Chapter 1 continued - The monk

Rafael woke. He came to consciousness slowly, resisting opening his eyes. He could hear  –  faint buzzing in the distance, the sound of small insects. He remembered being hot and thirsty, hot and thirsty, nothing beyond this. He had walked, and walked, and walked some more, and when night fell, he had curled up on the hard ground and slept. When day broke he walked again, always heading away from the rising sun. He had run out of water twice, and had twice found small springs, from which he was able to fill his water bottle. Eventually, on the fourth or fifth day of his walking, he had found no more water, and remembered only becoming hotter and thirstier, hotter and thirstier. He vaguly remembered a shadowy figure in the distance, trees, goats under the trees – nothing else.

He could feel now, as he woke, that he was in a cool place. Tentatively, he opened his eyes. He found himself in a small room; he was lying in a bed with clean sheets. Soft, clean sheets, he could feel the cotton was old and well washed. Beside the bed, in the room there was only a low stool, holding a blue jug, and the stub of a candle. To his right was a small window, its wooden casement open, and beyond the window, he could see things growing; flowers, pinks and oranges, encircling the opening of the window to a blue sky. He could see now, that the buzzing he had heard before was the buzzing of insects making their way around the flowers, beyond the window. Sweet smells came into the room through the window, sweet flowery smells, familiar yet strange. Rafael looked down at his hands, lying on top of the white sheet. Gently, he wiggled his fingers. All working. He lifted the sheet away from his body and swung his legs to the side of the narrow bed. Tentatively, he pushed himself up to standing, and took a step towards the open window. His legs collapsed underneath him at the same moment as the door to the room opened. As the world disappeared from his awareness again, he just had time to recognize the face of the shadowy figure he last remembered out under the midday sun.

When he next opened his eyes, the face was still here in the room. The man was sitting on the stool beside his bed. The jug and the candle had been moved, he could see, to the wooden window cill behind the man. The man appeared absorbed in some task in his lap, but some moments later, he lifted his head and looked over to the bed. “Ah” Thelonius said. “You’re awake”.

The man brought him a bowl of thin soup, and a piece of grey bread. Rafael’s instincts told him to be cautious, to say nothing, explain nothing. But this man’s face looked kind. He said little. He brought the food, and then sat again on the stool, and once more bent to the task in his lap.
Rafael attempted the soup, and then brought the bread to his mouth, but it defeated him, with its hardness. He laid it back on the shallow dish, and experimentally cleared his throat. The man looked up from his task, looked over at him again, and smiled. “Well. That’s good. You’ve eaten a little.”

Again, Rafael cleared his throat. He didn’t know how to be, here, sitting in this bed, with this kind faced man sitting near him and looking at him.

“My name is Brother Thelonius. This is a monastery. The monastery of San Sebastien. You’ve slept for four days.”

Rafael cleared his throat again, but no words formed. The man seemed comfortable with the silence, and once more, bent his head to the task in his lap.

Rafael felt helpless. He felt weak. He felt stupid. He felt lost. He could not believe he was lying here in this bed, with this strange man sitting just feet away, saying nothing, acting almost as if he were not there. His eyes closed again.

When he woke again, the man, the monk, was still sitting there on the stool, but this time, his eyes were closed. The window was closed too, and it was night, although the world outside the window was bathed in moonlight. The candle was alight on a small saucer on the window cill, and flickering gently. Rafael closed his eyes again.

Finally, Rafael opened his eyes to daylight again. In his dreams, he had been walking, walking, walking in the midday heat. He opened his eyes, and moved his lips. “I’m hungry”.
The monk was still sitting there. He turned his head. “Good. Let’s get you some breakfast.”

He left the room, and returned some minutes later with a bowl of some hot grain. Rafael ate what he could, and then passed the still half full bowl back to the man – the monk. “Rafael” he said, tentatively. “Rafael - its my name”. The monk looked up again, and smiled. “I am very glad to know your name, Rafael.” They sat in silence again. Rafael slept again. Every time he opened his eyes, the monk was there. Not asking questions. Just there, and bringing him food.

Finally, the day came, when Rafael felt it necessary to say something more. “I’m travelling west” he said, and his words came out in a hurried jumble, after all the silence that had preceded them. “I have to find someone. There’s something I must do”. Thelonius smiled again. “Maybe we can help you” he said simply. And he bent his head again to the task in his lap. Rafael did not know what else to say, so he said nothing. Gradually, day by day, he regained his health, and his strength. And as each day went by, he came to trust the monk more. Without asking questions, without demanding anything of him, without punishing him for his weakness, the monk was simply there, simply beside him, bringing him food, bringing him water, bringing him back to life.