I have a day off work today. Just using up some holiday, no special plans. So I decided to give myself what Peter Jones in How to do Everything and Be Happy would call a Boxing Day. That is a day for me, with nothing planned in advance; a day where I just go with the flow of whatever I want to do. So far I have watched the snow falling, re-read the section in my photography book on how to capture great snow pictures, had a big breakfast and wasted some time playing on line games. Correction, that was not a waste of time at all. I was then overcome with a desire to do my creative writing homework, which, given that I have another three weeks to complete it, is unprecedented. The theme for this piece was a lost day. Here’s what I’ve written, let me know what you think:
On his last day on earth, Father Peter conducted the matins service to a congregation of precisely no-one, unless you counted the angel hovering in the lady-chapel.
The lack of congregation was nothing unusual, especially not for a snowy Monday morning in January. Even the presence of the angel was not a first.
The angel had first appeared to Father Peter precisely one year earlier, and had informed him, matter-of-factly, with no build-up whatsoever, that Father Peter had exactly 365 more days left on earth; it was time to start putting his affairs in order.
Until today, Father Peter had been relatively calm about his impending fate. Although he didn’t think of himself as old, he considered he’d had a good innings. Retirement was looming, but with the prospect of spending it alone, it wasn’t something he was looking forward to.
As Father Peter ended the service with the blessing, the angel moved into the transept.
“Peter, have you remembered the message I gave you last year?” It asked.
“And are you ready to meet your maker?”
Peter hesitated. “I think so, but, well, I’m a bit scared. I don’t mind that my end has come, but I’m worried that the process might be, umm, painful. I’m a bit of a coward in the face of pain. I wish it could just be this time tomorrow and the whole business behind me.”
“As you wish,” said the angel, smiling enigmatically and floating up into the high vaulted ceiling, where it disappeared.
Father Peter locked the church up and returned to the rectory. The ladies should be arriving soon, for their regular tea, cake and gossip meeting, otherwise known as “planning the church fair”.
The rectory was strangely silent. Fluffy the cat was nowhere to be seen. The ladies didn’t turn up as planned, and after half an hour Father Peter was worried and started to ‘phone around. ‘Phones rang and rang without anyone answering. Looking out of the front window, Father Peter realised that he hadn’t seen anyone walking through the village since he left the church. He turned on the radio, and then the television, but picked up only static on both.
As he walked into the kitchen, he thought he could hear the echo of laughter, and the faintest whiff of coffee cake. Absent-mindedly, he reached for a portion of cheese from the fridge but found it strangely without taste.
What was happening to him? Had he died already? Was this the afterlife? If so, this surely couldn’t be the reward for many years of dedicated service to the church. He must be in the other place. Out of habit, and with a mounting sense of panic, he started to pray.
“Father, what has become of me?”
The angel appeared from the larder, surreptitiously licking the remaining crumbs of coffee cake from its lips.
“Father Peter, at your request, I transported you 24 hours into the future to avoid the moment of your death. Is this not what you wanted?”
“No!” Father Peter replied, “I don’t like it here, where is everyone else, what has happened to Fluffy and why does my cheese taste of nothing?”
“I am a very low-ranking angel”, the angel replied, “I brought you 24 hours into the future, but didn’t have the power to bring the rest of the world with you. Everyone else is still in your yesterday. Occasionally you will catch glimpses of them, when a sound or taste or emotion leaves an impression strong enough to linger for a day, but you cannot communicate with them. On the bright side, you’re still alive.”
“What is the good of that?” Father Peter asked. “I think I’d rather be dead!”
As he finished the blessing, Father Peter was distracted by the sensation that his mind had wandered whilst he had been pronouncing the words, but for the life of him he could not remember what he had been thinking. The angel watched from the lady-chapel as Father Peter packed up, locked the church, walked across the graveyard and stepped onto the road, straight into the path of an on-coming lorry, as it skidded towards him through the snow.
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