11:32 AM


The Shroud...

Chapter 1.

It was on those streets with voices of chaos looming in the background I felt the most exposed. It was my past coming for me, all the faces and screams coming to rip me to shreds. At least that was the illusion. In reality the foggy nights of Oxford were better then most, only a few beggars and hags bothering patrons and ladies of the evening. But even on the calm hours before dawn the whistle of the law always blew, for even this city amongst many was ruled by desperation. I stood watching, waiting, checking my pocket-watch as each moment went by. "Where the devil could he be?" I paced, thinking the worst, "Maybe they caught him, maybe I shall once again have too abolish the life I have lead to meet a new path." But then as the angst found its peak I heard steady gallops come marching from the mist. The carriage was black, roughly built yet strong enough to carry concealed from curious eyes. When it stopped, a man looked down, tipped his hat and smiled. It was Rodney Jenkins merchant by day grave robber by night. "Good evening dear sir, I come bearing gifts" Rodney’s full face and brimming smile had a morbid way of misleading even the most suspicious fellow.

As the large jovial man awkwardly fumbled out of the carriage I glanced up and down the street to make sure no one was privy to the transaction that was about to take place. "Come now Dr Hayden let’s get this bugger into your study." In back of the carriage stood a large cask tightly sealed and solid. "What else does this cask contain Rodney? This can’t just be?" He looked at me and laughed with an innocence that sent shivers up my spine. "No no Dr, I collected these remains last evening, they needed to be stored and preserved thus they wouldn’t spoil." When Rodney popped the seal and opened the lid the smell was over powering, it wasn’t the smell of decay but that of sweet oak fermented.
"What is this? It smells like Whiskey" He rolled up his sleeve and reached in, as he pulled back a head appeared from the amber liquid. "I told you Doctor, He needed to be preserved." Harvesting the body out of the cask we carried the dripping wet heap of flesh into a hidden backdoor of Oxford University. The room was crude but efficient; it held various items and tools for examination. "That will be thirty shillings for this pickled patron." Rodney held out his hand and laughed, the price was steep but so were his services. "Well my dear doctor I must be off there are many more appointments that must be tended too for the night is still young." Shaking his hand, "Good evening Jenkins ride well and be safe." With a nod the large man walked back to his carriage, closing the door, I had to admit I was not heartbroken to see him leave for his mannerisms were more then suspicious.

Finally when the door closed I turned and looked closely at the corpse. He was five foot two with perfect skin and a full head of hair. "A perfect specimen, my students will be pleased." Rodney was always dependable about his deliveries as perfect bodies were difficult to find these days with plagues of many colors so vibrant among the common man. Although as few knew, Rodney would do anything for currency, thus I shall stay away from the pubs for the next couple weeks. Those who thirst for the drink will be getting much more than they bargained for.

As I prepared the body for dissection I carefully read through my anatomic notations refreshing and revising my lecture for the morning class. The terminology was perilous as each corner of flesh the human body withheld its own personal identity, those that the students would have to learn by heart. The clock tower rung as the witching hour approached a dull ache started between the eyes which drove me to the office to lie upon the chesterfield for another evening of ill repast and restless slumber. It was like so many nights that had come and passed when the world of reality grew dark, the mind awoke. It was not a world I wished upon my greatest enemy. Yet the things I have been privy too would explain the visions of corpses and cadavers I have been plagued with, now going on for years. Dealing with the dead, and time lost was once a specialty of mine but never in the years of adventure I left behind did I ever have dreams that invaded and induced fear as they have recently. Many sweaty nights have followed me before this eve and I fear many more shall come.
The next morning I awoke listening to the miscellaneous steps of young men awaiting a most exciting discovery. Fixing my mass of dark hair, cleaning the spectacles and straightening this brown drab suit, I prepared myself for the arduous venture, for I will teach these lads the human body. Pushing the gurney from room to room gave me a sight of professors and students at their best. From soprano to baritone voices echoed with medical information from the ages flowing to inspire and educate those young men who quested to learn the healing power of medicine and the egos that follow. I settled the body in the amphitheater peeled the sheet back taking one last look. Standing in that empty room looking into the depths of those pale dead eyes gave me a quiver as if death himself were watching me, something was happening, for I am no psychic but intuition reared its ugly head and it is rarely wrong.

Stepping out fetching a cup of hot tea, my comrade and brother in this institution William Harris stepped in. "Thomas ole boy, how do you fare this fine morning" The only thing that came from me was a hum of fatigue. The slim shouldered gentleman was a visual enigma, thin as a rail yet strong as an ox. Dressed as usual in his finest charcoal suit he turned to face me. "Thomas, what the devil happened to you? You look absolutely dreadful." Knowing this class was only moments away I glanced down and shook my head. Walking over putting a hand on my shoulder his eyes furrowed in concern. "Thomas you must get away, you have had her on your mind for months now. You need to try to move on." Pushing his hand off I dropped two lumps in the tea.. "It is not her William; I just haven’t been sleeping lately that’s all." Setting his cup down by the sink we stood shoulder to shoulder, "At least come with Sally and I to the country this weekend, her father is having a roast and you know how much she loves when you come by." Sally was his wife and a lovely woman indeed, but as quickly as he offered I dismissed until I looked over seeing that daring glint in his eye. "I will think about it William?" Patting him on the shoulder I smiled. "It is now time for me to go, I have young minds to mold." Walking out William followed down the hall silently, "take it easy on them Thomas?" With a mild laugh he walked off.

Approaching ever closer to the amphitheater I had the feeling of rejuvenation, the thought of so many minds opened like an unwritten book amused me. It was then when coming to the door all the thought patterns seemed to collectively charge and the lovely light of inspiration flickered brightly as my methods would suddenly change. This lecture would be something these children would never forget.