A murder of crows swooped across the face of the moon. There were seven of them winging together which was unusual – but it was an unusual night. Their shadows flickered through the forest below, briefly touching on the shape-shifter before disappearing into darkness.
In the orange moonlight the shape-shifter considered his options. A wolve’s four legs would carry him to the palace faster. But once arrived he would have to return to human form in order to gain entry. And lately that was becoming more and more difficult. He feared becoming trapped in animal form when his advancing age finally caught up to the enchantment and he could no longer change at will.
With a sigh he began the long walk in human form. His feet hurt, his knees ached and there seemed to be a new catch in his breath. This was sport for a younger man. But how he loved it!
After an hour’s walk through the night he came upon the Papal Palace. It glittered in the moonlight from atop a steep hill. The thought of climbing that cliff wearied him further and he sat for a moment at the edge of a pond and considered changing his mind.
It was a cruel joke and the damn fool deserved it. “Ye reap what ye sow,” his granny always said and this Pope deserved every bit of the reaping. But the damned hill was so high and it had been an exhausting walk through the forest. He hated getting old.
Finally he gave in and decided on a cat. A sleek, thin, muscular cat which could spring up the hill without exertion, that could slip in and out of the hollows of shortcuts and if he was lucky even slip through the gates and around the guards before he had to change back. The familiar tingling began in his ears and worked its way rapidly from side to side to meet in the middle and course through his body. He watched the world grow larger as his body mass shrank in size. A glance in the pond showed him, not the sleek muscular feline of his dreams, but a rangy old tom cat with torn ears and matted fur. He grinned. It was an apt transformation – and he felt stronger now.
The hill was nothing to his four legs and the bars of the south gate were wide enough to slip through easily. Inside the palace he ran directly to the Papal Throne Room and stopped before the ornate floor length mirror. As the familiar tingling took over his body he watched his image transform into that of the Pope, robed officially for greeting important guests. He moved to the inner door which led into the Pope’s private quarters and threw the bolt to lock it securely. Then he took a seat on the Papal Throne.
Someone tried the inner door and began pounding on it when they found it locked. The Pope’s personal body servant scrambled into the room from the public antechamber, frantic with haste and frightened out of his mind. “They have arrived for the secret audience” he said. “What have you done?” he screamed. “Run! They have arrived!”
The doors of the audience chamber burst open and every imaginable creature from hell poured into the room. It took only seconds for them to tear the servant’s body into thousands of bits. Some used their teeth. Their stench was enormous, the air shimmered with heat and the ungodly sounds of endless suffering which accompanied them. They surged forward towards the throne but none dared to touch him yet.
A voice from the demon crowd called out “Cower, god-lover! You have been judged and deemed wanting. Now is the time of settlement.”
The shape-shifter felt the blood drain from his face as he realized his horrible mistake. This was not the secret audience he was expecting. Where were the politicians come to curry favor?
He attempted to rise but found that he could not move from the throne. As the demons slowly advanced he shifted his shape and shifted again but his body remained the same. His worst nightmare had come to fruition – he was stuck.
And the demons wanted far more than he could have ever imagined. He began to scream as they drew closer and closer still. He screamed and screamed again.
It’s likely he screamed for all eternity.
This was written in response to the challenge over at Grammar Ghoul where you can find many other fabulous stories. Take a look!