It had been two nights since their big fight over whether to hide them or not. Her husband Nick had begged her to let him put them out, but she refused.
“I can’t believe you!”, She had screamed in his face. She knew it was wrong, but she could find it in herself to be submissive; not about this.
“You know what they’ll do to us, Rachel. Is that what you want?” He replied.
She knew very well what their fate would be, but she refused to deny it no matter the cost and if this is what it came down to then so be it. As a last resort, he’d tried to get her to let him hide them in the cellar or even bury them under the house, but she’d stood her ground, and she had won. Now here she was laying in the dark listening to the screams that filled the night. With the coming of each new night marked more bloodshed. The Dawn marked a new day filled with grief, anger, and sorrow as they ventured out to see who had survived and who had not.
When the first round of cleansings had begun, they had all been in shock, but she was still able to sleep at night after their families evening prayer. It had been so far away then from their small Christian community, and honestly, she thought that someone would put a stop to it before it ever reached them. That had been eight months ago. She never imagined they would take it this far. Now she lay there in her small pool of silent tears listening to the sounds of her friends and family being dragged from their homes in the middle of the night waiting for the dreaded hollow knock on their own door that would mark their fate. The mercenaries only came after dark and didn’t leave until about an hour before sunrise. Her husband Nick squeezed her hand as he pulled her close reciting the familiar psalm that had become a constant reminder of the hell they now lived in, ”Lord, battle with those who battle with me. Fight against those who fight against me. Pick up the shield and armor. Rise up and help me…”
Bang! Bang! Bang! Her stomach roiled as she swallowed hard to keep the vomit down. Slowly her husband got up from bed still dressed. Under normal circumstances, he might have reached under the mattress for his small handgun while whispering urgently for her to hide in the closet with the children but this wasn’t a normal circumstance this was “The Cleansing.” The government had issued the first one months ago, stripping all citizens of firearms, knives, anything that could be used as protection. Tonight her husband held out a shaky hand, which she took in her own as they climbed out of bed together for the last time. Taking her into his arms, he kissed her one last time but said nothing. What does one say when there’s nothing left to be said. With his hand on the small of her back, he led her down the hall towards the front door of their once beautiful home. A home that at one time had been filled with the love and laughter of giddy children. But after the second clearing, the soldiers had come in and took the children away leaving nothing but an empty shell to live in. No one knew where they had taken the children or if they were even still alive.
On the way, they passed by the kitchen where they had baked dozens of cookies and brownies for the church bake sale. Beyond the kitchen was the large living room where many Christmas mornings had been spent in glee as they watched the children shared present after present before Nick would read them the story of The First Noel.
Bang! Bang! The sound jolted her back to reality as they rounded the corner to the front door. “Open up! We know you’re in there.
Nick looked down, and after kissing her on the forehead, he said, “I love you, Rachel.”
She smiled weakly back at him, “I love you too Nick. It’s only goodbye for a second you know.” He squeezed her in tightly next to him, but she could still feel his hands shaking.
“You got two minutes to open up this door, or I’ll bust through it.” the soldier yelled from outside.
Slowly Nick reached down and flipped the lock back. He reached to turn the knob, but the door flung open before he could open it throwing them both against the wall. A piercing pain shot through the back of Rachel’s head and she could feel the blood rising to the surface of her skin as it trickled down through her hair. She shook her head trying to shrug it off. Now wasn’t the time for being weak.
“Are you okay?”, Nick asked as he pulled her from the floor inspecting the back of her head. “Oh God Rachel you’re bleeding.” He pulled his shirt off, as he began wiping off some of the blood that was now trickling down her back.
“I’ll be okay.” she lied miserably.
“Did I say you could talk?” They both stared at the mercenary who stood before them neither sure of what exactly to say. “That’s what I thought.”
It became evident that this was the man in charge. There were about four or five others that ran in after him. All of them now scurrying through their home ransacking everything in sight dropping their findings in a pile in the middle of their living room floor.
“Move.” the man said pointing his gun in the direction of the living room.
The man pointed his gun into the small of Nick’s back while he lead them into the living room in front of the fireplace in front of the pile of bibles, crosses, and books that now laid strewn in front of them. A tear fell from Rachel’s face as she eyed the broken glass plates with psalm’s engraved on them. Nick had gotten her those for their anniversary years ago, but now they were nothing more than broken bits of glass laying at the bottom of the heap.
“That’s the last of it boss!”, one of the soldiers yelled from upstairs. “Unless you want me to bring that stupid tree down too.” a cacophony of laughter ensued, but the mercenary’s stone face never moved. His eyebrows furrowed intensely while his lips were set in a thin line.
“That’s enough boys, come on back.”, he yelled up to the others.
Rachel prayed silently no psalm nor verse came to mind now just outright pleading. ‘Oh God please help us. Help us dear God have mercy if it’s your will.’ If her thoughts could be heard, they would have drowned out the screaming that was closing in around them. She looked up at her husband for some comfort, but he only stared through empty eyes at the remnants of their life laying before them.
“I can’t believe you didn’t even try to hide it. Do you want to die?” he spat, but he wasn’t planning on giving them time to answer. “Oh that’s right you’re a Christian. You’re not afraid to die are you.”
The mercenary bent down into Rachel’s face; she could feel his hot breath on her skin as she turned her head away. “You’re little friends were afraid to die. They begged me for mercy. Are you afraid to die?” She stayed quite.
Without warning, the back of his hand slammed across her face as she fell to the floor, but she refused to make a sound. She wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of knowing it hurt. “I asked you a question freak.” he spat.
Rachel pulled herself up from the floor standing facing the man as she spoke through gritted teeth, “I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand, and I say to you, do not be afraid for I will help you.”
Nick could sense the anger filling the room at his wife’s words. He tugged desperately onto her hand hoping she would stop but she refused as she stared down the shell of a man who called himself a soldier. She knew now she was going to die there was no way out but if she was going to die it was going to be with dignity and purpose. The man in front of her snarled; his lip curling up as he decided what to do next. Taking his hand, he pressed down hard on her shoulder until she had no choice but to buckle under the pressure and kneel once more.
“You people make me sick.” he spat. “You should be begging for mercy like a dog. So…let’s get on with it shall we.” The mercenary grunted. “Because I’m a merciful man I’m going to give you one last shot at this. You can denounce your Jesus right now; we’ll mark your house and never come back…unless of course we’re ordered to. Or you can die. Those are your options actually quite simple if you think about it.”
Nick squeezed Rachel’s hand before releasing it and standing up. She immediately followed him proudly. “Take it,” he said flatly. Rachel turned staring at her husband, a look of shock on her face.
“I’m sorry?”, the man questioned.
Her husband mumbled, “Take the Bibles, whatever you want. We won’t cause you any more trouble.”
Rachel couldn’t believe it; he’d betrayed her…he’d betrayed the Lord. She stepped back away from her husband, “No, I won’t do it. Do what you have to do to me, but I won’t deny my savior.” Her husband’s eyes met hers as she glared back at him in disappointment.
“Rachel, you don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m trying to keep us alive.” he pleaded.
She’d never felt so betrayed in her life as she looked up at the man whom she thought she knew. Their whole lives had been built upon the fundamentals of Christ, and he was throwing it all away.
“What good will it do us Nick to gain the world yet lose our soul.” Rachel’s eyes pleaded asshe stared at her husband for some glimmer of hope but she found none only a hollow hole where his faith use to be.
The soldier slapped him lightly on the back, “That’s enough man, she’s made it clear. You can at least walk away from this saying you tried to save her.” He pulled Nick behind him joining the other soldiers into what was obviously now the safety zone.
But Rachel made sure her eyes never left her husbands. It might have been wrong, but her eyes were the last thing she wanted him to see. She hoped he would remember those eyes as he laid down to sleep at night alone. They could’ve died together and woke up in paradise.
“Where do you want to do this lady…outside?” the soldier asked as he began to poise his gun.
“No.”, she gritted through clenched teeth. “Do it. Right. Here.”
The soldier looked back to see Nicks reaction apparently worried about the mess the man would have to clean up later. But if he was hoping for a response he received none. Their eyes were deadlocked and as she heard the click of the trigger pull it was the last thing she remembered of the mortal world before an eternal light enveloped her.