Agustí lets out a long sigh. Julio and he have been lifelong friends, but Tomás has insisted that a confession be wrung of Julio, and no one says “no” to Tomás. To those that have dared, death was as welcome as a cup of water after crossing the Tabernas in the middle of summer. As they say here in Sevilla, “God forgives…Torquemada doesn’t.”
“Please, Julio, don’t prolong this any longer. If you will just admit to dabbling in witchcraft, I can hopefully convince the Inquisitor General to show some mercy.”
“Listen to my story, Agustí, and then I will gladly sign anything. I will admit to being a warlock, I will admit to being a Jew, I will admit to being anything that your friend Tomás desires, but I will have my say first.”
Agustí’s two assistants are visibly disappointed. They know that they will eventually have their fun making this infidel see God by giving him a taste of Hades, but what artisan wants to wait, when he takes such pleasures from his endeavor? Maybe one day soon, even Agustí will be under their auspices. Oh, to hear the over-demanding, never satisfied voice of authority begging for mercy.
One of the assistants looks about the small dungeon walls as to determine which combination of instruments will create a unique symphony, as the other stirs the fire under the coals, making some of the strange-looking implements in the brazier glow a bright orange. The first assistant walks over to the far wall and sits down because inhaling the smoke has made him a little dizzy. There always seems to be a slight breeze of relatively fresher air wafting around in this corner.
Agustí reluctantly nods and Julio clears his throat. “It was weird, this thing that the birds circled…I still cannot accurately describe it now. I can tell you, though, that it was almost near the end of its life.”
“Was it man or beast, Julio?”
“Yes...and no. I mean to say that it was both.”
“This is no time for jokes or chicanery. Remember that we were friends once and that is the only reason that you will not suffer the same fate as those that have dared to mock me before.”
“Agustí, in all of the years that we have lived side-by-side, gone to the same schools, worked at my father’s shop, have you ever known me to tell a falsehood?”
“No, but certainly you could tell what kind of creature it was…or is this another wild tale that was brought over from the so-called “New World” by charlatan Cristoforo Colombo?”
“I am unfamiliar with the recent adventures of that explorer, as this incident happened some eleven years ago.”
Julio’s posture and stature grow, as if the chains are no longer suspending him, but he instead is using them to hold the very walls together. He looks down at Agustí and his voice finds strength as he says, “You remember that day, don’t you, Agustí? The day that you were careless in my father’s shop and you accidentally cut yourself? It seemed that no bandage or poultice could staunch the flow of blood that was escaping from you.”
One of Agustí’s assistants smiles with glee, until his superior quashes it with a baleful glare.
“You recall that don’t you, Agustí? I rode as fast as I could from here to Gelves, to find that apothecary that blended the very herbal cataplasm that saved your life? Well, your mortality was not the only one that I had rescued that day.”
“So, are you saying that this creature was a demon?” scoffs the sitting assistant.
“I am saying that this creature spoke our language just as well, if not better than you,” Julio snaps back. “And though most of him did not seem to be human, he has apparently more heart than your overseer here. Yet here we have this so-called “man” that stands before us. Agustí, you who had no family that would take care of you, no roof over your head, no food in your belly, you would let them bring me here. You would subject me to this, knowing that I have lived a just life and unlike yours, a life without sin!”
“No, Agustí, I will not be silent. You call yourself a Christian, yet you have never lived your life like Jesus. You have never truly served your fellow man. I could list the acts of kindness that you’ve done in your lifetime on one fing—”
Agustí slaps Julio once to silence him, and then he backhands him for good measure.
“Give me the parchment; I can sign his name better than he can himself,” Agustí barks at his standing assistant. The aide lays it out on the table and produces an inkwell and quill.
Julio clenches his lips and slowly regains his posture of strength.
“Agustí? Do you remember the fables that my father would tell you from time to time?”
The Inquisitor Minor does not reply, as he chooses instead to concentrate on forging Julio’s signature accurately, yet with a flourish that is too cheery, considering the circumstances.
“Agustí, in particular, remember Aesop. Remember that tale of The Slave and The Lion? How The Slave came upon The Lion as the great cat was in pain from the thorn in its paw? He removed the thorn from The Lion and they became friends. Well, it wasn’t a thorn I removed, but I saved the life of a good friend. He is a remarkable friend that promised me he would never forget his debt.”
As he admires his penmanship, Agustí grumbles, “No doubt this friend is even more foolish than you.
The sitting assistant shifts, as somehow the draft of air has increased and the wall seems to be nudging him in the back.
“No, Agustí. He is more human than you, because he understands the concept of redemption…”
A quick yelp is followed by snap like a hundred twigs being stepped on at once. Agustí slowly turns around to witness his other assistant succumbing to the same fate as the first, being torn in two like a tree split by lightning. He wants to scream, but his voice has taken flight, along with his sense of reason and sanity. This horrific creature lumbers towards Agustí as blood drips from its fangs.
Julio says with a smile, “Unlike you, he also knows that a true friend always repays his debts.”
For Friday Flash Fiction #36, Welles Fan is a particpant that came up with one of the three starter sentences that we could from. His was, "In the distance I saw all kinds of birds circling over something, but I couldn't tell what from where I was."