Sociedade do Touro Furioso
Get Everything You Want Out of Life
The city was wonderfully atmospheric, from its dark cobbled lanes to its monumental cathedral. Rising majestically from the Rio Modengo, the lively city was steeped with history dating back to the Moorish times. Coimbra, Portugal’s medieval capital for more than a century and home to the countries oldest and most prestigious university. At night the old stone walls of the city reverberated with the melancholy notes of proverbial guitars and the evocative voices of fado singers.
“Arno, how are things going so far?” A fiery haired man with an Irish accent leaned against a tree, a stack of books in his arms. A shining bronze bull hanging from a delicate chain on his neck.
“A far cry from Canada?”
“Yeah, that’s for sure.”
“A few guys and I are going to the cathedral tonight. Want to join?” Colin studied Arno’s body language studiously.
“I’ve been wanting to check it out, but thought that place closed pretty early?”
“Not for us.” Colin smirked.
Arno navigated through dark twisting alleyways, narrow passages and derelict walls painted over with vivid colors. He was apprehensive about what the night might turn into, yet curiosity had gotten the best of him. He’d been in Coimbra for over two months, mainly focusing on his studies and doing some light exploring. Having found it difficult to attain acquaintances, the language barrier and people already secure in their own bubbles being the main culprits. Colin and a lot of his crew seemed to speak at least basic English and had an air of brilliance among them. They always seemed to be on top of the world, knowing all the hottest spots, securing the finest possessions; the world just yielding to their whims.
The view of the Eastern façade of the Old Cathedral of Coimbra came into his visibility. The cathedral appeared to be a fortress, towering crenellated walls, scant windows, with thick buttresses reinforcing the corners. The cathedral was the only Portuguese Romanesque building to have survived into the present moderately intact. Two men walked out from the shadows, Colin immediately recognizable, another man wearing a leather jacket holding a cigarette.
“Arno, you made it. This is Yong-Sun”
“What’s up?” Yong-Sun’s fierce facial structure contrasted against skin reminiscent of a porcelain doll, jet-black hair flowing to his shoulders.
“Nothing much. So, what are we all doing here?”
“You’ll see”. Colin grinned as he gestured for Arno to follow. They maneuvered to the southside of the historic landmark, ascending up a set of stairs that lead right into a Romanesque cloister. One segment was gnarled with various vines and bushes sprouting in from the atrium, resulting in seclusion from the rest of the expansive corridors. Yong-Sun extracted a necklace identical to the one Colin always wore, inserting the bull into a small indentation in the wall. A slight rumble followed, part of the wall sliding aside revealing a lavish chamber within.
Luxurious balloon-shaped late Victorian chairs made of silver silk; their hand carved mahogany frames complete with cabriole legs engraved with inexplicable symbols. Archaic lanterns, a bookshelf spanning the width of a wall, antiquarian weapons athwart a regal fireplace. The focal piece of the room was a large sliver statue of a raging bull that glistened in the fire’s glow. Arno recognized several of the men sprawled amongst the room from campus. Earnie the American sat entranced with a bulky book, Edik from Russia gazing at the flames, whilst Diogo a native Portuguese wrote feverishly in a notebook.
“This is Arno.” Colin announced to the room causing everyone’s focus to switch to him. A few nodded, glancing at each other, a silent communication amongst themselves.
“Hey, nice to see you.” Diogo smiled. “We have anthropology together.” He publicized.
“What brought you to Coimbra?” Edik asked demurely.
“I love how the city has over 2,000 years of history within it. Constructions from the Roman Empire just blocks from innovative modern buildings. Green open-air spaces, forest reserves, proximity to the sea, amazing food.” He looked around at the various eyes analyzing him, feeling as if he was interviewing for some kind of high caliber position. “I am actually studying architecture, so the rich architectonic heritage seemed a perfect fit for me.”
“Do you want to make basic buildings that don’t stand out, or extravagant masterpieces that the entire world will be in awe of?” Yong-Sun inquired.
“Um…extravagant masterpieces obviously.” Arno shifted his stance, baffled by the absurdity of the question.
“The question isn’t so strange Arno. You’d be surprised how many people are comfortable with mediocrity these days.”
A loud pounding reverberated from the far-left corner of the room. Arno’s eyes widened as he discerned a curious door with engravings etched around its circumference. No one else seemed interested in the clamorous noise.
“It’s just the building settling.” Colin smirked, a few of the guys chuckling. “How about we give you a little tour of the place? The cathedral is never better than at night, when the tourists aren’t debasing the ambiance.” Colin began to ascend up a twisting ladder, Yong-Sun, Arno, and the others following suit. Colin pushed open a hatch, they emerged directly beneath a lofty lantern tower with ribbed vaulting. Arno looked in awe at the ceilings, almost feeling dizzy from their expanse and complexity. There were sculptured capitals everywhere he looked, their intracity mesmerizing. There were pairs of elegant birds and enchanting quadrupeds facing each other, vegetal and geometric motifs extending down the columns.
They proceeded to the main chapel, containing an expansive altarpiece made of gilded and polychrome wood in Gothic style. Colin extracted a quaint golden flask with strange silver markings integrated into the design.
“Have you been to a bull fight yet?” Colin swirled his flask around. “I’m guessing you probably don’t have those in Canada?”
“No, I haven’t. Are those still legal here?”
“It’s a three-hundred-year-old tradition.” Diogo piped in. “The cavaliers dress in 18th century costume and challenge the bull. The touro isn’t killed here though, the objective is merely to draw the bull to a charge, then place a single dart in the bull’s back muscle.”
“So, Arno…” Yong-Sun took a swig from the flask before handing it off to Earnie. “Do you want to be one of us?”
“You want your place in the world? To create things, to mold your life, shape the planet. For the Earth to split open to your whims and desires?”
“To never have to worry about money." Colin piped in. “To go wherever you want, whenever you want.”
“Well yeah, that’d be awesome.”
Earnie passed Arno the flask while the rest of the room watched him silently. He brought it to his mouth and took a swig, his eyes narrowing.
“What is this?”
Arno laughed whilst the rest of the group remained still. “Wait… you’re kidding?”
“The bull is ferocious, majestic. It’s rage propelling it forward. Its blood lends strength.”
“Seriously? What about diseases?” The others laughed.
“Arno, become one of us and you will never worry about such petty things again.” Arno now noticed that each person in the chapel wore the same bull pendant around their neck. He hesitated, frightened at what he might be getting himself into, but even more concerned of what he may miss out on.
“Welcome to The Society of the Raging Bull.”
The next few months were a whirlwind of extravagance and pleasure of which Arno had never experienced before. Doors opened to him in ways he’d never imagined, opportunities came at him left and right. Multitudes of influencing people were now introduced to him, from politicians, celebrities, lawyers, doctors, and professors, coming from factions across the world. He’d never have imagined that he would become part of a society that had existed covertly for so many years, swaying the world to its wishes. He’d even traveled to Japan and Austria meeting others, participating in inclusive proceedings. The history and depth of the society was complex, mysterious, astounding, and he still had a copious amount knowledge to acquire.
One morning Arno sat on the patio of a café sipping on a robust bica, with a pastel de nata that had been given to him by the smitten server. The overcast day allowing a few glints of sunlight to dance upon his face.
“Arno!” Diogo ran to the table, his face flushed with red, beads of sweat dripping from his head. He quickly grabbed a chair, scooting as close as possible to Arno.
“What is going on?” Arno examined Diogo with perplexity.
“I need to tell you something. But you can’t tell anyone I told you. You have to leave Sociedade do Touro Furioso.”
Arno laughed. “You’ve got to be kidding. Why would I ever do that?”
“It’s not all fun and games, indulgence and leisure. It goes a lot deeper. Not even I knew at first, how far back the history of my city goes. I am telling you this Arno because I know you are a good person. The society is dark, evil.”
“What are you talking about?”
Diogo leaned closer, whispering into his ear. “O minotauro.” His eyes widened as he spoke. “He lives in the catacombs under the cathedral. He is our leader; our power is derived from him. Yet he requires sacrifices.” He bit his lip gaging Arno’s reaction. “The Society is a small group of elites controlling the world. Subduing opposing voices.”
“Well then, we are in control now Diogo. What’s the problem? Most people are stupid, the intelligent need to lead them.”
“Even if only for personal interests? There is a difference between leading and exploitation. They put an innocent man in there last night. Gave him to him.”
Arno chuckled. “You really need to lay off the vinho.”
“Look!” Diogo pulled a small piece of newspaper from his pocket shoving it into Arno’s hand.
“What’s this? It says this guy got drunk, snuck into a bulls pen the day before a bullfight and got gored. What does that have to do with us?”
Diogo stared at him. “I know that you are cleverer than that. Perhaps you just aren’t as virtuous as I’d envisioned.”
Arno sat in the library of Coimbra later that night, his hand on his chin, his thoughts running wild. A stack of history books sat before him. Most of them with information that he now knew was inaccurate, the collection of the Society superseding all public information. He glanced at his watch before making his way over to the cathedral.
“Arno, my man.” Yong-Son and Colin gave him half hugs, while Edik and Earnie nodded.
“How’s life treated you today?”
“Amazing.” Arno smirked.
“Of course.” Colin winked. “Well, it’s only going to get better.”
They led him to the curious door they had diverted his attention from before. Yong-Sun and Colin moved a number of levers in an evident sequence causing the door to slowly open, revealing a twisting set of sprawling catacombs. Only a few feet within they found Diogo’s body lifeless on the ground, his organs lain beside him.
“Weak link.” Earnie grimaced, making eye contact with Arno.
They traveled further into the dimly lit passages, affixed blazing torches every few feet providing the only source of light. Arriving at a partially opened colossal door, adorned with various hieroglyphics, the others began to file back.
“It’s all you Arno.” Yong-Son gestured.
Arno gulped before threading into the room. There was no turning back now. He saw the minotaur in all his glory, eyes dazzling at the far end of the hollow. He knew exactly what this meant for him as he kneeled down waiting for the being to anoint him with his blood. This wasn’t good versus evil; it was simply the most zealous making their way to the top. If you can’t beat them, join them, he repeated to himself until his heart was silent, his brain now having total domination.
About the author
M.R. Cameo generally writes horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and nonfiction, yet enjoys dabbling in different genres. She is currently doing freelance work as a writer, ghostwriter, copywriter, editor, and proofreader for various publications.