The cloister, in the grand tradition of all ancient edifices like it, is cold. It is by necessity metallic, unlike its predecessors, but as if to make up for this failing, its cold is that of the utter desolation of space. To walk inside, I must wear a full survival suit, though gravity is maintained for the sake of the visitors. It does not impact the nuns in the least.
The cloister is composed of only three rooms. The foyer contains the airlocks, used by visitors and maintenance workers alike, as well as official dignitaries from the church. It is also the house of the cloisterâ€™s huge crucifix, depicting Our Savior in his moment of sacrifice. To the left is the control room, accessible only to those who come to maintain the stationâ€™s mechanical systems. Directly below the crucifix is the door that leads to the chamber of the nuns.
They hang on the walls suspended, preserved, each encapsulated in the soft blue glow of her life support pod. They are frozen in time, heartbeats only once a year, in perfect homage to He who drew them here. There are no novices in the cloister. The cold, silent hall is the pinnacle of a nunâ€™s creed: from the moment she arrives with her vocation, she is inducted into perpetual solitude, perpetual suffering. Only His true brides, those who intend to spend eternity as His handmaids by eschewing all worldly ties, wish to enter here.
I stare at the faces of the nuns, high above, each illuminated by the humble glow of their chambers. Their faces are similar but unique, each contorted in a different stage of silent ecstasy. Some are worn and caved in. The tissue-rotting microbes have done their slow work over decades or in some cases centuries, blessing the nuns with the sweet scourge of His sacrifice, extended over millennia. These are the faces, drooping and unrecognizable as they might be, that hold the most joy.
They are strong. They are meek. They are beautiful. They are modest. They are filled with conviction. They are eternal.
They are Woman. I am mere flesh.
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