As the blood slowly started to flow from the infinite rivulets that twisted and entwined their ways across the neo- Baroque ceiling of the Cathedral of St. Michael Servetus and as it slowly dripped, its falling impeded by the infinite echoes from a thousand funerals, six embassy officials, five members of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade, four Seinkewiczs, three elderly Wilentzes, two Rudmans, one would be saint, one Rumanian embassy official who had just regained consciousness, two members of parliament, three attractive young women, and four respectable members of the bourgeois now understood everything.  The Flannery O'Connor Brigade is an organization of militant Catholics dedicated to the revival of Christianity By Any Means Necessary.  The Murderess of the Order of the Stigmata is Madame Catherine Jeannette Roget Vovelle, leader of the Canadian branch since the murder of Pr. Albert Hermann.  The Defender of Saint Rose of Lima is Mary Lightfeathers, alias Miriam Sarahson.  The Legionmeister of the Signet of Saint Luke was Dr. Philippe Roget, first husband of Natasha Wilentz, skeptic and lecher.  The Master of the Marthas, alias the Master and the Margarita, alias Martha and the Muffins, alias have some Madeira, my dear, is Ms. Roda Ellen Van P---, alias Pandora Vovelle.  The Holder of the Averroes Seal is "Senator" Nyere Naipaul, whose brother works for Tanzanian ministry of justice and has special contacts with Prague.  The Flannery O'Connor Brigade bugged the apartment of Elizabeth Concrete and Vanessa Wilentz because Elizabeth Concrete was born from a virgin and was the niece of one member and the cousin of another and the second cousin of yet another member of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade.  They asked for the address of Vivian Chelmnickon because they wished to have him canonized.  The deaths of Senator Pierre Veniot, Veruca Manzoni, Pr. Albert Hermann, Dr. Oliver Corpse, and Inspector Joseph Tyrone were part of the Compass of Death set up by Thomas Edward Harding who used a box of dreams from the Parliament of Gryphons to force them to commit suicide, except for Pr. Hermann, who could not be forced to do that so instead Harding hypnotized him to open a family heirloom called a Chinese spice box which Harding had filled with a strychnine compound.  But he did use the box to force Veniot to jump down an elevator shaft, and when Veniot did so his spectacles fell off and by a complete coincidence the semen of Franz Wilentz dripped on them as they dripped on them the same day every year from the elevator of the Castlereagh Hotel and before them the insurance company for forty-three years since the day forty three years ago when Peter Wilentz was conceived, and Harding did use the box to force Veruca Manzoni to kill herself, to take a deep breath on the bridge a kilometer and a half from Neville Chamberlain Wharf and them jump in before she could vomit, loathed by her own lovers who forced pornography in her face and who was burdened by tens of thousands of innocent Arab Women and Children murdered in the days when Oswiecim was just a hick town, and Harding did use the box to make Oliver Corpse, burdened with Polish treachery and Polish cowardice and Polish foulness at Teschen and Kielce, and burdened, very literally, with the weight of the world, to hang himself, except that Corpse did not succeed the first time, so he had to stuff cyanide that he had distilled from the wasp insecticide he had bought a few days before when he entered Amritsar Vistas for the first time and Harding did use the box of dreams to force Inspector Tyrone, who wrote anonymous letters to Vanessa Wilentz because he wanted to know that she was happy but he wasn't sure so he shot himself.  But as Harding used the box of dreams he became entangled, quite unconsciously, in all sort of secret and dark mysteries and special curses and rancid blood-laden cults from places so dark and mystical and occluded and evil and sibylline that they only spoke in Conradian run-on sentences that the bloodpurge was born.  And so all the deaths in the compass of death took place on a Thursday, the day before the Sabbath, except the last death, which had to take place just as the Sabbath services were starting and long after the candles had been lit, and Harding had no idea that by following this pattern and by unconsciously following the suggestions of the box of dreams he was letting loose the scene for the bloodpurge just as he did not know the invasion of Medicine Hat by Wallace Stevens loving accountants was a Jewish warning against the bloodpurge and that if Lucian Rudman or Adrian Verrall had mentioned the name the Stevenistas could not name, which was, of course, Franz Kafka, many lives would be saved and the world would be a better, if much stranger place, just as Harding did not know that the butterflies in Oliver Corpse's apartment were another warning, just as he did not know that the appearance of Marinetti, D'Annunzio and Pareto was both a warning and a premonition, just as the attack of the grand pianos was also both a warning and a premonition, just as he did not know that the snowballs of acid was a manifestation of the bloodpurge.  And he did not know that his son had borrowed part of the box of dreams and used it for his own ends and as a consequence of all this he had been stabbed by his own wife with the dagger of St. Francis of Assisi, who tried to shift the blame to Lucian Rudman, Ms. Van De P--- and to her own roommate Vanessa Wilentz, who in turn tried to shift the blame to him, Thomas Edward Harding, or Edward Thomas Harding, for the one crime he had nothing to do with.  And they all knew that Natasha Wilentz had tried to find out all this and had left a bit of her soul as a blue bouncing ball that was supposed to comfort her second husband, but instead comforted his cousin, and his cousin's best friend, a nervous, neurotic, guilty mathematics student.  And they knew about the marigolds Ms. Van P--- planted in the carpet in her apartment, and why Madame Vovelle would insult blacks in public, but there were three things six embassy officials, five members of the Flannery O'Connor Brigade, four Seinkewiczs, three elderly Wilentzes, two Rudmans, one would be saint, one Romanian official now fully recovered and fully obnoxious, two M.P.s, three attractive young women, and four upstanding member of the bourgeois did not know but desperately wanted to know.  First, what was the conspiracy to kill someone who was already dead?  Second, where was Elizabeth Concrete? Third, what was going to happen as a result of the blood that was slowly falling from the ceiling of the cathedral of Saint Michael Servetus, impeded by the infinite echoes of a thousand funerals?

     "What's the worst that can happen?" asked Dramsheet.

     "The bloodpurge will begin here, at the holiest point, it will slowly spread, then accelerate, until seas of blood cover the whole world.  As the bloodpurge spreads people will sicken and die, and their blood will flow out from their bodies, joining the flood of blood.  The canonization of Vivian Chelmnickon will stop the bloodpurge at once.  And we are doing our best to contain the purge so that it will not flow out of the cathedral.  But time is short; for Chelmnickon to be canonized there is one final test for him to pass."

     And the Angel turned to Constantine, wincing under the steady trickle of the blood that had thoroughly messed up his hair.  The Angel conjured up a magical parasol, all in yellow with lovely tassels, which was suspended in the air a meter above his head.  The trickle of blood fell on the parasol, but instead of flowing over it and turning it red, the blood dissipated as it touched it.  Soon the whole stream appeared increasingly insubstantial, and soon there was nothing there at all.  With another wave of the hand the blood vanished from Constantine's hair.   He sighed in relief, as the angel flew up to the ceiling to rejoin her comrades.

     "So this ends the bloodpurge?" asked Mrs. Concrete.

     "No!"  Vivian gasped from the center of the circle. "Another revelation!  I'm seeing a whole world covered in blood, I see cardinals falling down the steps of the Vatican as blood flows from all their orifices, I see all the best Paris stores being flooded with blood, which is viscous, stinking, rotting.  It's so horrible even the toads suffer inside of it, even the vultures weep as it flows across the African savannah, even the postage stamps of the great writers weep, as hordes of maggots devour their book linings and the pages fall into the ever increasing sea.  The bloodpurge, it turns alabaster into stinking brown powders, turns all the ribbons into nooses, and everywhere it goes it leave stains of rust, of corrosion, of lead.  And in this river there is one woman, utterly triumphant, except she isn't of course, because she thinks that she has liberated herself of all parents, all countries, all moralities, all cultures.  She'll die horribly of course, but not before she has had the chance to gloat over the death of the rest of humanity."

     "Well that's a pretty picture." muttered Roget.  "Can't you do something more practical?"

     "I have faith."

     The Murderess nodded in agreement.  "The bloodpurge has merely been dispersed.  When it returns it will return through a human host.  It will surge through a man who is base and cowardly and in his death agony it will spread throughout the world.  Generally blood starts flowing out from all your orifices.  Because this is a consecrated church the blood will only flow from orifices above your neck, and if we're lucky they will only flow out of your mouth and not your ears and eyes."

     Constantine looked into Vanessa's eyes, and was relieved to see that she was still wondering how to free him from the pillar.  Vanessa in turn was looking at Lucian who did not feel that the liberation of her brother was an overwhelming priority and who was instead looking at Adrian and wondering whether it would be a good idea to sleep with him, and whether he objected to his partners wearing condoms, and Adrian was staring at his aunt by his uncle's marriage who was so exhausted that she could only mutter incomprehensible sentences about her husbands and lizards, preferably chameleons, and her husband was looking back at her, and looking beyond her at his niece by marriage the Master of the Marthas who was discussing a sacred text with the Holder of the Averroes Seal who was also discussing it with the Defender of St. Rose of Lima who was looking out of the corner of her to the Murderess of the Order of the Stigmata who was looking out of the corner of her eye and clearly showing her annoyance at her other daughter who was daydreaming about her father and about the half-sibling she had never seen but who she would like to see instead of Mr. Harding, the father of the man who had slept with her so expertly and so efficiently and so heartlessly, and who was in turn wondering whether he should start a conversation with Dramsheet, who in his turn was sighing because of Inspector Monagham who was praying in a very servile and cowardly way and had started reciting all her confessions, which had begun in a way full of genuinely obsequious sincerity but had turned into a list of all her sexual conquests, with particular emphasis on the man who brought doughnuts to the police station, no emphasis at all on her late superior, and with even some interest in Montserrat, who was standing a few decimeters away and who Monagham thought indulging in pointless sex with might be the best way of spending her last moments before the end of the world, and she would have been very disappointed to learn that Montserrat had barely noticed her, he was still too worried about Peter, who he kept staring at, and who of course couldn't stare back because he was unconscious, but if his eyes had been open he would be able to look straight up into his mother's eyes, who in turn was looking at her husband, who in turn was looking at his brother, who was studying the whole phenomenon with considerable thought, trying desperately to find out why anyone would murder someone who was already dead, and occasionally looking up to peer at his daughter, who in turn was staring at her present husband and her previous husband and wondering what she should do about them, while Roget was looking at the Siamese maid and wondering whether she could get him a drink since he had realized that what with preparing Vivian for the sainthood and with kidnapping Peter Wilentz and preparing Constantine's case as a devil's advocate he hadn't eaten a single thing all day, but his attempts to catch the eye of the Siamese maid were completely fruitless because she only had eyes for the young Thai embassy official, who really was a very handsome young man, and was only a clerk from a very humble family, who had gotten as high as he did because the higher officials kept dying of AIDS, or froze to death in the Ottawa climate, or said too many honest things too close to Thai generals and who would have married the beautiful young maid with the elbow length hair from the family that was almost the same social class (or was it caste?), but who was not looking at his love at all because he was too busy looking at the splinters at the Galcyzinski cross, and staring at the official from Peru, who was looking at the official from Sierra Leone, who was looking at the official from Syria, who was looking at the official from Finland who was looking at the official from Andorra who was looking at the official from Rumania, still doubled-over because of the punch the Master had given him and who realized that everyone else was looking at him, even the angels were looking at him, as they glimpsed at him from the corners of their eyes, as they sung from the chorus from the music the Rumanian had never heard of before, had never imagined had existed before, partly because he had never gone to church back in Communist Rumania.

     "Why are you all looking at me?" he shouted petulantly.

     "The blood purge, you will be the source." said the Syrian.

     "Absurd.  Superstitious nonsense.  You can't believe such crap.  And why would it be me, and not anyone else?"

     "Because you are the most cowardly and base of us all."

     "Complete drivel.  Lies.  Slander."

     "You beat Mrs. Seinkewicz when you brought her here."

     "You also tried to rape a page the last time we invited youover to the embassy." added the Peruvian.

     "And you use your diplomatic immunity to pick up prostitutes, to indulge your desires with them and then rob their wallets before kicking them out of your Edsel limousine." added the Sierra Leonian.

     "And you write Jew-baiting articles for the opposition in your spare time." added the Andorran.

     "But whenever you see someone who might be Jewish and rich you grovel and scrape yourself before them." concluded the Finn.

     "Yes, it's not a very charming habit at all," noted Ignatius.

     "This is all an anti-Rumanian plot!  Everyone of you are violent anti-Rumanian bigots!"

     "That's not true.  We have nothing against your country."

     "You must be crazy then.  I couldn't tolerate such weak-willed bastards for a moment.  My fellow countrymen are only good for the whip, whether it's Antonescu and Ceausescu, it doesn't matter, they're just mindless dogs who have to beaten into submission!  And we give them the whip, and not the guillotine, so we expect to be well paid for our mercy!  And as for those Poles, their shit doesn't smell sweeter than anyone else's, can't stand those bastards, with their Catholic snobbery and pretending to be Austrians or even Jews in disguise, God damn those incompetent fools going off to battle spitshined and shot by Nazi tanks, dying with 'dignity', the worthless prats, I'd rather kiss a Nazi ass than be such a fool, worthless swine deserved to be slaughtered as if they had swine flu and..."

     But the Rumanian official's voice was becoming increasingly coarse and when he reached the "and" it became so hoarse as to be incomprehensible.  And then the next moment he was coughing up blood, choking himself to death, he gasped, went into convulsions, suffered paroxysms of agony, and started to die. Thirty humans, including Harding and, oddly enough, the still unconscious Peter, could only look with surprise and horror at his death agonies, but seated on his chair Vivian Chelmnickon leaned over to try to reach the man.  It was a useless gesture, since the two men were too far apart, and the power of the bloodpurge was too much for the peace that passes all understanding to intercede.  Nothing could stop the Rumanian from dying, and so he did and as he did so Vivian's eyes welled up with the tears that he had not cried on the death of his wife.

     "The bloodpurge has surged forth again." announced the Angel.  And indeed, a few decimeters from the Rumanian's corpse, there was another stream of blood flowing from the roof of the cathedral.  It was a very odd stream, because although it was pouring, it did not make any sound as it did so, and when it reached the bottom it did not spread across the floor, or more precisely it spread across only very slowly, thanks to the best efforts of the angels to contain it.

     "What happens next?" asked Constantine.

     "The moment for Chelmnickon to act has not yet arrived.  Until that happens the bloodpurge will spread and take more victims.  All we can do is contain it."

     As Vivian prayed quietly and recanted all the sins he could think of, Lucian approached the stream of blood.  "Adrian, dare you to touch this."

     "Lucian, don't be stupid." cried Vanessa.

     "Is this really blood?" asked Mrs. Concrete.  "But it's so red and ugly.  It doesn't look good at all."

     "It's not supposed to.  It's blood."

     "But it's still ugly." and Mrs. Concrete almost pouted, and reached out to touch it.  Twenty-eight pairs of eyes instantly blinked, and even Ignatius Wilentz was disconcerted, as she grasped the column.  But nothing happened to her.  But something did indeed happen to the column.  It was now a lovely shade of yellow, smelling of daffodils.  "How the hell did that happen?" shouted an incredulous Constantine.

     "Well, red is such a nasty color.  It'd be much nicer if the blood were yellow, which happens to be my favourite color."

     "How did it turn yellow?"

     "Many things are allowed to virgins who give birth to children." replied the Master.

     "What's this about virgin birth?" asked Ignatius.

     "Oh, didn't I tell you?  An angel came down to me just two weeks before I was going to get married, and she told me that I was going to have a lovely daughter.  At least, that's what I think she said, I was too busy reading at the time.  If only Elizabeth were here, I have so much to show her."

     "Where the hell is Elizabeth?" asked Lucian.

     "Presumably she's hiding after murdering Charles." replied Vanessa, but the Master bade her to be quiet.  And indeed, the cathedral was full of quiet.  Lucian raised her foot as high as she could, then stamped it down on the floor.  The sound was strangely muted.  Lucian then gave off a short high-pitched scream that always annoyed Adrian and Constantine.  And it annoyed everyone else as well, but then they realized that there weren't any echoes in the wide vaults of the cathedral.  "OK, what's going on?"

     "It must be the bloodpurge." said Vanessa.

     "I guessed that much."

     "But you don't understand!  Before it kills people it takes away their sounds.  First it removes the echoes and the incidental sounds, like the unbuttoning of flies, or the undoing of straps or the crackling of knuckles.   It removes all the superfluous sounds, the sounds we don't really need to hear, like the static and the creaking of typewriters and the whine of mosquitoes.  Then the purge starts attacking our own sounds, it irons out all the annoying mannerisms in our laughter, our screams, our singing, our breathing.  It attacks our jokes, poisons our memories, starts to cover all our quotidian activities with an extra layer of lead so that it's harder to remember.  Slowly it removes all our irreverence, all our irresponsible lust, all our pride and arrogance and vindictiveness and self-pity, and then it takes away our humour..."

     "What do you mean it takes away our humour?  I can still tell jokes:  a rabbi, a cardinal and a pig go into a drug store and ask for three boxes of condoms.  Then they go out again."

     "And?" asked Franz Wilentz.

     "What do you mean 'and?'  Isn't that good enough?"

     Except for Mrs. Concrete everyone was decidedly nervous as the yellow daffodil smelling column of blood continued to flow, but no one was more nervous than the embassy officials.  Especially nervous was the Andorran, who suddenly threw away the elaborate net gun.  "I have an idea.  We all brought you here, but I don't see any reason why we should stay here.  I propose that all of us officials throw our weapons away and then we make a run for it."

     "No!" ordered the Master.  "You cannot outrun the bloodpurge.  You must stay here for your own safety!"  But the Andorran didn't listen, he threw away a firearm, and raced towards one of the exits.  But he was instantly stopped by an unknown force, fell to the ground, and started coughing up blood. In less than ninety seconds he was dead.

     "With each death the bloodpurge becomes more powerful.  The next death will follow shortly after this one."

     "But I don't want it to." said Mrs. Concrete.  "That would be sad and horrible and it shouldn't have to happen.  Can't it be nicer like when I was a child?"  And with a thought she turned the pillar of blood blue.

     "What's that new smell?" asked Seinkewicz.

     "It smells like bleach." said Adrian.

     "No," said the Master.  "It's shampoo."

     Indeed, the cathedral was filled with the scent of shampoo, shampoo wine, shampoo coffee, and shampoo fishcakes.  The aroma of 4-H calendars, of tiny school districts and cardboard crowns with aluminum foil for Advent pageants suffused the whole building.  They all started remembering things that they had never experienced:  skating parties with furtive urinations, decaying tree houses, the television listings that had only two channels, sewing tips in the local paper beside a borrowed editorial for our friends in Katanga.  And for the first time the blood actually made noise, the fine happy noise that Mrs. Concrete remembered when she first heard the air conditioning installed in her house, calm days in August 1958 where the thought of nuclear war was completely absent from her mind.  And she particularly liked the shade; it was the color of dying lilacs, or sick pansies.  And it was proper shade for blood to be, the sort of shade you should have when you bruised your knees, and had little cuts, not that messy red stuff, that left nasty stains and worse memories; the blood was the sort of shade that would fit very nicely in Thomas Costain novels, a writer who knew when to be discrete and reserved, and not have all those hysterical viciousness reserved just for those Toronto literaturs.  And just as the din of the pillar's air conditioning blue blood was beginning to give everyone else a headache, Mrs. Concrete decided that it would be a really nice idea if the blood was now green.  Montserrat, who was standing closest to the pillar, was almost asphyxiated by the smell of sterile air-fresheners, of gasoline station scratch and sniffs, of children's odoramas.  The other twenty-five people were confronted by the stench of evergreens, of the proud trees whose smell had been manufactured, mass-produced and pre-fabricated into convenient little perfume bottles.  They could see the badly manufactured children's paint kits, whose paints all turned to mud so very easily and in which the paints weren't even solidly kept in the holes, but still a few pretty things were created before the artists were suffocated with patronizing love.  And there were the sounds, the sounds of ineffective bug zappers being fed flies by sadistic children, the sounds of cement churners, and of robins waking up troubled sleeps with shrill cries.  The sounds that twenty-five people heard, listening to the Presbyterian church, as verses from such books as James, Jude, Philippians, Proverbs and Obadiah, were torn from their roots and were flying through the air and were being recited to happy parishioners with all the sententious and sincerity and profundity of Chinese fortune cookies.  And as these smells and sights and sounds filled the cathedral of St. Michael Servetus, Mrs. Concrete danced.  Or at least she tried to dance; actually as she didn't know and as her husband never bothered to teach her she just hopped up and down and flung her arms about as if she were trying to play hopscotch but had forgotten the rules.  But now Mrs. Concrete was seriously wondering whether it would be a good idea to turn the pillar orange, the colour of peaches that were slightly overripe but which she still liked to eat anyway.  It reminded her of picnics where her father who was not her father never suggested that she leave her parents and go running around over the next hill, preferably for half an hour.  Clearly the father not her father must really be her father after all, because the father who was her father but not really her father would do just that sort of thing to his two daughters.  She remembered Elizabeth's first dresses, which were also orange, when she was still fat, before she became an unusually beautiful girl, and she remembered all her favorite dolls were dressed in orange clothes, even though many of them were actually white, or red, or even black or checkerboard green.  But before she could do anything the Finnish official started to cough and clear his throat.  It was only when everyone was looking at him, that he realized how purple he was.

     "I suppose I'm to be the third victim."  And he tactfully turned his back, and took out the handkerchief that all fashionable Finnish embassy officials were supposed to wear, and he took out the ugly notebook where he kept track of all his finances, and he stuffed the notebook in his mouth, and wrapped the handkerchief around his face.  Then he lay down on his stomach, with his hands behind his back, and then he quietly died, leaving only a small stain in the handkerchief that could be easily washed out.

     "How interesting." said Dramsheet.  "Only people to whom we have no emotional attachment whatsoever have died.  If we follow this pattern, it will be safe to assume that the four remaining embassy officials will die next."

     "What?" said the Siamese maid.

     "That would imply that I will die next." said the Syrian official.  "Since I am not even close to my fellow embassy officials, either here or in the Syrian embassy.  After all, I spend most of my time doing the accounts and writing press releases on Syrian Jewry."

     "Yes, that would make sense." agreed Dramsheet.  "The four embassy officials would die, and then so would the maid, because only the Master cares about her, and then probably Montserrat would go afterwards, because he's only Wilentz's secretary, and..."

     "Couldn't we think of something more practical than predicting which of us dies first?" asked Constantine.  But then they were all looking at the pillar.  It had turned red again, and Mrs. Concrete's efforts to wish it into some other color were not succeeding.  But the pillar was still making a sound, a strange series of creaking sounds.

     "It's an iron maiden." announced Lucian.  "I once visited London and went to a museum that had one.  That's the sound they make when you open and close the doors.  I think that quiet undertone is the sound people make when they're screaming, but that could just be my imagination.  Oh, and I think that sound is a thumbscrew."  But nobody needed her to tell them what the next sound was, for everyone recognized the sound of the spring of a gallows' trapdoor.  Twenty-six people looked up to the angels flying above their heads, and to Vivian Chelmnickon praying in the circle, when the Syrian Official died.  It was very quick, very sudden, quite painless, and his death was even more polite than the Finn's.  "It would appear that we are now going to die very suddenly." noted Dramsheet.

     "You mean we won't have time to put our affairs in order?" asked the Sierra Leonian.  "You know the one thing I've always regretted in my life in the consular service is the fact that no-one knows which country I come from.  If you've seen one black, starving, miserable, illiterate country full of corrupt bureaucrats and idiotic monetarists, full of female circumcision and ethnic rivalry, apparently you've seen them all.  So I often meet people who have to take out maps just to know where I come from, and my country is often misplaced in the north, the south, or the east.  (It's really in the west.)  I suppose I have no reason to complain, the same thing happened to Eastern and Central European countries two generations before me, and with all sorts of Latin American countries as well.  And in a way, it does put the horrific civil war that is going to break out after I die in a better perspective.  Yes there will be the most horrible atrocities and crimes, but as a result many Europeans and Americans will show some interest in my country.  Thousands of people will spend actual minutes thinking about my unfortunate nation.  But learning that I'm going to die, that I am nothing more than a cog in everyone else's machines..."

     And then he stopped, with his mouth wide open, and for a moment everyone thought that he had died, but in fact he was just pausing for effect and couldn't figure out the next word.  Then he discovered it, but before he could say it, he collapsed and fell to the floor, with blood flowing quietly from his lips.

     "Am I supposed to say that much before I die?" asked the Peruvian.  "I do not think I can talk that long.  My English is not good.  Were it not for my perfect French, I would never have been a consular official at all."  But then he doubled-over in pain, vomited a cup of blood, and fell to the floor, dead.

     "It would appear that you are to be next." Dramsheet said to the Siamese official.  "If it is any consolation at all, it will be a very quick death.  Based on a series of admittedly crude calculations you should be quite dead in less than thirty-six seconds."

     "But I don't want him to die quickly!" shrieked the maid.  "I want him to die as slowly as possible.  Seconds, minutes, days even years.  I want the bloodpurge to take fifty years to kill him, to jiggle all his organs and arteries, because the longer he takes to die, the more time I'll have to smother him with kisses, the more time I can laugh with him, the more time I can dance with him, though since he would be on his back it would have to be a horizontal sort of dance, and even if he is so ill that he has to stay in an impromptu coffin I could cover it with wonderful creepers that I've never seen and sweet-smelling tropical flowers that I've also never seen.  And we could get married and we could have children and I could sing to him, even though my mistress says I don't know how, at least I could learn, I could tickle his bloody bleeding body so that he would always be laughing, and the children could play tic-tac-toe nearby and so that every minute of his dying would be full of pleasure, and he wouldn't know he was dying at all."

     "You are not going to get your wish."  And as the Thai official looked at his fingernails, he saw slow trickles of blood flowing from underneath.  And then his arms seized up in a cramp so painful that his whole face grimaced.  "No!  Please don't die!  Mistress, please help me!  I don't want him to die!"

     And then something else happened.  "The bloodpurge will now shower flashes of pain to the people who are about to die." announced the Defender.   And indeed they did, but the first victim of the pain flashes was not Monagham who was busy confessing all the details of her yesterday tryst with the man who delivered the doughnuts, and it was not Montserrat, who was wondering whether he would be punished for sneering at Peter Wilentz.  It was not even Peter Wilentz himself, still blissfully, though not absolutely, unconscious.  Instead, the first person to be attacked was Rebekah Wilentz, who was so shocked by the pain that she fell over backwards and caused Peter's head to hit the floor, which roused him awake.

     Franz Wilentz desperately, and uselessly, tried to alleviate his wife's pain while the maid tried to do something to help the Thai official, now the only embassy official left, as he had fallen to the floor and a slow subtle stream of blood flowed out of the left corner of his mouth.  The maid screamed for help, and when the Master did not come to her aid, she screamed louder and louder in order to compensate.  Then Montserrat felt a agonizing pain in his right calf, and limped around in agony, while Monagham felt that her breasts were on fire.  A sudden spasm shook through Lucian, then through Adrian, then through Aquilla, and then through Giles.  And to Vivian it was so suddenly clear, the bloodpurge would kill everyone in the room, it would kill the Thai, and then his lover for her affections, and then Roget for his treachery, then Giles for his impotence, then Natasha for her sorcery, then Ignatius for his skepticism, then Franz for his uxoriousness, then Rebekah for her uxoriousness, then Peter for his tyranny, then Montserrat for his servility, then Monagham for her lust, then Dramsheet for his chastity, then Aquilla for her gullibility, then the Murderess for her pride, then the Defender for her lies, then the Holder for his apologies, then the Master for her blood-guilt, then John for his adultery and the whores, then Avare for not accepting the adultery and the whores, then Adrian for his silliness, then Lucian for her shallowness, then Vanessa for her wrath, and then finally Constantine Rudman, tied and bounded to the pillar with piano wire from the piano that had crushed and killed his wife, then Constantine for his all-consuming weakness and the guilt that destroys all understanding.  That would leave only five angels flying up above them saying unknown prayers in the language of God, leave only him sitting in the circle, and Mrs. Concrete, who didn't have a clue to what was going on.  Vivian blinked.  The bloodpurge was actually conflicted over whether to kill Harding between Dramsheet and Aquilla or ignore him altogether.

     And then the head Angel materialized by his side.  "Look."  And Vivian looked and saw that the pillar of blood was not simply red, not simply making the sound of the trapdoors of gallows, and was not simply vanishing when it hit the floor, but that the blood was a special shade of noxious red, filled with carbon dioxide, and waste fluids and strange magnified bacteria, and that the blood also made the hiss of execution chambers, of electric chairs and guillotines, and now he could clearly hear the screams that previously Lucian's morbid imagination only thought she heard, and as the screams grew louder and louder, Vivian realized that the blood was pouring across the floor.  Indeed, it had covered the officials, indeed, the Finnish official's attempt to die with dignity by stuffing his notebook in his jaw so that he would stop the blood from flowing out his mouth, was now completely useless as his whole body, from hair to dead skin to fine Finnish clothes was as red as the rubies that Vivian saw in the Warsaw museum in the August before the Nazis invaded.  And it was not enough that the blood defaced its corpses, it mutated them as well, the Syrian who had died with such quiet had his clothes burned off with the acid of the bloodpurge and had been given three extra sets of genitalia on his corpse, one the shape of a crab, while the Rumanian's body now looked like an impaled mosquito, with blood flowing everywhere from its crushed body.  And as the Thai official kept bleeding, as the screams of the blood grew louder and louder, as more blood flowed from his body than it was thought possible to possess, and as his lover kept screaming but was drowned out by the screams of the blood, the four other Angels floated down from the vault and Vivian stared into their eyes.

     "The Avatar approaches.  The bloodpurge must have a human instrument to serve its destructive ends.  The Avatar approaches, the avatar who shows all the spite and evil and hate and lust of all the world and who uses it for the ends of the bloodpurge.  She comes, she arises, after having hid herself from the eyes of men, she comes to wreck havoc on the angels of the Lord, she comes to destroy all your friends, she comes to help destroy all life and all its beauty, in the name of beauty, in the name of life."  And all the people in the cathedral who were not either dead or in extreme pain turned toward the entrance and heard a hideous, cruel laugh as Elizabeth Concrete came in to welcome her relatives and friends.

     She paused, laughed again, and then walked across the blood covered floor, leaving little prints with her bare feet. Although it was twenty degrees below freezing outside, she was almost naked, but this did not affect her in the least.  Her face was smeared with an evil-coloured lipstick that she had mixed with her husband's blood, while more blood and spit drooled down her lips, and down her body, smeared with her own shit, with obscene pictures drawn with her own mascara, her hands were smeared with the sperm of oysters, and her nails were blood red, as long as Mandarin officials, and as sharp as razors while her hair had grown impossibly long, down almost to her ankles, as yellow as tuberculosis (or consumption) with splotches of mud and dirt and tangled robin's nests, while around her neck was a necklace of small combs, empty lipstick cases, eyelash brushes, caps to "cute" pen sets, broken mirrors whose edges jabbed her skin, smashed perfume bottles, and wizened shampoo containers.  The whole effect reminded everyone of a necklace of skulls.  And indeed, there were bracelets around her wrists that she made when the seagulls came down to find her absolutely motionless under a fire escape twelve hours earlier, who were attracted to her, and whose necks she broke, and whose blood she drank and whose bones she used to make the bracelets.  She had burned the clothes she had worn when she left the apartment early in the morning after hiding the Dagger of St. Francis of Assisi where it would be easily found, and around her bosom was a peculiar bra.  It did not cover her nipples, nor was it intended to, but even if it had, it would have been to no purpose, because as she trod in the ever increasing puddle made by the pillar of blood, she danced; a dance of all the vile Voodoo and all the Kali cults, a dance of whoredom and death, no a dance that no Voodoist no Kalist and no Satanist could ever recapture or recapitulate, that no death cult had ever seen before and would never seen again, a cult in which she exposed every inch of her body to the shocked crowd, in which she shit and menstruated, and once she pulled out a human skull from her own womb and used it to drink the blood from the pillar of blood, the screaming noxious blood, before she smashed it on the floor and used the jagged edges to cut off two of the deceased Syrian's superfluous genitalia and crushed them and smeared the bloody paste over her breasts, which were not covered by the peculiar bra, which were made of some of the seagull's feathers, and bookjackets of Germaine Greer and Margaret Atwood, and used sanitary napkins, and daggers sharper even that the dagger of St. Francis of Assisi, and the pelt of a rat she had skinned, and she continued to dance and around her waist was a skirt, which also did not hide her private parts, which was made with more sanitary napkins, with unloosed necklaces of ill-tasting candy cigarettes, of burned out butts, of toy water-pistol rings, of all the cheap jewelry from her eight year old rings to bad fake emeralds and preposterous rubies which weren't even the right colour, right down to her wedding ring, which she had somehow melted by unknown processes and which she scrunched in her left hand leaving a hideous scar like an octopus, right down to her gaudy yellow earrings, which she had ripped out of her own earlobes and only now did everyone see the scars, the skirt that was made of ripped up petticoats, and rumpled announcements for proms used as toilet paper, and the old Christian comics her mother had given her, which were either smeared with shit or crudely redrawn with obscene phalluses and gargantuan breasts, and government announcements on the need for constitutional renewal, and it was also made with a human scalp and a human finger, because she had sneaked back to Oakeshott Funeral Homes and had scalped her own husband in his own coffin and when the assistant funeral director saw this she bit off his left little finger before tearing open his throat, and the skirt was also made with a whip made from the electrical cord made from her brand new hair dryer, and with an old teddy bear with the plastic eyes gouged out, and with the old matchstick chairs ripped to pieces and strewn along following her every undulation.  And then she stopped the dance, reached once more into her womb, and drew something out.

     "I have the box of dreams."  And she gave a hideous mad giggle, as she lifted up the box and poured out the final ounces of impotent sand on to the floor, before she dropped it (and she gave another hideous giggle) and it fell to the floor, breaking into pieces, and with the cover no longer shimmering or shining or anything else. "I have drunken this box to the dregs, I have gorged myself on all its contents, and I have been given the power of life and death, and death and life, by the secrets of its knowledge I have been given dominion over all things.  I am the creatrix, the avatar, the eternal whore, and the destroyer of all things.  From my womb comes all life, and now all death shall come from it.  From my wombs comes the eternal bloodpurge and from it I shall destroy you all, save for a few."

     "How very interesting." said Ignatius.

     Everyone, even the angels, even the dying Siamese embassy official turned to look at Ignatius, and so did Elizabeth.  This was not the reaction that she had expected, but Ignatius continued anyway.  "Yes, it's very interesting.  The bloodpurge as a metaphor for menstruation.  And that you, born from a virgin, should be its agent.  What will totalitarianism think of next?  There must be a perfectly logical explanation for all this and if I think for a few minutes I'm going to find it."

     "Who are you, little Jew?" asked Elizabeth in a voice that had lost all of its humanity.

     "Oh, my name is Ignatius Wilentz, I happen to be the uncle of the woman you are trying to frame for the murder you committed last night.  Incidentally I'm not a little Jew, I'm about a decimeter or two taller than you are, and you are rather tall for your sex.  Anyway, I must say I find you quite fascinating, obviously the gothic elements are grotesquely overdone, which means the true horror is going to come in the near future.  I think the conspiracy to kill..."

     But before Ignatius could continue any further, Elizabeth slashed his right arms and the top of his chest with her razor sharp nails.  His clothes protected him from the worst, but she drew blood regardless.  Franz tried to help his brother, but a glance from the Avatar was enough to force him to the ground writhing in convulsions, joining his dying wife, and their confused son.  Monagham grabbed the firearm that the Andorran had tossed aside and tried to shoot the Avatar down, but then her own limbs suddenly collapsed, and she found herself firing a bullet into each of her legs.  Elizabeth reached the maid and grabbed her from the side of her love, ripped off her shirts and threatened to slit her throat, as the pool of blood spread across the floor of the cathedral.

     "That is enough." said the Master, armed with the dagger of St. Francis of Assisi.  But before she could kill the Avatar, Elizabeth twisted her arm around and almost snapped it off.  She grabbed the dagger, and to the Master's shock, broke it to pieces.  But now her immediate homicidal frenzy was behind her, and she did not notice Natasha and Roget pick up some of the pieces and sneak their way to the pillar where Constantine was tied.  "Hello mother, hello father in-law, I killed my husband last night, I used my key to get into the apartment, and when I did I was wearing the Master's Lucian Rudman costume.  Of course he wasn't fooled for a minute, he knew it was me, and when I unbuttoned my coat, and my vest and the two shirts and pulled up the undershirt and removed the special cummerbund that kept my breasts in check, well he couldn't resist, and while he was fondling them, while he was getting hard, while he was licking my nipples, I stabbed him through the heart with the dagger of St. Francis of Assisi, and then tonight I cut off his scalp, it's what's hanging around my bottom.  And I don't mind a bit, I'm going to kill you all, the bloodpurge will kill you all.  Hello Aquilla, you're responsible for all this, if you had kept your mouth shut, your sister wouldn't have sent anonymous letters to me, and I wouldn't have complained to my husband, and he wouldn't have slapped me, and I wouldn't have had to kill him."  And then she used her nails to rip off half her dress and began to carve on her belly The cunt of this dead whore belongs to.   Adrian and Lucian tried to stop her, but Elizabeth grabbed them and with one hand each hoisted them two feet into the air and slowly choked them to death.  Satisfied with their purple faces, she let them go and she took the whip she had made with the electrical cord and grabbed Montserrat from the place where he had been hiding, and slashed his face with it, before gouging his left calf with her nails.

     "Hello Aunt Catherine, I'm just here to tell you that both your daughters are going to die, and while I'm not going to waste my nails on a old sack of bones like you, what do you think of necrophilia?  And Aunt Avare, what a pathetic old woman you are, you're going to die, and you're going to go straight to hell, but before that I think I'll let you see your son die horribly in agony."  And now Giles joined the others writhing in agony on the floor, and so did Roget, while Elizabeth approached the helpless Constantine.  She exhaled into his face, a breath of ashes and heat and abattoirs, "Hello Constantine, I can give you so much more than your stupid Vanessa.  I can make you as hard as concrete, and then I can smash you to pieces with a sledgehammer.  Wouldn't you much prefer screwing me, than that vapid she-male Jewess, who kicks people in the shins like an immature brat.  I can give you so much more, and I can take so much more.  And, oh Vanessa, don't think I've forgotten you.  If you had told everyone about the dagger you found in your cutlery drawer there would have been a report out on me and I would never have been made queen of the bloodpurge and you would never have the blood of a poor assistant funeral director on your head.  Of course, it's so reassuring that an envious, spiteful Jewess like yourself with wizened breasts and flaking skin should come to the defense of her beautiful and dashing gentile friend.  And you're going to get your reward:  think of poor Constantine, he's so much weaker and servile and pathetic than you are, so you must be really pathetic to have him be the man in your life.  And don't ever try to say that you don't love him, and he doesn't love you, because of course you do, because whenever Constantine has sex with someone he loves and who loves him back, he falls down with a brief spell of pneumonia.  It's perfectly horrible, and if you were ever to get married, you have to spend your honeymoon in a hospital, or better yet a mortuary.  I'd love to see that."

     "You don't deserve to have a friend like Vanessa," spat out Constantine.

     "You think you can judge me like I was a mere mortal?"


     "How foolish of you.  Fortunately you're going to die.  Not right away, of course, I'll save you for later, the first thing we have to do is kill this stupid chink official.  I think he's thrown up more blood than belongs to the entire Canada Council, but he won't survive upchucking his vital organs.  I think we'll start with his pancreas, and work our way up.  Why don't you get out of the way you stupid maid-slut, this is going to get messy."


     It was Chelmnickon speaking.  "Oh yes, the saint.  I completely forgot about you.  You haven't been doing much have you?  After you've been canonized and after all this is over, why don't we go to Poland.  It all be full of corpses like everywhere else, you know the blood mutates people as it changes, I think I'll have the blood turn everyone into ichneumon wasps, they're the species where the babies eat their mothers from inside, and perhaps they could all sodomize each other, and they could do it on all the high altars, and when we get there we could do it doggie style right on the Katyn monument."

     "You are a stupid and senseless woman, and I shan't reply to your pathetic ravings.  Your fantasies are as meretricious as they are sadistic, behind your desire to cause hurt and pain there does not even lie an imagination to do evil, simply a recapitulation of mass cult horrors.  You can only kill people and you can only torture people because you do not have the emotional substance to cause any deeper pain.  Throughout your life you have despised the parents who loved you, betrayed the friends who cared for you, and murdered the only man who ever loved you.  You tried to frame Lucian Rudman, Pandora Vovelle and Vanessa Wilentz for your crimes, and you are now going to murder dozens of people you do not know and who have never done you the slightest bit of harm.  Only a completely mindless person could inflict such suffering, and I, for one, refuse to see anymore of it.  In the name of the Lord our God, I absolve Vanessa Wilentz of her sins, and in the name of the Lord, I shall see no more suffering here.  I wash my hands of you."

     And with that he turned away and then the Holder rose from the sight unseen where he had hidden.  Before Elizabeth could turn her head to see what was happening to her the Holder took out a giant cloak and wrapped it around her.  When he lifted up his arms again the half-naked woman with the ankle-length hair no longer existed.  Instead, Elizabeth was wrapped in the cloak of an auto-de-fe, the seagull bone bracelets had been turned to adamantine bonds chaining her hands together behind her back.  Her hair had vanished, no it had been cut off, fell to the floor and vanished like dust off a corpse.  The evil and hate and passion and the lipstick and the blood and the shit were no longer there; there was only a vacant stare as Elizabeth watched the Defender of St. Rose of Lima approach her.  The Defender placed a rubber cap on her three center right fingers, and took out a vial of holy hydrochloric acid that she had taken from the Master.  As she unscrewed the cap, the Holder pulled a long stretch of piano wire from out of his sleeve.

     The Defender spoke:  "Elizabeth Concrete Harding, you are a murderer and a whore, and you must pay the price.  Before your execution, however, you will receive the final services of the Roman Catholic Church."

     "What are you doing to her?" asked Constantine.

     "Shhh." hissed Natasha, who was trying to use a piece of the dagger to cut the piano wire binding him to the pillar.

     "Elizabeth Concrete Harding, I shall be your godmother, even though I am younger than you; and the Holder shall be your godfather, even though you have never met him."

     The Siamese embassy official screamed horribly.

     "The Pillar!  Look at the Pillar!"  cried Dramsheet, as half a dozen other pillars of blood manifested themselves.

     "In order to save time, the service in which we pledge our duties to you will be conducted posthumously."

     "What are you doing to her?" cried Vanessa.

     "She is going to be garroted." said the Master.

     "Serves her right." added Aquilla.

     The Holder dipped her rubber covered finger in the holy hydrochloric acid, then moved to touch Elizabeth.  "I baptize you, Elizabeth Concrete..."

     "Wait a moment." said Ignatius.

     "Father, what's happening to you?" pleaded Peter.

     "Help Rebekah!" screamed Franz.

     "I'm dying!" yelled Rebekah.

     The Holder wrapped the wire around Elizabeth's neck.

     "Stop them, they're going to kill my daughter!"

     " the name of the father..."

     "Somebody help Adrian!" screamed Lucian.

     "The Bloodpurge is spreading!" yelled Montserrat.

     "Chelmnickon!" shouted Ignatius.  "Listen to me!"

     "Oh God!  I'm bleeding!" screeched Monagham.

     "Chelmnickon, the conspiracy to kill someone who is already dead..."

     "...and the son..."

     "This is the apotheosis of the saints!" cried Madame Vovelle.

     Avare Seinkewicz gurgled and sputtered.

     "My wife!  She's dying!"

     "I don't understand any of this at all." said Harding.

     "The bloodpurge will flow over the earth and consume us all."

     "Don't listen to her, Chelmnickon.  The conspiracy.  Your wife was the victim..."

     "Somebody save my daughter!"

     "Somebody help me!" begged the maid.

     "...and the Holy Ghost."

     "...and you are the murderer!"

     The Holder began to pull the wire in opposite directions...

next: Conclusion: The Holy Orgy

previous: The Truth Behind the Compass

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