Every inch of the home was threatening. The fence, walls, roof, door were all constructed from human remains, hundreds of thousands of them. The fence was made of bones, specifically legs and arms. The off-white color of the bones and their arrangement made the fence look like a white-picked fence. The walls of the building too were a menacing sight. Femur bones, ribs, and skulls were all intricately placed like bricks. As they continued and neared the entrance to the home, they began to see that roof was constructed of layers, upon layers of human skin that were perfectly stitched together like roofing tiles. The door too consisted of human hair and pieces of scalp creating sinuous patterns of animals, people, and numerous other unknown beings being annihilated. The fear within them now peaked to new levels the two had never experienced. They felt drunk as adrenaline pumped through them harder and harder with every step they took.
Upon reaching the front porch to the home, the Cardinal did not wait and instantly grabbed the door's handle and pushed it open. He tried hard to control his gag reflexes, and his subconscious reaction, as his feet stepped into something that felt like sticky mud, but in fact was red, coagulated blood, with minuscule pieces of human remains strewn all around the floor. As the two men entered the home, they instantly saw numerous children huddled together at a table. They instantly recognized the children from the photos they examined at the Vatican. As they carefully walked closer to the children and examined each one of them, they realized it wasn't the children. What they were seeing was an apparition of the children, their souls. These were the souls the demon had captured and was controlling from the depths of his lair.
Continuing to examine the souls of the children, each of them was motionless, devoid of any humanity, and expression. The Cardinal and the Chaplin walked around the table and tried to touch each of them and see if any of them would react. The only reaction the two men got from the children's souls was their gazes. The children's eyes shimmered and glowed a petrifying yellow and red, and the eyes followed the two like a snake about to strike. The two men didn't want to be in that room any longer than they needed to be, so they both reached into their satchels and extracted the necklaces the Pope had provided. One by one, the two men placed the necklaces carefully on the children and watched as their bodies disappear into thin air.
After just a few minutes all the children’s souls were gone. The Cardinal looked at the Chaplin and exclaimed, "That was too easy. Not a single bit of resistance."
"I know, this is worrying me tremendously. Nothing is ever this easy." Not satisfied that they had done everything they needed to do, the two men decided to examine the home. Together, they checked every room in the seemingly abandoned home and found nothing but human decay.
"Let's get out of here, and return to the Vatican gate," the Chaplin said with a diminutive smile. Although in the back of his mind, he was reminded that few ever returned.
"Agree. There's no need for us to be here any longer."
With no hesitation in his step, the Chaplin turned to the door and pushed it open. He was ecstatic to return home in one piece. He too recalled the history of the marbled walls leading to the Vatican gate, where past warriors, who passed through Vatican Gate never returned. He did not wish to be one of those remembered, nor did the Cardinal. The Cardinal was looking forward to the extravagances that the church beseeched upon anyone in his stay.
The Chaplin quickly pushed past the door open and was the first one to step out of the home. The instant he did so, a force as tremendous as an earthquake struck the man. All the Cardinal saw was the Chaplin's body flying in the opposite direction of the door. The Cardinal was stunned, his mind was marred with confusion. After half a second, it was soon replaced with dread.
As his mind registered what had just transpired, a tall, menacing, beast-like man entered the room. The Cardinal's mind could not interpret what he was seeing. The imposing figure that stood over him had a body that was covered in black and red soot. The soot was the same below the Cardinal's feet - decaying human remains. The characteristic that stood out most to the Cardinal though was the beast's eyes. They were exactly like that of the two children. The beast's eyes glowed yellow and red. But unlike the children, this beast had struck at the men, and the Cardinal knew he was next.
With the beast approaching rapidly, the Cardinal reacted instinctively. His response was like that of a trained martial artist. His reaction seemed practiced. The Cardinal reached into his satchel and retrieved the necklace. The man wielded the glowing necklace as if it were a medieval flail. The man was hellbent on striking the beast that had pummeled his partner.
The beast reacted in kind to the Cardinal's action and bellowed a cry as it advanced. The Cardinal though had the jump on the beast and was the first to strike. The man of god swung the necklace and hit the beast in the mid-section. Just like the Chaplain who was beaten seconds previously, the demon flew back until it hit the wall.
Behind the Cardinal, the Chaplin was regaining his consciousness and coming back to life. Before the Cardinal could continue his attack on the beast, the beast grabbed the Cardinal with a claw-like limb and began squeezing the life out of him. Like the Chaplin though, the armor that the Cardinal wore was saving him from death's grip.
Seeing the Cardinal fight for his life, the Chaplin fought to get back to his feet and forged his way towards the beast with his necklace in hand. The Chaplin struck the beast repeatedly until it released its grip on the Cardinal. When the Cardinal hit the floor and came to his senses, he sprung into action and joined the Chaplin. The two men flailed on the beast with their necklaces until the demon, Demotreous, lay motionless. Although the two men finally felt safe, they did not know what impact their actions would have - this was not part of their plan.
"What have we done?" the Chaplain asked breathlessly as sweat poured from every inch of his body. "We were only supposed to free the children."
"We did what we had to do," he responded exasperatedly. "We must end this evil from afflicting humanity once and forever. Give me your necklace, Colonel. I'm going to end this one and for all." The Cardinal took both necklaces and placed them over the beast.
The Chaplin remained quiet as the implications of their actions were not understood.
The two men watched quietly for something to happen, but nothing changed. The demon simply laid motionless on the floor as the power of the two necklaces secured it to the ground. Little did they know, they had done more than harm than good. After what seemed like days of waiting and watching for the beast to come alive, nothing happened. The beast was secured for good. After some deliberation, the men decided to return to the gate.
Upon passing through the gate, which the Pope led them through earlier, they were surprised that the guards they encountered earlier were nowhere to be found. The gate was left unattended, abandoned. The two continued up the mazed hallway, away from Vatican's Gate.
As the two neared the ground floor, the two began to hear a commotion of noise. The two men hurried their pace to find out why no one was watching the gate and to investigate the noise.
Walking through the hallway and onto the normally bustling Basilica floor, they noticed that the chamber was riddled with dust. Almost every wall ornament was on the floor and broken. Beyond the walls of the Basilica, the two men could hear something akin to fireworks. The Army Chaplin knew otherwise. He knew the sounds were explosions. He remained quiet though until he knew for sure. There was no need to panic his colleague.
The two men found a locker room and changed into street clothes. The two men continued out of the Basilica and onto steps overlooking St. Pete's Square. Instead of seeing thousands of tourists, the Square was filled with men and women in uniform. All of them were fighting for their lives against an assailant the two men could discern as human, but they recognized as the demon they just subdued. Once again, the men were struck with dread and confusion. The two men of the church couldn't react to the sight before them - hell was on Earth. That's when two elderly gentlemen ran to them quickly and ushered them back into the Basilica. They two were taken into a secure room where a group of men surrounded the Pope, who was injured. The Pope was on his back and had numerous lacerations on his chest. When the Pope saw the two men enter the room, he pushed his physician aside.
With every bit of strength, the Pope struggled to whisper. "What have you done? The demon is loose upon the world replicating freely. He should not be here unless you placed the necklace on the demon. Is this your doing?"
Before the Cardinal could verbally acknowledge, his expression said it for him. "Yes, my Holiness. We placed the necklace upon the children, we did the same upon the demon. It attacked us. We defended ourselves."
"I instructed you to only save the children. You were to die and sacrifice yourself to the demon. It was a one-way mission. Because of your actions, you've granted the demon access to Earth. You must go back, remove the necklace and sacrifice yourself. Go now! Do not return."
Before the men could acknowledge the Pope's request, a group of guards grabbed the two men ad dragged the men to the gate - this time with no armor. At the gate, the guard pushed the men through the gate and locked the gate, preventing the men from returning.
Back on the farm and at the home, the two just escaped, they entered the home where the demon lay with the necklaces upon its neck. The Army Chaplin reached to the demon and removed one of the necklaces. The Cardinal followed suit.
Days later, after the violence had subsided on Earth, a guard from the Vatican passed through the Vatican gate once again. Like the Cardinal and the Chaplin, he wore special armor crafted by the Pope's special projects office. Upon passing hell's gate, he came across the simple farm home. Everything that surrounded his view astonished him, especially the impenetrable woods. As he got closer to the structure, he encountered what those before him had seen: the home of human remains. Unlike the Chaplin and the Cardinal though, he had no intention of entering the home. Instead, he would examine the farm home's exterior. He was looking for something very specific. After an hour or so searching, he found what he was looking for: the Chaplin at the Cardinal's bodies. The two men had been skinned and used as new layering for the roof. Also, two new sets of bones were carefully stacked by the fence, adding a show of strength and barbarity. After finding the bodies he looked for one last thing: the necklaces.
It wasn't long after he found the bodies that he located the shimmering artifacts belonging to the Papacy. Upon securing the two necklaces in his gold satchel, the guard began retreating back to the gate. Before he did so, he stopped to look inside the home. His curiosity had piqued. He wanted to lay eyes on the demon. The guard had felt the demon's menacing presence from the moment he passed through the gate's threshold. Through the filthy glass window, the demon flaunted the two new souls he had in his grasp: the Chaplin at the Cardinal.