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Nocturne’s Reaping® : Dirge

Chapter 7

 

Nora lay down as soon as she got back to the room. She didn’t even care whether the others were going to stay awake or not. She put a napkin over her eyes to blot out any light, which may result from the other two coming in and out of the bathroom. Finally, Nora started to drift off. Unfortunately, Nora awoke a mere couple of hours later. And what was more, she found she was remarkably alert. Unable to shake her skittishness, she went to the tiny bathroom in the corner of the room. There she threw water on her face. On the one hand, she felt it was great that they had a bathroom attached to the room — it was that added touch that made it seem as though the Administration cared about them. Now, though, given Nora’s interaction with the people here, she could see less positive motives for including it in the room design. It did keep people from the halls and from one another’s rooms. Isolating members of the group from one another might limit talking, which could limit any action they might take to free themselves. As it stood now, there was seemingly no legitimate reason to be wandering around. Still, it was nice — nice to have that bathroom.

Nora was careful to turn off the light before she exited the bathroom, so that the brightness wouldn’t disturb her two roommates. Then, she opened the door carefully to avoid making unnecessary noise. It occurred to her, however, that maybe there wasn’t any need. Maybe they weren’t really there at all. Maybe the two girls had disappeared just as Tina had that morning. Nora waited by the doorway in the darkness. She held her breath and listened. She was relieved when she could hear them breathing. It was silly but to her it meant things hadn’t changed for the worse again.

Nora made her way by memory to where she thought her bed was. When she got close to the spot she remembered it being, she reached out her hand and felt for it. Eventually, her fingertips felt the softness of the fabric. Nora followed along the edge of the bed to her end table. She was planning on recovering the food she had left there; she found she was hungry now. At first, it seemed as though it would be a little difficult to feel which item was which. However, one item was fairly easy to recognize, and she pulled the bag of crackers from the bag. She sat on the bed, opened the package, and began eating them as quietly as possible. After she ate the crackers, she lay down again. Unfortunately, this round of sleep did not go so well as the last one had. Nora began to have nightmares almost instantly. They were the kind of nightmares that were so all-consuming that they seemed to be actually occurring.

The bad dreams were about the nebula reapers. They consisted of scenes taken from what Nora had actually experienced that night as well as parts from the video she had been shown the day before. Nora awoke in a fog. There was fear in Nora — yes. But mainly there was this overwhelming loneliness. Nora wanted her mother desperately. The panic, which had been held fast just beneath the surface, began to leak out. Nora clenched her hands and fought hard to keep it from being released. Eventually, there was no stopping it, and it gushed out. Nora began to sob violently. Yet, she still held out hope that her roommates were asleep. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long after that that a light came on from next to Tina’s bedside.

Nora bit her lip as she stared up at the ceiling. She wanted to stop crying, so she’d be left alone — but it wasn’t meant to be. Tina came first then Elsie. They stood on either side of the bed. They loomed over Nora with curious expressions on their faces. Nora looked at the foot of her bed to avoid making eye contact with them.

“What’s wrong?” Elsie asked Nora in an incredulous tone.

It felt like insult to injury to have Elsie standing there judging her. Nora pulled herself up.

“I’m fine.” Nora returned defiantly. Unfortunately, her voice choked at the end. “I just had a nightmare.”

“About what?” Elsie pondered.

Nora shot a glare at her. Was she serious? Nora was then surprised when she noticed Tina pulling a chair over towards Nora’s bed. Tina then sat down and just looked at Nora.

“What?” Nora asked.

“You were screaming. It must have been something.” Tina pointed out.

Nora’s brow furrowed. It felt as though they were annoyed by her interfering in their sleep. This condemnation after all of the stress they managed to put her through! Nora looked down and bit her lip. She was hoping they would take the hint and leave her alone. When she realized their leaving wasn’t happening, she looked between them.

“You mean besides all of this?!” Nora returned in a sarcastic tone.

Elsie shifted uncomfortably; she then headed toward her bed. Good, Nora thought. Elsie’s presence was annoying to her. Yet, she did feel a pang of guilt about it.

“Yes, besides all of this.” Tina said softly.

Nora looked at Tina quizzically. Did Tina think she was being too harsh? Then again, why should Nora care what Tina thought about it? They were all struggling with this reality. Why pretend it was all great?

“I miss my parents, all right?” Nora remarked defensively.

“They weren’t taken, too?” Tina asked. She seemed confused.

“No, were yours?”

“No, I don’t have parents anymore.” she responded.

Nora looked down. She had mixed feelings about being told that. Was she not allowed to be upset because someone else had it worse?

“I’m sorry to hear that. I must seem heartless.” Nora decided to say.

“No.” Tina countered. “I miss mine, too. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Nora looked back at Tina. Nora breathed as she hesitated. Her eyes drifted towards Elsie. After all, she had learned the other day that Elsie could hear most of what was being said. For some reason, Nora didn’t want Elsie to know. Maybe it was the fact that Elsie didn’t seem to get the seriousness of the situation anymore — if she ever really did. As it turned out, it appeared as though Elsie was sleeping.

“I just … I went there that day on my own, and they don’t even know where I went or where I am now.” Nora began to cry again. “This is all my fault. But then, no one deserves to be here — I’m not saying that. But you and the others did nothing wrong. I, on the other hand, brought this situation on myself.”

Suddenly, an odd look crossed Tina’s face.

“You’re not from the underground.” she realized.

So much for Nora’s avoiding the topic of where she came from; it seemed her nightmare had made that impossible.

“No.” Nora replied.

“The old district, then?”

“Well, I lived there when I was a child … but no. We moved years ago. That day was ironically my first time back. I remembered it fondly. So, when I saw the nebula reapers the night before … Well, I thought going there would calm my fears.”

Tina looked surprised.

“But don’t tell anyone.” Nora was quick to say. “I’m worried for my parents. I don’t want them to get involved in this situation.”

“It seems to me that you should be worried about yourself.” Tina pointed out.

Nora had thought about that possibility but was surprised to hear someone else say it. It made it more real. Nora couldn’t figure out whether the heightening of that feeling was a good or a bad thing.

“Well, I’m afraid my parents would get into trouble if they looked for me.”

Tina looked dumbfounded.

“You know, most people probably don’t know about this place and what’s going on here.” Nora thought to add. “They might hurt my parents to keep it a secret.”

“You really think that’s so?” Tina asked. “About them not knowing, I mean.”

Nora’s brow furrowed.

“Don’t you think they’d want to know what the government’s doing about the nebula-reaper problem?” Tina wondered.

Nora considered.

“I won’t say anything.” Tina concluded.

Both Nora and Tina looked over at Elsie, who still seemed to be asleep.

“So, you’re all right now?” Tina asked.

“Yes … I mean, I’m better anyway. Thank you.”

“All right.” Tina decided.

Tina stood and headed back to her bed. Soon the light was turned off once more. Nora lay back down in the darkness. Slowly, she drifted back into an uneasy but less dramatic sleep.

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2016

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Nocturne’s Reaping® : Dirge

Chapter 6

 

By the time the trio got back to their room, it was clear that something heavy was weighing on Tina. She sat down on the edge of her bed, her hands clasped in front of her and her face downcast. While Elsie was busy looking through her bag of new belongings with renewed vigor, Nora walked over to Tina. It took awhile before Tina raised her eyes toward Nora’s face. It was clear Tina didn’t want to talk about whatever it was. Unfortunately for Tina, Nora didn’t really care at that moment.

“Did you leave the room on your own?” Nora asked in a barely audible voice.

Tina stared at Nora for a moment. A tense silence ensued. Nora thought of telling Tina that she wouldn’t ask anything more about it; but just as she came to that conclusion, Tina shook her head.

“They said I should ask the two of you for details about the meeting I missed.” Tina spoke in a low tone; her eyes were seemingly staring at something below Nora’s face.

“Oh, I took notes!” Elsie chirped. She suddenly sprang up.

Nora was surprised Elsie had been listening in. She watched as Elsie abandoned her bag for her notebook. Then, Elsie took the notebook straight to Tina. Nora could tell by the look on Elsie’s face that she was looking for praise. Instead, Tina just stared at the pages filled with notes unblinkingly.

“I know it’s probably not the same as seeing the video.” Elsie admitted.

There was still no response.

“But honestly, I kind of wish I hadn’t seen the video at all.” Elsie added.

Tina remained silent and withdrawn.

“There is a lecture in a little more than an hour.” Elsie informed Tina.

There was still nothing from Tina.

“You probably didn’t miss anything that isn’t in those notes.” Nora reassured Tina. “There really isn’t much there that is necessary to know either — aside from the daily instructions. I’m not exactly sure what the point of all of it was.”

Finally, Tina looked up at Nora and managed to smile.

“Thank you.” she said softly.

Nora heard Elsie gasp; Nora then looked over at Elsie. A look of confusion seemed to cross Elsie’s face. Nora figured Elsie was confused as to why Nora was the one being thanked. Tina seemed to sense this wounding of Elsie’s pride as well and added, “Thank you, too.”

Elsie nodded, but she still seemed put out by the experience. She left the notebook with Tina and headed back to her bed. She sat at the end of the bed looking sullen; her eyes were cast off to the side.

“We got a lot of food from the cafeteria.” Nora brought up.

Just as Nora said the words, she heard a groan coming from Elsie’s direction. She turned and saw a disgruntled look cross Elsie’s face. To think, Elsie had been the one to guilt Nora about the fact Nora hadn’t wanted to share before. Now, apparently, Elsie was no longer that thrilled with Tina.

“Are you hungry?” Nora continued. “I have some food.”

“Yes. Like crackers or something. I’m not that hungry.” Tina returned.

“Yeah. I think I have those.” Nora concluded.

Nora went to her supplies and found some peanut butter crackers near the bottom of her bag. She crossed the room again and handed them to Tina, who thanked her once more.

“I have a slice of apple pie …” Elsie grudgingly admitted, possibly wanting to be included in the expressions of gratitude. “Apple’s not my favorite anyway.” she added.

“Yeah. That would be nice.” Tina responded.

A frown creased Elsie’s face briefly, but she quickly cast it aside and proceeded to retrieve the promised pie from her bag.

Nora took this moment to contemplate what she had just found out. To think they had taken Tina from the room, and now she was shaken up about it. And why had they done it in secret? Why not make an example of her? Then again, handling the issue in secret was what they had done with Lisa. Maybe they were concerned that the group as a whole hadn’t been made to submit yet. Better to pick them off individually. As it turned out, it was actually creepier this way.

Nora began to stare into space as Elsie watched Tina slowly eat. Nora felt as though she was sinking into herself. Emotionally she wanted distance. Images from the video flashed through her mind. How could Elsie, who seemed so weak, have been capable of watching it all the way through while Nora couldn’t? Nora realized that all three girls were on the verge of falling apart in their own way. All three were struggling. Nora didn’t know them well enough to depend on them for emotional support. She needed her parents desperately. She bit her lip.

First Tina then Elsie turned to look at Nora. Nora purposefully shook off her anxiety.

“So, Elsie …” Nora began, her voice hoarse. “After the lecture, will we have some time off?”

Elsie went over and picked up her notes from where they lay at Tina’s side.

“Yes, but the lecture is set to last until dinner.” Elsie announced.

Nora moaned. She was in no mood for this development. With sleep no longer a possibility — Nora was too filled with adrenaline for rest — it suddenly felt as though there was a long time left to wait for the lecture. And it didn’t help that the room was so stark … so devoid of anything to do. Yet, a lack of entertainment wouldn’t be a problem after the lecture, for there was no doubt in Nora’s mind that she would be able to sleep then — despite the stress she was under. She would be too exhausted to stay awake forever.

Unfortunately, as time passed, Nora became less and less convinced she could actually stay awake until after the lecture. She even wondered whether Elsie and Tina would cover for her if she fell asleep during it. No, somehow she would have to get through it. She couldn’t risk being caught nodding off. Eventually, the intercom emitted its signal, and all of the recruits made their way to the auditorium like a herd of cattle to the corral. It was rather demoralizing to see the passive looks in the eyes of the others. They were resigned it seemed. Nora wasn’t resigned, but she was helpless nonetheless.

All three girls sat together in their designated area after signing in. During the sign-in, Tina seemed particularly concerned that they record her name correctly. Once Tina sat down next to Nora, Tina seemed much more relaxed. Nora wasn’t sure she would ever get Tina to disclose what had happened that morning when she stayed behind in the room. Yet, it seemed clear that skipping meetings had turned out not to be a viable option. The net was tightening around them, and it seemed unclear how bad it would get before they were released … if they were released. No, Nora couldn’t think like that. She had to keep calm; she just had to. If she lost it now, she would probably never again regain her composure.

When the lecture began, Elsie quickly started to take notes. During Mrs. Grafton’s pauses, Nora could hear Elsie’s pen scratching away feverishly at the paper. Nora sighed, leaned back, and closed her eyes. Moments later, she could feel Elsie nudge her. Nora looked over. She was about to protest that she really wasn’t sleeping when she noticed that Elsie was handing her something. Apparently, they were handing out books. Instead of being professionally made, they seem to have just been printed out and bound together in-house. Nora was relieved. At least they didn’t plan for their abduction way in advance; that would have scared her more. For, it would mean that the world Nora knew was always a lie and that there was no hope.

Nora opened the booklet and flipped through it. There was mostly information about piloting planes in there. Nora furrowed her brow. Planes? They were supposed to pilot planes? Were they going to pursue the rogue reapers through the streets of the city? At first the thought was disturbing. But then, the thought occurred to her that if she were let out into the world in some sort of way then this nightmare wouldn’t be so heinous. And possibly, she could even see her parents again. Nora sat up in her chair. She began listening closely to the lecture. There must be something in the lecture — something that would tell Nora she could go home. She wanted to hear there was an end to it; she wanted to hear that they would be released. But Mrs. Grafton didn’t say that. She made no such promises — alluded to no such hope. And then, it was over. Even though time had passed and the rest of the group seemed antsy, Nora was disappointed the lecture was over. She could feel her heart pounding. That couldn’t have been it — it couldn’t be. And yet, people were filing out of the room with those same empty expressions on their faces they had had when they first came in.

Nora could feel her roommates staring at her. The rows were such that there was very little leg room given for people to pass by one another. Elsie could have left, for this time she was seated closest to the aisle. However, she seemed reluctant to leave on her own. So, both Tina and Elsie waited for Nora to stand and walk away. Yet, Nora didn’t want to go — not until they told her what she wanted to hear.

“Nora.” Tina started softly. “Don’t you want to get some sleep?”

Nora looked over into Tina’s eyes. There was some understanding there. Perhaps, Tina could tell that Nora was about to break down. Or, perhaps, Tina could understand what Nora was feeling — a sense of panic — given whatever Tina went through that morning. Either way, Nora couldn’t trap Tina in her seat for the rest of the evening. The room was practically cleared out, and Nora had a feeling that none of them wanted to loiter in the room and draw the wrath of whoever was in charge of closing up. Nora stood. At least, the lecture was over, she thought. But then, the disappointment that she was still trapped by the Administration and was given no hope to cling to about leaving someday crept up on her. Nora almost didn’t catch the despair before it made its way up her throat, but she managed to gulp it down again. It lingered there, buried in her stomach. She could fight the tears. So what that she almost cried? Almost isn’t crying.

Nora didn’t see Jack in the cafeteria. Then, it occurred to Nora that she hadn’t looked for Jack at all that day. She had been so preoccupied with everything going on that she hadn’t thought about Jack at all. She began to grow angry with herself; her face flushed. Maybe he had been trying to get her attention and thought she blew him off. Then, she heard some people nearby discussing how empty the cafeteria was in comparison to the previous night. Apparently, those from the other dorms had just been given the opportunity to partake in the buffet. At first, Nora managed to breathe a sigh of relief that Jack likely hadn’t been there. But then, moments later, she found she was bitterly disappointed. After all, the past was not so important as the present. Would she never see him again?

Ironically, that realization became another blow she couldn’t take at that moment. It became just one of many reasons why Nora would find she wasn’t hungry again. Even so, Nora knew her lack of appetite wouldn’t last. She certainly didn’t want to go hungry or need to ask for food. So, she once more chose food she could take with her. Afterward, she had thought about not waiting for the others to eat and going back to the room on her own. She thought she might want some time alone. And yet, no matter how many good reasons there turned out to be for her leaving, she just sat in that chair in the cafeteria. She felt rooted there somehow. It occurred to her after awhile that what kept her there was fear. She didn’t want to be alone in that room.

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2016

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Isaiah 56

Thus saith the LORD, “Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for My salvation is near to come, and My righteousness to be revealed.

“Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.”

Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from His people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.

For thus saith the LORD “unto the eunuchs that keep My Sabbaths, and choose the things that please Me, and take hold of My covenant;

“Even unto them will I give in Mine house and within My walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.

“Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants, every one that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of My covenant;

“Even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon Mine altar; for Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.”

The Lord GOD, which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, “Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.”

All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, yea, all ye beasts in the forest.

His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.

Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter.

Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and to morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant (Isaiah 56: 1-12).

 

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Isaiah 55

“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

“Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto Me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.

“Incline your ear, and come unto Me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.

“Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.

“Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for He hath glorified thee.”

Seek ye the LORD while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near:

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” saith the LORD.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.

“For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:

“So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

“For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

“Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah 55: 1-13)

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Daniel 2

And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him.

Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king.

And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream.

Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack, O king, live for ever: tell thy servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation.

The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, The thing is gone from me: if ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill.

But if ye shew the dream, and the interpretation thereof, ye shall receive of me gifts and rewards and great honour: therefore shew me the dream, and the interpretation thereof.

They answered again and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation of it.

The king answered and said, I know of certainty that ye would gain the time, because ye see the thing is gone from me.

But if ye will not make known unto me the dream, there is but one decree for you: for ye have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before me, till the time be changed: therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that ye can shew me the interpretation thereof.

The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king’s matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean.

And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.

For this cause the king was angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.

And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain.

Then Daniel answered with counsel and wisdom to Arioch the captain [Or, chief marshal] of the king’s guard, which was gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon:

He answered and said to Arioch the king’s captain, Why is the decree so hasty from the king? Then Arioch made the thing known to Daniel.

Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would shew the king the interpretation.

Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions:

That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.

Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are His:

And He changeth the times and the seasons: He removeth kings, and setteth up kings: He giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:

He revealeth the deep and secret things: He knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with Him.

I thank Thee, and praise Thee, O Thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of Thee: for Thou hast now made known unto us the king’s matter.

Therefore Daniel went in unto Arioch, whom the king had ordained to destroy the wise men of Babylon: he went and said thus unto him; Destroy not the wise men of Babylon: bring me in before the king, and I will shew unto the king the interpretation.

Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste, and said thus unto him, I have found a man of the captives of Judah, that will make known unto the king the interpretation.

The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof?

Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king;

But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the King Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these;

As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and He that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass.

But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart.

Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible.

This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass,

His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.

Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces.

Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.

This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king.

Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.

And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath He given into thy hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold.

And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.

And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: for as much as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise.

And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay.

And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken [Or, brittle].

And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.

And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.

Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.

Then the King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him.

The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret.

Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon.

Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon: but Daniel sat in the gate of the king (Daniel 2: 1-49).

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Luke 17

Then said He unto the disciples, “It is impossible but that offenses will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!

“It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.

“Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.

“And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, ‘I repent’; thou shalt forgive him.”

And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.

And the Lord said, “If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, ‘Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea’; and it should obey you.

“But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, ‘Go and sit down to meat’?

“And will not rather say unto him, ‘Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink’?

“Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.

“So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.’ ”

And it came to pass, as He went to Jerusalem, that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.

And as He entered into a certain village, there met Him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:

And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.

And when He saw them, He said unto them, “Go shew yourselves unto the priests.” And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.

And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,

And fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.

And Jesus answering said, “Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?

“There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.”

And He said unto him, “Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.”

And when He was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:

“Neither shall they say, ‘Lo here!’ or, ‘lo there!’ for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”

And He said unto the disciples, “The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and ye shall not see it.

“And they shall say to you, ‘See here’; or, ‘see there’: go not after them, nor follow them.

“For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of Man be in His day.

“But first must He suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.

“And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man.

“They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.

“Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded;

“But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.

“Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

“In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.

“Remember Lot’s wife.

“Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.

“I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.

“Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

“Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.”

And they answered and said unto Him, Where, Lord? And He said unto them, “Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.” (Luke 17: 1-37)

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Nocturne’s Reaping® : Dirge

Chapter 5

The two girls finally made it back to their room. The scene seemed exactly as it had when they left that morning. The pile of blankets, which constituted Tina, was as high as it had been before. Nora felt a pang of envy seeing that lump. After all, Nora did what she was supposed to do and was robbed of sleep because of it. Not that she wanted to see Tina get punished for sleeping in. No, it was more as though Nora just wished she had had the same amount of courage, so that she could have refused to go. Maybe refusing really was a way for the “recruits” to take back the power over their lives. Maybe the only thing to do was to face down the fear she felt. It was even possible Lisa was around here somewhere. Heck, they could have released her and made the rest of them fear what had become of her in a bid to control those foolish enough to remain.

Nora sat on the edge of her bed with her sack of food, facing the pile of cloth that was Tina. Nora just sat there frozen, staring at the monotonous design of Tina’s blanket.

Elsie, on the other hand, was pulling food readily from her bag and eating it. Nora suspected Elsie had slept better than Nora had the night before as she didn’t show the same telltale signs of fatigue. Given how nervous and fragile Elsie had seemed, her newly found composure surprised Nora. How did Elsie manage to suddenly appear so calm? Perhaps, Elsie’s life had been difficult at times in the past, so she learned to be as happy as possible whenever possible. Maybe Elsie did have some strength — some buried emotional reserve — she could draw upon and was fortunately drawing upon it now.

Suddenly, Elsie looked up. Nora then realized that she had been staring at Elsie in disbelief.

“Aren’t you going to eat?” Elsie asked Nora sheepishly.

“In a minute.” Nora replied.

Elsie shrugged and continued to consume her sandwich.

“It’s good.” Elsie told Nora. “You might want to go ahead and eat.”

The tone of Elsie’s voice … it was unbelievable. Once again, Nora could sense that Elsie was letting her guard down. This trust came despite the video they saw and the explanation that came afterward. Then again, it wasn’t as though Nora really wanted to think about that nebula-reaper footage either.

“Maybe we should have gotten some food for Tina. Then again, we do have quite a bit.” Elsie put forth.

“I’m going to save mine.” Nora said. “Tina can get her own.”

Elsie appeared to be shocked by Nora’s apparent selfishness. Nora reconsidered.

“I guess if they close down the cafeteria we can share with her.” Nora acknowledged.

Nora was surprised by just how bitter she was about Tina’s opportunity to sleep. It was true that Nora could probably try to sleep again, but the stress she felt would make it difficult. And if she did manage to sleep, would she merely be awoken a short time afterward? Just then, another announcement rang over the loud speaker.

“Good morning, recruits. This announcement is to inform you that you can now begin to obtain personal items at the commissary. When you hear your room number, please make your way to the commissary room at the west end of the lobby. Thank you.”

“You hear that?!” Elsie exclaimed. She quickly placed her remaining food to her side. “Finally! I just hope we don’t have to wait too long to be called up. You don’t suppose they’ll run out of supplies, do you?”

“They’ll probably ration the stuff.” Nora yawned.

Far from being relieved by Nora’s response, Elsie frowned. Apparently, she’d have rather heard there were far too many supplies.

“I hope we get enough.” Elsie muttered.

When it became clear that the room numbers were being called out in random order, Nora decided to go ahead and eat. It didn’t look as though sleep would be forthcoming. And yet, if they were called to get their supplies soon, eating at that moment gave Nora the greatest chance of having time enough to sleep between appointments. Thankfully, it wasn’t long after she finished eating that her room number was called. Since Tina had been sleeping all this time, Nora and Elsie decided to call out to her. After all, she would be in quite the mood if she didn’t get any supplies. Not to mention, that neither girl wanted to share hers with Tina. When there was no answer from Tina, Nora and Elsie looked at each other.

Elsie then stood and headed for the bed with determination.

“Tina, we have to get our stuff!” she exclaimed to the unmoving lump.

Finally, Elsie pulled the blanket off the bed revealing nothing but pillows. Elsie gasped aloud. Her hands began to shake.

“What?!” she cried out.

Nora stood and moved toward the bed to make sure she was seeing things right.

“She—she’s gone!” Elsie gasped. “What do we do?! I mean, where could she have gone?”

Nora had no idea. Everything just looked hazy and unreal to her. What could this discovery mean?

“Nora?!” Elsie’s squeaky call managed to rouse Nora’s attention.

Nora quickly moved toward the bathroom, but she could tell before she reached the half-open door that it was empty.

“Let’s go to the commissary.” Nora announced once she realized she had no better plan.

As the two girls quickly walked the halls, their eyes darted to and fro scanning for any sign of Tina. Of course, Nora felt guilty now for being angry with Tina. As much as she tried, she couldn’t convince herself that everything was fine. There was this nagging feeling Nora couldn’t shake. It just didn’t seem likely given Tina’s mood this morning that she got up on her own. Certainly, there were no latecomers at the presentation, and she never took her assigned seat either. Could Nora and Elsie have missed her at the cafeteria? Nora decided they would check there after she and Elsie got their supplies. One thing felt certain: when you’re told to do something around here — even if they say please — it wasn’t optional. As it was, Nora didn’t want to miss her scheduled time at the commissary and apparently neither did Elsie. Then, as Nora and Elsie approached their destination, they could see a figure in the crowd staring at them.

There was Tina standing next to the commissary door — a ghastly shade of gray.

“There you are. I’ve been wondering whether you’d show up.” Tina uttered. She was trying to sound casual, but the shakiness in her voice betrayed her anxiety.

Elsie and Nora kept sending each other questioning looks. Tina seemed to be avoiding direct eye contact. She stared straight ahead, her face flushed. Nora tried to stockpile enough nerve to ask Tina what had happened. Though, every time Nora began to speak Tina would talk over her; she would rattle on and on about the supplies they were getting. Tina seemed surprisingly interested in the commissary. It was true that Nora knew little about Tina. And yet, even with what little she did know about her it seemed odd. However, Nora and Elsie were in too much of a hurry to question her then. All three girls headed inside the commissary instead.

As far as Nora was concerned, she was underwhelmed with the amenities. Though she was happy to be getting personal items, they were clearly generic and bought in bulk. Yet, even though they were cheap, they were still being rationed. Stone-faced employees reached into unmarked cardboard boxes and grudgingly handed over as little as possible to those waiting in line. It seemed strange given that they had to know how many recruits there were by then. Why did they seem so unsure how much to give them? And if they couldn’t afford to provide enough for them, why had they captured so many people? The commissary experience caused the recruits as much stress as the meals had caused relief. It felt as though they were imprisoned for some unknown crime. They weren’t given the option to pay for anything or to take more of one item and less of another. They were treated as nuisances — nuisances who would take more than they needed if given any slack.

And really, why spend so much money on the food but not enough on other things? Maybe it all came down to the fact that food was more of a mood enhancer than a bar of soap. Even so, this whole process was degrading, and for Nora it completely undermined any gain the Administration had made with the food.

“You know, I got to thinking. What if someone used our names to get more?” Elsie worried. “We have no way to prove who we are.”

That thought had never occurred to Nora. Honestly, it didn’t seem they cared who they were all that much unless it was to punish … Nora suddenly looked over at Tina, whose face was still a mask. It sent a chill up Nora’s spine that Tina seemed rather giddy; it just had to be a facade. First off, this behavior didn’t seem to reflect Tina’s personality. Secondly, the contrast between the reality of the situation and Tina’s reaction to it caused confusion for both Nora and Elsie. Elsie particularly looked dazed. Even during those rare instances when Nora got eye contact with Tina, Tina managed to keep up her act. Thankfully, the three girls eventually made it through the line. Nora was glad to be out of there. The crowd inside the commissary was so large compared to the room’s size that it had quickly became stifling. Nora determined that she would conserve her supplies the best she could. Not only did she not want to go back to the commissary, but she also had no idea when or even if she’d be given leave to do so. She certainly didn’t want to have to ask for more.

“Do you think they have a laundry room?” Elsie pondered.

Nora looked down into her bag and realized someone had put clothing in it. Nora stopped suddenly.

“How do they know my size?” Nora questioned.

“I thought about that.” Tina admitted in a drained tone. “All of our clothing seems to have different color collars, so I figure the color given to us was based on the size we requested that first time. That way, they don’t have to ask again.”

“Oh.” Nora remarked. “I guess that is pretty efficient.”

“Too bad they didn’t ask what we like.” Elsie spoke up suddenly. “I really don’t like lavender soap. I got a free sample at a store once. It made my skin itch for days. What am I going to do? I have to have soap.”

“You can have mine. I got aloe.” Tina told her, her voice still surprisingly hollow.

“Oh, good!” Elsie cheered.

Nora was surprised that Elsie wasn’t being sarcastic and actually seemed happy. She could understand Elsie being relieved, but how could anyone be happy here? Just when Tina seemed to come back to reality, Elsie started to act dizzy again. Maybe, Nora concluded, she should just be glad that so far one of them was capable of being related to at any given moment. All she could do now was hope that they wouldn’t both lose it at the same time; Nora was barely holding herself together as it was.

 

Copyright © Jennifer Alice Chandler 2016

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