Jolting upright in my dorm, I put a hand to my chest, trying to control my frantic breathing. Glancing at the small circular window, I let out a breath. That was strange. My dreams are usually peaceful, my faith in the almighty so strong that my dreams are only images of what the afterlife might be like among his flock.
But this time was different.
Swinging my legs over the side of the cot, I bury my face in my hands, my fingers threading into my golden hair. Glaring at the ground beneath me, I try to get a hold of myself. I focus on my pounding heartbeat, closing my eyes, letting the sound lull me back to inner peace. To tranquility. To my faith. After a moment, I can’t even remember why I was so panicked, the dream slipping through my fingers, the light of the Almighty piercing through the shadows of my mind.
I stand slowly, walking to the small bathroom attached to my sparse dorm, splashing my face with cold water. Glancing at myself in the mirror, I stumble back immediately, my heart racing again as I put a hand to my chest. I shake my head to clear it, and the reflection returns to normal.
I couldn’t have seen that. I twist in the bathroom, yanking my t-shirt up, looking at my back in the mirror.
Nothing. Good. I must have been dreaming of angels, and I’m not fully awake yet. Shaking my head again, I shower quickly, using the soap roughly. Drying off, I head to the small closet, smiling at the contents. My hand trails lovingly over the matching clothes, all-black robes, along with a pair of grey sweats and a hoodie which I only use when I leave the parish. I pull out my first robe and get dressed, buttoning the numerous buttons all the way to my collar before putting the small square of white there. I glance at the mirror again, making sure everything is in place before entering the rest of the parish.
The unmarried priests eat in the cafeteria together silently. Most of us are buried in our various texts. Some are praying as they eat. I stare down at the plain toast and powdered eggs on my plate, my mind drifting as I consume them. I glance up as the great bells toll signalling morning mass.
We silently file into the church, but unlike the others in training to take holy orders, I take the last pew row. I always find those in the most need of help tend to sit in the back row. The morning mass is skeletal, with very few present before the sun rises. For most of the mass, I feel at peace, calm and vacant, as if the Almighty sweeps over me. Then my eyes follow the sound of the wooden pew creaking as the weight of someone else sitting shifts it.
My brows furrow at the dark-haired man. He arrived at almost the very end of mass and then proceeded to get up and prepare to leave the church. I wouldn’t have taken note of it, except his body movements are almost disjointed. His body looks as if it is buffering as he stands and leaves the church. Without thinking, I follow him down the street, trying to understand what it is I’m seeing. His walk is disconnected. Between one blink and the next, he moves four steps and then none.
My cassock draws attention as I walk down the street. I ignore the glares, focusing on the back of his head as I try to catch up to him. Yet with every step I take, he gets farther away.
My gaze is yanked away from him when a taxi rear ends a car in the intersection, and I have to move in order to avoid the bikers now forced onto the sidewalk. When I look back, searching for the man I was following, I see nothing but a sea of heads. And none of them belong to the strange, glitching man.
Maybe I’m seeing things again. First the mirror this morning, and now this?
I need to take some time to pray and reflect. Maybe the Almighty is sending me a signal, a message. I need to take the moment to understand it and truly decipher it.
I turn to head back to the parish, but my eyes catch on the massive crack in the store window next to me. When I fully face it, I blink once and twice. I see someone else. Someone with wings, golden hair, piercing blue eyes, a golden bow and quiver in his hands. No one else on the street seems to see this. I tilt my head to the side, and the reflection follows. My hand raises, and his does as well, mimicking me. I glance down at my cassock and then back at my reflection. But he is holding the bow and arrow up, ready to let it go.
I need to clear my head. A walk in the park seems in order.