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Tale of the Book

Short story By: AWSklavos
Other



A man discovers a book with a past.


Submitted:Jan 7, 2014    Reads: 12    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   



The precise year in which the following events took place has been lost to time immemorial. From this I would deduce that the exactitude of the events have been tarnished by the passage of time and the distorted by the evolution of language.

My first encounter with this book was in a quiet tavern in a small provincial town near Smyrna. I had acquired a fond taste for the local ale and found it comforting to sit quietly of an afternoon, documenting my travels and contemplating the course of action I would take the following day. The process of writing in such a manner seemed to arouse the curiosity of the locals there, who were unaccustomed to foreigners. One man, whose name I could not pronounce let alone reproduce in text, was seemingly compelled by his curiosity to ask of my business there, in that obscure location in the world. The idea that I had arrived at this place by pure coincidence seemed as much an aberration to his custom as was a Caucasian man in his local tavern. I explained I was a journalist and my primary interest was in anthropology. His face took on such a smile that his eyes became hidden behind wrinkles and he showed each one of his tobacco stained teeth. Then the man said, in a voice of indifference which didn't seem to address me at all, "you will want to see my book then".


The man scurried away to a room upstairs while I waited at my seat. I didn't write anything down while he was gone, and how I wish that I did, now my recollection of those moments is only a vagueness. He might not have even been gone for long, but when he returned with his treasure tucked under his arm, I felt as if I had waited for an eternity. The book itself consisted of a worn leather cover, the pages made from pressed bark with each letter individually burned into the parchment. It was much heavier than any modern book I had read, delicate and had a strange perfume of which I am certain I have never smelled the like.


The origins of the book, and the tale detailed throughout its pages were largely unknown to the man. I questioned him, "where did you find this?" but his gazed shifter, he looked beyond me, his face was expressionless, giving away no feeling or sentiment, "some men believe the story began as oration at a time when language was yet to be written, but fate or chance enticed an ancient calligrapher to produce the heavy tome so that it may be passed down through the ages" he said, the words came out succinctly as if the speech had been rehearsed. I thanked the man for sharing his possession, he nodded in a polite but solemn manner. Having examined the book briefly I offered it back to the man, as it was his belonging, but he looked at me in disbelief, had I totally misunderstood his intention? He pushed the book further across the table toward me, "Now yours" he said. The man then walked out of the tavern, not once did he look back and capture the look of excitement on my face. I have never seen that man since.


I am not a curious person by nature, I consider myself a man of my own agenda, but the book I now possessed aroused a desire to find out every detail of its history. At the local library, I discovered some texts that would suggest that the Ancient Greeks had written a translation from a language unbeknown to any man at that time, and any man since. There were rumours that Alexander the Great had known and read this book whilst studying under Aristotle. He subsequently had it stored in the library of Alexandria, it was supposed to have been destroyed in the great fire. I took the book to a local bookseller, however, upon showing him my possession, it was dismissed as fraudulent, and he insisted that no man would have given such a thing away so frivolously. In any case, fraudulent or otherwise, I felt it necessary that I decipher the text, however subjective my interpretation would be.


As a younger man I had been at student in London, a man who was dear to me at the time, Professor Heinrich Stambaugh, was the leading scholar in Ancient languages and palaeography at the University. The man was incredibly sophisticated, of a gentle nature, with impeccable manners, there is not a book on the earth which you could speak of that Professor Stambaugh had not either read, or heard of. He was famous for his dissertation on the language of Athenians, and a book he had published on the New Testament, Stambaugh was a well respected and renowned academic. I decided I would travel across to London and show him the book and together we would produce a translation into English.


Stambaugh greeted me like a dear old friend, I know he saw that book immediately, but he tried to ignore it, instead he offered me tea and we sat down and spoke for hours. I do not know if it was by self-discipline or disinterest, but it was I who had to first bring this ancient book to the attention of Stambaugh. The text, so far as I understood it, was rife with complexities and peculiarities which only a man with the arcane knowledge of Stambaugh could decrypt. The syntax, the rhythm and the grammatical seductions were musical.


Our humble synopsis of the text had amounted to these words: Delivered to the Kingdom of Heaven the protagonist encounters a Deity who provides a choice to decide upon for all of mankind. To either accept this Deity as the omnipotent master, or to be granted ελευθερίας and γνώσης (freedom and knowledge) and return to earth thenceforth creating the moral law at will . The lofty demand enrages the protagonist, who must decide whether to punish God for being such a powerful and careless being for bequeathing such an onerous task. Divine rage takes possession of the hero, who proceeds to slaughter God in his own Kingdom. The last angels ensure a safe return to earth. The knowledge of man in his truest sense, and the vileness of his nature, and his predilection to succumb to his own rage. The delegation of tasks of grandeur do not seem to be within mans capabilities for he will not do what is correct and proper, but what is human and farcical. In order to restore order after the death of the Deity, one must profess that Heaven and a Holy Father exist, and tell the people to live under his guise, for he is furious and spiteful.


Ever since the publication of Stambaughs interpretation scholars and academia from the world over have proffered their opinion. There are several schools of thought on the text and it is impossible for me to determine which is correct, as the topic is one which I hold dear and any interpretation of mine would be subjective. Among the various interpretations, not a single one exists where the text is taken in the literal sense, for there is not a published scholar alive who could suggest that there was once a God or that there ever would be. There are those who dismiss the text as a fraudulent relic which is not worthy of much consideration. Some heretics have ventured to suggest that it is the antithesis to the Old Testament and was fashioned at the same point in history. Further evidence for this explanation comes from the forensic scientists of the world, who have identified that the form of the parchment and bounding as a match to that of the original Old Testament. Yet they are unable to validate any reason as to why the one went unnoticed and unheard, while the other has been celebrated through the ages. Perhaps it is that man, ever since his inception, has longed to be tyrannised, to be delegated and not face his own mortal failures. His need for a God has been thought to be synonymous with a need to pass blame and a longing for a life where he receives a recompense for what a failure his current plight is. But I am being too bold, and it seems to me that this book has no place in the canon. The timing was out of sync with the age, it had come too late to ever be believed. Professor Stambaugh will be remembered for his work at the university of London, and the various books he published whilst teaching there, not for the discovery of some ancient and holy scripture. As for myself, I will go back to journalism, I might even visit that same tavern again and wait for that man. However nothing has really changed in my life, nobody has ever heard of that book.






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