torment – Apt. 2D – Eidolon Avenue: The Second Feast

She wanted to burn it to the bone. 

Moving her hand closer to the candle flame, she winced. 

“Most holy Apostle, Saint Jude Thaddeus, friend of Jesus, I place myself in your care at this difficult time. Help me know that I need not face my troubles alone.”

It was well past midnight. Morning was still hours away. She refused her bed. While Cynthia Sue and the other students lay safely tucked in sleep, she knelt in penitent prayer, her words endless, whispered, repeated, hour after hour, to the callous moon and silent stars. 

Or lay prone on the floor, her forehead to the wood, her arms out, her legs straight. Ignoring the crook in her neck and the roughness of the cold wood. Knowing these worldly discomforts were a small price to pay for her cruelty. 

But tonight, she’d crept to the chapel, her bare feet cold on the stone, the crucifix looming over the altar casting the longest of shadows in the moonlight as she’d stumbled her way to the Saints. And there she stood, her palm burning red over the candle flames, the other bandaged and throbbing and weeping, while Sisters and Mother Superiors dreamt guiltless dreams of salvation and peace.

Pausing, she exhaled. “Please join me in my need, Saint Jude Thaddeus, asking God to send me consolation in my sorrow, courage in my fear, and healing in the midst of my suffering.”

She gritted her teeth, welcoming the sting of fire eating flesh. The bright flame licking past thin, tender skin to succulent muscle, blood-soaked vein, stubborn tendon and, soon, she hoped, the paradise of white, gleaming bone.

“Ask our loving Lord to fill me with the grace to accept whatever may lie ahead for me and my loved ones, and—” 

Moving her hand closer to the flame, she fought back tears. Exhaled long and slow. Hoped, for the smallest of moments, for the sweet release of death.

“And to strengthen my faith in God’s healing powers.”

She thought of her hand, then, blistering red. “Thank you, Saint Jude Thaddeus …” The helpless flesh swelling in protest, desperate to escape the flames. “For the promise of hope you hold out to all who believe …” She thought of the pain to come later, when the hours grew long, as the blister spread and broke and wept. “And inspire me to give this gift of hope to others …” The weeks of agony and then discomfort as it healed, the wound cracking and weeping anew whenever she clasped her hands in prayer or made an accidental fist. “As it has been given to me.” 

And then she moved it closer to the flame. 

***

“Eidolon Avenue: The Second Feast is a tight collection of nightmare imagery bound to follow you long after the final page is turned. One absorbing tale after another, culminating in a horror event you cannot put down. Eidolon Avenue makes Elm Street look like Sesame Street.”

— Rex Hurst, author of WHAT HELL MAY COME

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