“Under St. Peter’s” by Harry Turtledove

By Blood We Live

I’ve begun reading By Blood We Live, edited by John Joseph Adams [who also did The Living Dead and Wastelands (both of which I've reviewed)] which kicks off with a wonderfully dark, sexual, and twisted story by Neil Gaiman about Snow White, called “Snow Glass Apples” followed by a boring story from Anne Rice (the only short story she’s ever published apparently) called “The Master of Rampling Gate.”

The third story in the collection — “Under St. Peter’s” by Harry Turtledove — kind of blew my mind, as all good stories should.  When I’m done with the book and eventually review it, I will certainly mention the story, but won’t be able to reveal the big twist of a tale behind the story, because you can’t do that in book reviews.  The point of a book review is to entice the reader to get the book, and not spoil the ending and surprise.

So instead I’m going to reveal the ending for this story in this particular blog post.  Since it’s just one story in the collection, it’s not that big of a deal to reveal it as there are plenty more enjoyable tales in the rest of the collection.

And if you don’t want to find out how this story ends, stop reading now and you’ll be just fine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

“Under St. Peter’s” begins with the induction of a new pope deep within the heart of the Vatican.  The former cardinal is now very happy to have been promoted to such a high position, knowing he will now be remembered forever.  He then is informed of a secret order that has existed since the beginning of the papacy that very few know about.  The pope is to perform an induction ritual with this order, as has been done with every pope since the very beginning.  He is led through a hidden door in the floor down deep beneath the Vatican.  He is led down many steps, going deeper into the dark underground, being led by a member of the clandestine order.

When they reach their destination, they find an old, emaciated form that shocks the pope to his very soul when he sees who the man truly is.  This person bears wounds upon his palms and feet, by his side; familiar wounds that have become synonymous with his depictions on a crucifix.  He also bears a pair of small wounds on the side of his neck, which are never shown in any of his images or carvings.

It is Jesus, who has remained beneath the Vatican for a very long time.  And each time a new pope is elected, he is brought down to this hidden chamber where this man drinks of the new pope, for he is a vampire who can never die of hunger, satiating himself with each new pope.  Once he even drank too much of one pope, killing him, and a new one was immediately needed.

It puts that whole story about being raised from the dead by Lazarus in a much clearer perspective.

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