By: Anthony Ward
Charlie had stowed himself in the Cathedral. Not with any malicious intent you understand. It was just he thrived on experience. He liked to observe things in the unconventional.
He had sneaked up into the triforium and waited for all the attendants to leave. Once he felt certain he was the only living soul he stood up and looked down the nave. He’d always wanted to view the cathedral from the place he had many times looked up towards.
The hunters moon shone through the clerestory windows illuminating the grotesques at the top of the pillars, bringing them to life. He noticed one sticking it’s tongue out at him, as if mocking his insolence. After taking in the privilege of his vantage he descended the steps.
The rose window, that once held the authority of the sun in the Chapel of the Nine Alters, now loomed before him, accompanied by the scent of snuffed candles whose wicks lay in wait of being reignited.
He enjoyed the serenity and sanctity of being alone to absorb the presence of his surroundings. Hearing his own, and his alone, footsteps tread the walls and ceiling. He owned the sound as one who had heard a tree fall in a wood and they were the only one there.
He nodded to the statues as he strolled by as if ascertaining their approval, and they nodded back, albeit inanimately.
As time elapsed the cathedral felt organic, as if it were respiring. The surroundings began to take on a presence of their own. Shadows took on form. Manifesting into substance. The statues frowned down upon him. Their expressions full of contempt. Who was he to disturb the peace? To wander these aisles that belonged to the dead- not the living.
After a couple of hours, the novelty wore thin. The night seemed to go on forever. As if time had stood still. The chill that had been a mere kiss on the skin had now began gnawing at the bone, which made him feel tired. He sat down shivering in one of the stalls for a nap.
When he woke up, he felt decrepit, like he’d been asleep for years. He scratched at an itch on the inside of his elbow and found particles of sand under his fingernails. He scratched more determinedly, and his skin crumbled away even more. He brushed it off as he stood up and groaned as his back cracked. He walked down the nave feeling like he was being watched, admiring the Norman sandstone pillars with their chevron patterns standing as wide as they were tall. His footsteps played on his nerves as they reverberated, causing him to worry that the sound may arouse attention despite the evident emptiness that engulfed him. This seclusion sounded a requiem within as he reached the diamond of the crossing. Here, the cathedral soared as he looked up the lantern tower. This caused his vision to kaleidoscope with the sensation that he was falling up to it.
He stepped up into the quire, entering the heart of the cathedral, the drone of the organ drew him towards the high alter. He sensed he could see spirits in attendance in the wooden stalls, their heads bowed to the floor beneath the tabernacles, paying as much attention to him as he was to them. The imp of his imagination had been roused and was up to mischief.
Stepping down from the quire he witnessed a bright silvery moon hovering before him. He orbited around it, then ducked beneath it before being startled by a frantic tapping on the North door. Three taps of the Sanctuary Knocker. Then three again. Then a third set. This disturbed him. Why would anyone be knocking at this time of night? Did someone know he was inside?
Charlie decided to climb the tower in order to get a safe view of the outside. On heading towards the South Transept, he noticed the hands of the Priors Clock turning eastwards. He climbed the spiral staircase, expecting to see someone else coming down the other way. When he reached the top, he looked over the familiar Castle Keep below, though the view of the landscape looked medieval. There were no streetlights. No lights from any windows. Then he noticed lights. Flickering lights. A dragoon coming towards him with a hum of voices that became a chant as they drew closer. They pointed towards the tower. Towards him! At first, he felt the top of the tower was the safest place, but soon realised that if they entered the cathedral and climbed the tower, there would be no escape, so he raced down the stairs, spiralling as he descended. He raced up the nave were the statues leaned towards him, their arms askance, meaning to grab him. The stained-glass windows became animated by flocking shadows. He was now incarcerated in the very place he had deliberately locked himself within. The cathedral began shuddering with the trampling of feet outside. Charlie’s face became contorted with fear as he looked for a way out. The cloisters! He remembered there was a way out through the cloisters, and ran through them, his footsteps echoing like the ticking of a clock in an empty room. He ran out, down onto the riverbank, crossing the bridge where the river returns on itself, all the while feeling the two western towers turn towards him from the other side.