The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
Concetta ran along the moonlit canal, her blood pounding in her ears in time with her feet pounding the slippery ground. She didn’t know where she was going or what she would do when she got there. She just knew that she had to get away. She cursed the dainty slippers that she was wearing—oh, if only to be wearing her sturdy workaday boots right now! She was sure that she would be able to get to St. Mark’s and the lights of the piazza there without any problem at all.
But here she was, the picture of femininity – except for the running. Her best dress and the damned slippers — all dressed up for a disaster.
Her mother had come to her that afternoon so excited – a man had come to call on her youngest daughter! She was beside herself as she coaxed an uncooperative Concetta to leave her clay and potter’s wheel in order to clean up for this suitor.
So there they had been – Signore and Signora Benedetti and a scowling Concetta – waiting for the knock at the door.
It finally came, but they were very confused when they opened the door.
It had been Monsignor Castenelli. At first, the family had thought that he was carrying bad news. After all, a minor plague was finding its way through Venice, and death was not unexpected.
But no – for the parents, it was worse than a death. Monsignor Castenelli wanted to take their Concetta away!
Concetta backed toward the door to the rest of the house as her father asked – no, demanded – an explanation.
“Your daughter is very beautiful,” Monsignor explained. “She would make a lovely addition to our convent.”
Mr. Benedetti’s brow was turning a fine crimson. “My daughter is not going to be stuck inside some abbey for the rest of her life!” he growled. “And why would you come for her yourself? Why not the Mother Superior?”
Monsignor had the gall to look Concetta up and down as if she was a piece of meat on offer. “She would also make a lovely – housekeeper – if she didn’t make it as a nun.” His grin reminded Concetta of woodblocks she had seen of wolves right before they ate the sheep.
“Papa!” she gasped. “No! This cannot happen!”
Her mother stood in front of her, a wall of comfort. “This certainly will not happen!” she shouted. “You may leave, Monsignor. Do so quickly, before we decide to summon help!”
Monsignor Castenelli plastered a soothing smile across his features. “It is an innocent request. Surely you must know that she won’t be harmed.” But there was a gleam in his eye that told otherwise.
Suddenly he pulled a dagger from beneath a fold in his clothes. Concetta’s father could only stare in horror.
“What — ?”
“If you do not give your permission to take her,” snarled Castenelli, “I will have to take her by force.”
At this, Concetta whirled around and bolted through the door behind her. She streaked through the house and out the back door. She could hear her parents shouting and the sounds of struggling, and could only hope that they would be spared that knife.
Now, out of breath, she turned down what she thought was a side street, and almost fell into a canal. She stopped in time and backed away – right into a door that led onto the alley. She took a close look at it, and almost cried in relief.
This door had a stained-glass window with a cross carved into the wood. She recognized it as the entry to a chapel that her mother used to go to – at least until death had claimed most of her children. Then she had lost interest in praying.
Concetta rapped hard on the door, and it was soon opened by a wizened old man in a brown cassock. She pushed past him, shouting “Sanctuary!”
The priest, or brother, stepped back, startled.
“Dear girl, whatever is wrong?” he asked.
Concetta could barely get her breath. “There’s a man out there who is trying to harm me and my parents! He pulled a knife on us!”
“Dear Lord!” the man exclaimed. “Where is this happening?”
“The Benedetti villa. Do you know of it?”
The man smiled reassuringly. “Yes, I do. Signore Benedetti has been a patron of ours for many years. But please. Step into the kitchen, where it is warm. We’ll be having dinner soon, and we would love for you to be a part of it.”
She followed him gratefully through another door into a warm, inviting light. However, there was no food on the table. She was about to ask about this when a door in the opposite wall opened – and who should come in but Monsignor Castenelli!
Concetta screamed and pointed. “That’s him!”
The man she had followed in had slipped behind her, and had closed the door firmly. He now stood in front of it, barring her escape.
Castenelli grinned that wolfish grin again. “Send word to Signore Benedetti. Tell him that we are in receipt of his donation, and we are very grateful. But do hurry so that you can get back here for the feast!”
The old man grinned a nasty, almost toothless smile at Concetta, then he reached out and pinched her arm.
“I will certainly hurry. Mmm, but it’s been so long since I’ve had a good serving of meat! This is going to be wonderful!”
Off he shuffled, as a terrified Concetta backed away from the knife that was coming ever nearer…
Fiction © Copyright K.R. Morrison
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com.
More from Author K.R. Morrison:
Lydia’s faith in God is strong – at least on paper. But what happens when that faith is tested? Turned into a vampire by the worst – Vlad Drakul – she feels that God has abandoned her. But the opposite is true. God rescues her from a fate worse than death, and brings her into the plan He has for global redemption. With the help He sends, she feels like nothing can stop her. But when Vlad torments her again, and then her family, the temptation to run and hide is almost too strong to resist. Her answer to God’s call is the deciding factor in the battle that pits the angelic powers of God against the demonic powers of Hell.