“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.
“Well...yes...in 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.