Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Bloody miracle

This is a short story I wrote a while ago. It has nothing to do with my novel. It got to the stage of an outline for a complete novel, but this was the only bit I decided to save.

Bloody Miracle

Pilgrims set to arrive at church to witness bleeding window

Church officials have denied that a window featuring a depiction of Christ as a child at St Mary's church in Banton has begun to 'bleed'. The window, which graces the eastern wall of the church's Lady Chapel, has been covered since March 2001 and can only be viewed from inside the church.

Rev. Daniel Fable, the vicar of St Mary's said he couldn't comment on the claims as the church had launched an investigation into the matter. "St Mary's has been, and remains, open to anyone who cares to visit," he said. Since the rumours began, though, Rev. Fable said that the congregation had slowly been growing, but that movement within the church would still be restricted to the main building.

"We're glad to see so many people interested in the church, but the Lady Chapel remains off-limits to any visitors as it's currently not safe," he said. The Bishop of Bristol said the window was damaged during a storm in 2001 and, while a fund-raising drive had been launched to repair the damage, it had fallen far short of the £20,000 needed to refurbish the window. 

"The Lady Chapel at Banton was damaged quite severely during the storm and the repair bill has so far been beyond the funds of the church," he said. 

"Suggestions that we're covering something up, or keeping people from 'a miracle' are nonsense. It would be irresponsible for the church to put parisioners in danger." Banton resident and churchgoer Edward Sampson said the church should come clean about the window. "My wife and I have been members of the congregation at St Mary's since we moved into the town 15 years ago. To deny us access to one part of the church smacks of a cover up," he said Sampson claims another member of the church saw the blood spattered window after getting lost in the church. "My friend was too scared to come forward," he said. "But she didn't think the church should keep quiet about the miracle any longer. I've written to the Bishop, the Archbishop and [local MP] Quentin Neil demanding answers."

Banton Herald and Guardian. May 16, 2008.

The window was bleeding, but Dan Fable – the reverend Daniel Fable – couldn't recall when he'd actually known this. It must have been more that two years ago but less than seven. Oddly, he'd grown to accept the faint visions he'd seen above the head of each parishioner as he stared out from the pulpit, and just put it down to stress or madness. Mrs Johnson always dreaming of her mangy cat Jerico; Mr Johnson thinking of dear departed Paula who didn't reach her first birthday thanks to the bad aim of a Luftwaffe pilot; Edward Sampson's desire for money; and his wife's constant subconscious pleading for Edward to avoid her arms next time because summer was near and she'd look silly wearing long sleeves.

It probably would have come to light earlier, Fable thought, except the window was in the back of the church, and as the congregation diminished, so too did the reasons for anyone but him going beyond the main building. But it was bleeding, and bled still. And now someone knew – someone who wasn't Dan Fable – and things were changing fast. The Bishop had scheduled a recce for the Archbishop and the congregation had started to look hungry.

The really terrifying thing was that Fable had seen everything that would happen, including his actions that would destroy the window and shatter the hopes of millions of pilgrims, but was helpless to stop any of it happening. He was a passenger screaming bloody murder into the ear of the driver, but totally unable to force himself – themselves – from the path of an oncoming double decker bus. After two years of floaty-parishioner visions and destruction dreams, he'd finally given up trying to stop things from happening and had let events wash over him: a baptism of apathy.

No, not apathy. It had become a fascination, a meditation on the power of God and a surprising anticipation of his role in the coming five week tragedy. The very opposite, some would think, of a test of faith; but it was a test nonetheless.

The test was this: Fable knew exactly how and when he would smash the window; he knew precisely how many souls would be lost, spared, resurrected and saved because of his action and could see – and occasionally feel – the grief of those who lost the opportunity to seek fulfillment under the bloody gaze of the Son of God. The test was also this: the moments after the event (as he came to think of it) were the deepest darkest void; like witnessing the picosecond before the big bang on an infinite loop. He knew that, for everyone on earth who wasn't Dan Fable, he would be Judas. Some days he relished the notion, but most of the time his terror was like a living thing pushing simultaneously at his guts, heart and brain. Often he thought the knowledge would kill him, except he knew and understood (did he understand?) God's plan.

The first real pilgrim arrived on May 17th. The sun was bright and high in the sky as Julie-Anne Eldridge negotiated the narrow path, her father wheeled before her like a chariot of piss and cancer, and hammered at the black door of the church. Her knocking persisted as Fable carefully put down the hymn books he'd been inspecting, smoothed down his white shirt and crossed slowly to the door, his footsteps eventually matching the pace of the knock.

He grabbed the sliding lock aware of, and in many ways prepared for, the flood that would follow. He fixed the smile to his face and greeted his destiny.

"Hello," he said. "I'm Dan, would you like to come in?"

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