Emily traipsed with the crowd on through grey winds. The city was shadow fall and cloud dim. She tried to listen for her own footsteps beneath the crowd. She couldn’t hear herself. She pinched her arms. The marching crowd sounded like mislaid weather. They halted by stone steps and towering pillars. Emily peered up at statues, wary they might stare back. She remembered, as a child, her best friend telling her that church gargoyles spoke to each other when no one was watching. She had hidden in the village graveyard and told her she heard stone voices calling her name. She clutched her arms and looked round. The woman beside her had the face of someone riding sleet billow. Emily tried to shift so their dresses weren’t touching. Suddenly, a tall lady walked in front of the crowd. Her eyes were the colour of song-less bells. She paced along the edge, staring into each face. Emily dug her fingers into her palms. The hushed women parted as the lady strode among them. Emily watched as she took the hand of a young woman and led her in to the front. She turned the girl to face the crowd. A scrap of paper saying ‘Milly’ was pinned to her dress.
“My words have been shut in me, but now I will let them out,” Milly said. Her face was gleam and tremble. “Our Lady has chosen me. These are my words.” She began to talk faster. Emily didn’t know her words. They rushed out in strange shapes. Suddenly, Milly dropped to the ground. The crowd gasped. ‘Our Lady’ nodded at two women. They picked up Milly’s limp body and laid it by a wall. Emily’s hands were white. The air felt too heavy to breathe. She tried to shrink as ‘Our Lady’ swept into the crowd. Her robes moved like drowning kites. Emily hunched behind a large woman and shut her eyes. She felt a cold hand clasp her own. Our Lady led her in front of the crowd. Emily shuddered as the cold hands smoothed her hair. She tried not to look at Milly’s body. She scrunched her eyes to make the women’s faces blur. She was leaden under their stares. She felt them waiting. Our Lady lowered her face to Emily’s.
“Speak.” Her voice was as soft as leaf ash. Emily wanted it to fall upon her. Her own words felt jagged inside her. She wanted to let them out. She opened her mouth. Our Lady’s gaze was dusk bright. Emily felt her own breath cooling. She looked across the crowd. She saw Milly’s body. She shivered. Our Lady reached out her hands.
If Emily tries to talk to them go to Chapter Eight