by Isabel Dennis-Muir
I don’t know why I’m here. Church Gate cottage, beside St Martha’s church in All Hallows, is not the place for a non-believer. Religion is not for me. Neither is the sanctity of marriage. I considered framing my decree nisi and hanging it up (although I need no reminders). I decided against it in the end. These walls crumble with the merest hint of a drawing pin, let alone a nail or screw.
Church Gate cottage is the only one-bedroom cottage in my price bracket I could find in this village. I could have chosen another village, of course. But I’m drawn to the name. All Hallows. I love to study the origin of words. I imagine the conflicts spanning centuries; Old English, Middle English, the Vikings and Normans. Invasions of armies, invasions of words.
To hallow, to make holy, to consecrate. All hallow to saints and holy people. I don’t know if all the villagers are holy. I doubt it. But then, like I said, religion is not for me.
This evening the wind is vicious. The dry autumn leaves bristle before falling at my feet. As I walk around the village I look to each side of the road, ahead and behind, and see Dracula and witches. Ghosts and ghouls stand around in groups, laughing. Pumpkins are carved into grotesque faces that sit at garden gates, designed to scare. I return to the cottage and check my calendar. It is 31st October, All Hallows Eve. Tomorrow they will honour the saints and the faithful departed. The pagan rituals and holiness clash. It is uncomfortable.
The night draws near. I feel afraid. I hear voices, drums beating. I dim the lights and close the curtains. I want to ask earnestly for help, for protection. I want to pray.
Tomorrow I will go into St Martha’s, I will kneel and look up at the altar. Tonight I sit on the edge of my bed and hope the candlelight will last until morning.
©Isabel Dennis-Muir 2016