I can travel through time.
It is something I have always been able to do since I was a child but I cannot control where I travel to, or what year it is. It is pot luck. For this reason I rarely do it, as I don’t wish to place myself in unnecessary danger.
The last time I travelled, I found myself in a room in an old building. I soon realised that it was a basement; a dungeon in fact. There were several other men there, one of whom spoke English. He told me that this was a monastery in Spain in the year 1512. The other men were emaciated and dressed in rags.
I asked him why we were there, but before he could reply the heavy door was opened with jangling keys and sliding bolts and a group of men, some in religious garb and some obviously soldiers, entered. The other prisoners cowered but I, being new and somewhat naive, approached them and demanded to know what was going on.
The leader, a thin faced ‘Priest’ in a black skullcap told me to sit down on a wooden stool. I did so. He then told me that he was going to put ‘The Question’ to me and if I answered truthfully all would be well. This sounded reasonable so I told him to go ahead as I wished to get out of the oppressive place A S A P.
“Do you believe in the reality of transubstantiation during Holy Communion as described in the Holy Bible?”, he asked. That was ‘The Question’.
I told him that I didn’t understand it, and he rephrased it for my benefit. “Do you believe that the bread and wine literally becomes the flesh and blood of Christ in the ceremony of Holy Communion?” he said. I recalled something involving a bit of bread or wafer and a sip from a goblet of wine from my church days. The vicar would walk along giving them to the people who went up front as they knelt in a line in front of him and he’d mutter something unintelligible.
I asked the Priest if this was what he was talking about and he confirmed that it was. By now I had forgotten what ‘The Question’ was so he repeated it again. I said I didn’t see how a piece of bread could actually become the flesh of someone who died many hundreds of years before – ditto the blood and wine thing.
Everyone in the room, soldiers, ‘Priests’ and fellow prisoners gasped in unison. “So you deny transubstantiation?”, the Priest said. “I don’t ‘deny’ it as such”, I replied, “I just think it unlikely. Why? Do you believe it?”
The communal gasp was repeated. “I know it to be the case”, the Priest said. “Fair enough”, I answered, “can I go now?”
“You will never leave here heretic. You will die here!”, he replied angrily. “Die!? But why, what for?”, I said.
“For denying the reality of transubstantiation. It is sacrilege”, he replied. I didn’t want to argue or antagonise him so I said: “Oh … OK then, I do believe it!”.
But then he called me a black-hearted servant of the Antichrist, and that I was lying to save myself from having to suffer the agonies of the rack, which I now realised was the wooden thing like a large table football table in the far corner of the room. I said I didn’t know what to say because I’d said I thought it unlikely, but that I believed in it, so the only other thing I could say was that I didn’t believe in it – yet I had a strong feeling that that wouldn’t make him happy either!
He then said that I can’t merely ‘say’ anything, but that I had to ‘believe’ it to the depths of my eternal soul. I told him I did believe it to the depths of my eternal soul – but he was having none of it so I decided on another tack. “Look, the truth is I’m not actually a Christian at all,” I said. “I only ever went to Church as a child and I had no choice in that. I was in the choir you see. All the other boys had no choice either. As soon as I became an adult I realised all that God stuff was rubbish, a fairytale more or less. I mean … come on.”
This time there was no gasp just a stunned silence. “Bind him to the INSTRUMENT OF TRUTH”, the Priest barked, and several of the soldiers lifted me bodily, took me over to what I now knew to be the rack and tied my wrists and ankles to it with leather thongs. I was getting concerned.
Then it struck me … Spain … 1512 … The Spanish Inquisition!! I hadn’t expected that.
“Hey, I’m sorry listen I realise the mistake here now. You are Catholics right, Roman Catholics? Well I went to The Church in Wales! St David’s in Tonyrefail. We didn’t ‘believe’ in anything. It was just somewhere we went. Your Catholic stuff has nothing to do with us, with me. My father told me it was heathen Dago gibberish!” I gave a little chuckle.
“Begin the torture!”, the Priest shouted.
“No! No, listen …” I said.
“Turn the rack!”, the Priest ordered and one of the soldiers began to turn the cogged wooden wheel where the corner flag would have been if the table had been for table football as I had originally thought.
I felt the ropes begin to tighten … I was terrified … What could I do to escape this hellish situation?
So I said I was a professional actor and they let me go.