Author : Philip Berry
They came every week to worship. In well-ordered rows hundreds of thousands of adults and children shuffled in to take their places. The church’s interior stretched beyond the limits of normal vision. Its spire, converging gradually above them, faded to grey. Clouds had been seen to form up there.
Sam Ten-Kassal, eleven years old, was exceedingly bored. He did not see the point of it. Since his fourth birthday he had been attending services but only mouthing the words and miming the rhythms. He became self-conscious whenever he tried to join in with the supposedly rousing hymns. The words made no sense to him. He just looked at his feet.
On this day three blue-robed ushers were waiting by one of the three thousand arched exits in the east wall. Two interposed themselves between Sam’s mother and her son. She had always hoped the sheer size of the congregation would disguise her son’s non-conformity. But no.
“A few hours, that’s all we need,” reassured the third usher, standing back.
“Do you know who I am?” asked the green-robed clergyman.
Sam shook his head.
“I am Foban Talenka, bishop of this county.”
Sam was unmoved.
“And do you have any idea why you have been brought here?”
“Because I don’t sing?”
“Ah! That is part of it Sam Ten-Kassal. Part of the problem, yes. Yes.”
Sam was unsettled. What else had he done?
“But not all. Your lack of enthusiasm in the church is perfectly understandable, but we – I mean the ushers living in your community – are concerned that your broader attitude to science and religion has been undermined, we do not know by whom. What do you say?”
“Well, I don’t believe in the things we are supposed to be singing about.”
“Good. That is honest. So I would like you to observe a service from one of the high halls. It might help you understand.”
Sam was escorted away and up, via curved walkways that crossed architectural caverns and bridged deep chasms. Shallow, sticky gravitational fields held his feet firmly when a ramp’s gradient increased. He passed laboratories, libraries, accommodation blocks and austere recreational spaces – benches and alcoves amid lush, mature vegetation.
The hour of the third service arrived.
Sam was shown into a room that bordered the inner aspect of the spire. A small window, unglazed but imperbeable due to a safety field, looked out onto the great nave. The sound began to build, and despite the safety field he had to cover his ears. The mist in the air began to swirl and agitate; the concentration of sonic energy was creating weather. But it was not sound that caused the most remarkable effect. It was mental harmony. Sam knew all about affect-waves, the barely perceptible signature that human minds leave in space-time when stirred to emotion. They had little significance in everyday life. No technology had been developed that was sensitive enough to measure these ripples – a good thing, it was said, otherwise you’d have people wandering around reading each other’s feelings. But now, as the congregation came to together and sang its collective heart out, Sam saw rivulets of energy glow on the masonry, a web of light, the energy of a third of a million minds on the same emotional wavelength focused into the spires tip from where it… Sam did not know. Out. To the world, to the mills, the machines, the houses.
Foban Talenka entered the room.
“So, Sam, will you join in now? Will you give.”
“But I still can’t sing.”
“No matter. Believe. That’s all I ask.”