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Luke 21

And He looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.

And He saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.

And He said, “Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all:

“For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.”

And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, He said,

As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

And they asked Him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?

And He said, “Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in My name, saying, ‘I am Christ’; and ‘the time draweth near’: go ye not therefore after them.

“But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by.”

Then said He unto them, “Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom:

“And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.

“But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake.

“And it shall turn to you for a testimony.

“Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer:

“For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.

“And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.

“And ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake.

“But there shall not an hair of your head perish.

“In your patience possess ye your souls.

“And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.

“Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.

“For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.

“But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.

“And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.

“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;

“Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.

“And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”

And He spake to them a parable; “Behold the fig tree, and all the trees;

“When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand.

“So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.

“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.

“Heaven and earth shall pass away: but My words shall not pass away.

“And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.

“For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.

“Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

And in the day time He was teaching in the temple; and at night He went out, and abode in the mount that is called the Mount of Olives.

And all the people came early in the morning to Him in the temple, for to hear Him (Luke 21: 1-38).

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Nocturne’s Reaping® : Dirge

Chapter 13

Nora could remember hearing voices calling to her, so she must have been in and out of consciousness. Then, when the haze finally cleared, she awoke completely. She slowly opened her eyes. At first, her eyes focused on a strange, bright light above her; the light seared into her. She looked away and blinked as her eyes struggled to adjust. Aside from that one light, the rest of the room was in shadow. Everything looked blurry, and globs of light streamed across Nora’s sight. Nora could make out that there were water pipes overhead, and she could hear water squealing past above her. Maybe it was because of this noise that she had had dreams about her near-drowning experience. At that moment, she almost sighed but ended up coughing instead. Nora concluded she was having trouble breathing because of the water she had inhaled. She sat straight up. As she placed her hand to her chest to stop the aching, she noticed a band on her wrist — sort of a label. The band had her name printed on it. Next, she noticed that her newfound sitting position allowed her to make out more of the room. It was a stark, unwelcoming room. On the walls were rows of metal cabinets. Nora figured she was in some sort of hospital. Yet, there was no buzzer, which would have allowed her to call for a nurse.

Nora sat there for a moment just thinking. Eventually, she found she couldn’t take staying in that bed any longer. Thoughts of the confinement exercise flew through her mind, and, even though she wasn’t tied down, she felt she was being restrained. She had to move! Fortunately, she didn’t have an IV in place to anchor her to the bed. Nora flung back the blanket and jumped up. She could see a light coming from a small window near the top of the exit door. Nora was glad to find the door was unlocked.

Nora opened the door to a long hallway, which was lit with fluorescent lighting throughout its length. On the top of the right-hand wall was the same type of water pipe as before. It made Nora conclude she was in a basement; the hall of which was so empty she could practically hear her breath echoing.

Nora suddenly had this strong desire to get back to her dorm room and blend back in with the others. There was a sense inside of her that she had messed up. She was supposed to have kept her cool, but she hadn’t. Maybe it was her imagination, but she could feel their disapproval — their condemnation — even now while she was alone. If she stuck around the hospital, surely someone would come to speak to her once that person knew she was awake — perhaps even Mrs. Grafton. Maybe if Nora could slide back into the routine, they’d figure she already knew the importance of toeing the line, and they wouldn’t need to threaten her. In the back of Nora’s mind, she could still see the look on Tina’s face after Tina hadn’t gone to that first meeting. Nora figured that she had messed up far worse than Tina had when she simply missed a meeting. Nora not only screwed up her own training but possibly traumatized the others as well. Then again, it wasn’t as though the confinement exercise wasn’t traumatic enough in and of itself. Nothing Nora did or didn’t do would change that reality.

Nora began to step into the hall upon her unsteady feet. The question was which way she should go. The way to the right seemed longer than the way to the left. The part of the hall to the right also seemed to have a connecting hall off to the side. She decided that venturing to the right was the smart choice.

“All right.” she whispered to herself.

Nora was off. She kept her eyes on the pipe to steady herself as she progressed. Nora reached for the wall and touched it. She paused briefly. Then, there was a noise behind her, the sound of a door squeaking open. Nora stiffened and held her breath.

“Wait there, Miss Montgomery. Your bed is back this way.”

Nora turned to see that it was a nurse calling to her. The nurse didn’t look friendly, but that wasn’t particularly surprising to Nora. The nurse approached then. When she got to Nora, she grasped Nora’s arm and began guiding her back to her room.

“Do I have to do it again? The confinement exercise — do I have to do it again? ” Nora asked chokingly as the nurse tucked her in.

“No.” the nurse replied coolly.

“Do you know what I’m talking about?” Nora wondered.

“Yes.”

“Well, don’t I have to pass?”

“No. If they let you repeat the exercise, then everyone could maintain he or she couldn’t do it to delay everything.”

She made it sound so logical. Nora felt torn. She certainly didn’t want to do the confinement exercise again, but what if it really was necessary in order to survive what was to come?

“Not that we don’t believe you,” the nurse continued, “but we can’t have the others getting ideas. Still, if you felt you needed the experience you should have tried harder. After all, everyone else managed to make it through — even after your episode — lucky for you the Administration had a spare confinement vessel.”

Nora didn’t call attention to that last part the nurse grumbled in a barely audible voice. Instead, Nora asked, “So, how long am I going to be here?”

The nurse just stared at Nora. It was as though she still suspected Nora of trying to get away with something. In actuality, Nora didn’t want to stay there. It kept her failure fresh on everyone’s mind.

“The doctor will be here in the morning.” the nurse spoke.

There remained an edge to the nurse’s voice, almost a disappointment. The nurse then turned and left the room. The door clicked softly behind her. Nora breathed slowly and stared at the ceiling.

“Did I overreact?” Nora wondered.

No, just the thought of going back into that capsule caused a sudden wave of panic to grow inside of her.

“What exactly was that exercise supposed to demonstrate,” Nora began to contemplate with some anxiety.

Maybe if she could figure out the reasoning for the confinement exercise, she could prove to herself it was pointless and let the fact she didn’t complete it go. Was that the way it was going to be when she was in one of the planes? How small were the planes? They didn’t seem that small when she saw Group A fly overhead. Then again, later, after that one plane had crashed, she heard someone say that more than one person had died. Depending upon how many were inside, they may have been piled on top of one another like sardines in a can. Nora wondered whether it would be worse, better, or the same to be in a small space with at least one other person. She guessed it mattered who that person was. At least she hadn’t been put through the exercise with someone she didn’t know or like. It was bad enough as it was. Then again, if that was the way it was going to be, why delay it? Why not put them with other people during the confinement exercise? In the end, Nora couldn’t help but conclude that freaking out the recruits ahead of time wasn’t helpful to them. Nora doubted the experience was going to make her any calmer when the time to get into a plane finally did come.

But why did the planes need to be smaller than the ideal size needed to comfortably accommodate the pilots? Did it have anything to do with the nebula reapers? Did it make it easier to evade the reapers? Or, was it just because it was easier to get the planes through the force field, which now surrounded the colony instead of the nebula reapers? Nora had wondered how they planned on making it through the new force field after it was mentioned during one of the lectures. She decided that maybe the small size of the plane allowed them to open a smaller hole in the force field. But still, couldn’t they have found a better way? Had they even tried? Probably not, Nora thought. They didn’t seem to care.

Nora could hear the door click open as she lay there. She assumed it was the nurse. Nora had no idea what time it was, but she figured it was too soon for the doctor to have arrived. Either way, Nora didn’t feel like looking at the nurse and having the nurse look upon her with disapproval again. She figured that whatever the nurse had to do inside the room she didn’t need Nora’s attention to do it.

However, when Nora heard footsteps approaching the edge of the bed, she couldn’t help but turn her face toward her right.

“Jack!” she cried out.

He smiled.

“Hey.” he returned.

Nora lifted herself up into a sitting position. Jack found a chair and started to drag it over to her bed.

“I guess I really lost it before.” Nora offered.

Jack looked at her questioningly for a moment.

“How are you?” he asked her.

“All right.” Nora clutched at her blanket with her hands. Jack raised an eyebrow. Nora looked down again. She bit her lip. “Then again, maybe not. I don’t know; I can’t seem to get my head straight …”

Jack nodded and sat down.

“So, did you go through with it?” Nora asked. “The nurse said everyone else did …”

Jack nodded.

“I probably should have just done it.”

“Why?” Jack asked her.

Nora looked at him skeptically but couldn’t think of an answer that would convey what she was feeling. She grew very serious then.

“You shouldn’t have to go through this training at all but especially not now.” she told him. “I do want you to consider what I said before. I want you to leave if you can.”

“You mean you want me to delay for a short time then …”

“What if something happens? What if there ends up being no need for you to go? There’s no point in both of us dying.”

Nora could hardly believe she spoke the last word. In fact, after she uttered it she froze. Jack kept his eyes on her for a moment. He could tell the moment he saw her that she was exhausted emotionally and otherwise. So, it shouldn’t be surprising to him that she’d basically given up on herself. He stood and began slowly pacing around. Suddenly, he stopped.

“I don’t think you realize how much my meeting you that day meant to me. And now, you give me a reason to somehow make it through this situation.” he told her. “You know, if you weren’t here I really wouldn’t care as much what happened to me. Plus, my helping you gives me something to focus on other than my poor, sad self.”

Nora stared forward then.

“Ironically, being above ground with you is probably the best …” Jack began.

“Stop it! Just stop it!” Nora cried out.

Tears formed in her eyes.

“And what if there is no way to win?” she asked.

“Then, at least we tried.” he returned.

Nora was dumbfounded. Her lip quivered.

“I feel so alone, so odd. I feel as though I’m stuck in some nightmare. I only wish I could go back home … go back to reality. Then again, maybe this world is what’s real. Maybe the rest of it is a dream. After all, it’s the world that told us what reality was. Sometimes they’re wrong, I guess.” Nora paused in the middle of her delirious rant to catch her breath. And yet, she couldn’t seem to stop herself from continuing. “I mean, think about it, this threat has been hanging over our heads all this time. They kept it all from us. It needn’t have gotten this bad. They could have had a plan — one that didn’t require people to die like this.”

Jack considered. Should he try to make her feel better or just be honest about what he was thinking? He chose to be honest.

“Yeah, still … I mean, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but the reality I’ve lived has never been great.” Jack put forth. “Maybe I’ve just lost perspective, but it all feels like more of the same to me.”

Nora was stunned silent. Then, she thought of something.

“No matter where we were before, it seems we’re all in this same sinking boat now.” Nora offered.

“Some of us; you being one.” Jack spoke lowly. “The rest of this world — I’m sorry, but I doubt it. Circumstances could change for the worse, I suppose. But if they don’t …” Jack trailed off. “As far as our getting out of this situation permanently, you have a better chance of that than I do. I did wonder at the time why you stayed, but I thought you must have had your reasons for not trying to escape. Still, if there’s a chance for you …”

“I have a feeling it’s too late.” Nora said. “They aren’t going to just let me go now. Honestly, I’m pretty sure it was too late the moment I was loaded onto that conveyance vehicle.”

“Maybe. But what if it isn’t? I hate to say it, but they could probably find someone to replace you. You don’t have any skill in piloting a plane or anything that couldn’t be replaced.”

“Would my admitting where I come from repair the situation that the colony is in? Would it be any better for me — or even right?” Nora wondered. “Then again, maybe I’m just afraid of becoming more upset if I’m not believed or if I’m refused anyway. If I get my hopes up and nothing changes … how could I handle it? And if I did go home, I don’t want to sit around knowing this horror is happening to other people and wondering whether it could still happen to me. That’s assuming they would even let me leave now that I know too much. At best, they’d probably just lock me up somewhere to wait it all out. And would our world be spared and ever go back to the way it was or at least the way I thought it was? Or, would I just be waiting to die?” Nora paused. “Still, I admit it does haunt me sometimes that I’m destroying my own life by not trying.”

“Then try.” Jack responded.

“How?” Nora asked him with gravity. “You really want me to confess that I was picked up by mistake to the people who forced me into that coffin? Does it really matter now anyway?”

“No.”

“Then what?” Nora questioned him.

Jack hesitated.

“I have some ideas I’m working on.” he finally admitted.

Nora was taken aback. When she asked that question she hadn’t really expected there to be an answer. Still …

“In the meantime, try to stay sane for me.” he added.

Nora realized how badly her breakdown must have affected him. She nodded slowly.

“I’ll try.” Nora agreed.

“Good.” he said. “I’d better get going before that nurse finishes her dinner.”

Jack sneaked out of the room as silently as he had entered. Nora lay back down. Jack’s talk had done the trick. She did have enough hope at the moment to stay sane, she supposed. But would it last?

 

 

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2016

Nocturne’s Reaping® : Dirge

Chapter 12

 

When Nora arrived, there was already a crowd gathering in the field — this assembling of people occurred despite the cold mist, which continued to hover over them. They looked at her with irritation as she approached. Nora suddenly noticed that not only was there a mix of males and females present, but there were also all types of ages represented as well. Most were her age or older, but surprisingly there were also a few people who were younger than she. It struck Nora as peculiar that the Administration would make an effort to assemble together such a strange mix. Maybe they wondered who would do the best job at the mission at hand and were testing it. Nora shook. No, they could succeed. She had to believe that. This plan of theirs wasn’t just an experiment, which was destined to end in failure.

Then, after thinking about her age, Nora suddenly remembered that her birthday should be coming up soon, and she would be eighteen years old. Of course, she hadn’t thought she’d be spending her birthday under these circumstances. She didn’t think it could get much worse after she was separated from her family, but now that she had no one …

“Well, it seems we have the right number of recruits here.” Mrs. Grafton noticed.

So, there wasn’t going to be a roll call?

“I trust no one entered this group without belonging to it.” Mrs. Grafton concluded with a sort of amusement in her voice, which almost sounded like laughter.

It was true. Who would take their places? In fact, Nora figured if they tried to go back to their original dorms they would probably just be turned in by their former friends in a bid to save themselves — just like that one girl Amber was.

“Anyway, today is the day we’ll be doing the confinement exercise. I know you’ve probably heard about this exercise before, but don’t believe everything you hear. You’ll find if you just think you’ll get through it, you will. So, let’s see … who wants to go first? In other words, any volunteers?”

Nora looked around to see whether any of those near her were going to volunteer. No one did. Well, Nora was sure of one thing; she wasn’t going to be the one to volunteer.

“And your name, miss? Miss?” Mrs. Grafton spoke up. Nora shuddered when she realized Mrs. Grafton was talking to her. Nora looked up at her.

“What’s your name?” Mrs. Grafton asked while fixated on Nora.

“Nora … Montgomery.” Nora’s voice cracked.

“Nora Montgomery. Congratulations. You just volunteered.”

Nora’s hands began to shake. The others around her seemed smug and rather pleased. It was clear that Nora was selected because she had become the least popular of the group. Picking on her wouldn’t get the group agitated; in fact, it would probably score Mrs. Grafton some points. Then, there was also the relief the others would feel. After all, if Nora was singled out they’d probably be treated better by comparison. Nora doubted this treatment was going to be a one-time occurrence either; she feared her being singled out this way was only the beginning of Mrs. Grafton’s harassment.

Suddenly, she could hear someone approach from behind her. Maybe someone was about to volunteer. Then again, Mrs. Grafton probably wouldn’t allow anyone to take Nora’s place at this point. Besides, it seemed clear that Nora would be going soon no matter who volunteered. Even so, Nora decided to turn and smile at the person who felt some pity for her.

“You …” Nora started.

Jack raised his eyes and looked at Mrs. Grafton.

“All right. Let’s head out.” Mrs. Grafton announced.

The rest of the group walked on in a sort of disorganized mass without any hesitation. Apparently, seeing Nora do the confinement exercise was something no one wanted to miss. Jack walked ahead as well — but presumably for different reasons. Nora hesitated. Then, Mrs. Grafton cast a look back at Nora; she seemed to stop and wait for her. It was obvious Nora couldn’t get away. So, she went along with the others. She walked swiftly in order to catch up to the group. Eventually, Jack gravitated back towards Nora again — close enough that they could whisper to each other. After a moment, which Nora used to catch her breath, Jack and Nora began to talk in low voices. Still, to cover it up, Nora looked straight ahead at the back of Mrs. Grafton’s head.

“How are you here?” Nora queried softly.

“It isn’t really hard to get someone to change places with you under the circumstances. I made the switch after the others in Group B came out of the dorm. I looked for a guy who was about my age and my height. There weren’t many recruits to choose from, so he doesn’t really look all that much like me. Fortunately, Mrs. Grafton didn’t get a good look at me before. She apparently didn’t bother. Anyway, I guess there is somewhat of a risk that the switch will be discovered. But still, under the circumstances, it’s worth the risk.”

“Will the others report him?”

“Only if they hate him.” Jack laughed to himself. “Really, I don’t know. The fact nothing has happened yet is a good sign. I’m hoping he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t stand out.”

“But what about you …” Nora started.

“I’d rather be with you than wait for my name to be called in a week or two.”

“You think it’ll be that soon?”

“Yes. They’re running out of time. They won’t be able to keep up the shield much longer, I think. That’s how it seems to me given the way they’re acting.”

Nora was surprised that Jack could be so sure. After all, this was his life that was hanging in the balance.

“I just wish I felt there was a chance for success in Group B.” Nora stared down at the ground. “You could possibly survive if you belonged to another group. Maybe you’d be released even.”

Jack looked at Nora a moment.

“I heard earlier that new recruits are going to be brought in to replace the numbers for both Group A and Group B. If true, that won’t go over well, I think, for the others we know. Obviously, the Administration doesn’t think the problem will be resolved soon. There is no safe place.”

“So, they’ve replaced us already. It’s as though I don’t even exist.” Nora remarked.

“I remember you exist. I can’t forget it.”

“Thank you.” Nora replied softly.

Nora finally managed to smile. Jack smiled as well.

“I’ll find a way to visit you as often as I can.” he added. “We aren’t on the same floor obviously.”

“That’s good … I mean the part about you visiting me.” Nora started. Then, she looked him straight in the eye and whispered. “But it would be better for you if you got out of here.”

“Yeah, well.” Jack replied. “We can’t have everything.”

It was strange to Nora that as they approached the gymnasium they weren’t slowing down. Nora became even more stressed when they bypassed the building altogether. Nora had assumed that they were heading there; she had thought the confinement exercise would be in a pool. Now, she didn’t know what to think. The only thing that was apparent was that the confinement exercise was going to be held at a different site. Nora didn’t think there was any possibility that Mrs. Grafton had reconsidered doing the exercise that day. Nora felt like asking where they were going but decided against it. After all, most of Group B was already down on her, so her speaking up now wouldn’t do her any good. Jack did look over at Nora questioningly. She looked up at him just as they all suddenly stopped.

Nora looked around her and spotted a large, rather murky-looking lake. Not far from her was a small deck with a tiny, rectangular watercraft attached to it.

“For some reason, people tend to get wet in the confinement exercise. That’s the reason why we took the precaution of having you wear swimsuits.” Mrs. Grafton noted.

Nora’s eyes widened in horror.

“Miss Montgomery, you’re up first.” Mrs. Grafton stated. “Step forward.”

Nora looked around her. The only sympathy she received was from Jack.

“All right, Miss Montgomery. There is only so much light in a day.”

Nora looked at the ground. This exercise just kept getting worse; it seemed as terrifying as she had feared. And she couldn’t even see someone else demonstrate it first to reassure her that a person could survive it. Then, the thought occurred to her that if she kept delaying the exercise that Jack would most likely offer to take her place. That might make the connection between them obvious. No, Nora couldn’t have that. Still …

Nora’s first instinct at that moment was to look to Jack, but she stopped short. It occurred to her that she was alone earlier that day. It was great that Mrs. Grafton didn’t recognize him from the Group B meeting. And if the others did, they weren’t saying. Even so, she didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that Jack didn’t belong in Group B and had left with the others before Group B’s meeting. If they did find out, would they kick Jack out of Group B or just add back the other guy he replaced? Then again, there had to be a reason that the larger group she had arrived here with initially had been carved up into smaller groups. There might actually be a limit to the number of people who could pilot the available planes. On the other hand, if Jack could get out of Group B and have more time … maybe there was more hope that he would live. Could she really allow him to make this sacrifice for her? Even if he got punished, maybe it would be worth it to get him out of Group B … But then, what if the punishment for the switch was severe? Nora couldn’t think straight. She didn’t have time to think; she’d have to deal with this dilemma later.

“Miss Montgomery!”

“What do I have to do?” Nora finally asked.

“That’s the first helpful question you’ve asked me.” Mrs. Grafton sneered. “Go to the dock, and the man there will give you your instructions.”

As Nora made her way to the dock, she couldn’t help but feel guilty, for she had potentially chosen what was in her best interest over what was best for Jack. What if the longer they waited to tell the truth the worse the consequences would be for him? She couldn’t help but compare his situation with hers. What if she had spoken up when she was first taken? The only positive thing about her worrying over Jack’s fate was that it kept her from overthinking what was about to befall her. The reprieve from her anxiety about her own situation ended when she got a close look at the small vessel; it reminded her of a coffin. She shrank back.

“Hey … hey.” the man at the dock uttered.

Nora finally looked away from the vessel and at the man briefly. Then, her eyes skirted to and fro.

“What’s your name?” the man asked.

“Nora …”

“Nora, my name is Gerald.”

She took up and shook his hand.

“This isn’t so bad really.” the man insisted.

“Really …?”

The man then leaned forward and whispered, “Now, please don’t make me force you in there. I’ve done it before. I don’t want to, but I’ll do it again.”

Nora hesitatingly stepped forward.

“Good girl, I’ll help you inside.” the man said.

Nora cringed as the man lifted the large lid up. There was a faint odor of vomit inside the capsule.

“Get inside.” the man demanded, this time without any compassion in his voice. As Nora hesitated again, he basically shoved her into the capsule. By the time she managed to sit up, he had slammed the cover onto the capsule’s frame. Nora clasped her hands to her head as the noise from the slamming reverberated in her ears.

Nora had held her breath to avoid inhaling the stench while on the dock. Now, as she found herself inside the capsule without the luxury of fresh air to breathe in, she breathed in the putrid air instead. Nora was almost caught up in the instinct to gag. However, as the capsule began to sink, Nora was distracted away from the smell and engulfed by fear. As the water level on the sides of the windows began to creep up, Nora could see Jack on the shore watching her. At first, it was as though she could focus in on his eyes. Then, he became a blur.

Though Nora tried to control her breathing for a moment, she found herself on the verge of hyperventilating anyway. Nora placed her hands on the glass. No water was leaking into the capsule, but there also didn’t seem to be any source of oxygen in the vessel. It was so small and so confining. Nora was overtaken by the need to make sure there was a way out of this trap. Nora began to strike her palms against the hatch repeatedly.

Of course, once Nora was able to slowly dislodge the hatch from the vessel the water from the lake began to leak in. As the water began to fill the tiny place she occupied, there seemed to be no turning back. Nora then increased her efforts to break free, but the lid didn’t seem to want to give her any more of an opening. So, Nora began to use her feet to kick the cover free. Nora took one last breath as the hatch finally gave way. She then put all her strength behind swimming toward the surface.

Nora began to feel her lungs ache. She soon worried that she didn’t have the lung capacity to make it to the surface. Try as she might, she couldn’t resist the urge to breathe. She tried breathing out slowly in order to buy herself more time. However, it wasn’t long before her lungs demanded oxygen brought in. Only, there wasn’t any air to breathe just then. She could see the vessel slowly being pulled toward the surface beneath her as she began to grow lightheaded. She clawed at the surface. She could see wavy forms above her and to the right, but they seemed so far away.

By some miracle, just as she felt herself losing all her strength, she broke the surface. Nora could see a group near the water’s edge. She heard Mrs. Grafton acknowledge that the capsule had made a strange jerking movement moments earlier. Then, the woman told the crowd that they were following protocol and bringing up the capsule.

Nora began coughing violently. And yet, her sounds were faint when compared to the noise produced by the rest of Group B. For, when the capsule came up empty its members gasped and screamed aloud. Nora could see Jack, who stood in the middle of the group, staring at the capsule like the others. Then, he got this questioning look on his face. He slowly started to turn to the right and seemed to trace the ground with his eyes as he did. Nora wanted to call out to him, but her lungs seemed to have seized. She couldn’t breathe despite making every effort to. It was at that moment that the dark spots that had begun to appear in her eyes overcame her, and she passed out.

 

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2016

Psalm 27

A Psalm of David.

 

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.

Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty [Or, the delight] of the LORD, and to enquire in His temple.

For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion: in the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me; He shall set me up upon a rock.

And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in His tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD.

Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.

When Thou saidst, “Seek ye My face”; my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.

Hide not Thy face far from me; put not Thy servant away in anger: Thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.

When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.

Teach me Thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.

Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.

I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

Zechariah 7

And it came to pass in the fourth year of King Darius, that the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah in the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Chisleu;

When they had sent unto the house of God Sherezer and Regemmelech, and their men, to pray before the LORD,

And to speak unto the priests which were in the house of the LORD of hosts, and to the prophets, saying, Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years?

Then came the word of the LORD of hosts unto me, saying,

“Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, ‘When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto Me, even to Me?

“‘And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?

“‘Should ye not hear the words [Or, Are not these the words] which the LORD hath cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her, when men inhabited the south and the plain?’ ”

And the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah, saying,

“Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, ‘Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother:

“‘And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.’

“But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.

“Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in His Spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts.

“Therefore it is come to pass, that as He cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear,” saith the LORD of hosts:

“But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate.” (Zechariah 7: 1-14)

Isaiah 59

Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear:

But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.

For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.

None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.

They hatch cockatrice’ [Or, adders’] eggs, and weave the spider’s web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper.

Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works: their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands.

Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths.

The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment [Or, right] in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.

Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness.

We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men.

We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us.

For our transgressions are multiplied before Thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them;

In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.

And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.

Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey [Or, is accounted mad]. And the LORD saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no judgment.

And He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore His arm brought salvation unto Him; and His righteousness, it sustained Him.

For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon His head; and He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak.

According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay, fury to His adversaries, recompence to His enemies; to the islands He will repay recompence.

So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.

“And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob,” saith the LORD.

“As for Me, this is My covenant with them,” saith the LORD; “My Spirit that is upon thee, and My words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed,” saith the LORD, “from henceforth and for ever.” (Isaiah 59: 1-21)

Isaiah 5

Now will I sing to my well-beloved a song of my beloved touching His vineyard.  My well-beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:

And He fenced it [Or, made a wall about it], and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and He looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.

“And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt Me and My vineyard.

“What could have been done more to My vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?

“And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:

“And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.”

For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah His pleasant plant: and He looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.

Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!

In mine ears said the LORD of hosts, “Of a truth many houses shall be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitant.

“Yea, ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, and the seed of an homer shall yield a ephah.”

Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!

And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the LORD, neither consider the operation of His hands.

Therefore My people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.

Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.

And the mean man shall be brought down, and the mighty man shall be humbled, and the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled:

But the LORD of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God that is holy [Or, the holy God] shall be sanctified in righteousness.

Then shall the lambs feed after their manner, and the waste places of the fat ones shall strangers eat.

Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope:

That say, Let Him make speed, and hasten His work, that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it!

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!

Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink:

Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!

Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.

Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against His people, and He hath stretched forth His hand against them, and hath smitten them: and the hills did tremble, and their carcases were torn [Or, as dung] in the midst of the streets. For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still.

And He will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly:

None shall be weary nor stumble among them; none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken:

Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent, their horses’ hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind:

Their roaring shall be like a lion, they shall roar like young lions: yea, they shall roar, and lay hold of the prey, and shall carry it away safe, and none shall deliver it.

And in that day they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea: and if one look unto the land, behold darkness and sorrow [Or, distress], and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof (Isaiah 5: 1-30).