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Fiction: Church Bells

Mathieu’s backpack slipped off his shoulder, as he gaped in horror. The cathedral was ablaze. Flames had engulfed the façade, and smoke was exiting from
church bells story
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As a child, Mathieu used to pass by the Notre-Dame Cathedral every day on his way to school.  Each year, on Christmas Eve, the ten church bells in the cathedral rang in F-sharp, magnetically attracting tourists towards it.  He had missed the ringing of the bells on his tour of duty, but now, he was back.  He emerged from the metro station nearby with expectant ears, waiting to hear that melodious sound after four years.  However, what he saw certainly wasn’t the cathedral he was expecting.

Horrified bystanders stood nearby. People burst out the doors of the cathedral, screaming. Mathieu’s backpack slipped off his shoulder, as he gaped in horror. The cathedral was ablaze. Flames had engulfed the façade, and smoke was billowing out of the tall arches. Needless to say, the church bells were silent.


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“The archbishop is still inside!” shouted an old lady, who had just run out.

The inner soldier in Mathieu awoke. Throwing down his baggage, he rushed in, cutting a path through the tide of people.  All the wooden pews were burning.  The roof had already begun collapsing, and planks of wood were raining down. Mathieu tied his handkerchief around his nose and mouth and moved on. In the distance, he saw the archbishop near the altar.  He had been delivering a special sermon, but was now trapped behind a barrier of caved-in stone walls.  Through a gap, he could see the archbishop on his knees, his hands locked together and held near his chest.  He was looking up at a mural of Mother Mary.

Eyes focused on his target, he ran to the wall of stones, trying to find an opening.  Finally, he found a gap.  He used the gap to move away the other stones, and within a minute, the incredulous archbishop was freed.  By now the fire had spread to most of the apse, and Mathieu needed to proceed quickly.  Helping him up, he put the archbishop’s shoulder around his, and ran to the door, avoiding the falling pieces of burning wood and stone.  He pushed the door open, and led the archbishop out, to the applause of the bewildered spectators.  Remarkably, both of them had escaped with few injuries, except for a few scrapes and burns.

Another two years and another tour of duty later, Mathieu had once again arrived at the gates of the renovated Notre-Dame, on Christmas Eve.  Inside, the archbishop was conducting mass.  Mathieu had become a celebrity after his spectacular exploits, and had been awarded the Legion d’Honneur; however, he preferred a low profile.  Today, he wanted solitude.  The church bells of the Notre-Dame rang, and deep in Mathieu’s heart, he felt a warmth.

***

Aarav Kumar is a student of  Word Munchers, a Kolkata-based creative writing platform.

Images courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

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Aarav Kumar is 14 years old, and lives in Kolkata. He is a student of Birla High School. Aarav enjoys reading, art, watching videos and researching.

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