Authors: Jerry B. Jenkins
Copyright Â© 2016 by Jerry B. Jenkins
Published by Worthy Books, an imprint of Worthy Publishing Group, a division of Worthy Media, Inc., One Franklin Park, 6100 Tower Circle, Suite 210, Franklin, TN 37067.
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ELPING PEOPLE EXPERIENCE THE HEART OF
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Cover Design: Jeff Miller | Faceout
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OD UPON EVERY REMEMBRANCE OF YOU
the beastly sanitation truck through the same gate of the same parking lot of the same building of the same industrial park he and his partner had served for more than three years. But he was running half an hour late because Raoul was taking a sick day and couldn't leap out to guide him to the bins or shoo away the kids who even now were scrambling over the chain-link fence to climb the truck.
Though he was on flat ground, Katashi set the emergency brake and took the keys when he went back to check his angle and distance. Half a dozen children, all clearly under ten, had formed a half circle behind the truck, eyes dancing.
“Keep your distance!” he barked, and noticing that a few looked like him, he repeated it in Japanese. They giggled. Who knew if they understood their native tongue, and if they did, which dialect?
“I have to come back another couple feet, so stay away,” he said as the building's rear exit swung open and employees headed for their cars. He was in the way and had to hurry.
As soon as Katashi was again behind the wheel, he heard kids atop his truck. He started the engine, lowered his window, reached out, and banged on the door. “C'mon!” he bellowed, throwing the gearshift into Reverse to trigger the high-pitched beep. “Get off of there now!” Watching both mirrors as the kids leapt down, he gently pressed the accelerator, then remembered the emergency brake.
When he released it and the sixty-thousand-pound behemoth began to roll, Katashi immediately felt the dual tires on the opposite rear roll over something. He jumped on the brake pedal with both feet and slammed the shift into Park.
Screams, honks, bangs on the truck.
Strength drained from Katashi's body. He managed to open the door but his knee buckled on the step and he slid to the asphalt in a heap.
Tell me it was a ball, a rock, anything!
He forced himself to peer beneath the massive chassis where a tiny American boy lay on his back directly in front of the right rear duallys, his feet under the truck. The tires had caught him at his midsection.
Katashi dragged himself underneath and out the other side where a tall, slender woman of about fifty knelt cupping the boy's face, his dark eyes wide. A crowd pressed behind her, most on their phones.
She cooed, “I'm Elaine and I used to be a nurse. What's your name and how old are you?”
“Junior,” the boy whined. “I'm seven. Am I gonna die?”
“Do you mind if I touch you, Junior?”
He shook his head, grimacing.
Katashi struggled to his feet and squatted next to her as she gently laid her hand on the boy's shirt at the waist. It was clear the truck had flattened him from below his rib cage to the tops of his thighs.
Katashi drew in a quavery breath and buried his head in his hands. Elaine put a hand on his shoulder and spoke quickly. “Nobody's blaming you, sir. Let's deal with him for now. Can you do that?”
Katashi wasn't sure, but he nodded.
Elaine turned back to the boy. “Are you in pain, Junior?”
He shook his head again. “Just thirsty.”
Elaine turned to the crowd. “Anybody have any water?”
“You kiddin'?” a man said.
“When was the last time you saw a bottle of water?” another said.
“Come on,” she said. “Just a swallow for the boy.”
“It'd be wasted on him anyway,” a woman whispered.
“Maybe the EMTs'll have a little.”
Katashi would have given Junior his last drop, but he couldn't remember the last time he'd carried a bottle.
“Everything's broke in there, isn't it?” the boy said.
Elaine nodded. “I'm sorry.”
“So I am gonna die.”
“I'm afraid so, son,” she said. “Do you know you can go to heaven and be with God?”
“Yeah. Because of Jesus.” His breathing had become shallow. “But I'm scared. And my mom and dad are gonna be mad, 'cause I'm not s'pose to climb the truck.”
“It's okay to be scared, Junior. But it won't be for long. And let me tell you something. Mom and Dad aren't going to be mad. They'll just be sad because they'll miss you. I'm a mom, so I know. Okay?”
His face was ashen now. Elaine pressed her fingers against his neck and glanced at Katashi. “What's your real name, Junior? You're named after your dad, right?”
He nodded, eyelids fluttering. “Zeke,” he said, sighing. “Ezekiâ”
“Can you tell me your last name? We need to get hold of yourâ”
But he was gone.
FTER A DEVASTATING SERIES
of cataclysmic earthquakes that leveled the whole of Southern California, the president of the United States announced that with no end to the drought in sight, “Environmentalists have concluded that recovery is beyond the point of no return. My beloved home state, once one of the most beautiful and vibrant destinations on earth, now lies fallow, a cavernous wasteland bearing witness to eleven years of exposure to a pitiless sphere of roiling plasma ninety-three million miles away.
“More than two hundred twenty times the diameter of our planet, the sun could swallow more than one point three million earths. We learned as schoolchildren that it accounts for ninety-nine percent of the mass of our entire solar system. Astronomers tell me that because of its nearness, it is an astounding thirteen billion times brighter than the second brightest star in our galaxy. We depend on its power for our very existence, yet unabated by the normal balance of nature, see what it has wrought.
“It has become my sad duty to inform you that your federal government has finally, officially, been forced to declare the entire state of California a disaster area. Due to the impossibility of rebuilding her great cities on unstable ground under the unrelenting onslaught of the sun, we have sadly deemed it, âUninhabitable, irreparable, and verboten to citizens.'”
He said the wildfiresâmany ablaze for yearsâwould be fought only if they posed a threat to bordering states.
“From this day forward, we will maintain only a military presence in California to ensure that no one within its borders on other than official government business will be entitled to the benefits, privileges, or protection of the United States. American civilians, remain or enter at your own risk. Foreign encroachers shall be considered enemies of this republic and treated as such.”
The eleven Pacific Ocean ports on the California coast had also been destroyed, resulting in the exodus of tens of thousands of personnel to Oregon and Washington, and the obliteration of the international airports in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego alone had changed the economic landscape of the entire airline industry. What little remained of the infrastructure of interstate highways lay in rubble, and routes that once led into the great state now ended at the border.
From the air, California looked like a vast abandoned sand box. What hadn't been flattened and strewn by seismic activity and wildfire was either still ablaze or lay baking in the sun.
The president also announced the establishment of California memorials and museums in Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, and the Mexican state of Baja, California, where treasured antiques and artifacts had already been moved.
HE DROUGHT UNABATED
, a new president, Derrick Scott, has inherited an entire West Coast in chaos. Class-action suits flood federal courts demanding that remains from cemeteries be moved out of California. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is overwhelmed with the demands of more than 115 Native American tribes, with most but not all relocating. Bordering states are trying to cope with nearly forty million former California residents.
But the otherwise abandoned California republic was sparsely dotted with fewer than four hundred thousand squatters, approximately 1 percent of the original population who chose to remainÂ .Â .Â .
THE TORRANCE HOLDOUTS
Rev. Robert Gill,
Genevieve (Jennie) Gill,
Ezekiel Thorppe Sr.,
Alexandra (Sasha) Thorppe,
Dr. Adam Xavier,
HE RAGGEDY BAND
had shrunk to sixteen. Late on Sunday mornings they would break into clusters of no more than six or no fewer than three and ride separately eight miles west from their underground desert compound. Today they left three dirt bikes, a four-door pickup, a Jeep, and an SUV a quarter to a half mile from each other and walked the rest of the way to the basement of what had once been a tattoo parlor just off what had once been Ocean Boulevard, the main drag of Long Beach, California, south of Los Angeles. It had become, for an hour each week, their makeshift church.
Worshiping at their own complex would have been safer, of course. But Zeke Thorppe liked the idea of a separate sanctuary, just the prescription for cabin fever.
As always, just before the pastor and his wife arrived, Zeke peeled two inches of tar paper from an east-facing window, allowing a beam of sunlight to pierce the room. It would have to do. Though nearby LA had actually become the last capital after Sacramento had been lost to an 8.9 quake and forest fires eight years before, the power gridâlike the stateâwas but a memory now.