Sister Ada fastened the cilice around her thigh, wincing at the sharpened points piercing her skin and the blood flowing down her leg. She watched as her skin mended, embedding the barbs into her flesh, before letting her habit fall around her legs.
Her eyes closed as she reached for her disciplines and whipped its spiky leather tails over her shoulder, praying she could sanctify herself with suffering. “Mother Mary, full of grace—”
“No amount of self-mortification will bring you closer to your god.” Her—if that’s what the demon truly was—laughter bounced around Sister Ada’s cell. “He abandoned his love for you long ago. You kid yourself.”
The nun turned, avoiding the ethereal being reclining on her cot. How could evil incarnate be beautiful? It had to be a true test from God, sending this vampire—this abomination—into her life, turning her into an undead creature herself. She had resisted Its advances, Its dark temptation, but It had succeeded in Its design one night when she was too ill to fight. Now the unimaginable hunger inside her own body always won out, leaving her covered in the blood of strangers before dawn came to call her to sleep.
She beat herself harder, the guilt making her stomach burn. The lashes healed before her next hit landed. “… pray for us sinners…”
“I brought you a gift.” The abomination slid next to her, stroking the leg where the sharp garter melded with flesh, and took the nun’s free hand, slipping a medal into her closed palm.
Sister Ada slowly opened her fingers, inhaling sharply at the image pressed into the enamel and silver oval. Saint Teresa of Ávila, one of God’s most beloved in the nun’s eyes… and one of her own former sisters.
“Do you like it?” A wry smile turned the vampire’s pale lips up. “Does it bring you memories of Teresa? I remember your admiration for her, her perfect union with your savior.”
Blood-tinted tears rolled down Ada’s cheeks as she remembered witnessing Teresa’s holy experiences: her raptured, childlike laughter; her body rising from the floor as God’s power overcame her; all her spiritual delights the others—Ada included—wished they could have.
“The perfect bride of Christ, wasn’t she?”
Sister Ada cracked the disciplines with all her preternatural strength, hoping the wounds would heal slower… or not at all, which she knew was no longer possible.
“I gave you eternal life, dear Sister. Isn’t that what you always wanted? What you prayed for every day? Gave up worldly pleasure for?”
The nun’s flesh would live forever but not the way she desired, the way the flesh of the pious did. She would never earn her place in Paradise, be held in God’s loving embrace. No amount of self-flagellation would bring her back to innocence in His eyes, back to His love. That she knew.