Below is the first chapter of my latest novel titled The Depiction. I hope this will give you an idea about my latest project.
Premise of the manuscript: The Depiction is an action adventure story about three Harvard students. Along with their professor they travel to three of the worlds most dangerous places in search of the greatest archeological discovery in history. They discover an actual painting of the man called Jesus. For two thousand years the world has wanted to know what the most famous person in history looked like. The Depiction explores this question and the answer may surprise you.
by L.W. Cook
Copyright © 2006 Lamar W. Cook All rights reserved
Insanity is often the logic of an accurate mind overtaxed.
Oliver Wendell Holmes
There is the smell of death in the air and a cool breeze passes by his face as if a ghost has whispered in his ear. The man shivers and shines the dimly lit lantern in front of him. Endless bones line the walls of the long forgotten dark and damp tunnel, where thousands maybe millions are buried in the tomb that was lost for centuries.
William Sparksdale was born in London in 1449. The son of a wealthy doctor, he was educated in the finest schools and was expected to follow in his fatherís footsteps. He didnít. His destiny was to lead him in another direction.
To say Sparksdale was an eccentric man would be an understatement. He was passionate and driven, some say to the point of insanity. Through his studies he learned of the ancient Romans and was fascinated at their history and culture. He longed to live in the time of the people who were so rich in tradition. He admired them. He loved them. He was an archeologist, long before the word archeology had been defined.
He was neither tall in stature nor particularly good-looking. He often buried himself in books and was closed off from the outside world. With more than two hundred and forty pounds, on his five feet seven inch frame he was chubby to say the least. Still, he often wore a suit and tie even in the desert heat. Many considered him a strange man but that was just fine by him. He didnít concern himself with the thoughts of others.
Today is the first day in June of 1492. For the past ten years Sparksdale has been looking for a treasure. He wasnít looking for a treasure of gold or silver. Nor was it a treasure of an ancient text full of knowledge. He was looking for a painting. Not just any painting but a painting of the most famous person who ever lived. For two thousand years the world has wondered what the man looked like and today William Sparksdale would find the answer.
Ten years earlier while doing some digging in a small village in Rome Sparksdale heard a story that had been handed down for generations. An old man who must have been near one hundred years of age was telling the tale of a Hebrew boy by the name of Ichabod. Ichabod saw the man they call Jesus while John was baptizing Him. Later that evening he invited Jesus to his home for supper and asked could he sculpt his image. He was also anxious to try out a new painting technique that he had recently learned. The technique used wax and pigments and the image is painted on wood. Legend has it that Ichabod sculpted the Manís image and the bust stayed with the family along with the pigmented waxen image. Several years later a descendant of Ichabodís named Pilan painted the image on canvas. Fearing for his life Pilan hid the painting in the catacombs.
The catacomb is a vast underground burial chamber. It has endless corridors and hidden chambers and it goes for miles. Even today very little of the vast underground has been explored. It would be unlikely anyone could find the painting unless they new the exact location. The location of the secret tomb where the painting rested stayed in the family for generations.
Through time the story evolved and was reduced to mere fable and few believed itís authenticity. After all there were many such stories about the man Jesus. Many claimed to have proof of the location of the Cup of Christ, or as it is referred to, the Holy Grail. Still others claimed to have the actual robe Jesus wore. Then there is the famous Shroud of Turin. Itís easy to see how a story could be invented of a poor peasant who created a sculpture of Jesus, and how the image had escaped history.
Then again, William Sparksdale is not like other men. In his mind there were details in the story, which at least to him gave the story some credibility. But time has a way of changing stories. Some details are lost while others are embellished. From father to son the story had been handed down from generation to generation. What truths remained from many of the details was unclear but he was certain that the image existed and it was his destiny to find it.
For the past ten years Sparksdale has searched the catacombs. All he had to go on was a general description of the hidden chamber. The catacombs were riddled with empty rooms each one resulted in a dead end. Searching, alone, in the piercing darkness for so many years was enough to drive any man insane. In the dimly lit cave he would often hear voices and see ghostly figures. The smell of the burning torches had fogged his mind but his determination was without end. He was relentless and unchanging. He was convinced the depiction was in the forgotten chambers and no one could tell him otherwise.
Today is a typical day in the underground chamber. For ten years he had roamed these halls, charting and mapping, never covering the same area twice. He is wearing his customary three-piece suit and tie with a dimly lit lantern leading the way. He hears a noise. Most of the time it is water or rats but this sounds like a moan. After a few moments he discards the sound and continues his search. It was a never-ending cycle of boredom but he would rather be here than any place on earth. It was his passion, his lifeblood.
He has been walking for more than three hours and comes upon another dead end. The glow of the lamp shines onto a group of bones and skulls. He has seen many of these in his quest, but these have been arranged in the shape of a door. Through the door is a passageway that leads down. Sparksdale walks for almost an hour. He comes to a dead end. It is dark and desolate. It is just another false passage. He sits and takes a drink out of his leather canteen. He is accustomed to this. No one knows why the builders built empty chambers. Maybe they were meant to be the beginning of a new passageway. Maybe they were meant as chambers for the wealthy or maybe they were just the end of a current passage way. Regardless, it was just another dead end. Sparksdale takes another long hard drink from the leather canteen and tosses the half empty bottle on the dusty floor. He hears a noise and shines the lantern in the direction of the canteen. He forgot to place the cork in the top. As he reaches down to pick up the bottle he notices that water is seeping into the ground. On second look, he sees that the water isnít just spilling onto the floor. It is falling through as if there is empty space beneath. He stomps on the floor. There is a hollow sound. It is a trap door. In the dimly lit cave he searches for an entrance.
If this is a doorway, then there has to be a mechanism to open it. He lights his spare torch and turns the lantern on high. The chamber is like the rest of the catacombs; filled with bones and skulls. But something doesnít feel right. The glow of the lantern shines on the far wall and he sees a pattern in the skulls. The pattern is subtle, but far too ordered to be a coincidence. There are forty-eight skulls, each of them lined up in perfect order exactly two inches apart. One at a time he pushes each skull and nothing happens. He tries to twist each skull, one by one, first in a clockwise direction then counterclockwise. They are mounted securely with mortar but finally one of the skulls in the center feels loose. He slowly turns the skull in a clockwise direction.
He hears a noise. The floor has come to life. The door opens. A gust of cold air escapes the forgotten room. Itís as if the room has once again become filled with the breath of life. Sparksdale shines the lantern into the hole.
There are steps leading down into another room. With eager anticipation Sparksdale carefully steps into the hole. He has a lantern in one hand and a torch in the other. As he reaches the bottom step he flashes the dim light into the dark musty room.
A lifetime of work, a lifetime of ridicule, has lead to this moment. It is the chamber of the lost depiction. A cloth covered painting stands in the middle of the room as if it has been waiting on someone to discover it. It has been waiting on William Sparksdale. Very carefully, Sparksdale removes the cover from the painting. Next to the painting is a wooden board. Although the image isnít clear it is a painting made with wax and various colors. It has to be the original painting that the young Ichabod had painted. It is a moment of joy. It is a moment of validation. He screams with joy. William Sparksdaleís journey is over.
Or has it just begun?