Ad maiorem Dei gloriam inque hominum salutem

Clementine comes from the Latin clemens, meaning merciful or gentle. This document, etched in the sand beside two palm trees, is a record of her sanctity in preparation of formal canonization. The author is myself, her caretaker from her infancy until my death, and her witness until the end of her life. Patron of the still, Saint Clementine, pray for us. Ipsa duce.

As a young girl, Clementine offered me a dead pigeon in her open palms. She kissed its beak while she balanced on her haunches in the field, having thought it was sleeping. I plucked the bird by its thin leg and laid it on the ground beside Clementine. Around that same time, I had found a jar of bugs near her bed. The bugs, she thought, were sleeping too.

We dug a small hole using our hands and laid the bird inside, along with a molting pile of twigs and leaves. Silent Clementine didn’t ask why we were burying the bird, but when I saw her cry, I gestured toward a flock of pigeons watching us. When she looked at the birds, they took a step closer to us.

For her tenth birthday, I bought thick cream from the dairyman and sweet gooseberries from the tanned harbor merchants that frequented our southern port town. I whipped the mixture into a froth and intended to bake it, but in my haste, I fell on the way to the hearth, and my hip broke with a pop.

Red faced with tears of frustration, I was ashamed when Clementine found me splayed on the floor that afternoon, afraid she may scream on account of my undignified condition. However, patient Clementine simply knelt beside me. She wrapped her arms around my head, kissed my crown in comfort, and wiped the dessert mousse off me with her frock. Without a word, we scooped what remained on the floor and ate it, a silly gesture that made us both smile, the last occasion of joy in my life.

While I attempted to recover from my fall, Clementine kept vigil over me. Though a young child, she was adept at keeping order—she balanced the ledger, built tiny shelters for vermin, kept the flagons filled, and cleaned everything free of grime.

Yet instead of recovering, the skin above my hip skin turned the color of bruised fruit. I shivered in the morning, and by night, sweat dropped from my head like blood. Clementine tried to find a doctor, but the only one who understood her wordless manner would not take taro root as payment, our only liquidity.

It was okay, I wanted to tell her, I had survived worse, like inquisition. But by then, my tongue was seized, and I often felt confused and scared. Palliative Clementine understood my intent and massaged my face with cool cloth whenever I tried to speak, or she laid her head on my chest, a gentle gesture that left my body wet with her tears.

My last living memories are of sounds traveling through the house like light. I heard her gathering wooden spoons, heard her scooping grain and heard it patter in the yard for pigeons and their flapping wings, heard the jumble of mule carts nearby, heard the cock crow at dawn, heard Clementine light the lamp at dusk, and heard her warm presence when she sat beside me in our creaking chair. I stopped trying to speak, it didn’t feel necessary. My death was a happy one, for we loved each other.

At my funeral, a large, ruddy woman who spoke loudly and dyed her clothes in exotic aquamarine knelt beside absolving Clementine as she wept over my body.

Clementine, she said, you do not recognize me, but I am your mother and I am here to take you home, I am ready now. Work had consumed me, which is why I left you with a disgraced scholar and humble farmer and paid him small dividends. It was me, your mother, not God, who had been providing for you.

Regretfully, I initially found a cruel truth in what her mother said, disappointed as I was that my soul had not been assumed and was thus forced to observe my miserable pauper’s funeral. Had I the candor I have now, I would have admitted that even in death, I was not yet ready to deny the world.

For instance, Clementine’s mother was the proprietor of a walled estate, and when she offered Clementine a room with a private balcony, I was happy, for the girl wouldn’t have to live in a cramped shack with an old man any longer. Likewise, when Clementine was served tender cuts of meat for supper and iced fruit for breakfast, I was relieved, for she wouldn’t need simple taro root for every meal. Worst of all, when Clementine’s mother sold my farm and assured her daughter an inheritance, I was overjoyed, for her life could be spent in wealth and leisure, not cultivating the farm’s dry soil.

I was shamefully excited by opulence and thought wealth would benefit Clementine. In her preternatural wisdom, she knew otherwise—she spent her days almsgiving amongst the grounds. Not to humans, but to pigeons, to which she fed tender meat and iced fruit until the birds plumped. At Clementine retreated to her balcony and bathed in the pale moonlight until she fell asleep in the open air.

What did she contemplate as she walked, as she stood and slept? The mysterium fidei? The quattuor novissima? Unlikely, as she was a young girl, but what else explains the tranquility that radiated from her body? The calm that brought my soul to peace, more heavenly than anything I felt while still alive?

My only answer for those questions then was Clementine was a saint. Now, it is still my only answer, and urge the Church to agree. But whereas now my answer seems rational and sober, back then, out on the balcony with Clementine, it was a revelation. I figured veneration and protection of holy Clementine would be my soul’s path to paradise. This was my first mistake.

When the weather turned during Clementine’s second year at the estate, her mother hosted a travelling bard entangled with a troupe of rogues. They drank heavily and shared lewd stories until the dawn of the morning star, the sort of company that lightened her mother’s ennui, and thus were offered indefinite lodging.

Possessions of the estate soon disappeared: fragile oil paintings from coastal France, oxblood vases from imperial China, precise wooden figurines from frozen Scandinavia. I saw the thieves stuff objects into their cloaks, slip them into their wine pouches, hide them in the hollow of their mandolins, but Clementine’s mother was too ensconced in a pleasurable haze to notice any theft. I did nothing.

Clementine, content with her pigeons and herself, had no care for the material, so I had no desire to alter what did not concern her. But a larger part of me wanted Clementine’s mother punished for abandoning her. And a larger part of me still was angry at Clementine’s mother for birthing so big a love, for giving life to a daughter who made my soul feel sublime. It is an odd,

contradictory feeling, I know, and I still don’t know the root of it, be it jealousy, the despair of death, Satan and his tricks, or the overwhelming awe of Clementine herself.

It follows that the troupe stole all the mother’s gold and left the estate barren. O quam cito transit gloria mundi.

But it wasn’t until Clementine’s mother lashed her that I regretted my inaction. You should have been more careful, more attentive, she said. You could have prevented this, you silent fool.

She said this to Clementine as she stepped into an elaborate carriage. The estate had been sold and the mother kept what remained after debts were settled. You’ll be on your own now, her mother shouted as the carriage departed, the last words she ever spoke to Clementine. For the first time, I found myself praying for harm upon another. I wanted to strike her mother lame, were it not for the welling mercy in Clementine’s eyes.

Years later, impoverished Clementine returned to the southern port town of her youth. The region was now in jubilee, for the long-ruling caliphate had recently fallen, but Clementine did not celebrate alongside the Christians. Chasing intermittent work had left her tired in a way I could not alleviate, though I had tried—when the barberry bushes had too many thorns, I crushed them. When the mules did not want to plow, I forbid them from kicking her. When she caught the eye of slavers, I made them blind. When she slept, I spun the loom myself.

Yet despite my efforts to preserve her, Clementine’s skin hung from her bones like parchment, and her eyes sunk into her skull. A young woman now, she still had her beauty, of course, but it was now hidden and internal, and her calm rendered it vestigial.

As for myself, I had lost the levity I had when I first died. I moved more sluggishly with a power, the extent of which I was afraid to recognize. I thought my guardship over Clementine was

virtuous. It’s difficult to say why I followed Clementine like I did. If I believed she was a saint, which I did, her rewards would be far greater than anything I could offer. Perhaps I had a weaker faith than I assumed, or perhaps I was unwilling to relinquish dominion.

Clementine took a job at the bazar from the same Moorish man who sold me gooseberries many years ago. Barley, he said, needed to be portioned out before it was weighed. The merchant was too miserly to fit his stall with a canopy, thus the sun burnt Clementine’s olive skin into a deep rust as she worked through the hottest season.

Each night, after the market closed, she visited a candle-lit cathedral. Like she had on her mother’s balcony, and like she had as she labored through the preceding years, she became still, and the heat radiated from her body, the calm from her soul. Sometimes, I would lock the church doors to give her much needed solitude, and I would rejuvenate, find myself more patient, more abiding, ignorant to the malaise of my reliance.

She attracted a boisterous man who courted her at the market by always jesting and playing tricks for the amusement of susceptible Clementine. I admire the man now, and I feel no one was better suited for Clementine, no one more intuitive of her silences, no one more aware of her holy calm, but I mistrusted him at first. His personality was bright like peacock plumage, and, after the incident with her mother, I was leery of that which appeared good to the eye. My pendulum had swung, the protection of Clementine was all that mattered. When he visited the barley stall, I willed a flock of pigeons to swoop in and eat the grain as a distraction, but once the birds saw Clementine, they turned docile and brought fresh flowers clutched in their feet.

After they married, joyous Clementine and her husband moved north to an alpine valley, into a wooden house they painted blue. Her husband’s family disapproved of Clementine’s reticence and forbid their son to marry her. When the son disobeyed, he was omitted from the will.

Do not worry, Clementine, he told her, I know of a fertile land where we can live and raise children.

Pigeons came to the valley and generous Clementine fed them corn from her stalks. The birds flew through the open windows of the house and nested in the rafters, cooing when Clementine and her husband ate dinner, decently flying into the meadow to expel. They laid their eggs about the house, inside hats and shoes, balanced atop the spine of a bible that looked like mine.

Consolatrix Afflictorum. I was hopeful once again.

Clementine came into my care when I was already old. When I refused retirement under the caliphate, they stripped my professorial title and forced me to withdraw my contributions to the field under torture. I had peripherally known Clementine’s mother as a benefactor at the university, and she had been at my public resignation where I renounced my work. After the humiliation, as the whole of me struggled to keep composed, she came to me and asked why I never had children.

A strange question, I told her I never had time for women, and now I have no choice but to toil like a beast in the field. Here, she whispered, brandishing a wrapped infant hidden in her gown, take her.

As portentous Clementine came into her body, mine fell away from me. My joints agonized when I harvested taro, my eyes slept if I sat in the shade, my urine stuttered as I stood. I made every

effort to obfuscate my decay and inevitable end from Clementine—when she skinned her knee while chasing a crow, I bandaged her. When the other children called her a freakish orphan, I wiped her tears. When she was frightened, I called on Michael the Archangel. One day, I told her, she’d be doing these sorts of favors for me. Of course, that day came much sooner than I anticipated. To think, when I died, the young girl thought I was sleeping, like a bird or a bug.

Not preparing Clementine for death was my last mistake in life, I determined on my deathbed. While her husband harvested, I expected to see her sit alone and cry for me in her alpine home, for her life and taken a both meteoric and disastrous trajectory in the years after my death, and now she finally had time alone to mourn. But she did not cry. Or even act disturbed. Age, it seemed, had wizened her to suffering. She was calm in single-roomed home. There was no beatae memoriae for me, only absence.

One would expect Clementine’s forgetting to pull me into a jealous rage of dejection, but that is not in the case. On the contrary, it solidified my conviction of devotion to her. I thought if I could love her completely, give myself over with nothing in return, it would be a perfect love worthy of heaven.

The couple’s life was embosomed in Our Lady Poverty, daily strolls were their only pleasure, strolls which sometimes went only to the end of the wildflowers, other times as far as stable near the foothills.

One wintery evening, a light snow began to fall. Fear gripped me, for I knew the light snow prefaced a blizzard that would kill them, so I rattled the windowpanes to scare the couple. Clementine wasn’t disturbed, so I attempted to stick the door, but her husband threw his heavy

shoulder into it. They wrapped themselves in burlap and fur. Knowing not what else to do, I followed them in a doomsayer’s lament.

When they approached the foothills of the alps and made to return, the snow came heavily and obscured all direction and sight. Clementine panicked with fear and shame, her idea for a walk would be their death sentence. I would have condemned the world to poena sensus to soothe her. But her husband, who must be a saint himself, and who never missed a chance to reprimand my original mistrust, took her hand and led her into a cragged mouth in the rock.

Inside the cave, a herd of mountain goats huddled together for warmth. They spread and shuffled their feet to make room for luminous Clementine and her husband. The couple knelt beside the goats, the animal’s wispy hair warming their bones, the hot bestial breath melting the ice on their faces.

While the couple slept amongst the goats, I loitered near the entrance of the cave in crisis, fearing a mountain lion or hulky bear would take advantage of the flesh inside the cave. To those reading this now, I feel the same as you—I had no real faith in what I professed. If Clementine had been a saint, which is what the signs pointed to then as they do now, then she did not need protection from a man in limbus partum. In truth, my sentry at the entrance was an exertion of control.

I see now that my thirst autonomy was the well from which my all deathly sins sprung, be they sins of what I had done or what I had failed to do. Cave, cave, Deus videt!

Over time, the alpine valley climate warmed. Lack of rain killed the garden and the hares that nibbled there. The grass turned brittle, and the wildflowers withered and died. The couple needed to leave, but tender Clementine hesitated, and her vacillation poisoned her serenity. When I died, when
her mother abandoned her for the second time, when she was forced to eat refuse from the gutter, when men harassed her with vile words, she never lost her still nature.

But now, her calm’s nourishment was no longer adequate, it was too rippled, and I turned indignant. I willed vegetables to propagate, but the ones that grew were of irregular shape and ungodly taste. I led the cave goats on a death march to the house in the valley, and when empathetic Clementine forbid her husband to slaughter them, I killed them anyway, but Clementine buried the bodies. When it finally did rain, my excitement blew in a storm that ripped the remaining crops from their roots, tore shingles and board from the house.

It is difficult for me to recollect, and I wish I didn’t have to, but I do so to illustrate Clementine’s triumph in the face of despair and temptation. Her faith in the impossible did not abate until the pigeons stopped coming, whereupon the couple moved to the city, for the husband knew of a job there.

The couple boarded in a room crowded with repugnant men who spoke many different tongues. While her husband worked, absorbing Clementine sat near the window and watched life move about her below. Her calm returned, but it felt different than before, like a dark pond, and I was left unsatisfied, my ire increased.

Clementine’s husband’s living was punishing manual labor. When he laid his weary head on her bones after work, it hurt them both, and his wages could only afford butcher’s scrap. Their skin palled, and their moods soured. I could have followed her husband to work and please him with a gentle breeze or a more compassionate overseer. Better still, I could have led him to different, easier opportunities. But I didn’t want to leave Clementine at all. I wanted to look out the window with her

and take what I could. My ideal for perfect love and now shifted into the realm of obsession and selfishness and would soon morph into cruelty. This, too, I am ashamed to record.

The repugnant men teased Clementine for her silence and took advantage of her mercy, openly stealing what little food the couple had. Her soul-broken husband showed none of the vivaciousness he had when they married and only shot them crimson glares. Thus, I took it upon myself to spoil the food the men stole. They became hungry and miserable, but to my dismay, it did nothing to brighten the mood of Clementine and her husband. I gave the men rashes they couldn’t reach and disrupted their sleep. I misplaced their pay and made their lovers inconstant. Their suffering didn’t abate Clementine’s, but added to it, and her calm dimmed. Of course, this only hardened my steadfast, my hubris, my willful descent into evil.

My foul play had gone too far one afternoon, when a portly man threw rocks at the pigeons who nested on the small windowsill. He needed to eat them, I told him, his stomach would be sick if he did not, and he deserved satiety. Virtuous Clementine stood trembling as the man missed pigeon after pigeon, while I made no attempt to stop him, my sickness eager to witness the outcome. He struck one bird in the eye and it fell to the ground in a cloud of feathers.

Avenging Clementine knocked the man down and, in her fury, clawed out one of his eyes, and he turned unconscious from shock. When her husband came home, he found Clementine prostrating eastward in contrition, the portly man red faced with blood, propped upright with cloth wrapped around his head. Her husband left his weekly pay on the counter and the couple left in the dark of night.

This was my second grave mistake, and I wouldn’t see Clementine again for years. The portly man’s pain made me gleeful and wanted to drink his suffering for as long as I could, like it erased my
idleness in the face of Clementine’s suffering worth it. I did not follow the couple out the door, I assumed they would be back, or perhaps I assumed I would have no trouble finding them.

This, of course, was not the case. When the morning star rose, and the portly man’s convulsions became even breaths of life, I wandered the city in search of Clementine. But it was impossible to find her. The many people in the city were blotting locusts. Occasionally, I would find traces of Clementine, such as small rooms that had little pigeons prints or imprints of stillness in dust, but she always seemed far away. The rooms I search became more destitute, more isolated, and more morbid until it felt like I was searching coffins.

In my hubris, I prayed to Our Lady of Sorrows, and when she did not answer, I considered myself forsaken. How many amongst of us have done the same? Inflicted with the wages of our sin, accuse Agnus Dei of indifference, not justice? Let it be known that pious Clementine never once acted in self-pity but bore her cross de imitatione Christi.

I left the city and went back to the alpine valley, then the southern port town, before crossing rivers, then oceans. Ostensibly no longer searching for Clementine, but still searching for her nonetheless, I was engulfed in misery, as I had failed to conquer my ideal of perfect mind, which, in my twisted mind, was a gateway to heaven.

With each new land I went, the color of the people changed, as did their traditions and the Gods they worshiped. At first, the changes bemused me, but over time, their stark differences to Clementine inflamed my soul and a black bile spread through me. My soul turned grotesque, I was colored red, thick and scaly wings sprung from my back, hooked fangs jutted through my lips, and the form of my skull was now misshapen, elongated like a horse, but stout like a goat. I felt an emptiness, a poena damni. If my later actions are taken into account, my pain is deserved.

What I mean to say is my melancholy spread to the people around me, and when it did not, I made sure it did. I travelled to the rolling hills, where the townspeople committed heinous acts in the name of defiling Christ—a holy fool tried to stop the event, but I forced another to sodomize in front of the tabernacle. I spent months at a logging village in the forest, where they tortured animals for sport and stitched the remains together in horrific idols—when one villager refused to worship a corpse, I brought pestilence to the village. An outpost in the frozen north covered virgins in oil and burned them to placate the hidden sun—a virgin prayed on a pyre, but before she burned I told her she was going to hell.

Kyrie, ignis divine, eleison. I record only what happened and ask only for forgiveness.

I cannot describe my worst act, my most grave and last mistake, while still preserving the honor I wish to bestow upon Clementine, who is my reason for remembering. At most, I can say my trafficking in evil finally led to me to infernus and others to martyrdom. I saw the corpse of a woman who looked like Clementine, and I saw the thorns sprung among the seeds I had sewn, the choked bile in my soul. But instead of regret, I felt only a distraught empathy. I was unwilling to repent, but equally unwilling to cause more suffering. With resignation, I went to the desert to await the last judgement alone.

I don’t know how long I had been in the desert before I found righteous Clementine wandering the sands. I do know she looked older than I did when I died, so it must have been decades. She wore a thick, healthy habit that betrayed the frailty of her body and walked with particular movements. She
planted a hearty-stemmed leaf into the sand as an offer of respite to a desert mouse scurrying about in the blazing sun.

Her small act of holiness broke something inside of me, and a wave of sorrowful love flooded what remained of my soul. The guilt was scathing, and I would have killed myself were I not already dead. I felt the earth would soon open and swallow me whole.

Clementine plucked a cactus thorn and gently prodded blood from her tongue. She collected the blood in a small vile. Castigo corpus meum.

Eventually, she led me to a small adobe structure overlooking an oasis. Inside, cells lined the dark, cool hallways, filled with other women dressed like soft-footed Clementine, deeply engaged in Officium Divinum. It was an abbey.

In the center of the abbey, where a courtyard might be, was a cemetery. Mournful Clementine knelt at a tombstone and placed her tiny vial of blood amongst many other vials. I kept along the outer wall, feeling like a fugitive, but Clementine’s calm was all enveloping, I could feel it where I was, stronger and more patient than it had ever been. My horns and talons fell away, my eyes reduced, and my outward intestines repacked themselves. My soul did not heal, but it turned a mighty shade of gray, and I was filled with a just regret.

That first day, I did not permit myself to follow Clementine out the cemetery, as I was feeling profoundly iniquitous and did want to disturb the sisters. I was not shocked to learn the tombstone at which she prayed was her husbands. I could never learn how he had died, when the couple had come to the desert abbey, why the sisters permitted his burial here, what had happened after the couple left the city, what led Clementine to the cloistered life of a religious. This knowledge was not mine to know. In a similar way, I would never know why Clementine left her blood at the grave, only that it was her private form of love and worship.

The longer I stayed at the abbey, the less the sisters shuddered when I was near. Clementine kept the Liturgia Horarum with the rest, but she was most devoted to service—she spent long hours of her autumnal life cleaning cells, washing sand from windows, roasting vegetables for dinner, hemming habits, carrying water from the oasis, baking bread for the poor, nursing wounded pigeons bitten by snakes. All menial and unfavored tasks. Her treks into the wilderness were a Sabbath tradition for her, I had come to learn, as were the hearty-stemmed leaves she provided for shelter and the blood she collected with cactus thorn.

Surreptitious Clementine’s maintenance of the abbey gave the other nuns a certain ease of life. One wrote in her diary she no longer had shadowed flights of anxiety since Clementine entered the order. When pilgrims fleeing sin came to the abbey, shy Clementine would timidly embrace them, and their terror would melt away.

I never came as near to Clementine again as I did in the graveyard. I would observe her through walls, through the roof, through the other sisters. I was no longer a demon, but I was blessed with a new self-awareness, thus afraid of what I might do in Clementine’s proximity, my avarice knowing no limitations. This isn’t about me, it’s about Clementine, but it’s worth tracing my soul through the lens of Clementine. I found myself on earth after death, and she kept me going. I wanted to give myself ad altare dei because of her. That I corrupted is my own most grievous fault. But is because of Clementine that I repented the best I could. After the secundo adventu, I deserve hell, but it is my hope to lead more souls into excelsis gloria through the intercession of Saint Clementine.

When the sisters couldn’t wake her up one morning, they stripped Clementine of her habit and cleaned her with a mother’s care of child. They kept vigil over her corpse until the following Sunday, when a priest presided over Mass, and they buried her that night in a plot next to her husband. I had no doubt her soul had been assumed.

Miracles in the region began happening almost immediately. A devastating plague ceased when pigeons attacked the virus-laden rats. Gooseberry harvests increased tenfold and the excesses were given to the hungry. One rich woman gave her life’s earnings to the abbey’s orphanage. None of the religious connected these to Clementine, but I knew them to be her doing.

Since her death, I have taken these two palm trees to await my second death on this plane. The twin trees bracket this hagiography and serve me as her shrine. Innocent Clementine mistakenly dropped a vial here once, most likely when bending down to provide a leaf for some scorpion or stretching to grab a palm from the tree. There is still blood in the vial, and when I am in fervent prayer, it will give off a faint, golden glow. It is a relic.