October 11, 2005

Chapter 32

Gideon and Sarah stood on one side of Rachel's bed while John sat on the other, holding Rachel's hand and trying to soothe her as she shuddered.

"There, there," John said. "We're all here with you, Rachel - Gideon, Sarah, and John."

Rachel kept shaking even as John tried to calm here, smoothing her hair in a vain attempt to calm her.

She started to rise from the bed, and her eyes opened for the first time in days.

"Rachel, Rachel," said John, and Gideon leaned in toward his mother.

"John?" asked Rachel. "John? What's happened to you?"

"It's hard to explain," said John, stroking her hair again. "I was in the hospital for a while too."

Rachel blinked slowly, and leaned back into the bed.

"What kind of hospital?" she asked.

"The city hospital," said John. "I had to bring a warning - the gates were closed."

Gideon and Sarah were nodding vigorously, but Rachel's eyes were on John.

"The city hospital?" she asked again.

John nodded, his eyes full of tears.

Martha rushed into the room, Abner right behind. Rachel closed her eyes again as John rubbed her hand, repeating her name over and over.

"She's not -" started Gideon.

Martha looked over the readouts of the intensive care unit. Rachel seemed to have been doing better, briefly, but her blood pressure and pulse were falling rapidly. She pushed buttons ordering the machine to make a last effort to revive Rachel, ordering everyone away from the bed.

A few minutes later it was over. "I'm sorry," said Martha.

John sat weeping in the corner, as Gideon and Sarah tried to console him.


"Have you seen Isaac?" asked Caleb.

"Not in a while. I think he was over by the library."

Caleb walked over to the library and wandered through the books, finally finding Isaac in a corner, reading old history next to a globe.


Isaac looked up. "Caleb? Do you need something?"

"Just you," replied Caleb. "The elders want to see all the readers who've talked with the prisoners in twenty minutes. Everyone else was in the barn, but I couldn't find -"

"Sorry," said Isaac. "I was reading, trying to figure out, well, how the raiders got where they are."

"It sounds like a sad story, to me, Isaac. Centuries of mourning and then waking up one day thinking they needed to conquer."

Caleb shook his head; Isaac nodded. He closed his books and pushed them against a wall, leaving a neat stack for future reading.


"While we find it clear that the raiders are wrong about many things, including what this means, they are unfortunately correct that Jerusalem has been destroyed," said Leah.

Caleb, Isaac, Miriam, and the readers all shook their heads.

Leah continued. "We know this is something of a shock, as we have read about Jerusalem since our childhoods, and I don't think most of us have contemplated whether this Jerusalem we knew could still exist out in this devastated world. It's always been far away but real."

"It still is real," said Daniel. "We carry Jerusalem with us, every time we think of these stories or tell them. What happened there happened, and even the loss of the city doesn't change that."

"Is there anything left there?" asked Isaac.

The elders looked down. Leah spoke up. "No, most likely there isn't. The city showed us pictures. There is still, however, the Jerusalem in our hearts."

"How should we handle telling both our own community members and the raiders?" asked Miriam.

"This shouldn't be a secret," said Daniel. "We know this news will disturb all of us who hear it, but it's better shared than hidden away. Tell your families and friends, and we'll have a meeting later tonight to pray over the loss. We'll tell those who have already returned to their farms as soon as we can, though I'd rather not put this out over the radio."

"As for the raiders," said Judith, "they already know this. What the city showed us confirms their story all too well. There is nothing to be gained by hiding this from them, and if anything we hope it will help you deal with the snares we've heard them set for some of you."

"For now," said Daniel, "enjoy your dinner and the company of your fellows, and remember that we are still bonded by Christ, who has not left us and will not leave us."

Everyone except the elders got up to leave.

"Miriam?" asked Judith. "Could you stay for a moment?"

Miriam shuddered involuntarily, but stayed.

When the room had cleared, the elders were silent for a few minutes, and then Judith spoke.

"This Zipporah, can you talk more with her? Find out her situation and what she can tell us about the raiders?"

Relieved, Miriam almost broke down, but stammered a reply. "Yes, I definitely can talk with her."

"We're concerned she is in danger from her fellow raiders," said Daniel. "What we know of her story is not encouraging. We could ask the city to allow her to stay, but right now they'd prefer all of the raiders to go."

"I'll ask," said Miriam. "I don't know how much her father's death changes things."

"That does need to stay a secret from the rest of the raiders until they're ready to leave," said Daniel. "The city's already asked us to mix people up on the two transports, so the raiders can't notice he's gone until after they've been safely deported."

"That shouldn't be a problem," said Miriam, "though hopefully that transport will be soon. The barn wasn't really built for this."

Daniel shook his head. "We know. None of us were."

The elders returned to their silence, and Miriam prepared to go. As she opened the door to leave, she turned back to them, asking "Jacob?"

"We are not decided about Jacob," replied Leah after a long pause.

Miriam left quietly.

Posted by simon at October 11, 2005 09:31 PM
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