The latest weekly photo challenge was “Faces”. The DP’s photo didn’t catch me, so I went looking through those that were posted by other bloggers, and found one by Estirador that I quite liked. Estirador has a number of great photos up for this one, but one in particular reminded of what I wrote for my first WPC, “Entrances.” So let’s go back to the abandonned church…
“The abandonment,” Joseph replied. “These lines aren’t hurried, like they would’ve been if they had to hide from anyone. The pews were moved aside to clear the floor space, though.”
Tisa looked as well, now seeing what he saw, and nodded. “Get Barker, I’ll check the back.” Joseph went back into the dry cold of the early winter to retrieve their wounded friend, while Tisa held her weapon ready and walked into the rooms behind the altar. These too were empty–where once a priest or minister might have lived, the sheets were dirty and moth-eaten, and the drawers were bare. The man who’d been here before had seen fit to close them as he left, however. Was he not in a hurry, or simply a man who was married to his habits or organization as much as his church? Either way, he had left nothing here for them. But the church was still shelter they could not turn away from. The stone made it safe for a fire, and the pews would make good kindling once they stripped off the varnish.
A few empty cells–Tisa was fairly sure that was the term for the small plain rooms where priests or sisters or monks would live–yielded similar results. A symbol of the faith sat in one room, very noticeably the only thing remaining. Left behind on purpose, but what purpose? As a reminder? Or as a guardian?
At the end of the hallway was a short stone staircase leading down. It made one half-turn as it went, and then it ended in a large door. Unlike the grey and weathered wood of the front doors, this was real stone, and there was no obvious way to open it. No hinges, no seams, nothing but a large and ugly carved face in the rock. It grimaced at her, dead empty eyes like her father warning her with no uncertainty that one more step would bring his wrath. Do it and you will weep, child, do it and you will know regret like nothing you’ve known before. She’d never wept for him, though. Not when he beat her, not when he died.
But this face, this door, this promised some other variety of punishment, a kind she was not comfortable contemplating. Its frowning mouth held the ends of what had once been a handle or knocker, but that had been broken off. It wasn’t to be found on the floor, so there was no way to know who had broken it off or why.
“That’s an ugly mug,” Joseph said behind her. Tisa spun and aimed, her gun up and at his head, instinct moving her before her mind caught up.
“Shit, Joseph, don’t sneak up on me!” she scolded him as she relaxed.
“I’m sorry–I thought you would’ve heard me coming,” he replied. “What is this?”
“Looks like a door, but there’s nothing there to open,” she said, stepping back so he could look more closely. Joseph peered at it, leaning in, fingers fluttering just above the surface without ever quite touching it.
“That hasn’t stopped someone from trying. The scratches at the eyes, see? They’ve been chipped at and not by whoever carved this. That damage came later,” he pointed out. Tisa squinted at it in the dim lighting of the stairwell.
“Huh. Who’d do that? The eyes aren’t gonna open this thing.”
“I don’t know. Maybe who ever desecrated the nave.”
“The main seating area of the church upstairs is called the nave,” he explained.
“Where’d you learn stuff like that?” Tisa asked.
“Huh. What school?”
“Does it matter?” Joseph replied. “This carving must have had some kind of religious importance, or else why spend so much effort on a door that’s so out of the way? So it’s likely whoever desecrated the church was trying to desecrate this as well.”
“Must’ve been some really anti-religious folks around here at some point,” Tisa remarked. “So, should we try to open it?”
“No. Whatever’s in there can stay in there. I stay out of religious conflicts whenever possible. And it’s unlikely this was an anti-religious effort; chances are it was a very religious one, in fact, just one that was in opposition to the religion originally established here,” Joseph said, stepping back from the door. They headed back through the hallways of cells and towards the nave, and Tisa felt pleased at giving it the right name in her head now. “Some group working at counter-purposes to what this church was built for. Or that felt their religion was more right.”
“More right? That sounds off,” Tisa said.
“It is,” Joseph said. She waited, but he offered no further thoughts.