by Jeff Chapman -
“No one has ever lived two hundred Foundings, even artificially. The body breaks down. How could a man in a cave survive that long?”
“I know,” said the Abbot. “But it is him, or a clone. He has the bearing, the aura, of an abbot. Could that be replicated? If I could, I would swear on everything that is holy.”
“Forgive me for contradicting you,” said the medico, “but the man is in a coma. What bearing could he have?”
“I must agree with our young colleague, Brother Anthony. A remarkable resemblance, but it can be nothing more. Perhaps he fathered children after leaving the abbey? I cannot believe that even a former abbot would allow himself to be cloned, at least not voluntarily. You’ve had a shock. Let us walk you back to your chamber.”
“The time capsules,” blurted the Abbot.
The medico looked askance at the director.
“Of course,” said the director. “You haven’t been here long enough, Brother Sebastian. When a new abbot is consecrated, the cup used for his first communion as abbot and one or more personal possessions that he gives up in order to free his mind for service are sealed in a time capsule.”
“And a lock of hair,” added the Abbot.
“Even better,” said Brother Peter. “I had forgotten about the hair.”
“His capsule is not to be opened for at least two hundred more Foundings. The community must pray and decide as one on a course of action.”
“Why not open it and reseal it?” said Brother Sebastian.
“The community vows at the consecration to respect the date on the capsule,” said the Abbot.
“I will arrange a special gathering for tonight,” said Brother Peter.
“Why did the first Abbot leave the abbey?” said Brother Sebastian.
“Questions, questions.” The Abbot looked to the medico and nodded at the other chair. “Sit down, Brother Sebastian, and I will tell you all I know of the first Abbot.”