by ANNA WILSON
Welcome to the first part of a two-part guest series from Anna Wilson. The first is a short piece of fan fiction on Margery Kempe, and the second part, coming tomorrow, Anna's discussion of her method, and the fanfiction assignment she gave to her students. -ks
From astroshuttle The Wanderer, en route to Starport Rome: report of arrest. Passenger Kempe, Margery, detained on grounds of disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace.
Report from arresting officer follows:
A call to Shuttle Security at shiptime 1400 hours reported a human passenger in distress, apparently intoxicated. Security immediately identified the human, who was lying on the walkway, blocking pedestrian traffic, and creating a disturbance. She was conveyed to Detention. On recovering, the human claimed to be distressed by the death of her husband. Medical screening showed no intoxication, possible malfunction in visual implants. The detainee claimed she was part of a pilgrim group travelling to the shrine of Hierosolyma. When consulted, the pilgrims claimed no knowledge of her and refused to receive her into their custody. After complaints about Kempe from other detainees, Security applied to Shuttle Chaplain Robert Baedecker, who agreed to have her released into his custody. No charges to be pressed.
Personal note by arresting officer, for eyes of Port Captain only:
Bob, she’s got half the passengers wanting her dumped into hard vacuum, and the other half convinced she’s got a direct line to the spirit of this four thousand year old dead husband who she’s still making a hell of a fuss about. Did you know humans lived that long? News to me. Point is, we’re down 30% on our liquor sales and she terrified Steward Jiminez by grabbing her 8 month old. Attaching Kempe’s file – if she applies to come back our way, I vote we lose her ticket.
Margery cries all the time, in space. The vast black in the viewscreens reminds her of the endlessness of her lord’s suffering. Her visions are less clear, less insistent, within the four-foot thick shell of the astroshuttle. It is lead-lined to protect them from incinerating space radiation, and inside it, the fire in her heart burns less brightly. She tries to take this as a reprieve rather than an abandonment. Meanwhile, she is full of purpose. In the lighter gravity, sin weighs less upon her fellow passengers and, she fears, upon herself. She seeks to amend this by administering good words and setting an example of repentance. She cries all the time, in space.
Dear Valued Traveller With Astrocorp,
Thank you for contacting Astrocorp customer service. We take seriously our customer’s feedback. We were sorry to hear that your recent interaction with Astrocorp Security did not meet with your satisfaction. We assure you however that the uniform modifications you describe – including coloured ribbons on sleeves and non-utilitarian buttons - are well within Astrocorp’s regulations for appropriate dress and do not constitute “vanitee”. We also regret that customer feedback in the form of allegory is not actionable. We attach a ten credit coupon for the luxury lounge on your next Astrocorp journey. Thankyou for choosing to travel the stars with us.
Our Records Indicate That You Have Exceeded Your Water Ration For This Journey. Please Input The Reason For This In The Text Box Below.
“many holy teerys and wepingys” is Not Recognised By This System As Exempt Consumption. Your Account Has Been Billed Two Additional Credits.
Then lo, as she looked around, she saw a poor man of steel and chrome sitting who had a great hump in his back. His plating was all tattered, and he appeared to be about fifty winters of age. Then she went to him and said, “Gode man, what eyleth yowr bak?” He recalibrated his speech module and replied in English, “Damsel, it was brokyn in a sekenes.” She asked his name and where he was from. He said his name was Richard and he was of Erlond Storage and Removal Incorporated. Then thought she of her confessor’s words, that said to her while she was in England in this manner: “Dowtyr, whan yowr owyn felawshep hath forsakyn yow God schal ordeyn a brokebakkyd man to lede yow forth ther ye wil be.”
“Why callst yow me gode man?” said the man of steel and chrome.
And the creature said, “Ser, sothely me thinketh if the be man or gyn, the kan be sekyr of Goddes lof.” Then she with glad spirit said to him, “Good Richard, ledith me to Hierosolyma, and ye schal be rewardyd for yowr labowr."
"Nay, damsel," he said, "I wot wel Astrocorp han forsakyn ye, and therfor it wer hard to me to ledyn ye, as I hav no wepyn save a scheld ful of dentys; also, Erlond Storage and Removal seketh mi distruccioun.”
And the creature said, "Richard, dredith thow not; God schal kepyn us bothen ryth wel, and I schal geve thow forty creditys for yowr labowr." Then he consented and went with her.
Erlond Storage and Removal
Quarterly Output Report
Additional Document B44A, Explanation of Discrepancy
The unit seconded to shelving and manifests, serial number R-CCHRD3899, was slated for full breakdown and reclamation due to block freeze rust in unit’s anterior spine, and lack of parts available for defunct models. Unit’s disappearance was recorded and reported at end of day on Station Date 433. No security report filed due to unexplained camera malfunction at site.
Dearest Sister in Devout Love,
We received your missive with joy. Your accounts of your visits to the holoshrines and the visions bestowed upon you by the Sacred Interference awed us all who love and reverence you as a true teacher. We should warn you however that your Confessor was most displeased at your intention to catch the next cruiser to Hierosolyma. He sent you a short burst message through the port authority but no doubt it just missed you as we have not yet heard a reply. We take your continued journey against his express instructions to be an excess of passionate devotion, not willful disobedience; I have taken it upon myself to assure him of your continued obedience and I have no doubt that as soon as you receive his forwarded databurst you will return to us. As for your other message I have sent on what few credits I can spare to help with your journey home; I will interface with the divine on your behalf that the universe may provide for you.
The anchoress Julian’s physical connection to the outside world is a screen with a single scrolling text readout. At certain times of day, through an aperture in the wall the visitor may catch a glimpse of a spindly, pale body encased in machine parts, the meanness of flesh almost wholly abandoned for the multi-dimensional thought of the web into which her mind is wired. The screen, embedded in the outer wall of her enclosure, is scuffed and scratched with use, and the input station’s keys are sticky. Where Margery now sits, popes and queens have sat before. Julian could speak to millions across the networked galaxy simultaneously, but all who seek her counsel must walk through the alleyway to this interface and speak their questions into the microphone, or type them out, one laborious key at a time. So do we remember our bodies.
Margery speaks aloud miracles she has witnessed. She tells the wall, the aperture, the input screen, the microphone, that she has seen the Virgin Mary carrying cloth diapers to the moonbase laundry chute, and has heard her baby crying, late at night; that John the Apostle touched her hand once in the cafeteria line. Emboldened by the listening silence, she speaks of how sometimes, she can feel on her heart the the bright fingerprints of God, and she does not know how she can bear it.
The anchoress’ words appear on the viewscreen. She tells Margery that she believes her. She tells Margery that she is answerable only to God, and that she will know true instruction from false, for it will tend always towards love. She tells Margery, all will be well, and Margery’s tears blur her text into pure radiance.
Flagged Correspondence: Twelfth Dome Municipal Court to Margery Kempe.
You are hereby required and directed to appear before the Twelfth Dome Municipal Court at 0900 hours planet time, charged with the following violations:
Preaching in the dome without a license;
Weeping without a license;
Inciting sedition among robotic workers with intent to cause a breach of the peace.
You have been released into the custody of Father Richard Castyr, who has agreed to stand guarantor for you. If you do not appear in accordance with these summons, you run the risk of being tried in absentia and being found in contempt of court.
The cabin in the slow freighter to Hierosolyma is cramped and cold. Space-sickness and vermin have kept the few passengers in their quarters. There is a console in the cabin, but it is preset to a language that Margery does not understand. Her life has become too capacious for her mind to contain it; vision and memory together spill out in speech to her empty cabin, to her fellow passengers when she can find them, but words leave no trace, or not enough. There is a text input program on the console, and weeks of slow space travel ahead of her. She wanders the ship, looking for someone to recalibrate the console’s language module, and praying to God to recalibrate hers. She tries turning off the console, and turning it on again. She tries closing her own eyes, and opening them again. In a dream, a beautiful man wreathed in light visits her and places metal upon her tongue, and when she speaks, it is in ones and zeroes. She wakes, but she still speaks in a language the console can understand. She opens the text input program. She has been telling her story for many years; she begins now in the middle. “Rede fyrst the twenty-first chapetre and than this chapetre aftyr that.”
I really enjoyed your fanfic, and it made me think in new ways about Margery Kempe and how to teach her. Thanks for sharing this and the assignment you use.
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