Irina Was a Scorpio

An illustrated horror fairy tale

Sara Benincasa
16 min readOct 1, 2021


Irina knew what they were thinking. But she hadn’t done it.

It wasn’t her fault, no matter how hard they all stared. Even the priest, that sanctimonious hypocrite, that lecherous fool — even he fixed her with a look of penetrating disapproval.

She gazed at the priest, and she did not look away. He didn’t like it. She didn’t care.

“Let us proclaim the mystery of faith,” the priest intoned. Irina forced herself not to roll her eyes at everyone.

They would sing, and she would wait, and then she would speak. That was the schedule, the run of show, the evening’s gloomy program.

No matter what they all thought, she hadn’t done it.

That didn’t mean she would pretend to be sad about it, to groan along with the dolorous droning noise pollution these people called hymns. There had to be churches with good music, but this wasn’t one of them.

Irina only knew this church, only knew the little village where she’d been born, baptized, given her First Holy Communion while dressed as a baby bride, been forced to invent sins she hadn’t committed just so she could “confess” to the terrible priest and he could swallow them like frutta martorana, like struffoli, like the little hallucinogenic herbs her nonna used to brew into tea.

He got high off sins, this priest. He was addicted to other people’s shame.

Mass bored Irina. A funeral Mass, doubly so. She couldn’t feign interest, not even now, not even when it was her own husband’s boiled corpse tucked away in that casket.

The most she could do was try to hide her joy.

God, she was happy. But she couldn’t show it, not while they were here.

They sang and sang, these cruel villagers arrayed in their mourning attire for a man they had envied and feared. Their pretense of…



Sara Benincasa

Author, REAL ARTISTS HAVE DAY JOBS & other books. Writer of scripts. Host of WELL, THIS ISN’T NORMAL podcast.