The U.S. of After Chapter 26
I acknowledged my new friends, but they only nodded back. They were doing their job, following orders. It was like a strange reunion, but not necessarily a happy one. Things were getting ugly. The battle on the highway was only the beginning. I had seen this kind of thing many times but there was a new feeling in the air. The days of Moses had come again, and that was what let me know that the skirmishes we had been having for so long were about to reach a critical mass of conflict that would lead to the end of things, but also a new beginning.
We could sense it, like when the air becomes still and humid right before a tornado stretches down out of the sky to explode a farmhouse. It made the air crackle with energy, and the humans went about their lives mostly oblivious of the scope of their existence, unaware of the bigger picture. As far as I could see, only one of them understood the truth, and that was Jacob Buckminster.
Clayton and Amy helped lift Kelly from the sandy gravel and carry her to the waiting arms of some of the villagers. They took her inside a dirty blue nylon tent and lay her on a rusty cot. She had passed out completely, but not before her eyes opened wide, focusing on Ethan’s name patch and her hand shot to her open mouth in a gasp. I did not readily know the reason for her passing out, but I assumed that she knew something about Ethan’s past or possibly the truth of who he was. This would turn Ethan’s path in days to come.
Ralph walked slowly toward Jacob who was talking to the large, broad shouldered Edward Coffman. Words were about to be exchanged, for Ralph was gathering all the courage he could muster.
“What…,” stammered Ralph, interrupting the two men. “What happened back at the field?”
Jacob turned and looked at Ralph, placing a large knuckled hand gently on the young man’s shoulder. Ralph did not pull away. Jacob simply beamed at Ralph and chuckled gently, but in a way that was not condescending or cruel.
“I did what I had to,” he replied softly. “I asked and I received.”
“But who were those… Those men?”
“Excuse me a second, Mr. Coffman,” said Jacob, and he turned to put his arm around Ralph who did not squirm away. Ralph shoved his hands in his pockets as he and Jacob walked slowly away from the group.
“You saw what you needed to see,” said Jacob, leading Ralph away to stand near the water. “It is as simple as that.”
“I..I don’t think it was real,” stammered Ralph. “But it looked real, and you walked away without a wound.”
“Sometimes God allows us to see things that will convince us of his presence,” said Jacob reassuringly. “Our unbelief files it away as coincidence or some other trick of the mind, but it is the maker of the universe that beckons to us on a daily basis. He desires a relationship with you, son. He is showing himself to you in such a profound way that the mind often has trouble understanding. We live in precise times, and this kind of thing will become more common. We are in a war, son, and we are on the front lines. Do you choose to join with the master or will you be counted with the lost?”
“I don’t want to be a part of anything,” replied Ralph, folding his arms across his chest. “I just want to get some food, some supplies, and get on my way…and stop seeing weird stuff.”
Jacob only smiled. He placed his hand gently on the young man’s shoulder and his sky blue eyes focused in on Ralph’s face. A warmth flowed out of Jacob as the warmth of the sun after a spring rain. I could see it with my own eyes, and it was not anything to do with Jacob. It was a royal presence, He Who Made the World, standing in the gap for Ralph as he has done on countless occasions throughout human history, desiring that relationship, desiring for a new child to be born.
“You have a choice, my boy,” said Jacob. “And I’ll be speaking to the group later about that choice. It is a choice that brings hope in this forgotten and downtrodden world. We’ll see what you say after that. I hope you change your mind, or rather your heart.”
Ralph spun on his heel as best he could in the gravel, wobbled a bit, and walked away as if on a mission. Jacob simply smiled and let out a long sigh. He stood by the water for a couple of beats, staring out across the shimmering surface, and then he turned around, looked right at me, and winked.