Footprints – Part X

by Gaston Prereth

Hi everyone, I just wanted to apologise for the delay in this instalment of Footprints. Unfortunately circumstances outside of my control meant I couldn’t post last week. Hopefully the week break hasn’t lost your interest and you enjoy this chapter as much as the others. I’d also just like to mention that I will be drawing this serial to a conclusion soon. The aim is for it to be about 15 chapters long, just in case any of you were wondering how much longer I was going to ramble on for.  As always, comments are very welcome, I’d love to know how you are finding this short story, and every ‘Like’ also makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

I hope you enjoy.

A mass of nervous faces stared at the Deacon. Despite the vast number of people collecting in the large building, the Deacon noted how quiet they were. No one was talking. There weren’t any angry shouts or accusations. There were just the empty sounds of shuffling feet and the scraping of chairs. He licked his lips under the cowl of his habit and then turned to the other monks who were stood in a huddle by the alter.
“I want you all to keep your hoods up,” he said to the faceless men that looked back at him. He could see them shifting from foot to foot and a couple of them were ringing their hands together in short sharp twists. Only one was stood perfectly still with his arms slotted against his flanks. The Deacon gave him a nod and turned away from the rest. The figure stepped towards him with the efficiency of a sliding door.
“Brother Compton,” said the Deacon, making sure the others wouldn’t be able to hear him. “I want you to organise our Brothers behind the alter. Get them standing still and looking straight back at the villagers. They must keep their hoods up and keep movement to a minimum.”
Brother Compton nodded and turned back to the other monks without a word. The Deacon knew he could trust Brother Compton, he was a true fanatic. He believed in God with every fibre of his body and, that also meant, he believed in the Deacon with just as much zeal.
Everyone in the village, save for the technicians, had come into the chapel this morning. He had expected it, but he had anticipated a constant trickle rather than a silent mob stood waiting at the door. He smiled down at his inflated congregation, holding his hands for quiet, despite the fact none of them were making a sound.
“Friends, I am pleased we have such a high turnout this morning. Not only does it please me that your devotions to God still hold such strength, but also this gives me a chance to allay any fears that you may have been harbouring. This is not a time to panic.” A few murmurs rippled around the congregation but the Deacon ignored them. “It is times like this where we must trust our faith. We should not wonder why, we should just hold ourselves tight and have faith in God’s will. He will not let harm come to us.” Another murmur, louder this time, rolled over the villagers like a wave of unease. It seemed to start from the back of the chapel and spread its way over the heads of the congregation, only to crash itself against the the Deacon and the alter. He scanned the back rows, trying to make out with whom he might have to contend.
“These changes are not for us to understand. They…”
“Changes? These aren’t changes, they are a pestilence. A corruption of the world. A sign that we have been forsaken.” The voice buzzed with the anger of ignorance.
“Shane is right.” Called another voice from the back. “I lost my hot water last night and none of my lights work.”
“I have had to wedge my door open. It just keeps opening and closing. I’ve lost all my privacy.” A third villager called out. The murmurs were back. The Deacon swallowed, and held up his hands again.
“Friends, friends. This is just a transition. When changes are made to such complicated things as the universe, there are bound to be a few side effects. Trust in God that soon things will be better than ever. We just need to be patient.”
“So says the blind man whom chooses to believe that the land before him is smooth and free from danger.” This voice was different. It was firm and measured, despite the clear crackle of age. The villagers turned and saw Cristden walking into the hall, the board and his fellow technicians walking close behind him. “So, Deacon, this is all just part of God’s plan is it?”
The Deacon cursed inwardly. He had hoped the technicians would be too busy at their futile task of trying to map what was happening. There wasn’t a house that hadn’t started suffering from one or more of these strange occurrences. Their pretty little wall of lights must be going haywire. The last thing he wanted now was Cristden and his belligerent men causing a panic.
“Cristden. I am so pleased you have joined us. I am sure you and your hard working men have many ingenious thoughts on what is happening. Invaluable insights that my Brothers and I will take into account in any decision that we make, but I think that we should discus them in private so we don’t needlessly burden the people here.”
“So kind of you to give us some of your valuable time. I’m surprised you have any free. I hope you have not been neglecting your prayer cycle?” Cristden smiled. The Deacon felt the old man’s eyes lock on his. They were cold eyes, too full of self assurance to allow any warmth within them.
“I can assure you our devotions are being kept as the Lord would wish.”
“And yet you still have time to make up stories to tell these poor people.” Cristden’s smile didn’t falter. The two men stared at each other. Their entourages standing like statues behind them. No one else in the hall was making a sound.
“It is better to speak of faith, and of trust in the one thing of which we can be certain. That gives us more than your misguided ventures into the unknowable.”
“Well while you try to solve all your problems with the power of positive thinking, I want to inform you, inform all of you,” Cristden turned to address the whole village, “that my men and I have a plan and we will soon have everything back to normal. It is time for us to abandon these dogmatic principles with which the church has laden us. God has shown us a new path, he has enriched our understanding. He is encouraging us to new heights of wisdom, he is drawing us closer within him. But he is only showing us the path, we must take it. Inaction is not only going to be our ruin, but it is against God.”
“You are a fool if you think you can understand God beyond what your faith can provide, Cristden,” said a voice over the Deacon’s shoulder. He recognised it as Brother Compton. The Deacon turned to silence him but he was too late.
“Ah, Brother Compton, is that you? I hear you spent the night praying in the corridor rather than forcing your door open?” Chistden turned to the villagers, holding his arms out above his head, his tone thick with incredulity. “You see what has happened to us? Do you really want to put your trust in people whom, when faced with a problem, just give up? They just sit in the corridor, rather than using the tools God has provided us. Can you not see? This blind faith is what is causing these problems. It is our stagnation that has forced God to give us a push. The church has been deceiving you.”
The Deacon swallowed. It was done. Cristden had laid his hand down for all to see. The Deacon had hoped he would be able to avoid this. This was not the time for the old fractures between the technician’s and the church to be prised back open. Down this path, he knew, only lived panic and self-destruction.

Continued in Footprints – Part XI

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