Within hours mosques, shrines, synagogues, temples, cathedrals, churches, tabernacles and gurdwaras were seething and packed. It might have first been remembered as peaceful and there would be talk in the next few days of how radiant it all had been. But the truth was darker. There had been nightmares, and some levels of bitching and yelling, and the greater strengths of the day made everyone feel giddy with spasms of blood, rot and gyre which was ominous. There were those bad dreams again of the jackals of Harar, down Abyssinia way, eating the plague dead and even those who never spat or coughed woke feeling rough-throated before they sang or rang around. Nevertheless the sheer number of prayers was a colossal figure, probably never had there been more all at one time, nor nicely chiming even across the strange discolourments and disagreements of multitudinous faiths. The lush reverberations went to everyone’s head, and many felt that this was only right and came with the deal so to speak. Others couldn’t admit that their heels were slamming and they could hardly complete walking from here to there, because they were aware of how this was a fresh sort of day and there was material they had to pick up on the way that wasn’t ordinary and went beyond amusement, or rather, had nothing to do with that.
There were hesitations amidst those who had forever yearned for this kind of exhaltation, but they overcame these to clutch new partners or old ones with gravity fluttering their hearts. A sort of weak emergence came, like flocks of birds or gliders in the Game of Life, and drew them ethereal and gutted, a chance of tranquillity before and in front of hostilities, requiring no throat clearing nor spitting before going up. And all sorts were getting to decide that they needed to respond to the curious and strange appetite that went with a powerful meekness nevertheless determined to conquer the whole space flat, again, and this time, in the name of something holier than thou and the rest. It was a kind of spiritual calling, more than cleaning the bandages, and went, according to what they were thinking, the whole course.
Even the saved say au revoir. It was classy, like when Ali didn’t throw his cranked-up punch as Foreman fell. Rooms were white and hot, and the path of the sun too, and by noon they were standing on table tops and everyone was tussling with all the blacker excitements, with hands held high together and stroked up and down, urging, partisan, indignant and crying, everyone deliberate and snappy, as if the colour of salvation was a better hue than whisky, blood or cabbage, which were representative until now. The great crowds began to walk in sombre splendour as if the law was leading them, or was by their side, and police officers looked sheepish and weren’t taking their professional duties seriously anymore, but rolled up their sleeves and allowed their faces to be painted and flowers to be placed in their lapels, which made sure no guns went off nor slugs thrown. It was like everyone had their rights and no one would be confounded. So there were smiles and kissing and singing and a jig like dancing at times, with banners unfurled across the sky with unpreventable joyousness, a clamouring that needed no familiarity between the people beyond the scalding knowledge of the Rapture which swelled everyone along.
It was a Roman-twilight. The marches gathered, crammed with structure , brown and shining even when thin and seemingly everywhere - cities, towns, villages, the Bedouin deserts where people were nothing to the colossal naked earth. They expressed something which before had only been expressed by money.
With it came the smooth-pulled feeling of great abandonments, and hungry principles were like carved figures, the sort you can’t argue with but which stare back into you and know your glory and the shabbier bits too, decking outer-drives and faithful interpretations, formal and willing at first, but expensive in terms of feelings of self-worth and general goodness, until they floated off and there was just bewilderment and horror, trimmed and nervous and thin as tissue paper, and a sense of rusting and rotting, with no blown shellac to stop that, as if everyone had come into sight of mutability and a rotten badness and guilt , something torn down and mortally evil. There was no other word that captured its tone and what it showed. And though efforts were made to translate it to elsewhere, to confer a splendour perhaps out of meekness and other rancours, there was nothing else, everyone felt this, because it was that, ‘evil’, that had been exposed, all clapping and cried out, staggeringly offensive and useless to argue with, some filthy switching stuff splattered against our clean shirts. So then in the influence came calls. At first there were peevish ones, for it to be buried, but who could bury what was here and rich and velvet and an instinct?
But then, as days stretched across a week, and then more, so disorders left many arrangements to fail, the aisles of the multitudes, with the evolving formulations of disarray, began to take on a different aspect which, to some, seemed sinister. And then certain types, and others who weren’t types at all, wondered about whether there could be somewhere to drag yourself that would, as it were, prove glory in the flesh. For these, an abstinent doubt finally got the upper hand and so they were more immured to the magnetic fields clinging to lines of force, law, eating, sleeping, and less attracted to the threat of wearing out their shoes and faces, but still happy to join the orgy. The earth seemed after a while sadder and the goal more scattered and unexamined. The nakedness of spirit seemed contaminated by so many bodies. The test of such crowds and unison was a test they couldn’t pass. What they no longer could suffer was the dreaminess, because it had gone, and they lost the sky-sprinkled shots of light and fireworks, the creamy wheels on the sorrowing earth which had been essentially the tone of the rapture at the start, because the yelling and exuberance seemed to jar with that, and express the sort of conviction that pushed that sky away. Which upset and startled them and couldn’t be caught in words or anything more than a sense of weakness and disappointment, the feeling of betrayal that might be imagined as Judas Iscariot or Phyllis Shlafly.
Read the complete novel 'The Ecstatic Silence' here.