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SANTA PELAGIA, MEXICO
The first thing Deauchez noticed when he woke up was how quiet it was. He arose from his makeshift bed on the couch and went to the window of Father Espanza's office, pulled back the heavy drapes, and blinked in the glare of the midday sun. The streets of Santa Pelagia were empty. Discarded blankets in dirty doorways, food wrappers, and other, more personal castoffs, like the baby shoe perched on a nearby flowerpot, were the only evidence of the crowds that had so recently inundated the small village. Even the thick pall of fear was gone, leaving an aftertaste like that at the scene of a day-old car wreck.
Deauchez checked his watch. He'd been out for ten hours. He wished Martinez or Espanza had awakened him, but then they wouldn't unless he'd requested it, would they? And he hadn't said a word to them when he'd stumbled back through the dark last night; hadn't spoken, hadn't even checked the statue in the vestibule. To what end? It had bled, of course. Certainly the thing had bled--his own clothes had been covered with the stuff. He looked around now and noticed that the bloodied suit he'd left on the chair had been taken by someone; somewhere a middle-aged woman scrubbed his things, watching mesmerized as the water turned red, all the while muttering breathless, endless novenas.
A shrill bleeping sounded from his black leather bag. In a moment, Deauchez had the computer on the coffee table and opened it with a single smooth gesture. On-screen was the red-capped visage of Brian Cardinal Donnelley.
"Just getting up, Michele?"
"A moment ago, yes."
"How are you feeling?"
"I'm perfectly well."
Donnelley managed a distracted smile. He tapped a manila folder on his desk. "I read your report. Any further thoughts now that you've had some rest?"
"I have nothing to add, Your Eminence. Except that from what I can see of the town, most of the pilgrims have already left."
"Last night's was understood to be the final message, wasn't it?"
"Even so, the crowds must have been quite eager to get home. It's unfortunate. I was hoping to interview some of the witnesses."
Donnelley leaned forward and studied Deauchez keenly. "There was something I missed in your report. You didn't specify ... that is, you didn't exactly come right out and say whether or not you yourself saw ... Well, I don't want to put words in your mouth."
Deauchez had a brief flash of the old cypress in Sanchez's field: the leaf-laden, oddly twisted top branches shaking violently in a wind that made no sound. "Nothing," he answered sharply. "That is, as I wrote there, the, the, the ... mood in the crowd was thick with an almost opaque fear. Until you have been in such surroundings you really cannot imagine how difficult it is to think clearly. It was a classic case of crowd hysteria."
Donnelley was looking at him with an odd expression. Deauchez found he didn't much care for it. He told himself it was only because the lighting in the room was difficult, with the bright sun hitting him from behind. The laptop's inboard camera was not the best.
"Be that as it may, it would be more thorough, I should think, to record all observations from the site."
"I beg your pardon, Your Eminence, but I saw nothing of relevance other than what I already mentioned in the report: that a few people in the crowd did appear to have the wounds of Christ spontaneously appear; and that the statuette I brought from the Vatican did bleed also, apparently independently, though there was blood on my own hands so I cannot absolutely confirm. It was very dark."
"Any traces of stigmata on you now?"
"None. If there had ever been wounds they were closed by the time I got back here last night. The blood on my clothes was real enough."
Donnelley was suddenly cool and remote, as if he'd given up on his questioning. "His Holiness wants to see you as soon as you return. He wants a firsthand summary. I think he's a bit concerned about Santa Pelagia."
"I don't blame him. The situation here was extremely fragile, though it seems to be over for the moment. But ... does that mean you won't grant my request to continue?"
"No. As you say, Deauchez, Santa Pelagia is obviously significant ..."
"The most significant case of mass hysteria this century, if not ever." Deauchez felt a renewed sense of scholarly excitement and dread at those words, a combination this place had engendered in him from the start.
"I would be careful before you lock yourself into that position, Deauchez. This thing is not going to be easily dismissed."
Deauchez was taken aback by Donnelley's icy tone. "That's ... why it's imperative that we learn more."
"Agreed. You know His Holiness leaves for Israel on Monday. I think he would like to make some sort of statement about Santa Pelagia before his trip. Be back by Saturday, will you?"
There was no shower at the church. Father Espanza took Deauchez across the street to the single hotel, Las Rositas Blancas. It hadn't had so much as a broom closet available when Deauchez arrived the previous day, but the recent gold boom had crashed. The owner, a short, plump man with a slickness to his hair and a toughness to his skin that spoke of cigarettes and alcohol, was not mourning the loss of business. He had the look of a man wrestling with much larger questions. He sent searching glances at Deauchez throughout the ritual of signing in, as if he wanted to question him. Father, what do you think about ... Did you see ...? Deauchez avoided his gaze.
He was troubled about the phone call. It gnawed at him as he soaked under the hot water in his room's cracked, mildewed stall. He had the distinct feeling he'd stumbled into one of those painfully political imbroglios where fates were altered and careers ruined by a single, ill-chosen word. He'd seen it happen to others at the Vatican, but he himself had always been spared.
Ten years ago Brian Cardinal Donnelley had been a bishop teaching at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and Deauchez had been one of his favorite pupils. When Donnelley was appointed to head up the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints he'd asked Deauchez to go with him.
Any spot in the Vatican was a choice career move, and Deauchez was immensely flattered. But he hadn't anticipated how much he'd love the work or how well suited for it he'd be. As it turned out, one of the bureau's jobs was investigating supposedly preternatural phenomena presented in support of a sainthood candidate; healings, mostly, but also such Catholic standards as bilocation, the aroma of sanctity, and visions. The Church required hard-core evidence of the divine to declare a saint, and these days they were not disposed to find it. Deauchez's undergraduate major in psychology, as well as his skeptical bent, caused him to excel in his new post.
And for all these years, Deauchez had assumed that Donnelley appreciated him for precisely what he was: a priest more apt to find psychosis than saints. Donnelley always praised Deauchez's logic and reasoning, the "unemotional clarity" in his reports.
There was only one main drag in town, the paving so old it had nearly reverted to baked earth. Deauchez walked it slowly, taking a foray into an alley or two and finding precious little on the other side. Not only were these nominal causeways cleared of visitors, but the locals had also gone to ground: a white face glimpsed behind a tattered curtain, a dog that darted away anxiously, the sound of a baby's cry.
It wasn't until he returned to the hotel that he noticed the young Asian man seated on a bench outside the town's single restaurant. His bronze head was cleanly shaven, his legs were tucked up under him, and his cumin-colored sari covered everything except his bare right shoulder and arm.
"Hello. I'm glad to see someone's still here," Deauchez greeted the man in English.
The man's peaceful smile widened. "Hallo."
"Have you been in town long?" he asked, trying Spanish.
It was no use; the man only grinned at him blankly.
Admitting defeat, Deauchez went into the restaurant. A young waitress glanced up skittishly at the sound of the screen door. The place was otherwise empty except for a lone black man who occupied a table near the window.
"How ya doin', Father?" the man said. He looked anxious for conversation. He looked as interested in sitting alone as Deauchez was.
"Mind if I join you?" the priest asked.
"Hey, yeah, no problem! Goddamn ghost town around here, huh?--Oh, sorry."
Deauchez drew up a cane chair. "So it is--Coffee please, uh, café con leche y dos huevos, favor," he told the waitress. He turned to his companion. "Are you on a pilgrimage?"
"Me? No. Reporter. Simon Hill, New York Times." The man held out his hand and Deauchez shook it. Hill looked to be in his early thirties, just a few years younger than Deauchez himself. He was on the heavy side, with dark, babyish skin on his round face, and wire glasses that badly needed cleaning.
"New York Times. That is a good post, Mr. Hill."
"Most of the time. Where ya from, Father?"
"France, originally," Deauchez evaded. "I came to see what all the fuss was about. I assume for you it's the same?"
"So you weren't, like, brought here by a vision?"
Deauchez laughed. "No. And you?"
"Just doin' my job. My editor sent me down."
The girl brought Deauchez's coffee and refilled Hill's cup.
"Have you heard anything official from the Vatican yet, Father?"
"I'm afraid not."
Hill leaned forward intently. "So what're they gonna say? Some of the people here weren't even Catholic. I mean, they weren't even seeing the Virgin Mary, they were seeing Hindu gods and stuff."
Deauchez looked up sharply from stirring his coffee. "Oh? Who did you talk to?"
Hill shrugged. "Actually, most people I talked to didn't see anything. I mean, they saw like a light or something, but not, you know, Mary or anything. But I heard that some of the people who were seeing visions, weren't seeing Mary. I heard one woman talking about Isis or something."
"You did not speak with any of them personally?"
"Not exactly. I had a couple of them pointed out to me, but usually there was a language problem or ... well, the few that did speak English were too freaked out to talk about it." Hill looked disappointed. "I only got here two days ago and there were so many damn people around. Most of them were locals, anyway. Gawkers."
"I heard that the first ones to arrive were foreigners who claimed a vision led them here," Deauchez said casually, stirring his cup.
"That's what I heard."
"You didn't get any more details? How many there were? Where they were from?"
"Not ... not really." The reporter's voice held a trace of hesitation.
He probably wasn't used to being on the receiving end of such questioning, Deauchez thought. He relented while his salsa-covered eggs were delivered and tasted, his French palate struggling with the unaccustomed spice.
Hill cleared his throat. "Don't mean to, like, ruin your eggs or anything, but what did you think of the miracles? Did you see 'em?"
"I thought I saw a few cases of stigmata in the field, yes," Deauchez answered neutrally. "Yourself?"
Hill nodded. He continued to nod, his eyes staring out at the street. "Damn weird. We got some of it on tape. We filmed the statue in the church bleeding, too."
"Have you ever studied stigmatics, Mr. Hill?"
"The first one was St. Francis of Assisi. He displayed the signs of Christ's passion on his hands and feet. After he died others also exhibited the phenomenon, though it's quite rare."
"It's linked to hysteria, right?" The reporter looked at him slyly. "Or is that heresy?"
Deauchez smiled. "Not to me. Stigmatics are classic hysterics, which is to say that they have an enormous capacity for emotion and imagination. They are not just pious, they are fanatically devout, even to the point of flagellating themselves and others. Not something the church prints up brochures about, but I assure you it's true."
Hill perked up. "If stigmata's so rare, how come so many people got it here?"
"'So many' is relative. I would say ten to twenty people showed signs of it last night, oui? Out of ... shall we say two thousand? Given the mass fear and excitement of the crowd, it's not all that inexplicable."
"What about the statues?"
"Bleeding statues and paintings are actually more common than stigmata, though they are usually fraudulent."
Hill was frowning, perhaps at Deauchez's explanation or perhaps at his own thoughts. "Even assuming your mind could cause wounds to open in your own flesh, how could it produce blood on a statue across town?"
It was a question Deauchez himself was interested in. "Stigmata-hysteria linked with telekinesis? I honestly don't know. But a few classic stigmatics have not only caused statues to bleed, they went for years without food--a feat we call inedia. It, too, implies some kind of matter transference, although it's possible a few of those good saints were sneaking down to the kitchen."
Deauchez smiled, but the reporter apparently didn't get it.
"Huh. Do you think the original people that showed up--the foreigners--could all have been hysterics?"
"Unlikely. Not only is it rare, it's a phenomenon reserved for Catholics."
Deauchez began looking around for the waitress. The reporter had managed to turn the tide, and the priest was now on the losing end of this information exchange. It was probably ill-advised to be talking to the press in any case.
"Father, you answered the wrong question. I asked if the first ones could all have been hysterics, not stigmatics. The thing is, at least a couple of those people, the first ones, they were famous."
Deauchez's hand, which had been trying to get the girl's attention, dropped as Hill's words registered. "Famous? Are you referring to Maria Sanchez?"
"Not just her. I mean, she's not even really famous, is she? Or wasn't. Probably will be now. No, I mean, like major personalities. I saw a few faces in the crowd I'd seen before--on the news or magazines or whatever."
"Oh? Who? Who did you see?"
Hill's mouth opened to say something, but nothing came out. After a moment of studying Deauchez he shook his head. "Man, I'm sorry. Rules. Never tell anybody your stuff before it's in print. I know you're a priest and all, but ... you know. Just read the Times, okay?"
Deauchez was annoyed, but he could see that the younger man was serious. "All right. Thank you for the company, Mr. Hill."
"Hey, yeah, Father--you, too. Take my card, why doncha? In case you hear any news."
Deauchez took the proffered bit of paper without much interest.
"You do have a name, right?" The reporter's eyes were sharp and inquisitive in that baby face.
"Deauchez. Father Michele Deauchez."
As Deauchez drove over to the field where the alleged visions had occurred, he was thinking about how quickly a name could change connotations. Maria Sanchez, for example. For almost a year, that name had been on one of the many case files on Deauchez's desk, and in such capacity it had provoked nothing more than mild curiosity and stress--one more thing that he had to find time to look into. Now Santa Pelagia had reached out and sucked Deauchez in as if impatient at his dawdling.
The Sanchez field bordered either side of a long dirt driveway. In the harsh, unimaginative light of day, it was nothing more nor less than six acres of parched grass. A few dozen stragglers were still camped out in the field. One family had confiscated a roomy canvas tent with cougar camp written in military-style lettering on the side. It was one of the few reminders that foreigners had swept through this field mere hours before.
The house itself was a white-walled stucco affair. According to Fathers Martinez and Espanza, Maria had married into the wealthiest family for miles after being so instructed by the Virgin herself. She had also claimed divine direction when selecting this property, saying that the field would one day be needed for the Virgin's own plans. Her prophecy had been most propitiously vindicated of late.
Inside, the mood was that of a death vigil. Adults sat and wept or stared at nothing with swollen, blank faces. Children wailed intermittently and listlessly, not expecting a response.
Deauchez found his way down a hall lined with Catholic pictures in dusty frames. Sanchez's death would have been the crowning finale of this week's Passion play, and Deauchez's heart sank as he pushed open her bedroom door and saw a doctor leaning over the bed. But when the doctor turned, the middle-aged Sanchez was revealed to be wearing a petulant expression and a fleshy vitality that belied any such outcome.
"But I need to see her," Sanchez said, her whining tone evident even in Spanish.
"I understand, Pequita! But Dr. Janovich has patients in Washington, too. She said she hoped to be back in a few weeks' time."
Deauchez rapped lightly on the open door and they both saw him. Sanchez's face was overwhelmed with an angelic expression. "Father Deauchez, isn't it? Oh, Father, do please come in."
"Gracias, Señora. I hope this is not a bad time."
"Of course it is a bad time, Father. It cannot be helped. Please, pull the chair closer and sit with me."
Deauchez did as he was asked.
"I don't mean to be familiar, but we have so little time left to love one another." Sanchez reached out one hand with a grimace of pain. He took it gingerly and smiled at her.
The hand Deauchez held was wrapped in clean white gauze that precisely covered Maria's palm the way a boy might wrap tape on his hands to play football. As he looked, a bright red dot appeared in the center of the dressing as if responding to the mere weight of his gaze.
"Do you mind?" Deauchez asked, nodding at her hands.
"No, Father, of course you must. Doctor?" Sanchez held up her hands with a supplicating air.
The wounds were flowing copiously by the time the doctor finished unwrapping them. Deauchez turned one of her hands carefully, trying to see the wounds. They were on both sides of each palm, in the center, and were the size of a half-dollar. They appeared to be genuine. How deep the wounds went he could not tell without probing, and he did not need to put either one of them through that at the moment.
Looking at the bleeding palms, he had a flash of memory. Last night. He'd lifted his own hands in the midst of everything else in that field, and there it was, on his very own flesh--such an unaccountable, terrifying, joyous, chosen kind of wonder. He knew there were nuns who prayed for years for the stigmata--priests, too--yet never received it. They lacked some essential gift, some chromosome that enabled their desire to be made manifest in their flesh, that hysterical, unknown "Faculty X." And there Deauchez himself had stood, with the wounds in his very own flesh. But he knew better. It had been an illusion, and if it wasn't that, it was the hysteria of the crowd affecting his subconscious mind. He had not been chosen for anything.
"Thank you, Señora." Deauchez nodded to the doctor and the hands were redressed. Maria bore the treatment with a pained, faraway look in
"Señora, would it be possible for you to answer a few questions?"
"Could you tell me about the stigmata?"
"It was not the first thing that happened to me. I don't know if Father Espanza told you or not."
"I would like to hear it in your own words."
"My father was killed before I was born. My mother told the Virgin that I was to belong to her because I would never have a father. The Virgin began appearing to me right away. I often saw a glowing woman standing next to my crib in the dark."
Deauchez nodded encouragingly.
"Then, when I was fifteen, I was praying every day and going to church every day, and I became very upset that other people in the village did not seem to care about God the way that I did. Some even made fun of me! Then I had the firs
"And then what happened?"
"Well, I showed it to Father Espanza. I didn't know what to think! He gave me some books on saints, and I read about the stigmata. I realized the Virgin was trying to speak through me, too."
"After a while, the name on my arm went away and I began instead to get red spots on my hands, like blood under the skin. Now they are like you see."
"Do they ever fully close?"
The doctor spoke up. "Yes. Monday through Thursday the wounds close completely."
"But today is Tuesday."
"Oh, but now they will never close again! Not ever!" Maria said tearfully.
"All right," Deauchez soothed. "Now tell me about what has happened here recently."
"The Virgin told me a few weeks ago that people would be coming. You can ask Dr. Carlos or Father Espanza, I told them!"
Dr. Carlos nodded gravely.
"I said to my husband: 'Go out and clean up the field, because soon there will be people sleeping out there and we must make it as comfortable as possible.' So he and the boys cleared away the sticks and stones."
"How did the Virgin tell you about the people coming?"
"In a dream," Sanchez said wistfully. "She said those that would be coming were the final seeds. The witnesses."
"Is that all?"
"All right. Can you tell me what you saw in the field?"
Maria studied him. "Didn't you see her?"
Deauchez cleared his throat. "I want to hear ... I want to hear what you saw."
"The Virgin appeared in the sky. She was dressed in a black robe and mantle as a token of her grief. She told me and everyone. Revelation 16:2."
A spike of pain passed behind Deauchez's eyes. He felt something whelming up inside him, some kind of irrational panic attack. He resisted it. "I'm sorry. Revelation ...?"
Maria was watching him with bright crow's eyes. "16:2."
"16:2. Yes." Deauchez cleared his throat again. "Was there anything else?"
"I am to stay here, that's all I know. Catholics of Mexico and the United States can come here to wait for the end. It is not promised that we will survive the ravages that are to come, but whether or not we are martyred, we shall soon be free."
Maria's face began to twitch with distress. "Father, do not ask me what will happen! I do not know, I'm only a poor mortal woman!" Tears streamed down her doughy cheeks. "Oh, I am so very afraid, Father! Mary, Mother of God, have mercy on those who love you!"
Maria's sobbing increased, her face reddening. Deauchez watched, at a loss for a response. He'd never been a parish priest, never learned the skills to handle situations like this, and they made him extremely uncomfortable. Watching Maria was like watching a storm build, as if an ocean of grief had found a crack in the dam and was slowly pulling down the walls. The doctor moved to Sanchez's side and mumbled calming words, pressing her face with tissues from a nearby dispenser and then, defeated, calling down the hall for a warm washcloth.
"Maria," Deauchez said with a gentleness that masked his growing unease. "I'll leave you with the doctor now. Thank you for seeing me."
Maria nodded her head but couldn't manage words. Deauchez ducked out of the room, a bit faster than was dignified, and moved toward the living room. He got a glimpse of Maria's emotional state passing like a brushfire to the others in the house. The sound of wailing swelled.
When he reached the car the sun was setting, turning the sky red. Deauchez leaned against the compact for a moment, taking deep breaths and trying to clear his head. That fear. It was only a small taste of what he'd felt in the field, that tingling panic that demanded to pull him along, like a river current sucking at his soul. That he'd felt it in Maria's room convinced him more than ever that she'd somehow triggered the event--triggered it, or was still manifesting something the event had planted inside her.
The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshipped his image. Revelation 16:2. Deauchez stared at the screen of his laptop. It was perched unevenly on the hotel bed, a Bible CD-ROM spinning silently in the D drive. The pain struck him behind the eyes again. There was something about last night that made him feel ill, horribly ill. He kept seeing that damned tree, and he didn't want to think about it because it really wasn't a good idea. He had to stay rational, not let himself get hooked by the emotion of this thing.
He wiped his forehead and stared at the verse, trying to decipher where all this was heading. It described the pouring out of the first bowl. There were seven bowls in all; all of them plagues rained down on man during the course of the apocalypse. There were also seven trumpets, which sometimes matched up in content with the bowls and sometimes not--it was one of those inconsistencies of John's.
Deauchez was of the school that believed St. John of Patmos had experienced a classic "visionary dream," probably aided by hallucinogens. He'd risen from his sleep and written it down, trying to pull the pieces together into coherence but afraid to change much since it was, after all, God's message. The evidence was there for anyone to see. The dream imagery of Revelation was nonsensical at times--always drifting toward a pattern, then breaking down with the equivalent of a white rabbit hopping through the scene. The fact that the author had expected it to all come true in his own lifetime--sometime around a.d. 90--was yet another card against credibility.
For all of those and other reasons, the Catholic Church didn't harp on the end of the world these days. Even if the scholarly issues weren't so iffy, the Protestants and Pentecostals already did it better than anybody else. But officially, of course, Revelation was positioned as a quite literal description of inevitable events--there was just, as the pope himself might put it, no reason to dwell on it.
What else had Maria said? Something about final seeds? Witnesses? On a whim, Deauchez entered "seed/s" and "witness/es" into his Bible search routine. There were over a hundred of each individually, but only one verse contained both words. Isaiah 43:5-9. He pulled it up.
Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him. Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears. Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and shew us former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is the truth. Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen.
The sound of motors interrupted his thoughts. Deauchez went to the window and looked out over the main street. Several vans had appeared, the dust from their arrival still clouding the air. A beautiful blond was looking around the place with an expression of disappointment while her crew unloaded equipment. He recognized her first, then the van: WWN, World Wide News. Deauchez felt a flurry of irritation. He supposed it was inevitable. Simon Hill had gotten a head start on the others, but they would come. It was fortunate that the "visions" and the "miracles" had lasted only seven days and news of them had been slow to travel outside Mexico. Perhaps the fact that there was nothing to look at anymore would discourage the story from spreading very far.
He went back to his computer and booted up the Web. He brought up the New York Times page and there, close to the bottom of the list of stories, was the heading thousands gather for miracles at santa pelagia. But before he read the story, he was drawn to the headline world food summit begins next week. He'd been following news of the summit carefully, and he double-clicked on the header to get the latest.
On Friday, world leaders and experts in agriculture and nutrition will convene in Geneva for the World Food Summit. President Fielding will attend, along with several of his key advisers. The White House press release states that Fielding fully supports the U.N.'s FAO, and that he's confident that the crisis can and will be dealt with. What the press release didn't say is that enormous pressure will likely be put on the U.S. at the summit, pressure to raise export levels this year in order to help those hardest hit by the drought. Last year the E.U. countries implemented modest rationing plans. Opinion polls in the U.S. are strongly against any sort of rationing, and Fielding has said that rationing in the United States is not necessary. Most world leaders will be attending, with the exception of Israel's and Jordan's heads of state, who have scheduled water talks with Pope Innocent XIV early next week.
Deauchez frowned. Why was Fielding being so stubborn about the rationing? Even the Vatican was serving more meat and less bread these days.
The Santa Pelagia story had Hill's byline.
Santa Pelagia, Mexico. One felt transported back in time to the sixteenth century witnessing the bizarre scene in this tiny Mexican village. Over two thousand people sat in a field and stared into the sky, supposedly hearing a message from God. Most in the gathering were native Mexicans, but a select group of early arrivals included Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and members of other faiths from around the world. Besides the message itself there were the "Santa Pelagia miracles" on display, including the seeping of red fluid from several religious statues and paintings in the town and the wounds of stigmata appearing on a number of those present. By late last night the crowds began to disperse, apparently satisfied that the message-giving was at an end. Exactly what it was all about, we are sure to soon learn. Though no one has made a public statement yet, the presence of highly visible religious leaders such as the Reverend Raymond Stanton, a televangelist and founder of the Christ Spirit Network, and Mohammed
Khan Abeed, the controversial African-American Muslim leader, assure that the message will not be long withheld. Stanton's and Abeed's offices had no comment.
Next to the body of the article was a video camera symbol. Deauchez double-clicked on it and watched the numbers at the bottom of his screen flip by as it downloaded. He really didn't want to watch the thing, but he supposed he ought to know exactly what was reaching the public.
The cameraman was obviously overwhelmed himself. The images cocked at times and wavered. The sky was nearly dark. The lighting was bad. Still, the dim images of the crowd: people swaying and crying out; close-ups of an old woman's face, blood streaming down her forehead from wounds, hands clasped in prayer and bleeding; an older man, blood dripping down his arms; a young woman, her white dress stained red, eyes rolled back in ecstasy ... Yes, the video conveyed the terror all too well. The camera swung to focus on the cypress tree, and Deauchez abruptly terminated the playback. There was that wave of sickness again. Damn it.
Catholics everywhere would be screaming for an answer. It was up to Deauchez to make sure the pope had the right one.
Yet even as his logical mind was fuming at the press for spreading this hysteria, he found that his emotional response was not following the program--it was, in fact, feeling something else altogether.
It was on the tape. The stigmata. It really happened.
Yes. In some unmannered corner of his heart, he was simply terrified.