Well, it certainly looks as though we're in shit all over again, because someone's been messing with our collective heads. Someone with a nastily ironic sense of humour, making Joseph Pope and Darius a senior government minister in this Shadow - I'm assuming it's a specially tweaked Shadow, because we know people who can do that kind of thing. Perhaps someone who read Delwin's missing books - and Joseph knows who arranged for them to go missing... innocent of all but malice, eh? ;) So, what now? Joseph's walked the Pattern already, so he may have a bit of an edge on getting out of this place.
Given that we haven't got to
The Lord shows me mercy, I believe, in that nothing ever changes in my life, because it means that I have only the one entry to record, day after day, and this is it. A little prayer, a little food, a little exercise, a little reading of whatever my jailers permit me. I do not know why they fear me so, to keep me confined in this way with no human contact, with nothing to distinguish day from succeeding day except the slow turning of the canonical year, the shift in vestments, the round of feast and fast. I am still very young to hold my office, I know - from my reflected image I may be in my mid-twenties or perhaps a little older, but I can remember so little, or more honestly nothing, before this continuous unlife.
A shepherd should be with his flock, no? yet I see no-one, touch no-one. The Faithful know my face, but at a distance only. I am not allowed to be with them. I have given up trying to communicate, to explain; nothing is allowed to emerge from this glassy prison palace but platitudes I have never spoken. They - the faceless They - say that I am one of the Last Signs, a herald of Apocalypse, that my touch would corrupt, my gaze wither the soul of any I meet. Thus the intercoms, thus the suits and masks and gloves. I believe that they drain and sterilise the water in my swimming pool each time I use it, all by remote control, so that no particle of my abomination might corrupt an innocent.
I do not know how it came to be so. I cannot have always been God's Vicar on Earth - and yet I cannot remember a time when I was not. I cannot remember my election, my ordination, my confirmation, anything other than this interminable duration. I cannot remember any denunciation, any trial, any sentencing to this state. Who were my accusers? of what faults did I once stand accused? By ecclesiastical law I am the supreme judge of the Faithful, answerable to my God and to my God alone. Yet God remains silent. Perhaps I am rendered so darkened by sin that even He will not, or can not, hear me. De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine: and yet there is no answer. Perhaps there can be none.
Do I still believe? perhaps. And perhaps the question is not meaningful.
Perhaps I am dying. This afternoon, I had a sudden intense headache at the back of my skull. My pain must have shown, because the ever-watchful Watchers had people with me in moments. Why must they continue to point their guns at me, even when I am obviously in no condition to pose any threat to them? They gave me an injection, and I am to be given painkillers if the agony returns.
I wonder that they do not kill me. Assisted succession is, after all, not unknown in the Holy See. Yet they zealously guard me from harm. It is perhaps possible that they have realised that death holds no terror whatsoever for me, that only by prolonging my existence can they bring me to suffering.
Which, when one thinks about it, is not an insignificant point. Suppose that I am as they say a tool of the Great Adversary: either I am permitted to be here in accordance with the Divine purpose, or - ah, but shall I fall into error so easily? But the paradox remains: their guns are explicit threats of death, and yet at the same time They strive so officiously to ensure that I live...
Why have I not seen this before? This is not a prison. This is a puzzle box, and a childishly simple one at that.
I am going to call their bluff, right now, or my name's not Joseph Boyce...
And my name is Joseph Boyce. I'm not the Pope. This whole set-up's a fake! I remember.... I remember New Albion, and then I remember Kenton, Aunt Mercy, Jeremiah - and then all that that too in its turn is revealed as a shadow - that's the term, Shadow! Amber and Arden and my mother Florimel, and the Pattern and the Jewel... the mirrored corridors of Rebma, the tangled tapestries of Chaos... how could I ever have forgotten reality?
Someone has been messing with my head, and I, Joseph, Prince of Amber, am not happy about it. Not one bit.