Five: Episode Thirty One is based off the following book excerpt from my science fiction supernatural thriller, The Contingency Generation.
Today I vow to write my fifth and final message into the crimson sand. I’m glad the challenge is almost over. Each dip into the water has become increasingly hard. I don’t care that my clothes are damp from sitting on the wet beach, but a looming storm on the ocean horizon spews a cold breeze that makes me shiver. My cozy retreat in The Abide beckons, but Kate promised to come, so I’ll wait.
Fear kept me stalling, but for Kate, fear had an opposite effect. She was eager to complete her messages. Her first trial was an exercise she performed of her own accord to hurry her healing. She did it before she was officially invited to become a Scribe. She followed me to the ocean and instead of waiting for me to complete my task, she plunged in, and while I lay recovering on the beach, she wrote “found Evie” beside my words, “Book of Wisdom 43.11.25.” It was a peculiar communication, because it contained my name, but when I asked her about it, she confessed she did not remember what triggered it. She did not even remember writing it. Thomas said this was because Kate was not yet ready to be a Scribe and needed several more weeks before she could be approved.
Until I dip into the water, I do not know what memories will come. That is the scariest part.
Having Kate waiting for my return on the shore is a comfort. So is my Book of Wisdom. Arguably, having it with me helps abate my dread and inspired my last three messages, but even then, it’s presence and words do not completely eliminate the increasing battle of will, emotion, and sanity that taunts my focus each time I step into the water. Even today, absolute fear haunts me with a vengeance, but by use of the power of the words from the book, I’m resolved to similarly display my resistance just as vigorously.
The sky grows darker, and the wind whips into occasional howling gusts.
I move back from the spray and take cover between two large stone boulders at the base of the dais where our group first received the Grande Lesson. I recall Martha’s encouragement later that day when she learned of my challenge. She said bravery was not the absence of fear, but instead, it was going forward in spite of fear. I wish she could be here too, but Thomas says only souls who have chosen by the common denominator can be on the beach at such a time. Kate and I often wonder what that similarity is. In fact, we make jokes about it, but there seems to be no recognizable pattern.
My spirit lifts when I see a prismatic glow appear on the beach to the north. The rainbow shimmer signifies a herald’s presence. I’m certain it’s Thomas. I wave. Then leaving my book on the rock, I scramble up to the flat top of the dais to scan the grass field for signs of Kate, but find none.
A few minutes later, Thomas calls from the beach below. “Soul Evie. Come down. You cannot wait any longer. It is time.”
I climb down and see Thomas is dressed as if he comes for battle.
“Are you fighting today?” I ask.
“No. I’m winning.” His warrior face crinkles into a radiant smile.
His demeanor spills confidence onto me. I hand him my book and step to the water’s frothy edge. But I stop when a tremendous wariness swoops over me. Even the wind coming off the ocean wants to blow me back to the safety of shore.
I turn to ask what burns inside.“What if my memories become too much or too painful? What single essential thing is left that will dispel their power? All I have for SJ is one last message.”
“It is enough. You are adequately equipped for whatever comes. Trust this. Author Perfecter wrote all that is necessary, and now within his image, you will too.” Thomas shelters me under his arm until I stop shivering.
When he releases me, I look to the sky for some blue, but all the clouds are now grey or dark.
“Remember, nothing is here to harm you. All you encounter is the memory of an experience that no longer exists.” He pats my shoulder, and I nod my understanding.
I stride into the warm water. Soon the sand gives way, and my feet no longer touch bottom. I dog paddle into the swells. They push me back toward the shore. There are no gulls today. The coming storm has spurred them inland. I sway in the ebb and flow of the ocean’s dance.
Minutes later, my baptism arrives in the form of a large wave cresting over my head. Underneath the churning water, images and voices mingle around me. The water clears, and I find I am looking out a window at the secondary school in Yerwa. My students, all girls, are beside me talking joyfully about the van that just parked on the street in front of the school gate. Our long awaited supplies for the new semester have arrived. A man steps out and loads the boxes onto a trolley.
We open the door to greet him. But suddenly there is yelling on the street and around the corner comes the gang of thieves that have been plaguing our neighborhood. Quickly I push the girls back inside the school and lock the door, but I am too late. The sound of breaking glass from the back informs me an intruder has already gained entry.
A figure dressed in military garb appears in the dining hall. His head and face are covered. Between him and us are the tables where we eat, study, and pray.
The girls scream and run to huddle near me.
“Don’t be alarmed little ones. I’ve come to rescue you.” The intruder moves around the table and speaks in the tone a father might use.
I feel their bodies shrink against me, and I have to pry Myra’s hands off my legs to move toward him. I whisper to Sasha as I pass and urge her to lead them away and make a run for it.
“You must come too, Teacher Evie!” She pleads with me even as I push her away. I know they will follow her. She leads them into the corner where the littlest ones huddle down and hide their eyes with their hands. When violence comes, it’s all they know to do.
“You’re not here to rescue anyone. You are a thief.” I say, sternly.
“Ah, but that is not true. It is you who are a thief, and you must pay for your crime.” He pulls out a long sword, carves into the air, and then lands it blade-edge into the wooden table where it sticks until he pulls it out. The girls scream, and I hear Sasha try to quiet them behind me. I do not take my eyes off him, but instead ease away from them toward the kitchen where I keep our arsenal. Surely, neighbors will arrive any moment as they have done in the past. I only need to buy us some time.
“Why am I a thief?” I ask.
“You steal girl’s minds and replace them with lies.”
“That’s not true. I teach them to read and write so they can learn.”
He does not follow me but instead moves back to the other side of the table closer to the corner full of whimpering girls. “Hush,” he says to them, making the hush sign with the knife tip against his mouth. “I’ll prove to you girls that it is your teacher who is a thief. I will ask her questions, and you will hear the lies she tells. Then you will know the truth.”
Sasha boldly stands in front of the little ones and spreads her arms to keep them from running to me. I see him raise his sword so I quickly call out a diversion. “Ask me any question, and I will tell you the truth.”
He whirls to face me. “Alright. Let’s make it a game. With each lie we tell, we take a step. The person asking the questions continues to ask until a truth is told. If we tell the truth, we stand still. I’ll begin.”
I nod my agreement, hoping to stall long enough until help comes or the girls get away.
“Here’s my first question. Do you believe there is one God?”
“Yes.” My heart sinks. I know this game will not be about math and science.
“That is a lie. You worship Jesus. You may take a step.”
“But Jesus is a part of God. God is God the father, God the son, who is Jesus, and God the Holy Spirit. Just as I am one human, but I have a body, soul, and spirit.” I pray my words ring true to him.
“A lie, dear girls.” He looks over at Sasha, and she crosses her arms in defiance. His focus returns to me. “There is only one God. Since you won’t take a step, I’ll take it for you.” He moves toward me and continues his interrogation.
“Do you say that Jesus is God even though he was born from a woman, and lived, and died on a cross like a man?”
“Yes.” I whisper.
“Louder please so the girls can hear.”
“Oh dear. You simply must take a step for that lie.”
“I will not.”
“It isn’t right to play a game and not stick to the rules, is it girls? Your teacher keeps saying what is false, yet she will not play by the rules of the game. She is supposed to take a step if she tells a lie.”
I know the thief will soon reach me. Every fiber in my body is poised to run but my feet stay true.
“Oh well. I guess it’s up to me. I will take her step for her.” He brandishes his sword and kicks a chair out of his way.
“Is your Jesus still God even though you say he died as a sacrifice for the sin of men?”
“Yes.” I try to remember my martial arts training about how to throw a person off balance.
He moves another step. All that separates us now are two pace lengths. From the corner of my eye, I catch the image of more masked faces staring through the window. God help me. I will fight them all. David slew the lion. In His strength, I’m able.
“And do you say that God condemns all men unless they believe in Jesus?”
I hear the question from far away, because there is nearby music and singing. My body relaxes and my words tumble out freely. “I say God loves all men, and if He gives them an opportunity to hear the truth, then they must believe the truth or they will not have eternal life.”
He does not move. It’s as if he listens for the music too.
The song is loud now, but then he roars, and it stops. “Did you come here to teach our children how to read and write?”
“That is a lie! These girls tell me that you came to give them an opportunity to believe in your Jesus God. Right?” He terrorizes the girls by swishing his sword at them.
Myra begins to wail, but Naomi puts her arms around her.
I call him back. “It’s my answer you want. Not theirs.” I pick the next words ever so carefully. “I came to teach these girls the things they do not know.”
He leaps onto the table, and then with a second leap, I feel his breath touch my face and his sword press into my neck. “Will you choose to believe your truths even if I kill you for them?”
Above the blade, I see the dear sweet faces, and I manage to whisper my prayer, “Dear Jesus!”
“Tell them you have lied. Choose this and you will live. Say it to these children.”
“No. I’ve always told the truth. I do not lie.”
“Then you will die for your choice.”
“Yet I will live eternally because of Jesus.” I boldly speak aloud this hope, because I know the words are my last gift to my girls.
Razor sharp pain pierces my neck. My girls scream, and I begin to choke. My shell cracks wide open.
This blog post is an excerpt from my supernatural thriller, Five, presented in rough draft version. The posts will appear weekly as my story development progresses. The story snippets will likely be full of typos, garbage, and confusion. I’m sure to regret allowing readers a sneak peak of the chaos involved in this process of making a finished book.
Someday, if I still have an audience, my book(s) and screenplays will be polished and for sale. Until then, my story snippets are free, but payment by “subscribing” with your email would be a nice gesture. For doing this you might get a discount on my purchasable work should that day ever arrive. All you get now is a notice via email of a new story episode that I have ready to read on my “blog.” I don’t sell my email list or do anything else with it.
Why am I doing this stupid and terrible thing—letting readers see my “off the cuff” story writing?
Book industry experts say that in today’s world of book marketing, an unknown author must build their own sales platform. I’m supposed to advance my platform by collecting readers, and for now, by blogging. Since I can’t imagine blogging about what I had for breakfast or the things my cat does, then instead, I’m blogging fiction excerpts of my work(s) in progress.
Thanks for slogging along. Maybe we’ll meet on a bookshelf someday.