Friday, 8 February 2013

Friday Flash Fiction - Sister Margaret

A nun walks into a bar with a crow on her shoulder. I know how that sounds, but stick with me. Sister Margaret is not an ordinary nun, nor is the crow an ordinary crow. Oh, she wears the habit and carries a rosary, sure, and as far as anyone else can tell, the crow only says "caw", but they are far from ordinary.

They hunt monsters.

The bar patrons lower their voices on instinct. Many try to hide their drinks behind their hands, childhood shame taking over, but Sister Margaret is not here for them. A nervous man sits at the back of the bar at a table by himself, nursing a small glass of something clear. Sister Margaret takes a seat and the crow hops off her shoulder to sit on the table and peck at a bowl of nuts.

Despite the quiet, nobody can hear their conversation. If they could, they'd wish they hadn't. The man speaks and Sister Margaret nods, absently clicking the beads of her rosary. Her expression of grim concentration never wavers, but the muscles twitch beneath the scar on her cheek. When she nods, the man pushes a bulging envelope towards Margaret with pleading in his eyes. She opens it, removes two green notes and pushes the rest back. A vow is a vow. She takes what she needs to survive, having long abandoned the convent.

Later, in a dark alley near the man's home, Margaret crouches in the shadows, her face covered by a veil. The crow perches on a nearby fire escape. They wait a long time, until a movement alerts the crow who caws his warning. From the sewer grate crawls a shape with bulbous forearms barely a metre tall. As it passes a beam of light, Sister Margaret gets a view of the creature, and a look of hesitation crosses her features for just a second.

The creature is a child. Or, rather, it used to be a child. Now it is a hive, flesh pocked with hundreds of honeycomb cells and leaking vital fluids in its shuffling gait, mouth frozen in a silent scream. Margaret almost pitied it, until a stray cat dashed in front of it. With hands that moved too quickly to see, the monster snatched the cat and broke its neck, then bit a huge chunk out of the flesh, fur and all. The creature's distended belly squirmed with some internal activity Sister Margaret did not wish to contemplate.

Through the wet sounds of bloody mastication and the buzzing demonic insects, the crow cawed again and the thing turned its head, dead white eyes staring. Margaret wasted no time. She covered the distance in a few long steps and swung her sharp blade, beheading the creature with one swipe. The swarm buzzed about her in anger, but her veil and gloves kept her from becoming their next monstrous hive. She fogged the local area with a special blessed pesticide, and the bugs began to pop in white flashes of holy light.

When the dust had settled, Sister Margaret knelt and administered the last rites for the child, closing his eyes, covering his unrecognisable face with her handkerchief, but then pushed the body back into the sewer grate it had crawled from. The soul should have rest, but the body needed to be hidden. Her crow pecked out the eyes of the cat, and Margaret supposed that was as good as the cat was going to get from either of them.

She cleaned her blade and sheathed it somewhere beneath her habit, then she and her crow strode off to find some humble lodgings for the night.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I really like this one.
PPS - It was going to be a contest entry at Pseudopod, but now it's over the word limit.


Iseult Murphy said...

I really like this story. It is mysterious and horrible, and I love Sister Margaret and the crow. I would love to read more of their adventures.

John said...

Thanks so much! I'm quite happy with it myself, and I do want to write more with these characters.