December 15, 2005

Chapter 35

Caleb knocked on the door and looked in.

"It's time."

Miriam nodded, and Jacob started to get up. Caleb stepped back out into the hall to wait for them, closing the door.

Jacob put on his coat, and straightened himself, taking a deep breath.

"Are you ready?" asked Miriam.

"I've been ready," replied Jacob.

Miriam opened the door and they walked down the hallway with Caleb to the conference room where the elders were meeting. Caleb knocked twice, paused for a moment, then opened the door. Jacob and Miriam walked in, and Caleb closed the door behind them.

"Jacob, Miriam, sit down with us," said Daniel.

They sat, and the group was silent for a few minutes.

Leah stood slowly, "Jacob," she began, "we have decided to let you stay."

Jacob's shoulders dropped in relief, and Miriam smiled.

"However," she continued, "we can no longer keep you in the leadership position where you have served us all well. From this point forward we expect Miriam and Isaac to perform your tasks."

Miriam looked down at the floor.

"We do have a number of things for you to do, however. First, and most importantly, you need to heal, both body and soul. After we have seen progress in your healing we will talk again about your future."

Leah sat down again, and there were another few minutes of silence, interrupted by another knock on the door.

"Jacob, you should return to your room," said Daniel. "Miriam, you should stay here for a while longer."

Jacob stood, and walked haltingly to the door, which opened as he arrived. Caleb smiled at him and let him out. After Jacob left, Isaac walked in, and Caleb closed the door again.

Isaac sat down next to Miriam, and the room was quiet for a few minutes before Daniel stood and spoke.

"We need the two of you to act as our arms in this community, to lead in times of crisis and to manage the conflicts which inevitably arise."

Isaac looked startled, while Miriam kept her eyes closed, rocking back and forth gently.

"We are all very sad that Jacob cannot continue in his position," said Daniel, "and your own concerns for Jacob's well-being are part of what earned you the hard tasks he has performed in the past. Both of you have worked well with him and we hope learned from him, but it is time for you to make your own way, working with us and the rest of the community."

Judith continued. "Caleb has been running the prison in your absence, Miriam. We would like Caleb to return to his task as a reader, and Isaac to step up to managing the daily needs of the prison. Miriam, we need you to coordinate security with the city and to prepare for the raiders' eventual evacuation."

Isaac and Miriam nodded.

"There is a new complication," said Leah. The city wants to station three times as many guards as they presently have up here. Isaac will need to find them appropriate space, while Miriam coordinates what these people should do to be available in case of emergency. James and Helena said they'd look forward to working with you, Miriam, so I think you're off to a good start already."

Miriam nodded. They all sat silently for a few minutes until Daniel looked up.

"You may go now," he said.


Caleb met them outside the door.

"I understand there's to be a transition," he said, "and we should probably start now."

They started toward the barn, but Miriam stopped them as they were leaving the hospital.

"I need to see Jacob first," she said.

"I can get Isaac started while you talk," said Caleb, "but the city guards will be coming up here soon."


Jacob was drifting into sleep as Miriam came in. She ran to the bed and gave him an enormous hug, while trying not to press on any of his bandages.

"You can stay!" she said.

"Yes, sort of," he replied. "I'm not sure what they'll have me doing, but it sounds like it'll be different. Something where they don't need to trust me much, I suspect."

"They didn't trust me to observe the raiders earlier," said Miriam.

"They trusted you to observe the raiders, Miriam - they just wanted at least one of the two of us to be safe. Their sending Isaac was because of -"

"Isaac seems to have taken your place," said Miriam. "Or maybe I've taken yours and he's taken mine."

Jacob shook his head. "He's all right, Miriam. I know you've always seen his failings, but he's older than we were when we started in on this, and he thinks things through."

"Maybe," said Miriam. "He's now sharing management of the prison with me. I have security, he has day-to-day."

"I'm glad you have security. I've been nervous about using the barn for this many people. I guess it's not my concern any more."

"The elders don't think - well, I still do. I'll need your help."

"Will they like that?"

"I think they probably suspect it anyway."

"Maybe. I'm not sure what I can do to help anyway, being out of the conversation."

"Well, can you keep an eye out around here?"

"When I'm awake, yes - but what's around here?"

"Zipporah, for one."

Jacob shook his head. "Maybe I should just stay asleep. I killed her father, remember?"

Miriam was silent for a moment. "You're right," she said. "That's too much to ask. Although..." She paused.

"Although what?" asked Jacob.

"Do you know her story?" asked Miriam.

"Just what Abner told me. She's here because you had her identify her father's body, and you don't want her telling the rest of them what happened."

"She hated her father, Jacob. He abused her, kicked her out. And her father was the one who'd taken Ruth."

Jacob lay back. "I still don't think I'm the one to do this."

Miriam nodded. "All right, don't push. Just keep an eye on her as you're around."

"Thanks for wanting to keep me around," said Jacob. "You'd better run and help your friend Isaac with all those prisoners, though."


The barn was getting louder each day. The children were getting more comfortable and playing, though the farmers still kept each family in its own cell. The raider women were singing hymns, sometimes in unison, while the raider men took turns reading the Bible aloud.

Miriam trudged through the snow just in time for the meeting. Caleb had gathered the readers and many of the staff into the quietest, emptiest part of the barn, leaving the city guards to watch the cells and make sure no one got out. Helena was there in her red uniform, already sitting down with a notebook.

The group quieted and settled as Miriam approached, though the raiders' noise continued in the background. Isaac pointed Miriam toward a chair at one end, and as she sat, everyone except Helena lowered their head for a moment of silent contemplation.

A few minutes later, Miriam raised her head, and the others followed soon thereafter.

"Let's start with security," she began. "Have there been any new incidents?"

"Only an outbreak of hymns," replied Caleb. "They've gotten louder, but we haven't had any new cases of raiders smashing themselves against walls, and they haven't tried to do anything to us."

"The city is wondering if they're communicating through their readings and singing," said Helena.

There was silence for a few minutes.

"They could be," said Caleb, "but they haven't altered any of the material they're reading. I suppose that particular passages could have a special meaning, but I don't get a sense that they were prepared for anything like this."

"I don't see it either," said Isaac. "They seem consistent with their shouting at the city walls earlier."

"We can monitor it more closely," said Caleb.

"I've heard that the city wants to post additional guards," said Miriam.

"Yes, yes, we do," replied Helena. "Two twelve-hour shifts, with twelve additional guards up here at a time."

"Among the prisoners, or -"

"I was thinking here might work," said Helena. "This is far enough away from the main barn that they won't hear too much from the cells, but close enough that they can respond if needed."

"Respond how?"

"With anesthetic dart guns, most likely."

Miriam paused. "We've never had - well, we've never had an occasion where massive force was necessary. We understand your need for guards at your own place, but this sounds, well, excessive."

"We don't expect to have to use them at all," said Helena. "It's just extra reassurance, since we've had to keep the raiders here longer than expected."

"Do we have a departure date for them yet?"

"It still depends on the weather," said Helena. "We're hoping this storm will break in a couple of days. We're still concerned about wind, not to mention conditions at the drop-off site. We think four days is a reasonable target, though we thought four days yesterday too."

Posted by simon at December 15, 2005 08:38 PM | TrackBack
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