Zlatan is in the church alone. He has just returned from France for the last time. He's gone to Paris, to Lyon, Troyes, Nice, Bordeaux, Monaco and he's laid siege to the cities. He's done the same to Nante, Lille and Toulouse. He's sailed to Ajaccio and brought ruin to it. Last May, he scored twice to break the hearts of Olympique de Marseille at the Stade de France for a second consecutive quadruple and his 12th title in four years.
He's done all there is to be done and has returned to his native Sweden, to his palace, in preparation of the next adventure. This will be his final one.
He knows that it will be his last, and the truth eats at him. He is Zlatan, an immortal. He is not like the others. He is 34, and for ordinary humans, that is considered old in the sporting sense. But his 34 is in relation to eternity, he is but a baby. He's still strong and skillful and all of his abilities have been enhanced, not reduced, by age. Yet, the anxiety of finality haunts him. Only his God can help him.
Zlatan loves his God the way he loves himself. God, the king of the next world, and Zlatan the king of this one, and so when he asks "what should I do?" he doesn't do so as just a mere servant, but also as a king who looks for counsel from his elders. He appears at the altar as the most powerful man in the world, but also as a humble child.
There is no answer, at least not an audible one.
He knows that when one speaks to a higher power, he speaks to his inner self. The question is responded to before it is even spoken. He knows what he must do. Zlatan stands up slowly, his knees ache, he walks from the altar to and through the Gospel side of the Sacristy.
In the small room, he unties his hair and removes all of his clothes. With the water from the sacrarium, he washes his feet, and then the rest of his body. He scrubs himself clean. He towels himself off and then applies the chrism all over his body. He is more alive now than he's ever been before. 34, he thinks, is just a number.
Zlatan clothes himself and readies to leave, but in that moment it dawns on him that there are no mirrors in the room. He can't see himself, and now a different anxiety sets upon him: he doesn't remember his face, he has washed himself away. He can't recall the color of his eyes, the shape of his nose or the curl of his lips. Zlatan has forgotten Zlatan.
He panics and darts over to the basin. His eyes search for his own Narcissus. The water distorts the image, but he sees him. The fierce dark brown eyes, the boxer's nose and the thin lips, the gateway to his vanity. He should be relieved, but he is not, because he also sees the frown lines, the wrinkles on his forehead and the dark bags under his eyes.
He leaves the church immediately.
It's a bright day and Zlatan is forced to squint when he walks out of the church. The oppressive sun beams down directly on him and he doesn't know if he hates it for hanging above him, or if he admires it for the same reason. What's more, he somewhat disregards its powers because it has to fall every night.
He walks back to his throne room and on the way he greets several members of his court: Andreas Isaksson, Martin Olsson, Oscar Wendt, Andreas Granqvist, Pierre Bengtsson, Jimmy Durmaz, Sebastian Larsson, Kim Kallstrom, Erkan Zengin. He also sees his would-be rivals (Johan Elmander, Marcus Berg) and his supposed successors (Branimir Hrgota and Isaac Kiese Thelin) and the last two, he greets them but can't help but linger and watch them walk away. He inspects them and their still-raw bodies which are full of inexperience and naivety. These foolish, still-developing children who fall back on their youthful vigor to hide their weaknesses. He laughs at them, but his God knows that he envies them.
He's not on his throne for long before Erik Hamren comes in. They speak in low voices and Hamren hands him a paper with a list of enemies, their strengths and their weaknesses, and leaves shortly after. Zlatan studies it and repeats the names to himself. Republic of Ireland, Italy, Belgium. Stade de France, Stadium de Toulouse, Stade de Nice. He recognizes them and begins to laugh hysterically. He will conquer these places again.