T he door of the dean’s study opens with a creak. Neemias straightens his back, and looks straight into those narrow eyes.

“Why have you returned?”

Neemias swallows. “I have a question.”

“Ask.”

“If Leo the Jew was proven right in his prediction of the Black Death, why do you disregard his words about the Jewish redeemer?” The dean’s eyes narrow. “Because it is heresy. Why else? Now, what is it that you seek?”

Neemias takes a breath. In his mind’s eye, Friar Pere appears, with his piercing blue eyes. Ask, Neemias. Never be afraid to ask. But what is the question? The words chase around his mind: Truth. Heresy.

If truth is heresy, then is heresy truth?

“I seek knowledge.” He corrects himself. “Wisdom.”

“Wisdom.” The dean nods. “Wisdom is achieved through suffering. Let us see you acquire it.”

He picks up a small, brass bell from his desk and shakes his wrist.

Two guards appear at his door.

“Take him,” the dean instructs. “Take him. Under suspicion of heretical beliefs.”

Two burly guards grab him by both arms. He is marched out of the university, through the Paris streets, red-faced, heart pounding, fear on his shoulders. He marches until the guards push him off balance, and then he falls.

Cobblestones graze his cheek. He wants to cry out, but his tongue is thick in his mouth. Now he is dragged, both arms raised, his legs pulled behind him. As they go, a gaggle of little boys, whooping and whistling, first follow, then surround him. Their voices are a high-pitched skitter. It hurts.

His arm. Now he is rocked over onto his shoulders. The guards curse and scream and he wants to shout. A little boy steps onto his sleeve. The others take his lead and they are all over him, like vermin, crawling, scratching, slapping at him. The guards lash out, swing their arms. The little boys are driven back.

They are in a square. He knows because there is no darkness, no shadow. Only bare blue sky, white clouds.

A bird flits over his head. He tries to follow its path with his eyes, but his neck burns with a whipping pain and all is slapped back and forth about his head. His ear.

Ahead a wooden block. No sounds of children. The howl of a woman.

The guards pull on his arms and legs, they are placed into wooden stocks. A chain. He is locked into the stocks.

Heat. Burning heat and trembling.

His limbs begin to throb and tremble. Heat, so hot, and light so bright. He closes his eyes, feels his legs begin to twitch. It is coming, he knows.

Two hands on his neck. “Stop! Arrêt! Or we will kill you.”

But he cannot stop the strange waves that ride through his limbs, for when the devil has entered his body, he is powerless to make it leave. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 557)