Pierre ducked beneath scaffolding and clambered onto a buttress pier, hoping for a better view. He’d always taken such liberties, feeling a sort of ownership in this structure dedicated to his patron saint, but no mason would scold him today. On Ascension Day, all work ceased–even work on the great cathedral of Beauvais.
A tonsured brother led the procession, brandishing the banner of the triumphant Christ. Billowing clouds of incense ushered him into the earthly representation of heaven’s perfection. The bishop followed, his miter bobbing, and after him came a double row of choirboys–freshly scrubbed, though it was only Thursday. The colors, the singing and the heady aromas made a festive change from the stench of the city and the ever-present dust of construction.
Pierre hopped from his perch and slipped through the heavy doors, bracing himself against a stone column before squinting at the vaulted ceiling far above. Some said its height equaled that of the celestial city. A lofty aspiration. It always made him dizzy the way the dust motes danced, like angels, in the light that streamed through the stained glass windows. Today a multitude of the heavenly hosts seemed to descend upon the colored rays. Watching them, he lost track of all else until the bells began to peel and the bishop led the novices back down the aisle.
Vibrations–whether from sound or the wind, he could not tell–rumbled through the column at Pierre’s back as if the cathedral writhed in pain as its bones sprang to life. A stone fell like Satan cast from heaven directly into the path of the cleric, who looked down, then up, and then doubled his pace, shooing choristers ahead of him. The towering columns of the central tower began to buckle and sway as fleeing congregants swept Pierre out onto the cobbled street, and then the mighty tower collapsed to rubble in a cloud of mortar dust.