This story is inspired by the song “Where The Thunder Roars” recorded by the Christian Band White Heart. I hope you enjoy it.
Where nuclear snow falls the thunder is close to follow. For almost a decade nuclear winter had had a strangle hold on the world. Anything left alive now cried out for death to come.
Ten years ago or there abouts, four nuclear bombs were dropped on North America. Two on Washington D.C., one on Ottawa, Canada and one on Mexico City, Mexico. All over the world nuclear bombs were being dropped in other capitol cities. Small countries nearby were left alone. The blasts from neighboring countries were enough to destroy the small countries. Millions upon millions of people died. Innocent children and adults died before they even knew what happened.
The war started three years to the day that the United States invaded Iraq. A year into the war, civil war broke out. The U.S. military were driven out but the U.S. would not leave. They insisted on staying. The president at the time was bent on a democratic Iraq no matter what the costs were. Lives were lost. Bombs were dropped. The U.S. military were all but wiped out. The President was not happy.
More military were called. The draft was re-initiated. Thousands upon thousands of boys sixteen or older were drafted. These same boys would sent home in body bags. More boys were called up and even girls were drafted. The more that were sent, the more that were sent back in body bags. The Americans were loosing more then just people. They were also loosing friendly countries. Soon out of nowhere came a country no one had thought about.
This country sat between Iraq and Israel. They were an Islamic country but were friendly with Iraq and Israel which was unusual. The country was called Palmyra. During the civil war in Syria had caused a split. What was once one country was now two? No one took notice of the civil war in Syria because of the situation in Iraq.
It didn’t take long for Palmyra to show its true intent. Soon bombs were dropping everywhere. Palmyra started dropping bombs for no apparent reason. It didn’t take long for the world to become something that it should never have been.
Now ten years have passed and countries no longer mattered. What was once a planet of several billion now was a planet of several thousand. Millions up millions died from the bombs. Millions upon millions died because of the fallout. Millions upon millions more died from radiation poisoning. Even more died from all the unrest and laying blame and countries fighting and destroying each other. When the final tally was added up, billions of people had died.
Race didn’t matter. Religion didn’t matter. Adult or child didn’t matter. Nuclear destruction is an indiscriminate killer. Nothing mattered. Even the very country that set the bombs off was not immune.
Now the dust fell. The thunder roared and snow drifted to the ground. What once was a beautiful oasis of wonder, Las Vegas, was now just rubble. The lights that once shone brighter then, the stars in the sky, were now dead. There was nothing but silence now. No one roamed the streets, for if they did the disfigured animals would get them or the things that use to be human would. But one man would.
His name was William Smith but he liked being called Smitty. Smitty stood six feet tall. His black hair trailed down his back in a long ponytail. His steel gray eyes always looked at the person he talked to. It was almost as if he could see right into their souls. He always carried his bible around. Most people thought he was nuts but he didn’t pay them no mind. He knew they didn’t know any better. Maybe he was. Smitty would sit in his bunker and talk to the Lord. He almost always did it alone. Sometimes he would have a rat or the occasional insect as company.
All the bomb shelters weren’t exactly bomb shelters. They were actually the subway system. Not the upper ones but rather the lower ones. Yes Vegas had a subway system. It wasn’t very big or had it been used but it was there. Since the bomb the tunnels had increased. People dug more and more trying to find privacy when privacy was a luxury. Rooms had been carved out of rock and families huddled together. They huddled to keep warm and to stay alive. It might not be the best life but it was life.
Smitty sat in his own little area. He did the same thing he did every day. He read his bible. He had read his bible so many times that you could tell just by looking at it that his bible was well loved. The elastic bands that held it together was a dead give away. Smitty closed his bible and then began to pray.
“Father in heaven, I come to you. Not only as your child but also as one who lives in this hell we have created.
“Lord Jesus, I bow before you and worship you. I glorify your name. You are the Master of all. Be with me this night as I sleep. Be with me as I wake and guide my steps. In Your precious name I ask this. Amen.”
Smitty opened his eyes and spied a little girl. She was standing off to one side trying not to be seen. He had seen her the last few days. She crept a little closer every day. He smiled as she walked away. He closed his eyes and was asleep in no time.
Morning came the same way it always did, wet and dreary. Smitty opened his eyes and looked right into the eyes of the little girl. He smiled up at her and she smiled at him.
“Hello little one, what is your name?”
“My name is Shelagh, what is yours?”
“My name is William Smith but you can call me Smitty. Where is your mommy?”
“She is not feeling well, could you come look?”
Smitty nodded his head and took Shelagh’s hand. They walked towards the end of the subway track. Finding the hole that Shelagh and her mother lived in, Smitty stepped right in. He could tell right away that her mommy was dead. He turned towards Shelagh.
“I’m sorry sweetheart, but your mommy is dead. She has gone to be with God.”
Shelagh began to cry, her hands covering her face. She cried harder. Smitty took her into his arms and she melted into them.
“Come with me. You can stay with me. Is that okay?”
Shelagh nodded her head. She clung to Smitty as they walked back to his home. When they got there, Smitty let Shelagh lay down. She fell to sleep almost immediately. Smitty left her to sleep as he went on packing. He finished up and then sat down to watch her sleep. Shelagh stirred and moaned. She was dreaming. Smitty sat down beside her and stroked her head. She seemed to calm down. He wondered what she was dreaming about.
When Shelagh woke up she found herself curled up into the crook of Smitty’s’ arm. He was snoring softly. She got up and found a place to go to the bathroom. She came back and picked up his bible. She didn’t know what it was but she at it anyways.
Shelagh read words that she had never heard. She read about how God loved us and that He sent His only Son to die for us. She didn’t understand, but she would ask Smitty about it. She looked up to see Smitty looking at her. She quickly put down the bible. She wasn’t sure if she had done something wrong or not. Smitty held up his hands.
“No, please look. I have another that you can have. This one is mine but you may look at it.”
Smitty got up and found the other bible. He passed it her and took his own. She took the other one and opened it. She looked up at Smitty.
“Who is God?”
“God is the creator of all. He was before there was anything else. He always has been and always will be.” Smitty replied.
“Who is Jesus?” Shelagh asked.
Smitty smiled at her. He sat down beside her.
“Who is Jesus? That is not an easy question to answer but I will try my best.
“Jesus is the Son of God. He came to be the sacrifice for our sins. He did it because He wanted to not because He had to. If He had done it because it was expected of Him then His death would have meant nothing. But because He willingly died, it means we have right to be called the children of God. I know for a little girl, it doesn’t make any sense but in time it will.”
Shelagh nodded and the put down her bible. She looked into the corner of the room. She pointed to it. Smitty looked where she pointed.
“I’m going on a trip. I am going above ground. It has been ten years since the bombs dropped. The dust is still falling but I want to find out if the air is breathable.”
“How do you know the dust is still falling?” Shelagh asked.
“I was up high enough last week to see it. I didn’t go way up, just far enough to see the dust.”
“Can I come?” Shelagh asked.
“I don’t know what dangers are out there. There could be animals and other things. Mutations from the nuclear fall out.”
“I’ll stay close and do what you say. I promise.”
Smitty nodded his head. Shelagh smiled.
“We will leave in two days. I am going to have to find more supplies. A warm coat for you and some boots too. Tomorrow we can go up and the things you need. The clothes might be a little big as will the boots but at least you will be warm. So let’s try to get some sleep.”
Smitty let her have the bed and he curled up in a sleeping bag. Both were off to sleep in no time.
The morning came softly. There was no big bang or major revelation. No bands played and no one saw the sun rise. It just came. Shelagh was already awake. She sat reading the bible that Smitty gave her. She didn’t understand it but she knew that Smitty would explain it best he could. She didn’t know why she trusted Smitty but she did. Everyone did. He was the only one they ever trusted. Maybe it was because he was so gentle even though he was so big. He never said an unkind word or made fun of anyone.
Smitty stirred but didn’t wake up. Shelagh looked at him. She had always seen him around but never got up the nerve to say boo to him. Her mother spoke to him often. She never heard him talk about Jesus. He would help with anything that needed to be done. He never tried to get payment for any of the work he did. He seemed so odd. Any of the other men around always wanted payment. Normally it would mean her mom having to do something that was so degrading. Smitty wasn’t like that. Her mom would offer but Smitty would always say no. He would go on his way then be available to help again. Shelagh saw Smitty stir again. This time he opened his eyes slightly. He smiled when he saw her. Sitting up he rubbed the sleep from his eyes.
“Good morning. I see you are ready to go. Let me get ready and then we can go.”
“I’m hungry.” Shelagh said.
“Yes I know. We will have to see what the Lord can give us. He will supply.”
Smitty got up and changed his clothes then came back out. He looked in the wall and found a can of peaches. He opened it and poured some into a throwaway bowl. Finding a plastic spoon, he passed the bowl to Shelagh. They ate quietly then tossed away the garbage. He took her hand and started on their way.
Shelagh stayed close to Smitty. It was dark and the way was hard to see. Smitty had his flashlight but it needed new batteries. It did little to light the way but it made Shelagh feel better. Suddenly someone jumped out of the shadows.
“Give me the girl. It’s been a long time for me. I haven’t had a girl in a very long time.”
Smitty glared at him, “No, you can’t have her, she is mine. Now be gone.”
The man brandished a knife. He showed it to Smitty who did nothing. The man lunged at Smitty and he pushed him away. The man swung wildly and caught a glancing blow on Smitty’s’ arm. Smitty could feel the blood start to pour.
Smitty felt a rage that he had not felt in many years. The man lunged at him again and Smitty caught him square in the face. Shelagh had moved back but not so far that she could not see that was going on. The man went down but was up almost immediately. He lunged again but Smitty grabbed him by the throat. Smitty pushed him up against the rock wall. Smitty was smiling. The man was struggling.
“The girl belongs to me! No one else can have her. I will do with her what I will.”
“I want the girl. She looks so innocent, so tasty. I want her!”
The man tried to fight but Smitty pressed him harder into the rock wall. The man brought the knife up and tried to bring the knife down into Smitty’s’ chest. Smitty’s’ arm blocked him. Smitty felt the knife tear into his shoulder. He didn’t scream in pain. All he did was pull the knife from the wound. He forced it down and plunged it into the man’s stomach.
Smitty stepped back as his attacker sank to the ground. People had gathered around. Smitty looked at them. They all looked down. One woman walked up and brushed his face with her hand.
“Thank you mister, that piece of trash is the same man that had violated our children. You did right by killing him and protecting your daughter. “
Smitty nodded and tried to speak. She put her hand on his mouth and then spit on the dead man. She smiled and then with the rest of them, she walked away. Smitty turned to see Shelagh standing in the shadows. She walked over to him.
“Why did you have to kill him?”
Smitty looked at her. “Well if I didn’t then you would be his slave. Now is that what you wanted. He would have used you for sex and who knows what else and when he was done with you; he would have thrown you away like you were yesterday’s garbage. Is that what you wanted?”
“No!” Shelagh cried.
“Then it is good that I killed him. Child this is not the world of old. This is a new world. The old world that you have heard about was relatively safe. This world is not. This world may look like the old world but it is a lot more dangerous.”
Shelagh knew he was right. Even though she did not know the old world, she had heard stories, about how people, for the most part, could walk out in public and be safe. How people lived in houses not holes in the ground. She had never seen a flower except in old magazines. She shook her head.
“Can we go now?”
“Yes.” Smitty said as he smiled at her.
They made their way up to the next level. There were very few people around. Most people stayed underground. It was too bright up here. Plus people were afraid of the fallout and nuclear radiation. Smitty knew different. Shelagh looked up at the light. It was bright, so bright she had to shield her eyes. Smitty smiled and passed her a pair of sunglasses. She looked at them and put them on. She giggled. She was still young enough that she didn’t mind wearing piggies on her face.
They arrived at the first store. Smitty took her hand. She gasped when she saw the first skeleton. There was still a little bit of hair left on the head. It wore dirty white pearls around its neck. Shelagh stared at it with morbid fascination.
Smitty pulled her arm, “Come let’s go. We need to find clothes for you. We have lots of time. They don’t come out till dark.”
“They?” Shelagh asked.
“Yes, they. We will discuss it tonight.” Smitty replied.
They made their way to the children’s section. There were lots of clothes here. Shelagh had lots to choose from. They quickly chose the clothes for her. They moved over to the shoes. Finding lots of boots and shoes, they chose two of each for her. Now it was Smitty’s turn. Smitty didn’t need much. Just some heavy wool socks. He found some but they were women’s but he didn’t care. They would keep his feet warm and dry and in the end that is all he cared about. Next he went looking for supplies. They would need some where they were going.
Shelagh lallygagged as they went. She looked at all the pretty rings. Smitty found her a nice purple one. She placed it on her finger and then hurried along to catch up with Smitty. Shelagh found him looking in the canned goods. He was choosing cans at random. There wasn’t a lot there, but he did find some good things. He looked for fruit and found lots of canned peaches. Smitty hated peaches but took what the good Lord gave.
Shelagh came to him with an unopened can of ground coffee. It had been a long time since he had a cop of coffee. Black no sugar was the way he liked it. He saw that she had three and put them in his bag. He looked for canned juice for Shelagh but all he could find was pineapple juice. It would have to do. He smiled then picked up the bag.
“Time for us to get going, it will be dark soon and we do not want to be out when that happens.”
He started walking towards the door then looked back. Shelagh had not moved. She was holding something shiny in her hand. He walked back and looked at it. It was a sterling silver cross. She smiled at him.
“You gave me the ring so I thought I should give you something. I want you to have this.”
Smitty nodded and smiled. He took her offering and slipped it around his neck.
He modeled it for her. “How does it look?”
“Wonderful!” Shelagh replied.
“We must go now. Come along.” Smitty said.
They arrived back to Smitty’s with no incidents. Smitty took the food and divided it up into days. It was going to take five days to get to where they were going. He looked in on Shelagh to find her sound asleep. He covered her up and went back to work. After he had packed all the backpacks and sled, he covered them up and the climbed under the covers.
Smitty stirred first. His internal alarm clock went off. He quickly got dressed and then took his bible and began to read.
“For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Smitty put down his bible and then looked right into Shelagh`s eyes. She smiled at him and he smiled at her.
“Good morning, are we ready to go?” Smitty asked.
Shelagh nodded her head, “Yep, I am ready. Not sure where we are going but I am ready.”
“Good, cause I want to be gone before sun up. When we get to the store level, we will wait till the sun come up. It isn’t very bright but it will be bright enough to get along. We will only travel by day. It is too dangerous to travel at night. Do you understand?”
Shelagh nodded her head, “Yes, I understand. I will do as you say.”
Everything was gathered together and they headed out. Smitty carried the bulk of the supplies. Shelagh carried what she could. Anything else was pulled on a small sled. They got to the store level without incident. Stopping to rest, they each had a drink of juice. They didn’t talk.
Smitty picked up his backpack and motioned for Shelagh to do the same. It was getting light out. The monsters that roamed the night world would be heading into their lairs. Smitty smiled and then led Shelagh up the stairs then stopped.
At the top of the stairs stood a monster, it looked like a man but it also looked like something from a nightmare. It stood at lease six feet tall with long danging arms. At each end of the arms were claws. They no longer looked like hands. The skin was charred and oozing with puss. What little hair on its head was wild and short? Its eyes burned like fire. It glared at Smitty.
Smitty pushed Shelagh down the stairs. . The monster advanced. Smitty stood his ground and pulled out his guns. He didn’t take careful aim, he just started to fire. Most of the bullets missed but some of them hit their target. The monster went down to one knee and Smitty took careful aim. He fired sending the bullet into the monster’s head. It fell to the ground and thrashed around for a few seconds then stopped. Smitty looked down at Shelagh.
“Stay there. Do not come near.”
Smitty moved up towards the monster. It moved and Smitty shot it again. He motioned for Shelagh to come up. She started to come up and then stopped. The monster moved. She pointed at it and Smitty put another round into the body. He kicked at it to show Shelagh that it was dead. She passed by then sat down and cried.
“Sorry for crying. I was scared.”
“No need to be sorry. Truth be told, I was scared too but it is gone now.”
“Will there be more?” she asked.
“I suppose but we will worry about when the time comes.” He pointed at the monster, “That is why we travel during the day. They only come out at night. There are things that are out during the day but for the most part they will not even look at you. Ignore them and they will ignore you. Now come. I have to get some more ammo. I saw a gun shop downstairs not far from here. Let’s go.”
They quickly ran down the stairs to the gun shop. Smitty smashed the glass and then quickly found what he was looking for. He even found some rounds for his Luger. He picked up another one and all the ammo he could carry. He looked around and found another backpack and put all the extra ammo into it. He slung it over his shoulder. He took Shelagh’s hand and then they rushed into the daylight. Shelagh put her sunglasses on and Smitty followed suit. He looked around. Nuclear winter was such a bummer.
Shelagh looked at all the buildings. Ten years of ash and neglect really showed. She didn’t know what to think. She looked up at the horizon. She could see the red sky and see the lightning. It was faint but she could just make out the sound of the thunder. She looked at Smitty and pointed to the mountain.
“Is that where we are going?”
Smitty looked at the mountain then back at Shelagh. He smiled at her and then nodded his head. She looked at him.
“Because I believe that is where I can find God. I believe that is where I can finally be with my Lord and Master Jesus Christ.”
Shelagh nodded her head. She let the matter drop and said nothing more about it. She just smiled.
“Where to now?”
Smitty pointed to his right. He knew where to go for now. After a bit he would be going on gut instinct. He started walking that way with Shelagh in tow. They walked through the streets. The buildings were falling apart. The corpses of automobiles were scattered like cord wood. Shelagh peeked in one and saw a skeleton. She jumped back. Smitty joined her. He pointed to the silver cross around his neck.
“No worries that poor soul is not going to hurt you. He died during the fallout. Probably a year or so into it I suspect. He might have been a Christian or he might not have been. A lot of people wore crosses then but didn’t believe in God.” Smitty explained.
“Why would anyone wear something that means something you don’t believe in?”
“Because that was the way it was. It became a fashion statement to wear a cross. It became not a show of faith but rather a show of vanity. It was a spit into the eyes of God. That is what happens when you take Jesus out of the equation. Put Him up on a shelf where He can’t bother anyone and then go about your daily life as if He isn’t there then when the need arises; claim Him as your Savior and Lord. Come let’s get going. I have something I want to show you.”
Smitty took her hand and led her down the street. They passed by old destroyed stores. She saw the remains of dresses and other items. She saw jewelry all over the ground. She bent down to look at it then walked away. She caught up with Smitty and took his hand. After an hour of walking through dust and ash, they got to where they were going. It was the ruins of an old church. Shelagh could still see the cross standing tall against the ash and duct. She stared at it. It seemed to shine in the dismal light like a beacon, almost as if to say that God had not abandoned the world. Smitty found the remains of a door and opened it. Shelagh walked in before him.
The pews that still stood were beautiful. The intricate scroll works on the sides were signs of a master’s hand. They were made of the finest oak and a deep rich brown. Some even had the original plaques on them from when people paid for the pew. One read The Miller Family, Nineteen Eighty Five. She looked at the others. They also had names and dates. Smitty pulled her hand gently.
“Come with me into the bottom level. That is where we will stay for the night. There is no one there so we can leave our stuff and then go back outside and look around.”
They went downstairs navigating the rubble carefully. Smitty reached the bottom first and moved a rock out of the way. They were still a few supplies there from the last time he had been here.
“You have been here before?” Shelagh asked.
“Yes, I was here about a year ago. I spent two days here trying to find God. As you can see, I found Him.”
“So this place is safe from the monsters?”
“Yes, we are fine. They consider this place taboo so they won’t come in. Our supplies will be safe. Let me stow this stuff and we can go.”
Smitty quickly got the guns and some ammo. He rolled the rock back into place and then after sliding the guns into his belt and the ammo into his coat pocket, he motioned for Shelagh to follow him as he made his way back up through the rubble. They returned outside and saw the cross again. Smitty scanned to his left, right and in front of him. He pointed to his right and they headed off that way.
They trod through the dust and the nuclear snow. As before the remains of rusted out cars were everywhere. Store fronts were destroyed. Looting had happened but those who had done the looting were dead before they had the chance to enjoy their booty.
As they turned the corner they could hear screaming as if someone was being attacked. They followed the sound to see monsters attacking a woman. Smitty pulled his guns and pushed Shelagh into the doorway. The girl was pretty badly beaten. Smitty walked over carefully all the while keeping his eyes on the one that had his back to him. Holding the gun firmly in his hand, Smitty brought it down butt first and knocked the thing down. Smitty watched for any notice from the other two.
The girl slid down the wall of the building that supported her. She had blood pooling on the ground. Smitty raised his gun and fired. The shot rang out and hit one of the monsters in the head. He quickly fired again and hit the other in the chest. Smitty ran over and put two more rounds into each creature. She watched him through bloodied eyes and cringed. Smitty walked back over.
“It is okay. Do not be afraid. I will not hurt you.” He said as he held out his hand.
The girl took his hand and got up on her wobbly legs. She started to fall and Smitty grabbed her. He helped her over to a place to sit. She sat down and looked at the bodies.
“What is your name child?” Smitty asked.
“Moriah is my name. What is yours?”
“You can call me Smitty. What are you doing out? It is not safe.”
“I was coming out to see what the world was like. It has been so long since I had seen it. It is not as I remember it.”
Smitty looked up to see Shelagh coming closer. He motioned for her to come She looked over at the girl. She was bleeding. Shelagh ripped a swath of material from her shirt and dabbed some of the blood off the girl’s face.
“There that is better….”
Shelagh saw the instant fear in the girl’s eyes. She turned around to see the monster rising from the ground. She looked for Smitty but he had gone off to get something. The creature moved closer. Shelagh looked for something to protect herself with. She found what looked like a large stick. She struck the monster with all her might but the stick shattered. Moriah started throwing rocks but it did not stop it.
“Smitty, help!” Shelagh cried out.
Smitty came running. He had his guns out. He fired above the monster. It turned towards Smitty and spit venom. Smitty dropped behind an old car and looked at the monster through the broken window. He aimed carefully through the same window. He squeezed off a shot and hit the monster. The bullet whizzed through the air and hit the leg. The monster sank to the ground. The girls got up and ran. Smitty got up quickly and advanced on the monster. It lay on the ground clutching its leg. Smitty looked down and opened fire. He emptied two full clips into it. By the time he was finished, there was nothing left. Smitty turned towards the girls.
“Are you two alright?”
Shelagh and Moriah both shook their heads. Smitty dropped the guns and then sat down. He was sad and tired. He didn’t like killing but had no other choice. Moriah came up towards him.
“What are those things?”
“They are mutants. I call them troglodytes. They came into being a year or so after the bombs were dropped. They normally don’t come out during the day. Night time is their time to roam and feed on what is stupid enough to come out.” He replied.
Smitty looked up at the sky. The shadow of the sun was high in the sky. It was afternoon and darkness would be coming soon. They needed to get to cover.
“Come we must be going.” He looked at Moriah. “Do you have a place to go?”
“No. My place of hiding is far away from here. I would never make it back in time.”
“Very well then, you can stay with us for the night.”
Moriah nodded her head. She glanced at Shelagh and smiled softly. She looked so young and tender. She glanced at Smitty and grinned. He must enjoy her a lot.
“Is she yours?” She asked pointing at Shelagh.
“What do you mean mine?”
“Is she your, you know?”
Smitty opened his eyes wide. He knew what she meant now. He thought about what to say. He had to protect Shelagh. She was only ten after all, far too young to be used for sexual perversion. He stopped and looked at Shelagh then motioned for her to come to him. She did so and curled up into his arm. He smiled at her like a father would at his daughter. Smitty always told the truth and this time was no different.
“No she is not mine in the sense that you speak of. She is my daughter and under my protection. Does that explain it?”
“Yes it does. I shall not bother her. Where are you traveling to?”
“We are headed to the where the thunder roars.”
“Why go there. There is nothing but death there. No one and nothing lives there. I am told it is because of the heat.” Moriah said.
Smitty looked at her. He made it clear with his face that he would not speak of it until they were in a safer place. He took Shelagh`s hand and pulled her gently along. Moriah followed close. They made their way back to the crumbling church. Going downstairs, Smitty moved the rock and pulled out the supplies. He opened a can of peaches and spit it between Moriah and Shelagh. He took a small can of mixed fruit and ate it slowly. He said a quiet grace as he ate.
“I am told that God is at that mountain.” Smitty said.
Moriah looked at him. Her grey eyes seemed to mock him. She tossed back her blonde hair. She smiled a mocking smile.
“If God has any brains, He won’t be up there. He will be somewhere safe and warm. Nothing against God but He would be a fool to go there.”
Smitty smiled. This was a girl that had been to the mountain or at least very close to the mountain. That meant she knew how to get there. He had to find out from her how.
“So am I to assume that you have been to the mountain?”
“Close enough to know that it is bloody hot.” Moriah replied with a nod.
Smitty nodded his head slowly. He slowly rubbed his graying beard. He looked over at Shelagh and smiled. He got up and placed a blanket from the bags over her. It was going to get cold tonight. He looked over at Moriah.
“I will help you get to where you want to go.” She said as she laid her head down.
Smitty closed his eyes and said a quiet prayer. Soon he too was asleep. All three slept peacefully though the night. Morning came to rain and cloud.
Smitty woke up first. Moriah and Shelagh slept. He said his morning prayers and then made coffee. He made a small fire and heated some water. He drank his coffee before anyone else awoke and while he read his bible. Moriah stirred first.
“You have coffee?”
Smitty nodded and then tossed her a plastic mug.
“Yep and the water is still hot. Help yourself.
She smiled and then made her coffee. She sipped it slowly trying not to slurp. She had gotten use to black coffee and sipped it slowly.
“Are you a bomb worshiper?”
“No.” Smitty replied.
“Do you worship the goddess or any of the other gods?”
Smitty turned around. He looked at Moriah and smiled. She asked all the right questions just not in the right way. He didn’t mind her ignorance. Those who did not know the Lord God were not wrong in doing what they did. They had probably never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and therefore were ignorant of Him.
“No, I do not worship the goddess or any of the other gods. I do not worship a bomb nor do I plan on it. I worship the One True Living God. Not a bomb or an idol made by man’s hand but the only God that is worthy of my praise. His name is Jesus Christ.”
Moriah smiled softly but her eyes said otherwise. She was taught that the goddess taught tolerance but she was not so tolerant. If he would not worship the goddess then he deserved to die.
“I see. I worship the goddess. She teaches tolerance.”
“I understand.” Smitty said through a nod. “We can learn much from each other I think.”
Shelagh stirred. It was getting light out and they needed to get going. They had far to travel and little time to do it in. Smitty opened a small can of peaches and handed them to Shelagh. She ate them down and then quickly got dressed. Smitty got the supplies out and arranged them into the knapsacks. With a third person more could be carried. He passed one to Moriah, a small one to Shelagh and the other two he took himself. They started upstairs then stopped. Smitty passed Moriah a gun.
“You do know how to use this right?”
Moriah nodded her head. She took the pistol and the half dozen clips. They continued their way upstairs. The sun was up high enough that the troglodytes should be back in their dark lairs. Smitty headed for the door first. He looked out and saw nothing. He motioned for the girls to join him.
“It is early and the sun is up. High enough I think to make the troglodytes go back to their lairs but one never knows. We must be wary.” Smitty looked right at Shelagh. “You stay between me and Moriah. Do not leave orget distracted. We must get as far as we can before sundown.”
Shelagh nodded her head. She watched Smitty take the lead with Moriah bringing up the rear. She felt like a sandwich and she was the tasty filling. She kept pace as best she could. Sometimes she was too fast and sometimes too slow. Smitty kept look out for trouble. Moriah did the same. Suddenly Smitty heard the sound of a bullet flying by his ear. He could actually feel the faint whoosh of air as it flew by him.
“Hit the ground.”
Shelagh did as she was told. She did not have to be told twice. She crawled towards a burnt out car and waited She could see Smitty pretty well but Moriah was nowhere to be found. She looked to find Smitty again.
“Smitty, look out!” Shelagh screamed.
Moriah came running around the corner and shot. The bullet flew through the air and caught Shelagh square in the chest. Blood splattered outwards and she sank against the car. Her body quivered then stopped as her life ebbed from her. Smitty heard her scream too late. He quickly swung around and caught Moriah as she looked at the dying girl. The evil grin on her face was testament enough for Smitty. He caught her ankle with his leg and watched as she came crashing down. He punched her once. She still breathed.
More bullets whizzed by him. One caught him in the shoulder as he looked toward Shelagh. She was pressed up against a car. He looked back to see another bullet hit him in the other shoulder. He scrambled behind a car and looked for Shelagh. She was still pressed against the other car. She was looking at him. He could see her fear.
Moving towards her slowly, the pain was almost too much to bear. He commando crawled along the ground. The pain from his shoulders was bad enough that he winced. He got to Shelagh and saw the blood. She had been shot in the chest. Her eyes did not move when he called her name. She didn’t hear him. He closed his eyes and said a quiet prayer all the while holding back the anger that was building.
While he was in prayer, Moriah started to stir. Smitty didn’t see her but he did hear her. He stayed still and waited for her to get closer. He suddenly stood up and hit her full force on the jaw. She started to go down but Smitty caught her. He dragged her back to the ruined church. Night was falling as Moriah started to stir. Smitty guessed that he had hit her a little too hard. She sat up on her elbows.
“Why did you hit me?”
“Because you were going to kill me just like you killed Shelagh.”
Moriah looked at Smitty and wry grin crossed her face. She didn’t even try to hide her surprise. She hissed at him venomously.
“Yes I killed her. I would have killed you too if that brat had died the way she was suppose to. But no, she had to use her last breath to warn you.”
“Why, for the love of God?”
“Why, because you dared to come out into our territory. You dared to go to the mountain of the goddess. There is no God. You worship a false God. Only the goddess is worthy of praise. The girl was yours. I wanted her. The goddess wanted her. She would have pleased many men as she was passed around. The goddess wishes…”
Smitty watched as Moriah fell to the ground. She moaned as she slid down the wall. She hadn’t even seen Smitty’s fist coming. He quickly tied her up and then gagged her and dragged her outside. He knew it would not be long before they would come looking for her. He grabbed his guns and ammo and ran. He left the supplies behind.
Running as fast as he could, he left everything behind. He tried not to cry but the tears came anyways. Shelagh was gone and he was alone. Moriah had betrayed him and he was alone. He tried to think that he liked it that way but he knew it was a lie. He loved that little girl like a father loves a daughter. Smitty stopped and fell to his knees. He cried out to God as the tears flowed undaunted.
“WHY?” He cried. “Why did Shelagh have to die? She was close to coming to you!”
Smitty got up off the ground and stood still a moment. He waited to hear from the Lord but heard only the crunching of his feet against the dust as he began to walk. He looked back but he kept moving forward. The mountain was his goal. He started his journey to the mountain again but this time he wanted answers.
He had walked for hours and noticed that it was getting dark. He needed to find shelter. He had walked a fair distance. The glow from the mountain was closer. He looked around and found a store that had been boarded up.
“This looks as good a place as any other place.”
The door opened easily. Smitty shone his flashlight slowly. No one had been in here for quite a while. He slid down the wall and dropped his guns on the floor. Looking at the door, he found no lock but he didn’t care. He looked around and found the place empty. He tried not to think about the events of today. Tears started to flow. Except for earlier, he had not cried for years.
“Why? She was so young. She didn’t deserve to die. She was on her way to you. God, tell me! Explain to me why she had to die!”
His tears flowed and he cried himself to sleep. He didn’t say his evening prayers like he normally did. He didn’t read his bible. He ignored God. He was mad like a little child that had had his favorite toy taken away from him. Sleep came quickly. He tossed and turned. Sleep was restless. He dreamed of pain and suffering. He dreamed of Shelagh’s mom and the way she died. Smitty saw her face and the way it was contorted in pain. He didn’t want to look anymore. Suddenly he heard a voice.
“Jesus loves you Smitty. He loved you enough to die for you, love him enough to realize that I already took Him as my own. I am with Him and you can be too but you have to quit acting like a child. You have to finish what you started. You have to go to the mountain. Go and see what He has in store for you.”
It was Shelagh’s voice. He smiled. The dreams stopped and he fell into a fitful slumber.
The morning light filtered its way down through the dust turning it from a bright yellow to a dingy gray. A slight beam hit Smitty on the face. It warmed him enough to wake him up. He sat up and wiped the sleep from his eyes. He still had a smile on his face. He looked around the store to find canned goods galore. He spied a can opener on the floor and grabbed a label less can. He quickly opened it.
Using his fingers he quickly ate them and then gathered up his guns. He found a backpack and threw a few cans into it. He threw in the can opener to. Picking up the knapsack, he opened the door and started on his way to the mountain. He knew that he had far to go and little time to get there.
Smitty walked and walked. He didn’t talk to anyone. He saw no one and saw nothing but destruction and more destruction. He came upon a burnt out church. He stopped to rest and saw burnt bodies. He looked away and prayed. Soon afterwards, he stood and resumed his travel. He pulled out his bible and began to read.
“Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They shall mount up on wings of eagles. They shall run and not get weary. They shall walk and not faint.”
Smitty read it and felt his soul liven up. He walked with a purpose. He knew that he would get to the mountain. He would stand in the heart of the storm and feel the power of the Father, the Creator.
Smitty walked for hours. He didn’t stop to rest nor did he stop to eat. His feet rose and fell in time. Seconds turned into minutes and minutes turned into hours. He looked up into the sky and saw the setting sun. The building appeared out of nowhere. He would have sworn it was not there a moment ago. He quickly ducked in and took refuge. He sat down and opened his sack. He took out a can of peaches and after opening it, ate them down. He laid his head down and was asleep in a matter of moments. He did not dream.
Smitty woke up slowly. He sat up and wiped the sleep from his eyes. He looked around and found that he was sitting in an abandoned mosque. The bombs hadn’t cared about religion. They were an indiscriminate killer.
Smitty stood up and looked for a place to do his business. He finished up and then covered it. Grabbing his pack, we walked out the door. Strained sunlight hit his face. He didn’t fail to notice the heat. He looked around and saw the mountain. It was closer then he thought or he had walked a very long way yesterday.
He moved towards the mountain, shedding clothes as he walked. Soon he was down to his shorts and an undershirt. He walked up the mountain. He saw people standing around and they were waving at him. Some he knew and others he didn’t. Shelagh came running up to him.
“Smitty!” She cried.
She jumped into his arms and hugged him. He didn’t understand. He was sure he had seen her dead.
“Hurry! Taste and see that the Lord is good!”
Smitty started walking up the hill. It was steep but he did not seem to mind. He reached the peak and stood in the heart of the storm or rather he stood with The Heart of the Storm. He looked right into the eyes of Jesus. He fell to the ground and cried. Jesus reached down and picked Smitty up.
“Well done good and faithful servant. You came to me and here I am.”
The store was quiet. Not a thing moved. Smitty was lying right where he had the night before. The empty can of peaches sat where he had put it down when he drifted off to sleep. Suddenly there was a light in the room. Two men walked in and rummaged around for food. They came upon Smitty. One of the men kicked at him. When they saw that he didn’t move, he reached down to search him. He found nothing but the guns. He pocketed them and continued to search.
The other man found the knapsack. He emptied it out. He looked at the cans and put them aside. He tossed the clips for the guns to his partner. He took the bible and tossed it aside.
“Don’t need that rubbish, didn’t do this slob any good.”
The two men gathered up their treasure. They looked over the scene one more time to make sure that had everything. They walked out never to look back.
The bible had landed on Smitty’s chest when it had been tossed. The force of the landing had caused the left hand to bounce. It landed on the bible. The two men had never noticed the faint smile on Smitty’s face. It would remain there.