Chapter Twenty











The government might as well have added a “C” and “J’ to their AIDE acronym, for it responded to this new unrest by bringing the Christians and Jews under their umbrella.  “For their own protection,” the government claimed loudly and often as they began to round up Christians and Jews and transported them to new living quarters consisting of the barracks surrounded by barbed wire in which the elderly and infirm were held captive.  A few individual couples, posing as Christians, were set up in rather splendid quarters which obviously offered dignity, privacy and comfort.  These false showcases were filmed and disseminated to the public, making it even angrier against these “privileged” Christians.


The mistreatment and incarceration of people of the Book suited God just fine.  Historically, the Church has thrived under persecution.  The addition of Christians into the mix of elderly, infirm and handicapped served as an unprecedented opportunity to reach out to the unsaved with the Gospel message of love and hope.  The guards, under the control of satan, responded to this realization with harsh and cruel treatment of the Christian prisoners.  They were quick to invent new ways of entertaining themselves at the inmates’ expense.  The latest fashion was to force a group of prisoners to form a circle, standing with bare feet under the fierce noontime sun as they ate their sparse midday meal.  Their hopping caused them to spill their meals, leaving them thirsty and hungry.  The motion also resembled a dance, which the guards found hilarious.  Another favorite that persisted beyond the fad stage was to plant a scorpion inside the covers of a bed and watch with glee the surprise and agony on the face of the victim as the insect inflicted its sting.  Recipients of this treatment, already weakened by the inadequate food and harsh conditions, inevitably would pay with their lives from this joke.


Nevertheless, the Christians held fast to their faith, becoming stronger with each cruel act they were forced to endure.  Mighty in word, they brought many souls into the kingdom of God.


Having belatedly caught on to the deeds of salvation being wrought by the Christians that had come into the camp, the warden separated them from the general population, isolating them in separate barracks.  This had little effect, for the others still saw the brave manner in which the Christians endured the pain and humiliation of the guards’ recreational torture.  Moreover, the Christians were able to leave some scraps of Scripture behind.  One person had from memory scratched the complete text of John’s Prologue, verses one through eighteen of Chapter One of John’s Gospel, onto the underside of a toilet seat.  This single item of itself led over a hundred people to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.


The general public wasn’t faring as well as it expected to under the increasingly repressive regime.  The drastically younger population had something in common: the entire generation had been taught unceasingly in school to embrace selfishness as a natural and wholly welcome trait.  That, positive thinking, acceptance of “God” as irrelevant to the real world, sensitivity to self-esteem (when it concerned self), openness to hedonistic sexual experimentation, and lack of discipline left it completely without the moral strength to contend with or influence the direction that society was taking.  And the direction was in a rapid downward spiral.


At first the much younger society at large had enthusiastically supported the attrition of the elderly and unfit, being quite pleased with the prospect of living life as they wished with their parents’ possessions and wealth but without the intrusion of the care involved in dealing with the diminished capacity of mom and pop.  Moreover, they expected the savings in health costs to pay immediate dividends in the form of reduced taxes, free health coverage and general prosperity for all.


It didn’t happen that way.  Taxes continued to climb under the rationale of  meeting costs associated with preparing to enter a more tightly-joined community of nations.  Health coverage was indeed free, but as often as not the reason for visiting the clinic was sufficient to place the visitor into the category of the infirm.  This of course, to the total shock of the individual who had sought medical attention, meant his removal from society at large.  An enormous number of outraged people who knew of the negative connotations of the changes that had swept society but thought of them as applying to others, had to think again.  And the thoughts were anything but pleasant, exacerbated by the realization that at this stage there was nothing anybody could do about the horrifying situation.


A tsunami of government regulations, having been enacted with indifference to the normal process of legislation, worked inexorably to disenfranchise people from the ownership of land and to bring them en masse into rapidly-expanding cities, where they became apartment dwellers living with minimal possessions and entirely void of property.  The final straw for small farmers was the fiercely-enforced regulation against child labor.  Without the help of their children, farmers were faced with the necessity of hiring adult laborers at the exhorbitant rates established for the protection of farm workers.  They folded instead.  They had to.  They had no choice.  Small business, over-regulated in the same heavy-handed manner, also folded.  These too were taken over by their larger brothers, the international corporations.  


The land itself, or at least that portion of it that God had not rendered barren through one disaster or another, continued to enjoy full utilization.  The farms were taken over by large corporations.  Having established the necessary control over the population through draconian ‘green’ laws, the government no longer bothered with the fiction of environmental concern.  Huge strip mines opened up, and the earth was torn asunder to make way for vast oil pipelines and processing facilities.  Once again, smog enveloped the large cities as they hummed with the feverish activity of minimum-wage workers who were happy just to continue to survive.



Chapter Twenty One




Eventually the day came when Joyce responded to a knock on the door to face Mildred Black, the mean-spirited woman from the bureaucracy, now a member of the AIDE agency.  Joyce’s heart fell.


Mildred didn’t wait to be invited in.  Pushing the door aside, she entered the foyer and removed her coat.  “I suppose you know why I’m here,” she said.  “I know that Catherine’s here too,” she added with a cat-catching-the-mouse sneer.  “We can do this the easy way, or I can call the menfolk.  How do you want this to go down?”  Obviously, Mildred was addicted to cop shows on the tube.  She brushed Joyce aside and headed toward the bedroom area.


Joyce had feared that this day would come.  They had done nothing to prepare for it, simply because they didn’t have any idea what to do about it.  They’d also begun to hear rumors of the wholesale slaughter of the least productive members of society, the handicapped, the infirm, and the elderly.  Something snapped inside her, and before she could catch a calming breath she grabbed the coatrack and swung it against Mildred’s head, flooring her.  She looked upon the now-unconscious face, saw blood trickling from a wound in her head, and knew that she had crossed a bridge dividing one part of her life from the next.  She hastily collected some food and water from the refrigerator, rummaged around the bedrooms for changes of clothing, and wheeled Cathy out to her car.  Once on the roadway, she drove aimlessly for a quarter of an hour.  Collecting her wits, she headed for Pastor George’s residence next to their Church.


“I can’t hide here any longer than a couple of hours at most,” she told George.  “Given the amount of information they have on everybody, this will be one of the first places they’ll come looking once Mildred comes to her senses.”


“Are you sure she will?  Come to her senses, I mean.  She isn’t – ah – dead, is she?”


“No.  I’m certain of that.  I checked her breathing with a mirror.”


“Well, that’s something, at least.  They can’t kill you for murder, then.”


“No.  Just for being a Christian.”


“There is that.  I’ll call Earl at work, let him know that you’re here and that he may want to get here in a hurry.  No, better yet, you call him.  Mildred’s probably still out, and if you call there won’t be an obvious connection to me.  Not that I’m afraid, it’s only a matter of time now before they collect us all.  But I’d like to be able to take care of the rest of my flock as long as I can, especially one or two fence-sitters who are starting to come around.  It would be best if you met him someplace other than here.  I’ll take care of Cathy in the meantime.”


Joyce called Earl and asked him to meet her right away at the local Walmart parking lot.  She didn’t have to say anything else.  He knew from the tone of her voice that the request was an urgent one.


Joyce arrived first.  The inactivity of waiting caused her to think of the implications of what she had done.  She began to see flashing lights on the roof of every car that moved.  As terror crept in and set her nerves on edge, she put her head on her hands.  What am I going to do? she wailed.  Lord, please help me.



It was a single word, a name, that came into her head insistently and repetitively.




Confused, Joyce didn’t know what to make of it.  She didn’t know a Cindy.  


Earl arrived before Joyce could make sense of the stray name.   When he parked she ran up to his car and jerked open the door.  “I’m in real trouble,” she said breathlessly.  “I hit Mildred Black in the head and left her unconscious on the floor.”


“You mean the rude bureaucrat who gave us such a hard time with the adoption?”


“Yes.  I’ve got Cathy at George’s.  We can’t go back home.  I just came from Church.  We can’t stay there.  I don’t know what to do.”  Tears leaked from her eyes.


“I like it, Joyce,” he said with a grin.  “I know we’re not supposed to get our own back, but just this once it feels real good.”  The grin widened.  “Did you confront her first – ask her if she felt lucky?”  He rushed over to the other car, locked the doors, and returned to her.  “Look, we probably have enough time to load up with some basics.  Let’s go shopping.”  Earl grabbed a stray cart and the two headed inside the huge store, where they focused so intently on the task at hand that they didn’t have time to speak to each other.  They returned after the whirlwind spree and loaded up the back seat.  They jumped into the car, slammed the doors and he pulled out of the parking lot.


“Anything come to mind yet?” Joyce asked him.  “I’m so sorry, honey.”  Just having Earl next to her calmed her down, morphing her panic into remorse.


“Why?  You had to do something, Joyce.  You know exactly what would have happened to Cathy if you’d stood there and done nothing.”


“Thanks for that.  But what would have happened to Cathy might very well happen to the three of us anyway.”


“Whatever we do, we’re going to need some basic supplies for our young ‘un.  I’ll have to risk going to the nursing home before we pick up Cathy.  They’ll probably figure that it will be last place we’d go.”


Earl continued to plan their next move as they loaded a power wheelchair and more supplies into the already-stuffed car.  He and Joyce gave Laurie a heartfelt goodbye and took off.


The two remained silent for several minutes, each attempting to fit this new event into their minds as the car headed to Pastor George’s.  “Chin-up, darling,” Earl told her.  “If you could get through the hospital experience like you did. . .”


She stared wide-eyed at him  “Cindy!” she suddenly exclaimed.  “I do know Cindy!”


“Cindy?” Earl responded.  “Cindy who?”


“Cindy Miller.  She was in the hospital with me.  After our accident.  Maggie, my therapist, was helping me and another patient who had a wrist injury.  Both of them had wonderful senses of humor and with that and the pain, we became very close.  Cindy had a boat.  A sailboat.  It was the love of her life along with her husband Stephen.  Maybe they still have it.


“So?  How does that involve us?”


“I’m not sure.  All I know is that I called out to God in despair while I was waiting for you in the parking lot, and the name Cindy popped into my head.  You figure it out.”


“Are you sure that it wasn’t just a stray thought?”


“No.  It was too insistent for that.  It meant something, Earl.”


Earl didn’t say anything more about it while they continued to drive to George’s.  When they arrived there, George motioned them into the garage and shut the door behind them.  “Under normal times, I’d advise you to turn yourself in to the authorities, Joyce,” George said.  “But these times are anything but normal.  As a matter of fact, we’ve probably put ‘normal’ behind us forever.  So now I’d say that you’d probably do better on the lam.  Too bad I can’t give you advice on where to go and how to do it when you get there.”


“Do you have a phone book?”  Earl asked his pastor.


“Yes.  But what good. . .”


“God’s been talking with Joyce,” he replied, cutting off the question.  We have a name.”


George went into his study and returned with a telephone book, which he gave to Joyce.  She thumbed through it quickly.  “Miller. . .Miller. . .Stephen. . .ah.  Here it is, a cell number I’m sure.”  She recited the number to Earl, who wrote it down.


“Hello, Cindy?” Joyce said into the phone.  This is Joyce Cook.  I’m not sure that you remember me. . .oh, you do?  How are you?”  She listened for a moment.  “Oh, that’s wonderful,” she replied.  “Cindy, I’m not sure what’s going on, but I’ve been hearing your name in my head, and right now. . .yes.  Yes, I’m in trouble.  We have a child now, Cindy.  A darling girl, eleven, but she has cerebral palsy.  The government wants to take her away from us.  We suspect that they want to euthanize her.  I went off the deep end, Cindy.  When the government worker threatened to take her away, I lost it and whacked her on the head.  Then I ran away. . .Well, yes, but. . .Are you sure?  I don’t know, Cindy. . .well, okay then.  ‘Bye.”


“She obviously doesn’t want to see us,” Earl told her.  “I don’t blame her.  Who wants to shelter three fugitives, one of whom has a hard time getting around.  And especially with the resources the government has at its disposal.  And then. . .”


Joyce put her finger to his lips.  “Calm down, Earl,” she said.  “Cindy said no such thing.  She told us to get our butts down to the marina as soon as we can.  They’ve been liveaboards for the past three months waiting for an excuse to sail into the sunset.  They’re on G dock.  Slip G-3.  Let’s go.”


“Oh,” was all he could say.  























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