Josiah scurried through the half-light of the alley that sat, cramped between the Altar of Sacrifice and the Chamber of the Machine. The electric lights flickered, their buzzing drowning out the scuffling of his bare feet on the cobblestones. He flicked his eyes about the passageway, expecting the worst, hoping for the best. It wouldn’t do to be seen running in the House of the Holies by one of the Brothers – it was undignified to run. Had the Good Lord ever been known to run? Often he walked, certainly the Scriptures made note of his pedestrian humility.
To run somewhere that the serfs may see! It would be unthinkable, a sudden flash of ankle beneath his elaborate costume, the sound of his rattling breath may remind them of the Society’s humanity, distract them from their worship.
The machines were dying. Not enough were prepared for ever-encroaching waters, for swamping floods of refugees. Not enough artefacts had been saved, and those that were ended up cannibalised over the centuries since the Humbling. Those few scientists not strung up as the bearers of bad news had been quietly inducted into the Society, their heretical whisperings making them the strangest bedfellows to the Machine-Priests. Protected by the need for repair work on the decaying remains of the Machine.
He had reached the Altar and swung into the recess beneath the wrought-iron façade, now hidden from the eyes of the pilgrims that would soon be entering the Cathedral. Someone needed to play the Metatron before them, and none would oust him from his cell now.
It was his turn to feast on their offerings, to offer his advice to them. It had been too long since a Scientist had won the right to be the Voice of God.
He had done the calculations, had determined his conclusion. They could overthrow the Church.
They burnt him alive in that prison. The High Priest’s sermon praised him for offering himself up to save the Harvest. Hail the Machine!
Another quick story for , whose prompt this week is alley. I also managed to work in a couple of prompts: costume and strange bedfellows … I ran out of words too quickly for this story – there will be a much longer rewrite soon(ish).