Sunday, February 16, 2014

Evensong Requiem (WoE #7)

Write at the Merge gives us 500 words to explore the concept of Time.

Alongside a picture of an alarm clock, which didn't spark anything for me, we are provided this quote from The Glass Menagerie:

Time is the longest distance between two places.

--Tennessee Williams 

This quote screams "measuring time" for me and it calls to mind the ringing of bells to mark the canonical hours of religious devotion. I wasn't prepared for where I went with the final product, so I thought I should warn you, this isn't a happy piece. (My Precipice/Bannerwing entry wasn't happy either. I think I need some vitamin B-12 or something.)

Anyway, I offer the following in response: A Evensong Requiem.

The None Bells rang and Brother Gwen set down his quill. He worked the blood back into his hands and slid from his wooden stool to follow the other monks to office. His broken gait pained him, sending burning pulses through his crooked back with each clumsy step. Forty years hunched at his station, with only a single candle to illuminate his work, Brother Gwen prayed for the day he could pass his mantle on.

He joined his brothers in the chant, saddened at his crackled voice. He reached the notes he could with the power he could, but he feared he was failing his office. His mind wandered, remembering his eager days as an initiate. There was infinite possibility under heaven’s watch when his calling was new. Now, he was conquered by his age.

With the None Office concluded, Brother Gwen hobbled to the infirmary instead of returning to the library. Brother Gregory waved him over before he could speak, sending one of his novices to fetch supplies. “Brother Gwen,” the monk helped Gwen onto the straw-thatched bed, “I had not expected you back so soon.”

“Thank you, Brother Gregory. God tests me with the cold and I fear he will not find me worthy.” Gwen allowed the monk to disrobe him to his waist. He had little strength left to manage on his own.

The novice returned with the familiar vial of pungent elixir that had been Gwen’s saving grace these many winter months. Brother Gregory handled the vial with extreme care, tilting the liquid into clean cloth in small dabs, never once touching it with bare fingers. “Monkshood is powerful, and although I have taken steps to reduce its poison, we cannot be overly careful, Brother Gwen.”

Gregory had said this before, Gwen remembered, but as of late, only the ointment relieved any of his pain. He prayed in silence for forgiveness, for being so weak and frail, while Gregory applied the small amount to his sore back. It numbed and soothed, and tingled up his spine. Gwen relaxed, but his breathing became labored and Death's rattle crept into his voice. “Thank you, Brother Gregory.”

The monk frowned and set aside his cloth and vial. “Gwen, you did good to see me. I do not think you will rise again this night.”

Gwen coughed. “That would be the cruelest office of all. I have not finished my last book. God will not receive me as a failure.”

Gregory smiled, “Oh my brother, you are the gentlest of us. You have given us a glimpse of God in the love you bear our order. It is your flesh which fails your soul, not your unfinished deeds.”

“Is it so simple as that?” Gwen gasped a short-lived chuckle and lay down on the bed. “I pray ‘tis so.”


Brother Gregory promised to wake him for Vespers, but when the bells of Evensong called the brothers to mass, Gwen was already gone.

Some of the WoE crowd mentioned during the assessment that they aren't always sure when it's okay to leave criticism. I'll try to remember to be a better citizen and put a note at the end of my responses to the prompt, but if I don't, comments and constructive critiques are ALWAYS welcome here. Okay? Okay. so, let me have it. Give me what you've got. I can take it. 


  1. I like this, it had me from the beginning. I like stories that take me to somewhere different and this certainly did. My blog used to be called 'Travelling Without Moving' because that's what a good piece of fiction does. It takes you somewhere.



    1. Thanks! I'm happy I was able to transport you into the setting. That's a huge compliment considering the 500 word count.

      I'm glad you enjoyed your visit. Thank you for stopping by and for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Oh! This may be sad, but it's soothing as well. If only we should all go with such a quiet leaving.

    1. Thanks! I hoped there'd be a sense of peace in both Gwen's faith and in his passing.

      I hope you enjoyed your stay. Thank you for stopping by and for sharing your thoughts!

  3. Like Angela, I found this a soothing and peaceful reading. You did a great job of creating your character, Brother Gwen. You made him very real in my mind as I read because of your description. I could see him struggling with his pain and with the difficulty of life or death.

    I loved what Brother Gregory said, "It is your flesh which fails your soul, not your unfinished deeds.” That's beautiful.

    1. Thanks! Brother Gregory's words happened in a stroke of magic, almost without my knowledge. I'm pleased you found it as beautiful as I did.

      I'm glad you enjoyed your visit. Thank you for stopping by and for sharing your thoughts!