by Daniel Devoto
Wednesday, June 23rd
I watched the skies tonight. Not in prayer like I usually do. Not looking to The Lord for guidance and hope. No, tonight I saw something different. The nonbelievers were leaving us. They all collected in their century ships and left our world for parts beyond. Watching them from the back of my parents' house, they looked like stars in the night sky, all funneling to a gathering point and then whisking off to parts unknown.
Pa called me in with his usual "Jess'ca." The family was inside watching a prayer service on the TV. I didn't want to go in. I kept wanting to look at the sky. I kept thinking about all those people leaving and...I don't know what. When I finally went in, the whole family was gathered around the TV. Ma and Pa sat paying close attention, Jenny, and even Tyler was rapt to the screen. It was like something momentous was happening, and it was. The preacher on the TV called it the "great cleansing." All the nonbelievers, all those not touched by His word, decided to end the turmoil they were causing and leave our world. Pa silently mouthed The Lord's prayer, but it wasn't so silent. I could hear his whispering. Ma was quieter but her silence spoke more than anything. I looked back and saw her staring at the screen. I swear she didn't even blink. It was like if she thought she did, it would all go away and she'd wake up from a wonderful dream.
Later over dinner we talked about it all. It was the usual fixings, but I swear it felt like a feast. Just everybody's mood, I guess. Ma was talking about Jenny's wedding coming up. Pa mentioned my birthday coming, I think not to let me feel left out. "Thirteen years old and it seems just like yesterday," he said. Thankfully the discussion turned from fatherly pride back to the big news. Pa said it was a credit to our town that only the Nicholsons left. I don't know about that. It would've been more a credit to us if we convinced them to stay. But they're gone now. Nothing more can be done. Ma said this will end all the wars and the struggles. There's no point in looking back but to remember the bad times. I hope so. Hopefully things will be peaceful now. We're all God's children now.
Thursday, July 1st
I spent today helping Ma get Jenny's wedding dress ready. It was the day she actually put the thing on, so there had to be adjustments and such. Jenny kept saying the hips were too big and she threatened to stop eating the whole week until the wedding. Ma said something through the needles in her mouth but it didn't soothe things. "Ma! I don't want to be lookin' like no pear!" she said. Then she caught me laughing and has been cross with me ever since (like that's a change!).
I heard the Devereaux's took over the store the Nicholsons left behind. They said they took out all the magazines and nonbeliever stuff since there would be no need for that anymore. I hope they left something besides The Bible to read. I like The Bible and all, but since God created everything, isn't everything written His word? I used to go there and peek through the magazines while they were getting Pa's order ready. It was like a whole other world, city life and all. I can't believe we were at war with these people and now they're all gone. Everyone seems happier, but I feel like something's missing. Jenny says not to concern my young mind with such silly thoughts. God, I hope I never talk to Tyler like that when he's my age.
Pa talked over dinner about making changes to the town counsel. He said now that we've had the cleansing, things are going to be different. There won't be so many obstacles in the way. Ma asked if it would interfere with his cattle trade, but Pa said he'll make room. He said his work's with God and He'd find a way to make it all work. I don't think Ma would even argue that point.
Monday, July 5th
Big news! Pa was elected President of the town counsel. He brought the news home with him before dinner and word spread through the house like a wild bird let loose. We all ran downstairs and listened to Pa tell us about it while he helped Ma prepare the chicken and rice. He said they got their whole block of supporters on the counsel for unanimous support. He said they were going to get rid of everything in our community that wasn't holy. Everything we didn't make ourselves was to be discarded in favor of stuffs made by the hand of God. He said we'd make our own clothes, grow our own food, that Ma would be the head seamstress in the whole town. Pa was excited, but I confess I looked to Ma to figure out what to think about it. Her eyes were so hopeful. She was proud of Pa but it was something more than that. Her face was serene, full of grace. I don't know. I'm trying to figure all this out, but I'm not sure if this is the beginning of something or the end of something, and if I'm supposed to be happy or mournful about it. I know, I really have my mind made up, but I can't help it. I don't know what the future holds.
Pa sat me down before I went to bed to talk about it. He said there were going to be some changes around here. Jenny was leaving. I was going to have to sacrifice some of my things, he said. "It's going to be wonderful. All our lives will be a temple to God," he said. Then he mentioned something I wish he hadn't. "I noticed you've been spending a lot of time with the Woodson boy, Aaron," he said. I hated him for saying that name. I know I'll have to confess and say about a thousand Our Fathers, but that's how I felt. I want that name for myself. I don't want Pa or Ma or anybody knowing about it. Aaron's such a nice boy. I feel like I can smile around him and not worry so much if it's right or wrong. Pa went on to mention that Ma's friendly with Mrs. Woodson. He said Aaron's raised by good people and that I'd be following Jenny soon. "You're almost thirteen. A woman." I got small when he said that. That's what Jenny says. I get small when I'm embarrassed. My shoulders bunch up and I look down. Then he said how much he loved me and how God bringing me into this world was such a blessing. It was all the stuff he usually says when the conversation's about to end, so I was glad.
Sunday, July 11th
It was such a beautiful day. The sun was bright as ever reflecting off the reeds blowing in the breeze. Did I mention I was with Aaron? We took a walk by the gully after church. I told him how our parents knew about each other and I chastised him for smiling at me so much during services. He knew I was joking. He needled me about always walking past his house on my way home and we both laughed. I like how his mouth gets crooked when he smiles.
I told him how the house would feel lonely now that Jenny was leaving. I don't even like her that much the way she talks down to me. A void is a void is how I feel. Aaron shrugged like he was all nonshalant and said, "We could always hang out together. At least until school starts again." Aaron ain't home schooled. His parents send him to a boys academy every fall up north. He says he wants to be an engineer. He likes air streamers so much and wants to grow up and design them. I asked him if his parents would let him go now with all the changes Pa's been talking about, about living off the land, not being corrupted by machines (unless he can design an air streamer out of wheat and cotton!). He shrugged again but didn't say anything more.
I asked him, "Are you scared?" He said about what, and I explained to him how since the nonbelievers left things have been different. People look at each other suspiciously. We all used to be on the same side, it was us against them. He said his parents stopped talking about it all. He thinks it's because they don't like what's going on. Then he did something I didn't expect. He leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. He just leaned in and did it. I didn't recoil in horror like if Tyler did it. I liked it. We didn't say anything more back to town. We just walked and I tried not smiling the whole way back.
Monday, August 2nd
Lord, it's been so long since I wrote last. Ma's been working me to the bone now that Pa's given Jenny away. Jenny seems happy. At least she says she is.
Something's really wrong. We've lost contact with all the neighboring towns. No one's come by with their goods. The Taylors left for Huntsville six days ago and haven't been heard from since. Everyone's real concerned, and the counsel sent a few volunteers to hike down the roads to see what's going on. No word back yet, but Ma and Pa have been in the basement listening to an old ham radio they kept hidden away. They don't know I was listening, but I got curious. I made sure Tyler was asleep and snuck down to the basement door and listened in through the keyhole. Honestly I mostly just heard static. I guess Pa was was switching frequencies 'cause I heard voices going in and out but I couldn't figure on what they were saying. All I know is Ma and Pa seemed real worried talking amongst themselves. They said something about not letting it come here and I heard Pa say, "It's all gone to Hades."
I wish I could tell Aaron but I don't want to say anything. There's a lot of shifty eyes going around town and I don't want
to get anyone in trouble. I figure the best thing to do is keep my head low and act like a dumb thirteen year old who nobody gives heed to. Still, I can't help feeling scared at what's over the horizon. It's this thing that's there but I can't see it. Everyone knows it's there. You can feel it in the air. I've been neglecting my prayers lately. I have to remember to say The Lord's prayer for Tyler and Jenny and not skip any like I have been. It's stupid to think things go bad because I forget my prayers, but this is a time for all our prayers. We need each other and The Lord now more than ever.
Saturday, August 7th
Things have gotten much worse. Pa and the counsel put the whole town under lockdown. They even put a few men on the streets to keep watch after curfew. Usually I'm the observant one keeping watch on everyone else and studying their reactions, but now I'm just as fearful as them.
Still no word from the Taylors. The people who got other kin in neighboring towns say the same thing: no word. Whatever it was that Ma and Pa talked about, it's come into our town. There was a rape out by old man Hitchen's chicken farm. Mr. Haskell's son was accused and they threw him in jail. The McConnells were accused of hoarding the food stocks and are being put on trial. I hear people whispering that it wasn't long before when the McConnells were criticizing the town counsel a
little too loudly at one of the meetings. Now we're all supposed to believe they're bad?
Ma got the whole family together. Well, not Jenny, but everybody else. We all prayed for an end to the tumult that come over us. Ma said Satan was among us and we must harden our faith. It seems like the nonbelievers leaving wasn't the cleansing everyone thought it would be. We're being tested now and all anyone can do is become even more rigid than before. I don't understand everything or even most things, but it seems like we're making things worse by our reaction to them. When we let our fears lead the way there's no hope.
I went out by the gully where Aaron kissed me. There was a lone dandelion and I picked it out of the ground. I blew the seeds into the air and they all went floating away in the breeze. Fall's coming soon. I wonder what the new season has in store for me. It's amazing how the change in seasons is like dandelion seeds blowing in the wind. They bloom and eventually get taken by the wind to be carried far far away. I wonder if I'll be like the seeds in the wind. Where will the change in seasons take me?
Wednesday, August 18th
I don't know what to say anymore. Our lives are like a nightmare that we're trapped inside and we can't wake up from. I'm writing this by the light of the fires outside. They torched the wheat fields tonight. Ma called them marauders. Just a few weeks ago they were our neighbors.
Our house burned down along with half the rest of the town. We're staying at the Devereaux's above their store for the time being. No one knows we're here and the Devereaux's want to keep it that way. They're keeping guard downstairs. They got one of the only shotguns in town. I can hear Jenny in the next room crying. It's all she's done since she came back to us. Out of the blue one night she came back saying her husband said the most awful things about Pa. The whole town's divided like that. Thank God the Devereaux's were there to help us, but judging by the looks on their faces they can only be counted on for so long. I just hope Aaron's okay. I haven't seen him since the fires started. I've been praying he and his family got out like some of the others.
I only saved a few things from the house. A necklace, some pictures, the jewelry box Pa gave me, and of course this diary. The only music I can listen to is the music from the jewelry box. It's pretty like a dream, not like what's going on outside. I overheard Ma tell Pa we had to leave here, that they'll kill us if we stay. I don't know why. I don't know anything anymore. I just know that if I write it down at least I'll know it happened. There's nothing else to do really, except keep faith, but even that seems like it's the thing we're running from.
Thursday, August 19th
Ma woke up Tyler, Jenny and me just before dawn. She told us to grab up all our things and that we're leaving town. Pa got his hands on a horse carriage and we have to leave while it's still dark. I'll have more to write later. Hopefully we'll be safe somewhere. Hopefully we'll be a family again and we can escape this madness.
© 2007 Daniel Devoto
Bio: A Bay Area resident, Daniel DeVoto has written numerous screenplays, one of which was optioned. He has recently turned to short story writing as another creative outlet and as a build-up to writing that novel he always wanted to.
E-mail: Daniel Devoto
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