September 18, 2005

Chapter 25

Miriam awoke to a strange rattling. Jacob was moving in his bed, and she got up to look. His eyes were fluttering a bit.

"Jacob? Jacob?" she asked.

His eyes opened, then closed again. She touched his arm.

"Miriam? Did - is he all right?"

"Is who all right?"

Jacob closed his eyes again before the speaking. "The raider," he said. "The raider I pushed into the ravine."

"Oh," said Miriam slowly. "He died."

Jacob opened his eyes and looked at her face. "Maybe I have too," he said, and started weeping.

"Jacob? Jacob!" Miriam tried to hug her brother, but the bed and the bandages made it too complicated. She took his hand, but he just wouldn't stop crying.

"Martha? Martha!" Miriam ran down the hall to fetch the nurse.

Martha came in quickly. "People do sometimes come out of anesthesia crying," she said. She checked Jacob's status.

"Jacob?" she asked.

He didn't respond, and continued to sob. Miriam shook her head. "He's never been like this," she said. "Maybe the shock?"

"It may be medical," said Martha, as she filled a syringe. "For right now, I'm guessing it is." She injected Jacob with the syringe and his sobs faded back into sleep.

"Did he say anything?" asked Martha.

Miriam explained the brief conversation.

"It probably isn't an anesthesia reaction, then," said Martha, "but I think he's happier where he is now for the moment. There's a lot going on inside of him that he'll have to work out when he wakes up. Why don't you rest for now, and I'll send for you when he comes to again."

There was a knock at the door, and Isaac entered, yawning. "Is Jacob all right?" he asked. "The elders would like to see you and talk about Jacob's condition. I can stay here while you go talk."

Miriam looked at Martha. Martha nodded, and Miriam left.


The elders were sitting in silence when Miriam arrived. Daniel motioned her in, and the group turned to her.

"How is Jacob doing?" asked Leah.

Miriam tried to hold herself together but couldn't manage it. "He'll be all right, they say," she said, "but he woke up crying and wouldn't stop. Martha thought it might be the anesthesia."

"Did he say anything?" pressed Leah.

Miriam paused. "Nothing coherent," she said through her tears.

"Thank you," said Daniel, passing her a handkerchief. "Let us know when he's awake and ready to talk."

"We need you to visit the prison," said Leah. "Your plans there have worked well, but there are questions for you. If you could stop in before you take a rest, that would be helpful."


"So now we have a farmer who's killed someone," said Catherine. "I told you they were more dangerous than some like to pretend."

"He may have saved the lives of five of our own," said Stephen. "Perhaps the farmers are more helpful than some of us like to pretend."

"In any case, what Jacob did is not a problem for us," said Matthew. "If he were a citizen, we'd likely be deciding how to honor him now. Since he's not, it's not an issue we have to decide. We do, however, have to decide how best to handle the raiders."

"What do we have to decide?" asked Catherine. "We have a location ready to send them, and transportation in preparation, correct?"

"In the past," replied Matthew, "some members of raiding parties have been allowed to stay, if we allow the farmers to use their discretion to accept new members rather than reproduce themselves."

"After this madness, I'd rather not," said Margaret. William and Alice nodded in agreement, as did most of the council.

"Very well," said Matthew. "I have doubts myself. I'll have James tell the farmers that the raiders all have to go, and soon. He's already preparing the supplies to go with them."

"Supplies?" asked Catherine.

"Yes, supplies. Gregory sent the last group of raiders off with what I thought was a generous set of rations. Given that it's mid-winter, it seems wise to send them with supplies, unless you want this to be a death sentence."

Catherine looked down at the table.

"We have one other large issue to discuss today," said Matthew. "We need to decide what to do with John. He is a citizen now, and has committed no crime since his return. We cannot keep him unconscious forever, and if we were doing this to any other citizen it would already be a scandal."

"Let it be a scandal," said Catherine. "Why should he awaken when we're still dealing with the mess he brought us?"

"He didn't bring this to us," said Stephen, looking around the table. "We would have had to deal with this eventually, and might have had to deal with it after our farmers were killed or enslaved."

Most of the council nodded, and everyone looked to Matthew.

"He is a citizen," said Matthew. "We must let him awaken."


A noisy scene awaited Miriam inside the barn, as raiders bellowed Bible verse while children played games. Abner walked from cell to cell, handing Bibles to the raiders in the hope that reading would at least quiet them. Some had accepted the books, while others had thrown them back at him. The women took the books quietly, though none of them opened them.

An older farmer walked up to Miriam. "Should we be discussing the Lord with them?" he asked.

She looked around. "Maybe you can talk with the ones who aren't throwing books, Caleb. I'm not sure how long they'll be around, though."

"There are four or five of us who would like to speak with them, and see if we can get them on a more righteous path before they leave," replied Caleb.

"Are these all experienced readers?" asked Miriam.

"Yes, all of them."

"Go ahead and talk to them. I'm not sure they'll be interested in listening, but even if you soften a few, their future might be brighter."

"And the women and children?"

"You can talk with them too. I'm worried, though. This group seems like they might turn on anyone who disagrees with them."

"Are we seeking converts?"

"I haven't heard from the city yet whether they're willing to keep any of them around. It's been a long time since they did. For now, why don't you talk with the raiders and see if you can figure out what exactly it is they think. Then we can discuss whether it's safe to try to improve them."

"Thank you, Miriam."

"Don't push too far until I can talk about this with the elders," she replied. "And - have they noticed?"

"No, we haven't let them count their number," said Caleb.

"Good," said Miriam. "Make sure no one tells any of them for now."


In the downstairs hospital, Martha was preparing to bring another of her patients out of anesthesia. Matthew watched as she adjusted his medicine delivery, and about half an hour later John began to murmur.

"Rachel..." he said, again and again.

"Rachel isn't here," said Matthew, rising from his chair to greet John. "She's upstairs."

John didn't respond, and Matthew sat down again.

A few minutes later John started again, calling Rachel's name.

"John," said Matthew, looking over his bed. "John."

John shook his head a few times and opened his eyes. "Where is Rachel?" he asked.

"She's upstairs," said Matthew. "She's safe for now."

John smiled. "And the gate?" he asked. "The raiders?"

"The gate opened," said Matthew. "The farmers are safe. We captured the raiders."

John's smile grew, and then his face went blank as he noticed his visitor's purple outfit. "You're not a doctor," he said. Who are you?"

Posted by simon at September 18, 2005 08:52 PM
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