In celebration of my first year as blogger and independent writer. I am this week sharing my short story, Cataclysm, with readers. I have been posting it a chapter a day. Today is chapter 3. (Chapter 1) (Chapter 2)
“So, who are you then? You came in here, disrupted our meeting; upset our community members and now you are just sitting there! Who and what are you?” an angry voice demanded from Tempe. She opened her eyes to see the rest of the group, congregated in a semi-circle around her. They did not look friendly to her. The voice came from a heavy set woman with a pin stripe for a mouth.
Ah, Martha! She did not enjoy meeting her face to face. Tempe was well known with the effects and influences of Martha’s dictatorial rule in the community. She did not like her or the way that she did things.
Martha’s been in Tempe’s scope for many months. Tempe kept a close eye on her activities and the direction into which they led the members of the community.
It has been many years since Martha deviated from the Original Plan. The Great Council allowed her some leeway and Tempe worked on small, undetectable interventions through the years, but the Council has now called on Tempe to do a large scale intervention.
Lifting herself into a more upright position on the bench, Tempe looked Martha squarely in the eye. She wouldn’t have minded some backup with this one, but it wasn’t to be. Unflinchingly she returned Martha’s cold stare.
“So, Martha, how are things going at the school?” Tempe casually asked the woman.
Martha nearly choked! How did this stranger know her name? How did she dare talk to her, headmistress of the only secondary school in the district, in such a disrespectful manner? Before she could answer, Tempe continued, “For an intelligent woman you are slow on the uptake. You should have figured out by now who I am?”
A ripple moved through the group. A giggle was suppressed by one, while another person gasped with outrage. This was a group divided.
“Why are Rivka and Heinrich not here?” Tempe sent another shock wave through the cluster of bodies. “Might it be that she hasn’t been feeling very well the last couple of weeks? And being the concerned husband he is, he stayed with her instead of coming over here with all of you?”
It became evident to all there, that the strange women had access to privileged information. A feeling of caution, fear and distrust, settled over them. The mood inside the room changed, but not for the better. Some members of the group openly stepped back from Tempe, while others discreetly tried to distance themselves from her. Only Martha stood her ground.
Inhaling deeply, Tempe caused the barometric pressure to drop and summoned the storm. The atmosphere inside as well as outside the church changed for the worse.
“I think you should leave!” Martha directed Tempe.
Tempe did not move. She just continued to look Martha straight in the eye.
“So Martha, when is your transfer coming through?” Tempe lightly threw the question at the angry woman.
Bright red blotches showed themselves on the older woman’s face. “What transfer?” she spluttered at Tempe.
“The transfer to Head Office. It has been in the pipeline for how many months now? The transfer that will leave open the position of headmistress for another teacher to take up. Somebody like Rivka.”
“Huh…huh…,” Martha was seeking for a response but could not come up with an appropriate one.
“Oh, come on Martha, it is well known that you cannot stand the thought of anybody taking your position, especially not your daughter-in-law. You have been sabotaging her since the very first day that she came to this community. You have always seen her as a threat to you and your little kingdom that you have set up so nicely here for yourself. You have known for a while now that your time has run out, but you have been trying to hang on to something that isn’t there anymore. Your season here is over. It is time for you to step down Martha, to hand over the reins to the one that has been appointed for this season. You have placed yourself in direct opposition to the Original Plan. Did you really think that you were going to succeed in setting up your own plans and schemes? I have worked an intervention for you in the form of the transfer, but you did not give heed. You stubbornly stuck to your own plans and ideas. You could have saved yourself and the whole community a lot of heartache and sorrow, if you had only followed the Original Plan.”
Martha stepped away from Tempe and pointing a finger at her, she yelled angrily, “You have no right to talk to me like that! You know nothing about me or what is happening in my school or in this community, let alone in my household! What do you know about the Original Plan?”
“Interesting that you should say that,” Tempe responded. “Actually I know a lot about what has been going on in this community as well as in your house. Rikva has been ill a lot lately, hasn’t she?”
Martha let out a gasp of outrage and then screamed at Tempe, “Get out! Leave! Now!”
At that another woman stepped forward. Tempe recognised her as Charlotte, the Physician of the community. There was a look of concern on her face.
“How do you know that? Who are you?” she asked Tempe.
Tempe got up from the bench and faced the group.
“I’m the Keeper of Destinies and Bloodlines. I have been assigned to the people of this community for many years now. I am familiar with all of you here and even with those who are not here today. I have been commissioned with the task of keeping the destiny of this community in line with the Original Plan. Regardless of all my efforts you have deviated from the Plan and I am now here to intervene.”
This declaration only got her more skeptical looks from the onlookers. Nobody moved or spoke.
As if to confirm her words, thunder clapped outside and lightning lit up the sky. It rippled through the group gathered together in the small space. Recognition registered on faces as they realised that the thunder was different to what they have grown used to over the years. A few people moved towards the windows in order to see what was happening outside.
Tempe was not deterred by the unusual movement of nature. Looking at Charlotte she said, “Do you have an idea what is causing Rivka’s illness?” Charlotte quickly looked at Martha and back at Tempe.
“If you are who you claim to be, then you will know the answer to your question,” Charlotte threw back at Tempe.
“Then you know,” Tempe simply stated.
A slow drumbeat started on the corrugated iron roof of the church, interspersed with the dull thuds of large raindrops falling on dusty ground. More people hastened to the windows, while others rushed outside to witness the rare and unexpected spectacle. Only Martha and Charlotte did not move, waiting on Tempe to see what her next move would be.
Tempe picked up her back pack from the floor and swung it on her back.
“You are leaving?” Charlotte questioned her action.
“I am. You know what to do. I leave it in your hands to deal with the issue at hand,” Tempe said.”
“But, if you are the Keeper, you sort this out!” Charlotte demanded.
“This is your destiny Charlotte. How you handle this situation will determine the direction your future will take. You have been contemplating a course of action for weeks now. Am I not correct when I say that you have already discussed Rivka’s symptoms with a colleague of yours in the city? You know the answer. You know what needs to be done. Deal wisely. Do not allow your emotions or personal interests to lead you in your decision. This is your opportunity to do your part in restoring this community’s destiny.”
Charlotte opened her mouth to speak, but her voice was silenced by a crack of thunder that opened up the heavens above the small settlement. Rain poured down in a heavy, dark curtain. The drumbeat on the roof drained out their voices and their conversation was lost in the din.
Tempe took a step closer to Martha. The colour had drained from Martha’s face. She looked at Tempe forlornly.
“Things could have been so different Martha. You had so many opportunities to do good and thereby benefit your whole community, but instead you got caught up in your own selfish schemes and desires. You do understand that this is the end of the road for you? By your choice and the decisions that you have made, you are going down this particular path. Even in this, you still have a choice in how you will deal with this part of your journey. In this final chapter, do the right thing; tell Charlotte what toxins you used to poison Rivka. Her death will bring you no benefit or joy, but it will bring harm to your family and to this community.”
Stripped of all emotion Martha did not respond or react, but coldly stared back at Tempe.
“Please excuse me, I have to leave now.” With these words, Tempe set herself apart from the situation. She wasn’t willing to get into a power struggle or an emotional tangle with either of the women. She did what she needed to do; now she had to move forward to the next part of her assignment. She stepped past Charlotte and Martha and moved towards the side door. The authority, with which she acted, restrained them from trying to delay her. Squaring her shoulders, she braced herself for that which she knew, still awaited her. Undetected by any of the other community members, Tempe left the building. As she stepped outside of the church she released the storm in all its ferocity.
©Copyright Micelle Coetsee 2014