The Ark of Apocalypse

 

CHAPTER THREE

The Ark

Simon never woke until he found himself shaken by a man he didn't know.

”Wake up!, wake up! My friend! We are here. We are here. You must hurry."

It took a minute for the giant to remember what and where he was. Then Simon jumped up and out of bed. He was still in his clothes and he still wore his white robe. He ran to the small sink and rinsed the sleep from his eyes. There was a tray of food placed on the bed and as Simon had not eaten for a long time, he gulped down some of the food. The man who still remained a stranger to him tried to hand him his 50 caliber gun but he could not lift it. Simon smiled and picked it up with one hand and left the room. The stranger just stared after him as he marveled at the gentle spirited giant.

Merlin's door was open, but he was not inside. At the foot of the stairs, a man signaled to Simon to climb up to the upper deck. Merlin was leaning on the rail looking out to the island of Madeira. The mountains rose up out of the sea way above the tanker. They were not moving, but had anchored the ship a little way from the harbor. There were no beaches but only the shear cliffs jetting up from the sea. On the top were fields of colorful flowers spreading out over the landscape. Colorful trees splattered around the top of the cliffs. It was a beautiful sight.

Merlin turned around and faced the seven foot, four inch giant. He looked up at him, but with a look that told Simon who was the boss and said "Are you ready? Let's go!"

Simon looked around and saw that the chopper had already been raised to the upper deck. Twelve men stood around it looking like pillars in a circle, all staring at Simon. "Let's go!" responded Simon, motioning the hermit towards the black machine with the four arms waiting to spin.

Within four minutes, Simon was lowering the helicopter down on an open deck next to a two-story building on the top of one of the many mountains of Madeira. The building was old and decaying. It looked like an old apartment house or overnight house, but definitely not like a home.

Simon turned off the engine and the two men waited as the blades slowly came to a stop. Merlin just sat there, not moving a muscle as Simon looked at him. No one came up to the chopper to greet them. The entire area was strangely quiet, almost frighteningly so. Simon waited for The Hermit to speak. Finally Merlin turned towards the tall black man. "What are we waiting for? Let’s go!"

They stepped down from the chopper, and walked slowly towards the building. It looked even more dingy close up. When they looked back, the view of the sea from where they stood was breathtaking. Two big glass doors that had obviously been recently scrubbed separated the interior from the deck. Merlin waited, and Simon reached out and opened the door.

Standing a few feet inside, like a beautiful goddess, was the most gorgeous woman Simon had ever seen. She was not afraid of the sight of the big black man. She stood with dignity and authority even though she wore a pink night robe and had obviously just risen from sleep. Her hair was pulled back and tied with a single ribbon and then hung down her back almost three feet. Her face was olive brown and without any makeup.  Prominent was her eyes, brilliant green and not afraid to look directly into your eyes with confidence.

Simon stepped aside to allow Merlin room to get by him.

"My Lady, Good Morning! I'm Father Merlin. I'm looking for Philip, who I believe is your husband. I assume you are Sofia?" Merlin bowed graciously to the beautiful lady.

Without the slightest embarrassment for being in her bathrobe, she made no expression of irritation, but greeted Father Merlin and Simon politely. She made no reply but with queenly dignity, she walked out onto the deck past Merlin and past the giant. She glided to the edge of the patio and looked down. She appeared very heavyhearted as she pointed down the mountain replying, "Down there."

Merlin limped over to the edge as fast as he could, and Simon beat him to the rail. The woman was pointing to a small stone shed about two hundred feet below. It was next to a small chapel. A trail twisted down to the stone building with red tile roof. It was about ten feet wide, twenty feet long, and had no walls.

"Thank you, my lady. We are his friends."

"Certainly! Of course! All of you say the same thing. That is why we are here, on this island, in this jail, because you are all our friends." Sophia walked away and exited through the glass doors, throwing the words over her shoulder at them but not looking back.

"If only she knew!" thought Merlin, as he watched her leaving the patio, "If only she knew!" Merlin waved a finger at Simon and the two men started down the trail. They passed the small pilgrimage church of Our Lady of the Mountain, and in the side chapel Merlin could see the outline of a man sitting next to a metal coffin. Four pillars of stone held up the red roof. The Atlantic was in the background. Merlin walked under the roof until he was three feet away from The Ark. Simon remained outside as this moment belonged to Merlin.

The Ark was standing next to a metal coffin. The top if the coffin had a crown of thorns and was inscribed with the words, "FIAT VOLUNTAS TUA".

"Are you Philip?" Merlin said into the silence.

Philip, startled, looked up at Merlin. Philip had light brown hair that was long and very curly. His nose was long and hooked at the end. He had not shaved as it was before 7:00 AM in the morning. He was dressed in tennis shoes, blue jeans and a tee shirt. His eyes and face showed no fear, only anger and determination, "I'm Philip Von Habsburg!"

"My name is Father Merlin. I'm a hermit priest from France."

Philip stood up and then knelt down in front of the hermit and kissed his hand. Then he sat down heavily and looked at the coffin. He turned towards the giant black man and stared at his mammoth size for a few minutes. He wondered to himself about the white robe with the White and Gold Cross. He turned back to look at Merlin. "What do you want of me?" he asked.

"I have a letter for you from The Holy Father." Merlin handed the sealed leather folder to Philip.

"The Holy Father? The Holy Father? I knew Pope John Paul II but Benedict? What does he want with me?”

"He sent this letter to you! It has the seal! Open it!"

Philip looked down at the seal and recognized its authenticity. It was real, "Why me?" He pulled on the ribbon and opened the leather folder, reading the letter:

"Peter, Bishop, servant of the servants of God, extends greetings and the Apostolic Benediction to my beloved son in Christ, and faithful Christian, Philip Von Habsburg.

"Even though it is not allowed, and even though my fellow servants in Christ and I will be in great danger, I shall return to Rome, the seat of my namesake. Even as you read this letter, we shall be on our way to Saint Peter's tomb and altar.

"It is imperative that you come to Rome so that I may speak with you face to face! I ask this of you as a friend in Christ, and order it as is my duty and right as your father in Christ our Lord.

Your Servant in Christ, Benedict, Bishop of Rome"

Philip looked up at Merlin. "What is this? What does he want of me?  The Holy Father! Me? What's going on here?"

He looked back at the letter, and then up at the black man, as if to ask for help, but said nothing. Then he asked Merlin, "How shall this be accomplished? How do we go?”

"It has been arranged. We will take you safely."

"When?"

"Now! As soon as you can leave! We cannot take your family with us. The danger is too great in Rome. Only you must go. We will protect your family."

Philip thought for a few moments, bowed his head in sorrow and then softly, almost in a whisper said, "Let's go!"

He looked over at the coffin. It contained the remains of his grandfather, Charles Von Habsburg. Charles was the last Emperor of Europe. He had died in exile on this island on the 1st of April 1922 ….. April fool’s Day!!! His father, Otto, was just a small boy at the time. Otto became a writer and columnist in order to support the family. Philip was born in Germany, although he was not German.

"My grandfather was a great man. He only wanted to help his people! He tried to unify Europe, to save it from the communists. This was his reward. He literally died of starvation!"

Philip leaned over and kissed the iron crown of thorns on the coffin.
"Let’s go and see what the Holy Father wants!"

Charles von Habsburg was now Saint Charles, since Pope John Paul II beatified him and Benedict canonized him. Countess miracles after his death and his uncorrupt body made canonization easy.

Beyond that, Zita, the wife of Charles, and the grandmother of Philip, was also beatified. Zita went into a convent after the death of her husband and the raising of her 8 children. In the convent in Switzerland, she had visions and revelations, and lived a life of heroic virtue.