Eastern Transept 

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This story is written by one of our members of the MASH jury,
Jennifer Harvey, for the third MASH competition as a sample story. The keywords for this competition were: monkey, cathedral, relativity.

The morning sun filtered through the window of the eastern transept, the light falling on the nave like a ray of gold that had descended from the heavens.

No doubt they had planned for it. Had configured their measurements and placed the window with this in mind – a celestial connection to God.

He sat in the aisle and tried to imagine them, these men who had dreamed their cathedral into existence more than five hundred years ago, but it was beyond his imagination to contemplate the passing of so much time. Those men, long gone, while their monument to God stood; a permanent reminder to those who came after, that man, for all his efforts, all his ingenuity, means very little, in the end.

Yet they must have thought of it as they chiseled and carved, laid stone upon stone, that this effort was all that would remain. And the optimism of it, their hopeful aim for permanence, silenced his thoughts, leaving him to watch as the sun rose higher, the ray of light, narrowing, lifting, until nothing remained.

Once, he had considered it arrogance, could not see the beauty of it. For all its marvels, it contained too much of man, the sum of so many of his fears.

He could almost hear their thoughts as he walked the length of the nave.

“Something of us must remain. Someone must know that we were here, once.”

But at the altar his thoughts ceased as the simplicity of that one hope filled him, and he heard his own question rise into the air, something close to a prayer.

“How am I to understand this? Find meaning in any of it?”

The words pressing a smile to his lips. That he should ask such a thing. That his question should be no different from that of any other man, at any other time, seemed foolish.

This very edifice was nothing more than that, a physical manifestation of the eternal question. We could rise from our monkey origins, contemplate the universe with one equation, distill our thoughts in a sonnet, but neither Shakespeare, nor Darwin, not even relativity, could bring us closer to an answer, to a truth we could finally accept.

For all the sophistication of our minds, this is what it came down to in the end. This is what it always came down to.

You stand alone, in a vast empty space with that question on your lips, watching, as the ray of light diminishes.

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Jennifer is one of our judges at MASH. Her fiction has appeared in Carve Magazine and Stories For Homes anthology. Her radio drama won the 2001 European Regional Prize in the BBC World Service International Playwriting competition and a commendation in 2009. Her poetry has appeared in The Guardian as part of their poetry workshops series. Contact Jen via Twitter.

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