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The Mausoleum of the Seraphim

Enzo descended the stairs down into the torch lit darkness below the church of the Brotherhood of the Seraphim. The darkness was enveloping, the only guides were the smoldering torches at the end of the passageway. There was something else was unsettling, some indescribable lingering s­­­mell. For a reason Enzo didn’t know, the induction into the order would be below the main church in chambers he had never seen. Hours ago, he had not even known it existed, none of his mentors had ever mentioned the buried complex. Now, he was descending to that subterranean interior to gain the full membership of the Brotherhood. Though, there was something unnerving about the ritual, why were the chambers he was descending to secret? The light grew brighter, but that odd smell, almost a stench, grew stronger.

When he reached the door at the end of the passage, a hooded Brother silently motioned for him to enter. Enzo stepped into a room with three hooded monks; it was empty of any other object. It was too dark to see who the figures were. Before Enzo could express any of his concerns, the center apparition spoke:

“Welcome Enzo, are you ready?”

“Yes Father.”

“You should know what you are about to see is going to be taxing, your faith will be tested.”

“Yes Father.”

“Very well, open the first door.”

As the monks began to walk towards the door, Enzo’s eyes scanned the first chamber. The building materials and methods contrasted the ornate church above. The walls were thick, a cold cyclopean arrangement of stone. The stones were seemingly piled haphazardly upon one another. It made the character of the room archaic, much more so than the church above, as if it was more ancient than Rome itself. Enzo brought his focus to bear as one of the monks opened the first door. The smell from before became even stronger now, it had seemingly gushed from the new opening. His nose recoiled in disgust, what could it be? The passageway was open now; he could see a single lamp made of ornate metalwork surrounded by black. He entered the room last, led by the small procession. He looked at the light, his guide. Something seemed strange about the hanging lamp. The metal segments were curved elegantly, but they gave him a feeling of disgust he couldn’t place, a sense of uneasiness.

One of the monks pulled a cup from his robes and lifted it towards the lamp. Pouring the oil in, the light was revitalized and brightened the room, but the dark almost seemed to rematerialize instantly. Not before Enzo saw them though, their faces laughing in the dark surrounded by what were once human bodies. There were robed skeletons in coffins of bone entombed around him; the feeling of panic hit him instantly. The lamp wasn’t crafted of metal, it was human bone.

“I can see the fear in your eyes Enzo, don’t be concerned, this is simply a short glance into the impermanent vista of death.


Whispered rumors of last winter came flooding into Enzo’s mind, the story of Father Tiberius. The Father was a quiet monk who, after a month of uncharacteristic fog by day and deep, black nights, had drenched himself in oil and set himself aflame. As he was incinerated, he was screamed of a demonic presence in the dark places of the church. Tiberius was old; his mind had drifted towards inanity, but suddenly Enzo could hear him in his mind’s eye. He could hear the sounds of Tiberius’ screams. As Tiberius screamed, the three monks centered themselves in the center of the chamber. Enzo realized the ground he stood on was uneven; the room was filled with dark earth. His eyes moved across the floor of the room and he recognized that crucifixes were surrounding them; they marked the graves of the dead. Looking upward, he saw an intricate pattern of bone curving across the walls and ceiling of the dark chamber. Layer upon layer of remains were arranged in a grotesque ornamentation, evoking a disgusting similarity to the detailing of an ornate cathedral. Shoulder blades were layered on one another, evoking an almost icthyic similarity to the scales of a fish. The protruding bones and the slouching ghouls were too close, almost grasping his cloak. Hundreds of skulls stared with black recesses for eyes out of the wall, eternally gazing. Enzo wished the figures and visages would keep their distance but he had no means to escape them. Recoiling backwards, Enzo felt even more laden by the dead and overpowering stench.

“This room represents the death Enzo, the death of you, of us, of humanity. But, it also represents undeath, a return to life.”

The cloaked figure motioned to a fresco behind him. Enzo saw Christ above a prostrated figure; Christ was languidly extending his arm above him. It was Lazarus; Christ was raising him from the dead.

“Christ has the power to cure us Enzo, to return us from death. These…men around us, your fellow Brothers, will not be as they are forever. They will be returned from death. Now come, there is more to witness.”

One of the flanking monks approached the next portal; its door was an imposing black metal, the like of which he had never seen. It almost seemed to absorb light itself. The slab of metal was covered in an ornate design; it was beautiful and at the same time distressing. The longer Enzo scrutinized it, the more mesmerizing it became. The pattern was unnatural, evoking an alien methodology of geometry. The frail-looking monk, almost a ghost of a man, turned the handle and effortlessly pulled the portal open. It opened silently, without protest. There was no outflow of the stench of death this time. Enzo trailed the shambling figures; he glanced at the new enclosure’s hanging lamp. It was a simple hanging lamp of metal, his gaze softened and he breathed easier.

“This room, Enzo, represents our gathering of the flock, our saving of them from an eternal anguish.”

He motioned to another fresco behind him. Mary and an infant Christ stood on a haze of clouds; monks, who extended their arms to the painted figures below, surrounded them.

“We are the guardians of the gate Enzo, the angels that will save the world. We make it possible for the unwary individual to have their life restored; this procession is a representation of that process. After death, comes undeath, and then…life eternal. Are you beginning to understand?”

“Yes Father.”

“I am glad, now we have deeper to go.”

The same monk approached the next portal, and once again the door glided open. This time, the same familiar stench came rushing from the blackness. Enzo’s mind reeled, what was the reason for this? The next room was supposed to be life eternal. He clenched his palms as his hands began to shake.

“Enzo, you should realize now that the Seraphim depart from the ordinary reading of Christianity. The mundane offerings of worldly possessions by the flock, which the Pope demands, are inconsequential to God. We offer our most valuable possessions to God: our minds and spirits, and as he offered his, our blood. This allows a continued reincarnation of our members into the world of the living to continue to spread our word.”

The monks removed their hoods, and Enzo flinched in disgust. Their faces were warped and worn by time and life in continuous darkness. They motioned to the three hooded skeletons standing behind them.

“Enzo, we are the Elders, the beings who have returned to life the most of any of the members of our Order, in pursuit of a holy reckoning. These three bodies here were our previous vessels. Come now, we go deeper.”

The next room was the same black hell as the last; but the new group of three hooded figures, which stood at the far end, wasn’t completely free of the shells its members wore in life. Dissolving flesh hung from their faces and exposed hands, which peered from the sleeves of their robes. As each room filled with death had been, two bodies were entombed at the sides and crucifixes littered the floor.

“You see Enzo, the monks entombed here gave us the necessary sacrifice to continue our lives and further increase our Holy power in our pursuit to become eternal Seraphim. As we are born again, we gain more spiritual power through the sacrifices. Eventually, we will be able to raise the dead and perform the other miracles of Christ. They received great honor in their gift Enzo, they will be rewarded when Christ returns.”

Enzo gritted his teeth. Were these men insane, spouting the inane scripture of a cult of addled lepers? Who could have created this dark secret? And who were these ghouls of undeath? Had they truly lived on for hundreds, maybe thousands of years? Or was this some insanity of diseased monks? Enzo’s will and his mind began to fail. He stared unsteadily ahead and discerned a symbol composed of bones above the mummified body in the center that looked like an hourglass. The half above had been bleached in acid, and the bottom was dark, it was full. Time was up, was Enzo’s time as well?

The procession continued into the next hollow, Enzo gazed into the chamber and realized this room was different. In the center of the far wall was a coat-of-arms encased in skulls, vertebrae and other osseous remains. At first Enzo thought it might be the Order’s wings of the Seraphim angels on the coat-of-arms, but instead he discerned two disembodied and mummified arms. One was in the sleeve of a monk’s robe while the other was bereft of any coverings. He looked to his sides, four monks flanked the shield of flesh on either side and there were more graves in this single room that he had seen until this point.

“This is the chamber dedicated to the monks who gave their lives for us Enzo, four thousand of them. As we grow in time and age we must consume more and more. We reach across death to one another, but for now, they remain here. Now one last room, before Judgment.”

The Elders opened the final portal and Enzo walked through the final threshold. The final pit was less exorbitant than the last. This time the floor was barren except for a single plaque. Nailed to the ceiling above the marble slab was a small skeleton, it looked as thought it was the skeleton of a child. It held a scythe in one hand and scales in the other. Was this the place of Judgment? Two more small skeletons centered in the enclosure of remains held up an empty platter of bone. It seemed that it was meant for something.

“These three small figures are our original bodies. We were killed ages ago to initiate the cycle of our endless rebirths and increasing power. The positions of the leaders were given to us then. We were chosen, as the most innocent, as children, to lead. Enzo, get on your knees.”

Now completely stricken and defeated by the incomprehensible horror he was witnessing, Enzo fell to his knees on the marble slab. He could see the stains of blood left from victims before him.

“Yes Father.”

“Now Enzo, you will either join us in protecting this Order and continuing our chain of renewed life, or your blood will contribute to the next cycle of our rebirth. Either path you elect, your choice will benefit us.”

“Father, I would rather die.”

One of the Elders deliberately clawed a dark blade from his cloak. The blade was twisted and dull, it shone spitefully in the dark. He began to shamble towards Enzo, but Enzo suddenly rose with force and brought himself to bear on the creature. Finally, he spoke with presence:

“Elders, I will have you know that you are heretics and have forfeited life. I am Cardinal Leon Sforza of the Inquisition. Your black practices have condemned you.”

The door behind Leon burst open and the final chamber filled with light.

Alex glanced casually around the final room of the Crypt of the Seraphim Monks. He read the plaque attributing the skeletal ornamentation of the crypt to the hope of the monks to praise God through their bodies, as the Order was too poor to afford an ornate mausoleum. At the far end of the room, held up by two small skeletons, was a skull. The skull was different from the rest, as if it had a regal, proud expression. Hmm, as if skulls could have expressions… He still had a half hour to burn before he met the tour group, how could he distract himself? He looked to his right, there was another door at the end of the passage, inspiring the thought:

“Did the passageway continue? Why was it closed?”

The woman who gathered donations at the door was a distance away, it was likely he could sneak in. Her dry humor had annoyed him anyway, what could she do, kick him out? Alex tugged at the handle of the door and, oddly enough, it was unlocked. He opened it slowly, cautiously. There was a staircase leading down into a dark passage.

“What the hell, why not?”

He slipped through the doorway and descended the stairs quickly. He came to a black metal door; something about the door was strange. The pattern on its face was hypnotizing, but he couldn’t place why. Again, he reached for the handle and once again, it opened. A gust of musty outflow oppressed his nose; it was an odd, acrid smell. He walked into the dimly lit room and glanced around, his eyes adjusting to the dark. His eyes widened as he noticed a robed and hooded figure at the other end of the chamber, an apparition of a man. The ghoul cackled as the door slammed shut behind Alex.

“What you are, we once were. What we are, you shall be.”