The flock had dwindled for ages. The old going forth to their eternal reward, the young pulled away by the gravity of congealing cityscapes in their orbits. Long before the megachurch went up out by the highway the faithful had begun to move on to take their grace elsewhere.
Pastor Miller was no drunkard. He bore sin, as any man does, but when his sermons began to waver with slur and deep pause those who’d remained of his congregants took note. That first Sunday they whispered. The next they gasped. Each Sabbath following they grew fewer and fewer until the day the pews were empty but for one man.
Roger Tipple was a believer in something. He knew not what, but something. More. He came not of a faith but to be in the presence of whatever he felt in that room. The trickling away of the rows of the long baptized meant little to him, their reason for coming at all was tangential to his own.
Left alone he still listened, awed by Pastor Miller even as the slur deepened, even as the man’s vacant eyes stared longer into nothing.
When came the day that he sat in the wooden church hall, quiet without Pastor Miller’s teachings, still he stayed and he did smile, basking in the presence of what spirits walked in this sacred place.
He came the next Sunday, and again he was the sole devotee, and him with no pastor, and then once again the Sunday next, but on the fourth Sunday Miller had returned.
“It’s great to see you, Pastor.”
“And you,” he said, clear as day.
The slur had gone. So too had the pause and that empty gaze. The man was there, more than there, more maybe than even before.
“You’re looking well.”
“A flu got me for a bit, but I’m feeling brand new.”
When he took to the pulpit he spoke of redemption and salvation in a manner altered from past sermons. He referenced pacts and deeds done. He looked to the ceiling and the vastness above when he spoke. And then he was done.
Roger Tipple shook the pastor’s hand, but the altered way about the man stayed with him. The voice, the cadence. Even the handshake was changed.
The next Sunday brought back only a few, and a few more the Sunday after. The curious hoping for spectacle.
His sermons moved away from tradition. He spoke of whispering statues forgotten long ago in the cracks between mountains. He talked of a door in a room in the desert. He said there was a man who sat in a room looking into a mirror and the face he saw there described abominations he would one day erect. He spoke and they leaned in. He preached of these arcane histories and they found their way back. The flock. In their ones and twos they would repopulate the seats in the little church hall. When he talked they all sighed. At times they cheered.
Roger came to Pastor Miller, and he shook the man’s hand, and he asked of these things.
“These are not gospels. Where did these stories come from?”
“There are gospels in older books,” said the pastor. “There are saints whose names time’s washed away.”
Roger came each Sunday still, and more were there, more were there. He came and he listened. The pastor spoke of sheets of vast dark above. He spoke of ears who would hear a man’s prayer when no other would.
When Roger Tipple left he had not felt the presence he’d basked in in that place, not for some time. But the sermons, they go on, and each Sunday more come, each Sunday more come.
— Craig Rodgers is the name appearing on several books ghostwritten by a gaggle of long dead Victorian spirits.