Fiction Horror

Sister Marinian had tossed and turned in her single bed all night. She had had an occasional dull ache in her back tooth for several weeks. She had ignored it and carried on about her business. It soon passed. After yesterday evening’s Compline, it started again. From the initial dull throb, it escalated to a feverish stabbing, which extended from her left ear, down her jaw to the front of her mouth. Whichever way she lay, there was no respite. She tried praying, but the pain intruded, interrupting her concentration and reducing her to tears. Reading her bible was equally impossible. Following Compline or Night Prayer at 8.15 pm the nuns retired to their rooms and there followed a period known as the Great Silence. During this time, no-one spoke or made unnecessary noise until after Lauds at 7.15 am the next morning. She knew that until this time, she must endure the agony as best she could.

           Eventually, the night passed. At 5.00 am, she rose as usual and performed her daily ablutions. At 6.00 am, she silently joined her sisters as they headed from their rooms, along the convent’s passageways to the chapel. Collectively, in their black habits, heads bowed and covered by veils, they walked along the semi-dark corridors, gradually joining together until they resembled a row of black pawns moving slowly across a chessboard. Once, in the chapel if any of her sisters noticed her distress, they did not comment on it. They were all intent on the day’s scriptures and psalms. After a tortuous hour, the singing of Lauds began, and Marinian knew that she would soon be able to seek help. The nuns filed quietly out from the chapel. Once, outside in the hallway, she wove her way through her sisters to Sister Leonella. Falling into step, beside the small Italian woman, Marinian quietly asked.

           ‘Sister, might I ask for your assistance?’

           ‘Of course, a medical matter?’


           ‘Come through to my office.’

Sister Leonella was a qualified nurse. It had been a natural choice to make her responsible for the physical wellbeing of the convent’s residents. The pair branched off from the main thoroughfare down a narrower passageway. It was lined with closed doors, at one Sister Leonella stopped, fumbled with a key, unlocked the door and threw it open. Momentarily, the sisters were blinded by the bright glare of sunlight from the medical room’s large windows. The room could have been a consulting room in any doctor’s surgery, furnished as it was with a desk, computer, two chairs, examination couch, combined scales and height measure. The smell of surgical spirit infused the air. Sister Leonella sat on one chair, indicating with a hand that Marinian should take the other. Without saying a word, the nurse gazed intently at the other woman’s face, before saying.

           ‘The left side of your face looks swollen and inflamed. Have you got toothache?’ At this, Marinian’s self-control evaporated and tears began to slowly course down her cheeks, and she could only nod in reply.

           ‘Let’s have a look. Open wide, please.’ Marinian saw Leonella’s involuntary wince as she peered into her mouth, and realised that her breath must smell as vile as the pain felt.

           ‘I think you have an abscess. You need to see a dentist. I’ll give you a couple of painkillers. Go and lie down in your room. I’ll give you a knock when I’ve got you an appointment.’

           ‘What about work?’ Marinian taught in the local primary school.

           ‘I’ll ring them too. You can’t possibly go in like this.’

Dominic O’Leary, the dentist, and Marinian were vaguely acquainted. She had taught several of his brood of seven children as they passed through school. They had met on various occasions at parents’ evenings and school concerts. He was a likeable man, with a round florid, open face, surrounded by long, thick sideburns extending down his cheeks and fluffy, thinning hair on top of his head. He was known to have a penchant for whisky and horse racing. She leant back in his dentist’s chair, the bright light shining directly into her eyes, and winced as he pulled her lower jaw down with fingers, gloved in rubber, and inappropriately smelling of stale breath.

           ‘You have an abscess. That tooth will probably need to come out. I’ll give you a prescription for antibiotics for the infection. Come back in a week and we’ll have another look.’ With that Marinian realised that she was being dismissed. She swung her legs off from the chair and attempted to stand, but as she did so, the room whirled rapidly around her, and her legs began to weakly collapse from her knees. Before she could fall, she felt strong arms grasping her from behind and steering her back towards the chair. Speedily the chair was adjusted, so that she was tilted backwards into a prone position. She heard Mr O’Leary instruct his nurse.

           ‘Get the Sister a drink of water.’ And felt a cold damp tissue being laid across her forehead. Gradually the whirling in her head began to settle, and she heard the dentist say.

           ‘For a minute there, I thought you were going to faint. Your colour’s come back a bit. I’m going to sit you up.’ She nodded.

           ‘When was the last time you had something to eat?’

           ‘Before Compline, supper last night.’

           ‘Probably why then, that and the infection, and pain.’ Turning to his nurse. ‘Sort out another appointment for the Sister, next week please. Write it down. I’m going to run her home.’ She tried to protest that she would be alright to walk back, but Mr O’Leary was insistent, laughingly saying.

           ‘Can’t have you collapsing in the street. It’d look bad on the surgery.’ He busied himself about the surgery, packing equipment away and turning off lights. Once the nurse had handed an appointment card to Marinian, he instructed.

           ‘We’ll be off now, lock up for me, please Chris.’ Then turning to the nun, he took one of her hands and helped her to her feet, and then solicitously put an arm around her shoulders and led her from the surgery to his car, parked in the drive beside the building. Marinian leant into the support of his bulky body. She had not felt this protected or physically close to a man since she had been a small child, when her father had carried her upstairs to bed because she had a bout of measles. The opportunities for such closeness had been rare, as like the O’Learys, she too had come from a large family, comprising nine children. Dominic smelt of damp tweed, and something vaguely perfumed, perhaps deodorant or aftershave. Marinian was unfamiliar with the details of male toiletries. He opened the car’s passenger door and ushered her in, protecting the top of her head with his hand as she slid into the deep, leather seat. Getting into the driver’s seat, he competently began to reverse down the drive toward the road. Marinian glanced around her. In the rear, there were two child seats, and the footwells were littered with empty crisp packets, a discarded, naked doll, several pieces of Lego and a well-thumbed paperback book. Then, out of the corner of her eye, movement attracted her attention. Peering in the side window was a face. It was not a human face, more like a goat’s head, with large curling horns on its head, and several rows of pointed teeth along its protruding lower jaw, and slime or thick saliva dripping from the wisps of hair on its chin. As quickly as it appeared, it vanished. She gasped, shook her head in disbelief. Logic took over, she realised that what she had seen was an apparition bought on by the combination of the streetlights flashing by as they drove along the road, her tense and hungry state, and probably a side effect of the painkillers she’d consumed. As they drew up at the Convent’s side entrance, Dominic pulled on the handbrake, got out of the car and went round and opened the passenger door for her.

           ‘See you next week.’

           ‘Thank you, yes.’

On Leonella’s instruction, Marinian went straight to bed, where she stayed the next day. One of the Sisters collected her prescription for her. By the following day, the antibiotics had begun to take effect and she was well enough to return to work. A week later, she again sat in the dentist’s chair, with Dominic peering into her open mouth.

           ‘Your teeth are in quite a state. When was the last time you saw a dentist?’

           ‘Never.’ She was ashamed to admit that growing up within such a large, chaotic, poor family, you were lucky to find a toothbrush, let enough have one to count as your own.

           ‘Well, we’ll get this troublesome tooth out for you to today, and then you’ll need several more appointments to sort the rest out.’ She saw the nurse hand him a syringe with a long fine needle attached, and felt her head begin to swim again. He was more alert this time, and placed the hypodermic onto the glass tray beside him. She felt herself being lowered back. He grasped her hand, and she immediately felt comforted and calmer. He called ‘Chris.’ Before the nurse could answer, she smelt a revolting stench. Initially, she thought that Dominic had passed wind, but the smell was far worse than this. It was a combination of rotten eggs and fish, stagnant water with an underlying aroma of diarrhoea. She began to wretch, and then over the dentist’s shoulder, she saw a skeletal head intently regarding her. Similar to the previous apparition, it had horns, but these were downward drooping rather than pointing upwards as its predecessor’s had done. Another similarity was its goatlike appearance, but this one was devoid of hair. Instead from its hollow eye, nasal and mouth sockets a flamelike glow emanated.  

           The nurse appeared beside her; Mr O’Leary let go of Marinian’s hand. His assistant gave her a grey, cardboard sick bowl, and subsequently a plastic cup of water. The demon was gone.

           ‘It seems that Sister Marinian, may have a phobia of dentists.’ She heard Dominic comment. The nurse removed the bowl and beaker from her hands, and remained impassively standing beside her.

           ‘Ok, I’m going to sit you up now.’ Incrementally the chair returned to its upright position.

           ‘We’re going to take things slowly. I want you to tell me if you feel unwell in anyway. Ok?’ The nun nodded. ‘First, you’re going to feel a little prick. Nothing that a brave lady like yourself can’t cope with.’ The Sister felt herself blushing at this unexpected compliment. ‘And then after a few minutes, your mouth will go completely numb. Sure, I could take a hammer to your jaw and you wouldn’t feel it.’ Dominic laughed at his own joke.

Many more weekly appointments followed. Marinian was subjected to another extraction, fillings, x-rays, scale and polishing. Gradually, she became used to the uncomfortable and intrusive treatments, and she was relieved to find that she suffered no more fainting attacks, and had no further visitations from demons. Eventually, Mr O’Leary announced that she was orally fit, and he would not need to see her for another six months. She felt a wave of despondency wash over, and realised that she had come to look forward to her weekly appointments with him. She tried to convince herself that it was because the visits had provided a welcome break in the routine of convent life. Deep down she knew that this was untrue. Her teaching work provided variety and interest. She did not see him for six weeks. Frequently, her thoughts strayed to him. She would distract herself with prayer and biblical reading. On one occasion, she went to confession, and spoke of her attraction to a man. She left somewhat comforted by the confessor’s admission that ‘attraction to the opposite sex is one of the vital instincts, which God has instilled within us. It’s not a sin to experience these feelings. It becomes a sin if acted upon.’  

Their paths crossed again at the school fete. The Sister was wandering around the school field greeting pupils and ex-pupils, friends and families as they played hoopla, made purchases from the cake stall or waited for their tickets to be pulled from the tombola drum. At the bottom of the field an enclosure had been roped off, and pony rides were being offered. With a jolt, she realised that one of the adults leading the riders was Dominic. She headed down the field to say ‘Hello’. As she walked her ears were filled with a high-pitched squealing, making her want to reach up and protect them. No-one nearby was showing signs of distress. She became aware that someone was walking beside her. It was another nun, but not one she recognised. She turned to greet the stranger. She was gaunt and tall, at least six inches taller than Marinian. The shrill screeching continued to accost her hearing. The nuns turned to face one and other, and with a shock Marinian saw that the other’s thin face was covered in grey, peeling flesh, her eye sockets were empty black holes, and her mouth was devoid of lips and teeth, it was merely a murky pit from where the offensive noise was emanating. And then the sound stopped and the visitor was gone. 

Automatically, Marinian continued towards the temporary paddock. When Dominic saw her, her raised his hand in greeting, tied the reins of the pony he was leading to a post and ambled over to her.

           ‘Sister Marinian. How are you?’


           ‘I was wondering if I would see you today.’ The nun felt herself flush with pleasure, but was unable to think of anything to say in reply. Undeterred he continued.

           ‘I’m going to get start packing up, need to get the ponies back to the stables. If you’re not in a hurry I could give you a lift back. It’d give us a chance to catch up.’ She knew that she ought to refuse. Instead, she watched as he competently led four miniature horses into a low transporter, then push the ramp up and shut and slide the securing bolts. He beckoned to her, and opened the cab’s passenger door for her to get in. As he offered her his hand to help her up, she saw that the seat was already occupied by a naked man. He had blue flesh and cloven feet, a double set of pointed ears, and she could clearly see the veins running across his bald head. A snarl emitted from his mouth, and he disappeared. Sensing her hesitation, Dominic queried.

           ‘You ok?’

           ‘Yes, yes fine thank you.’

He went round to the driver’s seat, and drove, turning the horsebox and slowly manoeuvring it up the field. The radio was on, and beneath the sound of Vivaldi, Marinian could hear muttering, as though the radio was not quite accurately tuned to the station. Suddenly there was a roar of static and then a hideous, rasping voice announced[SW1] [SW2] .

           ‘We will get you. You will suffer and be punished. Be sure eternal torture will follow’ Dominic reached over to the dash, clicked a switch and then there was silence. If he had heard the voice, he did not comment on it. He drove through the town, out to the surrounding countryside. As he guided the vehicle through the lanes, up to the nearby moors, he explained that the ponies belonged to his children and that he thought that it would be a nice idea to offer rides at the autumn fair. He added that they were now heading back to where the animals were stabled. Without warning, he pulled the vehicle off the road, onto a gravelled parking area. The Sister’s heart began to beat with anticipation. ‘Was he going to try and kiss her?’ Instead, he threw open his door and began to descend the two steps down. Over his shoulder, he called

           ‘Sorry, I’m desperate for a wee. Won’t be a sec.’ He slammed the door behind him and was gone. Marinian sat alone in the cab, looking out across the rolling moorland. By now the sun was sinking, and there was a dusky feel to the countryside. She realised that it must be nearing 5.00 pm, time for Vespers at the convent. By recompense, she lowered her head and began to pray. Time passed, she finished her prayers, and still Dominic did not return to the van. She did not know much about adult male urination, but suspected that it did not usually take this length of time. As she sat there, patiently waiting, she became aware of a knocking sound. Initially, she thought that it was the ponies stirring in the back, but it was more regular than that. She believed that it was coming from above, from the roof of the cab. A large bird had landed there and was walking around perhaps? But no, it was too loud to be that, and more rhythmic. She decided to investigate, opening the side door and leaping down to the side of the cab, she looked up. There, crouching on the roof was the most hideous, horned demon. He had the heavily muscled form of a man, and was entirely naked. His penis was erect and pointing skywards, he had two small horns on his hairless head and his hands were clawed and skeletal. But worse, much worse, his bony fingers held the severed head of Dominic. Blood dripped from where it had once been joined to his body, and the demon grasped it by its scant, wispy hair. It was using it to beat the roof of the vehicle. On seeing Marinian it threw back its head and screamed ‘We have plenty of time.' [SW1]


September 05, 2021 17:36

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