Hospitals are paradoxes. On the one hand, they are a culmination of centuries of secular science and logical thought; nowhere else does one find so many men and women concerned solely with the practice of medicine, a discipline that is necessarily divorced from superstition or magical thinking. But on the other, they are houses of hope and prayer, places where thousands of desperate supplications are uttered every day. Where science ends, faith begins. Who said that?
Peter couldn’t remember, as he lay in thought amongst the beeps and whines of the U Penn general hospital. The Asian nurse (such a kind young lady) had brought his cane earlier that day. They said he’d never run again. The damage that the creature had done to his stomach had been too much; they harvested leg tissue to replace what had spilled on the floor of the tomb. This, Peter remembered.
The Padre had come and gone, and they had discussed many things. They had spoken of violence, of Christ who came “not to bring peace, but to bring a sword” (Matthew 10:34). They spoke of faith, how belief in the infinite mercy of the Lord should not be confused with the sin of pride, of which so many were guilty. And they had spoken of courage, the fortitude to do what was necessary in a fight against foes as old as the War in Heaven. And then the padre left, and Peter was left to think.
To an outsider, Pete would seem to be praying. He held his rosary, the dove medallion a little scarred by the wayward sword of the thing in the tomb. His head was bowed and his lips moved. But Peter wasn’t praying. He was just thinking.
How do I get to the Kingdom?, Pete thought. I know and have believed that violence has no place in the will of God, but perhaps I have been too proud. Perhaps I am not only the Shield of God, but his Righteous Sword as well. Perhaps not everything can be healed, but only purged.
The rosary clicked, force of habit taking over. His leg throbbed beneath layers of bandage and antibiotics.
If I had been braver, if I had been less concerned with my purity, with the whiteness of my soul, those poor guards wouldn’t be dead. I would have stained my soul with murder, but is that not better than the death of innocents? I am the shepherd of the souls of men; my own conscience must come second.
Peter’s face hardened. His knuckles turned white around the rosary.
So be it. Redemption is still an option for those that would forsake the path of darkness. And I must offer it. Holy Mary, let some of them choose the way of the Redeemer, for the alternative is dispatch by my hand, as His instrument. And I do believe there is still hope for them: they can still find a path to kindness and hope, through Jesus Christ! But there will be woe and suffering to those who would stand before the will of the Lord, and it is my task on this fallen world to mete it out. I will be the righteous mace of God. He demands it.
Peter began to drift away on a cushion of morphine. Before he fell asleep, he muttered a single heartfelt prayer to God that the creatures in darkness would not force him to kill them, and he resolved to have a word with Arkady about finding the right tools for the task the Lord had set before him…