May 4: Settings, Iconic.

Mark gazed up at the massive marble statue in its alcove, transfixed. The hewn woman in her draped robes was frozen in a pose of benign benediction; an utterly unremarkable choice of subject, remarkable only in its artistry -

Tarry blackness continued to weep from its flat, pupil-less eyes to trickle a slow, slow descent.

From how the stain of it spread across her face, surely, surely a pool of the stuff, a pile of pitch-thick chunks of slag, must form on the firm stone floor - Mark couldn't see where the trail coagulated. The gnarled priest standing next to him seemed distinctly unimpressed with his reaction. "It's our piece of Mary, lad. Hundreds like it in the world, special only for being ours. If you're here to tour this church in particular, starin' here's a waste of your time." Reluctantly, Mark stepped away.

He glanced back over his shoulder. Another gob of tear burst forth, spherical, before beginning to conform to gravity.

As he was shown the walls of gilt icons deeper within the sanctum, he couldn't shake the feeling they flickered with movement every time he glanced away. It must have been the dim light; the windows here were high on the walls and quite small, so at this time of day, only stray shafts of light illuminated the cavernous space. The priest pottered on about the artists responsible for adding to the collection over the decades - mostly local names, not the sort commissioned for the city churches. With disgust, Mark realized the sole of his sandals was intermittently sticking against some tacky film on the floor.

All the usual saints and their figures were on display, in the customary simplistic, warped style of such things: shoulders and necks craned unnaturally, blue and red folding fabrics rendered with abstract fidelity right next to skin formed like clay. The air smelled of parchment dust, the century-long imprint of incense smoke billowing, and perhaps the rare, round smell humans leave in the places they frequent the most. It was precisely like every church Mark had ever been in.

His gut still cramped with fear.