Katie Thedley investigates and photographs abandoned places, posting what she finds on her urban exploration blog. But nothing and nowhere she’s ever experienced before can prepare her for what—or rather, whom—she finds in St. Michael’s and All Angels church in a small town in Cornwall.
Such is the premise of Gareth Topping’s wonderful short story “Faithless,” part of his series, For Heaven’s Sake. This modern-day fantasy tale is mostly a short (20+ pages) dialogue, but it’s packed with characterization, and entertains from beginning to end. Topping makes excellent use of mood, atmosphere, and setting in the old church where most of the action takes place:
Leaving the front door ajar, Katie stepped into the atrium, glad to be out of the rain at least. She wrinkled her nose at the foetid reek of mildew and wet rot that suffused the church’s interior.
Oh yes, just exquisite.
She fumbled around in her backpack and found her wind-up torch. She clicked it on, and played the pale beam of light around. The church was small and humble, and whatever meagre splendour it had once boasted had long since fallen foul to neglect and the predations of the weather. A few candle-holders were scattered haphazardly in niches along the left and right aisles, sad and tarnished, barely reflecting the light from Katie’s torch. A single sodden psalm book lay open and face-down on the filthy stone floor.
I can reveal little else of what transpires in “Faithless,” save that it not only changes Katie’s life forever, it may also change the lives of everyone in the world. Topping uses and tweaks several tropes, so even when the story seems to be going in ways you might expect, it still doesn’t.
“Faithless” is not a young adult story, but there are no age-inappropriate subjects, scenes, or language. If it were a movie, it would be rated PG for some frightening moments. I highly recommend “Faithless” for readers of fantasy and/or horror, particularly those interested in religious themes. “Faithless” is currently a free Kindle book ($0.99 normally) at Amazon.
Kenton Kilgore is the author of DRAGONTAMER’S DAUGHTERS, a two-part young adult fantasy novel based on Navajo culture and belief. Look for his next work, LOST DOGS, a young adult sci-fi novel, coming this summer.