Chains in a church

He stumbled slightly as he made his way up the steps to the church door, and caught himself on a railing worn smooth by the hands of generations of petitioners making the same trek.

The way to the large wooden doors punctuated by stain glass seemed so high up, so far away.  Almost not worth trying to reach.  But he couldn’t stop here.  It wouldn’t make sense.  He’d come so far.  To abandon all hope and faith at this juncture…no.  It couldn’t be done.

He sighed heavily, and straightened himself to his full height.  Though his feet felt as heavy as lead, he raised them one after the other as he had for so long a time without even thinking to begin the climb up.  A dry sense of fear seemed to clutch at the pit of his stomach as he reached for the long iron handle of the door.  He wasn’t…entirely ready for this.  But then, he supposed, not too many people were.

The old portal creaked open, and he was greeted by a warm breath of air and light from inside the church.  The sound of his feet rasping against the cool marble floor echoed throughout the vast, lifeless place.  Innumerable rows of pews filled the space in between himself and a barely visible altar of white gold that sat under an extremely visible crucifix that emblazoned itself across the high back wall of the temple.  The ceiling was held up by towering golden arches that supported smaller mosaic-covered domes, culminating in one massive centre that seemed so far up a to be beyond his imagination.  Coloured shades of sunlight was splayed on the pews by stain-glass windows depicted those acts of glory from the days of yore, the same acts that drawn him to this so distant place.  The scenes continued onto frescos and tapestries that blanketed the walls.  He stepped further into the sublime divinity of the place, his sense of dread clashing with the sense of wonder that enveloped him and stole his breath.  He looked back.

The church seemed to pitch to one side as he staggered again to lean on one of the pews.  The fear won out, it seemed.  His legs trembled, and he could feel cool sweat dribble down his face to pool behind his nostrils.  What was about to happen could not be put off any longer.  Straightening himself again, he doubled timed his way past the beauty of the church to kneel heavily on a tesserae-tiled mosaic that hurt his knees.  His head hung as stared sightlessly at the floor, waiting for his reward to come.

A loud knock shook the door.

He dipped a hand into his coat pocket and pulled out a black-beaded rosary, as smoothed and aged from use as the rails outside.  He’d had it for so very long, and had poured his faith into it.  Now it would be here as his faith consumed him.  Bringing his hands together to form a ball in front of his face, he began to pray.

The door shook from another knock.

‘’Our Father,’’ he intoned hollowly.  ‘’Who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  They kingdom come, they will be done, on Earth, as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us-’’

A third knock rang heavily.  He could hear the door creak slowly and treacherously open.

‘’-and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’’

He heard a single footstep.  A loud, oppressive footstep that came down with defiance into the peace and solitude of the marble floor, cracking the flawless surface.  The footstep rattled to the sound of chains.

He wasn’t entirely aware of what else he could do other than pray.  His breathing got harder for some reason.

‘’Our father-’’

The steps came again, like a blacksmith’s hammer.  Ring, ring.

‘’-Who art in heaven-’’

Ring, ring.

‘’-ha…hallowed be…thy name…’’  He began to sob.  Ring, ring.

‘’Thy kingdom…thy kingdom come…’’  Tears started to roll down his face, and mucus began to drip to thee tip of his nose.  Ring, ring.

‘’Th-thy will…be…be done…on Earth as is in…’’  He felt wet drip onto his hands, drip off his chin, dig trenches in his cheeks.  His entire body shuddered from what had shut his mind down.  Ring, ring.

‘’…heaven.  Give us…this…this day our d-daily bread and f-forgive us our tressspasses, as w-we forgive…those who trespass…against…us.  L-lead us…not…into…temptation…but deliver us from…’’  He hadn’t wanted this.  Why did this have to happen?  All he had ever wanted was his faith, to be alone with it and his belief.  To be able to know God on his own.  It didn’t have to come this far.  Why did it have to?

Ring, ring.

‘’…evil.’’  Ring, ring.  Always that damn ringing.  A small part of his mind was infuriated by it, more so at how terrified it made him.

Ring, ring. Ring.

He stopped shivering long enough to calm down for a moment.  The ringing had stopped.  His eyes were blurry, and he started when he realized that there was mucus dribbling down his lips, something he corrected with the hand not holding the tear-stained rosary.  The ringing had stopped.  He noticed the scene depicted on the mosaic in front of him.  The ringing had stopped.  One of his favourites.  The ringing had stopped.

A mailed hand came down on his shoulder, the impact enough to drive him closer to the ground.  He knew the figure standing above him without looking at it.  He’d seen it in the eyes of so many people.

Tall.  Broad.  Face and head obscured by a large metal bucket of a helmet slit only twice for the eyes.  The entire body is covered in chain mail, rusted and bronzed from the heat and the sun and the blood of the heathen.  A thick white tunic covers the torso down to the knees, emblazoned by a red crucifix, the edges crusted by gore.  A large, weathered leather belt holds the midsection in place, and belted there is a cross-hilted broadsword also rusted by the same crimson that subtly colours the entire persona.  The giant in metal and red stinks of sweat and hot iron and fury.  It has come for him.  They have all come for him.  He has come for him.

He hadn’t wanted this.  But then, if he truly hadn’t, maybe he shouldn’t have bothered with faith in the first place.  Well, such questions were come far too late.  He rose and faced the thing next to him, and let it lead him out of the comfort and beauty of those vaunted domes and coloured windows.  There was comfort in peace, sure, but there was no peace where he was going.  As a last act, he tossed his rosary into one of the pews.  He wouldn’t need it where he had to go.  For what he had to do.  In His name, in His glory.

Ring, ring.  The rattle of chains led him out.

The End

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