Skin (Chapter 43)
When I was younger I was a devoted follower of the goddess. I remember my father’s household staff leaving offering to the goddess in the courtyard. I remember my grade school teacher banging us over the head with the proper procedures for approaching a priestess in the temple long before I was allowed entry. The washing ritual, the right prayers to say, the elaborate festivals. I also remember my first visit to the goddess’ temple, although more often than not I try to push it from my mind.
And then it happened. I have never looked at my native religion the same again.
I’ve been to the temple of the god numerous times in the intervening years. I have participated in his festivals and enjoyed his temple’s activities. I go regularly for the boxing matches, they are chance to let off some steam, to bond with others. I feel a kinship there that I don’t have elsewhere…
I have not stepped into the goddess’ temple since that day. When I pass it I feel a stab of pain in my abdomen that can only be described as loss and grief. Since that day, I have slowly become aware of the self-serving hypocrisies surrounding her. She punishes us by removing Pinn females from our world, but provides human women for us to enjoy. We must make up for our transgressions by worshiping through females and leaving offerings that are for our enjoyment.
Yet I have done nothing to temper down on the religion. There is a statue for offerings in my courtyard, just like there was in my father’s. I say nothing against the temple, only my closest friends know of my feelings. Perhaps it is my own guilt. How can I say anything against the goddess when I am just as guilty as her?
Now one of her priestesses stands before us, about to give us the key to bringing down her High Priest.
The priestess visibly gulps before she speaks just above a whisper, “I was not the best chosen. I didn’t do what I was told. I should have, I just…. couldn’t”
She takes a deep breath trying to calm herself, “A few days before we arrived on Pinn, I stabbed one of the teachers one the spaceship with a butter knife” She giggles sadly, “like that was going to do anything….. I was sold to the temple shortly after arriving here.”
She looks over at the Master Priest, “I was moved to newcomer quarters… its underground, just above the redeemer’s quarters. At night you could hear the screams and cries… but I didn’t give in. I didn’t do what they told me. I refused to learn how to play the role of priestess. The women would come and beg me to relent. I wouldn’t listen...I should have listened”
A tear slides down her cheek as she closes her eyes, “After three months they…they…I was moved to the redeemer’s quarters”
She opened her eyes as more tears fell. The clung to her eyelashes and drew lines down her face.
Apothen reached over and offers her a white handkerchief over the coffee table. She grabs it and wrings in her hands before her.
“I um…. there are cells there. Everyone has their own cell and their own path to redemption. Mine came two days after I arrived.” She licks her cracked lips, “I was to call him master and he did things… he liked it rough, very rough. I uh… he would tie me down”
Her right hand moved to her left wrist, encircling it with her right hand, holding it. It is then that I notice the pattern of scars circling her wrist.
“Rough wasn’t enough…. It was blood he liked” she began shaking violently and dropped the handkerchief. Shaking she reached for the gathered straps of her dress resting on her shoulders. I sit mesmerized as she pulls the straps wide and fitfully yanks down the dress, freeing her pale figure.
James beside me jerks violently in surprise. I hear the Master Priest take a surprised breath. Apothen is acting as though he has seen it all before, maybe he has. It’s hard to get to his age and not seen a few things.
I do my best to school my features. I will not make her more self-conscious by reacting. I am not sure if I manage to remove the surprise from my face.
When she straightens I see that she is not an exhibitionist but a visual storyteller. Starting on her small breasts, thin pale lines crisscross her flesh. As my eyes roam, I see the sick bastard took pleasure in making patterns on her skin. A diamond pattern mars the center of her stomach from her breast down to pelvis, short lines on her side slope down towards her belly button. The lines on her legs are the deepest, they are jagged and rough, and gouges mark in inner thighs. Her skin is a map of pain.
Tears drop on her breasts and continue their journey downward as she does nothing to stop them.
Anger flared in me like I had never felt before. Pure rage that a religion of which I had been a member, that we all were a member, had been abusing the priestesses in this way. All the rituals we do in order to treat the priestesses with honor are a façade to make the females’ use more palatable to the public. Underneath all the pomp and ceremony, they were fucking abusing the priestesses. Cutting them up and doing who knows what fucking else. All in the name of their fucking goddess.
Before I realized it I was across the room. I grab the fucking Master Priest Dunn by the shoulder and punch him right in his fucking face.