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

TITLE: Investigation
By Joanne Sher


It had been a year since this particular room had been full of children. Still, the silence felt odd and unsettling. The walls were still covered with brightly colored bulletin boards and childish works of art. Even odder, perhaps, was the yellowed sheet Melody had just picked up off the ladybug beanbag chair in the center of the room.

"I've never seen anything like this." Melody held the paper, by its crinkled edges, in front of her, putting it up to the sunlight streaming through the classroom window.

"What? What is it?" Jake peered over her shoulder.

She shrugged. "I'm not positive, but it looks like a page from something--much older, it seems, than this building, much less the epidemic that isolated it for so long."

The swirling script and elegance of the primary lettering certainly harkened to an earlier time. Yet, the scribbles above the script and in the margins were just as certainly modern.

"But the other writing is in marker." Jake spoke what Melody had only pondered. "And markers have only been around for 50 years or so."

Melody nodded. "What would something like this be doing in an elementary school classroom? And why would someone write, in marker nonetheless, over script like this?"

Jake shrugged and reached for the paper. "Let me see."

"Just by the edges, Jake. This looks extremely fragile." She glided her hands toward him, her fingers scarcely keeping the document from falling to the floor.

He rolled his eyes and slipped the page from her fingers. "I've been at this longer than you have. I'll be careful. Trust me."

Melody scanned the rest of the room. Nothing else remarkable.

On a hunch she lifted up the beanbag. Her eyes sparkled and widened.

"Jake: more papers." Her voice was scarcely above a whisper. "Several dozen at least."

She looked toward him to find that his eyes had not left the paper in his hand. "I know what this is."

Melody leaped toward him. "What do you mean? What is it?"

Jake shook his head. "A handwritten text from Foxe's Book of Martyrs.

Melody's eyes shot open. "Seriously?"

"I recognize this paragraph." He pointed to a spot near the top of the page.

She read it over Jake's shoulder. Though it had been a few years since she'd read the book, the words before her certainly seemed familiar.

"Wow. Do you think this is an original manuscript?"

"Could be." He handed the paper to Melody. "Did I hear you say you found more pages?"

Melody pointed at the pile on the floor. Jake knelt down in front of them, spread them out, and looked at the flowing letters, and marker scribbles, on each one.

She reached down and picked up several of the pages, focusing this time on the more recently penned script.


Such faith

Must be crazy


Where did he get this hope?

These statements, and others like them, were scribbled on nearly every page.

Melody broke the silence. "Sounds like she was searching, doesn't it?"

"Sure does." Jake looked up and chuckled. "And if I'm reading this right, she may have found just what she was looking for."

Jake gave Melody the first sheet they'd found and pointed to some large lettering in the right margin.

I want what he had.

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This article has been read 870 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Elizabeth Cain05/06/10
I really got into the mood of your story. And I must say, the answer to the mystery made me smile. The story progressed at a good pace and was very enjoyable to read. I especially liked how it left off on that powerful note. Excellent work!
Laury Hubrich 05/07/10
Oooo, I got shivers reading this but it could be that I'm newly showered, laying in bed with the fan on. lol. Love it. Such an air of mystery. Very good story and I love the ending, too!
Beth LaBuff 05/07/10
oohh... love the mystery you create with the juxtapostion of the manuscript and the markers. Your ending was haunting! Great work!
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/11/10
You combines mystery and message for a very interesting story. Well done.
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/11/10
Ann Grover05/11/10
I would love to read an expanded version of this... was it real? what did they do with it? I enjoyed it very much.
Yvonne Blake 05/11/10
Interesting! I wish you could develop this more.
Phee Paradise 05/12/10
The great thing about this is the mystery that kept me reading to find the answer. The frustrating thing is that there were too many questions you didn't answer. What epidemic? Why an elementary school room? Wouldn't it have been more logical to find the manuscript in a high school classroom? Who were Melody and Jake and what were they doing there?

But I loved your use of the manuscript to show how someone was seeking and finding the answers. The gospel in a nutshell. And Foxe's Book of Martyrs - what a great book for that purpose.
Mona Purvis05/12/10
I love the idea behind the story.
I feel like the relationship of Jake/Melody needed to told. Paragraph 4, She shrugged...is hard to follow. The next paragraph uses the word 'harkened' when another might do better.
When using a colon, the unit on the left must be a complete clause.
I, too, wondered why this priceless original writing was in a children's classroom and needed more info on the epidemic and how that plays into the story.

Loren T. Lowery05/12/10
A very intriguing read. I loved the way you were able to get into the very depth of the original writer's soul by these words: Melody broke the silence. "Sounds like she was searching, doesn't it?"
My one red ink would be to expand the setting so the reader gets a better idea of who//what/when/where and why. Other than that, top-notch writing.
Melanie Kerr 05/12/10
The concept of someone writing on an apparently priceless manuscript horrified me! I agree with the comments about needing much more information. Your use of the word "glided" was a curious one.
Eliza Evans 05/12/10
YAY! Joanne is here.

I enjoyed this. Love the idea.

I actually kind of like that it was set in an elementary school. I felt the markers and ladybug beanbag chair were a great contrast to the old manuscript.

Where I felt it got a little muddled up was in the why and who and where... who are they/where are they/ why are they there? The single mention of the epidemic only raised more questions.

Loved the ending. Very personal touch.


YAY! Joanne is here. :)
Sarah Elisabeth 05/12/10
Yay, Joanne!
Very intriguing, I want to know more...who are the two reading the manuscript and who left it and why for starters :-) Are you thinking novel?
Gerald Shuler 05/12/10
I like the approach of this story. Your style gripped me and had me trying to solve the mystery myself. I do agree that some of the action words tripped me a little bit. Only a little.
Good entry.
Carole Robishaw 05/12/10
I liked this. I love mysteries, and this is a great one to think about.
Rita Garcia05/12/10
I would love to read more! This has all the elements for a great novel!
T. F. Chezum05/12/10
Great job Joanne :)

Very interesting read ... I really liked it a lot.
Marita Thelander 05/12/10
I think all the who, what, where, why questions in this short story just made me want to read more. Isn't that what a writer was supposed to do?..so, yes, expand it please.
Carol Slider 05/12/10
Wow, Joanne, I think this may be the first one of your stories that I've read. This is really intriguing! My many unanswered questions only make it more fascinating... I love mysteries! Well done, and very moving!
Diana Dart 06/04/10
So much here. The setting was intriguing, the relationship between the two speaking characters hinted at and sparking my interest and the manuscript - well, how mysterious was all of that!!! I want more! Um, please. I love your writing Jo, soft and flowing but with just enough edge to make me need more. Did I mention more??? :)
Patsy Hallum06/08/10
I agree that you need more information about the people and the epidemic, I did understand that the margin notes were made by a writer searching to learn, like me.
really liked the story idea tho. Book?