Emerging from the Rubble 

Chapter 6

Owl and a few of his former police officers retained a loose form of control. For many years they maintained their systems, ordering various excursions and running drills for fire, invasion and super storms. Owl still insisted on using animal names for the men. For the most part, this was respected, but over time it was seen increasingly as a quirk that belonged to Owl. Never joining in with the games, music or giving expression to his thoughts in any way, Owl started to become more and more aloof. He did, however, enjoy ‘inspecting’ the community. He would regularly patrol the storerooms and make notes in a little book. No one ever asked him why he did it.


Owl was incredulous at the way the community was changing. He couldn’t stand the sound of laughter and singing, and so withdrew to the further reach of the apartment block and kept a silent and lonely vigil for the discipline he felt that was now lost. Despite some of the community still living in fear of his aggressive manner, most seemed to simply avoid him. This compounded his sense of futility. There were days when he felt isolated and cold inside, at such times he wondered if anyone would be sad if he was not around.


“I think this must be our thirty-fifth summer since we arrived,” Yan said one evening to his friends.


The four of them had become accustomed to life in the community, but were incredibly grateful for the visits that they had been able to make to see Jesus in Jerusalem, for some respite and encouragement.


“It doesn’t feel like thirty-five years though does it!” exclaimed Harmony. “Somehow time is of a quite different quality now. We don’t physically age and we don’t measure time the way we used to. We don’t look at clocks because the batteries are long dead, and the Internet cannot govern our lives anymore!”


“We have the sun, the moon, the stars and the changing seasons,” remarked Anne. “It reminds me of when I was a girl. I never knew the Internet or clocks like you two did.”


“Me neither,” said Thomas. “I do remember the sun dial over your door though Anne,” he laughed. “Those meals we had together when you allowed me to stay with you were such good times. We spent hours recalling all that Jesus had said only a few years before.”




Thomas and Yan were regularly involved with the scavenging excursions. For several years, Owl did not try and bring anyone back to the camp. However, one windy autumn day, he called the men together.


“I’ve seen smoke rising in the distant hills. A new group must be out there. I want a team of five to go and look.”


Very deliberately Owl chose Yan and Thomas, as well as Rabbit and two others.


Setting off with rations to last a few days, it was clear that Owl had appointed one of his senior guards to be in charge.


“You can call me Bull,” he said.


Bull seemed happiest walking ahead of the others, as if scouting the land. Bull had an exceptionally large knife tucked into this belt. Rabbit was walking between Thomas and Yan, discussing why they had lost the last football game to the girl’s team. Lagging behind was a younger man Owl had christened Stingray, due to his silent, calm, and stealthy manner. 


Bull was a huge man of six foot seven. He had used his size to threaten and frighten on Owl’s behalf for many years. Stingray was also an old-timer. He had arrived in the camp one day with two young women who he claimed were his sisters. It was said that they came from a farm hundreds of miles away, which had been raided by marauding scavenger gangs. His parents had been killed in front of him and his sisters.


When one of Owl’s guards had taken a shine to one of his sisters, Stingray had lashed out and cut the man’s throat with a kitchen knife. Far from punishing him, Owl had praised Stingray for his quick sense of justice and decisive action, and promoted him into his inner circle. Even Bull was wary of Stingray. There was something strange about him. Many thought he was dangerously unpredictable and mysterious.


“We’re losing light,” observed Bull, setting down his pack. “Let’s get ready to camp here tonight.”


“I’ll get some firewood,” said Thomas.


“I’ll prepare the food with Stingray,” said Yan.


Stingray calmly walked over to Yan and stood only inches from him, face to face. He shook his head slowly and menacingly.


Yan looked into Stingray’s eyes and he could feel the anger, but behind the anger there seemed to be fear.


Stingray dropped his pack and pulled out a heavy tarpaulin. He shook it open and spread it on the ground. It was clear that he knew what he wanted to do. The look on his face demonstrated that he was angry at being told what to do by Yan.


“We should be in the hills by mid-morning tomorrow,” said Bull. There were now three plumes of smoke rising from the crest of a hill on the horizon.


After a mainly silent meal of canned fish and flatbreads warmed by a fire, the men settled down to sleep. Thomas, Yan and Rabbit had drifted off into a deep slumber next to the fire, whilst Stingray and Bull took first watch.


The night dragged on. The moon was up, but was only making brief appearances between thick wedges of cloud that were scurrying across the night sky in the wind. Bull and Stingray had fallen asleep, without waking the others for their shift. A twig snapping startled Bull, and before his eyes could become accustomed to the dark, teeth had sunk into his neck.


Suddenly awakened by the sound of Bull screaming and gagging, Stingray leapt up. Grabbing Bull’s knife from his belt, Stingray pushed it hard into the black creature that was subsuming Bull. The animal let out a terrific roar of pain and stood up to full height, letting Bull go. Bull fell back, clutching his neck. The black bear turned its attention to Stingray. Towering over his slight frame, the bear brought its full weight down on Stingray, knocking him to the ground like a ragdoll.


Its huge paws pinned Stingray to the ground and with a horrifying crunch of teeth on bone, the bear took a chunk of flesh out of Stingray’s left shoulder and lower neck. Stingray screamed as his arms flailed, trying to push the bear away.


Everyone was now awake. Yan scrambled over to where man and beast were engaged in a struggle for life. Yan lay over Stingray’s torso as the bear tried to push him out of the way.


Bull grabbed a long and sturdy stick and thrashed at the fire, sending red hot embers into the bear’s fur. The bear reared up in pain as the embers seared its flesh. Although in pain himself Bull frantically pounded the fire with the stick, until the bear backed away from Yan and Stingray. With a shout, Bull ran at the bear which had turned on its heel and had begun to run back into the surrounding trees, moaning in pain as it fled.


Painfully Yan got on to his knees as Thomas shone a light onto Stingray. Thick crimson blood was oozing steadily from what was left of Stingray’s left shoulder. Yan did his best to put pressure on the wound, but the wound was bigger than both of his hands.


Thomas threw him a spare T-shirt. “Try this!” he panted as he searched the edge of the darkened trees for signs of a reprisal attack.


Rabbit moved anxiously over to Bull.


“Let me see?”


Bull removed his hand from his neck. Puncture wounds were bleeding on the back of his neck.


“Thankfully, your artery and spine were missed,” said Rabbit. “You’ll be ok.” Rabbit placed his hand on Bull’s shoulder, in a simple act of solidarity.


Bull came to Stingray’s side. “You saved my life.”


Stingray’s eyes, full of fear, met Bull’s. Breathing heavily, Stingray was squirming. Bull removed his coat and put it under Stingray’s head.


“I… I… took a life…” he spluttered, blood beginning to soak Bull’s jacket.


“You saved my life,” repeated Bull, his eyes filled with gratitude and concern.


Yan grasped Stingray’s hand. “You were very brave,” said Yan gently.


Stingray looked at Yan and coughed up a mouthful of blood.


“I’m so cold,” whispered Stingray.


“Do you want to be healed?” asked Thomas.


Stingray nodded.


Thomas looked at Yan. Yan knew what Thomas was asking.


“It’s the right thing,” Yan said without hesitation.


Thomas bowed his head slightly and closed his eyes, with both of his hands placed on the mangled flesh.


In a strange act of intuition, Stingray placed his hand on top of Thomas’s. With a faint gurgle in his voice he croaked, “Carlos. My name is Carlos.”


Thomas nodded without opening his eyes. A few silent moments ebbed before Carlos began to breath heavily, his chest heaving up and down. He coughed and a small amount of dark blood came out of his mouth. He cleared his throat, “What are you doing?” he asked, the ghost of a smile on his face, like a quizzical child.


Thomas’s eyes remained shut, and a gentle smile was beginning to form on his face too. Under his bloodied hands, flesh was moving. Muscle sinews and blood vessels snaked in a mysterious dance, reconnecting and fusing together. Within a minute, skin was being knit back together. Carlos began to wriggle as if he was being tickled. Suddenly he let out an explosive laugh.


“What the hell?” gasped Bull. Rabbit stood next to him, rubbing his chin under his open mouth.


“Help him sit up Yan,” Thomas said, shaking the blood from his hands. Yan pulled Carlos upright.


“Eeeeee,” Rabbit squeaked, expecting a howl of pain from Carlos. Carlos looked down at his shoulder.


Yan crouched next to Carlos. He poured water over the shoulder, wiping away the residual blood on the bare skin. A perfectly healed shoulder was soon revealed.


“How?” said Carlos, with a mixture of shock and immense relief.


Yan, still crouching by his side offered an explanation. “We are friends with Jesus. He has gifted us his healing power. But, please, we must ask you to say nothing about this. We are not here to use gifts like this to make anyone do anything, only to demonstrate the love that Jesus has for everyone.”


Bull had a quizzical look on his face reflecting his conflicting emotions. Fear, excitement and relief were pumping around his body with the adrenaline arising from the bear attack.


“Jesus?” asked Bull, his voice quivering slightly. “How? I’ve never really understood what Jesus is all about?”


Thomas smiled warmly. “No one can really understand everything about him, but, put simply, he has shown us how to live to our full potential. I know him quite well, and all he has ever done is to show us how to allow his love to flow through us.”


“How can you know him?” asked Bull, genuinely. “Hasn’t he been dead for thousands of years?”


“That’s a story for another time,” said Thomas. “Come on, let’s keep moving. The animals are still obviously aggressive toward humankind around here.”


“Can you blame them after all we’ve done to this planet?” said Rabbit.


After a further hike of several more miles, the men found an old petrol station and hunkered down on the floor in the old shop building to try to get some more sleep.


Carlos deliberately made his bed near to Thomas and Yan.


“Please. Tell me everything, friends. Tell me.” With tears in his eyes, he reached out his hand and Thomas took it.


“I will, in time,” reassured Thomas. “You’re going to be alright, you know,” he said kindly.


For the first time ever in his life, Carlos believed it.


A peaceful sleep fell upon the five of them and they slept until long after dawn.


The sunlight shone brightly on Carlos’s face. His first thought as he awoke was how beautiful the sunlight made everything look. Then he remembered what had happened in the night, and flexed his shoulder. Joy bubbled up inside his torso, and for the first time in his life he felt as if he was being held by some invisible hands. He felt a surge of conviction deep within him that existence was meaningful, and that he was worthy of being loved.


He raised his head and noticed Thomas and Yan who were standing just outside the door of the building. They weren’t talking to each other, but were simply standing still, their faces lifted toward the sun. Carlos knew that he wanted to join them.


Thomas turned to Carlos with a broad smile and put an arm around his healed shoulders. No words were needed. Carlos began to weep. At first it was just a silent stream of tears, but within a minute he was sobbing. Years of emotion came flooding to the surface. It was as if a dam had burst. Yan and Thomas held him as he wept. This was a moment of great inner release.


Before long, Rabbit and Bull had made their way outside. Without wanting to create an awkward situation, they had waited quietly until Carlos was ready, and the group could begin the final push toward the mountain top. Smoke had once again begun to rise, which was an indication that breakfast was being prepared up there.