The Church

Burning down a church may seem like a good way to get Gods attention but make sure it's God who's at home.

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1. The Church

 

I don’t know exactly when I decided to burn down the church. I don’t remember making a conscious decision to do it. I just turned up outside St Michaels in the middle of the night with a can of petrol in hand and a hateful desire in my heart to piss God off. That in itself was a life changing statement for me because I’d never believed in any of that crap before but the way in which my life had turned upside down had to be someone’s idea of a sick joke so who else could it be but God? Can you hear me, God? I hope you can, you bastard.

My life used to be so simple. It used to be so perfect. Everything was going to be okay. The reason I knew this? Juliet. The only women I have ever truly loved. I’m not just talking about your frilly, dreamy, shiny brand new love. I’m talking about a rock solid, down to the marrow, soul mate kind of love. It was something I’d always looked for. So, finding Juliet made my life complete. She was the one. Until she decided to fuck it all up that is. I don’t think I’ll ever understand women. Why is it that when they have what they want, they invariably want something else? I look back now and realise that Juliet had always treated me like dirt. I just chose not to see it. I’d have had no one else to blame for that but myself if practically everything else in my life hadn’t turned to shit as well. That’s why I found myself at the steps of the church I was christened in with every intention of burning it to the ground in the hope I’d incense God enough to, what, reveal himself to me? I guess that was why I did it. I had more than a few bones to pick with God that night.

I don’t really remember much about what happened before I arrived at the church but I’m sure a lot of drink was involved. My brain must have been on auto-pilot for much of the day. But now it was late-night dark and I found myself outside being drenched by stair-rod November rain. I was staring at the large, oak doors of St. Michaels furiously trying to fathom out how I’d gotten there, all the time looking extremely suspicious with the can of petrol in my hand. I walked up to the door and turned the handle. I fully expected it to be locked but surprisingly, with a click and a creak of un-oiled hinge, it opened. The dry, musty scent of the church wafted into my face as I pushed the door open. The tang of ancient dust, long dead candles and the faint odour of incense filled my nostrils. The Church lights were on; harsh electric light glared down at me from naked bulbs that hung from the ceiling. The light left no spider webbed corner unexposed. I tilted my head up to the ceiling and blinked at the glare. This place felt soulless to me. Sterile. Ungodly. Maybe I’d be wasting my time here? It didn’t feel like God was home.

“Welcome.” Said a deep, echoing voice, which amplified within the walls of the church so that I couldn’t be sure where it had come from.

I scanned the room. I even looked up at the vaulted ceiling. I felt stupid when I did but the voice seemed to be all around me, enveloping me in a thick blanket of sound. I continued to scan the church until my eyes fell on the line of pews directly before the altar. I saw the bald head of an elderly man, sitting in the line of pews. It had to be him who’d spoken but I found it hard to believe that such a strong voice could come from such a small man. I started to walk towards him and as I did, I took stock of his appearance. He was indeed small. Small and skinny and unthreatening. Surely not the owner of the big booming voice? As I neared him he turned to watch my approach. As soon as his eyes fell on me I instinctively felt uneasy. He shot me a big beaming grin, his perfect teeth like two white picket fences of symmetry in his mouth. His eyes sparkled. But something wasn’t right. I felt a chill sink into me that wasn’t because I’d got wet outside. No. This felt different. This felt… How did it feel? I just couldn’t put my finger on it at the time and now it already seems a distant memory, like a faded photograph. When I reached the front row of pews I stopped. I was waiting for him to speak again. Waiting for that sonic boom of a voice.

“Welcome” he said.

No blanket of sound this time. No echo. Nothing. His voice was soft.

“Erm, Hi." I said, my voice little more than a dry croak. I felt awkward. He smiled his smile again and again I couldn’t help but feel an unease that bordered on nausea. It must have showed in my face because I saw a faint and brief flicker in his eyes and his smile dipped slightly, but only for a second. He must have turned the smile dial up to maximum as the smile returned and threatened to spread itself right around his head and meet at the nape of his neck.

“A nasty evening.” He said.

I knew he meant the rain. He had to have meant the rain! But something in the way he said it just gave me the impression that he wasn’t talking about the weather at all. He was forecasting my future. I reflexively glanced down at the petrol can held loosely in my hand and thought about the matches in my pocket. Shit, shit, shit. What was I doing? What was I really honestly thinking I was going to do here? Burn down a Church? For what? A stupid, stupid, stupid bitch that’d deserted me? Cheated on me? Shattered my stability, safety, security, everything? Fucking Everything? No. Despite that, despite everything that had happened to me that week, when I realised where I was and what I was thinking of doing, I knew I’d never go through with it. Hell, I’d had some crazy ideas but I’d never actually gone through with them. Am I any different from anyone else?

“Don’t forget that your boss fired you.” Chimed the little old man as he continued to smile his smile. I shook my head in confusion.

“Excuse me?” I said.

“Don’t forget that your boss fired you” That smile never wavered and yet he still managed to speak. What was going on here?

“Don’t forget your boss fired you and fucked your girlfriend. Don’t forget that will you?” He stood up now and walked towards me. I flinched as he approached but couldn’t move. His words had frozen me to the spot.

“Don’t forget he’s been fucking her for months. Laughing at you because she tells him how much better he is at fucking her than you.”

Despite his smile these words were spat at me with hissing vitriol. I began to reel, began to sway. All the time rooted to the spot. He was upon me now and he reached out to put his hand on my shoulder.

“God only listens when he’s winning, my friend” His hand landed on my shoulder and I felt the weight of ages. I felt instant nausea bubble in my stomach.

“And God has not been winning for a long, long time. But I hear you. I hear you loud and clear when you cry yourself to sleep at night. When you call to Him and he doesn’t hear you.” He leant in to whisper in my ear and I could feel the heat of his breath on my neck.

“So you didn’t believe before? Who can blame you?” he pulled away from me now and began to walk a circle around me.

“That’s no reason for Him to ignore you is it? Just like Juliet ignored you? How she ignored your plea’s to stay. How she ignored you as she walked out of the door and got into your bosses car.”

How could he know these things? Who was he? I didn’t recognise him and what were the chances of us meeting here if he did know me? Had he followed me here? I couldn’t think straight. Couldn’t focus. Couldn’t concentrate.

“Who are you?” I said as tears began to well in my eyes.

“I am your answer, and you are mine.” He said. He stopped walking his circle around me and faced me.

“I don’t understand.”

“His children so rarely do.” He sighed with a wistful shake of his bald head. He made me feel small and stupid like a scolded child.

“I will be your God.” Unwittingly I sank to my knees. “I can’t quite believe you actually thought against burning down this horrendous place” he chuckled. “What a squalid little hovel. A house of God?” He laughed now and the sonic boom had returned. His laughter pounded in my ears and rattled my brain against my skull.

“You will burn this place to the ground. Why? Because He HAS forsaken you, my friend. He has left you out in the cold. You are so lucky I found you. So very, very lucky.” He walked towards me and placed both his hands on my shoulders. Again I felt a weight so heavy I thought it would crush me. A smell so overpowering filled the air that I began to gag. Earth and garbage and sewers and rotting meat. Then the images came. Cruel, unwanted images of Juliet. Images that could not be memory. Images that must be imagination. I was confronted by her treachery as though I were a fly on the wall. I looked down upon her in bed with my boss. Writhing, moaning, groaning whilst he fucked her in our bed.

There may come a time where you are faced with a situation where you feel your soul crack. You feel something inside give way and snap deep within you. Take my advice and believe that you can mend that which is broken. Do not forsake yourself like I did. Do not forfeit your chance to be heard. I burned the church to the ground that night. I’d jumped to my feet and started pouring petrol all over the altar, the pews, everything. I didn’t even notice the old man had gone. It was if he’d never been there and I’d arrived at this decision all by myself. I took out the matches from my pocket, lit one and threw it at the altar. I waited long enough to see the flames take a grip before I ran blindly from the church and into the street. I didn’t look back. I just ran and ran. I don’t remember how I got home. Despair fogs the memory. But what I found out next day made me realise just how much I’d been fooled by my new God. When the police arrived at my house, I figured that they knew I’d burnt down the Church. I was wrong. I hadn’t burnt down any Church. But my bosses house? That had been burnt down. That had been burnt down with my boss and Juliet still in it.

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