(Sister Cilice Artwork by Eric Gross)
The Cilicium Pandoric
by Barbie Wilde
Sister Cilice was a first level Female Cenobite of the Order of the Gash and she was bored... She yearned for a break from the eternity of exquisite, controlled experimentation on those souls whose reckless pursuit of pleasure for its own sake had led them to the Cenobites. She paced her ascetic, lead-lined, monkish cell in the Second Quadrant of the Labyrinth, ignoring the squawking pleas of her pet crow Xibalbá, who constantly begged for his favorite treat of human eyeballs marinated in red wine.
She fancied a little weekend jaunt away from Hell's environs, so Sister Cilice resolved to visit the toy and mechanical bird-maker, who was legendary amongst her kind. And she’d never been to Paris, a fabled city that was considered far too sinful when she was enduring her first incarnation as a desolate, sex-starved nun in a dismal, run-down convent in the Vendéeregion of western France.
Sister Cilice was fascinated by the idea that a mere human could somehow construct the glittering, mysterious puzzle boxes that could invoke her infernal cohorts so readily. This was especially intriguing to her, because her method of conjuring up the Schism and becoming one with the Order of the Gash had been so different from the others of her ilk. Sister Cilice’s ceremony had involved offerings of blood and roses, a discreet sacrifice of a sick child, and chanting the incantations of the corrupt monk and sorcerer, Raphael Athanasius. (Athanasius had been a compadre to the infamously depraved 15th century French general, child serial killer and spendthrift, Gilles de Rais.) Of course, the crowning ingredient in her infernal recipe was …desire.
Sister Cilice slipped into the Lead Cenobite's quarters and "borrowed" the Ianua Mechanism, a device of luminous beauty whose platinum and obsidian components were fashioned from the designs of 14th century alchemist extraordinaire, Albertus Magnus, which he in turn had borrowed from the Greek mathematical and engineering genius, Archimedes. It was the only device which could open the rarely used Reverse Schism to enable the Cenobites to freely travel to the dimension of Homo sapiens -- without the participation of humans themselves. Under the strict rules that governed the use of the Ianua Mechanism, Sister Cilice wasn't allowed to use it for her own purposes, but as it was employed so infrequently, she doubted that the Lead Cenobite would notice it was missing.
Sister Cilice travelled through the Time Portal -- arriving at The Toymaker's eccentric residence in the 20th Arrondissement of 18th century Paris in an instant. Rematerializing in a corridor outside his workshop located in the basement cave underneath his house, Sister Cilice entered the arched doorway to find him kneeling on the stone floor, deeply involved in the process of strangling yet another prostitute. (Prostitutes were easy prey for The Toymaker. He was able to entice them to his house for the price of a loaf of bread, where he killed them and boiled them down to their base components. The fatty deposits under their stomach muscles was an essential constituent for the precious greasing of the puzzle box gears.)
Sister Cilice intuitively knew that the naked girl's last moments were nigh, as her body was going through some thrillingly spasmodic death throes, so she stopped Time for a moment. The Toymaker was frozen, but the girl was in Sister Cilice's cocoon of time and space. She swooped down and clamped her lips over the girl's wide open, imploring mouth, complete with frantic tongue sticking out at maximum length. Sister Cilice delighted in the sensation of the girl's warm, velvety tongue squirming inside her mouth. She pinched the girl's nipple viciously as she sucked in her last breath -- the sweetest breath of all -- vacuuming up her soul in the bargain. The girl juddered, thrashed her voluptuous, pale thighs against the floor and died.
Sister Cilice stepped back behind the Toymaker and resumed Time. She was amused to see him trying to kiss the dead prostitute -- no doubt hoping to get a taste of her last honeyed breath himself. When he realized that the wretched whore had already expired, he released his grasp around her neck with disappointed abandon so her head dropped to the floor. This caused Sister Cilice to rasp out a desiccated laugh. The Toymaker swung around in surprise and anger, then fell prone on the floor with respect and humility, not expecting to see such a distinguished visitor without prior notice. He dared to raise his eyes to drink in her deathly presence: the dead white skin; the bloodstained, black, tight-fitting, leather nun’s habit; the silver piercings that lashed through her face; the open wounds on her throat and hands that would never heal; and the baleful, emerald-green eyes that looked at him with such scorn.
"Get up, Toymaker, and show me these boxes of yours," Sister Cilice demanded. He leapt to his feet and proudly presented his wares: intricate, beautiful, artistic, musical Pandorics that would have astonished her if she was still human. However, even Sister Cilice's blasted brain could admire his handiwork, especially knowing the malevolent secrets and terrors of visceral carnality that the boxes could unleash upon their chosen supplicants.
Then an idea popped into her rebellious mind. It had always annoyed her that she was a Subordinatus to the Lead Cenobite. She wanted her own order, her own "scream" of demons. In her midnight plottings, she had already given the New Order a name: “The Sisterhood of the Cilice”. The idea of adding more females under her command to populate the vast dungeons of the Underworld was a delicious one. Yes, indeed, Hell needed a bit of glamour.
"Toymaker, I want you to make a special puzzle box dedicated to me and me alone. A Pandoric that will attract needy females desiring the ultimate in sensuality -- with designs incorporating things of special meaning to me: blood-red roses, a murder of my favourite, vermillion-eyed crows (and how I delight in that particular collective noun) and silver cilices."
The Toymaker was a bit hazy on what a cilice exactly was, so she showed him, lifting her heavy leather skirts to reveal her blue-white legs and genitals entwined with silver chains. The chains were adorned with tiny hooks that stabbed into her blood-stained flesh -- the sanguineus fluids long dried and blackened, as they no longer flowed within her veins. Like the hair-shirts of old, cilices were designed to remind the wearer of the suffering of the Savior. Ironic that they had became part and parcel of Sister Cilice's depraved sexual fantasies back in her old life at the convent, before her Rapture -- before her transformation into the dark-hearted demonic angel that she now was.
As they discussed the designs, Sister Cilice came up with her piece de resistance: the alchemical symbol for female , which was also a representation of the Greek goddess of love, Venus, had to be stamped on each box.
For two weeks, the Toymaker obediently labored over the design and construction of her Cilicium Pandoric, while a veiled Sister Cilice explored the seamier elements of Paris during the night, when she would excite less comment from her unconventional appearance.
As instructed, the Toymaker was to test the box before delivery, so he plotted to meet with the beautiful, but notorious Duchess de Mortamour, whose reputation for everything transgressional was chattered about under the breaths of the powerful men and women of the court, but never out in the open. The Duchess' husband, the Duke de Mortamour was far too influential with the King and no one dared to cross him.
The Duchess was an admirer of the so-called Blood Queen, the Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Bathory de Ecsed, who was reputed to have killed over 600 women and young girls in the early 17th century so she could bathe in their blood in order to maintain her youthful appearance. The Duchess was also reputed to have dabbled in the dark arts and murdered a few young women herself, but since many of these rumours centered around women that the Duke himself had dallied with, her bloodthirsty streak may have had more to do with jealously than magic.
The Toymaker made an appointment with the Duchess, promising her an intriguing puzzle box with bold motifs laced with intricate textures. His reputation proceeded him and the Duchess was eager to inspect his workshop.
A time was set for her appointment just after midnight. As instructed, she hadn't told anyone of the assignation and arrived veiled and dressed in black via a hired coach and four.
The Toymaker escorted her to his workshop and the Duchess was suitably impressed with not only the array of puzzle boxes laid before her, but also the lifelike mechanical birds that tweeted melodiously in the background. He took her to a small private room in the back, where the Cilicium Pandoric was displayed on an alter next to some dried red roses and a decanter full of unspecified red liquid.
"Viola, mon chef-d'œuvres, my masterpieces, pour votre degustation!" The Toymaker proclaimed with a wave of his hand. The Duchess moved forward to examine the box and he withdrew from the room discreetly. He went to a nearby closet, which he entered and removed a small portrait from the wall. Secreted behind the portrait was a peephole, where he could spy on the proceedings in the alter room.
The Duchess picked up the box, admiring its silver, ebony and ruby covered designs. Her hands flew over the surface -- moving the segments of the box as if she had designed it herself, then she stopped suddenly and put down the box, as she was overcome with an almost stultifying wave of heat and nausea. Sweat broke out on her brow and her silken clothes, so comfortable before, became scratchy and burdensome -- almost burning her skin. She tore at the buttons at her throat, trying to remember how the dress came off, as she was so used to maids dressing and undressing her.
Finally she resorted to desperately rending the dress from her body, finally collapsing in a nude heap in the floor. It was then that she heard the tinkling sounds of the music box calling her. She dragged herself up the alter, exhausted and burning with an internal fire. She swept the roses and decanter off the alter and lay down on her back -- box in her hands, fingers fiddling with the moving panels, feverishly desiring an answer from the box, desiring an escape from her boring life at court, desiring sensation beyond anything offered here on earth. The box felt her wet, pulsating fingers and heard her panting desires and the panels and mechanism began to move under their own accord, fashioning themselves into a different kind of mechanism -- one designed to give pleasure to solitary women. The Duchess was thrilled at this new love toy and placed the device between her legs. She slowly, sensually inserted it into her most secret place, which was more than ready to embrace the device's ice-cold, vibrating pleasures. At first, the sensations were overwhelming -- more than any man had given her over her years of debauchery. The Duchess shuddered and orgasmed, screaming her release.
Then the noises from the device changed tune. It's vibrations became more urgent and the Duchess became frightened. She tried to pull the device out, but felt excruciating pain as tiny hooks sprang out of the device and fastened themselves to her vaginal wall. She let go and the pain ceased, but the vibrations became more violent and she came again, fearfully, helplessly. For hours it seemed, she suffered the most exquisite, carnal sensations from the device, until she was nearly foaming at the mouth with an overdose of insane pleasures.
When the Duchess had come nearly to the point where she felt her heart was going to collapse with the strain, the mechanism stopped. She cautiously pulled it out and held the infernal bloodstained device above her head. It transformed again and that's when she realised that she was no longer alone in the room.
Sister Cilice stood in a dark corner of the room, smiling at her. She had witnessed the whole ritual and she was pleased beyond measure. Here was a woman whose capacity for sensational sexual suffering neared her own. A perfect addition to the Labyrinth.
"Who are you, wretched woman?" the Duchess demanded. Sister Cilice smiled her wolfish smile again and said, "You called me, I came. Put the Cilicium back where it was and I will show you such pleasures beyond anything you have experienced before."
"I think I've had enough," the Duchess declared, attempting to get up, but she was frozen on her back, holding the device above her like a dagger. And then it changed again. And the Duchess screamed, but this time it wasn't in pleasure.
Sister Cilice was delighted with Cilicium Pandoric and rewarded The Toymaker well with five prostitutes that she had found huddling under a bridge during her brief exploration of Paris. She took the damned and mutilated Duchess back with her to the Labyrinth, transforming her into the first member of the Sisterhood of the Cilice.
The Toymaker went back to murdering prostitutes and creating more puzzle boxes, never realizing that he may have played an important part in what became known later in Hellish circles as The Cicilium Rebellion of the Female Cenobites.
(Pandoric Designs by Eric Gross & Barbie Wilde)
The Cilicium Pandoric ©2012 Barbie Wilde
With acknowledgement to Clive Barker for the characters and mythology from his novella The Hellbound Heart ©1986.
To find out more about Sister Cilice and how she came to conjure up the schism to become a member of the Order of the Gash, please go to Amazon.com and seek out the Hellbound Hearts Anthology ©2009, edited by Paul Kane and Marie O’Regan, which contains Barbie Wilde’s short story “Sister Cilice”: