[Author’s Note: The first artistic liberty taken is that Satan’s words to Gemma, “Do you not see that this Jesus does not hear you, and wants to have no more to do with you. Give up, and be resigned to your unhappy lot” have been inserted into the opening scene. My research confirmed that this is one of the many insults hurled at her by the prince of darkness, but when exactly it was said is unknown. The second artistic liberty is that after Gemma fails to receive Communion, she sees Satan’s silhouette in a dust fog. This sequence has been created to foreshadow the epilogue of Victim Soul, which involves a stare-down between the two characters].
“Dear Monsignor Volpi, I must I tell you what happened last night. I never went to bed, because the Devil frightened me with his blasphemies, and I thought he was in the room; I could neither sleep nor pray.”
Watching the candle’s restless flame, Gemma sits frozen at her desk as the screeching, maniacal laughter of the devil pierces her eardrums. Her trembling body trapped in a hunched position, her lips are pressed against her folded arms. Gripping her scapular in her hand, she dares not to look for her adversary.
“Do you not see that this Jesus does not hear you, and wants to have no more to do with you.”
The darkness infused with his words shake her to her core. Gemma shuts her eyes, which swell with coming tears. She slowly turns her head to the crucifix, from where her beloved watches her. “My Jesus, I know You are with me now,” she whispers. She takes deep breaths as she struggles to fight the dread and loneliness that threaten to consume her troubled heart. She jumps when she feels a tug at her hair, but refuses to turn around.
“Give up, and be resigned to your unhappy lot!” The devil’s words are a diabolical hiss that seep into her conscience, furthering her fright. His presence ceases, but the sting of his cruelty settles in her bones.
Fingers of morning light peer through the stained glass windows. The altar ahead is a blur in her line of vision. Gemma’s head turns to the stained glass window next to her pew. She rubs her eyes. “Wake up, wake up,” she murmurs to herself. She freezes when she feels a hand on her shoulder.
“Are you all right, Ms. Galgani?” asks a female voice. As Gemma glances at her shoulder, for a moment she sees not a hand, but dark talons clutching her.
She shakes her head and looks back at her shoulder. There are no talons, only the hand of a woman with a round face. ‘Just like mother,’ Gemma bites her lip. “Yes, signora,” she answers with a meek nod. She switches her gaze to the altar before she can be questioned further.
“Come here, my darling Gemma…”
Seven-year old Gemma sat herself on Mother’s lap. She rested her head against mother’s sturdy shoulder.
“I have prayed so much that Jesus would give me a little girl,” Mother stroked Gemma’s hair. “He has given me this consolation; it is true, but too late. I am ill…” her mother’s chest rises as she inhales. Tears begin to swell, making her eyes look like small pools of grief. “…and I must die. I must leave you.” Mother gripped Gemma’s tense shoulders, “Oh, if I could only take you with me! Would you come?”
“And where are you going?”
“To heaven with Jesus and the angels…”
A single tear escapes from her eyes. Gemma wipes it away as quickly as it came.
It is time to receive the Eucharist. Gemma’s face lights up with a peaceful smile. Standing at the very end of the small line of parishioners, she raises her eyes to the large crucifix, placing her hands over her heart. She turns her head to the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which stands by the stained glass, shimmering in colorful incandescence. “Oh, my Heavenly Mother,” she says in an affectionate whisper.
Looking back at Jesus on the crucifix, she lowers her head as an aching sadness begins to overwhelm her. As she draws nearer to the priest, the sensation of sinking oppresses her. ‘My sins, my imperfections put Him there…’ “I put Him on that cross…” she closes her eyes, envisioning Mary cradling the mangled body of her Son.
When the Precious Body is held before her eyes, she turns her head away.
As if her body is moving without her, Gemma realizes that she is running out of the church. Throwing open the doors, she is blinded by the scorching rays of daylight. She whirls her body back and forth, trying to remember where she is. A sudden gust of wind kicks a cloud of dust into her face.
Rigidity takes hold of her. Within the fog she sees a dark silhouette. Time seems to have come to a halt. For what feels like an eternity, the world consists of a frightened girl and an entity of darkness standing opposite of each other with only a fog of dust dividing them.
Gemma turns her head, then pauses. Inhaling air and dirt, she slowly looks back and straightens her shoulders. The silhouette has vanished, but the cackle continues to ring as a faint echo.
Tightening her lips, she holds up her head. As her racing heart calms and the tremors throughout her body cease, she moves ahead to the church. She opens the doors and returns to the line.
The minute the Eucharist passes her lips, her heart is kindled with a tender flame that burns as passionately as her love for her King.
Back at home, Gemma carries a bucket filled with water to the house. Her eyes downcast, she watches her step to avoid spilling. Her nostrils fill with the crisp air of springtime. Opening the door, she treads down the hall, where she stops at a portrait of the Sacred Heart. Closing her eyes, she places her hand over her heart. “Jesus, make haste, give me the grace to be ever united with You, in such a way that I may never be separated from You!”
There is a whooshing sound, which is followed by what feels like an array of fiery fists striking her shoulder. Overcome by white hot pain, Gemma collapses to the ground. Though the fearsome rage of the evil one is palpable, she dares not to look and see if he is physically present. When she finally does look up, she sees that the bucket remains intact with the water perfectly still. She smiles as she lifts her gaze to the Sacred Heart.
Gemma’s letter to Monsignor Volpi verbatim:
“I must I tell you what happened last night. I never went to bed, because the Devil frightened me with his blasphemies, and I thought he was in the room; I could neither sleep nor pray. I did not make my meditation, nor pray from 11 am to 12:00. I went to church, but when the time came I felt I could not go to Holy Communion. I came out of the church and I heard the Devil laughing very loudly. I understood why, went back to church again and received Holy Communion. Jesus told me had I not conquered that morning I should never have done so…Yesterday morning my aunt asked me to draw a bucket of water; I filled it and bringing it back had to pass before the picture of the Sacred Heart. I saluted Jesus with these words: ‘Jesus, make haste, give me the grace to be ever united with You, in such a way that I may never be separated from You!’ Just after I had said this I felt a series of sharp blows on my shoulder, so that I fell to the ground, but without breaking anything.”