Excerpt for Devil's Spinner by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

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Copyright © 2018 by Trent Brodsky

Smashwords Edition

All rights reserved.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.



Chapter 1: The First Spin

Chapter 2: Harras, Harassed

Chapter 3: The Hum of Things to Come

Chapter 4: Forgive Me, Father, for I Have Sinned

Chapter 5: Did You Call the Plumber?

Chapter 6: Feel Free to Conform

Chapter 7: Good Time to Pick One’s Brain

Chapter 8: Domestic Assault

Chapter 9: Parasites

Chapter 10: Explosive Revelations

Chapter 11: Nobody’s Home

Chapter 12: The Calm Before the Storm

Chapter 13: The Storm

Chapter 14: A Chance Meeting

Chapter 15: The Room with No Windows

Chapter 16: The Distinguished Guest Arrives

Chapter 17: Into the Concentration Camp


Chapter 18: Schadenfreude, or: Fish in a Barrel

Chapter 19: Let Me Give You a Hand

Chapter 20: The Wreckage

Chapter 21: Into the Unexpected Enemy’s Lair

Chapter 22: Teenage Mutant Ninja Youngblood

Chapter 23: The Bi-Coming

Author’s Afterward



27 January 1945

It was an ordinarily gloomy morning. The screams of tortured souls echoed through the various halls of the main brick-clad building. The sobbing of the dying, the gasps of the living. The halls themselves were empty, barren—quite fitting for a place such as this. One of them, however, was not.

A man with a monocle around a particularly inquisitive eye was standing firmly near the northern wall. Outfitted in a brown uniform and looking curiously and alternately at the charts in his hands and at the schemes of unknown origin in a frame plastered to the wall, the monocle-wearing man felt a cold touch of a leather glove on his shoulder.

“I hert zat your recent ‘projekt’ ist not goink too vell, ja?” he heard from behind. When the man turned around, the figure in all leather was caught by his nervous gaze. It was partly obscured by shadows. The figure’s voice was of an exquisite Austrian descent, and also gloating.

The man in the brown uniform gulped. “Quite zee kontrary, Obersturmbannführer Schrechenbachen,” he finally forced himself to move his ever so slightly trembling lips. “Das ist goink remarkably vell.”

“Oh ja?” Obersturmbannführer Schrechenbachen’s stern face drastically changed, as if becoming welcoming. This new look felt eerily out of place on its dry hardened skin.

The other man continued, now with traces of hubris just barely noticeable in his voice, “In vakt, zee vill of zee lasht batsch’s tezt subjektz vas at an all-time lov ant broken in an extraordinary schort shpan of time. If I do sayen so myselv, vee are on zee verge of a breakzru.”

“Ooh, zat ist gut to hear.” His leather-gloved finger automatically scratched the area where his moustache would be had he had moustache. “Surprisingly gut newz, jawohl.” A glint of pride in his Nazi eyes. “Perhaps I vill tellen zee Führer zat ven I next see him.”

The other man straightened his back, as if standing at attention. “All I kut efer hope vas zat zee Führer vut be pleast.” A tear covered his monocle-less eye.

“Ja, ja.” Obersturmbannführer Schrechenbachen finally walked out of the shadows—even more formidable this way. “Das ist fery gut, Herr Mengele.”

Doktor Mengele,” the man corrected him. “Doktor Josef Mengele.”

“Ja, ja…” he gave him a look, “I knov.”

A loud bang blew up the wall they were standing in front of, and a cannonball smashed the officer’s head clean off in an instant. The Obersturmbannführer’s headless body flung its arms up and instinctively touched the bloodied torn flesh at the neck. The neck was spurting blood, painting the physician’s face red.

Josef Mengele’s twitching ears took in ceaseless gunshots of various intensity, screams of agony, shrieks of confusion, defiant war cries, and other loud bangs while he wiped his face with a handkerchief.

Doctor Mengele looked at the spazzing corpse, then on the cannonball, still rolling back and forth in the officer’s immediate vicinity. Gory bits covered its metallic roundness. Something caught his eye.

“OH NEIN!” he exclaimed, seeing a crudely painted penis on the dark surface of the ball. Its testicles were covered in sporadic hairs. “Zee Russianz!”

Seconds later, he heard clicks and clanks of Kalashnikov rifles’ bolts being pulled back all around him. Doctor was surrounded by the Red Army soldiers. They looked mean and tough, scorn and justified hate on their pale faces, but, strangely, still hadn’t fired their cocked weapons at him.

Mengele couldn’t believe his eyes: his monocle dropped to the ground, shattering to itsy bits in an instance. His jaw went agape.

A mustached man in an unusual uniform—Generalissimo uniform—slowly appeared from the shadows further down the hall and put a smoking pipe into his mouth. His mustache moved, “I tink we need to tok.”

— 1 —

The boy’s face was nonresponsive. Eyes focused.

From an early age, Jamie Cotton was withdrawn, secretive, weird. “Weirdo!” they called him. “Weird weirdo!” they tried to hurt him.

He tried to eat a math test once.

Still, some kids were sycophantic towards him: dreamy blue eyes, blond hair ready to be tousled; but he didn’t quite get why they were acting that way—a little too friendly—so it always felt weird to be around them. Plus they were mostly girls—that made it doubly weird.

The only people Jamie confided in were his parents and grandpa. And when he did, he was kind and empathic.

His marks at school were good. He didn’t get in trouble. Sure, he played video games once in a while, but he didn’t get violent urges from them like most people do. He was a straight arrow. Straightest arrow in his class. A good life was ahead of him.

All of that changed when he got a present—something that seemed to be just an innocuous “toy” at first…

Now, he was sitting near the window in his locked bedroom, looking at the clear skies, but not really—he was looking through them. Face nonresponsive. Eyes focused. His left hand, jerking faintly up and down, had the particular item in it… a fidget spinner.

What was even more terrifying is it was spinning.

— 2 —

The man’s face was sturdy. Eyes confused.

From an early age, Father Harras wanted to belong. It was always hard. When he was growing up on the cruel streets of Bronx, his friend used to say, “In this life, there’s only your nuts and your balls. And you break neither, you dig?” He never quite understood it. Until now.

Father Harras was absorbing the moving picture on the plasma TV screen in the green room. A set of female lips was warning him and the rest of the local Washington viewers of incoming unrest, sweeping the nation and, by extension, the world. It was nothing new.

“…the prospects of nuclear war with North Korea become more and more apparent and almost a certainty.” The somber tone of her voice was captivating. “Now, get us through the weather, John,” the newscaster smiled, and a weather map along with a grinning chubby forecaster appeared on the flat screen.

“Goddamn fools,” the man of faith whispered, swishing a drop of sweat off his tired wrinkled brow—almost bitterly, but rather sympathetically. “Sorry, JC,” he asked of a wooden crucifix above the door frame and returned to the TV. “You don’t even have the slightest of what’s coming.” His mouth hurried to kiss a whiskey flask in his withered hand, and his face hurried to gurn on account of that.

Father Harras came to the light: his priest-like getup, black and somewhat cumbersome, was met with an early-August sun, a white collar squeezing his neck gently but tightly. As the front door of the church closed behind his slumped figure, he squinted, not expecting how bright it was outside. Bright and hot.

“Father Harras!” a young voice called him by name, much to Harras’ surprise and chagrin. “What about your coffee? Sir?” It was a handsome thirty-something fellow in an outfit similar to Harras’, with the exception of a few creases and general wear and tear identical even. He was holding two Starbucks cups.

“What?” When Harras’ eyes noticed the cup the priest apprentice was extending towards him, the latter barked in short bursts, “Yes. Throw it away.”

“Father…” the concerned youth began, “if you don’t mind me asking… is something wrong?”

“Do you know what’s in this letter?” A rectangular yellow envelope—fine Italics written all over it—held high in Harras’ sweating hand.

“No, Father,” the youngster positively shook his head.

“Come with me,” came a terse command.

The faces of two priests were painted by bright neon lights. Harras adjusted his elbows lying on the surface of a faux wood table. His apprentice nervously gulped.

“How are you doing this evening, fine gentlemen?” came from the waiter with a notebook and a pencil ready in his hands.

Clearly befuddled by the question, Harras could only say, “Um... okay, I guess…” before he followed it with, “why?”

“Are you ready to order?” the waiter continued with the pleasantries.

“Oh yeah… coffee,” Harras hastily waved it aside. The matter at hand couldn’t tolerate any further delay.

“Hmm. Two coffees coming right at you.” He tried to walk away, yet had stopped and lingered. From the look on his face, the waiter clearly had a hard time saying what he was about to say, “Guys, I don’t want to seem like an asshole… I mean, I like role-playing myself, but that,” he pointed at their matching outfits, “is just a bit much. Just saying.”

As he walked away, they exchanged brief uncomfortable looks.

Father Harras hit the table with the envelope. “Read it.”

His apprentice, George Youngblood, took it, his lips started moving. He lifted his expanding eyes. He couldn’t believe where it came from. “Vatican?”

“Keep reading.”

Youngblood’s shaking hands took a piece of paper out of the yellow container, akin to a holy relic. The handwriting stroke him as smooth—too smooth. In black and white, the letter said:

Dear Father Harras,

It is with a heavy heart I am extremely sad and distressed to inform you that your initial suspicions were, in fact, correct.

Sustained first casualties. Holy network appears to be compromised. Cannot tell you more through this channel as it is unsecure.

You have full authority to do whatever’s necessary. May the power of God be with you in tribulations yet to come.


P.S.: We should’ve listened to you from the start. Perhaps your relocation is proving to be a part of Lord’s plan after all.

When George finished reading, Harras looked him straight in the eye and offered no nonsense, “I’m afraid this is what Lord had in store for us. This is our mission now.” His index finger tapped the exposed letter anxiously.

The apprentice nodded, visibly phased by the revelations that were thrust upon him. “But Father…” he whispered, “why are we conversing about this in a gay bar?”

“It’s one of the few safe places still left around this Godforsaken Earth.” The young priest’s eyes became rounder as he crossed himself. Harras, habitually, made the sign of the cross, too. “It was either this place or a synagogue.”

“Eww…” he let out unintentionally.

“Besides, the forces we’re up against will never try to actually recruit…” A strange humming pierced Harras’ skull—the penetrating sound started torturing his brain. Through the pain, he glanced to his left: a young man sitting at a nearby table was holding the very thing that made those humming noises vibrating through the air and making the priest dizzy and sick. A fidget spinner. Spinning. “I was wrong!” Harras blurted out, his face a colorless mess. The torture of a feeling was hard to bear, unbearable. He almost couldn’t breathe, gasping. He jumped on his feet and zigzagged to the young man with the fidget spinner between a thumb and a middle finger. “YOU SPAWN OF SATAN!” The young man did not respond. In fact, by the looks of his chiseled self, he didn’t even hear Harras. So the priest did the only reasonable thing he could think of at the moment, grabbing him by the sleeves and violently shaking him. “HOW DARE YOU TO COME IN THIS HOLY PLACE?!” Like before, it granted no response or acknowledgement. Absolutely none.

“Dude, I think you’re being a little confused,” a man behind another table told him.

“LIKE HELL I AM!” the priest protested, accosting the nonresponsive spinnerer.

Youngblood’s eyes became so wide, there was seemingly no color in them except white.

Two bouncers grabbed the cursing Harras by arms and legs, drearily carrying him away in a monotonous fashion. Strangely, his silent “victim” hadn’t moved still. The spinner in his unmoving hand kept spinning.

— 3 —

Being a fifteen-year-old is never easy. Jamie Cotton woke up without such a drab feeling. He had been also added to the ranks of fifteen-year-olds now, but he didn’t feel a thing. At least, his face didn’t show any such emotion of inevitability, or anything else. As soon as his eyes were open, the low humming noise of an operating spinner was heard.

Jamie seemingly ignored his bickering parents when they both turned their attention to him, proclaiming he was going to die if he didn’t eat his breakfast, that they would disown him, things like that. He was silent then. He was silent in the car when his father was dropping him off at the school. He was silent in the Math class. Low humming of his white spinner with gold rims. He was silent in the Philosophy class. He was spinning. And he was not the only one.

“So what did Aristotle say to his numerous detractors after his ‘Civil Roman Agricultural Postulate’ incited a civil war?” asked a soft-spoken teacher of a gentle age of thirty-five, scribbling something on a blackboard with a piece of chalk in her nimble hand. She had her messy hair in a bun—a few strands had gotten out of it and were now blocking her peripheral vision—and big, ugly glasses on. Strangely, it made her face look beautiful in comparison. After she had finished writing and asking the question simultaneously, she looked behind—at the silent class—confused. “Any— anyone?”

No one. Nobody responded. But the unison humming all around was suddenly deafening to her ears.

“Lizzy?” Anxiety had started to chain the floating rock of her conscience to the anchor of immense weight, dragging it under. “S-Sam?” Sweat permeated all the way through her. “Jamie?”

Nobody responded.

The unsightly sight of dozens of spinners—all spinning—made her head spin, too. “Guys?!” She grabbed her head, as if it was about to burst, and, then, let out a shrill shriek of disquieting agony.

There was barely any sound at the cafeteria. It was… motionless.

Hundreds of children of all ages, stuck in perpetuity with their hands holding—operating fidget spinners, blank expressions taking over their faces, staring forward but at nothing. They weren’t eating.

Two cooks were watching them from afar, in awe. A pudgy woman, the chef, leaned on the counter and told the other one, “I haven’t seen the cafeteria this silent since… never.”

Finally, Jamie’s spinner was at such low RPMs that it slowly stopped. He flicked it back in motion.

— 4 —

The sun was down. And so was Harras. Thrown into the dirty alleyway, face disturbing a shallow puddle of dirt. Two bouncers rubbed their hands together, individually, as if washing all the guilt off of them. Youngblood was standing beside the guards, unharmed.

“Father Harras, are you alright?” he inquired fearfully for he wasn’t moving.

“I’m not a homophobe!” his unkempt mentor was quick to respond, lying in the puddle face-first, bubbles rising from the water around his mouth.

“Yeah, sure,” a nonchalant bouncer agreed.

“I’m so sorry about this,” Youngblood whispered to him, eyes full of remorse and sympathy.

“Yeah, whatever.” The bouncer adjusted his shades. “He’s the fifth this week.”

When he disappeared into the back alley exit, the other bouncer, who intentionally lingered, looked at Harras before also going back in, uttering briefly, “Forgive me, Father.”

For a few minutes, Youngblood was patiently waiting in silence.

A few newspaper pages flew by, there was something about the dangers of upcoming occultation in one of them, Youngblood couldn’t tell.

Harras rolled over unto his elbow. “At first, they show signs of mild interest. A little after that, they become consumed by it. It becomes all they could think of. Then, they become almost catatonic. After that, all they can do is—” Suddenly, he interrupted himself, “I’m sure you’ve noticed that man in the bar.”

“What man?”

“With a… spinner,” Harras annunciated ominously.

Youngblood firmly nodded.

“Well, this… this is just the beginning. Soon, it will be much, much worse. A disastrous event the humanity has never seen.”

Youngblood rubbed his left temple, feeling as it was pulsing all out of whack.

“And we, Youngblood, were given the responsibility to avert that catastrophe.” The priest’s voice was beyond solemn.

Somewhere in the distance, the sirens of a police car became distinct. Soon, they were destined to grow fainter and completely vanish. As they did, George Youngblood and Father Harras were exchanging tense, uneasy—and sometimes uncomfortable—glances.

“Forgive me for asking, but how do you know this?” the apprentice finally asked.

“Where are we, Youngblood?” Harras answered with a question, utilizing a tired tone.

“Back alley behind a gay bar,” the perplexed young man of faith answered. “You sure you didn’t hit you head, sir?”

“Think broader.”

“The United States?”

“Not that broad.”


Washington,” Harras repeated decidedly.

“Father… is that supposed to mean something? Is that a clue?”

Something was in his eyes as he deliberately stalled. Something like compassion. “You’ll learn soon enough. And when you do, you’ll wish you didn’t.” He sighed. “But first, let’s get out of here. We’ve wasted enough time as it is.”

Youngblood crouched, offering Harras a friendly hand, and looked around—the backdoor of the gay bar catching his eyes. “I suggest we keep this out of the report.”

— 5 —

If just eight months ago somebody told Senator Clarence Limbtick how upside down his life, allegiances and agenda would be in such a near future, he would punch them in the face. Yet, here he was, inside a badly lit parking garage, awaiting for somebody to spring out of the shadows. It wasn’t even a foe that was supposed to do that, no, that wasn’t the part that scared him. Or scared him the most. “First you leak, then you’re licked,” his father and his father’s father both used to tell each other and him when he was just trying out the murky waters of politics back in the ’80s. A lot of time has passed since then, a lot of questionable shit that he wished to forget. However, he was always remembering that silly adage his ancestors manufactured as a byproduct of being a political dynasty. “First you leak, then you’re licked,” Clarence muttered through his teeth, awkwardly hiding behind a red Lamborghini Diablo, his neck unnaturally shifting when he was constantly looking over his shoulders. Not a sound on the second level of the parking garage. Not a soul. Not a peep. I wish I didn’t make a peep… And he didn’t. He hadn’t. Not before. Not when morality came a-knocking through a thick skull of his, not when people were harmed when he was lobbying for the changes to accommodate some corporate interests, but this… This took precedence. He started getting bald, for God’s sake. The top of his head became dangerously naked in such a short span of time—just in eight months! So much was at stake here that even Limbtick became aroused—hard-pressed—to do something about it—to leak. Leak, leak, leak. Drop by drop, and all of a sudden you find yourself in the middle of a downpour. No matter. He outlasted the proverbial plagues of the past, so why would this thing be any different? Because, for once, it was global and spreading like wild fire. Now, he was lying with the enemy. What was I supposed to do? Going public? I’m risking even by being an anonymous source, let alone—

Something moved in the corner of his eye. Everything inside him—every organ—contracted. But it was friend, not foe. Not anymore, that is. Clarence did have to do something. And it was the only way he knew how.

Enter Lenny Clearwater. On a shorter side of the height spectrum, big thick glasses on. But more to the point: a city-slicking slackjob weaseling about Washington and never quite catching the coveted break. Lenny was in his 40s and still didn’t quite get that story that would land his byline on the front page. Until now, of course. He was shaking at the thought.

“Senator,” the weasel greeted the other weasel, stretching his sweating palm out for a handshake that would, hopefully, seal the deal, but also, potentially, seal their fate.

“Lenny,” Clarence nervously acknowledged the journalist.

“Frankly, off the record,” he tried to crack a joke to alleviate the tension, “I didn’t think you’d show up.”

“First you leak, then you’re licked…” Clarence Limbtick muttered unawares.



Then, after a short intense pause the nothing became a something: Limbtick started unloading everything he knew about the madness that was transpiring behind the scenes and closed doors. The horrific events lurking in the shadows of willful ignorance and plausible deniability, unfolding like all the stops had been meticulously pulled out. Perhaps too unbelievable and spine-chilling—where one’s word alone was not enough. Yet, it wasn’t some paranoid janitor standing in front of the reporter, it was a senator of the United States of America. And more importantly, he was pointing the reporter in the right direction, giving out highly classified and easily verifiable information—no way was it fake news.

Lenny Clearwater could only have so many wows in him left by the time the confession of sorts was over. Tens of minutes seemed like an eternity caught into another eternity.

“I— I—”

“You do that,” Clarence instructed the dumbfounded reporter. “Get it done,” he added.

With that, legs full of lead, Lenny nodded unsurely and limped away—they couldn’t be seen together, couldn’t leave together.

“Gosh-fucking-darn it…” Clarence sighed in total solitude. Well, not quite.

Heavy footsteps echoed through the dim insides of the structure.

“Lenny?” Limbtick whispered. “Is that you?” Even he didn’t entertain the idea he was right.

The footsteps grew louder, came closer, became more defined. Clarence Limbtick finally figured they weren’t footsteps at all—they were hoofsteps.

Was it possible that someone had parked a goat in there?


“Oh my God…” the senator whispered, backing away automatically. He couldn’t believe his enlarged eyes, so he started running. He ran, and he ran. He couldn’t remember when was the last time he did that. Even when he did, nothing like that has ever chased after him. What even was that? Was it—


The politician was huffing like crazy, being absolutely out of breath. In his temporary fear-driven madness he made a wrong turn and was now ascending the stairs instead of descending them. He couldn’t think about menial things like that when he felt the hoofsteps following him relentlessly, without fail. Limbtick didn’t look behind—he just couldn’t force himself to. Simultaneously, he was fumbling through the pockets in his jacket, desperately trying to find the darn phone.

“First you… leak, then… you’re licked…” he mumbled but then stumbled across the phone just as he was stumbling away from the staircase. Clarence tumultuously tapped the screen and soon put it to his drenched ear. “HARRAS! Can you hear me?!”

Nobody was on the other side, just a beep letting him know that the call was unsuccessful. Limbtick typed something and sent it as fast as he could.

Quickly, he tried to call his wife, but the phone flew out of his hand when his knee ran against a lime Ford GT’s rear fender.

“AH!” he exclaimed as his phone’s display cracked alongside his kneecap. The wounded senator leaned on the supercar, nervously citing the mantra he had broken, “First you leak, then—”

“You’re licked.” Not only did Clarence hear the words, he felt them with the back of his head.

“Plea—” Clarence was begging when he forced himself to face his mysterious pursuer but immediately cut himself off actually seeing him—it.

Just after the horrific revelation reflected in his tearful eyes, Limbtick was grabbed by the throat and lifted three feet above the ground. Before he had time to choke, the sound of a loud snap echoed through the parking garage as his head sharply tilted to one side. His frail, breathless body was hurled into the air, skull colliding with the wall so hard that it opened as easily as a melon would.

— 6 —

The jingling vibration broke the silence. Droves of schoolchildren poured out of the exits. The only sound they were making was the sound of their steps being in perfect accord with each other, as synchronized as the humming of the fidget spinners in their hands. White, green, black, blue, multi-colored, plastic, wooden, metallic. Toys, not hands. Although, curiously, they tended to blend together from a distance after a while.

Amongst the swarm of other kids, Jamie Cotton was walking towards the parking lot where his mother’s car was just barely visible. Suddenly, however, he stopped. His blank eyes weren’t looking anywhere in particular, but his body slowly but surely turned 90 degrees to his right. His body paced elsewhere.

— 7 —

The third level of the parking garage was cordoned off with yellow tape.


Detective Horowitz ducked under it with his usual agility. “What’s going on, boys and girls?” he directed at the CSI unit sweeping the place, the flashes of the photo camera bouncing off of their bleak, tired faces.

“Nothing much, Harry,” the crouching man with a ponytail on his head and a toothpick in his mouth drawled, his translucently gloved hands palping the insides of the deceased’s cracked skull. “Were there any reports of wild gorillas escaping the zoo lately?”

Detective Horowitz nibbled on his lower lip. “Why?”

“It seems like that’s what killed him. Judging by the force he was thrown at at least.”

“His broken neck, too,” added the female forensic expert, also ponytailed, scrubbing under the victim’s nails with a cotton swab.

“Hmm.” Horowitz didn’t like it already. He always loosened his tie when he didn’t like it. “Who’s the suit?”

“That’s the interesting part,” the male forensic expert stepped in, stopping what he was doing and looking directly at Horowitz.

“I suggest you hold on to your butt, Detective,” the female forensic expert added.

“Vic’s name’s Clarence Limbtick,” the ponytailed man revealed. “And it seems like what we’ve got here is a dead senator on our hands.”

“Literally,” the ponytailed woman interjected, briefly glancing at her coworker’s occupied limbs.

“Shit.” Detective lingered on the thought a little bit before getting a cigarette out of his pocket and putting it in his mouth. He started staring at the pale body much more intimately.

“Have you heard that a bunch of kids went missing?” one of the people dusting the adjacent cars for prints asked.

The other one tensed up. “Yeah, my Tristan didn’t come home from school today, too…”

“Oh, terrible to hear that. I’m sorry I even brought it up.”

“No problem, no problem.”

The mustached man with the badge on an ugly brown uniform disturbed Horowitz’s concentration, clapping him on the shoulder.

“Cameras?” Detective asked hopefully.

The man shook his head. “All the surveillance equipment smashed, tapes missing.”

“A very intelligent gorilla,” the male forensic expert cracked a joke, picking in the cracked head.

Detective’s face was struck with disbelief. “You wanna tell me we don’t have anything?”

“Count your blessings, Detective.” He gave Horowitz a cracked phone. “Vic’s phone. Luckily, it’s still working.”

Detective delved into it, tapping the cracked screen of the cracked victim, and soon enough lifted his eyes back up, asking part rhetorically, part for real, “Who the fuck is Father Harras?”

— 8 —

Lenny Clearwater was typing away to his heart’s content. The work has never flown so good for him, because it was work. This… this was passion. He was finishing a fifteen-page exposé of the highest order and no one could stop him. Even his dehydration and a sudden migraine onslaught. Trickles of sweat poured into the recesses of the keyboard, every key press accompanied by a squishing noise. Lenny didn’t notice, or didn’t care. The seminal work of his life was finding its way out through the tips of his fingers.

“You want some meatballs or cheese with spaghetti?” his loving wife raised her voice from the kitchen.

Lenny was in his head, deep. The trickles of sweat, a whining cramp in the left leg. Lenny Clearwater didn’t care.


“Not now…” he whispered, barely even interrupting the execution of his mission to understand what was asked of him.

Light steps treaded into the room. Mrs. Clearwater shook her head with a smile. She hadn’t seen him being like this for the longest time. “I guess I’d better leave you to it, then,” she smirked at the spousal neglect, repressing silly giggles stuck in her throat. Oh, Lenny… she mused, much like her husband when he was into his work, counting butterflies being birthed in her stomach on the way to the kitchen.

“Huh?” he turned sharply, confused and scared. Then went back to his writing. The piece was almost done.

The news channel host was faintly traceable from the TV in the kitchen: “…the body of Senator Clarence Limbtick earlier today. At this hour, the circumstance and reasons for the senator's apparent suicide remain unknown…”

“Oh! Honey, isn’t it that guy you met with this morning?”

His eyes stopped brimming with a true sense of purpose. “What?”

A piercing sound of breaking glass—large, possibly window—rolled through the tiny apartment—it came from the kitchen. His wife shrieked, but a silent double tap ended that rather quickly.


Instead of his wife, some other soft—stealth—steps moved into the room.

“Oh,” Lenny sighed, disconsolately understanding everything and at the same time accepting his fate.

The bullet buried deep into his brain, forming an unsightly hole in his forehead, and a blood spurt came out of it as Clearwater’s body was thrown on his working table. A black-clad person—no markings or labels on a generic uniform of sorts—made a few steps towards the dead journalist and fired another shot from the silenced Desert Eagle directly into his heart.

The gloved hand descended upon the mouse, moved it and clicked to close the word processor.

Do you want to save changes to “Spinnergate.doc”?

The mouse cursor determinately moved to and clicked “No.”

— 9 —

Goddamn parasites,” an old pudgy man emphasized in the face of the prospect of actually spending time in the sewers. “Bloody vermin.” Taking into account his disgruntled grimace, the words were kind of redundant. The look spilled over into his uniform naturally. Dirty and old grey overalls. A coffee stain in the middle, on the hill of his gut. A shabby badge on his chest he wore proudly:


Sewage Services

It was hard for him to walk long distances, much less descend into the putrid hell that were the city’s sewage systems. Filled with aroma so pungent and toxic that his eyes were turning redder by the minute.

The underground systems were pretty dark and damp, so the light of the man’s headgear light was dancing on the slimy walls. It seemed like he’d walked miles upon miles already, even though that wasn’t nearly as true as he thought. The man stopped and hugged his left side, huffing. “Devil’s cunt…”

A rustle in the groove of the tunnel made him reconsider, his head suddenly staring astutely at the fork of sorts—just around six steps up ahead.

“Who’s there?!” he screamed as if the air had miraculously returned inside his hurting lungs.

Slowly, he walked closer to the turn, absolutely nothing to see in it at this angle. The time and the sound had stopped, save for the chaotic dripping of the various pipes above. As he was approaching the groove in the wall in this complete silence, a giant rat appeared out of the hole, startling him but ultimately running past—no other agenda other than to save his freshly bitten tail.

The man mumbled some obscure profanity in return, barely comprehending what he was uttering himself. He shone some light inside the channel that led God knows where but saw nothing of interest. Just shit-covered walls and an ankle-deep puddle of filth stretching as far as his teary eyes could see.

After some deliberation, the man moved on. He had to fix some pipes farther down the road and had no time or desire to question what drove the alpha rat away from its nest.

— 10 —

“Is this the place?” Harras croaked and wiped the back of his neck with a handkerchief. Under the scorching sun, he had a feeling that he was melting outside while his internal organs were being baked in their own juices.

“Yes, Father,” Youngblood deduced some sporadic eye darts later.

The not-so-busy street was definitely the one they were looking for and so was the apartment building in front of them.

“Pray we’re not too late,” the older man in the full collar shirt and the long, hot cassock urged the younger one in ditto.

With a face full of intensity, Harras buzzed the apartment 333 for a better half of the minute—no result.

“Father, you still haven’t told me what exactly is going on,” Youngblood made his voice heard. “I don’t even know what we’re doing here.”

“Typical,” Harras muttered through his teeth. Yet, since nobody was answering the door phone, he understood rather grudgingly that he had no choice but to entertain Youngblood’s curiosity sooner or later. He preferred sooner this time. “Earlier today, I received a text message from one of our congregation. He happens to be a senator, here, in Washington. This is the contact that told me—confessed to me—about the conspiracy we’re delving into.” All the while, George Youngblood was nodding like an obedient sheep. “The text contained the address. This address, Youngblood.”

“And?” The look in his eyes was as clueless as the sidewalk people passing them by, scurrying about their day.

Harras took his impatient finger off the buzzer, grabbed Youngblood by his shirt and dragged him to the side, at the same time getting closer to whisper, “We need to find out the rest… to save the world from this plight.”

“But… Father, I don’t even know what this ‘plight’ you keep mentioning is,” Youngblood shrugged, as respectfully as he possibly could.

“See?” Harass’ eyes squinted. “This is exactly why we don’t see eye to eye, you and I. Pritchard would’ve figured out everything already.” That name. He never took it in vain.

“I know you had an exceptional affinity for your former partner, sir, but—with all due respect—he isn’t here anymore.”

“What are you getting at?” he growled, like a vicious dog who had been unchained only to scare the loud, obnoxious kids off.

“All I’m saying is, maybe it’s time to let it go and move on with your li—”

“Don’t you dare talk about him, Youngblood.” Harras threatened him with a finger, contempt seeping through his pores. “Ever.”

“I’m sorry, Father.”

At that precise moment, the door had opened—a girl in a straw hat walked out—and before it slid shut, the older priest hurried to slip inside, dragging the younger one by the shirt inside as well.

On their way up the staircase, Harras was glancing—almost nervously—at his low-ranking colleague, then… “Fidget spinners,” he finally said and shuddered.

“Fidget spinners?”

“Yes, they are these spinning little toys…” Harras explained and made haste to elaborate, “What we’re dealing here is a fidget spinner worldwide conspiracy.”

“Oh…” Youngblood couldn’t say much besides that. His features grew confused.

“The people on the streets, at their offices, at schools… they are being controlled somehow by the power unknown—through their use of fidget spinners!”

“Wow…” It’s official: he was dumbstruck.

“I know that it might be hard to believe in the beginning. But trust me.” Harras stopped and looked dead into his eye. The atmosphere was getting thinner. It was heavier than Revelation. “Once you notice it, it’s everywhere.” Unknowingly, he crossed himself.

The silence the priests operated within, creeping forward in its shadow, was becoming unnerving—until it was broken when Harras loudly knocked on the door with a number 333 and yanked its knob just in case. It was locked. And nobody answered.

“Let’s approach this from the rear,” Harras suggested.

Minutes later, both were climbing the fire escape on the side of the building. Fortunately, there was no one in the alley to see them doing that, except for one hobo, but he was sleeping.

“Do you know who’s behind this—this epidemic?” Youngblood crammed a question of importance in, still trying to wrap his dizzy head around the global conspiracy.

“I have my suspicions,” his mentor and simultaneously partner replied, climbing up. “But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. As you know, speculation is not the Church’s way.”

Third floor. That was it, their destination. The window was already broken, so technically they weren’t entirely breaking in.

“We’re too late,” Harras declared somberly, stepping into apartment, shards crunching under his boots.

When the disturbed bedroom crossed over into the kitchen, Youngblood saw it, too: a blood-splattering extravaganza on the left-hand wall. But no body. Another room was equally as disturbing, as the working desk was covered in gore. No bodies.

Something else caught both priests’ eyes.

“Is that what I think it is?” Youngblood asked.

“Depends on what you think that is,” Harras answered, uncharacteristically on edge—the fear in him was almost palpable, every nerve in his body exposed and high-strung. It was blood, alright. Distracting and still warm. Something caught his peripheral vision—something huge. “My God!” Harras started gasping. It was the entire wall dedicated to the spinner conspiracy he had mentioned just minutes ago. “We’ve hit the mother load.”

It was so apparent and obvious—right under their noses—just to their side—that it was too hard to see at first. Red marker markings—an assortment of them—in different shapes and sizes, some with arrows pointing at the likewise hand-drawn schematics of the ominous invention: “fidget spinners”; three sixes—drawn on top and extended out of the spinner prongs; “What’s inside???”; mysterious triangles superimposed on another fidget spinner; “potentially sign of the devil”; “Project Spinnen”; numerous doodles of cryptic kind, hard to decipher and process; “3 Eyes of Bethlehem!”; “ANCIENTS” written in the same red marker, underlined twice, next to a photo snapped inside what looked like a pyramid—next to horrifying hieroglyphs of origin unknown—a hieroglyph that was very familiar, of a fidget spinner in someone’s hand; different pages ripped straight from the Bible stapled into the wall; colorful threads coming through all the evidence, tying it all together. All spelling doom, figuratively. But arranged in such a way that it was spelling “DOOM” literally too.

“Unbelievable!” Youngblood exclaimed, feeling the fever taking over him. He blessed himself post-haste as his mentor’s hectic eyes ran through the news articles section of the wall—just some of the headlines made him shiver: “Dakota Man Found Dead, Spinner in Hand”; “Pastor Commits Suicide Amid Statutory Rape Allegations”; “Three Infants See Talking Dog, Now Blinded.”

It was certainly a lot to take in… Suddenly, the understudy’s face changed. “Do you smell gas?”

Harras’ did as well. “Now that you’ve mentioned it…”

Two men huffed through the apartment and jumped out of the window they jumped in through, and just as they did—the loud bang! The apartment blew up, pieces of glass and furniture, and other things, miraculously flying just above their heads—and just above them—as the priests were crouched after landing on their knees in quite the hurry—that might’ve saved them. Unendurable ringing in their ears conducted a symphony. Both men looked at one another, asking if the other one was okay and likewise mouthing “I can’t hear you!”

The apartment caught fire and the smoke spread quickly, covering everything in sight. The hinges of the fire escape now were unbalanced, screeching as the duo rushed down to save their already endangered lives. Meanwhile, the third storey became an orange inferno.

From his undercover police car, Detective Horowitz’s vision was seeing off the two as they fled the scene of crime through the alley. He squinted, determinedly.

— 11 —

For years, Detective Horowitz was thinking about retirement. Sometimes it felt like “burned-out” was his middle name. When life hit him, he didn’t hit it back, he just took it. Too tired to fight back, to alleviate the pressure by any means other than drinking heavily. What was I supposed to do, huh? he would say to himself in the solitude of his home, surrounded by trophies of years past, of his spoiled youth—he was a quarterback in a dream team, but that ligament injury changed everything. Now, all that was left of it—that eagerness to fight, to win—was a bunch of medals and trophies painted gold, a cruel reminder of pity he had to face every day until the day he inevitably dies.

Before his wife finally left him, she only said one word to his face: “Nobody.” Tandy wasn’t malicious about it, she just put it out there as a fait accompli. He didn’t argue with her, which just proved her point, now that he thought about it. The only person that didn’t leave him at one point or another in his by all accounts failed life was his daughter.

“Jessie?” he called out her name when he got home, keys jingling in his hands. “Are you back from school yet?” He grinned, expecting her usual sarcastic retort.

“No, I’m not,” she would usually say. It was not the case today.

“Jessica?” Detective’s lighthearted smile gradually vanished. His footsteps grew faster.

He loved his baby girl dearly. Sometimes to her detriment. Deep down inside, he knew that making her stay with her mom was probably a better solution when he and Tandy got separated, but… She was the only person in his family who didn’t look at him with disdain or disappointment. For better or for worse, he decided to be selfish—just this once—just to keep his sanity. Not to mention Jessica was all for it. They had a bond nothing could break. Or so it seemed.


The kid wasn’t there. His house was as empty as his dreams.

— 12 —

Having narrowly escaped death, Harras and Youngblood decided to split for the time being. As their investigation was abruptly halted, the former tried to find new leads, and the latter was happy to still be alive. It’s been days since they spoke…

Youngblood was on his way home after the usual sermon, although for some inexplicable reason the crowd was much smaller this time, deep in his thoughts until… a random quick glance to his left revealed a young girl with a fidget spinner (spinning) in her hand. Her face was blank, and her eyes seemingly didn’t focus on anything, yet she was still going somewhere—like a zombie. George took a deep breath. He shook his head and kept on moving. Once you notice it, it’s everywhere, echoed inside his skull, his mentor’s terse words hitting a nail on the head of the apparent reality.

Youngblood saw an extremely old woman who visibly contemplated crossing the road, albeit wasn’t sure enough she could pull off such a formidable task. He smiled, took her hand and helped her to get to the other side. Confused, she smiled back at him and thanked him for about five minutes. After that, he entered the building he was residing in. As he walked through the hallway, thinking about what activities he wanted to partake in next, a door to an apartment he was passing by opened and a young man slid out of it, bumping in the priest’s shoulder and literally throwing him off balance. When Youngblood had recovered and turned around to maybe politely tell the occupant to watch where he was going, he noticed that it was another spinner and its comatose host, who didn’t even acknowledge the accident and just kept going… and spinning. Once you notice it, it’s everywhere.

Ignoring cold sweat, Youngblood rushed to his apartment. Inside, there was the safety of his warm, slightly musty home. He placed his soutane on the armchair and his buttocks on the couch. The big flat TV hummed for a little while before it started showing moving pictures. It was the only part of the interior that was worth something. The single room was old and decrepit. A roach ran through it. Youngblood didn’t mind. Every living thing is equally deserving of life, his father once told him. He was drunk that day, barbecuing some pork chops. Remember this. And he remembered. Nevertheless, it was home, so in some strange way the roach was his roommate. PlayStation controller in hand, Xbox Stereo Headset on head, Youngblood booted up Heroes of the Storm. During the Draft in the Ranked game of Hero League he first picked Nova. He exhaled, neck crackling as the head jerked around, and minutes later the match was on. He needed the relaxation.

Ten minutes later, when he dived the enemy team 1v5, when his allies had gone to the objective in the other part of the map, and he died in less than a second, he slapped his thigh with violent force and screamed at the top of his lungs, “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING, YOU STUPID FUCKING RETARDS?! GOD! FUCKING! DAMN YOU!” He tilted his head back and screamed even louder, “WHAT FUCKING KILLED ME, YOU SON-OF-A-BITCH MOTHERFUCKER, HUH?!” His feet were banging on the floor. “WHAAAAT?”

“Look, a Nova tank,” Creepstar1503 said in the chat.

“Heh heh,” a player named gnobeballs replied.

The black shirt with a faintly misplaced white collar on became ever wetter with thick sweat. He had enough. Younblood got up and grabbed the keyboard, furiously typing to his whole team: “noob team”, “fucking kill yourself” and “faggot cunt!!” After that, he quit the game in advance and laughed maniacally after hurling some more insults to the black screen of his TV and the gamepad into the wall.

However, the noise he was making paled in comparison to the kind of commotion going on outside. Youngblood couldn’t believe his eyes when he looked out of the window. The sound of goose stepping was overwhelming. Momentarily, his nervousness changed to dread.

“Father, are you seeing this?” he asked first thing when Harras picked up the phone.

The bacchanalia on the streets reflected in his beautiful blue bloodshot eyes: thousands of people, marching through the streets, some carrying some kind of black-white-and-red flags with them. But most importantly, every last one of those people were spinning fidget spinners in at least one of their hands.

“This is what I was worried about,” Harras proclaimed over the phone. “This is how the world ends.”

— 13 —

The news were calling it “The March of the Spinners.” A rather apt description, all things considered. Millions of people, young people primarily, marched on the streets of all major cities of the world, creating panic, fear, traffic jams. General population was in shock for days. The governments shut down for weeks.

“What do they want?” one news anchor asked during the live coverage of the event that shook the world.

“Nobody knows, Jane,” another one answered, but it wasn’t an answer at all.

For hours, the millions of fidget spinner users marched and marched on. Then, they dissipated, came back home. No demands, no threats. No sense.

Although Harras was certainly onto something there, he was definitely wrong in one thing. This wasn’t the end. This was just the beginning.

— 14 —

“As you know, the fidget spinner obsession has been spreading like wildfire. Formed just months prior, Spinnerist Sect had grown so large and powerful throughout the whole world that a crucial division inside the organization was but an inevitability. Spinnerer Cult split from Spinnerist Sect during the Great Spinning Schism of 2017. Spinnerer Cult stated that only three-bladed, ordinary-shaped spinners are allowed and others were therefore blasphemous, and Spinnerist Sect argued that every shape, form and number of blades is acceptable and fine. Spinnerer Cult is currently a minority, crushed by the sheer numbers of its point of origin, which only grows stronger despite the Schism, despite likewise growing concern of the general public and, more importantly, our congregation. Even though the unsanctioned “Marches of the Spinners” had shut down major cities around the globe multiple times before, crippled the stability and safety of the whole world, and for all we know the next one could break the socio-economic values of our very way of life any day, the police and the government is none the wiser. Some call this plight harmless, don’t see dangerous intent. But, deep down, we all know it: this travesty must be stopped. Therefore, we’ve got to take matters into our own hands.”

“What do you suggest we do?”

“What we should do—we resist. We create the Resistance.”

A murmur rose up, swirling under the arching dome of the roof.

A hand was raised to calm the murmurs down. “Just last week, we’ve received the alarming news that countless Concentration Camps had been build all over the country.” Harras was talking to a group of uneasy people, a congregation of sorts, sitting on the pews, abyssal unrest in their eyes, they were fidgeting back and forth. A pointer in hand, he was pointing at slides that were thematically appropriate for his words. Right now, one of them was projecting an image of the crowd during the first March: every twentieth, it seemed, was brandishing the Spinnerist Sect banners—on their fabric a three-pronged, almost a triskelion-like figure (representing a spinning fidget spinner) inside the white circle on the crimson background. “They tell us they’ll help you concentrate—but it is a lie! A clever ploy to trick those with their will untouched to be brainwashed.” He paused, the seriousness of the situation floating heavily inside his old eyes. He was about to be even more frank than he was before. “Do you really think that fidget spinners were created for the autists?” As the shock rolled the dozens of people inside the church over, but ultimately had passed, his voice peaked in its urgency and motivation: “Months upon months it’s been brewing, and we did absolutely nothing about it. Now, we have to reap what our inactivity sow.” He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and opened them. “How many of your friends and family members have succumbed to this disease already? How many will in the near future? Their souls are in our hands… It’s imperative we avert the disaster at all costs!” He pointed at the people he was addressing. “We have to find a cure for the Fidget Spinner Plague.”

The audience was speechless and awestruck. A man in a baseball cap clapped. Soon, they were leaving, but not before shaking hands with Harras and receiving further instructions on the follow-up meet ups.

The much older lady with a pink purse walked up to Harras, passionately telling him, “These may be the End Times, but seeing you behind the altar I know that God is with us.”

“Thank you,” he nodded as she smiled. “Thank you,” he said when she slipped a five-dollar bill into a donation box.

Soon, the people dissipated, and it was eerily quiet in the House of the Lord. All but two. Father Harras and a man in a hoodie. He stood up and headed straight for the reverend. When his hood slid back, the obscured face became clear as day: Detective Horowitz. He didn’t say a word. A certain stern quality permeating through his focused look.

“Can I help you?” Harras asked the informally dressed man.

“Unfortunately, yes…” said the man and pulled the gun out of the back of his pants, in a flash pointing it at the confused man of faith.

Harras gasped and darted his body back a little. “What is the meaning of this?!” he demanded to know, if very afraid doing so.

Detective’s hand sat tighter on the pistol grip as he forced himself to talk, “You were wrong. The police isn’t none the wiser.” For a few seconds, the time between the two intense men had frozen, it seemed. “When I saw you and your apprentice fleeing Clearwater’s apartment… ravaged and in flames… I reported that info to the chief in the precinct.”

“What are you talking about?” Trickles of sweat ran down the priest’s lively face.

Detective’s gaze was morbid. “The chief made a phone call and suddenly got silent. And that was that. Until yesterday, when he insisted to meet with me privately and told me they have my daughter, and that, if I want to ever see her again, I should kill you.”

“Oh my God…”

“So, see, Father?” Detective Horowitz had a barely noticeable neck spasm. “You’re quite wrong about the authorities: they’re not at all in the dark. We are in on this.” His determined finger cocked the hammer. “The higher echelons of power want you dead, Harras. There’s no need for a loose end such as yourself, especially not now, when this ‘spinner’ thing is about to actually blow up.”

“Are you going to kill me?” Father asked, nervous but accepting at the same time. His opposition clearly had the upper hand, and there was nothing he could do.

“I was sent here to tie up those loose ends,” Horowitz confirmed the priest’s worst fear, continuing his own train of thought. He hardened the grasp, his flesh and bone clenching so intensely as to make his knuckles white. “But I will not kill for my daughter.” He lowered the loaded weapon, sharply. “I cannot.” His voice trembled. “I could never look into her eyes again if she’d knew that I took someone’s life—some other innocent life—to save hers.” A single tear rolled down his cheek. “This is how it ends.” He threw the revolver away; it made a dent at the base of the altar. The priest’s body unintentionally experienced a nervous jolt, as if jumping in one place, but not that high. “I can’t kill for my baby girl—even though she is the world to me—I can’t betray her like that…” he raved, as if repeating himself, as if to justify his actions, as if the first time wasn’t enough. “I can’t look her in the eyes if I’m a bad man like that.”

Father nodded and put a sweaty palm on Detective’s shoulder. “Will you join our holy cause, then…”

“Detective Horowitz.”

“…Detective Horowitz?”

“Yes, Father. Yes, I will.”

“Then I promise you that we will find your daughter—and save her—together.”

All too grim Detective nodded.

“But first we need to form the Resistance. You’re a man with a military background, I would assume?” To which Detective nodded again. “Maybe this was God’s providence, after all… that we met.” Detective nodded again. “Hang on a second…” Harras told him and turned his back to him, walking up to the altar, “I’ll give you all the contacts and personal information of the people we’ve recruited so far.” Seconds later, he was offering the policeman a heap of papers, handwritten. “Are you ready to find out where our secret hideout is?”

Detective nodded.

And so the Secret Resistance was formed.

— 15 —

The grey walls might’ve seemed a little depressing if it weren’t for the fact that Jamie Cotton couldn’t feel that particular condition, depression. In fact, that could be said for every emotion his hormonal teenage body should’ve basked in. But it didn’t. It couldn’t. He was too preoccupied.

The grey walls and a bunk, barely used anyway. Or maybe not used at all. Other than sitting, that is.

“Vere are you takink me?” An old voice with a heavy accent Jamie couldn’t place—didn’t even try to place—probably didn’t even hear. The voice was aggressive, maybe even a little too presumptuous. It was rolling down the corridor just outside the room the boy was so idle in. “I demand to knof zis infor—” A thud to the gut ended the angry, entitled request abruptly. The silent footsteps carried him away; no additional hustle.

The boy didn’t care for any of that. Nor did he care about his parents, scared witless about the unknown whereabouts of their only son. No. He was staring, in his hypnotic trance, at the devilish thing in his hand. His blank eyes bore a clue of what he was witnessing in this psychotic state of mind—and possibly soul. Was it the infinity of torture or barely a wall of grief? Perhaps someone could shed some light on what Jamie Cotton was thinking about, seeing and/or feeling, divulge that precious mystery. Alas, the grey walls wouldn’t talk.

— 16 —

The helicopter rotors bellowed, thunderous and distracting.

“The storm is coming,” Youngblood dreamed out loud, gazing at the distant brewing horizon.

“The storm is already here…” Harras told him gruffly.

It was a dark and rainy day. The wind knocked onto the windows, desperately trying to get in, to chill everything inside as well as outside. Harras could feel it with his old bones, and sometimes, even within.

The iron machine of flight set its level feet on the helipad, preferring ground over the skies, at least for a short while. As the roof of the church wobbled with vibration, so did the duo of priests overseeing the epochal landing in its close proximity. Soon, the metal dragon’s bellowing subsided. It had to rest.

Harras hurried to open the door, ducking under the decelerating blades. A significant figure in all white and an extravagant headdress stepped out of the no longer flying vehicle, accepting Harras’ offer of a hand. As the person’s feet landed on the roof’s concrete, he spoke, breaking the silence, “I’m glad to see you are okay, Harras.” He had a slight Italian accent. “I would’ve flown here sooner, had it not been unsafe.”

“Yes, of course… Father,” Harras told him and promptly bowed to the Pope.

“Are you ready for the event?” he, the Pope, asked.

“Everything is ready, Father,” the young priest wedged in, approaching his idol.

“Ah, bambino Youngblood,” the Pope shifted the lordly if a little absent look at the Harras’ apprentice.

“You… you know my name, sir?”

The Pope’s following smirk was barely noticeable. “Come, my wards. My travels were long and exhausting. I will tell you all about it.”

As they were departing from the scene, Harras looked over his shoulder. Strange. The barely moving helicopter blades reminded the priest of a cross. A spinning cross…

The life was brewing in the church’s basement; usually such an activity was reserved for the bottles of fine vine, but those times had passed. Containers on wheels with army markings rolling by. People standing guard and professionally paying no attention to the newcomers in Harras, Youngblood and the Pope.

“This is our congregation,” the former told the latter, his palm outlining the people scurrying around the dank underground of the place of sanctity above. “Congregation of Resistance. CORE, for brevity.”

“Very good, Harras,” the Pope nodded, the fact the lower-ranking priest he was commending found great pride in.

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