Chapter 10:

010 ┃ The church of the dead

The Isle of the Forgotten

Spud walked inside the church, the echo of his footsteps the only sound to be heard. Once past the entrance and the stairs that led to the top of the bell tower, there was only one more room in the church. The room consisted of a large nave, ten times more spacious than any house he had seen so far.

When was there for the first time, he had barely taken a quick look from outside, but once inside, the room was impressive. The high ceiling and the grandeur of the room made him feel like an ant in that place. On the sides of the nave, there were huge and colorful stained-glass windows that seemed out of place with the simplicity of the rest of the village. This was by far the most impressive building he had seen so far.

Inside the room, there were dozens and dozens of wooden benches aligned, which made him wonder how many people had actually lived in that village. Among the destroyed and rotted benches, there were at least twenty skeletons scattered all over the place, which made Spud have to contain the urge to vomit.

He covered his mouth and closed his eyes, trying to calm himself. He would not be able to explore properly if he didn’t get used to the skeletons once and for all, but he couldn’t stop thinking that all those people were alive at some point, each with their lives, their relatives, and friends. And all had died there.

He took a deep breath, trying to ignore the smell of rotten wood. He had important things to investigate. He opened his eyes and tried to avoid directing his gaze at the corpses.

He circled the center of the room and headed straight to the back, where all the benches were directed. There was a large altar from where you could see the rest of the room, like a large stage in an auditorium.

In the background, illuminated by a rear stained-glass window, there was a huge statue, at least three times his height. It was made of almost shiny white marble, but there were garnet splashes covering much of the base. It depicted a boy covered with a robe and holding a die in his hand. It seemed to challenge his immobility, as if he were about to take a step at any moment, in addition to a serene and almost divine pose. The face was undoubtedly that of a child, but his expression looked intelligent and mysterious with eyes that seemed to stare directly into his soul. He had a slight smile that gave Spud chills.

Despite its large size, it was scary how detailed the sculpture was. The robe looked like real silk and Spud swore he could distinguish even the body hair. He wore a pendant around his neck with a strange symbol that he recognized as the same one that was at the entrance of the church. It was a perfect circle within which there was an intricate and irregular spiral as if it were a maze. In the center, covering almost the entire figure, a big eye.

Spud spent a good while admiring that statue. It was incredible that the inhabitants of that island had managed to make something like that, but that only made him have more questions. Undoubtedly that figure was very important to those people, so the most logical thing was to think that it was a god. However, his childlike appearance and his indecipherable expression gave him a bad feeling, although the stains of what he believed was blood at the base of the statue didn't help either.

When he finished examining it, he approached the center of the altar. He tried not to pay too much attention to the corpses scattered around the room, although the mere fact of knowing they were there gave him goosebumps. Fortunately, something distracted his attention. Near where he stood was a marble lectern with a book opened in the middle. Next to it was a skeleton that still retained some of its clothes.

He first looked at the skeleton. His heart was pounding and his mind was screaming not to approach, but he finally crouched down to examine it with a grimace of disgust. All the other skeletons he had seen so far were naked, maybe with shoes, but this one was still covered by a brown fabric that looked like a tunic. Based on where it was placed, Spud assumed it had been some sort of priest. Maybe his clothing was of better quality compared to the villagers and that's why it hadn't decomposed as easily over time. At the very least it made sense.

The central part of the tunic, or what was left of it, was torn and holed, and under the body, there was a large grayish stain that made him want to vomit. He wanted to look away as soon as possible, but a glint near the skull caught his attention. It was a golden pendant that lay on the ground. In the past, the priest probably wore it, but now that only his bones remained, the necklace lay on the ground, among the cervical vertebrae.

As he did not want to get closer to the skeleton than necessary, Spud made a decision that he immediately regretted. With an absolute expression of disgust, he reached out and quickly removed the pendant. It got caught on one of the vertebrae, and when he tried to pull hard, the entire skull rolled down the stairs. Each collision against the altar steps echoed throughout the nave. Spud watched uncomfortably as it fell, like a child who had just broken a valuable object.

"Sorry," He said out loud.

He quickly moved away from the skeleton and examined the pendant he had just desecrated. Although it was somewhat dirty, the chain was gleaming gold and not rusted at all. The pendant itself was of the same material and represented the same symbol the statue held: an eye in the middle of a maze. He decided it could be useful, so he put it in his bag.

He stood up to examine the lectern. Although the book that was open on it was almost completely undone, on a small shelf under it there were two other important-looking books. Both had complex drawings on the cover made with golden filaments and although each book was different, both shared a large figure in the center: the same symbol that was on the pendant.

The same symbol three times. He couldn't help but think it was probably the emblem of the religion or some kind of divine symbol, but he didn't see how that could help them find their way back home. He had enough work with the potatoes, the last thing he needed is to start trying to decipher the religion of a culture he didn't know. Even so, with no other clues to follow, he at least had to try.

He opened the first book and flipped through it quickly. The language was the same as in the other books he had seen. Although he had already become familiar with the letters, he still had no idea what words they formed. Luckily for him, like the book about flowers, that one was illustrated.

He stopped at a random page with a drawing. In it, hundreds of horsemen fought each other in a field, and arrows and what looked like fireballs were flying in the sky. Puzzled, Spud decided to start from the beginning of the book.

A. Hoshino