More than a thousand words into Chapter 10. It is an important chapter to the story and deserves a lot of attention. It also marks the official end of my motivation crisis which beset me. It took me about one hour to write the thousand words which I estimate to be about a third of the chapter. Unfortunately, I have some other stuff to do now as it is nearing 7:30 pm and won’t be able to add to it today. But tomorrow and the coming weekend will see Chapter 10 finished.
To prove, here is the start:
Clouds were rushing across the low hanging sky, pushed along by the invisible hand of a cold, brisk wind. Nearing 5 pm and daylight was already waning. He looked up at the sky and thought, ‘That’s exactly how I feel: pushed along by an invisible, cold hand.’
He looked back down and noticed a cozy café right at the corner of Charter and Salem. Cheery faces sipping espressos and lattes to the grating sound of a busy coffee machine, all basked in a warm, yellow light. To him it seemed like a stranded spaceship from an alien planet. Totally out of place.
He turned the corner onto Salem and already saw the narrow white steeple of Old North Church reaching up to tickle the clouds’ pregnant bellies.
“One if by land, two if by sea.” That’s the line in Longfellow’s patriotic poem which every American child is supposed to know by heart. It refers to a secret signal sent to warn the American rebels and apprise them of the way the British troops were taking. Either one or two lanterns hung in the belfry tower of the tallest building in Boston, Old North Church.
Father McCormick directed his steps toward the church. The narrow street could be bustling with tourists, all headed toward this famous landmark of American patriotic history. Now, there was hardly a handful of people who hurried along, bent over to better brave the wind.
At the wrought iron fence surrounding the church, he stopped for a second and looked around. When he was sure that nobody was taking any notice of him, he went through the gate and approached the heavy wooden church door. Another person detached himself from the shadows and put a hand on his shoulder, stopping him from entering.
Covered by a monk’s habit, his face completely in the dark of the large cowl, a deep voice addressed him, “The church is closed today, there will be no service.”
Although Brother McCormick had expected something like this, his mouth went dry. Trying to remember what the instructions were, he had been given, it took him a moment before replying, “The church is closed but for the One.”
“And who is the One?”
“Not by name shall he be known.”
“Who brings you here?”
“’tis the spirit which beckons me and thou shalt not stand in His way.”
This brief exchange seemed to satisfy the gate keeper and he opened the door, through which Brother McCormick quickly stepped.
Inside, he was greeted by an empty hall. With no illumination, the stalls were visible only as outlines in the meager light. He knew that there were probably other watchmen hidden but he could not see them.
He turned to the right and used his outstretched hand to guide him along the wall. Stepping carefully and slowly, he followed it until he could see the silhouette of a wooden railing marking the beginning of a narrow set of stairs leading downward, terminating at another wooden door, this one much lower.
He swallowed dry and rapped: three times, then a brief pause, followed by a fourth knock. For five long seconds nothing seemed to happen, then he heard the grating sound of a heavy deadbolt being moved and the door opened.
He stepped through, mindful not to hit his head on the low door frame. A hand stopped him, “State your name and business, brother.”
“I am Brother McCormick, summoned by the Voice of the One.”
“Welcome Brother McCormick. Follow the light and enter with the sign.”
He had been here before. During bright daylight, when a tourist guide would lead the way and cheerfully offer bits of history and colorful anecdotes to the group of tourists. Brother McCormick knew that he was now in the large underground crypt of the church, where more than 1,000 bodies lay entombed. Some famous, some infamous, but mostly just ordinary members of the small Anglican community that lived in 18th century Boston.
Today the mood was entirely different. A row of torches lit the passageway and doused it in shapeshifting flickers of their flames. Every couple of feet, at breast height and on either side, were small doors with placards, naming the souls who had found their rest behind them.
As instructed, he followed the torches which led him around several corners until they finally ended in front of another low, wooden door. A low murmur, as of a number of people talking in low voices was perceptible.
Enter with the sign. Brother McCormick fingered nervously in the almost bottomless pocket of his habit until he found the small clay figure of a square pyramid, barely an in inch in size, whose tip was cut off. He took it in his hand, careful not to drop it.
He knew better than to knock and waited patiently. After several minutes the murmur died down and became inaudible. Eventually, the door was opened and another guard stepped out to meet him, holding a hand up before him. Brother McCormick placed the tiny clay figure in it and waited another moment before the pyramid was identified as the proper sign, and he was finally admitted.
Before him lay a large room, approximately 15 by 50 feet, rough-hewn stones forming the walls. Heavy joists ran across it at regular intervals and supported the ceiling which was significantly higher than in the passageways and doorways before. Clearly, this room held some significance. This was further underlined by two sets of wooden church benches running along both of the long sides.
He estimated about 30 people on either bench, all clad in a dark habit with a large hood that concealed their identities. The far side was adorned by three tapestries hung next to each other. On the left was a Star of David, followed by a cross and then a moon sickle with a star on the right. A stone table, very much like an ancient altar, with three chairs was situated before this backdrop. The chair in the middle was noticeably larger than the other two.
There was also single, ordinary chair in the empty center of the room, facing the stone table.