By Willow Taylor
Once upon a time - in Neo York:
A young woman swept the aisle slowly, pushing the growing pile of rice towards the door. The church was empty, except for her, and the father at the head of the aisle, packing away the last of the paraphernalia from the wedding that had taken place there a few hours before. The young woman was college age, with limp brown-blond hair and a plain, sort of washed out face. Her eyebrows were blondish, and so were her eyelashes, giving the appearance that her eyes were disappearing into her face. Those eyebrows were drawn up in concentration, over square framed glasses. She was wearing a floor length skirt of thick black cloth and a cream, cable knit sweater with grey designs worked into it. All of her concentration was on getting the rice up, going up and down the pews, scooping it out of the carved wooden seats where it had been spilled during the service. Finally the father exited by way of the plain door behind the altar, without saying anything to her, and she was alone. She sighed softly, and smiled a bit, pushing the rice towards the door, and the bright light outside it. She watched the dusty white grains as she swept, and the way they danced over the polished wooden floor with each stroke. Suddenly a dark shadow appeared on the honey brown floor.
"OH!" She looked up suddenly, to see who had appeared, broom jerking sharply.
Almost no one came to the church. The main religion in the city was that of Alister and Astre - the lifebringer and the judge - dual deities- not like her own monotheistic religion. There was a small, weak following here - she attended services, and a few others. But only at the appointed times. Sometimes the young woman feared that the others in the city would take a disliking to their people and drive them out - but The Lifebringer, it was said, did not encourage hatred of other people, even if they didn't follow her. At least that's what they'd taught her in school.
The figure in the door was spare, with no extra flesh hidden beneath charcoal grey shirt, or faded black jeans. He wore thick working boots, polished with care, and a loose leather jacket. The man's skin was pale, and the had messy black hair that was trying to escape from the band he'd put it in, as well as from the slouch cap he'd tried to shove it under. His eyes were grey - faded as his shirt - but around his neck, he wore a small silver cross. And that banished any thoughts of malice she had for him. They were few enough without disliking each other.
"I think I startled you," he said softly. "You..." he pointed and she looked down, giving another faint exclamation. When she'd started, she'd scattered the rice back all over the aisle. "I'm sorry." he said in the same rich, soft voice. "Here let me help you..." He reached for the broom, and her name. She kept a grip on the broom, but gave him her name.
"Elenore. Elenore Rigby. I take care of St. Patrick's."
"Oh." He gave a slight smile. "I am sorry. I'm Victor Shelly."
"Pleased to meet you, Victor - I haven't seen you here before." Elenore began regathering the rice. It wasn't as bad as it could have been - it was just scattered over the center aisle.
"No - I just found St. Patrick's last night, and earlier, there was a wedding - it would have been impolite to crash."
"Oh. Did you just come to Neo York, Mr. Shelly?"
Elenore looked up again, and quirked an eyebrow. He didn't look that much older than her. "Aren't you a little young?"
He shook his head. "Started early. My parents were doctors."
"But I'd rather you just called me Victor."
"All right." she looked back down at the rice, continuing sweeping.
"You're so intense when you do that." Victor said with a touch of humor in his voice. "Are they going to get away?"
Elenore laughed a little too. "Maybe. I just like to do my job properly."
"Ah." He gave a little bow. "Well if I can't help you, I'd best not get in your way." And he moved towards the head of the church, where he knelt and bowed his head before the altar in prayer.
In the dancing rice in front of her broom, and the dust motes that sparkled and caught the light, Elenore Rigby dreamed.
She dreamed as she finished sweeping and went about the church, wiping the saints' statues off carefully. she forgot all about Victor, until the sun was starting to set, and it was time for sunset services. The father came back out the little door in the back of the church, which led to the quarters where he lived. He put the altar into the order he liked it in once more, and looked up as the few faithful trickled in to his church.
St. Patrick's Church on Asberg Street was more than just a church. There had been, when Neo York was being built, more Christians then there were now. And together , they had made a beautiful church of mined stone - one with great golden oak doors, carved with pictures of the Saints, and soft wooden floors to catch the light over the cold stone the entire church was made of. There was a small convent and parish house behind the church, where the priest could live, along with perhaps a handful of other acolytes, or nuns. There was a large brass bell in the tower, which was rung on the hour - it used to be the responsibility of a boy kept for the purpose, but now it was done by clockwork. Great stained glass windows filled the main hall with colored light during the day, and glowed from within at night. Except it cost too much to light it up from inside like that now. It was a beautiful, awe inspiring place, even now when hardly anyone came anymore. Father McKenzie wondered when even those few would die out. He lived alone in the rectory, and had for years. The young woman who swept out the church, and kept the wood polished lived somewhere else, where, he thought, he wasn't sure, she kept an old house neat, as a caretaker. There was someone new there. A pale young man with a thin face like a vampire who was sitting near the front, at the end of the pew, shrouded in shadow. His face was composed, as if he wasn't just praying, but he was listening too. But that was silly, no one listened anymore. With a sigh, Father McKenzie finished settling things. The great brass bells rang the hour, and as the last peal faded, the services began.
"Each man within himself, carries the potential for greatness," began Father McKenzie, "laced there to make us in god's image, for he is great."
No one listened, each one here because they were used to it, or absorbed in their own prayers. But he was used to it. But sometimes it made him feel better to hear the sound of his own voice. Half way through the sermon, he noticed that one man was listening to him. It was the pale black clad man he'd seen earlier. The Father had to wonder if the boy was actually listening, or if he had something stuck between his teeth. After the service, as people trickled out, some saying occasional kind words to him, Father McKenzie looked for the boy, and finally found him in the lea of one of the front pillars, smoking. With a sigh, the Father went back into the church, and closed one of the doors, locking it in place, then cleaned up the pulpit. The girl was carefully blowing out the candles, and making sure the windows were shut. The Father nodded to her, then returned to his rectory. She nodded back at him.
It was much later when Elenore finished her night chores at the church, and headed home. It wasn't her home, but it was where she lived, and she liked to pretend it was her home, because she was the only one who did live there. The streets of Neo York were cold windy and grey in the moonlight. She kept her eyes to the sidewalk in front of her, and returned to the pleasant thoughts she'd bee thinking this afternoon, trying to return to the land of golden light.
Suddenly she was grabbed from behind, and dragged into the alley. She didn't even bother to scream - no one would come. Her glasses were knocked askew, as one large rough hand held hers, and the other craned her neck to the side. She whispered a prayer for deliverance, but the vampire who had her laughed. She should have known better.
"Hey there... that's not very friendly." said a smooth cool voice. The vampire turned and so did Elenore, but all she saw was a dark shape at the end of the alley, with a glowing red dot that might be the end of a cigarette. "You can't have her," hissed the vampire. "I have to eat..."
"We all do. But not like that." The dark figure came closer, and Elenore finally recognized the voice - it was the man she'd met in the church that afternoon. He moved slowly, but too fast for her to follow, it seemed, and a moment later, she was behind him, ad the vampire was rubbing his wrists. Victor smiled softly, and made the sign of the cross in the air between himself and the vampire. The vampire drew back slightly, shocked by something.
"Now why don't you leave, before I have to get nasty...?"
The air drew in sharply around the vampire who attacked her, and a bat fluttered away.
"Are you all right, Miss Rigby?"
"I... I am now, thank you Dr. Shelly."
"Victor, please." He smiled a little. "May I walk you home? This part of the city is dangerous at night. The Guild doesn't patrol it as well as it should."
"I thought maybe you were a hunter..." Elenore said, fixing her glasses, and smoothing her now rumpled skirts. "The way you handled the vampire."
"No." He smiled again, a little. "I just did what any good Christian would have done." Victor gestured down the alley's mouth. "Now, which way is your home?"
It was a great deal like her day dream, Elenore realized as he paced down the street beside her. Well, except for the fact she hadn't screamed hopelessly for help, struggling till her dress was torn half to shreds. And the vampire had made no dark allusions to taking her away forever into the night. And he hadn't carried her away to his castle. But then her teachers always said that Elenore had an overactive imagination.
She came out of her haze in time to recognize the front walk of the house. "Uhm... this is where I live," she said softly.
"Well then, it's been a lovely walk, goodnight, Miss Rigby, see you in church then."
"Goodnight Victor," she said, and unlocked the door.
Victor padded through the night, hands stuffed into his pockets. It was a good church. Father McKenzie, in another time, would have been a stirring speaker - but this was the time of apathy. No one really wanted to listen to anyone else. Well, Victor was willing to listen. It was better than listening to the Guild. At least the small dreams and visions of the people here made sense.
The next morning, Elenore headed out to help Father McKenzie open the church for morning services. She wondered why he did it, when only a handful showed up - but it was better than staying home alone with her imagination. Much better.
She'd dreamed about Victor that night, naughty dreams that she were sure were sinful in one way or another - of high adventure, with supernatural creatures; some good, some bad. Dreams that were nothing like the way her life really was, more like a movie or a book, where the plain girl took off her glasses and turned out to be beautiful in a quiet way. Or it turned out she had never really been ugly, just out of style.
When Elenore took off her glasses, she was still plain. And blind. She'd tried very hard in high school to be stylish - all it made her was broke, and plain. The stylish girls hadn't even afforded her pity - just ridicule. No handsome young man, or good looking boy, or even nice-though-zit-faced nerd, had paid her the least attention. It wasn't that she had low self esteem, it was just there wasn't very high to go without deceiving herself. And that she knew was a sin. There were more of those gangster types hanging around outside of the church - punks for who destruction was a hobby, and vandalism an art form. Elenore huddled inside her sweater, hoping that they wouldn't notice here.
They looked like they were about to do something about her, when Victor appeared out of nowhere.
"Hello, Elenore," he said pleasantly. "Nice morning isn't it?"
"Yes quite..." the young woman said, watching the punks retreat out of the corner of her eyes. She wondered why they did that. Victor wasn't that threatening, after all, being short, and slim, rather than muscular. "What brings you back to St. Patrick's so soon?" she asked quietly in her trembling little voice. Not that I mind, she thought to herself. Victor spread his fingers, and smiled a little.
"I liked the sermon."
"Don't you have a practice somewhere?" she asked, perhaps a touch boldly, as she took out the large key that unlocked the doors to the church.
"No." He didn't elaborate. Somehow, Elenore sensed that trying to dig deeper would be a mistake.
"Well, you're early, I'm afraid," she said with a small smile, "The first service isn't for a half hour yet."
"Well then I'll wait."
design ©2001 by Cindy Rosenthal
Elenore Rigby © 2000 by Willow Taylor
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