Friday, November 25, 2016

SEGMENT Eleven: Length of Days-The Age of Silence (Copyright 2011 Doris Gaines Rapp)

Accusations Turn to Revelations

6:30 p.m.

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, or 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!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

SEGMENT Ten: Length of Days-The Age of Silence (Copyright 2011 Doris Gaines Rapp)

Unlawful Entry

10:45 a.m.

I gasped as the front door of my grandparent’s warm home burst open and the coldness of the Christmas morning swept across the floor like a flood of ice water. Sean shoved the petitions back into the valise in a subtle, protective action. Then he caught my eye, silently stepped toward the door, and slipped out unnoticed, into the winter morning.
I quickly placed the cover letter back in my bag. I had seen what people were capable of. I knew the danger we were in. My blood froze with the blast of arctic air.
Inspector Ward Stoner stormed into the room, his eyes fixed forward. He didn’t even glance at Sean as he quietly slipped out. Stoner shattered the sanctity of my grandparents’ home, with one apparent aim—he was looking for someone. “Christiana Applewait, Jason O’Reilly, you will have to come with me, both of you.”
“Why?” Jason jumped to his feet and stepped between me and the inspector.
“You were seen in the Capitol after hours.” The Inspector’s voice was hard, brittle.
“Seen?” I questioned. I knew there had been no one around.
“The heel of your right foot was evident on a surveillance camera, Missy,” he hissed, evidently quite proud of his detecting work. “I’m sure a careful comparison of the image we have, with your foot, will reveal a match. You were there, Miss Applewait. Any unauthorized presence after hours in a government building is against the law.”
“Unauthorized?” Judge Brunner rose to his full six foot-four inches. “Inspector, these two dedicated people were there under my authority. I am Judge Brunner. I gave them my keys.”
I pulled his keys from my pocket and handed them back to the judge. “I’m returning them to you now, Sir,” I announced.
Stoner glared at me. Evidently, he was not used to being trumped in the little spy game he played with a tremendous amount of gusto.
“There is also another situation,” Stoner proceeded in his game, as if the previous hand had not been lost. “There appears to be a secret group within the Blue Guard of which I have not been kept informed. Somehow, and I don’t know how yet, but I will, you two have some knowledge of these men.”
“I have the information you seek, Inspector,” Judge Brunner interrupted again as he squared his shoulders and straightened his back to rebuff the Inspector one more time. “I ordered a small, select contingent of Blue Guard to protect my home.”
“It was at my suggestion and authority,” my grandfather affirmed.
“Why?” Stoner snapped.
“I beg your pardon,” the Judge replied with authoritative indignation. “I owe you no explanation, Inspector. It is well within my authority to do so.”
“Perhaps you had the authority, but politically it was not very wise . . . Sir,” he spit out the words like they had left a nasty taste in his mouth.
“I am not political,” Judge Brunner edged toward the inspector. “I am a judge by birth and Legacy by the grace of God,” he shouted.
“God?” Stoner yelled back, but there was a change to his expression. “If you are going to hold up a deity as your authority, Sir, can you prove to me that there are gods?” His voice was shrill, not commanding, not controlled. He had lost the moral authority of his position.
Something was stirring within the Inspector. I could see it trying to free itself from his soul. However, the tortured look on his face seemed to be evidence of an evil to come, that blocked the path to freedom.
“I am not defending the gods, Sir,” the judge declared with power and strength. “I am bearing witness to the one true God.”
“Then call him to your witness stand Judge. Let him defend himself.” Stoner was icy in his gaze, but his shoulders lost their square, as one who has already lost confidence in his own argument.
“God does not defend himself, Officer,” the Judge replied more softly than before. “We, all of us, bear witness to his existence in our lives and the work he performs in our own hearts. He heals and pardons each one of us. That is our testimony.”
Ward Stoner’s expression grew weak, and his face was suddenly ashen.
Grand-mère approached the head of the Blue Guard, reached out her steady hand and touched his shoulder. “Inspector Stoner, what is wrong? Has something happened? You were all worked up before, and now you look broken, my son.”
Stoner stepped back, out of her reach, as though Grand-mère’s touch condemned him, rather than soothed his spirit. “Broken? No never,” he insisted with uncertain command. “I am the sole authority in the Blue Guard.” His face was twisted and drawn with emotion that seemed to come from deep within his gut, raw and razor-edge sharp.
Grand-mère’s love reached out again and would not let him go. She put her hand on his shoulder and drew herself even closer. “But your control stops with your office, doesn’t it? Tell me what’s cutting your heart so deeply.”
“My only son Christopher, Ma’am,” he whispered. The Inspector’s eyes darted back and forth wildly as if he were looking for a place to hide from the reality of his pain. “My little boy, I . . . didn’t know he was there in the dark last night. The car bumped him, and he fell.” Ward Stoner couldn’t hold back the secret any longer, not in the cradle of love Constance Richly was offering him. Then his voice melted and could barely be heard. “He couldn’t feel his legs, except for some tingling. My mother and I were up all night with him.”
“You should have taken him to the hospital or doctor’s office,” Jason said. The healer’s heart within Jason dismissed the inspector’s accusations when he first roared into the house and responded only to the need of the man’s son.
Stoner’s eyes were pleading. He looked at Jason with agony on his face. “I couldn’t. He might have been labeled defective.” Ward’s shoulders were racked with pain as they heaved under his stifled sobs. “The . . . never-ending-sleep.”
I knew he was begging for mercy and understanding. “How is he this morning?” I asked.
Stoner rubbed his eyes. His display of grief appeared to embarrass him. “He’s a little better, thank you. He’s stiff but feeling is beginning to return.”
“But, he could have gotten a strike placed in his life file if you had taken him to a health professional,” Jason said.
“I called a physician. A friend gave me his number—but not his name. He said he wouldn’t have to report a telephone call.” Stoner looked around the room at all of us, studying each face. “Why do you care?”
“I am that physician, Officer,” Jason admitted. “The one you called.”
Ward Stoner’s face was gray and drawn as if he had been dragged heart first into Hell. He had nearly arrested the man who had shown his son compassion and had helped him during the second horrible crisis of his life.
“Someday soon, Mr. Stoner, I will tell you about the Special unit of the Blue Guard that is attached to me and my family,” the Judge offered. “As far as the doctor and Lady Applewait are concerned, they have done nothing wrong. They have simply retrieved a paper that I needed.”
“Don’t you worry now, Inspector,” Grand-mère soothed as she directed him to the door. “You go home and take care of your son and enjoy your Gift-giving Day. We will all be around tomorrow.”
“Thank you Ma’am,” Stoner murmured low.
As she guided the inspector toward the door, Grand-mère said to him, “Maybe someday there will be a rescinding of the law about termination through the never-ending-sleep. Perhaps someday, life will be valued again and joy will return to our people.” My grandmother boldly stated what was becoming true, even if the inspector wasn’t aware of it.
Ward Stoner stopped and took both of Constance Richly’s hands in his. “Ma’am, do you think so? Do you know something? Are you all . . . ?”
“We are enjoying Gift-giving Day, Mr. Stoner. Please pass on our well wishes to your son. Perhaps God will bless him with complete healing if you ask him,” my grandmother said.
Then Stoner turned, as a small labored smile crossed his lips. “Something strange has been happening to me lately, and I—.” He stopped and shook his head. “I just don’t understand any of it. I cannot change. I cannot be soft. I cannot bend.”
“You can’t, or you won’t Officer?” Constance Richly asked with a piercing tone of voice.
“I would . . . dissolve. I would cease to be,” Stoner stammered.
“The you who is not you, would cease to be, so the you who God intended you to be, could be born again within you.” Grand-mère smiled lovingly. “Don’t be afraid, my son. God wants only all of you and no more.”
Ward Stoner studied the little grandmother as his personal communication device signaled an incoming message. Quickly, he straightened his back with a snap. “What?” he demanded.
His face contorted as he tried to find the side of life he belonged on, the world of power or the world of love. He turned his back to the happy holiday group and hissed into the communicator. “Bedlam is missing? Did someone call in a report or what? How do you know?”
He paused to listen, his jaws flexed with anger. “What do you mean, ‘People are looking for him?’ Who? What people?” His voice was harsh and full of rage. “I am the people who would have been called and this is the first I have heard of it. First it was that Drummond fellow, then Mari, the end-traveler went missing, now Bedlam himself.”
Again he paused. His fisted flexed and clinched as he listened. “He has left the zone?” His voice grew hard and shrill.
“Inspector, please . . .” Grand-père cautioned.
Stoner’s entire body seemed to be fighting between the spirit that pulled at his heart and the power that dominated his mind. Then, a flash within his eyes changed his surrender to power-hungry anger again. He stepped toward me with a cold, steely gaze once more. “Don’t forget to read the handwriting on the wall, Missy.” Then he smiled a sinister grin. “Have a very Merry Christmas and may God’s richest blessings or his most impoverished curses, be on all of you.”
We all stood there in silence. The display of good and evil from the soul of that one man stunned us. I wondered how safe we all were now. Evil stalked the streets and buried life beneath a mountain of blood. There was Silas Drummond’s warning and our witness to the evil at Howard Mountain. The monster had escaped to a different zone, so evil was loose in the whole world. Yet, amid all that darkness, the Christ child beckoned us once more to the manger of life, where love was born again in the hearts of those who would believe.

The March to Freedom

4:00 p.m.

The Christmas goose had been picked to the bone and the leftovers put away. Some played something that afternoon called Monopoly, an odd game of buying personal property and ransoming others’ ability to make passage around the game board. If a player landed on another’s space, they were taxed with rent payments. The game’s rules were old fashioned to all of us since taxes were no longer levied on the citizens. And, for the most part, people didn’t own their own homes or property. They rented space in high rise apartment buildings like the one I lived in. Most individually owned homes were in and around the Oakwood area of town, a little oasis where an expression of individuality was enjoyed.
“Oh, no!” Mother shouted as she and my father tried to beat Grand-mère and Grand-père at the Monopoly game they loved. Since that type of game had been replaced with individual, solitary games in past years, we all felt lucky that my great-grandparents had saved many of the favorite old ones of their day and stored them in the attic.
“I want to buy this property,” Marge sang out when she landed on a square she coveted.
Thackery and Dahlia were enjoying the lavish grounds that were still beautiful even though it was early winter. In December the icicle show on the bushes and trees sparkled like cut glass and filled their eyes with beauty.
Jason and I spent our time talking. We interspersed our conversation with comfortable periods of silence in front of the fireplace.
“It’s cozy here,” Jason whispered, as if we were in an old sanctuary with stained glass windows smiling down on us.
“I have always loved it here. But Jason, even as we relax, I can’t help thinking . . . in a few days . . . well, my grandparents’ birthdays.” I shook my head. “Their termination just isn’t going to happen like the Length of Days law says it must. I am determined that we can win this.”
“You are an amazing woman, Christiana Applewait,” Jason smiled. “Absolutely amazing.”
I thought about my few days with Jason, and imagined spending many more with him, talking, walking and traveling. “Jason, have you read any of the books that have described travel around the country and even abroad? People used to get in their cars and just drive, for hours, for days.”
“Yes, I’ve read many of them. People would fly in huge air liners across the oceans and take trains to distant towns,” Jason answered.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful to travel out of the country and touch the lives of people in other places? I’ve read about the South Sea Islands, countries on the continent, France, Italy, and the British Isles. Most of us have traveled no more than a few miles from our homes. Jason, I found large picture books in the library with photographs that took my breath away.”
“I’ve seen some too, Christy and . . .  I’ve traveled a little.” Jason sounded hesitant. “Wouldn’t it be nice to go to New York, Boston or maybe Philadelphia? The books say that these are the places our country used to hold in reverence.”
“Jason!” I squealed with muffled glee. “It would be marvelous!”
Mother looked over in our direction and smiled. She looked content, even beautiful that late afternoon. She seemed to be enjoying my growing relationship with the son of her old friend.
Jason and I shared descriptions and recreated the word pictures from the books we had read. The firelight sent golden shadows that danced across the room and animated the scenes in my head. The wintery darkness had come on early, gathering familiar forms into her snowy shadows and nestled them there.
“Oliver, dear, please turn on the lights. It’s getting dark in here,” Grand-mère called out.
“I can see fine Connie.”
“Well, yes dear, but I can’t seem to see a thing.”
I laughed quietly. Those two dear old ones. They fit together like two pieces connected in Heaven, then separated at birth, only to find each other again. I wondered if Jason would be my soul companion, and it frightened me a little. All my life, I had only thought about myself.
“Yes, dear, do you have enough light now?” Jason teased.
I looked at the firelight reflected in his eyes. They were as warm as the flames, and I knew I was home. “Yes, I have enough of everything.”
Suddenly, there was a pounding at the door and banging until Grand-père flung it open. “Sean?” He gasped as our new friend stood there in the dim, late day light. Sean wore no coat or hat and appeared to be short of breath. “What’s wrong?” Grand-père asked.
Sean burst into the house. His eyes searched each face. “Christiana, there you are,” he called out, his voice sharp with excitement.
“Sean? What is it?” Fear gripped me again as the memory of that morning’s brush with the Blue Guard flashed through my mind.
“Christiana . . . Jason, it’s wonderful! You won’t believe it. They’re marching, right now. They’re moving out across this city and gathering more and more people as they go!” He dashed from one side of the room to the other.
“Who, Sean?” I couldn’t grasp what he was talking about.
“Everyone, Christiana, everyone. They are marching to the Great Leader’s home, President Alexander, to deliver our petitions. They’re doing it now, as we speak.”
“No, not yet!” I cried.
Sean staggered back. His high mountain of joy seemed to crumble with confusion and surprise. “Why not? Christiana, what is wrong?”
“All petitions require a cover letter, or special form, to accompany them, Sean. You left this morning when the inspector came in. I was showing everyone that Jason and I had gotten the form. Here it is. We have it!” I jumped up with excitement and waved the precious page in front of him.
“Where did you ―” Sean darted about the room and bounced off nearby furniture.
“Don’t ask,” I cautioned as I followed him. I tried to get into his line of view so he could focus on what we were telling him. “Before our Christmas dinner, I filled it out with everyone’s help. We made sure there were no mistakes.”
“We prayed earnestly for all the courage we could muster, and to know God’s will as we put the words on the paper,” Grand-père whispered.
Sean stopped pacing long enough to process what was said. “You have the form? You are very sure you have the right paper?”
“Don’t panic, Sean,” Dahlia cautioned. She and Swifty had come back into the house in time to hear the discussion and witness the wild emotions.
“Yes, we are positive,” Jason assured him.
“Then get your coats and that paper, and follow me to President Alexander’s house.” Sean shouted over his shoulder as he started out the door. Then he turned. “Well, are you coming?”
Sean had run all the way from the transit stop. Time was vitally important. We had to get to Alexander’s house before the crowd handed over the petitions. My parents and Marge rode with Grand-père and Grand-mère. Dahlia, Swifty and Sean were with us in Jason’s car. Jason called Judge Brunner and his wife Sylvia on his communications device and let them know about the people’s walk to President Alexander’s home.
There were few other cars on the streets at that time of the evening on Gift-giving Day, so we covered the first several miles rapidly in spite of the gathering fog. As we came within the last mile along the corridor leading to President Alexander’s home, people were everywhere, in the streets, on the lawns and sidewalks. There was no place, where the citizens of our community had not marched to take back their freedom. Even members of the Blue Guard had abandoned their cars and were walking with the people.
“We might have to go the rest of the way on foot,” Jason said as he tried to look past everyone to see what waited down the street.
“We can’t.” Sean warned. “The people have the petitions. If it’s like you said and they give the petitions to the Great Leader without the cover form, Alexander may dispose of them immediately, on the spot.”
“We have to get through,” I cried. The tension rose within me like a drowning wave. I was worried about my grandparents and the pressure they would be feeling. Finally, I did something I had never done before. I prayed to a God I had only recently heard of, to protect my dear ones, and to make a path through the people so that life could win over death.
“I know.” Sean immediately snapped to attention, opened the car window, and pushed back the people who pressed against it. He swung his body, headfirst, out through the window and then used the opening as a stepping stone to lift himself up onto the car’s roof where he sat down. “Clear the way,” he shouted at the people ahead of us. “We have a piece of the solution. Move, move . . .” he called every few feet as both of our cars inched toward the home of Nathan Alexander, the President and Great Leader.
When we got to the president’s home, Sean stood on top of the car and held up both of his hands. “Everyone, listen . . .”
The crowd stilled. A hush fell over the evening. Lights glistened off the snow and made the spot a hallowed ground where freedom had taken a stand once more.
“Nathan Alexander,” Sean called to the house, “President Alexander, please come out.”
“Let me go up and invite him out,” I suggested but didn’t wait for an answer. “I’ll make sure he knows we mean him no personal harm.” I tried to squeeze out through the car door, but people everywhere pressed against it. I opened and closed the door inch by inch until I could wedge myself through and started up the walk to the house.
“Christiana,” Jason called after me. “I’ll go with you.”
As I neared the steps, Grand-père had worked his way out of his car. “Christiana, wait, I have an important message for you.” He came near and whispered gently yet firmly in my ear with all the confidence I knew my grandfather had.
 “Sweetheart, there are some verses from the Bible you must hear. From the book of Luke, chapter twenty-one, verses fifteen through nineteen:
For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. . . . By standing firm you will gain life.”

I hugged the dear man I loved so much, then, I turned. Jason, Sean, and I stepped up onto President Alexander’s porch.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Thank You Dear Readers

Since I got off my post schedule, I'll go back to my original plan of posting on Fridays only. A giant thank you to the many hundreds who were able to continue reading again. Over 1000 this week.

I have to admit, there is another reason. Since we're nearing the end of Length of Days - The Age of Silence, I am trying to decide which of my novels to post next. Logically, it would be Book 2 in my Length of Day trilogy. How does that sound to you?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

SEGMENT Nine: Length of Days-The Age of Silence (Copyright 2011 Doris Gaines Rapp)

The Eyes on Christy Are Closed

11:45 p.m.

Jason parked the car a short walk from my apartment building. “Hopefully, whoever was following us has gone home for the night,” he whispered into the frosty air.
My body felt heavy as Jason escorted me to the door. I wanted to get in out of the darkness and evil that seemed to wait at every turn.
“I know it’s late Jason, but can you come in for a while? I’d feel safer,” I said.
“Of course, Christy.”
We walked quickly toward the door. I felt exposed, like many eyes followed our every step.
Inside the building, firelight danced on the faces of our new friends who were gathered again in the large room, like families I had read about in my books. “Look at this, Jason. I hardly recognize it as my apartment building.”
“Many of those people are the carolers from the last sing-along,” Jason smiled. “Dahlia is still at the piano. I guess I really never knew her at all.”
“Do you think it’s safe to join them?” I motioned to the group and patted my satchel which still contained the precious lifesaving papers. “What if we’re still being followed? I wouldn’t want to put these people in harm’s way.”
“I haven’t seen anyone behind us since we came out of the Capitol. Not even when Ruth and her son stopped us in the road near her home, there didn’t seem to be anyone around except for one neighbor.” Exhausted and filled with fear, Jason and I wondered if eyes would still be watching our every move. He took my hand and led me over to the group who was still celebrating. It was nearly midnight.
I took off my cloak, draped it carefully over my arm, and watched that the paper was secure. Removing my hat, I placed it on the piano.
“Come sit beside me,” Dahlia patted the piano bench and kept up the melody with her right hand.
It looked like fun and I needed a peaceful moment before trying to sleep. I knew I would toss all night with all I had seen. I had to bring my soul back from the brink, the edge of utter hopelessness.
Oh Holy night, my heart soared in ways no spoken words could. Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel’s voices, the golden melodies threaded the words that linked Heaven with my wounded heart.
After a few songs, Jason and I went over to the coffee pot on a long side table. With cups in hand, we found a place to sit and talk while we enjoyed the group.
“Jason, these lyrics are not threats to the people’s health as Society had said they were,” I said. “Look at their faces. Peace and joy shine in their eyes. Their emotional health is not being damaged by the musical threads of these songs.”
“I don’t see any primal instincts being stirred,” Jason smiled. “I do see raw emotions rising.  Love is in the room.”
Finally, sleep began to overtake me. “I think I need to go to bed,” I yawned.
We walked over to say goodnight to Dahlia. Jason stood behind me at the piano. I could feel his warmth on my shoulder. “I’ll walk you up, Christy.”
“Wait,” Dahlia got up from the piano and put her hand on my arm. “I have wanted to talk to you, Christiana,” she whispered.
“I know you have Dahlia, but I don’t see how I can be of help. I’m newer to these feelings and experiences than you are.”
“I realize that, but there is something different about you. You are growing in understanding and love so fast, Christiana. It’s like you knew before, somewhere in time. I need to know how you took fire so fast.”
“I don’t even use feeling words yet,” I protested. “I have no idea why feelings are accumulating all around me.”
Dahlia smiled. “I remember how that felt. None of us had experienced emotions before, so there didn’t need to be descriptive language to talk about it.”
“But, I’m a person of words, Dahlia, many words, beautiful words. I have to know my feelings’ names.”
Jason patted my shoulders in comfort and support. “I think what Dahlia is asking, Christy, if you can think of a pivotal point when suddenly you knew what you didn’t know before, on a level where language isn’t needed.”
Suddenly, I knew. I knew a few of the words that matched my feelings. “I heard the flutter of angels’ wings and the breath of their song.” I smiled as words poured forth from my heart where knowledge is stored before there is meaning. “A strange warmth filled me, like Jason’s warm hand on my shoulder, and a flame was lit deep inside, Dahlia. That is all I know.”
“That’s all you know?” Dahlia smiled with awe. “I want as much as I can get. Is there anything else you know?”
“I know that, in the very beginning, Dahlia, there was God and that is all I need to know.” I wondered if I should cite the source of my certainty. Would I dare? “Dahlia, can I trust you?”
Her expression was pained, but her words were sure and true. “Christiana, you can trust me.”
“I have an old book . . . a very old book. When it’s safe, I’ll let you read it.”
“When will it be safe enough for me to read a book that’s not already on the approved reading list?” She shook her head at the futility of the existence in which we all lived.
“When the time is right . . . I will tell you.” Then I stood. I was afraid to say more. “I’ll see you tomorrow?” I gathered up my hat and cloak. I patted my satchel and compulsively wanted to open it to see if the paper was still there. I had to leave it alone, or risk revealing it to someone who might report that we have it.
“Yes, indeed, I will see you tomorrow.” Dahlia’s smile was sweet and genuine.
Jason walked me to the elevator and we rode up in silence. It was a comfortable silence in a language that spoke louder than words. There were so many things on my mind, all mixed with a new joy I had never known and a fear I had never experienced.
“The camera, Christy,” Jason whispered at my door. “We have to take care of that. I can step inside where I can’t be seen by whoever is watching, while you investigate. But, I’m not going to leave you alone while that thing is still in there.”
I stepped into my apartment. Everything was quiet and still, but I was uncomfortable. My library stepladder still stood against the book case. I knew I would have to do something about the camera that lurked above my head. It seemed to hover above me like a vulture ready to attack the weakest one on the ground. But, I was not weak anymore.
I walked past the bookcase, first going to the windows as a diversion to my true destination. Perhaps whoever would view the film later might think my plan was an accident. I stood looking out onto the city and stretched my arms above my head as casually as I could. Then, I walked to the small table beside the couch and picked up a book I had laid there earlier. Pretending to leaf through the small volume, I scanned several of the pages then laid it down as if it didn’t hold my interest. I looked up and down my bookcase wall, then climbed the ladder near the camera but avoided looking at it.
“There it is,” I whispered as if talking to myself and pulled a book from the shelf with a jerk. Swinging my body wide, as one might if they were steadying themselves against a fall, I flung my arm out and knocked the camera to the floor with my elbow.
“What on earth?” I spoke to myself again and hurried down the ladder. Pretending to trip near the bottom rung, I stomped the heel of my shoe down with a thud on the small camera as I landed squarely on the floor.
“Oh my goodness,” I added in case the camera was still functioning. The object was even smaller than it had appeared while on the shelf. I carefully scooped it onto a piece of paper that was lying on the table and tossed the entire thing into the trash.
“That will be the end of it for tonight. I’ll worry about the who and why another time,” I said as I dusted off my hands.
“Good job, Christy,” Jason said. “The trash is a good place for it,” he laughed.
“Well it certainly is trash,” I agreed.
“Are you okay?” Jason asked. “I could stay—on your couch—tonight if you would feel safer.”
“Thank you Jason. I appreciate that but . . . it wouldn’t be proper. And—I think that I’ll be all right. Whoever placed the camera did so when I was out. I don’t think he’ll come back while I’m home.”
“He seems to sneak around rather than confront,” Jason reassured me. “You’ve been through a lot this evening. We both have. I can be here in minutes if you become frightened.”
“I know you can, Jason.” We walked slowly to the door. “You would think I would be eager to sleep and free my mind of all that has happened. But—I do hate to see you go.”
“Christy, I―”
“I know,” I finished his thought with thoughts of my own. “Good night,” I whispered as he kissed me. I leaned against the door after he left and smiled.
Alone on the couch, I sat looking out at the city, brightly lit with holiday lights. It was late. The day had been traumatic. Evil was discovered beneath Howard Mountain. A foul, wickedness dwelled there. Tomorrow, Christmas Day, would be as different as joy is from sorrow. Celebrating awaited and the huge task of starting the petition loomed before us. I had to remain positive, or fear and disgust would drain all of my energy. I now knew what vileness lay at the bottom of the souls of some. We would not be safe, and we were only weeks away from my grandparents’ final days.
I panicked when I thought of the number of signatures we would need for our petition to stop the Length of Days laws. “Will we have the signatures in time?”

Christy’s First Christmas

8:00 a.m.

In spite of the fact that my energy had been depleted from all the joys and horror of the previous day, I awakened on my first Christmas morning, feeling like a child, anxious to open the biggest present under the Gifting Tree. I finished dressing myself in my beautiful new, green silk caftog and looked in the mirror. I smiled and dabbed a little color on my cheeks.
Jason came early. He was going to take Dahlia and me to my grandparents’ home for my first Christmas gathering! When I opened the door, he immediately swept me off my feet and into his arms.
“Merry Christmas, Christy.” He held me close and added, “You look beautiful!”
“Thank you, kind sir. Jason, this is my very first Merry Christmas,” I squealed. “I can’t get enough of hearing those words. And, I wish for you a very Merry Christmas as well, Jason O’Reilly.”
“We took care of our little spy last night,” I said triumphantly as I pointed to the trash receptacle in the kitchen.
“You know that won’t be the end of that little chapter in your life, don’t you?’ Jason put his arm around my waist and kissed my forehead.
“I know, Jason. But, the thought of someone being able to watch my every move on Christmas Eve was more than I wanted to think about.”
“Whoever put it there will be back as soon as the holidays are over, looking for their equipment,” he whispered and sighed in my ear.
“I know. I realize I’ve only postponed the inevitable. I also know that they might have placed it here on a previous night when I was asleep. But, I will not think about that, not today. I’ll think about it tomorrow.”
“Now you sound like Scarlett O’Hara,” Jason said.
“Scarlett who?”
“You haven’t found Margaret Mitchell’s book yet? Gone With the Wind is required reading in my mind. At the end, a whole race of people was freed.”
“Now, a whole nation must be set free.” I thought of the enormity and the danger of it all. “Oh Jason, I hadn’t even thought about how I’ve pulled you into all this intrigue. I’ve only been thinking about myself and my grandparents. I have not meant to be so selfishly unaware of other people’s safety and reputation that I would risk a physician’s professional standing to help me with my family’s problem?”
“This isn’t a family problem anymore, Christy. It’s a national disaster,” Jason insisted. “And, those were my parents in those cases beneath the mountain. They were on display like dinosaurs at the museum. Christy, you have abandoned all concern for yourself. You are selflessly focusing on the needs of your grandparents, and everyone else too, because we are all affected by the Length of Days policy.”
I saw the sadness in Jason eyes and felt we needed to focus on the holiday.
“Well, I am certain of one thing. I am not going to think about it today. I am too tired and burned too deeply from the atrocities at the mountain to think about anything.” I gathered up my cloak, my hat and bag and squared my shoulders. “I will not think of it today. I am ready, Sir.”
“Good,” Jason smiled and checked his watch. “It’s earlier than we had originally planned, but I got your message about the schedule change.”
“Good, I hope Dahlia did too.”
“I got the holo-memo but didn’t get your reason for the change.”
I put on my holiday red hat and Jason helped me with my green cloak. “Wait until you hear about the developments, Jason.”
“It’s only nine-thirty, Christy. Will your grandparents be expecting us at this hour? Will they be up this early on Christmas Day?”
“Yes, I called Grand-mère and told her that I was expecting someone to stop by their house this morning. She said Grand-père has been up for hours.” I laughed to myself as I thought about my grandfather. “He’s like a child on Gift-giving Day. He’s too excited to sleep. I’ve seen him sneak into the gathering room and dig around under the tree, looking for packages with his name on them. He shakes them gently and makes sure he doesn’t break anything. Then, he’ll write down on a small piece of paper, his guess about what’s in the gift. Later, after the presents are opened, he’ll produce the paper to prove he had guessed correctly. He likes to be right.” I smiled. Remembering the dear ones was always a joy.
“It will be sad when they die, even from old age. But, Jason, to purposefully cut their lives short while they’re still healthy should be criminal, an act of homicide.”
I reached in my cloak pocket for the key to lock my door and found the other two keys from the Capitol I had put there the day before as well. “You mean,” I gasped as I stared at the keys to the Capitol, “that was just yesterday?” I whispered.
“Just a few hours ago,” Jason smiled and shook his head. “It’s hard to believe isn’t it?”
“Oh, wait,” I remembered. “I want to take the book from the library and the paper from the Capitol.” I started to dart back inside.
“I have them, Honey. I knew you wanted to take them.”
He threw his head back and laughed softly. “If that’s okay with you?”
I smiled and took his arm. “I like it. It is very okay, in fact, it’s charming.” I nearly skipped along beside him. Then I remembered . . . caution . . . slowly. “We’ll get off on the fifth floor and pick up Dahlia.”
The ride down on the elevator was relaxing. Jason stood with his back to the door and we talked. A few minutes later, with Dahlia in our company, the three of us burst onto the morning streets where snow had dusted a powdery white on everything. The day looked clean and pure. Since it was winter and the car windows were up and tight, no one would hear us, so we sang Christmas Carols as we rode through the empty streets.
Everywhere I looked, lights were glowing from holiday homes. Festive, Gifting lights brought more color into most people’s lives than there had been all year long. Gift-giving Day had always been a happy day for basically unhappy people. But now, Christmas Day brought a new, holy meaning to my heart and made it a sacred celebration. It all seemed beyond my wildest imagination, outside the limits of all possibilities that a small child could bring such peace and hope to a gray and lifeless people, even though I had read about Christmas in the books I loved. While I had enjoyed the holiday in seasons past, I had never been blessed before by the song of the angels who heralded the Christ child’s birth.

A Referendum, Some Petitions and Christmas Joy

10:00 a.m.

“Wow,” Dahlia expressed with awe when we crossed over into Oakwood and drove up to my grandparents’ house. “I never dreamed that I would be invited to a home like this. The white clap board is beautiful. Your grandparents’ home is a real Victorian.” Dahlia sat forward in the backseat of the car and took it all in. “Just look at that wide veranda across the front. It wraps all the way around the side of the house. I didn’t know anyone lived in houses like this anymore.”
We all got out of Jason’s car and started to walk up the sidewalk. Dahlia held back a little as Jason and I moved toward the house. “They are both on the Council of Elders, aren’t they?” Dahlia asked in a whisper.
“That’s one of the hats they wear, Dahlia. But the chapeaus I like the most, are the ones that go with their grandparent costumes,” I laughed.
We walked up onto the wooden porch floor and the boards had a happy, hollow sound under our feet. In my usual fashion, I put my hand to the door latch and pushed it open with my hip.
“Grand-mère,” I called toward the great room as we let ourselves in. “I would like you to meet my friends.”
I led Jason and Dahlia through the wide entry hall and into the large sitting room that was furnished with overstuffed chairs and decorated with wonderful paintings and pottery of bygone days.
“Grand-mère, I’d like you to meet Dahlia Zoobamba and Doctor Jason O’Reilly,” I sang out an introduction.
Constance Richly rose with the bearing of a Grande Dame in a royal court. She reached out both of her hands and embraced my friend Dahlia. “Then, this gentleman must belong to you,” she laughed. “Mr. Swifty has already arrived.”
“Swift, Grand-mère, Thackery Swift,” I corrected her.
“Yes, my dear, I know. But Swifty and I have already had an understanding, haven’t we young man?” She wrapped her arm in Thackery’s and patted his hand.
“What kind of understanding do you have with my grandmother?” I teased Swifty.
“She will feed me part of that goose I helped put in the oven, and I will tell her about my Grandma Rose. It seems your grandmother and mine were school friends.” Swifty smiled proudly. Perhaps because his grandparents were now asleep, he seemed to like being close to mine, borrowing some of their warmth.
Then Grand-mère turned to Jason. “And, I am thrilled to see you again, Jason O’Reilly,” she smiled. “Your parents were long and dear friends of Christy’s parents, Elizabeth and Robert Applewait.”
“Yes, Ma’am. They talked of them often,” Jason took my grandmother’s hand, then bowed and kissed it gently.
“Happy Gift-giving Day,” Mother called out as she and my father came through the door.
“We’re nearly all here,” I said. “When Marge arrives, we will gather in a cluster in the great room.” I expected Sean, the newspaper deliverer from the tram, to arrive in a few minutes.
Just then, my father answered the doorbell and Marge came in. “I’ve asked all of you to come early because Jason and I have some news.”
“Jason?” Mother questioned.
“Oh, Mother, Daddy, I would like you to meet Dr. Jason O’Reilly, Marge Cummings, Dahlia Zoobamba, and Thackery Swift, A.K.A. Swifty.” Everyone laughed.
“Jason O’Reilly?  I knew your parents, didn’t I?” Mother asked.
“Yes, dear,” Grand-mère smiled warmly at her. “Jason’s parents were Stephanie and Charles.”
“Stephie? Oh Jason, I miss her so much.” Mother put her arms around Jason and gave him a hug as one comforts the bereaved.
“Yes, Ma’am, so do I.” Jason responded.
The vision of Charles and Stephanie O’Reilly, encased in glass in Bedlam’s gruesome museum, flashed through my mind. I shook my head to free my mind from the dark memories of the previous night.
As we gathered in what Grand-mère called the parlor and after everyone was seated, all their faces turned in expectation to me. I had called each one to come early, before the meal. Now, the floor was mine.
“You all know by now that Grand-père will turn seventy-five at the end of the month and Grand-mère will follow him a few days later.”
Each face in the room grew solemn. No one seemed to know what to say and the silence grew heavy.
“We believe we have found a solution.” Jason handed the book and paper to me.
“Any law can be overturned by a citizens’ referendum,” I began.
“A referendum?” Grand-père snapped to attention and leaned forward to the edge of his seat as he waited for more details.
“Yes. A citizens’ referendum requires a petition bearing the signatures of a majority of the population. The petition would call for the eradication of the law concerning the Length of Days policy for termination of life,” I explained. “We will also include a reversal of the laws concerning chemical additives in the water supply.”
Grand-père stood up quickly and paced back and forth, crisscrossing the room. Then, he sat down on the arm of the chair beside Grand-mère. “Connie, is it possible?”
The doorbell rang and everyone jumped. We were excited and edgy. The government could claim we were practicing sedition right there in my grandparents’ home on Christmas morning if the wrong person found us there with incriminating documents.
Thankfully and surprisingly, the new visitor was Judge Brunner. Jason invited him in. Judge Brunner came into the parlor and greeted Grand-père with a hearty handshake and kissed Grand-mère on the cheek. He turned to Jason and then to me. “Were you able to get it?” he asked.
“Yes,” my voice cracked with the excitement of our accomplishment. I handed the paper to Judge Brunner and added, “The cover form for the petition.”
“Where did you find that document?” Grand-père asked. “I am amazed. I haven’t even heard of a special form or a citizens’ referendum.”
“You don’t want to know where it came from, Oliver,” Judge Brunner warned. “Just let it be.”
“A petition will not be received without an official cover letter or form.” I said. “It is a necessity.”
“But . . . Christy,” Mother whispered, “half of the signatures in the whole country . . . by the end of the month? How?”
“Well . . .” But before I could answer, I heard the door again. I was expecting Sean at any minute.
Jason jumped up and let him in.
“I hope I’m not late,” Sean apologized as Jason led him into the room where all eyes had turned to him.
“You’re just in time.” I rushed to greet him. “And, Sean, I would like you to meet my grandparents and my parents.”
“I am honored,” he smiled broadly and offered his hand in friendship to all.
Sean carried a black leather valise in his left hand. My love of books drew my attention to the bag and I wondered if the dramatic case testified to the importance of the contents. A character in one of my old suspense novels would have carried such a serious looking grip.
“Sean, I’ll have to ask you to respond to my mother’s question, because, I don’t know the answer. She wondered how we would be able to get the signatures of half the population before the end of the month.”
Sean opened the valise and pulled out a tall stack of papers. “The heading on each page identifies it as a petition, or citizens’ referendum as Christiana calls it, to overturn the New Bill of Rights, in particular, the policies regarding the Length of Days law and the additives in the water supply.” Sean took a deep breath and continued. “We have been secretly gathering signatures for months. We’re going after the termination of the entire New Bill. Citizens signed the petition below the heading and included their address and contact information as required. This is a representative sample. We have boxes and boxes of signed petitions, all carefully preserved and filed.”
“Weren’t people afraid to sign their name, knowing it would be presented to authorities who might misunderstand the petition’s meaning?” Grand-mère’s words mingled concern for their safety with deep appreciation. “These heroic neighbors who put their name to such a document could be accused of treason.” There had been no protests against the government in many years, since words spoken against the current policies or laws were forbidden.
“No, Ma’am, there was no fear at all,” Sean said. “They felt privileged to be counted, excited about being able to actually participate in something as large and noble as this.” Sean spread the pages on the table. “The petitions we have, account for seventy-five percent of the adult population of Capitol City.”
“Oh Sean,” I gasped as tears filled my eyes and tightened my throat. “We have the required number of signatures already?”
“But, that’s not the whole country.” Mother shook her head and her eyes glistened with tears, but they were not tears of joy.
“My wife, Silvia, and I knew that we probably wouldn’t have a full sample of the population,” Judge Brunner spoke up. “We believed if enough names could be produced to represent a trend, even if it isn’t a completed work, we hoped it would be recognized as the will of the people. With the proper signatures, and the required cover paperwork . . . we think we can still make this happen. I have no doubt there will be enough signatures when this effort is completed.” Judge Brunner cleared his throat and added, “As a Zone Judge, I can issue a stay order on all those who are to be put to sleep due to the Length of Days policy, until the entire country can be canvassed.” Carl’s eyes fell to the ground and he spoke another truth. “You have to know that I have a conflict of interest in this. My son, my only son, Michael . . . is slowly improving from paralysis. But, he would have been terminated if we hadn’t hidden him. He hasn’t been out of our home for nearly a year. Not even the neighbors know that he’s there.”
“Carl,” Grand-mère offered in her own soft sweet way, “Michael is a wonderful young man. He deserves to live . . . just as all people everywhere have a right to fight for their own lives, no matter how difficult the strife or how long the battle. It is their own personal battle to fight . . . or surrender to . . .  but it is their decision alone.”
Daddy had been silent up until then. He was a man who used words sparingly but when he spoke, his message was profound. “We will stand behind you, all of you, at every turn this cause may take. Together, we will regain liberty for the weak, as well as for the strong, for the sick and broken, as well as for the robust and hearty. This cause must succeed.”
Before my father could finish expressing his thoughts, we heard a loud crash coming from the front door. Who would dare barge into a private home of Legacy Citizens—unless? Had he found us?