by E.B. Fischadler
“There’s a special place in Hell for you!”
I heard that so many times that I was beginning to believe it.
Sister Mary Jean was harsh, even by parochial school standards. The other nuns were strict, but when they became exasperated, they might have uttered something mild like, “You’ll never get to Heaven behaving that way.” Sister Mary Jean pulled no punches.
It was as though the other nuns wanted to hold out hope of redemption, while Sister Mary Jean sought to condemn her difficult pupils. At least she wanted to condemn me.
I stood there and took it for the umpteenth time. I had ‘transgressed’, as Father Mel liked to say. Some transgression was a normal part of an adolescent boy’s life. I had simply carried that part to an extreme; it was not only the centerpiece of my existence at Saint Mortimer’s, but one of the only ways I was able to vent my anger at the world.
More often than not, Sister Mary Jean was the target of my pranks. There was just something about her I couldn’t abide. Disney might have used her as a model for the evil witch in Snow White. She was elderly – no one was quite sure how old she really was – and ugly as sin. Even if she got the large, crenelated wart on her nose removed, her close-set eyes with their almost evil glimmer, her crooked nose-a cross between a prize fighter’s and a tree stump-, and the mummified lips were the centerpiece of a map of the land of the horrid.
For her part, Sister Mary Jean seemed to lavish special attention on me. It seemed that every time I turned around she was there, lurking. Every time I so much as bent the rules slightly, her evil smile appeared. She seemed to be on a mission to catch my every indiscretion and to ensure I was constantly punished. No one in the church had nearly such an abiding interest in my journey to hell.
Those of us who endured school at St. Mortimer’s developed a theory that as nuns aged, the incessant denial of life’s pleasures generated a hatred of humanity, even in those who started out as the sweetest, gentlest novices. As it was apparent that Sister Mary Jean was older than Golgotha, our model predicted her misanthropic behavior, but underestimated its severity.
I hated her, and the feeling was mutual. I would call her any of several names like ‘Sister Mary Scream’ or ‘Monsternun’. She had only one name for me: ‘Devil’s Spawn’.
I was a frequent transgressor, in retrospect not all that different from any other boy, up to relatively harmless pranks, testing the limits. I long held the belief that rules were for those destined to become pillars of the church – not worldly dogs like my role models. This time around, I was caught with a half empty pack of cigarettes and my clothes smelling of tobacco smoke.
When Sister Agatha, the young, almost pretty teacher of freshman English, caught me with cigarettes last month, she based her harangue on concerns for my health and social life.
“Don’t you know that cigarettes can give you cancer, or cause a heart attack? Do you want the girls to avoid you because you smell like a stale ash tray?”
Then she took the cigarette I was about to light and ordered me to report to Father Mel, Dean of St. Mortimer’s Catholic High. Soon I stood before the man who not only controlled my fate as a student, but who, we were taught, held the keys to heaven and hell. I couldn’t help wondering how this man who smelled of smoke and sat in an office clouded with the fumes from a pack a day would explain that cigarettes were OK for him, but not for me.
Apparently, priests don’t all turn evil as they age, the way nuns do. Father Mel sat at his desk, looked at me with his hands forming a model of the church steeple and said, “Smoking is a very tough habit to kick. And it only gets harder the longer you smoke. There’s no hope for an old fool like me, but you’re not truly hooked yet. Quit now, while you still can.”
With that, he began to dismiss me when a thought occurred to him.
“Oh, and before you leave, I want you to place that pack of cigarettes you keep in your inside jacket pocket on my desk.”
I thought the butts were well concealed beneath my school coat. How had he seen them? More likely, he knew all the tricks, having employed them himself when he was a student at St. Mort’s. I pulled the pack of Marlboros out of my jacket pocket and placed them on the table.
“And close the door on your way out, Mr. Simpson.”
Having done so, I could hear the distinct sound of a Zippo lighter being struck followed by a pause and a sigh as he exhaled the smoke that should have been mine.
Sister Mary Jean was waiting for me. “So, did Father Mel forgive your sins? Or did he hold them as the Lord told St. Peter: ‘The sins you forgive on earth are forgiven in heaven. Those you bind on earth are bound in heaven’? You’re on a straight line to hell for all eternity, young man. And you can’t begin to imagine how awful that’s going to be.”
At the age of sixteen, I thought I was immortal. That notion was to be disproved in dramatic fashion the very next Friday night. Having been grounded for my transgressions, I snuck out immediately after bed check, and made my way to the pool hall where I made up for whatever good behavior I exhibited during the week. Having lost not only my week’s allowance at eight ball, but also a borrowed stake which I convinced myself would allow me to recover my money at straight pool, I slunk toward the door of the hall.
“Whoa, boy! You owe me twenty plus interest.”
My benefactor stood in my way, larger and more menacing than when he loaned me twenty dollars just fifteen minutes prior.
“You’ll get your money next week when my allowance arrives,” I said as I tried to push past him.
A large arm reached across my chest, blocking my exit.
“How do I know you’ll be here next week? How do I know you get any allowance?”
“I’ve been here every Friday since September, and you’ve seen me blow at least that much allowance each time.”
“Yeah, but you were blowing your own money. Now, it’s my money. And I want it now.”
“But I’m broke.”
“Then we’ll just take it out in trade. Let’s step outside for a minute.”
He pushed me through the door and grabbing my arm, dragged me into a narrow alley between the pool hall and a pizzeria. I never saw the first punch coming. Suddenly, my nose hurt like nothing ever hurt before. I heard my antagonist laugh. A punch to my stomach doubled me over as it took my wind. I staggered backward and reached into my coat. Pulling my hand out, I extended my arm forward and pushed the button on the switchblade.
“Think you know how to use that thing, pretty boy?”
He reached into a hip pocket and the blade of his knife extended even as his hand was coming out from behind him. My eyes bulged at the sight of the weapon and I felt a burning on my cheek as the blade slashed it. Blinded by rage, I flailed my blade helplessly in the air as my attacker stood before me confident in his ability to defeat me.
“Let’s just settle this now,” he said.
I felt fire in my belly, then flames in my chest as he repeatedly stabbed me.
“Let’s go,” said a voice from behind him.
Falling to the ground, I never saw my attacker bolt from the alley. I vaguely remember a face looking down at me and flashing lights as the paramedics struggled to save me.
The next thing I knew I was lying in some sort of bed in a dark, foul smelling room. The sides of the bed were raised all around me, as though I was in a basket.
What kind of hospital is this? I thought.
I had been in the city hospital twice. Once when I broke a finger playing basketball, the second time when Sister Mary Jean whipped me so hard Father Mel couldn’t stop my bleeding. The emergency room was brightly lit, smelling like antiseptic, with a continuous bustle and several voices all speaking at once. Not at all like this quiet, dank place with its evil smell.
Someone was approaching. I saw the vague form of a large man.
Father Mel come to visit? Couldn’t be, I thought, Mel isn’t nearly as big as this guy. Besides, he’s – he’s naked! What the hell?
Then I noticed something sticking up from each side of his head. Something pointy.
“You’ve arrived at last,” he said in a deep, malevolent voice. “Good. I’ll let Sister know you’re here.”
Father Mel would refer to the nuns at St. Mort’s as ‘Sister’.
Am I in some catholic hospital? What kind of priest is this guy?”
As the man turned away I wanted to shout, “Hey you!” but somehow couldn’t.
Must be hurt worse than I thought. Funny, I don’t feel any pain.
After a short time, he returned with a smaller figure hidden in a long dark gown and hood.
Must be a nurse, I thought.
“Here he is,” said the large figure in a less menacing voice, “You’ve proven yourself worthy. He’s all yours to have and to care for.”
The words, “Oh, goody. I’m going to have such fun!” cackled from the hooded figure at his side.
That voice! Where have I heard it before?
The hooded figure came close to where I lay. As the hood was thrown back, I caught sight of the face – that horrid face!
Omigod! Sister Mary Jean! What the hell is she doing here?!
“Welcome, dearie. Say hello to your father.”
Her eyes, redder than I ever saw them above the crooked nose gazed at me. As her mouth curved up in a vicious smile, and she lifted me, I struggled, but my arms and legs just wriggled; I had no coordination at all. I tried to scream, but all that emerged from my mouth was “Goo! Gah!”
“I have a son at last,” said the Devil.
About the Author
E. B. Fischadler has been writing short stories for several years, and has recently begun publishing. His stories have appeared in Mad Scientist Journal, Bewildering Stories, eFiction, Voluted Tales, Beyond Imagination Literary Magazine, and Beyond Science Fiction. In addition to fiction, Fischadler has published over 30 papers in refereed scientific journals, as well as a chapter of a textbook on satellite engineering. When he is not writing, he pursues a career in engineering and serves his community as an EMT. Fischadler continues to write short stories and is working on a novel about a naval surgeon. You can learn more about Fischadler and access his other publications at: https://ebfischadler. wordpress.com/