on in there? What if he is wasting time here, while the child-snatcher is making off into the night with the poor lad? Yeah right, he thinks - what maniacs come up to an abandoned church at dusk for a little evening out? He edges past the table, and further long the wall, getting ever closer to the front door. The door is large, wooden and looks so old that a fierce yank might pull it straight off it’s hinges. Ben attempts to test that theory, and throwing caution to the wind, pulls the rusted handle as hard as he can.
To his surprise, the door offers no resistance at all. In fact, it opens far too easily, suggesting that not only is it still actively used but someone may have actually applied oil to the hinges to keep them in good shape. Creepsville has a janitor, he thinks, as warm light seeps from inside the church and splashes onto his face like Holy Water itself. His eyes take a second to adjust, but as they do, he is shocked to see he can make out a warm, well-kept church with, even more shockingly, a full congregation in there. Each pew has a few people on it, who all appear over 50 or so. And they are silent. Horribly silent. There must be 40 or so of them, and they crane around to peer at him. They all look so relaxed, sedate and quiet. Ben is confused, and can’t for the life of him fathom what they might be doing. It must be bad, he reasons. If not, why do it in an abandoned church at nightfall, he thinks.
Survival instinct kicks in, and he realizes he needs an upper hand. Stealth hasn’t worked, and his cover is well blown. If he plays to that instinct, the upper hand is theirs, so he feels he must act like the whole things is planned. With that, he hoists the table leg up to rest on his shoulder, and puts a hand on his hip.
‘Well, what in the good name of fuck is going on here, then?’ he bellows. His voice echoes around the hall, and it’s belligerence shocks him - he knew he was going to apply a modicum of bravado, but did he really have to crank it all the way up to cocksure lager lout?
The people remain stoic, still and calm. This unnerves Ben more than most things he’s ever experienced, but since he’s gone all-in, he presses on with a stride down the aisle.
‘If I didn’t know better, I’d say there was something extremely fishy going on around here’ he taunts, his eyes casting around the room. Exits front and back, windows low enough to dive through if he managed to take a leap off a pew. Pew’s are pretty full, though.
He paces down the aisle, and comes to a stop. He keeps uncharacteristically fighting off the odd wave of panic as he walks - he has seen something like this once or twice before, when he was in captivity deep behind enemy lines. The Taliban prayers had been insistent and intoxicating, and had utterly consumed the men holding him and pressed them down into this mellowed state. What he learnt from that experience was that, despite how serene the exterior, below boils a fanaticism that is only matched by it’s unwavering commitment. He had been scared then, and he’s scared now. Doesn’t matter how old you are, approximately 40 to 1 is bad odds any hour. He turns as he reaches the altar, and faces the congregation - a mad, table-leg wielding preacher with his silent creepy flock.
Suddenly another voice breaks the stillness, strong, resonating and female, like the voice you’d perhaps imagine belonging to Big Sister.
‘What are your intentions, outsider?’ she bellows.
There is often in life a moment that defines you - separates all the various components, shines them up bright and clear, then fuses them together in a composite whole. After the epiphany, you are somehow better than before - version 2.0. As Ben whisks around to face the owner of the voice, he can’t help feeling that this could well be one of those moments.
By the time he has spun 180, and has tried to focus, he realizes he can’t see the source. The voice is still, echoing, a booming