Broken Voices (Kindle Single)

Broken Voices (Kindle Single) by Andrew Taylor Read Free Book Online

Book: Broken Voices (Kindle Single) by Andrew Taylor Read Free Book Online
Authors: Andrew Taylor
under the great
tower, the south door, which led through the ruins of the cloisters to the
College, and the north door, from which a path led both to the High Street and
to the Sacrist’s Lodging. Using the Cathedral also meant you kept dry. It was
considered bad form to hurry, however.
    We walked
through the porch and pushed open the wicket in the west doors. It was dark,
much darker, inside the Cathedral than it was outside. The lamps had not yet
been lit, apart from one or two at the east end, beyond the choir screen.
    The emptiness
of the place enfolded us like a shroud. The air was cold and smelled faintly of
earth, incense and candles.
    Ahead and to
the left, in the north aisle, was one of the great stoves, each surmounted by a
black crown, that were supposed to keep the building warm. There was a faint
but clearly audible chink as the coke shifted in its iron belly.
    ‘I’m freezing,’
Faraday said.
    He walked over
to the stove and held his hands to it.
    ‘Hurry up,’ I
said. ‘I’m starving.’
    ‘Just a minute.
I’m so cold.’
    I joined him by
the stove. If you stood about three inches away from it, you could actually
feel the warmth of it on your skin. It wasn’t so much that the stoves weren’t
occasionally hot: it was more that the Cathedral was eternally cold.
    Faraday glanced
at me. ‘There’s blood on your hands,’ he said. ‘And on your sleeve.’ His voice
lurched into a croak. ‘It’s everywhere.’
    ‘Shut up,’ I
said. ‘It doesn’t matter. I can wash it off. What’s water for?’
    I turned my
head to avoid seeing his white face and rabbit teeth. My eyes drifted away.
It’s a funny thing about buildings, how they take control of you and guide your
eyes along their own lines, towards their own ends. In the Cathedral, the
rhythm of columns and arches, diminishing in height as the layers climbed to
the roof, made you look upwards and upwards. Towards heaven, the school
chaplain once told us in a sermon. Or to the roof. Not that it matters in this
case: the point is I looked up into the west tower.
    Its west wall
rises sheer, a cliff of stone pierced with openings; first the doors. Then
there is a great window which doesn’t let in much light because of the stained
glass. Then, higher still, bands of Norman arcading run across the inside of
the tower. The first set has a walkway that runs behind it. The next one,
further up, is blind, its arches and pillars flattened against the tower wall
behind. Above that still, 120 feet above the ground, is the painted tower
ceiling, above which the tower rises, higher and higher, stage by stage, to the
lantern that perches on top.
    I knew a little
about the internal organization of the tower because sometimes one of the
younger masters would take a party of boys up to the top as a treat. You went
up a spiral staircase in the south-west corner, crossed the width of the tower
by the walkway behind the lower arcade, climbed another set of stairs, and then
another, until your legs felt like lead. Finally you came to a little wooden
door that led out to the very top of the tower, more than two hundred feet from
the ground.
    Up there was
another world, full of light, where a wind was always blowing. You felt
weightless, as if floating in a balloon. Far below were the streets of the town
and tiny, fore-shortened people scurrying through the maze of their lives,
oblivious of the watchers above. Beyond the town stretched the Fens as far as
the eye could see, its flatness dotted with the occasional church tower or tree
or house, which served to emphasize their monotony rather than relieve it; and
at the circular horizon, the sky and the earth became one in a blue haze; and
it no longer mattered which was which.
    I had been up
to the top of the west tower only once, about six months earlier before the end
of the summer term. It had been a bright, clear day. There was a story, the
master said, that a day like this you could see almost every church in

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