But the story of Perpetua spread, quiet as a church mouse, from convent to convent until one-by-one, nuns began to lose their composure, began straining to hear the sound of a single Harley prowling the neighborhood late at night. Their desires were answered by sleepless nights of seemingly eternal silence.
A search for the Rider commenced. Wanted posters bearing the photo of Perpetua’s face—the Rider’s twin—were tacked to church bulletin boards, printed in Sunday circulars. Every sermon ended with an order to parishioners to hunt her down. Church authorities claimed they wanted the anti-Christ brought to justice. Schools of study began to form under the auspices of the bishops and cardinals, new chapters were revealed in holy books.
While the debates flared, the nuns remained uninvolved. Should there be a following, they wondered? With no sign of the Rider, no one could answer the question. Who exactly was Perpetua? Had she been the chosen one at the time of her death, the Rider’s supernatural powers having transformed her? If that was so, perhaps Perpetua lived on in the form of the Rider.
Only Perpetua understood what happened to the hog.
Throaty thrumming—a cadence of basal moans—emerged from the convent rooms. This singing chorused first into a hymn of loss: the suppressed promise of unwitnessed women. Gradually it built, spilled into the hallways, out of the windows. Passers-by stood bewitched by the eerie music. The raw song swelled, echoed against the churches and cathedrals, disrupted services. Its persistent Harley heart-beat overpowered the sound of church bells, resounding through towns, frightening some, enraging others, but empowering many to join the call.
Nuns began to leave convents, suit themselves in leather, drive Harleys.
It was the only way to understand Perpetua, to understand what happened to the hog. Their one real chance to be embraced by the grace of the Savior meant being witnessed, witnessing. Salvation was in that empowering roar you owned atop a Harley.
PERPETUA is a project by Susan Koefod. New sections are released every other Friday. If you’d like to receive email alerts—and that’s all you’ll get, a short email—saying the new one’s up, sign up here: