‘Three-hundred-year-old tapestries. Five-hundred-year-old medieval weaponry. Not even a glance. But this?’
Fredrick’s voice was exceedingly loud. Not that William could hear him. His jaw movements and the urgency in his signing gave it away. Wearing the overpriced headphones, like their classmates who wandered the museum with the narrator waffling in his ear, did not help.
William signed to Fredrick, his focus directed towards a spectacular, gothic-patterned wooden chair, one of many wonderous medieval exhibits in the large open room.
‘Alistair’s Chair. Carved in fifteen thirty-two by recluse carpenter Alistair Gift from the trunk of an ancient oak tree. A strange supernatural experience encountered all who sat on it. Scribes wrote of men turning into lemons. Mutes into minstrels. Lords into limbless street beggars,’ Fredrick exaggerated his signing to match his disbelief. ‘It offered judgment. Punishing those who committed crimes or experienced a life of good fortune. Rewarding those less fortunate with their deepest desires.’
William lip read well but appreciated Fredrick accompanying his words with Auslan. Fredrick paused. His jaw and eyes widened as he listened.
‘Seeing this firsthand, Bishop Calthorn condemned the iconic structure cursed and demanded its immediate destruction. However, the chair prevailed.’
Fredrick jumped. William assumed the glass prison guarding the chair must have clicked as it detached from its locks and disappeared into the high ceiling. The light that bathed the gothic structure brightened. Red lasered bars that added an extra layer of security vanished into the ground.
William searched the room. Students froze like statues. Eyes fixed in their direction.
‘Since its addition to the museum in nineteen fifty-two, patrons who observe this exhibit were offered the opportunity to test its theory,’ continued Fredrick. ‘Only one has accepted the challenge.’
William studied two framed black and white photographs of a man that hung behind the chair. The first showed his arms bulging as he lifted a chair. The second, his arms barely had flesh on the bone or the strength to hold an album cover.
Fredrick stepped away. William hesitated. Since birth, he had not uttered a word or heard a sound. He needed a leap of faith.
William jumped onto the stage and placed himself on the wooden chair. Fredrick and his other classmates looked on. Mouths open. Eyes alert. William spasmed. His skin itched. His world darkened. A high-pitch sound poisoned his ears. William scrunched his face. His mouth stretched as if screaming as he fought the torturing agitation. A crackled malicious voice grew inside his head.
‘Seek or keep is my test. No answer and torture will not rest. Seek the seed of life you crave or keep the one God gave. Beware, your decision may be grave.’
A word sprouted inside William’s mind. The torment eased. Horrified expressions were fixated on William as he rushed from the chair.
Fredrick hurried towards him. Failing to sign, he asked, ‘Are you alright?’
William glared at him. Face flushed. Fists clenched. ‘No, I’m not. It didn’t work!’