* * *
As she burnt at the stake, on the other side at the quay, the ships docked and Antonio and the soldiers alighted. Seeing it deserted, he looked around curiously to find a man run up to him. The man bowed lowly and quickly told him about the harrowing incident.
‘What!’ Antonio couldn’t believe it. He quickly mounted his horse and with his troops, sped towards the palace. ‘How dare they attack the palace?’ He was fuming mad.
As they neared the palace, they saw half of the palace burning, the flames reaching for the sky. Antonio quickly dismounted from his running horse and ran inside.
Lots of dead bodies lay throughout the palace. He saw his mother lying dead near the staircase. He picked her gingerly and looked at her face. He fought to control his tears. He gently placed her back on the floor and ran up the stairs towards his father’s study. Outside on the staircase, he saw Manuel, lying in a pool of blood. He picked him up. He saw he was dead.
Further he could make out his father’s dead body. He was filled with anger. He heard a soft moan. He quickly ran from room to room trying to see where the sound came from. He came to his room. Teresa was writhing in deep pain. Her clothes were in tatters and she was bleeding profusely. He ran up and picked her up. She opened her eyes and for a fleeting moment, she recognized him. She tried to speak but no words came out of her mouth.
‘Teresa my Teresa, who has done this?’ He pleaded with her.
‘Ma…Ma…’ She couldn’t speak further.
‘Marcos? Is it Marcos?’ He asked her.
She nodded her head slowly.
She gave a loud gasp and her body shuddered for a second or two and then it went limp. She was dead. Antonio gently laid her on the bed and did a sign of the cross.
He walked outside and looked down from the railings. His men were all assembled in the hall. He ordered his men to follow him and to kill all rebel villagers.
They raced towards the Church. They were still a distance away when a baby’s cry filtered to his hears. He stopped. The men behind him stopped in unison. He dismounted from his horse and sped through the bushes. ‘Halt. Who goes there?’
‘Antonio!’ Isabella recognized his voice. She ran out of the bushes clutching the baby tightly, tears of relief on her face.
‘Rosalin. Save her. The villagers are going to kill her and Fr. Kane.’
‘What! You go to the quay and board the ship. I’ll meet you there.’ He turned to one of his trusted soldiers. ‘You. You go with her and safeguard them.’
The soldier bowed low. Isabella quickly mounted his horse and sat behind him with the baby as the soldier trotted through the bushes.
‘To the church!’ Antonio ordered as he raced towards it. The soldiers followed.
As they neared it, Antonio saw the burning inferno. ‘Rosalin.’ He called out loudly. And in the dying moments, Rosalin heard Antonio call out her name as the fire engulfed her completely.
The soldiers attacked the weapon-wielding villagers. Seeing that help was at hand, Marcos came out from he was hiding. With mock tears, he walked towards Antonio who’s eyes were glued to the burning stake tearfully. ‘Antonio my Antonio. Look what they have done to us.’
Antonio looked at him with resent. ‘Shut up. I know about you. You destroyed my family. You brought death on Rosalin. You maligned her name as well as our family name. You poisoned the mind of the villagers. You don’t have any right to live now. Prepare to die.’
Antonio lunged at him with his sword. Marcos brought his sword out and a brutal fight ensued between them. Dark smoke from the burning inferno made it difficult for them to see each other as they ward off attack after attack. Smoke kept them choking with cough but they fought each other bitterly.
Present – 2004
The morning sunlight slowly filtered through the broken windows and walls of the church and on an unconscious Cathy. She woke up groggily. She could hear frantic voices calling out her name. She looked around and screamed again as a rat scampered across the floor. She quickly scrambled backward as Sanjose ran up. Cathy you ok?
With heaving breathing, Cathy nodded her head indicating she was fine.
Sanjose took her in his arms and held her close. ‘My God. You had us worried. We been looking for you all over the place. I had a doubt we’ll find you here.’
‘I am sorry darling.’ Cathy told him apologetically.
The others students too had entered the church now. They all ran towards them and circled over them with concern. She slowly looked around at their faces. ‘Cathy, I think you owe us all an explanation and what is this in your hand?’ Sanjose gently guided her.
Cathy looked at her hand. There was a very old diary she was clutching tightly. She quickly looked back at the confession booth. Sanjose walked over and pushed open the small door. He too was shocked to see what’s behind. A skeleton in fade white vest. He looked quizzically at Cathy. Cathy knew what he was thinking. ‘That’s Fr. Kane.’
‘Father who?’ Bono asked her as he too glanced inside the confession booth.
‘Fr. Kane who was involved in the scandal 400 years ago.’
‘But Cathy, how could you know that’s him?’ Sanjose asked her.
‘I know and this is his diary. A diary where he wrote his last confession, his last dying statement just second before death engulfed him.’
‘But that’s impossible. 400 years and you think no one would have stumbled across him?’ Bono said incredulously.
Cathy said slowly. ‘During those initial years, no would have dared to because they knew they had committed a ghastly crime by burning down the church along with Fr. Kane, an innocent man and a man of God. And when they found the church empty, they assumed he had disappeared. No one gave a second thought to look behind the confession booth.’
‘But why keep alive the scandal issue?’
‘It made way for a good and interesting story. It was also their way of turning a blind eye to the reality.’
‘Hey wait a sec Cathy. I don’t get this. How do you know all this?’ Bono was puzzled now.
‘Yes Cathy, tell us. Since we arrived in Goa, you have been behaving strangely like you have been there when all this happened.’ Sanjose looked at her surprisingly
‘Yes I have been there through my dreams… dreams of Rosalin and Fr. Kane, dreams of Antonio and the baby…’ Cathy trailed off.
‘Baby? You mean Fr. Kane and Rosalin’s baby?’ Bono questioned her.
‘No!’ She quickly said. ‘Not Rosalin and Fr. Kane’s… Antonio and Rosalin’s baby. The baby who survived the bloody holocaust…’
400 years ago.
The fight was still on between Marcos and Antonio. Behind them the revolting villagers fought with the soldiers. There was mayhem and destruction all around. And in the ensuing battle, Marcos lunged at Antonio but he was too late as Antonio pierced his sword in his belly. Marcos looked at him in shock. Antonio pulled his sword out.
‘And for bring mayhem and destruction on my family and for Rosalin’s death, I find you guilty, Marcos!’ And with one swift motion, Antonio brought his sword down on his neck and chopped his head off.
Antonio then crumbled down tearfully as he watched the last of the burning stake.
Present - 2004
Cathy’s friends are all circled around her anxiously as she thought hard. Sanjose gently wiped her forehead clean. ’Cathy, I don’t understand. How do you know all this? Cathy looked at him gravely. ‘Because I lived through all this in my dreams.’
‘Hey cut it Cathy. Stop this gibberish. How can you dream all these events that happened 400 years ago…’ Bono angrily demanded. Cathy looked at him with deep pain on her face. ‘Because… because that baby who survived the holocaust, grew up into a beautiful woman in Lisbon. That woman who happens to be my great grandmother.’
400 years ago
The soldier reached the quay with Isabella and the baby. Few more soldiers rushed down and helped them board the ship. They waited for Antonio. Time flew by. In the distance, they could see an angry mob coming towards the quay. They were in a dilemma. Isabella and the baby were at risk if they waited any longer.
The Captain in charge of the ship gave the order. They had to raise the anchor. Soon the ship set sail. Isabelle with the baby in her arms watched the disappearing shoreline and the flaming villages.
As the ship reached the high seas, Antonio rushed to the quay. But it was too late as Antonio watched tearfully the ship now just a spec on the horizon. ‘My baby…’ he cried aloud tearfully.
Suddenly Antonio clutched his heart as a bullet pierced his body. He looked at his hand. There were covered with blood. He looked up at his assailant and saw it was Kishen. A shocked surprise registered on Antonio’s face. He pulled out his pistol and fired at him. The bullet hit him but he stood his ground. Antonio stumbled bleeding profusely. Kishen fired at him again. Antonio collapsed, dead. Another shot rang out and as Kishen fell down, he looked at his assailant. It was his brother Pedro. Pedro fired again till Kishen felt the pain no more.
Inside the burning church, in the confession booth, Fr. Kane sat and slowly wrote in his diary. With difficulty he clutched the quill as he pulled out the inkbottle from his cassock that he carried it from his room. No better place to say the last confession and die than in the confession booth, he thought grimly. He started writing. Through the netted booth, he could see and feel the flames. Smoke started filling in the booth, yet Fr. Kane continued writing, coughing in between.
’As I write this last chapter of my life, death is waiting around the corner for me. Any seconds, I will join my Lord in his kingdom and before I do so, I wish to make one last confession… that I am as innocent as Rosalin is. I did falter for a brief moment and that for that moment, I forgot my obligation towards God. Rosalin and I never sinned against each other or against God. The child is Antonio’s and I hope to God, that the child stays free from all harm and sees a world full of love and peace…’
The inkbottle toppled over and Fr. Kane closed the diary and clutched it dearly as his body rocked with spasm as smoke engulfed him. His mind drifted off to the first time he had seen Rosalin on the balcony of the palace with Antonio at the party in his honor. Her mischievous smile so endearing that it could melt anyone’s heart. She was such a nice and gentle woman and she had let it go waste. And her graceful walk down the aisle in the church on her wedding day. She had looked like an angel… his mind drifted off as it envisaged Rosalin in the bridal costume walking down the aisle towards him. He slowly slipped in the never-ending oblivion as death slowly swept him off his feet.