(This short story appears in Filmic Cuts 2: Luchador Monkey Crisis. I’ve always been interested in the paradoxical nature of faith, and the old trope of Good vs Evil. While this once was a TV script, I quite like how it turned out. Hope you enjoy – OJ)
It was close to 10 as the Father made his way around his quarters to perform his nightly checks. Making sure the lights were out, the windows were closed and other small tasks that the average person would surely find dull, but for him were now routine. His modest living space was part of the Church where he did his part in spreading the message of the Lord, and like where he lay his head his task was not great, but important. The town where he was based was quaint, as visitors would say when they visited, and the Church formed an important part of it. Father would not dare say he was proud, per se, of how he handled the place of worship, but he took great solace in the quality of work he did do.
He made his way into the main, and looked down the nave toward the great stained glass window before him. The light from the street lamps outside illuminated the interior like the few candles never could, filling them with a multi-coloured glow from the series of visions surrounding him. It was always the main window, above the altar, which filled Father with fervour though. He would look at Jesus standing there, tall and powerful and forgiving, and be glad to be under the love of such a being. Every night he would take in these holy visions, and let them help him sleep into the next morning.
Father reached his room, set his water on the side and made his way into bed, puffing out his candle before resting his head. Tomorrow was another day, and as always he looked forward to it. He closed his eyes, and began to relax.
A loud hammering shook him from his rest. Each blow reverberated through the Church’s walls as if the door itself was being smashed down. Father looked at his clock and saw the hands telling him it was near after 2. Slowly, he gathered his senses and made his way back to the main aisle.
Wounded by sleep, he slowly made his way to the solid wooden double doors that gave entry to the atrium of the Church. With each step he took, the banging from outside grew more in ferocity and repetition. It wasn’t until he was a few feet away that he suddenly heard the word that chilled his bones.
With the blood pumping fiercely in his heart, Father fumbled the key from his pocket and widened his eyes to awaken himself some more. He put the key in the lock and turned, the door giving way with a brief click.
For a moment there was nothing but silence, but before Father could react the door swung hard against him and in fell a young man, dressed head to toe in black. He fell to the ground, on his hands and knees, and looked up with fear at Father.
“Sanctuary.” he whispered again.
His eyes were begging to Father, before they darted back beyond the door to the grounds outside. For a moment Father was curious as to what he was looking for before the young man bounded up and slammed the door shut, resting against it.
Both men stood there in silence for a moment, Father stood looking at the young man before him, while he leaned gasping against the door. He paused, turned to Father and implored him to lock the door. When Father asked why, he answered simply.
“I asked for sanctuary, for that I need a locked door.”
The young man smiled at the confused Father, and laughed breathlessly as he introduced himself as John.
“Well John,” Father said as he locked the door, “you look like you could do with a cup of tea.”
Father led John back down the nave toward his quarters, and watched as he slowly walked down toward the altar, taking in the glass visions of the Lord around him. The colours basking them in a holy glow.
John drank his first cup quick, in spite of the heat, and seemed to relax. When troubled souls had come to Father, he had always found a cup of Earl Grey to be the finest thing to get them in a state of wellbeing. Most came in fear of the Church and what it represented, so to get them to unburden themselves Father felt you had to put them at ease first and show them that God wasn’t all sin and judgement. The young man known as John didn’t seem as troubled anymore now he was in, but still looked to the door a number of times to check that nothing was coming for him.
Father started as softly as he always did, by asking about John. The young man wasn’t too forthcoming with details, save a reiteration of his name and his status as a visitor to their town. Father noted his dress in more detail, a fine combination of well kept shirt and trousers, with an obscenely polished pair of shoes upon his feet. All in the deepest black. Father noted this to John, who smiled fully for the first time and jested about Father’s observation.
“I never put a vicar for a fashion expert.”
Father smiled softly back and decided to broach the subject of John’s troubles. Why had he come in such a panic? John asked to pour himself a cup of tea, and spoke as he filled his cup. He had arrived in the town a couple of days prior, on business, and had taken to seeing the sights of what there was to offer, which was not much. Therefore, when not conducting his work, he took to one of the oldest vices there was, the various public houses around. John explained to Father that the first night he drank a great deal and made several friends, sharing amusing tales and listening to their problems. John explained he was a good listener, and, while not being arrogant in his assumption, was very good at giving advice to those who needed it. With a nod, Father told him that was a trait they shared.
John continued to tell how he met a girl, and Father began to see the pieces fall into place. John said how he and the girl got along, shared some laughs and of course, some drinks, and eventually, well, as John put it:
“We did what young people do when they’ve had quite a few drinks.”
He continued that the next night, after conducting his business, he once again drank, discussed and divulged in carnal relations with the same girl. Nothing untoward and definitely, as John was at pains to point out, nothing of an ill nature. However John explained that this, the third night of his enjoyment of the town, he found himself confronted by the brother of the girl. He explained how the brother was unhappy with John’s involvement and when others came to his defence, the situation escalated to such as degree that violence was involved.
“The next thing I knew,” John said, “was running for my life.”
Father nodded and then asked John what made him come to the Church? Why not the police or one of his new found friends?
John considered this for a moment and then answered.
“I’ve always found comfort, in the Church.”
He then explained how the lost art of “sanctuary” meant, unlike say a police station or person’s home, he could not be turned away. And as John explained, sure enough he was now there.
Father took all this in and began to form his council in his head. He had heard of many young folk who indulge in vices only to then have anger erupt before them. He asked John to answer truthfully if he had done anything that could be construed as “bad”, to which John asked back a simple question.
Father tried explaining that some of his actions, especially to the girl’s brother, may be seen as disrespectful or even uncouth, to which John again asserted he had been nothing but a gentleman and had done nothing untoward.
Before Father could enquire more, another series of knocks rattled across his door…
(To read the rest of Sanctuary, grab a copy of Filmic Cuts 2: Luchador Monkey Crisis for Kindle or paperback.)