Friday, June 8, 2012

Rake - Churches

Rake - Churches

Don’t go into churches. Technically the rule was a lot longer than that. Don’t go into churches, community halls, schools, gyms, basically anywhere that during the outbreak had been coordinated and repurposed as a treatment centre. Malls could be bad, the university area was bad, there were lots of such places that were a bad idea to get too deep into.

So the rule stood, Don’t go into churches. But there had been a flickering light in Central United the other night. Derek had just barely seen it, reflected off another building in the glass windows. But a light, flickering. Going while it was dark was of course out of the question, but perhaps it wasn’t too ridiculous to peek a head in during the day.

Derek had never been particularly religious, certainly next to not at all since the outbreak. It was such a strange thing to think about, god and jesus, the pope, Muhammad, all that faded away in the face of the outbreak.

He remembered once in the James Short Parkade area, there had been graffiti across the stone fa├žade that read;

“I don’t believe god forgot us.” 

And beneath it, in contrasting red spray paint like a ball point pen;

“I don’t believe, god forgot us.”

It was hard to argue with that.

Regardless, here he stood with crossbow in hand, pair of machetes strapped to his legs and a motorcycle waiting on the steps just in case. He pulled the heavy oaken doors open and slipped inside.

Light spilled through a broken stained glass window, casting strange patterns on the floor. There was a low hum from the far side of the room, a hum and buzz that made the hairs on his arm stand up.

Electricity coursed through the room, two lights on the wall were pointed at the image of the Savior, in suffering on his cross, but only one worked, casting a long shadow.

The pews were in disarray, evidently some group had made some kind of stand here, but the blood was all dry and hard, no trace of crimson anymore, all given way to pitch. Smatterings of still decaying bones were here and there, Derek took care not to tread on them as he slowly made his way along the faded burgundy carpet. It was worn down but felt soft beneath his boots, and the heavy wood floor creaked with every step.

He pulled up short just before the dais. There were seven steps leading up to the pulpit, and three pews behind for the choir. All these steps, were adorned with frames, digital and otherwise photo frames. They had been smashed. Most of them were broken, exposed wiring and circuitboards, plexiglass shards and pieces of plastic littered the steps. The real photos had been shredded by something, wooden frames broken into splinters.

Perhaps there had been a hundred of them once, it was impossible to tell really, of those hundred only a paltry half dozen still flickered weakly, doing their best to continue slide-showing their broken images.

Derek palmed one, picking it up. A large running crack from the top left corner caused the image to warp and bend weirdly, but it was a family of three, father mother and son. Some family photo, taken in the sun in the outdoors. He brushed the dust off it, and alighted it properly on the steps, but could do nothing for the broken plexi. Slowly he edged his way around the once shrine, picking up the other ones and righting them.

He didn’t know why. It was for a reason that could not be explained. And he did so without really thinking why. Only that it seemed right.

The good book sat on an alter at the top of the dais, on a large pulpit. A bright crimson ribbon on its vellum pages marking a passage in the text.

There was a creak and groan of wood behind him, and Derek whirled. In the confessional booth, a walker he hadn’t seen bumped forward. Instantly Derek dropped to his knee, the crossbow in hand and sighting. But the walker hadn’t risen to its feet. From this distance he couldn’t tell if it was male or female, but it sat, half in the confessional half out, on a wide wooden bench. Elbows rested on its knees, and head bowed it looked almost like another person bent in benediction.

Derek stayed frozen, unaware that his mouth had slowly become agape. He had never encountered a non-hostile walker, although it was perfectly possible that this one was not aware of him yet. On feet too heavy he picked his way down the stairs, charting a round about way with pews between himself and the walker. It was inconceivable. He should just shoot the thing and be done with it. But there was something about the building which stayed his fingers.

He was finally just at the archway, so close to the doors he could feel the fresh chill autumn air breezing through and the sunlight from the open door on his feet when the walker slowly looked up. Rheumy eyes fixed on him, and Derek froze. It was a long moment, suspended in time like a strand between himself and the thing. His finger tightened on the trigger, and his breath held.

But slowly the walker bent its head back to its hands, resuming its supplication. Frozen, and ignoring the grime and tatters of rags, it could have been anyone, praying there alone in church.

Derek held his breath, and slowly exhaled.

Maybe it was unconscious, maybe it was something else, but his finger over the trigger tightened just enough, just enough was already enough.

The crossbow quarrel flew true, whirling through the air, and struck the zombie just beside its cheek, slamming its head into the side of the confessional and twisting it over and sideways, glassy eyed, it looked at Derek a long, mournful time. It made no sound there, pinned against the maple, ichor spilled down from where the quarrel had burrowed itself.

It was an era, seemingly before Derek moved.

And it was even longer before he left.