Congregation

Congregation by Chris Hall lunasonline
Photo by Alem Sánchez from Pexels

From my Flash Fiction Collection

Even for a Catholic Church there are a lot of statues. Not just the usual suspects: Our Lord on the Cross, Our Lady Weeping (touch of woodworm on those toes), and good old Saint Francis with a mouldy-looking bird on each hand and a rabbit missing half an ear at his feet. All have been subjected to some dodgy touch-up jobs. Nail varnish on Saint Anne? You shake your head.

There are newer statues too; peopling the perimeter like extras from a low-budget film. They stare out from the shadows, waiting for the action.

You drop a coin in the shabby wooden box, select a candle, light the wick and place it among its fellows. You pause, looking like you’re offering a prayer; for form’s sake.

You glance at your watch. Surely he should be here by now?

Perching on a pew near the back of the nave, you survey the altar. The altar cloth is rumpled and askew; the silverware huddled together at one end, as if something (someone?) had been resting there and was suddenly removed.

A shaft of sunlight falls on the golden lectern, illuminating the outstretched wings of the malformed eagle which support a heavy leather-bound bible on its wings. You notice a chain and padlock securing the stand to a ring-bolt in the floor. You can’t be too careful these days. Something catches your eye; movement reflected in the eagle’s wings. You glance over your shoulder. The statues appear closer; one of them, a young man, has a hand raised as if in greeting. Was it like that before?

The clouds move over the sun and the lectern fades in the gloom. A door scrapes open and a pool of yellow light spills onto the flagstones alongside the altar. There is a shadow too: an elongated arm with an extended finger touches the edge of the altar cloth. Then ghost-sounds of shuffling feet, whispers of words and the rasp of heavy breaths echo across the nave. You suddenly notice that the statues are lined up along the central aisle. They watch you; empty-eyed. How did they get there? You close your eyes, shake your head and open them again. Are you dreaming? You don’t think so.

A door slams somewhere and a black-garbed priest appears carrying violin case. The man for whom you’d been waiting: the one who says he has a story for you. He sets the case down on the altar and opens it, taking out a strange-looking rifle. He glances at the statues and stares back at you. Now he smiles and flicks off the safety catch.

They say you never hear the bullet which kills you. Father Anselm’s petrifying bullets are different.

©2018 Chris Hall

Inspired by The Haunted Wordsmith’s Three Things Challengestatue, priest, violin

 

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