Sunday, January 14, 2007

Our Lady

Our Lady
Originally uploaded by Snurri.
"In the wake of the Exile there has been a surge in religious interest in the city, but little of it is what might be considered Orthodox. There are the Swimmers, a death-cult which--despite the mayor's best efforts--holds periodic pilgrimages into the depths of Gerber Lake. As the lake is known to be infested with various unpleasant creatures, and bounded by the same odd substance which rings the city's outer limits, few survive these moonlight swims. . . . Another, more harmless sect is the Church of Lewis and Clark, named for their patron saints. Not the explorers, but the coincidentally-named pilot and cameraman of the Channel 8 chopper, which was lost in an attempt to explore the upper bounds of the Exile. Adherents believe that their patron saints managed to escape to the World, and will one day soon bring rescue. Even the evidence recently returned by one of the Meteorological Society's weather balloons, of the chopper suspended by its rotors in the amber shell that holds the city captive, has not been enough to convince many believers of their folly. . . . Perhaps most intriguing, and unsettling to some, has been the growth of the cult of Our Lady. Not a church per se, this faith has grown up around reports of the nocturnal manifestations of a female spirit wearing a white gown and a surgical mask. Her appearances are nearly impossible to verify, as she only appears to solitary observers. Late-night walkers (an activity not recommended in most areas of the city) encounter her at intersections. Single persons find her standing in their bedrooms. Survivors (and sometimes perpetrators) of violent crimes come upon her in alleys or abandoned buildings. Her age seems dependent on the hour; she has appeared as a young girl, an old woman, and ages between. (For more on the characteristics of individual manifestations, see F. Lacy's volume on post-Exile hauntings.) . . . Typically, the spirit weeps throughout encounters. She does not speak, although some witnesses have reported hearing messages from her. (There is no consistency to the messages, which vary from warnings of impending danger to suggestions for household purchases.) Were it not for the frequency of these sightings, it is doubtful that the spirit would have attained the notoriety that she has. Some speculate that she is a psychic manifestation of the city's sufferings and anxieties; others believe that she is its patron goddess, and will be able to reverse the Exile if all of her admonitions are followed. . . . The spirit always disappears in a flash of light, leaving only her mask behind. Most witnesses keep the masks; some wear them, and some make them the centerpieces of homemade altars. Though some report a lasting feeling of contentment following a visitation, others say that the euphoria soon fades, leaving in its place a familiar uncertainty." (p.210-213)


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