Book III: Chapter 24
“What?” I blurted out – a bit too loud — after Miriam had just told me about Cardinal Marrollo’s seeming desire to destroy Dr. Ma’bus.
Immediately after my shout there was a knock at the door from the guards outside; one of them called in urgently, “Baron, is everything all right?”
“Yes, yes.? I ran to the door. “All is fine. Please, leave us alone for another minute or so.”
Turning back to my friends I hissed, “Finish the story, then we must leave.”
Miriam was now lost in thought so Alan took up the tale, “I don’t possess Miriam’s abilities, so I can’t vouch for what she saw in her mind. All I can say is there was something strange going on – as if we were part of History in Motion. Nevertheless, our Moment of Truth passed and suddenly Marrollo bolted out of the room – still carrying The Nail. But we hadn’t come all that way for him anyway – for the man we wanted was right before our eyes and finally we had him!
“Despite his flailing against us,” Alan continued, “Ma’bus wasn’t much of a physical opponent. The two of us overpowered him and drove him back towards the cross upon which Mystery was still hanging. Her blood rained down upon Ma’bus as we pinned him there – and yet, even then, I could tell he wasn’t really afraid of us.”
“Until we pulled out our Nails!” Miriam jumped in. “Then fear – true Primal FEAR – was suddenly evident in Ma’bus visage. It was as if, for the first time in eons, The Beast knew he was facing Destruction.”
“Ma’bus began to wail in some awful, guttural language,” Alan shuddered, “it was a dialect older than anything I had ever heard – Evil in every way. If I had to guess, I would say it dated back to Babel itself, or perhaps even earlier, say–“
“Alan, we’re getting off topic.” Miriam chided. “The bottom line is this — regardless of what Ma’bus was saying, suddenly he KNEW he was facing Death. But we didn’t give him any more time to think of a way out – instead, Alan and I plunged our Nails into his chest!”
“But… but… this doesn’t make sense?” I was angry that I couldn’t understand. “I just told you Ma’bus is out there now; I just saw him with my own eyes.” And then, asking a question I thought I would never ask, with my faith nearly faltering, I whispered, “Didn’t your…Nails have any…effect on him?”
“Of course they did.” Miriam advised. “Or at least, we all thought they did – Ma’bus included! Because when we drove our spikes into him, Ma’bus must have felt their <power>. His face became a mask of terror and he began to writhe so badly that Alan and I were driven backwards.”
After taking a moment to collect herself, Miriam continued. “Our Nails remained lodged within Ma’bus’ midsection even as he fell to the floor and continued convulsing! By now there was naught we could do but watch… and hope.”
“John, I tell you I really thought we had done it!” Alan agreed. “I thought we had finally destroyed The Beast!”
“Well, obviously not.” I muttered. “So what went wrong?”
“All of this happened so fast, mind you. But, like I said before, it was as if a Moment of Truth, a History Opportunity if you will, had come and gone, and alas the result was another escape for Ma’bus – for though we witnessed the demon fall, so too did we see him rise back up – in triumph.”
“It was awful.” Miriam lamented. “Even as we watched, Ma’bus rose, as if from the dead, and of a sudden, he bolted up, full of power, and showing his true face. John, there is no doubt he IS The Beast!”
“We both thought we were done for,” Alan added, “but at that very moment the door to the room burst open again, and Marrollo came barging back into the room.”
“Everything was still in slow motion except for Ma’bus.” Miriam labored, remembering, “As The Beast surged with power, our Nails that were lodged within him came bursting forth — they flew outwards, whizzing past our heads as we barely had time to duck.”
“And our nails slammed into Marrollo.” I surmised, as if seeing the scene unfold in my mind’s eye.
“How did you know?” Miriam gasped.
“It was inevitable, given the fabric of your story.” And trying to allay my fears with humor, “After all, I AM a writer, remember?”
“You are correct.” Alan replied. “Impaled with OUR nails, Marrollo slumped against the wall, even as Ma’bus’ guards surrounded us.”
“Suddenly we realized that it was WE who had failed.” Miriam lamented. “For we tried to kill Ma’bus with only TWO of the Nails and our Folly was to try to accomplish our mission in our own way instead of waiting for you to join us again.”
Even as she said these words, I felt my spine tingle – knowing that I was presently committing the same hasty sin. (Oh, Lord, forgive me. But what can I do now? I’m here, so I have to move forward right?)
“But that wasn’t the worst of it.” Alan broke my thoughts.
“Oh?” I asked.
“Worse than anything was hearing Ma’bus’ diabolical cackling.” Alan covered his ears at the memory. “It was triumphant, evil, and insane. And even as the palace guards apprehended us, Ma’bus stood there and kept laughing.”
“It was a sound I’ll never forget.” Miriam added, she too visibly shaken at the memory.
“Hehehehehahaha! Hehehehehahaha!” As if on cue, suddenly a cacophonous echo carried into the room through the door – a sound that caused all three of us to cower in fear!
“My God, that’s the laugh!” Alan gasped.
“Lord, save us!” Miriam’s face was white as snow.
<BOOM!> The door to the room burst inward.
“Hehehehehahaha! Hehehehehahaha!” Ma’bus’ laughter filled the room as he stood in the doorway, followed closely by Pope Benedict and my little friend Colonel McGubbins! “Hehehehehahaha! Hehehehehahaha!”
Even as that snitch McGubbins gloated over me, I knew my failure had more to do with my actions than his – although that knowledge didn’t make it any easier to see the little twit preening in delight.
Quite frankly I wanted to knock his block off.
And so the consequences of my sins continued…