Appearances

NICHOLAS ZACHAREWICZ

He hummed a hymn when there was none, long after the instruments and their voices had completed their worship. Long enough for the dust motes and the debris of people to settle onto the floor and into the pockets in the pews where songbooks resided. The tune grasped his lips and seemed as reluctant as he was to leave the luminescent ring around the Carpenter. He looked up from the floor at the statue on the wall. The light beside it was dull, its casing like a bruise on the brick, yet something near it had – must have – hooked his attention.

Of course, there was nothing odd about the statue of the Carpenter, save that only it, and the statue of the Fisherman at the back of the church, were illuminated in the cavernous wooden structure.

Sitting amidst the worship every week he had often felt that the church hadn’t been built from the ground up so much as it was a large ship flipped, deck to ground. The darkness between the current two points was just what he imagined the darkness would look like. He imagined this as the fact that the Fisherman’s light would soon flick itself off, its sensor not having had enough recent motion to feed on, clawed into his thoughts.

Row by row he scoured the pews’ pockets for trash or outdated papers and envelopes. Passing before the shadowy hanging cross and its perpetually pinned iron figure he glanced up at it. The dead light from the Carpenter seemed to dance over the wood and iron, as if produced by flame rather than bulb. The building creaked with gravity and the damp winter.

Something bumped something else as it always did when he was clearing the pews. More often than not it was just the garbage can he had with him, absently striking the ends of benches as he walked into the narrow alleys between them, flipping up the kneelers as he went. Sometimes, however, the bumps would sound distant, like they were coming from the far, dark corners of the room. A disarrayed drum beat that was trying to stir itself into a steady rhythm.

That rhythm never materialized, though. Instead it would merely echo from the edges of the room, as if part of the stones in the walls or beams in the rafters. Playing into the church’s own music, things would creep up in the stained glass windows as he passed them. Multifaceted refractions of headlights or unattended walkers cutting through the night; all the shapes of light in sheets of running water.

He let these noises and glimpses run over and around him, and tried to keep his focus on the task at hand. It would stray, though, into the far corners. Into the spaces where those drumbeats seemed to begin.

The light around the Carpenter blinked again. The glass panes fingered the light from within and the colours changed their glow within the baptismal font. Like an expert crafter, they bent the folds of luminescence into shapes and figures that he could only see when not really looking; things that he could only see with his eyes set to work.

Hoping a busy mind could put them off, he bent to his task, trying to figure from memory the lyrics of the hymn he had once hummed. Something about a body? Salvation? Sacrifice? No doubt all of that had been in there. While he pieced through the lyrics, fitting together words he knew from songs sung on Sunday, the words held an image at bay. An image of a man in the side of his sight. Blurred, but walking. Like a figure seen through the glass, though the other side dark.

He looked back to the doors. Questions of what he thought he had seen skittered across his mind.

The priest was among those in the adjoining chapel tonight, it must have been him. The clock’s face said it was about that time.

Turning back to his work, he noticed that he was nearly aligned between the door and the hanging cross. Were the man’s eyes open, they would be settling directly on him, the doors directly behind. He turned to them with this observation and again something appeared to flicker in the far corner of the darkness beyond.

He gave his head a shake and pressed onward,  the last row of pews now being all that was left. Working in the light of the Fisherman, he knew that all would seem normal once he left. For he knew that whatever dwelt in the ship flipped church when none were working was free to do what it liked.

Nicholas Zacharewicz writes fiction in the time between his other jobs. He aspires to make writing (of one sort or another) his only job.

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