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Chapter 18

“As for me, I will call upon God, And the Lord shall save me.”

–Psalm 55:16

“Get up.” She heard that familiar gruff voice taking her from dream state to waking. At first, she wasn’t sure where she was. Opening her eyes revealed the concrete prison cell.

“Get up, we’ve got work to do,” Gus prodded. Alexis felt very sad that Gus had come to get her, and though she knew her parents were furious with her, she thought they would have been worried about her and would really want to see her; she missed them. She sat up slowly and looked at Gus, not sure what was in store for her.

He didn’t look at her directly. “You’ve caused a lot of trouble, Missy. Follow me and keep your mouth shut,” he commanded her. She obeyed, glad to be leaving the tiny cell. A woman dressed in white gave her a plastic cup with a single orange pellet inside. Alexis stood holding the cup. Gus rushed her impatiently. “Take the pellet and let’s get outta here.”

She looked at him. How she yearned for a fresh papaya or sweet ripe apple banana to satisfy the rumbling in her stomach. The thought brought tears to her eyes. She knew she’d never forget the horrible destiny of her island family. She couldn’t believe it was only a short time ago that she had lived on pellets alone, never knowing about real, natural food. She was hungry. She picked up the pill and put it in her mouth and tried to swallow, but she couldn’t seem to get it down. Instead, she spit it back into her hand. “What is going on?” Gus boomed, wide-eyed and red-faced.

“I don’t know, Gus. I need a drink or something. I can’t swallow this,” she offered.

“This is preposterous! Let’s go. When you’re hungry enough, you’ll get it down. Come on.” He dismissed the attendant with a wave of his hand and led Alexis through the maze of cells and into the main corridor of Central Headquarters.

“Where are my parents?” Alexis asked him.

“You’ll see them soon enough,” he answered shortly.

“Don’t they miss me? Want to see me?” she pleaded.

“Alexis, you’ve greatly shamed your mother and father. They are very busy and your disappearance and disobedience has interfered with their mission–with the mission of our entire group. That is all I can say. I don’t know what their personal feelings are.”

Alexis felt so sad. She remembered the love and laughter she knew as a way of life on the island. People loved her and took care of her even when they didn’t even know who she was. And the more time they spent together, the more her heart swelled with happiness and joy. Now here she was back where she had spent almost her entire life and the two people that brought her into the world weren’t really even concerned about her. Now who in the world would love her with a real love, like she had learned about on the island? Nobody. She couldn’t see the point of going on living, and her heart felt so heavy and her stomach felt sick and her head pounded. Gus opened the door to the main terminal room and directed her to take a seat against the wall.

“Stay put,” he told her. Then he shut the door and left her alone. Alexis was despairing and miserable. She put her head in her hands and cried. She didn’t know what else to do.

“Oh God,” she cried softly. A few moments later she remembered something from the book of Romans. “Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character and character, hope.” I definitely am suffering, she thought. She took some small comfort in the thought, and she sat trying to convince herself that she did have something to hope for. She remembered a conversation with Judd about everything being all a part of God’s plan. The battle is the Lord’s, she reminded herself. She sat staring at the massive computer terminals and huge screens in front of her, her mind swimming with all kinds of thoughts. What next? Would the New World Order succeed?

“Have a good trip?” Sid asked her sarcastically as he entered the room with Gus behind him. “You’ve returned with a mop on your head, I see.”

Lexy ignored his insult. “I learned about living.”

“And dying too, I understand,” Sid answered.

“Those people didn’t deserve to die. If you wanted to kill, why didn’t you just kill me? I’m the one who committed the writing crime,” Alexis said.

“They were all disobedient. They broke the law by not getting a CHIP. Crimes have consequences,” Sid told her coldly.

“But they weren’t harming anybody,” she said.

“That’s your opinion, Alexis. They were a threat to national security. Traitors and excommunicates, contributing nothing to society. As far as I’m concerned, they got what they deserved.”

“Well, why didn’t you just leave me there and kill me too?” asked Alexis. “My parents?”

“Don’t flatter yourself. Your parents are smart people. They wouldn’t put their personal concerns before the interest of this country, or this world. No, we would’ve wiped you out too, but you have something we need,” Sid told her.

“What could I possibly have that you would need?” she asked him.

“Your CHIP code.”

The CHIP. Such a tiny device caused such humongous pain and the senseless loss of her beautiful friends’ lives. “Why mine?”

“Sit down,” Gus ordered. “There’s work to be done.”

The door opened again and in filed Ed and Shelby Blitz followed by Lexy’s parents, Jerry and Cynthia. “Mom!” Alexis leapt from her chair and ran to embrace her mother, who ignored the others’ disapproving looks and hugged her daughter tightly. “I missed you Mom,” Alexis’ voice broke as she started to cry.

“Oh Alexis, darling, I thought I’d never see you again. It’s amazing you’re here. Honey, why did you run away? We could’ve talked… Your hair!”

“Cut it short Cynthia. There’s not time for this sentimental bullshit. Your daughter has already caused us severe delays and possible security breaches, and if you don’t get down to business and keep the personal stuff out of this room, you’ll be cited too,” Sid interrupted her. She quickly shut up. She and Lexy sat down holding hands side by side in front of the terminal with the rest of the group. Jerry didn’t so much as glance at his daughter, embarrassed as he was by her betrayal. And he never was one for emotion. He nodded curtly to Gus and Sid and sat down next to his wife.

“Okay people, this is the time we’ve been leading up to,” Sid began. “We’ll scan all of our codes to unlock the sealed files, then we’ll run the program. Within 30 minutes, NWO will be in effect. High frequency sound waves will destroy any living beings not protected by the CHIP, worldwide now. It’s time to enforce our plans. We’ll be in the highest positions of power because of our access to this information. He will run the world. Nobody will be able to make a move without us knowing about it and approving of it.” Sid spoke with excitement in his voice and Alexis shuddered to think of the evil man that would be controlling the world and calling the shots about what was and was not allowed.

“And what’ll the first order of business be?” Ed asked him.

“Send out a worldwide bulletin regarding religion, if anybody even practices that stuff at all anymore. Take out the remaining churches–they just take up valuable space needed for factories for our workforce, which every citizen must participate in. No religion; let’s worship work. More practical.

Then we’ll get people right on constructing factories and childcare centers. We want every man, woman and child to be productive citizens in our New World Order. We’ve been lenient with some mothers and small children, but there’s no place for that now. Get the mothers back in the workplace no later than seven days after giving birth. This also creates more jobs for other women to care for the newborns. By 4, we should have the kids doing something productive and useful–we’ll figure out exactly what. Three years should be enough time for fooling around for anybody. Any questions?”

Sid seemed so smug and sure of himself, thought Alexis. No churches? No religions? No mothers with their babies? No childhoods? A world all about work? She was scared and depressed and hopeless, though she prayed silently to God to intervene and stop this abomination of desolation. Would all of the people living in the wildernesses of the world be killed? she wondered silently. What was the sense? Alexis fought to hold back tears. Wasn’t there anything she could do?

“Files locked” flashed on the huge screen of the computer terminal. “Access restricted and secured” appeared beneath that.

“Request access.” Sid’s voice activated the computer.

“Scan codes,” the computer instructed.

“Everybody in position. Hold your wrists in front of the scanner,” Gus directed. Sid and Gus were sitting right in front of the scanner so they remained seated while Shelby, Ed, Jerry and Cynthia gathered behind them.

“C’mon Alexis,” her mother prodded, giving her a pleading look that said, “please don’t cause any more trouble, honey.” Alexis reluctantly stood in front of the scanner, her wrist facing forward.

“Scan CHIP codes,” Sid said.

“Scanning. Stand by,” replied the smooth-sounding computer. “Scanning complete. Access open,” said Murphy after about a minute, which seemed like an eternity to Alexis.

“Run New World Order, increase frequency and range,” Sid said.

“Frequency increasing,” answered the computer. “Range to expand to which area?” the computer asked.

After a slight pause, Sid answered, “All.”

“Expanding range. Expansion completed,” the computer announced.

“Sound frequencies,” Sid ordered.

“Sounding,” said the computer.

“Oh my God, are you guys really going to let this happen?” Alexis begged. “All those innocent people…”

“Shut up Alexis,” Gus told her. “No use trying to save the world. The ones that follow the rules will be spared, only the outlaws and scourge of society will be cleansed from the earth’s surface.”

Alexis looked at her mom and dad, who didn’t make eye contact. Shelby looked at the ground and Ed Blitz looked at her and said matter-of-factly, “It’s time to face facts, Alexis. The sooner you do that, the better. And just feel lucky that you’re one of us. Everybody had a chance to be protected by CHIP.”

“Yeah, but who made you, ‘us’ God to decide what the laws are and who should work and where and when? I don’t see…”

“Someday you’ll understand, Alexis,” said Shelby, piping up to support her husband. “When you’re in control, you’ll see it was for the good of the people.”

“You guys are sick,” she told them. “Can I leave now?”

“Feel free, but you better do some serious thinking about changing your attitude because you’re disposable now,” Gus told her. “And this time you won’t have no underground outlaw hermit to go crying to,” he added. That hurt–poor Wynn. Alexis felt all alone in a cruel, unfair world. She didn’t have the slightest idea what she would do or how she would survive in the cold world, all alone. Now that she had known real joy and real people, how could she operate among all these CHIP-controlled monkeys? She left the room, shutting the door quietly behind her and mourning for all the poor souls who were at this moment being wiped out by high frequency sound waves.

“Please save them Lord,” she prayed. As she walked outside of Central Headquarters, it was dark, although it was only 5 p.m. That’s odd, she thought. Then she noticed a crowd of people on the streets, staring off in the distance. She looked in their direction and saw an incredible sight. The sun, but without light. It was like a glowing black ember in the sky.

She kept walking down the sidewalk, not really sure where she was headed. Home didn’t feel like her home anymore, but she slowly headed in that direction, for lack of anywhere else to go. she thought for a minute about Isabella, but decided not to see her. She was totally, utterly alone. A half hour later she found herself at home. She sat down on the front steps, tired and dejected, hungry and feeling sick. About an hour later, Cynthia arrived home and sat down next to her daughter. “Honey,” she began.

“Why Mom? Why does the world have to be like this? Why does this have to happen?”

“I’ve always wondered the same thing, darling,” she answered. “But I’ve come to realize that we don’t have the answers and there’s really nothing I or you, or anyone, can do.”

“But didn’t you see all this coming? I mean, the people I met on the island said it was obvious the world was headed for disaster, with the required CHIP and everything, didn’t you ever think about getting away?” Cynthia looked ahead and sighed.

“I hoped we’d never have to talk about this, Alexis. I hoped life would just somehow work itself out, but it’s time to tell you a story. Just between you and me. Okay?” Alexis nodded, turning toward her mother, interested. “Many years ago, before you were born, I was married to a wonderful man….”

“You never told me you were married before,” Alexis interrupted her.

“I know. I was forbidden to talk about it with anybody, on penalty of death. So keep this talk a secret.” Alexis’ eyes widened. “So, we were married, and I was pregnant and Michael, that was his name, Michael was against CHIP implants, and he suggested to the wrong person that it could be a dangerous device for the human race. He spoke out, and then he always felt like people were following him, spying, he called it. He came home one night all secretive and wanted to go for a walk.

We were all the way up in the mountains, walking above the river when he finally let me in on his plan. He was convinced we had to leave the city, and if I would just trust him and say yes he would arrange everything immediately.” Her mom’s eyes sparkled at the memories she was reliving. “Of course, I agreed, I totally trusted Michael. So it was all set within a week and I was excited and scared. We weren’t supposed to say anything about it to anybody.” Cynthia stopped and seemed lost in her thoughts.

“So what happened, Mom?” Alexis asked after a minute, jogging her mother back to reality.

She sighed. “I couldn’t leave without saying goodbye to my mother, and assuring her I would be okay with Michael. The night we were leaving, Michael took a load of our stuff to the boat. While he was gone, I snuck over to my mom’s to tell her I loved her and that I was going away for a little while and please not to tell anybody I’d come, but I told her I just wanted her to know I’d be safe with Michael. I didn’t want her to worry. My dad wasn’t home, and I begged her not to tell him because I knew he would never condone my leaving, especially for such reasons as escaping automation and fearing the NWO. He was one of the NWO masterminds. And he never liked Michael.

“She told me not to go, said I was crazy. I was crying when I left, but I had to go. I’d already been gone too long. I drove home as fast as I could, and I waited for Michael.”

“And then?” Alexis urged when her mother was silent.

Her mom didn’t answer right away. “I waited for him all night,” she started softly. “He never came home. His truck was found at the bottom of Taylor’s Cliff. I never saw him again.”

“What happened to him?” Alexis wanted to know.

“They never found his body, apparently it was consumed in the fire of the explosion when the truck crashed down the cliff,” Cynthia spoke between sobs. Alexis hugged her mother, shocked at this secret. Her mother had always been so proper. After a few minutes, Cynthia straightened up. She licked a salty tear off her lip and continued. “The next day my mother and father came to my room with a nurse. She gave me an injection, CHIP, it turned out to be. They told me it was to help with my stress. I was pregnant, remember. My mom kept telling me how sorry she was, like it was her fault or something.”

“What happened to the baby?”

“She’s grown into an amazing young woman, rebellious, like her father.”

Alexis swallowed hard. She tried to piece together what her mother had just told her. “But Dad….”

“I never thought you should feel the pain of the truth. It seemed easier Lexy, for everybody, that’s what all the doctors insisted; why traumatize the child? My father called the shots. He introduced me to my new husband, Jerry Roberts, and ordered me to accept my fate like an obedient girl and feel lucky to be alive.”

“Kind of like Gus did to me,” said Alexis. “Mom, I can’t believe I never knew they treated you like a prisoner. How could you love a man you were forced to marry?”

Cynthia shook her head. “I was in a kind of shock. I did what I was told. And Lexy honey, you were the only thing that kept me going. While I detested Jerry and my fate for a long time, I was pregnant, and I was lost without Michael. I didn’t have the strength to put up much of a fight. You were my hope, my joy, my only connection with Michael. I never meant for my life to end up like this, or yours either. I’m sorry honey.”

“I know Mom. I love you.” The two women hugged and cried.

“Sometimes I feel like I’ve made the wrong decisions. But we will never know, will we honey?”

“I think we might understand someday, Mom.” The she surprised herself by saying boldly, “If we believe, everything we ask for in prayer will be received.”

Cynthia looked at her daughter. “I don’t know what to believe. But your hope feels good.”

“I’m going to pray for us, Mom, and for everything to somehow be okay. I’ve learned nothing is impossible through prayer.” Alexis thought to herself how true that was; she had prayed for truth in her life and she had prayed for her parents while on the island.

“We should just trust God and know that the battle is the Lord’s, Judd told me that.”

“Judd?”

“Yes, my friend on the island, Judd Michael….” Lexy’s voice cracked. Cynthia looked like she’d seen a ghost. “Mom?”

“It’s nothing, Lex, just a strange coincidence.”

“Tell me. I believe coincidences are not just random events. I think they’re meaningful.”

“Well, Michael’s–your father’s–middle name was Judd. Michael Judd Adahmson. Strange, isn’t it?” Alexis felt the hairs raise on her arms. She thought about Judd’s binocular case, with ARA carved into it. She’d never questioned her real father, and she’d never known about her mother’s previous marriage. Her own initials would have been ARA if her mother had not married Jerry Roberts, making her ARR. She was blown away.

“Star light, start bright, first star I see tonight,” Alexis looked up at the sky. Her mother joined her and the two women finished the rhyme. “I wish I may, I wish I might, wish on the first star I see tonight.” They smiled at each other.

“He told me about Jesus too.” They both understood who he was. Judd Michael. Michael Judd. Father and husband. “We can have eternal life if we accept Jesus as our savior. Confess with our mouths, believe in our hearts and minds that he is Lord and we are saved by his blood.”

Cynthia looked surprised. “He said that?”

“Maybe it’s all a part of a plan, Mom. The only way you would believe it, by some miracle told through me from him to you! Hey look at the moon–you can barely see it–it’s there, but it’s dark. Are we having an eclipse?”

“Strange. Must be something to do with the increased range and high frequencies. It’s probably messing up the planets or something.”

“I don’t know.” A great roar drowned out their words, deafening them. Stars began shooting down from the sky, streaking trails of light behind them. “Look Mom!” Alexis screamed, pointing at the sky.

“What’s going on? A meteor shower?” The earth started to shake and rumble. Screams resounded from all directions and pipes burst, sending fountains of rushing water flooding into the streets. A huge explosion rocked the block, sending houses tumbling down and starting raging fires that quickly spread in every direction.

“Fire!” someone yelled, as people ran in panic, seeking high ground. In a matter of minutes, fires burned all around. The moon turned the color of blood.

“What’s happening?” yelled Cynthia as people ran, streaming out of their houses into the streets screaming and panicking, running, but not sure where to go.

“Oh my God, save us! Lord have mercy.” Alexis got down on her knees amidst the confusion and chaos and began praying to God. “Mighty God, have mercy on your children. Help us! Save us all. We know not what we do!”

“Oh Lord, please forgive me. Jesus Christ, have mercy on my soul. Dear God, save us! Lord help us!” Cynthia got down next to her daughter and started shouting too.

They heard a trumpet and then saw a glorious white light illuminating the clouds. A light too bright for Alexis to look at radiated and then seemed to swallow them. They were engulfed in white, pure energy. “He’s come!” Alexis rose with the light out of the commotion and found herself floating high on a cloud where she witnessed the disaster through thick fog below. Then she felt a warmth spread throughout her body and she slowly surrendered to the warm, loving embrace. She drifted out of consciousness and fell into a calming, serene sleep.

When she awoke, she felt rested and alive and full of joy as she looked into the smiling faces of her friends. One by one, they appeared before her as she looked around, grinning. “Victoria! Josiah! Wynn–you’re alive! We’re all alive! Mom! Oh Mommy!” she embraced her mother. Her father stood by. “Daddy! Judd Michael.” For hours, family and friends reunited and hugged praising God for his greatness and thanking him for fulfilling his promises of eternal life. They were well aware of the table beautifully set for a wedding supper.

“We made it,” Victoria told her.

“All God’s plan,” Judd said.

“Praise God,” they said to one another and then watched and listened to a beautiful chorus of angels and new beings, all familiar, singing in one accord, praises to a mighty God. Smiling, joyful, they themselves joined the angels singing praises to a mighty king. “Mighty is the Lord our God, mighty is the Lord our Go-ood. Mighty to deliver, mighty to set free. Mighty is the Lord our God.

The Lord is my strength, and my song… Amen.

And he, he has become, my salvation. Amen. And I will prepare my heart.

You are God, and we praise you, yes we praise you.

You are eternal father, all creation worships you; all creation worships you, amen.”

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create, for, behold, I create in Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people; and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying. There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days, for the child shall die an hundred years old, but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed. And they shall build houses and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit, they shall not plant, and another eat. For as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain , nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock, and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain,” saith the Lord. –Isaiah 65:17

The Beginning

“…and what will ye do in the end thereof?”

–Jeremiah 5:31

Chapter 17

She awoke with a start, her face throbbing. She surveyed her surroundings. Unpainted concrete walls rose on all sides of her. She was lying on a brown mat on the hard floor, her legs bent as there was not enough room to extend to her full 5’7″. She stood up to look out a small window covered with three bars. She had to stand on her tiptoes to look through it. It was as dark and silent inside the building as the black of the moonless night outside.

She sobbed, remembering the explosion and her friends. She was leaden with guilt, feeling entirely at fault. First Wynn Elias, then the whole island population. She shook and sobbed, feeling empty and alone. She sat back down again, crying hard. She watched as a spider wrapped a fly that had gotten caught in its web in the corner of the ceiling in the tiny cell.

All at once, a strong feeling of peace washed over her and seemed to fill her. She sighed heavily and immediately fell into a deep sleep. In her dreams, she heard a voice which said, “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace; For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee.”

“Listen!” Everybody stopped talking and held their breaths, listening.

“Is that what I think it is?” Daniel asked. Alexis didn’t hear anything at first. She could sense the panic building around her.

“To the valley!” Gregg yelled, jumping up and knocking over his breakfast. People started scrambling to get up and make their way toward the valley trail.

“What’s going on?” Alexis asked Hannah.

“I don’t know,” Hannah answered, frightened. Then they heard it. A deafening roar in the distance was getting louder by the second.

“It’s a helicopter!” yelled Kira. “Come on, let’s run!” she called, grabbing Suraya’s hand and motioning to Alexis and Hannah to follow.

“Let’s go!” Hannah grabbed Alexis’ hand and pulled her towards the trail. They ran as fast as they could, following their friends.

“We’ve gotta get to the bamboo forest!” Josiah urged, coming up behind them. “Come on Alexis! Don’t look back, just run!” he told her. The helicopter buzzed right above their heads. “They can’t see us under all the trees; don’t worry,” he was saying.

“Shhh! No talking, just go,” Kenny told them. The last of the group, right behind Josiah, Alexis and Hannah, he huffed and puffed. Alexis was gasping for air, breathing hard, willing her legs to keep moving. The seconds stood still as her heart raced and her mind emptied of all thought besides reaching the bamboo forest. She was running so fast, she felt like she was flying.

An eternity later, huddled in the underground tunnel beneath the bamboo forest, Suzanne and Noah filled Alexis in. “Helicopters are used for search missions,” Noah explained.

“But Dad, what could they be searching for here?” Josiah wanted to know.

“It’s a question we’re all asking, Josi,” Noah answered him.

“Somehow, somebody found out about the island,” Suzanne whispered, shaking her head sadly.

“We’ve got to be quiet and wait ’em out,” said Gregg. “They’ll never find us in here.”

Immediately Alexis knew they had come for her. First Wynn, which she knew was her fault, and now… they were here. All because of her. Deep inside she had known the island could only last as a dream, fleeting and not forever. She put her head in her hands and cried.

Through her tears she heard Pastor J.J. saying, “‘For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness, but of power and love and of a sound mind,'” he read, comforting and encouraging them.

Simon read next. “This is Isaiah 41:10. God tells us, ‘Do not fear, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you; yea, I will help you; yea, I will uphold you with the right hand of righteousness.'” They took turns reading scripture and ministering to one another for the rest of the day in the tunnel. They sang too, and then decided to sleep.

Forty-one people slept and waited in the cave-like tunnel for 24 more hours. Simon Cyrene sat next to his brother Joshua and his family, Amber Martin Cyrene and their daughter Aja.

Josiah Martin stayed near his sister, Amber, and his niece Aja and his mother and father, Suzanne and Noah Martin. Alexis smiled at Aja before falling asleep next to Suraya Justus. Isaiah Justus and J.J. and Kira were next to her.

Judd Michael Adahmson and John V. sat near the tunnel’s entrance, ever alert to any sound. Gregg Manuca and Ronnie Kalau stretched out next to them. Adam Grover and Daniel Cortis were next in the row. Ken and Colette Joyes cuddled with their children, Hannah and Justin.

Will and Juli Cortis Waypet slept near Alivea Malia Adahmson and Victoria Rose Adahmson. Cathy Cress Farl, Allan Farl and their son, Aaron, huddled together next to Jennifer and David Fuensi and their sons, Gabriel and Rafael. Drew Williams and his wife, Karen Satt Williams, were near their kids, Cyrus and Jazmin Williams.

Jenna Kalau, Alana Balta, Kailani Brown and Mira Cullen, who they’d nicknamed, “Miracle,” were also in the tunnel with this group. They had been visiting Jenna’s brother and their friends on the North Shore when the helicopter had forced them into hiding. They hoped the members of their own group on the South side of the island had found shelter too.

After a day and a half, Adam volunteered to go and check things out. He was back in about three hours, after checking the island thoroughly. He announced none too soon to those waiting in the dark for what seemed like a few years to go by, “They’ve cut down a lot of trees, just chopped down all the fruit trees I could see,” he reported. “And they tore up the gardens, trampled them. But I don’t see any sign of anybody on the island now.”

Alexis felt so guilty. “I’m so sorry,” she said. She couldn’t believe what was happening and she felt entirely responsible.

“We’ll replant and eat fish and prawn. Don’t worry,” said Judd, to her as much as to everybody else.

“I can’t say for sure, but I think they probably poisoned the water–the watercress is dying and there’s a strange tint to the water,” Gregg said after walking around the area for awhile.

“We better just eat from our supply for now then,” Ken decided for the group.

“Do you think they’re gone?” asked Victoria.

“Yes, but they’ll most likely be coming back with a full battalion. We’ve got something they want, obviously,” Ronnie said with a look at Alexis.

“I don’t know what to say, you guys, I….” began Alexis.

“Lexy, this isn’t your fault,” J.J. told her. “This was bound to happen sooner or later. It’s all a part of the plan. Listen, in Matthew 18:7, it says, ‘It must needs be that offenses come.’ The end is near, and we all just need to trust that the Lord will take care of us,” he told them.

They ate from their stored supplies of dried fish and bottled water they had saved for emergencies for about two weeks before the supplies started dwindling. The radishes they had replanted had already poked through the ground, as had some other crops, and they were rationing this precious food among them. Isaiah said a prayer before dinner one evening:

“‘When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue fails for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in the high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.’ Thank you Lord, for your promises and provisions.”

“Amen,” they all said solemnly.

“Have faith,” said Noah. “God will provide.” And He did. Rain fell during that night, giving them fresh water. They got out of their beds and held out their tongues to catch the rain, delighting like little kids. They always had enough to eat, as fish from the ocean was abundant and pure. The next morning, Judd and Adam came running up to the kitchen with a bag full of coconuts.

“There’s about a hundred or so coconuts washed up on the beach!” he announced to the group. Josiah got a machete and set the coconut on the ground and swung at it, tearing at its hard covering. He then poked a hole in the top and drank the sweet juice. “Heaven,” he declared, passing it to Alexis. “Drink.”

“Mmmm… thank you God,” she said after drinking the sweet milk and handing the coconut to Hannah.

“Milk from Heaven,” Hannah said, handing it to Jazmin while more coconuts were opened and passed around. They all sat in a circle sipping coconut milk and singing together, as little children.

Later that day, the noisy helicopters returned, rudely intruding on the peaceful sunbathers lounging at the River Side Cafe. They scrambled up when they heard the helicopter and retreated to their meeting spot under the huge mango tree. Tired and low on energy, the weary group gathered together to pray. As the copters circled, the skies began to cloud up, and in minutes, a huge cloud covered the island, making visibility impossible from the air, and keeping the choppers from landing.

J.J. prayed and read from Isaiah, Chapter 40, verses 29 through 31: “‘He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be wary, and the young men shall utterly fall; But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, and they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.'”

“Let’s get to the tunnel A-SAP!” hurried Judd. “They’ll be sending people down, I’m sure,” he said.

“Agreed. But we’ve got some time. With this cloud cover, they can’t land,” Gregg assured them. They started their hike toward the underground tunnel under the bamboo forest where they would never be found by someone who didn’t know where the entrance to the tunnel was.

Alexis was one of those people. Although she’d taken cover there before, she often got lost in the jungle. It was okay, because she wasn’t usually alone. She had been hiking upriver when she heard the helicopters roar. She ran as fast as she could into the jungle alongside the river and tried to listen for her friends, but she didn’t hear anything, but the noise of the enemy. I’m lost, she knew, her heart drumming in her chest. The sky darkened and she thought it was going to rain, as clouds thickly covered the air above her. She walked along quietly, listening for voices.

“Alexis.” She heard someone whispering her name. She whirled around, looking for the sound.

“Lexy, shhh…. over here,” Allan whispered, shaking a tree limb about five feet in front of her. She slowly made her way to the tree. Allan grabbed her foot from below where he stood under a rock ledge which dropped off abruptly in front of her. She lowered herself down the ledge and he helped her to the ground. They were in some kind of a cave.

“Where?” Alexis asked.

“Shhh.” Allan put his finger to his lips and signaled behind him. She looked into the shadows and saw Cathy lying on a soft fur blanket on the ground. She was holding a newborn baby in her arms and was draped in a green sarong.

“Cathy!” Alexis couldn’t believe it. “Your baby! Already?”

“She came a month early,” Cathy told her softly. “Her name is Alana.”

“She’s beautiful,” Alexis told her, marveling at the tiny new creation.

“Her name means ‘awakening,'” Allan told her. Before she could respond, Allan held up his hand, freezing and putting his finger to his lips.

There were as still as possible while they strained to hear. Leaves cracked above them. Then they heard voices.

“They’re around here somewhere.”

“We won’t leave until we find her.” Alexis recognized the gruff, gravelly voice of Gus, her parents’ boss’ righthand guy. Always around, watching. Cathy and Allan looked at each other intently. Cathy held her squirming newborn to her breast. The baby sucked noisily. The voices started to fade farther away, and then, Alana let out a wail.

“Waaahhhh!” she cried. This is enough, thought Alexis. These people have suffered long enough for me. As two men in camouflage suits ran towards the child’s cry, Alexis leapt from their hiding place in the cave and ran out into the open.

“Alexis!” Cathy cried. “Wait!” But it was too late. Alexis called to the men.

“Hey! Over here! Here I am, so come and get me!” she shouted bravely, waving her arms in the air. The men jumped down the ledge over the cave and ran towards her, roughly grabbing her arms and handcuffing them behind her back.

“It’s all over now, you guys. I’m not afraid,” she called out to the group she knew was hiding all around her. “The Lord is my shepherd, I will not fear what men can do to me.” Nobody moved. Cathy and Allan watched sadly from their hiding place as the two men stood with Alexis. Their heavy breathing could be heard in the silence of the still day. As they walked down the trail with Gus leading, Alexis in the middle and a stocky man with steel-colored eyes holding a gun behind her, Alexis heard Josiah.

“‘And they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee,'” she heard him saying loudly. “We… I love you Alexis!!” he shouted.

“If the Lord is for me, who shall be against me?” she declared as she was suddenly filled with a deep peace.

“Stop talking that nonsense,” the menacing steely eyed man ordered. She recognized Gus, but she didn’t know who this guy was.

“We’ve got her; we’re bringing her in,” Gus spoke into his handheld radio. “Let’s go,” he ordered, leading the way up the trail to the top of a steep hill where the helicopter sat waiting. She could hear the prayers of her family in the distance, and she was comforted by their words.

Joshua’s voice rang out clear and powerful. “Do not be dismayed or afraid; be strong and of good courage, for thus the Lord will do to all your enemies against whom you fight.”

She stumbled on the little rocks crumbling on the steep hill. “I can’t keep my balance with my hands behind my back,” she complained, almost falling.

“You’ve caused all kinds of trouble, little girl Lexy,” Felix, as she had heard Gus call him, sneered at her. “Just wait until we get you to headquarters,” he threatened, ignoring her complaint.

With boldness, Lexy answered him, remembering Hebrews 13:6. “The Lord is my helper. I will not fear what men shall do unto me.”

“What are you babbling about?” Gus mocked, turning around and pulling her by the arm into the helicopter. She sat down uncomfortably and Gus slid in beside her.

“I’m talking about the God that made the world and all the things in it. He gives life to all life and breath to all things. You should seek the Lord, for in Him we live, and move and have our being. Because there will come a day when He will judge the world in righteousness…”

She noticed the helicopter pilot had turned his head and was looking at her intently. “Yeah, yeah, okay. Be a good little prisoner now, okay?” shushed Gus. She was encouraged by the pilot’s look.

She continued, “He raised Jesus Christ, his son, from the dead, and it is through Jesus Christ that we can all be saved.”

“Shut her up!” demanded Gus. “Let’s get outta here!” The roar of the propeller was deafening and soon they were in the sky. Lexy, still handcuffed, was strapped in the seat and could barely make out Felix’s words.

“Let’s see what your Jesus Christ does with this one!” he yelled. The helicopter rocked as a huge explosion lit up the island below. Flames reached toward the helicopter, a giant bird barely escaping the ascending flames.

“NOOOOO!!!!” Alexis screamed, terrified and in disbelief of what she was witnessing. For that, she received a swift punch in the face, knocking her unconscious.

Chapter 15

The next day Alexis woke up feeling different. What is this strange feeling? she wondered. Stretching, she reluctantly rose to her knees, leaving her comfortable sleep sanctuary and walking to the opening of her bamboo shelter. Wincing as she raised her hand to shield her eyes from the bright light pouring into her bedroom, she said aloud, “Bright sun this morning,” although nobody was there. Emerging into the morning glow, Alexis tried to ignore the uneasy feeling in her stomach. What was I dreaming about? It was on the edge of her mind, but she couldn’t get to it. It was something intense, she knew and felt. They’re not going to let me stay here, she thought.

Although she’d been on the island for about six months now, she suddenly felt like everything was going to change. She felt so free and her heart was full and happy among all the living plants and friendly people. The whole place and the whole experience all seemed so surreal. Sublime. She sat down with a pencil and some paper and started to write.

“Sheltering shadows shield sweet sincere soulful spheres seeking silent serene sunshine Sunday. Self-sharing smiles seem so sublime seeking synchronistic solace, sleeping soundly snuggling sighs see satisfaction since snoozing sous Saturday sparkling stars….soothe session. Shooting showering shimmers softly sensing similar spirit-sealing sunset sea shore secrets. Suddenly solidly saved–surreal.”

Think I’ll call it “Serendipity,” thought Alexis., feeling clever as she took alliteration to its heights. She loved the language and the beautiful things you could write with it. Even if it didn’t make sense to some. It still made her feel good, as she had learned from Wynn.

“Hey girl,” Vicky broke her trance as she walked up to Lexy. “Whatcha writin’?”

“Oh nothing,” said Lexy, accustomed to hiding her words.

“Okay,” said Vicky, glancing at the notebook on Lexy’s lap. “Want to go for a swim at River Side Cafe?” When Lexy didn’t answer, Vicky offered, “Or we could go later, if you’d rather write, okay?”

Alexis shook her head. “It’s not that Vicky. It’s, well, I don’t know. I can’t seem to explain this feeling. I woke up this morning feeling like this is all kind of like a dream and that I’m going to wake up any second.” Vicky nodded with a half smile.

“I know. You’ve gone through a lot of changes in a short amount of time. Not just physical changes, but mental and spiritual. Maybe you should just relax a little more and not try to figure it all out right away,” suggested Vicky.

“Yeah, I guess. But it just feels so temporary all of a sudden,” said Lexy.

“And what is lasting?” countered Vicky. Lexy shrugged. She felt maybe it was better to leave her worries unspoken. “Look. Morning prayers are about to start,” said Vicky, pointing toward the gathering group standing on the green grass overlooking the roaring waves below. She offered her hand to Alexis.

As if in answer to her own thoughts, the girls joined the group just as J.J. was reading the verse of the day.

“‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.'”

Lexy felt her arms and legs tingle. She glanced at Vicky, who caught her eye right at that moment. She winked and smiled. J.J. continued. “Thank you Lord for this glorious day.” He was quiet for a few seconds, then someone started singing.

“This is the day, this is the day, that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made.” They all joined in: “I will rejoice, I will rejoice and be glad in it, and be glad in it. This is the day that the Lord hath made, I will rejoice and be glad in it; this is the day, this is the day, that the Lord, hath, made,” sang the group. The vibrant sun warmed their bowed heads as each one thanked God for their blessings.

“Thank you Lord, for bringing me to this island,” Alexis said. One by one, they finished their thanks and everybody said, “Amen.”

“I have something I’d like to share,” said Allan. “It’s Isaiah 4:2, and I woke up with it in my head. I think the Holy Spirit wanted me to tell you this. ‘In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent, and comely for them that are escaped from Israel.’ Thank you Lord.” A few people clapped and some cried, as they felt the presence of the Holy Spirit move through them in waves of happiness and joy inexplicable. They returned to camp glowing with the touch of God.

“What’s wrong, Ronnie?” asked Josiah, walking into the kitchen hand in hand with Alexis and seeing Ronnie’s expression. Ronnie shook his head and wiped a tear from the corner of his eye. The rest of the group began congregating in the kitchen, waiting to hear the news.

“What is it?” prodded Noah, looking at Gregg and Ronnie, whose pale, drawn faces were evidence that something bad had happened. Gregg looked at the group of people, his family and friends, standing in front of him, and he did not want to hurt them with the news he knew would bring so much pain.

“I don’t know an easy way to say this,” he began. “While you were at morning prayers, Ronnie saw something off shore. It was a shirt. We ran down to the beach,” his voice faltered. “We got to the beach and found a body. Oh my God!” he sobbed.

“Whose body?” asked John quietly, verbalizing the question in everyone’s mind.

“Wynn Elias’,” croaked Gregg.

“Oh my God!” As expected, the group was broken up with the news.

“No!” Alexis cried. “He can’t be gone!” Josiah tried to comfort Alexis with a hug, but he couldn’t hold back his own grief. They held each other and cried. “Oh Wynn, Wynn…. Why?”

***

They held a memorial service for their dearly loved friend the next afternoon. “May he rest in peace and have eternal life with his father,” Pastor J.J. ended. “He risked his own life to help others and his memory will always live in our hearts.” They were silent. The waves crashed on the cliff below. John, usually silent, spoke up then, his words burning with emotion.

“‘Elias truly shall first come and restore all things,’ it says in Matthew, Chapter 17, verse 11.” He paused. “Many of you know Wynn’s full name: Wynn Elias Cyrene. ‘But I say unto you, that Elias is come already and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed.'” J.J. and Kira stood by John and nodded, as did several others, in understanding.

“He’s with his family now, his sister, mother, and father,” Amber offered, her voice shaky, her hand clutching Joshua’s.

“He spent his life in service for others. He is a martyr and a true friend,” added Judd.

Simon stood near his brother, and the twins wept. “Hold me Daddy,” Aja said to Joshua. “Grandpa’s in Heaven now,” she reminded him in her childish innocence.

“I know Aja,” Joshua answered his daughter, bending down to pick her up. “We just miss him so much.”

“He’s probably watching us now, smiling and saying, ‘Don’t cry; rejoice in the Lord,'” thought Josiah. After each person said what they wanted about Wynn Elias, they were silent.

Then Colette read from her Bible: “‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth, yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow with them.’ That was Revelations 14:13,” she said.

Sid paced around the room, cursing under his breath. “Let’s do it again,” he finally decided. “Murphy, access security data and open stored documents,” he ordered in an authoritative tone. They stood around the scanner, wrists over it for the third time.

“Unable to access security data and open stored documents,” Murphy said in its digital voice.

“Damn!” yelled Sid. “Why not? Murphy? Why?” The computer was quiet, as why was not a part of its comprehension. It did not have reasoning ability.

“Jerry!” Sid barked. “What is going on here?”

“I don’t know, Sly,” he began. “I could sit and troubleshoot some more.” They’d been in the computer room of Central Headquarters for over five hours now, trying to unlock the security codes.

“Maybe we should call it a day,” Shelby suggested. “We’ll come back tomorrow, rested, and try again.”

“We have no time!!” Sid yelled loudly. His face was red and his wrinkles tight. Shelby and Ed bickered.

Cynthia looked at Jerry, half hoping he would figure out the problem, while a part of her wished he wouldn’t. “Try again, Jerr,” she told him, trying to placate Sid.

“I’ve been trying my damndest to bypass the security screens, but we were too careful when we set it up. Even I can’t get past it,” said Jerry.

“I hired you for your expertise. You’re stupid and worthless!” Sid told Jerry. “And the rest of you–good for nothings, what good are you?!” He sneered at each of them in turn. Nobody dared to look Sid in the eye. They were silent.

“Be here at 6 a.m. sharp,” Sid finally said after two more hours of Jerry on the computer and the rest of them nervously sitting around waiting. Being dismissed, they left the room.

Arriving home, Jerry and Cynthia sat down on the green couch and swallowed their pellets. Jerry stared at the picture on the wall of Alexis as a newborn and the group of them gathered around.

“Did you ever think she’d betray us like this Cyn?” Jerry asked his wife.

“Lexy!” Cynthia exclaimed. At that moment she knew, her daughter was the reason the security program would not open. “Jerry,” she began, against her will. “If Alexis was there the day we sealed the security programs, does she need to be there to open them?”

***

The morning sun rose in the air, though Sid, Jerry, Cynthia, Shelby, and Ed had no idea how beautiful it was. They were in the computer room in Central Headquarters again. It was 7 a.m. The group picture from the Roberts’ wall was lying on the table near the computer.

“011520307,” Sid announced.

Seconds later, Alexis’ face and information appeared on the big monitor in front of them. “Modify CHIP status,” Sid told Murphy.

“CHIP status currently disengaged,” responded Murphy.

“Reactivate CHIP 011520307,” said Sid. The room was silent except for the humming of the computer.

“CHIP reactivated. 11520307 activated,” said Murphy.

“Good,” said Sid. “Terminate status modification program,” he ordered. “Locate CHIP 11520307,” Sid directed. “Now, we wait.”

“Sly, I’ve got the choppers fueled and waiting–we’ll get her as soon as she’s detected by the CHIP,” Gus told him in a nasally voice.

They all sat in front of the huge screen looking at a map of the world. “Any second now,” Jerry said. With bated breath, the five sat and stared at the screen. At 9 a.m., they were still there.

“I don’t understand it,” said Jerry.

“This has never happened,” Sid said impatiently. “Usually it just takes a few minutes.”

“We just need to be patient,” Ed said.

“Don’t talk to me like a Sunday School teacher!” Sid yelled at him. They argued heatedly.

“Look!” Shelby interrupted the men. “There.” She pointed to the map.

“Where in the…” Jerry began. A red blinking light in the middle of the ocean flashed on and off, revealing Alexis’ location.

“She’s somewhere in the South Pacific. How did she end up out there?” Sid asked.

“Something crazy’s going on and I bet that ole man was in on it. He didn’t tell us anything, but I bet he knew,” Ed said.

The wives looked on. They were all aware of the fate of the poor man. “What can we do? He was in the way. An obstacle,” shrugged Shelby, trying to reassure herself and Cynthia.

13

“Will you live all the days of your life loving God?” asked Pastor J.J.

“I will,” Alexis answered, standing waist-deep in the flat ocean, arms crossed across her chest. Next thing she knew, she was dipped back into the water, head under too. She held her breath, and a split second later, she came out of the water and stood straight up. She smiled as her friends clapped for her on the beach.

“Good for you, Alexis!” congratulated Hannah, giving her a tight hug. Jazmin and Karen stood behind her, waiting to hug her too.

“I’m dripping wet,” Alexis laughed.

“That’s okay, I am too,” said Jazmin, who had also gotten baptized.

“Welcome to the Family,” Victoria told her. They stood on the shore and watched Amber and Joshua Cyrene get baptized together as husband and wife. Little Aja ran around the beach with Aaron.

“Mommy! Mommy!” called Aja, as Amber walked out of the ocean. Josiah handed her a towel.

“Congratulations, Sis!” he told her. “And you too, Alexis,” he said shyly to Alexis, on whom he obviously had a crush.

“Thanks Josiah,” Alexis said. Then, in a burst of courage, she gave him a hug. Josiah turned red. Amber smiled at her parents, Suzanne and Noah, who sat on the grass, watching their son fall in love with Alexis.

***

Alexis lay on a big blanket, soaking up the afternoon sun and basking in glory. “You’re glowing,” Josiah looked at her.

“I feel really good. Happy,” Alexis answered him. They had spent as much time as they could together since Alexis was baptized a week ago. She was surely in love, and it felt nothing like when she and Dan had been together. But she didn’t tell that to Josiah. “I was just thinking about what J. J. said about being chosen. Why me of all people?” she wondered.

“Called out of the darkness into his marvelous light,” quoted Josiah. “It’s 1 Peter 2:9, from memory,” he added. “We are partakers of the divine nature, in Christ,” Josiah told her. “Because He loves us. And it’s all part of His plan,” he said, reaching for his Bible lying above his head on the blanket. Opening it and turning quickly to the page he was looking for, he read, “‘It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.’ It’s from the book of Luke. ‘Even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before Him in love: having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto Himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.’ That’s Ephesians 1:4-5,” he told her. “That about says it all. God’s word is powerful stuff.”

“Yeah,” Lexy agreed. She looked around her at the magnificent mountains jutting dramatically into the sky. Rising up against a bright blue sky, the fluted mountain tops formed a jagged line marking the horizon. A place more beautiful than this can’t exist, Lexy thought to herself. She gave thanks for her surroundings and for the safe haven of the island, and for Josiah and her new island family. It made her feel better to believe someone or something wiser than herself was in control and would take care of her.

“Now that we know the truth, we have a greater responsibility than most people in the world, who were never shown the truth,” Josiah said a little while later, after they had swam. They were laying down side by side, drying off in the sunshine.

“What do you mean, Josiah, by a ‘greater responsibility’?” asked Alexis.

“Well, we have to live righteous lives, not that we wouldn’t. But now, it’s our responsibility, knowing the truth. Here, let me read this to you.” He turned right to the section he was looking for and read, “‘If after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.’ That’s 2 Peter 2:20-21,” he told her. “Then there’s Ephesians, um, I think it’s 5…” he was flipping through his Bible. “Here it is. Chapter 5:8, ‘For you were sometimes darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light.'”

“Wow!” said Lexy. “The Bible talks about everything, doesn’t it?”

“It’s a good instruction manual. Keep reading it; you’ll learn a lot,” he advised. She nodded, silently noting that she had called the Bible an instruction manual too. She felt like she had this incredible connection with Josiah. She studied his profile as he looked out toward the water. He is so cute, she thought. His short brown hair and his warm blue eyes seemed to pierce right through to her heart and touch her.

“I never thought about the responsibility,” said Alexis. “What about the people that never learn about God in their lives? Like those living in the city, where I was?” she wondered.

“Well, the Bible says the Gospel–God’s word–will be spoken in all the world before Jesus Christ comes to claim his family. So if they are ready and willing and have not hardened their hearts, they will hear it. That’s what I believe,” Josiah told her.

“Yeah.” She thought about her parents, and Isabella and Dan. Her community, and all those from Masonville. Would they ever listen to the truth? She didn’t know. Josiah touched her hair that had grown a few inches since her arrival to the island.

“So soft,” he said. She looked at him. She could see herself in his dark blue eyes. “You’re beautiful,” he told her. Then he gently kissed her.

***

After a delicious, festive dinner, they sat in a circle around the fire. Light danced off their faces as they talked among one another. Alexis sat next to Josiah and listened to Gregg.

“The end could come at any time, nobody but God really knows. Our job is to be ready, be peaceful and without blame, living righteous lives,” Gregg said, mostly to David who was sitting with his wife, Jennifer.

“I think we must be in the tribulation period,” said Jennifer. “The Bible says God will come after that.”

“And when do you think that will be?” Gabriel asked his mother.

“Some people say it won’t happen because things have been the same for hundreds of years,” Ken offered.

“To God, a second is like a thousand years, or something, right Mom?” Raphael looked at Jennifer. She nodded at her younger son.

“Yes, that’s true. But if you look at the history and read the Bible, you’ll see. God warned Noah about the flood that would destroy the Earth, and people just laughed at Noah as he was preparing, building the ark,” Jennifer said.

“I remember reading that the Lord is waiting for as many people as possible to repent. I can’t remember where exactly I read that,” said David.

“God sent His son, not to condemn the Earth, but to save it,” Gregg added.

“‘For the son of man is come to save that which was lost,’ Matthew 18:11 tells us,” said Suraya Justus.

“I know where it is,” said Daniel. “Look at 2 Peter 3-4. This part tells us that fire, and not water, will end the world this time. Let’s see, let me find it from the beginning.” He cleared his throat and began reading in a loud, clear voice. “‘Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and with the Earth standing out of the water and in the water; Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished. But the heavens and the Earth, which are now by the same word kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.'”

“If you keep reading, it goes on to say that ‘One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Meaning just what it says. His time is not like our time,” Daniel went on. “Be assured, the Lord is not ‘slack concerning his promises, but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.'” That’s the part you remembered, right David?”

“Yeah, that’s it,” David answered.

“There’s more here,” said Daniel, his young face looking wise. He glanced up at the faces around the fire, a little unnerved that he had everybody’s full attention. He was usually pretty quiet.

“Keep reading,” Gabriel urged him. Suraya sat next to him and gave him a smile of encouragement.

“Okay. ‘But the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night, in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the Earth also, and the words that are therein shall be burned up.'” Daniel finished reading and put his Bible down in front of him. “It’s all right here in the good book. Believe it and prepare your hearts.” People nodded their heads in agreement, but there was not very much conversation. The intensity of Daniel’s point caused everyone to contemplate their own lives.

Am I prepared? Alexis wondered to herself. What will happen to my family? Will they be burned in the fire? Even though she was so far away from them, Alexis did not want her family to burn up in the fire; she wanted them to be saved too. “How can we help all those people living in Masonville and everywhere else?” Alexis asked J.J., who had sat down next to his daughter and listened to what Daniel was reading.

“We can pray for them,” J.J. told her. “God’s word will not return void; it’s alive and powerful. You’ll learn this in the Bible too. So, if you ask Him to open their eyes and hears, He will find a way to do it.”

“Because God will make a way, when there seems to be no way,” Suraya added. “I remember singing that song as a little kid,” she told him. “Do you Dad?” she asked J.J.

“I remember,” he told her.

“But how will they even hear about God over there?” Alexis asked him.

“I’m not sure, Alexis. People like Wynn, Juli and Will have been intercessors for those on the mainland for a long time. They’ve led several people to the knowledge of Christ, or at least planted the seed,” J.J. said.

“What’s an intercessor?” Alexis asked.

“It’s someone who intercedes, or prays for others,” Colette told her.

“Oh,” Alexis said.

“And do people see Wynn and Juli or Will? I thought they couldn’t see them or that they were secretive?” Alexis asked them.

“They are a lot more careful now,” Jennifer told her. “But God has led people to them, and then they share the truth.”

“Like me,” Gregg spoke up. “Wynn saved my life.”

“He did? How?” asked Alexis.

“Well, I guess it was about 2025 or so and it was getting really hard to do anything without getting in trouble, because I didn’t get the CHIP. Well, my hair,” he pointed to his long dark hair, “seemed to attract the attention of these thugs in black that patrolled the streets.” Alexis remembered the men in black loading bodies into a truck. “They tried to arrest me and shave my head,” Gregg told them, horrified. “But I managed to escape. It was really a miracle,” Gregg was saying. “I was in prison and it was midnight and I prayed to God–my grandmother had taught me about our heavenly father. The next thing I knew, the door to the cell was open. I didn’t really believe what I was seeing, but it was opened and as I tiptoed out, all the guards were sleeping and I slipped out of the building. I just started running in the night and in the morning, don’t ask me how, I was laying in Wynn’s house.”

“But how? Did you know him?” Suraya asked.

“I’d never met him. But he knew me and knew I was in trouble. Well, the next morning, Will and Juli took me here. And here I am,” said Gregg. “So I think that was God at work. Even though I don’t understand it, I know it couldn’t have happened without Him,” Gregg said.

“Incredible!” said J.J. David and Jennifer nodded.

“God is good,” said Daniel. Several people audibly agreed.

12

The sound of running water lulled Alexis back into consciousness. “I guess I fell asleep,” she said aloud, to nobody in particular. Sitting up, she saw Vicky was still sleeping. It was getting dark. “Vicky,” Alexis said, shaking her gently.

“Hmm? What?” said Vicky sleepily.

“Vicky, wake up. It’s almost night,” said Alexis. Vicky sat up and stretched her arms into the air. She yawned.

“I’ve been asleep for that long?” she asked.

“Yes,” Alexis answered, nodding her head.

“I guess we should head back,” said Vicky, getting up. The two girls started walking back to camp. “I hope it’s not my night for dinner!” said Vicky. “I must have been really tired.”

“We’re pretty close, aren’t we?” Alexis asked her.

“Yeah,” Vicky said with a nod.

“You know, while you were sleeping, I started thinking how life is like a garden,” said Alexis.

“Hannah inspired you, huh?” Vicky laughed. “But you’re right. It even refers to that in the Bible.”

“Really?” Alexis was surprised. “What does it say?”

“Well, it’s a parable of the Lord, about a sower,” started Vicky.

“What’s a sower?” Alexis wanted to know.

“Someone who plants seeds,” said Vicky. “So this sower went to sow, plant, his seeds and some seeds fell to the side and the birds ate them; other seeds fell on the rocks and grew, but withered soon because there was no moisture or earth; and some seeds fell among the thorns, which grew and choked the seeds. But some seeds fell into the good ground and grew and produced a lot of fruit.” Vicky paused to look at Alexis.

“So how is that related to God?” asked Alexis.

“Well Lexy, the seed is the word of God. And the earth and other places it’s sowed are the hearts of the people. So the people hear the word, but are so filled with sin or rocks, that they won’t believe it and be saved. They may receive the word with joy and believe it for a while, but as soon as they are tempted, they stop believing because they have no root. Then, those on the thorns hear the word, but the cares of the world choke them and they don’t bear any fruit. And of course, those on the good earth are those who hear the word, believe it, and are honest and good. These people patiently do the will of God and bear fruit that nourishes others,” Vicky finished.

“Wow!” said Alexis. “The Bible seems to talk about all kinds of neat ideas. I’m definitely going to start reading it after dinner,” she said.

“There they are!” said Colette as Alexis and Victoria walked into the kitchen. “Hannah told me she left you two hours ago.”

“I fell asleep for a long time,” said Vicky. “Was it my turn tonight for dinner duty?”

“No. Daniel, Gregg and Ronnie volunteered to make a special meal tonight, so you’ll be tomorrow, ” Colette told her.

“Oh good,” said Vicky, relieved.

“But your mom would be happy to know you’re back,” added Colette.

“Okay, I’ll go tell her,” said Vicky. She turned to Alexis.

“I’m going to go wash my hands and face and change before dinner,” Alexis told her. “See you in a little while. And thanks for taking me to the River Side Cafe.”

“Anytime, Lexy, anytime,” Vicky told her, smiling.

***

“And then, before we knew it, we had lost our freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of movement and most of our other rights,” Allan was saying. Most of the group had finished eating the goat Ronnie and the boys had prepared and they were sitting together talking as everybody helped clean up the kitchen.

“But why didn’t people do anything?” Jazmin wanted to know.

“Like what?” Drew asked his daughter. “They were so distracted by making a living and earning enough money to survive and pay for all of the luxuries they needed, they didn’t have time to think about losing freedoms.”

“That was the idea,” said Will.

“But don’t forget, some people did act,” said Ken. “They were vigilant, but their friends called them paranoid and peculiar,” he said. “When things started coming down, they fled to the mountains. They prayed and were thankful they were shown the light,” explained Ken.

“They, and you know I’m talking about us, were led to a safe place away from the city which was getting ready to explode,” explained Colette, picking up her husband’s thought. “It was full of tension and uneasiness and dissatisfaction, causing crime and violence, fueled by drugs. It couldn’t go on forever.”

“But to some people, it looked like the evil had overtaken the good,” explained Kira. “But the Bible tells us, ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’ The reality is the good were removed from the tribulation of the city, and the dark turned black. But the light did not cease. It merely existed in a remote place. Set away out of the wind, to burn brightly, keeping the antichrist from destroying the world. What a garden to be in during a time when so much destruction also occurred, under the same sun,” Kira spoke quietly, almost as if she didn’t realize everybody was there.

Nobody said anything. Ronnie began blowing his flute. The high pitches danced in the air. Suzanne strummed her guitar, while others played their drums lightly. She started singing.

“He is the way the truth and the light,

He is the only way that is right.

He is the way, the truth and the light, 

Of my life.”

People played instruments into the night, making beautiful music. J.J. stood up and declared, “Isaiah 42:10-12 tells us to ‘Sing unto the Lord a new song and his praises from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea and all that is therein; the isles, and the inhabitants thereof. Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory unto the Lord and declare his praise in the islands,'” his voice rang out into the night, mixing with the music. People clapped.

“Hallelujah!” someone said.

“Praise God and Amen,” echoed into the night. Suzanne started playing again. Several people were standing and swaying to the music. Their voices rose in harmony and made Alexis tingle as they sang loudly.

“Holy, so Holy

There is no other so ho—ly

Jesus, oh Jesus,

Oh might God, you’re Jesus.

Jeee-suuusss.”

They lifted their voices, which Alexis thought sounded beautiful. She felt tears in her eyes and she hummed along with the melody of the soothing song. It was so intense. She fought to hold back sobs that wanted to break loose. The music and the singing were lifting her soul to a higher level where she felt a part of everyone and everything. Her body felt that now-familiar tingling sensation. The Holy Spirit, Karen had told her. She looked out to the sea. It’s so beautiful, marveled Alexis in her mind. A bright light caught her eye in time for her to see it shooting through the dark night sky. “Woah! Look!” she pointed.

Vicky grinned and nodded, swaying to the music. “A shooting star,” someone said.

Everybody was happy and smiling, feeling good. To Lexy, it all seemed a dream. She looked intently at the sky and was awed by the golden trail that followed the shooting star. It gleamed like the autograph of God. Somehow, she knew she believed. Her faith had grown strong in such a short time, but she was sure of a greater force to which she was connected.

“There is no denying the way I feel. This ball of love in my chest,” Alexis explained to Jazmin’s mom, Karen, “seems to grow every time we pray, or I read the Bible, or I hear, you know, like get a thought, from God, and especially when we sing.” Karen nodded at her and smiled. She looked into Alexis’ eyes, her black hair shining in the moonlight. Alexis thought she looked beautiful.

“The Bible says the truth will be revealed, Alexis. I’m glad you have understanding,” Karen said. “Eyes that see, ears that hear,” she added. Alexis nodded, recognizing the phrase from the Bible. They sat quietly together for a few minutes. “Maybe you’d like to get baptized,” Karen suggested.

Alexis tried to remember exactly what getting baptized was. Something to do with the water, she knew. “Baptism is an outward commitment of your faith. As Christ died, so does your former life of sin that was ruled by the flesh. Now that you’re walking in the Spirit, you become a new being, a light in the world. Getting baptized is a symbolic birth of this new life,” Karen explained to her without Alexis having to ask.

“That sounds okay,” said Alexis. “I’ll have to think about it.” Jazmin walked over and sat down next to them.

“It looks like you two are having an intense conversation,” Jazmin commented.

“Your mom was telling me about getting baptized,” Alexis said.

“He that believes and is baptized shall be saved,” Jazmin declared. “Are you going to do it?”

“I don’t know,” said Alexis.

“I could mention it to J.J.,” suggested Karen.

“I wouldn’t mind being baptized again with you,” said Jazmin. “Maybe a bunch of us could do it together?” Jazmin laughed.

“Have you all been baptized?” asked Alexis. Jazmin looked at her mom.

“I think everybody but the little kids, Aaron Farl and Aja Cyrene. They’re a little young,” said Karen.

“How old do you have to be?” asked Alexis.

“Just old enough to repent of your sins and believe in God,” answered Karen. Jazmin was leafing through her mom’s Bible.

“Jesus said in John 3:3, ‘Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God,'” she read. “Then in John 3:5, He tells us ‘Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God; you must be born again,'” Jazmin read.

“Born again,” Alexis repeated. “It sounds kind of weird, being born again,” she said.

“It’s symbolic,” explained Karen. “You were born in the flesh, or body, and we all sin, make mistakes. But as we learn about the spiritual side of life, we learn that we have a choice to say we’re sorry about all the mistakes we made, the people we may have hurt, whatever it is. So in the spirit we can have a spiritual birth, with water, and become a new creation, pure and following God’s words, loving one another.”

“And the Bible talks about it too?” asked Alexis.

“It sure does. Again, God is telling us how we can be saved,” Karen told her.

“It’s like an instruction manual,” joked Alexis.

“You’re absolutely right,” agreed Karen. “That’s what it is.”

“What other instructions does it give us?” Alexis asked, intrigued.

“Oh, let’s see, there’s my favorite in Mark, Chapter 12, ‘you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength,'” Karen said, turning to the chapter. “The next verse says, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ so that’s not too hard, right?” Karen said.

“Doesn’t seem like it,” said Alexis.

“I like this one,” said Jazmin. “‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,'” she read. “It says that the word must be preached everywhere before the end will come,” said Jazmin.

“The end?” asked Alexis.

“The end of this life, when we all join God in heaven and live in peace,” said Karen. “Don’t be scared of it, and don’t let today’s world scare you either,” she said. “Listen to what Jesus tells us in Mark 13:7: ‘And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, don’t be troubled, for such things must happen, but the end shall not be yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles; these are the beginnings of sorrows,’ and we’re already seeing these things, aren’t we? ‘The Gospel must first be published among all nations. But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what you will speak; for it is not you that speak, but the Holy Ghost… he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved…. Flee to the mountains… For in those days, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Song of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.'” Karen stopped, looking at Alexis.

“That is going to happen, really? When?” asked Alexis.

“Well, we don’t know for sure. But let me read the next part. ‘Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you know not when the time is… And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch,'” Karen finished reading.

“Wow,” said Alexis. “Okay, so when can I get baptized?”

“I’ll talk to J.J. in the morning,” Karen promised her. The three women were surprised to see that everyone had gone to bed. They had been so involved with each other, they didn’t realize how late it was.

“We should get some sleep, girls,” said Karen.

“Okay, goodnight Jaz, goodnight Karen,” said Alexis. Both Karen and Jazmin hugged Alexis as they left her at the door of her camp. Alexis loved the bamboo structure covered in palm leaves. Judd and Kenny had built it for her in a couple of hours and even the hardest rain didn’t get her wet. Inside, she stretched out on her soft bed and fell asleep.

 

 

11

“She didn’t tell me anything, really,” insisted Isabella in a pleading tone. Beads of sweat glistened against her dark skin.

Sid completed his tenth lap around the room, his shoes tapping in the silence. He walked to Isabella, who was sitting, hands in her lap, knees together on the hard metal chair. Sid knelt in front of her and looked at her face. “You have information. You will tell me what you know about this book,” he said menacingly. He had used the same words with Trevor and Dan just hours earlier. Both boys denied any knowledge but had both broken down and cried from Sid’s intense accusations. Isabella, too, started crying. She was obviously scared to death.

“Sid–” Cynthia started, having pity on the girl. “She doesn’t know anything; leave her alone.” Gus turned his head slowly toward Cynthia. His anger seemed to lash at her from his eyes.

“That will be all Cynthia,” he said evenly. “Start talking!” he yelled loudly in Isabella’s face.

“I don’t know! I swear!” Isabella was shaking.

“Come on Sly…” Shelby tried to intervene.

“Silence! Gus, escort the women out,” Sid demanded. Gus instantly stood up and ushered Cynthia and Shelby to the door. The only sound was Isabella’s sniffling, trying to hold back sobs.

“Murphy, activate deceit detector,” Sid spoke to his computer.

“Activated,” Murphy answered seconds later.

“Gus, scan the girl.” Gus roughly pulled Isabella out of her seat and placed her wrist on the scanner. “What have you heard about Alexis Roberts’ writing or book?” he asked Isabella sharply.

“I don’t know,” said the frightened girl, whose 5’10” frame seemed dwarfed by her surroundings. The computer flashed red.

“Murphy doesn’t lie!” Sid informed her. “If you don’t tell me what you know right now, I’ll put you in prison for life!” Sid barked at her heartlessly. Ed and Jerry held their breath, while Gus stood at attention, already relishing the prospect of taking Isabella to his personal kingdom.

“Okay,” sobbed Isabella. Ed whirled around, surprised at the breakthrough. Jerry, Gus, Ed and Sid looked at her intently, waiting.

“Go on,” Jerry urged her.

“I think I remember she said something about meeting a man, years ago.”

“Where!?” Sid interrogated.

“Somewhere in the country, her parents took her, a meeting. Oh, please don’t hurt her,” Isabella pleaded.

“It’s Graybeard!” Gus interjected, excitedly.

“Gotta be,” said Ed.

“Coastline,” Sid said. “Go get him.”

“On it,” Gus answered. He left the room in a flash, intent on his hunt.

“It’s time,” Sid announced to Ed Blitz and Jerry Roberts. “Wipe out the opposition. Let’s sound frequencies worldwide. We need every life under control. We’ve been too relaxed. If there are people out there, let’s get rid of them.”

“Time to step it up a few notches,” said Jerry.

“Let’s do it now,” Ed agreed.

 

10

“Come on Lexy. I’m finally done. I want to show you something,” bubbled Judd, bringing Lexy back to Earth. She had been absorbed reading the Bible her friend had given to her.

“Okay, what is it?” she asked eagerly as she grabbed his outstretched hand.

“Follow me to the garden,” he said.

“Okay,” Alexis laughed, pleased to be getting so much attention. Her thoughts went briefly to the last time she had seen Dan. She thought about the door being slammed in her face. It hurt. But it seemed like another world already, a different life.

Lexy marveled as they rounded the corner to a beautiful place where an abundance of green plants were growing out of the ground. She followed Judd up and down the rows as he told her the names of each one. On closer inspection, she noticed colorful objects growing from the plants.

“What are these?” she asked, pointing to a yellow curved thing.

Judd smiled. “It’s called a banana. Look.” He pulled one off the branch and peeled the yellow from around it. Then he took a bite. “Here, try it.”

She did. “It’s good,” she said. She tried to remember all the names of the different vegetables he pointed out. There were so many different kinds.

She recognized Kenny bending over pulling a plant out of the ground. “Have you met Gregg?” he asked her, wiping his forehead.

“Hi,” said Gregg.

“You sang that song,” Alexis told him.

“That would be me,” Gregg answered. “And I’m not too sure if this,” he motioned to the ground in front of him, “is right where I should be right now,” he said, smiling.

“We’re on weed patrol,” Kenny told her. “We’re supposed to pull out all the weeds around the plants,” he explained, “so the plant can grow and produce fruit, not choked by all of these weeds.” He reached down and plucked a clump of long green grass and tossed it to the side. “There.”

“It looks like a lot of work,” Lexy told him.

“Worth it,” he replied. “Taste this.” He gave her a small white bulb. She looked at Gregg, and then at Judd.

“Go ahead, take a bite; they’re a little peppery, that’s all,” urged Gregg.

She took the white round veggie, looking unconvinced. She bit into it with a loud crunch.

“Now chew it,” said Judd.

“Not bad,” announced Lexy. “What is it called?”

“Turnip,” the boys answered in unison.

“Wow! This grows out of the dirt?!”

“In about 19 days–that’s all it takes,” Judd explained.

“That’s neat,” said Lexy, finishing the turnip. She walked around the garden in awe tasting orange carrots, green cucumbers, green beans and purple lettuce and admiring the beautiful flowers’ colors. Beautiful, she thought. “Why don’t we have these everywhere?” She wanted to know.

“Some questions just don’t have answers,” said Kenny. Feeling the warm sun on her face, Lexy couldn’t remember ever feeling so free. She laughed at the possibility that some things couldn’t be explained.

She saw two girls hiking down the path toward the garden. It was Victoria Rose and Hannah. Lexy waved to them. “Hi Lexy!” Vicky called. Hannah returned her wave before picking an orange, oval-shaped fruit from a tall tree.

“Trya papaya?” Hannah asked her, grinning as she walked up to the group. “Hi Daddy,” she said, giving Ken a peck on the cheek.

“Sure,” said Alexis, accepting a slice of orangey-pink fruit Judd had cut. “Mmmm,” she said. It was sweet and delicious. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” said Hannah.

“What are you guys doing?” asked Vicky.

“Showing Lexy the garden’s treats. You girls hiking?” Judd asked his niece Vicky.

“Yeah, we’re going to the River Side Cafe,” she laughed. “You wanna come with us?” she asked Alexis.

“What’s that?” Alexis asked.

“Come on, you’ll see. It’s not too far from here,” Hannah told her.

“You should go; it’s great!” Judd told her.

“Okay then, I’ll go,” said Lexy, feeling adventurous. “Thanks for the tour!” she told the guys enthusiastically.

“Okay!” said Gregg.

“See you later!” Kenny yelled.

“Bye, have fun,” added Judd.

“Bye,” Hannah and Vicky said together. They waved and the girls started up a well-worn trail up a sloping hill alongside the right of the garden. They hiked through the shades of green that made up the jungle a short way to a little river overlooking the ocean. Beautiful blue pools alternated with rapidly running water streaming over stones leading to the ocean.

“This is unbelievable!” marveled Alexis, taking in the beauty.

“Isn’t it?” agreed Vicky. “Let’s get in; it’s great!” she encouraged, as she stripped naked and jumped in. Hannah followed, tossing her colorful wrap onto a boulder.

“Come on in!” she called to Alexis.

Alexis was a little more cautious, choosing to keep her clothes on and starting by testing the water with her toe. She was hot. She eased her way into the cool water, sitting in the shallow pool letting the water rise up to her neck.

“Ahhh, this is niiii-ccce.” She couldn’t believe where she was. Beautiful pink ginger grew along the edge of the ponds and mountains rose up in the distance around them. Everything was lush, with thousands of shades of green coloring the myriad fauna.

“I knew you’d like it Alexis,” Vicky said after a little while.

“Yeah, it’s just so peaceful; it almost lulls you to sleep,” said Alexis.

“Nature’s lullaby,” Hannah nodded, understanding exactly what Alexis meant. “I’ve often been put to sleep lying here listening to the waterfall. It amazes me how it seems to be telling me life’s secrets. It’s like, have you ever noticed how life itself is just like this river flowing toward the ocean?”

Alexis looked at Hannah. “What do you mean?”

“Well, think of where this river begins, probably somewhere at the back of the valley, at the very top of these mountains, way up in the sky, water from a huge lake falls off the side of the cliff and spills into another lake thousands of feet below. The Fall.”

“O—kay,” said Alexis slowly.

“The water moves around in this pool for awhile, and then it starts flowing downstream toward the ocean, where it’ll pass through other pools like this one, still and cool, and then flow out of the pool and fall over rocks, like mini waterfalls a bunch of times on its way downstream,” she paused for a breath. “Do I still have you?” she asked them.

“I think so,” Alexis answered.

“Go on, I need to hear more to see if I get your point,” said Vicky.

“Okay, now look at that still, stagnant pool over there,” Hannah pointed down river toward a small pool at the river’s edge. “That water’s been sitting there for a long time and is almost stuck there in the little pool. It’ll take a big rainstorm to wash it all back into the mainstream. In the end, after it’s gone down many waterfalls, sat in lots of pools and maybe even gotten stuck in a few marshes, the water ends up in the ocean where it mixes with a huge body of a substance just like itself, only salty, and then after who knows how long with that body, it’s evaporated up into the atmosphere to live in the clouds and fall like rain, quenching the thirst of all these trees and plants, and people, nourishing life. It sort of reminds me of the Bible passage in Ephesians:

‘There is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.’

It’s like the Lord calling us home and all the journeys we go through to get there. That’s what the water is like, rushing downstream toward the big ocean–it’s being pulled by the ocean as we are called by God. ‘Join me,’ it says.” She was quiet for a few seconds. When neither Alexis nor Vicky responded, Hannah asked, “Do you follow me or do you think I’m crazy?”

“I think it really makes sense, Hannah,” said Vicky with a smile.

“Me too,” Alexis said. “But what about this Bible? All of you keep talking about it.”

“God’s word,” Vicky told her. “Romans 1:16 tells us that God’s word, which is the Bible, is the ‘power of God unto salvation to every one that believes,'” she looked at Alexis.

“And what are we supposed to believe?” Alexis asked her, sounding doubtful.

“Well, you read the Bible and believe it, and you are saved from the evil of this world. You’re guaranteed eternal life when you leave this world,” explained Vicky.

“‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved,'” Hannah said. “That’s from Acts, Chapter 16, I’m pretty sure,” she added.

“And who is Jesus?” Alexis asked them, more interested now, as she always wondered about life after death, and people had always told her it wasn’t something they should think about because nobody knew until they died. These girls seemed to know, and they had this book from which they seemed to be getting answers to her questions. Could it be true? Lexy wondered.

Vicky turned the pages in her Bible. “Okay, here it is. Jesus is the ‘way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by him,'” she read from John 14:6.

“And it also says ‘the son of man, who is Jesus, has come to seek and to save the lost.’ It’s in Luke, Chapter 19, Verse 11,” said Hannah.

“But how do you know that for sure?” Alexis pressed.

“Well, it says ‘the just shall live by faith,'” Hannah told her. “So you just believe it. Try reading the Bible. I have one I can give you.”

“Juli gave me one,” said Alexis. “I guess I’ll have to read it more,” she said, grateful again to Wynn for teaching her how to read.

“And if you read Romans 10:9, it will tell you that you should ‘confess with your mouth the love of Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Jesus from the dead, and you shall be saved,'” said Vicky.

“Okay, I’ll look at it,” said Alexis. “I just wonder why I never heard about it before.”

“Well, people used to read the Bible, but it says many times in the Bible that man will turn from God and that people will hear, but not understand, they will see, and not perceive, because their hearts are cold, their ears dull, and their eyes closed, ‘lest they should be converted, and I’, meaning Jesus, ‘should heal them,'” said Vicky.

“In Romans Chapter 1, Verse 25, it explains, ‘they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised,” Hannah told her.

“So they did know God before?” asked Alexis.

“I know people used to have Bibles and go to church–my mom told me,” said Vicky. “But then it became a bad thing because many of the people who believed in God would not accept the microchip implant because they believed it was the mark of the beast that is talked about in the Bible.”

“I remember J.J. reading about that,” said Alexis.

“So Jesus was sent from God, his Father, and our Father, to set us free from our sins and to reunite us with God,” Vicky went on. “‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die,'” she read. “This is John, Chapter 11, Verse 25.”

“So I just have to choose to believe in Jesus?” asked Alexis.

“‘You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you’ is what Jesus has told us in John, Chapter 15, Verse 16,” Hannah told her.

“That’s hard for me to believe,” said Alexis. “But I’ll read it.”

“Good,” said Hannah, climbing out of the pool and stretching out on the short green grass. “Just one more thing, in Matthew, it says to ‘ask and you shall find, for everyone that asks, receives,'” Hannah said.

“Okay, I’ll ask, Jesus, um, God, to help me,” agreed Alexis, joining her. “Ahh, that felt so good.” The girls were quiet, enjoying the sunshine.

“I’m going to head back now,” said Hannah after a few minutes. “I told my brother I’d help him harvest some flowers for mom’s birthday tomorrow.”

“Okay, ” said Vicky. “I feel like resting a little here. What about you, Alexis?”

“I’ll stay too,” she said.

“Alright, I’ll see you two soon,” called Hannah as she walked down the trail.

“Bye!” called Vicky and Lexy. Vicky stretched out and fell asleep. Alexis sat next to her thinking about Jesus and the river. It is the river of life, thought Lexy. She tried to decide where she was in her own journey. Probably just got washed out of a stagnant pool by a huge storm, she decided. Her thoughts drifted to the garden. She was still amazed that a tiny seed could be put into the ground and watered and would grow into something people could eat. Life was such a mystery. She realized that to her, a person’s life could also be compared to a garden. You need to be planted first, to grow, like a seed is planted in the ground and like a man’s seed is planted in a woman’s body or in a test tube, then you and the seed need to be nourished, fed and watered if you are to be kept alive. Your life, and the garden, can be full of rocks and weeds and a lot of thorny, dead stuff, or it can be well-tended and have fruits of all types to enjoy. Then what? Are you harvested? Lexy contemplated that thought and decided to talk to Victoria about it later. Her eyes closed and she slept, her soul soothed by the river’s sweet song.