By C. E. Wilson
October Falling (Baqash Origions)
Published by C. E. Wilson at Shakespir
Copyright 2016 C. E. Wilson
All Rights Reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without the express written permission from the publisher, except in brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Cover by C. E. Wilson
Author Photo by Brent Shermann
This ebook is liscensed for your personal enjoyment only. You may not resell it.
Table of Contents
Our Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – The Blessed Trinity
If not for these people this book would never have been written:
My Beloved Bride – M. S.
Phyllis H., Mark O., Bart K., and Mike P.
To the many that have said an encouraging word to me after reading “Baqash”.
There are so many more to include: Elders, Pastors, and Small Group Members. Everyone we encounter shapes us into who we are today and who we will become in the future. God uses these people to shape us into the very image of Christ.
“Come what come may, time and the hour runs through the roughest day.” – Macbeth Act 1, Scene 3 by William Shakespeare
Terry sat on the city bus, her ankles crossed and earbuds in her ears. Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail and she had sunglasses on, which disguised her eyes. The bus slowed down at one of its stops, let a few on board, and then started back rolling again. She dug her phone out of her pocket and thumbed it on.
She missed a message from her friend Michelle. “Terry, you’re late. Your shift started five minutes ago.”
“Great.” She was always late, but even more so today because traffic was tied up due to a wreck ten blocks back. She wished she’d gotten out back then, but it was cold outside. October in Cleveland, Ohio was bitter this year. Other than the light polyester jacket she had on, she wasn’t geared for the cold. Most of the time, where she worked, and because the pace was so fast, she broke out into a continual sweat. She didn’t need heavy garments there – the lighter, the clingier, the better. A barista had to get her tips somehow.
The bus pulled up to her stop. She was two blocks away from “The Loner’s Brew” near downtown. She’d be only 10 minutes late so she shrugged it off. No matter how hard she tried, she was always late. Terry hopped off of the bus and trudged past those waiting to get on. The cold bit at her knees through her torn-through jeans. She pulled the jacket tighter in a vain attempt to stay warm.
Terry slipped into the flow of the crowd, and with any luck she’d be able to slip in without the manager noticing. Michelle always covered for her. However, there were times when Ronald noticed her tardiness. The last time he spoke to her he used words that included: “dismissal, temporary reassignment, and I’ll have to let you go.”
But, he knew which side his toast was buttered on. And she knew it too. Plenty of patrons came in just to see her. She’d smile, say “how you doing Hon”, wave and bounce around while she did her job. Many of the patrons followed her after she’d been let go from her last coffee joint, which was just across the street.
So she decided to slow her pace down, take in a little sunshine along with the cold breeze, and stop to speak with Francis. Francis was a cat that hung out along the sidewalk by his owner’s door. Francis always had a purr for her and she didn’t have to put on a show to get it. He loved her for who she was and not the façade she put on every morning.
Francis sat on his step, preening. He looked up as she approached and stood. He knew he was in for a good scratch. Terry reached up to him and laid her painted nails to bear on the top of his head, right between the ears. The purr machine kicked in on schedule, “purr…purr.” She sat down beside him and he curled himself around her arm then nestled into her lap. All was right with the world. Just her and Francis.
A moment later, she saw his eyes grow wide and pupils dilate. She’d never seen him do that before. He still sat on her lap, but he had become rigid. Francis’ ears pulled back, he bore his teeth, and his hair stood on end. He looked like a giant fuzz ball. Her heart began to beat harder in her chest. She was afraid to pick him off of her lap or shoo him away.
Without any advance notice, he dug his nails into her leg and dove off into the crowd of people. He disappeared between their moving legs. Terry looked up at the sky after she heard the sound of flapping wings. It seemed like every bird in the neighborhood took to flight. Something was indeed odd. Her own hair began to stand on end. Then it started.
She’d always imagined that an earthquake would build up, like a little tremor at first and then “slam, run for the doorway”. It’d been a long time since she had practiced diving for cover. Ohio, it never had earthquakes did it?
This earthquake hit, and hit hard. Terry was cast off of the steps and fell face first onto the concrete sidewalk below. The tremor was so strong she couldn’t get any footing. All she could do was lay there. Then, she heard some cracking from above. She looked and saw part of the building starting to collapse into the street. If she’d had a watch she would have sworn that thirty seconds went by, but only three seconds had passed.
Terry tried to get some purchase on the ground to stand up. The tremor continued, which prevented her from moving. All she seemed to do was fall down. She panicked. Rather than standing, she scrabbled along with hands and feet, trying to grab onto anything, anywhere. She looked up and saw that the building loomed in her direction. Bricks started to break off individually. Finally, she gained her footing and scrambled forward away from that building.
She looked forward and saw another building beginning to fall. She couldn’t predict which way it was headed. Terry wished she’d taken gymnastics like her mother had wanted her too; but that thought shifted away faster than the earth below her. Direction didn’t matter, she just knew she had to be elsewhere.
Somewhere deep down she found some resolve. Or was it sheer terror? She grabbed hold of a man and she clutched his jacket in her hand. He was pinned to the ground, scrambling, trying to get up himself. She leveraged off of him and heaved herself forward, which forced him to the ground. The building, just down the way, was shifting away from the sidewalk and that was where she needed to go.
Five seconds passed during the unholy terror that befell the world around her. Her breathing ragged and heart raced, she willed herself forward. After she moved ten feet, she looked up and saw that the building on the opposite side of the street was falling towards her. She looked back, no exit was back there. No time to think. She looked across the street, buildings where collapsing everywhere. Terry looked back to her right and saw that the alleyway was clear.
She fell to her left knee and screamed. Something had popped. She stretched out her leg straight behind her and clambered right into the alley. She didn’t dare try to move the leg, but with all of the turbulence she couldn’t help but put weight on it. Swear words came to her mind and the fear of death flooded her soul. Ten seconds in she hadn’t moved more than fifteen, maybe twenty, feet. She looked forward and saw a garbage bin had toppled over and was dancing on the broken asphalt. If only I can make it there…
She began scrambling towards the bin. It looked like the top was still made of metal and the hinges were skyward so the lid was more or less closed while it jarred in the quake. It felt like an eternity passed while she heaved herself there. The sound of crumbling buildings was deafening, louder than any concert she’d ever been to. She couldn’t hardly think over the din. Dust started to fill the air, burning her lungs. She began to cough.
She reached the garbage bin and lifted its lid. The thing danced so much she thought she’d never make it inside. Opportunity struck when it lurched backwards and then sideways. She scrambled in. Most of the garbage had been tossed out already, but of what remained, she clambered under. The sound of the quake and now the metal bin threatened to deafen her. She braced herself as best she could in the thing while it bounced around.
After a few moments, she began to hear things striking the outside of the container. “Bricks?” She tried to twist around to change position in order to escape. I have to get out! She swore at god and the world while she tried to heave herself around to get past the lid. A couple of big shifts caused the bin to flip over onto its lid. Now she was trapped!
Two more big shocks sent her head into the side of the container. In a matter of moments, she fell unconscious.
[ * ]
Her head pounded and her knee screamed and she howled in pain. Terry couldn’t see anything. She took out her cellphone and turned the flashlight on. She was surrounded by detritus and dumpster. Boxes and garbage were in her way, so she went about moving the junk trying to locate the lid. The dumpster must have flipped over onto its side again because the lid was just to her right. She could see that it was cracked open at the top. Somehow it had flipped – hinges down. She kicked the junk around and swore at the world and then tried to stand on one foot.
At least the earthquake has stopped. She shoved at the lid, it was wedged against something. Terry grabbed at the lip with both hands and tried to pull herself up. She brought her feet a few inches off of the ground. Terry lost her grip and then landed hard on her left foot which caused her knee to buckle. She fell down and banged her head against the interior wall. She stopped to catch her breath.
Terry searched around in the bin and found a broken bucket, put it top down, and stood on it. She grabbed at the lip again, and with her good foot, pushed off. She was able to wedge herself between the gap and get up to her waist. After she swung her leg onto the side of the garbage bin, she looked around.
Dust covered everything, it hung in the air and the wind was dead still. Off in the distance, she could hear fires and screaming. A pool of water had formed underneath the bin. She could only see the length of about a half a block because the dust was so thick. It was also pitch black outside. The only light she could see was what emanated from her phone.
She checked the battery: 75% left. “What time is it?” She looked at that too, it was only 12 noon. It should have been bright out. They were calling for a sunny and blustery day. It looked darker than midnight, overcast. She couldn’t believe it. “No signal. Crap.” She put the phone in airplane mode and shut off the light.
The eerie sounds of settling rubble plagued her fears. Then she heard someone a few feet away crying out for help. “Somebody, please. Help me.”
Terry couldn’t see a thing so she thumbed her phone on and tried to look around with just the screen on. It produced enough light to see three or four feet away.
“Help me.” The cry came again. It was a woman in distress.
Terry eased herself down off the bin. She wanted to curl up and cry, but more importantly she wanted out of the city! Oh no, what about Mom? Her heart raced. Mom lived on the other side of town, about ten miles away to the east. Where’s east? She thumbed on the compass and it pointed east. She closed out the app and pointed her phone towards the ground.
Terry began to walk. She drew closer to the woman’s voice. The light of her phone revealed a woman pinned under part of a building. Her legs were stuck but her arms and head were free. She shielded her eyes from the glow of the phone.
“Oh, thank you! Please, could you help me free my legs?”
Terry looked at her for a moment. She remembered the woman. She never left any tips when she came for a light syrup mocha with an extra shot of espresso. Terry shook her head at the woman, but kept her phone pointed at her. “Sorry, can’t help you.”
“Please help me. I’ll pay you. I have cash on me.”
Cash was a rarity in this day and age. “How much?”
“Sorry, you should have tipped me when you had the chance.”
“What? Please help?”
Terry hobbled on. Her knee was feeling a little better so she carefully put some weight on it. The woman continued to call after her, but her hard heart didn’t care.
Terry could still hear the woman screaming out for help as she approached the nearest pile of rubble. She had to find her mom. She looked around for a broom or a stick or something to help with her bum knee. Mom was all she had left. Terry didn’t have anyone to call her own. Dad was some kind of drug addict that ran off west somewhere, with some woman, and left them behind to fend for themselves. Right now, she really needed Mom.
Terry looked back over her shoulder, it was pitch black back that way, and terror filled the night. Maybe I should go help her? No, someone will be along shortly. Terry turned back to her task at hand, climbing the current summit of rubble.
She looked down for a handhold and saw part of a broom handle sticking up out of the mound of debris and pulled at it. It broke free, the head remained below, but the mound she was standing on shifted and her left ankle sunk down into a hole. She panicked, jabbed the handle downward and quickly pulled her leg free.
Terry shuffled off to her right a few steps to get away from the unstable area. Panic struck her heart. She suddenly realized that everything she stood on could be unstable. After she examined the broom handle she thought twice about summiting anything. But, how could she tell if she was walking into a pit or onto the crest of a toppling heap? How long did the earthquake last? How much is damaged? Why aren’t there any large fires? I could really use a hand. She thought for a moment then said to herself, No, not her, she doesn’t deserve rescue.
“One mountain at a time, I guess.” She ambled around the area she had fallen into and carefully plotted her way up. The weak glow of her cellphone revealed all manner of junk: concrete, iron support rods, broken glass, and a piece of jewelry. She bent down and picked up the bracelet, examined it, and tried it on. It fit, so she kept it.
Up ahead she saw a glow coming from the pile. It took her a minute to reach the glow. A flashlight stuck out of the pile and it was turned on! She reached down and picked it up. A hand waved at her spasmodically and she heard a voice. “Help me, I’m stuck!” It was a man’s voice.
“No.” She replied back.
“Please?” He sounded desperate. His voice was weak.
“No.” She didn’t care about him, she had to find her mom. She poked at his hand with the broomstick.
He screamed out in agony and pain. And then he swore at her.
She walked on. “I don’t need men.”
She put her cell phone in her pocket and scanned the scene. The beam from the flashlight struck out for about a block before its light diffused in the ash that still hung in the air. The climb was tougher than she suspected.
[ * ]
A few minutes later, she reached the summit. Terry panned the flashlight around. The pile she stood on appeared to be nearly a block long and two stories high. She looked down and saw a book laying there. I haven’t read a book in years. It was flipped open and pinned down by debris so she crouched down beside it. She saw an underlined sentence: “Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”
“Weird.” She looked up and turned off her flashlight. She listened for a few minutes and heard weeping from all directions. It was utterly dark. What would it feel like to be trapped under the rubble, unable to move? Crying out and no one hearing? Her left leg spasmed and she gritted her teeth. Then, deep-rooted fear gripped her chest. She wanted to cry out for help, but she didn’t know who to cry to. Terry wanted to feel love, but there was no one to love her. She was utterly alone and no one would come to help her. She wanted to break down in tears, but she didn’t have time to cry right now. Crying is for the weak.
Terry heard a noise behind her, she flicked on the flashlight and panned it over in that direction. She’d never known such fear before and she started to shake.
“Fear not.” The man said as he picked his way up to her. “I come in peace.”
He was an odd-looking fellow. He appeared to be marred by the recent events, but not as badly as she imagined herself to look. She kept the light shining in his eyes. “Who are you?”
“A friend. I saw you up here all alone and figured I’d come to help. Where are you headed?” She scanned him over. He wore a light jacket, had a baseball cap on, and a flashlight in his left hand. He swung a backpack down from his shoulder. “Here, you can take this.”
“It’s just a backpack.” He crouched down, opened it, took out another backpack and handed her the opened one. He unfolded the one he’d just removed and put it over his shoulders. He looked down behind her. “Oh, cool. An old book. Haven’t seen one in a while.”
That was weird, she’d just hoped she had a backpack to put this book into. Terry turned around and carefully picked it from the rubble. She put it in the backpack without looking at it and zipped the backpack closed.
“Where you headed?” She didn’t sense anything foul about his character.
“To find my mom.” She put the bag over her shoulders.
“Where does she live?”
Terry explained which suburb she lived in, across town.
“Well, if we head directly through downtown, it will be more dangerous.”
“Bigger buildings, more damage. More death. If we skirt around to the left a little bit, I think we can avoid some of that.”
That sounded reasonable. “Okay.”
She started down the pile to the left.
“Hey, don’t you want to know my name?” She really didn’t want to know his name, but he told her anyway. “Call me David.”
“What’s your name?”
“Look, David, I’m sure you’re a nice guy. Thank you for the bag and advice. But I really don’t want to give my name away right now.” He wasn’t a paying customer, so why should she? “Don’t you have somewhere you need to go?”
“No, not right now. I was in town on business when the earthquake struck. My home is a long way from here. I figure if I hooked up with someone, we could pick our way out of this mess together and then I could be on my way.”
Together, right. “Okay, I could use a hand. Come on, David.” She waved the flashlight in the direction she was headed.
[ * ]
They picked their way down the mound and she found another hill of debris to climb. Terry sighed. Thankfully her friend-in-tow didn’t comment. “Keep aiming left for a while?”
“I think that’d be the wisest choice.”
Terry got out her phone, input her mom’s address and it showed her the route to take. Stored maps were eating away at her memory, which made her mad, but now she was glad they were there because she still didn’t have any cell service. The route indicated that she should go one block north and two blocks west, and then the route continued off the screen.
She showed her phone to David. “Hard to tell where roads are anymore.”
“You’ll make it to your mom’s, I have faith.”
Even though the map showed a more direct route, she decided to follow David’s advice. “Come on, we haven’t much time.”
“”Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.’”
“Wait, what does that mean?” Terry stopped and looked at David.
“Time is running short. We have to keep moving.”
He was a most unusual man. Full of confidence, but didn’t seem like he was presumptuous. “Okay.” Terry picked her way up another mound, her light going out before her. “One hill at a time.” She sighed.
She lost track of time, so she took out her phone and checked. The battery was down another two percent. Off in the distance, she heard another voice crying out.
“Sounds like a person in need.” David spoke up. He’d been quiet for the last hour or two, so his voice startled her. She’d almost forgotten he was there.
“Yes, another person in need. We’re all in need. Only the strong survive.”
“Where would you be if I hadn’t helped you?”
She cursed to herself, he was right. “Okay, we’ll help free the person, but I want to keep going forward. So we will be quick.”
David didn’t say anything and fell in behind her.
Terry picked her way around and through the fallen buildings. Each step was slow and agonizing, not just because of her knee and now her ankle, but also because of the unsure footing. She wasn’t going to get anywhere at this rate.
It took them nearly five minutes to find the person. Time enough to make a mocha. She heard the person but didn’t see them. “I don’t have time for this.”
“Here, I’ll pull up on this block, you pry with your broom handle.” David bent over and started to heave at the concrete slab.
Terry began to cough. She brought her sleeve up to her arm.
“It’s the dust. We’ll find you something to cover your mouth here shortly. First, let’s help this guy out.”
Terry nodded, put the handle under the slab that David pried on, and leveraged it upwards. With both of their efforts, it slid off and then down the rubble pile. She played her flashlight around and still didn’t see the guy.
“Help me.” He called out. “I can see your light. I’m scared.”
She wanted to cry out, “We’re all scared,” but she didn’t.
David bent down and pulled up a piece of rebar. Then he pried at another slab. “You going to just stand there and watch?”
What kind of jerk is he? I have to be going. Finally she bent down and started tossing smaller pieces of detritus off to the side.
After a few minutes of work she saw a hand poking through. David reached down and grabbed it and then said something reassuring. Terry was overwhelmed by the mess of debris that surrounded the guy. He was very lucky to be alive.
David stood up. “We have to be careful, but fast.”
Yeah, I don’t want to fall in too.
David knelt down and began pulling more pieces away. Finally, they saw the man’s head. His face was caked with dust and he had a little bit of dried blood on his forehead. “Okay, I’m going to ask you a few questions before we remove you.”
Weakly the man affirmed that he heard.
“Where are you hurt? Do your legs feel pinched?”
The man explained his bodily ailments.
Oh, hurry up! Terry stood there impatiently.
“Terry, grab his hand. I’ll take his other. On three.” Terry grabbed his hand. “One, two, three. Heave!”
The man came free from the rubble after a minute of struggle. Terry almost fell off the pile of rubble. She sat down on a smooth chunk and nursed her knee. She breathed the silty air in heaves.
“Thank you, sir. Thank you so much!” The man wouldn’t quit thanking David and Terry. She just waved him away.
“Do you know where there might be a convenience story nearby?” David asked the man. He pointed.
“Okay, I’m going to see if I can find some bottled water. I’ll be right back.”
The man turned to Terry and thanked her some more. She was becoming annoyed with the man. “You’re welcome.”
“What’s your name?”
“I’d rather not say.” She forced a weak smile.
“Peter.” He stuck out his hand. “Nice to meet you. You have family?”
“Yes, my mom.”
“Where does she live?”
Terry told him.
“My wife and two daughters live in that direction. I want to go find them. Mind if I tag along?”
Yes, I do mind. She picked up another stray. What am I, a humane shelter? “Um, okay.”
[ * ]
David returned after a few minutes and placed his bag on the ground. He passed out bottled water from the bag, extra batteries, and gave Peter a flashlight. “Here you go Terry.”
She put the batteries and extra water in her bag then drank about half a bottle right away. Terry didn’t realize that her throat was so dry. David and Peter exchanged pertinent information, where they were headed and whatnot. Terry sat there and drifted away to think about her mom.
“Think you can walk, Peter?”
Peter stood up. “I’m good.”
“Terry?” David extended a hand down towards her. She snapped out of it, rejected his hand, and helped herself up. She drug out her phone, checked the GPS route and showed it to David.
“Maybe if we go over another block or two, then we can head directly towards her house. Peter, where does your family live?” David handed him the phone.
Terry got her hackles up. That’s my phone. However, she didn’t say anything and just stared at them hard. Peter showed them where he lived and Terry pointed to where her mom lived. They were four blocks apart. What a small world. She’d never met the guy even though she spent every Sunday at her mom’s. Peter handed her back the phone. She used the compass to get their bearings, turned off her phone, and off she went.
[ * ]
They finished ascending the mound. Peter and David stayed back and chatted while Terry led the way. She started down the pile and noticed that it had a steep drop. So, she stopped.
“Terry, what’s going on?” David asked.
“Looks like this building tore out below ground.” She panned her light down and could see several stories of structure below ground.
David and Peter carefully flanked her and looked down. “Whoa.” Peter said. “Looks like we’ll have to go around.”
“And add more time to finding my mom.” Terry said it bitterly.
“Come now, Terry, we’ll find your mom.” Peter tried to sound chipper. He led off to the left around the big chasm. Terry fell in behind while David followed. It took them fifteen minutes to cross around to the other side, then Terry took the lead again. The buildings fell in such a haphazard way she couldn’t imagine what kind of mess she’d see next.
Terry looked over at Peter and noticed he had an old-school watch. “What time you got?”
“Night will be falling soon.” David commented. “We need to find shelter and find you some more clothes. It’s going to be a long, cold night.”
“I’d rather keep going.” Terry tried to sound very pointed in that fact. Whether or not she did, David didn’t seem to respond.
“Peter, could you go look over there for some shelter?” David pointed in the direction that Terry had planned to travel anyway. “I’m going to go find us some clothes. There has to be a clothing store around here somewhere.”
“Okay,” Peter motioned Terry forward and fell in behind. David walked off in a different direction.
“Who died and made him boss?” Terry chipped in bitterly.
“No one. He just gave some sound advice. We can barely see now and we can’t make headway. I really want to go see my family too, but what good can I be to them if I’m dead? Besides, some of this…stuff might clear by morning.”
Terry continued to move forward without acknowledging him. She didn’t want to admit it, but finding shelter for the night might be a good idea.
[ * ]
Twenty minutes later, they found a spot where a building had toppled over, but the lower story and part of two walls remained. Peter looked around, searching.
“What are you looking for?”
“A pipe or something. I’m gonna whack the outside wall once to see how sound it is. No point sleeping here if it collapses on us in the middle of the night and sends us to our eternal rest.”
Terry laughed, eternal rest. “Nothing becomes of us after we die anyway. So, enjoy it while you can. YOLO!”
Peter appeared to not hear her or he ignored her. She didn’t care. He picked a pipe up and went around the building whacking at the walls. The pipe made eerie sounds that ricocheted off of all the surrounding debris and destruction.
He came around and pointed inside and bowed. “After you ma’am.”
“Please, I can take care of myself.” Terry went in first because she saw there’d be no arguing with the man. Inside, she found a corner to relax in. There weren’t any nearby busted-out windows to let any breeze in, and the spot looked solid enough. Her head still pounded from earlier, but it had subsided some. She sat down, opened her bag, and drank more water.
Peter sat down beside her, opened his mouth to speak, and then closed it again.
[ * ]
David came in a few moments later wearing some new clothes that were for winter. He removed his bag and handed her some sweat pants that were too large and an oversized winter coat. He passed Peter some extra clothing as well. After everyone dressed he passed out protein bars and chocolate.
“Don’t eat the chocolate right now. Wait until just before going to sleep. It’ll help keep you warm overnight.” David suggested.
Terry had never heard of doing such a thing. Then again, she felt totally out of her element, but she wanted to seem like she was in control. She always was in control. Had to be. She placed her backpack under her head and curled up in the fetal position. She ate her chocolate and ignored the men.
Sleep overtook her graciously.
The next morning, she actually saw sunlight. Well, sunlight filtered through the dark loess that drifted through the sky. It was more of an eerie, reddish light which was only one-third as bright as it should have been. She looked around and saw David sitting there, his back turned to them. He was so helpful and kind, no matter how bitter she was with him. Usually, men took the hint when she snapped at them with sarcasm, but he responded with more kindness.
She stood up and walked over to him. “You okay?” She found that she might actually care for the man.
David responded, “Yes, I’m quite well. How’d you sleep?”
“Not too bad, considering.” She sat down next to him. “How big do you think the earthquake was?”
“I’m not certain, but yesterday I found an old radio and was about ready to start it up.” He pulled a small radio from his bag, it was about the size of her cellphone but three times as thick.
“Wow, that’s old school. Mom used to have one like that. She quit using it because most of the radio stations quit broadcasting.”
He turned the knob which clicked and then kept turning the knob until they heard static. David extended the antenna all the way out and then started to turn the tuning knob. All they heard was static. He slowly turned the knob and they heard something broadcasting. He adjusted the knob and tweaked in the radio station.
“Attention, Attention. By order of the President Apophis, a worldwide curfew is in effect. No one is to be out and about between the hours of 10 P.M. and 7 A.M. This is the Emergency Alert System reporting. Anyone found looting will be shot on sight.”
David looked at her and raised his eyebrows.
“But how can we survive?” Terry picked up a small jagged concrete chunk and tossed it. The report continued:
“At approximately 1400 GMT a level 9.6 earthquake struck the whole world. All fault lines were affected, many volcanoes erupted.”
“Wait a minute, the whole earth quaked?” Terry couldn’t believe what she had heard. Her eyes went wide and she felt like she was on the verge of tears. She hoped to find Mom, get her car, and get out of the city – for good.
“Yes, the whole earth quaked.”
“Oh my, how will that affect everyone?”
“Food shortages and water shortages. All commerce will halt.”
Terry sat there amazed.
David continued. “Last night the moon was blood-red because of all the dust cast up into the atmosphere.”
“Blood-red? Oh my.”
Peter began to stir. Terry watched him sit up, he looked terrible – covered in silt. Terry assumed she must have looked the same and loosed her ponytail and shook out her long hair. A dust cloud emerged from her. She coughed and then put her hair back up in a ponytail.
“Is that a radio I hear?” Peter asked and they briefed him.
[ * ]
“I wonder why there aren’t many fires.” Terry spoke out loud as they continued their journey.
Peter responded. “Perhaps, because the earthquake was world-wide, the natural gas pipelines burst near the well. I’d bet that they are afire.”
Terry listened as tears formed, but she fought them back. She couldn’t allow herself to break, she had to be strong.
She had resigned to following Peter. He seemed to have a better nose for direction. Terry had to take her phone out every half-hour to check the compass. She also noted that her phone was down to fifty percent charge so she just shut it off.
David continued to follow from behind. “That’d be a good guess. The only fires we would see around here would be at gas stations or rubble that caught fire early on. I would hazard to say that all of the gas stations exploded.”
“So, Peter, where are you going to take your family when you find them?” Terry sounded genuinely curious.
“That all depends on many factors, but I was thinking my grandparent’s place. I go hunting out at their woods during deer season. I’m hoping we can live off the land for a while – at least until the world recovers from this earthquake.” His voice took on a reminiscent tone. “They have this old orange shag carpet I used to sleep on as a kid. When you came inside, you had to take your shoes off or Grandma would give you this long stare.” He stopped for a moment and tried to duplicate that stare on Terry.
She laughed. “My mom gives those kind of stares too. Especially when I slid down the bannister.” Her gaze reflected inward. “But, that was before the quake and before my dad left.”
Peter rounded a jutted corner and grunted. The sound didn’t register with Terry and she followed him.
“You there, hands up!” A man leveled a pistol at Peter. The guy looked just as ragged as any one of them. He looked desperate too. He wore no mask, no hat on his head, and just this wild look in his eyes. He wore a pro-football team jacket and jeans.
Fear struck Terry, one that only seconded the fear she felt the day before. She stuck her hands up. Peter spoke calmly. “Hello, friend. What can I do to help you? There’s no need for this, our whole world is turned upside down. Is there some way we can help you? Lose a loved one?”
“They’re all dead! All of them. I don’t care. Drop that pipe!”
Peter had carried that small piece of pipe with him since last evening, he dropped it and put his hands up. “Mister, please, we just want to see our families.”
“Shut up! You,” he pointed at Terry. “Give me that bag!”
She began to tremble, too many words floated through her mind at the same time. Her jaw locked shut and she passed him the bag. He jerked it from her hands and she covered her mouth with them. Tears began to form, but she couldn’t allow that, so she clamped down emotionally.
“Okay mister, that’s all we got. Really, do we want to steal from each other? We need to help one another.”
“I said shut up!” The pistol shook in his hands, and he looked like he really didn’t want to hurt anyone.
“Hello, friend.” Terry saw David walk up behind the man. “If you need help, we can help you.”
It all happened too fast. The man spun around, Peter picked up the pipe and brained him with it. He fell like a sack of potatoes. David walked up to the man and put his fingers to his neck. David looked at Peter. “That really wasn’t necessary. I was going to talk him down.”
“It doesn’t matter now.” Peter spoke flatly. “One day they’ll come after us and won’t feel remorse for what they did.”
“That time isn’t for a while, yet.” David began to rebuke Peter and then he fell silent. “I cannot change your path, all I can do is assist you along it.”
Peter nodded. Terry didn’t understand any of it so she just kept quiet. Honestly, she thought the jerk deserved to get hit up the side of the head with a pipe, or even worse. Then she felt the shakes come. Tears welled up out of nowhere. She was usually tougher than this. Terry ran off across to another pile of debris and sat down. She got out a bottle of water and drank some of it. She couldn’t allow her emotions to get the best of her. Didn’t Mom teach me to be tough as nails? Yet, she could feel herself breaking.
[ * ]
Peter and David found a hidden area in a cleft of some debris that looked stable and placed the guy in there. David left a couple of bottles of water with him and a few snack bars. Peter took the pistol and put it in his waistband. The extra shells that he found on the guy he put into his pockets.
An hour later, Terry wanted to check her phone to see what time it was. She started to feel twitchy, like she needed to play a game on her phone. She couldn’t explain it. Having her phone out and playing on it calmed her. It distracted her from the world around her and allowed her to close off the world emotionally. But, she couldn’t find the words to explain that, she just felt it.
Off in the distance, she heard a faint crying. She hobbled in the direction as quickly as she could. Terry had been following behind David and Peter, lost in her own world. A moment later she heard Peter call out to her. She looked up at them. They were about half a block away. “I think I heard someone over here.”
Peter and David came over to her and they followed her. She went forward, stopped to listen. She heard the voice a little better now. The voice sounded weak. “Help me.”
She yelled out. “Say something again!”
She heard the voice better now. It belonged to a woman. She headed off in that direction and saw a hand sticking through the rubble. She began to frantically dig. Peter and David pitched in. After fifteen minutes of concentrated effort, they released the woman from her prison. She was thin and gaunt looking. Dried blood was caked to her face and hands. Streaks appeared below her eyes where tears had cleaned away some of the dust.
David and Peter looked her over, while Terry stood back out of the way. Her thoughts drifted back to the woman the day before. I could have helped her. She wasn’t trapped that bad. Did she die? Did some guy come along and… she forced herself to not complete that thought. This whole world is falling apart.
Peter handed the woman a bottle of water and spoke. “Contessa, you have a broken leg and a broken arm.” Her two extremities looked bruised, but no bones jutted out of her skin. “They are called stick fractures. We are going to have to get you some better medical care. We don’t have any pain medicine.”
“I’ll go find something to make a stretcher with.” David walked off.
“He’s a very resourceful guy.” Peter spoke up as David left.
“Yeah.” Terry replied. She really wanted to go find her mom. These distractions were slowing her down. She wanted to scream out in anger.
“Contessa, we’ll be back in a moment. Terry, you have a minute?” Peter stood up.
“Okay.” She was confused, so she stood to follow.
A few feet off, Peter whispered to her. “Terry, she needs a woman to talk with her. Could you go say something reassuring or something?”
“I don’t know what to say. I’m just a barista, not a medic. There’s nothing special about me.” She had learned that a long time ago when her dad fled from the family.
“Could you just sit by her then?”
“I suppose I can. But I don’t know her and I’d rather keep to myself and go find Mom.”
“I understand.” Peter reassured her. “I want to get going, too. I’m concerned about my family and miss them deeply. But I have to trust that they are okay.”
Terry was perplexed by his comment about trust, but didn’t say anything. She hobbled back to the woman and sat next to her.
“Hi.” Contessa said.
“Hi.” Terry replied. She sat there quietly for a few moments.
After a brief period of silence, Peter sighed, and then began to ask the woman about her family.
[ * ]
David returned a little while later. He had two thick broom handles and a long trench coat in his hands. He put those down and dug some clothing out of his bag and handed them to Terry. “Could you help put these on? She’s going to get cold soon.”
Terry took the clothing and helped the woman put on another pair of oversized pants, a jacket and a hat. Occasionally, she looked up to watch David and Peter zip up the trench coat and put the two handles down through the leg area and up through the arms. They stood up, picked the contraption up and brought the poles to either side of their bodies. It made for a perfect stretcher.
They laid it down on a mostly flat area. Peter went over to the woman and knelt down beside her. “Contessa, this is going to hurt. I’m going to be as gentle as I can.”
She nodded. Peter picked her up in his arms and cradled her to his chest. She leaned her head into him. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome dear lady. Knight in shining armor at your service.” He smiled.
Terry could see her smile too. She didn’t believe in the whole “knight in shining armor” stuff. She was told that princesses were a lie…princes too.
Peter set her down carefully onto the make-shift stretcher. “You didn’t happen to notice a First Aid shelter while you were wandering around did you?” He looked at David.
“No, I didn’t see one. I ran into a guy that told me that there is one about a mile in that direction.” David pointed off into the distance in the same relative direction they were headed.
Good. I want to be going again. I have to find my mom. Terry began walking in that direction. She turned back a moment later and saw David and Peter pick up the stretcher and carry the woman.
[ * ]
Ten minutes later, she looked back and saw that David, Peter, and Contessa were about a block behind. She grew angry. They are slowing me down. Then, she looked around and felt ill at ease. An assailant could be lurking around any rubble pile or building corner. Fear gripped her. She stopped dead in her tracks and waited for them to catch up.
As they continued on their journey, Terry began to see more people milling around. Very few of them looked organized. Most wandered around aimlessly and bewildered. All of them had a layer of silt on them. “What is this dust on us?” There seemed to be a permanent dust floating in the stagnant air.
“Concrete dust.” David said. “And other things.”
“’Other things’?” Terry asked.
Peter spoke up, his tone dire. “Volcanic ash, anything that might float into the sky because of fires and cremation.”
“Cremation, as in people?” Terry almost panicked.
“Could be…people.” Peter solemnly spoke.
She instantly wanted a bath. Terry felt like she might get sick right there. She could have the cremated remains of people stuck to her! She swore.
“Yes.” David said. “How about we take a moment to rest?”
David and Peter set Contessa down carefully. She’d fallen asleep while they carried her and remained so after she was set down. “Probably the best she’s slept in 24 hours.” Peter looked at her for a moment and then Terry. “Don’t think about it.”
“I can’t help it. I could have dead people stuck to me!” She sat down and started rubbing at her face. She took her hair out of the ponytail and scrubbed at it, trying to get all of the dust out. She wished she had a hat. “Are we breathing dead people?”
“Could be.” David said again.
“I thought you said you were going to find me a dust mask!”
“I said I would try to find you something shortly. I’ve yet to find anything.” David sounded apologetic.
That didn’t matter though. “What, you can find everything else for her and him but you can’t find a dust mask for me?!” Terry was beside herself. How could he let her be treated this way! The world had caved in, her world had caved in, and nobody cared about her!
“Slow down, Terry.” David tried to use a calming voice.
“Don’t ‘slow’ me you…” Terry swore at him. David sat there and listened to her vent. He didn’t respond with any words, he just listened. And right about the time she was really going to let him have it, a sad look came upon his face.
“What? Aren’t you man enough to take some criticism?” She stood up and took a step away from him. “Can’t handle it? Go back to wherever you came from!”
Terry stormed off. She’d let him get to her. The whole world got to her. She needed to do something. She wandered away about one half of a block and stood there and fumed. After a few moments, she forced herself to calm down. She focused on the enemy – anger. She embraced it, it powered her and got her through. Anger was her shield. She’d let it out to play, but she needed to hold it in – to steady herself.
She looked over at the pathetic group: David, Peter, and Contessa. How’d she ever deserve such a rotten group? Oh, it didn’t matter. She needed to use them to get to her mom. She slowly walked over to them and calmed down with every step along the way.
“Better?” Peter asked gently.
“Yeah.” She flopped down on a broken board.
David looked at her with a blank expression and didn’t say anything. Contessa looked like she was still asleep. Lucky.
[ * ]
An hour later, Terry was exhausted from picking her way through the toppled buildings. She started down another pile and off in the distance she saw a red and white flag. There were several canopies of varying shapes and sizes set up. The wind picked up from the dead calm and she felt a breeze against her face. With it carried a smell she’d never come across. She stopped.
Peter and David came up over the rise with Contessa still on the stretcher. Peter spoke up with a somber tone, “The smell of death.”
“It’s only going to get worse.” David said.
How could that smell get worse? Terry started down the rubble, picking her way carefully. When it became unbearable she bent over and retched.
Peter came up behind her. “You going to be okay?”
She stumbled off a couple of steps and took her backpack off to get at a bottle of water. She rinsed her mouth out and replied, “Yeah, I’ll be fine.” Terry certainly didn’t feel fine. She felt terrible and she would have loved to have shown it. But, she didn’t want to let her guard down. She stood back up and began walking again.
A little while later they arrived at the outermost canopy. The smell permeated everything. There were people scurrying everywhere. Others remained at the sides of loved one. It all looked like chaos. “Where do we sign up?” Terry asked.
“There isn’t a sign up, I believe.” David said. “Let’s set her down.”
Terry couldn’t see anywhere to put her. Some people were being placed out in the daylight off to the side. Only a few people remained with them. Most of the time a person would be carried there by a makeshift stretcher or dragged under their armpits and then laid there, out in the open. Terry pointed in that direction.
“Those are the dead or dying. They haven’t much time left.” Peter sighed. “Humanity has chosen this destiny.”
“Yes.” David replied. “There’s still time, but not much.”
A woman walked over to them. She had blood on her hands and smeared on her face. “Is she still alive?”
“Yes.” Peter spoke up. Terry just watched.
“Okay, let’s take her over to the blue canopy. That’s check-in.” The woman walked out from under the canopies into the open and began to lead them. “I’m sorry, we haven’t had a chance to set up a ‘Check-in’ sign.”
Terry followed her closely. The woman smelled of sweat, urine, vomit and death. How can she stand herself?
“My name is Melissa. I’m a nurse. We aren’t officially with the Red Cross. Doctor Tella set up a canopy over there and started surgery. All of us started bringing what we have and set up shop. Do you know when the Red Cross will get here?”
“Not for some time, I’d imagine.” Peter spoke as he carried Contessa with David. “This was a world-wide earthquake.”
Melissa stopped and stared at him. “World-wide? How’d you know?”
“Old fashioned radio.” David told her.
Melissa shook her head and led them straight to the blue canopy. It was 14 feet by 14 feet. They found a spot to set Contessa down next to some other people waiting to go to surgery. “I don’t know how long the wait is. We’re working with people based on the severity and survivability of their wounds. What’s her name?”
David and Melissa spoke about Contessa and her injuries.
[ * ]
Terry really wanted to get going. She had to find her mom…and now. Moreover, she had to get away from these canopies. She hated hospitals, but at least they smelled sterile. She had moved off, up-wind of the First Aid encampment.
Peter followed her and was trying to chat her up. She just sat there quietly. After fifteen minutes, David approached. “Peter, Terry. I’ll be staying here. They need my help.” He handed them some goods from his backpack.
Peter stuck out his hand and they shook. “Good luck, my friend. Thank you for all of your help.”
Terry looked at David, she was unsure how to respond, and she shook his hand as well. “David.” Deep down she knew she’d miss him, but she didn’t know how to express it.
David walked off with a wave and disappeared into the flow of people.
“How many do you think are under there?” Terry asked.
“Maybe a thousand still alive. When word gets out, this number of living people here will double. And so will the dying.” He looked at her with a sad expression. “All of this could have been prevented.”
Prevented, how? She thought it, but didn’t ask. “Ready to go?”
“Sure. Which way?”
Terry dug her phone out of her pocket, turned it on and found their heading. She pointed in the general direction.
“Very well.” Peter took lead and she followed behind.
“How many miles do you have to your mom’s house?” Peter had long given up on trying to make small talk, which was just fine with her. But she was wondering that herself. She stopped and found a spot to sit down. It’d taken them most of the day to get out of the city and into the suburbs. They could walk faster since there weren’t piles of rubble to climb over; but there were plenty of broken houses, trees, and telephone poles down.
She dug the phone out of her pocket and turned it on. She noticed that she’d left it powered up from before and that the GPS had run the whole time. She swore.
“What?” Peter was a little less insistent and more caring.
“I left the GPS going. My phone is down to thirty percent.”
“Oh no.” Peter said.
She put the phone away into her pocket after she made sure she had shut it off.
“How much farther?”
“At this speed, that might take two to three hours.” Peter looked around. “Looks like the sun will set in about an hour. I have to break off from you in four miles. How about we find somewhere to camp tonight and start fresh in the morning?”
“I’d rather keep going.”
Peter pointed at the sky above. It was already dark. She had the flashlight with her. “So.”
“Who knows what kind of creeps are going to roam tonight?” He looked around. “Better for us to stick together tonight and then go separate ways in the morning.”
The incident with the gunman earlier came to mind. “Yeah.” She looked around.
“Let’s walk one more mile and then we’ll find somewhere to stay. How are you doing on food and water?”
Terry stood up and started walking. “I think I’ll be fine.”
“What if your mom doesn’t have any extra?”
She thought for a moment. “Good point. In one mile we’ll find shelter and maybe check one of these barely-standing houses for supplies.”
“You want to take lead?” Peter motioned for ladies to go first.
“No, I’m okay with following.”
[ * ]
An hour later, they had found an old brick house that still stood in mostly decent condition. Peter knocked on the front door, there was no answer. They checked the backdoor, locked. Peter noticed the windows to the basement. “I’ll go in through there and let you in.”
Before she could respond he was prying on a basement window. After some work it squeaked and opened. He was able to flip it up and squeeze himself into the building. “Ow!” He yelled. A moment later he yelled again. “I’m okay!”
Terry just stood there by the back door and waited. Come on, hurry up. The wind began to blow and the chilly October air bit at her bones.
He opened the door. “Tada.”
She ducked below his arm while he held the door.
“What? No, ‘thanks Peter’?”
“Nope.” She turned on her flashlight and looked around. It was an old house, but was recently occupied. “I wonder if the owner is still alive.”
“I don’t know, I didn’t have time to check every room.”
Terry felt adventurous so she began to walk around. She poked her head into each room and then came back to the kitchen. Peter had all of the pantry doors opened. On the island counter he had a case of bottled water. There were some dried goods sitting there too. She eyed and picked up a box of “Mac N’ Cheese”. “Hey, I remember eating this as a kid.” She found a barstool to sit on. “Mom used to buy this by the case. We’d eat it for both lunch and supper on the weekends.”
“Was she a single mom?”
“Yeah. Dad ran off on us.” Terry smiled. “She worked two jobs to help us get through. Taught me to never depend on a man to help out.”
Peter nodded at her in understanding.
“Told me I had to be strong.” Her smile faded. “She’s probably dead.” She sniffed once and then brought her sleeve to her nose.
“I doubt that. It looks like they didn’t have it quite as hard out here.”
Terry nodded, her sadness faded and she became blank-faced again.
Peter smiled at her weakly. “I’m sorry to say,” he sighed, “but I don’t think we’ll have heat tonight.”
Terry’s tone was flat again when she spoke. “There are some bedrooms. They have quilts and blankets.”
She got up to head to a bedroom and then stopped. “How long do you think someone could survive? If they are trapped under that rubble?”
“It depends on many things. Air quality, if they are hurt, etc.”
“Got a general guess?” She didn’t want to play the “if this-or-that” game.
“At most, one, maybe two weeks. Here’s the thing, though. Since the earthquake hit the entire earth…who’s going to rescue the rescuers?”
Terry nodded that she’d heard and walked off towards a bedroom.
[ * ]
The day had turned to night in the flash of a bulb. It was like the cellphone LED ‘flashlight’ going off right before a picture. Bam! The earth below her shook and she fell to her knees. She couldn’t get up, she couldn’t scramble forward. Terry looked back at her feet and saw that her laces were tied together. It didn’t make any sense. She reached back to untie them so she could get her footing again.
Right as she was reaching back a brick wall fell onto her legs. “Ow!” She screamed into the darkened day. “Help me!” She pulled at the ground with her hands and she couldn’t get any purchase. She felt blood oozing along her left leg. She looked down and saw a pool of it begin to form. The pool slowly grew until it reached her elbow. She tried to hold her hands up. Terry attempted to twist her torso so that the blood would not come near her face. But she was suddenly pinned face down into the ground.
The blood crept up to her nose. She could feel it, wet against her cheek. The pool grew bigger and deeper until it covered her face. She had to arch her back and come up for breaths of air. She screamed. “Help me!” She knew it’d take a person only five minutes to free her. Yet here she was drowning.
She saw a shadow form against the crimson pool. She looked up and saw a strange man standing there. He looked down at her with soulless eyes and a too-white toothy grin. With a soft and masculine voice he said. “You’re mine, Terry.”
[ * ]
Terry awoke sweating and heaving. Who was that man? Was he a man? She cried out and screamed. A moment later Peter came running in and sat on the bed next to her. He scooped her up into his arms as she cried. She hadn’t had a nightmare like that in years.
“It’s okay, Terry. I’m here for you.”
Terry went through her bag, laid out the supplies on the kitchen table. “What do you think I should add?” She’d thankfully found sleep again after that terrible nightmare and woke up refreshed, ready to start the day.
Peter looked at her with a surprised look on his face. “Well, you have some water. I’d look for some kind of re-usable water container. These flimsy bottles won’t last. I’d also find a knife of some kind and a way to sharpen it.” He picked through what David had given her.
Terry cleaned out her pockets onto the table as well: cell phone, earbuds, a wallet, gum, and keys. “Well, Terry.” He paused. “You said that you and your mom would leave town in her car right?”
“You need some first aid stuff. I’d grab some Tylenol and bandages and things. “
“Mom should have all of that at her house.”
“What if her house toppled over in the quake?”
He was right of course. She walked to the bathroom and filled her arms with supplies from the medicine cabinet. “You want some?”
“No, I’ll be okay. I’ll visit another house later if mine is rubble.” Peter sighed. “My wife and I built that house. Well, we didn’t build it, but we had it built for us.”
Terry nodded and finished loading her backpack. She slung it over her shoulder and headed for the back door. “Let’s go.”
[ * ]
Around nine, Peter stopped at an intersection and looked at the fallen street sign. “Here’s my corner.” Terry nodded. She was sad to see him go, but really wanted to be on the way herself.
“Hey, how’d you know my name? I never told you.”
“David used your name.”
“I never told him either.” She had a perplexed look on her face.
“He was unusual.” Peter replied.
Peter engulfed her in a big bear hug and then dropped her to her feet. She stood there flabbergasted. No man had ever cared for her like he did without wanting something in return. Terry looked at the ground. She felt her cheeks redden.
“I’ll miss you.” She said quietly.
Peter started walking away. He turned to wave. “I’ll be praying for you.”
Whatever that means. She watched him walk off for a minute or so and then continued on-course for her mom’s. She recognized the area even though most of it was rubble. She had one mile to walk. “Oh, it would be so nice if her house was still standing.”
She noticed that today, many more people were milling around. She kept to the sidewalk on the north side of the street with a wary eye on everyone. She climbed over a fallen telephone pole and then a large oak. She looked around for a stick to hold onto and couldn’t find one. She needed to find a knife.
A few blocks down, she saw Leonard’s Gas Station. She frequented the place whenever she came this way. That was the last bus stop on this street. Terry observed quite a few people looting the place. They were coming out with bags full of goods, chairs, and whatever they could carry. Old man Leonard stood there, waving his straw broom at them.
“You cowards!” He swiped at one of the thieves but missed. Poor old man must be 80. Terry continued on. It was none of her concern. Then she heard a new noise and saw some young man knock the old man down.
Terry stared back at the ground and took two steps farther. A new anger entered her breast, one she’d never felt before. She stormed over to the station and knelt down next to Leonard. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, yes. I am okay. My tailbone hurts though. I can’t believe that they’d steal from me! I’ve done so much for these people!” He waved a fist at one of them. “Yes, I know that’s you Frank. I’ll find your mother and I’ll tell her what you’ve done!”
The boy laughed at him. Leonard tried to stand. “Could you give me a hand?”
Terry stood up and offered him her hand. She helped him stand up. “How about I get you home.”
“This is my home now.” He pointed at his station. “My house fell over and killed my wife. I have nothing left.” He sounded dismayed.
Terry grabbed up the broom, yelled at one of the boys and chased him away. She then chased another away. By the time she had them all gone, his station was picked clean anyway.
[ * ]
Terry walked him up to an old house, next to his, that still stood. “I’ll be fine Terry. Thanks for helping me. Harold will help me out. He’s always been a good neighbor.”
She gave the old man a quick hug and walked down the steps. At the end of the sidewalk she waved at Leonard and Harold and then continued on her journey. “Four more blocks.” She said out loud. She felt almost happy. She’d never truly felt happy since her dad left.
Terry continued forward with a spring in her step and she hopped over some branches and tree limbs. She stopped for a moment, undid her hair and flipped it around. The boys always love that. She put it back into a ponytail and continued her trek.
She came to her mom’s block and she began to jog towards the house. Mom’s car is still out front! She could see it plainly. A moment later she stood in front of her mom’s house. When it toppled, it careened northward towards the alley.
“Mom?” Terry said aloud. She walked up to the front steps. The concrete still remained but the door was leaning way back. There was no way of getting into her house. “Mom!”
Terry picked her way to the east side of the house. “Mom?” She tried to peer under the broken boards and roofline but couldn’t see anyone. At one point she saw her old teddy bear covered in dust, but it sat in the middle of the rubble and she didn’t want to chance getting hurt.
She walked further around to the north and into the alleyway. The house opposite the alley from her mom’s had fallen northerly as well. Terry walked into the neighbor’s lawn, around the peak of the house and then back around on the west side.
“Oh my, where is Mom?” Where could she be? Maybe she’s at Marcie’s playing bridge? Was it bridge night? What night of the week is that? What day is today? Terry continued forward.
She stopped and her breath caught.
[ * ]
She saw her mom’s torso sticking out of the rubble. Her head, arms and waist were all exposed. Her legs looked like they could have been pinned. “Mom!” Terry ran to her and knelt down by her. She put her hand on her mom’s face. “Mom, speak to me. Mom!” Her face felt cold. It’s because it’s chilly outside. She pulled off her jacket and placed it over her mom and then shook her. “Wake up! Wake up!”
Her mom wouldn’t wake up. She felt her mom’s back, it was cold, too, and she had become stiff. “No, no, no! You can’t be dead!” She grew angry and began pulling debris off of her mom. It took only a few moments but she had her body free. It was so simple to do, to help out, to free her.
She remembered back to the woman after the earthquake. She could have helped her! What happened to that woman? Oh what a wretch I am?! She held her mom and cried. “What am I going to do? Mom, you were my rock. I need you Mom. You can’t die on me. No, Mom, no!”
Terry looked up at the sky and screamed. “I hate you!” Tears came fresh to her eyes. “I hate you, it’s all your fault! You took her from me!” She bent over her mom and let all those years of bitterness and hatred roll over her soul. Now she’d lost her mom. Her only reason to exist!
She cried and cried and screamed obscenities. She wiped her nose on her sleeve and cried some more until she was heaving. She stood up, left her mom and found a bare spot in the autumn grass. Terry knelt down and put her face on the ground and cried. She didn’t remember the exact words, but she cried out.
“Please forgive me!” She bore her heart to God. She’d tried almost everything else, drugs – sex, and none of it had worked. None of it could fill that void. So what did she have to lose?
[ * ]
Terry was exhausted. “I can’t go anymore. Help me.” She cried out.
A moment later she felt a hand on her shoulder. It gave her a strong squeeze. And then she heard a voice, a man’s voice, pleasing to the ear, calm and gentle. He began to pray. She buried her face in the grass and gave her soul over to God. That same calm she heard in the man’s voice, it gripped her soul. A peace came over her, one she didn’t understand. The world was terribly broken, but it would all be okay.
The man finished praying and he removed his hand from her shoulder. She looked up and saw him extend his hand. She took his, and he helped her up. He had the most amazing eyes and a gentle smile.
“Hello, my name is Maxwel.” He held her hand for a time and then gently released it.
“Terry.” She really liked this guy. He looked at her with a love she couldn’t explain. A love that was genuine. A love that was given freely – no reward, no payment.
“I’ll help you bury your mother, Terry.”
“Thank you.” She stifled back a sniffle. Her eyes were bloodshot and nose hurt. She was cold, so she gathered her jacket from her mom. “I love you Mom.” She looked at him and smiled weakly. “What’s the plan?”
“We are going to look for a shovel.” He began to walk towards another house. She followed him. He smiled at her and said, “Let me tell you about The Way.”
That hole in your heart, you know the one I’m talking about, that emptiness you try to fill? Do you try to fill it with T.V., the internet, or games? You’ll never fill it with the things of this world. You see, God put that hole there, to help you seek and know Him. Often we fill it with inappropriate desires, anger, or drugs.
If you’ve come to recognize your need of a Savior. If you know that hole will never be filled, all you have to do is seek God. He wants you to know Him. He wants to take care of you. All you have to do is turn your heart, your mind, and your soul to Christ. Bow your head, close your eyes, and ask Him into your heart. Ask forgiveness for your sins and all the things you’ve done wrong in your life. Your words do not have to be perfect, all they have to be is heartfelt.
Choose to do your best to never sin again and repent when you do. Get yourself a copy of the Bible, find a local church that fits your style, and tell an Elder that you’ve just accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. They will want you to get baptized and will explain to you what that means.
Most of all, trust God to guide and lead you. He will help you along your path in life and be there for you in your time of need. It won’t always be easy, life never is. But He won’t forsake you.
Every chance you get, in the car, at home, even at work. If privacy permits, speak with Him aloud. The rest of the time, let your heart sing to God, think about all of the good and righteous things in life, and He will guide your paths.
C. E. Wilson
“Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” – Matthew 22:13
“Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.” – Mark 13:33
C. E. Wilson is just your normal everyday factory worker who is chasing after God as hard as he can. His hobbies include writing, woodworking, and playing with his beloved daughter.
For more information about the author or the book series or to purchase other books please visit:
The old orange shag carpet was worn. Months of brown mud had been rubbed into its surface by trespassers who had broken the laws of old: remove your shoes at the door. She sat off to the corner of the old house in the living room looking at her tablet. During the day they migrated upstairs and spread out, a few of them carefully wandered outside. There were nearly 20 of them, all of their belongings were squeezed into haversacks, backpacks, or even garbage bags. At night, they’d collect their things and shuffle down into the basement where the depth and the cool earth would conceal their presence from infrared goggles.
The house, over a century old, sat on the edge of a woods. The farm land had long been left to weed, a garden lay out back, which was home to a lone volunteer tomato plant. Nothing productive grew; the farmer and his wife were long gone or dead. Much like the infertile land, the power didn’t produce either.
A solar panel sat next to her, propped up in the window, charging the tablet. Hazel eyes flicked down the page, her freckled petite nose twitched as she squinted.
“Sarah,” Joseph sat in the corner opposite her in an old rocking chair, pulling on his gray beard. “You seem perplexed.”
“It says here from Matthew 6:33 in the King James Version: ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you’ but what does it mean?” Sarah removed her ball-cap to reveal chopped-at red hair.
“I don’t know.” Joseph’s eyes twinkled blue and wrinkles appeared at the corners of them. Then he smiled, his teeth were still mostly white even though the toothpaste ran out two months ago. He ran a hand through his white hair, then he tapped his nose with his forefinger. His olive skin was still radiant despite his 70 years.
She suspected he knew; she awaited the answer. He’d pulled her leg one too many times, it had taken her a while to figure him out, but she knew that he knew. Two patient souls, one 20 and the other older than dirt, examined each other.
“What do you think it means?” He was being obnoxious again; trying to get her to think for herself.
She thought for a bit, closed the KJV on her tablet and re-read the verse in ESV and NIV. She looked at him. “Seek God first.”
“Yes, but what other topics have we spoken on as of late? Put them all together, my girl.”
She pondered for a moment, then her stomach growled. Joseph chuckled, “I sent Peter out at first light to hunt; he should be back soon. Let’s pray he returns with something other than root vegetables.” They’d finished the last of the deer jerky the night before. Autumn was approaching quickly and the only food left in the cupboard was canned vegetables. And barely enough for them to make it through the winter.
Sarah looked out the window still lost in thought.
Joseph grabbed his knobby cane and stood up. He slowly made his way to the kitchen which sat off of the dining room out of view from the living room. “Derek, prep the fire quickly. We’ll be having a meal shortly. Make it a hot fire made out of dead wood. Janine, grab the skillet from the basement and spices.”
“Peter hasn’t even returned yet. How do you know he’ll have anything?” Derek’s voice reverberated into the living room.
“He is bringing three rabbits,” Joseph continued. “It won’t be much, but it’ll be enough. God never promised we would have an over-abundance of food. But we will have enough.”
Sarah heard Derek sigh. He always challenged Joseph. She thought, when will he learn? At least Derek cares. To bad he’s 30… She looked back in the direction of the kitchen.
There was a long silence, “…and a wolf.” Joseph came hobbling back into the living room, his eyes glossed over in deep thought. He grabbed up his satchel, hurried over to the back door and then outside. Sarah looked through the window and watched him make his way towards the sheep barn just across the gravel drive.
“A wolf? What does he mean,” she muttered. Her mind flooded with concern which reflected in her eyes. A moment later she gathered her things into her backpack, slung it over a shoulder and headed out to see if he was okay.
“Hey Sarah, hold the door would you?” Carl was carrying a load of wood into the house. Of the three fireplaces, only two were used and only during the day. Then Jamie called for her to help bring in a few pitchers of water. Thankfully the old hand pump still worked.
Sufficiently delayed and slightly dismayed, almost 20 minutes later she finally made her way to the sheep barn. Just as she was about to knock, “Thanks Sarah, but I need some alone time with Abba right now. I’ll see you at supper time.” There weren’t any windows on this side of the barn, yet he knew she was there. That didn’t surprise her – Joseph seemed to know things somehow.
On her way back she saw Peter emerge from the woods with three rabbits and a new person. The guest stood near six foot tall, had trimmed dark brown hair with bangs, and grey eyes. He wore a blue jean jacket with a hoodie, washed denim jeans and heavy work boots. The fact that the jeans looked washed amazed her.
The ladies of the house carried on about how difficult it had become to keep clothes washed. Sarah only wished there was a way to wash up – some of the guys’ hygiene were in dire need of attention.
In the end, something seemed odd concerning him though. “Sarah,” Peter called, “meet Daniel.” She nodded politely then looked away when their eyes met.
A wolf, her thoughts continued from earlier. She walked off towards the west side of the house and did not greet them.
“Don’t mind her,” Peter spoke to Daniel, “she’s shy. Spends most of her time reading her tablet or talking with Joseph.”
She wandered off to a swing that hung from the branch of an old oak tree. It was near the overgrown gravel drive. She sat down, dropped her bag on the ground and it clanked. Funny how my life is all squeezed into one bag. Sarah began to reminisce of a time, not long ago, when she and her parents lived in townhouse in upstate New York. And now she lived in Ohio. She looked around to make sure no one was watching her. She saw Peter’s back as he ducked into the house and shut the door.
“Father, please be with Joseph. I don’t know what’s bothering him. Please be with our people here. We need you Abba. Jessica has a bad blister on her foot; would you help us figure out how to heal that? And help Meredith as she studies the medical books that were left behind here. Thank you for the house. Keep us safe, Lord. Amen.”
Everyone was gathered in the living room and it was packed. Joseph stood there staring at the newcomer. Sarah examined him as well, she attempted to discern what kind of man he was.
“I shot my last rabbit and then Daniel came up out of a thicket. He looked like he’d just woken up. There was like drool running down the corner of his mouth.” Peter stuck his tongue out of the corner of his mouth. “We spoke for a bit. He seemed cool, so I invited him to follow me back here.” Peter recanted their encounter and all that they had spoken of on the way back.
“Daniel, during your time here, and until we feel we can trust you, someone will remain with you at all times. Peter, he’s your responsibility. Look after him well,” Joseph instructed.
He’s mad, Sarah mused, he’s normally happy when someone new arrives.
Joseph blessed the food and released everyone to eat.
Someone asked, “What are we having?”
“Three rabbit stew,” Jamie smiled. Everyone murmured their approval. Sarah loved her cooking.
Sarah let the room clear and spoke with Joseph. “You ok?”
“Yes and no. How’s your study of Matthew 6:33 coming along?”
“Oh I forgot. We got busy preparing for supper after you wandered off. Daniel was paraded around, I’ve heard that story now 5 times. I don’t know if I trust him.”
“I wouldn’t,” Joseph dismissed himself with a nod and a brief smile.
After supper everyone headed down to the basement. It was dry and cool. They gathered into a semi-circle on the floor around Joseph, who sat on a wood dining chair.
“Friends, Brothers and Sisters. We’ve come to that time of the month again when we celebrate our Lord’s Supper.” He nodded to Jamie who started passing a plate of crackers.
“Speaking of Jesus,” Joseph stood with a copy of the Word in his hands, he opened it and turned. “Luke chapter 22, versus 17 through 22. ’And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
“Eat everyone.” He waited and then ate his cracker.
“And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.””
“Please drink.” He paused again. And then continued, “But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!”” He looked directly at Daniel. Sarah’s blood ran cold.
Joseph waited a minute, the air became thick. Joseph nodded in Sarah’s direction, “Sarah, fire up that tablet of yours and give us a song!” Then a smile spread across his face. Everyone joined in chorus to a worship playlist.
Sarah awoke with a start. “Mattithyahu,” she whispered. The dream she awoke from was fading fast, a man had tied a woven ring around her wedding finger. She had smiled at him, they kissed and she said, “I love you… Mattithyahu.” She’d never met a man with that name and was perplexed. Then it felt as though someone was sitting staring at her.
Everyone slept close, there was barely enough room to move in the cramped basement. They were piled down on blankets, scattered around, wherever they’d fallen. She thumbed on her USB light which she’d taken out of her pocket. Joseph! “Oh you gave me a start,” she whispered.
“Sarah, you must find him. I don’t know where he is or how you’ll get there; but you must seek God and seek Mattithyahu out. Only God can lead you to him.”
“But, I don’t want to leave you…”
“Here girl, take this, there isn’t much time.” He passed her a note. “Read it later. Now follow me.”
He led her across the basement to the old coal chute. They boarded it up to keep the cold winter out. He pried one of the boards loose with his bare hands. “Get in there and go up to the top my child. But don’t go out. Wait.”
“Wait a minute, I don’t understand…”
“Just go, there isn’t any time!”
Reluctantly she went into the chute. He closed the board back up behind her. She peered out through the boards at him. “Go on and get up there and turn the light off. No matter what you hear, don’t come back down!”
Someone snorted and then murmured back to sleep. She found some footholds and made her way up the chute until she found a board that was jutted out just enough to sit on. In front of her was the outside door. A cold breeze blew through the cracks.
She turned off her light and the darkness drew her in immediately. Outside she could see the play of flashlights against the brown lawn. Then both front and back doors crashed in and she heard shoes scuffling all over the first floor.
“They’re down in the basement!” She thought that sounded like Daniel. She heard her friends voices from down below! They sounded confused and then there was more yelling as the sound of many people ran down the stairs. Below her she could see lights searching throughout the basement. “There should be 20!” There was a lot of scuffling sounds, yelling, grunts, and crunches of broken bones. Then crying and sobbing.
“I count 19! Shut up! Where’s the 20th one?” Asked a hoarse voice.
“The girl with a ball cap,” Daniel advised. “She must be outside somewhere.”
It must be Daniel! She thought.
“Go search! You three stay here, we have work to do.” There was a long pause then Hoarse Voice continued. “Will you bow down to our lord?”
“No!” Derek spoke, “We will not bow down to that abomination!”
“I didn’t ask you!” She thought she heard the wind get knocked out of Derek.
Sarah wanted to go down there, but she was too scared to. Joseph told me to stay up here no matter what, the thought ran through her mind. It competed with, my friends, I must help them… She began to sob and then tried hard to stop. They were out there looking for her. Perhaps she should run. She pushed at the chute door, it moved freely. Suddenly a light shone over in her direction and she froze.
“Are you going to bow down to our lord!?”
“No,” the response was sheepish, it was Jessica.
She heard metal sing through the night, then the most disgusting sound imaginable, repeated over and over. She heard scuffling and a chorus of sobs, mostly from the women.
“That is enough!” Joseph’s soft voice commanded. “We will not bow down to you or your false ways!”
“I’m so sorry Joseph, please forgive me,” Peter pleaded.
“Forgiven my brother, I’ll see you in heaven soon.”
“Enough! Have at them boys. The old man, though, he’s mine!”
It took less than 15 minutes for the yelling to finish and another 15 for them to leave the house. An hour later, after the lights faded off into the distance, she eased herself down. It felt like the nightmare had lasted an eternity. All of her muscles were sore, her eyes stung, and throat burned. She kicked open the board, stepped out and slipped. Her light illuminated the scene, she found the floor covered in red. Where is Joseph?
She found his body, his head sat a foot away facing upwards, eyes vacant. Others were martyred as well. Fresh tears sprang forth as she sobbed. She ran from the basement, slipping up the staircase and out of the house. She didn’t make it to the swing before she fell on her knees and got sick. Not a single star twinkled in the night. All manner of thoughts ran through her mind. All those people she loved were killed! Murdered! She couldn’t drive the sounds out of her mind. She imagined the slash of swords and the disgusting sound of heads rolling away from their bodies. Sarah brought her hands up to her ears and screamed.
“Oh Father!” She wept. “How could you? How could you allow them to be killed? None of them deserved this!”
Run! She had to leave the house. Her bag? Where was it? She found it dropped a few feet back in the dead lawn. She gathered it up and stumbled off into the night. Her eyes stung, she had to get away. Her mind filled with the faces of all of those in the house, then it was crowded out by the remembrance of the sounds.
“Oh Father, Abba, take this from me.” Her voice cried out into the dark in rasps, “I hate you!”
She panted, driven forward by something. Deep into the thorn infested fields and onto a path that seemed familiar, but the night made everything eerie. A cold breeze snapped at her neck and she zipped her jacket up all the way and re-adjusted her cap. She hugged herself and continued on, stumbling, running in to the night. Tripping.
“How could you? How could you? How could you? I loved Joseph! He was like a father to me.” Sarah remembered some of their discussions, she loved picking his mind, extracting God’s wisdom from him. He’d shown her the grandfatherly love she’d never known before.
She stumbled on in the dark and didn’t dare turn on her USB light. Two hours later she wandered upon an unkempt lawn. She turned on the light and shined it on the house and remembered that she’d visited this house countless times in the past to find solitude. At those times she needed the solace, but now she needed the noise of her friends.
Sarah made her way over to the back side of the house where she left a basement window slightly ajar. She wedged her fingers in and pried up, it opened with a creak and she slipped into the house. She pulled the window closed behind her. The modestly furnished home was nothing fancy. Thankfully it wasn’t ransacked after the first hail storm and it had survived the earthquake.
Over in the corner she’d taken a mattress from upstairs and laid it out with a quilt on it. She ran over in a fresh fit of sobs and collapsed on the bed and slept.