Spring grew into summer over the heaps of metal and flesh that were known as cities, over the bare rock and soil that was known as earth. The people in New York noticed that the air had become warmer, and that was all. Some of them scarcely noticed that. But White knew and noticed. And now and then he returned from his visits across the river with a light on his face that was increasingly hard to conceal.
Autumn came. The patch of moist brown earth was now white with wheat that rippled like water to the slightest wind. It was a small patch; no one had seen it on land; no one could see it from the air.
One Restday White visited his plot early. When he returned at dusk he carried with him a small package of thin white wafers. He had cut down his wheat, beaten some of it into flour, mixed the flour with water, rolled the paste into flat strips, and had baked them quickly over a fire made out of the remaining wheat.
White was jubilant that night.
He spent most of his sleeping hours on his knees. But the next day was a solemn day for him. It was the day on which the IGW announced the capture and execution of the last known Christian.
White spent the half holiday on his knees in his vault.
All afternoon he could see in the streets far below him the steady stream of black-garbed slaves, marching in slow step like prisoners, endlessly marching, monotoning their dismal paean of triumph. All afternoon the dark chant, varied only by silence or the endless shuffling of heavy feet, rose to his ears. And all afternoon he stayed on his knees. Now and then, he would look out and up to where above the black metal towers and roofs the sky still shone a lucent, unbesmirched blue.
Night came. White did not go to bed. He unpacked a box he had brought with him from the country. It held clothes, shoes, some tools. In the bottom of it, wrapped in an old coat, was a large case. He went over its contents carefully. There were some robes, a shiny cup, two small bottles, a book, a slab of stone, some miscellaneous small boxes and metal pieces. He went over each carefully. He filled one of the bottles with water. The other was already filled with a dark red liquid. Then, he packed everything back carefully in the case and waited.
The city was as still as if death had stolen in and possessed it. White sat patiently through the night hours. The sky had a strange pallor, he thought, and there was a strange weight to the silence of the city. He did not know whether it forebode good or evil.
Two hours before dawn, he took up the case and made his way to the street. The streets were deserted. Always they were deserted at this hour as the slaves slept. But in the deserted dark of this night there was an unaccountable expectancy. The great masses of metal towered blackly upward, massed themselves hugely upward, as if threatening the stars. White walked quickly, a solitary speck of motion along the floors of the caverns of the monstrous city.
He reached the base of one giant structure that surpassed all others by a thousand feet, a memorial tower to one of the first masters of the IGW. He slipped into the only elevator and went hissing upward to the roof, a half mile above the earth. He locked the elevator at the roof so that it could not be summoned. Then, he set himself quickly to work. He changed his garments. In a few minutes, despite the dim starlight, he was done.
On top of that black tower of the devil in the kingdom of the Anti-Christ, after all those centuries of extermination, there stood a priest in amice and alb, maniple, chasuble, girdle and stole, heir in a noble line of Christ’s servants, clad in their symbols of chastity, charity, honor and faith. The figure of Christ’s cross lay on his back. The anointment of Christ was on his soul. Before him was his altar, his case topped with altar stone and missal and chalice. On it lay the corporal with the wafter he had made from the wheat he had grown. By it stood the two cruets of water and wine. He waited until first there was a streak of light across the east. Then he bowed down before his altar. In nome Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus sancti. Amen. The Mass had begun. He was keeping his promise to bring God back to earth.
The last Christian was a priest. Can you see that heroic figure in the twilight of the world saying Mass in the citadel of the Anti-Christ? Can you hear the Christe eleison as he cries it to the breaking skies of dawn? Can you catch the murmur of the Credo as the winds carry it to the ends of the earth? Can you see him turning with shining face as he gives his Dominus vobiscum to the empty cathedral of the morning?
And while he is making the sign of the cross over the wafer of bread, the powers of the Anti-Christ are gathering. He has been seen.
An early plane spied him as he bent over his altar in the first streaks of light. The warning has awakened the city.
Below grows a tumult of multitudes. The clangor of the alarms and the rumble of moving people rise to the top of the tower. But the priest does not hear. His soul is on his Mass.
The mobs surge about the base of the tower.
Veni sanctificator omnipotens, aeterne Deus. Come Thou Who makest holy, almighty and eternal God… He is beseeching the blessing of the Holy Spirit.
Two, three, four planes are circling above the tower. One drops a huge shell. It misses and goes hurtling down to the street. It crashes in the heart of the insane mob, annihilating a black square of them, shattering the steel walls, shaking the structures for a mile around. Another bomb falls. Another misses. And again, there are slaughter and destruction below…
But now the priest bows low over his altar. Qui pridie quam pateretur…. He begins the words of the consecration, the words that shall change the bread and wine of his altar into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
He approaches Christ’s own words at the Last Supper.
One plane is now low over the roof of the tower, so low that the crew can make out the figure of the Cross on the priest’s chasuble. A bomb is made ready…
And now the priest comes to the words that shall bring Christ to earth again. His head almost touches his altar: Hoc est enim corpus meum… This is indeed my body…
The bomb did not drop. No. No. There was a moment of awful silence. Then, a burst of light beside which day itself is dusk. Then, a trumpet peal, a single trumpet peal that shook the universe.
from Mr. Blue by Myles Connolly – CLICK HERE FOR PART I