Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!
Her arrival to this cloistered environment marked her first exposure to both schooling and religion. These had been luxuries her family could not afford. After all it was difficult to justify higher learning if one had to give up eating a meal or keeping a roof over their heads.
Clara readily embraced her new way of life, giving in to her newfound thirst for knowledge. Clara employed what she learned to make life difficult for the sisters; especially Sister Maria since she had sworn see this nun smile before she finished school.
There were other children who enjoyed pushing the boundaries as much as she, but Clara quickly learned how to avoid the nuns’ wrath. She noted that judgement was rendered only to those who were unlucky enough to get caught.
Not only did this push Clara to conceal her movements, but it made her escapades much more challenging. What better reward could there be to have Sister Agnes darting her eyes from child in another failed attempt to find out who was responsible.
On occasion Clara would get caught although it was normally for crimes of her own choosing. She would take her lashings, pray or fast as required. All the while she would plot her next bout of defiance while the staff continued to underestimate her capability for mischief.
In her second year at the orphanage, Clara noticed that Father Michael would often be called away. The man would disappear for days or even weeks at a time without raising suspicion. For a mischievous little girl, the concept of being able to avoid her responsibilities along with their consequences had some allure.
Motivated to discover his secrets, Clara shadowed the man. This proved to be easy enough since he probably never considered the possibility. After all, this was a foreign concept for those who lived under the watchful eye of their God, especially one who had given their vow of poverty.
In anticipation of his destination, Clara went ahead and hid in his quarters. She was reminded on how the devout were notorious for remaining covered at all times. Clara once caught a sister flaying herself as she bathed; all in an effort to keep impure thoughts from her mind. She later learned that was the reason they adopted the habit. They did it to keep their body and hair concealed even from members of their own order.
Clara caught no more than a glimpse of his scar-riddled back. These scars had not been left by a whip, paddle or another form of corporeal punishment. There was an animalistic quality to the scarring, but what kind of animal was capable of inflicting those?
While sisters of the order tended to assume they were alone with God when in their quarters; this priest surprised her when he spoke. So much so that it blew her earlier theory out of the water.
“It is not wise to enter the house of God with impure thoughts,” he said calmly using the voice he reserved for his sleep-inducing sermons.
Clara did not say a word and even held her breath in an effort to remain undetected. He never turned to look at her before speaking again. Since there were no mirrors or reflective surfaces in the room, her presence should have remained a mystery.
“You have been following me all morning child,” Father Michael added.
Even with the priest keeping his back to her, she knew better than to continue this game. It was obvious that she had been discovered, so the question was, how?
“Curious,” Clara replied then mulled over her initial response. She then thought it best to add for good measure, “Father.”
“Curious child,” he asked while continuing to change.
Clara noted how these were not a priest’s garbs. The more Clara questioned this situation, the more curiosity swelled within.
“Why a man of the cloth disappears for days on end,” she replied. “The origin of your scars and more recent wounds,” she added despite that being a wild guess.
So why not turn the tables and evade his attempts at an inquisition? At least that was easier than constant evasion.
Once again she threw in, “Father”, as a belated mark of respect.
“The sisters often mention how bright you are,” he said.
Clara wondered why he dropped the formality of calling her child. Father Michael turned around then kneeled to get a better view of her. It was the first time she had looked into his eyes, steel grey like hers and full of life.
“Clever enough to stay out of sight,” the priest said which was quickly followed by a warm smile. “Quick enough to ask questions that could provide you with valuable insight,” he added.
Before she could reply, he raised his hand to interrupt. This confused Clara since she heard no other sounds. Was a veiled attempt at making fun of her? An attempt at teaching her a lesson?
The answer came when the door was torn from its hinges and revealed a woman of intense beauty. Clara had no words to describe her, only that she was as beautiful as Clara imagined angels to be.
Such beauty might adhere a sense of trust in a little girl or even admiration, but it did nothing to arouse desire. There was no primal aspect of her soul which yearned for that woman, especially a child whose hormones had yet to wreak havoc on her mind.
Not the case for Father Michael, he seemed bewitched, unable to think or focus. At first, she wanted to say something, to snap him out of it. Yet she sensed there were forces at play that went beyond her comprehension.
Clara remained concealed and even held her breath while she watched. If that woman was aware of Clara’s presence, she showed no obvious signs.
The creature continued her slow deliberate movements towards the priest. Once she was a foot away from Father Michael, he broke out of his trance and pulled out a rosary from his pocket. This particular rosary had been fitted with a thin metallic blade at the base of the cross.
With one quick motion, he attacked but missed. This woman moved like a blur, reappearing just behind Father Michael and with one vicious strike, gouged out a chunk of his neck.
Clara watched as blood shot out in spurts. The initial spurt covered the wall to his left and the second narrowly missed Clara. The third spurt never materialised since this creature had latched onto his neck to feed.
Terror should have taken a hold of this girl, culminating in a blood-curdling scream. Such a response would have made her the second victim of the night. Somehow she was able to remain even-keeled, her mind clear and focused.
Clara snuck out of her hiding place then crept quietly towards the rosary. She picked it up prior to focusing on the horror. Given the nasty wound, it would take no more than a moment for that creature to finish her feast. Even now he was white as a sheet, a sign that he was far too gone.
Regardless Clara realised this was her one and only chance, she closed her eyes and recited a prayer. Relying on faith alone, she plunged the rosary into the woman’s back and was greeted by silence. This entire situation evoked a sense of déjà vu although she did not understand why that was.
In the time it took for her to blink the other had turned around to glare. Pure hatred was painted on the creature’s face, clearly indicating what she planned to do. Meanwhile, Father Michael’s body slumped to the ground with nothing more than a few drops of blood trickling from his wound.
“How dare you,” the woman shrieked.
Again this confrontation should have left her shaking like a leaf. Instead, Clara stood tall, with blade in hand. Blood from that creature covered the blade and Clara wondered why it appeared to be both thicker and richer than her own.
The girl then looked out to the doorway, noticing how it splintered when torn from the frame. Were these titans? Who could be capable of such strength and speed?
Shadows appeared in the hallway followed by the sound of footsteps a smile came upon Clara’s lips. The creature’s face flickered for a moment followed by a hint of worry, it seemed that she had arrived at the same conclusion. In a blink of an eye, that creature was gone, her escape left nothing more than a breeze from an open window.