The abbess knocked on the door. The sounds of a flogging whip shook the darkened corridor; she received no reply. Starlight shone through the arched Gothic windows that lined the passage.
She knocked again.
Should she enter? The young novice needed the last rites.
The abbess knocked a third time and gave the door a slight push. It creaked open.
The bishop stood with his bare back to the door, and in the dim candlelight the abbess saw streaks of gooey blood marring the skin.
A whip cracked and a wound opened.
What great sin could he be repenting?
Another crack and the pieces fell into place. As blood poured down the wounded back, images flowed through the abbess’s mind. With each lash, she recalled every visit the bishop had made to her abbey and the events thereafter.
The young novice; the stillborn.
Sister Elizabeth; the drowning.
Her eyes widened and the dreaded thought flashed like lightning: not coincidences but consequences.
“You!” The abbess exclaimed; the bishop whirled around and glared.
She stood in the doorway, old, wrinkled and yet so innocent, but her wide eyes betrayed her horrible realization. The cat was out of the bag, his secret sins exposed.
He advanced towards her with such violence that she turned and ran; her frail steps booming with the guilt of his crimes. He followed down the narrow window-lined corridor, starlight and shadow alternating with each step. He caught her just as she reached the winding stone stairs.
They struggled; she scratched him. He tried to pull her back to his chamber, but she fought hard. To control those flailing arms, he pushed her. Her slight frame lifted off the floor, and, in an instant, she flew out the window.
The bishop glanced at the broken abbess pierced by the thorny briar and surrounded by shattered glass sparkling in the starlight. He returned to his chamber. A cat wailed in the night. Hurried footsteps.
Lillian gazed up from the book Derek had placed before her; eyes filled with fear and wonder. It had been blank, then little by little, the horrible scene had appeared within its pages, each moment ripped out of Lillian’s mind like tangled hooks.
Derek took the book from her and wrapped it in its towel.
“Does this book show you your nightmares?” Lillian stammered.
“I don’t know,” Derek mumbled, “does it?”