Ch. 1 Halfway to MMXX

CHAPTER 1

August in the Year of Our Lord 1010

The man lay dying in his bed. Losing the battle to keep his eyes open, they fluttered shut as he signaled for a drink of water.

At his bedside, a fellow monk raised his friend’s head with one hand while he grabbed a goblet from a crude table nearby. Then, lifting the cup to the frail one’s parched mouth, he let him wet his lips with the liquid contained inside. What few drops managed to make it into his throat, the ailing man coughed out.

Returning the cup to the stand, the monk carefully used both hands to make his friend comfortable. A whisper caused him to lean close to his companion.

After a few seconds, the monk reached to the table and picked up a bible. Opening it, he pulled two sheets of folded parchment from inside.

The fading man suddenly yielded a soft gasp and, with it, he was gone.

His comrade made the sign of the cross over the lifeless man’s head and then gently crisscrossed now limp arms upon the deceased’s chest.

“I love you, Frobisher,” he remarked.

Moving to a near corner of the room, he opened the documents and read the first paragraph. Shaking his head, he glanced back at his friend before pressing a hand hard against the rock wall moving one of the stones. Wedging it out slightly, he placed the parchment in the crevice and forced the stone back into position while saying, “These are not the writings you will be remembered for, my friend. It is best they remain in your secret place forever so that your spirit is free to enter heaven.”

# # #

March 2017

“Neil, are you able to stop by my place on your way home?”

“Sure, professor,” I said. But, perceiving a degree of apprehension in the professor’s voice, I added, “Are you alright?”

“Oh yes, my boy, I’m fine. There is something I would like to discuss with you, but if you’re busy, it can wait.”

“No, I was leaving work anyway. I’m probably less than fifteen minutes from your apartment.”

“Great. How about I call in an order of Chinese and you can pick it up on your way. If I remember correctly, you like Kung Pao chicken with a side order of Crab Rangoon.”

“Sure, professor. I missed lunch today preparing for a symposium. Chinese cuisine sounds wonderful to me. See you in about twenty minutes.”

A short time later, I knocked on the professor’s door.

“Come in, come in,” the older man invited. “Put the bags on the coffee table,” he pointed. “I’ll retrieve some usable utensils and bring us a drink. Make yourself comfortable, I’ll be right back,” he said.

Professor William Lonsdale meandered his way through the living room toward the kitchen. His stocky five-foot, eight-inch frame bent slightly forward as he shuffled over the wood floor into the next room. Although dressed, he wore a pair of black slippers over his black socks. The professor had turned sixty on his last birthday. His salt and pepper, collar-length hair was thickest in the back, while the thinning hair on the top of his head insufficiently hid the shine that peeked through. Seemingly always jovial, his round face gave the hint of a store-hired Santa Claus without the beard. A look especially noticeable when he slipped on his reading glasses.

After placing our dinner on the table and sitting on the sofa, I looked around then yelled into the next room. “The place seems different since the last time I was here, professor. Did you do a little remodeling?”

“Heavens no!” he replied, re-entering the room and sitting next to me. “I decided to clean up the place is all. Hired an agency to come in and simplify my life. With all the clutter, it was becoming a challenge for me to find things. It’s been two months now, and somehow I’ve managed to keep everything in its place. The only problem with all that is now I can’t find a damn thing.”

He gave a silly laugh as though his lost things would magically reappear if he needed them. And, knowing the professor as well as I did, they probably would. The man had an uncanny ability to be incoherent one minute and totally focused in the next. It was one of the things about him that drove me crazy. Yet, he could transition between the two with such finesse it was difficult to tell if he was doing it to keep one off balance or if he really had a problem.

Opening the box of Kung Pao chicken, I didn’t know if I was prepared to learn the reason for the professor’s call. On the phone, he sounded concerned about something; a departure from his usual confident self. But I also knew he wasn’t going to tell me anything further unless it was framed in the form of a question. I always thought the man watched too much Jeopardy.  “So tell me, professor, what has your attention that you called me?”

The old man shifted his position and picked up a napkin and fork before answering. “I recently received an email from a former student who was visiting Fleury Abbey in Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire, France along with his wife. He said he was passed a mysterious envelope by one of the abbey monks who then quickly disappeared into the dark recess of a hallway. They never saw him again. The envelope contained two pieces of old paper with writing written in an old French style. The student’s wife can speak and read a little French, so she roughly translated a few of the passages. They appeared to be divinations, however she wasn’t exactly sure. Knowing my interest in that part of the world, he sent them to me.”

“Do you have them?”

“Yes, and I translated the text,” he said, handing me freshly-typed documents.

I read the first three paragraphs which were numbered, then shrugged. “These are a synopsis about events which have already occurred.”

I spotted a familiar twinkle in his hazel eyes before he said, “Look at the last page … number fifteen to be exact.”

I shuffled the papers, read, and re-engaged the professor’s face as I made another comment. “So, Donald Trump did become President. What is newsworthy about that?”

He smiled as any teacher would before enlightening their pupil. “Now, take a look at number sixteen.”

 Not only did I read paragraph sixteen, but I re-read it several times. Then I studied the remaining sections below it as well.

“Whoa, I can’t believe ….” My words trailed off as I went deep into thought.

“Yes, that was my response as well. Tell me what you think you see.”

Hesitating, “I’m not sure, professor. My first reaction is that someone simply put together an assortment of historical events. But the last five on the list appear to be a list of predictions.”

He gave his concurrence. “Considering the potential age of the original manuscript, everything written on those pages was a prediction by the author.”

I shuddered which did not go unnoticed by the old man.  “How old are the documents?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said, “but they were probably written before the 12th century. I’ve taken them to a friend who owns a bookstore not far from here. He has spent his life studying old manuscripts and is much better qualified than I am to determine their age. After we finish our meal, we can walk there. He closes at six.”

I returned my attention to the last page and pointed to the bottom. “What is this word, Frobisher?”

“Ah, that is the million-dollar question, young man,” he answered. “I turned to the internet for an answer and my search revealed that Frobisher was the name of a monk at Fleury Abbey known for his chronicles and other writings. Others, who chronicled his life said he died in the year 1010.”

“If these are predictions,” I said, “the year of his death is halfway to when paragraph sixteen begins to have significance.”

“Correct!” he punctuated. “That fragment references the year 2020. Altogether there are twenty proclamations, all of which apparently predict future events of which Frobisher could not possibly have knowledge. Even with his level of education, it’s impossible he could have understood the events that he predicted. For example, his writing about the moon landing and that it would be accomplished before the end of the new millennium in which the world had just entered. Fourteen of his other predictions are remarkably accurate as well.”

“I’ve never heard of Frobisher before, and wouldn’t it have been prohibited for a religious man during that age to write such a treatise. Wouldn’t that have been tantamount to blasphemy? And why would his writings appear now? How did a monk from today come into possession of such information? What was his intention in giving them to your friend?”

Finishing a bite of Crab Rangoon, the professor looked away and wiped his mouth. I could sense I was about to be put under his spell, or at least conned by this would-be snake charmer.

“I hope those are questions you can find answers to, my boy,” he said, reaching for another morsel of food.

“Me?”

He turned to face me again. I could feel the puppet master now moving in for the kill. But instead of using an instrument of death, he would deliver the dispatching blow with a flattering remark to keep me off guard.

“Yes, you. You’re at the top of your field, Neil. Who better to consider this mystery? You have to admit that paragraph sixteen caught your attention.”

“I will concede it intrigued me, but this all could be a hoax of some sort,” I said, trying to parry his soft-soaping attack on my natural curiosity of the passages.

“Do you remember that class I gave in which we discussed prophecies of Native Americans, The Book of Revelations, Nostradamus, and astrology predictions?” he asked.

“How could I forget. You had us do a dissertation on Nostradamus’ quatrains that took the whole damn semester to write.”

The professor laughed. “It apparently stayed with you, so I accomplished what I hoped I would.”

I continued. “But unlike Nostradamus who lived five hundred years later, Frobisher’s predictions were not written in quatrains. He wrote them in simple prose which required no interpretation or strained readings to match them to future events.”

“Who decides in what forms the foretelling’s of these soothsayers should come to us,” said the professor. “Whether by the written word or simple stories passed from generation to generation should we consider them any more significant than Frobisher’s prose?”

Considering his statement, I returned my attention to the papers and read aloud the sixteenth paragraph: “The Sun will swell scorching the Earth. The people of the land will wander to quench their thirst only to find misery. The end begins at twice the year of my death unless the one who can change the course of history makes himself known.”

“I’ve read your essays and articles on climate change, Neil. Seems to me that passage, and the ones that follow, express many of your own thoughts about the future. What do you think?

The young man gave pause to the professor’s question. “Looks like I have a trip to Europe coming? When do we plan on leaving?”

His mentor picked up another Crab Rangoon and shoved it into his mouth. The twinkle in his eyes brightened as I acquiesced to his wishes without much of a fight. Checkmate! I thought. He won again.  Quest or boondoggle, this was only the beginning.