Evelyn Chartres Author
Short Story – Page 5

A Saucerful of Secrets – 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!

After learning that creatures from the deepest and darkest corners of the human mind were real, Clara knew there were still many secrets left to discover. For now these secrets and discoveries would have to wait since lectures and her studies were a priority. Sure, it might have been disappointing to control her natural curiosity, but she knew it would beneficial in the end.

Courses were taught in classes found all over the Tower, from the deepest bowels of the dungeon for combat training to its highest reaches for poetry. Clara’s course load seemed tailored in a such a way to make the lectures on time.

On Thursday’s she would sneak through a library past the watchful eye of Father Allen, the chief archivist to shave twenty minutes on her travel and attend an improvised weapons course. Sometimes Clara managed to arrive early enough to feed her curiosity and get some answers since the risk was often well worth the risks she took.

Every Wednesday, Clara would leave five minutes early from bible studies to grab an early bite to eat. She would greedily consume everything that was on her plate so she would have the time to make it to her hand-to-hand combat classes.

Clara observed other initiates who had reached the same point in their training. Some were cool and collected as though the chaos had been woven into the fabric of their souls; while others were the cusp of a complete breakdown.

While never formally acknowledged, every aspect of their training had been designed to test the students. The ability for a student to realise this fact and adapt was a key factor on how students survived. Those who sought perfection and needed to control their situation saw their grip on reality loosen little by little every day. It was obvious they wanted people to overcome these situations or fail spectacularly.

There was one factor which remained constant throughout, the Tower held a proverbial cornucopia secrets. There were skeletons in every closet and people rarely gave you a straight answer; there were even omissions in their archives.

For a young Girl who liked to cause a bit of mischief, finding these omissions became a passion of hers. She would fly through rows upon rows of books looking for something that appeared peculiar or out of place.

Clara vividly recalled the conversation she once had with Father Allen about a particular omission. It had been one of the first times she had found an omission although it would not be the last.

“What do you mean child,” Father Allen asked.

“Some pages are missing from this book,” Clara said. She then added, “Father,” belatedly as a form of respect.

“That can’t be right Child,” Father Allen said.

Father Allen had torn the book from her hands to get a better look. There was something about his dramatic behaviour which made her suspicious.

“Which page Child,” Father Allen asked.

Clara took back the book then placed it neatly on a table surface. That way both of them got a clear view of the pages, Clara then thumbed through it quickly until she found the offending pages.

“I would say five pages or so are missing Father,” Clara said.

Father Allen looked at top of the book nearer to the spine; there were no voids to show that pages had been cut away. Fortunately, Clara knew full well that these books were often rebound.

“There are no voids visible child,” Father Allen said.

“No but the animation is off Father,” Clara said.

“Animation,” Father Allen asked.

Clara had come across many medieval texts before. These were often hand written works of art, normally created using the precise hand of a scribe. However, some must have found the task monotonous, since she occasionally came across these little doodles or illustrations hidden throughout.

Some of these doodles were depictions of killer rabbits locked in mortal combat against a noble knight. Some included elaborate battles which invariably involved a man taking an arrow to the rear end. Others included scenes where men fought their way through trees shaped like penises.

In this particular book the scribes work had been more elaborate. At first, it looked harmless enough since every page featured the same design. That is until someone read far enough to realise just how these subtle changes over time could lead to something unique.

This particular doodle featured an owl who ruffled its feathers before taking flight. While it soared, the owl would spot a mouse, grab it, find a perch and feast on its flesh. Flicking through the pages quickly enough showed the animation transitioning in such a way that these doodles appeared to move.

Clara flipped through the pages from the beginning. All the while she pointed to the doodle which was busy ruffling its feathers.

“See that owl Father,” Clara asked. “Watch as it takes flight,” she added while flipping through the pages.

Sure enough the bird spread its wings and soared through the pages. But there was a visible jitter, one which did not exist before or after the animation.

“A jitter,” Father Allen asked.

Clara smiled warmly before she said, “Yes Father.”

“Surely you have more evidence to bring forward than a faulty drawing Child,” Father Allen said.

Clara had expected her evidence of tampering to be taken seriously. It took an eye for detail to catch such a tiny flaw surrounded in a sea of information.

“The book is a collection of songs and prayers Father,” Clara said. “The page before speaks of a protective prayer that can ward off evil spirits. The page that follows is a morning chant instead,” she added.

“You can read Latin,” Father Allen asked.

“Of course,” Clara said. “Such knowledge is expected for all students is it not Father,” she added.

By that time Father Allen had been called away by one of the staff. She did not see him again for a month and in that time the book had mysteriously gone missing.

“Curiouser and curiouser,” Clara thought.

Clara assumed that the spell had been deemed dangerous or sacrilegious. If true, then why leave a reference to the text? Unless something more grievous had been omitted in between?

From that point on Clara used every opportunity to delve further into the archives. Father Allen was a popular target with these matters since she enjoyed his attempts at evading her. Silently, she wondered if the feeling had been mutual, since not all of the staff were social butterflies.

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.