ABOUT THE BOOK
5.5" X 8.5"
The Haunting of Westminster Abbey
by Mark Patton
Copyright © 2015 by Mark Patton
It wasn’t a surprise. It was a total shock. Wallace Butterfield had never imagined that he would be asked to meet with the chairman of the Westminster Abbey Foundation. When the invitation came in the post, he thought it was a joke. His first reaction was to call up his few friends and let them know that he was onto them. "Ha-ha, very funny, you had my heart racing for a minute." That sort of thing. But no one ‘fessed up. In fact, people became irritated with his questioning. When he did call the Abbey Foundation, he was directed to a Mr. John Bradshaw, personal secretary to the foundation’s chairman Reverend Poda-Pirudi.
It was no joke. He had been asked to meet with the Reverend concerning some sort of architectural issue. Mr. Bradshaw could not be precise. He did not know what the issue was. He apologized that the Reverend’s schedule was so pressing that he could only meet with him at night, but assured him that it would be worth his while to attend.
Wallace Butterfield had no idea what it was about, but if the Reverend wanted him to clean out the Abbey storm drains or dust off the books in the gift center, he was the man for the job. It would be a marvelous opportunity, something for his curriculum vitae. He could see it now, consultant to the Dean of Westminster Abbey — well, maybe not to the Dean but to this Reverend Poda-Pirudi. Butterfield wished that the Reverend might have had more of a British sounding name, not something Italian-sounding, but a nice double-barreled Anglo-Saxon name like Calvert-Beetlestone. That would have better suited his résumé. But whatever, Poda-Pirudi or Poda-Pirudi-Smythe, the Reverend’s name was going to the top. Something had to go there. But, then again, Wallace knew that his own name would be on the same résumé.
Wallace Butterfield — what a horrible name. He’d thought of changing it. Butterfield that was so lame, so ridiculously pastoral, so comically bovine. Well, both of their names would go to the top of the résumé. There was little else there besides le Mareschal’s Supermarket. Wallace did help design le Mareschal’s Supermarket in Liverpool, off of the A5606. Though critics had described the market as a large unimpressive glass and chrome rectangle, some shoppers had told Butterfield that they had appreciated the large inventory of groceries and home products.
The night before his meeting with the Reverend was a predictably hard night for Wallace. As always, he spent it in his small flat above his slightly bigger office. Wallace was prone to anxiety. He could not remember ever getting what he would consider a descent night’s sleep. His dreams, normally vivid and unusual, were positively hallucinatory that night. He marveled at what his brain could concoct when he was asleep. It never showed any signs of creativity or imagination when he was awake and really needed such inspiration. A jellyfish rhinoceros-like creature was hovering over Wallace’s bed, reaching down, slowly sticking long gooey tentacles up his nose and down his mouth while intoning an offbeat version of a monastic chant. Chilling, positively chilling — the sort of dream that has you believing that you are awake when you are really not. Fortunately, it all came to an end when one of the beast’s tentacles began to prepare Wallace for a ghoulish rectal exam. That did it. That was enough. Wallace already had his annual checkup. No more complicity with this dream. Up he woke — though it did take him a while to steady his nerves to the point that he could convince himself that a multi-tentacled rhino did not exist. It was 3 AM. He spent the rest of the night in fits and starts of almost-sleep, urgently awaiting the return of daylight.
When the sun did finally arrive it made very little difference to Wallace’s state of mind because he had all of the day and part of the night to kill before he could even meet Reverend Poda-Pirudi.
It had been a difficult year for Butterfield. His father had died abruptly from a heart attack at the onset of the le Mareschal’s project. Butterfield and Son Architects became for all intents and purposes Son — Newly Graduated — Without a Clue — Architect — Maybe. He had to bluff his way through the onsite meetings, stammered a bit, wrote down a lot of questions, and called up several firms that his dad had been chummy with to beg for advice. Still he had pulled it off. And it was a start. He often wondered why he had even attempted to get started in the first place. His student loans would take him years to pay off and then there was the matter that his father had overextended the business. That’s what caused the heart attack. Butterfield had to sell off the family home he had inherited just to get the family business back on its feet. Now he was living in a bedsit just above the office. It might have been easier if he had some family to lean on, but there was no one. His dad had been it.
Butterfield didn’t know much about his mother or her family for that matter. Shortly after he was born, she became disgusted with the whole idea of being married, and left. Rumor was that she had gone off to Queensland with some computer techie who had worked for Barclays Bank and left under a cloud of suspicion. Wallace had an aunt who claimed that his mother wasn’t suited to care for a child, that she took one look at her newborn boy and got cold feet. But his father wouldn’t say much about that or anything else concerning his mother or her people. So, growing up for Butterfield was more or less life with dad: meaning bad food, rugger matches, and interminable meetings at the East Croydon Telegrapher’s Society. But now his dad was gone and the torch had been passed on to him, though at times he wondered if it wouldn’t be prudent just to take a torch to Butterfield and Son Architects. Still, he was determined to keep the family business afloat. Obsessing was what Wallace did best. Though he attempted not to remember these things as he filled up the hours till his appointment; it was difficult for him. So, he resolved to cram his head with as much information as possible about Westminster Abbey and worry about the rest later.
There was a soothing romantic charm about the river walk at night, with its overhanging tree limbs and fanciful park benches. The Embankment had an archaic atmosphere. Behind him was Cleopatra’s Needle. Though clearly not Cleopatra’s — it was over a thousand years older than Cleopatra — it did come from ancient Egypt. Someone found a way to perch the twenty-one meter high, two hundred and twenty-four ton granite obelisk out over the river, flanking it with a bronze winged sphinx on either side. But to Butterfield, three thousand years of history staring down at him was nothing more than an incidental aspect of this stroll. It wasn’t the antique bric-a-brac that he appreciated most. No, it was what was on the other side of the Thames. As he came even with it, he paused to take it in. It had gone up over a period of time during his early teens. It towered. His fathered had often commented on this during their many walks, providing Wallace with the precise figures: one hundred and twenty meters wide, one hundred and thirty-five meters high. It was a lit up with electric diodes that bathed the mechanism in the purest of colors. The London Eye, Europe’s largest Ferris wheel and the city’s premiere tourist attraction. Butterfield could never resist the temptation of rock back and forth on his heels whenever he stopped to stare at it. But he knew that this evening he couldn’t afford to be caught up in it too long.
A glance at his watch told him it was time to move on. He pushed off for his meeting, quickening his pace a bit. It would be wise to be early and unforgiveable to be late.
Butterfield’s stride was naturally long. Everything about him was long. He had a long delicate nose, and elongated fingers and limbs to boot. He loped, rather than walked. His skin, especially in the incandescent light from the street lamps, was pallid, and his reddish brown hair drew attention to it. His skin he blamed on his genes and an urban, almost sunless, life. He would confess that he spent far too much time in his office, but he had to make a living, to make his start in his chosen career.
His hair was moderately short and styled in a fringe cut. He had no mustache, no beard. He often worked in jeans and a casual shirt because he had so little contact with clients. However, for this occasion he was out of his denims and in a suit. He looked more like a boy playing dress up in his late father’s clothes, rather than the serious businessman he had hoped to be viewed as.
Wallace left the Thames Path and clamored up the steps to Bridge Street. Parliament was to his left and Big Ben loomed high above his head. But he didn’t notice, or chose not to notice, the large bronze statue of Boudicca in front of him. Imposing in bronze, her arms outstretched, one holding an upright spear, as she gazed down from her perch above the Thames. Her horse-drawn chariot plunging into battle, with her two violated daughters clutching to her dress. Below her, deep underground, still flowed the River Tyburn. But it was not as it had been. No, the modern Tyburn had been encased in brickwork, diverted, channeled, turned into a sewer. Wallace Butterfield didn’t know this.
But there was something else that Wallace Butterfield didn’t know — couldn’t know: Despite his mild appearance and his pastoral name, Wallace Butterfield was special. He would have been amazed to know how exceptional he really was. Only a select group of observers were even aware of what distinguished him, and even they were baffled, staring at him intently. For Wallace Butterfield was a highly unusual freak of nature. If you could see as those who gaped at him saw, you wouldn’t be looking at his wing-tipped shoes or gawking at his rather ordinary worsted suit; his thin face and auburn hair would hold no significance for you. The object of concern was higher up, above his head. It was an ugly bluish head with a pair of big bulging oval eyes — eyes that were much like those that stared at him, with an ever-changing deep blue pulsating luminescence, like a squid’s skin. Every living thing had those eyes or something comparable to them. It was only the dead that could see them. No, not really just the dead … the about to be dead could see them too … that is the unborn souls that incubated within the fleshy walls of the living. All of them could see that Wallace Butterfield was different. Because Butterfield’s ghost had become unstuck…
Butterfield quickened his pace. He imagined that he was cutting his arrival a bit too fine. Mr. Bradshaw had explained to Wallace that he was to meet with the Reverend in his office in the triforium and had provided instructions as to how to get there. But Butterfield worried that he would not be able to find his way to Reverend Poda-Pirudi’s office by ten o’clock sharp. Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster were now behind him. As Butterfield turned off Saint Mary’s Street, he could clearly see the Abbey in her evening glory.
She looked as if she was at a cotillion in a magnificent golden dress, the neo-Gothic grande dame of the ball. Her stone gown was formed from perpendicular vertical runs of yellow limestone, ending in spires illuminated by floodlights. Flying buttresses connected these spires. Circumscribing the upper heights of the ancient monastery was a large rose window, spoked with a stone tracery that held the window’s stained glass in place. The whole structure was an ornate layering of stone in a honeycomb of medieval styles. Below, well below the rose window, were three doors, each with a succession of intricately carved arches covered with a multitude of saints.
The largest door at Westminster Abbey was the center door. As Butterfield approached, he worried that someone may have locked it up for the night. Maybe the Reverend was so busy he had forgotten he had an appointment with Wallace, or, he still fretted, maybe his whole trip to the Abbey was just an elaborate joke. Butterfield looked about for a doorbell, wondering how one would announce oneself to such a large and historically significant piece of architecture. Then Wallace remembered what Mr. Bradshaw told him to do, and he opened the door. Even then, he expected to be challenged. There had to be Abbey security on the other side. Wallace had his invitation in hand, and was ready to wave it about, but there was no one there. First he peered into the empty expanse, then, cautiously, he entered like a mouse creeping out of his hole.
It was as he had remembered it from his first school outing. The vaulted ceilings rose high above, adorned with gilded stone floral designs. Huge crystal chandeliers were suspended below. The walls of the Abbey were thick with monuments and statues commemorating the lives of famous and occasionally not-so-famous Britons. Illuminated directly in front of him was another rose window much like the one over the great north door. That was the south transept. To its left was Poets’ Corner and that was the direction Butterfield was supposed to head. Still looking about for somebody he would have to explain himself to, he found nobody. Butterfield hurried himself past the quire and sacrarium. Mr. Bradshaw had told him to look for a small inconspicuous door below the bust of Ben Johnson with a small white sign labeled in red, "No Public Admittance." But it wasn’t as easy as that had sounded. Poets’ Corner was a large area crowded with marble busts.
As he walked about looking for the door, old memories started coming back. When he was a child he found the whole place to be a little creepy. The Abbey had a musty smell back then, and it still did. But it would, wouldn’t it? Thousands of dead people filled its cellars, vaults, and tombs, bodies, and ashes were stuffed everywhere. Some were even discreetly concealed beneath the paving. This thought forced Butterfield to look down at his feet. He gulped. He was standing on the grave of Lewis Caroll. Next to Caroll was Henry James and nearby were Rudyard Kipling and Charles Dickens. Butterfield recalled that Chaucer was buried somewhere about here. He turned around, hoping he hadn’t stepped on Chaucer. To his relief he hadn’t. He had just walked across a memorial plaque for some guy named Thomas Sterns Eliot before realizing that it was T. S. Eliot. The paving read
Born 26 September 1888
Died 4 January 1965
"the communication of the dead is tongued
with fire beyond the language of the living"
Wallace felt a slight chill when he read that, not because the words were exceptionally disturbing, but because, for the first time, he began to sense the quivering mass above his head, and to feel its playfully malevolent intent. Fortunately, at this moment Butterfield saw the bust of Johnson and made a beeline for the door below it.