I present a teaser of an excerpt I’ve adapted for this purpose from the novel I’m currently working on called “The Gift”. It’s a Christmas supernatural thriller. Spread the word if you liked it or know someone who might be interested, it’d be great to see some excitement generated for it- makes convincing someone to publish it that much easier! 🙂 Coming to a Christmas season near you!
The Gothic cathedral, quite small in comparison to its European brethren, had its intimidating cast iron guard door pulled back to reveal the iron wood entrance on which was hung a fresh evergreen Christmas wreath. Its bright green boughs, and red and gold ribbons stood out like it were the only colour in a black and white photo. The innermost iron wood door was cracked open indicating the building was open to the public for truly it was the biggest tourist attraction in this little Belgian village. Fae Peeters detoured from her lazy afternoon stroll through the snow dusted, stone paved plaza driven to find out which Biblical scene was chiseled in depiction upon the edge of the portal; not from any religious obligation but out of sheer professional curiosity. Sometimes the stories they told were more creative than others. She liked the fact that it was called a portal and not simply just a door. It was a perfect reflection of the mindset people had when they entered a cathedral- going to a whole other realm like space cadets. It was poetic.
Not being much of an art historian but familiar with the language of sculpture from its presence in her studies in architecture, Fae looked up at the sculptures and tried to read its story, both sides, from the bottom up. There were four half tubular columns running parallel to each other all the way up to the top until they curved inwards ending in a converging point twenty feet above her head. Each tubule column was big enough to hold one human figure, tall and solemn. To her right was the scene of the ascension of Jesus- expected, some of the disciples looking up as Jesus rose into heaven surrounded by his angels who populated most of three-quarters of the scene, all the way up to the top of the peak in the portal. On her left side, the evil side by ancient tradition, was a different story.
Two people stood in the two center columns and on either side of them two demons. It was easy to identify the evil forces as snake tails coiled out from beneath their long cloaks and blank smooth stone was all that there was in the place of what little face should have been there peeking out from beneath their droopy hoods; one of them had wings which spread out of its confines within the column. As she followed their story upwards, the demons crossed the lines and reached at the two people, pulling them into their cloaked grasp and putting their long split tongues into their ears. In the next scene the two people had the demons’ heads and their hands were skeletal with thick manacles having been added to their wrists. Only by the magic of art did they not fall off nothing as there was to keep the chains from falling off. The frame above that was the chained skeleton people having completely lost their ability to see, hear or talk due to the demons’ tongues twisting in, around and through their skulls, and even one had the long tongue winding down to wrap around their wrists like a puppet string. The second frame from the top Jesus appeared and above that, before the artist ran out of space, the two people were restored as they had been, the chains having disappeared and the demons nowhere to be seen. Just two saints and Jesus.
With her head tipped back looking up at the art Fae was sure it was the most horrific piece ever displayed on the exterior of the church. She had never seen anything like this before in church low relief, never in any picture, scholarly article or even as an example in a lecture. Surely this was not the Fall of Man, but some obscure Biblical story perhaps? The tale of two saints maybe?
Her eyes drifted back down to the demonic people with skeleton hands and she stared at it captured by the disturbed nature of the sight. A feeling of fear began to creep into her as she studied the scene, crawling up her spine and slowly reaching its cold tendrils through her chest and out to her heart. She found herself looking at it harder, trying to decode its message and symbolism, wanting to be objective and emotionally detached but the gripping of the fear made that impossible. Without her even noticing, the switch from academic to imagination happened and she began to see a green fog seep out from the very pores of the demonic stone people. Ten minutes ago she would have mentally kicked herself to reset her mind and tried to spot the hole from which the cheap trick was being released. But now, right now, she was as dumb as a bug and as transfixed with the fog as she had been with the figures realizing that this green of this fog was unearthly. It came out too smoothly to have been mechanically released and as she watched, rooted to the ground with fear, it fell to the earth and shifted its path towards her. The fear had found its way around her heart and lungs making it hard to breath, the green fog was reaching out for her, she had to get away!
“It speaks to you, doesn’t it?”
Fae startled as a voice behind her spoke snapping her out of the uncomfortable enraptured state she had fallen into. Seeking out the voice she found it belonged to a priest, a middle aged man with stylish eyeglasses but a balding pattern on the front of his head.
“It speaks to all of us.” He continued. “Dead we all were, transformed to look like our master, sin, before Jesus came and set us free to be ourselves.”
“I had thought they were demons.” Fae said as though she had authority on the subject, pointing to the stone figures who looked so evil. The green fog was gone without a trace. It was her mind betraying her again, it had to be. No longer entranced by the hideous figures Fae felt their power over her ebb away until she felt the chill wash back down her spine like a receding tide until it disappeared.
“No. They are anthropomorphic representations of sin. The artists back then knew a thing or two that we have forgotten. Sin is as forceful as any person, as domineering and mean as a slaver. It gives you no choice in your actions. It takes you over and plays you like an instrument.” The priest smiled warmly at Fae. “I was just heading out for some lunch, would you care to join me? I feel like we could have a lot to talk about.”
“We have nothing to talk about.” Fae said feeling irritation rising from her gut. “Sin is just what religious people call personal choices the church doesn’t like.”
The priest didn’t look surprised by her answer. “Do you believe there is evil?”
“Of course I do.” She had no intention of getting involved debating with a priest and yet that was exactly what he seemed to want. “But sin and evil are different. One exists and the other doesn’t.”
“Are they so different? Or is one just a verb of the noun?”
“I am sorry, Father, but I am not interested in your religious thought. I am comfortable with what I believe and if you let me be, then I won’t make any trouble with what you believe, okay? Please, enjoy your lunch.”
Fae trotted down the stone steps leaving the priest behind her.
“Fae Peeters,” The priest shouted after her, “your grandmother told me of the gift she wants you to have. She went far out of her way to make sure you came and visited our little village this Christmas to get it.”
Fae stopped cold in her place. He had her attention.
“How did you know I am Fae Peeters?” She asked suspiciously.
“I have never met your grandmother, Miss. Peeters, but she has a heart of gold that shines through her words and her deeds. I know who you are because you are the only visitor this village has right now. Word gets around. If your grandmother didn’t tell me of you, I would have asked if you really wanted to be here for tomorrow night.”
“Seriously I’m not sure I do, but the mystery grows.”
“The Gift is not for everyone; well, not in the manner of giving it that we have anyway.”
“I really have no idea what is happening here or why everyone I meet is so nervous about me being here. If I’m breaking any laws-”
“No, no. Not official ones anyway. All will be revealed in good time, Miss. Peeters. I’m sorry that you do not want lunch. I was hoping we could be friends before the festivities began.”
The priest followed the steps down and told Fae as he walked by, “When the time comes you will remember this church of God. When you do, you will have the gift your grandmother wishes you to have.”
“My grandmother wouldn’t lure me inside your cathedral like a sheep about to be fleeced. Nice try, Father. Maybe I will go inside to admire the workmanship but that’s it.”
The priest eyed her studiously and gave a short, “Hmmmm,” then began to walk away into the sparsely crowded square of people going this way and that.
“How will I know the time for my gift?” Fae called out after him. “What if the time never comes, will I still get it?” The priest turned around and asked her seriously.
“Did your grandparents ever tell you why the Nazi’s fled our village?”
“No!” She didn’t understand what his question had to do with hers. “An unknown Christmas miracle is all I was ever told.”
He looked at her silently for two beats.
“God bless you Fae Peeters and joyeaux Noël. Don’t miss the festivities tomorrow- it’s the most dramatic celebration of the real reason of Christmas you have ever seen. The reviews have come back saying that it’s frighteningly accurate.” He smiled slightly. “The doors to the church are always open Miss. Peeters. Always.”
And then the priest was gone, down one of the little Belgian village streets, off to grab his lunch.
Fae shivered in the winter cold but she wasn’t sure it was because of the cold. Her thoughts went back to the graffiti on the train station wall: you must die to leave alive. The trouble was Fae was starting to worry that that wasn’t just the expression of a rebellious teenager but of something much, much more.