Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Book

The book sat in a glass display cabinet in the middle of the upper floor of an octagonal tower. The eight walls alternated between windows and benches that people could sit on while they absorbed the golden glow the room seemed to have, as the sun always shone through one of the windows. The room had a sense of peace that you only find in truly spiritual spaces. The entrance to the room was via a spiral staircase that came up through the floor under the east facing window.

The book itself was an ancient manuscript which told of the story of the how the local monks had travelled through England, France and Spain under great hardships to return the ashes of Saint Maria Castelano to her home town of Cadiz.

Maria Castelano had been the daughter of one of the Spanish King's closest advisers who had lost his faith in the Catholic Church and along with the rest of his family had converted to Protestantism. Maria had been smuggled out of Spain at the start of the Spanish Inquisition, the rest of her family had not been so lucky. Maria had been sent to the monastery as a place of sanctuary and over the next few years she had tended to a large number of Spanish refugees who had also managed to escape to the religious safety of England. Over the years the stories of Maria's kindness spread and the monastery was soon acting as a hospital for all the local villages.

Unfortunately she contracted tuberculosis and died before she could reach her fortieth birthday. The monks continued to tend for the poor in her memory and on the hundredth anniversary of her death, as requested by Marie on her death bed the monks set off to scatter her ashes on her father's grave in Cadiz.

The book begins its story as forty five monks set out from the monastery and finishes as only five had made it to the cemetery in Cadiz. The journey was arduous and dangerous and many acts of bravery and personal sacrifice were endured by the monks to ensure that their pilgrimage was a success.

The octagonal tower was all that was left of the original monastery and the book had been displayed there since it had been written over three hundred years ago. Each morning one of the few remaining monks of the order would unlock the cabinet and turn the page. As there were seven hundred and thirty pages it took exactly one year to read the book.


'Jamie, where is you final creative writing piece?' bellowed Professor Jones.

'I am working on it sir. I'll have to ready by next Friday.' smiled Jamie.

'Well make sure you do and it better be good. Your borderline on whether you're going to pass this course.'

'Don't worry sir; you're going to love it.'

As Jamie left Professor Jones' class Michelle caught up with him.

'Jamie you need to work on that story. Your parents aren't going to fund you as a struggling author if you fail this course.'

'I'm not going to fail.'

'How can you be so confident? You've been at my place every night. There's no way you've been working on your story.'

'It's all in hand,' smiled Jamie. 'Now lets get to the pub.'

Jamie knew everything was going to okay as last year he had stumbled upon the monastery and the story of the monks and their pilgrimage to Cadiz. He had carefully checked, through leading questions, that the Professor didn't know of the story or the existence of the manuscript. Every morning since the beginning of January 2011 Jamie had gone to the tower and copied down that day's pages. The only problem had been that he had missed May 11th due to a virus which had meant he couldn't get out of bed. This Friday, the deadline for his last creative writing piece, and the difference between passing and failing his course, was May 11th. Jamie knew that the page was turned over by the monk at 6am each day. This gave him enough time to copy the pages and get them to Professor Jones before the noon deadline.

The missing pages told the story of how the monks had been ambushed in North France and had lost the urn containing Maria's ashes. By the time the story continued they were back on the road with the urn. Without those two pages the story made no sense.

On Friday morning Jamie rose bright and early and set off to the tower. As he arrived the monk was just descending the spiral staircase having turned the page. Jamie rushed up to the tower room grabbed his pad and his pen and threw his rucksack into the corner. Leaning on the display he began to write. After a few minutes he stopped and flicked back through his notes.

'No, no, no, no. This can't be happening.'

Leaving everything where it was he chased down the stairs just in time to see the monk enter a building across the atrium. Jamie ran over and started hammering on the door. The monk gently opened the door and smiled at Jamie.

'Quick you must come with me.' yelled Jamie.

'Why senor? Is there a problem?'

'Yes you have turned over too many pages. Today's pages were shown on 12th May last year.'

'Of course senor, 2012 is a leap year so the date to show the pages moves by one day. There is no mistake.' 

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