Dawn gripped the knife tightly, she always hated this. When she was younger she was told she would get used to the pain, that over time it would just become a part of her every day routine and she wouldn’t even notice as the knife bit into her flesh. That was a lie. She could still feel the white hot pain as if it was happening for the first time. She could feel it, inside her, the dark thoughts were rising, getting bigger. If she didn’t do it soon they’d take control. She gritted her teeth and suppressing a whimper she pressed down, sliding the knife along her leg. She hissed and the knife fell to the ground, quickly she grabbed a bandage and wrapped it around her thigh, covering the wound and the many, many scars. She took short, shallow breaths, it was ok, it was over, it was done.
The worst scars were from when she was younger, when she cut deeply, deeper than necessary, and from where her mother would do it if she couldn’t do it herself. Dawn always tried to do it herself, her mother wasn’t gentle or kind, a quick, deep slice of the knife, no comforting words, nothing. Her mother would leave the bathroom afterwards to allow Dawn privacy to clean up. The cuts were easy to hide, the skirts of her school uniform were long, her school didn’t have showers after P.E. and her mother never gave permission for her to learn how to swim. Dawn still wore long skirts or trousers, never anything shorter than the knee. That was wrong, it was too tempting for men and when she did think of stuff like that the dark thoughts would sometimes slip through, trying to trick her into thinking it would be ok.
She looked at the white bandage on her leg, bright red blood was already showing through it. It was necessary, if she allowed the dark thoughts to get purchase who knew where it would end? Dawn let out a slow breath, she knew, as did her mother. It would end in a Demon entering her body, defiling her soul until she was an empty husk of a person, living life sinfully and doomed to hell. She saw it every day on her way to work, men and women dressed inappropriately, young girls dressed like whores, young men with their sagging trousers and messy hair. She felt bad for them, after all they were doomed and they didn’t even realise it, but another part of her, a deeper part, was disgusted by them. She always hated when they were near her for fear that they would infect her with their evils just as they had been infected. When she was younger the dark thoughts would sometimes surface, a voice that sounded so like her own wishing that she could be like them. That she could wear short sleeved t-shirts and short skirts on hot days, that she could hide her blemishes with make up or style her hair so it was pretty rather than the lank, mousy brown it was. She would push those thoughts away, horrified and looking around to make sure they were only said in her head and not out loud. She knew what her mother would do if she knew of those thoughts. It was a sin to hide them, but Dawn knew it wasn’t her, it was just the dark thoughts.
Every week they would have a cleansing. When Dawn was a child her mother would help her, even thought it was mortifying. She would be stripped naked and forced into a cold shower, then her mother would take a rough washcloth and scrub her down until her skin was bright red and stung. In a way the shower was good, it helped get her clean and that was important. She preferred the showers to baths, when her mother was cleaning her in the bath there was no water on her face to hide her tears. When her mother deemed her old enough she was allowed to do it herself, at first as her mother stood watch, demanding that she scrub harder, or that she go over a patch of skin again. Eventually her mother would wait outside until it was over, then she would examine Dawns body, sending her in again to cleanse herself if it wasn’t deemed thorough enough. Dawn still cleansed herself once a week, though if she was being honest with herself she was slacking. She didn’t scrub her skin until it was red and she avoided the sinful areas, the washcloth going near them made her feel unclean again and dredged up memories of when her mother would do it. She was able to clean herself properly in the shower every morning, but only if the water was hot. She could never do it if the water started to get cool.
Dawn cleaned the knife, making sure the blade was sharp and that the blood was gone, then she put it away with her kit. She took a deep breath, she was nervous today. It was her weekly dinner with her mother. She would go to her mothers house where her mother would enquire about stopping the dark thoughts and demand to see the proof that she wasn’t slacking. Dawn hated that. Raising her skirt, or lowering her trousers for inspection, like some kind of promiscuous woman getting ready for a lover. After the inspection was over they would eat. It was always the same, plain chicken and some vegetables with a glass of water. There was no dessert, dessert was indulgence and that was a sin. It would only give the dark thoughts something to latch onto.
Dawn checked herself in the long mirror before she left her apartment, making sure she was appropriately dressed. She did this every morning, just as she had done when she had lived with her mother. She worked out of necessity, her mother did not, having inherited a large sum of money from her parents. Dawn suspected that someday that money would pass to her and she would finally be able to quit working. She had nothing against it, she enjoyed the labours, even if they were mental rather than physical, they tired her out and left her feeling like she accomplished something, but it unnerved her, working with the sinners. She was afraid that their sins would spread to her, like a disease and once the infection took hold there would be no escaping it.
She stood at the door and blessed herself with holy water, after a quick prayer she opened the door and stepped outside, she would not fall to temptation today, just as she had not fallen for it the day before. She would go to her mothers and eat dinner and then return here, just as pure and safe as ever. She stepped outside and closed the door behind herself. A part of her wanted to go back inside, to hide from the wicked, sinful world but she knew she couldn’t. That would be a sin in and of itself. God tested them all and she hoped she would pass the tests, the only sure-fire way to fail was to refuse to even try.