It’s as though he’s inside a dream. The space is so open. The curved ceilings make him feel like he’s inside a gigantic egg. The depictions, the subtle hues. He knows God is watching. Every oscillation, the slightest thud of his soft steps is magnified. Closer to the front now, where they have their ceremonies. This is really happening. On the ground a wafer has broken into crumbs. Down on knees, kneeling, palms touching the cold ground. Eyes inspect the remnants. He picks up the largest scrap with his bony fingers and smells it – it has no scent. It’s frail between his thumb and middle finger. A bit breaks off and tumbles to the floor like a snowflake. He takes what is left in his clutch and places it on his tongue. It dissolves and he washes it down his throat.
He looks right. Stops. Then further right until his chin almost brushes his shoulder. He jerks his head back, slowly returning to look straight ahead and then looks slightly left. He spots the vessel. It still has red dregs down the bottom. Red stains run down the glass similar to drops of water running down a shower door. But bloodied. He pushes himself up from the ground and swoops forward, hunched like a gorilla. He moves up the steps, walks around the altar to the table covered in white cloth. He wraps his hands around the jar, tips his head back, lifts it to his lips, kisses the lukewarm glass and sucks at the liquid. It enters his mouth. Some of it spills down the side of his chin. He lowers the glass and with an almighty final swallow he gulps down all he can and brushes the red stain from under his mouth with his paw.
He waits. He anticipates. He breathes through his nostrils keeping his lips sealed. His body stands still but his eyes dart around inside their sockets looking out as if something will soon appear before him. His chest rises and falls. He swallows again – just in case he’s missed some.
He waits for something. Anything would do right now.
Nick Fairclough is a writer on the cusp. His stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best Small Fictions. He’s been shortlisted and longlisted but he’s not quite there, not yet. He lives in Aotearoa, New Zealand with his family.