Sister Agulíne’s joints informed her it was raining just before her ears confirmed the fact. She’d inherited the gouted tree trunk ankles of her grandmother, a woman born in the nineteenth century. Closer to Christ in time, but not in spirit.
Sister Agulíne had taken to reciting her morning prayers in bed for the past year or so, no longer able to kneel as easily. God would understand, she reasoned.
God would understand, she hoped.
Curious droplets tapped the stained glass of her single window, wherefrom Sister Agulíne could survey the school she served and the children she loved – Armenian Vestal Academy had been her happy purpose since the ribbon cutting of 1980.
Above the rapping rain, there came knocking, a persistent succession of triplets.
“One moment!” she called out, looking first at her door and then her clock. How had she overslept? Sister Agulíne couldn’t think over the hammering din.
“I said a mo-”
The door slammed inward with a splintering crack and punctured a knob shaped hole through her wall. A dusty crucifix dropped to the floor and a sliver of the Savior’s face chipped away, rendering Jesus a cyclopean horror.
She took in a furious breath, but Sister Agulíne’s protest froze in her clenched throat, voice screwed by sight.
The threshold of her room was empty.
All lack of anything made the downy fuzz lining her face stand on end.
But a sudden blast of wind sucked the door home, and Sister Agulíne relaxed. Of course! The draft had been the cause. She would don her habit, mend the Messiah, and all would be well-
Again it burst open, the trespass followed by a barrage of vacant noise: plodding footsteps, the crackle and fire of radio chatter. Fast heat rushed for her. Sister Agulíne scurried from her resting place and struck the corner couch with a surprising thump.
The random clamor stopped, seemed to consider her direction, and then resumed. Yet inside that second of stillness, the frightened nun discerned talking, conversation buried beneath dirt.
Sister Agulíne’s sheets were suddenly stripped, floating and falling at her feet. The mattress jostled. Invisible hands picked up the side table and threw it aside without care.
Her private cell had become a possessed hive, swarming with every manner of devilry.
Instinct smothered thought, and Sister Agulíne did her best to run.
Something petted her shoulders and she jumped, but it was only her hair, silver and streaming, flirting with the free air. What a gazingstock she’d make: look! look at Agulíne in her slip, her old maid breasts, her virgin buttocks, her exposed scalp. She shielded her indecency for but an instant before her arms fell dead.
A car was barrelling straight at her.
She leapt out of the vehicle’s path. Sister Agulíne glared, ready to take note of the fool driver, and found a deserted interior.
Blinking, blinking, but no change.
A ghost-operated SUV, trailed by another, and still more.
Backpacks hovered, their straps clinging to atmosphere. Basketballs bounced independently. A lone tricycle flitted past, too close, its tassels fluttering. Teeter-totters rose and plummeted like Sister Agulíne’s unbelieving eyes.
She heard everything but humanity, felt nothing but fear.
Sister Agulíne pressed through her solitary nightmare to the classrooms, estuary corridors which fed into lush gardens graced by St. Bartholomew, the apostle who ushered Christianity to Armenia, where he would be fileted.
All around, Sister Agulíne listened to what the youth called music, tinny and small, emanating from suspended telephones. Her own footfalls were drowned by the inhumane stampede, pitter-patter neither associated with, nor coming from, anyone.
A regular day hurled askew.
On impulse, she pawed at a bookbag and ripped it open, the gaping maw spilling forth notepads and pencils. A circle of the levitators hastily withdrew and once more Sister Agulíne made out muffled talk, occluded, layered, and…
She witnessed the upset belongings shoot up and safely zipped, while her own belonging unspooled, endangered and lunatic.
Sister Agulíne trudged behind the phantom train of totes to first grade, where she ministered Bible studies. On no account had she promised Hell to her youngsters, like the other nuns, so why had Hell found her this morning?
Scraped chairs, squeaking desks, an auto-propelled paper airplane, but no Alec, no Davo, no Vana, no Nairi.
Sister Agulíne’s New Testament lay open on the desk as she’d left it yesterday afternoon, a leatherbound wedding gift from her marriage to the Lord. She yearned to hold the book, but when her rheumatic hands reached out it slipped from her grasp and crashed to the desk.
A low wail issued from the room, loudest yet of the tamped sounds
Sister Agulíne turned the fine pages of the book where it fell, fluttering them like hummingbird wings.
Again there emerged a collective scream.
These demons abhorred the Gospel, they cowered at the slightest-
“Excuse me, children, I have an announcement.”
It was Sister Agulíne’s turn to scream. She whirled round, head pointing up at the mounted loudspeaker. The force of her swiveling caused the stool beside her to tip and crash, eliciting a third howl from the adversaries.
“My heart breaks to say that our beloved Sister Agulíne has passed away. Please know that she was at peace. May God illuminate her soul.”
She began to feel a tug at the small of her back, and the repeated stirring reminded her of life pre-abbey, when she had starred in the school play and was flying by rope. As the to and fro increased, she listened to her own necrology, the blest obituary.
Things lifted and understanding settled.
Sister Agulíne soared high.
She saw her scared students, saw how they could not see. She saw the paramedics removing her covered corpse. She saw all the peaceful dead struggling in the throes of their unawareness, haunted and haunting. She saw the planet, the sun, the stars.
And sooner or later, Sister Agulíne saw rainless white.
Biography: Robert Nazar Arjoyan was born into the Armenian diaspora of Los Angeles. Aside from an arguably ill-advised foray into rock n roll bandery, literature and movies were the vying forces of his life. Naz graduated from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and now works as an author and filmmaker. Website – www.arjoyan.com | Twitter @RobertArjoyan