The Door Of Hope: Friday Fictioneers 7-8-16

I haven’t been able to participate here at Friday Fictioneers for a while but I am glad to be back! This is the space hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This is the space where 100 authors (or so) share 100 words (or so)  and 100 stories (or so) all concerning one photo.

Here is this week’s photo:

Here is my story:

The Door Of Hope (100 words)

By Joseph E. Lillie

 

The chain burned her ankle. Niri knew it would leave a scar. 

She ran sending her senses forth. She could feel the door, had felt it since she entered the city with her masters.

Her keen ears could hear the men behind her.

She caught sight of the blue door to the Summer Lands. She was at the threshold. One push and the door gave. She fell in.

Her foot lay outside the door, stuck. The iron could not pass.

“Owen of Noy, help me!” Niri cried.

A crystal blade materialized at her side.

Niri grasped the hilt and sliced.

_____________________________________________

Good news! My debut novel will be coming out sometime this fall. If you are interested in joining my mailing list for updates just fill out the mailchimp popup on this site. Should that not come up e-mail me at pjlillie.1@juno.com and we can work from there.

Friday Fictioneers: Behind the Bamboo Curtain

Here is another posting for Rochelle’s Challenge, FRIDAY FICTIONEERS. This challenge involves writing a 100 word story from a photo prompt provided by Rochelle. You can click the underlined link to read Rochelle’s story and those of her contributors.

The photo prompt  and my story are below:

PHOTO PROMPT - © ceayr

Photo by: ceayr

Behind the Bamboo Curtain

by JE Lillie

My memory is long. As far back as I can remember it has always been me vs. him. Nephew vs. uncle. Reynard vs. Isengrim.

We have amassed and lost fortunes to each other. Throughout history The fox has  outwitted the wolf. The wolf has overpowered the fox. He is stronger. I am smarter.

  I think though, I have finally lost. He has trapped me behind this bamboo curtain. The magic woven in keeps me in human form. To weak to transform I cannot heal from the knife he has thrust in my back. Reynard, the fox, at last is dying.

 For more on Reynard the fox…

 

Shopping Away Forever

“This post is written for the 110 Creative Challenge Contest, hosted by Thewhitescape

The Pharmacopus doffed his cap as Faerie entered the store. Her silver bells jangled in acknowledgement of the welcome.  Faeries were seldom seen shopping in this part of Forever. At the back of the store a  Humbug fluttered its black wings in disgust.

“Pooh.” Faerie said.

The Humbug melted  becoming some child’s nightmare in the Sensed world.

She found what she sought in the deadly toxins aisle. Her silvery hand bent to the bottle marked “Faerie-Graying”.

She paid with her silver bells.

“You know what this does?” Pharmacopus asked.

Faerie nodded, then smiled.

Outside the store she drank the whole bottle. Forever faded away and Somewhere a baby was born.

The Good Shepherd Pt. 10

The Good Shepherd

The Good Shepherd

I am truly sorry I missed last week’s installment everyone. I was away at my son’s graduation in PA and did not have the access to internet or time to write that I had anticipated. Life is wonderful and moving at breakneck speed.

You perhaps need a refresher before you read the next chapter of Jerome’s story today. If so here is the link to The Good Shepherd’s page: http://wp.me/P39vIx-j1

The Good Shepherd Pt. 10

I’ve read over my entries since the God pulse took the light out of our world over nine months ago. I’m surprised at how much of this I tried to walk in my own strength. I’m ashamed that when the cold and dark rose up I tried to shut it out with a blanket and a candle rather than with prayer and the Fire of the Holy Ghost. Yet I see that though I didn’t intentionally invite Him along, God made himself the blanket.  Jesus became the crimson thread that ran  throughout, holding everything together.

He sent Silhouette to my door with the warning of what was to come. He sent Renee to me to make sure I wouldn’t run out on the calling. He sent me to the Bone Brothers even though He knew I would take the credit. He saved Oliver so she could testify for me when I would not testify for myself. He brought down my enemies and only God knows why. I certainly didn’t earn that reprieve because of my incredible spiritual devotion. I suppose that’s why they call it salvation by  grace.

It took me a while to understand that in my own way I was as Laodicean as the rest of the world. I was lukewarm even before the world descended into darkness. All that has happened was really for me and for every other soft skinned saint with a hardened heart. In the twilight of the world and the violence it has sparked the foolish virgins and the wise of Matthew 25 have been shown not by their works but by the inclinations of their hearts. My  good works came not from a heart after God but by an ingrained religiosity that demanded I do the right thing.

I kept right on preaching after Tyson’s death but my word was a razor’s edge that cut the bleeding masses more deeply and refused them the Balm of Gilead. I did the right thing but my wrong motives brought forth sour fruit fit only for the dung heap.

The entire town, it seemed, showed up for service that first Sunday after Tyson’s execution. Instead of preaching a much-needed grace and mercy upon the town I chose to rail about the vindication and judgment of the Lord upon His enemies. I could have forgiven sins and made unity. Instead I retained the sins of a dead man and fed my congregation a diet of paranoia. It was easy to do. Pulpit holders throughout the land were handing down similar rhetoric to their congregations and draining the oil of life out of their pews. We were a broken priesthood, unsavory salt, lamps unoiled and unlit.

The God pulse kept life at a one horse pace. No more cars sped the motor ways. Yet lights and internet were back. We had the telephone and Skype. At the beginning of August another God pulse rendered all the guns in the world useless. Scientists claimed it was some sort of worldwide chemical reaction that rendered gun powder inert.

The world’s answer to this latest set back was to begin training soldiers, statesmen and settlers in the old-fashioned art of warfare. Towns formed militia trained in offensive horseback riding, archery and swordcraft.

Meanwhile my congregation began to dwindle under the influence of a chronic spiritual indigestion created by sermons over-spiced with Hell and having no savor of Heaven.

We held our monthly board meeting on the last Thursday in August.

“The other churches have agreed to host them.” Tom Morgan said.

Tom was a towny who had never gotten over high school football. The idea he was laying before us for consideration was attractive to him because it involved learning to hit people. The town militias were looking for recruits. They had offered themselves as consultant- trainers for our congregation in exchange for our community’s commitment to the cause. The fact that we didn’t really know what the cause was didn’t seem to concern the board.

I sat silent.

“It’s obvious you are skeptical Pastor,” Tom returned to my reticent stare.

When I did not answer, he continued, “You are the one who is always talking about the vengeance of God. Well aren’t we His vessels…His temple? Can’t you see that we have to be ready should He choose to use us as vessels of that vengeance?”

That night the board voted to become a militia inclusive church, Tom called it igniting a fire in our sanctuary a fire that would fill our coffers. I saw it as an ice storm on the hearts of our people. I realized I had opened the front door to those cold north winds.

After the meeting, alone in my office,  I wept my first tears since the trial. I did not cry for my mother or for Anna or for Silhouette. I wept for what had been stolen from me. I wept because I realized it had been taken long before my house lost power only I had never realized it was missing. Sometime long before God pulsed I had given up Jesus. I had been content to operate my life with the fire of man-made religion. All the light and prosperity of America before the black out had blinded me to the truth of that. Only darkness could reflect what I had become. Seeing it now in the shadow of the militia church I was  being asked to lead made me realize that if I kept on this pathway I would become Tyson.

I repented.

The computer hummed a Skype call. I clicked the video link. My sister popped up from her home in Holland.

She didn’t wait for a greeting, “Jerome have you seen the news?”

“About what?”

“Israel.”

The Good Shepherd Pt. 9

100_1062     I hope you have been enjoying The Good Shepherd series. It’s been a bit since I posted the last portion of the story. I was on vacation in Holland. I’m back now; So Jerome can breathe again. If you have missed any of Jerome’s previous adventures you can find them all right here: http://wp.me/P39vIx-j1

The Good Shepherd Pt. 9

     The trial was thick fog and morning. Thoughts of my mother burning, Anna burning, Silhouette screaming as Tyson’s dogs licked her blood interspersed themselves with bits of testimony.

    “He hid me in the river to save my life.”

     “Broke the law!”

     “They were a terrorist threat.”

     “If I hadn’t  helped him escape, he’d be dead! We came here for help.”

     “How would I know where he got the food to feed those ruffians?”

     “It was his personal store of food that fed us.”

     I sat through the days of confession staring at the heart shape made by my fingers. God was there in my madness. Jesus was there in my grief and loss.

     Then I heard a voice from the jury box.

     “Vengeance is mine,” it said.

     My head shot up, a pointer watching a dove fall from the sky. The whole courtroom followed my indicative gaze. I followed my head as it turned to Tyson in the hot seat. I smiled and leaned back in my chair for the first time during the trial. The wind changed direction with the next question.

     “Did the Bone Brothers receive a trial by jury?”

     “They were terrorists!” Tyson screamed.

     The defense attorney just smiled, “Ah and the defendant’s mother. Was she a terrorist?”

     “I don’t see what that has to do with anything.” Tyson returned.

     “Answer the question sir.” The judge ordered.

     “She gave aid and comfort to the enemy.”

     “You mean the Bone Brothers?” my lawyer asked.

     “Yes.”

     “And Anna Hodkins?”

     “Her too!” Tyson breathed. it was almost a whistle between his teeth.

     “How old was Anna Hodkins sir?”

     “I don’t know.” Tyson’s voice scraped his jangled nerves  like sandpaper against rough wood.

     “Wasn’t she in fact eighty-seven?”

    “What does that have to do with Jerome?” Tyson spat.

    “Was Jerome’s mother arrested and tried?”

     “No.”

    “Anna Hodgkins?”

    “No. They never got to trial. An unfortunate house fire took their lives.” Tyson smiled.

     My lawyer was unruffled, “Ah I see and what about Silhouette Saaronen? Did she die in the house fire?”

     He spent the next hour fitting Tyson for the noose. IN the end it was Tyson’s shadow  and those of seven of his men that crossed my line of vision at the fire station that night as the lights winked on once again in Winchendon. The crowds applauded as the street lights illuminated the gloaming making the world a darker place with the deaths they revealed. It was justice and I knew my heart reveled in it just a bit too much. The age of grace was winding down.

The Good Shepherd Pt. 8

100_1062

I hope you have been enjoying The Good Shepherd series. I am heading off to The Netherlands and I didn’t want to leave you hanging. So I am posting the next episode for your reading pleasure today. Right now I am probably finishing up packing for my flight over the Atlantic. The next episode of Jerome’s story will be posted on Friday April  26th. Have a great week.

If you have missed any of Jerome’s previous adventures you can find them all right here:

http://wp.me/P39vIx-j1

The Good Shepherd Pt. 8

I pressed my hands hard against the cold metal table in the interrogation room. Willing the heat of my fury into the shiny steel, I kept my eyes fixed firmly on the inverted heart- shaped space between my joined thumbs and forefingers.

Tyson had been sitting across from me for almost twenty minutes silent as the grave he had put my mother and Anna in. I wanted to ask about Silhouette but wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of watching me outwardly squirm. Inside I was pleading with the Lord to deliver me from the hands of this wicked man. I was struggling almost as much with my own attitude as I was with Winchendon’s crooked police chief. A gaggle of demons determined to throw down my faith: hatred, sadness, fear and despair, fought for the chance to usurp the throne of my life. Meanwhile, God seemed to have removed Himself to some country home. I thought it odd that in the dark my commitment to God though challenged had  never flagged. Now reintroduced to the light it seemed all my beliefs were melting away like snow in August.

“Jerry, Jerry, Jerry!You really thought you could get away? You and your little Bone Girlfriend?” Tyson sneered.

I stared at the heart in between my fingers. It was all I had left of God. I felt if I could just keep myself focused on that one  four inch space I could let everything else go and be with Jesus. I hadn’t spoken since Scott delivered the news about my mother, Anna and Silhouette. Even Oliver had been unable to draw me out of my stupor. I knew what was happening. I had just lost the ability to care. Like Elijah after the battle on Carmel I was exhausted and ready to die alone if God would just afford an opportunity.

Tyson smacked his lips, “Well it didn’t work. Here we are. You in prison. Me testifying against you in court tomorrow. I don’t even have to do the deed myself. I just get to watch you hang. Ordinarily I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to be personally involved but I killed my quota of church folk this week. That Silhouette was fun. The dogs licked up her blood just like what’s her name from the Bible… Jezebel. That’s it she was just like Jezebel.”

 I looked up then from my manacled hands into Tyson’s eyes. I saw hatred there blazing back at me but something else too. Was it fear? For just a moment I felt all the circling demon hordes pushed back as an old power gripped me. Strength surged through my bones centered in the set of my jaw and the grind of my teeth. Words flew from the fingertips of my heart and exploded from my mouth unbidden.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints,” I spat.

“Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing. The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” By the end of the Psalm I was almost screaming.

Tyson backed up against the far door rattled by my sudden outburst.

“Turn or burn Tyson! Turn or burn.” I hissed.

The darkness closed back in then and I sat, to tired to even lift my head.

He chuckled and walked over to me. I sat docile as he bent and gently kissed the top of my head before exiting. I smiled at the heart between my fingers.

The Good Shepherd Pt. 7

The Good Shepherd

The Good Shepherd

I hope you have been enjoying the continuing story of Jerome. If you have missed any of our editions you can catch up on  our Stories sub-page, The Good Shepherd here: http://wp.me/P39vIx-j1

The Good Shepherd Pt.7

      I watched the shadows swinging across the fire station lot with a mixture of satisfaction and guilt. Scott had warned me the price would be high. Conflict boiled my insides as I watched the streetlights wink on in the summer twilight. The crowd around me applauded even as my soul emptied its light into the yawning abyss of the back and forth shades hanging from the scaffold. The increase of wickedness had cooled my heart to stone since that night in Acton.

    I remember staring down on the lights of Boston from the Belmont Hills on Route 2. Months in the dark made the city’s  shimmering radiance look like something out of OZ . Scott stopped the horse and buggy just at the top of a hill near the Mormon temple so Oliver and I could receive the full impact of the first electric lights we’d seen since the New Year.

    “It took them all this time to rebuild the city grid,” Scott explained. ” When the God pulse started it shut the lights and totally fried every circuit in the world. Power’s up here and in the biggest cities across the world but rebuilding the entire network is going to be a slow process.”

     “The God pulse?” Oliver asked.

      Scott explained, “It’s what their calling it. It’s not like anything else the world has ever seen. Whatever it is it’s more like a radio wave than a pulse. It started in January but it’s still resonating today. Weirdest thing is it seems to have a mind of its own. It’s like it  has chosen to let us rebuild the power grid but it still kills every car engine we build.”

    “Chosen?” I queried.

    “Like I said, it’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before.”

    That night we spent in Scott’s apartment in Cambridge. Our chauffer turned out to be an engineer with MIT. The black out had propelled him to a position of some power on the Boston City Council of Restoration, a goverment agency begun within days of the darkness. While towns like Winchendon had focused on maintaining order larger municipalities had been able to work on rebuilding infrastructure.

   “I’ve begun going out to the surrounding towns to survey the power grids with my team. We plan to have the state up and running again by next summer.” Scott explained.

    I tensed at his optimism,”Your biggest problem is not going to be the power grids. It’s going to be getting the local councils to relinquish their  hold over the towns. Power brings freedom and I know for a certainty there are those who will not want either of those things back where I come from.”

   “I thought perhaps that was why you had come.”

      I raised an eyebrow.

    “You’re not the first to come to the city for help with an out of control town government. The whole state is having trouble with local militias. Unjust arrests, suspension of trial by jury, even assassination of political opponents are commonplace complaints. Our committee is charged not just with turning the lights on but with restoring order.”

    The knot in my belly loosened as the voice within said again, “Trust.”

     Scott didn’t wait for me to speak, “It won’t be pretty. The town people may blame you when we roll into Winchendon with the National Guard. You may not be able to go home again.”

    I had nodded my head then in what I thought was understanding. As I met with the City council of Restoration the next morning to share my story, I realized it was a little more complex than I had thought. Oliver and I were arrested. Charged with malicious treason against our town government we were relegated to separate cells in the Charles Street Prison. A rider was dispatched to Winchendon to summon Tyson and any witnesses he deemed necessary for my trial.

   Scott walked in two days after my incarceration. I resisted the urge to rise and ram the meerschaum pipe he was smoking down his throat.

   “I gather this is what you meant by ‘You may not be able to go home again.'” I groused.

   “It could have turned out many different ways my friend.”

   “I most certainly am not your friend.” I shot back.

   He shrugged,   “When the council had you arrested I took the liberty of hiring you and Oliver a lawyer. You understand they have to do this in order to restore the law to communities that have  forsaken it. They can’t very well just go in and convict a full police force for suspending trial by jury without having a trial by jury.”

  I understood the concept. I still felt betrayed.

  “So where’s this lawyer?”

   “Meeting with Oliver first. He has to get a picture of what happened in your town that caused the Bone Brothers to form.”

    “Then why are you here? Why didn’t you just wait to come see me with him?”

   “I think you should sit down.” Scott’s eyes glistened with a watery hardness, a mixture of sadness and fury I had seen too many times in the eyes of funeral goers in the last months.

    “I think I’ll stand.”

    He nodded, “I have been verifying your story. I sent riders to your friend’s house in Ashburnham, to Silhouette’s.”

    I gripped the rod iron window brace with my right hand.

   “The house had been burned. We found two bodies. Elderly ladies.”

 

The Good Shepherd Pt. 6

The Good Shepherd

The Good Shepherd

Thanks for following the continuing story of Jerome. If you have missed any of the previous editions of this story they can be found on “The Stories” page under the sub heading “The Good Shepherd. Just click here:

http://wp.me/P39vIx-j1

The Good Shepherd Pt. 6

Lanterns flickered along the nicotine stained walls. Heavy clouds of smoke tainted with overtones of vomit wafted through the dark tavern. But the patrons, a raucous cheery bunch, seemed oblivious to the stench which itched the innards of my nostrils. Hunger drove us past the fumes to a dirty table in the darkest corner of the roadhouse.

I pulled out the bills Silhouette had handed me that last night in Winchendon. She had wrapped them in plastic and folded that into  a linen handkerchief.

“Maybe this will still be useful where you are going Pastor,” She said.

When Oliver, posing as Virginia, had first suggested the escape I was dubious. Silhouette had been the one to convince me.

“Pastor, Tyson has taken over the town. He is the Bone Brothers only he wears a badge. He has to be stopped just like they did, but he isn’t going to listen to the gospel if that’s what your thinking. In fact he plans to kill you to make his point, that the Bible won’t work.”

She gave me that knowing look that said this was more of what she had foretold before the lights went out.

“Listen we maybe aren’t in the Tribulation yet but it’s gonna get a bit Tribulationish right quick. You’ve got to go and see if you can find help before Tyson turns  on every God-fearing man and woman in town.”

“But my mother and Anna…” I began

She cut me off, ” I’ve already taken them to my house. We’ll be fine. You go.”

She touched my hand lightly, “I will be waiting at your house with supplies on Sunday night. Come around the back.”

That was Friday.

Sunday was the last time I saw her. By Tuesday we were in Leominster. Wednesday night we reached Acton and collapsed into  the darkened booth at the back of the roadhouse.

Oliver sat with her back to the wall, face to the door.  She kept her bag with the bowie-knife close by her side ready for action though I told her if she tried to use it on anyone I would step in. Our whole world is filling to the brim with death and violence. The last thing this lost realm needs is a church that answers violence with violence, death with death. It’s in these places of darkness that sacrifice and persecution become the shining gems of God’s kingdom power. If we should be attacked, persecuted or even killed I am ready to meet Jesus if only it means someone may see Him in me. That was something that changed in me when I met the Bone Brothers. I can see now what I couldn’t see by the glow of electric lamps. Nothing in this life matters unless somehow it fulfills God’s plan. So much of what I spent  my life energy on before the black-out didn’t matter. I spent so  much of my strength trying to avoid the things that probably would have made the biggest impact for God.

Silhouette had been right about the money. The barkeep evidently hadn’t seen a ten spot in several months. The clucking of chickens from the kitchen and the basket of canned goods and sacks of flour sitting beside the bar indicated his usual stock-in-trade. He gladly lightened us of three bills for our meals and drinks and then left us alone to regale his other customers with stories of the time before when cars ran and houses were warm. His story played like ancient history even though we were only a few months away from darkness’ origin.

Oliver hunkered over her bowl like a starving wolf guarding its kill. Her eyes focused from our dark corner across the room to the boisterous crowd, “Your money has attracted some attention.”

I turned and noted the man sitting at the table closest to the door. He sat on the edge of the crowd acting a part but sharing none of the drunken ribaldry that was increasing as the night wore on. His hair was oiled back in place and clipped neatly above his ears. He wore a grey tweed suit. A clean brown trench coat hung over the chair beside him. His shoes gleamed black with polish sans spit. He smoked a pipe. Faint clouds of cherry scent billowed towards us from his realm even as he  scanned our shadow with deep intent.

I gazed at him refusing to remove my interest if he would not. At last he rose and came to the table.

He offered his hand,”Scott.”

A voice deep inside of me muttered, “Trust.”

“Jerome.”

“Not many people pay with  money anymore.” Scott said.

“I’m imagining that’s because most people don’t have any.”

He smiled, “But you do?”

“Not much anymore; But then we really don’t need it now. We only have another day or so to travel.” I explained.

“He can help.” The voice in my belly said.

“Where are you coming from?” Scott asked.

I thought about withholding the truth. I didn’t know Scott. We couldn’t be sure he was safe.

The voice inside said “Trust.”

“Winchendon.”

His eyes narrowed and he nodded slowly,  “Where you headed?”

“Boston,” I said.

“Going to see them then are you?”

“What’s that?” I asked curious.

“The streetlights.”

Oliver and I sat up at that. The noise of the crowd seemed to dull as the air distilled with tension and hope.

“You didn’t know?” He asked taking a deep drag on his pipe.

I shook my head almost imperceptibly. My eyes searched his for any sign of the lie.

“The lights in the city have been on for a month.”

My belly rumbled, “Trust.”

The Good Shepherd Pt. 5

100_1062

This is the continuation of Jerome’s story after the lights went out. If you missed the last edition or any before they can be accessed here or on “The Stories” Page:

http://wp.me/p39vIx-gl

Today Oliver picks up where Jerome left off.

The Good Shepherd Pt. 5

I remember sitting beside Poppie in his last wheezes. Nannie had dropped dead two days before in the kitchen. There was no one to call. No one would come anyway. So I managed to drag her body into the bedroom and close the door. I cried a thousand tears that night, but even my little girl wailing couldn’t cover over Poppie’s labored breathing from the other room.  Without his oxygen he could do little more than sit and stare at the candle I kept lit on the mantle-piece in place of the television. He still thumbed his Bible pretending to read in the dark.

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:…

 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:…

 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:…

 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross….

 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:…

 That at the name of Jesus…”

He gasped between the quotations and always finished with “He’s comin’ soon little girl. Don’t give up.”

I stayed until I couldn’t stand the smell anymore. Three days maybe four.

Poppie had taught me the woods. I had a pack and a little tent. I knew I wasn’t going to survive in the city. So I walked straight out  along the edges of 101 until it met with 68 then over towards the old 32.

I met Jolly’s boys (I never called them Bone Brothers, what a dumb name) one day while I was fishing the hollows with a hook and string and a bit of bread. The first thieving we did was for hunting and fishing supplies.  I wanted a hunting pack but when Jolly realized it was quicker to steal food than hunting gear I ended up with a juvy chain gang. Still Poppie always said “You work with what you got.”

When the Good Shepherd came I pretty much thought it was God giving me a break. When the cops came and killed all my friends and arrested the only man who ever tried to help us I realized it was a punishment… just slow like God usually works.

I watched between the roots where the good shepherd had hidden me. I watched them strip off his clothes and march him off towards town barefoot and naked. When they’d gone I went and gathered my stuff. My tent was all covered with bits of brains and bones. The cops had taken all the food. But my pack inside my tent was safe. My boots were still inside.

I thought about heading deeper into the woods, but the key Jerome had given me was burning in my pocket. I headed towards town keeping well off the roads. He never told me which church it was I was supposed to hide in. Most of that first night I hunkered in shadows and ran between beams of moonlight. I tried three church doors before I found the right building.

I wandered through the deserted building. Something made me take my shoes off at the sanctuary door. I remembered the story of Moses and holy ground. Thinking maybe if I played it right God would let my people go, bring Jolly and the others back and let the Good Shepherd go.

I walked up to the altar steps feeling the plush carpet smoosh between my bare toes and I knelt down. “Jesus I’m sorry about what I let the boys do. I guess we deserved what we got, but Jerome… you sent him. Now he’s in trouble all because of us. Help him.”

That’s when I saw the dress in the box under the cross.  It had blue flowers on a white background and a pin on the lapel that read, “helps committee”. It even fit. I found a matching pair of shoes in the bottom of the box. It was God’s plan and my choice.

I started visiting the jailhouse the next day. I introduced myself as Virginia, but no one cares what your name is when your pretty. They just trust your eyelashes. A few bats of the baby blues and I was in like Flynn. I had brought extra blankets the first day. The second day I brought a thermos of tea. The third I brewed up some coffee for Jerome and an extra thermos for the deputies.

“You all work so hard.” I cooed “It’s just not right that I bring coffee for the pastor and not for you fine men in blue.”

Word circulated that the pastor was going to be tried for treason against the town council on Monday next. The deputies told me that under martial law the penalty for helping the Bone Brothers would be death for the Good Shepherd.

On Sunday I brewed two thermoses of coffee and went for my usual visit. I had also sawed half way through my right heel. The guard smiled at me as I walked into the station holding up the thermos of coffee for the deputies.

“We just love it when you visit us Virginia!” the crew chief  smiled.

I screamed as my heel came unglued. Hot coffee splattered the protective glass as the thermoses smashed against the walls where I flung them. I made sure to cushion my fall with the powdered creamer I had taken from the church. Fine white powder exploded beneath my left hip mixing with the puddles of hot brown liquid congealing around my dress.

He didn’t notice when I lifted his keys from the belt. I made sure I lamented loudly about my only good shoes as he mopped up the floor with towels from the back. He insisted I go in and visit while he cleaned up. I unlocked Jerome’s cell. I put paper in the latch of the doorway into the cell block. Then I put the deputy’s keys back on his desk.

“I’m just too upset to visit today deputy. I’ll come back tomorrow.” I hobbled out of the station.

It was midnight when Jerome knocked softly on the church door. I was packed and ready to go. It’s time someone else was told about Tyson and his martial law in Winchendon.

The Good Shepherd Pt. 4

100_1062

This is the fourth installment of Jerome’s story. What will happen before the end? not just the end..THE END?  If you’ve missed the adventure you can catch up here.

http://wp.me/p39vIx-cN

The Good Shepherd Pt. 4

Oliver is the girl who sleeps behind the organ at the church. I have hidden her there these last two months. The world  went dark in January. It went mad in May. I keep thinking of My daughter’s last words to me.

“You said in times of trouble it’s  the minister’s job to release the blessing and the peace of God over a community.”

Oh how I have failed my community. How I have failed my God. I have preached myself to exhaustion but no one has listened. Those I thought true believers have been unmasked. The leopard’s have shown there spots of hopelessness raking their claws of self-preservation through the fabric of society. The town is in shreds and this little white church and its rag-tag remnant is all that’s left of the island of decency and even that is hidden beneath the veneer of  gunpowder and lead.

It was towards the end of March that I made my first trip into Sandy Hollow to find the Bone Brothers. The gang of wild boys had been attacking our town for over a month and a war between them and Tyson’s men in blue was imminent. I couldn’t sit back and just watch grown men kill little boys anymore. So I left mother, Anna and our precious spring gardens in the care of Silhouette. I traipsed with nothing more than my Bible and a bag of food into the Hollow.

My Grandfather used to take the cousins fishing in the backwoods to the North and West of Winchendon. Then it was hundreds of square miles of swampy marsh and forest crisscrossed by dirt roads and cart paths carved out of the woods during the Revolutionary War. Buried here and there in the enormous watery wilderness was the occasional  homestead or dairy farm. Otherwise it had been a deserted land perfect for hunters and anglers, frequented by both.  The years had seen some development of the Hollow. Tarred roads had replaced some of the dirt tracks  but miles of ancient wilderness still gave the Bone Brothers ample places to hide far from the prying eyes and killing guns of Tyson’s men.

It took me most of the day to walk to my Granddad’s fishing hole. I prayed along the way that God would grant me favor and let me run into the renegade troupe. I knew in the natural my chances were slim but faith told me I didn’t need chance.

I stood over the half-frozen waterway near the intersection of two of the oldest cart roads. I remembered Grandad stringing my pole. I could see him pushing the helpless worm on the hook and casting my line into one of the deep pools on the opposite bank.

“What now?” I asked Heaven.

I felt a sharp pain in my back. My knees buckled. My vision went white then black. Voices caked with the blood at the back of my head ran like wintry rivers through my mind. Then I awoke. My vision pulsated with the rhythm of the bleeding lump at the posterior of my skull. I leaned over and vomited on the pine-needly snow.

A fire chuckled to the left of me and lit a circle of silent dirty faces gathered to its warmth. An older teen stepped from the dark of the pine bower prison into the light. His skin was as dark as the gathering night. This was Jolly, the Bone Brother’s leader.

“I thought we should kill you but Oliver said you might do us a solid if we let you live.”

“Do you a solid? Who says that?” I felt my sarcasm rising.

“We could still kill you.” He lashed back but I could see the young black man was uncertain. Jolly was the guts of the crew but Oliver was the brains.

Maybe Jolly should have killed me. It might have ended differently had he. He didn’t. It didn’t. Now Oliver sleeps behind the organ and all my little Bone Brothers are dead, killed by Tyson and his men. I worked for over a month to convince the Brothers to come in. I Gained their confidence. I brought them food every week in a cart I pulled through the late winter snow to Grandad’s creek. They went from hitting me over the head to blindfolding me on the walk to their camp.That was Oliver’s suggestion. She paid dearly for “getting me an in”.

Oliver is one of “the girl bothers”.  She is the Wendy to Jolly’s lost boys. Maybe I’ve gone the extra mile for her because she reminded  me of Renee at that age. Her curly brown hair was always arranged in an intentionally messy bun that said “I care how I look. I just want you to think I don’t”. Unlike the men of the clan her face was always washed. Her clothes were neat. Her wit was sharp and her mind was ordered. She was sixteen. Her grandparents died after a month without food and medicine. At that point Oliver, real name Olivia, had taken to the woods. She came across Jolly and his fledgling band quite by accident but proved her worth by helping them catch their first game. When hunger and numbers made hunting implausible it was she who arranged the first raids. Her successful strategies kept her in leadership even when she opposed Jolly’s more violent offensives.

I preached to her. I preached to all of the starving waifs. I preached even harder from my pulpit at the Parish. I saw the Bone Brothers responding. I was shocked by the ease of their acceptance. I saw my congregation dwindling. I was shocked by their rejection of the classic faith. While the Bone Brothers engulfed the message of the cross as if it were a gourmet dinner many of the faithful in my own congregation treated the Word as if it were  a mouldered crust. Many of their lives  no longer found a place for the Good News to rest.  When I preached that the Good news was good news even in bad times I lost townspeople and gained   Bone Brothers. When I preached the need to endure to the end I lost my neighbors but stopped the Bone Brothers from raiding.

May first was the day I was followed. The daffodils were up. The way to Grandad’s creek was lined with forsythia in full bloom. Spring warmth had replaced winter chill. My cart felt light with hope and heavy with food. At the creek Oliver blindfolded me and led me to the pine bower. The Brothers had not raided in almost three weeks. I had been working with the town council on bringing the gang in peacefully. Everyone but Tyson seemed willing. The Sheriff’s blood lust had grown with his hunger for power. If only I had a few more weeks I may have been able to outmanouevre  the badge and gun. As it was I was the one on the wrong side of the Quarterback sneak.

As soon as my blindfold was off that day the gunshots started. Bone Brothers crumpled in explosions of blood. Jolly fell with a shriek on top of Marcus a twelve-year-old orphan. The gang leader’s eye oozed vitreous jelly and blood.  Tyson’s men were firing from every angle. Oliver and I were only saved because we were nearest the  river’s edge. The deputies had no approach from that angle and most of the Bone Brothers were between us and the snipers.

I dragged the girl into the swirling icy water. It was spring-swift and cold with the last of the winter melt but deep enough to hide us. She struggled.

I shook her and said “Choose to live!”

Then I took her under, baptized her into the world’s end, that place between the valley of the shadow of death and the Blessed Hope. We hid in a bass pool beneath the roots of an ancient oak. I left her there when Tyson called me out.

“When I’ve gone, go to the Parish.Hide until I come.” I pressed my church key into her hand and waded to the deadly safety of the Bone Brother’s last stand and Tyson’s waiting custody.