Today’s story is another inspired by a dream. Is anyone else dreaming more at the moment?
“Come down to the river bed.”
Mac grasped my wrist and led me across the worn down limestone, not caring whether I struggled to find footing amongst the weed covered rock. I followed best I could, stepping into the water to save myself from falling. Soon we stood at the centre of the shallow river, a small plateau of smoothed stone surrounded by veins of water.
“What are you showing me?” I asked, trying to ignore the chill in my feet and keep the ice from my voice.
“The foundations,” he said. “The Abbey was here.” His arm curved wide, taking in the whole of the channel surrounding us and returning to point to the expanse between us.
I shook my head until he sighed and knelt.
“Look, here, below the fossils. The Abbey once stood here. The monks came here to worship.”
“That’s not the Franciscan site we’re looking for,” I said.
“I know,” he said. “This is much older. The Twisted Church of the Boiling Sea. The Holy Order of the Gasping Dead. The Congregation of the Eroded Eyes.”
I looked once more at his evidence. Between the fossils all I saw were the scratches of his trowel on the stone.
That night I dreamt of the Abbey. Saw the narthex rammed with gasping worshippers, the nave and cloisters carpeted with those barely alive clawing at the bare bone pillars. The ceilings hung with intestine garlands. In my dream I waded through the bodies, stepping in rib cages as I approached the altar. The black volcanic stone block was pinned with a single cover. Approaching, I recognised several tattoos in the preserved skin and woke with my fingers tracing the ink in my own arms.
The next day I’d agreed to meet Mac at the river once more, but when I arrived I was alone. I searched the banks and the channels for any sign of him, worried in case he lost his footing in his fervour. With no sign of him I walked out to the limestone once more. Stood there alone I shuddered at the memory of that cavernous church and knelt down to settle myself. Amongst the fossil shells beneath my feet I saw the shattered ribs that I so recently stepped over. Kneeling down, I brushed a smear of dirt and rubbed the away at the stone.
Even with an expression of agony, even below the compressed shells, I still recognised Mac’s face pinned down and stretched, and as I stared at his trapped distress in the limestone I felt the temperature drop and knew the Abbey would be rebuilt and once more gather worshippers to its halls.