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Utopia Lost

A truly gray little story about the matters of life in the desert and how they may be viewed

By Matthew FrommPublished 5 months ago 9 min read
Top Story - November 2023
21
Photo by Me

“Thomas, be reasonable. Sign the oath, and you will sleep warm beside your wife tonight. Don’t impoverish your family through nothing more than your own stubbornness!”

“That’s ‘Sir’ Thomas, mind your tongue. Despite these accusations, he’s still anointed,”

At this, Cromwell straightened at the far end of the high table, seated in the Chancellor’s seat Sir Thomas More once himself sat. The other two men continued to grovel--Thomas bid them little mind.

“Gentlemen, I hardly think that it matters given current circumstances. Indeed, if the bishop wishes to address me thusly, guided by his conscience, then I can hardly find fault in his action. In fact, it swells my opinion of him,” Sir Thomas said to the assembly. The oath lay before him, and next to it lay the list of signatories, all the lords and ladies of the court. Only one other had refused, and Fisher now rotted in the depths of the Tower. The assembled bishops argued, their voices reverberating off the high ceilings of Lambeth Palace. The vaulted ceiling towered over their little council as the jury of stone and stained glass saints watched the procession. Thomas withheld the urge to laugh. How could these men deny the power of divinity in a place of such glory?

Two sat in silence. Cromwell sat looking down at his hands below the table, a snake pulled from the depths of Eden, and directly before Sir Thomas sat Cranmer, seething in silent rage.

Yes, I know your heart. You and Cromwell can sit and pontificate and plot, but you are all dogs of Luther. Once, I would have burned you as the heretics you are. Now, I pity thee. My consciousness is clear, and in it, my soul will be saved, and with it, so will our king’s.

“Sir Thomas, friend of Erasmus, friend of King Henry, I beg thee, sign the oath. The King will pardon you, I know it,” Sir Charles Brandon said, standing from his seat on the opposite side of Cromwell. He had grown from the fine boy Thomas had once tutored, his face now bearded and chiseled like a knight worthy of Arthur’s court instead of this mockery.

My boy, you are a good lad. I raised you better–I thought I had, at the very least. Still, I know it is you I must appeal in my short time left on this earth. You must carry these great events forward and be the Archangel Michael in this armageddon.

“Sir Charles, I thank thee, for I know your heart is true. I support our king in his succession; let him choose as he will. However, it would be against my conscience to sign this and condemn the supremacy of the papacy, condemn that which is anointed by God above, and by his son here upon Earth. I speak to you now, Charles, tell Harry that even Pilate could not coerce Jesus to not speak against his conscience.”

At this, Cramner rose with his black heart full of rage, “How dare you evoke the name of our savior in your conspiracies in your blasphemy. I condemn thee as a traitor, here and now before the privy council of our King Henry the Eighth, King of England and France,” the voice of the Archbishop of Canterbury reverberated throughout the hall. None spoke. Only Charles Brandon could suffer meeting Thomas’s eye before he bowed his head in prayer.

Pray not for me. Pray for the King. And for yourself, my goodman.

He sat in his cell overlooking the Thames, shrunken and stinking in the heat of summer. No rats scurried here as they would in the dungeons, but outside the arrow slits, the crows cawed endlessly. By the King’s blessing, Thomas was granted more than any traitor should. He was a traitor, of this he could not deny, but Thomas wrote and prayed in his captivity, knowing that while he may betray his King, he was pure before himself and God.

God, bless the King for this gift as the hour of my death draws near. And, pray that he sees the enlightened truth of your grace. I know in his heart he is a godly man. It’s this heresy that poisons his Godly soul. Let my death be the pebble that begins the landslide that washes away these heretics as your flood once cleansed the earth. If I may be granted the glory of a martyr, let the weight of that action inspire the world.

Thomas ended his benediction as the crows of the Tower cawed again. He had often prayed on the martyrs, reflecting on their final thoughts and moments. Even their Lord and Saviour’s faith was tested upon the cross. Did St. Peter’s faith strain as they crucified him as Rome burned? Thomas did not know. All he knew was that he acted with a clear conscience, and through that, his hands did not tremble at the thought of the ax. Pain, though, pain was what kept him up at night and gnawed at the corners of his spirit. If he had a traitor’s death…Thomas shook at that thought.

***

The high sun radiated a fine summer’s heat as they led Thomas from the Tower to the Hill that would be his Golgotha. Around him, the crowd stood in silent somber. None hurled jeers nor projectiles against his traitorous heart as he reached the shaky steps of the scaffold. One of the crows of the tower rustled on the ramparts above. Thomas bowed to the headsman and offered him his forgiveness. The hooded man returned his bow. The Lord had blessed him with an honorable death this day. He would not feel the pain he so feared, and for that mercy, Thomas was thankful. It steeled his certainty in the truth and magnitude of his actions.

"I pray you, master Lieutenant, see me safe up and for my coming down; let me shift for myself," Thomas said with a soft smile. The headsman did not laugh.

I wish no ill upon you, child. You are but a man caught in the great events of this world, events that will be shaped by my actions today. May God forgive us all.

Thomas turned to the crowd, looking for those he both hoped and did not hope to find. His lip trembled as he saw Charles, the man whom he had hoped the world for when he was a boy. The King was nowhere to be found. Thomas addressed the assembly as was his right, “Long live the King! For I am a humble servant to him, but I am a man of God and his servant first,” He bowed for the last time and placed his head upon the block. A cool breeze blew off the Thames up to Tower Hill and licked the sweat from the back of his neck. Thomas extended his arms with only a trace of tremble.

My God, I pray this man’s aim is true.

The crow cawed.

He stood upon a great desert, its dunes stretching beyond his comprehension. It was neither warm nor cold. Thomas tried to draw breath but found the action unnecessary. He paused. To his surprise, he could not feel his heart nor his skin, and the only sense of himself he had was his sight, itself nearly useless in the unchanging landscape.

It stood in the distance, the only thing interrupting the vastness of the desert. Thomas tried to step toward it, but no matter the effort, the figure would not draw closer. Finally, he stopped and dropped to his knee, signing the cross over his head and heart.

“Welcome, Child.”

The voice reverberated across the vastness of the desert. The depth of the voice marked both the beginning and the end of all. Thomas tried to examine the figure, but its distant features shimmered like light through stained glass onto the stone of a chapel as the afternoon light turned to dusk, and he could not comprehend the form.

“Is this death?”

No answer greeted him. Below, the sands shifted as a breeze rolled over the loose grains. Thomas stooped and clenched a fistful of the sand. As he let it fall through his hands, he saw them all. Men and women, saints and sinners, the righteous and the heretics, the loved and the unloved, their lives splayed before his sight. In that infinite moment, Thomas felt their lives, their emotions, their very immortal souls flowing across the skin of his hand. He watched a man kill another with a rock deep in a cave, a tribe of men on horseback in celebration at the birth of a son, a woman reconciled with her mother, guns of immense size roaring in a great cataclysm, a light more brilliant than a thousand suns, and a figure setting foot on a gray desert as the light of earth reflects in a golden visor–worry and wonder more remarkable and incomprehensible than his vast imagination could fathom. Finally, as the last grain slipped between his fingers, Thomas saw a boy surrounded by moving tapestries that would have addled his mortal mind. The boy picked up a book with his name printed upon the cover, only to set it back down barely four pages in.

His hand emptied, and for the first time, he understood the incomprehensible ocean of all that was and all that was to be. Tears flowed down his face. Thomas looked down and saw that what he had been, what he could have been, was gone. Now, only the vast desert remained. If he had a head, Thomas More would have bowed it in his final benediction.

My Lord, forgive my hubris in life. No matter what I believed, no matter what I thought to be true, I now see. Engulfed in the desert's parched silence, I was nothing but another grain of sand in the wind.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A/N:

I'm back after a much-needed vacation. I hope you enjoyed this foray into the mind of an interesting life in interesting times, and I'm very excited for my next journey back to London.

If you've enjoyed this, please leave a like and an insight below. If you really enjoyed this, tips to fuel my coffee addiction are always appreciated. All formatting is designed for desktops. You can check out all my works below:

For those struggling with NaNoWriMo, here's some inspiration for you:

Short StoryHistoricalFableClassical
21

About the Creator

Matthew Fromm

Full-time nerd, history enthusiast, and proprietor of random knowledge. The best way to find your perfect story is to make it yourself.

Here there be dragons, and knights, and castles, and quests for entities not wished to be found.

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  3. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  1. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

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Comments (16)

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  • Healty Life5 months ago

    i love the way you write, literally you inspire me, can you please read my story and tell me on how i can improve, thanks inadvance https://vocal.media/fiction/ethereal-symphony-ml1p20vqs

  • Harun rashid5 months ago

    Good,This content is very fine,so I love that it was a Challenge story and Congratulations on your top story.

  • Harry5 months ago

    Interesting Story

  • Kendall Defoe 5 months ago

    This was very beautiful. Well deserved TS! 🏅

  • Carol Townend5 months ago

    Outstanding work, and excellent story telling. I loved reading this Matthew.

  • Margaret Brennan5 months ago

    MAGNIFICENT... I didn't want this to end. Brilliant writing. Love the story. BRAVO

  • JBaz5 months ago

    Historical fiction is one of my favorites and this story is one of the reasons why. Beautifully and brilliantly written. Congratulations

  • Lamar Wiggins5 months ago

    Hurray! Back to say congrats!

  • Babs Iverson5 months ago

    Marvelous!!! Absolutely loved the historical fiction story!!!💕❤️❤️ Congratulations on Top Story too!!!

  • Celia in Underland5 months ago

    Just fantastic, you craft speech so believeably.. Great choice of histocical character and the tone throughout was perfect 🤍

  • Addison M5 months ago

    Excellent work as usual! Really enjoyed the style of writing and speech, it felt naturally immersive with the historical context. The whole read was intriguing and the ending was expected, yet unexpected, and fit very remarkably well. Great piece.

  • Phil Flannery5 months ago

    That was an excellent historical fiction story. I was so lost in the journey, I'd forgotten it had to finish in the desert (even metaphorically). I made it most of the way through Utopia, so I'm not completely in the dark about Thomas More. My entry was more literal. Great piece of writing.

  • Lamar Wiggins5 months ago

    Bravo My friend! Excellent work!!! Had to look up the Tudors and agree with Hannah, the prompt line fits so well with your ending. Best of luck in the competition! and welcome back.

  • Cindy Calder5 months ago

    This story was amazing. Admittedly, I am already intrigued with the Tudors, but taking that prompt and tying it into your story - and that of Thomas More - so well was nothing short of brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed this piece.

  • Hannah Moore5 months ago

    I found this profoundly humbling. I didnt know where we were going until we got there, and when we got there, it stopped me in my tracks. I was saying, i a comment on my own entry, how this closing line is somewhat histrionic in tone. But you have moved past that.

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