Monday, May 24, 2010

Land of Shadows - Chapter XI: Sister Irene

The air was hot and dry. Within a matter of moments her mouth was parched and her throat was raw. Breathing was painful as each draw of air took more precious moisture from her body. Her nasal passages were dry and cracked. She had a brief nose bleed. It stopped only because the arid climate quickly sucked the water from her blood, leaving a dry crust. The valley was deep and steep sided and the air was as still and quiet as a Pharaoh's tomb. The sides were as far apart as the tallest mountain and it stretched as far as the eye could see in either direction. The floor of the valley was littered with what at first glance one would have assumed to be stones and dead wood. But Sister Irene knew them for what they were. Dry dead bones. Long leg bones, flat curved ribs, stony looking vertebrae, tiny little finger bones and large vacant eyed skulls that stared blankly at her. Bones so dry they would crumble at a touch. The grave of the world. The place where all the missing people had gone.

She climbed up to the top of a a large flat rock that has sheared off from the wall of the valley thousands of years before she was born. It alone was clear of bones. The sharp edges of the rock cut at her hands and feet and the sun baked stone burned her flesh.

As the lord commanded her, she stretched out her hand over the valley while His words flowed from her lips. "Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and I will bring flesh upon you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord."

And as she spoke these words a great noise began to rise up from the valley. A rattling and scraping, a grating and grinding as millions of bones began to seek out their mates and assemble themselves into complete skeletons. Sinew and muscle, blood vessels and nerves all began to stitch themselves around the skeletons covering the once dead and dry bones. Skin began to knit around the writhing bodies until at last, once again they rested, whole and perfect as God had made them. Millions of lifeless bodies lay about the valley. The eyes still stared just as blankly as when they were bare skulls. Nothing stirred in the valley except Sister Irene as she watched in awe and horror.

And again God spoke through her lips. "Come from the four winds O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live."

As the last word echoed through the valley a sighing of wind began to sweep through the valley. It rose from a sigh to a roar from all directions as if a thousand tornadoes lay siege upon the valley. As with a tornado, the telling of it last longer than the actual event and it was soon passed. Silence once again reigned in the valley. For a few seconds at least. As one the bodies all took a first breath and that sigh was as the birth pangs of some unseen beast.

The bodies began to rise and and mill about. People clasped at one another to reassure themselves that they were indeed real. They walked and talked in hushed, fearful voices. At first they milled about aimlessly, but a panic quickly spread through them like a fire in dry leaves. The whispers rose to screams and hands that had just gently greeted and held neighbors began to pummel and tear at one another. They beat at each other and clawed and bit like animals. The atrocities committed against each other were beyond description. Men beat and raped the women and even the children. Women tore at the faces of their once beloved husbands and strangled infants they once cradled. Children swarmed on their elders like packs of wild dogs before turning on one another. But not all of those with the fresh breath of life in them had gone insane. A few sane faces showed themselves in the masses. Some tried to stop the madness around them and save who they could, but most simply tried to separate themselves from the seething madness around them. Soon only those calm few and some tattered remnants were standing. The insanity had consumed itself.

One final time God spoke to them, but though He spoke through her, His words were not for her ears. But those that heard His words fell to their knees and wept and she was glad she had not heard them.

She awoke with a cold sweat on her. She knew that there was an important task for her to do. She didn't know what it was, but whatever it was, God would guide her through, He always had before. She rose early knowing from experience that she would not be able to sleep anymore this night. She looked at the Baby Ben windup clock by her nightstand. By the faintly glowing hands of the old clock she could see it was three in the morning. She sighed and lit the lantern by her bed.

She hated when God cast her in the role of a prophet or saint from the Bible. It felt self-righteous and blasphemous, though she knew it could be neither, not if it came from Him. She opened her Bible and turned to Ezekiel 37, The Parable of Dry Bones. She stayed up till sunrise hoping to make sense of the dreams. She knew he was trying to tell her something important. Finally as she was fixing herself breakfast it came to her. She dropped her bowl and left it unheeded as she ran to the sanctuary to cry or pray or both.

They were coming back.

She didn't know when, but she knew this. As they were when they left, so would they return. All the billions of people that had disappeared.

© 2010 R. Keith McBride

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