It was Elisa’s very first time to cathedral-surf. She was happy that her twin sister was with her: Yolanda had been surfing holy places for half a year now and once ended up all the way in Tibet, in a lamasery filled with indignant monks.
“Well,” the bishop said, “it is a bit like jumping in the rabbit hole. You know, like that girl Alice did?”
Elisa nodded. “Me and my sister here, we did that when we were little. You fell for a long, long time. Like jumping from the water tower, only you never ended up with broken bones.”
Yolanda laughed. “Our little brother tried that. With a homemade parachute.”
“Mostly it is believing you can,” the bishop continued his spiel. “Now most surfers start at the pulpit and wait for a wave of incense to curl. You know the Lord’s prayer? Without that, no angel will bother to lift you up.”
“Our Father, who art in heaven,” Elisa instantly intoned. Hell, how did it go again? Yes! “Hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come.”
“That is enough,” the bishop said. ‘You’re no doubt good Catholic girls.” He gestured to the interior of the church, the high stained-glass windows, the cupola with angels and grave saints. “Now this cathedral is clearly a nice big church but still way too small to fly any distance. What happens is that a gate opens just before you smash into the wall. When you surf you pass through all cathedrals of the world, buoyed by the prayers of the faithful. That is why Sunday morning is the best moment to jump off.”
He handed Elisa a small model of the church tower. It was only gilded balsawood she noticed, not real gold like the little cases they kept the mummified toes and nails of holy men in. “You use this to steer, but no doubt the chaplain told you?”
“Like is attracted to like,” Elisa said. “The first law of magic. The tower searches for other church towers and pulls me across the Empyrean.”
While talking they had been climbing the steps of one of the unused pulpits in the back of the church, hoisting their unwieldy glass surfboards.
Looking down she saw that most of the benches were now occupied by the faithful. An organ started to play and the voices rose in a familiar hymn. She echoed the words. The granite floor looked quite distant and extremely hard.
It is now or never! Elisa told herself. “The last to jump is a rubber chicken!” she shrieked and threw her surfboard, jumping on it when it started to fall.
‘Hallowed be Thy name!” she bellowed and the board rose just before she would smash on the ancient tombstones that made up the floor.
An immense tunnel opened up, glittering with gold and jewels, Marias without number flashed past, Saint Anthony in sandstone and wood, in humble plaster…
All the churches of the world, Elisa thought, like hollow beads on a string.
“Deliver us from evil!” she heard her sister cry and she raced past Elisa, drenching her in sandalwood and incense. The Westminster Cathedral, the twin towers of Rouan, the Sagrada Familia. They swept to the right and now the churches were Eastern Orthodoc, with walls made of icons and red sandstone pillars.
“Look at it!” Yolanda cried. “That is the Saint Basil in Moscow!” But it lay already behind them.
“Say,” her sister said. ‘Did you see the bishop’s face? He clearly hated having us surf in his church. But it is like stately homes. Someone has to pay for the upkeep. Which is why we had to put ten dollar each in the collecting tin.”
They were slowing down, rapidly losing their velocity. The churches had become temples, turning stranger and stranger. No saints or virgins but leering masks and potbellied gods.
Elisa’s surfboard hit the floor, skidded across the parquet. The walls were lined with silk hangings, more buddhas than even in a garden center. The air was so cold her breath came in tiny snowflakes.
“O no,” Yolanda whispered. “Not again…”
Scowling monks surrounded them, carrying rather big sticks.
“I told you, girl, ” the abbot rumbled and gestured to a burly monk with a cudgel. “Break their disrespectful boards and let them walk home.”Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in