The Toll

Once every thirty years, like clockwork, the bell of the old church tower rang, by itself. This phenomenon had been witnessed by dozens of scholars and church leaders, attested to and investigated for trickery. None was discovered. The bell simply rang, once. But that was not the most remarkable part. The village was located in the mountains, 1500 feet from sea level. Yet when the bell tolled, water appeared from nowhere in the town square, surrounded the church and quietly rose until the entire building, save its tower, was immersed in a blue-green glacial lake. The water remained for an afternoon, then receded by sunset.

When Gyorgy arrived on the hill overlooking the town square he was dismayed by the size of the crowd. He was uncomfortable with people. He stepped behind two boys, keeping his head down to examine the soil.

One of the lads turned to Gyorgy. “Where are you from?” he asked. Gyorgy continued staring at the ground, hoping they would stop talking to him if he ignored them. “Oy, Dirty shoes, we’re talking to you,” the boy insisted.

Gyorgy kept his focus on the soil, thinking loudly, Appears to be mica and a high preponderance of shell fragments. But he was unsuccessful at drowning out the boy.

“He’s probably here because he thinks our women get loose on Waters day,” the boy said. “Well, they’re well protected. None for you, stranger.” Gyorgy continued to ignore him, although his eyes twitched back and forth.

The church bell sounded a single gong. The crowd hushed. The waters appeared, simple and relentless, and inched into the square until it was flooded with clear water. The air turned crisp, but was still as a held breath. Gyorgy looked up. The boy who had been taunting him wore a blissful smile. He put out a thick hand and clapped Gyorgy on the shoulder, finishing with a squeeze.

“What was I thinking?” he said. “Welcome, stranger. I’m David and this is Mark. Tell us about your travels.”

Gyorgy felt the veil of shyness lift and loosen his clenched jaw. “I’m here to watch the Waters. I like science.” He marveled at the ease of the words.

Mark extended his hand for a handshake.”What have you’ve learned? We have lived here all our lives but know very little from a scientific standpoint.”

Gyorgy explained all that he had read and gleaned from experts. Together the boys went to the water’s edge and put their hands into the icy depths. They had a contest to see who could keep his hand submerged the longest and Gyorgy won.

They strolled back up the hill and he told them everything about himself, his admiration for his father, his difficulty with girls, the loss of his mother. They listened and commiserated with him, sharing their own stories. The afternoon flew by and before they knew it, dusk was upon them. Gyorgy knew he should be measuring, observing and taking notes, but he did not want to leave his new friends.

The wind picked up. Mark excused himself to find his family. David and Gyorgy were seated on the hillside, Gyorgy had his back to the waters. He was eagerly telling David a story about his hometown when David’s eyes left his face and trained on something behind him. Gyorgy turned to see the waters had completely receded. He turned back to finish his story, but had lost his train of thought, and there was no one there.

He had missed the phenomenon, but couldn’t for the life of him remember why.

Inspired by +Vicente L Ruiz’s weekly writing prompt, Check it out – lots of other good posts this week!
Photo by Jaromír Kavan on Unsplash

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