Hi! This is my first novel here on fictionpress, so I am just getting the hang of this. I have been writing since I was four, so it is a fun hobby of mine. I started writing this book about nine months ago, and hope that you all enjoy it! Please, if you have any, ANY critiquing advice on my book, please let me know! Thank you, and welcome to the year 2034.
"It's all right, Moriah. Just don't think about it. You're gonna be fine." Lydia chanted, holding her sisters hair while she vomited. The younger girl threw up a couple of more times, then finally let the torrent of tears fall.
"Why did they shoot that man?" Moriah sobbed, grabbing her sisters shirt and burying her head in her lap. Lydia could feel a lump in her throat but she wouldn't dare let the tears fall.
"I don't know, Moriah. I don't know why they are persecuting us." Lydia didn't have an answer for her younger sister. Those people just kept at it, keeping their lives in suspense, on edge, always preying on them, making them suffer sometimes to more than they could bear. Lydia helped her sister to her feet and moved to another tree to sit down and let her sister cry, away from the faces of the soldiers, and away from the mess she just made. She pulled her sister into her lap like she had done when they were a lot younger, and rubbed her head and hair gently, trying to soothe her. She hoped that mom was doing ok with the baby all by herself. Lydia had taken Moriah away from mom so she wouldn't be concerned. She had too much to worry about anyway, with dad missing, and the baby, and now being taken captive. Today had been an exceptionally trying day. One of the elderly men of their group had been shot down by the soldiers. The man had been one of the elders in their home church. Lydia couldn't get the scene out of her mind. It just kept echoing through her head, playing it back over and over again like a scratched CD. The man had fallen, too weary to walk anymore, asking the soldiers to just let him rest, but the soldier that was behind him told him to get up.
'Get up!' The soldier shouted at the man, but the man replied that he couldn't, that he was just too tired. Everyone was tired. They had been driven in large trucks with nothing to eat or drink for one or two days, and then made to march for the last two days, with only small portions of food and water to distribute to all of them.
'Get up or I will shoot!' The soldier hoisted up his gun and pointed it at the man.
'I can't. Please just let me rest.' The man almost sobbed. A lump had formed in Lydia's throat. She had never seen this man cry before, and it unnerved her. The rest of their group had stopped to watch, wanting to help him, but unsure of what the soldiers might do to them. They all felt trapped and afraid.
'I told you to get up, old man!' The soldier turned the gun and bashed the butt of it on the man's shoulder. The man groaned in pain. Women gasped. Children cried.
'Yea, though I walk,' The man had started to say, and the butt of the gun came down again. 'Through the valley,' Again, the soldier hit him, like a mad master and his horse. 'of the shadow of death,' Another soldier came up and joined the other. Now there was blood pouring down the old man's face, and his voice was wavering, as if he was trying not to cry, and trying to hang onto consciousness. 'I will fear no evil,' Women were now holding their children's faces in their belly's, trying to hide the torture that was being performed. 'For thou art with me!' The man gasped, falling all the way to the ground, his right cheek laying down on it. Blood soaked the area where he lay.
'I warned you old man! One more chance!' The soldier barked, trying to roll the man onto his back with the butt of his gun.
'Lord,' the man looked up into heaven, his voice just barely above a whisper. 'Forgive them for they know not what they do.' He sighed, and before anyone could react, the first soldier turned his gun around, and the shot that came from his gun echoed through the mountains surrounding them.
Lydia shook her head, trying to rid herself of the thoughts that haunted her, and returned to comforting her little sister. Moriah finally calmed herself down, and was only sniffling. Fortunately, the soldiers had let the group stop for the day after that incident, and had taken the body away from sight. Moriah had taken it hard, and had lost her lunch after the incident. Lydia almost wished that she had someone to lean on and cry, but she had to be the tough one, the one to get the family through all of this.
"You doing better?" Lydia asked her thirteen year old sister, who looked up at her and nodded, even though her eyes were still puffy and red. Lydia gave her one last pat, and then nudged her off of her lap gently, letting her know that her counseling session was over.
"Thanks Lydia." Moriah gave a small smile as Lydia stood up, and took a deep breath, trying to calm herself even more.
"I'm glad you're feeling better. Let's go back and see if we can help mom out." Seventeen year old Lydia said, trying to sound cheery, and they went back to the group. It was now getting darker, and people were already being given their rations for the day. Lydia scanned the area for her mom, and found her leaning against one of the trees, with little Zion on her stomach, her eyes were closed. Lydia assumed that she was sleeping, so she motioned for Moriah to stay quiet as they went to sit with their mom. Lydia leaned her back against the tree and Moriah sat very close to her and nestled her head on Lydia's shoulder, still quite frightened by the scene that had happened earlier.
"Why are they doing this to us, Lyd?" Moriah asked suddenly, but Lydia knew the question would come up sooner or later. Lydia closed her eyes for a moment, trying to find the right words.
"Well, some people don't like us, because we don't like what the government has been doing to us. We have been going against the law lately, especially with our religion, and the government doesn't like it. Now they are trying to get us to stop us and make us do it their way. We told them no, and they are showing us that they will stop at nothing to get us to stop what we believe." Lydia said halfheartedly. She knew it was true, but she hated to say it. Her eyes scanned the area around her, looking at all the individual people, realizing that she knew most of them. In fact, most of them were part of her home church. She saw Nancy and Joe sitting over by a tree, Nancy trying to nurse her poor husband, after being beaten by a soldier for disagreeing with him. There was Mitsy and her crew of four children sitting at another tree. Lydia remembered babysitting the children quite a number of times, and teaching the kids all about the bible in their church classes. Lydia saw that the children had lost a bit of weight since they had been taken, and the youngest of only a year was not as riled as normal. Lydia wished that she could help them, but knew that the rations were only enough to feed her and her family for the moment. She looked over and saw Mr. Hedlcok, sitting all alone. He had lost his wife not too long ago. Lydia's family had made sure that he got a good meal at least once a week, and would take a casserole to him every so often. She saw that he looked somewhat pale and she wondered if it was his heart, since he had had problems in the past. Lydia sighed, wondering how much more could this little group take? She was angry at the soldiers for taking them, for making them all suffer. Her mom would protest, and ask her if it was Christian like to be angry at them, but Lydia hung onto the feelings. She hated the soldiers, wishing them all dead, wishing that her and her family could go back to the way things used to be.
"Lydia, where is dad?" Moriah asked, breaking Lydia from her thoughts, making her cringe on the inside. She really didn't want to talk about dad. Mom had told her not to tell Moriah, since she had been through enough.
"I don't know, exactly, Moriah. We just have to hope he is all right." Lydia lied. She knew exactly where he was. He was in a jail cell, being held captive there for who knew how long, just because he was a pastor of the local church. The government had come and taken him in the middle of the night, just a few weeks prior to Lydia's family being taken. Fortunately Moriah had always been a hard sleeper, and didn't even wake up. But Lydia had heard it and made her way to the living room just in time to see the police throw her dad to the floor and hand cuff him. She had wanted to scream, to shout, to tear the policemen to pieces and free her father, but she restrained herself, knowing that she could get somebody killed. Now he was waiting to see what the government would do next to him as he rotted in a jail cell. Lydia knew that it wouldn't be long before something happened, and she didn't even want to guess of what that something would be.
"How are my girls doing?" Lydia's mom spoke up, startling the girls. They looked over and saw their mom sitting up a bit, trying not to wake the baby.
"Oh, mom, you're awake!" Moriah exclaimed and went to go sit beside her mother.
"Did we wake you, mom? I'm sorry if we did! I tried to be as quiet as I could." Lydia apologized, hoping that it wasn't her fault that her mom was now awake. She needed her rest, especially with having to carry the baby most of the day. Lydia had offered to help carry the baby, and for the first day, she had helped, but the soldiers didn't want her and mother talking or mixing with each other during the day, so they put a stop to it. Lydia didn't understand why, and it just made her hate the soldiers all the more.
"No, you didn't. I was just resting and heard you both come and sit here. So how are you both doing?" Their mom asked, and Lydia wished that she wasn't so concerned about them. Lydia saw her sister blush a little, hoping she wouldn't have to tell about her incident not too long ago. Lydia hoped she wouldn't tell either, because she didn't want to worry mom.
"Umm, good. We are fine, aren't we, Moriah?" Lydia finally spoke up, trying to cover up anything that mom might suspect. Moriah nodded, then lay her head against her mom's shoulder. She had always been the softer one in the family, soft hearted, the one that always wanted to cuddle, the one that was easily hurt.
"And how are you mom?" Lydia asked, getting a little closer to her mother. Her mom sighed heavily, but smiled back up at Lydia.
"God is helping me by giving me the strength I need to carry on. Even little Zion is doing wonderful, a cheerful little thing, and doesn't cry so easily as the first couple of days." Her mom smiled, looking down at the blond little baby lying in her arms, but it made Lydia uneasy. Zion had always been a demanding, rambonxious little thing, never really wanting to sit still. It made her nervous, thinking that maybe the little thing was losing strength. It alarmed Lydia, but she quickly stuffed it into the back of her mind, not wanting to think about it.
"Well, I guess that's good." Good for you, Lydia thought to herself. She wondered how God fit into all of this. Not only was she angry at the soldiers, but she was angry at God. Her and her family had been doing the right thing, following God as best as they knew how, and now He allowed it so they would become persecuted, to be beat, and most likely to be killed. Why would he allow his followers to be treated this way? Why didn't he protect them and preserve them? Lydia felt something touch her knee, and looked down and saw it was her mom's hand. She looked over at her mom, and could tell that her mom was concerned. Lydia quickly stuffed all of that thinking into the back of her mind, and smiled at her mom, to let her know that everything was fine. She didn't want to cause her mom more worry. She just couldn't.
After a while, after the little family had received their rations and eaten, Moriah fell asleep in her mother's lap, and Lydia sat next to her mother, watching all that was around them; the soldiers walking back and forth, the other families taking care of each other, when her mom spoke up.
"I know this is difficult for you, honey, and it is for all of us." Her mom began, and Lydia wondered how in the world that her mom could always read her mind.
"I'm fine, really, I'm fine. You don't need to worry about me." Lydia protested, not daring to look at her mom.
"Sometimes, we think that God is punishing us, that God isn't there because bad things are happening to us. We tend to blame God for the things that are happening around us, and become hateful toward the people around us." Her mom continued on as if Lydia hadn't spoken. Lydia was shocked that her mom pretty much knew exactly what was going on inside of her, and she wished that she could hide feelings so well that her mom would never be able to detect them.
"But if you remember, back in the bible, there were many people persecuted for doing God's will, for following what God had told them to, and many of them were killed. But did they ever blame God? Job still praised God, even though his friends told him to forget God. Paul followed God even unto death. Almost all of the disciples were killed for God. But they never, ever blamed God, never forgot Him. Instead, in their darkest hour, they praised Him. Paul and Silas sang praises in jail after they had been beaten horribly. But God didn't just let the persecution go in vain. It has been said that the blood of the martyrs was the seed for new believers. When someone died for the cause of God, new believers would pop up all over because they had seen something in that person that they had never seen before, a peace, a love for mankind, a love for their murderers. The martyrs ended up loving God even more and loving their enemies, because that is what God has called us to do. We may not know why God is allowing this to happen while we are alive, but he may have a plan for us to be a better witness for Him in death, or He may allow us to live and be a witness for Him wherever He has us. But right now, He has us with the soldiers, who do not know better. Right now, He wants us to be a witness for Him here, and we can't be a witness for Him if we have any kind of hate in our heart. He wants us to love those that persecute us, and then we shall have the Kingdom of Heaven in our grasp. I am not telling you this because I have sensed this in you, my seller of purple, but because God has impressed me to tell you this, and to help remind me not to become angry. God has a plan, we just need to trust Him." Her mother explained, in low, soothing tones, and Lydia drank in every word. She didn't know if she could believe them, but every time her mom was inspired by God to say something, it was as if God Himself was speaking through her mom. Lydia nestled closer to her mom.
"Thanks mom, for the reminder." Lydia mustered up all the strength and sincerity she could to say that. She still didn't think that way, and wondered if she ever would. She still hated the soldiers and was still a little bit angry with God, but she would bury those feelings and let her mom think that everything was ok. For now, she only wanted to be with her family, to be close to her mother, because she didn't know what the next day would bring. She prayed that God would spare her mother and her family, that this would all end soon, and that their lives would soon go back to normal.
"Halt, everyone halt!" One of the soldiers shouted out, and soon all of the soldiers were shouting it. Lydia's heart rate sped up. She looked at the sun in the sky above her. It was only midday, why were they making them stop now? They normally waited until the end of the day to stop them. She looked around and saw they were in a meadow, where there were only grasses and flowers, and no trees around, except for the edge of the meadow. Lydia looked back around to her group, and she could see the same confusion on most of their faces as what she felt. A few of the soldiers at the edge of the group starting butting people with the guns, telling them to get to their knees. Lydia could hardly breathe. What was going on? A few of the women stifled gasps. Lydia didn't want to guess what was going to happen. She felt a sharp pain in her shoulder as a soldier pushed her to the ground. She wanted to cry out. She frantically looked around to see if she could spot her sister and her mom and the baby, and saw Moriah over to her left, already knelt to the ground, and saw her mom and the baby clinging to her across from her. Moriah looked pale, and confused, but her mom held her head up to the sky, as if praying, and held her baby close.
"We have had a change of orders from our president. We can't be taking care of you any longer like this. He told us to take care of you in other ways. You had better start praying that your God will protect you, which I hardly doubt!" The lead soldier shouted out, almost mocking the group of people. Lydia felt like she was going to be sick. They were going to kill them all in cold blood! She wished she could flee, she wished she could run and never turn back, that she could wake up and find out it was all a dream. By this point everyone was on their knees, and the soldiers were surrounding them. Lydia could hear them load their guns. There was an unearthly silence among the people. Even the children were quiet. Lydia closed her eyes, her head spinning. What did it feel like to die? Was she ready to die? She quickly opened her eyes and looked across to her mother, whose head was still toward the skies, and her arms still clutching the baby. Tears filled Lydia's eyes. This would be the last time she would see her mom alive, at least she thought. Suddenly, one of the group started singing "In a Little While We're Going Home", and within a few seconds, the rest of the group in one voice was singing the hymn.
"Let us sing a song that will cheer us by the way," they all began, and the soldiers looked around, confused.
"In a little while we're going home!" Lydia started to sing with the group, her sobs almost choking out her voice as she sang.
"For the night will end in the everlasting day," A few of the soldiers shouted for them to stop, but they kept going.
"In a little while we're going home." Now the soldiers were getting antsy. Lydia felt a little braver, and continued onto the chorus.
"In a little while, in a little while, we shall cross the billow's foam. We shall meet at last, when the stormy winds are past! In a little while we're going home!" By this point, the tears were spilling down Lydia's face, and she looked over and saw Moriah also crying, but their mom's head was still upturned toward the sky. All of a sudden, when going on the second verse, the soldiers started counting to three, and there was a shot. Lydia shut her eyes, expecting the worst, but didn't feel any pain. She opened her eyes, expecting it just to be a way to shut up the group, but found that almost all of the group had fallen to the ground, shot by the soldiers. Lydia reached up and covered her mouth, wanting to scream and go hysterical, but only sobbed into her hands. Her mom was one of the ones down. She looked over and saw Moriah was still kneeling, but looked ghastly pale. The few that were still alive were still singing into the chorus, and Lydia could hear the guns being reloaded again. There was another shot, and this time, all went black just as they were singing the end of the chorus, 'In a little while we're going home.'
Pain, darkness, hurt, confusion. These were the first things on Lydia's mind when she started coming to. Why did she hurt so bad? It hurt to even breath. Her mind was foggy and dark, black enveloping her. She could hear ringing in her ears. Where was she? She tried to shake the fogginess from her mind. It started to clear, but the more it cleared, the more pain she felt. It seemed to be in her chest. Now the ringing was starting to go away, and she could hear birds in the background. Was she camping with her family? She tried to open her eyes, and could see that she was in a field, and there were other people lying around her. She closed her eyes again. Was she dreaming? Her chest hurt so bad. She didn't even want to move. She waited a few moments, then opened her eyes again. Everything was a little clearer now, and she could see the same people in the field around her. All of them were lying down. Lydia mustered up some strength and tried to pull herself up, but almost fainted from the pain that was burning in her chest. She lay down against the cool ground, hoping that the dampness would revive her. This time, when she opened her eyes, she propped herself up on her elbow, and looked around. Then it hit her. She knew where she was and why she was there.
She looked around and saw that everyone was dead. They had all been shot in cold blood. The soldiers had brought them out here to kill them. She looked around at remembering the soldiers, thinking that they might still be around, but saw no one, at least alive. She looked up at the sky and saw that it was much later in the day, almost nighttime and there were dark gray clouds forming in the sky, as if it was going to rain soon. Lydia looked around again. No one was moving. They were all dead.
Lydia took a deep breath, trying not to be sick, and a sharp pain made her cringe in her chest. She looked down where her arm was holding where it was painful, and saw that her left part of her chest was all bloody. That must have been where she had been shot. She whimpered, and tried to keep whatever food she had in her stomach down, then closed her eyes to stop the overwhelming fainting feeling that had suddenly overcome her. She had to find her mother, just to verify that she was actually gone.
Lydia, despite the pain, hoisted herself up and half walked, half crawled to where her mom had been the last time she saw her. Lydia tried not to look at the lifeless bodies surrounding her, tried not to vomit all over the place. She glanced around and saw Mitsy and her children surround her, all of them lifeless. Even her baby had been killed in her arms. She felt herself gag at the sight, but she kept down her food and continued on as if in a trance. She had to find her mom. Finally she saw a huddled form that looked like her mom, and hurried over to it. It was her mom all right. At first glance, she thought she was dead, but upon turning her over on her back, her mom took a deep breath and her eyes fluttered open. She groaned and startled Lydia. There was dried blood on her mom's mouth, and Lydia could see that she had been shot a little higher than where Lydia had been shot on her chest.
"My seller of purple, is that you?" Her mom said with much difficulty. Lydia's throat constricted, and she took her mom's hands into her own and brought to her face.
"Yeah, mom, it's me," Lydia said, trying to keep her tears from falling.
"Thank God you're ok. Are the soldiers here?" She asked, barely above a whisper. Lydia rubbed her mother's hand against her face, and could feel that they were very cold.
"No, mom, they aren't. They're gone," Lydia said, gulping down the sobs that threatened to escape. Her mom's mouth opened and closed a couple of moments, as if trying to form words. Her eyes were closed again.
"Is the baby ok?" Her mom asked, not even looking to see for herself. Lydia looked around for a moment and saw little Zion lying just a few inches away from her mom, lifeless. Lydia's heart wrenched. Little Zion had been only a little over a year, so much life left to live, and she was gone! This time the tears found their way down Lydia's face. The pain in her chest was almost overwhelming, but she tried not to think about it.
"God knows best, my Lydia. He knew what would be in store if she stayed alive." Her mom whispered. She groaned and grabbed her chest with her free arm. Lydia looked at her, fear growing inside.
Honey, I love you, I do, don't you ever forget that," her mom said with a little more strength before. "And ultimately, God loves you. Remember, He does everything for a reason, don't forget that." Her mom said fervently, her eyes opening and looking deep into her daughters eyes.
"Yes, mom, yes. I won't forget. Just stay with me," Lydia begged through her sobs.
"I love you, and I hope to see you again someday, sweetie." Her mom gulped, and grabbed her chest again, and then, just as suddenly as she had woken up, she slipped away. She fell limp in Lydia's grasp and stopped breathing.
"Mom," Lydia sobbed. "Mom, mom wake up!" Lydia said a little louder. She scanned her mother's face, hoping to see some sign of life. "Mom, please don't leave me! Please! I need you!" Lydia screamed, not caring if anyone could hear her or not. She looked up into the sky just as it started to rain and let the rain fall down on her face along with her tears. She clutched her mom's hand a little tighter, but finding that her mom was never going to wake again, she blindly stood herself up as best as she could despite the pain, and stumbled through all the bodies lying around her. She could hardly see through her tears and the rain, and she would sometimes fall on a body. Most of them she came across were people she had known, and now all of them were dead. She tried to hurry through them, to leave them all behind, to forget what she was seeing. She suddenly felt sick, and soon she was out of the forest of bodies, and started running for the forest at the edge of the meadow. She gulped and sobbed, trying to keep her dinner down; running without really watching where she was going. She soon made it into the forest, and was now soaked to the bone. She ran blindly through the forest, trying to make as much space between her and the field as possible, and soon, she couldn't stand it any longer. She knelt beside a tree and vomited all the food she had left in her, and finally, when there was nothing left, she just lay there and retched.
"Oh, God, why?!" She screamed up in the rain after she was done retching. She sobbed and sobbed, and finally fell into a fitful sleep, shock, pain, and exhaustion finally settling in.