Evelyn Chartres Author
Short Story – Page 3

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.

First Blood – Part IV

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 had been whisked away the moment men dressed identically to Father Michael entered the room. They did not seem to hesitate nor asked questions, instead the eldest simply glanced at one of the younger members and she was carried away.

Why was it that Clara had never seen these men before? Normally in a cloistered environment there was near perfect segregation, a new face was a rare occurrence. Any workmen, tradesmen or drivers were kept under a close watch.

To see a dozen such men certainly got Clara wondering if she had missed something in these past two years. Was there some sort of tunnel or access to the outside world that she never knew about?

A bit further down the hall Sisters Agnes and Maria were waiting. Clara was then placed under Sister Maria’s charge who in turn escorted back to her room. From the corner of her eyes she saw the man and Sister Agnes exchange words. When the nun collapsed, Clara had a good idea what had been said.

“What were you doing in the rectory child,” Sister Maria asked.

Clara looked down at her blood covered hands remembered she was still holding the thin blade. Of all the things to ask? Clara palmed the crucifix under her sleeve to avoid it making a topic of discussion.

“Sister Maria, I was following Father Michael,” Clara said in reply.

“Now why would go and do such a thing.” Sister Maria asked while sounding exasperated.

Now that was a good question. However, that tone in her voice hinted that this nun had been aware of what took place. So she likely already knew that Father Michael was dead. The question was how?

Clara thought over her words before she said, “Father Michael told me earlier today that he wanted to discuss his plans for me sister.”

Sister Maria was white as a sheet, despite this being a blatant lie it certainly got her out of the hot seat. Now if only she managed to coax more information out of her before she was caught.

“What exactly did he tell you child,” Sister Maria asked.

Now Clara had to think on her feet. If she feigned ignorance, there would be no further gains. If Clara guessed his involvement the she might gain more insight. The latter came with more risk but Clara enjoyed a challenge.

“Father Michael had just begun explaining the particularities of his order,” Clara said.

Now that was vague enough to avoid getting caught in an outright lie. She was basing this line of questioning on the fact that men of the cloth were rarely, if ever armed. Father Michael had been armed for a reason and she guessed the fallen angel was a big reason as to why.

Sister Maria gave Clara a good long look before she said, “No matter child.” She paused a moment before she opened the door to the dormitory and added, “Now get cleaned up and ready for bed.”

A shame that bedtime was not for another two hours yet…

* * * *

News of Father Michael’s death had been hushed up. Clara continued on for a few days, curious as to why they would not share his fate with the rest of the school. Even as a new priest settled into the rectory, the nuns maintained a wall of silence.

Despite being the only witness to what had happened, no one questioned her about the event nor questioned her presence that night. It left her feeling a bit uneasy as though she were in trouble and was just waiting for the punishment to follow.

For once Clara kept her nose clean and continued on with her studies. An easy matter when other children avoided her, likely due to a secret directive. Like all directives, tenants or commandments, there tended to be severe repercussions for those who failed to uphold them.

After the events of Father Michael’s passing went by unobserved for a fortnight, Clara was pulled out of class by Sister Maria. Without notice she was hurried to the courtyard where horse and cart waiting for them. Surprisingly her things were already packed into that tattered old suitcase she had arrived with two years ago.

“It seems that Father Michael’s got his wish,” Sister Maria said while getting into the cart. She then reached down to help Clara up before adding, “It’s time to start your training child.”

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!