there’s something fascinating about a lighted candle, especially in the darkness of church. she was the proverbial moth inclined to light one; holding the half-inch piece of wax in its container of cheap foil awkwardly upside down over the open flame of another. the wick caught and she placed it with the others on the metal frame, the collective setting resembling a christmas tree of sorts, the candle lights painting the immediate walls with shadows steady and a soft orange glow.
the altar to the front-centre of the room was barricaded in black burglar proofing forged in repetitive patterns of four circles fused into a diamond, the very top of which was embellished with sharp curved tips resembling the points of spears used in medieval times. the rounded posts located two meters apart throughout the altar area form the corners of one or more imaginary squares when viewed from above; and the arches connecting them run from left to right, front to back, and diagonally across, dividing the ceiling contained in each of those very squares into four triangular sections, each adorned with a painting of the mother or son, or some other important biblical personality in faded colours of red, gold, and aquamarine. and just then she was distracted by a holy man walking past. preparations for the service would begin shortly.
there were four of them; all clad in white fleece robes with sleeves wide enough to fall to their waists if their arms were held horizontally outstretched. one of them switched on the lights - electricity seemed so absurdly out of place in this setting. two others set about flipping through holy books binded in hardcovers of red, the exposed edges of their pages appearing two shades lighter. and the last shushes two persons in the front left pew; the gesture reminding her of a mr. bean christmas skit in a storefront display.
eventually a hush fell as the service began. three of the holy men were positioned against the curved wall at the back of the altar with two of them standing in little wooden frames - similar to those metal cages that thrill-seekers secure themselves to in those amusement park rides before being spun wildly up into the air. they read in unison, as if singing almost, but not quite, pausing for up to five seconds or more between verses as if each was waiting on the other to start the next line. then they all fell in. they chanted in latin perhaps - she couldn't tell, but that combined with the richness of their voices echoing throughout this ancient sunken chamber only added to the experience. to the side of the altar were maybe six persons seated in dining chairs, all in casual wear, some of them strolling in minutes after the session had started, all reciting on cue as per the pamphlets from a wooden box up front.
she looked at this, somehow in awe of it all cos’ it's all new to her, having never witnessed this before. she's not religious but respected it, and that involved at minimum embracing the desire to better understand it. she's a student of life, there to learn. and she sat quietly in the second pew, watching, listening. it made sense to do so.