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A Brief Education in Violence

A “Brief Education in Violence” was written for Two Dead Queers Present GUILLOZINE. It is part of the unfinished project, NIGH. Set in a dystopian future where the Catholic Church has regained a level of power not seen since medieval times, a young man named Luci must kill both fellow cultist and bishop alike to see the Church’s reign of terror end.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about Judith and Holofernes lately.

Father Constance told me there are many versions, like a fairytale retold and retold. There are many Judiths: swarthy and strong, embittered and determined, but all Holofernes have the face of a monster.

Caravaggio’s, hanging in the Galleria Nazionale d’Art Antica in Rome— that’s the one I think of. It’s the only one I’ve seen in flesh, but his Judith’s arms are my own. They are soft and young, but like me her bones are made of fire.

I stood a long time in front of that painting. I lifted my arm and held it so my forearm was parallel with hers. I made a fist.

I learned a lot that trip, but mostly that my bones could work wonders.

“Do you know what mighty Holofernes did?” Father Constance stood too close to my back when he found me, his voice in my hair, his cassock rough on my bare arms.

I shook my head, eyes tracing the path Judith’s blade was carving through Holofernes’ neck again. I said,

something terrible. he deserves this.

Constance’s eyes and hands fell on my shoulders. A reminder of my holy cage. His thumbs pressed past my hair to rub the raised edges of the Vatican’s brand on the back of my neck.

“Let’s get you ice cream.”

A deep part of me didn’t want ice cream. These Vatican men want me obedient and fat and dumb, but I am not two of those things.

I let that coal-becoming-a-diamond part of me press past the promise of sugar and its voice was sharp against my tongue.

does Your God always side with the victor?

Constance’s hands tightened on my shoulders. Another reminder. A warning. “With the Righteous.”

I let him steer me away from my Judith and toward the man selling gelato in the cafe outside. I asked for cherry topping and made a mess of it so I could lick it from my fingers and the corners of my mouth.

I would never be Righteous, but I could work wonders.

I wanted a knife.