In celebration of my first year as blogger and independent writer, I am sharing my short story, Cataclysm, with readers. I am posting it a chapter a day. I have posted chapter 1 yesterday, with chapter 2 today.
Leaning against the dark, wooden doors Tempe pushed the front door of the church open and was ushered in by the rush of warm air. She closed the doors behind her, shutting out the harsh sunlight and stepped deeper into the small building. The atmosphere was heavy with heat and emotion. A lone ceiling fan ineffectively pushed at the hot air. Clusters of people were scattered throughout the tiny interior. A cacophony of voices filled the tiny space. Huddled together, bound by their communal plight, supplications were being made; emotional pleas for respite were poured out. Collectively they were calling out to God to show them mercy and to come to their aid.
Tempe took her backpack from her back and sat down in the back row. Her eyes moved from one circle of bodies to the other, seeking out the faces of those she came for. With ease she recognised them. They seemed so familiar to her, yet so strange in this setting. She has waited for this day for so long, that she had no haste now to do what she came to do. Leaning back comfortably against the bench, her eyes roamed the room, taking in the scene and observing the intricate and delicate dynamics at work. She had always been intrigued by the workings of human emotions and relations and how they played themselves out.
She noted the urgency and fervour with which the supplications were being made. Desperation brought and kept these people huddled together in the small room despite the sweltering heat. The droning of their voices and the passion of their pleas flowed over her. She took a deep breath as if she could inhale their zeal and make these people her own. But she was not to be assimilated or united with any of the individuals in the room. She was there for a purpose and a reason which went far beyond her. She had to remain objective, focussed on her mission and not be drawn into the emotions of those she came to see.
She closed her eyes to cut herself off from the scene in front of her and tried to regain her focus. This had been her private struggle for so many years. It was such a peculiar fine line that she needed to tread. She felt so deeply for them and associated so intimately with their circumstances, yet she had to stay objective, in order to discern her mission clearly.
A light touch on her arm roused her from her thoughts. As she opened her eyes she looked directly into a pair of clear, blue eyes set in a petite face. A young, blond woman was leaning over her, looking at her with concern in her eyes.
“Are you okay? Is there something that I can do for you?” whispered the woman to avoid disturbing the others in their prayers.
Tempe was always surprised at the sudden rush of emotions she felt the moment she personally interacted with a subject. She knew this young woman so well and yet she knew nothing of her. She took a deep breath and inhaled the scent of her. She imagined that she would smell of roses, but she smelled of sweat and bleach.
“Miss, are you okay?” the woman asked again.
“Yes, thank you. I am fine,” Tempe answered. “My name is Tempe. I just came from Sophia. She said that I would find you all here. You are Juliana, are you not?” Tempe asked.
“Yes, I am,” answered the woman, looking quizzically at Tempe.
“I have a message for you and your husband,” Tempe continued.
At that moment a big, burly man stepped up behind Juliana.
“Can we help you?” he asked, looking sternly at Tempe. Then, turning to look at his wife he said, “Your son needs you.”
“You are Johann, are you not?” Tempe asked the man. Before he could answer, she continued. “I have a message for you.”
“A message from whom?” he barked at her.
“A message in response to your prayers,” Tempe answered.
By now their voices had raised the attention of the other people in the church. Their prayers ceased and they have turned to look at the back row.
“Who are you and what do you know about our prayers?” he asked gruffly.
Tempe knew that he was a hard, loveless man and didn’t expect any other response from him.
“I brought you something Johann.” Tempe reached over for her backpack where it was sitting next to her on the bench. She flipped it open and took a small book from it, which she handed to him.
Juliana did not move from her position. Some of the others moved closer to the three of them to hear and see what was taking place.
“What is this?” Johann demanded from Tempe.
“This is the love letter that your wife has been writing to you the last fifteen years,” Tempe said in a gentle voice.
Perplexed he looked from Tempe to his wife and back to Tempe.
“Do you know this woman?” he demanded from his wife.
“No, I don’t,” she answered in a voice tight with emotion.
Roughly he opened the book to reveal page after page of photos of Juliana in different settings, taking care of their handicapped son.
“She is beautiful, isn’t she?” Tempe asked as he paged through the book. Johann grunted in reply. “Take a good look at her. Look closely. Look at her face; look at her eyes. Do you see it?” Tempe asked him.
“The love; the unconditional love with which she has been taking care of your child; of you.
She has been showing you how to love for all these years, but you failed to see it.”
Johann’s head snapped up. His eyes were filled with pain and confusion.
“Where did you get these? Who are you?”
Ignoring his question, Tempe continued, “You have been praying for the healing of your child. You have even at times asked that he may be taken away from this life. You couldn’t get past the fact that he was not perfect and that he would never be able to live up to your expectations. You allowed your disappointment to darken your heart and you have closed yourself off from those who loved you the most. You have been trying so hard to get what you wanted that you failed to see what you had. You have blamed your son for all of your failures and sorrows. You have become embittered and hard, Johann.”
With a curse he angrily pointed a finger a Tempe.
“What the hell do you know about what we have been through? What do you know about us? Who gave you the right to speak to me like this?” he spat at her.
“I know that Juliana has been praying through these years as well and all the while she has been asking for only one thing: love. She daily asked for just enough love to see take her through a day. Enough love that she could keep on giving continuously and unconditionally, regardless of circumstances. Just love.”
Nobody had moved or said anything until that moment, but now there was a stir amongst the people that had gathered around them.
“You resent her for her ability to keep on going day after day without blaming or complaining. You even at times accused her of playing the martyr,” Tempe continued. A voice from the group murmured a confirmation. A red flame started to creep up Johann’s neck. He visibly trembled with the effort to control his emotions and his anger. But Tempe did not ease up or stop. She had a message to deliver and she was going to finish what she had started.
“Your prayers are to be answered.”
Once more she reached into her backpack and lifted out a large manila envelope. She handed the envelope to Juliana. With trembling hands she took the envelope from Tempe.
“What is this?” Juliana asked her voice almost inaudible.
“This is an official letter from your father’s attorney, re-instating your share of the family interests to you. Together with that there is an open invitation to you from your family to return to the farm and the family business when and if you would want to do so.”
Johann’s retort was masked by a thunderous rumble outside.
“The rain is coming,” Tempe remarked.”
“No, it is only dry thunder; all rumbles and no rain,” someone from the group ventured.
“Rain IS coming!” Tempe re-iterated. “A storm is brewing. You have called for rain. Your prayers are about to be answered.”
With that remark Tempe returned her gaze to Juliana and Johann. He had stomped off to the other side of the church where he was angrily grabbing their belongings and stuffing them into a bag. With force he grabbed hold of his son’s wheelchair and wheeled him towards the side door. Juliana stood motionless next to Tempe.
“What does this all mean?” she asked of Tempe.
“In time you will understand.” With a slight wave of her hand, she dismissed Juliana. “Go now, your child needs you.” Still she did not move. “Go!” Tempe urged her, “Go!” Johann thundered a command at Juliana from across the hall. With great reluctance she turned from the strange woman with the head of unruly black hair to follow him. Halfway down the aisle she turned back to Tempe and called to her, “Should I thank you?” Tempe waved her off towards the door, not answering her question. After hesitating one more moment, Juliana turned to follow her husband and son out of the side door.
Feeling drained by the emotions expressed and released, Tempe closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the wall. She had only but started and there was more to come. She knew what was at hand and she knew that every action taken was necessary for the restoration of the Original Plan; yet she dreaded what the present situation required from her. It took all her resolve to focus her attention and to ready herself for the next step on the agenda.
Once more a thunderous rumble shook the church. With a deep sigh she released the energy that brought the clouds in over the town.
©Copyright Micelle Coetsee 2014