Moses was a Liar: 3 EXODUS 3: Petrovic’s Comet re-appears

Posted: October 18, 2011 in SciFi

Two days had passed since the predictions of the High Priest and the Red Priestess. During this time, the Jesuits consolidated their position and formulated their strategies to accommodate the predicted coming of the birds which was now fully ten days late. They also developed contingency plans concerning their response when the Red Priestess called for an exodus from the valley.

The Oversight Committee met once but it soon transpired that the rules the priestess had submitted to them during their first meeting were logical and practical. As no further matters of common interest arose they dispersed without having taken any constructive decisions.

The Caesareans were relaxed. They had a more pragmatic approach to things and in any event, Karl had been talking to them concerning the priestess and some of the discussions he had had with her. He made no mention however of her view that he was to be their leader out of the valley.

In the New Londoner’s camp, the spirit was one of let’s wait and see. They knew that the birds would come. Most of their campfire discussions were exploratory, regarding issues such as the High Priest’s ability to create thunder-flashes with his sceptre and the implications for all of them if they were to vacate the valley.

The Red Priestess continued with her daily lectures to the girls. The subjects ranged from their sexual maturing, human behaviour as well as religions, healing and health. The girls were a wonderful audience and on occasion Karl would attend these talks.

Alan, the New Londoner approached her one day together with Susan and Ahmed.

“We would like to speak with you, Red Priestess,” Alan started.

“You are welcome, Alan. I trust you’ve had some char or must I make you some of my special brew?” she said laughing at their obvious reluctance. Rationalists they may be she thought to herself, but they still have their little superstitions.

“It’s about the High Priest,” Alan continued.

“Yes,” she replied, eyes narrowing.

“Well, you always tell us we must beware of the mystics of the world and never believe the lies these people tell us, yet you seem to support the prophecies of the High Priest which seems like mysticism to us.”

“I said to them that the way I see it is that we were taught that the talent to think is special and unique to man,” Ahmed added. “We were told that by using our minds to their fullest capacity we would indeed be able to create wonderful things. Is this not so?”

“Indeed Ahmed, indeed. Even in the world of the Ancients we had not reached the full capacity and power of the mind. If we had spent as much time, money and effort at developing the minds of people instead of on technology and building expensive churches and temples, we may have developed into very different beings. We didn’t really understand yet how the human mind works and although many scientists from different fields of study analysed the brain from all types of perspectives, the answers were not that forthcoming. I personally believe we were totally on the wrong track. The Buddhists who were a relatively small yet very popular religious-cum-philosophical group believed that training of the human mind was possible through disciplined meditation and life-long learning. They achieved a spiritual grace far greater than that displayed by the majority of religious zealots, priests, shamans and the like.”

“But weren’t they just as mystical as the rest of them?” Susan asked.

“Yes they were, but they did not believe in an external deity or god. Self discipline, sacrifice, detachment and the reduction of suffering was their way. I did not think much of the metaphysical side of their philosophy which spoke of reincarnation and many other issues, but I liked their total acceptance of responsibility and their karmic philosophy. This basically meant that you are the result of your own actions and lack of action, if you like.”

“But the High Priest, how does he see the future?” Alan persisted.

“Prophets of old are known to have been wrong more times than right, Alan. History only records and worships their accurate prophecies. The rest are hidden from the fierce scrutiny of critics. In any case many of these prophecies became self-fulfilling, in other words because people believed that the prophets had the ‘gift’ to see the future, they in reality made the prophecies where it suited them, come true. The High Priest has a gift, I give you that. I have known him since his birth. His mother trained him to develop his mind to levels beyond that of his peers. That is the lesson for you; learn to think beyond what is deemed normal; do not fear to explore where others fear to tread. The human mind is still very much an unknown quantity but as certainly as a muscle can be strengthened through exercise, so too can the mind be developed by creative arts, music, reading, and writing but especially by meditation, introspection, reflection, research and debate with your peers. You must encourage this among your children; practice it yourselves as an art form in itself. The High Priest goes into a trance and virtually dreams the things he sees. Sometimes he’s right but many times he’s very wrong.”

Susan looked dubious. “But the future is uncertain, is it not? If that is so, how is it possible that even a highly developed mind can ‘see’ the future when the events have not occurred yet?”

The priestess laughed at the look on Susan’s face.

“Susan, I’m not sure whether I see consternation, fear or suspicion in your eyes; maybe I’m a poor ‘seer’ after all. Let me try to explain in a different manner. When a mystic is known for things such as being able to ‘see’ the future, people who wish to believe in his or her abilities, invariably tend to see what they wish to see. For example, a mystic may say that he sees great suffering and hardship for all in the coming years. Suffering and hardship may after all be the logical result of a drought for instance which is affecting all. However, those who latch on to what the mystic said would respond and say: “It was foretold!” and sadly accept their lot instead of trying to change it. Those who prepared themselves for the drought may actually not suffer hardship at all, but the mystics would counter that with specious comments such as “they’re in partnership with the devil, therefore rain only falls on their land” or “they steal our crops” or “they have bewitched our goats. The High Priest is a prophet much like the prophets of old. However, he does not profess that a god has spoken to him or that spirits have used him. He accepts that he is able to see the future, such as it is and then tells us. Sometimes not even he understands what it is he has seen; neither does he understand why he is able to ‘see’ and as I said, many times he is wrong.”

Susan was still not satisfied. Her upbringing and learning had excluded the para-normal; as a consequence the High Priest’s predictions must either be nonsense or there was something more to it.

“I still see many questions in your mind?” the priestess commented.

“We probably need to assess this among ourselves some more,” Alan interrupted. Ahmed agreed and added: “I would like to see whether the High Priest is able to predict things, almost as a test.”

“Spoken like a true scientist Ahmed. I know that it is impossible for the High Priest to ‘turn on’ predictions at will. He merely submits to the trances when he feels them coming on. It will be difficult to subject him to a test. But maybe you should discuss it with him; he’d welcome some intelligent enquiry.”

“OK, that’s interesting. We thought he would be quite negative and defensive,” Ahmed responded.

“I’ll broach it with him when the time is right and let you know,” the priestess said.

Satisfied for the time being, the New Londoners returned to their camp.

Meanwhile the Red Priestess had been doing her own ‘research’. She had been observing the cloud formations very carefully and watched for wind shifts and thunder-storms. It was evident that the weather was changing. It was also evident that temperatures were dropping, especially in the early hours of morning. She knew from the seasonal winter and summer cycles that they were located in the northern hemisphere. She did not however know how far north they were. Neither was she aware that a massive ice-age had gripped the larger part of the northern hemisphere after the earth crust displacement disaster had literally turned the planet upside down; nor did she suspect that this ice age was slowly receding.

Her observations had been correct. The migration was imminent. The signs were there. As the New Londoners had correctly analysed the bird migration patterns, the nature of the migrations seemed to be different; the birds’ stay on KRAT was becoming shorter every year.  The birds were only staying temporarily, and while some still nested and produced young, others took off after recovering their strength and flew further south where it was evidently warmer.

The dim sun was high in the cloudy sky when the drum started beating again. Acting like a dinner gong, all the campers who were quite bored after two days of lounging around, congregated again in the amphitheatre. The drum-beat heralded the dramatic entrance of all the male and female priests and acolytes to the front of the amphitheatre. They were followed by the High Priest and behind him walked the tall figure of the Red Priestess dressed again in her ceremonial dress.

With a nod of her head, the drumming ceased. She raised herself to her full height and raising her arms over her head to create the impression from her raised dais of enormous power, she intoned:

“People of the Red Earth, I call on you to call the birds to KRAT. They are here but await your call. Please raise your hands to the sky and hum with me.”

She started to hum and all the girls and priests hummed with her. Soon the whole gathering including the majority of Jesuits were humming. Close to 300 voices humming together made a loud buzzing noise which rose high above them and reverberated against the overhanging cliff of the amphitheatre which seemed to amplify it to a significant rumble. The Inner Circle of the Jesuits kept quiet. They were dumbfounded that their followers actually followed the instructions of the priestess.

They all raised their eyes to the clouds as they hummed. For a few minutes nothing happened; then high above them a single bird seemed to drop from the sky as if by magic. One moment there was nothing, the next, back-dropped against the swirling clouds, was the bird. It was a miracle! Within seconds, two long streams of birds, which grew into a large dark cloud followed. The gathering fell silent as the birds swooped and circled KRAT swinging around the amphitheatre, circling it twice before settling on their traditional and accustomed perches, screeching and hopping about as if nothing untoward had taken place.

A new sound rose above the noise of the birds; it was the villagers who were now shouting and singing at the sight of the birds. The gathering erupted into a gay celebration of joy and thanksgiving. They danced and jumped around in circles with the villagers intermingling without a thought about their differences.

A chant arose from the throats of 300-odd persons:

“Priestess, Priestess, Priestess, Priestess…”

The Vicar General whirled around, facing the Jesuits to stop this adulation of the hated witch, but they seemed to be as enthusiastic as the rest and ignored his shouts to stop. His shouts were in any event drowned out by the singing and dancing. Even the drummer joined in and for at least ten minutes, the villagers were one in their happiness. Only Mark and Timothy were quiet.

The Red Priestess held up her arms once again and after a couple of minutes, the chanting quietened down. The Vicar General jumped up and shouted at her, interrupting the joyous mood: “Witch, you will burn in hell; your dark secrets will cost you dear.” He turned to storm out of the gathering, when the priestess’ soft but penetrating voice rang out across the now quiet amphitheatre:

“Stop!”

The Vicar General seemed to pause in mid-air as he stopped in his tracks.

“I am not done with you, Br Joshua,” she cried using the name he had been christened. “I have been patient with you as well as with your ancestors for many stones. I have watched you manipulate and terrorise your people with threats and false promises. Now I bid you listen.” She stepped down from the dais and walked up to the Vicar General who stood in a passageway with Mark and Timothy on his flanks, facing her. As she approached, they seemed to retreat ever so slightly.

“I have been witness to the valley’s greatest tragedy and the secret it hides from all, preacher. I am your conscience and the conscience of your church,” she hissed at him.

“What are you talking about witch?” he replied with disdain but uncertainty had crept into his voice. He knew the history of the valley and especially that of the Jesuits. But what was the secret the witch was referring to?

“Who were your parents, preacher?”

“My mother was Suzette and my father Donald James of the Ancients,” he replied defensively. What was the woman getting at?

“I will show you who your real parents were, preacher. I knew them both. Your mother was indeed Suzette but your father was not Donald James,” she said loud enough for all to hear.

“How would you know witch? I do not know what you are talking about,” His voice assumed a panicky tone.

Donald James was not seen as an important person in the Jesuit community as he was not very faithful to their religion. A legend existed that some terrible thing had occurred in which his father had been implicated but nobody in the City of the Jesuits dared speak of it. His father had died shortly after he, Joshua was accepted as a novice into the Order of St Ignatius by the then Vicar General. His death had been shrouded in mystery as he had taken ill quite rapidly and passed away within two weeks. Nobody knew what he had died from but rumours of poisoning and witchcraft did the rounds in the small emerging town of the Jesuits. Was this what the witch was referring to? Alistair who would be beatified and ultimately canonised by the then Vicar General some time later, was about 35 years old at this stage but he had become a hermit who lived only to write the latest testament and historic document which he illustrated in a beautiful handwriting. Joshua as he was then known used to consult with Alistair until the latter’s death some ten years later. He died from a consumptive disease which caused him to drown in his own fluids.

Why was she referring to his father? Donald James was one of the Ancients and Joshua’s memory of him although vague was not negative at all. He had lived a quiet life and gave Joshua everything he could in the form of support in his learning in the church. His mother again had been much more involved with the church, bless her soul. She spent most of her time cleaning the church and helping St John.

The Red Priestess turned around and walked back to the dais without answering him.

Standing to face the gathering, she announced loudly: “I declare to you gathered here today as my witnesses, that the sins of the father shall be visited upon his son. I shall at a time appropriate divulge all. It is not such a time now. Now is a time to celebrate the coming of the birds. Tomorrow we shall gather here at the same time to witness the greatest happening of your lives. I bid you a good and fruitful evening.”

The gathering was astounded at the turn of events. Few missed the metaphor of the father and the son the priestess spoke about. In one fell swoop, the Red Priestess had not only neutralised the Vicar General’s control over the Jesuits, she had effectively created sufficient doubt and questions in their minds to destroy it.

Besides that, the dramatic coming of the birds, seemingly at her bidding but with their assistance in calling them down, had for the moment at least, made her the champion of the people. Even the High Priest could not but admire his mother’s deft handling of the threatening situation which had been simmering since their arrival on KRAT. He was delighted how she had slapped down the Vicar General but had no idea what she had up her sleeve. He had no knowledge of the secret she referred to. The humming by all to call down the birds was a stroke of genius, he thought. But how could she have known that the birds are close?

The Jesuits, upon returning to their camp, congregated and asked the Vicar General to clarify the Red Priestess’ accusation. They were angry. Their leader had been confronted, humiliated by the red witch. Although the bulk of them admired her for calling the birds and for her showmanship, they were, after all was said and done, still Jesuits who believed in the Holy Trinity and were sworn to be faithful to their church. Throwing down the gauntlet like she had done, could not go unanswered.

“I have no idea what she’s talking about. She seems to know something concerning my parents and especially my father, who as you know was a devout Christian much like me. The witch will try to discredit me if she can. I’m her biggest threat but have no doubt we will find out what it is. With faith on our side, we will overcome the witch and her powers.”

The Jesuits broke up in groups whispering among each other. The scandal threatened to tear them apart. The old wounds and stories were being re-opened again. The older members of the village were called upon to revive the old wives tales and gossip which they did with great glee around the fires that night. Stories of a burning witch, witchcraft and murder floated around the campsites. These were embellished and the younger villagers in all three camps listened in wonder as the stories grew to gargantuan proportions.

In the camp of the New Londoners, the doings of the day were also being debated. Ahmed and Alan as well as their Counter, Ari, were seated around the embers of the morning fire.

“Well that was pretty dramatic, Ari, don’t you think? How did she do it?” Alan asked.

“She’s pretty shrewd. The more I see her in action the more I like her. I think that she’s been counting the coming pretty much as we have but she knew something that we do not. You will remember that we were quite far out with our predictions last year and the year before that as well. It’s as if the birds are coming later and later every year. Our counting is not accurate any longer, we need a new system to count the days I think,” Ari replied.

He could not have been closer to the truth. The system of counting the migrations of the birds as the basis of their calendar was at best a loose one. The citizens of the valley did not have sight of the heavens and as a consequence they could not develop an accurate calendar even if they wanted to.

Since the displacement of the earth’s crust eighty-two years ago, twenty-two years were effectively leap years, thereby shifting the date of each leap year one day further. The birds arrived roughly at the same time of the year but after eighty years, this was twenty-one days later. The Red Priestess knew this. In her cave she had been keeping a record secretly and hidden from all the valley dwellers, which reflected the exact day, 5th May 2010 on which the Airbus had crashed on KRAT and every day since then. She was the historian and on her calendar she had marked every important happening including the bird migrations and even the births of the first generation of valley citizens. She also kept an accurate record of her own birthdays as well as those of her mother June and sister, Liz, on her calendar. This had been decided upon by them collectively eight decades ago. Today’s date she knew full well, was 1st August 2092. She was ninety four years old and her next birthday was only two months away on the 18th October 2092. She even knew that it would be on a Saturday. The citizens of Red Valley did not possess the technology to match this. She also knew that the villagers did not count their days by the same calendar and neither did they distinguish between the months. They were only able to differentiate between the cold season and the rainy or wet season. The cold season was about to set in.

With the expected lifting of the cloud cover as predicted by the High Priest, the insulation the clouds had provided would disappear and through ground radiation, the earth would lose a substantial amount of heat and a bitterly cold winter could be the result, as she had predicted.

Meanwhile, the Caesareans were happy with the day’s proceedings. They had not lost face. Their prediction had been suitably vague, so the arrival of the birds while welcomed for the bounty they brought, did not create tensions or recriminations against any one, including the Counter.

They were also comfortable with the Red Priestess’s performance against the Vicar General. They had never liked the Jesuits’ intolerance of their spiritualism and animistic rituals. Knocking him down a peg or two was fine by them. The priestess had merely invoked her own powers to call on the birds. This they understood and were comfortable with. Most of them had a great respect for her and would in years to come even deify her existence.

Karl and Benedict, together with some other villagers were discussing the position as they saw it.

“I wonder what she has on the Jesuit priest?” Benedict was saying.

“I’ve come to understand the woman a lot better since we came up here to KRAT. She’s no witch as I told you a couple of days ago, but has experience of things of which we can never have any understanding. I’m now looking forward to the next great happening as she called it. It promises to be something quite startling,” Karl replied.

“But Karl, how does she seem to be able to predict things?” Benedict asked, puzzled by the apparent contradiction of her philosophy and her actions.

“I don’t know Bennie but I tell you this, at her age even I will be able to predict things,” he replied laughing at his own joke.

Everybody guffawed. Karl was not known to be the most intelligent person but he was respected for his knowledge of the valley and beyond as well as his exploits as a hunter.

“But seriously, how does she do it?” Benedict insisted.

“She does not believe in magic and spirits or gods. She told me a couple of times that she knows things we would never be able to understand. To me that sounds a lot like magic and dark secrets. But I guess that we must remember that the world she came from was very different from ours, so maybe she is able to do things which we’re unable to do.”

“The Jesuit priest was terrified of her, that much is clear,” Bennie continued.

“Yes, you can see that there is no love lost between them. I would like to know what she has in mind; what the so-called sins of the father were. Our visit here on KRAT is becoming very interesting,” Karl responded.

Soon all the camps had settled into the preparation of the evening meals while Karl, together with some other Caesareans slipped out of the camp to net some birds for the pot.

The Red Priestess also quietly slipped out of the enclosure she normally slept in below the cliff overhang. She walked in a different direction, into the forest and following the stream of water, reached the cliff-side over which the thin spray of water fell to the valley below.

Down below her she could see the familiar curve of River Esme through Red Valley as it made its way around the City of the Jesuits and brushed against New London, close to Bracken Lake to twist and curl through the valley, widening as it progressed towards the mountains of the Great Divide. Mt Brutus lay to the north-west. A thin wisp of smoke rose from its summit to disappear into the clouds above them.

On the horizon she could make out something which she had not seen since her departure from London. She could see a thin blue line hovering over the horizon. The skies were clearing, the clouds were thinning!

A strange feeling of melancholy and deep sadness filled her heart at the sight. The journey had been so arduous and difficult. The world of her parents and friends had changed into a cruel and lonely place. When she was a child playing in the streets of London with her friends, no-one could have foreseen her destiny or for that matter their own. Quietly she cried for the world; for her mother, father and sister; for her husband, Hassan and for her son who would now face the New World without her. Tears rolled from her eyes over her old wizened cheeks as she recalled Christine’s horrible death; the passing of her wonderful friends such as Zyndile and Esme; she shuddered thinking about young Amanda’s fate. Things could have been so different if only people were able to live in harmony together and tolerate each other she thought.

She knew that she would remain behind and that the exodus would take place without her. She also knew there was still much work to be done.

Buoyed by the prospect of this, she suddenly stood up, turned her back on the blue horizon in the distance, squared her now bowed and stooped shoulders and walked as briskly as the terrain would permit, back to her camp.

Later that night the Red Priestess woke up. Something was different! As she lay on her back contemplating the following morning’s programme, she suddenly realised she could see millions of stars!

It was a moonless night and very dark, but the stars were shining; it looked like something from her fairy-tale books as a child. The sky was particularly clear and it seemed that she could reach out and pluck a star from the heavens. Wonder upon wonder she could also see a comet! Petrovic’s harbinger of evil from the past had come full circle again. A cold sense of impending doom seemed to crawl down her spine. She shuddered, then shook herself and in a daze of happiness quietly got up and walked to where her son was lying. He started when she gently shook him and with her finger over his mouth, silenced him and indicated that he follow her. Confused and sleepy, he crawled out of his lean-to and followed her to a spot out of earshot of the others at the top of the hillock, overlooking the Source.

“Look,” she said pointing to the skies above. No further words were necessary.

The High Priest gasped. He had never seen anything like it in his life; not even his vision of this happening was as beautiful. It was a stunning sight. The clear mountain air seemed to touch the stars. The Milky Way lay like a white cloud, winding its magnificent way around the sky, while the morning star was already rising above the eastern horizon. To him it seemed like they were in an up-ended cup with the star-studded sky their new ceiling. The flat clouded sky he was accustomed to had been replaced by a magnificent panorama of stars which had brightened the lives of thousands of generations before him. His generation was the first in human history to have been denied this privilege for such a length of time.

For the rest of his life he would never forget this moment which he now shared with his mother. It had a spiritual quality to it and he suddenly understood why so many religions of the Ancients had been based on the heavenly bodies. Worshipping the stars made a lot of sense to him now. He also now understood why his mother had always placed so much emphasis on this occasion. Her presence next to him seemed to reach out to him, fill his heart. It was beautiful beyond words.

A slight noise suddenly startled the two silent spectators. It was Karl. He was a hunter and slept like a cat. He was unable to fathom the skies. He had noticed the outline of the two on the hillock and joined them.  To him this seemed like a show of magic and sorcery.

“What has happened?” he asked unnecessarily and somewhat uncertainly.

“It is as we predicted, Karl. The clouds have disappeared and the skies I knew as a child are open again,” she replied.

“Shall we wake everybody up? We can use the drums,” her son asked.

“Not yet. Let’s just enjoy the quiet and magnificent view together.”

“I could never have imagined this,” Karl said looking up at the sky. His voice was quiet and one could hear his awe of the heavens above “This is something that we will remember forever. To think that the clouds had hidden this from us our whole lives. What are the lights and that white path in the skies?”

“Karl, they are the stars you have heard of in the legends and stories around the fires as a child. Every star is a fiery sun like our sun which will rise in the east in a couple of hours, but they are very, very far away and look tiny just as the buffalo looks tiny when it is far away on the open hunting plains. The white path as you call it was called the Milky Way. It is not really milk but millions of stars very far away. That small white path is called a comet. It is in fact moving though the heavens at a very high speed and will disappear from the skies in a few days or weeks only to return again many years hence.”

“But so many? Can you count them?”

“What you see is but a tiny part of the universe, Karl. If you could stand on a star, the earth where we are would look like a small pin prick of light as well. The universe is larger than your mind will allow you to believe. We are not even at its centre.”

The three remained silent for another half hour and then decided that they needed to share the magnificence of the skies and the coming sunrise with all.

They summoned the drummer and as the drum rolls thundered out into the silent night, villagers tumbled out of their beds shouting at each other, terrified at the sudden noise and commotion. The pitch dark night with its strange shadows around them merely added to the confusion.

Suddenly a voice boomed from the hillock above them: “Citizens of Red Valley! Be still and look at the skies. It is as was prophesied.” It was Karl’s loud bass voice.

The new, almost unfamiliar voice and unexpected command stilled the sleepy villagers and they all looked to the skies.

A stunned silence of about ten seconds was immediately followed by screams of abject terror. Virtually all the villagers fell flat on their faces and refused to look up. The stars seemed to be touchable fires of ice; to them the skies were falling. The lights were the fires in the sky the High Priest had spoken of; now they were terrified of being blinded in the night. Their crying and moans pierced the still air. The Jesuits and Caesareans especially were terrified of sorcery, witchcraft; of divine intervention.

“Be calm citizens of Red Valley,” the Priestess’ voice rang out. This seemed to have a calming effect and the moans and screams quietened down.

“As we predicted, the skies have cleared and now for the first time in your lives you witness the stars of the skies above us. In a short while, you will see an orange and very red light which will get stronger and stronger in the east,” she said indicating where east lay. “Fear not. This is another star which we as Ancients called the sun. It will bring us the daylight which you know well but which has been hidden and blanketed by the clouds for all your lives. It is not to be feared but it will blind you if you look straight into it. The sun brings warmth and life.”

Most of the villagers were not to be so easily placated and continued to keep their faces to the ground. A few, especially the New Londoners slowly turned their faces skywards and looked at the stars. The dark of the night was now slowly lightening and as she had predicted, a clear sky to the east started appearing.

Wonder above wonder, the stars winked out one by one in their thousands as the sun’s light started to dominate the night sky. Presently they were able to distinguish a blue and clear sky together with the red of the new day’s dawn. Everybody was now standing up and facing the east. They were familiar with the dawning of a new day, but this dawn was dramatic. The colours were such as they had never before witnessed. The indigo blue skies replaced the dull red and grey clouds which had covered the earth for so long. Red and orange streaks seemed to rise from the horizon. The sun was being painted by a giant majestic hand. The colours had a physical quality and seemed to touch their hair and skins as it washed over them in total silence. For the first time they actually noticed sharp and defined shadows which followed them as they moved.

They had grandstand seats on KRAT to witness the birth of a new world. None understood what was happening except Rachel, the Red Priestess.

For the Jesuits, it was simply another wondrous sign sent to them by God. They fell to their knees and gave thanks for the blessings so richly bestowed upon them this day. The Vicar General however was seriously concerned by the witch’s sorcery. How did she know this will happen and how did the High Priest foretell this? It was the work of the Devil! No human could be so powerful as to foretell these miracles unless they had access to Satan; they most certainly didn’t recognise Jesus Christ and could not have been blessed with divine powers such as Elijah or Eli of the Israelites.

The New Londoners were also fascinated. The stars and access to the heavens opened up a whole new avenue for research, debate and conjecture. It would keep them busy for thousands of years. Ahmed was especially fascinated as it was he who had developed a new theory about earth’s curvature. A new field of research into astronomy would develop while mystics would create new legends around the influence the constellations would have on their lives.

For the Caesareans it had a somewhat more sinister connotation as the gods of the clouds had now seemingly abandoned them. They would have to sacrifice, probably a blood sacrifice, to appease the gods. Yet they instinctively knew that the clearing of the skies was something their ancestors wanted for them and for the generations to come. The sacrifices called for, would be great indeed.

As the day lightened further, the birds set off to commence their daily chores of finding food. To them the stars and sun were nothing strange. They knew how to use the stars above the clouds to navigate; another day meant they had nests to build.

The breakfast fires were cold. No villager was interested in eating.

They all sat on the highest knolls and hillocks to witness their first ever sunrise; for the first time the villagers were united in something every one could participate in and enjoy without thoughts of their differences and beliefs.

Around the Red Priestess and the High Priest, a large number of villagers from all three villages, were sitting on the hillside listening to her explanations of the sun, moon and stars. It was not magic or legend any more. It was real.

The sun continued to rise, its warm light eventually bathing the villagers on KRAT as well as those left behind in the three villages of Red Valley. The latter citizens had had no warning or explanation of the clearing of the clouds; neither had they heard the prophecies and predictions. Terror reigned in some of the villages and most remained indoors to avoid being struck down by the gods. All the villagers however were able to link the happenings with the fact that their elders and leaders had congregated on KRAT.

On KRAT, the drama which unfolded over the valley was stunning; visibility was great in the crystal clear sky. In the distance they could make out thousands of wild animals which seemed to be stampeding at the unfamiliar sight of the sun and the feeling of its rays on their skins as they tried in vain to outrun the shadows following them.

As the dust rose in the air, sun rays could be seen creating a surreal scene which looked like a crown of light which reached into the blue skies. Behind them Rachel was explaining what they were witnessing but in villages below these rays became part of new legends; new myths as the gods sent out rays of light to seek and weed out the wicked from the good.

“The planet Earth is but a very tiny part of the Universe which stretches into infinity. Our own earth and the bright star you saw just before the sun rose above the horizon are called planets which mean that they do not have fires on them such as the stars and the sun, which is a small star.”

“Why then is it so big and warm on our skins?” a villager asked.

“It is very much closer to us than the stars so it looks bigger. In fact it is not a very big star at all. When you draw closer to a fire in the cold winter nights even the small flame of your tallow lamps, is it not true that you feel its rays on your skin? The sun is a very large fire that has burned for a very long time and is destined to burn forever.”

“How does it rise?” another asked.

“It doesn’t. What you are seeing is the earth which is turning towards the east which makes the sun look like it’s rising. In the afternoon it will disappear to the west over the horizon. The earth rotates around the sun and in one year it will go one circle. This takes 365 days or as we counted here in Red valley roughly one migration of the birds. We will now be able to construct our own calendar according to the sun and the moon and we’ll learn how to find our way in the dark by following the stars.”

“What’s the moon?” a woman from New London asked. Most of her audience listened to the priestess’ explanations but didn’t really grasp what she was saying. Surely the sun rose as they watched; the earth’s rotation was surely stuff and nonsense. Listening to her was nonetheless fascinating and gave them an opportunity to get close to this mythical witch their parents had warned them against.

“The moon is a small body which rotates around the earth. You may see it tonight when it’s dark again. I’m not sure in what phase it is now but I think it had already set when we saw the stars during the night.” As she explained she used round stones to illustrate how the earth, sun and moon revolved in the solar system.

The Jesuit Inner Circle was sitting a hundred metres from the Red Priestess, further down the hill. A heated discussion was going on as the Vicar General tried to re-establish his authority in the face of the dramatic events they were witnessing.

“… but you did say that she would try to influence us through witchery. This is not witchery; it is a natural phenomenon which she and the High Priest forecast. Even the Bible speaks of the sun, the moon and the stars. It is clear to me that she had seen these things in her Ancient world and can speak of them. Isn’t she but a prophet such as is written of in the Bible?” Timothy was saying defensively.

“How do you think she or the High Priest knew of this? How fortunate for her that the birds came when they did. How carefully did she plan all this more than three weeks ago? Are you telling me that Satan is not sitting at her right hand? He is laughing at the confusion and empty victory she has created for him. No she’s no prophet, except a prophet of Satan,” the Vicar General replied with a degree of venom which surprised even his closest confidantes.

“Why Satan? Why was it not through the divine intervention of our Lord, Jesus Christ?” Timothy continued doggedly. The Vicar General did not intimidate him any longer. He had seen his weaknesses and so had the Red Priestess; the Jesuit cause would be better served if he, Timothy became their new leader and Vicar General.

“How dare you question my opinion, Brother Timothy? Am I not the Vicar General; the one through whom the Lord Jesus Christ communicates?” The Vicar General knew that he was being challenged. Timothy was a distinct threat and since the witch had destroyed his credibility, the knives would be out for him. Even within the City of Jesuits, he had enemies. His iron-fisted and bigoted rule had not enamoured him to the Jesuits.

“I will call a General Convocation when we return home and your loyalty shall be put to the test,” the Vicar General threatened.

“Father, you are in no position to threaten me. I would advise you to seek help from the Lord Jesus Christ through the intervention of the Holy Mother. Your bitterness and hatred for the witch has tainted your judgement. It is not the way the Lord Jesus Christ would have dealt with the matter. Maybe it is time you stand aside and let those of us who can find it in our hearts to forgive, to take the lead.” Timothy rose from his seat and clambered down the slope of the hill. Mark followed him without saying a word.

The Vicar General could not understand how the witch had managed to turn the tables on him so completely and utterly. Even his brethren had now turned their backs on him. She must die and she must die in the name of God Almighty. That was the only way. She must be the ultimate sacrifice to Jehovah. The valley needed another cleansing; another witch must die or confess her sins.

He turned to look at her where she was sitting and cringed when he saw that she was watching him with those piercing blue eyes. They seemed to be smiling at him. As he turned to leave the hill, it suddenly struck him. The similarity could not have been greater; neither could it have been by accident! The Sermon on the Mount! She had the temerity to imitate the Lord Jesus! There she was sitting, while his followers and those of the other villages were listening to her seductive preaching. Even her acolytes were there distributing water to the thirsty! She was Satan and as Satan she shall die; her death shall be slow and excruciating as behoves Satan!

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