A short story for Sue Vincent’s #writephoto writing prompt.
Ellie blanked out the voice of the guide as he droned on, and gazed down the empty nave. Rows of columns strode up and down, and disappeared into the shadows of the transept. Where the altar and the choir stalls had been was a yawning space. The rose window that should have shed its coloured magic over the stone flags was dark. Perhaps the day was too dull, too cloudy. Ellie frowned, doubting her eyes.
The party was shuffling into movement again behind the briskly striding guide who was obviously thrilled to bits to be getting outside again.
“Excuse me,” Ellie said, surprising herself. The small crowd stopped. The guide turned, vague annoyance creasing his eyes. “Why is it so empty?”
The guide turned on his drone. “At the Reformation, Henry VIII’s army drove out the clergy and destroyed the effigies—”
“I know, you said,” Ellie interrupted. There was a slight gasp of disapproval. “But why didn’t they do something with it, you know, after, when the new lot took over?”
“Many churches were destroyed, but this building survived.”
Ellie sighed. “But if they didn’t destroy it, why leave it empty so long after? I mean, the C of E got all these old churches, didn’t they? Why not this one?”
The question hung in the air as the guide hesitated a fraction of a second too long. Ellie fixed her eyes on his, sensing he was either going to tell her something extraordinary, or a lie.
“The new church authorities intended to reconstruct the interior, but the work was… never done.”
Again, the hesitation that even the other members of the group seemed to notice.
“There were…unexpected difficulties.”
Ellie opened her mouth with the next, obvious question, but the guide turned on his heel, rounding up the group, hurrying them outside like an officious sheepdog.
The echoe of footsteps died as the group made its way along the transept and out through the side door. The guide’s voice was cut off as the door swung closed with a sigh, and Ellie turned and peered one last time down the nave. She waited and listened as the shadows quivered and spilled onto the pale stone. A papery whispering filled the hollow silence, rising from the stones, pressing against the vaulting of the roof. She listened and nodded, then made her way to the outside world.
A wind blew through the nave and the big double doors of the main entrance slammed closed. Ellie had guessed the answer to her question.