It was Ernest’s idea to visit the lake. Few things made him happier than swimming in cold water, especially when Rosa was there. Part of the fun was the challenge: it took willpower to step into the Irish Sea at six in the morning, and such effort inspired his surest moments. Then came the beauty. Whether clear or murky, open waters reflected God; how could his faith waver when sunlight was refracting into webs on the sand? And finally, Ernest loved how his mind and body were united in exhilaration; even The Beach Boys never achieved such harmony.
He’d first heard about Lunzer See from Dan at his swimming club:
‘Oh, man, you’ve got to go. The water quality is something else – it tastes unbelievable, ha, ha. And you’re surrounded by these beautiful mountains, with, like, trees running up and down.’ Dan was famous at Parliament Hill Lido for finding the most obscure swimming locations: to date, he’d unleashed his crawl in fifty nation-states. ‘I went last October, and the water was fucking freezing. Honestly, man, I could hardly breathe. And this is coming from me.’ Dan prided himself on starting each day with an ice bath, having installed one at home a few years back.
A quick Google proved that Dan wasn’t lying: in 1932, the Lunz region had recorded the lowest ever temperature in Central Europe (-52.6˚C). So when Ernest realised that 38 Children’s tour would be taking them through this arctic haven, he began to rally the troops. Bert enjoyed a spot of open-water swimming, and it turned out that Youri had spent part of his youth in Montenegro, which was ‘famous’ for its fjords. Aaron couldn’t think of anything worse than ‘freezing his nuts off’ after another long coach journey, but he loved a good mountain. Jake and Sophie were ambivalent. And so, Ernest got his way: ‘Alea iacta est,’ he said. Rosa told him to stop showing off.
They hired two boats on the morning of 23rd November. In one sat Bert, Sophie, Ernest and Rosa; in the other, Aaron, Youri and Jake.
Lunzer See was just as beautiful as Ernest had imagined. The ripples glistened like rocks on the beach, and the tree-covered mountains created a sanctuary. It was impossible to think about Gylfi’s sentence or the Hong Kong protests when they saw that sylvan escalator rising into the distance.
But it sure was cold. The local in charge of boat hire said there would usually be ice at this time of year; he strongly advised against swimming without a wetsuit. When Youri heard this, he decided not to don his trunks. His wife would kill him if he died from frostbite, even if that meant accepting Jesus as the Messiah so that she could raise him from his original death. Sophie and Jake followed Youri’s lead, although not because they feared Sheol.
Which left Bert, Rosa and Ernest. They were in no rush, however. First they wanted to enjoy the mountain air, which cleared their minds as much as it made their hair stand on end. Bert took the oars, rolling back the years to his stint in Balliol’s ‘Beer Boat’: a men’s eight that began each race with a pint of lager. Of course, Bert was a quasi-teetotal evangelical Christian these days, so the comparison didn’t extend too far. Sophie sat towards the front of the boat, whilst Ernest and Rosa nestled at its rear.
Without a word, they reached the lake’s centre. And then, in between two strokes, Bert called Sophie’s name over his shoulder.
‘What do you think you’ll do after this?’
Sophie turned to face Bert’s back. Her nose was running in the breeze. ‘I’m gonna go home for a while. I’ve hardly spoken to my mum and dad the past few weeks. I miss them a lot. And my brother too.’
‘Sounds like a great idea: take a break, appreciate family life.’ Bert realised he’d chosen the wrong conversation partner; it was strange speaking to Sophie whilst looking at Ernest and Rosa.
‘That’s what I was thinking. The future feels less uncertain when I’m at home.’
‘Yeah, it’s very grounding.’ He pulled the oars, wondering how Sophie’s rebirth would affect her return. ‘Have you told your parents about the old conversion?’
‘Ha, ha, no, not yet. I’m not sure how they’ll take it.’
Rosa’s interest was piqued. ‘Are they religious?’
‘Dad? Definitely not. He’s a proper left-wing academic type.’ Bert and Ernest decided not to comment. ‘Mum? Hmm, she’s more of your classic church-at-Christmas-and-Easter type. She says she prays when she’s feeling really lost. But I don’t think that happens all that often.’
‘Well, I’m glad about that.’ Bert tried to picture Sophie’s parents, but nothing came to mind. Ernest was imagining them as small and attractive but a little tired. Rosa felt cosy when she thought of Sophie’s mum, and she imagined her dad as serious but surprisingly funny; the kind of teacher who was unrecognisable outside the classroom, especially after a few glasses of wine. Yes, he was definitely a wine man.
‘Thanks, me too.’ A cormorant filled the pause. ‘It’ll come as a surprise, that’s for sure. But, at the end of the day, they just want me to be happy, so hopefully they’ll be pleased.’
‘I’m sure they will.’ Bert continued to row.
At the thought of loving parents, everyone had an urge to ring home and see how their families were getting on. Ernest wished his dad could be there; nobody would appreciate Lunzer See as much as him. But he would be happy whatever he was doing – probably reading Yeats before teaching the piano to his neighbour’s daughter.
Rosa, meanwhile, was admiring how her parents drew wisdom from all religions. They were particularly into Buddhism these days, having recently added vegetarianism to their daily meditation, but they also took inspiration from the Bahá’í Faith and Hindu pluralism. She imagined how shocked they would be if she returned home a Christian. No doubt they would see it as Ernest’s influence, and perhaps that would make them warm to the idea of a Catholic Rosa: her bond with her future husband would be complete. Of course, the reality was that Ernest’s faith was the only source of tension in their relationship. Rosa stopped herself – now was not the time. She moved closer to her love, and he squeezed her arm.
When Sophie asked Bert how his family had taken it, he stopped rowing and turned around. She noticed a slight sadness in his eyes. ‘I haven’t spent much time at home, unfortunately. So I’m not sure they’ve got the full picture yet.’
‘Surely the baptism was pretty… striking?’ Ernest remembered how Bert had discussed his renunciation of sex; that can’t have been fun for his younger siblings.
‘Yeah, of course. I just mean I’d like them to witness more; I want to share this with them. But I’m really close to my parents, so they can appreciate how seismic it’s been. And they’ve become more serious about their faith over the past few years, so they love discussing it.’
‘Do you think that’s had an impact on you?’ Sophie hadn’t thought too much about the influences in Bert’s life. She’d always seen him as such a free spirit. ‘Their commitment to their faith, I mean.’
‘Yeah, I think it has, although it took me a while to realise that. I mean, if your parents start playing worship music instead of Billy Joel… and they’re reading the Epistle of James instead of Henry James, it’s obviously going to have an effect.’ Bert went silent for a moment, as they heard someone whistling. The song was ‘He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother’ by The Hollies, and it was coming from a fisherman on the side of the lake. He gave them a nod, which Ernest read as ‘nothing can faze me’. But there was very little to faze a man here. Bert returned the boat to privacy before continuing: ‘It’s always hard to tell what’s behind a conversion – besides the Holy Spirit, of course.’ Ah, there was nothing like a bit of Christian humour. ‘Cause even though my parents rubbed off on me, I still went on my own journey. I’m sure it would have happened without them, but maybe only a few years down the line.’ He touched a buoy. Its orange reminded him of Calippos. ‘I’m really looking forward to Christmas.’ No-one had expected that. ‘I’m hoping I can help my family with their own faith. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way, cause it’s God doing the work. But when they see the Holy Spirit cleansing me, they’ll have this visible proof that Jesus changes lives. And hopefully they’ll want to feel the same way.’
This, in fact, was the main reason for Ernest’s increased interest in the spiritual life. He knew full well that Bert’s was no ordinary transformation. It would have taken Joe Rogan-esque levels of discipline for his friend to give up sex and drunkenness just like that. He remembered the time Bert had gone clubbing with the express intention of avoiding Maddie, Jade and Tess. Ernest was unsurprised when he received a call the next morning.
‘Ernest, I’m in trouble.’
‘Come on, brother, it can’t be that bad.’
‘No, trust me, it is. You know how I said I couldn’t kiss Maddie or Jade or Tess?’
‘Well, I kissed Maddie and Jade and Tess.’
Ernest didn’t believe Bert was strong enough to conquer this weakness on his own – especially not in such a short timeframe. He was convinced his friend had received guidance from above, and he wanted to be part of that. And it wasn’t just Bert. Sophie, who had struggled to smile in recent weeks, was now an embodiment of joy. No-one had mentioned her love for Bert, but Ernest would not have guessed that she was heartbroken. But perhaps that was because she was in love with someone else. From her heart flowed rivers of living water.
In truth, Sophie was feeling increasingly at ease about Mr Eynsham. She hoped her path might include him one day, but, for now, God did not want them to be together – otherwise He would have made it so. She and Bert had finally managed to chat in private the previous evening. Sophie never would have thought that discussing prayer and righteousness would kindle a fire within her, but she found the troubles of her life suffocating beneath the weight of God’s Spirit. With every sentence, she grew into His presence. And by the time she went back to her room, Sophie’s hunger for God was so great that she spent the next hour studying His Word. The Parable of the Sower left her in no doubt: this was not the time for romance. She and Bert needed to work on their faith, since the seeds had not been planted long. Sophie knew that where her friend had stood fast in the face of persecution, she might struggle to do the same. She had always been popular and uncontroversial – but that was not the Christian life. And yet, she trusted God to show her the way. He had revealed it already, in fact.
As Ernest drew peace from his friends, he thanked God for this day. And then Bert ruined the moment. ‘Alright then, brother, time to prove yourself. The water’s calling your name.’ Bert leaned his ear towards the surface. ‘Can’t you hear it?’ He whisper-shouted: ‘Ernest! Ernest! Ernest!’
‘Not so fast, my man, you’re coming too.’
‘Sure, sure. I’ll let you lead the way, though. Unless Rosa wants to.’
‘Kind of you to offer, but Ernest can go first. He’s the open-water swimmer, after all.’ They laughed in memory of when Ernest had given himself this title.
‘I’m never going to live that down, am I?’
‘In that case, here goes.’ Ernest tore off his shirt, prompting a wolf whistle from Jake across the water. ‘Crikey, I can feel the cold from here.’
‘You haven’t got much meat on you, brother.’ Ernest’s ribs protruded from his flesh.
‘And this is the one time I regret it.’ He puffed out sharply. ‘Okay, how about a countdown?’
Rising to the occasion, Sophie tannoyed her voice. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, you’re in for a real treat today. Our very own Ernest Krandle is about to make an extremely stupid decision, as he prepares to plunge into the infamous Lunzer See. My man on the inside tells me the water is a refreshing two degrees this morning, but I’m pretty sure I can see a few chunks of ice bobbing around in there. Anyhoo, enough from me, let’s start the countdown…’ Rosa and Bert were giggling away; Ernest was wishing he hadn’t suggested this. Once 38 Children’s boat had drawn nearer, the chant began: ‘3…2…1…!’
Ernest crossed himself and leapt off the boat. He tucked into a cannonball – the proper way to dive (except for the fact that it almost capsized the dinghy). The crowd watched as his hair unfurled towards the sky in Van de Graaff fashion. They felt cold with him when his feet struck the lake. And then they truly felt cold with him – Ernest’s splash left none of them best pleased.
He stayed underwater for a time, revelling in the sharpness of his senses. Ernest loved the way his body burned. Less appealing was the ache in his skull. Once it became unbearable, he flew to the surface and gasped for air. ‘Oh my word, it’s freezing!’
‘Ha, ha, you’re going blue already.’
‘Get in here, Bert! You’re not chickening out.’
‘Who said I was?’ Bert removed his shirt, and Sophie tried not to look. ‘You coming, Rosa?’
‘Of course, Bertram. Otherwise Ernest will bang on about how tough he is.’
‘We wouldn’t want that. But easy on the Bertram business. You sound like my mum when she’s angry.’
‘I’ll keep that in mind.’
Ernest’s jaw was bouncing. ‘Enough chchit-chat, you two. I won’t be in for much longer.’
Bert smiled at Sophie. ‘You’re sure you don’t want to join us?’
‘’Fraid not. Someone needs to look after the boat.’ This was utter nonsense – the lake could not have been calmer – but there was no way she was subjecting herself to such torture.
‘I really envy you right now, Shaw.’ Sophie was pleased Bert still used her last name. He wasn’t going to let a confession of love tarnish their friendship.
Once he and Rosa were in position, Bert said ‘Uno, dos, tres, arriba!’, and they jumped overboard. Their howls of pain confirmed Ernest’s appraisal: the water was rather cold.
‘Right,’ and the two men realised, with great fear, that Rosa was about to suggest something, ‘shall we swim to those rocks?’ She pointed to a cove about thirty metres away.
Ernest needed to live up to his reputation. ‘Oh, girl, if you insist.’ His toes were starting to burn, but he had another five minutes in him. Besides, every stroke would make the shower afterwards that much sweeter – or that much more painful if he turned the hot tap first.
They set off towards the rocks, and Sophie realised that she needed to take the oars. She rowed alongside her friends, shouting words of encouragement whenever a grimace grew too fierce. Ernest and Rosa kept their faces on the surface; the lake was so clear that they didn’t even need to shut their eyes. Bert, meanwhile, swam with his head in the air. He gave Sophie the occasional frown to add a lighter touch.
A few days later, Jake was flicking through Ernest’s journal. There were so many intimate stories in there that he had to admire the guy for being so open. But he also wondered why Ernest had let him see these parts of his life. Was it really just to keep Jake entertained on the road? Or did he hope that 38 Children’s frontman might learn something from these pages?
And why he did write in the first place? Perhaps it was just a case of being good at it. But the journal was so inward-looking that Jake saw another possibility: Ernest hoped to unlock something for himself and for his readers; some part of his life that didn’t reveal its meaning in the moment. Or maybe Ernest needed a pen like Jake needed a microphone; each man had a weapon to thwart the chaos of life.
But Jake couldn’t say for certain; he wondered if Ernest even knew why he wrote. He turned to one of his favourite parts of the diary. The ink was black and fine.
Do you remember our afternoon in Le Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, when the Gilets Jaunes were at their peak? Of course you do, it was such a happy afternoon. We’d just had steak tartare at a restaurant with colourful chairs and smiling waiters, where they played Tame Impala on repeat. How surreal that a café in the 19th arrondissement played my favourite band on the one day we were there. Besides the threat of gluten in your meal, that lunch was perfect. But the park. Few moments stick with me like our kiss in that gargantuan, surprising cave. It was dark yet warm in there, and I took you in my arms as we hid from prying eyes; your lips were warm and soft on mine. Oh, how I wish I could kiss them now!
I increasingly feel that life is hard without you. Is it good to be so dependent? Maybe not, but it is certainly a blessing to love you. I am willing to trade peace of mind if it makes us happy.
But the park. After a classic Rosa-and-Ernest walk, with your route march proving too much for me, we found a bench to read our books. I was reading Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood End, a very good novel with a beautiful cover (a red-and-yellow Venn diagram on a purple background). It saddens me that I can’t remember what you were reading. I’m so close to bringing it to mind – I’m sure it was a moving tale, I want to say a wartime novel – but that purple cover is all I see.
And then there came a bang. We were fully aware of the protests’ reality, hence our retreat to the suburbs, but it seemed strange that such violence could exist only a few miles from the serenity of Buttes-Chaumont. We were shocked by the noise, but stronger than this was my determination to protect you, to look after you, to be, as you would later say, your life’s comfort.
Maybe Ernest wrote because he was in love. Or maybe it was because he wanted to love more deeply. Jake wasn’t sure, but reading made him want to emulate Ernest. He found a sheet of paper:
I’m glad you can find peace in forgiveness. Hold up, that could be a song title right there: Peace in Forgiveness. Nah, too wordy. Sorry, we’re struggling for ideas at the minute. Turns out we had something special when the four of us were together, whereas now I’m starting to feel like Paul without John. Then again, Macca had some great solo tunes, as Aaron likes to remind us. “Ram On” is so beautiful. So maybe there’s hope.
I was feeling pretty uneasy last week. I kept saying to myself, maybe we’ll only be able to write again once Aaron has forgiven Gylfi – as if there was too much pain in the group for any creativity to flow. But luckily that feeling has passed. I know we’ve still got some great songs in us. I’m learning to be patient. I think the issue is I’m trying to write songs that actually mean something. Cause let’s be honest, some of our earlier lyrics were just there to support the music. I’m not the most profound of guys, but I want to write about what happened. And I want to make people smile.
Sadly Aaron isn’t ready to forgive you just yet. I think he’s struggled the most with all this. I guess meeting one of your victims was really tough. I tried to get him to talk about it, but he kept stumbling whenever he thought of the pain in her eyes. So I also want to bring some peace to Aaron. He doesn’t deserve to feel like this. The guy is going to be a music legend one day – his fret skills are getting scary.
But there’s something else I wanted to tell you. I’m sure I’ll completely butcher the story, but hopefully you’ll get the idea. Oh, man, I get tingles just thinking about it. It was a beautiful thing, Gylfi. It really was.
The swim was coming to an end. Legs were long numb, arms were refusing to paddle, and Rosa’s mother would have been horrified by the colour of her face – or, more precisely, its whiter shade of pale. But none of them regretted it. After the turbulence of recent weeks, they’d needed a childlike experience. And what a chance to bask in the beauty of life; the sun crested the mountains.
Ernest and Rosa hoisted themselves onto the boat, accepting two towels without hesitation. As much as their bodies wanted to stay still, they knew that getting dry was the only option. Sophie had never seen a man attack his hair with the fervour that Ernest showed; she wondered how his scalp felt about this. No doubt the shiver in the rest of his body kept it from noticing. The lovers wiggled their fingers, flexed their toes, and admonished each other at the slightest sign of relaxation – hypothermia would be the bitter icing on the messy cake that was this tour.
Bert, meanwhile, remained in the water, facing the sun. He was unaware of his friends, and they were unaware of him as he reckoned with himself. Or, rather, God seemed to be guiding him towards a well-worn truth: he had been relying too much on his own strength lately, trying to uphold a Christian way of life through the efforts of his will. Although the Holy Spirit had guided his walk, Bert had failed to dwell in the shelter of the Most High. He was only a visitor to that secret place; a visitor seeking to combine spirit and flesh. And that could never please God, who wanted a total renewal of the mind; who wanted Jesus to become an overwhelming reality in the lives of His believers. It was time for Bert to surrender. Losing his life, he would gain it.
Opening his eyes, he noticed that the lake continued beyond the rocks. The water seemed warmer now, and he started to swim, delighting in God’s creation; if only their communion could remain so intimate. He rounded the bend and stopped. The lake was empty on this side, and muddier too. Bert transitioned to breaststroke; he loved the snap in his groin when it closed. Wading away from the rocks, he let his legs sink towards the floor.
His friends were out of earshot now – drinking tea and coffee on the boat, no doubt. Bert settled, using his arms to keep upright. He thought of his sisters and his brother; few people could make his heart so delicate. As he dwelt in God’s shadow, Bert wanted nothing more than to give. “Love is the overflow of joy in God that gladly meets the need of others,” he remembered. And yet, there was a bitter-sweetness to this love. Bert longed to be in Heaven and know the fulness of God. The longing was the sweetest thing, but it also showed that life on Earth could never provide total satisfaction. Still, love came close, coming from the Father as it did.
With this in mind, Bert didn’t want to spend his time alone. He decided to head back to the boat, where he could share the Holy Spirit with his friends. He kicked below the surface – and nothing happened. Having taken a few moments to breathe, he tried to move his feet from side to side. No, there was no doubt about it: they were stuck. The weeds may not have been particularly strong, but Bert’s legs had lost all life in the past few minutes. He’d left them to dangle, and they’d fallen asleep.
He tried not to panic, but his arms felt weaker with every push to stay afloat. The cold had seeped into his body; limb by limb, paralysis was weaving its spell. Bert shut his eyes and asked God to see him through this trial. And then he called for help: ‘Ernest! Brother Ernest!’ He waited. No reply. ‘Rosa! Sophie!’
He heard Rosa’s voice: ‘Bert! Where are you?’
‘Round the corner. I’m stuck. I can’t move my legs.’
Bert’s arms were giving way. He flapped them with all his might, but he could feel himself sinking.
‘Hold on!’ Rosa was trying to sound calm. Unfortunately, fear had long since gripped their friend. His neck was now submerged. ‘We’re coming!’
After one last look at the mountains, Bert drifted underwater, unable to curb the descent. He could just about move his head from side to side, but that was the extent of his movements. His mind was awake whilst his body slept. And so, trying not to think of death, he prayed at the lake’s bed.
Which meant he didn’t see Sophie busting a gut to find him. As soon as she heard that her man was in distress, Sophie grabbed the oars and rowed. She rowed with more power than she had ever displayed; even her Boudiccan performances on the lacrosse pitch paled in comparison to this. She tore through the water, desperate to save her love. Whilst Rosa and Ernest scanned the lake for signs of life, Sophie steered with expertise, oblivious to their presence. The boat passed the rocks, and she dropped the oars.
‘What are you-?’ Sophie was in the water before Rosa could finish her sentence. She stayed close to the bottom, weaving between the weeds. Not a goat-like hair in sight. A quarter of a minute later, she rose to fill her lungs.
‘Any sign of him?’
But Sophie had no time for Ernest’s questions. She plunged into the depths, resisting the urge to swim too quickly – eleven seasons of Baywatch had taught her not to rush.
Back on the boat, Ernest was removing his towel. ‘Wait here, my love, I’m going to help.’
‘I’ll come too.’
‘No, please, one of us needs to stay.’ His lips were closer to purple than pink. ‘Just trust me.’
Rosa realised that Ernest wasn’t going to budge. ‘Okay, my love. You’ve got this.’ He nodded and jumped into the water – no time even for a kiss.
The moment Ernest hit the surface, Sophie saw Bert. He was kneeling on the bottom of the lake, with his hands wilting on either side. His back was turned, so she couldn’t see if he was still conscious. The cold was starting to slow her movements. Silt stung her eyes. Although Bert was so near, Sophie had to come up for air. She settled herself, breathing through her nose. In, out. In, out. Ernest’s splashing was lost on her. With a gasp, she returned for the final dive.
Bert’s eyes looked up at her. He tried to smile, but the numbness defaced his relief. Sophie wrestled the weeds from his ankles, then gripped Bert by the armpits. Pushing off from the ground, she hauled him as best she could, kicking for dear life. The limpness of Bert’s body added to his weight, and life seemed further away than two and a half metres. The word heavy began to pinball around her brain. Just as it threatened to break her resolve, the ball struck the right bell, and she remembered the fisherman’s song: ‘He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother.’ As much as Sophie enjoyed the first verse, she went straight to the chorus: ‘He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother,’ she sang. ‘He ain’t heavyyy, he’s my brotheeeeer.’ Sophie repeated this line until she believed it. And as her brother extended to eighteen letters, her head broke the surface, and Bert was able to breathe.
He still couldn’t move, though, so Sophie placed her arm beneath his chin and swam towards the rocks. With her own body starting to fail, she grabbed the edge and dragged Bert to safety – he could live with a few scratches. Sophie collapsed alongside him, and they listened to the sound of their panting. They didn’t notice Ernest returning to the boat, where he and Rosa smiled somewhat fearfully whilst fumbling with the oars.
Once she’d caught her breath, Sophie sat up and looked at Bert. His eyelids were drooping; he might not stay awake for much longer. But he managed to smile with a beatific gratitude. ‘You really outdid yourself, Shaw.’ His throat croaked. ‘Thank you.’ When he tried to move, his arms melted. ‘Boy, looks like I’m spent.’
Sophie’s smile was even brighter. Exhausted she may have been, but God had the power to restore. She put her hand on Bert’s chest. ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a woman lay down her life for her friends.’
They were going to have to get used to smiling. ‘Crikey, that’s good.’ Despite his frantic breathing and shaking frame, he was scared no more. ‘And on the plus side, you’re still with us.’
‘Just about, Bert. You could do with shedding a few pounds.’
‘Insulation, Sophie. How do you think I survived?’
‘Umm, I thought we’d already covered that? You know, the whole laying down my life for you…’
‘Ah, yes, that’s probably it.’ Bert managed to sit up now. The rocks dug into his hands until he hugged Sophie. Somehow, she felt warm. They remained there for quite some time, whilst Ernest and Rosa came ashore.
Jake turned the page, shaking his pen for its final drops.
I haven’t stopped thinking about Sophie and Bert the past few days. I wish I could have seen the looks on their faces when they realised they were safe. Man, I wish I could have seen the whole thing. I wonder if Youri or Aaron would have done the same for me… No doubt the water would still have been too cold for Aaron. For a tough northerner, he’s actually pretty pathetic.
Funnily enough (or not that funnily, but you know what I mean), Rosa and Ernest were definitely the most shaken by the whole episode. It was as if Sophie had been waiting for a chance like that. And I guess Bert is just grateful to be alive. He’s been grinning for three days straight. The whole atmosphere is so much gentler now. Which is classic because we’re flying home tomorrow. The three of us are going to bunker down at mine to try write the next album. I wonder if I can turn the rescue mission into a song.
Speaking of which, Sophie showed me a poem she wrote yesterday. She said I could show it to you if I thought it would help. I hope it does, Gylf. I’m no believer, but I think her words are pretty darn powerful. It’s that combination of sadness and happiness I love. And, as you know, I’m a sucker for a redemption story.
I’ll let her have the last word.
Take care of yourself.
The Shadow of Your Wings
In sacred land
I went astray,
To ballast home,
Despite Your hand.
I clipped Your dove
By prizing life –
No linen shroud,
The source of strife,
The end of love.
In fruitful time
My heart did rot.
A breast of stone,
Where seed was sown,
Forget me not,
Against my crime.
But stiffened neck
Refused to yield,
These weary eyes,
This soul unwise.
Whilst others kneeled,
I searched the wreck
For proof of God.
Yet Heaven stirred
This blessed desire
To leave the briar
And know Your Word,
From snake to rod.
You called me out
From death’s approach;
You taught me peace,
Made joy increase,
Through good reproach
From conquered doubt.
With body clean,
I loved again;
A sorry slave
Whom You forgave,
To sing amen,
What joy to find
The Prince of pardon,
Who wept at night,
As well we might,
In olived garden,
With love so kind.
O jaded sheep,
How can we rest,
Unless we turn
From all concern
To wounded chest,
With scars so deep?
How can we mend
A stubborn heart
Except through Him,
Torn limb from limb,
One set apart,
Our faithful friend;
The King of kings,
The gate narrow,
All those who rise
In sweet shadow
Of holy wings.
Gylfi placed the letter under his pillow. He heard the jingle of keys; a light flickered in a nearby cell. What time was it? The guard told him it was half past midnight. But Gylfi didn’t want to sleep. Washing his hands, he wondered if forgiveness could really be that simple.