[Author’s Note: In this chapter, Gemma refers to Satan as “Chiappino,” which means “burglar.” The only artistic liberty is that while my research states that one of the devil’s tactics was to attempt to turn her against her spiritual director Father Germano, it is not clear whether this happened as one incident or a series of incidents. For the sake of brevity, I will be depicting this as one event. My research states that Satan resorted to violence when Gemma “persevered in writing.” However I decided to have Gemma politely tell him off for the sake of her character development. Finally, this chapter will be the first time that Gemma looks Satan in the face. Up until this point, I have had Gemma refuse to stare at her attacker. However, in the upcoming chapters she will be seeing him in different forms (a dog, a giant, etc.) so I figured that now is the time to have her (and the reader) see the prince of darkness in the flesh].
A black bird sits on the window frame, whistling a cheerful melody. From her table, Gemma glances up at the feathered creature, greeting it with an affable smile. “You can go wherever you like. Why here?” she asks softly. The bird tilts its head, as if puzzled by her words. She looks back down at her paper and resumes working on her letter to Father Germano.
“For some days, Chiappino has pursued me in every guise and way, and has done all in his power against me…”
She jumps when the bird lands itself near her candle. She takes deep breaths as she carries on with her writing. The endearing pitter-patter of the bird’s sticklike feet fills the silence of her bedroom.
“This monster keeps on redoubling all his efforts to ruin me and tries to deprive me of whomever directs or advises me. But even should this happen, I am not afraid…”
“By the way you jumped just now, I would have thought that the little bird was one of my minions…” The bird darts out the window and into the morning light.
Gemma lowers her head when she feels him standing next to her. Chills run down her spine when he places his talons on the table, dangerously close to her elbow. She feels the weight of his infernal shadow looming upon her.
“Ignoring me is not going to make me disappear.”
Gemma ponders her options. Within her mind, she remembers Jesus in the desert, facing the temptations of the evil one. She rubs her trembling hands. “If my Jesus had to face you, then I must do the same.” She rises from her chair and turns around, looking directly at the prince of darkness.
“Dear God…” she steps back as tension’s grip takes hold of her body.
Satan’s ashen lips curve into a sinister grin. “Your God isn’t here, child. Only me.”
Gemma keeps a stoic expression on her face as she watches the demonic creature with skin the color of shadows pace around her. She swallows, trying not to think of the pain that he could inflict upon her with his sturdy fingers. She shudders at his black, tattered wings; wings that had once been magnificent, but lost their beauty once he rebelled. When she notices the seething lust in his iridescent eyes, she turns her head to the crucifix on the wall.
“I notice that you don’t own a mirror. Are you afraid that I’ll send my demons after you through the glass?”
Gemma keeps her focus on her Lord. ‘My Jesus, I trust in Your protection.’ she thinks to herself.
“What a shame. If only you could see what a beautiful girl you are…” The devil reaches for her chin, but Gemma turns her body away. Satan rolls his eyes and focuses his gaze upon her letter. He pricks at the paper with his talons as he skims through it. “Oh, Father Germano, Father Germano, please come and save me, for I am but a poor and helpless child being tormented by big bad Beelzebub!” His mocking spiel is accompanied with dramatic gestures.
Gemma looks at her letter, inhaling through her nostrils. In a split second, she snatches the letter off of the table. She rushes to her drawer and pulls out a cross. She holds it up between her eyes.
Satan laughs, “You and your guardian angel need to learn to relax.” He walks away from her and lounges against her door with his muscular arms crossed. “Go ahead, work on your little letter.”
Setting down her cross, Gemma holds up her head. For a moment, her eyes narrow with contempt. ‘I shouldn’t give him the power to upset me,’ her conscience speaks. She softens her face into a nonchalant expression. Her heart continues to race, but she maintains her poise. With her back turned to the devil, she sits herself down and begins writing.
“Now I may be the ‘father of lies,’ but even I know when a certain spiritual director may not be the best one for you.”
The pen in her hand never stops moving. She glances up at the window, almost wishing that the little bird would come back. A silent creature would make better company than the corrupter of souls.
“One of my fellow demons was listening in on dear old Germano’s homily, and he told me that the man is quite fanatical. I can see why he would have you feeling so stressed and uptight…”
Gemma dips her pen into the ink. After letting the ink settle on the pen’s tip, she starts writing again. She hears Satan tread across the room.
“You excelled in music, French and arithmetic as a child, am I correct?”
She responses with a careless, “Mm hmm…”
“So you’re obviously intelligent, despite acting like a dumb mute,” his words “dumb mute” emphasized with a threatening snarl. “It is a travesty that such a refined woman like yourself is being subjected to the ‘counsel’ of the delusional Germano.”
She sighs and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. His growl frightens her, but not a single bead of sweat is visible on her face. She feels his talons grip at the back of her chair.
“Say, has your precious spiritual father given you any strategies that could help you deal with me?” She hears him drum his talons against her chair as he waits for an answer. She rubs her nose to relieve an itch and says nothing. “I’m going to take your irritating silence as a ‘No…'” Satan shrugs, “Seems to me that Germano may be a good listener, but not the best advisor.” Gemma leans forward to keep her back from making contact with his talons.
“I was able to open Eve’s eyes to a wealth of knowledge in the Garden…“
“And all of humanity fell because of it,” she laments in a hushed breath, repulsed by his pride in the downfall of mankind.
“I could open that sweet and innocent little mind of yours to a world of knowledge if you allow me to be your teacher…”
She feels his talon pressed against the side of her head. She tenses, bracing herself for a violent migraine. “You can relax. I’m not going to induce another headache,” he assures with an unsettling chuckle.
Gemma bites her tongue when he runs his talon down her hair. As her heart pounds, she sits up straight and folds her arms on the table. She tilts her head slightly to where she can only see the devil from the corner of her eye.
“Excuse me, but are you finished speaking?” she asks politely, catching the look of surprise on the devil’s face. “You may do what you wish, but please let me write.” Her shoulders loosen as she finishes up her letter. The peace that follows lasts longer than expected. She is almost tempted to look over her shoulder to see if the devil is still there, but shakes her head, deciding to enjoy the silence instead.
Her pen is ripped from her hand in a fierce swipe. She sees it released from Satan’s hand as it flies across the room. His face contorted in rage, Satan grabs her letter and proceeds to tear it in half. As he rips it to shreds, his piercing eyes bore into hers.
Before she can do anything, he grabs the back of her chair and pulls it out from under her. The wind is knocked out of her as her back hits the floor. As she tries to collect air into her lungs, she feels his claws scratch against her scalp as he pulls her by the hair. She grits her teeth as her scalp burns from being dragged by the hair. With great force, he throws her against the wall.
“WAR, WAR AGAINST YOUR FATHER, WAR AS LONG AS HE LIVES!” Satan screams as he disappears into a burst of flames.
Some time passes before a shaken Gemma is able to stand up. As her beating pulse calms, she collects the shreds of paper from the floor and disposes of it. She walks to her drawer and pulls out a new sheet of paper. Sitting down at her table, Gemma flexes her quivering fingers. All is quiet as she rewrites her letter, though the devil’s words remain in her mind.
“Believe me, to hear this despicable wretch, one would think that his fury was rather against you than against me,” she writes to Fr. Germano, her spiritual father.
She folds up her letter and slides it under her candle. Rising from her chair, she looks around the room. There are no demons coming for her, only deep shadows in every corner. Fixing her gaze into the darkness of her bedroom, Gemma lifts her cross from the table and presses it against her heart.