On the train is when I write, and I don't ride the train on the weekend. So, here is your daily-dose of flash-fiction. For certain generous definitions of daily.
I came armed and armored. Even today I think back, wondering if that is a mistake. Armed only with two waterbuckets, yes, and armored in the garb of my order. Not the plainspun habit worn for day-to-day ministry, but the fine woolen one suitable for a high mass or visit from a governor. The garb which proclaims that my faith is a fine thing, to be honored with fine things. Did I put too much of that faith in the trappings of my calling, and not the spirit itself? Or was I destined to fall from the first, too weak for what came after?
It seemed simple at first, simple and wise. To walk from the town just past dusk with two empty buckets, as if on a simple errand for water. If the townspeople found anything amiss with my taking my solitude just outside their borders none said a word. Surely they'd not know that the young goodman's journal had found its way to my order, that I was sent to learn the truth about the corrupt heart of an outwardly nice and pious hamlet?
Perhaps they were accustomed to old women living alone near the wood. That thought gave me chills.
I'd waited, biding times and before journeying into the wood. Waited for the goodfolk of the town to first accept me, then ignore me. Waited while performing my ablutions, saying my madrigals, preparing my soul.
Waited for Him to ease my fear, and grant me the strength.
So the time came for me to walk. I saw in the woods no magics, no staff-wielding warlocks, no witches aloft on broomsticks. Naught but the whispered footfalls in fallen pine-needles. I began to doubt that Brown's journal was anything save a hallucination, a fever dream.
Until I reached the crossroad.
He was waiting for me there, a bit balding with a bit of a paunch, his plain, homespun priestly robes putting my finery to shame. He greeted me with an easy smile. "Good evening, sister."
I was sent because I'm no fool, because I have courage to go with my faith. I dipped my hand into the water bucket, cast a sprinkly of blessed water at the stranger, "In His name, show your true form!"
He stood straighter and taller, the homespun robes appeared of finer stuff. The face, the face didn't change much, if at all. He shook his head. "So rude. Do we not all wear masks? Do you ask your sisters to shed their habits, and appear as on the day they were born?
I'd not be drawn into debate with him. I had courage and faith, yes, but also learning. Not the learning of scripture alone, but of folk stories, legends, myths. To be drawn into debate with the Devil was not a game I'd play. "You know why I am here. You'll no longer hold the goodfolk of this town in your thrall."
He touched one hand to his chest in a gesture of outrage. "In my thrall? Is that what you think of me? Look!" He snatched the bucket from my hand, cast the water to the ground. It pooled on the floor at my feet, in the pool images formed. I crossed myself against this sign of sorcery, but found myself drawn in by the image. A small knot of mostly women and young boys gathered in a woodland clearing. Other than that, what I expected. An old woman stirring a large, cast-iron cauldron, contents unknown. Two young girls dancing shamelessly to the music of a young man playing a pipes.
|screencapture from American Horror Story S2.|
I turned to the stranger - to the devil - shocked and angered. "Have you no shame? Are you content to let these goodfolk burn for these nights' revels?
He shook his head. "All is not as it seems. They," he indicated the young girls, "are beaten by their father. The moonlight dance is the only time they feel peace. He," the boy playing the pipes ,"has a gift for music, but the pastor only lets his brother-in-law perform in the church. They all, in fact, have gifts which they are forced to hide. Would God want to deny us those talents which with he gifted us? What do you deny in yourself?"
I turned briskly from the crossroads, leaving the water buckets behind. I walked back to my hovel.
Something should be done for their souls.
And something should be done with the paints my superior tells me are a frivolity.
Perhaps tomorrow I'll return to the crossroads and decide.