Writings / Fiction: Claudia Del Balso

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Today Dr. Weiss brings Celia to where it all started: the church she had defaced a week earlier. Unlike that turbulent day, her thoughts are in sequence like rosary beads… or so he presumes. As she stands in the garden a few feet away from the massive double doors, she tells the doctor, “I remember a dark room.”
“You mean the cell,” says the doctor.
“I signed a paper…” Celia pauses, “Or maybe not.”
In a soft voice, the doctor tells her, “It was your confession.”
“But I only confess on Sundays with Father Luciano.”
“No, Celia. I meant your misdemeanor confession at the precinct.”
“Did Father Luciano confess, too?” She asks, scowling.

On the day of the incident, Dr. Weiss, one of the forensic psychiatrists working for the local police department, was called to examine Celia. She had awoken in a poorly lit dank cell. The markings on the wall were 3-D smudges preying on her: THIS IS HELL – Fuck me! Dr. Weiss had observed the interrogation through a one-way mirror. Celia sat at an aluminum table with two matching chairs in the narrow windowless room.

“You destroyed antique sconces and ripped the hinges off the confessional doors,” the arresting officer had stated.
“I DID WHAT?” Celia yelled. “It wasn’t me!” She started fidgeting with the buttons on her over-sized black cardigan.
“Ah, but that’s not all,” the officer continued. “You attacked the sacristan, the only staff member on duty that day.”
“Father Luciano was there, too!”

With arms to his back, the officer circled the table. Celia started massaging her left temple as the thump of his steps bounced in her head. He furrowed his forehead as he said: “Drugs. You were so high that it took three officers to subdue you.” Her mouth opened as if to protest and nothing came out. Celia began to hyperventilate, her hands flailing at her face as if swatting flies.
“You’re lying! You’re lying!” She said between short breaths.
Slamming the table with his hand, the officer hissed: “Enough!”
She covered her ears, closed her eyes and shook her head repeatedly. “You’re one of them!”

Seeing her agitated state, Dr. Weiss had come into the room and gestured for the officer to leave. He sat a distance from her and in a silky voice asked Celia, “Who’s them?” Celia’s stare turned as cold as the holding cell.
“They made me do it! They whisper in my ear all the time.”
After observing her behavior for an hour, the doctor suggested to the Lieutenant that Celia showed signs of schizophrenia.
“It’s hard to tell without a medical history.” Have you called her family?”
“She had no ID on her but a metro pass, a gold chain with a crucifix, and a bag of almonds in her pocket,” the Lieutenant answered. He scratched his head: “But somebody must know her at the church.”
With a quizzical look on his face, the doctor started to say, “But how…”
“We also found this on her,” said the Lieutenant, pushing a crumpled schedule of weekly masses into Dr. Weiss’ hand.


Standing outside the entrance of the church, Dr. Weiss continues to watch Celia’s every move as she makes her way toward the double doors.

“You’re lucky. Father Luciano dropped the charges.”
She hesitates and turns back. Her right hand reaches in for her gold chain, takes it out from underneath her crew-neck tee shirt; she starts rubbing the crucifix. The doctor then signals her to come.
“Are they here now, Celia?” He asks.
“I don’t know,” she says, her body stiffening.
“Where do they usually hide?”
Without looking, she points up with her index finger; its chewed nail is jagged. The doctor’s gaze meets the jeering gargoyles perched atop the front towers. Celia shuffles over to the front lawn and slides down against the tree. She covers her eyes. Slowly, she fans out her fingers as if playing peek-a-boo with the grotesque creatures.
“They know,” she whispers. “They want to punish me.”
“The gargoyles?” The doctor says, squatting down next to her. “Punish you for what?”
“Shhh. They can hear you!”
“They won’t harm you, Celia. I’m here.”
Drawing her knees to her chest, she begins to rock her small frame back and forth. She repeats her mantra as if it were a commandment: “I’m a rock of strength and nothing can harm me.”

The doctor gets up and walks away from her. From his jacket he retrieves a hand-held digital recorder. He whispers into it: “And the patient exhibits persecution complex typical of paranoid schizophrenia. Frequent hallucinations and memory lapses seem to be extreme.” The doctor turns off the device and enters the church to look for Father Luciano. As he walks through the nave, he notes the unholy mess and realizes the seriousness of the damages reported by the police.

Pages: 1 2

4 Responses to “Writings / Fiction: Claudia Del Balso”

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  1. gianna garofalo says:

    A fantastic piece of literature

  2. Chris says:

    Intense story, Claudia!

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