I am writing this on Graham’s computer in Amber’s spare bedroom and I have been staring at the blank screen for over half an hour, at a loss on how to begin explaining why I am here. I have witnessed some extremely disturbing things over the last twenty-four hours and I feel incredibly numb and very confused. I don’t know whether I am scared or relieved, happy or sad, or whether to burst into tears or hysterical laughter.
It all started on Tuesday night. Alex threatened to leave again and he sat at the bottom of our bed listing his grievances with our relationship until 3am in the morning. I tried hard to counter every complaint that he made and I spent all night convincing him to stay, but it was a hopeless task. He wasn't speaking to me by the time he left for work this morning and I would normally be upset by this, but, if I am entirely honest, Alex is the least of my concerns right now. I am too obsessed with the whereabouts of my notebook to care. Even now I am worrying about whether I have left it at Elmfield house and whether Leonard has read it. I have not heard from Leonard for over a week now and I cannot bear the thought that it has upset him.
Although I realised that I should wait for a phone call from Leonard before making another journey to Elmfield House (he gets agitated when people arrive at the house unannounced) I became so desperate to recover my notebook that I decided to pay him a visit yesterday morning, regardless of an invitation. I sat at the back of the bus on the way to Elmfield House contemplating what I would say to Leonard because the last thing that I want to do is offend or hurt him, particularly since he plays such an important and central role in my life now. Alex is distancing himself from me, Amber will not discuss anything beyond her personal life and the situation with Luke is becoming increasingly intense by the day. I don't even have a God anymore. And even though I am deeply fond of Leonard, at the same time I am angry with him for taking my comfortable life away from me and replacing it with a series of irrational fears and unanswerable questions.
As my stop approached I became incredibly nervous and I had second thoughts about visiting Elmfield House, so I stayed on the bus and continued along the route until I passed by St. Bartholomew’s Church. St. Bart's has always been my secret sanctuary in which I can hide away and it has never failed to comfort me when I have been in desperate need of consolation and reassurance and so, with this in mind, I decided to pay an impromptu visit to the church, this time as a customer rather than an employee. I gathered my belongings together and got off the bus at the next stop and walked the short distance back to the church building, then passed under the lych gate and walked quietly along the path through the graveyard and into the porch. Rummaging through my bag, I took out my flat keys, selected the long black church key, slipped the key into the lock of the old wooden door, took hold of the cold metal handle and gently opened the door.
I was greeted by cool, undisturbed air and the strong smell of furniture polish and I was pleased to discover that the church was empty. There were no flower ladies or cleaning ladies to contend with, for which I was thankful. I was not in the mood for a conversation. The peaceful silence inside the building always has a calming effect upon me, but this time it was accompanied by a grave sense of disappointment. Perhaps the influence of Hollywood has a greater hold on me than I had realised, but I had anticipated some kind of supernatural reaction to my presence when I entered the building. However nothing had changed and no-one seemingly cared that I was there.
I closed the door behind me, then quietly made my way up the aisle and stood at the altar rail, flaunting myself defiantly in full view of the large wooden crucifix and the frail, bronze Jesus hanging before me, his face turned away. As I stood at the altar rail studying the despondent figure on the cross I was filled with a strange mix of compassion and anger. I have attended church regularly for some years now and I have spent countless evenings alone in the organ loft drilling hymns over and over for a Sunday service and throughout all this time I have desperately wanted to see or hear something – anything that will reassure me that there is a spiritual realm that exists beyond the drudgery of this world and that a divine authority is watching over me. And in all these years now was the moment that I needed to make a connection and now was the time that I needed to feel the reassurance of a godly presence. But, as always, I was met with an empty stillness and the building felt like an empty shell.
“If you are my saviour,” I muttered to myself, “then why will you not answer me?”
Silence. My frustration quickly escalated to seething anger and I whispered under my breath and with a child-like defiance: “You are no more alive than the stones in this place…”
Again there was no reaction. The body on the cross looked lifeless and apathetic, oblivious to my presence like a sleeping guard. And then a thought came to me. Why should I wait patiently for the invitation to be extended? Why should I not provoke a response? For how long will I allow Luke’s teachings to lie dormant and for how long am I going to fill my head with dead languages and arcane riddles before I test whether their spark is still alive? And so, taking advantage of the quiet solitude inside the building, I stepped past the altar rail, climbed the two stone steps and placed my hands on the front of the wooden altar. I closed my eyes and concentrated hard and sure enough words and images from The Omega Course began to flood into my consciousness – countless snippets of sentences that I remembered from the late nights that I have spent studying these ancient texts - and I felt the overwhelming sense of authority that came with a deeply profound understanding of them. If heaven will not reach out to me, I thought, then I will reach up and drag it down to me.
“I address the spirit of this great and powerful biaiothanatos,” I whispered, “Send your holy spirits to me, that they may obey me and transform me into a vessel of eternal life. If you hear me then you must obey me.”
“You MUST obey me. Look into my heart and see who is calling to you. For you are I and I am you.”
Again, silence. I could hear the distant roar of traffic on the main street. Life continued as usual and without giving me a second thought. ‘There is no ear to hear my threats,’ I thought to myself, ‘just as there is no ear to hear my prayers’.
I swallowed my disappointment and stepped away from the altar but before I could turn around to leave I was wrenched to an immediate awareness of myself and I realised that something was seriously wrong. It all happened so suddenly but I can remember every precise detail of the ordeal. At first I felt a warm tingling spreading across my neck and shoulders as though I had stepped directly into the rays of the mid-day summer sun and for a moment the feeling was quite pleasant, almost enjoyable, but then the warmth moved outwards across my right shoulder and upwards into my ear and it quickly intensified until it was an uncomfortable burning feeling on the right side of my neck. My face instantly flushed and, fearing that I would vomit or faint, I closed my eyes tightly and gripped onto the altar, rocking my head gently from side to side to relieve the growing pressure. The uncomfortable feeling settled momentarily, but then an unbearably sharp pain pierced straight through my chest and my eyes were ripped open by a prickling sensation that burst from the base of my spine and tore up my back like thousands of glass shards scratching at my skin, washing over my shoulders and spilling down over my chest like freezing cold water. I cried out, turned and stumbled down the aisle in a desperate attempt to find help, but after only a few steps I fell backwards and sat down on the cold stone floor of the church, gripping the side of my throat and holding my breath to ride out the pain. My heart thundered in my chest, the pain in the right side of my neck was unbearably sharp as though my throat had been cut open from ear to shoulder and my head filled with pressure to the extent that I feared that I might fall straight back down onto the floor if I attempted to stand.
After a few minutes the pressure in my head dispersed and the pain in my neck was reduced to an uncomfortably prickly but bearable heat and I managed to drag myself onto the front pew and sit for a while, trying to steady my breathing. When the pain finally subsided and I was sure that I could move without injuring myself further, I stood out of the pew and made to leave the church, but as I stood out of my seat a sickening sense of terror gripped me and I was unable to move a muscle. I was rooted to the spot by the most alarming sensation that made my scalp tingle and every hair on my head stand on end. I wasn’t alone in the church. They were nearby. I could feel them behind me, each one of them. In fact every pew in the church was filled with them. I could see them in my mind’s eye and when I closed my eyes they came sharply into focus; the thin ethereal figures waiting obediently in the pews, sat upright and to attention like an army of men awaiting orders. Most of them were very faint and they seemed to flicker in-and-out like an interrupted television signal but some (I suspect the ones that rested only a few metres away in the churchyard) appeared solid like living people and they were clearly distressed and confused by their incorporeal state. And amongst them were the most bizarre creatures that I have ever seen - horrifically gaunt and wraithlike men (some contorted into the vilest positions), curious long-haired beasts with human eyes and short bird beaks and small monkey-like animals that stared with wild eyes, screamed silently and stretched their arms into the air like a child desperately begging to be picked up by its mother.
I was afraid to turn around for fear that I would see them with my own eyes, but I could feel their despair pouring into me and I was overcome by a dreadful sadness that threatened to reduce me to tears at any moment. I knew who they were. Each one of them. They were the pitiful and tragic creatures that had been abused for centuries and placed into chains for the amusement of cruel magicians and curious individuals who toy with ancient rituals and arcane spells. Curious individuals like myself. I was terribly ashamed and I wanted to confront them so that I could apologise and beg forgiveness, but at the same time I was possessed by an overwhelming sense of acceptance and achievement that swelled my heart to bursting point. At last I had been heard, and I was thankful.
My attention was once again drawn towards the altar and as my eye rested on the crucifix I noticed that it looked different somehow. I could see greater detail on it than before, but not only could I see the finer detail, I could feel it. I could feel the grain of the old wood and the cold, smooth bronze of the Jesus figurine. And as I extended my gaze outwards into the main body of the church, I realised that I could feel every fibre of the building. I could touch the hard wood of the rafters. I could run my fingers across the rough texture of the walls. I could even smell the flowers in the porch outside. And not only could I feel the objects around me but I could project my sense of self, my aura, my physical power, the energy that radiated from my back and chest outwards in every direction until it touched the floor, walls and ceiling. And it did not stop there. The energy seemed to pierce straight through the walls, stretching out for miles in every direction beyond the church building. I was possessed by an overwhelming sense of empowerment and tremendous physical strength like nothing that I have ever felt before.
My body felt like stone.
My chest felt like armour.
I was invulnerable.
And it was at that moment that I understood. I understood why the church walls had been silent for so long. I understood that I have not received a response because I have been making offerings in an empty tomb. He is not here. As I studied the figure on the cross I realised that I have already heard his voice and I have heard it nearly every day for almost a year. His voice echoes all around me. I hear his voice speaking through Leonard and I hear his voice speaking through Luke. They have taught me not to surrender to my mortality. They have taught me not to be a willing lamb to the slaughter. They have taught me to fight for my rightful place amongst the gods. Leonard is right, we entrust our hopes and desires to divine heroes that we fashion out of common men while we fail to realise that we possess our only true means of salvation within ourselves.
I stood carefully and stepped into the aisle, deliberately keeping my line of sight low to avoid catching sight of something seated in the pews that could terrify me beyond belief. I strode down the aisle and my footsteps reverberated around the empty walls. There was no quiet respect this time. I didn’t care if the gods heard me. Each loud footstep defiled the sanctity of the place.
I am here.
Listen to me.
I passed by the old statues and icons that stared at the floor and avoided my gaze. Maybe they could sense the mechanics of change whirring deep inside me. I would not call it arrogance but rather a new-found self-confidence. I have always believed that I am no better than the next person, but as I walked out of the church building and along the main street I felt greater than everyone in the entire world.