Mizzy stared up at St. Benedict’s Church, knowing she appeared to be an American tourist in London to see the sights. She was unhappy with that label. People didn’t attempt to think that maybe she had come here to find something and she was almost out of her savings and down to her last loan now.
She would have to leave soon without any sign of the truth that had been calling to her. Her friends had challenged that it was probably just a wrong number and she should hang up the receiver and get on with the rest of her life. She didn’t have many friends anymore. Although she might have started out with Phoebe, Monica, Rachel, Chandler and even Ross, she was now just Joey, clinging on to the dying embers of fame with a humourless spin-off series.
Space in the City was a scarce commodity and so instead of billowing out horizontally, the white church reached up vertically, resembling a rocket with a bell tower instead of a space module. She sniggered, thinking that the stone rocket church might be able to launch into heaven and meet the Man himself. Or maybe it was a divine warhead, primed and ready to bomb the hell out of the non-believers.
Latin inscriptions above the door boasted divinity that the common man would not be able to comprehend and need the guidance of a priest to mediate with. Gargoyles roosted at irregular points all the way to the top, some grinning as if they were about swoop down and devour the brains of some unsuspecting American tourist, others impassive and menacing; she didn’t want to know what those ones were thinking about doing to her. She didn’t understand why holy places were so practised in the art of demonic sculpture.
It was mid-afternoon and there was no one inside that she could see. She stepped into its interior tentatively, glancing around just in case it was not a real church after all, perhaps just a historical cash cow that charged $5 a pop for a whiff of authentic musty air. She corrected herself, thinking that in London it would be £5, far too much money given the exchange rate. For £5 she would have expected a Disneyland amusement to be incorporated in the price of the entrance fare. Perhaps the rocket church concealed the Holy Hydroslide, in which you could experience the terror of slipping from Heaven to Hell.
The inside was larger than its outside dimensions had led her to believe. Countless rows of empty, wooden pews occupied its expansive volume. Solid, black pillars separated a dull, uninspiring marble floor from a tall ceiling which, to her disappointment, was not adorned with a fresco. A gargantuan organ squatted at the rear, with pipes that lurched out of his hind like the spines of some dinosaur. The spines had a brilliant lustre suggesting the organ was seldom used, lonesome and choirless. Narrow, rough hewn doors flanked the organ, leading to private destinations that the fold were not permitted to go; one of them probably lead to the gaudy pulpit that dominated the interior.
The pulpit was a platform with a shiny, golden frame that resembled the upturned ribcage of some animal and a brightly coloured tapestry was draped over one side of it. She couldn’t make the tapestry out; figures in movement, perhaps a cross was in there somewhere. The pulpit was higher than she would have liked and deduced that the congregation, if it existed, must suffer from a higher-than-national-average number of neck complaints.
Mizzy sat down, despite her fears that she might be charged £5. Outside there were City workers rushing to and fro between offices, projects and Important Meetings. Outside there were taxis and ostentatious cars bustling from one place to another frantic to arrive at destinations with the minimum of collateral damage. Here was the calm and the silence, a cloistered space that held the gift of the reflective moment. The only intrusion was a soft, inquisitive breeze, breathing upon her exposed skin. Peace.
She shut her eyes to contemplate. The troubles she had leapt from. The compass she was seeking. The sadness that was trapped in her eyes. Hello how are you today.
A voice, burdened with excessive joy, boomed over her. “Hello I said, how are you today?”