February/March 2023

The Cloud Over Callie

By Monica Olsen

A folk tale from Medieval Turkey

She scurried along in secret, in the heat of the day. Her long tunic and dark dalmatica
made no sound as she hurried past the pine trees.

Away from her monastery cell. Away from the place she had chosen as her battleground
for spiritual warfare. Away from God.

At the edge of an open clearing, Sister Calliope stopped, her pale face cautiously looking

No one.

No one would see her as she slipped out of the monastery gate.

Grumbling thunder rumbled from the little gray cloud above her head.

For months, wherever she went, the cloud had followed. Its lightning seared into her
mind the same message, day after day: “Leave God. Run away from the monastery!”

With her head down towards the shadow of the cloud on the grass, she decided to make a
run for the gate.

And ran right into a gigantic man, almost knocking herself over.

He did not budge.

Massive and powerful, the giant wore long black robes, covered by a hooded mantle. A
giant monk!

Callie raised her chin up and up and up until she could see the whole of his height.

“How did you get here?” Her voice was shaky.

Shrugging his shoulders, he grinned. “I had to come invisibly to get through the gate.”

Callie’s eyes widened. She shook her head and sat down with her back against a fat tree trunk.
After opening and closing her eyes a few times, she slowly looked back up.

He was still there, with his bushy beard smiling down at her.

“Hi. I am Johannicius.” His voice was deep and rumbly, but not in a scary way like her
cloud. Carefully, he lowered his massive body onto the ground next to her little frame.
Slapping his wide hands on his knees, he nodded to the air above her head. “Where are you
going with that dirty cloud of yours, little sister?”

She blinked and looked at him with wide eyes. “You see my cloud?!”

“Looks pretty painful.”

“It is!” She hadn’t meant to shout. She still couldn’t believe he could see her cloud. “It’s
horrible and I hate it and I have to leave so it’ll go away!”

She started to get up, but the giant monk stopped her with his slow, firm voice. “Hold on
a minute.”

Callie leaned back against the tree and crossed her arms with a scowl.

Johannicius asked gently, “Do you really want to leave the monastery?”

Her pale face softened. She opened her mouth but words wouldn’t come. Closing it, she
shook her head very slowly.

“Would you like me to take that cloud away for you?” Johannicius tilted his head and
watched her, waiting for an answer.

The little nun stood up and stepped around so that she was facing the seated giant. Even
though she was standing and he was sitting, they were eye to eye.

She was scared, scared of the cloud and scared of losing it. But his eyes held her up, his
large eyes like round windows. Staring into them, she could almost see through them. She could almost see her abbess praying for her, deep inside his eyes.

She looked at the warm, brown eyes in the kind, brave face before her. “Could you really
do that?”

“Sure, little sister.” His voice sounded like a bear, a loving, big brother bear.

His large hand reached up and grabbed the little ugly cloud.

Thunder clashed and the cloud frowned at the giant, but he held on firmly.

Stabs of lightning scorched his skin, but he held on firmly.

Calliope stood frozen, eyes wide, watching the little battle above her head.
Suddenly, the cloud winced back away from Johannicius. It was scared and tried to run
away, but the hand held firm.

Giant Johannicius pulled the cloud to him, put it over his own head, and smiled sadly at

Then he disappeared.

Callie called after him, “But how can you stand it? How will you live with it?”

A deep voice bellowed across the courtyard of the monastery: “I will bare it for you, little
sister. I will bare it until God destroys it.”

“Oh!” She exhaled in anguish. “But it’s so hard!”

“The Father is my hope. The Son is my refuge. The Holy Spirit is my protector.” His
voice sounded sure and firm, even as it faded further away. “Now, run to your abbess and tell her what happened.”

Sister Calliope faced the direction of the voice and called back. “Thank you! Thank you,
Brother Johannicius!”

She ran back through the trees to where the nuns lived. When she got to her abbess’ cell,
tears of relief and joy rained down her cheeks.

About the Author

 Monica Olsen has been writing and teaching for over 20 years. She started by helping her students write and perform speeches and skits, and worked up to helping them write and produce their own full-length play, Dickins vs Disney. In addition to fiction, she is also published in the Ruston Daily Leader and the St. Nicholas Navigator. Her favorite storytelling involves finding wonderful old stories and recrafting them to offer as a gift to modern readers. Read more at her blog, Orthodox Mothers Digest.