Here’s this week’s Prompted Word! Read more here.
Writing prompt #5 – You have magic soap. What does it wash away?
“How good to see you again, Father. And so soon.” The tall woman toweled sweat off of her brow and out of her close-cropped brown curly hair. “I’m sorry for my state, but you’ve caught me during my workout. If you’d made an appointment, I could have worn my Sunday best.”
The Priest’s frown deepened. The wrinkles covering his gaunt face followed, as if his face preferred the expression. He glanced over the warehouse, noting the makeshift living quarters, a nondescript car just inside the garage door, and a few crates, bunched together haphazardly. The rest of the building was open and unused. “I wouldn’t ask you to change on my account.”
She smiled brightly. “So rare to hear from those in your profession.” She tossed the towel over her shoulder and stretched her legs. “What brings you to my humble abode unannounced?”
The Priest heard steel in that last word, but mentally shrugged it off. This girl would never threaten him; he was the customer. “I need more soap.”
Her eyebrows shot up and the grin dropped from her face. “Holy shit.” His frown became a scowl, but she didn’t seem to notice. “You had a case. You’ve burned through it already?”
He crossed his arms. “My congregation has more than recovered its population, in fact, attendance levels are requiring us to refurbish and re-open buildings that have been closed for decades.”
She nodded, her hands on her hips. “You have a problem of unexpected demand. I gotcha. I run into that all the time. You need to up your regular order, and get a filler shipment expedited to meet the immediate demand, and prevent your consumers from finding what they need elsewhere.” She cocked her head to the side. “That sort of thing runs expensive, but you usually make it up in the long run.”
The Priest sighed heavily, and the lines in his face relaxed as far as they were able. “Excellent, yes, let’s do that. I am ready to pay for expedited shipping, so to speak.”
The windows that lined the top of the warehouse lightened as the sun rose outside. “Aw, hell, Father.” His frown returned. “I’d love to do that for you, because more profit for me, but I can’t. There’s only one manufacturer for your… product… and I was able to get half of their last batch, which I sold all to you.”
The cold metal digging into the small of his back was starting an ache. “You’re saying that you can’t get any more? There are four group baptisms scheduled for next week alone.”
The woman smirked. It was not altogether unattractive. “Wait, wait. You’ve added the soap to your baptism ritual? They think that Jesus is washing away their doubt? Oh, Father, that’s slick.” The smirk widened back into a full grin. “And probably grounds for excommunication.”
The Priest’s right hand crept to his back. “Are you threatening me?”
The smile stayed on her face, but left her eyes. “No, sir. Just stating the obvious. The reality of the situation is that I have no idea when more will be available, or if more will ever be available.”
Fear mixed with anger on his face. “I don’t think you understand, little girl. Priests across the state are ready and willing to incorporate the soap into their rituals to revitalize their congregations. As you say, they are risking excommunication for the good of the Church, and I have made promises!”
“Father, I don’t have any to sell you.”
He pulled the gun and pointed it at her, hand shaking. “Then you will take me to this manufacturer. Now!”
She heaved a dramatic sigh. “Have it your way.” There was a white blur, and his left eye exploded into pain and darkness. He dropped the gun to cover his eye as something warm flowed down his face. He heard screaming. His legs were knocked out from under him, and he fell to the cold cement floor. Pain exploded again, this time in his hip. The screaming stopped and turned into a groaning. An old man groaning in terrible pain. The woman appeared above him, holding the barrel of his gun in the towel. “You want to meet the manufacturer? Fine, you dumb old shit.” Her hand, and the gun, came down, and everything went black.
When the blackness receded, he felt like he was sliding off the edge of a cliff. One eye throbbed, and the other opened. The light was bright here, too bright to make anything out. There was an antiseptic smell, like a hospital. Two women were speaking quietly nearby. His hip ached as badly as his eye, and there was a burning pain in the side of his neck. He tried to raise his arm to wipe at his eye, or feel his neck, but it wouldn’t move. Neither would his left. Something was holding his legs down, too. Panic struck his chest and he started to struggle. His eye adjusted to the room’s light, and he saw the floor above his head and the lights below his shoes. He was strapped down to a bed or table, angled upside-down, and a red tube was hung from his table to the middle of the room, where the two women stood.
Other beds were arranged around the room, sporting clear tubes coiled on their sheets. Twelve or fifteen of them in total. Why were the other tubes clear, while his was red? Oh, God…
A familiar voice called from the center of the room. “Looks like Padre Wrinkleyface is awake!” Footsteps echoed in the room’s emptiness, and then a kind, middle-aged face appeared above him. Her black hair was shot through with gray, and she had amazing laugh lines at her eyes. He immediately relaxed.
“Father, I can’t tell you how happy I am that you wanted to visit my little facility. I have to admit, even though it’s a sin, I’m proud you get to see my new setup. The last one was just dreadful.” She checked something at his neck, and the burning intensified for a moment. “Oh, honey, don’t try and talk. You’ve been gagged for safety’s sake. And you’re such a brave shepherd. Our mutual acquaintance here has been telling me about all the good work you’ve been doing for the Church with my soap! And there are others that want to do the same!” The Priest saw her eyes gather tears, and his own started to do the same.
“Isn’t it great, Padre?” The other woman’s face pushed into view, devilishly amused. “The churches are going to get their soap after all!”
“Oh, dear, you won’t be conscious for much longer. I’m one of the faithful, Father, and what you’ve done with my soap is beyond my highest hopes. I’m going to make sure that your work continues, and that the other Priests get their supply. The blood you’re sacrificing is an essential ingredient. With as many times as Jesus has sacrificed His own blood through you, I hope that this carries personal, if not spiritual, meaning.”
The Priest’s eye slid closed, and he felt like he was floating. Her last words were so far away. “I have to prepare the other ingredients. Drop his body off at his Church; he deserves a proper burial.”