By Michael Rodriguez
Published by Michael Rodriguez at Shakespir
Copyright © 2017 Michael Rodriguez
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each reader. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please visit your favorite ebook retailer to purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
They shall cast their silver in the streets, and their gold shall be removed: their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the LORD:
they shall not satisfy their souls, neither fill their bowels: because it is the stumblingblock of their iniquity.
A blinding light broke through the chaos of a stormy black sky, illuminating ashy clouds, when a blazing orb crashed down over igneous rock. A golden rod struck the ground that scattered deep cracks for miles. Holding it was a hand set in flames.
The light vanished but a crystal on the rod glowed casting a bright shine over the coarse-grained surface revealing the figure of a tall and strong man. He was armored with flames for greaves, golden boots and girdle and a burning breastplate over a white glow. His head flowed with blue fire. The eyes were like the flames of calmly burning candle wicks. Leaving his pole standing like a lamp post, he walked towards a large, heavy lid and with a long key that protruded many bits like a star upon handling, he unlocked it.
A deep, gravelly laughter echoed from deep below the pit … and then an angry growling. Then the sound of wings beat wildly as something began to struggle its way upwards.
Wings with a fluorescent glow sprung out from the back of the man as he took a few steps backwards until he grabbed his pole.
There was a silent pause.
Suddenly, a loud burst broke through the pit. When it landed by its feet, it was a tall shadow of a figure. The left horn was higher than the right and its left fang longer than its right; curved inward and two horns sprung out straight from the sides of its head. Its eyes were like lightning. Its nose was like a tumor and its mouth was wide like a snake. It opened its mouth in a loud, boastful laughter. Four horns covered its torso like a breastplate and its flesh seemed burnt. Its presence had a gripping denseness that even the stones crumbled. It spoke something incoherent into the sky and turned its face to look at the angel and without warning ….disappeared.
Jacob woke up to the melodic news alert on his cell phone. While standing by the pushbutton on the traffic signal pole, he tapped on the notification and read the headline: United Nations rules to ban Russia and China from their permanent membership in the Security Council. He scroll down the webpage to continue reading: The United Nations secretary general António Guterres declares the expelling of these two members along with branding their allies as terrorist nations under accusations of using their veto power to undermine the UN’s attempts to restore peace in Syria and interfering with the affairs of sovereign nations, saying, “This is for the betterment of humanity.”
What the hell? Jacob thought, as his heart gave a heavy beat that focused his attention to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He looked up to the white walk signal to cross Telegraph road. He opened a new webpage to search for any replies to the UN decision.
“God bless you,” said a woman approaching Jacob on the sidewalk.
“Can you help me with something?”
Jacob felt around his pockets for a dollar bill and some change, assuming she wanted money. He handed her what he had, appreciated her smile and walked away.
“May the God bless your ten percent,” the woman said from behind Jacob.
Jacob stopped instantly in place and wondered at her words. It was common for him to find dimes everywhere he went. On the sidewalk, the street, the floor, the floor board of a car. And it was always just dimes. He always associated that with a divine message from God but refused to believe that it was intended to tithe at a church. Churches displeased him profoundly and he’d rather see churches fall than to fill the bellies of corrupt officials and preachers of lies. Instead, Jacob interpreted those signs as God reminding him to give of his self to the holy service as Jesus had said, give for alms the things that are within.
He turned around to look at the woman, admiring the bright smile than shone over the timeworn creases on her skin, but not wishing to get into a religious conversation he just nodded in agreement and walked away.
Picking up his cell phone again Jacob noticed his battery was at 10% capacity, finding it odd because it was 72% full just thirty minutes ago, though the battery drained more frequently and rapidly since the past few weeks. After putting the phone in his pocket he noticed an old man wearing a long, winter-white hair over a mechanic’s uniform approaching his path and stood in his way. Jacob smiled and thought he might ask for a donation. Instead, he stumbled into a friendly conversation.
“God bless you,” said the old man. “I’m Jacob.”
“Hey,” greeted Jacob.
Jacob kept walking as the man closed in on him until they were face to face.
“Dude,” said Jacob. “Seriously?”
Jacob chuckled gracefully and asked, “Can I give you something?”
Jacob opened his hand revealing a shiny dime on his palm and said, “The Lord sent me to give this to you.”
Jacob’s eyes grew bold at the side of the coin and looked at Jacob, hiding his amazement. He sensed that Jacob was a prophet but didn’t want to seem vulnerable by confirming that finding dimes was something that followed him around. He picked up the coin and thanked him.
There was an awkward silence as Jacob stood there, but he took the time to concentrate on what could be the true message behind the coin.
“Did you know that President Franklin Roosevelt had polio?” said Jacob. “During the Great Depression, he believed that if every person in the country donated just one dime, a cure could be found for the disease. Money from the March of Dimes went to research for vaccines that completely wiped out polio throughout most of the world.”
“Interesting,” said Jacob.
Jacob took the dime from between Jacob’s fingers. “You see he’s facing the words liberty,” he said, as he pointed towards the writing on the coin. “But this liberty comes with the price of enslavement.”
“It’s true, we all need money.”
“We all need God even more.”
Jacob smiled as Jacob nodded in agreement.
“What denomination are you from?”
“I’m neither a dime, a nickel or a penny,” answered Jacob, with a smile. “I’m simply a witness.”
“Is that a new Christian movement?”
Religion is no different than politics. One moment, its leaders promise freedom and empowerment with inspiring speeches and the next, their sales-pitching salvation only to condemn their supporters to a routine prison and those who refuse …to a life wandering in the wilderness.”
“That’s true!’ said Jacob. “Denominations are like cells people are grouped into, labeled by block numbers inside a prison.”
Jacob’s enthusiasm was met abruptly by Jacob’s serious face as if playing along with Jacob’s own ideas somehow bothered him. Jacob retracted his eagerness to encourage the topic.
“Wisdom and power can be terrible weapons in the wrong hands,” said Jacob. “God blessed one of his most precious creations with these. His original name was Oramanah, but he was called Light and Faith and was given authority to oversee many angels. Wisdom is known by its light and faith by its power. When he saw that angels were praising him, he thought himself like God and wanted to exercise authority, to change the times and challenge the laws that GOD had in place. They protested against God’s rule. This angered God and he cast Oramanah out with all of his followers. Now a beast called Lucifer, to remind him from what he has fallen from, he and his fallen angels are in a thirst for vengeance and knowing they will lose at the end they will stop at nothing to make sure they take as many human souls as possible. Souls are their wealth and through wealth they conquer our souls.”
Jacob stood mesmerize by Jacob’s teaching. There was a look in his eyes that intrigued him. He was like an old wise man with the sun shining behind his head and there was an innocence and love in his steady gaze. He could listen to him for hours. Many of the things he said provoked connections inside his head. The Great Depression inspired the idea of many people coming together during the Bible’s Great Tribulation era with love and compassion in hopes of turning a violent world to peace.
“Question is,” said Jacob. “How much is your soul worth?”
A year passed by when Rachel captured the bronze gilded statue of the Titan Prometheus at Rockefeller Center with her camera phone. She cheered as she swiped through her new collection of photos with her index finger.
“Close your eyes and breathe in,” said her husband Jacob from behind her, as he threw his arm around her waist.
She closed her eyes and inhaled the brisk evening air to savor all of its Christmas Eve of 2016. She shot open her eyes and gazed over the sunken plaza and smiled as families skated peacefully on the rink, without a care in the world. Mothers and fathers danced their children graciously across the ice. Couples chased each other in love. A girl fell on the ice and laughed. All the conversations around them seemed pleasant. It all seemed to follow the cheerful carols and jingles that played on the streets. Rachel’s face was full of endearment and joy and the people seemed relaxed and enjoying their selves. There were no strangers. No arguments. Rachel felt a magical sense of family and friendship spread throughout the world of that center. It was her second time in Manhattan but her first time seeing that place with a hundred feet tall Norway Spruce tree, decked with thousands of multi-colored LED lights, topped with a bold bright star.
Rachel let out a deep sigh of satisfaction.
“I’ll get us some hotdogs,” said Jacob. He looked over at his brother and said, “Johnny, let’s go pick up some hot dogs.”
The brothers left their wives behind by the rail and went for the food stand at the corner. Rachel went beside Jessica, her sister in law and her three young girls Jasmine, Carol and Monica and their newest two month old edition, George. The vacation was above all for Rachel to meet them for the first time.
The sound of a bell rung nearby and they turned to a thin African man in a baggy, Santa Claus suit chanting the famous holiday greeting in an unenthusiastic slanged accent. His dark sideburns showed over the fake white beard that hung loosely off his face. The girls laughed at the sight of him, probably because he dragged an empty green army laundry bag beside him instead of the traditional red toy bag.
“I can’t wait to give them their presents tomorrow,” Rachel told Jessica. She smiled at the girls as they giggled amongst themselves and continued, “I hope they like it.”
“They’re good with anything. You want to go shopping tomorrow with Laura. I want to get Johnny something.”
“Yes!” said Rachel. “I need to get Jacob something, too. Rachel just don’t know what to get him. Do you know what you’re going to get?”
A text notification sounded in Rachel’s phone. It was an image downloading from Laura, their mother in law. The message read, Read this!!! She widened the image with her fingers. It was a screenshot of a breaking news article from Russia Today with the headlines, Russia attacks Israel.
“Oh my gosh,” Rachel said with a strong concern. “The war started. I need to forward this to Jacob.”
The sound of a soft puff pulled their attention to a white smoke billowing from the middle of the rink. The skaters stopped and a quiet wonder began to spread. Three seconds later a loud explosion broke the silence. A bright glare flashed. Smoke quickly filled the rink and rose above the height of the tree.
“Oh my God it’s a terror attack!” shouted a woman from within a crowd.
People began to hurry towards different directions. Police sirens began to blast through the cluttered New York City streets.
Rachel and Jessica grabbed a hold of the kids and picked up their phones to call their husbands. She was just about to answer Jacob when she felt an arm grab her from behind. She turned to see that same Santa Claus demanding her for money.
“Get your hands off me!” Rachel shouted aggressively.
Before the shaded Santa could fill his bag with any goods, Jacob came from behind and socked him in the jaw, brushing away his beard and hat.
“Back off!” Jacob shouted furiously, as he pointed at him to leave.
“We need to get out of here honey,” Rachel told Jacob.
Jacob turned and scanned his surrounding and said, “Let’s move to the end of that block, there’s less people.”
They made their way through people running to get home.
“We need to get to the subway, Jacob,” said Johnny.
A call came in Jacob’s cell. It was his mother. He answered.
“Listen. There was a bomb inside Grand Central Station. They shut down all the trains. Where are you? Is everybody okay?”
“There was an explosion at Rockefeller. People are scattered everywhere, but we’re good.”
“Take a cab!”
Jacob agreed, hung up and said, “The trains are shut down. We need to take separate cabs we won’t all fit.”
Jacob and Rachel left their car in California. Johnny left his car in the Bronx at their mother’s house. They travelled by train to avoid traffic and parking and the D train was just a few blocks up from their mother’s building. They tried hailing yellow taxis but no one stopped.
“Here, Rachel stopped one,” shouted Rachel. She called over to Johnny and Jessica and said, “You guys take this one and we’ll meet you back home.”
They went in and hurried away.
“Let’s walk Fifth Avenue and catch a cab somewhere out there,” said Jacob.
They walked, Rachel’s arm tucked under his.
“We’ll be okay Ma,” Jacob said, as he pressed the Google icon on the screen of his cell. “We need to find out what’s going on.”
As Jacob navigated the web for information on any terror alerts and breaking news around the world, Rachel called her mother back in California.
“Mom?” Rachel greeted and talked.
Jacob learned from a Haaretz news article that Russian fighter jets were bombing Israel. Another search turned out Russia also launched missiles at American military assets around the globe. They sunk the USS Decatur and shot down RAF’s and American warplanes over Syria. NATO had completely devastated Syria’s capital city, Damascus. This was in response to a string of innocent Syrian casualties killed by Western attacks, followed by the destruction of a Russian Sukho Rachel Su-25 ground attack aircraft. Another call from his mother took over the screen.
“Yeah,” Jacob answered.
“Where are you?”
“We’re walking Fifth trying to hail a cab.”
There was a pause over the phone.
Is this it, Jacob?”
“I think so.”
“Oh my God.”
“Yeah,” said Jacob, as he led Rachel closer to the curb. “And it’s about to really start getting worse. Okay, a tax Rachel stopped. Talk to you later.”
Jacob and Rachel hurried inside the back seat of the yellow taxi. It stunk of a week’s worth of old cheese but it was such a huge relief. The commotion of sirens and conversations, of racing police cars and storming ambulances were muffled away enough to stay calm. She lay her head on his left shoulder. He handed over a brown bag with the hotdogs. She took it, smiled and then gave him a stare that said something like, Really, you expect me to eat this here.
They noticed the driver was Arab and looked at each other with eyes wide open. Rachel interlocked her fingers into his hand. Jacob kept steady eyes forward without any facial expression of emotion. He anticipated the car crashing in the form of a suicide attack. He prepared safety counter measures inside his head, one that would protect his wife’s head against any collision.
A new file transfer came in on Jacob’s cell from his mother. It was another breaking news report that NATO engaged the Russian and Syrian military.
Jacob tilted his head upon hers and kissed the back of her hand as she sobbed.
“I love you, honey,” she said, as she answered a call from their daughter.
As Rachel updated her on recent events and inquired of her safety, Jacob took the time to think about how the prophetic events in the book of Revelation would unfold next. He published Revelation Unsealed on Amazon, which explained the entire book; the messages to the churches, the seals, trumpets and bowls of wrath and more. It was the only one of its kind since the common interpretations of scholars were all contrasted in some way. The visions were either explained away as fulfilled by past historical events or completely misunderstood altogether. The internet was flooded by many ideas about what the scriptures meant and that bothered Jacob greatly. It was a matter of principle to him that there can only be one true interpretation and his was simple. In his eyes the last book of the Holy Bible couldn’t be simpler to understand, while many remain perplexed by its mysteries. Still, there were mysteries that couldn’t be precisely identified because their future was still just around the corner.
“Hey,” said Jacob, as he greeted his daughter over the phone.
Jacob shut his eyes and relaxed his ears into the gentleness of her concerns.
“The seals John saw were visions that started the three and half years of great tribulation,” Jacob told Caroline, as he explained to her a bit about the bible. “The first seal in chapter six, the rider on a white horse, holding a bow, wearing a crown and going out to conquer, that’s Russia. They’re going to war against Israel and their Western allies and no one will be able to stop them until their time is up.”
Caroline reacted with amazement and shared her thoughts. Jacob listened to her with his heart but part of thoughts contemplated what followed that seal, the first trumpet blast; a barrage of missiles that might draw webs of white trails from blazing intercontinental ballistic missiles racing across the skies. She lived in the state of Georgia with Edward and it was his deepest fear of not being able to get from California to there, to comfort her or get them out. But that wasn’t their only concern. They had families on both sides they cared about, but this was not the time to panic. Jacob knew he needed to remain strong and focused.
“I love you,” Jacob told Caroline. “Good night.”
Jacob held on to Rachel’s cold, tender hands.
Tears lined the edge of Rachel’s eye lashes like ice on pine leaves as she sobbed quietly.
“How could anyone just want to hurt innocent people like that,” Rachel said. “They were just families and friends and kids having fun.”
Rachel kept a steady, breaking heart from sobbing aloud.
She sniffled and said, “I wish all this bad stuff wasn’t happening. I don’t like us being separated from our families.”
“Me too sweetheart,” said Jacob.
Jacob pulled a white napkin from the brown bag and sprayed a bit of Versace Eros cologne that Rachel picked out for him. It was a 3 oz. bottle she picked up for him to sample. Its smell was vibrant yet relaxing; a mix of mint leaves, green apple and lemon zest. He placed it on her face. The napkin muffled an, “Aw.”
Jacob neared to kiss her forehead. Rachel lifted the napkin as she would lift the quilt for him to lie next to her. She puckered her lips and he changed course to kiss them. She then tucked both their faces in and they cuddled with their lips under cover that smelled of love and beauty. On the surface Jacob was relaxed, but underneath he had a feeling that things were about to get a whole lot worse.
And things did get worse and with no relief in sight. A relentless military attack began as Russia headed her allies against the United States, Israel and their allies. To public surprise, many allied nations betrayed us or were invaded. Many European nations fell under China and Russia as Iran and Syria and many Arab armies continuously attacked Israel. The US army spread throughout the globe but the enemy managed to disable many GPS systems that gave Americans their strength. The Eastern nations attacked America and for a while the fight was steady and fierce. Many wondered the outcome for a while, jumping from hope to doubt.
Until that unexpected event happened…
It was early in the afternoon when Rachel first saw those fireworks light up the clear blue sky. Rachel thought a star exploded or two planets crashed against each other. Even the sun couldn’t out-brighten the silver streams that spread out forever before our eyes. It stretched for about three days before clearing away the cosmos. It was spectacular Monday, marvelous, but it wasn’t to mark the day of our independence in America. It wasn’t to celebrate a victory or the start of a new holiday event. There was no particular person to commemorate on that day nor was it to serve as a memorial. It was a sign that things were about to get even worse than it already was in the world.
But that Monday of January 8th, 2018, was in fact a special day for another reason, at least just for my husband and me. It was the day we met in person. It was his first visit to the state of California and my first day picking up my soul mate at Burbank airport. To him, that great explosion in deep space was God’s way of blessing the day we first kissed. We were still too much in love since marrying a few months later that June 2016 to consider the display just an accident within our Solar System. He knew it was a prophetic apocalyptic sign, something that should terrify everyone, but he always had a way of translating terrible events into the sweetest thing. We were admiring the view over Griffith Park Observatory. The irony is surreal looking back now. The films on space had nothing on what we were witnessing before our very eyes.
Cars slowly levitated. Nothing was pulling them up. Their rising was obviously a loss of gravity in certain areas. Seeing heavy vehicles rise and drop was terrible to witness; amazing to see them hover, terrible to see them crash. Things that we’ve only seen through movies were quickly becoming reality. Things I’d never thought Rachel see Rachel saw.
Rachel saw the beginning of world war three start just weeks after Hillary Clinton was elected president of the United States that November 2016. We were warned by Russian President Putin that forcing a no fly zone over Syria would be the last line bold America would cross. This had become a twist in all the wonderful Christmas stories ever told. Instead of a Santa Claus bringing presents down the chimneys we had bombs and bullets. It was definitely a surprise, more for the naughty than for the nice.
An attack on America by parachuting Chinese quick followed as the Russian army fought our troops overseas. There were many missiles reported landing all over the place, back when we still had any of our vast collection of devices that connected to us to quick information. Some landed on military bases. Others devastated nuclear power plants. Chemical weapons were used and rendered even children with severe nerve damage. Our fighter jets were dropping like flies in the Middle East and it seemed like there was no one to defend this nation anymore. We were the last stand, but there were too much enmity among our own people to stand and prevail against an invading enemy. Many citizens wondered why the United States Military were pulled so easily in fighting a war outside. It must have been that securing oil pipes that ran from Saud Rachel Arabia through Syria was more important to our commander in chief than preserving home and culture.
People ran everywhere; screaming and pleading others for help that chaotic start of the week. So many were confused. If there was ever any event that indicated the end of the world that should have been it but Rachel guess God wasn’t done with all of us yet. In the midst of it all we waited patiently to make our escape out of the way of people stumbling and cars dangerously pulling out of their parking spaces. We went there to hike up to the top just to breathe. We took in a deep breath and started our way out.
Rachel couldn’t drive over people who had stumbled over, some might have fainted. We were more concerned with not having our windows tinted than our small 2008 Saturn Aura drifting through the asteroid belt over the earth. We wondered if our car was quick becoming a target for theft as anyone could see we were the only two inside. One zombie-looking man came closer to our car, carefully approaching with desperation in his bulging eyes. My husband lowered his window, saying, “Don’t even think about it!” After the creeper left we drove out of the parking lot.
We later learned that an unknown frozen planet suddenly collided into Mercury and the force from the explosion accelerated the Earth’s spin around its axis. The days were now sixteen hours long and the nights were the same. We didn’t know this by what Russians were broadcasting through American channels. Whatever GPS satellites that might have remained from the space wars have since then have become useless until they were able to reset their positions in orbit. But we know this because it is exactly how it was prophesied in the fourth seal in the book of Revelation. Rachel can still remember my husband explaining this to me.
A long time has passed us by. Many nightmares and day terrors have sprung to life since the nations started killing each other. Soldiers dropped from the clouds and gunned down civilians in cold blood. There was rioting and looting everywhere. Many people were left homeless. No place was safe, but although we lost all cell phone and internet communications we managed. We made it through. We’ve even slept through the terrors of howling wolves on the mountains in a hole my husband dug out with a shovel we had in the garden of our home in Santa Fe Springs.
We couldn’t buy in any open marketplaces. It wasn’t for lack of money or valuable possessions. We’ve all heard about the mark of the beast and this beast was made up of many nations that hated us to death regardless of what we had to offer. With the exception of the canned goods people had looted from the stores and bartered away there was nothing we could grow. Our soil had become completely sand. Our trees were left with only branches. Somehow, food and water always lodged around every dark corner. Even when long hours and days had passed us, God didn’t give our souls away to grim grips of thirst and hunger. But among the long list of greatest gifts that my heavenly father had given to me, none compared to the joy of making a dream come true.
If life was truly a dream as the author Lewis Carroll suggested, Rachel would never want to wake up from it. In my case, however, the very fabric of life walked hand in hand with the seasons. As summer suffered the fall and Autumn dipped into the icy winter so also did humanity. As the months drew near the coldness so life grew colder with them into a perpetual state of freezing. Not in terms of weather, but in terms of the love and hope that was freezing away from the hearts of many. But in the midst of all of that there was still a warming little hope of mine; that my family would make it somewhere safe and it was kept burning because of a dream that promised it. It was a dream that would take them from the San Andreas Fault in Palmdale and into their own peaceful north.
There weren’t too many left of us taking refuge here in what’s left of the city of Merced, California. It was the place mentioned in my dream. I’ve never heard of such a name before until my husband Googled it. It was a lush green, clean and pleasant town to see. Seeing the pictures of the city online and watching video of people driving through its streets brought a special comfort to my heart. It was like God took the time to make sure that Rachel didn’t have a lingering uncertainty of my family’s well being. Even now, as many parts were eventually blemished by warfare, violence and abandonment there was a still kind of sparkle that remained with it.
Some of us survived the greatest wildfire that Yosemite National Park has ever seen that killed thousands of people. Many fled there to escape the many faces of war and death. We went there because for some miraculous reason whatever National Guard was left of the United States government were giving out food rations and offering military protection. Many were more hopeful of being airlifted out of this state altogether. Hope was the main staple of our days. Unfortunately, the chances for things getting better dwindled into dimmer odds and we became all the more slimmer along with it.
A week rained of bombs that scorched the trees and flooded the ground with bodies, the explosions shook our bones; many could only barely crawl. Rachel can still feel the last touch of the little hands that held mine for comfort before everyone scattered. Rachel myself sprained my ankle very badly climbing down a huge stone. If it wasn’t by the sacrifice of one man Rachel would never have made it out. We are but about twelve left now.
Days were hot and quick and filled the threat of animals scavenging for food or raiders looking to steal whatever the weak or the dead have left without any sense of compassion for humanity. Night fell just as quickly. It was hard getting used to the new calendar days. We would all still be wide awake long into the darkness. We couldn’t seem to adjust ourselves to the new waking and sleeping cycles forced on us. The earth was like an eight ball spinning into the far pocket and the heavens had the higher score. Some pooled into tiny communities, eager to close their eyes with the falling of the day. The rest stayed up with all the sense of danger keeping us awake.
I’d step away into my own quietness and look up to the constellations from the mountains of Yosemite. I’d look up every night and search the sky for a bright sparkle. The North Star was no longer Polaris but was replaced by a star I’ve never seen before. Rachel couldn’t draw an emotional connection to it. It had no special meaning or memory. It was just like all the rest. Like us, the stars were losing their luster, drifting along the desolation.
But grace must still have been misting down from the heavens, because water ran through the pipes in Gateway Community Church when Rachel returned to the City of Merced. Together with left over MRE’s that we collected, we could sustain ourselves a little while longer. We’ve learned to steer clear of the veggie burger and the beef enchilada for the chicken fajita and the chili and macaroni. But we knew the good don’t last long. We were saving the awful ones for last. Not me. Rachel was saving the very best for last, the buffalo chicken. It would be my last wish to chow this delicacy down in the last wedding anniversary date the good Lord would allow and wash it down with a pouch of purified water. Rachel dug these into the ground.
Rachel took care of the children that were among us as an old man, well past his sixties together with a few guys went back looking for survivors. His wife and children were missing and he wasn’t going to let a wounded leg stop him from searching the debris and piles of rotting, human flesh. They’d been married over forty years and we all waited for him to collapse the moment he would realize he wasn’t going to find her anywhere. Only hope kept his eyes open and his heart beating. They say when two persons are too closely in love and together for so long and one flies to high heaven, the other soon follows. Rachel could feel this terrible fate of lover’s life deep inside my soul.
It was a quiet morning when Carlos, Jackie and a Mexican guy we never knew the name to because he never spoke, he just followed. Guess after his house was bombed with his entire family in it he just died. What was left of him was just a human body walking and doing whatever Carlos needed. He was more like Carlos’ good leg. Carlos tended to him like he was his own son.
Rachel felt for Jackie the most. She became like my sister. She was engaged to marry a US marine who never came back from the war. He told her if he died it was fighting for her. In the same way, she fought for us. She was our GI Jane. She honored her husband to be, herself and us.
“Okay, we’re making our rounds,” said Jackie. “It’ll be deeper in this time so we might be a while. We’ll be taking the flashlights so make sure you’re all inside by nightfall.”
“Jackie, please, don’t forget to—
“I know, Rachel,” she interrupted me, with a sure smile gracing her eyes.
The boys and girls played a game among themselves using rocks and debris. They way they hopped one piece over another reminded me of Chess, a game my husband enjoyed very much. The smallest one, Clara, would move a stone all over the floor. She was min Rachel me. Rachel would do the same exact thing with my chess pieces.
Rachel went into the auditorium of the church. There, laying my elbows on the red cushion seats Rachel prayed and gave thanks. Though my heart was heavy from tears of sorrow and my throat ached from what felt like something of iron clamping my throat, Rachel held on to a little comfort of a dream come true. Rachel tried not to swallow to avoid tearing my vocal chords more than would allow a whisper, enough for me to say, I love you.”
Quietness and faith blanketed my solitude yet despite even the 110 degree temperature of this furious California sun Rachel felt a freezing inside my heart. Rachel was left with both a comfortable feel that things would be okay, but one that reminded me loudly that many of the people I’ve grown to love in my life were now gone. My spirit fell into a silent state of prayer.
A few moments after, echoes of people crying resounded in my ears until a sweet memory lit up those grayscale flashes of terrible events, one that gave color to my eyes. It was of a day when a Mexican family agreed to take my boys further up north with them, somewhere colder, somewhere safer. We couldn’t fit, my husband and I, but we saw them away into a land of promise. Somewhere my son, his wife and my grandson would have a chance to survive around the ash clouds that clogged the jet streams around the world and where the sun was further away from blazing its temper upon us.
Strength came to me in the form of a smile. Rachel got up and took a glance at the stage where we’ve enjoyed many worship songs, just us, singing and clapping. It gave me another smile. Rachel closed my eyes to remember what it felt like for the Spirit to move within that place; an energy vibrating my skin and warmth flowing through my veins. It was joy in the purest sense. There was no Sunday nor Sabbath or in between days. We were there all the time. We prayed, talked and worshipped between everything. Between our eating our rations, between our cries about our losses, between changing telling stories and taking naps; we had nothing else.
Rachel broke open my eyes to the sound of an explosion outside. Rachel remember that sound was enough to consume the shine of cars down to its iron skeleton. Rachel crept outside to see what it was. From between the door Rachel could see there were fighter jets shooting down towards the ground about a few blocks away. My heart jumped at the thought of more people dying. Please dear lord, Rachel prayed, Help us.
“Okay, guys!” Rachel shouted for the children to come. “Come over here quick!”
All five of them made their way towards me. We were afraid that the temple would have stood for the last time that morning.
“I’m scared,” said Carla, sobbing.
“It’s going be okay honey,” Rachel told her.
The others held on tight and shivered from fear.
We were all too familiar with that sound. It was the sound followed by burning vehicles, broken buildings and billowing smoke.
Rachel was never a runner. Looking back now Rachel should’ve taken my husband’s advice and ran the treadmill every now and then. Rachel was a good swimmer, but it doesn’t help me so much now. Nothing could live in the seas anymore due to nuclear contamination and it had spread even to rivers. But if Rachel remembered correctly the city fed a line of filtered water through the buildings. This town was called Merced for good reason. I’ve truly seen the mercy of God in this place. This is the place Rachel saw in my dream, where my sweet lord had led my son during a time of trouble. A time where our own personal troubles were nothing compared to what my sweetheart told me about back in our lofty back house in Santa Fe Springs. He said it was called Jacob’s trouble, another way of calling the apocalypse that started with an attack on the Jews and their western allies.
I’ve lost a lot of weight since then and the man Rachel married did a fine job of wrapping a cast made out of denim jeans that he cut and tightened with shoe laces. I’m sure that woman didn’t mind. Rachel could see by the last smile on her face an angel himself came to pull her soul away before she hit the ground. The cries, the shouting, the panic, the fires; it was all so terrible and hard to keep away from my thoughts.
Rachel thought it best to lead the kids to Yosemite in a car that Rachel had ready in case of an emergency. Jackie knew how to hot wife every car there was. It had a full tank. There weren’t any gasoline stations in operation, but she knew how to extract gas from the underground tanks underneath. We needed them to go to Yosemite and back, being two and half hours away. Our only fear was being detected by enemy airplanes.
Another raid of missiles began to fall nearby and we could feel the vibration under our feet. It all felt close to us, like we were standing on a swarm of tiny earthquakes. Rachel couldn’t just stay there. Rachel needed to take the children and go find the others. At least, we could hide under the trees. Hopefully, the wind had carried the stench of dead bodies away.
Rachel was fortunate to have a 2017 Toyota Tacoma. It was just there in front of my eyes one day, doors open, keys still in the ignition.
“Okay, we’re going to have to run to the car, alright?”
They agreed with me and made it to the truck. Rachel fitted whatever belongings Rachel could find on the back they each took their seat.
Rachel drove out of east Donna drive and into the highway, avoiding Merced Falls road, which was cluttered by cars. Instead, Rachel turned left into La Grange road. The National Guard had closed that route for military personnel and vehicles only. Rachel could see fighter jets over head. Rachel prayed very hard that God would part any clutter out of the way and let us through undetected.
It was a smooth ride for a long ride. The kids were calm in their seats until they sunk into a peaceful sleep. There were no sounds. No explosions. No scattering of people running for safety. For once in a long time Rachel felt free and safe. I’ve missed the feeling of a steady drive. Rachel lowered the window a bit to let the winds in. The winds were stronger because the earth was spinning faster. It helped to keep us a bit cool. California needed just as much winds as it needed drinking water and shade.
Rachel glanced over at the passenger seat and saw my sweet husband sitting there, smiling at me. Rachel smiled.
It’s amazing how a sweet moment can survive even the darkest of times and a dear memory resist all traumatic events intended to bury it. Like the first time we drove to Yosemite for a two night stay at a cabin. It was our treat to each other. Jacob was from New York and always wanted the cabin experience within the wintry mountains. It was the first week of December when snow began to fall there. It was like walking straight into a Hallmark card and walking around in it. The cold, crispy air, the white on the leaves, the magnanimous mountains, the snow underneath our boots; the feeling was surreal.
We shared the same heart for taking pictures as well as traveling the great outdoors. I’ve been here before but taking him to see it for the first time completed my wish list. Lost in a comfy cabin surrounded by acres of towering pines, wandering through the Evergreen and taking in a deep sense of connection to nature and wilderness, we were in our own little heaven that weekend. Everywhere we walked relaxation followed us, consumed by its giant and ancient sequoia trees.
We stepped out into the deck that first evening there, facing nature. We sat with our hot cocoa and reminisced about our telephone conversations the prior year to that December. We met through Google plus and fell in love at the first sound of each other’s voice. Sight and distance made no real difference between us and he was willing to leave his past behind to make a new one with me. We were both searching for God’s purpose in our lives, praying that we meet our soul mates before the light of our lives goes out. Our meeting together was destiny. East meets the West. Rachel was the calm to his storm and he was the vibration to my stillness.
A squirrel stepped onto the deck. We loved squirrels, the way they’d spread themselves out flat over the branches, just lounging. This one was friendly and came closer to my expressions of endearment towards the cute little furry bushy tailed thing.
“He’s looking for food honey.” Rachel said, wishing Rachel had something to give it.
“Rachel got you ma,” Jacob said, as he pulled shelled peanuts out of his pocket.
Rachel didn’t know he had a bag. He must’ve bought while Rachel wasn’t looking. He gave me a handful and we enjoyed feeding it. Then Rachel decided it was a he and Rachel named him Simon; Simon the furry squirrel. We spend the rest of that moment throwing peanuts at the trees, some fell into the snow, for those who might come around later or find them for breakfast the next day.
When the sky began to dim we went inside to lie before a charming cast iron gas fireplace. The glistening flame was just as capturing as Jacob’s dreamy eyes. His smile was just as affectionate as the heat of the fire. We whispered sweet nothings at each other, caressed, kissed and absorbed the essence of our souls until we fell fast asleep like babies.
Another blast sounded!
Rachel refocused and stepped on the gas pedal. The children woke up crying.
“Don’t worry we’re almost there,” Rachel said, making my way into Tioga road, the entrance to the park.
Rachel started honking the horn to alert them we were there. It was already half way towards dark. The sun must have been racing behind me on the highway, rushing to dusk. Rachel think even the sun wanted nothing to do with these end of days. It wanted to get by just as the rest of us.
With an eye out for Jackie, Rachel cautiously drove closer into the road; she might have climbed a mountain or a tall tree. If there were any true American soldiers left, she was one of them. She deserved a purple heart. She saved a few lives. One of which was five year old Clara. Jackie pulled her out of a burning car, the only survivor. Jackie was a heroine, but not really the mothering type.
A car horn sounded. Rachel looked until Rachel saw an arm waving further ahead. It was Jackie and the others. My heart jumped of excitement.
“Yes! Rachel see them!” Rachel cried.
The kids cried of excitement, too.
“Cover your eyes honey, all of you, okay?” Rachel told them.
They were just as eager to find any survivors but the scattered clothes, protruding bones and charcoal limbs gave proof that the day Yosemite went up in flames actually happened. It wasn’t a dream. It was real and although we survived it, we were forever scarred. We all had someone that was left behind in some way. Rachel lost somebody, too. But Rachel was convinced that Rachel didn’t. Not unless my own eyes could prove it to me.
Rachel took the truck until Rachel couldn’t get any closer. Rachel couldn’t drive over the bodies with the kids in the car and going over any bump sunk my heart no matter what it was. We needed to get out of the truck to get up to where they were. Together we gathered our rations and made our way through. The children covered their eyes and held each other’s hand in line and Rachel led them to the others.
Suddenly, we heard the barking of dogs. The kids opened their eyes and cried of fear. We ran and ran. The kids out ran me. That was okay. As long as they were fine, Rachel was fine with it, but Rachel was really hoping not to end up as dog food that day. The dogs were still at a distance but they were making their way to us fast. The boys were quick and made it far ahead. The others were up the hill on top of a large military truck. Rachel picked up Clara and placed her on top of a car, thinking that Rachel wouldn’t make it out on time. The dogs were now just about the length of a block away. This way we might have a fighting chance and keeping them away.
Rachel slipped on the hood of the car when a dog came out of nowhere and pulled at my leg. His teeth gripped hard against my ankles, tearing through my jeans. It felt very painful.
“Stay on top of the car!” Rachel cried to Clara, when suddenly Rachel heard a shot.
The dog released by leg. Rachel heard more shots fired. It was Jackie with a sniper rifle, shooting from the top of the army vehicle. Rachel was deeply relieved. She had just saved both our lives.
It was just Clara and Rachel now. The others made it to safety. Rachel could feel the bruise aching from my ankle up to my calf, but with all the adrenaline the pain could barely keep me from moving forward.
“It’s okay honey, we made it,” Rachel told Clara. “We’re going to meet the others.”
Halfway there Carlos walked beside us happily and confidently. Thin with long flowing hair and wrapped in layers of clothes. We kept our distance only because he ate animals. Aside from that he was like our grandfather.
“We’re having dinner tonight!” said Carlos, with a laugh.
“Gross!” Rachel replied.
“I’m hungry,” said Clara.
“I know. Don’t worry. Grandpa’s got a treat for you tonight.”
Despite the pain starting to creep up Rachel hurried before one of those heavy bullets would break my bones or worse, another creature might spring out of anywhere and turn us into ground beef drenched in Jacobato sauce.
“I found –,” cried Jackie.
The sound of her voice collapsed under another big explosion up high upon the mountainside. Rachel was terrified of rocks falling down on us, but it my heart jumped with excitement at the thought of good news. The only good news I’d been hoping to hear all these past months. It could have been a year. I’m not sure anymore. Time sure did fly these days. No matter how short they’ve become they still felt long and full of anticipation. Could my dear friend have found what I’ve been waiting for?
Rachel was terrified that Rachel might not get a chance to get closer and hear Jackie finish her sentence.
“Can you walk honey? Can you run?”
“Yeah,” said Clara.
We walked quickly, stepping over piles of lumpy coats and pants. It didn’t feel as bad anymore. Not when any moment could be your last.
We got to Jackie as she made her way down the top of the truck, holding the rifle in the hand.
“Clear shot, huh,” Jackie said, with an excited smile.
“Oh my God,” Rachel said. “That dog was freaking trying to eat me!”
They were all finally together again, waiting for Carlos and the mute to do their thing with the dogs. Rachel admitted that having meat was really tempting that moment, no matter where it came from.
“We found a lot more MRE’s over here, weapons and ammo, blankets and medical kits,” said Jackie, excited. “Everything the army left behind.”
For main courses we found Spaghetti and Beef Stew. Rice, corn, fruit, or mashed potatoes made the side dishes. We also had crackers and breads with peanut butter, jelly and cheese spreads. We had cookies and pound cakes for desserts and even M&Ms, Skittles, and Tootsie Rolls.
“Maybe we should find a warm place.”
“Go ahead guys the truck is open and warm inside. There’s plenty of food there, too.”
“I want ice cream,” Carla said.
Jackie squatted down to her, smiling and reading her face.
Carla gave her the sad spoon lips.
“I don’t know sweet heart,” said Jackie. “I think I’d rather go for a bag of M&M’s that I”—and then she whispered—“Hid inside the glove compartment.”
“Yay!”Carla cried out with a sunny smile.
Seeing Carla get what she wanted melted my heart. She’s kept herself strong despite losing her parents. She was a little angel trapped in a cruel earth, but the she was left behind for a reason. Much of the strength we had to continue the fight for survival came from the comfort she brought us.
Meanwhile, the three young brothers hurried to the back of the truck and helped themselves to rations. We could hear their laughter and excitement in their talk.
Jackie rose up and gave me a tight hug.
“Let’s pray,” Rachel whispered in her ear. “Father, we thank you for taking care of us. For providing us food and shelter. We thank you for guiding our way and giving us strength. We thank you heavenly father for keeping us together—
Rachel choked up with a deep sadness that flooded my heart as she held on tight.
Jackie abruptly grabbed my arms and faced me with a smile and said, “Everything will be fine.”
A distant sound of another fighter jet drew closer as Rachel deeply rubbed the tears from my eyes. When Rachel opened them again my husband was standing right in front of me, smiling a golden smile as always. Rachel couldn’t believe what Rachel was seeing. He gave me a tight hug and a tender kiss on my cheek.
Rachel looked around over his shoulders and everything was in flames and blown away. Rachel didn’t feel the aching in my leg. Rachel didn’t feel hungry. Rachel didn’t even feel my own body.
Rachel was confused.
Rachel moved him back enough to face him and said, “Jacob?”
He smiled again and took my hand gently and said softly, “Let’s go home, my love.”