The interior of the church smelled of frankincense and people, an odiferous masala of several hundred perfumed bodies wearing their finest apparel. The congregation sat silent as the priest in his chasuble intoned prayers from a text lying open on a pedestal before him.
The words were a soporific for Robin who began to drowse. Lest she lean on her four year old to the left, she nudged closer to Mike on her right and pressed up against his body hoping no one in back thought the move improper. Mike, meanwhile, was so attuned to the lector he took little notice of the slightly intimate contact.
“And in Joshua,” the priest intoned the words languorously. “‘This then was the lot of the tribe of the children of Judah by their families; even to the border of Edom the wilderness of Zin southward was the uttermost part of the south coast.’”
If everyone else could keep their eyes open this early Sunday morning, Robin thought, they must be on more than caffeine. And then Robin spread her arms and flew toward the ceiling.
It was a trick she learned when she was her son’s age, the ability to loft toward the highest place inside a room. She freed herself from responsibility for a few minutes of refreshing aerial dynamics, like a bird or a butterfly. The trick allowed her to watch from afar whatever bored her and to comment on the situation without being observed. She had complete control of her flight pattern and could swoop and dive, hover around a light fixture or squirrel herself inside the corner where ceiling met wall.
The priest was unwavering in his delivery and only Robin’s athletic twirls and barrel rolls kept her from dropping off to sleep completely. She climbed and dove, climbed again and looked down upon the congregants in the nave. She shook her head in dismay at the unenlightened many.
She studied the heads of worshipers and picked out friends. She wondered who it was beneath a particularly wide garish hat. No one saw her take off and none having looked up, she was free to do as she pleased. In a corner two alter boys waited in white chemises and black baggy culottes while on the other side of the aisle a priest in a tailored surplice waved a round incense burner back and forth, up and down on a chain causing a billowing grey smoke to flow like fluid through its grill.
Robin played a puckish trick and floated down toward the smoke. She cupped her hands to contain it and blew with a soft breath into the man’s face. He sneezed.
She lifted herself up from this diversion and rose toward the stained glass windows she often admired from her pew. The scenes in lead frames represented the fourteen Stations of the Cross. She picked up speed as she approached the clerestory that held these beautiful works of art, then in a test of skill came to a sudden stop just prior to colliding with the glass.
An arrow whizzed past her head and struck the plaster between three, His first fall, and four, where He meets His mother. The arrow shaft shuddered as it became imbedded. It sounded almost like a living thing dying.
“What in hell was that?” Robin said as she flew up close and examined the still quivering bolt. Its fletches were the colors of the rainbow; then they turned white. Her head angled around to follow the arrow’s trajectory and she was startled to see an archer with bow bent lowering it into position, another projectile knocked, hanging in the air on the other side of the church in front of ten, He is stripped of His garments.
Robin reacted instinctively and quickly. She kicked away from the wall, jumped off to one side from where she hovered near the ceiling, performed a half summersault and landed a dozen feet away upside down. Her feet were glued to an arch with her head hanging toward the chapel floor.
She shook in fear when she realized all she had accomplished was to create a more inviting target. The archer was again ready to fire. Robin leaped and this time sought higher air on the other side of an arch that supported the dome of the apse. She waited several seconds before she peered over the arch rail, ducked just in time to hear the barb whiz past mere inches from her head.
“Who the hell are you?!” she screamed as loud as she could as she cowered behind her safety barrier.
The only answer she heard was the thwack sound made as another arrow plowed into the other side of the wood beam.
Robin decided to take the initiative and make a run for the entrance. Whoever or whatever her assailant was, they were apparently bound by the laws of archery if not physics. But unlike Robin whose only thought was to flee, the archer seemed monomaniacal in his quest to shoot her out of the sky. To that end, another arrow cut the air in front of her nose as she flew in the opposite direction from the altar where the monotonous priest continued his speech oblivious to the activity above him. She flew toward the front doors and what she hoped was safety.
At the overhang where ambulatory met nave, she was about to lunge down into the opening toward freedom when she felt a burning sensation in her chest that grew to become an agonizing pain centered above her heart. She looked down to see the razor blades and point of a shaft, its silver metal luster dulled now by having torn through her back and pierced the spongy flesh of her lung, sprout from the middle of her breast.
Her brain had time to think, “My god, I’ve been shot,” before she collapsed and fell from the air.