The voice of the boy soloist’s rose above the choir, soaring to the heights of the nave, “…with love in your heart as the only song…” The boy glanced from the score to the choirmaster. Caught in the light of candles that lined the choir stalls, his face was aglow, transported by the music, by the sheer joy of singing. “Rise up. Follow me. I will lead you home.”
Shroud in shadow, an old man leant against a pillar, a hand cupped behind his ear to better hear. Bitter-sweet memories washed over him bringing tears to his eyes. He knew that face well. He’d been devoted to just such a boy when he’d been young, an aspiring chorister himself. Not that he’d shone at it. Others had been far more accomplished, even if they’d been beastly to him. But he’d tasted the joy of transcendence, if only briefly. And he experienced it again now through the boy, winging upwards like a bird moved by the song. A shudder shook his wasted body. His hand flew to his chest, pressing against his ribs, worried his heart might burst as a sob caught in his throat. The pressure was stronger than ever. He took a deep breath, willing the pain to ease.
There was a time he could have imagined being that boy, his chest swelling in song, his heart beating fast as his voice caressed the highest notes, so great had been his devotion, but now all that was left was longing and regret, and a faltering heart. What had the boy sung? “I will lead you home.” Yes. Home. That was where he wanted to be.
Pushing off from the pillar, he glided down the aisle till he stood unseen amid the choir. Shy, he held out a hand to the chorister, fearful he’d be ignored, it wouldn’t be the first time, afraid too that the music would stop. Neither happened. The boy smiled knowingly and stepped forward, leaving his singing self behind, and took the old man’s proffered hand. A shudder of delight shot through the man at that touch, as if holding hands reunited him with his own lost self.
The boy turned and, without a word, led him not to the altar as he’d expected, but to a tiny door half-concealed amongst the largest pipes of the organ. Beyond the door, the man imagined a chapel or a crypt or maybe even a graveyard. Hope conjured up rolling meadows awash with flowers swaying in the breeze. Above, the sun shone bright in a cloudless sky. Somewhere in the distance a church bell tolled and all around the strains of the choir hung in the air.
Unlocking the door with a key, the boy stepped aside to let the old man through. Despite the invitation, he hesitated on the threshold, frozen by inexplicable fear. He felt the boy’s hands on his back, but the touch was no longer reassuring. Then the boy laughed and gave a shove, catapulting him into the dark and slammed the door on him.