I'm a Navy Veteran (Hospital Corpsman), Registered Nurse, and Author. Here, you'll find book reviews, short stories, shared adventures from my time in the Navy, and news about my current and upcoming book releases. Visit www.roycesears.com to learn more.
By Royce Sears Book One of The Elegance of Nature Series
“Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened”
Jadyn’s thoughts began to drift as he waited. Thoughts of his Family, of the happiness his success would bring, of the shared food, and of the approval that he might win from Tayana. It was getting harder and harder to concentrate on the important things as thoughts of both Tayana and Merina occupied his mind more. He fought to keep his mind on the hunt but it drifted into thoughts of Tayana as he waited, recalling the way her hips swayed as she walked. She was a few years older than him and had more experience— of that he was sure. She enticed him with her long black hair, fluttering eyelashes, and curvy body that she accentuated with clothing selected to enhance her curves. She tantalized him with long, lingering stares and quick, soft touches that always left him craving more. He loved it when she would linger close enough for him to smell her handmade scented soap, luring him away from whatever task he might be doing. Walking away from him, she would swing her hips and toss her hair as she led him to a secluded spot to bestow a lengthy and passionate kiss upon him. He found himself longing for more of those kisses while thinking of Merina at the same time.
Merina was a year younger than him, and they had grown up playing together, but there was a closeness and familiarity that was both attractive yet distancing. Merina was physically attractive, but she seemed more like another one of the guys most of the time. It seemed things had been changing recently, but he wasn’t sure how they were changing. She looked at him differently. Her sidelong looks, and sometimes blatant stares, were more like how Tayana looked at him. He knew they both considered him handsome, thanks to snippets of whispered conversations between them in the dark of night— when they thought everyone was asleep. They’d both commented on the way his long, dark hair flowed around his shoulders and his deep brown eyes. To be honest with himself, he wished he could spend more time with both of them, but the keenly felt pressures of providing for the Family’s food supply had to come first.
Food, hunting, and providing for the Family brought thoughts of his brother and the conversation with Eric during the night. Jadyn remembered the argument with his brother in their last conversation.
“Jared, you know how Gramps tells those wild stories about the old days, how can you even believe half of what he says?”
“Jadyn,” his brother said condescendingly, “If even part of what Gramps says about guns is true, with the range ten times that of a bow, something like that would make hunting and providing food for everybody easier. We’d really be ready for winter for a change. More importantly, they’d give us a chance to fight back against the Fects. I’m tired of running and hiding, I’m tired of losing people to them, and,” he added in a low growl, “I want revenge.”
“But it might be just the stories of an old man too, Jared,” Jadyn argued, “Gramps is what, over eighty now? And he was just a boy when IT happened. You heard him! He said he was eleven when the Aliens came from the sky and people started getting sick.”
“Jadyn, it’s worth the risk.”
“You realize you’ll be going into their territory right? That’s the only reason they never went back for more ammunition. The virus first started in the Old Places, Jared. Gramp’s says nobody’s ever survived going back to the Old Places. He says the Old places are dangerous, and off-limits for all of us. Besides, what if you don’t make it back?”
“We’ll be back in no time, and with something to make life better for all of us,” Jared replied matter-of-factly, “you just keep doing what you’re doing and keep everybody fed. I’m gonna show these things that we’re not just going to roll over and die for them.”
Jadyn moved to embrace his older brother, but Jared stepped out of the way and focused on his final preparations. Jadyn settled with a pat on his back, “Be safe out there Jared. I don’t want to lose you too.”
Jared scowled, “We’ll be fine.”
With those final words, Jadyn watched his brother join his friends and they faded into the horizon, disappearing out of his life.
Jared shifted again in the uncomfortable chair of the Sabbath evening service, but his attention never wavered from the powerful voice and presence of Father Karlin. He listened intently, nearly hypnotized by the swaying blue robe of priestly office and the charismatic speech of the Father as he paced back and forth on the elevated stage. The evening’s message was one of special importance to Jared and he had found himself nodding and shouting “Amen!” emphatically many times throughout the Sabbath meeting. He was not alone. Many others, even those in the slave’s seating, were joining him in his enthusiasm. Father Karlin’s message focused on the Devil-spawned demons, the Trolls, those Abominations in the sight of God, that Satan—the Great Adversary of God—had sent from the depths of hell upon the world.
“Brothers and Sisters…God has placed his faith in us in this time of Satan’s attack upon Us, His People. We must accept God’s mandate! Not only accept it but embrace it! We must become the Army of God to stand up to the Adversary! Each and every one of us has a place in His Army. Each and every one of us has a role to fill in His Army!—from the farmer to the baker… from the leather worker to the seamstress…From the blacksmith to the Gatherers, and yes Brothers and Sisters—Yes…most especially to the Hands of God! They are our frontline warriors against the abominations of the Adversary.”
Small tears of pride and joy collected at corners of Jared’s eyes as his heart swelled near to bursting. He was not a warrior yet, but hoped God would hear his prayers soon. He desperately prayed for his call to join the Hands of God every night before he went to sleep. His thoughts drifted as he listened to the Father’s Sermon.
It seemed like a lifetime ago, though it had only been a year since he and his companions left their home near the mountains in search of guns and ammunition. By sheer happenstance, although he saw it as divine intervention now, he and his companions had encountered a band of the Hands of God. He’d witnessed firsthand, had even been part of the battle, the ferocity and tenacity—the sheer power of God at work through the Hands of God against the armies of Satan.
The Father’s sermon was coming to an end, and Jared chided himself for his ruminations instead of focusing on the message at hand. He brought himself back to the present as Father Karlin approached the center of the stage for his closing remarks.
“Make no mistake Brothers and Sisters! The Adversary is out there! His army of Abominations is an affront to the Almighty, and we are his servants, his warriors, his Hands of God…each and every one of us! We must all do our part to rid the Earth of these evil creatures, whether as members of the Hands of God, members of the Illuminated, and yes…even the slaves of New Jerusalem—you have it within you to find the love of God within your heart, to work hard and to lead others around you to work hard. You have it within you to accept God into your heart and commit yourself to the Holy Mandate of New Jerusalem. You have it within you to become members of the Illuminated! Go forth Brothers and Sisters! Go forth and make this week a prosperous week for all of God’s children! Now, let us pray.” Father Karlin knelt on the stage, prostrating himself, his head touching the rough-cut wooden platform. Throughout the congregation, the sounds of shuffling feet and rustling clothing filled the air as they quickly assumed the same prostrate position. Slowly the words of prayer, some softly spoken and others loud and boisterous, filled the arid evening air as the Sun sank slowly behind the horizon.
As the last rays of the Sun were consumed by evening’s twilight, Father Karlin stood on the stage to observe his people finishing their prayers. He watched as they rose, some one-by-one and others in groups. He waited for everyone to finish.
Jared was among the last to stand, he had prayed fervently, as he always did, for his call to the Hands of God. He’d thanked God lavishly for the divine intercession into his meager life, the intercession that brought him into New Jerusalem. Surveying the rest of the congregation, he looked back to the slave’s seats to find them standing already, but it was not surprising. The slaves were forced to be in attendance at any sermon from the High Priest or Father Karlin in hopes they would repent for their sins, accept the Word of God into their hearts, and motivate others to join them in becoming more productive citizens of New Jerusalem.
With the last of those who had been deep in prayer now standing, Father Karlin bowed his head a final time, “We thank you, Almighty God, for your wisdom and your gifts to the people of New Jerusalem and for the time we have spent together in your presence tonight. Go in peace, Brothers and Sisters.”
The Hands of God, at the front of the assembly, turned as one unit and began their exit from the outdoor assembly area. Jared watched with admiration etched upon his face, as one by one, they marched past his seat at the end of the row. The Captain passed him by him first, acknowledging Jared’s presence with a nod. He held his ornately decorated Sword of Righteousness across his chest, the gold Sunburst placed directly above his heart, while leading his men out of the assembly. Once the Hands had completely exited the assembly, the Illuminated began their departure. Jared glanced down at the silver starburst pendant he wore upon his loose-fitting black vest as if to remind himself that he was of the Illuminated, then followed the others out of the assembly area. Those who wore the silver starburst had demonstrated their loyalty to New Jerusalem by their service to God and their community. They’d demonstrated their love and acceptance of God by stepping into the Holy baptismal waters of the Lord. They were the pillars, devotees, and disciples of New Jerusalem.
He heard the unmistakable sound of a whip crack in the distance, motivating the slaves into their departure. While the slaves were always more than ready to leave the assembly area, it was necessary to remind them of their position. Some people needed the motivation to learn that service to God and obeying God’s Will would always be above their own selfish desires.
With the rush of the hunt dissipated, and the pace of his heart slowing to normal, Jadyn crept quietly from his crouch beneath the crumbling brick wall. He glanced toward the fence, looking for Eric, but his concealment was complete. It was comforting to know that Eric was there, watching with his own bow at the ready. He withdrew another arrow from the quiver on his back and knocked it to the string of his precious bow. The powerful weapon had belonged to his father, and Gramps before him. It was much different than the hand-fashioned bow he and his father had made when he was younger, it was made of materials from the Old Days.
Placing one foot squarely in front of the other, he moved slowly away from the wall and toward his fallen quarry. Eyes wide and alert, he turned his head slowly, listening for signs of movement amongst the gentle rustle of the breeze as it caressed the tall grass. The coppery smell of deer’s freshly spilt blood hung heavy on the late summer air as the wind shifted toward him. A loud rustle, the fluttering of many wings against the warm breeze, sent his heart racing and panic stricken, he dashed back to the safety of his position beneath the fallen wall. The faintly iridescent black wings of the cawing crows flashed overhead as the cluster of birds fluttered away, taking wing from the roof of the old building. Jadyn panted, calming himself, finding his grounded center once more.
Just birds…it’s no big deal. Probably spooked them when I came out of hiding, he thought. Give it a few minutes, relax, then I’ll try again.