The slow sound of sanctity escaped the room. It had been built with Mathematical purity in mind. Symmetrical arches suggesting the infinite. That war had been lost. The space was now cluttered with relics and grotesques.
Among the clutter were elaborate displays of gold. With cinematic glory they promised a claustrophobic Heaven with shining cherubs twisting around your feet. Within the gold…snakes were well hidden.
She arrived daily to sing the songs of her youth. The words were long gone. It was mostly “la-la-las” and tuneless humming. Her smile was bright. Her eyes sought your own. They were the the eyes of a child left too long at the dinner table waiting for dessert.
Father Antonio gestured towards her and spoke softly.
“She’s mostly harmless. A nuisance sometimes. Her hearing isn’t as good as it used to be. Neither is her singing.”
“She’s here everyday?”
“Yes, twice a day. She is the first one here in the morning, and the last one to leave at night. The rest of the time she weaves baskets under the tree in the center of the square.”
“You said she’s mostly harmless?”
“Yes. Sometimes she brings snakes into the sanctuary in her baskets. Once in awhile one escapes.”
“She talks to them out in the square. In here I think she sings to them. It’s quite a commotion when one escapes.”
As the evening light brought a soft darkness into the sanctuary the old woman stopped singing. She bent over and shuffled the basket at her feet around. Her swollen fingers lifted the lid.
She resumed her singing. It was a sing song chant full of sibilants. Snakes slithered out of the basket, across the floor, and joined the twisting cherubs.