Every night for months, Mary-Anne had pored over every shape, letter, figure, and line of the Voynich Manuscript’s 200+ enciphered pages, a pale brown vellum laptop glow lighting up her flat until the small hours. The more she looked, the more she was certain the answer was “hidden in plain sight” just as cryptology experts always said, even if they themselves had no idea where to look or what to look for.
She, however, had a very special secret weapon, a righteous sword to slice through this cryptographic Gordian knot. It had come to her close to the Spring Equinox: at the very moment she had first seen the Voynich, she had had a searing headache accompanied by a vivid mental picture of Christ Himself on the Cross. For that briefest of instants, she felt like a blessed, cursed mystic, a modern St Hildegard of Bingen; and glimpsing something so wonderful, awful, and joyful changed her life beyond all measure.
In fact, Mary-Anne found herself transformed into a virtual nun, the first Blessed Sister of the Voynich – and with much holy codicology to focus upon. To mute the incessant noise of the world, she binned her mobile phone, left her answerphone permanently on (and never played the messages), and turned all her old friends away when they came knocking at her door. With every new day, her former life peeled just that little bit further away from her, a snake skin she no longer wanted or needed. She even shut the door on Joe and his flowers and love notes, never mind how much the “old her” had liked him.
Fast forward to November, and she had changed tactics, placing printouts of all the plant pages on the floor and spending time shuffling them around, looking for unexpected handwriting and colour matches. Yet it was then that it struck her, might the Messiah be hiding there, for was He not the Tree of Life? On a constant adrenaline high and a sense of being desperately close to the end, she began working all night and forgetting to eat, leaving her weak and constantly retching. This, she rationalized, was surely the mystic’s lot – but she had no choice, for hunting down the Saviour inside the Voynich was the one true path that had been allotted to her.
And now tonight, late on Christmas Eve, with a pile of unopened Christmas cards blocking the flat door, the million-piece jigsaw had begun to come together. When she had finally remembered to add to the mix the herbal pages misplaced in the pharmacological sections, her months of fervent searching had finally revealed the key, the visual enciphering mechanism. She could now vividly see that the herbal pages, if you arranged them (just as she had done) in the correct pattern, formed a long-hidden picture of Christ crucified – exactly the same one as had first flashed into her mind’s eye all those months ago.
Having set up her webcam to record the perfect image of His suffering face laid out on the floor, Mary-Anne felt an odd glow inside her, and stood there gazing at the image that had been concealed for many centuries, appalled, amazed, aghast. And against all the meteorological odds, a light dusting of snow began to lightly fall outside her window. The time was ripe to show the world her amazing discovery – and how marvellous that that it was to be on Christmas Day.
But just as she set the live feed going, something suddenly wrenched around deep inside her – clutching her swollen stomach in dreadful pain, Mary-Anne collapsed on the floor, right on top of her reconstructed image of the Saviour. Great lurching waves of agony jerked and pinballed around her body. “My God!” she screamed. “I’m dying – help me!”
The Voynich webcam lurkers at first dismissed it all as a kind of performance art hoaxery: but after a few minutes, her very real pain was all too obvious – and she was too incapacitated to make it to the phone in the corner of the room. “M-A!“, one shouted, “I’ll call an ambulance – where do you live?”
Not long after, the watchers heard the crashing sound of policemen breaking down the flat door, followed by the paramedics’ shouting as they rushed swiftly in, scattering all her carefully arranged papers. And they took in every gory, magnificent detail, as Mary-Anne pushed and screamed and pushed and screamed and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.