It was a still, short, hard knock night, when the bells of the church, the old church in my village started to ring out.They were chiming, through the cloudless sky, through the star filled night, through the crisp coldness in the air.They woke me from my slumber.
I opened the window, and breathed in the cool autumnal air.The moon was in its last quarter, in the sky, and I stumbled to the bathroom.
After relief came thought. Auto pilot off. Why were those bells still ringing? I wandered downstairs, into the kitchen. I glanced at the clock, and thought about changing the battery. It had been stuck on a quarter to six for three weeks now. I turned on the TV, to the British news channel. They said it was 05.24, so take an hour off for French time and its 06.24. Still the bells were ringing! Why ?
I’d been in the fog of wake for a dozen or so minutes, those bells were still ringing. Curiosity got the better of me , and I got dressed in yesterday’s clothes and tied my laces. I hadn’t shaved or showered, so I looked scruffy. It was late October, and the daylight hadn’t really started to filter through . I slipped on a jacket, and headed out the door. I headed out to the village.
I didn’t get too far before I met Claude. He was the neighbor. I blurted out a greeting, and asked what was going on.
Claude shrugged. He’d been woken too, obviously. Together we walked up the main street. “The bells woke me” he complained.
Claude looked at me as if that was so evidently the case, as if he was stating the obvious, but the situation was so strange it needed saying, as if we were in a dream.
Claude lit his pipe.The rest of the walk to the church was conducted in silent billows of Claude’s powerful tobacco. The bells were still ringing when we got to the church, even though the church clock usually only chimed on the hour and its quarters, ringing out a chime for each hour. On the quarters and on the half it would ring once, and the hour it would ring once for each hour, so 4 times meant four o’clock.
I wondered how long the bells had been ringing. By now, most of the village had been woken up by the church bells. The village seemed to conglomerate around the church, petering out into the Loire Valley countryside
The church door was open, and there were a few other villagers standing , wide-eyed, by the church porch. I saw our friend, Pascal, he was staggering back from the phone booth in the village square. “The police are coming” he said. “Make sure everyone stays out of the church’.
Now I started to really come to my senses. What would require the presence of the police? I thought. Claude grabbed my shoulder and looked me in the eyes, and then nodded towards the church , afraid. We both turned our heads towards the church doorway, and I felt a shiver down my spine, and goosebumps , something scary was silhouetted through the doorway, we very quickly saw the scene. It burned onto our eyelids, and the smell of death hung in the air. A body hung on the bell ropes, counter balanced by a pew. That was the village priest, ringing out death on this Hallowe’en night