Part 5 of 12
You can hardly imagine what great turmoil ensued after Léonore had been dragged out of our dormitory and all the girls had woken up. Some were screaming, others were crying, but most of them were laughing. “you will burn in hell,” a girl hissed at me and another one added, “worse yet, you are now at the mercy of one who knows no mercy: our dear Madame.”
The cackling stopped as abruptly as it had started, when two nuns, who were each carrying a lamp, appeared. They told us that any girl who would make as much as a peep would find herself in a prayer cell for the next three days.
About an hour after the nuns had left, the spectral shape of Madame Héloïse reappeared. She moved silently towards my bed, held still next to me and put her hand on my mouth. “Come with me and don't make a sound,” she whispered in my ear. I got out of bed. My heart was pounding in my chest as I meekly followed the terrifying wraith.
We walked through many dark corridors that were lit up by the flickering flame of Madame's lamp, and where, like ghosts creeping alongside of us, our own shadows were cast on ancient walls. We came to a part of the convent which seemed even older and where I had never been. Here we descended down worn-out stone stairs that led us towards a space that I can only describe as a dungeon. We passed through several subterranean halls, which were very cold and damp, so much so, that water trickled down them.
Then we came to a set of great bronze doors, which were opened by Héloïse with a large key. To my great surprise, an intense heat and sounds of sobbing engulfed us as we passed through the doorway and entered a grand hall. The heat was caused by two fires that were blazing in fireplaces at the left and the right sides of the hall.
And what a disturbing sight this hall proved to be to my eyes! Scattered throughout it I saw some furniture, but it was sparse and dreary: wooden benches, peculiar chairs, that were either much too small or much too large, and several iron tables. And then I noticed whence the sobbing was emitted: the flames lit up a shape that had until now been hidden in the darkness of the other side of the hall, it was a somewhat human shape that was suspended in midair.
Focusing my eyes on this unnerving spectacle I noticed it was not some sort of levitating phantom – as I had thought for several intensely awful seconds – but, – and I can say that to fathom the truth can hardly be called a relief – a naked woman who was hanging on a rope that had been tied around her wrists.
I shuddered and I couldn't suppress a cry when I realized it was none other than Léonore that found herself in this hideous predicament! She hung there, utterly helpless, bare-naked and gagged, not able to do anything but moan and wriggle.
I turned around and tried to flee, but almost instantly I felt the air being pressed out of my body – the wicked Madame had trapped me with a rope too! “Dear little creature,'” she hissed, “you are not going to escape your punishment! You have transgressed in a most inappropriate fashion and with your actions you and your disgraceful accomplice have made yourself sinners... almost beyond redemption. But all is not lost! There is still hope for you, for you are now in my capable hands. A long and dark road is ahead of you, and you should be aware that you will suffer and struggle on your way to redemption.”
She then startled me by acting quite to the contrary as to what I had expected after hearing those words. Because I thought that she had meant that she was going to show mercy on us. Instead, she dragged me through the room and tied me to a chair that was close to my miserable friend.
There I had no choice but to behold how the vixen began to thrash that beautiful young body with a bundle of twigs. How I cringed as I heard the muffled screams of she who was so dear to me! And then I realized that Madame Héloïse was right: my soul had become quite wicked and depraved... you see, even though tears streamed down my face, I couldn't help staring at Léonore's body with admiration... well, more than just that, with simmering lust!
In fact, I had never seen anything as beautiful as her naked body, as it wriggled, being lit by the flames of fires and candles. And I wondered: was it because I was losing my mind, or because my vision was distorted by the tears in my eyes, that it began to appear to me as if she was in fact smiling and was not moaning in agony, but in delight?! It seemed to me so, yet I was sure by no means, for all my emotions were lopsided and my whole being was in a state of immense confusion.
Before I could not decide whether there was any truth in these fanciful notions, I was summoned by Madame Héloïse to stand up and leave the great hall with her, though this time not by her side, but behind her, dragged along on a leash, like an unfaithful bitch. She took me to a prayer cell, where she left me with nothing but a candle, a Bible, a can of water and a loaf of bread.
“The first stage of your purification has begun. You will be here for the next three days. I entrust you will find some enlightenment in the words of Scripture,” she spoke, after which she left and closed the heavy bronze door behind her. I was exhausted and almost instantly fell asleep on the wooden plank that served as a bed.
When I woke up I no longer felt the confusion, let alone the titillation I had felt during that very strange night. No, I said to myself, you imagined Léonore was enjoying herself... it was all as horrible as it seemed and you are both in a truly miserable situation. These thoughts made me cry a great deal and I spent most of that day, or was it night? I had no means of telling what time it was, crying and feeling sorry for myself.
As time went by my sadness turned to a feeling of great unease, as my confinement began to become quite unbearable. I pounded on the door with my fists and screamed for help, yet no one answered. In fact, I could not hear anything but my own sounds. As I began to be overwhelmed by waves of ever-increasing panic, I decided that the only thing I could do to take my mind off my predicament was to focus all my attention on reading the Old Testament, that had been laid untouched on the desk for at least a day and a night.
Ah, I could have spared myself so much discomfort! Because, once I opened that great tome and started to read the ancient narratives, I began to realize again that salvation was by no means in store for me! At first I tried to resist the images that commenced to flood my mind, I tried to interpret the stories as moral treatises that were there to tell me about right and wrong, as the holy words of immense wisdom that could save my soul, but I couldn't do it! No, not at all, I became immersed in these descriptions of power, corruption, lust... and I smiled, then laughed and eventually I became aroused as I re-encountered the scenes that had been filling my mind with debauchery.
In my mind's eye, Salomé danced her seductive dance for me. No woman had ever been so well-adorned with the most precious metals and stones: so many emeralds, rubies, and onyxes, held together by finely wreathed silver and gold. Scarfs of the finest silk whirled around her spinning body.
The scarfs dropped or fluttered away, one by one, followed by her richly embellished garments. The precious stones bounced in all directions... and what had been covered by all that, was now revealed: a woman of such perfect proportions as even the creator himself had not envisioned when he manufactured Adam's companion.
Oh! I touched myself between my legs and felt more warm and wet than I had ever thought I could be. I watched through the eyes of King David and spied on Bathsheba, as she was bathing. Bathsheba was perhaps not as ravishing as Salomé, no, she was more than that, she was a real woman!
Her skin was pearl-colored and her thighs were perfectly proportioned, like two half moons, and oh, those breasts, what woman would ever be endowed with such perfect specimens? I looked up to her face and knew the answer, of course: Léonore.
Floris is a Dutch illustrator, storyboard and comic artist based in Amsterdam.
Follow him on Instagram @florispieterse
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