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Return to Paradise, Part II: Chapter 10

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.

Return to Paradise, Part II: Chapter 8

8

The next morning, Alexis sat on a log in the kitchen watching the breakfast preparations. Karen, Drew, Cyrus and Jazmin were in charge.

“At home, Mom just orders us food pellets and when I think about it, or she reminds me, I swallow them.” Alexis was telling the 19-year-old black-haired beauty named Jazmin. “Here you guys spend a lot of time cooking and eating,” she said. “And growing it in the garden too. Wynn showed me his garden. He didn’t eat pellets either, said they weren’t healthy.” They smiled at the mention of their friend.

“I bet he said that,” Karen laughed. “He always tells it like it is. And you’re sure making me feel my age,” Karen told Alexis. “But I have to say, sometimes the old ways are the best. As you can see, here food does take some time. But so what Lexy!? It’s all worth it. It’s easy, and it’s a gift from our maker,” Karen said.

“I think you’ll like this whole food/eating thing if you just give it a chance. You’ll feel better, look better,” said Cyrus, who at 17, had never experienced pellets. “You’ll wonder how you ever survived swallowing pills.”

“Okay Cyrus,” Alexis agreed, grinning at her new friend. “I’ll have to believe you, but this seems a little weird,” she said, looking at the breadfruit that Drew set in front of her. She supposed she’d adjust. Nobody was popping pellets here.

She tried some clear liquid called water. Not too much taste, but it was refreshing. Lexy sat and watched quietly while Drew blew in the fire, causing the flame to grow. By the time the sun was warming up the earth, the kitchen was aflutter with activity. Lexy felt okay. She wasn’t scared, but was relieved because she realized she had been right in feeling that something was wrong with her world. It was missing something. But here on the island, with these people she hardly knew, she felt safe and alive and full of a joy she had never known.

Return to Paradise: Part II: Chapter 6

6

“I remember when the shift became obvious, because everything turned computer-dependent,” a guy about 45, with brown hair was explaining. Alexis heard someone call him Drew.

“You couldn’t operate without them,” added Adam, brushing a long strand of blond hair off his face. Alexis was fascinated by everybody’s hair. She touched her own smooth head. She suddenly felt self-conscious, but nobody seemed to notice that she didn’t have hair. She turned her attention to a woman with long streaming blonde hair who was talking.

“Yes, government programs like food stamps that used to use paper coupons started using plastic cards that subtracted the food purchase from the total food stamps they were given. This allowed everything to be traced, because it was all recorded somewhere on the computer cash register and also on the card. Theoretically, someone could push a button and find out exactly what you were eating,” the pretty woman called Cathy was saying.

“And what certain types of people ate,” Drew threw in.

“No anonymity,” Cathy said, pursing her lips.

“And if the system was down, the cards wouldn’t work, and there was nothing anybody could do about it,” added Allan, a tall handsome man who sat down next to his wife, Cathy, as he joined the group. ‘You just wouldn’t be buying food that day. It was all electronic, so if it malfunctioned, people didn’t eat.” Alexis nodded politely, having never experienced the growing pains of phasing out currency that led up to the microchip system.

“It also cut out the small farmers who were previously selling their produce for food stamps because now they needed to buy a scanning device,” remembered Ronnie with a laugh.

“And all the grocery chains started issuing plastic club cards that gave you discounts when you used it. People laughed at me when I told them I didn’t like someone having a record of how much I spent on groceries and what I bought. All very strange,” said a woman who looked about 40 or so named Colette.

“Mmhmmm,” several people agreed with her.

“Get people slowly used to an idea until the cards totally replace cash–wouldn’t it be nice to just bring your card? Can’t lose it like cash because it has a pin number,” Colette continued, obviously bothered by the situation.

“And no check books!” Judd said gleefully.

“Those annoying check-writers!” Karen, a dark-haired woman with exotic features joked.

“Talking about the card’s convenience made it hard for consumers to refuse,” Judd explained, getting serious.

“All they needed was just their card that would automatically subtract the discounts, too,” said Cathy.

“Exactly,” Allan agreed. “The stores made it hard not to use the technology. Pretty soon, they just had you walking into the store, getting your groceries and walking out without waiting in line for a cashier. The card, and then the CHIP just automatically scanned when you left the store!”

“I know, that’s the way…” Lexy started to say, but nobody heard her over Alivea Malia’s louder voice.

“And people thought this was great. So convenient!” Alivea Malia, a pretty young woman, about 45 or so remembered, her eyes flashing at the notion.

“And around the same time, the microchip in pets idea really caught on. Nobody wanted to lose their pets, so inserting a finder was the perfect solution. And now look, first it was a choice, today, it’s mandatory,” said Drew.

“My friend even had a Teletrack alarm system that he paid hundreds of dollars for in case someone stole his Ford Explorer, the alarm company could easily track it through the system,” Gregg recalled.

“Yeah, if the crook didn’t unhook it first,” Allan teased.

“Yeah,” Jennifer said. “The main idea is the same–prey on their fears–sales work that way. People fear they’re getting old, and they’re getting gray hair, so they use color to hide it.” Alexis wanted to ask about gray hair, but was too shy to speak up, not wanting to draw attention to her own bare head. Someone apparently read her mind. A blond guy looked at her. She thought she remembered him saying he was Wynn’s son.

“In the city, people just shave their heads–nobody has hair–it takes away your individuality,” Simon explained to her.

“Mine just never grew,” Alexis softly told them, touching her head.

“It’s the frequency of the CHIP–it causes the hair not to grow,” explained Drew. “Yours will probably grow soon.” She smiled.

“It’s unnatural–the CHIP,” Colette proclaimed. “And so were face lifts, boob jobs and liposuction.”

“But people could make a lot of money if we thought we needed such things. It’s a mega-millionaire industry,” explained Judd, looking at her.

“Selling people on what they don’t really need by subtly convincing them that they do,” Cathy said.

“Like the CHIP, you started hearing talk like, ‘if you can protect your pet, why not your kids?’ Microchips in the kids would certainly cut out kidnapping–any parents’ worst fear,” Judd said, looking reflective.

Will chimed in. “People believed they needed it to protect their families…”

“And if it could be used for other things too,” Juli picked up the thought.

“Like shopping,” said Karen, massaging Drew’s shoulders.

“Yeah, and anything and everything else. No more paperwork, which was good because there were no trees left to make paper from. Now, just store all the information on the CHIP,” said Judd.

“A perfect solution to the extinction of trees,” joked Juli.

“All of a sudden we shifted from being identified by our social security numbers, then by the national ID card we all had to carry with us everywhere we went, or risk being arrested,” Will tiraded.

“To needing a microchip for ID!” Gregg finished for him. Several people nodded their heads.

“Talk about a computer-dependent society,” Will added. Lots of people nodded. Everybody was quiet for a few moments.

“I started questioning what could happen with this technology,” Judd remembered. “Side effects of having this foreign device implanted in your body. It ran on a lithium battery, which we found out could break down and cause quite a sore in your body.” He made a face.

“And it was too early to tell what other problems it could cause over time,” said Colette.

“And the potential for abuse. Things aren’t always what they seem. I decided I would never get a CHIP and neither would my kids,” said Jennifer, hugging Gabriel, who at 29 years old was still her baby. “I knew we had to move because I didn’t want to accept the CHIP.”

“Most people don’t realize it, but it’s all been prophesied,” said John Justus, his brown eyes sparkling. “Look at Revelations 13:16.” He turned in his Bible to the right page. His wife Kira, daughter Suraya and son Isaiah sat next to him, listening for the umpteenth time as he read:

“‘And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bound to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast…or the number of his name.'”

J.J. looked at Alexis.

 “Wow! I can’t believe it says that!” said Victoria, looking at her mother for confirmation. Alivea Malia nodded.

“That’s in the Bible?” Alexis asked.

“It’s pretty explicit, huh?” J.J. said, looking at her with a smile.

“I’ll say,” Hannah spoke up.

“And it was written way before computers, yet warning of this time,” said Isaiah. “Right Dad?” J.J. nodded at him.

“It had to be inspired by God,” Cathy thought aloud. They were quiet again, remembering the old times. Alexis was slightly shocked, feeling very surreal and thinking this couldn’t possibly be happening to her. She looked around at all of these people, with hair on their heads and above their eyes. They were all so different from herself, but she felt at peace with them. She had a warm, full feeling in her chest. She remembered feeling like this a few times as a little kid when her mother and her laughed together as they ran around playing. She really liked it, but she felt like she should be doing something, and here, there was no school, no job–just beauty and rest. Judd Michael’s voice brought her out of her reverie. She looked at the dark-haired, gentle man. At 47, he was still very youthful and nice-looking.

“Microchips were supposed to save time, but they didn’t really speed things up like they said it would,” remembered Judd.

“Yeah, we just waited for different things. After people were scanned, it sometimes took a long time to get approvals,” said Will.

“You’d wait until the computer said it was okay to go,” David recalled.

“And how about when the computers went down?” Jennifer asked, leaning back against David’s lap.

“A mess!” Karen remembered.

“Nobody could buy anything. We just waited for the computer to come back,” David said. Allan nodded, as did others.

“And if you think that was a hassle, what about when the CHIPs malfunctioned? It took about a week to get a new one. If you weren’t stocked up on food, you’d be begging and borrowing groceries from everybody,” said Ken, a tall guy with a sweet smile.

“Unless you had a garden,” John V. said with conviction. He had been silent up until now, lightly strumming on his guitar.

“Foresight,” Allan put in.

There was silence as everybody thought about their conversation. They had gardens? Lexy thought. Where? She wanted to ask so many questions, but decided to wait as it had gotten so quiet, and she felt uncomfortable breaking the silence. John strummed his guitar a little louder. Lexy listened to the pretty sounds. They seemed to lift her mood, elevating her to a happier plane. They started singing.

“Cause we’re livin’ on the land-Foodland!”

The song was obviously an old favorite because everybody joined in singing the chorus. Alexis found herself humming and then singing with the rest of them. The words were easy to learn, and it was actually fun to sing!

“That made me hungry,” declared Ronnie as the song ended. People laughed. Jovial and rotund, Ronnie had the face of a cherub. He held what Vicky had said was a flute in his hand. “What’s for dinner?” Ronnie asked no one in particular.

Everybody laughed. Alexis didn’t get the joke. Ronnie crossed the circle to talk to her. “You’ll get to know me,” he told Alexis. “Eating makes me tired and sleeping makes me hungry, and so does singing,” he said, grinning at Lexy.

“And just about everything else!” Ken poked his head over her shoulder and smiled. Lexy returned his smile and nodded, overwhelmed by this preparation going on just to eat.

As people scurried to get water and gather guava branches to stoke the fire, Alexis found herself sitting alone with Vicky. Although she had only spent a few hours with her, she felt a connection. Victoria Rose, what a pretty name, Alexis thought. Vicky had a way of making her feel like she’d known her for a long time. And instinctively, she trusted her. When they talked earlier, Alexis had learned that she and Vicky were the same age, born just months apart. But Vicky had been born on the island because her mother, Alivea Malia, and uncle, Judd Michael, traveled there when her mother was pregnant. She had said something about her father being replaced by a clone. She had never known him, but her mother loved her enough for 10 fathers, Victoria Rose told Alexis.

Just then, Vicky looked up from her book, her light brown hair softly framing her face. She looked at Alexis expectantly as if she knew Alexis wanted to say something. She smiled. “How are you? I bet you’re exhausted, huh?”

Alexis nodded. “Yes, this is a big change. I haven’t ever really felt like this, but I’m somehow really awake. I was thinking about what someone said about damaged CHIPs. If they can get damaged and people couldn’t use them, maybe that’s what happened to my CHIP? When it wouldn’t fill up on the laser, or let me get food or get on the rail, maybe it’s broken?” she sort of pleaded.

Vicky’s heart went out to her. The poor girl didn’t want to accept she had been all but erased by her family. Turning off the CHIP made it so people couldn’t operate in society since it controlled everything: access to food (what they called food), transportation and communication. And then the high frequency soundings.

Eventually, if she somehow did survive a little while, the vibrations would’ve killed her as the CHIP screens out the high frequencies, but without the CHIP, the human body could not survive the attack. Vicky had learned all about the CHIP from her mother, Alivea Malia, who brought her to the island to protect her from it. But Vicky didn’t know if tonight was the time to enlighten Alexis. There would be time. Instead, she put her arm around Alexis’ shoulder. “Maybe you’re right. Anything’s possible. But whatever is the truth will be revealed in time. You can be sure of that because the Bible says so. Now, let’s go get some food,” she suggested. “I’m starving!”