The hallways to our dormitories were always dark. Even with the dim lights that were lit up across it, it was always scarier to walk at night. Other people said it was a way to minimize movement at night. Or maybe it enables them to hide within the walls without us noticing them.
At the time that you would think they were asleep, one would just emerge out of the almost darkness with their sinister smile on—one that you would only see at night and never during the day— and simply nod at you. Not in greeting but as a sign that they were watching your every move. We weren’t allowed to go to the toilet in twos so sometimes I would just hold it till morning.
When I first came here I thought all those rules were just scare tactics, to try and keep us in line. I had made one friend a few days before and when I woke one night the darkness scared me so I decided to wake her.
“Alice.” I shook her softly. It didn’t take her much to wake up. Maybe she, like me, also found it hard to sleep in this place.
“What?” She asked when she realised it was me.
“Can you walk me?” I whispered.
“What?” She couldn’t realise that I was whispering and she was making much noise. If we were the only ones in the dorm, as we called them, then maybe it wouldn’t have been a problem. But there were 12 beds lined up in a line on one side and the other side our drawer and stuff directly facing us. I could hear movement amoung other beds, probably as a result of her voice disturbing their sleep.
“It’s too dark.” I said “I’m scared.”
For a moment she sat up in bed looking at me like I was crazy. Then she squinted her eyes. “It’s the middle of the night.” This time she whispered.
“I know that’s why I’m scared.” She wasn’t reacting so I pulled her up. “Come on.”
“You’re gonna get us in trouble.” She said.
but she fell in step beside me and here I was already breaking rules in my first week.
We walked through the door and down the dimly lit hallway. At the end was a junction, one turn leading to the bathroom and the other outside. I was scared with every step I took because I was always worried someone was going to come out of the shadows and we would be in trouble, but none of that happened. In fact everything went well. We didn’t see anyone in the hallway and all the way to the bathroom.
“I told you all those rules were bullshit.” I said to her when we were leaving the bathroom. I could tell by her smile that we were going to be best friends. Someone so sinister like me, I couldn’t ask for more. On our way back we were walking more comfortably since we knew no one was there ‘to watch us’ as they told us the first day that they would.
We were still talking, whispering though but giggling nonetheless, when we both stopped in step at almost the same time. The light in our dorm was on. All the other dorms had no light except for ours. Another one of their rules, no light in the dorms after eleven. It was almost one. On instinct I walked slowly towards the dorm and there it was, on the door, my worst nightmare. Maybe all we had heard was true.
There were many rumuors surrounding the forms of discipline in this place and none of them pleasant. After all disciplinary measures aren’t supposed to be pleasant. Even before coming here I always heard the same rumors and it only increased once I got here.
Beating was to be expected but apparently it was the least of our worries. The kind of punishments people talked about always gave me chills but before they had been nothing more than rumours. But right now those previously fake rumors were turning to flesh right before my eyes as I came face to face with Sister Eunice standing at the door.
She had a smirk on her face which was a very rare feature on her. In another life Sister Eunice could have been one of those ‘it’ girls, a pop star or an Instagram model. She had a perfectly symmetrical face and full thick lips. She was slender and tall, towering above both me and Alice. I wonder why she would waste these looks by becoming a nun. I could only imagine all I could be capable of if I looked half as good as that.
I stood there not knowing what was going to happen to me. I could hear a gasp escape from Alice’s lips the moment she laid her eyes on her.
“Come on in girls.” She said with a smile. Like a hostess inviting us into her house for an exclusive party. For a moment I questioned my sexuality even though I knew in that moment that we were so screwed.
As expected sister Angela was already inside. They always walked in twos at night, contrary to us. I think it was because there weren’t trusted to be on their own. There were like spies to each other. So even if one sister favorited you, it was impossible to escape punishment as the other would ensure it.
Sister Angela was nothing like her counterpart. She was older, meaner, uglier, everything that Sister Eunice wasn’t. There were like two different sides of a different coin, like a circle and a square.
It was a wonder how they got along so well. One was barely 25 and the other definitely more 60. You would think they were mother and daughter except that nuns weren’t allowed to have children or to marry.
Sister Angela never smiled though, not even at night. One time I walked into her office and there were two other sisters laughing at what the other had said but she wasn’t. I don’t think I have ever seen her teeth. Even when she talks she barely opens her mouth that it led me to think maybe she doesn’t even have teeth afterall.
Everyone was sitting up in their beds with puzzled looks on their faces. They didn’t know why they had been woken up for until they saw us enter. With sister Angela in the middle of the room and Sister Eunice trailing behind it was obvious what was happening.
“A few days ago I gave you a set of rules.” She began.
A set? I thought to myself. That wasn’t a set that was a whole book and most of them didn’t even make sense. All I remember is that Sister Angela is the principal or deputy or head of discipline or something, I don’t really care. So she gave us this booklet almost fifty pages of rules and other stuff I didn’t bother to read.
“Those rules are there for a reason. You should never break any one of them as they carry the same weight. Today you’re going to witness the consequences of such actions.” Then she looked at us with that mean cold stare.
The girls all looked at each other in awe probably wondering what was gonna happen to us.
Sister Angela looked beyond us to Sister Eunice and nodded her head.
“Come with me.” Sister Eunice said to us and reluctantly we followed.
The hallway now seemed darker and gloomier than before. I had been longing to walk in it with someone to make it less scary but now that there are three of us it’s even more tormenting than ever. The lights now make me feel like I’m in some type of horror movie. I look to Alice and see that she is scared. It looks like she might cry. I on the other hand I’m not even fazed. If anything I’m kind of intrigued. I wanna know what kind of mystery lies before us. Poor girl. If what I have heard is what’s gonna come we are definitely not going to be best friends. Unless she is faking it, in which case she is even better at this than I am.
We used the same way we took to the bathroom except this time instead of a right turn we took a left. At the end is a door which is locked by multiple locks. Sister Eunice unlocked it and we step out into the open. She stays behind to close it and then she leads the way again. I didn’t pay much attention to the many twists and turns we took but we ended up in front of a small abandoned room, separated from the rest of the other buildings. Sister Eunice tapped the door slightly and immediately it opened—at first as if by itself but then— another nun I had never seen appeared in the doorway.
Sister Eunice whispered something into her ear and the other nun simply nodded. She told us to head inside while she remained outside.
I stepped into the room and I saw that there was one girl probably a year or two below us sitting at a desk in the middle of the room writing or reading, I couldn’t tell. There were a couple other chairs and I took a seat on one of them but Alice remained standing still afraid to do anything else.
“Hey it’s gonna be okay.” I said to her with a smile but she didn’t smile back. “What do you think they are gonna do to us?” I asked her. “Make us study?” I chuckled a little but she didn’t find this amusing.
The other nun walked into the room with a stern face and all—I wouldn’t have expected less. “Who told you to sit?” She said and I quickly stood up.
“Don’t lean on the walls.” She said to Alice who stood straight rather slowly than I thought she would.
So we just stood there doing nothing. She sat at her desk in front of the room and started doing whatever it is she was doing before we entered. We waited for any orders but none came.
I reached for the desk next to me after almost thirty minutes and placed my hand for support and as if there was something telling her she quickly lifted her head. “Stay away from the furniture…” she said. “.... and the walls.” She added.
I figured that must have been the punishment—to just stand until they tell us otherwise. This isn’t so bad, I thought to myself. I had my watch on—the only piece of technology allowed—and the time was almost two. It was not even an hour yet I was already wondering when they would let us go.
The time moved slowly as if they put a hold on it. Minutes moved like hours and hours like days. At around two o’clock I saw that Alice was shedding drops of tears and I felt bad.
“I’m sorry.” I said to her and before she even looked at me to say anything or I even finished to say what I was sorry for—
“No talking.” Her voice cut through our attempt at conversation making Alice cry even more.
An hour later after I had been constantly checking my watch the nun took it from me.
“But it’s allowed.” I cried to her.
“Not in here.” She simply said.
She didn’t even allow us to walk around or move more than one step but eventually the siren rang and I realised it was finally morning. It was still dark and chilly with a cold breeze cutting my skin when Sister Eunice returned and opened the door letting the cold in.
It was time for us to prepare for class, finally. My legs were killing me. They felt like they weren’t mine. Like I was dragging along an extra pair for someone else.
“It’s time for your shower.” She said in that nice voice of hers. At this time I was really longing for that warm but almost hot water on my skin to make me forget about all of this. But as we walked towards the door she had other plans.
“You’re not using your usual bathrooms.” She said coolly. “There are other showers behind that door.” She pointed to the back of the class. There was another door there tightly shut. Behind it there showers lined at the back and by simply looking at them I was sure there was no warm water in them.
The bath was horrible and obviously the worst I had had in years. At least the water was only cold for a few minutes and then somehow you get used to it.
All this made me wonder if this was what you get for taking someone to the bathroom what would actually happen if you break a serious rule. I still couldn’t understand what was wrong with taking someone with you to the bathroom but I had a theory. Considering that the only male we have saw was an old priest who came once a week for an hour there were chances of ending up getting attracted to other girls. That’s not something I would do. At least not while sober since I might have kissed a girl or two while really drunk but considering that the only alcohol in this place comes once a week during the mass when the priest dips the host into wine, I don’t I’m going to be kissing anyone any time soon.
After the showers we went to sister Angela’s office. She was the deputy, it was written on her door. I don’t I’m gonna forget that now. We went one at a time with Alice going first. She spent exactly 17 minutes since I had gotten my watch back and came out looking worse than ever.
She was about to go past me and after a second thought she came and stood in front of me. I almost smiled but she didn’t.
“Don’t talk to me again.” She said her Russian accent now thick in her voice. I always thought she had an accent but she used to hide it a lot, at least until now. She was probably from Ukraine or Russia.
She walked away and left me dazzled. What had happened to her in there? Was there some more punishment waiting for me?
As I walked into the office I expected to see a huge collection of ropes, sticks and whips for hitting me with but rather sister Angela was sitting calmly and comfortably in her chair with her glasses on looking at a folder.
“Take a seat.” She said without looking up. Reluctantly I pulled the chair and sat down. My eyes darted around the office while she flipped from page to page in the folder she was holding. There were folders and papers all over the place. There didn’t seem to be any order to it but somehow she must have know where everything was. On the walls were framed pictures—only one of herself but the rest were religious images, quotes and encouraging words. Some were even verses from the Bible. Two though stood out. One that was on the top of the other was saying;
“And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”Colossians 3:17 ASV
It made me wonder though, what part of making someone stand for hours without support is for the Lord. Or maybe it was just more hypocrisy. Maybe it wasn’t even her office and she just couldn’t have removed them. The one below it though was more like her, something that she would put there.
“For he that doeth wrong shall receive again for the wrong that he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.”Colossians 3:25 ASV
It gave me chills by just reading it and I got some feeling of what might be about to happen in this room.
The rest of the frames were just pictures of Mary or Jesus or at least who they are supposed to look like because let’s be honest there were obviously no cameras back then and I’m sure I have seen that guy on tv somewhere. I can imagine them doing a photoshoot, like for a magazine or something. Someone would actually pose to be Jesus with make-up and everything. And then the pictures are sent to churches that even pastors and priests put up. I wonder what God makes of all this, I mean who chose that model to represent him.
‘Sacred heart of Jesus’ one said showing light being emitted from his heart. I don’t know what to feel about them because I’m not really a believer, my parents are. What I didn’t know was what they were for, the pictures, but I always respected people and their religion for doing something I couldn’t quite do myself.
Another frame was a quote—I don’t think it was a verse because they would have put the book and verse number below. It said;
Anything is possible if you believe.
This had my attention. I wondered how true that was. That if I truly believe in something I could make it happen. Maybe I would just close my eyes and believe that sister Angela is just gonna drop dead. That wouldn’t work. God wouldn’t do something so evil. But if I shut my eyes and believe that she is going to tell me at this moment that I’m going home and I don’t have to be here anymore. Maybe even put up a smile and show me her teeth. I don’t think that’s possible, especially the smiling part. Everything else is more likely than her actually smiling for me.
“Are you crying?” Sister Angela asked and I realised that I had actually closed my eyes hoping she would smile. But I didn’t believe it so she didn’t smile.
“No.” I said quickly opening them.
She lay down the folder and looked straight at me.
“You’re such trouble aren’t you?” She started. She couldn’t be talking about what had happened a few hours earlier because that’s nothing compared to what I was know for. She must mean something else, because trouble is all I know. It’s why I’m here.
I gave her a smirk in response half hoping to piss her off and half hoping that she would smile to piss me off back. But neither happened. Instead she showed me the folder she was looking at. It was a student file, with my name on it. It was my file.
She didn’t let me open it. She just took it back.
“I know everything about you.” She said finally giving me an intense stare.
“So my punishment is for what I did in the past?” I said settling myself into my chair. “I thought Christians were supposed to be forgiving and about the new life.”
“That’s repentence.” She said. “You know what that is?”
To be honest I don’t think I had any idea. I might have heard the word once or twice in church on some of those days that I didn’t sleep during mass. It had something to do with….. I don’t remember. Forgiveness perhaps. I shook my head slightly.
“It’s not about asking forgiveness but leaving your old ways and walking the path of light.” She said.
“Doing all in the name of the Lord?” I said quoting the verse framed on her wall.
“Exactly.” She said.
“So all that punishing you were doing to us—making us take a cold shower and not sleeping, was that also in the name of the Lord. When did he allow people to be so…” I paused looking for a word. “...evil” I said the word with distaste.
Sister Angela took out her bible and opened it to a certain verse that was bookmarked and pushed it in front of me to read. Two verses were marked.
“Which one should I read?” I asked.
“Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:19.
I wanted to laugh reading this. “So who is breaking commandments? So you’re doing all this so that you would be called great in the kingdom of heaven?”
“Doesn’t it bother you?” She asked her voice cool and calm. You wouldn’t think it was the same person that sent us to that horrible punishmentrust now. “That you’re teaching other people the wrong things? They are on the right path and you’re being an agent of the devil and are leading them astray.”
“What did you tell Alice?” In that moment I realised that Alice wasn’t beaten but they brainwashed her. I don’t know what they told her that made her like that. She didn’t seem scared when I first met her.
“The truth.” She shrugged.
Sister Angela opened my student folder and took out various news articles and laid them in front of me. I recognized the headlines and the pictures on them. There were taken from a local newspaper in my hometown detailing my most scandalous incidents. From the day I was involved in public fighting, the one where I was kissing another girl and another one where I striped in a club. I smiled looking at them because they reminded me of the days when I had freedom, when I wasn’t confined to this place. I longed for that in that moment. I think the fact that it was everything my parents hated about me made it even more fun for me.
I didn’t think anything was wrong with it. To me that was just normal teenage stuff maybe except for the publicity since my parents were kinda well know and I happened to be some major Instagram model, just before my parents deleted my account. All social media accounts were banned from all students as we were supposed to be in touch with our spiritual side and social media was just a bad influence. Yeah it sounds stupid, I know.
“What exactly did you tell her?” I asked.
“What happened to Alice was a tragedy. She wasn’t supposed to be there with you but what would the other students say if I had given you different punishments.
“This is your first week and your first punishment, do you think that’s how we were supposed to punish you?”
I didn’t answer.
“Of course it’s not. But because it was you that was a different story. You have serious problems that we are going to solve. We always do.” She places my folder on the table and leaned back in a her chair.
“Where exactly does it allow you to punish people in the Bible? I mean aren’t you supposed to be nuns and doing the work of God and praying and stuff?” I was so confused.
“But we are doing the work of God.” She said and I think she believed it. She opened another verse in the Bible, Mathew 5:29;
“And if thy right eye causeth thee to stumble, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not thy whole body be cast into hell.”After I finished reading it she pulled it back to her. “So if you steal and I cut off your hand it’s for the greater good and it’s allowed.”
“You can’t do that.” I said even though deep down I feared they might be able to. Until then I didn’t have any idea of what their limits might be. I don’t think they have any. They might be the type of people they will actually pluck out your eye.
“We are not the bad guys here.” She said. “We are trying to help you and we are just doing our work, like you said—God’s work.”
I couldn’t think of anything to say and I realised why Alice wouldn’t talk to me anymore. That’s what they told her right? That she should stay away from me or she would receive more punishments. That I’m a monster—a case to be solved, a broken thing to be fixed.
“Our battle is not with the flesh….” She said now in a whisper-like soft voice that made her sound fifty years younger. “...but with spirits of darkness and forces beyond comprehension. These are the kind of things that lead you to do these bad things. That’s what we want to get rid of.”
“But my flesh hurts.” It was true enough.
“You see it’s funny how the body works. If we associate sin and pain eventually you’ll stay away from it. Because teaching isn’t going to work. It’s almost too late for you.”
“I thought you said there are forces beyond my comprehension.”
“There are until you start to fight back.” To be honest I felt like most of the stuff she said she made up. Like she was going out of her way to screw me over. To inflict pain on me. Somehow I felt like she enjoyed it, like they all enjoyed it.
“It’s like if you put water in a plastic bag and you push it down, if you push it hard enough it’s gonna burst it’s container because you given it a reason to fight. If it was left there it was just going to stay in there forever.
“So when we give you a reason to fight you will and you will win. That’s our mission here. That’s how we help people.”
When she said that I thought she might have made sense but almost a second later I had this crazy thought.
“What if you press me enough to fight back and I find out that these forces and spirits are too hard for me? Who will I fight then?” I said slowly then leaned forward making sure she would hear me. “Don’t you think I will end up fighting you?”
To be honest I was now imagining it. Going crazy on the whole lot of them. I have seen a bunch of horror movies where a possessed person goes berserk and attacks the people in the room. At first I thought maybe it was the demon attacking but then what if she tried to fight but failed and decided to fight something else, something easier? Maybe that’s what happens. Maybe that’s what I wil do.
I did say that with the intention to piss her off but what came after I didn’t expect. While I leaned I felt her hand land hard on my left cheek and for moment I thought I have lost my teeth. I quickly sat back with my hand on my cheek feeling the pain sink in. “Trust me”—she said—“you won’t fight us.”
For some reason, that I can’t even explain, i didn’t even get angry or sad or any bad feeling whatsoever. I actually felt good that I was getting under her skin and when I was sitting there I smiled. Yes, my lips curled into a smile and I was sure that she wasn’t expecting that.
And there it was, an even weirder thing. One I wasn’t expecting but hoping for for so long. The left side of her lip curled into a smirk. I think I actually made history that day. And I have to admit I was taken aback. Then it was her turn to lean forward. She took my hands into hers. I tried to set myself free but she held too tight even though she looked at ease.
“I underestimated you.” She said. “You’re like a little demon. A she devil but like a mini version. But fortunately for you I have had worse.” She let go of my hand and got up and then went around to my side. She placed a paper in front of me and said—“I will make a saint out of you.” And she placed her hands on my shoulders.
“I’m going for breakfast. When you finish reading that, close the door and go back to your classes.” Then she left. I guess my punishment was over and somehow I didn’t fell relieved.
I have to admit being called a She devil by a nun actually hurt me more than I thought it would.
From that day on Alice never spoke to me and I don’t go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I usually hold it until morning but today I just can’t. I have been awake for two hours and I really have to go. It’s not even possible for me to lie down anymore so I sit up and wait until I here footsteps outside our dorm. I know it’s one of the sisters on patrol so I get out of bed and walk into the hallway.
If you haven’t figured out yet where I am, I’m at a boarding school. Sisters of Mercy, that’s what it’s called. It’s funny though the irony, mercy is nothing they possess, sisters of no mercy is more like it.
It’s a catholic school for troubled rich kids. I don’t really get how I fit into that description—rich, yes but troubled that’s nothing like me. If anything I’m a kid who makes trouble others. That would suit me better.
It’s a very nice looking school, in fact it’s very expensive and prestigious. Most of the kids here are children of business moguls and millionaires but in these maroon and white uniforms you could never tell. Even the dim lights in the hallway they are some fancy looking chandeliers lining the walls and our beds are so soft and comfortable yet for some reason no one seems to be able to sleep.
When I got off my bed to go to the bathroom I could hear the movements of the other girls and they twisted and turned restlessly and it made me wonder. I thought back to the paper that sister Angela left me to read in her office. It was a contract between the school and my parents.
I was shocked really to see both my parents’ signatures there.
I give full consent to Sisters of Mercy to do as they wish in terms of disciplinary action and correction to my daughter as long as they don’t leave any visible marks on her face, arms and legs. I consent that they may do anything that doesn’t result in her being deformed, damaged or dead.
That’s what it said and at the bottom both of them signed. I would understand if my mom signed but my dad. He isn’t such a believer as mom is but I guess people change.
I hope they didn’t know though what exactly they do here. Even if they do I’m just gonna pretend like they didn’t. That if they did they would bring me home at once.
I realise now that maybe that’s why all these people are so restless. Is it possible that even though they all look pretty, if we strip them naked we will see marks and bruises from the beatings they receive? And also that they can’t sleep because it hurts too much. Why else wouldn’t they?
I try not to trouble myself too much with these thoughts and just step out into the corridor. I can see the sister I wanted to follow going the opposite direction but I just continue to the bathroom anyway. I come across one of the nuns just standing at one of the corners alone reminding me that I no longer have the freedom I used to have. That it’s all gone.
Even though this is just high school, for me it’s a prison. I believe it is because it makes it all better. If somehow I think I did something wrong then maybe it will make it all bearable. Afterall I only have to survive two years and it’s only been three weeks now. If I keep doing what I have been doing and my ‘sentence’ will be over before I even notice.