Morbus Dei: The Arrival
Morbus Dei: The Arrival
In occulto vivunt.
The black ink sank into the parchment so that the full stop at the end of the sentence began to run. The scribe hurriedly blotted the ink, and then leaned back and closed his eyes.
They live in hiding.
The bare room in which he was sitting was scarcely lit by a few meagre candles. Everything was suffused with a deep stillness, save for the shadows of the flickering candles that danced relentlessly on the crudely whitewashed stone walls.
'Gratia, you can go now'. The crouching female figure stood up, hurriedly pulled up her coarse hood and hastened out of the room. The wooden door closed heavily behind her.
Wrapped in his own thoughts, the scribe took a gulp of red wine and stared into the darkness. How much time did he have left to chronicle the unspoken? How much longer would they be borne on sufferance? He put down his quill beside the inkwell and cast his eyes over the last entries of his chronicle. The Latin text was interspersed with illustrations depicting faces, hands and teeth, all of them horribly disfigured, marking the steady progression of disease ...
The further he turned back the pages, the less pronounced the signs of the disease. He shook his head thoughtfully, then took up his quill again.
Just as he was about to dip it into the ink, a loud crash came from behind the massive wooden door.
The scribe's blood ran cold.
He could hear scraps of conversation, women and children crying, men shouting, their voices getting louder.
The hour had come.
The scribe closed his eyes and breathed out wearily. It had all been to no avail-the worst had come to pass. He turned to the most recent entry in his chronicle and dated it: November A.D. 1647 . Then he put down his quill beside the mound of candle wax and closed the ornate, leather-bound book. The old man knew that henceforth nothing would ever be the same again.
He could hear footsteps approaching, menacing footsteps, and then the door was wrenched open.
A gust of cold wind blew out all the candles in the room.
Anno Domini 1703
Johann List had bashed his face hard and was lying in the mud, motionless. Blood from the gash dripped down over his eyes and mingled with the dirty water in which he had landed. His head hurt and things around him seemed muffled as they were swathed in a fog-the howling of the storm, the rain pelting down on his body, footsteps coming closer. Then everything became blurred and he closed his eyes ...
Don't let yourself be cornered.
Johann listened to the voice inside his head as he had done so many times before in his life. With an effort, he rolled himself over onto his back.
Scarcely discernible in the pouring rain and the gleams of lightning was a figure standing over him, menacingly. The figure bent down towards him. Johann recognized the weasel-like face of the farmer he had lodged with for a few nights-and who had now just attacked him unawares with such cunning. Fury seized him at the thought of what had happened. He clenched his hands in the mud and painfully lifted himself up from the ground. The farmer grinned, then laid into him, pummelling Johann with blows.
Darkness descended on Johann.
The farmer kneeled over the unconscious man and searched his pockets with quick, practised fingers, his eyes sweeping over his victim's lifeless face again and again to see if he was stirring. Suddenly he paused; carefully he pulled an object out of Johann's trouser pocket. It was a knife, but not any old knife: from the fine silver chasing and the pristine blade it was clear that it had meant more to its owner than just a common or garden utensil.
'From now on you belong to me ...' he whispered reverently.
'No it doesn'