Bristol House

Bristol House by Beverly Swerling Read Free Book Online

Book: Bristol House by Beverly Swerling Read Free Book Online
Authors: Beverly Swerling
him,’” she read, beginning very softly, the words coming with difficulty through an almost-closed throat, “‘together with his accomplices and abettors.’” Stronger now, with determination, and something like the conviction that had propelled her into her first AA meeting years before. I will not continue to live like this. I will not be a victim . “‘I separate him from the precious body and blood of the Lord and—’”
    She heard the noise before she sensed the movement; rather like a giant inhale, then an exhale. The sound took shape. It became a floor-to-ceiling cone spinning toward her, seeming to travel a great distance despite how small the room was. The candle flickered, then went out, and the brass bell was yanked from her hand. It chattered madly before it disappeared. Annie was caught in the whirling mist, her body constantly turning as it was drawn into the vortex. For an instant it seemed as if she were revolving in one direction and the room in another. Then everything was gone, and there was darkness.
    Dom Justin
    From the Waiting Place
    It is easy on the other side to dismiss this bleak but blessed antechamber to eternity known as purgatory, but since all must die, all will come to understand this place between before and after. For my part, here is where I find myself in this time out of time where yesterday, today, and tomorrow have no meaning. Bliss, they tell me, is assured, but only when I have made atonement.
    To that end I am required to tell my story as it happened whilst yet I was in that state men call living, though it is but a shadow of real life. The telling is not difficult, since here one remembers in perfect detail each choice made during the testing time. But for the rest . . . how to atone for such sins as mine, I know not.
    I am told I will find a way. Also that the woman has been brought to me to serve both my ends and her own. I am given to understand we go on together. Also, that there is for her true peril in the journey. Not as to the disposition of her soul, for that is a matter in which no mortal can have influence save her own conscience. Rather it is the length of her time on earth that has been put in my care.
    Her danger grows. I must begin the telling.
    I was barely sixteen in the year 1531 when my master, Thomas Cromwell, commanded I become a monk of the Charterhouse. There, he said, I might be his eyes in a place he could not go. I shall tell more of that, but my true adventure, and the source of my most grievous sin, began four years later, on the occasion of the mighty wind which was a portent of terrible things to come, though none yet knew the extent to which all England would struggle and suffer.
    The day of the great circular wind was a May Thursday, a day when the custom of our order demanded we chant together the litanies that beg Almighty God for all manner of good. Thus, well before dawn, we hermit monks had left our individual cells, as Carthusians call the little houses wherein each lives alone with God, and assembled in the courtyard outside the great church of the monastery. Our prior was not with us that day (an absence of which I will later have more to say), so it fell to old Dom Hilary to lead the prayers. His voice occasionally betrayed the shiver of age, but the rest of us sang out the responses with force and enthusiasm. Indeed, those were times so troubled as to make every man know how grave was our need for divine aid.
    It was whilst Dom Hilary petitioned heaven on behalf of all of us that the strange and violent wind came out of the sky and rushed toward earth. So strong it was that a man might actually see it with his own eyes, a visible wind in the form of a funnel-shaped cloud.
    This thing, which the moment it appeared was so extraordinary that every monk in the courtyard fell silent and signed himself with the cross of the Savior, touched down near where we stood. In that instant when the wind met the earth, I felt myself threatened

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