I stand in a basilica at the foot of a towering, breathing pyschopomp, donning an owl’s head, black as oil. Outside, the moving clouds that cascade the sun produce a moving iridescence that limns an ornate stained-glass window, giving the Nativity Scene its fixed, palpitant movement.
I turn around and espy a sullied priestess in black robes standing in the center of a semicircular apse, a Papal tiara lining her graying head and a black staff accessorizing her left hand, gnarled and knuckled from decades of arthritis. Her face is rawboned and disfigured; her irises are big, dilated, black. From underneath her robe births a gray wolf with jaundiced eyes and a white, scabby muzzle — snarling, growling. Fangs sweat the froth of overactive parotid glands.
The priestess kisses the ground beneath her with the butt of her staff. A thunderous boom caroms through the basilica. The wolf stands on its hind legs — a biped now — and walks in my direction.