Bernie Morgan had reluctantly answered his mobile. He had wanted, needed to be left alone.
“No, no, I’m fine here on my own, Sheila.” Said Bernie into the ether, the heavens, he thought wryly.
“I’ll call tomorrow,” he said to his wife,”yes, yes, I’ll light a candle for him, for Jack.” Fat lot of good that will do for our son now, he thought, as he ended the call.
As he placed his mobile on the table Bernie became aware of ghostly figures passing the window, dark indistinct silhouettes, a grotesque shadow theatre. Curious, he open the door and stepped outside into the cool air, warmed by the sour smell of woodsmoke.
In the far distance he could distinguish a dull regular drum beat, carried by a gentle breeze and echoing off the walls of the silent houses that crowded the street. The slow boom, boom, boom, a mesmerising metronomic rhythm, lulled Bernie into state of unease. Compelled by a force beyond his understanding, he closed the door behind him and stepped into the stream of people that seemed to surged up the narrow street towards the sound. Carried along, Bernie felt oppressed by the narrowness of the streets, saw shadowy figures in dark passages, his eyes snagging on bizarre door knockers, snakes and dragons, on ancient doors. A church tower loomed dark over the town, lit by the moon’s spectral silver orb diffused by the murky Spring clouds. The sinister drum beat became closer.
Bernie eased himself forward to stand at the edge of the crowd, next to a tall brazier, as the solitary drummer, leading a procession of masked figures, swayed past, trancelike, in time to his simple beat. The drummer turned to stare at Bernie through the dark holes in his hood, and for what seemed like an eternity held his eyes. They were like boreholes, black holes to another universe.
Suddenly, the man next to Bernie clasped his elbow in a painful grip, saying, in a faint but audible voice, “Por favor, Sēnor, help me.”
Startled out of his sorrowful reverie he turned and held the man as he collapsed forward into the path of the sinister drummer. For a brief moment the procession stopped, a silent tableaux lit by the flickering flames of the braziers. The drummer, the first to move, set his instrument on the polished cobbles, threw his hood to one side and knelt beside the stricken spectator, “Soy médico! he said. Bernie stared down at the young doctor, who, now without the hood had become human, in looks not dissimilar to his dead son Jack.
At that moment the door opposite opened spilling a white light across the cobbles. Bernie looked into the church, a familiar and comforting place. I will light that candle, he thought.
This challenge of this creative writing exercise is to write a piece giving a sense of place. My first effort was a bland travelogue about the Easter parade in Pollença in Mallorca, a typically intense Spanish celebration.
By chance a Scottish author that I follow posted a blog story, an exercise in giving sense of place. Accidentally, she had included a critical analysis as her story was a submission for her university course. This made me reconsider my approach and led me to rewrite it as fiction in third person.