I feel refreshed when I wake up. I’m hungry, but feeling better than I have since I was brought here. I relieve myself into the plastic pot, it feels wrong holding the container you have to piss into. The splash onto the hand holding the pot and the smell right under your nose is not the most pleasant thing to have first thing in the morning. Still, the feeling of relief once my bladder is drained makes up for it. After replacing the lid I lie back on the bed and ponder what little information the Friar gave me yesterday.
It seems obvious to me that he wants me to do something, the mention of redemption hints that there is something I can do to earn their forgiveness. If not his forgiveness then maybe from their God. Forgiveness as a concept has no real meaning for me, I would assume that one would have to feel guilt first.
The only other thing I can infer is that if they need me to do whatever it is they want, then that means they need my specialist talents. Maybe there’s someone else like me out there they need me to deal with. Fuck forgiveness, but a challenge, now that would be interesting.
I’ve lain there for maybe an hour before the door opens and Hammond motions me to empty the piss-pot. After emptying it I wash my hands and face and then follow him into the other room. The Friar is sat waiting for me, and a cooked breakfast is set out on the table, he invites me to eat. So I do and most delicious it is too. There is sausage, bacon, a couple of fried eggs and some baked beans, all washed down with a cup of sweet tea. When I’m finished, I lean back in the chair, satisfied.
Friar Francis hasn’t spoken a word while I was eating and when I have finished produces a packet of cigarettes from his robes. He lights one and then offers me the packet. I don’t normally smoke, not tobacco at any rate, but today I’m feeling indulgent. The smoke is harsh at first when I inhale, I almost choke, but I manage to suppress the cough and then just enjoy the acrid taste.
He begins the conversation by reminding me of the mission of his order, of how they protect the church and the wider world from people with unusual abilities.
People like me?
There it is again, that little smile. No, not quite like me he says. There are two kinds of people with power, those who are born with it and those who develop it. Anybody who takes the time and has the discipline can develop abilities, it’s not easy and takes years of devotion, but it can be learned.
I assume I was born with it, after all my mother never taught me anything about it. I pause for a moment, it’s been a very long time since I have thought about my mother.
He nods, but more in understanding than confirmation. There are those that are born with the gift, such people are rare and they have the natural ability to apply their mind to affect the world around them. Even though they are born with the natural ability to extend their mind beyond the confines of their body, it still takes training and effort to develop those powers.
Rarer still are the Champions. Only one Champion is born in each generation. Their power is immense, even without training they can bend those around them to their will. They are capable of feats unmatched by those with years of devoted training.
This time he nods in confirmation.
The Champions have existed as long as the church has existed, probably even longer. They each have a purpose, a destiny beyond that of a normal man. They exist for one purpose, the Celestial Conflict. For many years, the church and the opposition have searched out these Champions, to add them to their cause. Even without training they are capable of great deeds.
Although in recent years, with the smaller numbers of the faithful some Champions have gone unfound by either side and grow to develop their talents without guidance. Individuals like me.
Hold on, let’s back-up a bit. The Celestial Conflict? I ask.
Everyone knows the tale of the Eternal War. The war that was started by Lucifer’s sin of pride and defiance of God. The war that began long before mankind even existed. The war that tore the Heavenly Host in two saw Heaven turned into a battlefield until the Archangel Michael, as commander of God’s armies cast Lucifer and his legions into Hell..
The war that spread to the Earth after its creation, when Eve was tempted by Lucifer in the guise of a serpent. When she and her husband Adam gave into that temptation, they caused the fall of man. Here on Earth the war has continued throughout history and will continue to do so until the End of Days. The Apocalypse.
Well I’ve always known that people believe this stuff, but I’ve never met anyone who really believed it. I can’t see into his mind, but his very bearing I can see that he accepts what he has told me as fact. I don’t really know what to say, this is beyond anything I have ever experienced. I have seen many things, but nothing to indicate this eternal struggle happening on our world. My natural inclination is to mock him, to challenge these ridiculous beliefs. Instead I just ask, what has this to with me?
Throughout history the Champions are raised by one side or the other, battling good or evil to help bring the end times and the final battle. As a Champion I must choose a side.
I’m a little confused, I don’t see any choice. I am imprisoned, the only choice I have is forced upon me.
I’m favoured with that strange smile again. There is always a choice, you can choose to fight beside us. You can choose to return to your cell.
As I say, that’s not really a choice at all, but maybe there’s a choice within a choice. What is it you want me to do? To battle the Devil and all his minions? I can’t help but smile myself as I ask the question. It all seems to fanciful.
No, not Satan, or even his minions. Not yet. The church has a more immediate foe that needs to be dealt with.
That doesn’t make sense, you have just told me of this great war, a war that has lasted longer than history. The war that Champions are born to fight, what foe is greater than that?
He lights another cigarette, I join him. He asks me if I remember the cold war. Here was two great superpowers, each with enough firepower to annihilate all of mankind if they ever went to war. Heaven and Hell is in a similar predicament. Since the first battle they have skirmished for longer than the universe has existed, when the final battle comes, it will be one of annihilation. One side will win, the other be completely destroyed. Neither side is in a hurry to see that happen, so the war continues, but each side is careful not to push too far, to not trigger the Apocalypse.
As with the Cold War it wasn’t Russia that was the most dangerous to America. It was the believer’s, the fanatics that just wanted to see the other side destroyed and didn’t care if they died with them.
Like terrorists? I ask.
Indeed, he replies. We have faced a terrorist of our own for nearly two thousand years. A fanatic who will do anything to destroy the church. It’s not the Devil we want you to fight. We need you to kill one of Jesus’ greatest disciples, the very man he himself had raised from the dead.
We need you to kill Lazarus of Bethany.