Hesu Kristo alone was the closest that Sophia would have to a permanent father figure. That’s what Sophia’s mother said, ever since she was a little girl. But she had a papa. A papa who was disappointed that all three of his children were girls. He thought it was one too many and trouble would follow. He was right.
It was rare not to be offered a gift of soursop, durian or other sought-after fruit from any number of suitors as a weekend neared. Accepting it meant the constant nagging for the promise of a date and Sophia’s older sister, Maria, told her what that could lead to, although she felt none of the things her friends told her they felt about boys. She hated them. Nagging and smelly like monkeys, they seemed to exist to attract attention to themselves.
She never dared to share this with anyone. Sophia held many secrets. She was used to keeping all of the things her sisters and friends told her a secret. But she wished papa was around to help her make sense of things. She would share her secrets with him, if only he was still around.
It was Easter and Mass was an endless ramble. Sophia gave a bible reading, John 19:17, which spoke of Hesu Kristo carrying the cross on the way to the hill at Golgotha for his crucifixion. As Mass ended there was a familiar refrain, her friends sharing holiday destinations, their expectations and how they were celebrating Easter. Families were leaving, on the way to somewhere else to celebrate the resurrection of Hesu Kristo, whose papa was a God.
Sophia hated Easter and Christmas. Her Easter’s were pious affairs at lola’s house. There was no singing, dancing, or lechón, hamonado or sinukmani to eat. Even if they had the money, she doubted mama would let them celebrate. The laughter and anticipation of her friends for these things made her bristle, like a bearcat that had been trapped.
Grabbing her headphones and jamming them in her ears, she imagined she was blocking out the feelings that made her clench her teeth and hold her knuckles tight. She started walking, into the shadow of the San Miguel factory, past the shabu smokers milling around small fires. As she walked, she listened to tall Nordic men sing of Satan and fallen angels, the book of Revelation come to life and told through song.
Arriving at her vantage point at the Spanish fort, Sophia drifted away to a familiar place. The salt air licking her raven coloured hair and leaving a familiar crust on her lips. She imagined winged demons hurling huge fireballs at the local church and of the seven headed, ten horned dragon from the book of Revelation, the one that looked like a leopard, had the feet of a bear and the mouth of a lion. She day-dreamed that this creature terrorised her village and sent them all straight to hell.
Lost in her imagination and the pounding rhythms of the music, Sophia did not detect footsteps until she felt a presence very close by; an older woman well dressed and holding onto a basket of recently picked fruit. She also had raven coloured hair, and her eyes… Sophia thought they looked like her own.
Sophia hoped she would leave her alone, so she adopted the same look that she had given the many boys who had approached her in the hope of securing a date. But she couldn’t take her eyes off the necklace around the woman’s neck.
“You like this?”
The woman slowly lifted the star from her chest. Sophia was embarrassed that her intentions and direction of her gaze were so obvious.
“It’s pretty”. Sophia said under her breath, silently shaming herself for her over-zealous stare. She had seen this symbol when looking on the internet at photos of Satyricon, Immortal, Mayhem and Emperor. Its use was as common amongst the bands as the crucifix was in the village.
“It’s a sacred object. When complete it houses the Sigil of Baphomet, an ancient symbol.”
The exchange was brief, the words conspiratorial. Five points secured by a circle, the straight lines of the star intersected each other at peculiar angles. It was a beautiful star that held more meaning than its appearance suggested.
The woman took off the necklace and handed it to Sophia.
“It’s yours. I can forge another”
Sophia shuffled, looking to the ground then back toward the woman.
“I really can’t, my mother will think I was given it by a boy”
“You get a lot of attention, don’t you?”
Blushing, Sophia thought she had given too much away to the generous stranger, but she took the necklace anyway.
“I was like you once. Boys held little interest, but they would nag at me. Insects, that’s what I called them, more often than not to their faces.”
Pausing, the stranger took a few steps back and asked, “Would you like to see more designs like on the necklace?”
Not waiting for a response, the woman started walking toward a road that ran around the edge of the fort and although Sophia thought about staying, she went anyway.
It wasn’t long before they arrived at a gate. High walls and an armed guard signified that this was not an ordinary dwelling. Regal and elegant, the formality of the building convinced Sophia that she wasn’t in danger.
Inside, beautiful gardens nestled amongst manufactured waterfalls. On the wall, white stucco held shells and intricate designs; An eye within a triangle, the symbol of Ankh, the circled dot and perhaps most curious of all, a gigantic sculpture within a waterfall of what Sophia recognised as the Greek god Pan, a god with the horns and legs of a goat.
“I have focused on creating a space dedicated to the four elements. Do you want to see fire?
Sophia wanted to peruse the garden and the many pieces of art featured throughout but she still walked in the direction the woman was beckoning.
Sunken beneath ground level, the temperature rose. A staircase carried the smell of burning wood and pork. Sophia had seen first-hand the brutal slaughter of a pig at her uncle Victor’s house, yet that succulent meat was ever enticing.
“I thought you’d like to see the furnace”
Sophia had never heard a roasting oven referred to as a furnace. Her biblical teachings, or rather, Padre’s words that warned of a fiery furnace awaiting sinners came to mind.
Taking Sophia’s hand, the stranger led her to another staircase that ascended to a stunning vista of ocean that met sky on a distant horizon. The view took Sophia’s breath for a moment.
The contrast of blues, of water and open sky framing a distant shoreline of green tree’s and yellow sand. Jet Skis and other pleasure craft created small waves and white caps. This is a view reserved for tourists and the privileged. This northern view of the bay was rarely accessible to people from Sophia’s village, it felt like sacred ground. The last time she saw this aspect was with her papa…
Tears were forming. She felt a lump in her throat as the strong impression of her papa’s face came to mind. Sophia remembered the many fishing trips and the singing, the beautiful songs he used to sing to her out in the water. She felt a terrible rage, her jaw clenched so hard it started to hurt, so she let the moment linger until it came to a familiar conclusion.
She imagined vast sulphur pits and grotesque figures writhing about in agony. Thinking of the cross at Golgotha from her bible reading earlier in the day, she traded places with the Roman soldier piercing Hesu Kristo with a spear. Over and over she would hurt him. Over and over. Papa was gone, and he would pay. He would surely pay.
The woman’s hand rested on Sophia’s shoulders, gently guiding her somewhere else. Away to where Sophia hoped she would eat pork and listen to this stranger share her secrets. Sophia was good at keeping secrets.
-written by Andrew McKaysmith