He had been warned, yet the sight before him threatened to break through his hardened defences. Calcifying drops of water ensured the starkness of the scene, moulding bones into wax-like effigies of their original owners. Melted screams showed on the faces of tormented statues and the young priest swallowed bile.
“How long...?” he could not finish.
“At least two centuries, we believe, but it could be longer.”
The young man stared hard at the local official.
“Impossible. Our records show that these people were buried here in the late nineteen thirties.”
The fat politician laughed and shook his head.
“Rumours, nothing more than rumours...”
His voice trailed off as the priest withdrew a wicked-looking dagger from with the confines of his habit.
“I was warned...”
“Ah,” responded the official, “but did they tell you the truth?”
Father Alfonso DiMatteo smiled for the first time; here his rage could be vented safely, the official had not disappointed. He raised the crucifix he held in his other hand and stepped forward. The official screamed in agony, his face beginning to blister.
“HOW COULD YOU KNOW?”
DiMatteo ignored the question, as he did the evidence of real possession; he had a job to do. Words steeped in centuries of faith fell from his lips, each one smashing into the demonic face contorted in pain before him. Smoke rose slowly from the confines of the official’s clothing and the young priest felt the exultation of victory.
The single word accompanied a massive blow to the side of his head, leaving DiMatteo helpless.
“YOU SHALL NOT HAVE HIM...”
DiMatteo felt excruciating pain as skin was pared from his bare legs.
“...BUT YOU WILL REMEMBER ME...”
No welcoming blackness enfolded him; he lived and breathed the cruel torture, as a new adversary carved his name and intentions into DiMatteo’s unwilling flesh.