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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Manuscript (04/29/10)

TITLE: And Burn It Will
By Melanie Kerr


I can’t explain why I held his manuscript in my hands. I should have consigned it to the flames. I’d built the fire for just that purpose, carefully selecting the driest of wood and bracken. It was too warm a day for a fire, and the light thread of smoke stung my eyes. I’d considered sending someone for the local priest to come and witness the book’s destruction…but I hadn’t. Instead, I stood still, holding the manuscript, the fragrance of leather and ink, like perfume around me.

Did I want to read it? I would admit to a curiosity. The Latin words and phrases that I knew so well, he had translated into common English. I couldn’t imagine the sound of the words tripping off my tongue. It seemed heresy even to consider it. The scholar in me longed to look, to ponder his word choice and sentence structure, to see if the beauty of the book was marred beyond recognition. English was such a crude language, devoid of grace and poetry.

I remembered the look of his face as he handed it over – handing it over to me, one who had spoken passionately against him and his work. I was his enemy, and yet he entrusted the manuscript into my hands. Like a man haunted, red rimmed eyes, and dark shadows, there was a sprinkling of coarse grey hairs around his jowls. He had the air of someone who hadn’t slept, or eaten for that matter, for days.

“How hard the command given me,” he said, “to surrender my work to you. He asks too much of me.”

He wouldn’t enter the house, but stood by the door, his shoulders crumpled in defeat. The manuscript, wrapped in dark blue cloth, was pushed into my arms, his hands quickly knotted into fists and pulled sharply away. His eyes lingered, tracing every contour of the cloth.

“I have lost my way,” he confessed. “This…this…task consumes me so much that I don’t know any more if it is His task given to me, or mine claimed selfishly. I cannot see clearly now. I hear whispers…but I cannot tell if He speaks, or another.”

“Of course, it’s not the Lord’s voice you are hearing.” The words were not said, but he heard them anyway from the expression on my face, the set of my brows, and the tight line of my lips.

“It’s not fair,” he said, “that they are denied His word. Latin means nothing to them. They are at the mercy of the Church to tell them the truth. They cannot read it for themselves. And the Church lies to them.” He sputtered to halt, clamping his lips down on words that would spill out.

I knew enough about the Church to know the truth of his accusations. Was I too naïve to believe that the Church couldn’t find its own way back to truth and honesty?

“I have prayed and fasted…surrendered myself before Him. It weighs so heavy on me. This Church is His Church, created by Him, loved by Him…His Church. Is this, my work, the sword that will pierce their hearts? Is it the stone that they will stumble over? So easy it would be to give this to a friend. A man who knows me, who thinks like I do…to have his hand of approval on my shoulder and listen to words my ears agree with. He would say that it is God’s task and God’s voice. How easy! But I give it to you…do with it as you wish. If it is God’s work it will not burn though the flames leap high. If it is my task alone…it is only ashes.”

The deed done, he hastened to leave, dragging his body away from the door, driving his legs to walk down the road back to his university rooms.

“And burn it will.” I determined. John Wycliffe, the scholar, the theologian, the translator was just a stupid man for all his learning.

And I was a stupid man too. I sat at the table and I read his manuscript. As the evening light faded, I kept reading in the gentle glow of candlelight. The words might have been fashioned by a man, but God approved, filling each and every phrase with His power and authority. I heard Him speak to me, not in a cold and scholarly voice. He chose His words warm with friendship.

Wycliffe’s Bible did not burn that night, but my heart did.

Author’s Note: - John Wycliffe, an Oxford professor, scholar, and theologian produced the first hand-written English language Bible manuscript in1380.

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This article has been read 1284 times
Member Comments
Member Date
angelos2 wark05/07/10
Beautifully written.
A refreshing take on the topic. I really enjoyed this!
Ann Grover05/11/10
Brilliant and well-written. I enjoyed this... thank you.
Beth LaBuff 05/11/10
This is a powerfully written story. I am amazed and challenged by Wycliffe's statement, "If it is God’s work it will not burn though the flames leap high. If it is my task alone…it is only ashes.”
Elizabeth Cain05/11/10
I hope this work of art gets first place, because it was really that good! I enjoyed the suspense you gave when you had the guy thinking the translator a fool, but then had him saying he himself was a fool as he read the manuscript. I soaked up every word you wrote, waiting to see what would happen to the Bible. Not one sentence in your story bored me, but I especially loved the last sentence. The way you incorporated that sentence in the title just made the story that much better. Simply genius! Excellent work.
Loren T. Lowery05/12/10
Well done, I could feel the flame of Wycliffe's passion and your thesis that the fire would never be put out until what God had called him to do was finally done.
Author Unknown05/12/10
this was yummy for me, a good read morsel. You brought this piece of history to life in a believable and beautifully composed way.

one eensy weensy super tiny quibble. "And I was a stupid man too." I think you need a comma between man & too.

wow. nice job.
Joanne Sher 05/12/10
This read as so authentic. Love how you ended this - and every word before it.
Carole Robishaw 05/12/10
This was good, just the right amount of trepidation on the readers part. So glad he gave in and decided to read it.
Randy Chambers05/12/10
Wow... I was drawn in to stand beside the fire and watch the scene unfold. Beautifully written.
Kimberly Russell05/12/10
Extremely well written. Kept me engaged all the way through. Nice job.
Benjamin Graber05/13/10
Congratulations on first place, Melanie!!!
Joan Campbell05/13/10
What a deserving 1st place Melanie. Absolutely beautifully and powerfully told. The last line is haunting. Congratulations!
Beth LaBuff 05/13/10
Melanie, Super congrats on top honors for this amazing story! ...it's so well-deserved!
Joshua Janoski05/13/10
This work felt more like fact than fiction. You did an excellent job taking historical facts and weaving them in with a fictional story that is every bit as believable as the history itself. There's a reason you placed #1 overall for this topic! Thanks for sharing this wonderful piece! :)
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/13/10
Congratulations on a well-deserved first place for this emotion-packed, excellently written piece.
Eliza Evans 05/13/10
Just Outstanding. WOW. I was caught up this. Marvelous.

What a gift.

HUGE Congratulations, Mel.
Noel Mitaxa 05/13/10
A well-deserved first placing, for your grasp of detail in setting your story and how you have placed and described your characters. Thank you for invitind us into this beginning of God's light breaking through the blinkered gloom of that 'error' of history.
Jackie Wilson05/13/10
Congratulations on first place EC! Awesome story, awesome work of writing.
harvestgal Ndaguba05/13/10
Wow, this was such a joy to read. Thanks.
Lisa Johnson05/13/10
Excellent. Well deserving of the first place nod.
Lelia Chealey05/15/10
This is beatiful!
Jane Winstead05/16/10
Congratulations. You told the story so well.