By Michael Seese
"Well, duh!" you're saying.
OK, some days, it frustrates the h3ll out of me. And then...
When I last mentioned my current WIP, The Secret World Of Gustave Eiffel, I was working through the second revision. It's a much slower go, since I now need to get the right words--rather than any words--down on the page.
My daily word counts from the past few weeks bear this out.
Bear in mind, I've also been working on my taxes.
In real life, before the Eiffel Tower, Gustave Eiffel designed the railway terminal at Budapest. He is a pic.
According to the Wikipedia article (on Eiffel), one of the things that made it unique was the fact that you could see the "skeleton" through the glass walls.
An Eiffel structure with the iron visible...hmmm, where else do we see that?
The Budapest chapter was one that, on the first pass, had been really scant on the details. I had literally two or three paragraphs. So, during my revision effort, I got to this part and thought, What to write, what to write.
Then it hit me.
Between Vienna and Budapest (more or less) is Prague. (A wonderful city, by the way.) When my wife and I visited Prague a dozen years ago, an attraction we had considered visiting, but did not, is the the Kostnice v Sedlci, located beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints. You may have heard of it as the "bone church."
Per Wikipedia (again):
The ossuary is estimated to contain the skeletons of between 40,000 and 70,000 people, whose bones have in many cases been artistically arranged to form decorations and furnishings for the chapel.
Suddenly, I had this whole side story where the train to Budapest breaks down near Brno (south of Prague, about 55 km from the church), and Eiffel meets a stranger who offers to show him the ossuary, thereby providing the inspiration for both the Budapest station and the Eiffel Tower. (I also got to throw in some history as to why the noon bells in Brno chime at 11:00.)
Here is a little snippet.
“So you were going to tell me of your people, your history,” Eiffel opened.
“There is so much to say,” Rint said, “I hope four hours provides enough time.”
Eiffel soon learned that to say much of the history of the region revolved around repelling hostile armies would be a gross understatement.
Brno withstood two sieges by the Kališníci, the “Chalice People,” whose 15th century crusade later came be to called the Hussite Wars. Two hundred years later the city survived the aforementioned Swedish attack. In 1742, the Prussian army of Frederick the Great failed in its attempt at conquest.
“Such was our reputation as a city of staunch defenders, that your Napoleon Bonaparte chose to leave us alone after he marched into Austerlitz.”
“And understand, the tales I tell of Brno represent a small sample of the adversity our entire region has had to face. Though this may be exaggeration, it seems as though as battle raged somewhere, always, within the Kingdom of Bohemia.”
“Believe it or not, my friend, I could say the same for France.”
“War!” Rint said, literally spitting to one side. The poets and minstrels strive to make war glorious. Even beautiful. War is neither. Let me tell you about war.”
Rint’s war stories were not like those of Alexandre Eiffel. They did not tell of heroics, nor make war sound romantic. They sung of struggles, sacrifices, and suffering, so much so that that Eiffel breathed a sigh of relief when Rint announced, “We are here.”
The outside, Eiffel thought, is nothing spectacular. Not even out of the ordinary. Smooth granite block walls. Gothic arch windows. Three spires, topped with iron hexagonal cupolas. It could be any church, anywhere.
“Shall we go in?” Rint asked.
Inside, Eiffel’s opinion changed the moment he looked up. The first feature which caught his eye was the chandelier. Spanning perhaps eight feet, it faintly glowed a pale, dull white, as it appeared to be carved from ivory or...
In that instant, his adjectival catalog inverted. Spectacular became spectral. Ordinary, otherworldly. Had his initial assessment included mediocre, he might now have thought macabre.
“What...what is this?” he asked.
“The locals call it ‘The Bone Church.’ I imagine you ascertain why.”
Everywhere Eiffel looked, he saw bones. Human bones. Thousands of human bones.
Feel free to share an opinion.