Accusations Turn to Revelations
My parents and grandparents had maneuvered out of their car, stepped up on the porch, and stood to be counted on that historic night. Even Marge joined us, front and center, no longer afraid who might see her. To the contrary, she was eager to be seen, to be numbered with us as a freedom marcher.
“Are you sure you want to do this, Missy?” Chief Inspector Stoner had pushed his way forward and touched my arm as he whispered in my ear. But, his tone was not one of concern or comfort. It felt threatening. I recoiled at his touch.
The President’s porch was wired from one side to the other so the president could broadcast from there, both over the communication waves and to throngs of people who might gather there for a special event. I was careful to guard my words that I did not want everyone to hear.
“Inspector, I’m not afraid of you.” I looked at him with increasing confidence, my eyes fixed on his. My feet planted firmly on the solid surface of the presidential residence.
“What seems to be the problem?” Jason put his hand on my shoulder. I could feel his strength and knew I was not alone.
“You two have stirred up a hornet’s nest of mistrust and rebellion. Look at all these people. We call it sedition,” Stoner hissed.
“The people have a right to make their voices heard,” Judge Brunner stated with the authority of his robes as he too stepped onto the porch. “These people are doing no harm. They aren’t threatening anyone. They are here for one purpose, to deliver something to the President.”
“And what might that be? Is it so important that it has to be done tonight?” Stoner asked.
I wanted to shout, “Yes, tonight!” But, I said nothing. I did not want to give away the cause of our sacred mission before it had been completed.
“There will be plenty of time to talk about their purpose for being here another time, Inspector. Lady Applewait and Dr. O’Reilly are here merely to present their material to the president,” the judge said.
Stoner stared at the judge, determined to not back down. “I am talking to Miss Applewait, Sir. Not you.”
“Lady Applewait will talk to you at the first of the week,” Judge Brunner stated with firm resolve. “I’ll accompany her to your office myself.”
The judge’s strength gave me courage, and I was determined to press forward. “Excuse me, Inspector.” I tried to move beyond the man, but he continued to bar my way. “I have come to speak to the president tonight,” I insisted, my eyes fixed on Stoner’s.
“I told you to pay attention to the writing on the wall. It may be something you don’t want these folks to know about.”
Stoner spoke low, as if he were attempting to reveal a secret.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Inspector.” I couldn’t get past him and had no idea what he was saying.
“There is something in your past that your entire little Legacy club has been keeping from everyone and possibly even from you.” Stoner seemed to be getting a great deal of satisfaction from dragging out his accusations against me, whatever they were.
“There is a record of you being involved in a work of sorcery,” he sneered. “Do you want these people to hear about it? He studied my face and then added, “Or, nothing needs to be said, if you and your friends and family just go on home.”
“Sorcery?” My father advanced and wedged himself between Stoner and me. There was a power in Daddy’s stance I had rarely seen.
“Keep it up, Mr. Applewait. If all of you don’t go home now, I will tell everyone about your little girl and the handwriting on the wall. Then you can watch how fast these fine people turn into a mob.”
“The handwriting on the wall?” Mother moved onto the porch and into the inner circle. “I think I may know what he’s talking about. Christiana, we never told you about it and this man should never have found out.”
“Told me what?” I couldn’t fathom what I could have done that the Inspector would be able to use against me.
Daddy stepped forward to talk to the huge group that had grown silent as they watched and strained to listen to the confrontation. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he held up his hands to address the people, “my wife and I have something wonderful to share, not something to hide.” A hush fell over the people as they stood in the silent night.
Mother wrapped her arms around me as I turned to face the people.
My father paused for a moment then spoke with power and confidence. “Our daughter, Christiana, is a marvelous young woman. She has been blessed with a holy presence since an early age. The inspector would like to call it sorcery, something out of black magic.” My father looked at me with the love I had always received from him. “No, what Christiana has, is a blessing from God.”
“What is he talking about Mother?” Then, I looked at Jason to see if he had been shaken by Daddy’s words. Jason was smiling lovingly, knowingly.
“Let’s just listen to him, Honey,” Jason smiled and took my hand.
My father looked at Jason and me and patted my cheek. “When Christiana was seven years old, the Council of Elders was meeting in the Grand Hall to listen to requests from many people. The hall was full.”
“You’d better think this through.” Stoner growled angrily at me as he saw my parents take his ammunition against me and turn it back on him. He tried to move closer to me. “You don’t even know what they’re going to say. You could be a laughing stock or a freaky curiosity.”
I just looked at Stoner for a minute then turned my eyes back to my father. I would not believe that my own father would do anything to harm me.
My father looked at me as he continued speaking to the people. “Your mother and I brought you into the Grand Hall so you could have your first taste of the Legacy you will inherit, Christiana. We sat in the back so we wouldn’t disturb anyone. Your mother gave you some coloring sticks to keep you entertained.”
Suddenly, I remembered the sticks. I hadn’t seen them since I was young.
Mother wiped her eyes. “We thought we were watching you, Sweetheart, but we got caught up in the proceedings.”
“I saw it first,” Grand-père smiled at me as he stepped forward. “You were standing up on your chair so you could see the proceedings better.”
The inspector turned to all the people gathered there and shouted. “It was sorcery I tell you. What are you—sheep? Do you follow wherever these people lead and believe everything they tell you?”
I heard murmuring as a restlessness spread throughout the people. Feelings of fear began to rise within me. Would the crowd turn on me and stop what we were trying to do?
Then Grand-père’s voice rose above the throng, clear and strong. “People, Christiana is no sorceress. She is a messenger from God!” Grand-père raised his hands to the people as they gasped in amazement.
“God?” someone asked. Most just listened intently, their voices hushed.
I was stunned, stricken by fear and wonder. A messenger of God? How could that be? I had never heard of God as a child.
“God?” Stoner yelled. His eyes flashed with rage at the name of the Holy One. “There is no God!” He shouted into the darkened sky. “Only the blackness of the night.” Then he whirled back to face Grand-père. “Sir Richly, you expect us to accept your statement that this woman is a messenger from God?” He turned to the people and strutted back and forth on the President’s porch, as if on his own small stage. “I demand that you produce your god!”
Grand-mère smiled her knowing, sweet smile and opened the locket she wore around her neck so Grand-père could see the contents. She embraced him and waved a calming, royal hand to the people. Then, she kissed my cheek.
“If you will wait a moment, we will produce our God.” Then she asked, “Does anyone have a 281 Palm Device with you?”
“I do, Connie,” Jason spoke up. “It’s in my car. I’ll get it.”
“Will you all please let Dr. O’Reilly through?” Daddy raised his arms to the people.
Jason squeezed his way through the people and returned with the Device. “Let me open it for you, Oliver,” Jason said, as he handed the Palm Device to my grandfather.
Grand-père raised his hands to the people again and they grew silent. “Christiana was very small the day we took her to the grand reception room, so she had to get up on her chair and stretch as high as she could. She took her color sticks and began to draw on the back wall, that’s why I saw it first. I was facing her masterpiece and it was magnificent! Little Christiana worked fast, like someone else controlled her creation. What burst forth from her hand was . . . the very face of God.”
He turned to the inspector and added. “Just like the writing on the wall in the Biblical book of Daniel when a detached hand appeared and wrote on the plaster during a wild banquet. Daniel interpreted the words for the king. He told King Belshazzar that his reign was over. I believe Christiana’s drawing and writing, tells us that God’s reign is never over, regardless of what government may rule. But you, Inspector, have asked to see the face of God.”
Grand-père turned and took Grand-mère’s locket. “My wife, Lady Richly, has kept a miniature likeness of the wall art Christiana drew that day, here in her locked. I will project the image against the fog for all of you to see.”
Jason helped Grand-père place Grand-mère’s locket in relationship to the Palm Devise so it could register on the small device screen and project a hologram onto the wide expanse of Heaven above our heads.
I had seen Grand-mère’s locket many times and had asked her what was inside. She always said, “Something holy, my dear. I’ll show you one day.”
There were gasps and murmurs of awe from the people as the hologram shimmered in the cold night air, then formed clearly against the fog. As it burst forth, the memory of that day took shape in my mind.
“There,” Grand-père’s voice rang out with might and power, “there is the picture of God you wanted to see, Inspector. Christiana drew it when she was only seven years old. She is seeing it tonight for the first time since the day she drew it, the same as all of you.”
Tears flowed like healing waters as I was bathed again in the same spirit of holiness that had touched me so many years ago. Against the canvas of Heaven, like a mighty, holy colossus striding across the firmament, was a completely formed drawing of a being. With the breath of life flowing from his mouth and nostrils, the being looked as if his spoken word had just caused the whole world to leap into creation. His powerful muscles declared his strength and his eyes revealed his love. His hair blew across the night sky like a field of tall wheat in late July. There it mingled with the tails of winter clouds as they stretched across the canopy of our world. The light from his eyes was as glorious as the dawn of a new day. His gaze was as strong as the towering oaks and as sweet as a field of wild flowers after a spring rain. It looked like all of creation laughed and loved within his gaze. There was so much glory emanating from his countenance, it was nearly impossible to look upon him. Across the bottom, under the drawing, were the words and letters, “Ego sum Dominus sum ego"
“What does it say?” a voice called from the crowd.
Stoner kept his back to the sky and would not turn to the face of God illuminated there. “Can’t you see what they are doing? It’s a trick,” he yelled. “There is nothing there you need to see,” Inspector Stoner ordered.
“You asked to see our God,” Jason reminded him. “Look into an innocent child’s magnificent depiction of his face, Inspector Stoner. Go ahead . . . or don’t you have the courage to look?”
Stoner turned slowly to face what he did not believe in, and yet, there he was. He glanced at the sky and his expression fell like shattered glass. “What does it say?” he whispered.
“The words, ‘ego sum dominus sum ego’ is Latin. It says, ‘I am Lord am I.’ And the hand of a seven-year-old child had drawn and written it, my granddaughter, Christiana Applewait. How she knew what God looked like or what words to write, we had no idea. I don’t know the mind of God but—he obviously knew her—before she knew him.”
I was astonished to hear Grand-père’s explanation. I finally remembered the drawing and the words, even though no one had spoken of them since.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked.
“The inspired drawing was obviously a miracle, Christiana,” Mother reassured me. “We believed the people might not understand your special gifts. We had to protect you from stares, even adoration.”
“Christiana, you were a child prodigy.” Jason was as awed as I was. His eyes stayed fixed on the portrait of God.
“Maybe that’s what Rebecca meant when she said I had a talent that I was holding back.” It made sense to me now.
“I am sorry,” Daddy apologized. “We were all so amazed. We probably made a fuss over the art and you. Then, we became frightened that people would give you too much attention and adulation that would harm your growing spirit. Maybe you didn’t understand our intentions and thought you had done something bad.” Daddy kissed my cheek. “We only wanted to protect you.”
“I know, Daddy. I have always trusted you and Mother . . . and all of you,” I added as I turned to my grandparents. “I have always felt safe and protected.”
My struggles to paint what I saw and not what I felt came to my mind. I will admit I was aware that I was holding back on my paintings, afraid to express myself through it. I could see wonderful images that couldn’t be expressed in words on the blank canvas, waiting for me to bring them forth. Society does not permit creativity. My visions were far beyond Society’s approval. I smiled as I thought of some compositions I had wanted to paint but didn’t have the nerve to do it.
Stoner turned his eyes from the masterpiece in the sky and stared at the dirt near his feet. He shook his head and added, “I will not believe such nonsense.”
As the Inspector turned to leave, Grand-mère touched his arm and he jerked away as if he had been burned. She reached out again, “But, you want to believe, Inspector.”
Stoner did not reply nor turn back to the light. Nor did he return the life and love that were being offered to him. With his shoulders slumped, he stomped away into the night.
A Holy Night
Grand-père closed the locket and the vision disappeared. “The people understand that you are not a sorceress as Inspector Stoner accused. As a child, Christiana, you had drawn an impression of a God no one knew anymore.” Then Grand-père turned to the people and offered to hold future gatherings to explain and teach more from the scriptures.
Now, we had to confront President Alexander. After calling his name again, the massive front door of the Central Zone president’s home opened.
President Nathan Alexander came out into the confines of the clear, attack-proof Ceremonial Reviewing Chamber, a security bubble to the left of the main entrance. Members of the Capitol Secret Guard surrounded him. Alexander stood with closed, folded arms, obviously in protest to what he heard we were doing.
“I was expecting you,” he announced through a speaker. “I received a call,” Alexander said.
“Sir,” I began, “I am Lady Christiana Applewait.”
“I know who you are.” His voice was edgy as he looked beyond the porch at thousands of people who had straightened their backs and had come here to say by their presence, No, not anymore.
The moment was breathtaking as the citizens gathered in closer to be counted before the world. There were so many people with us that cold, yet holy night, the people in the back could not possibly have heard what was being said, but that didn’t seem to matter. What was important was that they were there. Perhaps they believed, we will stand together or we will fall together, but no one had to stand alone that night, on that very first Christmas Day evening in one-hundred years.
“We have a petition,” Sean began, “bearing the signatures of 75 percent of the citizens of this city.”
“I don’t have to accept them, young man. Things must be done in the proper way.”
“We know that Sir,” Sean agreed.
“No, I don’t think you do. You can have signatures from every person in the entire country, including all quadrants, but if it isn’t filed properly, I can throw them in the rubbish pile.”
“But, we do have all we need,” Sean explained. “You have these boxes of petitions.”
“And we have the proper cover letter,” I added as the glint in President Alexander’s eyes faded with my statement. “This citizens’ referendum is calling for an end to the policies regarding Length of Days terminations into the never-ending-sleep, the control of the population through chemical drugging, and the reversal of the New Bill of Rights.”
“This will still be too late . . . Ma’am.” Alexander shot a glance at my grandparents. “I understand, Your Excellency, that you and your wife will be seventy-five years old in a matter of days. A few days aren’t enough. Your referendum must include signatures from a majority of citizens of the entire country, not just this city or even this zone.”
“That’s right,” Judge Brunner announced with authority as he stepped forward. “I am Judge Carl Brunner and this display of citizen action has been heard. The referendum they have completed for our city will be expanded and put to a vote of the entire population at the next election. Between now and then, freedom loving people will ride out across this land and gather support from every village and hamlet, from every state and quadrant in the entire country. This citizens’ referendum will pass. I guarantee you.”
Alexander’s eyes narrowed and his face grew red with stifled anger. “But it will still be too late,” he spit out with a full measure of satisfaction. “The elections you are talking about will take place months after Oliver and Constance Richly are dead and buried. Your little scheme to oust me from office and overturn the entire government will be months past your deadline.”
“No, Sir, it will not be too late,” the judge rebutted. “We have accepted the inevitable, as if we had no other choice, for far too long. I am issuing a stay of execution, halting the judicial writ regarding Length of Days legislation. I’ll file the papers on Monday, suspending the carrying out of all termination procedures and halting the use of chemicals in our drinking water, for the next two years. This will give Christiana and Jason, Sean and the rest of them, all the time they need to complete the task of gathering every signature necessary to make it law.”
“It only took one brave man to step out of the silence and testify to the horrors of our society. I see him now.” I spotted Silas Drummond as he made his way through the crowd.
Silas moved to the edge of the steps so as not to be seen by the entire group and whispered, “I got your message on my communication device, My Lady. They took my car, so I ran all the way to the transit line. Thank you. Thank all of you for what you are doing.”
“You broke the silence, Silas. We all owe you the thanks,” I said.
“You won’t have to go back to the mountain, Silas,” Judge Brunner assured him. “The stay will stop all work there for two years. Come and join us on the porch where your presence can also bear witness.”
Silas placed his foot firmly on the first step as tears streamed down his face. Timid by nature and bold by necessity, Silas waved to the people with his bandaged hand, burned by the fire of the despicable furnaces.
Then the judge turned back to President Alexander. “It doesn’t matter if you choose to be behind our cause or not. We no longer need you or your government.” Judge Brunner took a step forward but still maintained a respectful distance. No one would be able to say that he had intimidated the president of the zone.
“Besides the referendum, at the next election, we will also be voting on a new president,” Judge Brunner continued. “We will reconstruct the representative convention system and call for delegates. I plan to help these young people develop a political platform that will drastically change this country, not into something different, but back to the inspired and inspiring nation it was originally designed to be.”
“Oh Judge Brunner that is fantastic,” I shouted over the cheers of the crowd.
“Beginning tomorrow,” Sean announced, “you will find a free news sheet on every transit car so that all may know of our plans.” Then he pointed to the people clustered at the president’s residence. “You, here in the front, spread the word to those in the back. They will be informed by the free newspapers available to all.”
Those near the front of the group cheered, then turned and passed the word back through the crowd. Each group respectfully stood in silence so the word could go forth to the entire gathering of citizens.
Then, from somewhere among the people gathered on that wonderful night, someone called out, “Christiana Applewait for president! Christy . . . Christy . . . Christy . . .” they began to chant.
I was stunned! And flattered! And for a moment, the thought of power was overwhelming. “Thank you, thank you,” I called to the people. “You have honored me beyond any aspiration I could have ever dreamed. But, I’m afraid I have read the founding fathers’ papers and, my friends, I’m just not old enough.”
The people laughed and called out words of teasing and support. “Lower the age!” some yelled. “Kids can make more sense than adults!” another laughed.
I felt loved and accepted. I raised my hands to silence the people and called out above the crowd. “I nominate Oliver Richly to run for office as our new president.”
The throng erupted with an uproar of cheers and hugs and laughter. Again, the repeated message of what had just been said spread like a child’s party game, from one person and one group to another, beyond the sound of my voice. Suddenly, chants of, “Richly . . . Richly . . . Richly,” rang out above the throng.
Grand-père stepped forward and raised his voice to the people assembled there. He was calm and full of strength. “We are at the dawn of a new day, when free men and women will rise up to say, ‘I am loved. I am of value. I am blessed by the Lord our God with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ Join us, one and all!”
Cheers resounded again with laughter and praise. Even the majority, who had never heard of detoxification, hugged each other and danced with joy for the first time in their lives. With their hands raised in praise, they frolicked like children who were not inhibited from expressing their joy. That night, the human spirit had risen above the evil efforts of others to hold it down.
Jason swept me up in front of everyone, swung me around in a continuation of our dance and kissed me with power and love. I could feel joy and the thrill of the night of new beginnings. The gift of a new life had been offered to everyone on that Christmas Day Eve.
When the people saw our display of tenderness in public, they cheered again and clapped wildly. Such simple pleasures had not been seen or felt in many years. Regardless of the laws that had robbed them of joy, there seemed to be a deeper knowing that touched their hearts. They were starved for love, and they didn’t even know they were hungry.
A hush fell over the group as someone in the back of the crowd began the words I had just learned, but many of the people seemed to know already. “Silent night . . .” they began, “holy night . . .” and it was holy. Like the hum of an angel choir, even the trees swayed to the melody as we sang. It all seemed right and good.
It would be hard, but I knew, with Judge Brunner’s stay, we had the time to get all the signatures necessary. As time went on and the people overcame their dependence on the drugs they hadn’t even known they had been taking, there would be even more support for the cause.
I knew, once people began to feel, they would lay down their very lives to continue in the joy of living. We would all regain a reverence for life. A battle had been waged that day and victory had been declared. On that day, Life had won.
Ward Stoner stood in the darkness on the front edge of the crowd on that cold and sacred night, when the country was reborn—and said, “No more.” He didn’t cheer nor did he sing. A smile never crossed his lips. His job demanded the exercise of power and a total disrespect for life. Silas Drummond had defied the orders of his position, the end-traveler, Mari, was missing, the Legacy one had managed to get by him, and Alister Bedlam had left the zone, illegally, even for him.
Out of the Zone are you? And, you little petition peddlers are going to try to escape the zone as well? I will reactivate my National credentials and pull my Federal badge out of the drawer. None of you will escape from me.
But, Inspector Stoner was torn between the dictates of his job and the distant call of something else. He didn’t know what had been pursuing him, what had been tugging at his heart.
That Christmas Day evening, those who passed by or stood near him paid no attention to the stoic figure who hugged the shadows. But, the dark figure was keenly observing all of them. At times he jotted down the names of those he recognized or overheard a name being spoken. Other times, the joy and display of love actually mesmerized him. But, in the end, even the love he saw for the first time on the streets of his town had no influence on the inspector. In fact, it had an opposite effect on him. The love of his life was gone. There was no more humming in the kitchen or flowers on the table. The scent of her cologne had finally faded and no longer floated on the air of their home, even though Stoner had done all he knew how to do to keep it alive.
Christopher had been the happiest child Stoner had ever known before his mommy was put to sleep. But, after her death, most of the time, Christopher’s lethargic gaze looked out on his play yard and saw no joy in any of it. The moments that managed to coax out a little happiness in his day, were the hours after his daddy got home.
Hoping it would help Christopher, Ward Stoner had prepared himself. He had taken a few minutes at the end of each day to reframe his experience. Before going inside his own home, he would sit in his car and try to reconstruct the dirty and evil thoughts of the work he had to do, into upbeat positives that would benefit his small son. He looked for a humorous moment to retell him. But, Stoner was getting more and more discouraged with his attempts to bring happiness into his home at the end of the day. Out on the streets, where others saw needy citizens and offered help, Stoner saw lazy slackers who offered nothing to society. When a small child fell from his bicycle the other day, a man stopped and helped him up. Where someone else may have seen a kind man, the inspector saw a child molester, trying to show enough compassion to lure a child from the protection of his home.
Stoner was a man with a bruised soul, who used to come home to a loving wife who had the power to reknit his wounded interior with a smile, the song she sang while cradling their son, and the soft words of endearment that were forever on her lips.
But, now the light in her eyes was gone and the hope in his heart had died with her. All he had left was his son Christopher. What would become of him? Was he now broken and damaged, a flawed child unit? Perhaps Christopher would leave him too. Then Stoner would be utterly alone in a world of anger, fear, and silence.
Blessed by the Lord God, Stoner sneered into the darkness. As with some men of old, he was a man whose own might was his only god. For that moment, he surrendered to the emptiness of his own heart. Little Lady Applewait, he hissed, you will soon learn the true meaning of the word Tombstone. I will chase you to the ocean’s tide if I must.
Stoner watched and listened. He heard the wonderful music, but there was also a whisper of something else. What he heard could make him kinder, or it could make him more dangerous, depending on which voice he listened to.
And, the people sang on.
For wonderful Christmas presents, order Length of Days - The Age of Silence from Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com or cokesbury.com. Also, books two and three in the Length of Days trilogy, Length of Days - Beyond the Valley of the Keepers and Length of days - Search for Freedom are also available on line. Remember, it is not gifting season - it's Christmas.
So - have a very Merry Christmas!
So - have a very Merry Christmas!