Sanctuary

by Julie Innis

 

On the seventh day of their travels, they wander through a gap in the high walls on an avenue between Chelsea and The Village.  An ivy-framed plaque reads "Grace Cathedral."  Grace defies physics with walls of impossibly large stained-glass windows framed by gray stone hovering in between.  The man and woman stand in the shadow of a tall willow;  she marveling at this small paradise so close to the City's din, and he wondering why no one else is present counting beads or touching fingers to foreheads and breasts in prayer.  Above the carved wooden doors, a stone Virgin beckons with eroded fingertips.  But the bolt is drawn, the doors locked.  Later, a friend remarks, "I'm surprised you were even allowed through the gate-- a woman was raped and murdered there last night."  During dinner, the woman is distracted, trying to piece it all together--the absence of signs, no chalklines or yellow police tape to greet them.  How is it, she wants to ask, that such a horror could be swallowed whole so that the next day no mark remains on the cobblestone path or in the hollowed ground beneath the weeping willow?  Instead she accepts the plate from her lover, his face a mass of irritation:  "don't act like this now."  Later she will try to explain her sadness at it all--that nothing remained--why, even snakes give back the bones.

 

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Julie Innis's work has appeared or is forthcoming in Blip, Gargoyle, Prick of the Spindle, Echolocation, The Linnet's Wings, The Long Story, and Pindeldyboz, among others. In May 2009, she was a finalist in the Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers Contest and in May 2010, she won the Seventh Glass Woman Prize for Fiction for her story "Sanctuary." She has high hopes for May 2011.

Sanctuary was first published in Echolocation and also appears in Fictionaut and The Linnet's Wings.