My further apologies to anyone who has looked forward to another Writing Club while I was busy running from a cruel summer. Finally stationary, I send this from the bewitched region of Galicia, Spain.
I've wandered into a church of horrors recently, at 10 pm, completely ignorant of the liturgical occasion for it standing open and illuminated at that time of night. An elfin woman in a sweatshirt spotted me and my wife as we took in a St. Sebastian statue.
"Come take your photos of this!" she said, and drew us toward a glowing pit under the tabernacle. Besides a priest scribbling behind a cracked door we were the only souls stirring. I kept him in view as we climbed the steps to the high altar.
"Is this OK... are we OK here?" asked my wife, in sparse Castilian.
"Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes," replied the churchwoman. I'm learning that such verbal generosity is typical here.
What she led us to was the sacred center of the church, the relic over which swarmed a hundred angel heads, pewter candelabras, attendant saints and golden aureole. But they were above ground. Beneath the floor it stood, lit extremely: a worn, worn, sea-washed stone, about the size of a cocooned 10-year old child. Coins rested in a depression at its crown. It bore a jumble of an inscription in a font you could count on James Cameron to pick if he had to display an "ancient curse." What or whom the monolith hallowed was beyond our powers to decipher or the churchwoman's to explain. But it seemed older than the cross barely scratched into it. Somehow I knew it had stood apart for millennia. It was the sick feeling it provoked in me, the reflexive reverence it forced from someone. Down the aisle a Mater Dolorosa wept tears like glue beads into her properly black Spanish dress. St. Lucy served her eyeballs on a platter. An underlighted St. Iago trampled moors unlucky enough to have been caught inside the glass case with him and his white charger. The viscera of belief.
We left without understanding, and the lady promptly shut the doors to us and the night.
The stone might have moored a ship purported to have carried St. Iago to Spain. Its letters might signify a dedication to Neptune. It may have come from a flooded temple.
Surely these are elements for an eerie tale, but this was merely my birthday on a full-moon night in Spain.
And now I would really like to read some Halloween writing. Please plan on sharing some short, tense, spooky, autumn-scented, decay-touched words with the writing club. Due on October 31.