The Mysterious Midnight Mass
“Come on, Jack; I don’t wanna be late!” June said, beckoning me to hurry my apparently sluggish self out the door. I was rushing or at least I felt like I was. My apparent lack of willpower did nothing to help me get ready any quicker, nevertheless I scurried out to the car.
The drive wasn’t very far, as we lived in North Plano almost down the street from the cathedral. I could suggest walking there to avoid the parking nightmare that we would most certainly face, but this is Texas; nobody uses their feet here except to press the gas pedal.
“God bless this traffic!” June blurted out as she jammed her foot on the brake, almost crashing into the equally-imposing SUV in front of us. We had succeeded in making it six hundred feet before getting caught in churchgoer gridlock. I could think of a dozen snarky comments to make at that time, but I wasn’t about to say anything. June, like most wives I know, carries the car keys in one pocket and her husband’s balls in the other.
We were on our way to midnight mass at our local Methodist church. I thought midnight mass was only a Catholic thing; apparently Methodists don’t seem to mind stealing traditions from other faiths. Christmas is one of the two times a year the fair-weather Christians come out of the woodwork to make their obligatory pilgrimage to a conveniently-located nearby house of worship. June actually went to church every weekend. She loves this place; I think she went through the complicated Methodist initiation just so she could attend this church. I didn’t see what the big deal was since all the churches looked the same to me. However, this church did have an impressively tall spire that no one in their right mind would ever climb up.
We finally found a free spot towards the back of the lot where the pavement was engulfed in shadows. We then scrambled through the obstacle course of parking spaces and irritated holiday motorists to make it into the church. June’s friend Jackie had managed to save us some seats in the middle, which she had been politely defending for the past twenty minutes.
The service itself was pretty bland. I don’t mean to single-out this particular midnight mass, as every service at this church is bland. The whole thing was only scheduled for an hour, but for me it felt like six days, so during the third round of hymns I decided I needed to stretch my legs and go to the restroom. At least I knew I could get some peace and quiet in there away from June’s judgmental gaze.
I strolled into the stall furthest from the door, and took a seat on the porcelain throne. I didn’t have to take a crap; I just wanted to think. I tried to remember how I got to being such a tool, always going along with whatever my dear wife desires, but all that was going through my head was “White Christmas” on repeat. I’m pretty sure any moment June was going to send me a text message wanting to know what’s taking so long. I’d prefer to relish the silence for just a minute longer.
I woke up.
I must’ve dozed off on the toilet. I wasn’t sure how long I’d been out, but it was probably much longer than it needed to be. June was probably worried sick that Jack, her emotional punching bag, was missing.
I ran out of the restroom only to be confronted with....nothing. Nobody was there. The lights were on, but no one was home. I pulled my phone out of my pocket to check the time, but it was dead. Luckily there was a wall clock in the vestibule that said 12:36, so mass should have still been in session. Where did everyone go?
I went outside to check the parking lot, but beyond the church grounds I could see nothing but inky black shadows.
While I rather enjoyed the quiet privacy the utter lack of people was starting to creep me out. I then looked up into the sky and saw something that didn’t make sense at all. It was the church and mostly-lit parking lot full of people and cars except...it was upside-down. Or maybe I was in the upside-down church; I didn’t feel like I was upside-down in this doppelganger diocese, but I had a notion that I really needed to get down to the church filled with people back on Earth or I was going to be stuck at this churchyard in the sky.
I ran back inside trying to think of how I ended up in this weird situation. I went back into the restroom and sat down on the toilet in the stall furthest from the door. I then thought really hard about the church, and the steeple, and opening the doors and seeing all the people. I felt a little weird so I figured my concentrating worked, and I went out to see...
Still in the upside-down church.
Fine. So that was a bust. I had another idea, but the thought of it made my legs weak. Maybe I could climb up to the top of the spire and jump off, hopefully landing on the rightside-up spire without spearing myself through the chest. I found a door that went up to the belltower taking me up many rickety stairs that have certainly seen better days. The church bells were controlled by a computer so the only people who make this perilous journey would be the severely-underpaid electricians making periodic repairs.
I got up to the top of the belfry and prayed that these massive ringers didn’t suddenly go off. In the corner of the room were several bundled up vinyl banners. I grabbed one that said “HE IS RISEN 1982”...apparently these have been here a while. I figured I could fashion them into a makeshift parachute to slow my fall. I looked out the window and noticed that it was a long way down...both ways. I climbed out onto the old shingle-laden spire and gradually inched my way up to the top, keeping a tight grip on the church and the flimsy vinyl banner. The bitter chilling wind whipped around me, giving my unprotected face and hands a stinging slap. My stomach was turning in knots, but I knew I had to make the jump or risk freezing to death up on the upside-down spire, and I’d prefer not to go that way.
I wrapped my legs around the shingles and unfolded the banner to....
Briefly I had forgotten everything I ever learned in science class as the ridiculously strong wind currents pulled the banner and my body free from the spire, sending me uncontrollably into the air! All I could do was to hold onto the vinyl banner for dear life.
But my mostly-educated guess was wrong.
I wasn’t floating back down to Earth.
I wasn’t even heading back to the upside-down church.
The wind had shot me sideways straight into the murky blackness surrounding the replica cathedral. It was freezing cold as I felt the inky clouds permeate every orifice, and I seemed to be accelerating.
Until I hit something hard.
Hard like concrete.
By the laws of physics I should be dead, but I suddenly found myself laying on the edge of the parking lot nearest the church. I stood up and brushed myself off. The cars and the people were back. I was back on Earth!
“Oh there you are,” June said to me. “Where were you?”
I looked up into the sky. The upside-down cathedral was gone. For all I know I clipped out of the boundaries of the world and got popped back into reality.
“Oh uh...I just needed some fresh air.”
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