A visceral presence permeated the cave. It spoke through a textured silence, something gentle and–depending on one’s frame of mind–holy. Maybe it was the warm shade of purple that imbued the walls with a surreal embrace, or the facsimile artifacts on display to channel the ambiance of the age. This place, known as The Sacred Grotto of The Revelation, was believed to be where St. John the Divine had been graced with apocalyptic visions while in political exile some two thousand years before, and where in a state of eschatological passion he rendered them into what would later become the holy Book of the Apocalypse, or as it would be translated and forever known, Revelation.
Gabriel Stone, still very much a man-in-training at twenty-seven, had stood to the side as the monk leading their tour channeled the past with a carefully rehearsed reverie: the indentation where John had rested his head, a flat pulpit of rock upon which he wrote the prophecy, the three fissures from which a holy voice had narrated the forthcoming end of days. Gabriel had studied Revelation years ago, part of a sociology assignment, finding it more metaphoric than fascinating. Yet he couldn’t shake the image of John trembling before the rocks as the visions overwhelmed him, and through the years he’d cultivated an intellectual curiosity that he steadfastly refused to acknowledge as spiritual.
But St. John would not let him go. And so, when the opportunity arose, Gabriel came here to find him.
The small crowd had obediently moved into the adjoining Chapel of St. Anne, built in 1088 as a sort of foyer to the cave, leaving Gabriel alone with what he realized was perhaps the first truly religious experience of his life. An inexplicable and quite unexpected emotion had washed over him, rendering him humble and full of awe, and he was hesitant to leave until he understood why.
Later, looking back on this moment, he believed he knew.
A soft voice suddenly pierced his awareness, echoing off the rocks, sending a shiver up his spine.