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Anselm Henninger hurried to his new job; he wanted to be early. He was starting work as a graveyard shift security guard at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria. Anselm had trouble keeping jobs; he had recently been fired from his previous job as a janitor because of his alcohol addiction. The only reason he was able to get the security guard position was because he had a friend who worked for the museum.
Anselm reported for work at 10:45 p.m., a full fifteen minutes before he was supposed to arrive. The head of security gave Anselm the usual speech for new guards: Don’t sleep on the job, make your rounds regularly and on time, don’t wander into the other exhibits, etc. Then, he began to show Anselm around the museum.
The Kunsthistorisches Museum is home to an impressive collection of various aesthetic masterpieces. It holds a vast collection of modern art, as well as artifacts from ancient Greece, and various other precious antiquities. Anselm had lived in Vienna his entire life, yet he had never bothered to visit the place.
The head of security briefly highlighted some of the other exhibits on the way to Anselm’s assignment. They passed an armory, a tapestry collection, and an Ancient Egypt exhibit. Anselm regretted never visiting the museum; it was the most beautiful place he had ever visited. For Anselm, it was almost like being in a palace.
Anselm’s assignment was to monitor the collection of paintings. He was ordered to patrol the paintings every half hour. He felt that his first night on the job was going to be a tedious one. All he really had to do was walk around several rooms filled with old paintings; to make matters worse, he would also be alone and in the dark. As he began his new, repetitive routine, he began to regret his decision to not bring the hip flask that his brother had given him on his 25th birthday. It was stainless steel, and it bore an inscription that read nicht öffnen (don’t drink). His older brother had a twisted sense of humor.
He passed the time by thinking of his job as his own private tour through the paintings section of the museum. The difference, however, between his job and a private tour was that the place was almost incapable of being navigated at night. In order to preserve the condition of the older works, the museum was purposely kept in extreme darkness, dimly lit only by emergency exit lights. The only light provided to Anselm was a small LED flashlight, and the dilation of his own pupils in the darkness. After completing two half-hour rounds, Anselm began to notice something curious out of the corner of his eye. The first time he caught a glimpse of the object, he thought his imagination was playing tricks on him, but the second time, he took notice. It looked as if one of the masterpieces was moving.
The painting was “Michael the Archangel Overthrows the Rebel Angel by Luca Giordano. It was a masterfully painted depiction of Michael triumphantly defeating Lucifer and his legion of rebellious angels. Michael was at the center of the painting, brandishing a golden sword while subduing Satan beneath his sandaled foot. Satan and his compatriots all possessed various downtrodden expressions of anguish and pain.
When Anselm was unable find any apparent problems with the painting, he continued his patrol. It was not until his third trip that Anselm noticed what he thought might be a difference in the painting. Instead of Michael looking down on Lucifer with triumphant pride, Michael appeared to be trying to fly away; Lucifer was looking up at Michael defiantly, instead of looking down with an expression of defeat. Well that’s strange, thought Anselm, it seemed different before. He was unfamiliar with the way the painting was supposed to appear, so he continued his rounds as if nothing had changed.
By his fourth round, Anselm knew there was definitely something wrong. This time, Satan had grabbed hold of Michael’s ankle and was pulling him down towards earth. The demons were rallying. Michael was trying desperately to flee towards heaven; his face held an expression of shocked terror. This can’t be real; it’s just my imagination. All the darkness is just playing tricks on my brain. Anselm rationalized. He continued, but he did so with reluctance. He did not really believe his rationalization. The fear of what he might see when he reached the painting gave him a growing feeling of nausea as he moved through the museum.
He was right to fear. Fear turned to terror when he saw the painting again. Michael the Mighty Archangel of the Most High God had been pulled down to earth by Satan and his demons. His body was in pieces, and the severed limbs were being held by several members of the fallen. Satan held Michael’s beautiful golden sword in his right hand, and in his left hand, he held the head of Michael.
Anselm tried calling the other guards on his radio, but none were responding. He ran frantically through the museum, yelling like a lunatic, trying to find another guard in the extreme darkness. Finally, he found another man in a guard’s uniform. “Please help! There’s something wrong with one of the paintings!” Anselm raved. The guard quickly followed Anselm to the painting.
The change that had occurred in the short time Anselm was gone had been drastic. The demons from the Luca Giordano painting had spread into the other paintings like a contagious disease. All the religious paintings in the room had been infected by the plague. In all of the works, the demons had painted a message with the blood of their holy victims.
The message was, ”GOD IS DEAD.”
“Do you see? We’ve got to call somebody! We’ve need to do something!” Anselm cried.
The other security guard walked around the room, calmly shining his light on all the paintings affected by this unholy cancer. When he was done examining the paintings, the security guard said, “I don’t see a problem here. Everything is as it should be.”
This shocked Anselm. Growing frustrated, he turned to face the guard in exasperation; as he did, he shined his light on the guard’s face. The guard was smiling a large, mischievous grin that spread to acutely pointed ears. He had long, curly, black hair tucked under his security cap. Anselm knew this face; he had been passing it all night.
The security guard had the face of Satan.