"Never utter my son's real name again, under any circumstances! Do you understand me, you simpering moron?" Brother Baphomet's irate eruption immediately draws the attention of everyone in the darkened operations center. Even as Sister Stheno pitifully pleads for forgiveness, the second supervisor approaches from the far end of the room.
"What is this, my sister? What have you done now?" The second supervisor's head and face is hidden beneath a rotting shroud. She emits a stench of decay, like the smell of damp earth dug up from a fresh grave. She glances at Baphomet dismissively. "Hello, brother. Darkness is light. What seems to be the problem?"
Sister Stheno is giggling nervously, almost uncontrollably. "Oh, Sister Medusa, I'm so sorry for my poor, wretched brain! I've offended Brother Baphomet by thoughtlessly calling Prince Moloch by his birth name! Oh my, oh my! I'm such a useless fool!"
"Shut up, Stheno!" Medusa rasps. "I'll deal with you in a moment." She pulls back her shroud and reveals the twisting, turning vipers for which she is so well-renowned. "Don't be frightened, Baphomet. I do not mean to destroy you—only to compel you to pay the necessary retribution to the Darkness. That is why you were summoned here tonight, brother. Or do you not know what has happened in the aftermath of your son's undisciplined outburst in his biology classroom this morning?"
"Don't worry about me, Sister Medusa. I'm not frightened of you or your snakes. And my son told me all about the question he asked. I cautioned him to be more careful in the future. As far as I'm concerned, the matter is resolved."
"The matter is NOT resolved, Baphomet!" Medusa seethes viciously. "It is a disastrous, ongoing security breach, in fact! Matheson, the biology teacher, has gone into hiding. Our adversaries have been alerted; their suspicions needlessly aroused. The Darkness will demand an accounting from you and Prince Moloch, brother!"
As Sister Medusa speaks, the mysterious carpet within the cordoned-off area begins to vibrate and shift. A strong smell of rotten eggs fills the room, and a weird, clickety-clacking sound comes from the shadows above, like many tiny animal claws scurrying across an old tin roof.
"The matter is NOT resolved, Baphomet!" Medusa seethes viciously.
Medusa continues to rant. "None of this was necessary, of course! Why is Moloch attending a public school among the humans anyway? The Darkness cautioned you about contamination, but you have seen fit to disregard her counsel, and now centuries of preparation have been needlessly placed at risk."
The strange, shimmering carpet vanishes, revealing an impossibly immense black cavity in the floor—a paradoxical gateway to some malevolent underworld. Squealing, grotesque rodents begin dropping from the shadows overhead and into the inky void. As they disappear into the nothingness, their bodies squish disturbingly, and giant globs of blood spatter everywhere.
Brother Baphomet shakes his head defiantly. "You Gorgons with your ridiculous squadron of troll acolytes"—he points at the emaciated technicians still dutifully manning their workstations, even as swarms of rodent creatures fall past them into oblivion—"buzzing about in your anachronistic little haunted cave!" he sputters. "My son attends a human school because he is a human, you ludicrous, serpent-haired hag!"
Baphomet is really letting her have it now. "And if the Darkness demands an accounting of the centuries 'needlessly placed at risk' Sister Medusa," he roars contemptuously, "it should be YOU, you loathsome witch, who accounts for the wasted eons, during which you and your monstrous ilk cowered in the shadows, content to become mere legends, to sink into the obscurity of myth! It was YOU who defied her glorious will, until she was compelled to turn once again to humans in these last days, to bring forth her greatest work, her ultimate masterpiece!"
And without another word, Baphomet turns on his heel and storms out of the operations center.
An awkward silence now falls over the room, interrupted only by the occasional (and also awkward) squeaks of those weird rodents as they drop into the abyss in the floor. Finally, Medusa huffs in disgust. "What an arrogant jerk! Don't you agree, sister?" Stheno nods obsequiously.
Medusa re-covers her head as she surveys the room. Blood is everywhere. The stream of squealing rodents becomes a trickle and then stops completely. The carpet reappears, covering over the gateway to the underworld. Medusa lets out a sigh. "Very well, Stheno. It seems the Darkness has accepted our offering of retribution on behalf of Prince Moloch. Now go find some underlings to mop up this mess!"
TO BE CONTINUED...
(Image is Medusa by Arnold Böcklin, circa 1878, Public Domain)