Far beyond the city, in the middle of nowhere, sat a tiny chapel. No one knew who built it, why it was in the middle of nowhere, or why any traveler in need would always find the light on – but I know these things. I am alive because of Father Chris and the little chapel in the middle of nowhere.
I just turned eighteen and was so sure of myself. I knew everything I ever needed to know – at least I thought I did. I was an adult and didn’t need anyone’s permission to leave. So I did. I left home the morning of my birthday with a few clothes and what little money I had stuffed in a backpack. Mom and Dad weren’t up yet, which made it a little easier not having to listen to Dad ask why or listen to my Mom cry and ask me to stay. No, it was better the way I did it. At least it seemed that way at the time.
I boarded the Number 3 bus heading out of Jasper and noticed the light on in the chapel. I was curious as it was a shade of green I had not seen before. In the vestibule was Father Chris. He was a tall man, taller when he stood up, and he was standing there looking at me as I passed.
I watched, as around him, the green light seemed to throb as if suspecting I was flying the coop of my hometown. He was dressed in his customary black, but his clerical collar radiated a blinding white light. I looked away with a sense of betrayal and guilt.
I looked back through the window of the bus and found myself just passing the chapel, green light and Father Chris. This disturbed me, as the bus appeared to be travelling at a rate of knots by now having cleared the town limits.
Three times this happened, and I started to feel stuck in some sort of ground hog day. I then pulled the stop cord above me and alighted.
As the bus moved away I saw across the road the chapel, now dark, lights gone and Father Chris standing in the doorway in his radiant collar.
I found myself crossing the road and coming up to Father Chris who opened his arms as if he’d embrace me, his face collapsing into a picture of welcome relief.
“What is it?” I asked, for surely something had happened to cause him distress. But more than that, I wanted to know what that green light I had seen.
“Oh, my lad, my lad,” he said. “I’m so glad you have come. I’m to have a visitation.”
“A …? What, as in Jesus? Or a saint? Or …” I slapped my hand over my mouth “… no, you don’t mean the devil? Is that what the green light?”
He flicked his fingers into my face. “Silly boy! That ‘green light,’ as you called it, is just off Old Bess. But Old Bess is the problem.”
(I’d best explain. Old Bess was Father Chris’s exceedingly antiquated computer—steam-powered I shouldn’t wonder, it’s so old).
“So what’s up with her?” I asked.
“I think she’s not well. She refuses to access my records. And I have the bishop due any moment to inspect them. I don’t suppose …?”
The way he looked at me … what could I do but check out the ancient machine.
The fool of a Father Chris. He’d crammed a communion wafer into the thin slot of the floppy drive. I pulled it out and held it out accusingly. He colored up.
“But, my boy, my boy, I am so grateful. And just in time, for, Hark! That’ll be the bishop now.”
And true enough, a vehicle of sorts was drawing up outside the chapel. But when I looked out of the door it didn’t look like a sort of transport the bishop would use. It was strangely shaped carriage, drawn by some creatures, which weren’t anything I had seen in my life. They had the body of a horse but very large wings attached to it. In fact the carriage came flying through the air on these “flying horses” and landed near us.
The person driving or flying the carriage stepped out and opened the door for the person inside to alight from it. The person who came out of the carriage could be a bishop, I suppose but from some other world. The whole of his body was emitting a strange white light. Father Chris welcomed him with utmost joviality and warmth. He was not deterred by the strange aura surrounding the bishop. In fact he acted as if it was nothing out of ordinary.
“Your Excellency, how kind of you to visit us in our humble abode,” gushed father Chris. “Please come inside, it’s too cold to stand out and chat.” He then instructed the coachman to take his flying horses to the side where a large barn stood. The bishop and father went inside and I followed them. I was wondering who this mysterious bishop was. Was he from some magical place or was I too tired and was imagining things?
When I entered the chapel behind them, the sight which met my eyes was so unusual that I let ought an audible gasp.
“Hey buddy, are you okay?” I heard a voice say.
“Father Chris?” I asked, “Is that you?”
“No, I’m not your father, kid,” the voice said.
I opened my eyes and looked around. I was still sitting on the Number 3 bus and the driver was talking to me. “What’s going on?” I asked him.
“You we’re having some sort of nightmare and you started screaming,” he said. “Listen kid, we’ve reached the end of the line. I’m heading back to the terminal on Main Street in Jasper. Do you want me to drop you off on my way back into town?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Can you drop me at Center Street?” As the bus headed back into Jasper, I saw the small chapel again. But there was no green light shining from within. Just the yellow glow of a standard light fixture. That’s when I realized that the whole thing — Father Chris, the green glow from the old computer, the flying carriage with the flying horses, and the strange bishop — was all just a dream. And now I was headed back home to be with my father and my mother for the holidays.
Even though it was not real, it was my dream encounter with Father Chris that made me see that I didn’t know everything and that what I really needed was be home with my family.
This story was brought to you by:
The Haunted Wordsmith
Keep it Alive
This, That, and The Other