At seven in the morning, Rogelio and Corin were in a cab heading to Paris, Charles de Gaule airport for their flight. On the plane Rogelio told Corin that his Father will leave Earth forever, his condition was critical as confirmed by Sister Bernadette. They arrived at Cape Town International Airport after nine hours on the plane, now they had to travel more along the roads of Oudtshoorn State where the mob reigned.
All around the airport hundreds of contract cars, range rovers and trucks were available for rent with a driver, a common business around that area. The muddy and rocky lands required off-road transports to move around easily. Rogelio waved his hand at a driver, “We need a transport!”, shouted loudly in the midst of a crowded environment. The driver brought a range rover ready for adventure in the remote areas of the state.
“To the Crystal Child Orphelina please, we are two”, said Rogelio.
“Jump in friends”, confidently replied the driver.
The two entered the transport with their bags, “How much you’re gonna take?”, asked Rogelio.
“Hundred and fifty Euros for you people, you’ll be there safely rest assured. I guess I know you, Rogelio right?”, asked the driver.
“How come you know me? What is your name?”, asked Rogelio while the driver started the engine.
“My name is Sabal, was in the orphanage when you were in your teens. We grew up in the same place. Don’t you remember me?”, asked Sabal.
Rogelio gave a serious look at him when he happened to remember the fellow driver.
“Oh, I remember you now! You used to take care of the garden back then”, said Rogelio all smiling as he found a long-lost friend. They journeyed around Cape Town to take up the route to the orphanage, the most secure.
“The mob are all around, you know?”, asked Sabal.
“Yeah, got the news. Father Audric’s health is not so great, he’s suffering from the poison”, said Rogelio.
Sabal’s mood altered drastically, hearing about the bad news, “I’ve got to pay him a visit too! It’s been a while since I’ve not gone to the church”, he said.
It was a full night’s journey around the rural areas of the state, the group had a worthwhile conversation.
“So, is this your job?”, asked Rogelio.
“Yeah, got some luck in mining gold. I bought this transport to change job”, replied Sabal.
“You were in mining?”, curiously asked Rogelio.
“Sometime back when this business was booming in the country. You were still a kid back then”, replied Sabal.
“What about now? Aren’t there any mining area in the vicinity?”, questioned Corin.
“Investors are quite afraid of the mob now. Every time they end up looting the miners, causing great loss. Many miners even lost their lives in protecting the resources mined”, replied Sabal.
“Aren’t the authority doing anything about these maggots?”, asked Rogelio.
“The mob is everywhere, they are all around our country. We do not even know who forms part of such a criminal organization. A huge network. I heard about that they got contacts offshore that facilitate the trading of drugs and other illegal materials like guns and not to forget children!”, replied Sabal.
“The wicked always pay for their sins”, replied Corin.
“Yeah but people here are vulnerable. Retaliation only worsens the whole scenario”, stated Rogelio.
“You’re right. Hope we don’t come across one of them on the road”, replied Sabal.
They cruised along the off-roads across the mountain regions, Corin gazing the amazing view of Africa. The forest was large, thick and prospering expanding over thousands of hectares. The view ended where his eyes could see, looked as if the forest was eternal. A mishmash of sounds, predominantly of small creatures which added life to the forest, backed by a raging river from afar. Bundled branches waved from a couple of trees, and a pot-pouri of flowers which desperately tried to claim the last remnants of light. It was exotic, never to be seen in Europe. A unique scenery, Corin experienced. Rogelio was back home after a year, he immediately came back to his senses of being free in nature.
Chaos spreading over a paradise like this, a difficult time for the people of South Africa.
* * *
The sun setting past the mountain regions, it was around five thirty p.m, when Sabal and company reached Chapel Eternity. Rogelio was back to what he knew as home, unfortunately, he was there only to meet his suffering Father. He remained in the range rover for a while, gazing over the garden and the church before getting off. They went inside the Chapel to pray.
As they walk forward to the main portal, immediately met by a vivid world full of colours and light all around the chapel. Regardless of the horrible conditions, they could sense the feeling of serenity. A captivating world it was inside the Chapel. Long benches arranged in parallel to each other facing the cross and Almighty Jesus Christ. Old rocks, 16th-century glasses and the awesome decorations of ceramic tiles were in perfect alignment. On the high altar, candles burnt beneath the crucified Christ, flowers spread out around the candles.
The Chapel was empty, Rogelio lit a candle and prayed to the Almighty for His Father to be free from any sufferings. A drop of tear came out of his eyes, so much emotion was present for His Father. Sabal and Corin were praying too, they prayed for the innocent people and animals poisoned by the wicked, and especially for Father Audric. At last, they left the nurturing Chapel made of stone walls while experiencing the last sunlight of the day. They closed the portal behind and continued their walk to the Precious Gems Orphelina.
“There is no worse fate for a child in this corrupt state than to lose his/her parents. No one will take care of an orphan”, Rogelio voiced out to Sabal and Corin.
Walking through rows of flowers all across the garden, which did deserve some credit and the hedges with climbing pants attracted attention too; But nothing could be compared to the majesty of the ornamental boulder in the form of a semi-crude gemstone. The place was filled with vitality, a large place for anyone to have some solitude moment or kids could play around easily. Corin’s view about Rogelio changed completely, it was what he desired as a child, to be free. He grew up in Paris in the midst of urban areas which were not so peaceful.
It clearly showed on his face how Rogelio was feeling nostalgic about his childhood here among many other children. It was getting late as the sun had already set out. A lady dressed in plain black and white scarf, she was an old nun who slowly walked out the orphanage’s main entrance.
“Sister Bernadette! Sister! We are here!”, Rogelio shouted.
She looked straight to them with a mild smile, happy to see Rogelio after so long. They walked through the walkway made of multi-coloured bricks in a flowery pattern. They greeted Sister Bernadette.
“You should be hungry after such a long journey. Come inside all of you, I’m gonna serve you dinner”, she said but Rogelio and his fellows refused politely.
“We shall meet Father first, for it was all about Him that we came here, Sister. Not being rude but you can take care of our tummy after that”, proposed Rogelio.
“No problem, just follow me”, replied Sister Bernadette as she turned around and walked upstairs in the orphanage.
The building was empty, not even a child walking around. Showed how disciplined these kids were under the patronage of Father Audric. They walked through the two-level wooden stairs before reaching the room of Father Audric, on top of the building. Sister Bernadette opened the door, the room was quite large with a bed on which rested Father Audric, a table and a chair. It looked like his home office, with an open cupboard containing hundreds of books and papers all around the table. Father Audric turned his neck to the door, showed a mild smile on his face after seeing the presence of so many people especially Rogelio who came to see him.
* * *
Father Audric managed to sit on the bed where he was lying. Rogelio took the four-legged couch, came closer and sat next to Him. Sabal, Corin and Sister Bernadette circled around the bed, all fixing their attention on Father Audric for he was the patron, the only figure who had a place in their hearts. Sister Bernadette served Him a glass of warm milk, it milk helped to cope with the deadly toxic substance which had infected the lungs and intestines.
Father Audric’s face was pale, showed clear signs of intense inner suffering. He was in pain and there was a lot under his umbrella, kids, church, the orphanage and other charitable activities he usually conducted around deprived regions of South Africa.
“I’ve been thinking about you lately, my son. It hasn’t been easy at all since you left”, stated Father Audric.
“I am extremely sorry for not being here on time, Father”, replied Rogelio.
“Oh don’t be sorry. You’ve always been on time, Son”, He coughed slightly.
“I don’t have much time left on this plane of existence. The Divine is calling me. I shall leave with grace and detachment from everything”, said Father Audric.
“The heavens are waiting for you, Father”, said Rogelio.
“A normal death was not on the cards for me. This is it! This is how it ends. This is how I leave you all, transcending all existence to reach the higher abode of God”, stated Father Audric.
“Tell me, Father, what can I do for you one last time. I came here all the way to hear you utter how I can be of service to you!”, asked Rogelio.
“You’ve done so much, now shall you live your life to the fullest. The Divine is with you, always! Just take it as a blessing”, declared Father Audric.
“No Father, I want to serve you one last time. Look, brother Sabal is here too, and Corin, my assistant came to see you! Tell me Father”, Rogelio insisted.
“Death is just a step in the process of transformation. I will become light, once my soul leaves this body made of Earth. The only thing I couldn’t do was to return the Jewel of God”, exposed Father Audric.
“The Jewel of God? What is that Father?”, asked Rogelio, sparked his curiosity.
“The day your parents left you at the church’s doorstep, you weren’t alone”, said Father Audric.
“How come?”, asked Rogelio, as it had something to do with his past.
“A crystal was present in the same basket you were in. Light emanated from within the crystal; light blue with a golden tint. It was the first time ever I saw such a beauty like that”, replied Father Audric.
“A crystal? Is it still here?”, asked Rogelio.
“Yes, in my table’s drawer it lies covered up with a piece of cloth. I know where it came from, God knows how your father managed to acquire it. The crystal came from outer space, from another dimension, foreign to man. The ancient folklore knew something about a meteorite falling on the mountains of Cango ages ago. I don’t believe in this biased story”, affirmed Father Audric.
“Then, what’s the thing about it and why to return it?”, asked Rogelio.
“Your parents were in great danger at that time. It was because of the crystal, somehow to mob members found out your father had discovered something foreign on the mountain. Your parents managed to escape by bringing you and the crystal here. There are very little chances of them being alive, Son. I’m really sorry I’ve never told you about that”, revealed Father Audric.
“To be honest I’ve lost hope in finding them. I’m ever grateful for your help in taking care of me. Now at least give me the chance to return back the life long favour”, said Rogelio.
Father Audric took a deep and slow breath, “The crystal holds immense powers, every time I touch it I get strange dreams and nightmares, sometimes it evens shows the way. Once I saw in a vision, going up the road of Cango Caves, there is a tunnel that leads to the vault where a vast amount of these crystals are to be found. I am asking you to do it on my behalf, and return it to where it belongs. It shall never be in the wrong hands. I never got the courage to go out there to do it, maybe it was meant for you to accomplish this task. It came with you, shall it go with you”, He said. “All my findings are documented on paper, on the library’s shelve. In due time you shall find all the answers by yourself. Go and return it to where it belongs, Son”, He added.
“How will I know which way to take Father?”, asked Rogelio.
“Ask the crystal with your heart and it shall guide you”, replied Father Audric.
“Father, I am going to accompany Rogelio in this mission, it is my duty too!”, stated Sabal.
“Just be careful and be on guard. These roads are dangerous”, said Father Audric.
Father Audric drank the whole glass of milk, in pain, he glided back lying on the bed to rest. He knew it was his last days here. Finally, he spoke the truth to Rogelio and his existence. It was Rogelio’s purpose to return the Jewel of God before someone else got hold of it for malefic use. Rogelio took the bedsheet and covered Father Audric,
“Rest assured Father, I will take care of the matter now. I meet you tomorrow before leaving on the mission”, Rogelio said in a mild voice.
“May the Divine be with you all the time, Son. May the Divine be with you all my fellow children”, Father Audric blessed all that was present in the room and closed his eyes, hands place on his chest resting peacefully.
“Let’s go now, let him rest”, said Sister Bernadette.
Everyone left the room, while Sister Bernadette closed the door behind. They moved into the dining room where she served them food and water.
“Rogelio, you’ll be staying in your room along with Sabal and Corin, it’s been empty since you left”, she said and left the dining room to continue her routine.
The quest of returning the crystal bothered Rogelio while he was having dinner; It was the last wish of His Father. He finally knew a little bit about his parents, after twenty seven years, he took the path of his own father as a researcher. It has been in his blood running through his veins all the time. His natal father made a breakthrough, by discovering a foreign matter but never got the chance to let the world know about it.
“Do you know the road to Cango Cave?”, Rogelio asked Sabal the way.
“Yes, but we will have to walk a little bit. About ten kilometres before reaching the cave’s entrance”, he replied confidently as an adventurer.
Rogelio knew that Father Audric would be giving him a significant task. On the other hand, Sister Bernadette was looking after the kids and was nearly nine p.m, time for bed. As usual, she read a short story for the kids, as she did in the past. The orphanage was quite big, capable of sustaining around two hundred children. Under the patronage of Father Audric, those children received the guidance to stay on the right path since their childhood.
All that was about to change as the patron Himself was in great suffering, walking on the path of death. There had to be someone who could take up the place of Father Audric after his departure but none gave a thought to that possibility. After getting the kids to sleep, Sister Bernadette went into the dining room to find the group still dinning in silence.
“Still eating?!”, she exhorted.
“How can we eat when Father is in a state of suffering?”, replied Rogelio, feeling sad about the current situation.
“Hurry up, I’m gonna lead you to Father’s office tonight itself”, said Sister Bernadette.
Rogelio left his plate unfinished and followed Sister Bernadette to the church, on the other hand after dinner Sabal and Corin went to their room to drop off the luggage previously loaded on the range rover.
* * *