A Christmas-Related Short Story, Part 2

Here’s part 2 to the short story I just worked on out of the blue. Enjoy!

Wailing sirens  sounded further and further into the distance the more the man ran.
“Stupid! Fucking stupid!” he panted, tucking himself into an alley. He checked the revolver’s magazine, just in case he missed an accidental shot thanks to the earlier adrenaline rush.
Still loaded. Perfect.
He stayed squatting in the alley until the nearest sirens died out; no doubt they caught sight of him in the area but gave up the chase since it was the holidays and they couldn’t be fucked put much effort into chasing one scumbag in a city of millions. With a satisfied smirk he reached into his back pocket for a pack of cigarettes and lit one, slowly taking drags as he contemplated his next move.
Should be on the other side of town, he thought. No need to worry. I’ll head out after another cig, just for good measure. He drew another cigarette and once again took his time with it. When it finished, he ground it out and continued walking around the city.
“Where next to conquer?” he thought dryly as he approached a cathedral. It was a magnificent building: the stained-glass mosaics shone and glittered brilliantly upon the street before their host-a pleasant change from the eyesores of the street and shop lights that dominated the city. He looked around for more places to wander to, but only saw the same dime-a-dozen shops and displays he was trying in vain to avoid.
Fuck it, church it is. He decided. He was getting sick of all the noise, anyway.

The church was empty, save for a few people gathered by the altar; each of them carried what appeared to be a slim black square and seemed to be waiting for something.
The man quietly slipped into one of the rearmost pews that was blanketed by the shadows; one-rather violent-interaction with people was more than enough for the night. He inspected the interior of the building slowly and carefully-it was what one would expect from their typical Catholic cathedral in the heart of a big city. It had a high, majestic ceiling supported by an array of impressively carved pillars; there were paintings and statues of angels and saints adorning the walls and pillars in sparse yet noticeable numbers. The nave was filled with fine but simple mahogany pews. And of course, there was gold-and a good amount of it, too-located mostly in the sanctuary. The clergy certainly spared no expense when it came to extravagance. The man sat there for a few minutes silently observing the small crowd until a figure clad in black-probably the priest, bishop, whatever in charge of the place-briskly approached the sanctuary and greeted the entourage. He wore a warm smile, much like the carolers from earlier on, and a priest’s collar, as well as a pair of black leather gloves which he casually tossed onto the altar. He shook his hands loose a bit before asking the others to assume some formation.
“Five, six, seven…where’s Thomas?” He asked them with a small but noticeable tinge of worry.
“He’s on his way but he got caught up in some personal business. Wouldn’t say,” a woman to his left answered.
“Ah, ok,” he said with a quick nod and smile. He checked his watch and tapped his foot lightly, scowling at the door with folded arms until a younger man pushed through the doors with haste and hurried towards the sanctuary.
“Sorry I’m late, guys, father,” he panted.
“It’s alright, Thomas,” the priest began, now smiling once more. “But you couldn’t have picked a worse day to finally show up late.”
“I know, father, I know. I’ll tell you later, let’s just stop wasting time,” he said, setting his own black square on the altar.
“Right, everyone! Let’s all take a deep breath and exhale on eight-”
“Ah, now it makes sense,” the man in the shadows muttered. “They’re rehearsing for a show,” The ensemble continued warming up for a minutes until the priest, satisfied, deemed them ready to commence.
“Alright, let’s start with Magnificat,” he announced, and the ensemble gathered their folders from the altar. They quickly resumed their positions and held the folders open, awaiting instructions. The priest held up both his hands and briefly inspected the choir before taking a quick, but soft breath and flicking his arm slightly upwards.
Magnificat anima mea Dominum,” the women to the left began slowly and in a manner that could be described as mystical. There was something about their singing that made the silent observer’s eyes widen with wonder. It was dissonant; the voices clashed and gave a sense of error to the music. But something about this dissonance just seemed…right. Something in the tension and subtle disorder of their singing felt perfect, as if this was the intended effect.
Et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salvatore meo.” The rest continued in that same slow, enigmatic way. He had never heard music like that before, and felt that tonight’s introduction to it was some kind of sign. Not that he was religious or anything, but he did admit the universe had funny ways of telling people things. The singing continued for another few minutes, each subsequent minute more intense than the last, until it slowly and progressively died out, ending on a series of chords that elongated in succession.
The priest clapped his hands together once and motioned for them to begin anew, but the man didn’t notice any of it. He sat frozen in his seat, floored by the majesty of what he’d just listened to. A few more songs were rehearsed, and like the passage of the first song, each moment in each song felt more and more intense than the its predecessor.
What was actually roughly half an hour felt like an eternity to him, as he was lost in the ethereal and otherworldly beauty the music had created.
Please, don’t end, he thought as a tear slowly made its way down his cheek.

The church was now empty, the priest and his entourage having left only moments ago without taking notice of their hidden spectator. He slowly rose from his pew and trudged towards the door, pausing to gaze at the sanctuary one last time before exiting. He sighed, having returned to the dull, noisy illuminated grey of the city, as if he’d descended from paradise into some forlorn wasteland. People were going about their business, shopping and generally clamoring about before the festivities would technically kick off the next day. He slowly made his way back to his apartment with the music still resonating in his mind. For some reason the first phrase of singing he’d heard in the church was the most persistent, bringing with it the chills and surprise he’d experienced when he first heard it. He didn’t know how to explain that sensation, or if there was a word for it, but he didn’t care. It just felt good and it helped clear his head.
He walked into an alley after determining it was safe and carefully removed the revolver from his pocket to wipe it off with his jacket. He lifted the lid of a garbage can to throw it out, but paused midway for a moment before re-pocketing it and finishing his journey. A smile crept up on his lips as the words, “Magnificat anima mea Dominum,” once more played in his head, his body and brain gently igniting with each note that echoed.

Merry (belated) Christmas, folks.


About optimistthepessimist

Always in transit.
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