JACOB INSTALLMENT #15

Chapter Seven

Jimmy pulled off I-10 into the town of Kerrville, their spirits high as they left the barren land behind to enter the hill country of Texas. He pulled into a service station, intending to fill up with diesel fuel. Millie and Joyce dashed out to the women’s restroom as Earl headed for the men’s. When Earl returned he found Jimmy staring at the pump with a perplexed expression on his face. He was reading a notice taped over the credit card slot:

CREDIT CARDS NO LONGER ACCEPTED HERE. HAND READER IN OFFICE.

When they walked into the office, the clerk asked them if they had the newly-mandated hand symbol. He held up his own hand to illustrate what he was talking about. They both shook their heads, which elicited a negative reaction from the clerk. “You need to get with the system,” he told them. “You should report to city hall.” He started to pick up his phone.

“Hold on,” Earl said. “We’re going to do that right now, if you’ll just steer us in the right direction.” The clerk put down the phone and described how to get to the city administrative complex. Leaving the office, they climbed back into the RV, where Millie and Joyce were waiting for them. “Something’s come up,” Jimmy groused. “They aren’t taking credit cards any more. Now we have to go to the city hall and get whatever needs to be done to our hands to let us get fuel.”

“Nosir,” Earl countered this statement. “What this amounts to is the mark of the beast as described in Revelation Chapters 13 and 14. “Accept that and you’ll incur the wrath of God.”

“Say what?” Jimmy said. “We’re almost on empty,” he challenged, pointing to the gauge. “All I want to do is get some fuel so we can continue on. You want to call that a sin, go ahead. I’m going to do whatever it takes to get some fuel. He started the rig, but Earl reached over and yanked out the key, stalling the RV.

“No, you’re not,” Earl said. “I won’t stand by and see you self-destruct. Just listen to me for a moment. Revelation 13 describes the hand identification system known to Christians as the mark of the beast, a means of exchange that was designed and implemented by Satan himself. Anyone who accepts that mark gives the government carte blanche to track and control every movement of that individual. It’s the ultimate prison. More importantly, Revelation 14 describes how the person who accepts that mark instantly and automatically forfeits any possibility of remaining in a relationship with God, but receives His full wrath instead. It’s a very serious business. By accepting the mark, a person declares his allegiance to the antichrist.”

He brushed off the hand that had clamped over his wrist and reached over to Earl’s hand, attempting to grab the keys. Joyce came up and separated them. “He’s right about that, Jimmy,” she said. “We’ve suspected years ago that this eventually would happen. Well, now it has, plain as day. Please understand that Earl is only trying to save you from coming to a terrible end.”

“Well then,” he snarled to cover up his helplessness, “what do you propose that we do?”

“Let me see the map.” After looking it over, Earl pointed down the main street. “That road seems to head out of town toward San Antonio. There’s a little town about 25 miles away called Bandera. Let’s see it they have the same policy.”

Jimmy agreed to the short diversion, and they soon found themselves within the city limits of Bandera, driving beneath a banner that proclaimed the town to be the cowboy capital of the world. Jimmy pulled into the first service station he saw, and was greatly relieved to see the credit card slot open and ready for use. Either the town had not yet reached the sophistication of the larger cities, or its citizens were fighting the transition. Having filled up, they continued down the secondary highway toward San Antonio and stopped at an RV park before they reached the outskirts of the city. Joyce immediately went into the deserted clubhouse, where she scanned the extensive library until she found what she was looking for. Latching onto the Bible, she returned to the RV and opened up the Bible to Revelation Chapter 13. “Here,” she said to Millie, handing her the open Bible, “read this, and then continue on through Revelation 14.”

After reading the passages, Millie handed the Bible to Jimmy. “Read this,” she said, “and then maybe I’ll make dinner for us.” Jimmy grumbled a bit, but he read the passages. “Sounds real serious,” he conceded. “But what can we do about it if it’s a universal thing?”

“I hate to say this, Jimmy,” Earl told him, “but either we’ll get help from outside the system, or we’ll just have to die.”

“You really mean that?” Jimmy said in wonder.

“I do. It’s not always easy being a Christian. I have a feeling that the easy times are over for us.”

“After what you and Joyce just came out of, that’s saying a lot.”

“We may escape the worst of the situation for a while if we play it smart. Starting tomorrow, we’ll have to ferret out a black market system, if one exists around here.”

They were fortunate. The next morning they saw a truck parked across the street from a popular chain grocery store. The driver sat idly behind the wheel, listening to country music. Jimmy parked his rig in the store lot, where they had a good view of the truck, and sat watching. As they watched, another car came up and parked behind the truck. A man got out and walked up to the idle driver, who removed his ear buds. They conversed briefly. Then the man extracted a wallet and handed over several bills. The driver accepted them, got out of the cab, lifted the tailgate, and jumped up onto the bed. He reached down and picked up a hose, which he handed to the other man. They obviously were making a fuel transfer from the truck to the car.   When the transaction was completed and the car drove off, Earl left the RV and wandered over to the truck. “Hi,” he said to the driver. “We’re almost out of fuel. Know where to get some?”

The driver looked him over, then made a judgment. “Sure. I might have a little if you really need it. Gonna be expensive, though.”

“That’s okay. Just asking for now. Actually, I don’t need fuel. But how about groceries? Same deal?”

“Yeah, sure. Just spendy.”

“Thanks. I might be back soon.” He walked back to the RV and gave the good news to the others. “There must be a lot of them out there. At least until the government starts cracking down in serious. Maybe we should try to pay up-front for a long-term stay at the RV park.”

[to be continued]

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