The Tower A Novel (Sanctus)


The basement is dark and quiet.

A figure, stripped to the waist and kneeling takes the blade in his right hand and draws it across the skin at the joint of his left arm and shoulder, tracing the scar of a previous cut. The blade is sharp and the scar opens easily, letting blood run down skin quivering at the bite of the knife.

‘The first,’ he says, his voice low in the darkness. ‘This blood binds me in pain with the Sacrament. As it suffers, so must I, until all suffering will end.’

He switches the blade to his left hand and repeats the cut on his right shoulder.

‘The second,’ he says, continuing the ritual learned from a hospital worker in the southern Turkish city of Ruin, a man loyal to the cause who had faithfully recorded everything the dying Sancti said through their delirium and suffering. The knife continues to cut, drawing fresh blood from old wounds, carving the same pattern he has seen on the bodies of the sacred monks, captured on a camera phone by the same spy after their suffering had finally ended. It is a ceremony that remained secret and locked in the Citadel at the heart of Ruin for thousands upon thousands of years. The enemies of the church believe that the death of the Sancti and the breaching of the Citadel mark the end of the old ways.

They are wrong.

When the ceremony is over he cleanses his wounds, flushing them with saline solution before drying them and sealing them with superglue that stings as it binds the flesh back together. The pain sharpens his mind, and so does its purpose. Only through suffering can redemption be reached, and only through sacrifice can the enemy be beaten.

He dresses quickly, buttoning his high-collared shirt to hide the scar on his neck and fixing his tie. Only a very few know him by the name he wears, down here in the dark: Novus Sancti, keeper of the scared flame.

But he is not alone in the shadows. There are others, many others like him who have devoted themselves to the silent and secret protection of God’s sacred mission on Earth. They are everywhere, woven into the fabric of society – law makers, politicians, opinion formers – the crosses round their necks the only sign that they serve a higher law than those of the lands they live in. They are Legion, for they are many, an army waiting to be mobilized when judgement day draws near.

And that time is now. He knows this to be true, for he has seen the signs and felt the call inside him. God has spoken to him and now he will answer.

He slips on his jacket then mounts the stairs back up into the modern world like a man rising from the dead.





Merriweather looked up at the bank of screens.

Something was wrong.

He glanced behind him though he knew he was alone in the control centre. Everyone else was at the inter-departmental party they threw each year to mark the start of the Christmas holidays. Merriweather wasn’t big on parties. He didn’t drink and couldn’t do small talk so he’d volunteered for the caretaker watch to garner some points with colleagues on the Flight Ops Team and bag a little heavy-duty processor time to crunch the deep space data he was working on for his PhD.

He leaned forward in his chair and cocked his head to one side, listening to the chatter of the hard drive. Some people could listen to a car engine and tell you what was wrong with it, others might hear one bum note in a symphony played by a sixty-piece orchestra, Merriweather knew computers – and this one definitely sounded hinky. There was a hitch in the processing tone, like a broken tooth on a clock wheel or a fresh scratch on one of the classic 45s he liked to collect. He stroked his knitted tie nervously as he considered what to do. Unlike the other techs at the Goddard Space Center, Merriweather was strictly old school. He wore a tie every day, along with pressed trousers, horn-rimmed glasses and neatly combed hair – just like his boyhood heroes, the Houston mission controllers of the sixties and seventies. He also liked rules and order. He didn’t like it when things went wrong.

A tap on his keyboard banished the Pillars of Creation screensaver, the most famous image taken by the Hubble telescope, controlled from this room and currently orbiting Earth six