He remained standing, holding the back of the visitor’s chair. Knowing the Cardinal as well as he did, he imagined he had cut a bit of the front legs, making the seemingly very comfortable leather seat much more unpleasant for the unknowing visitor. Before answering the question, he looked around the room. As always with the Church, he was pleasantly surprised by the mixture of ancient and modern: a medieval crucifix hung on a wall next to a 50” plasma screen; a renaissance bookshelf next to a printer. Old mixed with new; maybe they should take that perspective on certain rules in the Church as well?
He turned back towards the Cardinal, who looked at him expectantly, arms crossed over his chest, hiding the gold crucifix he had in a chain around his neck. But just as the Cardinal was about to repeat the question, he said:
“To be frank, I haven’t got a clue. I thought we’d banned them for at least a few years since we managed to close that last Gate?”
The Cardinal leaned forward and moved his arms towards the keyboard and mouse of the computer that had finished booting. Mumbling a non-audible reply, he started picking the keyboard and clicking the mouse in a slow but certain manner, finally managing to bring a picture onto the plasma, giving them both a chance to see what was there. What was displayed was a map of what seemed to be somewhere in northern Europe, his guess was Scandinavia based upon the weird looking city names and presence of squiggles over the o’s and a´s.
“You know perfectly well, Absalom, that this is a war that is never over.” The Cardinal said in a grave voice. “The Church has been fighting the powers of Darkness since the beginning, and we are only one part of the struggle. The Jews have fought for thousands of years longer than us and the Moslems struggle equally. We must be eternally vigilant, for the powers of Darkness always seek access.”
“So what you’re saying is that there’s a new Gate? A new place for the Demon hoards to enter the realm of mankind?” He said in hyperbole. “A new place for me to get covered in grime and goo, most of it hopefully not mine. Is that what you’re saying?” He wasn’t particularly pleased with this. He knew that whenever the Cardinal brought up ancient history and eternal vigilance, he had a trip to somewhere nasty in his near future.
“To be perfectly truthful, we’re not sure what we’re up against.” The Cardinal said
“Oh, how friggin grand!” Absalom spat out. This was going to get even better…
“We’ve received a disturbing report from the Bishop of Sweden,” the Cardinal went on. ”Apparently very strange things are taking place out in the southern countryside. Things we believe you are most suited to handling.”
“But why don’t you send out someone from the Clergy first?” He wondered. “There’s not much use in telling me to hope on a plane to… Stockholm? And then head out into the countryside looking for weird stuff to chop and grind. There has to be someone else who can confirm or deny this report.”
“Oh, yes there is,” was the reply. “Please take a look at this video we received along with the report.” That said, the Cardinal once again started clicking with the mouse and brought up a video on the plasma.
Absalom turned towards the plasma, not knowing what to expect from the video. What he did know, was that this had to be something special, especially since he hadn’t even been offered an espresso yet.
The video started mostly dark, with the only light fixture being the flashlight of the cameraman that didn’t really light up anything more than a few meters straight ahead. The setting seemed to be an untended meadow, long grass and small rocks abound on the ground. For a few minutes nothing much happened, mostly darkness, grass and rocks. All he could be sure of was that the cameraman was noticeably nervous, the camera shaking to and fro, making it very hard to see what was going on. Then all of a sudden they heard a moaning sound, coming from somewhere not too distant. A grunting moan; it sounded rather like a deer buck in heat, calling forth a challenger for the doe he wanted to mount. As the cameraman closed in on the sound he realized he’d been way off in his guess, for this was no deer. The moan sounded like something almost human, but the language escaped him. He turned with a quizzical look towards the Cardinal who only nodded towards the screen, insisting he keep on watching. The video moved still closer towards the moaning sound and he noticed the light had somewhat improved; the moon must’ve come out from behind the clouds. He saw what looked to be something bipedal stumbling about in the distance, much too small and skinny to be anything but a humanoid. As the video moved closer, the cameraman shook even more than before, and it suddenly struck him.
“Zombies!?” he burst out.
“Just keep watching,” the clergyman answered and yet again nodded towards the plasma.
The video had almost closed in on the humanoids and now there was no doubt in his mind that these were actually images of the living dead. The lowest form of undead that for some reason every Necromancer and Devil worshiper loved to bring forth upon God’s Earth. The video showed more and more of the creatures stumbling about on the field, but for some strange reason they hadn’t yet noticed the photographer. Then, all of a sudden, like a dog finding the smell of a treat, they turned towards the man taking the footage, and started out on a slow but lethal march towards him, always mumbling the same unintelligible word. Having been noticed, the cameraman started running frantically in the opposite direction with the camera bouncing up and down, mostly showing the ground, leaving the living dead in the distance. The last frames of the video pictured an old dented Volvo station wagon towards which the man was running.
With the video now complete, the plasma returned to the background image, displaying the Lord Savior hanging on the Cross. The Cardinal turned off the screen and rose from chair.
“What do you say we discuss this matter over a light lunch? I have recently come in possession of a really good Malvasia, it’s from a small vineyard not far from here.” Not waiting for a reply, he walked out of the office, expecting Absalom to follow.