“The Price” by J.M. Redmann from Night Shadows: Queer Horror (Bold Strokes Books 2012). Edited by Greg Herren and J.M. Redmann.

I’ve just realized something about myself. I need at least one aspect of a story to be redemptive. I need one of the characters to learn something from the experience, or I need to learn something from it. Neither of those things happened here.

The main character, Sister Mafalda, was a nun during the Spanish Inquisition. She did some terrible things and now she’s in Purgatory, though what is described seems much more like Hell. After being locked in a single, suffocating room for centuries she’s given a chance to be free, for a price. She must go out into the world and find other lost souls to bring back to her jailors.

I despised Mafalda and felt the same way about both of her captors. I also couldn’t stand the character she lures in and brings back. They’re all wretched, terrible beings. A final character is introduced who long ago suffered terribly because of Mafalda’s selfish, evil choices. I’m not sure about the theology of the piece because she seems to have been reincarnated.

There is a moral to this story, but I already knew it and it’s lost on the main character. (It also doesn’t seem to apply to one of the characters. Twice she acts admirably and twice she’s damned anyway.) Watching as the message sails over the main character’s head is gruesome, and the story as a whole is unrelenting. It’s like a nightmare where one awful, stomach-souring thing after another keeps happening, and you wake up shaky, thinking “What the hell was that?”

I don’t know. I’m going to have to check out one the author’s New Orleans-based mysteries soon. They sound delightful, and this was not really my cup of tea.