This part is rushed, but I can’t find the heart to flesh it out. I might pull a small rewrite on this short story for personal reasons, but have this for now 🙂
Syd the Sassy Ex-Atheist
The atheist quickly learns that the wolf was probably the nicest spirit in existence. After leaving the house, and walking towards town, she had been set upon by hundreds of different creatures from hundreds of different mythos. She spent no time asking them of their origins as they chased her along Main Street through the crowds going to Church. She finally found respite in a choir loft after narrowly squeezing in through an unsanctified kitchen door. Either the spirits hadn’t seen her go in or she was just small enough to fit.
Either way, she could strike off ‘running with the bulls’ from her bucket list.
There is a service going on in the church. People are in the choir loft with white robes and hefty hymnals. There’s a short man in front of them with a thin stick in his hand that he moves in jerky motions. The choir sings a much smoother tune than the conductor indicates and Syd finds herself actually enjoying it.
She never really went to church or had gone to anything that could expose her to a choir. This is really her first encounter and it’s, for lack of a better term, nice.
The rest of the church is a soft whisper as the choir works its way through a hymn. Syd crowds up to the balcony and she can see her town in their Sunday best. Miss Raynier is disorientingly beautiful in a purple dress that cuts sharply from her hip to ankles. The Dubious Tucker Twins (name aptly capitalized) are behaving themselves in the second row—their elder brother, Clayton, is not behaving so well having fallen asleep in the pew.
Syd can see her mother, sitting towards the back and considerably dressed down from the others. She looks uncomfortable—Syd supposes one would if you hardly make it to Church on more than holidays and always without your family. Sydney wants more than anything to be seated beside her mother. She wants more than anything to be among the living.
But, if she did have to hole up somewhere, she supposes a choir loft isn’t the worst. At least it appears as if nothing can get her here.
She walks towards the back of the singers and sits on the highest riser, out of everyone’s way. The choir goes through another song before dismissing and scattering back to the congregation. The wandering atheist remains behind, alone in the carpeted, darkened choir loft. Actually, she’s not alone. There’s someone else there, one of the tenors with dark hair cut short and bright blue eyes. He takes a seat conspicuously close to Syd and heaves a sigh of contentment.
“The choir’s amazing isn’t it?” the man poses, Syd assumes to himself. Unless he’s some crazy ghost whisperer, that is, but she doubts he’s talking to her. Of course, if she truly considers how her day has been progressing, she should quickly realize she’s wrong. And she is.
“What do you think, Sydney?” the dark haired man asks.
Syd looks at him. She’s not afraid. It’s a different feeling. Unlike the wolf or the beasts that chased her, this man seems so much more fraternal. She keeps her gaze distant, staring along the beams of the ceiling to the peak of the large stained glass window above the altar. It sparkles emerald in the mid morning sun.
“I didn’t expect Reggie to sing that well, he can actually carry a tune,” Sydney comments. The silence that ensues is filled with the tones of the preacher’s sermon. He is speaking about Jesus in the wilderness, about temptation and other intricacies that always get brought up in the Pentecost. It’s almost Easter, she realizes with a sinking a feeling, and this year she won’t be getting that chocolate bunny.
“You weren’t asking about the choir, were you?” Sydney asks as the silence lengthens. The man shifts and smiles.
“No,” he answers, “I wasn’t. But we can talk about them if you really want.”
Sydney wraps her arms around her knees and rests her chin atop them. “I don’t know what to do. I’m supposed to find this one, true religion, but I feel like I’ll get torn apart if I leave the church. And I doubt I can ask too many spirits in here.”
The man nods in Syd’s peripheral. “That’s true—there’s very few spirits that pass through here. In fact, I think I’ve been the only one in the past decade or more.”
“And how’d you die?” Syd asks, turning her head to watch him. The man has a strong profile even with some residual baby fat in his cheeks. He smoothes out his robe, fingering the gold thread on the outside seams.
“I didn’t die,” he says. Then he looks at her and Syd sees the cool fire in his eyes—one that burns so hot it’s sapphire. Fear strikes her like a hot iron plunged into chilled water. “I’m an Angel, Sydney.”
“Wouldn’t happen to be my guardian angel, would you?” Sydney forces out past the lump in her throat. God, this divine fear was no joke. If she had been a shepherd she would have said ‘nope, I’ll pass on the baby viewing. In fact, I’ll hide from you for eternity’
The Angel shakes his head.
“Thought as much,” Sydney huffs, relaxing marginally. “So do you know the one, true religion?”
“Christianity,” he says without pause. Sydney looks at him suddenly, stunned by his candor and that the truth had just been literally handed to her on a blue-eyed, dark-haired, feathery-winged platter. It was unexpected, but very welcome. The angel only shrugs. “The other religions exist in the realm of the true one. There’s many circles of Hell. Many things to take you there. I’m afraid, though, there’s only one heaven.”
“But if I believe in Christianity, I can get there?” Syd asks excitedly. Suddenly the pall of fear has dropped away and she’s a little five year old with the promise of candy being wagged in her face. “I can go to heaven right?”
The Angel smiles. “You can go to heaven, but” and he pauses, which lets Sydney neatly tumble down from her euphoria to the rocky floor of reality, “but it’s more than just knowing the one, true religion. It’s believing Sydney.”
She scoffs. “well I believe.”
“Do you know the story of Thomas? How he wouldn’t believe Jesus was crucified until he saw the holes in his hands?” Sydney nods, vaguely remembering that. “It’s more than that, too. Thomas had made belief in his life and it just needed that last push. You can’t work backwards, Syd, what you’ve done so far should have taught you that.”
It all comes rushing into brilliance. The fact that she couldn’t go back to death. The fact she couldn’t go back to the doors. There was no working backwards. Only going forwards. Trapped in a church, Sydney doubts she can go very far forward at all anymore.
The angel takes a deep breath. “you need to form your beliefs, really, truly believe. And I mean in more than Nutella. And if you come to the conclusion of Christianity,” the angel advises, “you know where to find me.”
He reaches a hand forward and touches her forehead. “You can’t just have the belief,” he whispers, “It has to be a part of you. Not some facebook update. Not some t-shirt proclamation. It’s you, that simple.”
When he pulls his hand away, Syd sees blinding light. It somewhat reminds her of the light before she entered Life’s office, but this one is warmer. It’s white hot even and Syd almost feels as if she’s going to burn alive as she passes through it.
But then she comes out, the other side, awake and on her bed. Her father is in the doorway with a cup of coffee in his hand.
“I tried to wake you, but you sleep like the dead,” he comments and leaves, probably to get more coffee.
Syd breaks down into hysterical laughter because, quite honestly, her dad was dead-on.
(haha, get it, ‘dead-on’? I’m too punny)