Crossing the northern colonnade of the Piazza San Pietro and approaching the checkpoint, Father Giacomo Ferrera first became aware of the noise itself – of the cheering, of those incessant whistles, of the wordless shouts, of the sheer volume of people talking, drinking, arguing and seducing – and then realised that it’d been hanging just out of hearing since morning, putting him on edge, distracting him from his prayers.
Every year at this time, for seven days, the city beyond the walls became a riot of noise and colour. The sober young men and women of Rome set down their tools and their books and took to the streets. Every night it was something different; a play about the workers’ struggle, a masqued parade through the Campidoglio, swimming in the fountains, bonfires in the streets. For the past two years, blowing little tin whistles all night long had been all the rage. And around and throughout the rest, young people celebrating, in the houses, in the bars and on the streets.
The irony of it was, Rome had never held Carnevales, even back when it was still Catholic; everyone used to go to Venice. That’s where the masks came from. All this had only been going on for about ten years, courtesy of the Communist Party and their “Cultural Revival” nonsense. Giacomo shook his head.
He slowed just before reaching the checkpoint and ran his hand across one of the stone columns at the end of the colonnade, as if for luck, and looked up.
An ugly mix of iron, canvas and wood, the Britannian checkpoint looked like what it was: a tent that had stayed too long and set down roots. Rust ran down the ancient walls from the temporary brackets, mounted to carry telegraph wires into the tent; weeds gathered under the edges of the canvas walls. A peeling sign warned him as he entered, in Italian, German, French and English:
You are now leaving Vatican City.
Please have all travel documents ready before entering the checkpoint.
He patted his bag, checking for the fourth or fifth time that he still had the passport and visa he’d been given an hour before, then gathered his black habit around himself and stepped into the blinding glare of the gaslight.
Masques & Lies is a Pax Britannia short story by David Moore and is exclusive to Pornokitsch's V Days of Rome. We are incredibly grateful to David Moore, Jenni Hill and the entire Abaddon team for their support.