Twenty maybe thirty slows steps later, we caught first glimpse of them, one, two, three, four, maybe five grey ghosts lunging through the deep snow, near the tree line, each shadowed presence breathing frozen steam. One by one they arrived at their station; one by one their eyes fixed upon us, ten red hot coals of hell burning in the dark.
With his hand, my grandfather pushed me off the road and upward toward the Old Quaker Church. i stumbled twice, panicked by the fear. When my eyes finally swung about to find the little white clapboard chapel, I was surprised to see its simple, stained glass windows aglow from light within. But we kept scrambling, afraid to look back to see if our fears were gaining on us. We made the steps and then the doors, pressing on the latch and pulling open the doors. I fell face first into the brown aisle runner that stretched all the way up to what was their version of an altar, a simple place where silent folks sat and waited for the Inner Light to move them. My grandfather was busy, securing fast the doors behind me.
The carpet was worn and smelled of musty dust, the tongue and groove floor boards so long used that there were trails worn into each pew. The pews themselves were dark stained oak, the cushions, burgundy red cloth, thread bare at the edges here and there. The walls were plain white and the windows nine-paned doublets of colored glass, that glass that looks like sheets of mother of pearl. Here and there a pane of rippled gold or rippled ruby red. The light was the light of twelve sconces along the walls, each candled with two white tapers, barely melted.
Grandfather lifted me into the fourth pew from the front, he entered the fifth behind me. We did nothing more than breathe for a few minutes. Not speaking until we heard the first barking, first in ever-tighteneing circles about us, and then an unnerving silence as if they were sniffing at the doors, then one howling horror, then the sounds of the pack moving on.
We kept our silence even more, the wild about us still stirring the wild within us.
Then slowly, so slowly, the night quieted and we became aware of where we were once more, in the Bethel Meeting House, a house of sacred silence, now lit with candles lit by some unknown hand. And there we waited, resting our heads upon our arms that rested on the backs of Quaker pews.
Eventually, I asked without looking, "Granddad, do you pray when you're scared?"
"So do I."