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Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

The Book


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She had a friend.

Not "Science Fiction" in a sense.  Based in the future.


THE BOOK


      
       At first they had tortured only him, now they were torturing her.  His eyes were taped open and he was bound to a post in the center of a clearing.  Before him stood his naked wife, screaming each time the soldiers touched her.  
       His lips were drawn tightly across his mouth; his young, slender face was pallid in the evening light.  A trickle of blood ran down his chin.
       “God, please.  God Help me!” he prayed.
       But for some reason God did not interfere with the torture.
He thought of Jesus on the cross praying that if it be God’s will, to take the cup from him.  He tried praying that prayer, but he too was forsaken.
       His chin dropped to his chest and he lost consciousness and sagged against the ropes.
       His mind heard her laughing.  He could hear the laughter trickle out of the mouth of the cave as he stood at the edge of the stream.  Her laughter blended perfectly with the tinkling melody of the water tripping over the rocks.  He smiled at his reflection in the small pool at his feet and bent to fill the bucket with water.  He sat the full bucket back on
the bank and then stretched himself prone in the black sand at water’s edge and drank deeply.
       “Joe, come on honey,” she called from the cave.  “I need the water for bread.”      
He picked up the pail and returned with long quick strides to the cave.
       “I’ve got to go out for food again, Meredith.”
       “So soon?” she asked.  “It’s only been a week.”
       “Yes.  We’ve got just enough to last through tomorrow and I want to finish copying Luke before we move again.”
       He picked up the hand written sheets from a crate that had served as a table.  He had been three days on Luke, much too long.  But with Meredith pregnant he had to do more of the chores each day and less copying of the Bible.
       His work was progressing very slowly, he knew.  The Bible must be reproduced.  It was the only copy in that part of what had once been the United States of America.  He must finish it.      
Word had crossed the territory that he had a copy of the Bible.  People were streaming into the woods near the cave each day to hear him read from it.  They didn’t realize it, he knew, but they were endangering his life as well as their own lives each time they met.


Bands of rogue outlaws also ranged through the territory.  They were lawless and dangerous.  They cared not for the Bible or for anything in particular, just survival.  They took what they wanted and held no regard for any effort to recapture the land that was once so great, so mighty.
       Slow, insidious corruption had taken over the land.  Politicians were interested only in lining their own pockets.  Graft had been prevalent.  No one cared about the Church or Religious freedoms.  Religion had become a bad word in the new establishment.  The minorities were those who believed in God and Salvation.  The rulers were more intense on removing religious freedom so that the young people could be brainwashed to believe in the government’s version of what was best for mankind.
       The Government soon became the enemy.  They had started by removing all books that pertained to God from public libraries.  Then they had passed laws that prohibited carrying a Bible in public.  Then the laws were extended to make it illegal to possess a Bible in a house of worship.  Then the houses of worship were disbanded, laws were passed to prohibit religion from being taught.
       That was the final straw.  Groups of rebellious, righteous people swarmed the streets only to be arrested and sprayed with tear gas and water hoses.  
All Bibles were banned and possession of a Bible could mean years in prison or even death.      
       That is why his assignment from God was so important.  To reproduce the copy of the Bible his mother had given him when he was baptized at the age of 15.  It was that assignment that had driven him to this remote cave in the forest of the hills of Tennessee.
       “What’s the matter, Hon?” His wife’s voice brought him back to his task at hand.
       “Nothing,” he lied, not wanting her to worry about the increasingly difficult task of hunting for food.
       “Joe?” she said.
       “Yes, dear?”
       “Will we finish it?”      
“I think we will, Meredith,” he answered truthfully.  He did believe he would finish it, even though he was burdened with the thought.  They must move.  The people who searched them out to hear the word would eventually lead authorities to them.
       “I’ve got to go, Meredith,” he said, and left the cave.  The sweetness of her kiss lingered on his breath.
       His thoughts wandered as he walked upstream, not aware of a small band of men gathering around him.  Suddenly he looked up and noticed that he was surrounded by a dozen or so men, young, dirty and unshaven, dressed in remnant clothing or long flowing robes.  In previous years they would have been called hippies.  They lived nomadic, tramp-like lives, taking what they could and using all the drugs they could find.
The Book
One of them spoke.
       “Hey man, look what we got here.  He’s even packing a gun.”
       They all laughed and the one who spoke, encouraged by the laughter, went on with his teasing.
       “Yeah, crazy.  Looks like Daniel Boone himself.”
       They all laughed again.  Joe started to walk on, pushing towards the edge of the circle.  The men refused to budge.
       “We could sure use that gun, man!”
       “Sorry, you can’t have it.” Joe said.
       “What if we take it, Daniel?” the first man asked.
       “That’s the only way you’ll get it,” Joe said, and leveled the gun at the stranger’s midsection.      
“Cool it, you creeps,” a giant of a man said from outside the circle.
       “Hey now Big Daddy.  Join the fun, man.  We’re gonna take this guy’s popgun away from him.”
       The one called “Big Daddy” appeared in the circle and looked at Joe.
       “Well I’ll be damned.” He said.
       “Toby.” Joe said, amazed.
       “Yep.  Best known as Big Daddy now.  I’m the head of this bunch of outlaws.”
       The crowd mumbled dissents, some raising their voices in protest.
      
“Cool it,” the big man said.  “I know this Dude.  He save my life in Afghanistan.”
       “Big Deal” one of the men said.
Big Daddy lashed out savagely with his foot catching the man in the gut and sent him sprawling.  “I said cool it, man!”
“Now let’s talk, Joe.” Big Daddy said as the crowd rushed away from his tirade.
       They sat beneath a tree and talked of the war, the take over of the country, and life in general.  Joe explained what he was trying to do with the Bible.  
       “Waste of time, Joe.” Big Daddy said.  “Join up with me, smoke some pot and forget it.”
       “You know I can’t do that, Smitty.”
       “Yeah, like I can’t copy a Bible.”
       They talked for a few minutes and parted, the leader gathered his clan and rambled away.
Joe continued upstream, looking for a place he knew where he could kill some squirrels.  He shot at three and killed two of them and was on his way back to the cave when the soldiers captured him.
A breeze swept across the clearing and stirred his mind back to consciousness somewhere between the pains that echoed in his head like thunder.
“Here it comes now,” he thought.  “Here comes the Spirit of God that will save us.”
       But the breeze died and no miracle came. It was then that the young minister started to lose his faith in God.
He could suddenly feel the heat of the torch near his face and he jerked his head away.  
“Now will you tell us where to find the Bible?” a voice was saying.  “After all, we don’t want to kill your wife, but if you leave us no choice..”
       Joe shook his head weakly.  “I can’t.”
“When I count to ten she dies,” the soldier said.  “Unless you tell me where the bible is.”
He began counting…
       “One…”
       “God, please help me, I need you God.  Where are you?  Can’t you hear my prayers?”
       “Two…”
       “God, Almighty Father who art in heaven.  Please, for the love of mankind, please help me.”
       But God did nothing.  Maybe he knew it would end like this.
       “Three…”
      
“Yeah though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…”
       “Four…”
       “For thou art with me…”
“Five…”
       At the count of five Joe fell back into the bottomless pit of pain.  Once again he was kissing Meredith and she was laughing.  They were lying side by side in the cave.  Her silky red hair was on his chest, his arm under her shoulders.  
       “Joe, why are we so happy when all around is there is sorrow?”
“We have each other,” he answered.  “And we are doing God’s work.”
              He sighed deeply.
“This country was built around the Bible.  With God’s help maybe someday someone can build it back with this Bible.’
              “You’ve worked so hard, Joe.”
So hard….so hard…so hard…
       The words echoed in his mind as he drifted back to consciousness.  The voice and the pain returned.
       “Seven….”
He began to pray again.
       “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…”
      
“Eight..”
       “And I shall dwell in the..”
       “Nine…”
       “House of the Lord forever..”
       “Ten” the final count.
       “No!  Wait.  I’ll tell you what you want to know.”
It was a voice from the crowd.  It roared through the gathering and caused the soldier to turn to seek its source.
       Big Daddy Smith walked to the center of the clearing.
       “You saved my life, buddy, now I’m gonna save yours,” he said.
“No!  Don’t tell them,” Joe pleaded.
       When he had the information that he wanted, the leader of the soldiers shot the young minister’s wife.
       Then he commanded that the hand written pages be brought out and burned in the fire.  Afterwards he took the Bible and began on the first page of Genesis and tore the pages out one by one and dropped them into the fire before the young minister’s eyes, laughing at the misery shown there.
      
Finally they tore out the last page in the Book of Revelations and after it had burned they shot the minister.
       The crowd dispersed almost immediately.  No one wanted to die and none had the heart to resist the soldiers’ merciless rampage.
Dusk sat in on the clearing as a huge man wearing a long flowing gown, dirty and unshaven walked silently to the body of the young minister. There were tears running down his face.  He stooped and lifted Joe’s body slowly and started to walk away.  The breeze stiffened and picked up a scrap of burned paper from the dirt and carried it tumbling to land on the shoulder of the man they called Big Daddy.
He shifted his burden and took the scrap of paper and read it to the dead man he carried.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”


      
                            The End


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