The Hanging Christian – Episode 3
The Sunday Serial continues apace as Freya is introduced to a secret society that lurks at Cambridge’s very heart…
Catch up on Episode 2 here.
Freya bit into the falafel, too preoccupied with her thoughts to mind the juice and pulped chickpeas running out of the corner of her mouth.
It was still raining hard, a wall of water cascading from the lip of the tarpaulin a few inches in front of her. She knew she had to move soon, she had to make a decision.
It was four minutes to six.
She took another large bite of the falafel. It was fucking good. Obviously, she shouldn’t go to this clandestine meeting ‘beneath’ the Eagle whatever the hell that meant, Professor Seydowsky was seriously creepy and she’d do best just reporting what had happened in the supervision that morning to the Senior Tutor…
Freya ducked out from beneath the falafel stall and moved quickly through the maze of passages within the marketplace, weaving between spiced olive sellers and second-hand DVD peddlers. The heavy rain saturated her hair and clothes. She left the market square and made her way towards Benet’s street.
The Eagle was almost empty. A man in a toggle coat was hunched over the bar nursing a pint of J2O and three tweeded academics reclined in a corner, but there was no sign of her professor.
She wandered through the pub, dripping on the carpet and feeling increasingly stupid.
She reached the toilets without encountering any trapdoors or sinking staircases. At least having a pee would make it look like she come in for a reason.
Her hand was on the doorknob of the ladies’ when it registered. There were three doors in the little hallway. The men’s’ toilets, the ladies’, and a third door, which was plain except for a deep ragged circular scratch in the centre, bisected by a straight line downwards.
She pushed at the door. Of course she did. It was unlocked, and revealed steps leading down into darkness.
At the bottom of the steps was a simple, unadorned circular cellar. Around a dozen people were sat facing each other. They were wearing robes. With hoods.
“… I think what Dawkins intends–”
The speaker stopped. A dozen hooded gazes turned and assessed her.
“Hi… is this… the meeting?” she said.
A deep-barreled laugh emanated from the hood nearest her. It was Professor Seydowsky.
“Miss Lee, how kind of you to join us! Only three minutes late, a marked improvement on this morning,” he said, patting an empty stool beside him.
She joined the circle, and surveyed those around her. Contrary to her first impressions, not everyone was wearing hooded robes. Four scared little faces poked out from between pools of black cloth, obviously undergraduates like herself.
“Now that all the… newcomers are here, shall we begin properly?” said Professor Seydowsky, “Jeremy, if you will?”
Jeremy, of wizened face and boisterous white eyebrows, began.
“Welcome. Who are we? I hear you think. What are we doing here?”
“We are here because, to be frank, the world desperately needs us. The world has always needed us, and always will need us. We are its guiding light, its uncredited benefactors. Because the world is ruled by man, and man, quite simply, is stupid. We all know this. This is a truth that can be regarded as self-evident. The human being, when confronted with control of its own civilisation, will rut and kill and bleed in the mud. The human being is stupid, and ignorant and it needs, nay, it cries out for guidance. It needs those who can rise above the generic model of homo sapiens and lead, and keep the light of this great human enterprise from falling into the darkness that harries its heels. We are that light, ladies and gentlemen, and always have been. This fine university has been a beacon of rationality and hope amongst the savagery of the common man for centuries, and it is us chosen few who continue the legacy of our illustrious forebears; those men, and women, who have driven history and progress.
The robed man on Freya’s left offered her an open bag of dry roasted peanuts. She chewed slowly on one, transfixed by the speaker.
“I see new faces amongst our ranks today. I welcome you. You have not been chosen idly. You will be the architects of the future, and I mean that with the strongest sincerity within my grasp. You, my friends, will change the world.”