Blessed be this child.
Padre murmured, sprinkling water on my face, fat lips bending to touch my forehead. Be blessed, this child. I felt his lips, fleshy and warm, his breath hot against my cool and clammy skin; a good-witch kiss to guard me against the evils of a Technicolor world, a kiss to mark me.
Blessed be this child, indeed.
He should have just gone ahead and said it, changed the words of the ritual: be mine, this cold and unbelieving child, be forever branded with the sigil of my touch; a red and gleaming scar, a chilling, eternal reminder of my existence. Be mine from this day forward, this child. Padre owned me, from that day, claimed and purchased with a price of blood.
Blessed. I can hardly speak the word.
It must have been that he did not know the power of his invocation, that he was merely repeating the words of the rite; that he believed them to be as empty and dead as the hearts of his parishioners. It must have been that he was as surprised and unnerved as I by the flash of, something that passed from him to me as those fat virgin lips touched my clammy unbeliever's forehead. He must not have known.
Blessed be this child, he said.
And then Padre, the good Padre, kissed my forehead and sprinkled me with holy water and said a little prayer. I could see my parents beaming at me with pious pride that their daughter was blessed by the good Padre. What kind of man consecrates a child to his high and holy Lord, and then goes home that night and hangs himself? Padre did. They never told me, but I know he did.
Blessed be this child.
I woke up that night, choking and gasping for breath, clawing at my throat and screaming for them to get the rope off my throat. They say l finally passed out - it would have been when he died; I slipped then into dreams of bleakness - falling limp and lifeless on the bed. I didn't revive for half a day, until the sun was well out, warming my cold little mimicry of a corpse. Padre was dead, they told me. I told them I knew that. They didn't believe me. He would have known. He had to have felt it.
Blessed be what child? I was no longer one.
What cruel trick of a cosmic God would splice the soul of a dead priest into that of a little girl? I've been dreaming him since then, dreaming his life and death and the empty spaces after his death, a slow burn and shiver of decay. They say if I know his afterlife, tell them where he went: Heaven or Hell or the Purgatorial processing grounds. If he went to Heaven or Hell, I don't know. I don't know anything.
Blessed. And l rot in my dreams.
It has been twenty years now, twenty years of feeling my skin crumbling away in my sleep as his does, twenty years of psychiatry and meditation, Valium and acupuncture and the siren's song of alcohol, all failing me in the end. I have spent twenty years trying to forget the hot touch of lips on my cool forehead, the way he breathed the blessing onto me as if to make a believer of unbelieving I, the words that carried with them some small essential part of his soul. l cannot forget, not now, not even after twenty years.
Blessed be this child, this child who has now become part of his slow decay into oblivion.
Sometimes when I wake up at night for the horror of my own ongoing decay into fetid flesh, I can feel him within me, almost a separate being still. It is so real, so distinct in those early morning wakings, that I must force myself to resist the driving desire to rip him out of me with my bared claws. I am an animal. in the early morning dreams, a beast that desires only one thing: to be finally free.
Blessed be the one who can remove this curse from me, this overwhelming burden of pain.
They have always told me that l was too imaginative for my own good, that if I would just release this childish fantasy there would be no more nightmares, no more need for the pills that keep my panic at a low ebb of horror. They say. They say a lot of things, and some of them are true. But they do not know everything. They cannot explain it all.
Blessed be the child I used to be.
In these days, these last days of my own personal Apocalypse, I am beginning to see signs of the end. When l wake fron my dreams of decay, my hands are bloody and fissured by lines of dying flesh, scars that are slow to heal and ooze a thick greenish fluid onto everything I dress them with. I have more and more with each waking. My hands are twisted by them, nearly useless now. My parents were so proud of their daughter, to be blessed by the Padre...
Blessed be this corpse of a body, this remnant of a spliced soul.
I am tired, now, so very tired of living from grave to grave, my life not my own - not a life to claim, hardly, this walking evidence of the un-ignorable grip of death on the soul. I am so tired, so exhausted by struggling to stay my own, that I am beginning to doubt its value . What happens to me if I cease to struggle, end this endless war with my surrender? I do not know. Somehow, the idea is immensely appealing: to let go, give in, and let Padre's death take over me. It would be so very easy, so little pain when it was done. If there is a cosmic God watching over us all, surely He would understand. After all, I have been blessed to just this end, have I not?
Blessed be this dead and dying child, after all.