This story mentions death and the occult.
“Don't you remember? I've called you three times about this issue. I need information about one of my parishioners, Hermione Lived.”
Young Priest, Father Christopher Valdez San Miquelon Cristobal of Our Lady of the Piñons, Trinidad, Colorado, waited patiently on hold for another 25 minutes. While riffing through the pages of his journal, he felt as if he should note how odd it was that each time he tried to get the information he requested, the connection to the Archbishop was impaired. On the first call, a strange static followed by a hang-up, then on the callback, he could hear his words being mimicked by a voice that was not his.
Answering then pausing, Bishop Ernesto David Martinez Esquvez, the Archbishop of the Southern Colorado Diocese, forgot what he was doing. It was so unlike the Archbishop, the young priest thought.
“Oh yes, I don't know what's wrong with my memory today; this is regarding Mrs. Lived, the old widow who runs the makeshift boarding house up the hill from Our Lady of the Piñons. If I remember correctly, that's just north of Trinidad, right?” the Archbishop asked for more information.
Father Cristobal obliged, “I am begging your advice on a curious matter as a significant number of my Parishioners have gone missing in the past few months. It’s been one year since I was assigned to overlook my flock, and there was nothing that addressed such an issue at Seminary.”
“What do you mean,” the Archbishop asked.
The promising young Priest responded as if his story would not be believed, “ I am concerned that we are missing 26 members of our community, Catholic and Non-Catholic alike. They have disappeared. The local police force reasons it due to the seasonal farmworkers moving in and out. I am at a loss. Please advise.” then, without hesitation, he pleaded, “Any information on Hermione Lived, or her Son Oscar Lived, would be helpful as several of the strange occurrences have happened since her Son moved in with her.”
Archbishop put Father Cristobal on another short hold; when he returned, his information was disappointing, “what I found in the archives is probably useless to you. The only Lived Family I could find was for a Mr. and Mrs. Elven Lived from the year 1821. I found that name in an old history journal. It seems the Lived couple had been members of a wagon train heading for California. Probably on the Santé Fe Trail and decided to stop around here. I bet closer to Bents Fort, but I don't know. Anyway, It doesn't say anything about, Hermione Lived. She may or may not be a blood relative.”
Father Cristobal lowered his voice and said confidently, “There must be some mistake. I tell you what; I'll talk to Hermione and hopefully her Son Oscar and get it all straightened out. I’m sure neither has anything to do with the disappearances, but you never know. The police are swamped, and I find this to be my duty. A few members of my Parish have told me they could not remember a time that Mrs. Lived wasn't a member of Our Lady of the Piñons, and on the other hand, most can not place her. But I must admit none have ever seen her Son, Oscar.”
That very afternoon he hiked up the hill in the July heat. He felt that being her neighbor and her Priest, an unannounced visit to an elderly parishioner was appropriate.
Father Cristobal had helped keep her rooms full after all. He kept a journal to chronicle his actions, where he noted the many qualified tenants sent to her low-cost accommodations. All sent in the short time he had been a Preist of the Parish. The good Father had no hesitations about his decision to visit.
The Priest sat stirring his tea and decided to keep his conversation friendly as he could see the crevices on the old woman's face were deep. Why she must be 100 years old, he noted in his mind.
“May I call you Hermione?”
“Yes, please do,” she spoke in a meek voice.
Nothing to worry about, he thought as he continued to inquire, “Lived, now that is a unique name. May I ask your heritage?”
“Surely, but I must tell you we pronounce it ‘livid’ not ‘lived’ even though it is spelled that way,” she answered, wondering why a Priest was here in the first place. “My family migrated to this region from Eastern Europe centuries ago. I've been a member of this community for ages. I started at your church as a child, back when it was just an adobe hut.
Puzzled, the Father quizzed, “Ages, Centuries?”
Then with a chuckle, Hermione retorted, “Well, it seems like a very long time anyway.”
Father could see Hermione was tired, and he cut his visit short. “Perhaps next time I can meet your Son, Oscar. A member of our Ladies of Charity group said she heard it through the grapevine he had moved in with you.”
Dubious, she replied, “How would anyone know that? My Son indeed lives with me, but he dislikes socializing. Pardon me for saying so; Padre, my Son, dislikes Church, so we don't attend. Plus, he works the graveyard shift, and I hate to wake him up during the daylight.” with that, she handed the Father thirty dollars that looked old and worn. “I haven't given a tithe for a while. I think this gift is long overdue.” She abruptly closed the door before he could say goodbye.
Father Cristo slowly made his way back down the trail, thinking that something was a little off about his conversation with Mrs. Lived. He noted in his journal how she closed the door on him and didn't want to say much about her Son. But the feeling of knots in his stomach was the most compelling as they came from the old woman’s overall demeanor.
Strange, he thought, she used the word community and not a parish. The sparse decor was also intriguing, with no pictures or mirrors on the wall. Most of the elderly he visited had multiple family photos along with a crucifix or cross and the proverbial painting of Jesus in the garden or other familiar scenes. There was none of this, not even a rosary, bible, or concrete statue of Mary in the yard.
On his way off her property, he tried to look at the rooms she rented. It looked like an old motel, each with a door and a window but no cars parked in front, not even a bicycle. The doors were shut, and the windows were latched with dark drapes closed tightly even though the afternoon heat was up to 102 today.
Before he had taken over as Father for the parish, old Father Warren told him that his neighbor would take in the needy. “That was about ten years ago in 1966”, be remembered.
It wasn't the first time Trinidad was filled with disadvantaged individuals, especially in the Summer and Fall. The migrant workers and their families would find work, for too meager wages, on the farms in the area that grew seasonal crops. They were inferior in wealth but not spirit as they attended Saturday evening Mass without hesitation.
The census showed back in 1933, Mrs. Lived was here. Records indicate she catered not only to the drifters and the vagrants but to several who were just down on their luck. She was fond of young souls without family and always made room for the newly released men from the reformatory over in Raton.
That was why Father Cristobal was searching for information in the first place. Not more than a month ago, he had referred his childhood friend, Acenio, to Mrs. Lived’s boarding house. Poor old Ace, who had become down on his luck after his release from the Penitentiary in Cañon City. He hadn't heard a word from him since.
A couple of days after the unsettling visit, Father Cristo received a phone call from Archbishop Esquevez, “Christopher, I thought you might find this interesting as both of us share an interest in history. The Lived house is old, but our church's history is older. The land that our church and the Lived property sit upon was Once the site of a mission That Francisco de Coronado, a Spanish explorer, visited in 1598. Coronado was looking for the mythical Seven Golden Cities of Cibola, of all things.” then, clearing his throat and trying not to sound like a Professor, he added, “Say, the next time you go, how about I join you?”
An excited Father Cristobal replied, “That would be great; how about tomorrow night for a moonlight hike? It will be a full monstrous moon, and we might run into Oscar on his way to work.”
With a small degree of hesitation, the Archbishop agreed, “I'm not sure that it is a wise decision to walk around in the woods after dark, but alright I’m in.”
The North breeze made it feel as if Mother Nature herself prepared the way for the two on their hike. The giant moon glowed like an ancient deity. It had little need for man nor beast as the forest seemed quiet and peaceful. The entire forest seemed bigger and older. The young Priest and the old Archbishop climbed eagerly through the pine trees as if guided. They felt like they were two of the three kings searching for the Christ Child.
“Phew, I haven't hiked for a while. Archbishop frequently stopped to drink from his water pack and shift his backpack,” then panicked his friend with a, “hope I don't have another heart attack, I retire in two months.”
Father Cristobal was happy he didn't and found plenty of time to rest, for what they both saw as they moved toward the row of rundown rooms was startling and froze them in their tracks. The Archbishop was a seasoned hunter and started communicating with Father Cristobal in military sign language. They both sat down to watch from the clearing.
First, they saw the light from the fire and could hear women chanting but could not make out the language. Fire torches were placed around a large circle of rocks with what looked to be an alter of some sort in the middle. Then three nude women appeared with small whips, perhaps horse riding crops. They must have been enabled with razor blades or something sharp as with each strike upon the others, profuse amounts of blood dripped from their bodies. The naked young women were violently attacking one another. It was clear that one woman was being struck more than the other two as she stopped screaming.
Then the two blood-covered women picked up the limp female. They had whipped her enough to cut through ligaments as her organs were draped from her body. It was then that a very tall figure cloaked in black moved towards the alter and took what looked to be a large knife, and went about cutting the woman's throat. He stood tall, perhaps seven or eight feet” and used an ornate jeweled goblet to drink the victim's blood—all the while chanting in the worrisome foreign tongue.
The Father and the Archbishop stayed still and clasped their hands in silent prayer until the ceremony ended and the participants were gone.
“I must go down and offer this poor young dead woman last rights,” cried the Archbishop.
Father Cristobal pleaded, “No, no, please, we must not be seen.”
They hurried back to the church. When Father Cristobal opened the door, they both noticed desecration had occurred in their absence. The destruction was primarily in the adobe prayer room, and one of the jeweled goblets used for communion long ago was gone.
Young Father Cristobal shrieked, “It is the goblet we saw the heathen drink the fresh blood from, isn't it?”
Archbishop nodded and then pointed to an old dusty leather-bound book lying on the ground. Its title, ‘Los Hermonos Penitants.’
Archbishop Esquevez questioned Father Cristobal, “From where did this come? Have you ever seen it before?
“No, never,” Father Cristo proclaimed as he flipped through the leather-like pages. “But I think ‘Los Hermonos Pentiants’ translates to ‘The Penitent Brothers.’
“Oh good Lord, the rest of this sounds like words of the ancient Algonquin.”
Father Cristobal questioned, “But the ancient Algonquin did not have a written language; it was only verbal.”
Archbishop Esquevez thought for a moment. “Some new tribes have created a written form of Algonquin to communicate with. Look here,” turning the pages of the old gruesome-looking book; Archbishop read a list of names with the title ‘un sacrificiio sacrificado” written in Spanish. My guess says they are some new age renegade Flagellants.”
Father Cristobal turned to his journal. He had made notes about an occurrence behind the church a few months ago involving four decapitated goat heads. Looking straight into the Archbishop's eyes, the young Priest quietly said, “the term ‘un sacrificiio sacrificado” means a slaughtered sacrifice.
Right on top of the list were the names; Deborah Flint, followed by a missing local 12-year-old, Diego Chavez. Father Cristobal cringed as he read aloud the name of his old friend John Acesenio.
“This is a list of hundreds of missing persons from all over Colorado.”
“But the last I read, the Flagellants were a small ancient society, obsolete now. I believe their popularity increased in the 12th century Roman Catholics but was gone by the 14th century. They must have been here before Coronado. From Europe to Colorado through Mexico is my guess. They generally only flogged themselves, but it is written that sometimes mock crucifixion was performed. I've never read anything about killing or consuming blood. How can this be, why?” stuttered the Archbishop. Then coming to his senses yelled, “We must get back up there at the crack of dawn, but first, let's call the police!”
After the church break-in investigation ended, the police officers offered the Father and the Archbishop a ride back up to where they said they saw the ritualistic murder of the young woman. They didn't believe them however felt the need to check it out.
Oddly the property was deserted, and it looked like it had been that way for some time. The rooms were locked tight, but by prying one of the window pane coverings, they could see the empty space. Further investigation showed all eight rooms were the same, empty.
“Go to the house and talk to Mrs. Lived! Ask her about Oscar,” pleaded Father Cristo. When the young officer knocked on the rickety old door, it loosened from its hinges. Upon entering, the police found nothing. It was an abandoned house, as they had thought all along.
“No one lives here!” he shouted back to his partner, causing the Father and Archbishop to run and see for themselves. Running through the cobwebs from the front door and then out the back, they could not believe their eyes, no alter, no rocks, no torches, just two ancient headstones. The first one said Hermione Lived died in 1821. The second inscribed with Oscar Lived offered no birth or death dates. Father Cristobal fell to his knees and sobbed.
From the comfort of the patrol car's backseat, the young Priest wrapped in a Las Animas County blanket wrote in his journal as his faithful Archbishop watched the two young police officers finish writing their report. Archbishop Esquevez whispered in the young Priests' ear, “You’ll have to call this an implausible chronicle.”
He saw that the police officers, although respectful to his collar, used the words excited, embellished, and overzealous when referring to him. He also noticed when looking at the Name Lived backward in the rearview mirror, it most certainly read: ‘deviL’
Glancing over at the young Priest, both knew their work had just begun.