Friday, January 29, 2010

RoboPope: The Prequel (Part Three)

“So what now, Your Majesty?” I asked eagerly. “Is the other man an impostor, then?”

“Of course he's an impostor! Damned good one, too. But now, I am going to go back to my chambers and try to figure out what to do. You are going to go back to wherever you came from,” he grumbled.

“But I can help!” I said, jumping up and down beside him. I could be the key to solving this mystery, I realized. A real mystery, with the Pope!

“I certainly don't need any more of your help. I can do very well on my own,” he huffed, and turned to walk away. His knee buckled, and he almost fell to the ground. I caught him. He grunted, and looked up at me. I smiled widely back at him. “I guess I'm a little stiff from the torture.”

“He TORTURED you??!” I practically screamed.

“ a manner of speaking,” the Pope muttered, and would say nothing more. It must have been very traumatic for him. I patted him on the back sympathetically, before I realized that this was the Pope. So I took his hand and gave him a deep, reverential kiss on his fingers.

“STOP THAT!” He pulled his hand away from my lips, looked at his shaking fingers in disgust, and wiped them on his robe.

Holding onto the Pope's elbow to help him walk, I eagerly asked, looking up and down the seemingly endless hallway, “So where do we go now?”

The Pope looked one way down the hallway, then the other. A flash of irritated confusion crossed his face for a few moments, before it settled resolutely into a look of determination. He lifted one shaky hand, and pointed majestically in front of him. “That way,” he said solemnly.

Decades later, it seemed, we arrived at a main intersection in the Vatican. The Pope had quite stubbornly insisted that he had never been lost at any point: he was just taking this opportunity to explore regions of his domain that he was not often able to visit. I decided not to point out that he had revisited certain empty rooms and hallways several times during our journey.

“Ah, finally,” he breathed as he saw his guards bustling about, along with various clergymen having what must have been truly grave discussions regarding the human soul.

“They won't lose the match. Not after I've sunk so much into it!” I heard a particularly wise-looking old clergyman say to his companion as they passed by us, apparently completely unaware of our presence.

“Fantastic. My minions are here. They will help me sort things out,” the Pope said gravely as he prepared to step out of our inadvertent hiding place.

Suddenly, the people parted ways as someone began coming down the hallway, accompanied by guards. It was the Pope Impostor! And everyone began bowing to him as he went by! The Real Pope started huffing and puffing at their mistaken adoration. I grabbed him just as he was about to confront the Pope Impostor.

“Wait! You can't just go out there!” I whispered fiercely.

“And why not? I'll solve this problem once and for all!” he argued. “I'll get that impostor thrown into the deepest, darkest cell of the secretest dungeon,” he growled.

“But how did he get in here in the first place?” I asked him as he took his first step back towards the main hallway.


“Well, either some of your guards are in on the plot, or he looks too much like you for anyone to be able to tell the difference,” I explained. “Either way, it may not be as easy as you think to just step out there and assert that you are the real Pope. Regardless, it will definitely cause a lot of chaos and confusion among your people.”

The Pope stepped back and squinted in my direction. He leaned in closer and stared at me, hard. “Good God. You're actually making a lot of sense.” He stood proudly upright, or at least as upright as he ever seemed to be able to manage. “Fine then. We will go to my chambers, and we can figure things out from there.”

“Oh, boy! Your chambers? Your real, private chambers?” I asked.

“Yes,” he grunted.

“Oh, I can't believe this! Can I take pictures and put them on my blog?”

“Of course you can't! How absurd!” he glowered.

“Can I at least see your ducky pajamas?” I asked shyly. His face darkened as he seemed to be swelling with a purple hue. Frightened, thinking he had somehow been poisoned, I leapt toward him to get whatever it was out of his throat.

“Get off of me!” he yelled, struggling with my arms around his waist, trying to pry himself free. “What in the world do you think you are doing??!”

“Saving you from choking on poison!” I explained.

“I wasn't choking and I wasn't poisoned!” he protested. I stepped away from him then, reluctantly releasing him from my hold.

“But you were turning purple!” His face began the whole process over again, and I opened my arms to rescue him, but he stopped me. He held out a hand.

“Get away from me, you foul beast.” The Pope turned and started walking back in a different direction. “God help me,” he muttered as he walked away, and I followed.

Monday, January 25, 2010

RoboPope: The Prequel (Part Two)

Hours later, I was exhausted. I had been wandering forever, it seemed. None of the doors or hallways seemed to actually lead anywhere, or even have a purpose. It just existed as a confusing mess of unused building, sprinkled with priceless treasures, jewels, and gold.

Finally, I realized I had to sit and rest. A wonderfully ornate trunk was just down the hall in a niche. It had what must have been a twelfth-century tapestry laid over it.

I plopped down on it, resting my tired feet. I smacked my lips together with thirst. I could really use some whisky, I decided. I must have also been hungry, because I heard a strange sound coming from my stomach. After feeling the trunk move beneath me, though, I discovered that it hadn't been my stomach at all.

Back on my feet, I stared down, puzzled, as the thing began to thump, and the tapestry to vibrate. I looked both ways down the hallway, though I hadn't seen anybody for at least an hour. Then I tentatively leaned forward and knocked back on the trunk lid. There was a pause in the noises, but then a rapid, insistent knocking proceeded from inside. I jumped back. Then, I slowly leaned forward, lifted the tapestry, and found a lock holding the trunk closed.

“Um,” I said, feeling foolish for talking to a trunk, “the top appears to be locked.” I heard muffled yelling. “What's that?” I asked, and put my ear closer. Again, the mumbling. “I really can't understand you.” I paused. “I'm afraid I'm just going to have to break this lock open so you can tell me.” I took the mumbled yell to be an agreement, so I looked up and down the hall to find a possible tool. Ah, perfect. Conveniently, there was a full suit of armor standing there, with a sword.

I grabbed the sword, raised it above the lock, and slammed it down. When I opened my eyes, I saw that it had missed the lock completely, but had made a nice, long slice along the tapestry.

“Oops,” I said, and sat down to think about the best way to go about opening it. Finally, I had it! I angled the sword hilt toward the lock, so that the rest of it was sitting on the ground, and, with one swift bonk, the lock cracked open!

I scrambled to open the lid and was surprised to find who was inside.

“It's you!” we both exclaimed at once.

“Hey, you're the Pope's—um—friend,” I said awkwardly, averting my gaze from the man who had been in the chair and had a remarkable resemblance to the Pope.

“Well, you're close,” he grunted, as be began to try to lift himself out of the trunk. I noticed then that he really was quite an old man. I took pity on him, and reached out to help him up.

Once he was standing, puffing for breath and red in the face, he tried to speak again. It took a couple of tries before it worked.

“You fool,” he spluttered, and I drew back, offended.

“I AM the Pope!” he blustered.

I stood staring at him in shock. Finally, I could speak.

“You poor, sick man, you. Now, tell me where you live, and we can find some nice people to help you there,” I said, as I patted him on the shoulder.

I thought he had already caught his breath at this point, but he started puffing out his cheeks and breathing erratically. His face went from a rosy pink to red, almost taking on shades of purple. Oh, God, I thought. This poor lunatic was going to burst! I stood and watched in fascination.

“THIS IS WHERE I LIVE!” he shouted out finally. “I'm the bloody Pope! Are all of you people so stupid?” He had started flapping his arms about.

“There's no need to be insulting, sir,” I said haughtily. “I saw you with the Pope. Therefore, you can't be the Pope. You understand?” I tried explaining to him.

“He's an impostor! That—THING—came in and tried to get rid of me, so he could take over,” the man blustered, still standing in the trunk.

I looked him in the eyes, and narrowed mine. It was time to pull out the big guns, I decided.

“He had the hat,” I said. “And you didn't,” I finished. There. I had done it.

“He threw mine in the stove when he captured me!” His voice shook as he said it. “That was my favorite one, too.” Tears were forming in his eyes, and his lip quivered. I watched as he tried to compose himself, and I started to have an inkling. He really did look remarkably like the Pope. The other Pope had just kind of roared at me when I commented on his hat. But this man...well, he was in tears about it. Maybe...

“All right,” I said suspiciously. “What's your favorite song?” He narrowed his eyes at me.

“Ave Maria, of course,” he answered disdainfully.

“Hmm...well, everyone knows that,” I said. I thought for a minute. “Okay. What are your favorite pajamas?”

He blustered again, offended. “How dare you! That is not an appropriate question!”

“So you don't know the answer?”

“How absurd! They're MY pajamas!”

“So then you know that you prefer your penguins?” I asked, leaning forward.

“Penguins! Bah! My duckies are far superior to any penguins,” he said quickly.

I stood and stared at him in awe. He hadn't fallen for my trick. And since I had bribed guards before to tell me all about the Pope's personal preferences, I knew the right answers. And he had gotten it right. That could mean only one thing.

“Your Highness!” I shouted, and bowed down. I heard grumbling, so I stood back up.

“It's about time,” he muttered. I stood there, staring at him and grinning. “Well, are you going to help me out of this thing or what?” he asked.

“Oh! Yes! Of course!” I said, and took the Holy Hand as I led his Holy Aching Body out of the trunk.

Inside Love

Inside love, you strive to find
humans uncovered, gentle sighs;
instead, leaves of vanity elude you,
opening underneath.
But here, understand:
Greatness, slippery, imbues love
in hearts,
not readily forsaken.
Inspired, lilting over veils enhanced,
your own understands:
here uphold grief, sadness;
here unearth grace, significance.