It's in a completely different style from anything I've ever done before. It's also a little wordy, but I'm hoping to convey just enough of what has happened before so that the reader will want to know why, and what will happen next.
And just for a change I already know what will happen at the beginning, the middle and the end. Quite a departure for me.
The Book Of Pain
"Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. 2 Corinthians 7:9
“Indeed, those who disbelieve in our signs, we will roast them at a fire. As often as their skins are wholly burned, we will give them in exchange other skins, that they may taste the punishment.” (Qur’an, 4:56)
It was hard to believe almost three hundred years had passed since he’d last visited this place.
Above him the remains of the ancient structure cowered beneath a gloomy canopy of overhanging oaks. Green and vibrant in the youth he barely recalled, but now shrouded beneath a dull, gently shivering crust of solidifying foliage.
The once mighty branches sighed forlornly in the parasite’s choking embrace as if no longer able, or even willing to fight. Now the medieval grandeur he remembered was gone, replaced by a motley congregation of deformed and strangulated sentinels patiently waiting for death in a place stripped of all magic and wonder.
Peering up at the chalk-stone rock laboriously dragged here unknown ages past, winged griffins, horned cherubs and other, even more grotesquely ornate creatures clung to the stone arches; their faces contorted and determined that none would pass through the portals of the desiccated abbey. With a grim smile he recalled his terror and the hurried crossing of his feverishly beating heart every time he had summoned the courage to look up, convinced that they had seen into his soul and spied his unconsciously evil intentions. The notion had never been entirely erased and still, hundreds of years later they retained their menace. After quickly passing the macabre protectors and stumbling over the rubble littering the arched doorway he halted within the roofless interior. After all these years the deep scorch marks on the old oak beams had not faded as if the great fire had been just a few days ago.
Even now he could almost hear the mournful clanging of the bell and monotonous chanting that had always greeted his rare summonses from the Abbot. Working from dawn till dusk in the now overgrown fields, his very unworthiness seen as an affront to the god they worshipped; idolised with a fanatical zeal that had always confused and terrified him. Surely theirs was not the same god his mother had always sworn was all-knowing and benevolent; watching over them with bemused tolerance of their many vices. She had never forced him to beat his own back with a sharp branch, to revel in the blood coursing down torn skin as the monks had done, groaning, eyes closed in masochistic rapture. And even as her god claimed her dying body, just as he had his father and five brothers, she had still asserted his beneficence to the agonising end.
Thomas Fletcher had no idea why he had come back to this foul place. He could just have easily made the decision in his flat in London, or the park. He had considered both of those places, but just as quickly dismissed the idea. For some unknown reason here was the only place. If he had finally been afforded the ability to make a decision on his immortality, and his transference of that evil curse to someone else, he should do it in the place where it had first been given to him.
Given! He snorted harshly, the sound echoing for a moment within the barren interior. The walls were now buckling, the brickwork beneath the tarnished and rotting lime coating visible like the skeletal remains of a long dead animal. Of the grotesquely caricatured windows, there was no sign. It had taken him years to discover that the demonic figure pictured in the largest had been Moses and simply the result of just one more of the numerous translational errors of the bible which had substituted sunbeams from heaven for demonic horns.
Before him only a brighter patch on the cracked floor betrayed the marks of the old pews, their remnants long since rotten and devoured. In fact the only organic thing left in the entire structure was at the end of the nave nearly twenty feet in front of him. Two pieces of burnished oak that had supported the heavily brocaded alter and that which had sat upon it. All was long gone and good riddance to it, too.
How this place had survived at all was a mystery. He had found his way unerringly despite the years and the complete absence of signs or fencing guarding what had to be an important historical relic of the past. It was hidden within the rotting forest but in this day and age surely nothing could hide for long. Satellites had photographed every square inch of the Earth. And yet he was not surprised. Perhaps the abbey did not want to be found. Maybe the land on which it squatted malignantly felt guilty. And if so it was right to feel such a responsibility. The moral and physical crimes perpetrated in this filthy place were such that if any god truly existed, he would surely have obliterated the place long ago. It was a man-made hell and should be destroyed with no clue to its former presence left on the face of the planet.
A careless foot kicked a small piece of rubble, the sound provoking a tiny rustle beneath a pile of windswept undergrowth several feet away. Perhaps some rodent had been braver than the others and made a nest for itself. Or could it be some kind of guardian. He dismissed the idea – not because it was fanciful but because there was little else they could do to him, his folly was complete and he had paid dearly for it.
Looking up at what dull, cloudy sky he could see through the almost impenetrable foliage, it seemed as if there were about three hours of daylight left. That left him plenty of time. He cared little for the dark for it would carry no menace for him. He simply did not want to miss the final train back to London and had no desire to spend the night here. Enough of his life had been consumed in this hateful place.
He extracted a small stone that had worked its way into his shoe. It was almost funny, and he had never entirely become used to the concept. Despite the implacable, relentless agony he’d endured for so long, even something as innocuous as a minor irritant piercing his foot was still noticeable. Not that he’d noticed at first when this living hell had first been awarded him, an excruciating torture which had immediately sent him into writhing insanity for almost thirty years, deep within the bowels of this awful place. Until finally, irrevocably a small, patient voice in his head had told him that he could spent the next hundred years in the same condition if he so chose. It would make no difference. He was to endure this torment until the end of time. Two days later he’d fled this house of hell and never returned until now.Backing onto a wall, Fletcher slid down unmindful of the grimy lime pattering onto his
clothes. It was time to think. He knew that sleep was out of the question for he had not slept
for even a second in three centuries. Perhaps there would be a time for that when the
decision was made. He closed his eyes, his mind miraculously clearing as he began to think.