Romance of the Church
The church square had grey stones cobbled in a circular pattern. Raw wood benches sat under the many bare trees, appearing dead with Winter but still thriving from within. The air was silent but for the breeze, whistling very softly. A light snow was about to begin to fall, I could feel this in my bones. It was very cold. I began to shiver in my suit.
I rounded the church, wandering into the back garden. The garden led to a graveyard, I could see. Heavy wrought iron gates were open to the waves of grey headstones, far too many for this town.
I didn't see her at first. My eyes alighted on her on the second pass of my gazing about the garden. She was sat on a bench under a rather large tree. I couldn't tell what kind it was without its leaves. She just sat there rigidly, looking at nothing in particular. After watching her for a few more moments, I figured out why she was staring as she was. She was blind.
She was dressed in a plain black habit, a brown rosary strung around her neck. I could see she was holding a small wooden cross in her hand also, its tip peeking out from her tightly curled fingers. She was a young girl, maybe not more than 18, perhaps 19. Her slim form was barely there, perched straight backed on the edge of the wooden bench.
I didn't want to startle her, so I tapped my foot on the stones of the path rather loudly. She startled anyway. "Who goes there?" she called out in a slightly scared way.
"It is but no one," I answered back in my best German.
"A visitor," she said, smiling. She got up primly and turned towards the sound of my voice. "Are you here to see the church? It really is quite splendid."
"Yes, I am. Thank you," I replied, matching her polite speech patterns.
We walked into the church together. She spoke of the carvings of the pews, touching them and inviting me to touch them as well. She spoke of the history of the church, how the town had built it about a century ago when the old one's interior had burned and made it unusable. Her face brightened when we neared the large tapestry behind the altar. She pointed at it and explained its picture vividly, with lush detail and love of the subject and craftsmanship.
"Hmm," I said, finger to my chin, deciding to play a little game, "but that's not what's on this tapestry. Its entirely different."
Her whole body froze and she stared in the direction of the tapestry like a woman betrayed from the core of her heart, and I knew I had gone too far.
"But the tapestry survived the fire of 1839. How can that be? Why would it be replaced?" She asked. Her fingers hovered near the tapestry now, but still dared not touch the obviously old and delicate, heavy threads.
I hung my head. I touched her shoulder gently in apology. "I'm sorry. Its the same tapestry as 1839," I said in shame. Why hurt the poor girl? What had I been thinking of? This nice nun who probably never even killed a fly in her life.
She looked in my direction. "Why would you do it?" She asked, clearly upset at what I had done.
"I don't know," I said, staring directly at her sad face. "You just seemed to love it so. I don't know."
She stood there still for a few moments, then relaxed and surprised me with a charming smile and a giggle like bells. "Its quite alright, sir," she smiled, "as long as the tapestry is fine, its alright, sir. Shall I show you where the choir sings?"
"Of course," I answered, smiling also for her smile was causing me to smile, it just seemed to have a sort of magic, so unexpected it was.
We spent much of the afternoon walking around the church and its grounds. The history itself was interesting. The sights beautiful. I loved how she invited me to touch things, inviting me to see how she saw them without thinking. We touched trees, gravestones, hidden engravings in the bricks of the anterior of the church. I so enjoyed it and her sweet company, I agreed to come again soon and to talk to her some more. She seemed delighted at the idea, and strangely I was delighted, too.
I came again the next day. She was alone this time also. We went out to the graveyard to take care of the graves' upkeeping. I asked her where her sisters were. "They're on visit to other churches in the region," she told me without any effort to hide, sweeping away some stray frost-covered leaves from a grave.
"Why are you not on visit?" I asked, picking up some of the leaves from the top of a wide headstone.
"Oh, well," she said, pausing ever so slightly in her work. I immediately felt bad, for I could tell I had hurt her some way again, however unintentional. "Well...they don't think I could make it at another church because of my...eyes."
"But you make it around here alright," I said, putting the leaves in the small pile she was making to the side, "You seem smart enough."
"Thank you," she said quietly, still visibly disturbed. "You are kind." She paused again and then, still staring at the spot of ground where she was working, she began to speak this curious thing, in a deeply sad voice. "I don't know why you are so kind. No German has been kind to me since...the accident... In fact, none have been kind to me at all since what had occurred."
"Since what had occurred?" I asked, stopping myself quickly from adding 'my dear', which is what I use for such creatures who are small and vulnerable, who need taking care of. I could feel my heart blooming, beginning to feel this way about her immediately at her sad tone.
She was silent now, her eyes unfocused and telling me that she was not with me. That she was in another time period. A time of despair and awful things that no one can imagine. I stepped over our pile of leaves and leaned down to be face level with her. I peered at her small, saddened face, still a sweet little child after all, no matter the grown up habit and privately mature manner. I took her hand quietly and lead her gently inside, finding a kitchen area with plain wooden table with three chairs around it. I sat her down calmly and with care. I found tea bags in the cabinets, and set about making it, watching her every so often, just to make sure she was alright.
She had begun to weep silent tears from her far too wise eyes by the time I had finished. I set a cup in front of her and poured hot water for her, dipping the tea bag in her drink, intentionally making little sloshing noises for her to know what I had done. She said a tiny thank you, and then bowed her head, closing her gentle eyes in prayer before this precious cup of tea.
She didn't look up before she began to tell me. Telling me of this awful thing which had happened to her many years ago.
"When I was seven years old, my family was a very large part of the church," she said, eyes not closed but intentionally avoiding my area of the room. "This town, it was as if it was cut off from the rest of the world. We were our own society, everything we needed was here. And the church. All we needed was the church and our priest, an amazing man who inspired us all. I was a pupil of the small school of which he founded which used to be connected to these grounds. There were not many children, so we all got a lot of attention from our teacher, Sister Edda. She was a wonderful young teacher. She sat with us and tutored us specially if we did not understand, played with us in the schoolyard. She was always smiling. She taught us about the church. I remember one special day, she took us into the church and showed us the tapestry. I loved the way it looked, it was as if the threads were alive, like they had climbed up and over themselves in earnest to please God, and in turn had created this wonderful masterpiece. I fell in love with it immediately. I started to go see it every day."
She paused here to sip from her cup. Her small hands were shaking, the tea touching the lip of the cup over and over, threatening to spill out. I hoped not a drop would overtake the edges.
She took a breath and continued quietly. "One day in cold March, I went to the church eagerly to see the tapestry. I threw open the doors with a big childish grin. But then, my face fell and my heart dropped to the floor, because there..." She trailed off, her eyes squeezed tightly closed. "...Because there...on the altar itself...was our beloved priest and Sister Edda in the throes of all that is unholy. They looked up at me, and I looked at them. I ran out the door and heard our priest shout my name. 'Sanne! Sanne!' he yelled over and over. I thought he was trying to explain his actions, but I didn't want to hear. I ran into the graveyard, running and running. But he caught up with me and grabbed my arm. Sister Edda grabbed him then, for she had followed him to stop him. How could I have known what an awful man he was? How could she have done those things knowing how awful he was? Before my eyes, he threw her off of him, and seemingly out of nowhere he took out a knife and stabbed her over and over. I shall never forget her screams. I shall never forget the desperate look on his face, the look of his knowing what he had done and was doing and not knowing how to stop it all." She sat silently for a moment, eyes still closed. "As I laid on the ground, he shook me and shook me, telling me to forget everything. Telling me I had seen nothing. That there was nothing to see. And incredibly, before my very eyes, everything went white, and then black. And I saw no more..."
She was breathing deeply. No tears, but a look of quiet sorrow.
"They told us that Sister Edda had been transferred to a church somewhere else. As someone who could not see, my schooling was stopped. I of course tried to tell my parents what had happened, and they did not believe me. No one believed me. They called me awful things, accusing me of being a child of the devil, telling me that my sight had been taken because of my evil soul. That I was no longer allowed to see God's beauty because I could not see goodness."
She sighed deeply at this recollection. She covered her eyes and leaned on her elbows on the table now, deep in thought. She continued on. "I wonder though. What had I done? What had I done...to see such a thing in the first place? What had I done to deserve to see such a thing, to experience that day? Was I born more stained with sin than any other? Was what they said true, was I a child of evil, doomed because of some unknown evil sin? I became of the church, joining as I am now, but still I can not see goodness? Still I am not redeemed for this evil deed? What have I done? God, what have I done?" Her head dropped in her hands and she began to weep copiously, her shoulders rolling with sobs from deep within a place which had begun to be unraveled and released.
I got up then. I could not stand it anymore. She didn't deserve this. She didn't deserve any of this. What kind of world did she live in, a world which would so torture innocence so pure this way? She had done nothing wrong. Not one thing. But yet to be so in agony, this poor unfortunate soul, it tore my own soul to shreds. I could not imagine the turmoiled, black despair of which her young heart must be breaking of. I walked around the table and wrapped my arms around her shoulders, embracing her tightly. Hugging her, trying to hug her with more arms than my own. Trying to hug her with all the forgiveness of the entire world. Trying to give her all the apologies of every single person who had wronged her, apologies her long broken heart so desperately desired and deserved.
We were embraced for many long moments. For what seemed as an eternity. She became still again, her eyes still closed. And then she whispered very quietly, barely there. But my demon ears could hear clearly her sorrowful yet sure words.
"Tell me, please," she whispered. "Tell me. I knew you were not a normal person from the moment I heard you walk into the garden. I know things which many people do not know. I searched for answers, and I found evil things. I know there are people who come to take evil people away. Tell me. Have you come to take me away?"
And then I knew that what must be done. I breathed deeply and held her more tightly, more assuredly. This action told her of my intent. I felt her relax more than I had ever seen her before. I felt the weight lift off of her shoulders.
"Release me," she sighed in serenity. " Release my soul. Take me away from all of this. Take my evil soul away."
"Sanne," I whispered sadly, "dear, dear Sanne...you are the most purely beautiful and innocently good soul I have ever met in all of the eternity of which I have been living. There is not a drop of evil in you."
"I'm glad," she breathed in overtaking relief, as I leaned her backwards in her low backed chair and to my chest.
"It will only hurt for a moment," I told her assuringly, my voice wobbling as tears started to well up in my own eyes. That was when she looked up at me, and I could see her eyes truly seeing me for the first time.
She beamed at me happily, and then closed her eyes for the last time. I kissed her neck lovingly and carefully, and she did not flinch as I found her life. She did not protest as I lead her life from her.
I held her body in my arms for a long time. I cried over her innocent life, so short and full of hatred and sadness. This shameful thing which happened to her, this torture of what she had to live through. How little happiness she had.
After a long while, I carefully gathered her up and took her to the graveyard. I dug her a very deep hole, working into the night. I found rocks and arranged her name at the head of her grave, a surprisingly small looking grave for someone with such a large heart.
I stared at her grave for a long time. Then went away. But never truly away. For she had touched my heart so deeply that I can never truly go.
- Title: Romance of the Church
- Artist: MarigoldMari
Demon Stories is a continuing short story series of historical horror about the horrors of humankind viewed through the eyes of demons. It goes from the Heian period of Japan from the Roman Empire, to Renaissance Spain, France in the time of Rococo and the Belle Epoque, England in the Regent and Victorian eras, and America in the time of the Edwardian, plus various modern times from the 1920's on and more.
- Date: 02/04/2013
- Tags: romance church demon horror