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Through the Eyes of a Witness

The same, rather tedious scene outside Westminster Palace. Men and women packing into cramped doorways and stubbornly pushing their way through the crowd. I would never be one of them, nor did I have the slightest intention of ever being one of them.


Adam and Gregory peered silently through the small crack in the alleyway wall. There they could see the doorway to Mr. Thompsol’s bakery. As I carefully crept alongside the shadows of building rooftops overhead, I took a quick glance across the street. Seeing Adam give me the signal that the coast was clear, I knew that the store clerk had gone off for his usual walk to the corner of Cretey’s Street for supper.

I made me way across the musty street to the door of the bakery. I dashed in the door and, in an instant, was knocked flat on me back. Looking up, I saw several stern mysterious figures looming over me. Helping me up, they said not a single word and made no eye contact with me. The men slowly drifted away; leaving behind just a sliver of parchment paper.


Aye, I tried to focus on what I had originally come to do, but curiosity took me over. I picked up the small piece of parchment and began walking back toward the alley through which I had come.


Gregory asked me, “What the bloody hell are you doing?”

“ Oy, look what I’ve found here! It’s a piece of paper with a map of Parliament on it. What do you suppose those blokes need it for?” I said.


Gregory didn’t have the slightest idea. He told me to just leave it aside, but I couldn’t help but wonder why those men had it.


Remembering I hadn’t taken what I’d needed for supper tonight, I slipped into the bakery to take me fill. Exiting the bakery, I unfolded the piece of paper examining it once more. There was something odd about it, I walk passed the Parliament building often, and I don’t remember ever seeing or hearing about a cellar below. It was getting late and I needed to head back to the other side of the city to meet up with Gregory, but I decided to take the long way passed the Parliament building. Clouds formed overhead as I walked, and I knew I better hurry before the downpour began.


Following the lead of the small map, I traced alongside the perimeter. Making sure I was not spotted by any of the building’s guards, I crept along. There appeared to be nothing underneath Parliament except for solid earth. Yet, as I searched along, I found a cellar door which had been carefully concealed. Unless you looked closely, you never would have spotted it.

Quickly, I opened the cellar door to find a flight of stairs spiraling downward at a slanted angle. The inside looked centuries old, spider webs hung from lanterns, and small rats glided across the cellar floor. As I walked on, I found barrels and barrels of what looked like wine. But, wine wasn’t usually stored in such great amounts like this. There were what looked like around 30 or 40 barrels stowed away for God knows what.


I thought I heard footsteps bouncing of the walls of the cellar, so I decided better to leave before I was discovered. Disappearing back into the shadows of the vast staircase, I stumbled back into the dimly lit street. The storm had lost some of it’s strength, so I decided it be best to go back to meet Gregory and the boys at Center Street. Dripping wet and shivering, it was now bitter cold as I stumbled across the street.


Fortunately, Gregory, Adam, and Yug were already waiting for me at the chamber. Yug loosened the bricks in the old Owen Mansion wall and carefully placed them on the wet ground. Ay, I was the last one to enter in, which meant it was me job to build the wall back up.


You see, a few years ago the English Catholic Community was in a raging battle against the Protestant faith. English Catholics were forced into hiding from the Protestant government. Many Catholics hid in trapdoors in large houses or in the house’s sewer system. Lucky for us, we found this abandoned shelter for us or we’d be forced to live on the streets.


I finished placing the final brick into the wall before heading off to the living quarters of the room. I set the food out on the table, realizing that most of it was soggy and none too appetizing. But, t’was the best we could do, and it would suit just fine for the night.


“Oy, you’ve brast me costard, what the hell are you doing?” whined Adam.


“ Naught, I’ll be back lads, soon,” I replied.

I headed off following the same path I’d taken just the day before, but visibility was on my side this morning. Parliament was coming into view, slowly growing larger as the sun rose. Tonight was the night of the State Opening at the Westminster Palace. As I neared closer and closer I realized that there were several more guards on duty outside the palace. Reality set in, and I knew I could not just simply waltz up to Parliament without being completely exposed. I took my sack off my back and began writing in my thin journal.
5 November 1605
Me plan has changed, security has increased and the risk has become far greater. Evening sounds safer and wiser. I’d wait until the noon bells went off before inching closer to the Palace. Fops and doxys were already making their way to the front steps of Parliament; I have to wait ‘til the guards go inside to inspect the inner chamber before making me move. What if I am discovered? Though the guards don’t seem to be taking too much notice of the underground cavern. I gazed out over the shining water surrounding Parliament. Several shadows scurried away from the cellar. Oh my, they’ve disappeared into a boat. The guards, the guards have taken no notice, and the boat is gliding away. The figures that helped me up, the figures in the boat, the cellar, the barrels -- what to make of it. Something was not right and my thoughts are racing. I must get into the cellar, night fall; night fall will be the right time.
Until next time.

James


It is now 10 hours later and I am setting out once again.
Will there be a next time?

James



Passing under the last shimmering torch on the Parliament wall , I pulled back the cellar door. It looks much different at night; actually sight was almost impossible without any torches lit in the cavern. I stepped back outside and took the burning torch off its hinge. As I slowly crept down the spiraling stairs, I flashed the torch forward to regain my eyes again, only to find plates and cups shattered and broken on the floor. Only but one single torch that gleamed faintly deep in the cavern looked to be intact. I could see the shadows of the barrels to my left, and a small table to my right.


On the table was a thin tray for ink and a feather quill for writing at its side. On parchment was a letter hastily written. Looking at it, I could hardly read it as it was so smudged. I picked it up and tried to make sense of it:

My lord out of the love I beare to some of youere frends i have a care of youer preseruasion therefor i would advise youe as youe tender youre life to devise some excuse to shift of youre attendance at this parliament for god and man hath concurred to punishe the wickedness of this time and think not slightly of this advertisement but retire youre self into youre contri where youe may expect the event in safti for thoughe there be no appearance of any stir yet i saye they shall receive a terrible blowe this parliament and yet they shall not see who hurts them this councel is not to be condemned because it may do youe good and can do youe no harme for the dangere is passed as soon as youe have burnt the letter and i hope god will give youe the grace to maketh good use of it to whose holy protection i commend youe. I beggeth you stop sdsa



Me heart dropped to the floor as I realized the magnitude of the words. Parliament was to be blown up. The barrels, of course, the barrels were filled with explosives. I looked around the room with a dizzy gaze, and thought, “I have to get out, NOW !”

It must have been right at midnight because the clock tower bellowed and sent shivers down my spine. Footsteps, the tapping of footsteps. His figure glowing on the wall next to the torch at the far side of the cavern. He ran to that torch, the footsteps grew louder. I looked closer and felt his eyes burn into me soul. I ran towards the stairs, and I could hear the pitter patter of his footsteps chasing me. My own heartbeat was just as loud, as I feared he was growing closer. But it wasn’t me he was after, it was the barrels he wanted.


I turned around in time to see him put the flame to the gunpowder. In an instant he was on the floor, chained. It was over in a flash. I knew I had not been seen, so I disappeared into the dead of the night. I slipped, shaking into the darkness knowing that I had been an eyewitness to a tale that would be told for many years to come.



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