Penelope fought tears the moment she awoke. Her blissful rest was over and another set of hours had begun. That was how she thought now; in hours. Without the sun, with only the same darkness to greet her open eyes that had sheltered them when closed, ‘day’ was just a word.
The hours had been hard on Penelope. By the Lord Almighty they’d been hard. But not because of the darkness. In her last set of hours, the demonic whispers had started when she woke and had hardly stopped until she’d finally fallen asleep. Not that she could really call such a fitful period sleep. It was more like a shortened coma.
And she’d thought her circumstances hard to take before. How naïve she’d been, how foolish. Her mind had expanded into the darkened silence, felt stretched, but it had still been there, still been whole. The cold was a physical pain, something that could be ignored with prayer and willpower. But being penned in by the constant snipes of the demons was so much worse; each word felt like a small nibble at her sanity, like a part of her soul was chewed away.
“Your rescuers have been killed,” they would say.
“No-one wants to pay your ransom.”
“Daddy has left you to die.”
“And you want to give in, you want to take part in the Bacchanal.”
As she ate, as she prayed, even when she relieved herself in that increasingly foul corner of her cell, the demons whispered and chattered and sniped.
Until the Bacchanals began, to use the demon’s terms. They had quietened then. But only because their prattling would have ruined the effect that horrible orgy, that queer revelry of things less than human, had on her. The dark man, that foul creature of Hell who’d set the whispering demons on her, must’ve known how delicate her sensibilities were and so knew she would not be unmoved by these noises.
Penelope was no prude. She knew what men and women did together in the bounds of matrimony; having owned horses, she’d seen how beasts did… that… and the principle as taught in her biology lessons was much the same for humans. When she’d asked about… such activities, her priest had preached that the Lord had given Man these abilities only so that they may procreate, that they were a sacred responsibility for both sexes to bear, one to only be exercised within the sanctity of marriage.
The dark man did not agree; every few hours there had been a chorus of whooping and cheering, words hollered in an unknown language that hailed the start of another Bacchanal. The dull pounding of skin against skin echoed down shortly after and grunts and moans would sing out like trumpets before a king. Horrible amoral pleasures were made centre stage and participated in by all who attended, no matter what they were…
Penelope shook herself to forget these horrible proceedings.
She stood. The cold tore at her once more and her legs nearly buckled as they shivered so she rubbed her shoulders vigorously, tried to get warmth back into her core. To ward off despair, she began a protracted prayer to the Lord; if she were to make it through this trial, to survive and come out in tact, then it would only be through the Lord’s grace.
It took her a few moments to notice she prayed in blessed silence. She finished then cupped her ears but there were no whispers to taunt her. Penelope tried to cage her hope but the feeling rose in her like flood waters. Had her prayers finally been answered in some small way? Was her torture relenting?
The answer came shortly and it was a no; for that day, the Bacchanals started early. This time drums were rolled out into the room above her and strong arms began a slow beat so loud the walls vibrated with each impact. Footsteps fell in time with the pounding, echoing above her in varying degrees of heaviness and… wholesomeness… as the revellers marched in some strange pattern. They gathered together just above Penelope before separating once more; ludicrous as the notion was, it seemed as though they were dancing at a box social.
Penelope moved to the far corner of the room to escape the coming assault. She cradled her head in her hands, forearms shielding her ears as best they could, and started to hum her favourite hymns.
The Bacchanal began in earnest and it was stranger and bigger than any before. All manner of gruesome and sinful sounds leaked through the floor and into Penelope’s twitching, drained mind; moans and biological squishes and dull impacts and less identifiable horrors. The revellers grunted and chittered and quivered above her, all in time with the drums. Incomprehensible voices cried out over the din, clearly intoning something like a prayer.
Penelope did all that she could to not imagine the scene but, perversely even for this setting, it was her Bible that provided the material as its woodcuts of the horrors of Gomorrah came to mind; men and women, men and men, women and women, women and beasts. All manner of unholy unions were being practised. She hummed louder, concentrated on these songs that praised the Lord, and begged to shake these images free.