After accidentally locking myself out of my home one night, I felt nostalgic and sought sanctuary in a nearby church. Well, former church. The 1888 edifice that has now been converted to other uses was a house of God until he was evicted for failing to pay the rent and his place was taken by more profitable businesses and organizations.
A side door was open when I arrived. Having no business being there, I headed the opposite direction of the attendant at the desk, descending to the basement to, say, look for a pay phone. Strolling though the old, deep-blue brick corridors of the basement, popping into the odd storage room and snapping a few pictures of the old church safe, I heard someone barking out orders to music in a room further down the corridor. Not wanting to disturb the ritual, I headed up the very creaky stairs at the far end of the basement.
Coming up into a hallway in the heart of the church, I noticed a tiny camera peering down at me. I immediately forced myself to stop noticing it and stalled nonchalantly for a few minutes while I waited to see if anyone wanted to come and ask me what I was up to. When it seemed me that I'd given security more than a fair head start, I headed up another nearby creaky wooden staircase, doing my best to put my weight on the less-creaky edges.
Pushing open a random door at the top of the stairs, I entered a small room walled almost entirely with doors five of them, including the one I'd come through. Door number one was slightly ajar and emitting very loud funk music from the main auditorium, where some sort of rehearsal was going on. Door number two was locked. Door number three concealed a tiny, unlit closet. Door number four
Well, I was as eager to move on to door number four and get out of there as you. Not only was I worried that someone might be coming up to find me, I was also worried that one of the occupants of the auditorium might suddenly push open the door, unleashing a torrent of pounding funk and accusation upon me.
But there was no denying that there seemed to be a wooden staircase, so steep that it was really a ladder, set into one wall of that tiny, unlit closet. Nervous as I was, I had to check it out, so I slipped through and let the door close behind me. As I stood in the complete blackness, I realized that I didn't have my pocket flashlight. Having no tool with which to drive back the darkness, I was compelled to fall back on the Ninja Flashlight Technique, forcing my pupils to see whatever tiny bits of reflected light remained in the all-but-complete darkness. I stood there and stared at the ladder I knew to be about two feet in front of my face until, after about two minutes, I could just make out its basic outline. Then I began to climb.
To say the rungs were creaky would be an understatement; to me, in an unfamiliar, off-limits area beside an auditorium full of people, each step seemed ear-splittingly loud, and I only felt confident enough to take a step when the loud funk next door swelled. To my immense frustration, however, it seemed that the instructor was just not satisfied with the performance he was getting, for the music stopped every 20 seconds or so while he offered the rehearsers additional instructions, and the ladder was far too loud for me to move unless the music was playing. When the music stopped, I stopped, and so my very gradual ascent up the ladder and the equally creaky flight of stairs beyond it became a sort of vertical version of musical chairs.
By the time I reached the top of the stairs, the sliver of light from below was no longer doing me any good in fact, I only realized I was at the top of the stairs when I stepped out onto a flat floor beyond. Pitiful bits of light squeezed through cracks around a two-foot-square wooden portal set into a brick wall. I unlatched this portal and opened it just a crack to let in some light, but I still couldn't see the other side of the attic.
|Getting to the top of the rafters involved climbing through a hole in the wall onto a plank suspended in the air and doing its best to support an old wooden ladder.
Hauling out my digital camera, I navigated my way through all the junk scattered about the creaky floor by the dim light of the camera's LCD screen, still only daring to move with the music, stopping whenever the instructor turned off the music to make a suggestion, occasionally whisper-yelling at the people below to just focus and get it right. At the opposite end of the attic, I saw that a small, rough hole had been punched through the brick wall. I ducked through the hole and emerged at the bottom of a gigantic empty space filled with wooden support columns, all of which I could make out fairly well by the early evening sunlight shining in through some shafts in the walls.
I wasn't actually standing on a floor, but on a wooden gangplank suspended in the air between my hole in the wall and one of the nearby support beams. I didn't like the way the plank was shaking, so I made my way over to the church's rafters, and then climbed an ancient ladder to stand at the crest of the church ceiling beneath me. A sudden flurry of pigeons nearly gave me a heart attack, and I paused for a few minutes to steady myself before I shakily made my way back down the ladder and across the gangplank.
As I was fiddling with my camera in the dark, the attic suddenly flooded with light, and I had a moment of intense panic before I realized that it was just the little wooden portal I'd unlatched earlier blowing open. I'd been hesitant to open the portal fully before, as I imagined it would be visible to many of the church's neighbours, but now that it had opened itself I figured I might as well climb through. The church's gravel roof was not of the finest architectural quality, but the view of the church and the surrounding area was impressive.
Sealing everything up behind me, I made my way back down to the room of doors, and opened door number four. Pushing aside a black velvet curtain on the other side, I realized I was on the circular balcony level above a small, empty theatre and, in keeping with the spirit of the place, there were doors aplenty to be checked. Most of these were uninteresting, but a latch on one room was held shut by a Master lock that hadn't quite snapped closed. Was this it? The apartment of the Lord? Would I finally capture God and make him tell me where he kept his gold?
|Was this it? The apartment of the Lord?
Sliding the lock out of place and opening the door, I found myself at the bottom of a short flight of stairs leading up into a very odd little hideaway. There was a record player, some other decorations and a few posters that had been cut out of girlie magazines. If God used to live here, he moved out some time ago.
Other articles about the incredibly fun adventures one can have in, on and around churches, are presented in Infiltration 19.