Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"The Sound in the Abbey", told by Big Sister

Simon the traveller shivered and pulled his cloak closer about his shoulders.  The sky was an ominous grey color, and the wind that whipped the grass was bitingly cold. Thunder rumbled.  He urged his tired horse on faster, hoping to find shelter before the storm broke.  As his horse ascended a hillock, Simon caught sight of the large, imposing form of an abbey on the horizon.  But before he was halfway there, the storm broke.  Lightning flashed, and rain bucketed down so heavily that it was difficult to see.  By the time he reached the large wooden gates of the abbey, Simon was soaked to the skin and shivering with cold.  He dismounted quickly and pulled the bell-rope.

A few minutes later, Simon was standing, dripping wet, inside the abbey kitchen.
The monk in charge of the kitchen, who had friendly brown eyes and a rather round tummy, smiled.  “My, you must be cold!  Stand in front of the fire while I get you some dry garments,” he said. “I’m brother Thomas, by the way.”
 Simon was most happy to comply with the monk’s wishes, and it wasn’t long before he was clean, dry and had a hearty stew warming his insides.  He was then shown to a small, simply furnished room.  “I trust you will sleep well” said Thomas.  “Good night, and may God give you peaceful dreams.” Simon, completely exhausted, flopped onto the bed and was soon fast asleep.

.:. .:. .:. 

He  awoke with a start and sat bolt upright, his flesh crawling. He was sure he had heard something. He listened intently for a few moments, but all was silent.  “Probably an early morning mass or summat,” he muttered sleepily, and lay down again.  Then he heard the sound that had awakened him.  It was the most beautiful, yet the most awful thing he had ever heard. Simon was filled with ecstasy and dread at the same time.  He wanted desperately to run away, to hide himself from it, but the sound held him a hypnotized captive, and he could not move. So the he lay and listened, sweating despite the cold, his heart pounding in his ears.  At that moment, he knew that at all costs he must find out whatever it was that made that sound.
Eventually the sound died away.  Shaky and weak, Simon quickly fell asleep again. His dreams were filled with the sound.

The first thing in Simon’s mind when he awoke next morning was the sound he had heard in the night.  Could it have been a dream?  No.  He knew it was more than that.  Simon leapt out of bed and rushed down to the kitchen.  Brother Thomas was there, stirring a huge kettle of porridge that hung over the fire.
“You are up early, my friend!” said Thomas, handing the traveller a bowl of steaming porridge. “I trust you slept well?”
“No, no indeed!” cried Simon.  “I was was awakened in the night by the most fearsome, wonderful sound that I have ever heard.”
Brother Thomas inhaled sharply. “You heard the sound? I am sorry.  Very sorry.  It does not usually wake people up.  If I could have stopped it, I would have… but it will have its way!”
“It?  Please, show me what it is that makes this sound, so that I can be at peace!”
Thomas shook his head.  “I cannot tell you.  Do yourself a favor and forget about the sound.”
“Nay, that is impossible.  If I do not know, I am sure that I will die!”
Thomas sighed.  “I would certainly tell you if I could, friend, but I am afraid that only those enrolled in the fraternal bonds of monastic brotherhood are allowed to know that.”
“Eh? The fraternal what?”
“Bonds of monastic brotherhood.”
“D’ye mean I have to be a monk?
“I’m afraid so.”
“But it will take years to become a monk,” groaned the unfortunate man, “I could not bear the wait-- I must know at once!”
“I am sorry,”  said brother Thomas stubbornly. “I dare not change the rule.”
“Very well,” said Simon, his voice grim with determination, “if it must be so. I will begin on my journey to join the fraternal bonds of, monasti-whatever it is this very day.  And he sat down and began to eat his porridge.

.:. Several years later .:.

 Simon rode eagerly along the road to the abbey.  He was dressed in a habit, and his head was shaved in a cenobitic fashion; for during the last few years he had graduated as a “member of the fraternal bonds of monastic brotherhood”- in other words, he was a monk.  As Simon caught sight of the abbey, his pulse quickened and his eyes grew bright with feverish anticipation. For the sound he had heard had never ceased to haunt him, and today would finally find out what it was.

As soon as his horse was stabled within the abbey walls, Simon headed straight for the kitchen. Standing at the large kitchen table, elbow-deep in bread dough, was brother Thomas; the round, warm-eyed monk who had welcomed in our traveller when he was cold and wet and hungry.
Thomas looked up and started in recognition. “You!” he exclaimed. “So you really did join the fraternal bonds of monas-”
“Yes,”  said Simon, smiling.
“Sit down and have something to eat,” said Thomas , dusting the flour off his hands.
Simon sat down.  “It is good to see you again, brother Thomas.”  He paused. “I suppose you know why I am here?”
“I can guess,” said Thomas.
“You will show me then?”
“Yes.  You are a monk, and I cannot deny your request, even though I wish I could. But you must wait until tonight.”

.:. .:. .:.

That night, when the moon was high in the velvety black welkin, brother Thomas woke Simon.   “Come,” whispered Thomas, “follow me, and do not make a sound.”  
Simon noticed with interest that Thomas was carrying a crowbar. However, he said nothing, and followed him silently until they came into a cool, dank cellar. The cellar was very seldom used, being small, damp, and inaccessible, and was empty apart from some barrels in the corner and a few ancient bottles of wine on the rotting shelves.  Thomas closed and locked the cellar door behind them; then leaning his crowbar against the wall, moved aside some barrels, knelt down and began running his hands over the stone floor.  Simon looked on in surprise.
“What are you looking for?” he asked.
“We have to lever out one of the stones.  I’m trying to find it,” whispered Thomas. “Ah! Here it is.  Come and help me lever it out.”
As quietly as possible, they used the crowbar to heave out the large flagstone, revealing a solid trapdoor built of steel and wood.  Beneath the trapdoor was a black hole.
Thomas wriggled through the hole backward and hung there on his elbows.  “The floor isn’t too far down, but you’ll have to drop,” he said.  “Give me a moment to get out of the way before you follow.”
Thomas dropped down with a soft thud.
Simon shuddered, for he hated the dark and all its horrid creatures, then dropped down after Thomas.
 Thomas lit a torch and held it up, illuminating their surroundings. They were standing in the entryway of a staircase that had been carved out of the solid rock.  Cobwebs brushed against them as they began to descend.
The staircase went steeply downwards deep into the earth. Simon didn’t count the steps, but it seemed to him there must have been thousands. But after a considerable amount of time, he noticed the staircase growing slowly less steep, until by degrees it became a horizontal tunnel.
The tunnel was freezing cold, water dribbled in little rivers down the walls, and there was a strange smell about. Simon  sniffed nervously, and he was just going to ask Thomas if he was sure about poisonous gases when he felt something crunch under his foot.  He looked down to see a skeleton, and gasped with horror.  “What is that?” he cried.  “How did he die?  Brother, are you sure the air is good down here?”
“Ah, I forgot to tell you about the skeletons,” said brother Thomas.
“Skeletons?  Are there more?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“H-how did they get here?”
“Each has its own story, and I could not tell them all.  However, I do know what happened to this  particular fellow: he was a thief.  Many years ago, this place was protected by armed guards.  They killed the thief and left him there as a warning to others.”
Simon’s hair -or what was left of it-  stood on end, and he looked very strange.  Then to make things worse, an enormous, shaggy spider plopped onto his head and ran across his face.  He gave a strangled yell and brushed it off.  And when he saw a huge rat skulking in the shadows, Simon began wish he had never come, and that perhaps the sound wasn’t so wonderful after all and that he should go back to his nice warm bed.
Then he heard it.
 The sound echoed around the passage, much louder than before, far more wonderful and indescribably terrible.  Simon forgot his fears; Thomas’ face shone.  Together they hurried down the passage, the sound growing ever louder.  As they grew closer to the sound, the walls of the tunnel ceased to be wet and dirty.  They were adorned with paintings and magnificent tapestries.  Many other things were in the passageway; things like weird and beautiful statues and ancient artifacts. At intervals the smooth walls of the passage were interrupted by large wooden doors studded with jewels.  Numerous skeletons lay around. But Simon didn’t notice, nor did he notice the bats, snakes and other horrid creatures that slithered, crawled and fluttered about him. All he cared about was the sound.
Suddenly the passage ended.  The pair were in a large, perfectly circular room.  The high arched ceiling was supported by silver beams.  In the middle of the ceiling hung a huge lantern that filled the room with light. The walls of the room were painted with montages and strange symbols, and were encrusted with precious jewels. It was wondrous sight, yet Simon gave it only a glance. His eyes were fixed on a huge door directly ahead of them. The door was exquisitely carved from oak, and in the center of it was a strange symbol made of diamonds.
The sound was coming from behind it.
Small drops of sweat rolled Simon’s forehead.  He wanted more than anything else to see what was behind the door, but terror held him.  He shook with the unbearable emotion of terror and joy combined.
“Come,” said Thomas in a hushed voice.  He took the Simon’s arm and led him to the door.  The sound grew louder.  Thomas drew from his habit a tiny key, carved from a single emerald, inserted it into the lock and twisted it. Then he drew a deep breath, shuddered, and threw open the door.  
Simon gasped, staggered back, and his eyes were filled with wonderment.  For there before him he saw--

Here, my friend, I’m afraid I must leave you, because as I clearly specified earlier in this tale, you must be a part of the “fraternal bonds of monastic brotherhood” to know the source of the Sound. In other words,
You have to be a monk to find out. 

.:. THE END .:.

ABOUT THE STORY:  I say "told" because I didn't come up with the plot-- this story is actually based on a joke that was related to me.  I just turned it into a story.  No idea who wrote it (the joke, that is) originally, but it can be found online. :) 

P.S HAPPY APRIL FOOLS!  (even if it is, ehem, slightly late).  Were you annoyed??  Yes?  MWAHAHAHA! HAHA! HA! 

Guess what else? I actually was planning to write this for last year's April Fools.  But it was kinda late and... well, here we are.  "Such is life."  (If you don't know who said that, you're probably not Australian.  It's what Ned Kelly, an outlaw, said just before he died.  Okay, I'll admit I had to look it up to double check).

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