Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: At the Pulpit (11/15/07)
TITLE: Lost and Found On a Cold Afternoon
By Therese Witkus
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She moved steadily under the protective arms of stately oaks and shapely lindens, blending with the lacebark pines. The forest birds were singing and clicking to one another, these she knew, the jays, grosbeaks and tanagers. The late October day was quite cool even with her quilted down jacket. A short way ahead she could dimly make out the structure of the building, though where the boulders hid she could not tell, nor why the cormorants, gulls and terns did not cry. And the gloom gave the stone an odd cast but there it stood, a beacon in the mist.
Getting home on the stroke of need, as the walking shoes felt damp and her toes chilly. Why, the desk nurse will be tut-tutting and hmphing about the rule being broken again, but there had been only James to walk along and he would go only to the courtyard and no further. She needed to feel the winds off the sea streaming into her hair and whistling in her ears even as they reddened in the cold.
Here now, the door is wooden and see that iron latch, where is the glass and steel with the bar across? She pushed on the latch and the door gave way spillling her inside and off balance. Oh look, there are short pews and plaster statues, the altar is dressed and vases standing with newly-picked wild geraniums and golden heather. Bernice accepted the unexpected scene and moved into the tiny church as if she knew it - and her reason for being there. The fragrance of old wax, burnt incense and fresh flowers stirred odd memories. Feeling her legs start the wobble that usually meant she needed to sit, she slid onto the bench in the first pew and gazed at the sanctuary. Glad to rest for awhile she leaned into the back of the pew and closed her eyes for a time. Her hands clasped together lay on her leg and she felt them cold and stiff through her corduroy dress. Small windows in the side walls let in the fading last light and she looked just off the altar catching movement in the shadows near.
A glow came out from the sanctuary and she seemed to see a shape within, though the shimmering kept her from a close look. And then a figure stood beside the pulpit reaching out toward her from a dazzling white light. I remember you from a time long ago, Bernice thought. Her heart beat rapidly and she could just barely pull in a breath. “You were walking with my Albert when he left me the night of the crash.” She nearly had the name but it just wouldn’t form in her mind.
“Yes, and I have been waiting to walk with you, as well,” he spoke gently into her heart.
As she stretched toward the reaching hand, his iridescence flowed through her, filling her with the ecstasy of pure love. “Oh Lord, how I have longed to be with you!” she sighed, her mind clearing as she was made new and they walked together into the light.
The desk nurse, Mrs. Simon stood with Trooper Grange of the state police while they filled forms and handled the necessary paperwork. “So, she was found in the Chapel of the Woods, over twelve miles from here?” she asked again, as if he might have fabricated the story.
“That is correct. The caretaker found her lying next to the pulpit.” Trooper Grange informed her once more. “And just how long can one of your confused residents go missing before you become aware and file a report? An eighty-two year old woman doesn’t just stroll over there in a hurry now, does she?” he wondered out loud.
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