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Nocturne’s Reaping® : Dirge

Chapter 3

After everyone had finished changing in the locker rooms, the large group was divided into smaller ones. Nora’s group was then led into a building, which was going to serve as a dormitory, by several newly arrived guards. The group Nora was in was comprised of both males and females. The boys were going to reside on a different floor than the girls. Regrettably, Jack was not one of the boys in Nora’s group. As they entered the building, Nora noticed that some of the others were in awe of the place; never before had they seen such wonderful accommodations. To Nora, the rooms, which she passed by on the way to her own, seemed sparse and impersonal. But she had other issues on her mind besides this poor example of interior decorating. The first action she took when she found the room she’d been assigned to was to look for a phone. Alas, there was none.

Nora walked slowly over to a bed. She sat upon it and looked down at her folded hands, which she had laid on her lap. Almost instantly, she was distracted by a noise from the doorway. There were two girls there. One was a step ahead of the other girl. The first girl was bawling hysterically. The second girl was taller and had a ruddy face; she stood behind the first girl and stared at her in seeming disbelief. The female members of Nora’s group had counted off when they had reached the second floor. The numbers they had been given corresponded to their room numbers. Nora had been too distracted to notice which girls had been assigned to her room. Apparently, these two were to be her roommates.

Nora stood. She was unsure of what to do for the crying girl. It was true that Nora had mostly been focused on herself until that moment. She hadn’t given much thought to what the rest of the people were going through — with the possible exception of Lisa and, of course, Jack. Nora only remembered wondering on the conveyance vehicle why all these people were there. Then again, maybe the situation was not so bad as she feared, Nora suddenly told herself. If only she could convince herself it were true … Nora approached the crying girl. She laid her hand on the girl’s arm. The action broke the girl’s concentration. She looked down at Nora’s hand; the girl’s look appeared to be one of disgust. It caused Nora to retract her hand immediately. The girl seemed stunned silent.

“I—I’m sorry.” Nora stammered.

“Don’t be.” the taller girl replied. “This is the first time she’s stopped crying since we came to this place. I thought she might drive me insane.”

The taller girl then walked past the timid girl, who still stood in the doorway, and came into the room.

“I can’t help it!” the timid girl cried out.

The taller girl gave the other girl a look that implied she couldn’t care less. The taller girl then claimed the bed opposite the one Nora had sat upon. Nora thought to herself that it was the one farthest away from where the timid girl was standing. The timid girl seemed to comprehend the slight, for she then went and sat on the bed next to Nora’s and farthest away from the one the other girl had chosen. Nora was about to head back to her own bed when the timid girl called out to her.

“Thank you.” the girl managed to say.

It occurred to Nora that the girl was probably reaching out to her merely because she was feeling the other one’s disdain. She most likely just didn’t want to be alone. Even so, Nora managed to smile anyway.

“I wonder what’s in the buffet.” Nora brought up.

The taller girl scoffed.

“Like I would eat their food!” she protested.

Nora thought to herself that their captors might not have much food available at the buffet. It was possible that if the three girls didn’t get down there right away they wouldn’t eat at all. Nora wondered how long they could realistically hold out without eating. It would be worse for them to get desperate with hunger and have to go begging these people for food. Either way, the tall girl’s implication that something bad was done to the food didn’t really make much sense to Nora. Why would these people even want them dead? What purpose would it serve? Then again, it could be possible. Nora considered. She then decided if their abductors really just wanted them dead they’d probably be dead already.

Nora was strangely emboldened by that thought. Whatever the reason for abducting all these people, killing them didn’t seem to be the purpose. Of course, that conclusion didn’t mean that there was no danger involved. Nora’s thoughts suddenly turned to that girl Lisa. What had happened to her? Nora was ashamed to admit she hadn’t seen Lisa since the girl lingered back to talk with Mrs. Grafton. It didn’t seem as though it was Nora’s business at the time, but maybe she should have made it her business. Outside of this situation, back at home, Nora probably would have spoken up. But Nora was just too busy thinking about herself and her family. Plus, she was honestly too afraid to intervene. Besides, what good would it have done? Nora had no power here … and that realization made her feel helpless again. Jack’s presence had lessoned that feeling of anxiety in her. Somehow, just being around him made her feel better. Oh, how she wished he hadn’t been ushered into a different dorm! Still, what became obvious to her at that moment was that she wasn’t going to see Jack again just sitting around in her room.

“Well, I’m hungry.” Nora decided. “So, I’m going to go.”

The taller girl shrugged.

“How about you?” Nora asked the timid girl.

The timid girl looked between the two girls.

“I—I guess.”

“Well, all right. Oh, and my name’s Nora Montgomery, by the way.”

“Elsie Snyder.” the girl replied.

Even though reaching out to Elsie hadn’t exactly gone well the last time, Nora decided to try again. She offered Elsie her hand. They shook hands. It wasn’t until later on that Nora would wonder whether she made a mistake giving her real name.

“Tina Fitzgerald.” the other girl grudgingly added.

Nora felt a sense of accomplishment for having succeeded in improving this mini-crisis. As it turned out, there wouldn’t be many moments of personal satisfaction in the weeks ahead.

All three girls ended up heading for the cafeteria together. Tina, at the last minute, decided to accompany the other two girls to the buffet. When they got there, Nora found that the buffet was actually pretty impressive. This realization was fairly shocking to Nora, especially given how much she had worried that the buffet would be sparse. It also occurred to Nora that the food might taste bad, and Elsie would burst into tears again. Instead, Elsie’s eyes seemed to light up just a little upon seeing the elegant table setting and the variety of the offerings. The buffet had done its trick. As Elsie looked at Nora, Nora could tell that her fears had been allayed. Even Tina seemed to be impressed by the food.

Fortunately, no one asked for Nora’s opinion on whether she thought the effort their captors had put into the buffet meant that things would be okay overall. Nora wouldn’t have wanted to lie, and the truth was that she still felt very uneasy. And no matter how good the buffet looked, it wasn’t going to make Nora feel any better. In fact, Nora wondered whether she could even manage to eat. What she was happy about was the fact that Elsie was finally calm. Even so, Nora wouldn’t have minded it if Elsie stopped clinging so tightly to her arm. Elsie had latched onto Nora the moment they left their room. Yet, Nora didn’t want to directly ask her to let go and have another crisis begin.

Instead, Nora maneuvered herself and the clingy Elsie toward the large line, which had formed next to the buffet table. Tina trailed behind them silently; she seemed to stare off into space. Apparently, Tina’s initial positive reaction to the food was short-lived. Elsie kept her grip firmly on Nora’s arm, seemingly oblivious to how awkward her actions were making their efforts to walk. Fortunately, as they finally arrived at the stack of plates, Elsie realized she had to release Nora in order to be able to gather the food. She became self-conscious and let Nora go.

For a moment, Elsie’s hands shook as she reached for a plate. They shook a little less as her hands gripped the curved edges.

“So, what will you be having?” Nora asked Elsie in a tone that she’d usually reserve for a child.

“I—I don’t know.” Elsie started. “Those eggs look good. Then again, I don’t know. Would the sausage links be better? Which would go better with the french toast? Or, I could get a sandwich instead. It all seems so good, but I can’t tell what I feel like. I don’t want to make a mistake.”

For a moment, Elsie’s nervousness made Nora worry that Elsie wouldn’t be capable of keeping down whatever she did end up eating. Yet, the immediate concern seemed to be keeping Elsie’s choices on the plate. The plate was wobbling to and fro as the people manning the buffet line attempted to offer her the different options. Nora decided that she would help Elsie with that instability. After Nora was able to offer support to Elsie’s plate with one hand, she decided the next thing to do was resolve the girl’s indecisiveness. She concluded the best way to handle Elsie was to request small amounts of every item be placed on her plate. Elsie did help a little with the selection process. Every time she craved more of a particular item, she would look up at Nora longingly. As the food began to pile on, Elsie cast a concerned look toward where the cash register was, even though no one was actually there. Elsie then looked around to see whether someone was standing nearby. She seemed relieved when she found that the cash register was unattended.

It was about this time that Nora managed to ease her eyes toward Tina’s plate. She was surprised to see that Tina’s plate looked almost identical to Nora’s and Elsie’s plates. At first, Nora thought it was a good sign — that maybe Tina was starting to relax a little. But then, to look at her, Tina seemed to still be staring off into space, and her actions seemed almost robotic. Far from getting over the shock of the abduction, it was clear Tina was just going through the motions. Nora didn’t know why she cared so much about Tina’s emotional state. They were all in the same heinous position, and it wasn’t as though Nora was handling these circumstances well or anything. Yet, somehow, Nora felt that if her two companions were calm it would make her feel more optimistic. Their emotional turmoil just reinforced the anxiety that Nora couldn’t quite shake. Nora concluded it was selfish to expect Tina and Elsie to pretend to be happy just to make her feel better. She decided to just let them feel whatever they were feeling.

Finally, the three girls made it through the long line. They then carried their plates into the main cafeteria. While looking around the room for a spot, Nora caught sight of Jack sitting at one of the tables. She wondered whether his appearance there meant that Jack would be eating at this cafeteria regularly. Things were definitely looking up all of a sudden.

Then, Nora made eye contact with Jack. She stopped suddenly —seemingly incapable of pulling her eyes away. It was odd, but she started feeling as though she were back in school. There was a feeling of distance and nervousness between them now. Nora could feel herself blush. At that moment, Tina poked her in the arm. Nora turned and looked at Tina then accompanied the two other girls toward a small spot at the end of one table. They managed to all squeeze in together. Ever since she saw Jack, she had a feeling of normalcy. Her mind, most likely in an effort to protect itself, created the illusion that she was just in a new school system. These were her new friends, and Jack was her new … She turned and looked back at him briefly. Yet, the illusion was broken as quickly as it began. For when she turned back toward the two girls, she was shocked by the looks on their ashen faces. She remembered at that moment that she was no longer in her old life. She felt a chill go through her, and she shuddered slightly.

In order to cover for her nerves, she quickly grabbed a container of chocolate milk and a straw. The other two girls began to eat in silence. Nora, meanwhile, sipped slowly and tried her best to lose her thoughts. Even though Nora didn’t want to think, she couldn’t seem to help herself. She went through the day’s events in her mind. She thought once more about Lisa. What had happened to Lisa? Nora casually looked around the room trying to see whether she could spot her. Yet, there was no sign of her. Perhaps, Nora could have been able to see Lisa earlier when Nora had been standing. Nora now wished she had thought of that possibility before she sat down. If she actively looked for Lisa at this point, it would only upset the other two girls, and Elsie had just stopped crying. Nora told herself it was silly; Lisa wouldn’t have been punished too severely for just asking a question.

Once the milk was finished, Nora had a dilemma. She felt she would have to force herself to taste each item on her plate despite the sudden queasiness in her stomach. She’d have to admit to how dire things were if she just continued to sit there and stare at her food. Of course, there was no way she would be capable of eating all of this food. She decided to save back the items that wouldn’t spoil. For the rest, the trick was to eat as much as she could then minimize the appearance of the remaining food on her plate. At least trying to figure out how to pull off this sleight of hand gave her something to think about other than the circumstances she found herself in.

“So, I wonder what will happen now.” Elsie pondered, much to Nora’s dismay.

Living one moment to the next without panicking seemed difficult enough without pondering the future. It was all too overwhelming, and Nora simply wanted to hide under the table and hope everyone would forget she was there. She had this sudden terrible realization that she had become Elsie’s unwitting crutch. Propping up Elsie when Nora’s own feet were so unsteady seemed like an impossibility at that moment. Tina also seemed annoyed; Nora could see her roll her eyes. This mark of disrespect was also noticed by Elsie, who stared at Tina with a wounded expression.

“Let’s just go back to the room.” Tina spoke up in a gruff voice. “There’s no point in discussing what none of us knows.”

Elsie looked as though she was about to cry again. Nora braced herself for yet another onslaught of tears.

“Oh.” Elsie uttered.

“At least the beds are comfortable.” Tina offered. “We’ll just have to hope that whatever this situation is will be over soon.”

“But I hate …” Elsie started. “Being forced to be here — if it were for a good reason I might have come anyway. I mean, if it weren’t dangerous I would.”

“We all hate it.” Tina interrupted in a confidential tone. “Very few people are happy to be here. The only ones who seem pleased are those who haven’t eaten in a while. The rest of us are just trying not to lose it.”

Elsie blinked several times at Tina. It was as though it never occurred to her that they were all feeling what she was … only quietly.

“Do you feel that way, too?”

Nora was surprised to find that Elsie was asking her that question. Nora’s brow furrowed.

“Of course.” Nora stated.

Elsie looked down with a sulking look on her face, almost like a child who’d been denied a toy. Nora was so grateful to Tina at that moment. She couldn’t imagine being alone with Elsie. Then again, Tina probably felt the same way about Nora being around. Nora stared off into space. Her adrenaline was suddenly gone, and she felt weak.

“You know, this place isn’t really so bad. The underground could be a lot worse some days. Yes, I wish we could leave if we wanted to, but this place is okay all things considered. Maybe this situation is just part of the solution the government came up with for all of us.” Tina put forth.

Elsie nodded.

“You two know each other?” Nora asked. It was now Nora’s turn to be surprised.

Elsie and Tina looked at each other.

“Not really, but you know, we’ve run into each other before.” Tina mentioned. “Most people from the underground know of one another. I mean, I’ll admit I’ve never seen you before, Nora. And some of the other people here I don’t recognize, but mostly we know one another. We’re used to being treated poorly by the government, though this situation is extreme even for them. Then again, why am I telling you this? You must know what I mean.”

Nora just looked at them. They then looked between each other.

“You do know someone here, don’t you?” Tina added suddenly.

Nora squirmed a bit in her chair. Then, she thought of Jack.

“Yes.” Nora replied lowly.

Tina nodded as though she suspected as much. It was a bit disconcerting for Nora that they all knew one another for the most part. Nora hadn’t thought she could feel more isolated; it appeared she was wrong. Nora was afraid to tell them that she wasn’t one of them. But what if they found out anyway? What if they asked a question she couldn’t answer? Nora wasn’t sure what to do, but maybe she didn’t have to decide right away. In any case, it may never come up again. Still, Nora decided to appear relaxed — maybe even cheerful — when topics she didn’t want to discuss were brought up in the future. That way, she hoped, no one would ask her too many questions. It seemed as though they had only asked her about her life when she appeared to be upset by what they were saying.

“Well, it seems people are leaving. Are you two ready to head back to the room?” Tina asked.

It sounded good to Nora, but the look on Elsie’s face suggested she felt otherwise. It was almost as though Elsie thought if she could cling to this one place she would be safe again. But Nora was no longer in the mood to cater to this girl. Nora stood silently, took up her plate, and left the table. Nora concluded that sleep, if she could obtain it, sounded pretty good at that moment.

 

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2016

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Nocturne’s Reaping® : Dirge

Chapter 2

At first Nora just hung out around her old house and neighborhood. She saw her old elementary school where she had attended kindergarten through second grade. In fact, Nora remembered her parents taking her to a local market when she was in second grade. She had gone off by herself for a little while. She regretted stressing out her mother, but, aside from the worry she caused, she remembered that day as being remarkable — almost freeing.

As Nora made her way to the market, she began to remember a scene from long ago when she saw something in a nearby gutter. Nora’s mind visualized the edges of a face there. Nora blinked and the image in her mind flashed away. Meanwhile, the scene of the current day unfolded in front of her. She had walked the distance to the market so quickly it surprised her.

“I guess adult legs get you there faster than a child’s legs can.” Nora shrugged.

The speed in which she arrived there wasn’t the only thing that shocked Nora. The place didn’t seem the same as it had before. Nora assumed that was the way of it with memories, especially the memories of a child. Maybe it was the way the sky looked. Nora remembered the light cast a golden hue over everything back then. And there were a lot more people around before. They also seemed happier back then somehow. As Nora spied the rundown booths and roughened streets, she began to wonder whether her memory was faulty.

There was one memory left that was hers. She had to see whether she remembered that one right. She followed the same path she had as a child. She felt a lot of anticipation as she came to the spot chiseled in her mind. She wanted to see the gutter to relive the memory. But there was also fear mixed in with her emotions. What if it wasn’t there? There was a person standing in front of where she thought the storm drain should be. Fortunately, the woman stepped aside, and Nora saw it. She grinned.

“I guess the important memories stay the same.” she noted.

There was a sudden movement in the storm drain — sort of like the movement that drew her eyes to the drain all those years ago. Nora approached the storm drain and peered into it. Though, try as she might, she couldn’t see anything but a leaf stirring near the bars.

Then, for some reason, Nora felt someone watching her. She turned. At that moment, her hair blew forward and partially covered her face. She pulled her hair away and saw a young man close to her own age, standing among the crowd. He was taller than she; his short hair was about the same color brown as her own. His face was a bit rounder than hers. He looked at her from underneath his dark eyebrows. He seemed familiar. Suddenly, her eyes were diverted to a spot behind the young man. People began stepping out of the way as a large conveyance vehicle meandered down the street. Nora looked back toward where the teen had been, only to find him gone. Before she had a chance to figure out how she felt about his sudden departure, the conveyance vehicle opened, and many men emerged from it wearing riot gear.

Nora became even more confused when the men entered the crowd and approached individuals. There was no riot here. What was going on? Nora opened her mouth to utter something, though she didn’t know what that something would be. She then sensed someone approach her from the alley located to her left. That person touched her arm. Nora turned and saw the same young man she had seen before.

“Come with me.” he told her.

For some reason, Nora implicitly trusted the teen enough to follow him without hesitation. Then again, she also knew that something was wrong with the conveyance vehicles, so naturally fleeing from them seemed like a good idea. The teen led Nora down the alley. In the distance, at the other end of the alley, Nora could see another conveyance vehicle arrive. Nora was surprised there was more than one.

“This way.” the young man told her. He jumped up and grabbed onto a fire escape ladder. Then, he pulled it down toward them. Finally, he offered his hand to Nora in order to help her overcome the distance between the ladder and the ground. She took his hand willingly.

They climbed the ladder toward the roof. Nora did her best to keep up with him, but it proved to be pretty much impossible. Therefore, the young man had to wait for her at one point. When Nora made it to the landing, the young man pulled up the first ladder. He then set to work climbing the second ladder; Nora followed suit. When she finally got to the roof, the teen offered her his hand and pulled her up a final time.

“You don’t belong here.” he told Nora once she got her footing.

“What’s going on?” she asked him haltingly, as she was out of breath.

“That I don’t know, but I don’t see how this roundup has anything to do with you.” he replied.

“Who are you?” she asked him.

He looked at her funny with his pale blue eyes, so she rephrased.

“What’s your name?”

“Jack.”

“I’m Nora.”

Nora had hunched over in order to catch her breath so her head would stop spinning. Therefore, her hands were resting on top of her legs. Still, she reached out one of her hands to the teen in order to shake his hand. He took her hand briefly. Then, suddenly, a look of concern crossed his face, and he went to the edge of the roof. He then looked back at Nora.

“This isn’t a normal raid.” he informed her.

“Normal raid …” she repeated.

“They don’t seem to be looking for a specific person. They seem to be rounding up everyone they can.”

“Why?” Nora asked.

By the look on Jack’s face, she could tell he didn’t know what to make of this raid.

“I probably should have gone down.” Jack said.

“Down?”

He looked at her with confusion again.

“Well, Nora, we should probably just wait to see what they want. Now, maybe they won’t come up here, and it won’t even come to a confrontation. Either way, like I said, they probably aren’t interested in you.”

It wasn’t long after Jack said those words that Nora could hear footsteps on the stairs coming from inside the building —pounding and getting louder and louder as they approached.

Jack waited in front of Nora as the men burst through the doorway and onto the roof. Nora remembered wondering why they had guns.

“What is this about?” Jack asked them.

No response came from underneath the men’s gas masks. Two men just came forward and grabbed the two teenagers by the arms and ushered them down the staircase. Nora felt pressure inside herself to say something as the men loaded them onto the conveyance vehicle, but she couldn’t seem to get the words out. Maybe if she waited … maybe once someone with some authority introduced himself or herself she would receive an explanation as to why she’d been detained. Meeting that person would give Nora the perfect opportunity to ask to call her parents. Her parents could then verify Nora’s identity. Surely, the fact that Nora hadn’t been in the area long enough to be who they were looking for would make a difference. Nora wrung her hands after she was settled onto a bench aboard the conveyance vehicle. She noticed that Jack, who was now sitting across from her, was looking at her questioningly as though he was expecting her to take some kind of action. But really, what could she say to these people that they would believe anyway? And yet, even though Jack seemed to be putting silent pressure on her to act, she was glad he was with her.

Nora didn’t panic when the conveyance vehicle started up; she was still convinced this misunderstanding could be cleared up easily and swiftly. Nora leaned toward the glass. She pressed her fingers upon the pane. Time passed slowly. Then, suddenly, Nora looked up in amazement as the vehicle headed past a large fence onto a sprawling complex. Was this facility a prison? It seemed odd, on the one hand, that she’d never heard of this seemingly large institution. Then again, she’d be the first to admit she didn’t know everything that happened on this colony; life always seemed to get in the way. But why would she even need to know about this place? This situation wasn’t her fault; certainly, her lack of awareness of this place didn’t create the situation she found herself in now. True, she shouldn’t have gone back to her old neighborhood without telling anyone, but she doubted all of these people were rounded up for wandering away from home. Yet, it was true that if she hadn’t left home she wouldn’t be where she was now.

“No one knows where I am.” Nora mumbled to herself.

Jack raised an eyebrow. She could tell by his expression that he wondered why she wasn’t speaking up. Nora swallowed hard.

“Excuse me.” she said to one of the guards.

The man took a long and angry look at her. It was a look that warned her not to press further. Yet, she was obviously here by accident; she hadn’t committed any crime. Maybe his reaction was for someone who was supposed to be here — someone who had committed some sort of crime. And yet, as Nora looked around her she couldn’t help but notice that the people on the conveyance vehicle were rather an eclectic mix. How could they all be suspected of the same crime? Still, if she did nothing … if she waited too long, they might not believe there’d been a mistake at all.

“I …”

Suddenly, she noticed Jack shooting her a look of warning. So, she bit her lip instead.

Even so, the guard wasn’t willing to let her utterance go.

“Shut up!” the guard’s voice growled in her direction.

Nora recoiled as the man pumped his fist at her. Some of the other guards laughed aloud. Nora looked down pensively. She barely reacted when the van slid to a harsh stop soon after.

Nora rose in a daze when the guards instructed her to stand. Everything seemed like a thinly veiled threat. She had no doubt that the situation could become violent at a moment’s notice. Nora and the rest of the civilians were then sorted into two lines: one for women and one for men. Just as Nora had feared, anyone who resisted the orders was struck. A female guard headed the women’s line. She informed the women that they would be receiving new uniforms, and that they were to change at nearby locker rooms. Nora looked up and made eye contact with Jack, who was standing nearly across from her. She just stared at him as numbness crept over her. This situation was real, yet unbelievable … unbelievable.

The uniforms were sort of like jogging suits, only more form-fitting. Nora’s was black and gray. They were brand- new and looked rather expensive. Nora noticed that there were more uniforms than were needed given the number of people who were assembled there. Nora was curious as to what that meant, but at least it was less creepy than if they had known their sizes ahead of time.

“You are all very fortunate.” A neatly-dressed woman came forward. “You have been chosen to help our colony.”

There was a pervasive silence; Nora figured it was caused by fear. Certainly, no one wanted to ask what the strange woman meant. No one seemed to want to do anything that brought attention to herself.

“You’ll be given more information about this situation in the days ahead. In the meantime, we want to give you all the opportunity to get settled. Oh, and we also have a buffet for you to try after you get your room assignments.”

All the girls looked among one another.

“Excuse me … but what about our belongings? We weren’t allowed to retrieve them before …” one girl spoke up.

Everybody looked at the girl in horror. She had actually spoken aloud and demanded an answer. On the one hand, it was understandable that the group of women reacted this way. Unfortunately, in retrospect, the women anticipating a reaction may have actually caused one to occur. After all, they were all waiting to take their cue from what happened next. If nothing bad happened, more questions were likely to come; the feeling of silent foreboding would have lifted. If it didn’t go well, then it would reinforce their fears, and the invisible control over the group would be maintained.

At first, Nora could make out a slight pulsing on the neatly-dressed woman’s forehead. Then, just like that it was gone.

“What is your name, dear?”

“Lisa … Smith.”

The girl grew agitated by the response from the crowd. Apparently, it hadn’t occurred to her that her question could put her in any danger.

“Well, Lisa, my name is Mrs. Grafton. You and I can have a little discussion after we’re done here. As for the rest of you — in case you’re wondering — we will be providing you with all of your needs during your stay here.”

Lisa looked down and seemed to flush. Why would she need to talk with Mrs. Grafton after her question was answered? Why should she get punished while all the other girls gained benefit from her question? But Nora was more concerned by Mrs. Grafton’s use of the word “stay.” Exactly how long was the “stay” going to be? Would there be hope of being released after some time had passed? Perhaps, this abduction was just part of some sort of a work program? And yet, why wasn’t it optional? There had to be a better way to get compliance than this method. The thought then occurred to Nora that it might be better that they didn’t know she wasn’t living in the area they took her from. Since Jack didn’t seem completely surprised that they were rounding up people, maybe this occurrence happened routinely yet was not widely known about. If this were commonplace, it would seem better to wait it out, to blend in with the others. That way, they wouldn’t know that Nora knew too much. Still, maybe if she had spoken up right away … Nora wrung her hands. What was she going to do now? How was she going to get information about her whereabouts to her parents? She had to find a way to call them, but how? As they were led away from the area near the conveyance vehicle toward the locker rooms, Nora cast a look at Lisa. Nora actually made eye contact with the shuddering girl at that moment. Nora wondered what would become of her — what would become of them all.

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2016

Romans 2

Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.

But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.

And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?

Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;

“WHO WILL RENDER TO EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS”:

To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:

But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,

Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;

But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:

For there is no respect of persons with God.

For as many as have sinned without Law shall also perish without Law: and as many as have sinned in the Law shall be judged by the Law;

(For not the hearers of the Law are just before God, but the doers of the Law shall be justified.

For when the Gentiles, which have not the Law, do by nature the things contained in the Law, these, having not the Law, are a law unto themselves:

Which shew the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the Law, and makest thy boast of God,

And knowest His will, and approvest the things that are more excellent [Or, triest the things that differ], being instructed out of the Law;

And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,

An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the Law.

Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?

Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?

Thou that makest thy boast of the Law, through breaking the Law dishonourest thou God?

“FOR THE NAME OF GOD IS BLASPHEMED AMONG THE GENTILES THROUGH YOU,” as it is written.

For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the Law: but if thou be a breaker of the Law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.

Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the Law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?

And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the Law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the Law?

For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:

But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God (Romans 2: 1-29).

Daniel 1

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.

And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.

And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes;

Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.

And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.

Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:

Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.

And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort [Or, term, or, continuance]? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king.

Then said Daniel to Melzar [Or, the steward], whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,

Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.

Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.

So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.

And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.

Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.

As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in [Or, He made Daniel understand] all visions and dreams.

Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.

And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king.

And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.

And Daniel continued even unto the first year of King Cyrus (Daniel 1: 1-21).

Isaiah 1

The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me.

“The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, My people doth not consider.”

Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.

Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.

From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment [Or, oil].

Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.

And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.

Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.

Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.

“To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me?” saith the LORD: “I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.

“When ye come to appear before Me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread My courts?

“Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto Me; the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity [Or, grief], even the solemn meeting.

“Your new moons and your appointed feasts My soul hateth: they are a trouble unto Me; I am weary to bear them.

“And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide Mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.

“Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes; cease to do evil;

“Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.

“Come now, and let us reason together,” saith the LORD: “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

“If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:

“But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword”: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.

Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water:

Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: thy judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.

Therefore saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel, “Ah, I will ease Me of Mine adversaries, and avenge Me of Mine enemies:

“And I will turn My hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin:

“And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city.”

Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts [Or, they that return of her] with righteousness.

And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the LORD shall be consumed.

For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen.

For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water.

And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them (Isaiah 1: 1-31).

Isaiah 52

Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.

Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.

For thus saith the LORD, “Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money.”

For thus saith the Lord GOD, “My people went down aforetime into Egypt to sojourn there; and the Assyrian oppressed them without cause.

“Now therefore, what have I here,” saith the LORD, “that My people is taken away for nought? they that rule over them make them to howl,” saith the LORD; “and My name continually every day is blasphemed.

“Therefore My people shall know My name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am He that doth speak: behold, ‘it is I.’ ”

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!

Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion.

Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the LORD hath comforted His people, He hath redeemed Jerusalem.

The LORD hath made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the LORD.

For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the LORD will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward.

Behold, My servant shall deal prudently, He shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.

As many as were astonied at thee; His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men:

So shall He sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at Him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider (Isaiah 52: 1-15).

Acts 9

And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,

And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this Way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:

And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?”

And he said, Who art Thou, Lord? And the Lord said, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”

And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, “Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.”

And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.

And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.

And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.

And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.

And the Lord said unto him, “Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,

“And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.”

Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to Thy saints at Jerusalem:

And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on Thy name.

But the Lord said unto him, “Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:

“For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.

And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.

But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?

But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.

And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him:

But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.

Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.

And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.

But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.

And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.

And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.

Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.

Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.

And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda.

And there he found a certain man named Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy.

And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately.

And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord.

Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.

And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber.

And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them.

Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.

But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.

And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive.

And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.

And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner (Acts 9: 1-43).