Click to set custom HTML
Works in Progress
Book One of Four
I've been working on this book off and on for a long time and it's still definitely a work in progress. It's the first of four books. This is the Prologue and Chapter 1 of the first book. I have about 21,000 words written for this book, plus about 10,000 more to include in the other three books.
The wind swept over the jagged edges of the snow capped mountain and across the valley. I braced myself against the frigid gusts. Spring was past, the grass was only just fading into the mass of dry golden blades of summer, yet the wind was as cold as any blustery winter day as it swept off the glacier.
I smelled the underlying scents of the ancient lands, flexing and swaying under the dying sun, red in the fading sky. I realized I was waiting for the moon to rise. Dark descended, but the land was not quiet. It came alive as dusk encroached on the day, the sky darkening.
The individual scents of the awakening animals flared into awareness, my nose twitching with each new smell. The scurrying of tiny creatures about their business, the soft hoot of the old owl, all of my senses were heightened as the sky glowed with the moonrise.
Somewhere, not too far away, I smelled the hot scent of asphalt, exhaust fumes, the occasional rumble of a truck.
More than scent, more than sounds, more than the growing knowledge that this was not just a dream…
The moon rose above the sparkling glacier, rose over the black mountain [sleeping, she is only sleeping, she will wake soon], sharp against a starry sky, cold black on a velvet black, and the voice rose in my throat like bubbles rising from the bottom of an algae covered pond, unknown, unseen, unheard until they burst at the surface.
It seemed natural when the icy wind touched, caressed my throat and the howl burst from my upturned muzzle.
Sweating, I sat straight up in bed. For a few seconds everything was hazy, as distant as the mountain in my dream. I snapped the rest of the way into awareness and realized I was still in my little RV, still parked at the rest area off of Interstate 5.
I wrinkled my nose.
“Dang, it still smells like dog in here.”
Both of the rat terriers stuck their noses out of the covers and looked at me, whimpering softly in the dark.
“Do you two need another bath?” I grumbled, “I swear, you stink worse than the wolf pen at the zoo.”
Both sets of ears perked up. Sugar yipped and Spice jumped up, wagging his little stump of a tail.
“Oh jeez”, I groaned. “You want out again?”
Both dogs squirmed out of the covers and started dancing on my chest.
“Just a minute, just a minute.” I pulled a leather jacket on over my jammies and scrabbled around for a moment looking for my boots and the leashes. Both dogs were running back and forth, jumping from the bunk to the door to the front seat and back again, barking in excitement.
“Shhhh” I growled in frustration and suddenly both dogs cowered. Puzzled, I looked down at them. “Come on you little turds…” Sugar rolled onto her back, eyes rolling. I reached down and picked up the little dog by her harness and rubbed her tummy. “Come on, come on, you’re a good little mutt,” I soothed them both as I reached across the floor for my moccasins.
By the time I managed to slip them on, both little dogs were dancing in excitement again.
“Shhhh, shhhh” I hissed as we stepped out between the big rigs parked on either side of my little RV. The rumble of generators blocked the freeway noise but the smell of diesel made me wrinkle my nose again.
We made it past the rigs and to the grass before the dogs started barking again.
I didn’t try to quiet them; the truck drivers wouldn’t be able to hear them over the idling motors anyway. I shouldn’t have parked among the trucks, but all the smaller spaces were full when I’d pulled in at dusk and I was too tired to drive any farther.
Now though, the brisk wind was whipping past me, cutting through my pajama bottoms. Like my dream, the glacier on Shasta was gleaming pale under the full moon and bright stars. I shivered, pondering again the dreams. This wasn’t the first dream I’d had, they’d been coming since I was a child and now they were more and more frequent, more and more real each time.
A tug at the leashes brought me back to the present. Sugar was trying to lead us back to the RV while Spice wanted to find one more leaf to pee on. They were both shivering, so I made kissy noises at them. “Come on you two, come on. Back to bed now.”
It was as quiet as any rest area ever is, considering the freeway noise and generators idling, so when the stench of cigarette puffed out from behind the trailer, I was caught by surprise. Stupidly, I wasn’t expecting trouble here; I didn’t even have the .25 in my pocket.
Again I caught the scent of stale cigarette and the man stepped out in front of me. Phaw, he stank worse than the dogs. He stood in front of me, obviously waiting for me to step around him.
I stopped. If this was a waiting game, I’d wait as long as I needed. Patience is more than just a virtue, it’s a necessity to a hunter. I have just enough patience to make Great grandfather frown and tell me (again) that I need to learn to watch and wait before jumping into a situation. He taught me that lesson again and again until I finally got a clue.
So I waited, if not patiently, at least silently.
The stranger glowered at me.
I stood calmly, waiting to see what he was going to do next. The terriers were at my feet, quiet, which was completely unlike them, they would normally be acting like little fools, barking and snapping and straining at the end of the short leashes.
I dared to glance down at them, they were both pressed against my legs, one on each side, and shivering. Sugar whined quietly, looking at him intently.
When I looked up, he was sliding out of sight. A waft of corruption, of rotten meat came on the breeze. He was moving downwind, so I couldn’t track him by his stench. Hackles up, I carefully stepped forward, light on my feet, watching to see if he was circling behind or if he was waiting on the other side of the rig. All my senses were screaming trap, trap, trap, as I stepped carefully past the corner of the trailer, past the huge wheels. Both little dogs were lifting their noses, sniffing the air. Sugar’s head whipped around and she growled.
It was barely enough warning, I braced myself as a huge arm wrapped around my neck and hot breath warmed my ear. The stench of rotten meat made me gasp as his arm tightened. It didn’t feel like an arm, it felt like the coils of a snake, scales rubbing my neck. He lifted me off my feet, pulling me up and back against him. My heart was pumping harder, faster as he tightened around my neck and the world started to go gray and fuzzy.
But I’m a lot stronger than I look.
Reaching up, I pulled his arm away from my neck. Gasping, I managed to get my other hand to my open jacket. Grasping the blue-green sunstone that hung on the silver chain between my breasts, I breathed deeply, again and again, and felt heat of the stone and its strength filling me.
I growled and the arm loosened, startled, as I steadily started pulling away. Leaning forward, I got my feet back on the ground, lowered my head and growled again, instinctively, pulling harder. Sugar and Spice whimpered as my strength grew and the world sharpened into focus. Still holding my sunstone, I grasped the arm trying to hold onto me, pulling it down and out. Letting the sunstone swing free, I got both hands on his arm as he scrabbled on the asphalt.
It was only a few seconds but it seemed like hours as he flipped up and over me, crashing to the ground.
A truck door slammed open and a shout, “Hey, hey, hey, what are you doing to her?”
There was no time to look as he scrambled up and dived behind the trailer. The adrenaline was throbbing through me as I took another deep breath and gathered the leashes up.
A lilting tenor voice behind me, “Damn girl, what did you do to that fool?”
I breathed again, deeply, and tucked the sunstone back under my shirt before I turned. “My parents made sure I knew martial arts, they were always nervous about me being so small.” I smiled, careful to keep my face from showing anything other than the flush of adrenaline.
“Whew, I just happened to hear your little dog bark and looked out in time to see him grab you.” He barked a laugh, his soft lilting brogue growing as he spoke, “Lassie, I thought he had you until you got your feet on the ground and threw him right over. Ayyyy, it was like being back in the old country, it was…”
I looked again at his burly figure, his broad open face, the sandy-red hair shot with gray.
“Are you from Wales?” I asked.
“Aye, yeah, when I get wrought up me vowels give me away, don’t they?” He looked at me, looked away from my eyes. “Ayyyy, lassie, there’s some of the old country in you too, I can see it in your eyes.”
He hesitated, decided, and stuck his hand out, “Sullivan, Marty Sullivan. I drive that Kelly green Peterbilt over there, the one with the double sleeper and the Celtic cross on the door.”
I took his hand carefully, but he didn’t react when I touched him, so I knew he wasn’t of the Fae. So I shook his hand firmly, his large hand enveloping my smaller fingers.
Then he did surprise me.
“Ayyy, child, ye have the old country in you, but I feel the Great Spirit in you too.” He leaned a little closer and looked about, then said in a lower tone, “Be careful little woman, there’s much ado in the world these days and only the Good Lord Himself can say where it will lead.”
He saw the surprise on my face; I didn’t recover quickly enough to hide it. So I smiled instead, “Thank you my brother, I didn’t realize you were aware of the Little People.”
He looked around again, “Not just the Little People. I didn’t get me granny’s far sight, but she left me enough to know when the moon rises and the Great Powers walk, that I shouldn’t be out in the night air. And lassie, neither should you, so I’ll wish you a good night and watch to be sure you get into your RV without any harm.”
He knelt quickly and patted Sugar and Spice. Strange, strange, they don’t take to strangers; normally they’d be barking and snapping at his fingers. Instead, they’re licking his hand and wagging their little tails like he was a long lost friend.
I shook his hand once again, smiling. There’s no sense of Fae about him, yet he knows that there’s more to me than it looks. I’ll have to ask Granddad who he is.
Tugging the leashes, I walked quickly to the RV.
I looked back as I unlocked and opened the door. Marty was still standing there, watching and my vision doubled for a second as he raised a hand, the flicker of moonlight on the long steel blade in his hand, he was taller, slimmer, younger, with long red hair bound in a green band, wrapped in a grey mist, and my vision flicked back to normal. There was only a stocky red-headed man waving farewell.
I raised a hand in return and wondered what he saw as I stepped inside and locked the door.
“Damn” I muttered, “It really, really stinks like dog in here.”
Both terriers jumped up into bed, burrowing under the covers, Sugar sticking just her nose and bright eyes out, on guard, watching me as I stripped out of my clothes.
I double-checked the locks before I stepped into the tiny shower. The hot water was good; I scrubbed the sweat off and felt myself calming down as the stink of stale cigarettes and corruption and dirty dog washed down the drain. I was quick, I’d just dumped the tank the day before, and I didn’t want to dump it again – at least not until daylight.
As I toweled my hair dry, I looked at myself in the foggy mirror.
Blue-green eyes, ringed in dark blue and flecked with gold, looked back, framed by dark eyelashes and brows two shades darker than my glossy, almost black, auburn hair. I’m petite like my mother. I also have her Celtic temper and when I’m angry my eyes go yellow with rage.
I have my Dad’s skin, soft, smooth, dark olive, not quite as fair as my Cherokee cousins’ and with a warmer undertone.
I’m not especially pretty, Mother’s eyes and auburn hair married with Dad’s Black Indian heritage, plus a short nose and full lips makes me more exotic than beautiful.
And like all of my Brothers and Sisters of Color in America, I have pretty much heard it all, from the most vile racist garbage to the oh-so-condescending liberals who are sure they know just how to help me conform to the greater society – whether I like it or not. Yet, even though I’m not “good enough” to be treated equally, I’m sure good enough for them to try to get next to.
I often wondered, as I deflected yet another unwanted pass, What would he think if he knew I wasn’t human? Would he try anyway or would he shy away, frightened in finding that the old fairy tales are more than true, that the Fae and more than the Fae, that the People still walk this earth?
Ah, I thought, Stop yourself now, this is an old battle, you don’t need to fight it tonight.
Tonight, now tonight was more than strange. I felt again the stranger’s skin against my neck. It was like the skin of a snake, cool and scaly, not at all like his outward appearance of a man. And when he disappeared around the truck, did he actually walk or was it more like a slither, like a snake?
And Marty. I must ask Granddad about Marty. He isn’t what he appears to be. The Sight revealed him as someone older and younger, ancient in the old country’s ways. I could see it, even though I couldn’t feel it when he touched my hand.
He felt familiar; though I was sure I’d never met him before.
I started this book a long time ago, but then I started the books above and set it aside -- for now. It's very much a first draft of a sci-fi world disaster with a Christian focus. I have about 10,000 words written, including the ending.
The sun was rising, the first edge of the morning light tinting the sky blue and pink over the white tipped mountains, as she sipped the first steaming cup of the day. Hawaiian Hazelnut with French Vanilla creamer. At least, she thought, she’d been able to cut back on sugar after she’d moved north and bought the property.
Where would she be today, if she hadn’t won the lottery? Raquel mused. It really wasn’t one of the huge jackpots, it was just enough to buy and build her little bit of paradise. If she hadn’t bought the ticket that morning on a sudden impulse, she’d probably still be shuffling papers down in Cali, suffering at that government job. Lord, she hated that job.
She smiled, watching the tiny hummingbirds working their way from flower to flower across the greenhouse. They started just as light peeked over the horizon, red or green throats flashing as their tiny wings blurred in flight, flitting back and forth, from flower to nest and back again. She didn’t know how they’d found their way in, but the buzz of tiny wings and the busy territorial chirping that accompanied their antics made every morning a joy. She’d found a nest this past spring, up in the rafters where the cats and terriers couldn’t reach the babies. That little one sitting at the feeder, all fluffed up and refusing to move, even when the bigger male tried to dive bomb her, she was one of the three that had hatched out of that nest.
Raquel sipped again at the steaming coffee, smiling as she looked across the green valley. The sun was just showing over the mountains now and she could see the white tents, pink and orange in the early morning light, across the meadow below. The olive trees and grapevines formed neat rows beyond the tents, almost to the river winding slowly through the madrones, pines and cedars. The farmlands were across the river, filled with tomatoes, corn, oats, sugar beets, carrots, turnips, pumpkins and more. Orchards lay on the far side of the valley, rising up the hillsides until it was too steep and rocky for the apple, cherry and peach trees. From that point up, they grew coffee and tea. Perhaps it wasn’t the same as Colombian, but it was the best they could get now, since Colombia had closed its borders. Local coffee was a prized commodity now, the family used it to barter for good and services in the local towns.
There were cottages under those trees, where the workers lived with their families. Yet another instance where the locals had questioned her sanity, when they realized that snug little cottages were tucked into the upper slopes of the orchards. When they’d found out that the farms were going to be all organic, they’d had fits, sure that the pests would take over and then move to the next valley. Even Dad had doubted her plans, but once he saw that the natural methods were viable, he was her biggest defender in town.
She’d built this all, it was all her dream.
A passive solar home, standing three stories tall with a tower at one end and a greenhouse on the other, facing southwest to catch the winter’s rays. During the hot summers the greenhouse was partially shaded by the deep overhang of the roof and the mighty oak trees. She’d been pretty much a jerk about keeping those trees. The contractors had started to doze them, but Dad had caught them in time. He knew she’d have kittens with spots if they’d cut those trees down. The house had been designed around them and she’d counted on them for shade during the long hot summers.
She’d built the house snugly back into the rock face of the old mountain, literally dynamiting it into the solid granite. The first floor held the water tanks, batteries, storerooms, all the necessary mechanics to run the house and grounds. Four small bedrooms, a living room, a media room, a huge library, a couple of bathrooms, and a big country kitchen formed the second floor. The driveway curved up, past the rock wall to a landing by the kitchen, making a convenient place to stop and drop off supplies.
Her bedroom was above the sunken living room, with French doors and a wide balcony where she could sit and look out over the inside of the greenhouse. They’d thought she was crazy when she planted tangerine, lemon and avocado trees inside. But in the greenhouse they’d thrived and she could reach out from the balcony and pick an avocado right off the tree. The avocados were ripening; soon they’d have more than enough to send to the farmers market in town.
She smiled again, reflecting on how she’d been Blessed.
The county building inspector had fits about her plans, but she’d persisted and with enough money and a good geologist and structural engineer in the family, she’d gotten her way. It was truly a Blessing, because when they’d blasted out the deepest part of the cave, the natural spring burst out of the rocks. Now it trickled through the channel they’d built, through the cold room where the meat and vegetables were stored. It was cold enough back there that they shoveled snow into barrels in the winter, rolling them in through the service doors and stacking them along the back wall. With just a bit of power, the small freezer units kept the deepest cave cold enough to make a huge freezer. Nearer the front of the long winding cave, in the next natural room, shelves and bins held potatoes, carrots, and fruits. They kept staples like flour, sugar and rice in plastic barrels. A heavy insulated door separated the cold rooms from the kitchen. She didn’t worry much about pests, they’d been careful to fit each of the doors tightly in its frame. Even if a mouse made it into the house, the cats and little terriers handled their business.
She giggled. Of course, Mama Isabella wasn’t too happy about finding a mouse lying on the rug in front of the door. She’d screamed and then said a few choice words in Spanish. Then, when she saw Raquel, she’d crossed herself and muttered “Ayyy, Madre de Dios!” Raquel had pretended she hadn’t heard the eloquent words as she got some tongs and took the remains of the mouse outside.
A bright ruby throated hummingbird flitted past her and perched next to the balcony, where a little waterfall trickled. The hummers like to sit there and drink the fresh spring water. Sometimes they’d buzz right through the water and then perch, just out of reach of the cats, and groom their tiny feathers, chittering at each other, and then zooming away if any mere human got too close.
The ice cold water helped keep the greenhouse cool in the hot summer. Some of that spring water was funneled through the solar tubes lining the front of the greenhouse, then on to the water heater. Some went to the cold water storage tanks, and the rest through the greenhouse and down the mountainside to join the lazy river below.
It also fed the trout pond where she could see a couple of teens fishing. She could see her youngest son’s curly mop top, he was down there showing the teens how to cast out over the water toward the little swirl where the trickle dropped down off the rock into the pond. She’d designed that too, making sure there was enough height for the water to make a waterfall. She and Mom had planted wild iris, pansies, daffodils and native flowers along the stream and around the pond. She’d made sure there was a willow tree and a bench, where she could sit and contemplate. Grandma’s ashes were there, in the little hand-crafted chapel. A little solar powered star mounted at the top of the steeple had just clicked off when the morning light touched it.
Raquel thought about all the times she’d went and visited Grandma. Grandma would’ve loved this place, especially the hummingbirds and the little dogs. Grandma always had a little dog, usually one with plenty of attitude to match her own indomitable soul in a tiny body. Gone ahead ten years now, Raquel wiped a sudden tear. Grandma was still missed here on this earth.
On the other side of the pond, a little mill wheel turned as the water drained down to water the vineyards, olive and fruit trees and the garden.
It still amazed her, how that trickle had changed all their plans.
She’d built a wonderland not just for her family, but also for her church family. As the country had rebuilt, the youth needed a place to go, away from the day to day grind of survival. The youth came every summer for their retreat – so many had come here as wild sinners and went home as newborn Christians.
She smiled and sipped again. The teens were stirring among the tents. She could hear singing as the music started.
They were playing her daughter’s new song. It wasn’t really released on the Net, but that was one of the privileges of being mom to a gospel star. They’d built a studio above the old barn and when things had become too frantic in Los Angeles, after the world had slid into the last Great Depression, they’d retreated to the peace and quiet of the countryside. Their best songs were recorded here. The manager kept muttering something about the serenity of this place, but Raquel knew that it was a God thing. This was a place dedicated to Him and His Blessings.
Money had done that for us, she thought. I was blessed with more money than I’d ever imagined, just in the nick of time before money became meaningless, and with the help of many, we’ve built a special place for our youth to come and grow.
Tomorrow was July 1st and the buses would be coming to take the teens home. Most of her family would be arriving tonight for the family reunion on the 4th. All of her kids were already here, the first time since that first summer, when they’d bought the land and camped here.
She smiled again, a wry smile. The poison oak hadn’t done her any good that summer. She didn’t know how much one person could itch. Of course, it would’ve helped if she hadn’t been chasing Brandy, Grandma’s old fox terrier, trying to keep him away from the river, and fallen into a huge patch.
That was one of the first things she and Dad had done. Together they’d marked the trees they were going to keep, and then he’d worked his way across the scrub and brush, dozing out as much as he could. Then, while he was recovering from his own case of poison oak, they’d hired a crew to come in and remove every leaf, twig and sprout of poison oak. The crew came back every spring to clean out new patches.
The stuff is indestructible, she thought.
A beep behind her interrupted her musing. “Duty calls,” she sighed, and turned away from the balcony, into the alcove that held the computer.
That was the one thing that she and Rick had argued about. He knew how addicted she was to her computer, but she knew that if it was upstairs, she’d be able to work a write even when the rest of the house was busy. Even her library wasn’t a refuge when the family came to visit. Of course, since she’d been collecting vintage chairs, lamps and tables long before she’d been Blessed, there was plenty of room for the family to overflow into the normally quiet room.
She sat at the keyboard.
Ugh. Another message from the editor.
He was having some problems with the new young writers that she was publishing next spring. He’s a nice man, she thought, but he doesn’t understand that if we don’t speak to the youth in their own language, we’re not going to be able to reach them. These new writers were overflowing with talent, but their work was still pretty raw. The last hard years of the Depression had hardened so many, especially after the collapse of the government.
She and her family had made it out before the collapse and the food riots. In the shambles of the city, many had fled out to the desert or north into the mountains. Too many hadn’t survived the first cold winter and hot summer, before the churches and local governments had reorganized into districts and started rebuilding their world. The United States still existed, but today it was a loose band of many cities and states. Califa was probably the largest. It was agriculture and technology that had revived their economy and the many small towns that had organized into the new Counties of Califa.
She pondered for a few more minutes on the current economic and political problems of lower Califa.
Then she drew herself back to her current troubles with her editor and nodded.
Yes, that was the right word to describe the writers, “raw”, as she typed back to him. “Dude, it’ll be ok. Just let them write and I’ll review and do the first edit. We’ll get them on the train, get them out of the city for a few days while I go over the files with them. They won’t fuss with me as much about changes. I’ll see if we can send the busses to pick you all up at the train station, say early August?, we’ll plan on spending a week going over their manuscripts, OK??”
As she hit send, she heard the shower start.
So many new things this past year. After all these years, she and Rick had finally gotten married. It was a huge change for her. She’d forgotten how important it was to be with someone who loves you as much as you love him. She’d despaired of him ever figuring out that she’d been waiting for him, had in fact given up. But after she’d left Califa, one day he just arrived on her doorstep, kissed her, and they hadn’t looked back at the years they’d wasted. It had been a huge surprise to the people back in his little home town, no one had realized the love they’d shared for so many years.
He had a busy day planned. He’d been a coach for so long, and before that, a professional football player, he didn’t know how to stop.
So he didn’t.
He looked forward to the retreats, setting up games and sports, organizing trips and tours of their orchards and farms, and teaching the young people about the Lord and His Blessings.
She went to the coffeepot and poured him a cup. Now that was something they’d agreed on, a small sink, coffeepot, microwave and fridge next to her office. Coffee in the morning was like a breath of fresh air to both of them.
“Good morning” he smiled as he took the coffee from her. “Working already?”
“Yes, editor problems again.” She sighed.
“He just doesn’t get the new styles that the kids are coming up with. He’s still stuck in 2008, when the United States elected Obama.”
Rick laughed, his smile flashing white across his dark face. “Oh, how the world has changed!”
“Yes, it has” and they shared that secret smile of lovers lost and found again.
“Well, then, let’s get this day going!”
They kissed again, then again, until Raquel was breathless. Rick smiled and took the stairs, two at a time, bounding down toward the kitchen.
Out in the meadow, she heard Pastor start the morning devotions. She followed Rick down the stairs. The Lord doesn’t wait; she thought happily, I’d better hurry.
The last note of the music had died away and the teens had stumbled off to bed. The service had been awesome, the Spirit had moved mightily among the teens. Many new Christians were born on this night, thought Raquel. Rick was already showering, but Raquel had to wait just a little longer for bed. Her cousin was almost here, she’d told Joe to just pull up next to the kitchen door. He could move the RV in the morning, for tonight he’d just park and plug in.
Raquel knew they’d be here in just a half hour, so she’d sent everyone else off to bed. The house was full, and yet so quiet. She still felt the sweet song of the Spirit moving as she sipped hot chocolate and waited.
She could see headlights coming down the river road, winding along like a silver ribbon of light. It would be just a few minutes more and everyone would be in bed asleep. It was just past midnight; morning was going to come early.
The chug of the diesel engine stopped outside.
Wearily, Raquel stood and opened the door. The smell of hot oil wafted toward her. Fortunately the gas crisis of the early twenty-first century had motivated her family to switch to WVO. It had been very handy during the last few years, when gas and diesel stations were few and far between. Being able to switch from diesel to WVO had allowed her family to travel even when the military had taken over the major fuel supplies.
Joe slid out of the driver’s seat and hugged her. “Whew” he said. “I am so, so tired.”
“Me too” she replied, “Are the kids asleep in the back?”
“Yes, I just have to unbuckle them and lay them down.”
Raquel followed him into the RV. The quiet innocent faces of his three kids, so silent in sleep, made her smile. These energy packed kids would keep them all running for the next few days.
“Mommy?” whispered the oldest as Raquel unfastened his seat belt and lowered the gaucho into a bed.
“No, sweetie pie, it’s Auntie Raquel” she whispered, “Mommy’s with Jesus, so I’ll give you hugs and kisses tonight.”
She looked up and saw Joe’s face.
Sadly, Raquel remembered that he’d been sorely shaken in his faith when he’d lost Jennifer in the big quake last year. She’d shielded the children with her body and cried out to Jesus to save her babies.
When they’d dug her out, she had the most peaceful look on her face, but the children under her were alive.
“Shhhh, shhhh, Joe, can we can talk tomorrow?”
Joe hugged her. “Yes, tomorrow. We have a lot to talk about. But go to bed now, you look exhausted.”
Raquel stepped wearily out of the RV, she was so, so tired. “I’m not getting any younger, Lord. Please give me strength to make it to bed and bless me with a good sleep tonight…”
Raquel stumbled, then stumbled again. Sharp, the warning came, “DUCK!!”
Raquel ducked as the world twisted and shattered under her. The quake rocked the valley. She could hear screams down below as the earth rumbled beneath her. Pebbles were shaking of the wall of the house and dust filled the air.
A huge orange explosion lit the entire eastern sky, behind the mountains, just as the earth rocked again. Raquel covered her face, cowering back against the wall. She blinked, blinked again through watery eyes until the afterimage began to fade.
She hadn’t moved yet, the warning was still strong, her heart beating faster and faster.
The ground under her began to move again, a rumble filled the air. The sky was still glowing as the house shifted, shifted again, then rolled with the earthquake.
“Oh sweet Jesus,” she thought, “not now, not today, Lord protect us all…”
Still the warning of the Spirit was vibrating in her, she held still, watching, waiting, whispering her prayer of Protection as the quake shifted right, left, right, up and down, back an forth, rolling strong and hard.
She felt, rather than heard the winds coming. Cowering under the roof overhang, she clung to the wall as a wind came through the valley, a wind like she’d never seen before.
It wasn’t a tornado, it was sweeping toward her with dust and dirt and branches and leaves and she was sure she could see rocks flying like hockey pucks toward her, but it was coming straight, like the blast from an atomic bomb. She scrambled and ducked into the kitchen door, not sure she’d make it in time and slammed it just ahead of the first wave of air.
Yes, a wave, that’s what it was, a tidal wave of air, she had just enough time to think before the sound of the blast hit the valley.
She couldn’t hear anything, she was flat on the floor just inside the door when Rick came flying down the stairs, saw her, and threw his body over hers. The ground was still moving and the steel door itself was shaking with both the earth’s rolling and the waves of wind blasting against it.
She thought it was never going to end. But finally, she heard Rick’s voice over the booming, over the crashing of pots and pans swaying and falling to the slate floor, praying the prayer of protection over her, over the family, over the teens, over the valley. He kept repeating the Promise the prophet had given him, the day before he left Califa and came to find her.
Finally, she was able to repeat the words with him.
The rocking motions slowed, she didn’t know if it was the earth or her body trembling.
“Thank God, you’re alive,” he held her close. “I saw you on the floor and I didn’t know…” She wiped the tear from his cheek, then wiped her own tears with the back of her hand.
“I’m ok, I’m ok” she whispered.
He held her close, kissing her again and again in relief.
“Sweetie” he said, “I don’t want to leave you here, but I have to check the kids, the family. Will you be ok?”
“Yes” Raquel whispered, voice shaking, then resolutely, “Yes, I’m ok.”
An aftershock hit and the earth rolled again, but it wasn’t as strong as the main shock. Rick scrambled up, holding the door frame to keep his balance.
“Oh, Lord, Joe and the kids are in the RV right outside the door” Raquel gasped.
Rick carefully tried the door. She couldn’t hear the wind, so she nodded when he looked at her. He opened the door slowly.
The RV was still upright, but it was pressed firmly against the rock wall that formed the outside wall of the kitchen. She could hear the children screaming, terrified, inside.
Rick ran to the passenger side of the RV. The door was locked, but then she saw little Faith peering out of the back of the old RV.
“Sweetie, sweetie, it’s Auntie Raquel, open the door for Uncle Rick, sweetie.” Faith looked at her, and finally crawled over the seat and unlocked the door. She fell into Rick’s arms, huge tears sliding down her little cheeks.
“I’m scared” she said.
“Me too” said Raquel as took Faith from Rick and carried her into the kitchen, “But God told me to be brave. Can you be brave just for a minute too?”
Faith’s cherubic little face looked up and Raquel as she sniffled. Then Mom came running into the kitchen. She stopped, then briskly gathered Faith up. “I’ve got her, go get the other kids.”
“I’ve got them,” said Rick behind her. “But Joe is hurt, something fell inside the RV and he’s bleeding. I can’t tell how badly he’s hurt, but there’s blood all over his face and he’s not moving. He’s breathing, but I need the first aid kit.”
Mom gave Faith back to Raquel and grabbed the first aid kit from the kitchen wall. “I’ll be back” she said over her shoulder as she went out the door. “Rick, go check on the kids in the tents, get them into the barn if the barn is still standing. See if Pastor is ok and start triage.”
Rick ducked out the door and ran down the road toward the meadow. Raquel realized that she could hear a girl screaming down in the valley.
Three little children, 5, 4 and 3, dark eyes somber, looked up at Raquel.
“Shhh, shhh, it’s going to be ok” she hushed them, grabbing a towel from the cabinet to wipe their little faces.
Little Joey looked at her soberly, “Is Daddy going to be ok? Is he going to go live with Jesus and Mommy?”
Raquel stopped wiping his face and hugged him again. “I hope God has more work for him to do here, I’m not ready for him to go home yet.”
“I’m not ready either” Joey said, his brown eyes forcing her to reassure him again. She tousled his curly hair. Joe was the only father he’d ever known, and Joe had taken him as his own child, claiming Joey as his son when he and Jennifer had married five years ago, just before Joey’s birth. Little Joey carried Joe’s name, his own namesake.
Raquel hugged Joey again. She missed Jennifer so much. Jennifer was so strong in her faith, even after she’d been assaulted by Joey’s birth father and during the trial, when she’d found out she was pregnant.
That was where Joe had met her, in the chapel just outside the courthouse. Raquel remembered how she’d described Joe, the first time she’d seen him, tall, blonde, handsome in his Sheriff’s uniform. And she remembered how Joe had come to the house, telling her about this beautiful Sister that he’d met in the chapel, how they had prayed together for strength and serenity and justice for her and her unborn child.
Joe and Jennifer had only had a couple of years together before she’d went Home.
It had been long enough for her family to learn to accept this tall, blonde haired, blue eyed man in their midst. A man that in some ways, looked so much like the Atheist Brotherhood gangster that had hurt their darling daughter, and yet so different.
The Spirit showed in his eyes, his voice, his words, his actions.
Like and yet unlike, in all the most important ways, Jennifer had loved him so much and he loved her with all his heart.
Raquel hugged the little ones again as Mom and Joe came in the kitchen door. Joe was holding a towel to his head, but he was walking on his own.
“Oh praise God,” he whispered when he saw the children.
Raquel looked at him and saw the Spirit in his eyes. He saw the question on her face.
“The Spirit spoke to me, just as the first shock hit,” he faltered, “I had just enough time to throw myself over the kids…”
Raquel nodded, overcome with joy and sadness.
“Just like Jennifer…”
“Yes,” he repeated, “just like Jennifer…”