The Seven Chairs
The morning bells rang longer than usual. We all stopped in our tracks to listen to the extra bells, sifting through our memory trying to decipher the bell code rarely heard on the compound. We were called to a special assembly in the main cathedral’s nave to see the Archprior Orbilani on the alter with three chairs sitting empty upon the bema. We all knew and dreaded that one of us would be called to Have A Seat which would banish the seated one from the order forever. This moment, in the chapel, all a bustle and worry would be the last time we would all be together. Archprior Orbilani’s huge booming voice filled the cathedral calling us to order, and welcoming us, made clear the order of the morning, and introduced the Selection Committee again. We’ve all met the selection committee before; we’ve been under their watchful eye for months, never knowing what they were looking for. Four of us have already been called to Have A Seat, Abbess Qipiani being the first. She was our chandler and expert in ancient jet propulsion as well. Next was Abbot Rapava, he was almost finished with the 19th level, his understanding of enterprise architecture is already sorely missed. As is his beer, he was an excellent brew-master. Novice Amatuni was the third to be called. She was so young and optimistic, yet possessed an incredible depth of knowledge in boundary conditions. I’ll miss her the most, she was fun to kiss. The next guy, Stavrophore Chichua was kind of arrogant, I don’t really miss him at all but he was good at the Kronecker delta function, we all miss his input when it came to big thinking on the mathematical model of theoretical physics.
In these last moments before the call, we glanced around the room at each other, locking eyes with our friends and lovers as it may be the last time we see each other. Archprior Orbilani called forth the Master Selector who went forward to the bema with a tablet. We all froze and collectively held our breath – we are a unit, losing someone to the call is a tremendous burden on the order. She cleared her throat, read the name to herself, squinted then looked up to scan the room. She then turned to Archprior Orbilani and stated the name of the one to be called to Have A Seat, Archprior Orbilani was visibly flustered by this information. Was it possible that he too didn’t know our fate or the reach of the Selection Committee? Why was he so upset about who was called? He composed himself and without further evident emotion he called Heirodiakonissa Jaqeli to Have A Seat. All of us were shocked! Heirodiakonissa Jaqeli fought back tears to no avail, her face leaking in a way that was clearly out of her control. She composed herself as she walked up to the front of the chapel to Have A Seat. She turned to look at us before she placed herself on the fifth chair, her face visibly red, blue eyes a sharp contrast, shining out at us, she beamed into our faces with her last glances, her final goodbye, trying to find strength in our faces, simultaneously radiating a calming assurance that she accepts her calling.
No sooner than she’d set herself on the Seat did the chair easily, steadily and silently lift from the floor. She, on the chair hovered over our heads, we all followed her with our eyes as she swiftly floated out of the building and vanished.
Archprior Orbilani quietly, emptily expressed his thanks and support of the Selection Committee, then dismissed us to go about our studies and work, without Heirodiakonissa Jaqeli or Stavrophore Chichua, Novice Amatuni, Abbot Rapava or Abbess Qipiani. Who would be next? How do we restructure without them? How do we escape the notice of the Selection Committee? Today, I’m relieved it was not I who was called to Have A Seat, but it could very well be the next time.
Two chairs remain on the bema, waiting. The half hour bells rang. The cathedral emptied. We went back to work.