by Andrew S. Taylor
A church awakens and unfurls itself in the night, when no one sees it, because the village is asleep. A faint luminescence animates its windows, and there the shepherds and humble virgins begin to sway; gently at first in the flickering light, and then with movements more sensuous and lithe. Above their heads, halos swarm in small flocks while veins of lead pulse between the panes. Colors melt and bleed across boundaries. Pale flesh drinks deeply of redness. Though no doors are open and no one sits within, a slow and steady wind blows through the open, faceless mouths of organ pipes. The church moans.
Starlight strikes the steeple bell as the rafters tremble. Ancient hardwood pews moisten, smelling of the earth. Over the nave a crucifix swings wildly as its crown of thorns bursts open with ripe green leaves and cherry-red blossoms. The vaguely human figure is swallowed by the vines and mosses which encircle it.
The vault at the center of the nave rumbles as it is forced open from within. It disgorges a thick curtain of water, rich with the scent of cool grottos. The water rolls smoothly down from the vault onto the floor, plashing and fanning outwards like the skirt of a silver dress. The water murmurs across the boards into dark corners. Faces, mischievous and indistinct, blink across its surface, hiding in the folds of the skirt.
Up above the rafters, the bell hums continuously. In the windows, the people and the animals and the trees wrap themselves around one another, press into one another, entwine their limbs and drink from one another, and their opaque bodies glisten and their mouths are open and their wide eyes are crying and laughing. Their bodies are slick with fluid as the branches of shimmering trees encircle them. Vines tease and penetrate them. The people and the animals and the trees are laughing, dissolving into sound and slithering into riverbeds and tumbling through channels between the rolling hills, while an engorged ruby sun reclines behind the landscape.
Outside and throughout the village, every door is shut and every light doused. The evening prayers have been spoken. The night air is docile, and the people in their homes lie in repose, on their backs, their hands crossed over their chests. Sleeping lips mouth voiceless words to the patter of mice at trespass. The night in their rooms is colorless and still as the dry moon drifts through square portals. Beneath their window panes lie tools with sharpened blades and heavy wheels, clawed machines with tines.
In the daytime they will say that they do not recall their dreams, and the floors upon which they kneel will be dry as whalebone and cold as granite.
Andrew S. Taylor’s first short story was published nine years ago in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. Since then, his work–both fiction and non-fiction–has appeared in numerous publications on-line and in print, including Pindeldyboz, The Dream People, Menda City Review, Thieves Jargon, Underground Voices, Word Riot, Anime Insider, American Book Review, and many others. His novella Swamp Angels is included in the anthology Needles & Bones from Drollerie Press. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart, and was recently selected as a “Notable Story of 2009” by storySouth’s Million Writers Award. He also served for three years as Associate Editor of Menda City Review. When not writing, he is an office manager and an evening student in his third year at Fordham Law School. His blog is intermittently updated at http://fablesandriddles.blogspot.com/.