Fear not Heaven's Fire
by Jaine Fenn
Despite my good intentions, I have sinned, Lord. I have spoken to a man.
It was this morning, soon after Prime. I had run out of wool, and the other sisters were in the fields, taking advantage of the early spring to sow corn and beans. They would not have known if I had just let the distaff drop and sat idle in the sun, but I try to be good, truly I do. So I went to fetch more wool. I felt my way along the stones of the church, out of the cloister and crossed the outer court to the granary. The sounds around me told me the wind was shifting: the trees were restless and I could no longer hear the sheep down the hill.
As I edged back down the granary steps, I heard something. I thought it must be a stray goat or sheep, broken through the fence into the outer court, so I stopped at the bottom of the steps and waited for it to give itself away. After the initial rustle, there was silence, and I walked on. Then I heard a small sound of pain, quickly stifled. It came from under the granary. I turned and went back to stand by the steps. I could feel the chill on my legs where the wind blew through the open space under the granary floor.
'Is someone there?'
No answer. Perhaps only an animal then. But I was not so sure.
Remembering how one with sight would react, I twisted the unspun wool into a tight knot within my skirts, then bent down to put my head below the level of the raised floor. The breeze blew the smell of damp earth and rotting corn into my face. Someone shifted in response to my movement, and now that I had my ear at their level, I could locate them by sound. They were in the corner, against the hurdling that protects the space below our food store from the worst of the rough weather that blows in from the north and west.
'I will not hurt you.' I did not think as I spoke how little a threat a blind nun might be.
'Please, I need water.' The voice was weak, but male. Somehow I had not thought it would be a man. Yet this man had the sweetest voice I had ever heard. Even parched and in pain, it was a voice better suited to singing than talking. The sound of it made me dizzy, and I reached up with my free hand to steady myself against the steps.
'It....' I tried to remember myself, to stay calm. 'It is our duty to help all God's creatures.' He made a sound then, something like a snort, but I carried on. 'Please come out; I will try to find the almoner. She will give you food and water.'
'No. I can't come out...into the light.' He sounded afraid.
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"Fear not Heaven's Fire" is roughly 4600 words.
Truth may be stranger than fiction, but it's far harder to track down. Jaine Fenn has sold fiction to Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, On Spec, and a few other places. She has yet to sell, or buy, Truth. Further UnTruths may be found at jainefenn.com.