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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series

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For The Strength of Youth

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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series
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    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
Submitted by Steven ODell on 2 December 2010 - 1:44pm. | | | | |

Other Sheep Have I
Steven G. O'Dell (C) 2010

...their young men shall see visions and their old men shall have dreams.

“Why is Dad acting so weird lately, Mom?”

“It depends on what you mean by weird.”

Ariana crinkled her fourteen-year-old brow a brief moment, then answered. “Oh, you know, all the shopping for camping gear and filling our garage with everything but the car. That stuff.”

“So, you’ve noticed it, too?” Katya smiled playfully as she asked.

“Who could miss it? I mean, you said that he came to America to have freedom and get away from the lack of...everything...in Russia. And now he’s acting like he’s scared to death there will be a famine tomorrow.”

“I know it seems strange, dear, but your father and I have talked about it and he feels very deeply that this is something he must do. He can’t really explain why...just that it is something that he must do.”

“Is he going crazy?”

“Ariana! No, of course not. He had a dream...." She paused and took a deep breath before proceeding. “Actually he’s had several dreams that have led him to this behavior. He isn’t crazy, but he is driven by what he sees.”

“What does he see in his dreams?”

“Frightening things, dear. Frightening things he wants us to be ready for. Are you certain you want to know?” Katya locked gaze with Ariana and waited to read her daughter’s expression.

“Yes...if you think I should.” She appeared unsure.

“Okay, then sit down and we will talk.”

Antonin had another dream and as he awoke, he sat bolt upright, bathed in a cold sweat. He was breathing hard and adrenalin was flowing heavily through his veins. The time was getting shorter, he knew, and there was no doubting that all would come to pass, just as he had seen it. And that is why he feared so dreadfully.

He had seen urban warfare in the streets of America and worst of all, he had seen bloodshed and martial law in his own city. He knew it would be real, as well as he knew his own name and he could not allow his family to be exposed to that. There had to be a way to escape the devastation he foresaw. The answer would come soon enough.

“I am going to the store. Is there anything we need, Katya?” She shook her head and went back to her laundry.

Antonin was becoming more sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit as time passed. He still had vivid and disturbing dreams, but now he would get unmistakable images and urgent messages that would enter his mind in a sudden flash of insight. One of them came as he entered the grocery store.

Antonin stopped suddenly and stood transfixed by the vision of a man with a heavy mustache and an unusual tie. The vision disappeared as suddenly as it had come and he turned again to go into the department store. He had not gone through many aisles before he ran into the very man he had seen in his vision. Antonin again stood still, almost unbelieving, but for the proof that was before him.

“Do I know you?” asked the man with the mustache and strange tie. He studied Antonin’s face intently.

“I do not know, but I have seen you before. In a vision.” He waited for the man to shake his head, dismiss him as a fool and leave. Instead, the man’s eyes seemed to widen and a faint smile now adorned his lips.

“Yes...yes! That is where I know you from. I thought after all this time that I must have imagined it, but here you are.”

“And here are you, as well. Now what do we do?”

“My name is Dominic.” He offered his hand. “How about we get some lunch and talk?”

Of course. It was indeed that simple. It had to begin somewhere.

“Katya! Katya, where are you?”

“Here. What is the fuss?” She came into the room with flour and dough still on her hands.

“I know what we are to do now. The Lord has provided the answer for our next step. We must begin to pack only that which is most important to us...that which is irreplaceable or will preserve our lives. Nothing else.”

Katya’s hands dropped to her sides involuntarily, as her mouth fell open. “What are you saying, Antonin? Do you expect us to leave our home? Our neighbors?”

“I am afraid so. I know it to be God’s will...and soon.” He looked sad, but she knew she could trust him. He loved his family and his neighbors and would never lightly make such a move.

“When?” she asked simply.

“As I said, soon.”

She nodded with resignation, bowed her head and silently turned again to her duties in the kitchen.

Dominic Troiano offered his hand as Antonin’s wife and daughter were introduced. In turn, he introduced his own wife and his teenaged son. Dominic began the discussion after all had been seated.

“This is an important day for us all. We are here because it is God’s will that we meet. It is now our responsibility to determine why. I think it is because each of us may have information or skills that all of us will need to survive what is to come.”

Antonin nodded his head in agreement. “I felt that as well when we first met. May I suggest that we begin with each of us, our wives and children included, writing down our work histories, our hobbies and talents and any education we have received that could possibly become important. Do not discount anything as being too simple to matter. Even the simplest of things may become life-saving to us at some point.”

When the lists were finished and studied, it was clear that many points of compatibility rose to the top. Antonin then suggested that perhaps they should compare lists of any ownership of property. This, too, became a point of interest. Both families had been accumulating camping supplies and foodstuffs for some time, but Dominic held property in a heavily wooded area some distance from the city and had been stocking a small cabin with supplies for some time. He now suggested that Antonin and his family should come to visit that property soon and bring with them anything they might wish to add to the stockpile.

Dominic’s wife, Sarah, twisted the dial on the short wave radio and heard only a few minutes of the latest events in America before she became sickened and turned it off again. Life was by comparison so peaceful in the forest, although it was not easy by any means.

“It’s difficult to listen to, I know. But we do need to monitor it now and then, dear.”

“You can monitor it, Dom, or Antonin, but I have had enough. I want it all to end. We can’t keep living this way.”

“Sarah, you do know that the first colonists cleared land just like this, don’t you?”

“I am not a pioneer, Dom!”

“Neither am I. Sarah. At least I didn’t think so before now.” Dominic laughed at the thought. “And had I thought you were the rough and tumble type when I met you, I may not have been interested in marriage. So, be thankful you aren’t a pioneer. You are thankful, aren’t you? You may have been married to a rich farmer or a logger otherwise.”

Sarah now laughed, too. “Or a dairy farmer’s wife. All the cheese I would ever want.”

“Am I not cheesy enough for you?”

Sarah grinned from ear to ear and hugged her husband with all her might. “Is that a farm girl hug or not?”

“Close enough. Sarah, we are all in this together and God is leading us. Don’t lose your faith, alright? He will not let us down if we will only obey.”

Each day the news became worse. New York City was in flames, Boston had been swept into the sea and blood ran in every major American city, as well as in farmlands, where farmers were forced to fight to protect their crops and livestock or run for their lives. Anarchy reigned supreme. Law enforcement had long since given up trying to do their duty and now only fought for their own defense and existence and that of their families. It was to be expected. Food was nearly non-existent, gasoline was gone in most cities, clothing had all but been totally looted and money was worth nothing in a total financial meltdown such as the country was experiencing. There was little to do but wait it out.

Dominic, Antonin, Ariana and Mark, Dominic’s son, became proficient at hunting to supplement their stored foods. While the men used compound bows to go after big game, Ariana proved to be a deadly shot with her .22 caliber rifle and a lot of small game was taken from her skill. She used the quieter subsonic rounds in order to avoid drawing undue attention to their party.

Winter had been tough and Mark was going cabin crazy by the time spring broke. The news had turned from horrid violence everyday and now reflected a sense of returning order and peace. The nation was slowly becoming safe again. Antonin and Dominic often spoke in hushed tones about how the peace was being restored. Certainly it could not be a pretty scene. Millions were dead from violence, disease, starvation, fires and even suicide. Those who survived often did so by staying ahead of the marauding gangs that combed the land, taking what they wished until they themselves were killed.

The day came when both men awoke to share a common dream they had been shown during the night. Their families knew this was the will of the Lord and eagerly listened for the chance to return to their old way of life, but it was not yet meant to be.

“What we have seen,” Antonin remarked, “is the will of God for our families. We have been spared all the heartache and suffering of the general public. I cannot help but wonder how many had the same dreams as we have had and did not take them seriously. I can only hope that many more did as they were told and lived. These are the ones we will need to rebuild this nation. They are the obedient.”

“They will be the worthy ones, because of their obedience,” Dominic agreed. He turned again to the dream. “What we saw in the dream was our families driving as far as we could, until our fuel ran out, then walking with a large group of God’s people to the state of Utah for a short time. We will spend some years there and then will go to Missouri to build a great city.”

“Yes,” interjected Antonin. “The city is magnificent. It is beautiful beyond imagination. To be a part in building it will be an honor and blessing any man would be proud to have.”

Katya began to cry with gratitude. Sarah, though, was concerned about how far they might have to walk and how much they would have to leave behind as they did. She felt her entire life was slipping away from her and could not easily see the blessings she had been granted.
“Sarah, please...we must keep our spirits high and be grateful for the safety we have been accorded. We have food, we have clothing and shelter. And most of all, we have our health still. Think of how fortunate...no, how very blessed we are. Can you not see that?”

The only thing worse than being corrected by her husband was to have it done in the company of others. She stood and went to the bedroom in tears, closing the door behind her. Dominic excused himself to console her.

“Dad, it won’t be easy, will it?” Ariana asked.

“No, it will not be easy. We will wear out shoes while walking to where we need to go. We will have to learn to make our own shoes at some point. And then other clothes. We will need to hunt along the way, if we can, and we will need to conserve food and water, often doing without for a few days at a time. Many will die in the attempt. But we will make it if we don’t give up, I assure you. God will not let us down so long as we obey Him. He has promised it and I trust Him. I want you to trust Him, also.”

Ariana nodded her head. She would do as required. It would not be fun, but she knew it would be necessary and that she was young and healthy, standing a good chance of arriving alive. And if her father had been assured they would live, she would trust him and then God, for her father had always shown wisdom thus far. Even this retreat into the woods, which she had originally thought to be crazy, had possibly saved them. Add to this the witness of Dominic and there was little way to dispute the truth of it. She would just trust and obey.

Several years had passed and life in southern Utah had been tough, but had built character and skills, teaching what was priority and what was luxury. The people already there, many of whom were called Mormons, had been very kind and welcomed those who were new to their communities. Now, the time was at hand again to trek across the country under direction of the Lord. The major difference now was that a prophet of God would lead them. Antonin and Dominic and their families had all been taught of the restored church of Jesus Christ and had personal witness of the truth by that same Spirit which had led them to one another and had preserved them all those years before. This time, there was a sense of excitement and elation at the beginning of the journey. Even Sarah showed excitement.

After the first trek, most knew what they would need to carry with them, although the prophet gave general guidelines to their stakes, wards and branches. The number of people who would be making the trek was enormous, but was to be broken into ten large groups, to leave three days apart. Many of the elderly and young children would go during the first few departures, making it easier to be picked up by succeeding groups, if need be. Each group would be large enough to protect itself, but close enough to the next group to get some help if required. Wild game might be scarce if the entire number were to remain as a single group, but these few days between would be sufficient to allow some game to return after the previous group moved on. Nonetheless, each group was to rely as much as they could on what they might carry with them, including cattle. What hunting was needed could be done from horseback. Horses would also be valuable to maintain communications between groups, as citizen radios would be in short supply and batteries of limited life.

Antonin scanned the sky for any hint of rain and wiped his forehead. He had not been able to offer his family any water this day, but he knew the Lord would provide for the faithful. He began to sing his favorite hymn, The Spirit of God, and within a few lines he was joined by several voices around him and it spread with each verse. As they sang, their own spirits picked up and each step seemed easier than the one before it. When the last verse ended, smiles adorned the faces of the previously down-hearted. The mood became even more elevated when rain clouds began to form on the horizon.

Dominic and Mark walked on each side of Sarah, helping to support her with their own weakened bodies as they topped a hill and saw below them the group that had previously arrived, already encamped in well-arranged rows and clusters, the beehive flag hoisted on a pole above the camp and flying proudly in the breeze. Even Dominic began to cry as he realized they had reached their destination. He turned with aching muscles toward those dragging themselves up the hill behind him and tiredly waved in triumph to Antonin and his family. The fragrance of campfire cooked dinners greeted their nostrils, but these families would want a drink of cool water before anything else...except maybe a prayer of thanksgiving.

Ariana and Mark stood hand-in-hand on the hill they had climbed when they first arrived at this location some years earlier. The city was indeed just as beautiful as their fathers had predicted. At the center of this grid-planned city was a magnificent temple complex, a House of the Lord and several adjacent buildings, all built by the many native Americans and Hispanics, who had been gathered here, aided by those of other ethnicities that had accompanied them to Missouri. The law of God went out to all the world from this city. Anarchy had been defeated and peace once again held sway.

“I don’t know about you, but I am glad our fathers were ‘crazy’ and had their dreams. If they had not, I would never have met the prettiest woman in the nation.” Mark squeezed Ariana’s hand affectionately.

“Just the nation? Not the world?” Ariana attempted to cover her smile, unsuccessfully.

“That remains to be seen. I haven’t seen all the women in the world yet. But I would guess you are right there at the top of the list and I intend to prove it to you.”

“Oh, really? How, by dating all the other women in the world first?” She gave him an accusing eye.

“Not a chance. By asking you to marry me and be sealed in the House of the Lord, that’s how. My mother donated this ring, just in case you said ’yes’ to me.” Mark held out the ring he had pulled from the pocket of his homemade trousers.

Ariana could no longer speak and simply nodded her head, hugging Mark as tightly as she could. Their parents would that night join in their celebration and the city of God would perhaps grow yet again in the near future.

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