Thursday, 5 June 2014

Stained Glass - Friday Flash



He stood in the centre of the church’s murk. The heavy wooden pews were empty, but he conceived the devotees kneeling there would be swathed in darkness. Only the votive candles gave any illumination. Kindling the memories of the dead in order to light the ways of the still living. And thereby keeping them plunged in gloom.

As he moved he saw he cast no shadow. No place for light and shade in this particular realm he mused. He studied the stained glass windows. The only stab of colour in a world of black or white truth. The reds and blues were heavy and thick. They absorbed all the brightness from outside and devoured it. Imagine that, windows that actually served to stop up the light. The lapis lazuli ultramarine was very pure, untainted. While the cochineal reds were smoky, full of tiny grains. The reds were mainly used for the clothes of supplicants and the headwear of women, covering up the sinful flesh. Blue was for the garb of the saints. It was crystal clear to his eye the message of the glass. Only the halos were yellow and less dense, admitting a tiny amount of light to make them glow. 

He looked up into the heart of the cupola. There the colour was in the murals, while clear glass allowed the light to stream down into the upper reaches of the church in ribbons. The dizzying heights where man could not scale and approach the face of god. They would have to content themselves with contemplating him from far below on their knees. Looking up into the divine light as insects. The architecture of power was so transparent. How could people have fallen for this? Did they really believe this to be the natural order of how matter was arranged? One step outside of the church’s heavy wooden portal would have delivered them into the blinding sunlight of summer. That should have informed them of the artificial manipulation of light and dark they had just exited.

“Let there be light” the holy writ had commanded. So he picked up a floor candelabra and swung it at the stained glass. The glass shattered with a dull tintinnabulation. Ha he thought, let these serve as a call to prayer. He continued striking at each window in turn. The light outside seemed almost tentative, as if it were unsure whether flooding in might be a trespass. This only enraged him more.

“What are you doing?” spluttered the priest who had been summoned by the bruit. The man turned to face him and struck him with the iron candelabra. The priest fell straight to the ground groaning. The man leaned down and picked up a shard of the broken glass and drove it into the priest’s neck. The holy man’s white collar began to stain red. The red against the blood was of a light hue. The man studied the glass in his hand. It was a red slither and he regarded how the man’s blood was the same shade as the dark cochineal and couldn’t be picked out against it. Just as he imagined it would be. He drove it back into the man’s jugular.

He examined his hand as it too was bleeding. He was about to bring the cut to his mouth, when he caught himself. Leaded windows and five hundred year of insect dye was probably not conducive to his future wellbeing. He smirked and moved to exit the church. As his last act of desecration, he blew out each of the votive candles. Extinction was the only indisputable truth. He turned back into the interior of the church and was delighted to see that the light had apologetically begun to flow through the broken windows and begin to lift the gloom.

*


With slides spotted with red under microscopic lenses and the DNA drawn from his blood on the glass shard recovered from the dead priest’s neck, forensic science were able to bring the man to book. This was the natural arrangement of matter. And god’s, or was it man’s, arrangement of justice.


13 comments:

Helen A. Howell said...

I guess the man's belief systems was challenged enough for him to do what he did or perhaps he was just mentally ill. I love the closing paragraph to this piece Marc.

Now depending on what you believe one has to decided for themselves whether it was God's or man's justice that was brought about here.

Steve Green said...

Fabulous descriptions and comparisons Marc,the gloominess of the church is almost palpable. The line about windows that actually serve to stop up light gives food for thought too.

Roslyn Fain said...

Super creepy story Marc! I'm glad you included the last paragraph for otherwise I would've thought it was a demon, but then maybe he truly is a demon in human form....
Especially love these lines: "Kindling the memories of the dead in order to light the ways of the still living. And thereby keeping them plunged in gloom."

Stephen said...

Even God can use science to bring about justice. I love that last paragraph. It reminds us that there's still some sense of right and wrong after all, and at least in this story right will prevail. Love the descriptions, too. They totally set the tone and provide much to digest. Well done.

Hawksword said...

I always expect the unexpected with you, Marc, but today you caught me out. Just as I thought he was finding some relief from the gloom in the bright reds and blues of the stained glass, you flip it!
Very atmospheric, beautiful, haunting and shocking.

Sulci Collective said...

Thanks Denise. This and next week's story were both prompted by a family bereavement and a certain fury on display about the injustice of death that can take hold of a family in mourning. This was the destructive version. Next week's is a genuine love story.

Cindy Vaskova said...

I've mused over stained glass a lot, especially in the Duomo cathedral in Milan - those there are epic! But it's gloomy inside definitely. It's overpowering somehow.

I love the way he flips, it's absolutely calm, every move he makes and every ponder he has of the colors and the material- brilliant work!

Also "tintinnabulation" - new word!

Katherine Hajer said...

I just read a blog post the other day about Norwegian black metal and how it had inspired several church burnings. This protagonist may not be a black metal fan, but certainly his stance on churches is similar.

I liked how purposeful the protagonist was -- in another context, he would have been filled with holy inspiration.

Miss Alister said...

Oh the trouble with truth and the non-sheep amidst humankind’s constructs... It is too late, the artificial order of matter arrangement has been jotted and tittled, thus sayeth The Borg!

I sure do dig how your brain works, Marc : )

Miss A

Jon Jefferson said...

"Let there be light" I like the interplay in that paragraph. I wonder if the same interplay happened in the beginning. Was it a flood of light or more of a gradual increase as the way opened for an eventual flood of light and life.

ganymeder said...

This was pretty dark!

Hawksword said...

Looking forward to next week's. Well, this week's now I guess...

Icy Sedgwick said...

I've always been rather fond of stained glass, particularly the window depicting the Last Supper at behind the altar at St Nicholas' Cathedral in Newcastle where the artist has made no attempt to disguise Mary Magdalene as a man! But yes, it's funny how they block up light.