The torpid air encased him; like a fly caught in tree sap his legs were paralysed as he watched her let go of the tower walls. His ability to move was completely inhibited: he was embalmed in shock. Time slowed, his mouth became as dry as bone and his heart thumped in his ears.
She began her fall, but then something happened, something miraculous. She was caught just below the window. It seemed her dress or her bodice had snagged onto something that had, by god’s grace, held her there, dangling helplessly over the sheer drop. Her dress caught the wind, it fluttered and puffed, and with her arms outstretched on either side of her the flowing material resembled wings. She was an angel, a broken angel, fallen from favour. Her delicate feet and chalky ankles protruded from the bottom of her dress as it billowed around her, revealing layers of laced underskirts. And now he could see her hair, dark and luscious, framed by the veil that was whipped and twisted by a nonexistent wind. Her body was drained, she looked powerless and her face was utterly hopeless, resigned to her fate.
A cacophony of emotions raced through his soul. He was confused and still a little frightened, but more than that he was moved, deeply struck by this poignant scene. He could sense her heartbreak ebbing through the night. Her distress had reached out and grasped him and now he couldn’t leave her, like a sailor hypnotised by the Sirens’ call, he had no choice. She looked so cold and so vulnerable up there. Whatever had snagged her dress was not going to last forever; it was only a matter of time before she fell. She desperately needed help and he was the only person present.
His muscles jerked loose of the trap that they had been in and he sprinted to the walls of the church, desperate to get in. It had been built on a grand scale; the enormous windows were a good twelve feet from the ground. He grappled at bricked up doorways and the walls, smooth and high. There were no ledges or stone embellishments that could provide foot grips to climb on this side of the building. He raced around the corner of the church to the side that faced out onto Canon Street. Here there was a metal grille set into the wall beneath the frame of what had been a vast stained glass window. He glimpsed a stone that was encased behind the grille, plain and insignificant, before awkwardly using it to give him a foot up. From this position he reached as high as he could, and somehow managed to grip the limestone sill at the bottom of the window. Using every bit of strength he had, he heaved himself up, muscles burning, feet flailing against the narrow ledges formed by stone panels that decorated the building. He hooked one leg through the window, and then the other, and with a final grunt he hoisted himself up.