Black and White

The clergyman got up from the white stone floor with difficulty. The years were no longer kind on his knees.

Adjusting his white robes, he settled himself on the solitary chair. His fingers went immediately to the beads around his neck. He started mumbling slowly to himself.

The cleric was a dignified white-haired man of God. Respected, even awed, by his community, he had the reputation of having Christ’s touch on his hands. Many a prayer he had mumbled had led to miraculous results. His congregation worshipped him as the priest that could turn sorrow to joy, sin to righteousness, all things dark to pure. Black to white.

It was not just him. Everything about the Church was white. The architecture, the clothing, and for many centuries the reputation too. Heavens, even the rosary beads were pearly white.

Of the many prayers that the rosary stood for, tonight the Prayer of Agony tugged at the old man’s heart. For he was struggling with unspeakable agony. The guilt wearing down on him. He felt like he was wearing the Cross itself. Agony cloaked itself around his neck.

The new addition to the choir had been only a month into it before the conductor made him render a solo at Sunday Mass. The priest deep in prayer had been jolted out of it with the tender and lilting voice of the choirboy. The notes were being hit with precision, but it was the mellifluous voice that had not only the priest but everyone in the congregation in raptures. A little angel in white.

That had been merely a month ago. Since then, the choirboy had been given extra duties around the Church. His presence brought about an enthusiasm to the priest, one that he did not know even existed. Every night before he retired to bed, he made the boy sing one of his favorites from the hymnal while he closed his eyes in pure, white joy, reveling in the child’s voice and the old lyrics.

Tonight, though.

The recollection made the priest grip his beads fiercely, turning his knuckles white. What had come over him tonight?

As the child sang beautifully, scaling a pitch deemed higher than what was possible, the cleric had felt an unfamiliar rising of his own.

The next few minutes went black. As the child whimpered away and the priest adjusted his stained robes back into place, he had felt a black cloud descend upon him. He of the magic white touch.

He couldn’t take it any longer. The rosary was not working. His fervent prayer was not being answered tonight. His admission of guilt though directed upwards had not even left the room. It kept prodding at him. A black whisper in his head.

He picked himself up and went to the wardrobe. Ignoring the usual white robes, he picked out the old black trunk. He let the white robes slip easily from his body. They no longer felt right, after all these years. He donned the garment that had not seen light for decades.

Turning around he removed the string of beads that had been his companion for years. Leaving the white rosary on the table, he slowly stepped out into the shadows. Him and the black garment that he had just donned.

It struck him as he slipped into the darkness that the night had never looked as black as it did then.

Write Club Hyderabad – Colors and Writing – July 15th, 2017.

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