Village of Fire  

by Eline




in which Emily circumnavigates.

Bleary-eyed faces appearing behind curtains being pushed aside; doors opening slightly and pyjamaed people coming to investigate the noise; early risers running to see; and dogs barking. None of these things happened as Emily approached the church. The windows remained curtained, the doors remained closed, there were apparently no early risers this particular day, and the last of the domestic dogs had died some forty years ago.

The church doors were closed and locked, as always; it was obvious that the last person to come through this way had indeed been the long-dead priest. Another falling rock the size of a small child had landed right here some time ago, before Emily was born, blocking easy access to the door, in any case. Nobody had moved it because nobody wanted to visit the church; nobody said why maybe nobody remembered why, but it was almost a village taboo. A greater taboo would have been to demolish the church, and besides, there was nothing available in the village to do so. Emily, for the first time in her thirteen years, wanted to go inside the church; her curiosity overcame what her elders had always said; she knew someone else was in there - things don't just fall down on their own, do they? so, reasoned Emily, there must be another way in: a side door.


A path led from the church door, through a small lawn, and joined the village square between two posts. There had once been a pretty iron fence here, according to the painting in the inn, standing atop a small wall. All that remained now was the small wall. The posts of the pretty iron fence had been taken down a long time ago, leaving just the two posts to which the gate had formerly attached and locked unto. The gate was long, long gone. Emily paused at the rustier of the two posts. To reach a side door, she would have to walk either through the little forest of carved stones, each bearing the names of the unfortunate villagers who had died, which stood on one side of the church; or she would have to walk through the little forest of yew trees and bramble bushes. She opted for the yew trees and bramble bushes (no dead people underfoot).


Dew-glistening webs of unseen spiders covered the bushes like a protective outer skin Emily certainly did not want to touch them. There was a path, of sorts, here, through the bushes and beneath the trees' canopies. Nobody, it seemed, had walked on it for a while. Emily kept the wall of the church in view as best she could; modest buttresses incurred regularly into the wildness of the brambles and yews; in slow retaliation, never-cultivated brambles and yews incurred regularly onto the uniformity of the church's outer walls, shielding them from view and giving Emily the impression of being outside of the village in the forest (or how she imagined it to be) beyond the river. At no point was a door of any sort in evidence. All windows were intact and there was clearly no way to open any. Eventually, the church came to an end. Maybe there was a back door? Emily stepped from the cover of the yews and immediately saw to her right, louring high above, the cliff face. To her left was the windowless and doorless hidden wall of the church. Underfoot was loose soil, shaded and fallow and equally doorless. There was a twilight darkness here; light enough to see things but not light enough for details to be apparent; light enough to see the corner of the church up ahead, with the daylight sky, but not light enough for Emily to notice the small rock until she tripped and landed face down in the soil.





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