My sneeze echoed through the small room the seminary had assigned to me when I first began my studies. I reached blindly to the table near my bed and dove my hand into the tissue box, only to realize I was fresh out. Just my luck. I’d have to find another tomorrow. I turned in my bed, shivering as another draft penetrated the thin cotton sheets. The first Vow a priest takes is one of Poverty, meaning my possessions were meager and often secondhand. This, combined with the incessant draft blowing through the room, had left me with a mighty winter cold. The seminary was ventilated by a series of one foot-wide holes high up on walls. The air moves through the stony building, keeping the nights crisp.
I let out another miserable wheeze and squeezed my eyes shut. The sooner I could sleep, the sooner I could blow my nose in the morning. But that dry, itchy feeling above my nose and the heaviness in my sinuses kept me from drifting off. I stared at the ceiling above, barely lit by the small, dimming candle on my desk.
Suddenly, I noticed a small movement in one of the ventilation holes. I squinted my eyes, sure it was just a trick of the candlelight--but no! I saw a small dark creature, no larger than a pigeon, wiggling its way into my room from the hallway via the ventilation hole.
Once its whole body was through the hole, it fell from the ceiling. Actually, it didn’t fall. It glided. That’s what I realized that this was no stray bat or church mouse. The figure unfolded into a perfect square, no more than a foot long. And the glimpses of its texture from the candlelight did not reveal feathers or fur, but the brightness of satin. It appeared to be some sort of handkerchief floating from the ceiling to me in bed.
Amazingly, it dropped right on my face. I chuckled for a moment, assuming this was an incredible coincidence--a natural result of the draft. I brought my hand up to pull it off me when suddenly, it tightened. As if a body of its own, the handkerchief clenched around my nose and mouth, effectively cutting off my airways. I grabbed a handful of fabric, desperately trying to yank it off, but it held tight, pulling my lips and nose out with it, but never breaking contact. It seared to my face. My lungs burned and my vision clouded. I stopped struggling, slowly losing consciousness as my vision blurred. When I finally lay in a heap, heartbeat losing speed as it drummed through my ears, I heard a sound. A cold voice, low voice whispered against the side of my neck.
The moment the words ended, the handkerchief shot off my face. As I took a long mouthful of air, it bounced across the walls, moving its way back up to the vent. I sprang through the hole and back into the hallway. I listened for a scream from another student, but none came. I lay back down, still feeling a mix of terror and disbelief, I took in a long and slow lungful of air. It wasn’t until I closed my eyes that I realized my cold was completely gone. All because of a possessed handkerchief.
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