In the middle of the doorway, surrounded by flames, stood a tall black figure, a three-dimensional shadow of unnatural form. The being was as dark as night but for its white eyes, elongated and blank, which fixed upon Margaret.
“Oh no,” she gasped. “No, please… I was just trying to—”
The shadow being extended something like a wing in Margaret’s direction, and her speech became farts. After one indecipherable, flatulent sentence, she closed her mouth in shame. A child in the congregation giggled, and was quietly reprimanded by her terrified mother.
The shadow being glided up the aisle via a sort of channelled diffusion that was difficult to comprehend and disturbing to behold. Everybody watched. It made its way to Margaret, who dared not move, and reached out three tentacle-like limbs. The shadow being lifted Margaret off the ground and folded her in half. She opened her mouth and farted in terror. It folded her in half again, made a crease, and unfolded her once. The folding and the farting continued, to the stifled laughter of children in the pews. Margaret shrank smaller with each fold, and began to take an angular shape.
“Wait,” said Victor. “Is that… origami?”
The shadow being stopped folding, turned its cold eyes to Victor, and nodded. It turned back and continued working on Margaret. After a couple of minutes, it smoothed out the final fold, and held Margaret up for inspection. She was an origami hawk the size of a football. The shadow being held Margaret out to Victor and laid a tentacle on her folded hawk tail. When it wiggled the tail, Margaret’s outstretched hawk wings moved up and down.
“Huh,” said Victor. “So it can fly?”
The shadow being nodded. It lifted Margaret up and then launched her into the air. She soared across the room and out the doorway, farting wildly as she entered the flames. The shadow being glided out of the room after her.
As the church doors were closing behind the shadow being, Victor spotted the translucent figure of a boy standing amid the flames beyond.
“That’s the ghost from before,” said Victor. “Hey, wait! Gary?”
He ran down the aisle but the doors shut and locked before he reached them. He sighed and turned around; everybody was looking at him. A small girl sidestepped past a dozen adult knees in her pew to stand in the aisle. She approached Victor.
“Hello,” he said.
The girl fished something from her little handbag and held it in her fist. She held it out to Victor. Victor put out his hand.
“This is for you,” she said.
She dropped an orange marble into his palm.
“Um… thanks,” he said.
The marble levitated just above his hand, and began spinning like a top. It grew to the size of a tennis ball.
“Ah, I get it now,” said Victor.
A pencil-thin beam, as potent as a spotlight, broke through the surface of the orange ball from within. The beam of light grew thicker and then seemed to burst; the church and its congregation faded in the all-consuming radiance.
By degrees the light softened. Victor felt motion, and heard the babble of flowing water. His surroundings came into view. He was outdoors now, riding a canoe on a gently-flowing river of old fashioned lemonade. Blooming jacaranda trees lined the banks, their branches arching over the river in a mesmerising purple canopy. Victor laid back and watched flowers plunge here and there from the mauve ceiling like flamboyant raindrops. The boat ride seemed to last ten minutes, but in reality was over in a second. In a blink, the lemonade river cruise had vanished, and Victor was left standing in a derelict garden shed.
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