The Second Civil War: Chapter Seven
This is a fictional series I wrote some five or six years ago. The illustrations are an indication of what is happening in reality that might be similar.
August: Week Three
The assassination of the president the previous evening hastened America into a state of civil war. Any remaining trust that there had been in the political process disappeared when the president mentioned that he had been coerced into making policy that had not been of his own conviction. Along with the shock came a realization that the government was not going to be fixing up anything soon, and that one’s neighbor might be the very person who is responsible for one’s death.
A great exodus to rural areas began; and with that happening, people began to take sides. Urban refugees were suspicious of each other, and increasingly there were challenges when groups with different ideologies came into proxmity with each other. Sometimes it ended in bloodshed. Gone was any idea of diversity; diversity was now something to fear. People trusted only those who shared their own values.
Entire neighborhoods began to to barricade themselves into small fortresses. Other neighborhoods split into as many splinters as there were households. The world was no longer a pretty place, and if ever it had been a two party country, nothing of it remained. If the ideologies of how the country was to be governed, all were in agreement with one precept: the government lined its own pockets at the expense of the people.
In the city centers where the EMP bomb had exploded, five days after the event, no hint of normalcy had returned. There were those who were betting it never would, and they were the ones who began to make serious plans for a different type of future than the one that they had envisaged previously.
Whereas previously, facebook friends had spoken openly for all the world to see and hear, people were now defriended in large numbers, and those who had previously tooted thousands of followers began to suffer the consequences of betrayal. Group think spread quickly, and if one man said that Jim James was a Republican and he had been in cahoots with the people who detonated the EMP bomb, then it was certain that a posse was on its way to the Jim James residence, and Jim James had better run for his life.
On the other hand, there were positives. Years of networking had, at least, given most people an idea of who had similar ideas to their own, and so those that were still connected, quickly joined others of like mind and set up their own conclaves.
Food and water were big issues because modern cities were not designed for self-provision. Those who were savvy about survival understood what would be needed and either headed for rural areas or began to seek out others to form communities. A surivivalist mentiality ensured that each community armed its members so that they could guard against potential raids, convert gardens into food factories, and ensure that water pipes had a clear path to their community.
While business had been the preoccupation of America for more than a century, that preoccupation vanished as the essentials of naked survival overtook the need for profit.
Janice was a born again Christian. She was convinced that they lived in the end times. Her coming to the Lord had happened a decade earlier when she had been an aging prostitute rapidly losing her clientele as a result of her vanishing looks and growing depression. Her business had been a tough business, and at thirty, she had looked forty. Now at forty, she looked fifty. Coming to the Lord had not slowed the aging process.
On Sunday morning, she rose early and dressed in the conservative garb that now comprised her entire wardrobe. She made her way to the tiny kitchenette in her studio apartment and brewed some coffee. That done, she buttered a blueberry scone, grabbed her tattered King James, turned to the book of Revelations in the New Testament, and began reading about the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. As she read, she sipped the coffee and ate her scone. She didn’t taste either. She was trying to tie in the events of the past week with those that she was reading about in Revelations. She prayed for wisdom and insight as she did so. Then when her morning reading was done, she slipped into tongues, and with it came a release of the stress which had bound her for the past few days.
Janice had been lucky to find an apartment just a few short blocks away from the church she attended. The massive structure of the Born Again Fellowship of Christ loomed strong against the darkened skyline. Thousands of vehicles were making their way into the parking areas, and she knew that by the time the service started in half an hour, there would be more than ten thousand attendees. It was a large congregation and Janice had made many friends in her years of attendance. It also helped that she had become involved in many of the activities and outreaches, telling her story of her years of prostitution and titillating her audience with her exploits. She would always be surrounded by fans afterwards, and this even more than her belief in Christ, added to her enjoyment within the church. Of course, not for all the tea in China would she confess that to her fellow congregants, although when she prayed she did ask her savior, Jesus Christ, to forgive her for the weakness of the flesh.
As she entered through one of the massive entrances, she was greeted by other congregants. She couldn’t help noticing the subdued nature of their greetings, and that the usual din was missing. It seemed that people were speaking in whispers. And then she looked around and knew that it was more than that. Although there was only half an hour to go before the service commenced, none of the anointed were at the doorways, and that gave Janice a very uneasy feeling indeed.
She walked up to Joe, the faithful usher who had been there long before she had joined the happy clappy throng. “Where is everybody?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “I’ve been trying to get any of the pastors on my cell and none of them have replied.”
Janice felt a rising panic. Surely, they couldn’t have been raptured without her?
Bett Clark and her family had gone into production mode within twenty four hours of arriving at their hideout home. By the time Ben’s son arrived, family life had taken on a definite and comfortable rhythm. That was the way Bett’s father had planned it for years. He had been sure that at some point, the madness of constant acquisition and greed would once more bring desperation and war to this land.
Alasdair had assumed that they knew more than they did, and once it was established that they didn’t know anything more than that his father was involved, he looked like a very bewildered young man for all of a moment. Bett almost allowed herself to fall in love with him, then reminded herself that her previous life had come to an end because of something he was involved in. She hardened her heart although she did not see herself as a political animal. At least, she didn’t think she was.
The family was seated around the kitchen table and had encouraged Alasdair to start at the beginning. They truly wanted to know what was going on.
And so Alasdair explained it to them.
The shooting of POTUS and the vice-president had left America without immediate leadership and it was natural that the power animals began to vie for the vacant position. The speaker of the house should have been the next to take leadership but she had vanished without trace, and so the leader of the seated party, the leader of the opposition, and even the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff jossled for the presidential titlee. In the meantime, law and order became a thing of the past.
Sheriffs in small towns across America declared martial law and the more populated the cities, the less law enforcement was able to control what was happening. Murder and mayhem began to intrude into ordinary lives.
“CNN is interrupting this news program to show you carnage that is now taking place across America. In Los Angeles, about two dozen heavily armed young white men broke into Walmart and held security guards at gunpoint while they raided the store for supplies. All food items were loaded into the three trucks in which the young men had arrived. Survival equipment including small tents, gas stoves, blankets, and even bicycles were removed. When the goods were finally loaded, one of the leaders went into the store and paid the $5000 in paper notes from his wallet.”
“He carefully put this onto the counter next to the till where the security cameras could see this, then took another $100 from his wallet and carefully put a match to it and watched it burn. He smiled up at the security cameras and clearly said, “Not worth much, is it?”
“The man then returned to partners in crime who, and the three trucks departed in a northern direction. No police were available as there were too much chaos in the city for a mere robbery at Walmart to merit a call. When two officers finally arrived at the store, both felt that the store had been recompensed for the goods, and that it therefore could not be considered be a crime. "You've got your money," they said.
As more and more people arrived at Born Again Fellowship for Christ, or BAF4C as it was known affectionately to congregants, the din picked up a little bit. With fifteen minutes to go, Janice who still had something of the survival instinct over from her days on the street, walked over to Joe and said, “Have you been to the pastors’ offices? Maybe something has happened to them.”
The panic stricken thought that they had been raptured and that the rest of them had been left behind had disappeared. There were far too many good people arriving for that to be the case. Joe thought that a good idea to take the ten minute walk to the offices, and the two of them began to make their way to the church compound in the next block.
When they arrived, the offices were quiet. There was none of the usual activity that was typical of a Sunday before a service. Joe looked at Janice and said, “This is not good.”
They made their way through the passages and came to Pastor Alan Freeman’s office. He had been the founding pastor of BAF4C fifteen years earlier. Alan Freeman had found God while serving a ten year sentence for pulling a gun on his boss. He had been drunk at the time, and the sentence might have been shorter, but it was not Alan’s first confrontation with the law. And so he had served seven years and got out early for good behavior. Of course, Alan knew that a sure way to convince the powers that he was a reformed citizen was finding God, and so he had. When he discovered the fortunes that finding God made, he decided on a new career, and he had been very successful at it.
Some, of course, would not read the situation as cynically as that, and perhaps, it was all very genuine. Janice knew the story. Janice also had a gut feeling as to what she was about to find, and it was only her faith in Christ that made her turn to Joe and say, “I’m sure there is a good reason for this.” With that, she pushed open Pastor Alan’s door and went into the office.
There was a white envelope on the pastor’s desk. It stated, “For the finder.”
And then Janice knew. Calmly she picked up the envelope and said, “Let’s go see if there’s anything in Peter’s office. And we might as well check on Tom’s, Steven’s, and Uli’s. All five pastors had been born again while serving their terms in the same prison at the same time, and had known each other and studied towards the ministry together. All of them had studied the word of the Lord with great diligence and done many long distance courses to become pastors. Alan had been the first to leave prison. He had initially joined another church, and when he had garnered enough support, he started his own church. When the others left prison, they joined him in his ministry, and together they built BAF4C.
Janice was familiar with the story. They had all become multi-millionaires, driving luxury cars and living in luxury homes. They told everybody who came to the church that it was only necessary for them to believe, and then they, too, would be blessed with abundance.
There was nothing in the other offices. So Joe and Janice looked at each, and Joe said, “Open it. It does say the finder is to open it.”
So Janice opened it, and as she did so, she knew as surely as day turned into night and night turned into day, that she wasn’t going to like what she read…
“The biological warfare toxin that was released has reached Los Angeles and several areas of the city have become danger zones. Unknown numbers have died in these areas as medical authorities have not been able to respond to emergency calls. The streets of Los Angeles are still blocked by many vehicles as the electronic parts needed to get the vehicles working again are still not available. As many people in LA are also without working TV, radios, or Internet, many are unaware that there is a biological toxin at large and that quarantine is necessary. Many people are moving out of their areas and this is spreading the virus. It is unknown how many people have been infected.”
"If you are ill, please be patriotic and leave your gold a the door for government agents to collect. China has demanded payment of our debt in gold before she will supply the electronic devices necessary to fix our country. In addition, there is some hint of invasion if we do not pay the gold. Although some of our citiens may die, they may die blessed knowing that their gold helped save America."
“In another breaking story, our sources have informed us that the Chairman of the JCS believes that it might become necessary to choose between some dying in order to spare the greater majority. When asked by Senator Tom Grey what the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff had meant, Colonel Andrews, the Chairman’s Aide, responded with, “We might have to bomb the whole lot into paradise.”
Bett and her family listened intently while Alasdair explained. “We are the military arm of the Democrats. We found out about fifteen years ago that the Republicans were arming themselves and while some of our party put it down to extremists and felt that it wasn’t much of a threat, there were those of us who knew that it wasn’t wise not to arm ourselves in return. So, under every Democratic president for the past fifteen years, we have built our own militia. Key people at the Pentagon and at Camp Pendleton let us have inside information from time to time. We knew that something was happening, and we also knew that we would be called upon to keep as many people as possible safe.”
“We reckoned that most people in San Francisco and north of San Francisco were probably going to support the Democratic creed. So we developed weapons that were more smart than deadly and created a no man’s land by releasing a massive stink bomb that cleared a no-man’s land just south of San Francisco. Unfortunately, there’s another player, and that player has infiltrated our ranks. That player released a deadly bacterial warfare weapon and it killed people who remained behind. We had no intention of killing anybody.”
“That same biological weapon has been released in eight areas in the United States that we know of, and right now, it’s spreading throughout Los Angeles like wild fire. We cannot afford for it to sweep through California. We need manpower to enforce quarantines. We need you.”
Bett’s father was the first to speak.
“Just how deadly is this biological weapon?”
“It kills everyone who breathes it in. Once breathed in, it takes a few hours to develop, and carriers become infectious within the first hour. Any contact they have with others during that time passes on the virus or bacteria. People are dead within hours. The good thing about it, if there is anything good about it, is that when a disease kills that quickly, people cannot travel too far, so it dies out quickly.”
“So what do you want us to do?” asked Bett looking him straight in the eye.
There were two pages in the envelope and both Joe and Janice stared at the first page. It read, “Please read this to all my congregants on Sunday morning. It is the true testimony of Peter, Tom, Steven, Uli, and myself. We think you will all learn something from it.”
“We better get going,” said Joe. The service was supposed to have start ten minutes earlier. Neither of them glanced at the second page. They knew it was going to be bad.
“The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was responsible for a coup taking place at the White House today. He declared martial law, explaining that with China at the borders wanting the gold she was owed, and with America fighting a biological war, the danger of more EMP bombs being released, disrupted supply lines of food, water, and other necessities to consumers, that ordinary citizens did not have the skills to handle this. He appointed, Derek Morton, the head of FEMA to be the new vice president.”
“President George Stoves has stated that the most important task is to immediately curtail the spread of the biological warfare weapon so that it doesn’t decimate the entire population of America. There has been some outcry by various members of congress and the senate is looking at the implications of collateral damage. However, the majority, while regretting the enormous numbers who might lose their lives as a consequence, believe that collateral damage is a necessary evil and support the new President in his view.”
“CNN has also established that several congressman and senators have left Washington and have joined their families in vacation homes in areas outside the city. When asked if they were the equivalent of rats leaving a sinking ship, all of them pleaded either ill health or the need for more family time.”
America at war with China
Joe mounted the podium with Janice at his side. The congregation, greatly agitated by the absence of their pastors, grew quiet.
Joe announced. “We have not being able to find the pastors anywhere and so went to their offices. We found this letter on Pastor Alan’s desk. He wished it to be read to the congregation. I am going to ask Janice to read it because she found it. He passed the missive to Janet.
Janet drew in a deep breath, looked at Joe and then proceeded to read.
“In the bible, Jesus, your mighty savior, has called you sheep. And I must agree with him. For that is what you are.”
“You have all worked hard for your salvation. You have contributed millions to this church, willing to work without pay for that great prize that lies ahead of you when you leave this life. But before we talk more about that prize, I want to talk once more about the testimony of these five jail birds who became your pastors.”
Janice found it hard to breathe properly as shhe continued to read the letter. Her eyes were skimming ahead and she hoped that she was misreading.
“We were all determined to spend as little time as possible in prison and talked amongst ourselves. It was common knowledge that finding God was considered a sure thing for shortening one’s time served. So we gave our lives to God in one of the church services and started studying so that we could look good. It didn’t take us long to see that many pastors were making millions, and after that it didn’t take us long to figure that we could spend our time educating ourselves on how to become good pastors. We wanted to make millions, too. And so, that is exactly what we did.”
“During the fifteen years that we have served this community, all five us have built nice little nest eggs in other countries. We were all pretty much in agreement when the EMP bombs went off that it was time for us to depart. And because we’re the criminal type, we foresaw that we might need less conventional ways to leave the country, so by the time you read this, we will be long gone.”
Janice's voice faltered as she continued to read. She felt tears in her eyes and her heart almost stopped. She glanced at Joe and saw the dawning horror in his eyes. Sh e couldn’t bear it. She stopped for a moment, looked at the congregation, but said nothing. Then she began to read again.
“We want to thank you all for serving us so well, and for giving us so much of your monthly salary. Ten percent from the salaries of ten thousand people not only builds a church but gives your pastors a lot of swag to live well. We want to thank you for making that possible for us. Naturally, our wives and children are with us.”
“Because you all believe in Christ, I know that you will see us for the devil’s disciples. And that’s okay. Me and the other pastors, we wish you well in your life that happens after this one. Me, Peter, Tom, Steven, and Uli, and our families don’t think that there is a life after this one, so we’d like to enjoy this one. We hope that we served you well as pastors and that we were worth the price you paid us. We certainly enjoyed entertaining you and often had a good laugh at your gullibility Be well.”
Janice stopped reading. She looked up at the congregation, her brain quite numb. Then she glanced at Joe. He reached out his hand and they began walking off the platform.
Somewhere someone began to sing Amazing Grace. Others joined in. Janice did not. She looked at Joe, and he looked at her, and something connected. Then they both left Born Again Fellowship of Christ building.
Without thinking, the two of them made their way to Janice’s apartment. There they talked for a while, coming to terms that everything they had been taught had been told to them by five people who didn't believe a word of what they were saying. "I feel quite shattered," said Janice.
Joe said, "I feel free."
"Now that you mention it, so do I. I wonder why that is."
With emotions running high, it wasn't long before they kissed. And then they made love for the rest of the day, something both of them had avoided doing for nearly a decade. Towards nightfall Joe said, “Will you marry me?”
Janice said yes, and then, “Well, I suppose if there is such as person as Christ, we’re already married in his eyes.”
Joe looked at her and asked, “Do you think there is someone called Christ?”
Janice looked at his naked form and said, “Someone had to have made you.”
“The Chinese asked the President for a timeframe when the gold would be delivered. The President asked the Chinese for some time as things were rather untidy in the country at the moment, but assured the Chinese that as soon as order was restored, the gold would be delivered to the Chinese.”
“The Chinese said that was fine, and that they had armed ships en route to America so that the gold could be transported back safely to China.”
© 2017 Tessa Schlesinger