The Marlowe Papers

A Novel

Ros Barber

St. Martin's Press

Marlowe Papers, The
Church-dead. And not a headstone in my name. No brassy plaque, no monument, no tomb, no whittled initials on a makeshift cross, no pile of stones upon a mountain top. The plague is the excuse; the age's curse that swells to life as spring gives way to summer, to sun, unconscious kisser of a warmth that wakens canker as it wakens bloom.
Now fear infects the wind, and every breath that neighbour breathes on neighbour in the street brings death so close you smell it on the stairs. Rats multiply, as God would have them do. And fear infects like mould; like fungus, spreads -folk catch it from the chopped-off ears and thumbs, the burning heretics and eyeless heads that slow-revolve the poles on London Bridge.
The child of casual violence grows inured, an audience too used to real blood; they've watched a preacher butchered, still awake, and handed his beating heart like it was love. And now the sanctioned butchery of State breeds sadists who delight to man the rack, reduce men from divine belief and brain to begging, and the rubble of their spines.
From all this, I am dead. Reduced to ink that magicks up my spirit from the page: a voice who knows what mortals cannot think of; a ghost, whose words ring deeper from the grave.
Corpse-dead. A gory stab-hole for an eye; and that's what they must think. No, must believe, those thug-head pursers bent on gagging speech, if I'm to slip their noose and stay alive. Now I'm as dead as any to the world, the foulest rain of blackened corpses on the body that is entered in my name: the plague pit where Kit Marlowe now belongs. For who could afford for that infected earth to be dug up to check identities? And so, I leave my former name behind. Gone on the Deptford tide, the whole world blind.
Friend, I'm no one. If I write to you, in fading light that distances the threat, it's as a breeze that strokes the Channel's waves, the spray that blesses some small vessel's deck.
THE MARLOWE PAPERS. Copyright © 2012 by Ros Barber. All rights reserved. . For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.