This is a writing exercise I did a couple weeks ago. The first sentence has 25 words, the next 24, all the way down to the 1 word “sentence” that finishes it. I’ve taken the character and written him into my first gothic horror story.
However hard he tried, all Father Adolfus could see in the painted frescos was leprosy spreading through the formerly health body of his dying church. Peeling paint curled away from the walls, themselves a deathly shade of grey; each fragment reaching out desperately, reaching for some kind of solace. But no solace was to be found: the painted fingers would each extend until the earth’s pull tore them from the scene. Like the decaying skin of so many lepers, they would die and peel away from the body, leaving it torn and battered. The only difference was that these leprous fingers would float gracefully to the church’s floor, drifting in the faint autumnal breeze. Perhaps another difference was that no one seemed to care; lepers would evoke some reaction, even if it was disgust. This leper received no disgust, nor sorrow nor pity: it was ignored until it seemed to no longer exist.
Standing at the front of the chapel, Father Adolphus looked out upon his once loving and caring congregation. It wasn’t just that they were becoming apathetic that worried him, but that they were completely absent. Each week fewer people attended his Mass, and those that did no longer seemed to care. They would bring their bodies before the altar, but they did not bring their souls. Their sacrifice was hollow, not holy, and still they saw no disease before them. These lifeless bodies, shuffling in mock reverence, could never resurrect the lifeless church.
Try as he might, his every effort had proven feeble and ineffectual. Preaching, praying, pleading and even pandering; his failure ate at him. He was the father, and his only child lay dying. A prodigal child to be sure, but his nonetheless. Surely redemption remained possible; for grace was never-ending. If he could find the proper penitence. A confession for his entire congregation. Repentance for all the earth. No, not for all. Just the leper. The sinner. Himself.