Once upon a time, there was a beautiful maiden.
Or, perhaps, a man.
Most likely of all, it didn't matter.
She – or he – or the Shroud (for that is what we call her, or him, or it doesn't matter) must have come to be through divine means. Brought down to Earth by angels, for they feared the beauty of the Shroud might lead them into temptation. The essence of Gaia, manifest, the purest beauty Mother Earth could muster. A wish given form, the most glorious imagining from the most brilliant artist, who gave his soul away with a handshake if He could bring her – or him – or it didn't matter – into being.
One thing we could all be certain of was, at a meaningless point in history, someone decided that they could not bear such loveliness in large doses. Hidden by a long, trailing veil of black, the Shroud was draped in the plainest mantle to be found anywhere and covered from head to toe. If the Shroud had a head, or toes. Most likely, it didn’t matter.
Loveliness of such high caliber was not to be shared so freely. To look upon the face of the Shroud was the greatest blessing one could ever receive; gladly, we slaved away, toiling ourselves to death for one more glimpse of what that veil concealed.
To look upon her – or his – or it didn't matter – the Shroud's face was an honor that not a single soul among us deserved. Beauty takes pity upon the ordinary.
We looked upon the Shroud's face, and felt inexplicable pain, something beyond all description. The sensation of our hearts being torn apart, nerve by nerve, breaking into millions of glass pieces. The feeling of every vein in our bodies singing, soaring being bliss and overwhelming us with so much awareness of ourselves that we ached. A burning, piercing, thrilling ache.
The clarity, the single-mindedness, the enveloping knowledge that something so beautiful existed, in our plain and ugly world. Our unworthiness made our hearts literally break, in our chests.
From that moment onwards, everything else seemed horrifyingly dull. Twisted. Hideous. We followed the Shroud, holding the long train of the mantle, kissing the ground she – or he – or it didn’t matter – walked upon. Every step was striking. Every sway and flutter, captivating. When the Shroud would speak, it sounded like a thousand ethereal songs being sung at once – the tinkling of chimes, the warm whisper of the wind, the lifting tones of music that filled us and made us believe magic could exist. Serenity, like a lure, audible even to the deaf.
It was enough to drive us mad.
Once upon a time, we believed there was a purpose to this world. A ridiculous notion, now. There is one purpose, one glory, one beauty, one reason to live.
We wish the Shroud to look upon is. Most likely, nothing else matters.