By Andrew Tyrrell, Editor-in-Chief
The quiet cold of a late mid-January night was pierced by the sound of a scream of the bloodcurdling variety. The scream echoed into silence, with the sound of someone moving at speed and gasping for air replacing it. Then there was the loud bang of the old solid oak doors of the Cathedral.
As the doors slammed shut, the figure kept running up the central aisle towards the altar, eventually breaking to the right towards another room, which turned out to be the vestry. The church was silent and still for a moment until the figure reemerged holding the cross normally used during the opening and closing processions of mass. The figure moved as quickly as it could with the cumbersome object back towards the main doors, eventually jamming the cross horizontally between the brass handles of the door, barring it shut.
The man stood for a brief moment, looking at his handiwork, gears turning in his brain, trying to calculate how likely it was that the cross now jamming the door closed would actually keep the door closed. Figuring he was safe, he moved to a pew and sat down, trying to catch his breath. He slumped onto the hard, wooden bench, and stared at the ground, and the copious amounts of dark red blood staining his boots.
Were he still a younger man, Mark figured he would have caught his breath by now, but sprinting a half mile when you’re pushing 50 isn’t always easy, no matter how much adrenaline is pumping. The beer gut certainly wasn’t much of a help either. After a few minutes of really paying attention to his breathing, he seemed to get it under control. His heart was still pounding in his chest. Nothing I can do about the adrenaline, he thought.
Mark sat there, thinking of what his next course of action should be. He should be safe for the time being, but preparedness is a necessity for a situation such as this. There probably weren’t any weapons in a cathedral, though. He looked over at the stained glass windows as he continued to sink deeper into thought, trying desperately to come up with a gameplan. Jesus Christ stared back at him from the stained glass window, crown of thorns on his head, nails in his hands and feet, and a Roman soldier’s spear deep in his side. Whoever had made that particular window had neglected to show any further gore.
Mark looked down at his boots again, contemplating the blood on them. As his vision began to adjust to the near total darkness of the cathedral, he noticed that his jeans and even some of his jacket had been splattered with the substance. He took a deep breath in an attempt to stay calm. He could feel his adrenal glands getting back to work at the sight of the blood.
A short time had passed between what had caused himself to be covered in blood and his likely futile fortification of the cathedral. Mark estimated it had been a quarter of an hour at most, but it felt like a lifetime ago. Mark decided he should stand up and explore the cathedral in search of any kind of weapon or maybe even some place to hide. Maybe he could just wait this out until morning.
It was upon standing that Mark felt searing pain in his left leg. Though his adrenaline was still pumping, his nerves could only ignore pain for so long. There was a cut in his left leg, about a quarter inch in length, and deep enough to cause the wound to bleed quite freely. Apparently some of the blood on his pants had come from him. He dare not look for fear of going into shock, so instead he felt around the area with caution until eventually he felt something stuck in his leg. He quickly undid his belt, looped it around a few times, and put it in his mouth. He bit down hard as he yanked the foreign object from his outer left thigh. Mark gasped in relief as whatever it was came free from his leg. His belt clattered noisily to the floor. He held his breath, listening hard. He suddenly had the feeling he wasn’t completely alone, but after a few moments concluded that it was just a natural sense of paranoia given the night’s events.
His leg was still bleeding quite a bit, but no arteries seemed to have been hit. Mark picked up his belt from the floor and allowed it to do its best impression of a tourniquet. He hobbled back down the center aisle and towards the vestry once more hoping to find something he could use as a weapon that would be more effective than the faux silver candle holders near the altar. He entered the room and moved cautiously, feeling for anything that may be vaguely weaponlike. It was difficult to determine what anything was, aside of some robes. The vestry had no windows, and without any moonlight pouring into the room, Mark was bathed in an impenetrable darkness that was severely unsettling to him. He was injured, covered in blood, some his own, weaponless, and without any semblance of a plan to get him out of this. Finding somewhere to hide and waiting it out was no longer an option. His bleeding had slowed somewhat thanks to the belt, but not enough to stop him from feeling as though he could pass out at any moment.
Mark decided that if there was any sort of weapon in the vestry he wasn’t likely to find it in this kind of darkness, and abandoned his search, returning to the cathedral proper. Though the cathedral wasn’t nearly as dark as the vestry, it still took a few seconds and some rapid blinking for his eyes to adjust. Again, Mark held his breath and listened. This time it wasn’t paranoia: there was definitely someone in the cathedral with him.
The noise of a match being struck broke the silence, and a man younger than Him lit one of the candles on the altar. He made no indication that he was aware of Mark’s presence as he lit the other candle. Suddenly the front of the cathedral was bathed in an eerie glow from the candles. The man walked out from behind the altar and sat casually in a pew at the front.
“What brings you to St. Patrick’s Cathedral at this time of night?” Mark noticed, thanks to the added light from the candles, that the man had on the typical white collar worn by Catholic priests the world over. Mark audibly sighed in relief, and moved to sit in a pew opposite the priest.
“Father I can’t begin to tell you how glad I am to see you.” Mark said, giving the priest a polite smile. It took some effort to sit, having to keep his left leg straight so the belt didn’t slide off. Mark hadn’t put it on tightly enough. The priest did not return Mark’s smile, instead keeping a passive expression on his face.
“What brings you to St. Patrick’s Cathedral at this time of night?” The Father asked again, this time a little more forcefully. Mark had grown up Catholic, so a little sternness from a priest wasn’t exactly unfamiliar, though it certainly wasn’t appreciated at the moment.
“I was attacked, Father. I sought sanctuary.” Mark felt it best to give as little detail as possible. He didn’t want to drag another innocent person into this.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.