I spoke to God but it was too late. He was sympathetic, but ultimately, there was nothing he could do. I don’t know what I expected, but there was nothing else left to do but to find him. There was barely anything left, you see.
It all started with the secrets. We all had our secrets, until we didn’t, and once they were done with our secrets, they wanted something more.
God asked me when it all began… how long it had been, but all I could do was point behind me, strangled by choked sobs, and let him see my situation for himself.
He was aghast, his jaw dropped as his eyes widened in terror. I tried to explain but I couldn’t get the words out, and even if I could, there was nothing that God could do. It was too late.
It all started with the secrets. They were hungry for secrets, ravenous. Their minds lost to their aching hunger, if they ever had minds to begin with, but they wouldn’t leave you alone after they had consumed your darkest moments. They wanted more. They’d developed a taste. They had needs and you were expected to fulfil them. I was holding out on them, and they knew it.
I’d hear it all night as I tried to sleep. Just beyond reach. Just out of sight. Always whispering, always waiting, and I knew that it was only a matter of time before we had nothing left to give.
I thought God would keep me safe. I had never felt safe. My big sister vanished when I was a kid, and I suppose I never got over it. She went out to the shop one day and just never came back. My parents just seemed to move on. It never made any sense to me, and I’d go out looking myself, once I got old enough to reach the lock on the front door, in the woods, down by the river, but I never saw a sign of her. I’d call out to Chelsea everywhere I went, scolded by my parents who just wanted to forget, but when she left us, something left me, and I was never the same.
I’d like to tell you that I came to God with a humble open heart, but the truth is, none of us here really has that wholesome story. I wanted to feel safe, and God seemed like he could do that. If all it took was swearing off men, vices and the outside world, I was willing to try.
The abbey was a beautiful place, full of song, friendship and worship, and I’d never felt safer anywhere else. I thought that things would always feel that way, until Sister Frances went mad. It happened all at once, that was when they came to us, and since then, we have never known peace.
She collapsed into insanity, wandering the halls, wailing and screaming, her words, a jumbled storm of nonsense as she thrashed and lashed out at everyone that tried to comfort her. I can remember so clearly. She cornered me in the dining room one night, pulling me close with a tear stained face, screaming about secrets. As the other girls pulled her away and back to her room, I was heartbroken. She was so lost, and there was nothing that we could do. We didn’t know what to do, captured in fear as our leader fell apart. Nobody heard our prayers and no help came, but we never stopped believing that she’d be okay.
Every night, she’d keep us all awake, moaning and crying, calling out to unseen horrors and begging for relief. It broke our hearts that we could not help her, but we tried. We’d take turns holding vigil at her bedside, mopping her soaked brow and praying as the night’s hours slowly slipped by, always believing, always faithful, but lost in a way that we’d never felt before.
We began to hear it too. It was just mumbled whispers at first, something we could barely make out, but as Sister Frances lost her mind, the voices found a way to get closer, and clearer.
“Unburden yourself my sisters.” They would whisper, all through the night, and as I met the tired eyes of the other girls every morning, I knew that we were all being tormented by the same presence that was stealing Sister Frances from us, and so, I prayed.
Faith is hard to explain to someone who doesn’t have it, and maybe, to those who don’t believe, we seemed delusional, childish and naive, but each of us believed that our prayers would eventually be answered and that Sister Frances would be saved.
I stopped believing when Sister Frances was found in the lake, and our sister who was watching over her was found in the basement.
Sister Edith was supposed to be watching her, and she swears that she did. Things had been quiet, with Sister Frances finally falling into a soft sleep, until the clock struck three and the older woman awoke with a start, letting out a long, pained scream.
Sister Edith says that the windows flew open, the wind flying through the room as Sister Frances was carried from the bed towards the window, begging someone to leave her in peace… Edith tried to tell us more, but she broke down, sobbing in our arms as we tried to console her.
She would never explain how she came to be in the basement, or what had taken Sister Frances, but I knew that I had to find out.
The police came by a few hours later, informing us that Sister Frances had been found in the lake, and we grieved, praying for peace and relief from the strange and unsettling events. I played along, but part of me was unable to truly believe anymore. It made no sense.
Sister Frances was a good woman, God’s loyal servant, and yet, her life had been taken, in such a cruel way, and all we had were questions with no answers, fears that would not go away, and prayers that never seemed to be heard.
I began looking for answers. I bothered Sister Edith for details until she grew sick of me, spent hours in Sister Frances’ room looking for a sign, but there was nothing, until they paid me a visit.
It was late, and a storm had surrounded us. I was in Sister Frances’ room again, staring out the window wondering what to make of everything we’d been through, but I couldn’t. None of it made sense, until they began whispering in my ear, closer than they’d ever been before.
I couldn’t see them, but I could feel them, everywhere all at once. The room was suddenly suffocating, their fingertips all over my body, and their voices, swirling together into one, whirling around the room, inescapable and intolerable.
“Unburden yourself Sister Allison.” I tried to shut them out, convinced it was a dream, but they were persistent. They picked and prodded at my flesh, their whispers, warm like flames against the back of my neck, burning hotter with every second, red eyes flashing in and out of view around the room as I ran towards the door, my legs heavy as they clung to me. “You’ll feel so much better.” The whispers became a wail, tall and terrifying. “We just want to know what happened to her Allison…” I fell towards the door, watching it slam shut as my fingernails dug into the carpet before me, my heart racing.
The room fell into darkness, and the voices fell silent. All I could hear was my panicked, frantic breath as the seconds slipped by. I closed my eyes, trying to steady my breathing, hoping it was all just a horrible nightmare, but as I opened them, red eyes lit up ahead of me, curious, staring into my own. I gripped the carpet, struggling to stand but falling back down as the eyes watched without a word.
“What did you do to her?” I whispered, a weight I could not see holding me down on the floor as the fingers found me again, gently brushing my ruffled hair from my eyes and tracing down my eyelids as a sigh surrounded the room.
“What did you do to her?” They mimicked, sick, mocking tones filling the room. “Your God cannot save you.” The eyes came closer, my skin burning under the touch of the phantom that surrounded me and I cried out in fear and agony. “Sister Frances believed right to the end, even though she knew she was going to hell.” I wept, watching the eyes narrow, their cruel words invading every inch of the air. “She did sinful things and thought she could hide them under a habit.” I shook my head, placing my hands over my ears but they still broke through and made their voices heard. “All those unclean things with all those unclean girls… God saw it all.” The floor burned beneath me, and I howled in pain, writhing in agony and falling back to the ground every time I tried to stand. I sobbed, the sound of my anguish finally towering above their torment, and within a moment, the room was flooded with sunlight, and I was blissfully bereft.