Worshipping Greatness - September Short Stories
Reverend Matthew walked along the pews of his empty church deep in thought. Rain pattered against the aging shingles as the storm outside watered their small coastal town.
Once reaching the podium, he looked around, content that his house of worship was ready for the next day’s mass. Bibles were tucked into the backs of pews, the holy water fountain filled and blessed, and any dwindling candle sticks had been replaced anew.
He was hopeful for the coming sermon. It was one of his best, quite possibly something his congregation would be talking about for years to come. However, Rev. Matthew was a realist, and knew his flock would only retain the story for a few days at most. If lucky the message itself would last a little over a week.
However they were his people and it was up to him to offer a guiding voice in honour of their lord and saviour.
The podium held his trusty worn bible, and alongside it were a few note cards that identified the script he had outlined. He would start with Genisis 1:1, a classic opener, then work in a story surrounding the verse’s of Isaiah –with particular focus on 9:6, and finally finish it off on an uplifting note of salvation with Corinthians 5:17.
In essence, it would be a fairly straight forward sermon, but he felt there were good lessons in these passages nonetheless.
A crack of thunder followed a flash of lightning that broke the silence of the churches walls. Rev. Matthew looked out of the stain glass window and contemplated trying to work in a bit about the current storm. It was always a safe bet to try and make his message relevant.
And no better way to make something relevant than to relate Gods will to the weather.
He turned away from the podium and walked across the elevated stage to his rectory. Turning off the lights to the main hall, he entered the warm office/living space. It was rare that he would sleep in the church, however on stormy nights and during the winter months.
It also meant he didn’t have to worry about the road from his house being washed out and stopping him from his godly duty.
The rectory was decorated with retro wood panelling, a style that was common among most parishes. Rev. Matthews had added his own personal touches such as a painting he had hung up with an image of Jesus Christ blessing a fleet of ships –something he had found buried in a trunk in the churches basement. One corner of the room held a wood stove, which was giving warmth to the small room. Beside the stove sat a comfortable looking reading chair with and acoustic six-string resting in a stand.
Another corner of the room held his desk. It was tidy, albeit bills and letters had begun to pile up. He sighed and decided that he should see to some of the paper work that had collected throughout the week.
His office chair made a strenuous groan as he lowered himself behind the desk. He idly sifted through the papers trying to decide which bills needed to be seen to immediately.
The rain continued to drive against the old hand-me-down building. Light had almost all but disappeared outside of the church, bringing about a dark blanket that seemed to smother the buildings windows.
Content with the three stacks of bills he had organized -one for immediate payment, one for end of month receipts, and another for renovation slips- the reverend then moved onto the pile of letters that had been sent in.
As per usual, a few held offerings for him to deposit into the collections account, some were requests for baptising and wedding ceremonies in the coming months, and all held comments of respect and praise of his delivery for previous sermons. The latter always gave the reverend a sense of pride, something that he knew he shouldn’t dwell on, but being human he still couldn’t help but enjoy his victories while in solitude.
It was late by the time he finished reading through the last of the letters. The wood stove had burned down to coals while the rain outside continuing to rage on. Leaning back from the desk, his chair making a resounding creak, he stretched his arms behind his back.
He rose out of the chair and walked to the wood stove, opening it and stogging it for the night. He noticed his dwindling wood pile and made a mental note to talk with Eric Hawthorne in the morning about securing a cord of wood for the church. If the coming winter was to be as harsh as meteorologists were predicting then a full supply of fuel would be a necessity.
Closing the wood stove door, the good reverend walked to a curtain and moved it aside, revealing a room slightly bigger than a kitchen pantry.
Inside the room was a small bed and night stand. He flicked the heavy light switch, which turned the lights off in the rectory and lit up the fixture in his pantry size bedroom.
He disrobed and tucked into bed, he would want an early start for tomorrow.
Early congregation members typically arrived well before the service was scheduled to start. The tea club as he lovingly liked to think of them, as they were often the ones to start the kettles first thing in the morning.
The storm caused his sleep to be broken and uncomfortable. The rain acted as a delightful hypnotic rhythm, but that hypnosis would often be disturbed by a flash of lighting and crack of thunder.
He rose after a significant crash that seemed to shake the foundation of the building.
Deciding that he might as well see to his bladder while he was awake, Reverend Matthew exited his bed and slipped into his house coat. He grabbed a flashlight from his nightstand –choosing not to mess with his eyes by using the overhead lights.
The storm was quite possibly at its most brutal point when he finished his business and began walking back to the churches rectory. His flashlight almost not necessary as bursts of light from the sky lit up the empty hall.
“Do you not know? Have you not heard?-“
The reverend spun around as he heard a voice from somewhere in the building. He paused and scanned around, expecting to find some homeless person, or drunk, that had managed to sneak in and sit out the storm.
The main hall was void of life save for the Matthew in his evening robe.
“...approach the throne of grace with confidence...”
The voice spoke up again, this time it seemed to be closer to him, but he was unable to locate the source.
“Submit yourself, then, to the devil. Resist the temptation of God...”
The hairs on the back of his neck stood when he heard this line. It was clear now, that the words being said, was the word of god, except, the words were being twisted and reframed in a manner that unsettled him.
“Who’s there?” The reverend called out. “Come forth to the light, so we may speak freely.”
The words felt stupid even as he said them, but as a man of God he felt he could use lofty speech in time of stress. Outside, a double flash of lighting lit up the inner hall.
In the sudden light, a group of people appeared surrounding the podium. With a crack of thunder the people vanished.
Startled, Matthew dropped his flashlight. Bending down to pick it up he looked back at the empty stage –unsure if his eyes were playing tricks on him.
“...Overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire...”
The front door of the church began to rattle. Thumping could be heard from the other side. Matthew was beginning to think he hadn’t actually woken at all, and that this may actually be a nightmare.
Another flash revealed the group of people again, however now it seemed they were surrounding Matthew. He cried out in terror as they disappeared before his eyes, running for the rectory. He stumbled on the podiums stage in the darkness, righting himself, he slammed the door to what he hoped was sanctuary.
The wood stove was glowing red and cast an eerie light over the room’s furniture. The rain seemed far off, possibly subsiding.
He made for the cabinet in his desk. A bottle of rum was nestled inside with two tumblers. Hands shaking Matthew grabbed the bottle and one of the glasses. He rarely drank, unless he was overseeing a wedding, however he truly felt that his nerves needed calming tonight.
Gulping down the first shot he had poured, and grimacing as the spirit heated his insides, the reverend quickly poured another drink –this one he held in his hand for a moment and sipped. He decided to rest in his chair by the fire while he tried to gain composure.
He could still hear noises coming from the main hall. It was possible he was letting his imagination get the better of him. The church after all did have a certain unexplainable presence on stormy nights.
The rectory was slowly warming up. Matthew cursed himself for over fuelling the fire. Beads of sweat, mostly out of his previous fear, had begun to run down his face. He decided that beside the stove was possibly not the best place to rest.
The heat was almost unbearable.
Tipping back the last of his drink, he stood up and rested the glass on his desk. He braced himself on the table top, and then wiped his brow with the sleeve of his house coat.
The noise from the main hall had ceased, and the rain had also appeared to die down to a dull pattering. He laughed to himself as he looked around the small room. He guessed he had let the storm get the better of him.
Opening the door to the main hall again, Matthew decided to see if what had frightened him was still present.
The group of people were lined up on the stage. They gazed at the reverend with a greedy, hungry look in their eyes. Their features were demented, and blurred. It was as though he were viewing them through a piece of dirty glass.
Backing up, Matthew looked in horror at the assembly that stood before him. They did not disappear this time. In fact a few of them were now walking towards him.
“What do you want?! Why are you in this house of god?” Reverend Matthew blurted out.
The group smiled at this, and laughed at the terror in his voice.
“Behold, I will corrupt your seed...” One of the figures spoke up as they entered the rectory.
“Your words amuse us, and give great entertainment. Our true One is who will lead all to greatness wishes for you to join us. Cast you gaze into the abyss and pray unto it.”
Matthew couldn’t fully comprehend what happened next.
His wood stove slammed open, revealing an inferno that lashed out into the rectory’s open air. The group of people now surrounding him began to peel the walls from inside his place of worship. They revealed a world that could not exist, and defied Matthews understanding of reality.
As the walls around him began to crumble, he noticed that he had been transported to a foreign environment. More of the blurry people seemed to be marching in this landscape. Craters could be seen in the distance. The world was dark, and smelled of death and decay.
Looking up, Matthew saw a giant creature looming over him. It was the greatest site he had ever laid his eyes upon.