Thursday March 18th, 2010

The exercise:

I've been feeling a need to write prose lately. I think I'm still going through withdrawal after the completion of A Fighting Chance.

Anyway, that's my way of warning you that I went off on some prose today. Let's see where this prompt takes you: the ghosts of Saint George's Cathedral.


I sat in the front pew of the empty cathedral but was not alone. The seven candles that stood atop the altar created wavering shadow demons all around me while leaving the upper reaches of the cavernous room hidden from sight. Each candle was slightly taller than the one to its right, so that their flames angled upwards like a burning staircase to heaven.

Or, if one were to allow one’s eyes to travel in the opposite direction, a set of seven burning steps leading down to hell.

Allowing my mind to linger on this thought for a moment, I pulled the silver flask from the inside pocket of my suit jacket, unscrewed the cap with three quick twists, and brought it to my lips. The liquid courage worked its usual magic, warming me from the inside out and coating my twitching nerve endings with a soothing balm. I took an extra sip for good measure before replacing the cap and returning it to its home.

Glancing at my watch, I saw that the hour, minute, and second hands were preparing to point their accusing fingers as one at the 12 resting at the top of their circular prison. Zero hour was fast approaching; there could be no more delay.

I rose and moved to stand before the altar as the silence within the cathedral seemed to deepen. I told myself it was just my imagination but took another sip of whiskey anyway. A few hundred feet above and behind me I knew Father Timothy would be donning his earplugs and grabbing hold of the thick ropes attached to the cathedral’s massive bronze bells. We knew the sound would bring the entire city running to the gilded front doors of the building.

What we didn’t know was what they would find once they got there.

Taking a deep breath, I fell to my knees and spread my arms to the side as I arched backwards. And as the bells began to sound, I called out to the ghosts of the cathedral. I called them by name, one by one, the oldest to the youngest as the ritual required. I called for them to leave behind their aimless wanderings. I called them to me.

I called them to war.


Greg said...

There's definitely nothing wrong with your prose! It's a pleasure to read, and I like the ending a lot -- I wasn't expecting it. Somehow it goes really well with the heavy bronze bells a few paragraphs earlier.

I'm torn between continuing what you've begun and going somewhere else. I think the somewhere else wins out today, sorry.

The ghosts of St. Michael's Cathedral

Dr. Septopus slithered across the huge stone flags of the cathedral floor carrying a thurible on each arm. He'd lit each of them before picking them up in the vestry, and they were just starting to produce aromatic smoke as he reached Sylvestra. She sneezed, looked startled, then sneezed again. As the echoes of her At-choo! died away she turned accusing eyes on Dr. Septopus.
"We need enough for a religious rite," she said huskily. "We're not trying to fumigate the damn cathedral, and I. AM. ALLERGIC. To incense." As if to underline her words, she sneezed again.
"I got you a yashmak," said Dr. Septopus. He sounded slightly down, and his eyes were unusually liquid as he offered her a small cloth package. Sylvestra shook it out, sneezed, and glared at him through watering eyes.
"This is a yarmulke, you shmeckle," she said. "Where's the Green Lightbulb?"
"Putting his armour on," said Dr. Septopus, brightening up slightly. "I'm not sure how he hasn't been smited yet; I checked, and this cathedral is consecrated."
"He isn't actually an abomination against God," said Sylvestra sighing in agreeement. "I think he's more of a miscarriage."
"I am rectifiable!" The Green Lightbulb marched up to Dr. Septopus and inhaled sharply. The blast of incense set him to coughing uncontrollably.
"Surely you mean ready?" said Dr. Septopus, his brow creasing with the frown that became commonplace on people within hearing of the Green Lightbulb.
"Small words are for small minds," said the Green Lightbulb between coughs. "Or as I prefer to say, Minimal verbiage establishes micro-encephaly."
There was a long pause, and then Sylvestra looked at Dr. Septopus, her eyes wide and a rash starting across her face, and said "I think that actually made sense."
"Let's get on," said Dr. Septopus quickly. "We have less than two hours before midnight and Father Timothy gets here with his friend to summon the ghosts of St. Michael's. Let's make sure that the Green Lightbulb makes a suitably impressive ghost."

morganna said...

The ghosts of Saint George's high church
Gathered in the choir,
There to plot their new tricks and haunts.
Sally asked to haunt pews,
Murmuring during the service.
Henry's for the pulpit,
Moving the sermon about.
Each ghost took a good place
Making mayhem 'till the congregation departed.

Marc said...

Greg - ah, somewhere else, or sometime else? :)

Nicely done!

Morganna - I must confess to being a big fan of mischievous ghosts, so that made me very happy :)