A Canticle on Gadarene
The twin moons were at apogee. Yet their outlines filled the hole in the adobe which served as a window.
'The canticle is … incomplete, Archbishop.'
His Excellency Archbishop in Partibus (infidelium) of Gadarene and Panoplius, Jose-Maria Farfan de Vera Cruz Santiago, picked at the folds of his pallium,
'As are most from the First Church, Brother Cayetano. It does not matter. We will sing it before the converts of Gadarene as though we were in the Holy See of Rome.'
'Rome? What does that mean? Rome is gone. The First Church remains only in scraps and fragments of Ladino or Greque.' Cayetano gestured at the other chair in the mud-walled vestry.
'Sit, Cayetano, sit.'
The monk pinched the bridge of his nose, but said nothing.
The Archbishop leaned towards his oldest friend, as far as his robes would allow.
'I'll be back in ten years. I've only to visit the Arcturian Dioceses and then we'll both go home.'
'Home? Buenas Aguas? I can't even remember the colour of the sky.'
'All skies are one. Pablo's Letter to the Velocitans, chapter IV, verse 19.'
The monk snorted and wiped the mucous from his beard with his homespun sleeve.
'They say Pablo was a space pirate named Salvi. I've read Las Vidas De Los Santos.'
'Some things must be kept from the believers. We drew up the Index Librorum Prohibitorum in good faith.'
'And there were some good things to read; remember Enrique Molinero? Tropicum Cancri.'
A smile almost reached the Archbishop's lips.
'Which book in the Vulgata provided the basis for the canticle?'
'Dios! A litany of trite and outdated advice? Is it long?'
'As I said, Your Excellency, it is unfinished.'
'Thank the all the stars in the heavens for this smallest of mercies.'
The men were not young. The prelate was stout and florid, the monk wiry and bent. The slimmer man slid to his knees.
'Will you take my confession, before the Mass?'
'What sins might you have committed here on Gadarene?'
'I have sinned in my heart.'
'Who has not?'
'And with the Gadarene named Succuba,' the monk said.
'Go forth and sin no more, my friend.'
'With what penance.'
'Ut omnia tempus habent...'
'To everything a season? Spare me, Your excellency.'
'Jose-Maria, until we meet the crowds, vale?'
Both men stood, one weighed down by bulk, the other stiff in joint and sinew.
'Shall we go out into the cathedral, my friend.'
The monk nodded and opened the crude assembly of planks that passed for the door to the cathedral.
The wall of mud and wooden pillars encircled the crowd of Gadarenes. The cathedral was open to the stars. The choir was already singing the unfinished canticle,
'Let the righteous have abundant food,
a bribe is a charm to the one who gives it,
he who hates bribes will live...'
Cayetano noted that the Archbishop rolled his eyes a little before whispering,
'I hope we get to the exorcism soon.'
Both men looked at Succuba the Gadarene bound before the stone slab of the altar.
Cayetano whispered to himself,
'...and if we had brought science, instead?'