The Penitent

The Penitent

A supernatural flash story by Erin Zarro

 

 

 

“I have killed, Master,” The Penitent Agatha said. She sat in a circle of flickering flames.  “See that girl?” She pointed to the limp, pale figure of her latest kill, naked and still bound with rope. “Her screams were a symphony to my ears. Did you enjoy the music she made as she died?”

“And I will enjoy the music your daughter makes when she dies, Penitent,” a voice whispered.

It was him.

She placed her sweaty hands on her lap and bowed her head. “Master, I can’t kill my only daughter.”

The candles snuffed out and Agatha found herself surrounded by darkness. What was happening?

“Penitent,” a voice said, loud and sharp as a blade. “Do you not want your dead husband restored to life?”

Agatha took a deep breath, then let it out. “But she’s my flesh and blood, Master. I’ll kill anyone else, just not my daughter!”

“This was our agreement, Penitent. You are not allowed to change it.” Twin balls of amber flared. She wanted to curl inside herself, get away from his eyes. “You’ll do as I say. Bring me your daughter’s corpse tomorrow. This one will do for now,” her Master said.

She took a deep, cleansing breath and steeled herself for what was to come.

 

 

#

 

She sat in the kitchen of her only daughter’s house. She was due home any minute. The house was filled with so many happy memories.

She looked at the many portraits of her daughter:  her graduation,  her wedding, her ballet pictures. She looked ethereal and perfect. And so filled with life.

Killing her only child wasn’t as easy as she thought.

But…her only daughter.  The daughter who she cherished and loved. Raising her was the joy of her life. She wouldn’t trade that for anything.

But her husband…oh, how she missed him. They’d been so young when they’d gotten married, so filled with life and promise. He’d died in a fire, his body nothing but ashes, his soul set free.

But the Penitent Agatha couldn’t overcome her grief. She’d been a broken shell, dead but still with blood flowing through her veins.

She’d entered the convent the very next day, dedicating her life to God.

But it wasn’t enough. She needed her husband back. No matter what the cost.

Tears filled her eyes. I can’t do it. I can’t take my daughter’s life for my husband’s. I can’t.

“You’ll do it,” her Master whispered. “Or you will burn for eternity to pay for your disobedience.” 

She nodded and gripped the knife so hard her knuckles were white.

 

#

 

The sound of her daughter’s laugh as she entered the house filled the Penitent Agatha with longing and…joy.

She caught her daughter by surprise. Her daughter let out a little yelp as the blade descended, slashing her throat. Her precious daughter tried to take a rattling breath, but failed.

She crumpled to the ground. Her eyes flared with light, then faded to emptiness.

What have I done? Tears filled her eyes. Her heart constricted.

“It’s done, Master,” Agatha said softly, dropping the knife. She couldn’t look at her daughter’s…corpse. Her empty eyes.

“Now you will kill an angel. Bring me its wings, and I’ll reward you beyond measure,” her Master whispered.

Agatha gasped. How was she to find an angel, much less kill it? “Ye-yes, Master. I’ll do as you command.”

“You will if you want your husband to live,” her Master said.

“As you wish,” the Penitent Agatha said.

Agatha searched everywhere for the elusive angel. On every street corner, in every cemetery. In parks and in churches. But there was no angel. She began to despair ever finding one when she entered the last church.

Sunlight streamed through the stained glass, pooling on the carpet in multicolored radiance. Agatha thought it looked like…hope.

She felt wrong in God’s House. She was a demon-worshiper. And now a murderer. Surely she’d be struck down for her sins and cast away from God’s glory.

Her unease grew until she couldn’t bear to look at the magnificence of the church. She felt…longing. Longing for peace.

But her husband…she needed him back. She would be incomplete, half a person, without him.

She headed for the door, her heart racing.

That was when she caught an odd glow from the corner of her eye.

She turned toward it, toward the sanctuary. Had she been caught? “Hello?”

“Hello,” a glowing being — an angel? — said. It was female, with a voice like church bells. “You have come to kill me.”

Agatha’s eyes widened. She took a step backward. “You know?”

She chuckled. “Of course I know.”

Agatha felt sick. “I – I can explain.”

“No need,” the angel said, resting her hand on Agatha’s cheek. It was warm, soothing. “I know your innermost desires. The demon king wants you to kill me to get your husband back from the grave.”

Agatha didn’t know what to say. Now that she was here, on the cusp of doing it… “I do. So, so much.”

The angel nodded and extended her wings. They lit up the darkness in Agatha’s heart. “So, kill me.”

Standing in the glow of the angel, Agatha realized how wrong she was. She recognized something in the angel, something familiar.

“I know you,” she said softly. “We’ve talked before.”

The angel nodded. “I am your guardian angel. Remember, God still loves you. He hasn’t abandoned you, Agatha.”

“I’ve killed my only daughter,” Agatha said as tears fell down her cheeks. “How can God still love me?”

“His love is eternal and unconditional. But you knew that, didn’t you? You were once a nun.”

Her heart was breaking. “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to do.”

“Drive the demon from your heart and let God back into your life,” the angel said. “And you’ll be born anew.”

She had to do what was right. So Penitent Agatha, the murderer, the demon worshiper, took a deep breath and said, “I forsake you, demon king! I’m..I’m no longer yours to command.”

A great light flared and the Master cried, “But you could have it all! You must do as I say!”

Agatha fell to her knees. “But I don’t want it all. I want my daughter back…and my husband’s soul at rest.”

“But I can give him back to you!” the Master screamed. His voice made the building shake.

The angel just smiled. “You know the right thing to do, your heart’s greatest wish.”

“I will strike you down and make you suffer for an eternity,” the demon Master said. “I will make you pay.”

“Not while I am here to protect Agatha,” the angel said. “You have no claim on her. She is God’s child.”

The Penitent Agatha smiled. It was so clear now. “I choose life. A true life, not the mockery of one. I am no longer yours, demon king.”

“And life you shall have,” the angel said.

Agatha found herself back in her daughter’s home, minutes from committing murder.

“This time, make the right choice,” the angel whispered. “And all will be forgiven.”

 

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