Repost: Stitch Teaser #1
As promised, a repost of the first teaser for Stitch. I’m almost certain this has mistakes in it (it has been taken straight from the novel draft). So it’s more of a 2,000 word taste of what I’m working on this November.
The All Hallows Church loomed up at him as he approached the windswept steps. Leaves lay like Presbyterian ashes scattered across. A squall spun the ash-like leaves in a torrent. The sun fought against the thick black clouds that held in their mist a tempest from the Lord. Like God’s-eye the tower watched without mercy, silent, it saw the sins of his skin, and the sins of his mind. London’s clock tower chimed one pm, Saturday afternoon. Like Snipers the birds scattered into the wind. Candles burned in the high windows, shadows, Angels walked menacingly in and out of the light. Nothing could be heard outside, the earth ceased to spin. A young Balfour stepped forward. He was too frightened to even release a costmary thud of the heart. With each step forward it clenched tighter in his chest. He came to the doors of the church and placed his hand on the ringlet handles.
Ominously the doors swung open under his hands. He stood dumfounded in the great door way. Rows of pews, unoccupied, sat ungodly and solemn. A hesitated foot stepped inside, followed by another, then another step. He walked forward, each step falling lightly onto the polished floor. Jesus leered down at him from his nails his eyes saw through the young boy’s soul. The rows of pews were finite ending at the back of the church they gave the only sense of earthliness. A great wooden door was bolted tightly shut behind the rows. On each side of which candles burned, each renewing its self as it burned to its end -eternal life – amongst the emptiness. In a moment of panic the young Balfour spun on his heel and headed for the doors. Presbyterian ashes coated the steps, ashes of the unclean, the damned, the false believers. His faith gripped his heart and caused him to reach for the gold ringlet handles of the door. He sealed his exit.
The power of the place over whelmed him, the pillars like the army of the Lord stood high at attention. Their uniforms carved onto them. He walked the perimeter of the church interior. Stammering and intoxicated by the atmosphere he looked forward toward the stained glass ‘O Worship The King’ fell from his lips;
O worship the King, all glorious above,
And gratefully sing His pow’r and His love;
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.
Balfour turned toward the leering Jesus at the church’s front and began to move in the direction of the alter. The skin and blood of Christ rested upon the heavily decorated altar box, for a moment he stared into the blood red wine and licked his lips. Hypnotized by the fable, he stood at the feet of Jesus and stared into the empty eye sockets of the pillars dressed in death’s best.
Still with the hymn on his lips he moved forth into the depths of the church. At the church’s back the iron ringlet handles of the great wooden door hung like the bodies of the damned. Through the center of the pews he walked. His progress was slow, one foot, then the next. He turned his head left then right and the menacing shadows darted behind the columns. The only light was produced by the wrought iron hands of the pillars that twisted toward heaven and held the church candles. As the sun set behind the edge of the earth he reached the final row of pews.
At the churches end were three doors. One to the left, one to the right and the great wooden door garnished with still bolts and wood knots before him. On each side of the door sat a single wall-mounted candle holder.
‘Charles?’ the small boy whispered into the abyss ‘Charles where are you?’
Balfour approached the candle holder on the left side of the door and gingerly reached for a candle. Standing on the tips of his toes, with his left hand pressed to the wall for support he fumbled with base of the candle, hot wax scorched his fingers as it rolled down the sides. The wax had rolled down to his wrist and he winced through the pain until he’d pried the candle from its pedestal.
Gingerly, with the candle in hand, he moved toward the east side door and pulled the handles. The lock rattled as he pulled and a gust blew through the division between each of the doors, battering the flame. Balfour pushed his eye to the gap and saw nothing other than the street lamp on the opposite side of the church fence. He shielded the candle with his free hand and made his way back to the great door. For a moment he considered the door to the west, then placed his free hand on the right side ringlet the hinges groaned as he slowly pulled the door inward.
‘Charles?’ he whispered into the night air as the wind extinguished his flame. The perimeter was illuminated by the sentry-like street lamps and across the chasm of darkness a light glowed softly in a window. Balfour struggled with another candle and after its emancipation, surrounded by the glow of the flame, he stepped onto the courtyard. The wind whipped the leaves around his ankles and lashed violently at the candle, he cupped his hand around it and continued to cut through the blackness. A gust licked the back of his neck and breathed across his face. The glow from the candle gave him a small scope and with unsteady steps he moved slowly toward the soft glow of the candle across the courtyard.
Black figures moved beneath the sentry lamps and the moon flirted from behind her veil of clouds, casting sliver rays down towards the stratosphere. The pavements flashed in the light of the moon and the engulfing shadow the candle feebly held at bay swallowed Balfour’s waist and legs. The darkness wrapped its self around him with each step that he took, his eyes fixated on the steady warm glow.
‘Charles? Mother sent me, she needs you. Brother, are you there?’ His whispers cut through the candle light and were lost to the darkness. The wind ceased and Balfour let his hand fall to his side, then timidly reached out into the darkness with the flame. He stepped forward and as his foot hit the brick a scream ripped through his ears. He froze. The warm glow across from him faltered. Another scream. The lash of a whip. Balfour tensed.
‘Charles?’ he breathed. Nothing. He stepped forward. Not a sound. One step. Then another. Still nothing. His arm grew weak and he drew it in. The whip cracked. Another scream. A shudder. A tear.
‘Charles?’ the whisper penetrated the still air. The silence dear not respond. He stepped into the darkness guided only by his now failing light. Once at the window; with great care the boy peered into the room. Six candles were placed against the end wall, between the set of three stood a man in a black robe with a white collar. His hair was grey and short receding at the front and his face clean shaven. His jaw line was layered with fat the skin hung just below where the jaw stopped giving him the appearance of three adjacent chins, the second squashed between the first and third, bulbous and sweaty. The man held a book in both of his hands at half an arms length from his face and read from the page.
‘“Peter 2:18, Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh” Whip him!’ A whip latched its teeth into the flesh of a body out of sight and was followed by a cold scream. Balfour shuddered but his curiosity consumed him. He snuffed the flame of his candle and placed it on the ground. Then on his hands and knees he crawled beneath the window and slowly stood on the other side. He rose and kept his face flat against the stone. The priest was now out of sight. Before him two tense chains hung from the ceiling beams, he followed the links that the shadow danced on down to the hands of a boy. The clasps held the hands above the lethargic head behind which stood a figure illuminated from behind by a gas lamp. The boy’s skin was a dark coca, his sweat gleamed in the light. He thrashed in the chains as the whip landed across his back again.
‘“2:13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men” “Exodus 21: 20- 21 If a man beats his male of female slave with a rod and the slave dies as direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the salve gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.” The rod, strike him!’ Balfour closed his eyes it seemed like seconds were reduced to hours until the rod struck the back of the slave. His ribs cracked. Another scream. Another tear.
The priest continued ‘“Exodus 35:2 For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the Lord. Whoever does any work on it must be put to death” Whip him again!’ Balfour forced himself to open his eyes after the whip had fallen. The figure behind the tortured slave drew his arm back into his body.
‘Will that be enough to make him human father?’ The words fell weighted into Balfour’s ears seconds followed between them. Like waves crashing against a cliff each word hit with more force.
‘Yes, for now, my son.’ The priest answered and closed his book ‘come to me.’ The figure stepped into the light the shadows on his face soon dissolved.
‘Cha…ch..charles…’ Balfour stammered and fell to his knees. He bit his tongue as the pain of the pavements shot through his knee caps.
‘You have done well tonight.’ The priest praised Charles. Balfour vomited onto the pavements. ‘We should get you back to your mother.’ Balfour froze as he heard the priest direct his brother to snuff the candles. His heart raced, he thought of the whip, the rod, the slave. He got up from his knees and ran into the night. He stumbled as he ran. Fell. Cut his knees. Got up. Still he ran. In his panic the courtyard lost its length and he emerged from the darkness by the pale light of the moon at the door of the church. Frantically he pushed against it. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the glow of the gas lamp approach. He threw himself at the door in an act of desperation and they merely rattled under the force. He hit the ground. The lamp grew closer. The pair were running. Balfour rolled onto his side and pulled himself up. The boy grasped the handle with both hands and pressed himself against the door then pushed against the handle as he turned. Slowly the weather worn hinges gave into his demands. With each half step he moved the armour coated door, then slipped in as it slammed shut behind him.
For a moment he rested against the adjoining door. The door knob on the outside rattled as it was turned. He darted into the doorway of the west facing door and pressed himself against it. The candles cast his shadow across the wooden floor. As the priest stepped in and turned to hold the door open for Charles, Balfour, as quietly as he could manage, moved from the door and darted behind the pillars. From one to the other he moved until he reached the last then slipped into the confessionary and held his breath as the pair walked the aisle of pews.