Scenes from a Hat: Flagellation

December 19, 2008

Scenes from a Hat: Flagellation

by Anthony Owens
Editor: M. E. Ellis

A wide, tall candle, coated with hours of habitual use stood in isolation on a cold, stone altar. Brother Iska knelt in prayer before it, numb to his surroundings, and caught deep within a self-induced, altered state. His troubled mind, plagued with dilemma, raced over the complexity of simple things and the simplicity of things grander than understanding would ever reach.

Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that in the hour of our death we may be refreshed by Thy holy Sacraments and delivered from all guilt, and so deserve to be received with joy into the arms of Thy mercy. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.”

Iska’s trembling hands, young, yet hard and worn, wrapped and clenched around a heavy, dark wool hood and pulled it up to cover a gaunt and pale face, revealing only a small scribble of blonde facial hair. Despite the hood’s concealing nature, tropic blue irises pushed away the darkness as beacons of life and light. Brother Iska stared at the candle, amazed at the beauty of the small flame, transfixed and engaged by the slow, predictable chaos of the expended wax. His gaze flowed past the flickering flame, and the mirror on the cold, stone wall behind the altar returned a guilty visage.

His coarse robe sleeves slid across his arm toward his shoulder with uncanny ease and he pinched the flame from the candle. Pain, small but real, relished and feared, flickered dim and brief on the pads of his fingers, and a knowing smile sunk into his lips.

“Brother, the darkness is here. Have you come for my penance? “

Though the cold stone of the temple was dark and lifeless, a salient energy pulsed with every beat of Iska’s heart, and his sight spread through the black air in brilliant flashes. Dust and stale air swirled in a cotton candy vortex replaced with the nibble of a warm, fresh burst. Someone opened the door, but in the nadir of the day, light held still and captive from even seeking eyes.

Thump. Thump.

Iska’s third eye blinked, unsure of what it saw.

Thump. Thump.

With each heartbeat, life energy raged against the stone confines of the prayer chamber and begged for escape, but the door closed, and they shared penitent solitude. Rough skin met the supple form of his cheek, and Iska turned his head in consent. Two strong hands grabbed his wrists with tender command, and Iska surrendered his body to the flat, firm muscle born from years of manual work and neglect for vanity. Despite the darkness, his open eyes scanned the room for a glimpse of the one in front of him. Iska failed to identify his temporary savior.

“Brother, will you absolve me of my sin?”

Needy hands explored him, and expectation surged through his skin; excitement and blind passion consumed him. Thin, demanding lips pressed hard against his own, and he savored the joy of painful stubble scratching against his face like he’d appreciated the glimpse of fire from the candle. His brother forced his hand to rest at waist height, palm up, and Iska’s jaw clenched, his right eyelid quavered and closed halfway, and his body shivered with anticipation.


The straps, resembling skin, but immensely different, begged to be touched, and Iska rolled the end straps of the leather whip between his fingertips. Absolution lay in his hand.

A deep, husky, and hushed voice filled the small room as his absolver prayed, “Misereátur tui omnípotens Deus, et, dimíssis peccátis tuis, perdúcat te ad vitam ætérnam. May Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you your sins, and bring you to life everlasting.”

Iska let his robes drop to the floor, and in the chill of the small, stone-walled room, he closed his eyes and replied, “Amen.”



  1. Nice. Well, not nice, nice, but…you know what I mean. Really well done, once again

  2. Interesting and it sounds a bit like this monk has a bit of comfusion in the confessional.

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