Emerging from the Rubble 

Chapter 2

Yan and Thomas were several yards ahead of Harmony and Anne when the first peal of thunder tore across the leaden sky above them. Within a few seconds they were soaked to the skin by lashing rain.

“Aaah, the supplies will get wet!” shouted Harmony, trying to make herself heard above the noise of the storm. Yan looked back and motioned towards a small building several rows of trees away. The friends did their best to leap over the irrigation channels and not slip on the wet clay soil. They were soon sheltered under the leaking roof of an old, abandoned hut.


“Why did Jesus put us so far from the community?” asked Harmony.


Thomas looked at her with a kind expression. “I agree this journey could have been shorter. However to be accepted, we must appear to be true travellers.”


Harmony furthered her thoughts. “Sorry, I agree. Walking will help us understand the landscape. So often we miss things in our haste to achieve our current task.”


The other three nodded their agreement. The city lay another twenty miles away and none of them knew exactly what they would find there.


“Jesus said we must come as strangers. We must be reluctant to proclaim who we are or why we are here. We come to help them and to encourage them to love through showing kindness to us and others.” Harmony was repeating the instructions they had received at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.


“Yes,” said Yan. “Jesus wants genuine empathy and love to grow in the hearts of those who remain. We cannot demand it of them. We cannot expect special treatment. We must seek to serve and not be served.”


“Remember that these people have suffered terribly and the life they are now experiencing is completely different to the life they had only ten years ago,” said Thomas. “The inevitable consequences of the impact that humans were having on the environment has destroyed all the economies, obliterated all governments and reduced everyone in the world to subsistence survival in small groups. They are now resigned to being completely reliant on their own efforts.”


The rain eased and the four travellers continued their journey. With mud covered legs, bedraggled hair and sweating from the humidity, they began to pass derelict apartment blocks and shops long since raided and torched.


Thomas stopped and stared. Before him, a whole wall was missing from what was once a hospital. Scores of beds stretched down the long concourse of the building. It had been abandoned when the electricity failed and the medicines were exhausted.


Concrete boulders and broken glass lay everywhere. Abandoned cars now littered the road.


“What happened?” asked Thomas.


Yan had gone around to the side of the building. “Come and see!” he called.


The other three joined him and Yan pointed at a huge crack in the ground that ran from underneath the building away into the overgrown bush in the middle distance.


“Many earthquakes,” said Yan quietly. “They brought down all the buildings.”


The journey continued and the cracks in the ground got worse, and the destruction around them increased. The mood was sombre as the four friends got used to seeing human remains in various horrific scenarios.


As they passed from the suburbs to the city, it was clear that the destruction had been almost total.


Yan took a long drink of water and looked around sadly as they began to assemble camp for their second night on the road. 


Anne was overwhelmed by all she had seen. “I never imagined that people would live in such vast cities. All those people. All those lives. It must’ve been so terrible at the end,” she said with a steady stream of tears running down her cheeks.


Harmony sat beside her. She stroked her hair and lifted her face toward her. “It must’ve been awful, but sweet Anne, it was not the end. It was the inevitable destiny of that age, but a new day is here for the Earth.”


Thomas’ heart swelled to see how much Harmony clearly loved Anne. “Every dead body we saw today will be raised,” he added. “This isn’t the end for them, and the Lord will restore all that was lost.”


Anne wiped away her tears, “It’s true! I believe it!”


“I saw a lot of death,” reflected Yan. “It never gets easier, but it does remind us that our Father’s desire is to bring everyone back to life.”


“Life in abundance,” said Harmony, squeezing Anne until she managed a smile.


They slept in the glow of a fire, refreshed by the conversation.




The morning came with the breaking of the best bread they had ever tasted. It had been included in the provisions that Jesus had given them for the journey.


“How long do you think we will be here?” Thomas asked Yan as they warily scanned the darkened windows of the empty buildings.


“As long as it takes,” Yan said slowly. “Jesus said we can go back to Jerusalem to get rest and encouragement when we need to. He said that all our effort must flow from trusting that he will ensure that all will be well. He encouraged us to always have patience.”


“That’s good,” chuckled Thomas, “He was never in a hurry when I was walking around Israel with him.”


A few streets further into the city there began to be signs of life. A faint plume of smoke was drifting up into the low-lying grey cloud, and the echo of dogs barking somewhere nearby added to the eerie atmosphere.


“Stop! No further!” A shadowy figure in a third story window called down.


“We come in peace,” shouted Harmony, raising her hands and the others did the same.


“Stay there!” commanded the voice. “We have guns, and we will not hesitate to use them!”


Five men in dusty grey clothes filed out from the building and surrounded the four friends.


“Who are you?” asked one of them as he patted Thomas down, looking for weapons.


“We have come from the east. We are looking for shelter. We are prepared to join any community that will have us,” responded Thomas, as he tried to make eye contact with the man.


“My name is Thomas. This is Yan, Harmony and Anne. We have only recently found each other, and we are looking for some sanctuary. Can you help us?”


The man looked back up towards the window where the first voice had come from.


“Bring them in,” called the voice.


The courtyard was full of activity. As the men led the friends through the arch they could see children adding wood to the fires, and women silently stirring cooking pots and washing clothes. Older men sat in a circle, passing a solitary cigarette from one to another, taking it in turns to inhale the stale smelling smoke. Weary eyes cautiously scrutinised the friends. Not a word was said, nor a smile exchanged.


Inside the largest building a dimly lit lobby area formed a sort of office in which were a desk, a few safes against the wall, and a row of lockers. A man stood behind the desk with his hands touching the wooden desktop. He looked tired and had scars on his face.


“Why do you have no weapons?” he asked tersely.


“We have come in peace. We want no trouble,” answered Anne.


The man looked cynically at his companions.


“No trouble?” he laughed sarcastically. “We’ve had nothing but trouble for fuck knows how long!”


“We know. Don’t we all want a better future?” Anne summoned her courage to look the man in the eye, as she responded as gently and sincerely as she could.


“So, you want sanctuary? Why did you choose us?” the man demanded.


“You were the city on our road forward,” replied Yan truthfully, but tactfully choosing not to be more specific.


“I see,” said the man, looking intently at his desk. “You may stay here for a few nights,” he said briskly. “They call me Owl. These men will find you a room to share. What provisions do you have?”


Owl pointed at the bags that Thomas and Yan were carrying. Reluctantly, they surrendered the bags to Owl’s men who immediately opened them. Some torches, some batteries, a few bags of seeds, extra clothing and some bread were laid out on the desk.


“Wait!” said Yan. “I also have this…” He bent down and peeled back his sock to reveal a gold tie pin. The others offered up their gold and silver items of jewellery, too.


“Jewellery?” exclaimed Owl with genuine surprise. “These are so precious! Why would you give these to me? We didn’t know you had them, and you could’ve kept them for yourselves?”


“We come in peace. We want to trust you, and for you to trust us.” Yan handed Owl the items.


Owl looked at Yan and for the first time, his mouth cracked a wry smile. “Interesting,” he said.


Owl’s men ushered the friends away from the lobby area and escorted them up several flights of stairs and along dingy corridors until they arrived at a room.


Silently the door was pushed open and the friends were ushered in without a word. There were three bunk beds without mattresses, but with blankets wrapped around the frames.


“This will do,” said Harmony determined to remain positive about the circumstances. She turned to Anne and grabbed her hand. “Come on, let’s beat the boys to the top bunks!” she laughed, and they threw themselves on to the beds.


Thomas looked at Yan with a grin. “Let’s get some rest” he said.




At 6am there was a heavy banging on the door. Owl strode in without warning and loudly cleared his throat.


“You must get up and be ready in the next thirty minutes. You two men will join the scavenging team looking for supplies in the next city. Women, you will be going to the river to fetch water. Food is available at six thirty in the courtyard. If you’re not in line, you do not eat.”


The friends got up and dressed without any fuss and headed down to the courtyard. A drab mass of people were sat round sipping steaming hot water and eating flatbread. After receiving their portion, Yan and Thomas were directed toward a group of younger looking men, who were sat together.


“May we sit here?” whispered Yan to a wiry young man who looked to be about twenty years old. The man looked up from his flatbread in surprise.


“Yes, you can,” he said quietly. He watched as Yan and Thomas took their places by his side. “I am Yan, and this is Thomas,” said Yan after a slightly awkward pause.


“Hello,” said the young man. “They call me Polecat. I think it’s because I am tall and skinny and can get into places others can’t,” he said, with a hint of a smile.


“So, we have met Owl, and now Polecat,” replied Thomas. “Why do you call each other by the names of creatures?” he asked.


“Owl started it. I think it’s because our old names remind us all of times that we will never see again. Times before all of the suffering, when we had families and jobs and food and…” Polecat trailed off as he began to remember life before everything had broken down. “It’s easier just to be someone else now,” he said, pulling himself together.


“Is Owl in charge then?” enquired Yan.


“Yes. He used to be Chief of Police here in the city. He never married or had children, and he stayed in the city as things got worse and worse. The people follow him because he showed such loyalty to the city.”


“That makes sense. Do you like him?” Yan continued.


“I respect him, but he is very harsh. I am afraid of him. I’ve seen him kill people who didn’t obey his rules. He controls all of the weapons and his men are very loyal to him. Most of them are his former police officers who either lost their families or brought them here under his protection. Don’t mess with him. That’s my advice!” Polecat looked as if he had said too much, and quickly finished his flatbread.


“Are you coming to the town?” he asked.


“Yes, we have been told to,” said Thomas, finishing his flatbread. “What should we expect?”


“A long day of nothing much,” said Polecat with resignation in his voice. “If we are lucky we will find an apartment with some food left in the cupboards, or some cigarettes in the basement of an old shop.”


Yan and Thomas followed Polecat out to meet the other men, who numbered about forty in total.


After the men had left the encampment, a subdued hush fell over the courtyard. The women who were left continued their tasks, barely speaking to each other.


Anne and Harmony had instinctively headed toward a makeshift play area, where some younger women, who appeared to be mothers, or at least guardians, watched over five small children as they played make believe with some very battered toys.


“How old?” asked Anne, motioning at a young boy who was building a tower of pebbles.


The young woman answered meekly, “He is only just six, and the youngest child here.”


Anne nodded with understanding and smiled at the little boy who quickly returned a toothy grin.


“My name is Sylvia,” she offered, touching her heart. “This is Alex. His father died years ago,” she continued in a surprising outpouring of her personal story.


“I’m so sorry,” Harmony responded.


“We have all lost so much. Not one child here has a family like we did when we were their age,” said Sylvia in an emotionless voice.


“It’s all we can do to give them a chance to play, once in the morning and once just before evening meal.”


“Are you from this city?” asked Anne.


“Yes,” answered Sylvia, “we all are. Owl doesn’t welcome outsiders. In fact, I’m shocked he’s allowed you to stay! No one from outside has ever been allowed in.”


Harmony looked at Anne. “We are so grateful for the shelter, and we offered him our precious items straight away,” she said to Sylvia.


“Yes, well, that will keep him happy for a short time,” sighed Sylvia. “Take my advice. If he wants you to give yourself to him or any of his men, just go along with it. Resistance could cost you your life.”


Sylvia suddenly seemed to withdraw into herself and stared at the ground.


“He’s hurt you?” asked Harmony, gently.


“Either he or his men have hurt all of us,” said Sylvia, her voice a monotone, while still staring wide-eyed at the ground.


“We women are playthings for them. Apart from the wives of his police officers we have all lost our husbands and boyfriends. If they weren’t already dead, Owl saw to it that none of us had any family left to defend us.”


Sylvia suddenly panicked. “I’ve said too much!” she gasped.


Anne reached over and put her hand on Sylvia’s forearm. “Thank you for the warning,” she said quietly but firmly. “We won’t forget this.”