In Light of a Message
Staring into the larger-than-life face of her older sister made Hadassah want to shudder in fear and shout for joy all at once. Her mother clearly shared the same sentiments. Simay’s eyes were clouding with tears as she stared up at the young woman who had once been her little girl.
Seda continued her speech.
“Summoned ones! We stand for freedom from oppression.”
The crowd seemed to be getting more into the speech now that a lot of the shock had passed. Some of them were even beginning to look inspired.
“It is now time to go forth and free some of our fellow man from those who would sell them like animals to others who care nothing for them. At this very moment a slave train is traveling through the area, not but a few miles north of here. They bring four hundred captives with them: captives who had no choice but to go where their task masters instructed them to go. Many of them suffer from grave hunger and thirst – their deaths imminent. Now, my summoned ones, followers of me, the Guardian of the great Diana, lovers of freedom, go and set the captives free!”
A collective roar rose from the multitude as every man – and even some of the women – grabbed weapons, mounted swift beasts and swarmed north, towards the passing slavers.
“Ibrahim, Iskender, perhaps it would be best if you two stayed inside the tents until everyone has returned.” Simay said to her husband and son. “We do not want to draw undo suspicion.”
Iskender nodded his agreement and he and his step-son slipped into one of the tents, giving the appearance of being out with the rest of the freedom-fighters.
While the two men were in the tent all three women pretended to busy themselves with daily tasks, glancing towards the center of the camp often, watching Seda and her still-veiled companion.
From what Simay, Hadassah and Atara could gather, the aide held what looked like a necklace – perhaps an amulet of some sort – that, when pointed at someone could replicate an image of that person and place that image up in the sky for all to see. It seemed a bit like a trick of mirrors. Though, how such a tiny mirror could do something like that, none of them could understand. And the amplified sound was still inexplicable since mirrors could not do such things.
The trick of the floating image and traveling sound did not truly unsettle them. They were dealing with the enemy Lucifer now in addition to the foul spirit that called itself “Diana.” Nothing was too crazy – nothing.
Hours later, at dusk, the men and women who lit out of camp earlier returned in a melee of triumph. Most of the slaves from the passing group were being helped along by the returning victors.
Simay looked on with mixed emotions. The suffering slaves had been freed from their wrongful captivity, but there was one thing about the entire scene that made her entire body shiver. The blades of many a sword were stained with blood – the slavers’ blood. One victor even carried with him a few gory trophies from the conquest.
This went beyond freeing slaves. This was beginning to turn gruesome.
When all the men had returned from the raid, Iskender and Ibrahim discretely emerged from the tent, careful, as always, not to draw too much attention to themselves.
When her husband noticed the signs of battle he caught Simay’s eye and gave her a look of sober realization. These people, led by their daughter, were not above shedding blood – guilty or innocent – in order to further their cause.
For six months the now-free slaves worked to integrate themselves into their new society. A few ambitious souls wanted to leave the camp and find a new life elsewhere. They were allowed to leave, or so it appeared to everyone. Unbeknownst to all but a handful of the pilgrim group, those who left the camp never saw the light of the next day dawn.
Those in Iskender’s group were among the few who knew of this despicable practice. Because they were on the edge of the camp, they saw many things they were not intended to see; among them was one particularly animated discussion that took an unexpected turn.
Night was again upon them. The stars shone just as brightly as they always did out here in the middle of the desert, but it seemed to Simay that there was a darkness coming – a darkness greater than she had ever known before. It would be a darkness that only the Light of the world could dispel.
As she sat out under the stars, leaning up against a palm tree by the oasis she began to hear voices coming from somewhere nearby. It was two women. One sounded familiar… a voice from the past.
Simay looked around slowly, careful not to make any sudden movements. There they were, standing close to the water, not thirty feet behind her. The darkness and the presence of the water combined made the voices carry quite well and Simay could hear both women clearly.
As she looked at them, she recognized Nyot the spiritist from Atara and Hadassah’s descriptions of her. The other woman was the one whose voice Simay had recognized, the Guardian’s companion – still veiled.
“I want to know what’s going on here.” Nyot whispered loudly.
“You do not need to know.” The other woman said.
“So why is it that you need to know and I don’t? I’m just as much a part of this as you are!”
“No. You aren’t.”
“Yes, I am! I know about that little underground secret of yours.”
The aide was silent at this admission from the other woman.
“So tell me!” Nyot demanded. “What is this ‘safeena’ you spoke of?”
The aide still said nothing.
“’Safeena’?” Simay thought to herself, “That’s the Arabic word for ‘ship.’ Why would there be a ship underground? And how would it get there anyway?” Then Simay remembered the great door that Ibrahim had witnessed closing those many months ago. “Alright, well, even if they got it down there, how would they get it out again? There’s no water around here to make it float.” Simay continued her mental conversation with herself.
“Do you think I’m stupid?” Nyot’s enraged voice pierced the night again. “I know you’re planning on using that thing to get everyone out of here.”
Still no reply from the other woman.
“It’s supposed to fly, isn’t it?” Nyot said.
This question confused Simay. A ship that flew? That made no sense. However, she had seen many things in the past several years that also made no sense to her. Perhaps a flying ship was not so odd.
“Say something!” Nyot finally snapped and grabbed the other woman’s veil, ripping it off to reveal a face that sent Simay reeling.
Standing there, beneath the light of the moon and stars was the woman she had once called ‘friend,’ the one she had named her daughter for. The confidant turned murderer, Seda stood unmoved by the display of anger. The wrinkles on her face were much more numerous than they should have been, and her hair was entirely white.
“So you’re only an old woman.” Nyot sneered. “Tell me then, hag. Tell me what you are planning with my Master and I will not kill you where you stand!”
“You are not part of this.” Seda repeated flatly.
Nyot uttered a muted screech of frustration. Then spiritist began to circle Seda like a wolf about to pounce.
Seda looked at the other woman with disdain.
Nyot suddenly leapt upon Seda, scratching furiously at the aide’s exposed face with her long, sharp nails. Almost instantly the look on the spiritist’s face changed from rage to terror. The sickening sound of a blade tearing through wet flesh met Simay’s ears and she fought the urge to gag as she watched Seda callously push Nyot’s dead body away, sliding a bloody knife out of the woman’s heart without a second thought as to what she had just done.
“Stupid, ignorant fool.” Seda hurled the insult at the lifeless woman. “You should never have tried it.”
As Seda walked away from the gruesome scene, Simay stayed beneath the tree and wept for the soul that had been so suddenly lost this night.
When she had regained her composure Simay ran to fetch Iskender and together they buried the poor dead woman as best as they could in the shifting sand.
In the morning, when everyone else in their group had awakened, Iskender and Simay called the younger members of the party together to break the news of Nyot’s death at the hands of the Guardian’s companion – who was none other than the elder Seda.
Upon Simay and Iskender‘s revelation, looks of stunned sorrow spread across all three young faces. The rest of that day – and much of that week – was spent in a sad silence that was broken only upon the announcement of another game-changing event.
Seda the elder, now unmasked, stood at the center of the camp at dawn on the last day of the week – the Jewish Sabbath. She made use of that strange amulet and made her face float above the camp, just as she had done for the Guardian months ago.
In addition to the white-haired aide, a group of Jews were congregated around the center of the camp, clad in garments signifying their priestly tribe of origin. Strangely, the Guardian was also there, standing with a handsome young man who was obviously a part of the group of Levites.
The elder Seda then proceeded to announce the marriage of the Guardian to Reuel bar Shammah. The entire camp joyfully accepted the union, flooding to the center of the camp to offer their congratulations and words of wisdom for the new couple.
Simay’s heart was heavy as she watched the goings on. Her daughter was completely caught up in this entire plot – perhaps she had even been one of the more recent contributors to it. A tear rolled down her cheek as she realized that her little girl would soon be thirty years old – quite a bit older than usual for a first marriage, but then again, Simay was not at all sure that this was her daughter’s first marriage. She knew so little about her second child… frighteningly little.
More time passed and everyone in the camp began to think that things would continue on this way forever, until another announcement was made from the sky above the camp.
Simay was standing outside helping to feed their neighbor’s livestock when the face of her daughter appeared above them. She noticed that the Guardian’s face seemed to be a bit more filled out than it had been on her wedding day almost seven months ago.
With a mix of curiosity and suspicion, Simay strained her eyes to see her daughter standing at the center of the camp. Even the voluminous garment Seda wore could not disguise the signs from her mother’s knowing eyes and Simay suddenly understand the need for the hasty wedding of her daughter. The cult that Seda was now at the forefront of was in need of an heir – a daughter marked by Diana. In such an ethnically, religiously and morally diverse group, the only way to ensure everyone’s acceptance of a successor was to take the most conservative route – marry and hope that the marriage produced such an heir.
Simay nearly jumped when she heard the booming voice that she had come to realize was a combination of her daughter and her daughter’s possessing spirit, Diana.
“My summoned ones.” The Guardian said, “It is nearly time for us to depart. Our means of transport is nearly complete. Then our true journey will begin. We will depart in six months’ time. You may take whatever you wish, including your animals.” Seda paused, letting the people process what she had just said before continuing. “This journey may take generations…” she laid a meaningful hand on her abdomen and waited for the whisper to finish rolling through the camp before she spoke again. “That is a sacrifice I am willing to make. And everyone here must be willing to make that same sacrifice if what the great Diana has planned for us is to become reality.
“I promise you,” Seda continued, “that there will always be a Guardian to guide you – to show you the way that Diana would have you to go. If this, my first child is not the next Guardian, then I will bear another and another until she is born. I do this for you, my people, to ensure that you have a hope and a future.”
At these words, Simay heard Hadassah whisper, “This is truly of Satan. Only God can offer hope to mankind, and only He can ensure our future.”
“At this time,” the voice boomed through the camp, “the head of our team of men in charge of the construction of our transportation will come and share with you a few more details about our journey.” Seda’s face disappeared from the sky only to be replaced by the face of a middle-aged man with coffee-colored skin sporting a receding hairline, thin lips, small dark eyes, and bushy black eyebrows.
“A good day to you, my fellow travelers.” He said in an unidentifiable accent. “My name is Mesorious Krom. I am a man of science, and I am honored to have been chosen to execute the plans of your benefactress,” he indicated Seda. “This project is truly visionary, and I think you will all agree with me once I have told you a bit more about it.”
The tension in the camp was almost tangible. The people seemed to be silently screaming for him to get on with his explanation and save his opinions until afterwards.
He must have sensed the people’s impatience because he started into his explanation without further introduction.
“We will be traveling in a ship, but not just any ship. This one does not travel through water, but through air, and…” he let the sentence drop off, waiting for the crowd to quiet before he dropped the real bombshell, “it also travels through the stars.” He said, pointing upwards towards the sky.
Murmurs of unbelief and fear rippled through the camp at this statement. Several shouts of, “Impossible!” and “You’re crazy” were hurled at Krom.
The man held up a hand to silence the people. “I understand that you might need a small demonstration. That is not unreasonable for something of such magnitude.”
As soon as Mesorious lowered his hand, a deafening roar split the air. People everywhere instantly covered their ears. After a half a minute the roar began to increase in intensity. Then a shadow crept across the camp. Everyone looked directly upwards to see a sight that none of them should ever have been able to see in their lifetime.
It was indeed a ship – like none that any of them had ever seen. Truly this was no sailing ship. As the thing began to make a few circuits around the camp, people everywhere stood speechless, staring up at the vessel that would supposedly take them on a journey through the distant stars.
After its demonstration the ship departed, heading back out into the desert east of the camp.
Mesorious spoke again. “Now. There will be three of these lovely ships to house all of us – more than enough room for us and for future generations and their needs. Over these next six months several of you will be chosen to train as crew for these three ships. Those who show the most promise and ability will be selected, and you will complete your training before the launch date that the honored Guardian has declared. May it be a safe journey for us all.” Krom nodded his farewell and disappeared from the sky.
Seda’s face reappeared in Krom’s place, “My people, this journey will be more difficult than any other journey that you have taken before. But always remember that your Guardian – whether it be me, or my daughter, or my daughter’s daughter – will always be there to guide you. You need not be afraid of the unknown.”
Absolute silence reigned in the camp as Seda and Krom left the area on horseback, heading slowly east, the same direction that the ship had headed.
“Iskender…” Simay looked at her husband who had somehow come to stand beside her. “Please tell me that you just saw all that too…”
“Don’t worry, my dear. You are not insane.” He said, placing a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “But because of what we’ve just seen and in light of a message I just received this morning, there is something that I must do.”
“Something… what? What message?” she looked at him, still stunned from the announcement she had just witnessed.
“Do not be concerned for me…” he suddenly enveloped her in a hug.
“Why would I be concerned?” she asked, still confused.
“I… must leave you for a time,” Iskender said. “But I promise to return.”
“No!” Simay exclaimed, reality finally setting in, “No! You can’t leave us – not now.” She clung to him, not wanting to let him go.
“I have to.” He replied gently. “I made a promise many years ago to a friend, and I have to honor that promise – especially now that it appears we will not be here much longer.”
Simay fought back tears as she thought about what this would mean for their little family. “At… least, tell me where it is you’re going.” She finally said.
“A place called Patmos. To see a man named John.”