Sunday, June 13, 2010
“What are they?” the men crooned in unison. Their syllables bounced off each of the four walls multiple times, jumped off the empty marble floor before fading into the darkness of the windowless chamber.
He heard their words and let the silence hold, thick as anything he had felt before. He knew what they wanted: answers- the same reason they had come to him years ago, seeking comfort and guidance in a world of gray. Seeking a warm wing in which to bury their doubts. He knew them, for he had done the same thing decades before. And though they held out their deepest fears for him to calm, he hesitated, he didn’t have the answer.
He looked down at them from his red velvet covered throne. Their brown eyes were open wide with glinting terror, their bald heads glimmered with sweat and the shadows of flickering candles. He knew they needed him, just as he had needed his elders, they had no idea how to think, how to solve problems and create solutions. They were minions, followers, sheep. They played an essential role, the church needed sheep. The trouble was that he, their leader, was also in the dark, grasping at answers, searching for comfort in a world of gray.
He had watched the things for several days, crawling up the sides of the temple wall. He had watched, at first afraid, then only aware of them as flickering shadows, like the candle light he was so used to. He wished he could give them a name. They were black and almost two dimensional, but they moved. They clung to the area surrounding the doorway that led to the courtyard beyond. They were long, with skinny black limbs at least twice the length of his own. A few had appendages that looked like heads and four limbs, others were headless and merely twisted along the walls like ribbons, gripping, feeling with their long antenna-like arms.
He wondered what they were, why they had come, what they were seeking. Upon first sight, he imagined they needed to be let out, that they were the manifested spirits of his many prayers searching for the courtyard. It seemed like a reasonable explanation, only, he had opened the door, and like he had imagined, one escaped into the courtyard, but the rest stayed, and then they multiplied. The day he opened the door he had counted three distinct shapes, but the day after, he had counted six. Then there were eight.. And now, others were noticing them too. It was not just his eyes, but the eyes of his followers. They were scared. It would not be long until the whole community vibrated with rumors. The people needed answers, something in which to believe. Right or wrong, they needed an explanation.
“They are creatures sent by the Lord, they are here to help.”
The men nodded, satisfied with the answer. It was what they wanted, and it was what he told them. As for him, he sat with the full weight of the problem heavy on his aging shoulders. There were creatures on the wall, and he did not know why.