The Crypt, Alice Langley
Daytime. Artfully angled spotlights gleam on glass cases in the underground crypt. The curved walls echo with shuffling steps of feet long-tired with the parade of endless antiquity. The tourists’ eyes move unseeing over the reliquaries. Constant false shutter sounds as phone cameras click, and click, and click. Sunlight streams down the steps, falling onto the access ramp in the tomb of San Lorenzo.
When darkness drifts down to cloak the manicured garden and the doors sigh closed, only the torch beam of the night watchman reflects the golden caskets and ancient treasure. Squat, gold cases hold chips of bone, aging yellow. Fingers curve beckoningly, flesh long since rotted away. Shreds of colourless, matted hair. Teeth.
The watchman settles beneath the fluorescent Exit sign. He sips coffee, rustles his paper. He does not feel the weight of stone overhead. The yawn of the marble cathedral weighing down from above.
He does not hear the scratching.
The bones exhale. Nail squeaks on glass.
Turn of the newspaper’s page.
The almost-silent wheeze of hinges.
A glance up from the print. Nothing seems to be stirring. Shadows reach from their corners. The darkness is watching.
That ancient instinct from a time when death prowled the night just beyond the campfire’s glow tells him look up. He stands, eyes straining, clicking the torch button too loudly. The beam falters, wavers. Stops.
Dread now creeping up his throat, he fumbles for the switch. A hand meets his. Leathery and dry. Hard-boned fingers force him down to the concrete. Shards of splintering nail puncture his skin. The reliquaries take him.
His eye remains, encased in gems, encased in glass. A conveyor belt of bored faces. Inside, the hunger grows.
The lights now dim, and the next watchmen sits. Paper. Coffee.
Alice is a writer and theatre-maker living in Glasgow. Her doors and walls are permeable to stray cats and stories - she welcomes both and will feed them and you, if you chance by. She loves the short stories of Helen Oyeyemi, Carmen Maria Machado, and Helen McClory. Alice's has flash fiction forthcoming in Pastel Pastoral Magazine and Second Chance Lit. Her creative non-fiction can be found in Potluck Zine.