Chapter 9 – Lost In Translation
The morning after he acquired the key, Abraham was waiting for a visitor in his prayer closet. He called it a closet but the dimensions were the size of an average living room. It was the space where he conversed directly with God. Heavy drapes barred the passage of sunlight through the room’s two tall windows. Abraham liked cloaking the closet in shadow. It helped his concentration. There was an oak stand between the windows which supported a heavy leather-bound Bible. The wall to the right of the windows consisted of a series of built-in cabinets with locked doors. They contained sacred documents that were intended for his eyes only. A prie-dieu occupied the corner to the left of the windows. In a rare concession to comfort, the kneeler was padded. On another wall hung the portrait of an elderly man with a white beard. He bore a strong resemblance to Abraham but the cut of his suit hadn’t been in fashion for at least fifty years. His eyes stared down on the room. They were humorless and disapproving. A plaque embedded in the bottom of the picture frame announced that he was Joshua Metcalf—Diviner. Positioned directly below the picture was a small round table and two hard-bottomed chairs.
Abraham was leafing through some pages of the Bible when he heard a gentle knock on the door. He absently said, “Enter,” without looking up from the page he was reading.
A man of about thirty came in. He was of medium height. Although his hair was cropped short, it insisted on asserting its curliness. No amount of combing could straighten it out completely. His eyes were dark brown behind horn-rimmed glasses, his complexion sallow. He wore the usual white dress shirt, black tie and black trousers but the clothes didn’t seem to fit him properly. They seemed too big for his slight frame and rumpled even though they had been newly pressed. His shoulders sagged.
“Good morning, Father,” he said tentatively. “You wanted to see me?”
Abraham turned toward his guest. “Yes, that’s right. Sit down, Daniel.” He indicated one of the two chairs.
The visitor glanced up briefly at the portrait before he slid into his chair. He sat forward anxiously, his hands grasping the seat.
Abraham remained standing near the windows. “Daniel, remind me again which of my sons you are.”
The younger man didn’t seem to consider the question odd. “I am your twentieth son, Father,” he answered readily.
“And which of my wives is your mother?”
“My mother is Deborah, your fifth wife,” Daniel looked down, “though she has passed from this life.”
The older man’s expression was vague. “Hmmm, yes, I do seem to recall now. She’s been departed, what is it, nearly two years? Never mind boy. She has gone to wait for me in the next world. We will be reunited there. How many wives do you have now?”
Daniel cleared his throat uncomfortably. “You have blessed me with three wives, Father.”
Abraham looked pleased with himself. “That’s a good start though some of your brothers at the same age have collected more.” He paused to consider. “Still it’s a good start. And how many children?”
Daniel seemed to be fighting the urge to squirm in his chair. “Three so far.”
“Three?” Abraham registered shock. “Are any of your wives barren?”
“N…no, I don’t think so, Father.” Daniel stared hard at the table.
Abraham took a pace or two forward. “And when did I give you your first wife?”
“When I was twenty,” Daniel mumbled.
“Ten years,” Abraham mused. “In ten years your wives have only produced three children. That’s unheard of!”
Daniel shifted his position slightly. “I’m sorry, Fa—”
The old man cut him off. “We are charged with the obligation to be fruitful and multiply—to extend His dominion over the earth. We must increase our numbers. You cannot hope to claim a place of glory in His kingdom otherwise. Surely, you don’t wish to bring shame on your family.”
Daniel shrunk back in his seat.
Abraham was standing above his son now. “Remember who is watching.” He gestured toward the portrait. “Your grandfather is watching you even now from heaven. God, himself, is watching you.” He paused for effect. “He is watching us all. He sees the secret sins of our innermost hearts, Daniel. He sees all and he will punish all!”
Daniel gulped and nodded. “Yes, sir. I understand. I will pray for more issue.”
“And instruct your wives to pray as well!” Abraham observed his son silently for a few moments. He seemed satisfied that he had made his point. “Good, that’s settled then.”
Metcalf walked to the wall cabinets. He took a brass key out of his pocket. “I am told you are quite the scholar. You have distinguished yourself above your brothers in the study of ancient languages.”
Daniel seemed to puff up a bit at the encouragement. “Yes, it is the subject I love above all others. Translating the word of God.”
“That shows a proper spirit,” Metcalf nodded approvingly. “Come here, I have something to show you.”
Daniel obediently walked over to join him.
Abraham unlocked one of the cabinets and withdrew the stone ruler. “What can you make of this?” the old man inquired, handing the object to his son.
Daniel held it up to the meager light coming through the windows. He examined the markings with great intensity. When he looked up again, his expression was one of dismay. “The script isn’t Aramaic, or Hebrew, or Greek, or Latin. Not even Egyptian judging by the pictograms.” Daniel now seemed a bit afraid of the ruler. He held it out toward his father as if he thought it was contaminated. “This is some heathen relic.”
Abraham made no move to take the object back. He stood with his arms folded across his chest. “Yes I know, Daniel, but the Lord has charged me with the task of finding out its secrets. And now I charge you with the task of translating these strange markings into some language that a Christian can understand.”
The young man scrutinized the pictures and lines and loops again. “Do we know where it comes from?” he asked tentatively.
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Genre – Archaeology / Thriller
Rating – PG
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