Cursed from the Ground
Reaper 'verse (backstory), Gen, Adult.
Characters: The Preacher, Fr. Joshua Ellesmor
§And now be thou cursed from the ground, which hath opened its mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand.§ ~Genesis 4:11
She tries to make it up to Boston two or three times a year. She talks to Joshua more often than that; the two of them trading off weeks: Sunday morning, six a.m. always in Joshua's time zone because it remains static whereas she moves around a lot.
When she does go to visit she leaves the camper in the driveway of a friend in New Jersey and stays with Joshua, who has a small apartment with an extra bedroom that no one ever uses but Jane.
She always arrives in the evening, in time to meet Joshua for dinner -- early enough for them to talk over the meal, early enough for Joshua to get back in time for the last of the evening prayers, then they both sleep and get up and go to mass together.
She actually has a special dispensation, all official and signed, that she keeps tucked in the glove compartment of the truck. No one ever asks, but the church, especially here, maintains their isolated grip on salvation. She takes communion with a clear conscience -- all the dispensation does is clear the consciences of the priests who administer the rite to her.
Joshua serves public mass only once a year and even then he struggles with it, struggles to find that perfect sense of grace and forgiveness, that lets him do it open-hearted. His colleagues, even the Cardinal, find him a good, loyal, selfless servant of the church.
He has his own little office along the back corridors of the Cathedral, a room lined with books and file cabinets. Jane tells him every time he looks more like an accountant than a priest, and he smiles, always for her, and says, maybe I am. I keep an accounting of much.
He would be happier in a monkish order, she thinks, any of them really; isolated and given over to service, preferably in silence. Baking bread or making beer or cheese. Anything. He keeps his small apartment for Jane. When he dies (please, Lord, not soon,) it will come to Jane, to give her a place to come home to.
His contact with people outside of the Archdiocesean staff is very limited, and truly, very few people know much about him. He's not a social Catholic.
He's a penitent Catholic.
There's only minimal awareness of what the small staff serving under Monsignor Allred do; keep the records of the Archdiocese, maintain the library, keep the rolls. Joshua can lay his hands as easily on the many, many revisions of the Cathedral's heating and water and structural systems as he can on less well known or requested records and texts.
When she visits, she puts on skirts. It's nearly the only time she wears them. She has three, two black and one brown; simple, ankle length skirts that she wears with plain white blouses and even simpler jackets. More than once she's been mistaken for a Sister of some order or another. Joshua teases her about it and she smiles over a glass of watered wine and nods. Yes, Sister of the Holy Order of Vengeance, Joshua loves that -- he thinks it's funny for all that it's true.
Joshua wishes she would visit more often but he never asks for that, only hugs her tightly when she leaves and says it was good to see her. He lays a blessing on her bowed head and presses money into her hands, gives her holy water in gallon jugs, some blessed by the Archbishop and some blessed by the Pope himself, when he can get them. Jane doesn't think it matters, but she accepts them with good grace.
Before she leaves, Joshua always goes to confession. He goes to the Monsignor who waits for him, who greets Jane warmly and makes her comfortable while she waits.
Because once he's done, confessed his sins and received absolution, gone to his knees to offer whatever penance he can, Joshua comes to her and kneels at her feet and asks for her forgiveness. Confesses to her.
The story hasn't changed much over the years. She knows what it is and why although even the Monsignor isn't sure why it persists -- this sin of the spirit but not of the flesh. The church doesn't officially recognize Jane as being any kind of minister or reverend, not really, but the Monsignor knows more about her than anyone but Joshua. Knows what she does and why. He's gently prodded her into taking orders, to fight from within the church rather than outside it.
She declines. She respects the church greatly -- it's given her most of the tools she needs to do what she does -- but she can't and won't answer to its orders, to take her directions from it, instead of from within or above.
She forgives Joshua always. In her own mind, there's nothing to forgive, but Joshua needs it from her.
She thinks it's guilt more than anything. Guilt that his faithfulness, his devotion, even the reassurances of the Church itself, have not been able to resolve for him.
The thing that crept into Joshua's bed when he was sixteen had the face of her mother. It had her body and her gentle, familiar way of soothing Joshua, just as her mother had done from his birth. It's intent was evil, damaging, but it's approach was meant to soothe, to reassure, to seduce. That no mother should ever approach her son like that to offer love framed in illicit desire is something Joshua knows.
He'd succumbed, body and soul, to having intercourse with a creature that had his mother's face and her voice. He came as any sixteen year old boy would, but he did it with his mother's whispers in his ear and her hands and mouth on his body.
It doesn't matter than men stronger in body and spirit and not wracked by grief as Joshua had been had been succumbing to the deviousness and delights of succubi for centuries.
He has touched no woman since then, had no sexual encounters at all. As far as Jane is aware -- and she is aware of much -- he never gave into natural urges even as a much younger man, pouring all desires of the flesh into prayer.
It would be easier for him, perhaps, if she did not stay in his house.
He has never touched her in any way inappropriate for a brother to a beloved sister. There is no lust or desire in his eyes, hidden or masked or obvious, when he sees her.
And yet when she visits, he dreams.
The Monsignor is of a mind that he was cursed. That the succubus that violated him left behind a lasting punishment.
Jane has her own room in her brother's house, but she leaves nothing of herself there, ever. She washes the sheets before she leaves, forgets no trinket, no article of clothing.
When she is there, her brother dreams of her. She knows the dreams very well -- they haven't changed much over the years. She sits in his doorway and listens to him talk to her in his sleep, watches his body react to unseen hands, to a seduction and lust that lives only in his own mind.
There is no succubus, no demon spirit haunting Joshua or his apartment. She's checked. She's laid protections on the small space herself. This is not something that attacks him from without.
Her brother does not lust after her in his heart. He confesses to that every time, apologizes to her. Begs her forgiveness.
It's easy to forgive. There's nothing to forgive.
It would probably be easier on Joshua if she didn't come at all, but she knows he would see it as a punishment he rightly deserves. She would come more often but she isn't sure if either of them could bear it -- she fears it would only hurry Joshua's decline. He is only two years older than her, but he looks like he is twenty years her senior. He is dying, slowly, in inches. A century before, it would be called wasting.
The creature Jane killed stole much of his life as well as his innocence. She says she hates them more because of the latter than the former, because Joshua sees his death as an end to his torment.
But it's not true. She hates them because one of them killed her father and older brother, because it stole Joshua's life from him, only not all at once.
She hates them because she will not live long enough to see them all destroyed.
She sends him postcards and letters form wherever she is. She has run into things she does not know how to destroy or kill or banish, and Joshua will not rest until he has answers for her. Her brother loves three things: God, the Church, and her, in that order.
God gives him comfort, the Church gives him purposes and she…
She gives him absolution in a way the church can't. Sister-Preacher of the Holy Order of Vengeance.
It is a small order. They are only two.
Jacob was eighteen when he died. Her father was forty two. Joshua is fifty-six and she will be surprised if he lives to see sixty. She has, by her own count, destroyed some one hundred and six succubi. She's killed other things too, but it's the succubi she keeps track of. Another ten and she'll reach her personal goal of one for every year in the life of her father and brothers cut short by their presence.
And then she'll start on one for every year of her life.
Goals are good things to have.
She is not Catholic. She does not go to confession except to tell the Monsignor how many and what she's killed, but it is not a true confession because she has no regrets, offers no repentance. She offers confession to her brother for small things; for lies she's told, for words spoken in anger, for breaking and entering into people's homes. Joshua absolves her. He gives her no penance.
At fifty-four years old, she has never had sex, has never kissed a man or a woman for any reason other than friendship. When she was younger she struggled, as Joshua did, to remain chaste even unto the touch of her own hand. Now that she is older, it requires less will or thought to remain so. Her chastity is as much a weapon as her crosses or holy water or prayer.
She would like to see Joshua more often. She loves her brother more than any other person in the world, but she denies herself and him out of respect, because she does owe a penance of sorts though she will never tell her brother or the monsignor.
Sometimes when she's managed to kill another of them, consigned them to hell or purgatory or limbo -- wherever the spawn go when they've been destroyed -- when she's tired and sore and weary, she dreams.
She dreams of her brother's soft laugh, and the warmth in his eyes. She dreams of his hands on her skin, touching with affection and love. She dreams of his voice.
She dreams of his body covering hers, of giving her pleasures she's never known.
Her brother is the strongest person she knows. He would forgive her.
She's not strong enough to ask so she kills instead.
Sometimes when she's killed some otherworldly evil creature, she's sure she feels her brother's hand on her head in blessing.
Joshua thinks his dreams are punishment for his sins.
Jane thinks her dreams are her reward.
Comments? Send them to maygra @ bellsouth.net or leave a comment in my livejournal.