Evelyn Chartres Author
Clara Grey – Page 6

Here Be Monsters – Part II

Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

On the final day of lectures before the children were sent on a religious pilgrimage, Professor Stephens provided them with some context to the existence of the Tower.

He opened up with, “Throughout history there have been stories of things that lurked within the deepest corners of the forest, haunted castles or were thought to exist exclusively in our nightmares.”

“There are fairy tales which describe witches who prey on children. Creatures who grant wishes but exact a heavy toll for their service,” the professor added.

Clara could remember several stories that fit these themes. Hansel and Gretel came immediately to mind whereas Rumpelstiltskin was an obvious choice for the later.

These were children’s stories, told to keep a child’s behaviour in check or used to teach a valuable lesson. It seemed hard to believe that such a revered academic would lend credence to these stories.

“In the past, we discussed how legends are rooted in fact. How these were nothing more than fishing stories that reached legendary proportions. What initially started out as a story of a man catching a six inch trout turns into an epic struggle between man and beast,” he said.

Clara almost giggled but held her composure. She knew they were being observed and had her suspicions as to why.

“Fairy Tales are also rooted in fact. Some argued that Little Red Riding Hood was a tale on how the feminine form and sensuality can soothe the savage beast,” the professor said.

One of the girls giggled and Clara did not dare to look. Had this man really brought up a version of a fairy tale where the big bad wolf was seduced by the girl? She would have loved to hear that particular version. Clara bit the inside of her cheek to keep a straight face.

“The fifty or so variations of this story that I have studied over the years all featured one specific element,” the professor said while he looked at every student on the eye. “They all featured a creature appearing as a wolf and in many cases could take on human form to blend in with the villagers,” he added.

Clara mulled over the matter and connected the dots. Nowhere was such a creature described or defined as such, but certain elements appeared in the story. One might be able to infer the truth from these stories and yet this seemed more like a case of hindsight…

“In fact we are talking about a creature which stands approximately 10 to 18 feet high. Bipedal, is most powerful during the full moon and deadly beyond reckoning,” Professor Stephens said.

Clara leaned forward and opened her eyes as wide as she could. She was not about to miss what this man had to say.

As though on cue the lights blacked out and a large furry wolf-like creature appeared out of thin air. The apparition towered over the professor which made everyone in the room feel small and insignificant.

So this was the creature behind Little Red Riding Hood? What about the boy who cried wolf? In the background Clara heard one of her classmates break out into tears. What would the fire extinguishers do with her?

“Lupinotuum pectinem, a lycantrop or colloquially known as a werewolf,” the professor said nonchalantly. “A pack of these is rumoured to have decimated a battle hardened Roman Legion,” he added.

The werewolf slowly morphed into its human form. This particular specimen it seemed had been a woman. Easily determined, even with her emaciated breasts and wide hips. It was hard to place an age because of the hard life this specimen had lived through made it impossible to determine.

Clara was not surprised, the transformations and associated behaviours were bound to make them social pariahs. Fear and isolation would be sure to follow them and that made getting regular meals or proper hygiene more daunting.

“The males are both larger and more powerful than their female kin,” the professor added. “However these are not the only creatures which feeds our primal fears and haunts our nightmares,” the professor added.

The woman’s image was instantly replaced by something humanoid. It was tall, lanky with ashen skin and a long distinctive nose. Clara was unable to make out any other features, but that was more than enough to send a shiver down her spine. Why did this thing seem so familiar?

“There is something wrong with the eyes,” Clara said and immediately regretted having spoken out of turn.
Professor Stephens stopped cold and observed her for a moment before he asked, “What about the eyes.”

“They should be glowing,” Clara replied although she did not understand why she knew.

“That is only true in low light conditions,” he said. “Although an excellent point to bring up,” he added.

“Homo ‎pallidi or colloquially known as a ghoul,” the professor said. “Most tales surrounding these creatures originate from Arabic mythology. They describe creatures that seek out houses of the dead since they feed on decaying flesh,” he added.

The image changed again showing a different kind of creature. This was a thing of pure beauty, even with elongated fangs. Clara had no need to look at it further, she knew exactly what it was.

The professor began to name the creature, “Homo striga or more commonly known—”

“Vampire or nosferatu and popularised in by Bram Stoker in the last century. Creatures who are perversions of humanity, feast on human blood and whose rapid movements can appear like a blur to our eyes,” Clara said.

“Correct,” the professor said although he looked a bit surprised. “How did you know,” he asked.

“That one killed Father Michael a little over a year ago,” Clara said. “She did so on consecrated ground,” she added.

For a moment the tables had turned. Processor Stephens was now clearly uncomfortable with the information that came to life. How had news of this altercation not reached the confined of the Tower?

Clara felt betrayed, not only had they never spoken to her about the matter. Also, they never cautioned Professor Stephens against the use of that creature’s image? There must have been an ulterior motive to this lecture?

“Of course, you knew that already,” Clara said aloud and to defuse the situation and by this time noticed she was the only student left.

Edith walked in from out of the shadows then joined the professor at his side. Until that point she had rarely seen her outside of school gatherings. Why was she here?

“Of course we did,” the professor said. “We needed to see how you’d react,” he added.

“Your next phase of trading could not begin until we assessed you and that phase begins now,” Edith said with a grin.
So Clara had been correct. How many were initially surprised to hear that there were monsters in the world? Not just innocuous oddities, but things dangerous enough to require significant resources to counter?

Like the old charts she discovered in the Tower’s archives said, “Here be monsters.”

Here Be Monsters – Part I

Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

Clara never got a name for her new home or at least an official one. Some called it the Tower of Babel or the Tower for short. Others referred to it as the Library of Alexandria while some used an assortment of less savoury terms. It was rumoured that using proper name would endow their enemies. The lack of a name suited this place admirably.

Beyond the mysteries of the name there was an abundance of cultures and languages to be found here which made the experience richer. There were vast libraries and archives that contained vast sums of knowledge, some tomes of dated back to the Antiquities. Clara would occasionally explore the massive structure, always in awe that she could find something new daily.

Professor Stephens had taught them how the Church had amassed massive stores of information before the fall of the Roman Empire. The Church had hoarded knowledge in the hopes of preserving knowledge until humanity was ready.

Sadly there was something in his tone that implied humanity would wait a while yet. This was further hammered home when he commented on the Edison and Tesla rivalry. The professor even bragged that the acolytes of the Temple of Zeus had resolved those debates centuries ago.

While that certainly explained a few aspects of this structure and the wonders within, it did little to explain others. The Terminus was a prime example of this disconnect, the network of gates which led to destinations around the world.

This gateway was a wonder of design, architecture and functionality. No religious acolytes from the antiquities could have dreamed up that technology, nor were there any known scientists who could unravel its inner workings.

There were a few who believed the Terminus to be a magical construct, even if that this notion was vehemently rejected by clergy and academics alike. While there was no clear answer, Clara occasionally heard the name Georgian whispered in the air.

The instructors were as varied as the subjects they taught. There were priests, nuns, and professors who all approached the world differently. Occasionally they brought in specialists to teach specific courses. Clara especially enjoyed these specialists courses since their instructors had not been indoctrinated by the order.

While academics made up a small part of her curriculum, there were also courses on theology, high arts, physical fitness and combat. Instructors were nebulous when questioned as to why the latter was a considered a core subject. Clara could guess why combat was important, but very few of the students had been exposed to the truth like she had. She often envied their ignorance, especially their ability to imagine a world without things that went bump in the night.

Classes were almost exclusively segregated by gender or at least for her age group. Courses which included both genders were heavily chaperoned. There were fire extinguishers to be found at every corner, keeping a watchful eye on the students to ensure there was no fun to be had.

Clara was a bit younger than her classmates but even she noticed the less than subtle attempts to get noticed by the other sex. While young, Clara was not immune, Jack would occasionally glance her way and would subconsciously blush. During those moments Clara prayed for an answer on as to why this happened; alas a prayer that would remain unanswered.

Over the course of the year, students occasionally disappeared from the group. When Clara had joined, there were eight girls and by the end of the year there were four left. Like every other mystery in this school, there were no reasons or explanations, simply endless theories generated by those who remained.

Hall of Higher Learning – Part III

Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

“Congratulations,” a priest said. “You managed to find your way through that trial in near record time,” he added.

“So that’s not a trap,” Clara asked while sounding a bit disappointed.

Clara looked around and saw that she was now at the epicentre of a large circular tower. The architecture was airy and marble made up the bulk of the structural supports and walls. Winding their way through the core there were two staircases that led higher into the rotunda.

The ceiling was made of glass and steel permitting the sun to beam down directly into the centre of the room. Clara’s spirit rose and oddly enough felt at peace.

“Oh! It’s a trap as well,” the man said. “Can never be too careful about who or what ventures into the Terminus,” he added.

The who or what part of his statement had gotten her attention. However, there were perhaps more pertinent questions to ask. Would they be inclined to answer?

Jack appeared from one of the side doors with her suitcase in hand. Where did he find the time to get her bag and find an alternate entrance? For a brief moment her mind saw past her logic and irritation and noticed his piercing blue eyes and sharp features. Why did her face feel warm?

“Father Taylor,” Jack said. “Shall I bring this to her room,” he asked.

“No that is quite alright young Jack,” Father Taylor said. “You know you’re not allowed in the women’s wing,” he added.

“But that places smells of flowers and spice and everything nice,” Jack whined, and followed through with a smirk.

That had been Clara’s introduction to his mischievous side. If that kind of behaviour was even partially tolerated here then she was about to have a grand ole time.

“Jack is a second year student here,” Father Taylor said.

“Pleasure was all mine,” Jack said. “Barely had to lift a finger,” he added.

Barely? Jack had been more of a killick than an enabler. He must have been placed there to act as a diversion and prevent her from asking the pertinent questions.

“Likewise,” Clara said. “Father, what are plans for me,” she asked, seeing that she was eager to begin.

Without a word an older student appeared from one of the upper levels. At first she assumed it was a nun given the uniform that reminded her of a nun’s habit.

“Clara this is Edith,” Father Taylor said while pointing to the new arrival. “Take your things and follow her to the women’s dormitories,” he added.

“Yes Father,” Clara said and hid her disappointment.

It seemed that answers would have to wait. This time, Clara was certain they could not evade her for long.

Hall of Higher Learning – Part II

Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

Clara rubbed her eyes once she crossed the threshold. She was faced with a long corridor filled with doors on both sides. The walls appeared to be made of onyx and the doors were painted black without any identifying features.

Those who designed this area had obviously meant to confuse and mislead. She looked down both ends of the hall but found no end in sight. That might have made her nervous, at least until she learned that the door she had walked through was locked.

“What an interesting welcome,” Clara said while half-expecting to be answered.

When no answer came, Clara left her suitcase in place and followed the hallway to her left. She hoped her bag would serve well as a point of reference.

After three hundred paces she saw an object up ahead. At first she felt a wave of excitement wash over her until her worn out suitcase came into focus. So she went full circle? How?

This hallway did not have an obvious curve to it, at least not enough to accomplish this feat. Things were certainly getting interesting.

A minute or so after Clara’s return to her point of reference there came a noise originating from couple of doors down. A quick glance in that direction revealed a young man with a suitcase passing through.

“Don’t let that door close,” Clara exclaimed.

The young man jumped then looked behind him just in time to hear the door click in place. Only once he looked down both ends of the hall did he have an idea of the situation.

“Sorry,” he said shyly. “Jonathan Carmichael,” he said.

“Clara Grey,” Clara said before she beamed a smile.

“Most people call me Jack,” he added.

“Pleasure to meet you,” Clara added interested only in getting these social graces out of the way. “Know where we are,” she asked.

“No clue actually,” he said looking confused. “Been here long,” he asked.

“Long enough,” Clara said. “Mind if we put something to the test,” she asked.

“Sure,” Jack said. “What do you have in mind,” he asked.

“Head that way,” Clara said pointing in the direction. “I will head the opposite way and if we encounter anyone else to ask for assistance,” she added.

Jack cocked a brow and shrugged. Clearly not concerned with asking questions, he began his stroll down the hallway.

Clara did the same but left her bag behind. She looked at every door along the way in an effort to find a pattern or identifying features, alas they were identical. The more she reflected on this matter the more she had to conclude that this had to be some sort of trap.

They crossed paths mid-way and once more found her bag waiting for her. Jack did not seem phased by the sight of Clara’s bag from the opposing direction; so clearly this was some sort of loop.

“How did you do that,” Jack asked.

Clara smiled before she replied, “Been here for a bit remember?”

“Oh,” Jack said. “What now,” he asked.

“Not sure. Do you have any ideas,” Clara asked.

Jack shrugged which nearly disheartened Clara. Clearly she was here for a reason and reasonably concluded that she would be able to find her way out. Interesting how Jack had entered through a different door. Did that mean there was a separate entrance?

But how would they find the door leading to their salvation? Every door were identical, and the stonework had been expertly done to create the illusion that there was no variations. She could try every door, but there were no assurances that one would even open.

Exasperated, she ran a hand through her hair and leaned back against the wall. She closed her eyes aware that Jack was watching her intently. Just what she needed…

When she opened her eyes, she looked up as though the curse God and was suddenly struck by an epiphany. While the walls and floor were nondescript that was not the case for the ceiling.

Seven doors were enclosed within an arched ceiling, high enough that people would not even notice they were within a section. There was a band of stone missing from domed ceiling which permitted light to bleed through. It was a bright white light, almost like daylight but with was no variation. Artificial light?

Now came the interesting part. As part of the vaulted ceiling, a text had been carved each section. Of course it had to be written in Latin.

“How is your Latin,” Clara asked while orienting herself in such a way to see the entirety of the text.

“I can muddle through,” Jack said.

Should she have expected another answer from him? Fortunately Clara had spent a lot of time reading the bible and guessed that her prayer sessions on ship had been for a reason. She would have to thank Sister Maria another time.

“I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth,” Clara said aloud.

“The book of Job 19:25,” Jack said.

At least he was right about something. Clara had a suspicion that every section held a different passage. The reason for these passages? That needed to be put to the test.

“That’s right,” Clara said to encourage Jack. “Let’s go see what the rest say,” she asked nonchalantly.

“2 Corinthians 2:17, John 12:25, Revelation 3:5, Romans 5:10,” Jack said.

Clara found it amusing that he would dutifully call out the chapter and verse they came across. After all, they were clearly marked and engraved. However, there was merit to keeping him focused.

Clara read every verse looking for a clue, but so far they seemed to be random. Without a discernible pattern finding a clue would be difficult. This worried Clara but she remained hopeful that something would leap out at her.

“Then my people will live in a peaceful habitation, and in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places,” Clara read.

“Isaiah 32:18,” Jack said.

“So why does it say Isaiah 32-29,” Clara asked.

Jack looked up and shrugged before he said, “No such thing, Isaiah 32 ends at 20.”

The boy was right and Clara was ill equipped to admit it, even to herself. Of all the verses this one seemed fall in line with the type of passage she expected. Clara had come here to find her new home after all, not this never-ending corridor.

“Engraver made a mistake,” Jack asked.

“No,” she said. “Every piece of stone here is seamless joined with its neighbour.
That takes a mastery that is rarely witnessed on earth,” she added.
Given the unlikeliness of this discrepancy being due to an error or flaw. That meant the error had been stamped there for a reason Clara thought.

“A clue,” Clara exclaimed.

Without another word, Clara turned to face the set of three doors in this section then turned the knob for the door to her right. The door opened without any resistance; confident in her decision she walked through without hesitation.

Hall of Higher Learning – Part I

Disclaimer: This chapter is currently in development. There are likely typos, errors, omissions, inconsistencies and so forth. Please do not treat this as a polished and completed work!

For the second time in her life Clara was travelling with Sister Maria. That meant more time waiting on a train platform and she presumed the next connection would be made together. Their first trip together had been a stroll through Versailles’ palatial gardens in comparison.

For one, it was longer and involved a dizzying rate of train transfers. To make way over the open ocean had been a new experience for Clara and at first she was unsure of herself while the ship heaved and hawed with the waves. If her travelling partner had any inkling at all for amusement, Clara might have enjoyed the experience.

Instead they spent the bulk of the trip below decks, kept busy with prayers and lessons. Clara even missed the sights as they approached red mud shores; iconic for the region although one would ever know by looking at Sister Maria.

They left the station and grabbed the first available handsome. The ride was pleasant enough, and this was her first taste of a larger settlement. There were people and horses moving every which way, it was quite chaotic but infinitely enjoyable to watch since Sister Maria could do little to hurry on.

Whereas her hometown had a few buildings along the main stretch of road, this city had neighbourhoods and streets crammed with houses, storefronts and warehouses. It was something to behold especially after two years of being cooped up in that school.

This time around Sister Maria seemed to be enjoying the trip. Had this been her hometown? More likely she was elated that her charge would soon be released.

“Here we are,” the cabby said once they arrived.

It was the site of a massive construction site, visible on the foreground where the beginnings of church spires. This structure of wood, masonry and stone would stand tall above the neighbours; a point of pride for any city. So why here?
Clara and Sister Maria stepped off silently once the cabby had been paid. Without hesitation the nun pushed past the protective fencing and walked onto the construction site. Although there was showed no hesitation, Sister Maria seemed slower and more deliberate somehow.

They walked through the chaos as workers were busy with their trades. They continued on until they reached a cemetery located by the stone wall. At a point separating the two sites Clara saw a simple wooden door.

Sister Maria paused, stood aside and said, “I am afraid this is where we part ways child.”

Clara looked at the facial features of her escort as usual not a so for emotion had been betrayed. At least until a naughty little thought passed through her mind. Would be a shame to miss this opportunity to speak with impunity.

“I was the one who re-arranged all of the furniture in your room,” Clara said with a smirk.

Sister Maria maintained her stoic disposition for a moment then began to laugh.
“Was it now,” she asked in a light-hearted tone. “The sisters and I spent a great deal of time trying to work out how someone managed to get all my things onto the ceiling,” she added.

“You are not angry sister,” Clara asked, somehow slightly disappointed at this particular reaction.

“Of course not Clara,” Sister Maria said in her serious tone. “Sister Theresa nearly wet herself laughing and anything that knocks her down a peg is worth its weight in gold,” she added with a smile.

So Clara had gotten her wish after all. Not only did Sister Maria smile, but she had also learned that nuns were human. A good lesson for any child to learn.

“Now child, you must be the one to go through that door,” the nun said. “You never know, we might end up seeing one another again. Although not as travelling partners. You are far too talkative for my tastes,” she exclaimed.

Clara smiled, took her worn out suitcase and opened the door. It was dark inside, but she was not fearful, sometimes things you should be feared were hidden in plain sight. Without hesitation she crossed the threshold curious as to what she would find.