THE CHAIR A novel by Sheila Willar Copyright 2016 Sheila Willar
Sheila Willar - April 11, 2014 (Revised January 17, 2018)
CHAPTER 11 ............................ THE LIGHT
The evening sky was soft and pink, and it cast shadows of lavender blue upon the Holy City. The serenity of its names-sake was in sharp contrast to the streets below, where frantic crowds from all faiths vied for control. The prospect of a sudden uprising had stirred the people into a froth, and each was determined to defend their neighbourhoods and beloved sacred sites.
Michael stood on a ridge overlooking the city, and was surrounded by guards as the investigator questioned him about Erin’s whereabouts. The guards searched the area several times but found nothing, which made the investigator increasingly nervous, because Erin had gone missing with the Irish Blue stones.
It wasn’t long before the investigator called for backup and soon additional police arrived. Michael was taken into a nearby building where several officers had gathered. The room was cold and stark but the din of chaos in the outside world could not be heard. Michael was told to sit, a command which his tired feet whole-heartedly accepted.
The conversation started slowly and the concerned officials spoke to Michael about the general need for calm. They explained that the politics and religion of the city required a delicate balance, and that they hoped Michael would help them keep it that way. They said that they were men of peace and that since Michael was a priest, he should understand. They hoped to find a common link to humanity that would generate a margin of trust, and convince Michael to tell them where Erin was.
After hours of questioning it was clear that Michael was not going to help, so they took him outside under the stars that had just peaked through the veil of night. The guards formed a circle and the investigator offered him a cigaret. Michael declined and listened as his captor wistfully talked about more general topics such as the weather and horses.
Then when the cigaret was burned out, the investigator explained that he would not allow Michael and Erin to drive them from their homes. He told Michael that if he was a apart of a plot to uproot the city, then he was mistaken about the level of success that he would have.
“You misunderstand,” protested Michael. “We have not come here to make anyone leave.”
“Then tell me where the woman is. Help us find the stones.”
“I don’t know where she is,” answered Michael for the hundredth time that day.
The investigator had seen the aura of lights in the desert sky the night before and he believed that Michael and Erin’s stones were the cause. The phenomenon had set the city on edge and made everyone’s nerves raw with panic, and he was determined to find the stones and isolate them from emitting more light.
Just then, one of the guards gave a message to the investigator saying that they had made an arrest that may be of interest. Michael’s eyes grew wide as Erin’s uncle Ewin was escorted into the circle. Ewin was used to bartering for what he wanted, and quickly made a pitch to help the investigator remove the stones from the country. He was used to bidding on expensive items and dealing with men with guns, and he was very often successful at it. Ewin explained that he had been tracking the Irish Blue stones for a long time and that he was eager to take possession of them.
The more Ewin spoke, the more he looked untrustworthy, but never-the-less the right man for the job. The investigator explained that the stones were still missing, but as soon as they were found, Ewin could take them, the priest and the girl back to Ireland. The investigator swore that he would rather destroy the stones, but Ewin convinced him that it may be risky and may create another unwanted light show.
As the evening grew darker and the crowds grew more violent, the investigator growled at Michael with contempt. He had seen it all before; zealot priests turned con artists and criminals.
“Where are the stones?” yelled the investigator as he paced towards the edge of hill.
“I don’t know,” answered Michael, who was ashamed to be thought of as one of Ewin’s partners.
Erin was in a world of her own and unaware that the guards were searching for her. She had followed a little bird through the orchard, and was suddenly surrounded by a realm of light that made her invisible. The guards had brushed against her cloak on several occasions, but they could not see her. The aura of peace around her was unexplainable, because there was no earthly reference for it. Outside of the light, there was chaos, but in the haven in the orchard, there was bliss.
All sense of time was gone and she was barely aware of where she was. The leaves and branches around her scintillated with light and the air sparkled with glitter. Erin saw a figure in the distance that glowed almost too bright to look at, and even though she could not see its face, she knew it was stern. She started to walk towards it but was held back as if the atmosphere was too thick to move in. Without hearing its voice, she understood that she was safer at a distance.
Then, the little bird above her head, and the shining figure opened their mouths precisely at the same moment, and sang a simple tune. The sound of it was familiar and mesmerizing and Erin began to sing along with them. However, there was one note that was different, and when they reached its high tone, they each held it for what seemed like forever, as if time had changed into a never-ending highway. She could hear others singing as well, as people from all over the earth sang with them in unison. The note was so pure that it silenced the wars on the earth, and Erin saw in the vision, an ocean of people suddenly fall to their knees, in which blankets of generations were cut down at once.
Erin gasped out loud and her response made the angelic figure and the vision instantly disappear. She sat down on a stone wall to rest from the burden of what she had seen. When she regained some strength, she picked up the Irish Blue stones, one at a time, and placed them into openings in the wall. They seemed to melt into place to the point that she could no longer discern the Irish Blue from the rest, and as they faded from sight, she heard one of the guards exclaim, “There she is!”
The guards called for the investigator, but when he questioned her about the stones, her silence infuriated him and the atmosphere became tense. Ewin tried to make amends by offering his help, but when it became clear that the investigator had had enough, the guards grabbed him by the shoulders.
“Stop!” yelled Erin. “I will tell you where the stones are! Just let him go.”
The investigator was only interested in keeping the city calm, and didn’t want the icons for himself. He would be glad to get rid of them, and therefore agreed to provide a safe passage if she told them where the stones were.
Erin showed them the place in the wall where she had placed the stones, and gave it a steely eye in search of the Irish Blue. She bent down and ran her fingers over the cobbled surface, but still could not determine which ones belonged to the sacred chair.
“It’s one of these,” she implored.
“Let me look!” insisted Ewin.
The investigator’s patience had run out, and he ordered a guard to pull Erin away from the wall and to make room for Ewin to find the stones. He was more than happy to oblige and have access to the priceless treasure. He asked for a chisel and carefully inspected the wall, and then began to dig away at the mortar that held the pieces together. The others stood back and watched as he pulled two mottled rocks from the wall, each a mirror image of the other.
“Pick them up!” ordered the patriarch to the guards, who quickly tried to lift the heavy stones.
“Whoa! Wait a minute!” called Ewin.
“What’s wrong?” asked the investigator.
“Be gentle with them. We don't want an incident,” he explained. “Unless you want to light up the sky here this evening, then treat them with respect.”
As much as the investigator wanted to arrest them and confiscate the chair, the sounds of the angry crowds in the distance, convinced him to take them directly to the airport. Within the hour, Ewin’s private plane was in the air and he, along with Michael and Erin, were on their way back to Ireland. No one spoke on the trip. Not one word was said.
When they arrived in Dublin, Ewin made haste to disappear into the rainy evening with “his” stones. Erin and Michael took a cab back to Erin’s apartment, where Kelly and Matthew grilled them with questions.
“Sorry,” apologized Michael. “I can’t stay. I have to get back home and face the music.”
Over the next few days, Patrick reported to various jury’s and panels within the church and tried to make a case for his reinstatement in Kinkerry. He left out a lot of details about his quest as he told a story of how he had become swept up in chasing a religious icon, a temptation which many of his judges were personally familiar with.
Michael received a severe dressing down for running away, and the ink had already dried on the papers that would deport him as far away from Ireland as possible, but when he opened his knapsack and spread the priceless scrolls upon the table in front of them, his slate of faults were immediately forgiven. Instead of a transfer, Michael was reinstated in Kinkerry, and for good measure, they gave him the horrid black finger as a reminder of what would happen if he tried to run away again.
Michael agreed to the terms and when he settled himself back into his office in Kinkerry, he hid the snarled finger high up on a shelf out of sight, behind a set of books. Every time he thought about it, it made him both laugh and cringe. The pointy finger may have written Belshazzar’s message, or it may not, but either way, he would never forget the old priest in the monastery who gave it to him as a way to save his life.
Erin returned to classes the next day, but found it difficult to pay attention. One evening while trying to concentrate on homework, she felt restless and went to the local pub for some take-out food. As she waited in the entrance, she watched the TV screen that hung on the wall. A reporter announced that there was “Breaking News” and showed pictures of an enormous beam of light piercing the sky over Jerusalem. He said that the brilliant light had caused quite a stir, and had created a relative “hush” over the city.
“And no one has claimed ownership of it yet!” the reporter remarked.
“Is it yours? ” asked the clerk behind the counter in the pub.
“Mine?” whispered Erin as she turned pale.
“Is it yours?” repeated the clerk, as he lined up brown paper bags on the counter top.
“No!” she exclaimed as her face turned red.
“The fries!” insisted the clerk. “Is this your order of fries!”
“Yes. Sorry. Thanks,” murmured Erin, as she took a paper bag and nervously left the store.
“Hey! Lady! Wait a minute!” called the clerk as he stepped out onto the sidewalk after her. “You forgot your drinks!”
“Thanks,” offered Erin. “I had a feeling I left something behind.”
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of Him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!