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1 a: the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God
1 b: the act of claiming the attributes of deity
2: irreverence toward something considered sacred or inviolable
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The small annex that served as the prison chapel was small and undecorated. There was a simple altar and some rickety wooden pews that served their purpose well enough. A priest came every Sunday and performed what was probably the fastest Mass in France. No-one was particularly surprised. Their visiting priest also did the speediest last rites available for the departed before they were carted off to the prison graveyard.
Vallewida lingered on in the chapel after Sunday Mass. It would not be open until the next mass a week later. It was not even open for the death rites, which now usually took place over where the corpse was last lying.
The good father, trying hard to beat the record set by his predecessor, had been going for a quarter of an hour, but settled for half instead. Most priests assigned to the prison lost their zeal very quickly after a few weeks of desultory Masses in the musty chapel that would, for a short hour or so, smell of unwashed prisoners. The few who still prayed for salvation in muted voices were hardly an inspiring sight.
Rumour had it that a few years back, attendance at Mass had been swelled by inmates looking for more than salvation in the wine that was offered. Apparently someone had gotten a little too bold and filched the wine decanter. The priests never performed the full Communion ritual again except at Easter and Christmas. Now only a handful of inmates came for Mass on Sundays, filing out quietly after the priest’s hasty blessing.
It was quiet in the chapel annex. There was so very little private space in the prison that such moments were rare indeed. Vallewida did not feel the least bit guilty about utilising it.
So caught up in his contemplation was he that Vallewida failed to notice that he was no longer alone. Until he was rudely startled by a puff of air directed at his ear and almost yelped in shock when he realised who had slid into the pew next to him.
“You’re easily surprised.” Durer made no attempt at hiding his amusement as Vallewida struggled to regain his composure. “Mass is over, isn’t it?”
Did the man even take a day off? No, tormenting prisoners was his idea of leisure.
“Yes, I was just meditating.” Vallewida got up carefully. “I’ll be going now--”
“You don’t have to,” Durer said, smooth as snake oil and about as pleasant. And his gloved hand was on Vallewida’s shoulder, pushing him back down. “You should have more time to pray. So few people take the time these days . . .”
Vallewida did not point out Durer’s obvious hypocrisy. His jailer had doffed his hat and had an expression that could have passed for piety . . . if it had been on the face of someone other than Durer.
If he thought it would have helped, Vallewida would have been praying to get out of this situation as soon as he could. His fears were confirmed a moment later when felt a hand on his knee, then his thigh.
“Stop it. Please,” he whispered as Durer’s fingers ghosted along his inner thigh.
“But why? You could stay as long as you want here--I have the keys, after all,” Durer said. The man was close--so close that Vallewida felt that his skin was trying to crawl off his bones in revulsion.
“Not here,” Vallewida said, trying to fend off Durer’s groping hands. At times like this, the head guard seemed to have more than just one pair of hands. They were everywhere--sliding under his shirt, crawling like spiders on their way down to his waist and hip.
“What? You know of a better place?” Durer was not stopping. As he leered into Vallewida’s face, his hands wandered even lower. He probably had no qualms about doing that sort of thing in a church. None at all.
“Anywhere but here--” Vallewida stifled a pained gasp as Durer’s fingers latched onto his nipple and pinched it hard.
"What are you afraid of? We've done it before--in so many different places and so many different ways," Durer whispered in a horrible parody of intimacy. "Or are you ashamed of your sin in front of God?"
Vallewida had more than a few replies to that, but they would be less than useless against Durer. The sick and cold feeling of dread pooling in his gut told him that this was just the beginning of yet another round of the same game that he had been forcibly drawn into since the first day that he had met Durer.
"I don't suppose you would even understand, much less respect the sanctity this place," Vallewida said, fighting to retain his calm even as Durer’s touch stroked up that unwanted heat under his skin. Anger helped. Anger helped him to focus on something other than Durer’s hands on his most intimate places.
"It's just one room out of many. If God is watching you here, then He would have known how many times I've had you. And how much you enjoyed it. Every single time," Durer hissed in his ear. "Shall I remind you again? Right here and now?"
Vallewida did not need to say anything. Even Durer could feel the hate in his stare.
"Perhaps you do need a reminder," Durer mused, jerking Vallewida’s chin up so that they were face to face. “Because you’re mine and God isn't here to save anyone. You already know that we’ll burn in hell together . . .”
There was nothing in Durer’s eyes but the certainty that he felt. The force of it was greater than the half-hearted mumblings of the priest--stronger than the faith of a dozen inmates gathered here under the shadow of the dusty cross. But there was more to faith than that, was there not? There had to be . . .
In the suddenly chilly and dank room, Vallewida felt the hopelessness that permeated the prison like a tangible fog. It was much worse than a beating. Worse than the rapes that he did not remember. Somehow, Durer had managed to get under his skin.
“You’re trying to deny it--I can see you.” Durer’s insidious whisper cut through his litany of denials. “You try to ignore it, but it’s still there. My mark is on you . . . like the mark of Cain. No one else is permitted to touch you.”
“You’re delusional. And insane.” Vallewida tried to push Durer away--as though physical distance alone could separate him from the taint of his jailer.
“Always this fighting and whining.” Durer sounded exasperated. “Don’t you ever get tired of it?” He caught hold of Vallewida’s arm as his struggles became more violent.
“What do I have to do?” Durer demanded, taking hold of Vallewida by his hair. “Rape you on the altar with a candlestick? Stuff a rosary up your asshole? We can do all that and more if you want to! In fact, we should do that right now. Here, where God can see and not lift a finger as usual!” Durer stood up, intent on dragging Vallewida with him.
Against Durer’s superior strength in close quarters, Vallewida knew he was at a serious disadvantage. Desperately trying to work free, he let his feet hook under the prayer kneeler attached to the pews. He did not want to believe that it would inevitable--the ending to this struggle that happened every time. More than just his life--his faith, his beliefs, all the hope that he had left--was at stake.
The pews might be old and worn, but they were heavy enough to anchor Vallewida in place.
"Fine. Stay there!" Durer was obviously angered by his refusal to cooperate and he showed it by shoving Vallewida roughly down onto the pew. He was in an extra foul mood for he handcuffed Vallewida to the pew, no doubt intending something worse than the usual kind of torments he reserved for him. Vallewida winced inwardly at the thought of something worse. Durer did not have his whip with him, but he was terribly inventive when it came to causing pain.
"You will remember this," Durer promised before shifting off Vallewida and moving to the front of the chapel.
Vallewida smelt the sharp tang of sulphur as Durer lit a candle. Heard the heels of Durer's boots striking the paving stones as he came into view again with a plain white votive candle in his hand.
The orange-yellow glow of the candle-flame, normally a calming and peaceful sight, now highlighted Durer's demonic countenance as he loomed above Vallewida.
"Should I light a candle for our souls? Or perhaps half a dozen?"
Vallewida could only watch as Durer produced a handful of candles and lit them one by one. Together, the gathered candles flared even brighter and hotter as Durer held them above his prone victim.
The first few drops of wax . . . burned when they touched his skin. Vallewida bit back an oath as the molten wax pattered down on him, scalding a path down his chest.
Durer busied himself with making patterns on Vallewida's skin, baring his torso even more until the wax started to form a crust. He chuckled softly as Vallewida struggled to hold back just how much pain he was in.
"We're not done yet," he said with smile that would chill the blood of any man, setting the candles down before undoing the buttons on Vallewida's trousers. His hands lingered as he dragged the material down past Vallewida's thighs. "I have not marked this place much. It's still so smooth and soft . . ."
Vallewida reminded himself that begging was useless. Durer would not stop just before he cried or screamed. This was one of those times when he wished that he did not know what that utterly insane gleam in Durer’s eyes meant. He felt his testicles draw up in instinctive fear, in anticipation of pain.
The hot wax had accumulated around the wicks and it was no short-lived splatter of droplets that fell now as Durer raised the candles. The wax poured down in a liquid stream.
Even Durer was slightly taken aback by the volume and intensity of Vallewida’s scream as the hot wax spilled down the regrettably sensitive skin of his inner thighs.
The initial pain had been enough to turn his vision red, then black for an instant, but it did not end there. Gasping and sobbing in the aftermath, Vallewida felt his eyes watering involuntarily as the still fluid wax spread out over his trembling flesh. His skin was on fire and he must have jerked against his restraints when the wax had made contact because his wrists throbbed in a dull counterpoint to the sharper sting of the burns.
“Your skin might actually peel off after that.” Durer actually paused to brush the wisps of hair that clung to Vallewida’s tear-stained face. “Your life is already mine. Just say it and I’ll stop.”
Even if his throat had not been scraped raw from screaming, Vallewida was not entirely sure what he would have said there and then. Because Durer actually meant what he was saying for once.
It was suddenly so very clear. Vallewida could see with absolute clarity the options before him and their consequences. And that was why he set his teeth into his lower lip and shut his eyes so that he would not give in and he would not see what was yet to come in Durer’s eyes.
It cost him everything he had not to break as Durer grasped his hip and turned him over. Gripping the chain of his restraints with almost bloodless fingers, Vallewida waited for Durer to start using the candles again.
This time the wax fell on the skin of his backside and the backs of his thighs. He thought he had no voice left but he cried out as Durer directed the stream of molten wax between his buttocks. The pain lasted longer and left him a mewling wreck as he twitched and clawed fruitlessly at the worn seat of the pew he was chained to.
“This doesn’t have to go on. You can stop it anytime you want.”
His lower lip was already bloody from being bitten through and Vallewida had to clench his teeth down to prevent himself from begging for it to stop, to give in to Durer’s demands. The price of that was too high . . . Yet a part of him was screaming silently, Was it worth all this pain?
Vallewida felt rather than saw Durer settle on the pew beside him. “It’s your choice.”
And there was a searing pain that made everything else that came before a mere shadow of the agony he was currently in. He could not scream properly anymore--it came out as a whistle-like bark that continued for a long while after Durer had extinguished a candle against the exposed flesh of his lower back. Through his anguish Vallewida could smell something charred and burnt. His own skin. Oh dear God . . .
“There are five candles left,” Durer told him. By the second candle--lower down and close to his buttocks this time--Vallewida was past caring.
The chapel annex was quite dim to begin with, but Vallewida felt as though he was looking at it all from the end of a long tunnel. The walls seemed to be closing in on him.
And he was falling. Drowning in a tide of something dark and strangely soothing. The last thing he saw through a film of tears before the hazy darkness engulfed him was the graven image on the cross.
Forgive me Father, for I have sinned . . .
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