*October 25, 1959*
Anita hurried through the church, almost tripping over the long skirt of her white novice’s habit.
“Oh bother these skirts!” she exclaimed, hitching up the offending garment. “Why do they have to be so long?”
“Novice Anita, why are you running? Has St. Mark’s instituted an exercise program unbeknownst to the rest of us?”
The young woman froze mid stride, squinting her eyes shut. Sister Mary Theresa, her least favorite Sister, had caught her running in the halls again.
“Blast and double blast,” she muttered, turning to face her nemesis. “No, Sister Mary Theresa.”
“Then it begs the question, why are you running…again?” asked the sister, folding her arms and glaring down at the young novice.
“Well, I…that is to say I…what I mean is…” Anita folded her hands and looked at the marble floor. “I’m sorry, Sister Mary Theresa. I have no excuse.”
“Mm, go along to the kitchen and help wash the lunch dishes. A little quiet reflection over soapsuds and crockery might do you some good. And after you’re through go see Sister Bernadette and explain to her why you were running through the sanctuary like the whole hoard of Lucifer’s demons were after you.”
“Yes Sister,” replied Anita, waiting until the older woman’s back was turned before making a face like she’d just swallowed a sour lemon.
“The good Lord give me strength to deal with the likes of her…and with the dirty dishes,” murmured the novice, lightly fingering the silver rosary hanging from the waist of her habit.
* * * *
Anita was humming, rather cheerfully, over the dishes in the sink. Once she’d set her mind to do something she could get through the task quickly enough.
The one thing she wasn’t looking forward to was her meeting with Sister Bernadette. She was the nun in charge of novices and although she wasn’t as severe as Sister Mary Theresa she did expect her girls to keep in line.
“I was only rushing so I wouldn’t be late for my lunchtime meeting with Sister Madeline,” she sighed, gazing out the kitchen window. “I know that’s not a reasonable excuse. I shouldn’t have lost track of time in the first place.”
“That’s one of the first sensible things I’ve heard you say in quite a long time.”
Anita whirled and dried her hands on her skirt, forgetting in her haste to use a towel, “Sister Bernadette.”
“Novice Anita, why do you insist on making things difficult for yourself?” sighed the elderly nun, leaning heavily on her cane.
“I don’t know. It just seems like things happen to me. I don’t plan them to they just sort of…do.” She tucked a strand of dark red hair behind her ear. “I’m not making much sense am I?”
“It sounds as if, to me, you lack focus. Focus is very important to us and with you so close to taking your final vows- Tell me, is this really what you want to do? The church isn’t for everyone,” said Sister Bernadette, hobbling over and patting the young woman’s hand.
“Yes, of course this is what I want to do. I told my mother and father I had a calling and off I went,” she said, gripping her rosary so tightly the beads and cross left an imprint on her palm. “I-I wouldn’t know what else to do.”
“My child, you’re young. You might find something or indeed someone else to turn your head. It’s a big decision to devote yourself to God. Make sure you’re doing what you feel in your heart is right.” The sister gazed at the novice kindly before shuffling out of the kitchen area.
Anita removed her white headdress and ran her fingers through her short fiery tresses. With a sigh noisy enough to shake the foundations of the old church she too, made her way out of the kitchen. Pausing to replace the veil over her hair, she walked out of a side door and away from the church.
She never talked about the gifts that had caused her to choose the church as a way of life. Anita wished to help people with the ‘feelings’ she sometimes had. She knew that they were a gift from God and becoming a nun would be the best way to say thank you and give back a little.
“Nothing’s going to turn my head. My mind is made up!” she whispered fiercely under her breath.
The young woman stopped outside of a service tunnel, the interior of which was as dark as the inside of a moose. Her sixth sense had made her halt in her tracks. Whatever was going on in there, it was bad. Her stomach actually turned over and Anita swallowed thickly.
The novice picked up her skirts and waded into the foul ankle deep water. She tried to breathe through her mouth but it didn’t help much. The feeling worsened and worsened until it bore down on her like a great physical pain.
“Who would be down here?” she gasped, as a burning sensation seemed to rip its way across her shoulder blades.
A series of loud bangs echoed down the hollow metal tunnel towards her. It sounded as if something had been thrown against the curved wall and held there while it kicked and struggled. An almost inhuman roar sounded just ahead of her, followed by a splash.
Anita waited until it had been silent a few minutes before cautiously moving forward. She softly recited a ‘Hail Mary’ as she walked taking comfort in the familiar words, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and in the hour of our death. Amen.”
She kept her hand on the wall of the tunnel, not wanting to fall down in the dark. Rounding a curve, the novice literally stumbled over a body. Covering her mouth with one hand to stifle a scream of shock, she felt blindly along the body with the other to find a pulse.
“Don’t bother,” rasped a deep voice, coughing harshly. “It’s dead.”
“You killed him?” asked Anita, trying to keep her horror under control.
“Not him, it. And yes, I killed it. You can scream and run away now,” continued the voice, its cough sounding more and more painful. “Leave me to die here on my own.”
Anita started to follow the voice’s instructions but in her haste she slipped and fell straight on her backside in the dirty water. She slapped frustratedly at the liquid only to have it splash up in her face. While scrubbing at her mouth and cheeks with the upper part of her sleeve, she realized her ‘feeling’ had yet to disappear.
“Him?” she asked, blinking in surprise. The feeling twinged to the affirmative and she sighed. “That figures.”
The novice sloshed her way over to where she thought she’d heard the last of the racking cough. When her outstretched fingers touched skin it disappeared with a splash.
“What are you doing?” growled the voice, the cough beginning again. “I thought I told you to leave.”
“I’m not leaving you to die. It goes against my novice code of ethics,” she said, splashing after him.
“Novice student of medicine are you?” he wheezed, the splashes becoming weaker.
“I’m a novice nun. Now would you please hold still? I have to get my arm around you so I can help you out of here.” Anita stretched her hand forward and started back at the feeling of wet feathers.
“Well, Novice Nun, are you sure you want to help me? I thought the Catholic Church was big on burning ‘abominations’ at the stake,” he snapped, smacking the side of the tunnel with the palm of his hand.
“What are you talking ab-” Anita trailed off as the metal of the tunnel became luminescent and revealed who she’d been talking to this entire time.
The tunnel was large but the being in front of her seemed to take up all available room. Bent almost double, he was still larger than life. His black hair was long, wet and stringy but had a purple sheen to it. The eyes were pure silver, dulled somewhat by pain. And the large wings that sprouted from his back drooped into the water. The feathers on the aforementioned wings were glossy black and also had a purple cast to them.
“Still want to help me?” he panted, sinking to the floor with a soft splash.
“What are you?” she asked, shaking her head and moving forward. Snatching the veil off of her hair, she begged forgiveness before tearing it into strips to bind his badly bleeding shoulder.
“I’m a Nephil…short for Nephilim.” He watched her carefully, tensing to pull away at any moment like a skittish animal.
“And do you have a name…” asked Anita, knotting the bandage tightly. “…Nephilim?”
“Seth,” he replied, doubling over and coughing again. He leaned back against the wall, breathing harshly.
“Well, you, Seth, have a fever,” she said, placing her hand on his forehead.
“Tell me something I don’t know,” he coughed.
“Alright, you’re coming back to St. Mark’s with me.”
“No, I’m not, Novice Nun. I’ve had enough of people trying to dissect me or take half of my brain out or…” The half angel stopped and shuddered, too upset by something to continue.
“You can’t hide…?” She gestured towards the wings.
He shook his head, “It hurts.”
“Could you hide them for long enough for me to sneak you into the church basement? Nobody goes down there except for me. You’ll be safe for awhile.” She stood and held out her hand.
“I can try,” Seth muttered, folding his wings back until they disappeared with a mild pop. He gasped at the new pain and held his breath until the worst of it passed. Taking the novice’s hand he moved as quickly as he could down the tunnel in the fading light.
“Do you have a name too, Novice Nun?” he asked, his voice tight.
“Mmhm, my name is Anita Blakely,” she replied, leading her newfound charge out into the daylight. The ‘feeling’ buzzed contentedly in the back of her mind until it faded to nothingness.