He got her some water from a nearby pool. She drank it thankfully. The water did a lot to revive her tired constitution and she thought of her parents. And Soares. Had they found out yet she was missing? How could they find her, even if they tried?
He sat down close to her. She was happy that he was there. He was her protector, after all, and she justified the growing feelings within her by branding them as gratitude. Yes, it was just gratitude she felt toward him, nothing more.
Slowly, she leaned on his shoulder. It felt strangely peaceful. There was no reason she could not be saved now. The ordeal would soon be over.
When she opened her eyes, she saw shreds of daylight streaking the sky.
And his hand was on her thigh.
She looked at those eyes of his. They were bright, too bright actually, and somewhat hypnotizing. They seemed unreal in some way, like they were devoid of life, just shining orbs that emitted light. She felt carried away by the gaze that was focused on her. Surely surrendering to her protector would not be such a bad thing? He looked at her with lusty eyes, and she felt the temptation growing with her. Should she bite the apple? She owed her life to this short fat man anyway.
She leaned forward and touched his cheek. On receiving this signal from her, he held her close, and gradually began to ease her into a lying position.
Even as she was arrested by his unnatural gaze, she felt strange passions rising within her. Something stirred within, something that she could not shake herself from. She was about to give in completely, let go of herself, but a small voice was saying something deep inside.
She could hear that voice, but she could not make out the words. But she felt she needed to hear it. It was telling her something very important. She attuned herself to it.
This was important.
And then it struck her.
It was incomplete.
Raising her neck in her prone position, just a second before the man consumed her completely, she whispered the last line of her prayer.
…Deliver us from evil.
And there was a blinding flash!
The flash surrounded the clearing and was so intense that she could not see anything for a few moments. She closed her eyes to save them from the burning white glare, but just before she closed the eyes, she saw the fangs in the mouth of the short man who had just protected her. She saw his eyes—and they were now burning red orbs with narrow vertical yellow slits in them. She saw the twisted horns coming out of his head. And the fur coming out of his hideous skin. She understood the reality of her protector, literally in a flash.
When she opened her eyes again, Satan was gone. As the vestiges of the flash cleared, she saw the unmistakable silhouette of the tall man, standing arms akimbo like a cowboy over her. She tried to pull herself away from the new danger, or the old danger, she was so confused… but the man said:
It was the fulfilment of her prayer.
* * *
She was back in the woodhouse, but she was not tied this time. Bright light shone in it now, not daylight, just some unexplained illumination. There were no insects. On the contrary, white orchids lined its walls. The tall man stood in front of her, easily dwarfing her diminutive self.
She was slowly realizing who this man was. She was understanding what the purpose of her abduction was. With that realization, her fear went away.
“He comes in many forms,” he said. “It is the inner weakness that makes one succumb to his temptation. But you are not weak.”
She looked up at him. He somehow looked taller now.
“You must not give way to temptation,” he said. “For it is temptation that gives rise to monsters. Faith should be spotless, and you have that. Keep it like that.”
He placed his hand over her head. There was something strange about the way his hand felt on her head, but she could not quite place it.
“You may now go,” he said. “You have a fulfilling life to lead ahead. And remember, I am always watching over you.”
He removed his hand from over her head. As it moved in front of her face, she saw the gaping hole in the middle of the palm.
With that, he smiled at her and went out of the door. She was all alone in the room once again but this time she was not scared. It was as though her eyes had been opened.
She thought she would have something to drink before she left. She went to the pitcher on the table and began to pour it into the glass.
But all that came out of it was water.
Because He had not touched the water this time. He had touched her.
* * *
And when she came out of the woodhouse, she was again engulfed by the loving night. From somewhere far away, she could still hear Dancing Queen.
Just like that, she knew what she had to do. She clasped the scapular dangling around her neck and made a silent promise not to yield to temptation.
She barely took a step forward and her house stood in front of her, the delicious aroma of nicely cooked sorpotel inviting her to come back as soon as she could.