We spent the rest of Wednesday gathering the supplies we would need for the body-removal expedition. We gathered sheets, rugs, blankets, heavy-duty trash bags, plastic grocery bags, boxes and boxes of rubber gloves, about twelve bottles of Vicks®, about 50 face-mask air filters, and 6-8 huge bottles of bleach. We were fortunate that the mortuary had two gurneys and their body retrieval hearse/van. That was going to make body transport much easier. Pete Grey and Vern Sadler were going to remain at the mortuary and handle things from that end, along with four more men who volunteered to help them. Their job would continue long after we had finished.
Come Thursday morning, I had half expected that many of the volunteers would back out at the last minute after having had time to reconsider; but, once again, I was wrong. Everyone who volunteered yesterday did show up at the church this morning, including a few who hadn’t volunteered at the meeting. All told, we had 37, not counting Pete, Vern and the others back at Grey’s.
I won’t go into all the grizzly details. I’ll just say that the job was as horrific as we thought, maybe more. Still, with everyone who came, it went much smoother than we could have ever hoped. After the bodies were removed, we had ‘disinfecting crews’ who went in and poured bleach wherever needed. Then we padlocked the houses and spray painted ‘CONTAMINATION ZONE’ on each place with black paint.
We ended up having to deal with a few more bodies than we at first thought. I had been right; some of the young parents who had lost children had indeed given up all hope and ended things themselves. Among them were the young man and his wife whom I had met on Monday. Both of them it looked like had taken a bottle of pills with a bottle of wine chaser. We found them and the others who took the quick way out. We knew where to check because we had noted places where we were worried about residents whom we thought might be suicidal. In all, we found five more bodies in addition to the 23 we already knew about, bringing the total post-rapture death toll to 28.
The thing that haunted me most wasn’t the state of their bodies, but knowing that, because they had been left behind like we had, it meant that they weren’t believers to begin with. Did any of them, I wondered, come to salvation before they died? Only God knew, but the chances were low. All those who died lost, their souls were now and forever in Hell. I couldn’t shake that thought. The realization that this could have been my fate or the fate of the friends I loved at any time before we became believers, shook me to my core. It made me more committed than ever to do whatever I can to bring as many people as possible who are willing to believe salvation.
We were finished around 4:30 Thursday afternoon. Afterwards, we went back to the Pines so everyone could grab a shower and another change of clothes. We met back at Mike’s apartment. There were a few things we needed to iron out among the group of us. We invited Lilly Duncan and her twin sister Byllie to join us back at Mike’s. The Duncan twins are a little older than us, around 30 or 31 maybe. Lilly is the nurse who had worked with Doc Barnett at the clinic. Byllie, her twin, had worked in Iverson as a loan officer at the bank where my father once worked. Lilly, of course, was part of N’ville’s new medical clinic staff; Byllie had volunteered to help Eva and Mike with organizing food and resource collection and distribution.
Mike’s little apartment was crowded, but we all squeezed in together, most of us sitting on the floor. Along with Mitch, Trail, Sarah and myself, there was Clyde, Mike, Eva, Lilly, Byllie and Will. We had invited Carter to join us, but he wanted to get back out to the farm after we’d finished with the day’s earlier business. As I said, we still had some logistical issues to work out. So while we ate a late lunch/early supper, we began to make our plans. In truth, our appetites weren’t that great, but we tried anyway. Will began first, addressing the girls… well, women, I guess I should say.
“I know I’m a Johnny-come-lately to all of you, but I want to make clear to everyone that I am 100% positive that what we are dealing with here is the rapture of the Church and that somehow this EMP event ties into it; although, I can’t for the life of me see how. No, no, don’t worry,” Will said, holding up his hands palms out and smiling, “I promise I’m not going to preach a sermon nor am I going to try to push anything on any of you, but I do think that we need to move forward on the assumption that this has been a global event and that even though we’ve not gotten outside confirmation of that yet, I believe that within a day or so we will.
Will then posed a question. “Haven’t you found it odd that even though the power has been on since late Monday night, there has still been a complete media blackout? Even the internet is still out as of yesterday: Instagram, Twitter, YouTube are all still down, and the only message we’ve gotten from television and radio is a sort of a ‘please stand by’ message stating only that the president will address the nation on Sunday. None of the major channels or radio stations including cable and independent alternative media are on the air. None of them have as yet begun broadcasting, at least not as of this morning. This absolutely is not normal. The story of the century – no, the story of the millennium, and NO ONE is covering it? All we are seeing is the same message on all networks announcing the president’s upcoming address. To me, this in itself is very telling,” Will said, thoughtfully. “I think the president has already done what Clyde did. I think we’re already under federally mandated martial law and that the president has, in effect, pulled the plug on all communication until after his address Sunday.”
“I’ve been thinking along those same lines too, Will,” Mitch said. “Look, I’d like to put in my 2¢ worth about these two things. I could be way wrong in my theory, but ever since the beginning I’ve thought the two events, the ‘vanishings’ and the EMP thing, were connected somehow. Since I became a believer, a Christian – even though it’s been not quite a week ago since I got saved – still, since then, I’ve become convinced that the two events are more than just connected, but that the event we are sure is the rapture actually caused or triggered what we are calling the EMP.
Most of us here are already convinced that the vanishings – the rapture – is a worldwide event. We’re merely waiting on confirmation of that, which we believe the president’s address will provide. We also know that, although the EMP event has some of the same characteristics and effects of an actual EMP, it has behaved in ways that are not what would be expected from an actual EMP. For example, it should have taken much longer for the power to return, and our cars shouldn’t be running at all – at least a good number of them shouldn’t if what we’ve always been told about the effects of an EMP are correct.
Also, when the power returned, we didn’t experience any kind of power surge that might have damaged the power grid. There should have been controlled brownouts or a gradual increase of power from the power stations, but it hasn’t been like that at all. It came back on just as if it was the kind of a short power cut we would experience during a thunderstorm.
Also, had this been just localized to Norrisville or Iverson, someone, some governmental agency, would have shown up here by now. I think all these things are why the majority of people at the meeting yesterday, those who don’t accept the possibility that this was the rapture, didn’t make more of a fuss. I think either consciously or subconsciously, they know that nothing about this situation is even remotely a natural occurrence, but that there is a supernatural element to all this, including this EMP or whatever it was. I think they also know that this is not just a local event.”
Mitch then began to tell us his theory about how this EMP is related to the rapture.
“Bear in mind that this is only conjecture on my part. I could be entirely wrong, but here’s what I think. As I read the gospels’ recounting of the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus on the third day, there were two passages that leapt out at me. Granted, I’m no Bible scholar; I’m a brand-new believer who’s as ignorant of what I ought to know of Biblical doctrine as a kindergartener is clueless of trigonometry. But… well, here, let me read these two recountings of Jesus’ death and resurrection to you, then I’ll explain my thoughts.”
Mitch reached for Mike’s King James Version (KJV) Bible that was on his coffee table. Both are taken from the accounts as recorded in Matthew.
“Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves AFTER his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:50-54).
“In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Matthew 28:1-6).
“See, what grabbed my attention,” said Mitch, “was the deliberate mention of earthquakes in relation to both Jesus’ death and His resurrection. It’s my conjecture, although I can’t prove it, that the incredible transformative power of Jesus’ death, and particularly His resurrection, caused those earthquakes; and that if there had been electronics and such during those times, there would have been a disruption in that too, much like what we’ve experienced now. If that is so, then multiply the resurrection of multiplied billions of dead believers from the time of Calvary to the time of the rapture, and add to that the physics of the transformative power of a billion or so living believers who were instantly translated from the mortal to immortal state, and those two events— the resurrection of the believing dead along with the rapture of the living believing saints a nanosecond later—well, think about how much power such an event might affect the geomagnetic fields of the earth and the magnetosphere that surrounds the earth!” Mitch spoke excitedly, his face alight, and he used his hands to emphasize what he was saying.
“I’d be willing to bet that when we do get news and the internet is restored, that we’re going to find out that, in addition to the EMP-LIKE disruption, there will have been other earth disturbances such as earthquakes and other disruptions, like maybe tsunamis and/or volcanic activity since all of that is interrelated. “Besides,” Mitch continued, a bit calmer, “the Tribulation may have already begun; we can’t know yet. But if the event that will signal the last seven-year countdown hasn’t happened yet, we know that it soon will. We won’t know for sure until we hear news from Israel. I think that it is God who has brought the power back on and that He is restraining the news outlets to be kept silent and off the air until He is ready. I believe that what we are experiencing is a caesura, a pause if you will, before the Tribulation begins. I think very soon we will get news out of Israel that will tell us exactly where we are in relation to the beginning of the Tribulation – those last seven years the Bible calls “the beginning of sorrows.”
“Whooow!” whistled Will. “That’s something to consider, Mitch! You’ve just put into words what I’ve begun to instinctively believe but couldn’t articulate. “Look,” Will said, turning to address Lilly and Byllie Duncan, “I know y’all must feel like we’ve all gone nuts, but believe me, on Sunday, I do intend to explain in detail why we all think the way we do. Let me just give you a ‘heads up’ so that you can sort of know what to look for if you come.
See, with the Church… I mean the true Church, the body of believers worldwide not connected to any institution or denomination, but a corporate body of believers who all had in common their belief in Jesus Christ alone – God in human flesh, the Savior to all who would believe in Him – with that true body of believers removed from the earth, God returns His focus on earth to national Israel in order to prepare a remnant of the Jews who will come to accept Jesus as their Messiah – to prepare Israel and the entire earth to welcome Jesus back to earth as King of kings who will reign over all the earth for 1,000 years..
There’s so much more to this,” he continued, wiping his brow “but if you ladies will agree to come Sunday, I promise to lay it all out in detail. Just trust me that what we’ve all said so far is true and that Israel holds the key to what’s coming. In the next few days, if or when we do get news, watch out for news of an invasion into Israel from the Golan Heights – an invasion that will be led by Russia, Turkey, and Iran along with other nations. Look for the signing or making of a treaty with Israel by a man who will seemingly come from nowhere. He will appear to be a peacemaker and will guarantee Israel the right and the protection to rebuild her Temple. Once this man signs or confirms this covenant with Israel’s leadership, that event will begin a seven-year countdown that the Bible calls by many names, one of them being what we refer to as THE Tribulation.”
“Well, said Clyde, “you boys has give us all a lot ta ponder on, but b’fore th’ day gits away from us, we need ta make some decisions. Bobby, this may affect you an’ Sarah more’n the rest o’ us. Me an’ Mikey thank it’ll be safer, at least fer th’ short term, fer us all ta stay closer into town – even closer in than y’all are out in Briarwood, Mitch an’ Terrell, and certainly closer than you bein’ all alone out on Lickskillet Road, little lass. Lord knows we got plenty o’ houses available right around Main Street; and iff’n we gon’ try ta stay t’gether as a community, it might be in everybody’s best interest fer us all ta be livin’ closer in. Bobby, I ain’t tellin’ ya ta leave Yellow Top completely. In fact, I thank th’ wisest thang ta do is ta keep yer cabin up thar as a refuge fer when thangs git bad here in town – an’ they will, ya know. We cain’t fool arselves on that. Sooner or later, God’s judgment is gon’ land here too. But iff’n you’d be willin’ ta move closer inta town fer a spell, then th’ mountain kin be yer refuge iff’n th’ Lord sees fit ta keep it safe fer y’all.”
“Well, I’m gon’ be stayin’ out ta th’ farm,” Eva said, emphatically. “My house here’s only a street over from downtown on Railroad Street, Sarah. The name o’ th’ street is really First Street, but don’t nobody call it that. Everybody always thought that ‘First Street’ wuz a stupid name anyways. Everbody ’round here calls it Railroad Street on accounta there’s train tracks that run ’bout a hunert feet behind my house down a slope, but th’ tracks ain’t even used no more no ways. What I’m a gittin at is that I’m happy on th’ farm at Amos’ place hep’n Carter look after the livestock an’ workin’ the fields. I ain’t openin’ the diner back up. Ain’t nobody gon’ need a diner, but we are gon’ need food. My house is a big ole two-storey ramblin’ thang. All th’ rooms is big rooms, and th’ four bedrooms upstairs’re all big too. Iff’n any o’ y’all want ta move in thar, jest let me move out the rest o’ m’clothes first, an y’all kin have it, lock, stock, an’ barrel.”
“Eva, that’s one of the nicest things I’ve ever heard anyone offer,” said Sarah, warmly. “I’ll be honest; I wasn’t looking forward to going all the way back out to Danny’s house to stay by myself. Besides,” she said with a sigh, “I was only supposed to be here for a couple of weeks anyway, so I only have two weeks’ worth of clothes with me. I don’t know what I’m going to wear when these fall off me.”
“Don’t worry about that,” said Lilly. Eying Sarah critically, she continued, “You and I look to be about the same size. You’re shorter than I am by a few inches, but we can always hem pants. Also, I have about a zillion pairs of scrubs and office outfits,” Lilly said with a wink. “I never could pass up a cute set of scrubs.”
“Sarah,” Byllie chimed in, “I am an inch or so shorter than my twin; so between us and whatever other clothes we find when we inventory the town, we’ll have you a whole new wardrobe within a week. And please do take some of those 20,000 pairs of scrubs Lilly’s got cluttering up every closet in our house,” Byllie said, with mock seriousness. “She has at least a dozen pair of them with the tags still on!”
“Since both you Duncan girls live out in Briarwood, would y’all consider movin’ closer inta town too?” asked Mike? “Meybe, all three o’ y’all gals could share Eva’s house? It’d be a whole sight safer.”
After a short discussion, it was decided that all three girls would indeed move into Eva King’s house; that Eva would move out to Amos Brazele’s farm; and that Mitch, Trail and I would move into Doc Barnett’s house which was a street over from Eva’s on Walnut Street. Doc Barnett’s house is a huge old Victorian that had been in his family for generations. His clinic was a five-room suite of exam rooms downstairs with the little pharmacy located in the back. Upstairs were his living quarters which featured a small kitchen, a den or parlor, and four good-sized bedrooms.
Even though there was a small pharmacy there in the clinic, most people got their prescriptions filled at either the CVS or the Rite Aid in Iverson anyway. Doc Barnett did keep some prescription drugs on hand but they were mostly varying kinds of antibiotics, insulin compounds and some heart medications. He kept very little in the way of prescription pain meds, but the medical supplies for the clinic were surprisingly well stocked, Trail was pleased to find. We decided to remove the clinic and pharmacy signs from in front of our new house. Everybody in the area who lived around here already knew where the clinic was, but we didn’t want outsiders coming in and finding out the house was a clinic. We wanted to make it look like any other old house.
None of us were exactly happy to be moving and uprooting our lives, least of all me, even if it might only be a temporary thing. I wanted more than anything to be back up on Yellow Top working in my shop, refinishing a dresser that would now never be needed. Still, we knew that Clyde was right. This quiet period of what? grace – Mitch’s cesura – the short calm before the storm for us here? Whatever it was, we knew it wouldn’t last much longer. Eventually trouble would come, and my cabin on Yellow Top would be our last refuge—our sanctuary—our go-to place when we needed it.
We spent the next week helping the girls move into Eva’s, then helping Mitch and Trail get their clothes and all Mitch’s computer stuff (he has a ton of it) moved into what would be our new home in town. When we went back out to Lickskillet Road to get Sarah’s few clothes, and to get one of her brother’s cars for her to drive, we stopped by David’s and loaded up all his guns, his fishing and camping gear, the rest of his clothes, some of his pots and pans and other assorted stuff, plus a few more of his books. As we got ready to leave, Mitch and I gave Trail the keys to David’s jeep.
“Trail, trust me on this,” I said, handing him the keys. “David would be happy as a bee in clover to know that you can now scrap forever that half-dead piece of junk you’ve been driving. I mean… really, Trail, even David couldn’t have kept that dying hunk of scrap metal you drive going for much longer. I’ll bet if he can see us from Heaven right now, I’ll just bet he’s busting a gut laughing at the irony of you ending up with his jeep!”
“What about that old thing you drive?” said Trail, laughing. He was actually delighted to have David’s jeep.
“Trail,” I said, placing my hands on his shoulders, “I mean this sincerely; what you obviously do not get is that my Bertha is a classic. She is a grand old dame who exudes class, style, and Southern charm. Your old hunk of junk, on the other hand, is a blight on the face of automobiledom. Your sorry Ford is the automotive equivalent of roadkill. Bertha will be just fine. Take David’s jeep, please,” I begged. Mitch and I were both laughing.
“Automobiledom, yo’ mama!” said Trail.
“That’s right. It’s a real word; I just made it one. Besides, Big Bertha is named in honor of YO’ Mama!”
We were all laughing then. It felt good to laugh. We weren’t sure how much longer laughter would be a part of our lives in the future.
And that, dear Journal, is how we’ve ended up full circle. Early Friday morning, the 25th of October, a few weeks after the rapture happened, my two friends and I drove back up to my home on Yellow Top Mountain. We brought David’s guns up here for safe-keeping for the time being, planning only to return to town with his Glock, one rifle and a shotgun for me. I debated about taking my Grandpa’s 1911 Colt back with me, but decided against it. David’s Glock would do, and I didn’t want to risk anything happening to the 1911. Mitch and Trail have their guns. I’ll leave the rest of mine and David’s hidden carefully away in the cabin till I come back – if or when I ever do.
We decided to spend one last weekend together like in the old days, except that neither David nor Harp were here with us. We know exactly where David is; and although we miss him, we have complete peace knowing we’ll see him again in seven years max, if not before. But we have no clue where Jack Harper might be or whether he is alive or dead. Truth is, we may never know.
We three spent all day Friday fishing. We caught us a big mess of mountain trout that we took out of the big tributary of the French Broad River that runs through my property. The day was a perfect autumn day. The sun was out, and the sky was that perfect sharp blue that belongs to autumn in the North Carolina mountains. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky up on Yellow Top. The air was cool but took on a bite as sharp as a Winesap apple when the sun began to dip behind the mountain.
Before it got dark, I went down to the creek to clean out all that stuff in the cooler that I’d stored before I rode into N’ville that first Sunday after the rapture. I was just now getting around to dealing with that cooler I’d left in the creek. I did this while Mitch and Trail cleaned and fileted the fish. As the sun lowered in the sky, we built a fire in the outside fire pit and cooked those trout to perfection over an open fire in Grandma’s cast-iron frying pan. We cooked them with a bit of butter and garnished them with some dill and a little lemon juice. We roasted a dozen ears of fresh corn that Eva had sent back with us and baked some potatoes that Mike had given us, slathering them with more of Eva’s fresh-churned butter. It was a meal fit for a king. It was almost like old times.
We spent that weekend securing the cabin, packing a few of my winter clothes, and finding good hiding places for the rest of my guns. I packed David’s Glock and one each of his shotguns and rifles, plus the ammo for each to take back with me. I packed my cell phone, iPad and laptop in Bertha’s trunk along with the few clothes I was taking. I left most of my clothes here since I had David’s full wardrobe that fit me.
In the evenings, over that last weekend before I left the mountain and moved into town, I spent many long hours recording the events of these past few weeks into this journal. I’m finding out as I write that I can’t write about it all – not yet. My mind and my heart need a break. I will record everything though just as soon as we get set up in town. But for the majority of this weekend, I, we all simply wanted to pretend that… with the exception of our salvation… we wanted to block out the horrors of the last couple of weeks. For these three days here on the mountain, we wanted to pretend that the world was like it was before October 3rd. For just the next few days, all I wanted was to sit on my porch, looking out over the mountain I love so much and pretending that this is just another weekend spent with my buddies: fishing, cooking supper over an open fire, and sitting on the porch. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to have the bunch of us already saved believers then! But of course, we were fools.
There’ll be time enough to set down the rest of October’s dreadful news when I get settled in town, Journal. For now, just for this weekend, let me pretend that the world is still the way it was before.
We didn’t bring up the events of the past month, not one time. The only difference in our routine was that now we had Bible study and prayer together every evening while we were here, something we surely would never have done before the rapture and before our salvation. But other than that, by some unspoken agreement, we talked about anything and everything except what has happened. We laughed a lot and relaxed a lot too. The closest we got to speaking of the events of October was Mitch telling me that once I got caught up with the journal entries telling about the events of October, that he’d put them into his computer on a thumb drive to have as a backup. That’s a good plan – to have a backup, I mean. It would certainly be easier for me to type all this out instead of filling up journals writing by hand, even though my typing speed is not nearly as fast or as accurate as Mitch’s is.
But see, there’s something that’s been happening to me too. I’ve said before that I was beginning to notice different facets of the people I’ve known my whole life – people like Clyde and Big Mike. I’ve also mentioned that I’ve been watching Mitch and Trail change too. Most of these changes I know are a result of God’s changing us all from the inside out. But it’s more than that too, I think. It’s like He’s also adapting and preparing us for the horrors that are now facing us – preparing and equipping us to do what He wants us to do for as long as He allows us to live.
At that first town meeting back on October 9th, I saw a new confidence – a new level of maturity in Trail as he addressed, organized, and carried out the grisly but necessary task of removing the dead. I saw a stronger Mitch stand before the whole assembled town and speak with authority, maturity, and skill. And although I didn’t know him before the rapture – apparently by his own testimony – Will Farrell has become a completely changed man overnight; a man whose single focus is to become the pastor/preacher he always should have been.
Then there’s me. What about me? I’m just a simple country boy – a woodworker/cabinetmaker. I only have a high school education. I’m not a forward thinker like Mitch or a caregiver like Trail. I’m not a leader like Clyde or a resource manager like Mike. But have I changed too, in other ways besides my salvation? The answer to that is…yes; I think I have. You see, Journal, I was only ever an average B student in high school – nothing remarkable at all, especially in English. But ever since the rapture, I seem to have acquired the desire and gained the ability to write. I find that I have become a scribe.
Perhaps it is now my calling for as long as God allows me, to archive and record the events of the Tribulation as they unfold here in tiny Norrisville, North Carolina. For what possible reason, I can’t begin to know. But if I am called to write, then write I will, wherever I am for as long as I’m able; and one more thing, Journal: I’m going to continue to write these entries by hand in notebooks instead of on the computer. I feel the need to preserve them in written form. I don’t know why.
As we had by now found out, the beginning of the Tribulation was right at hand. The first horseman of Revelation 6 had begun to ride forth “conquering and to conquer.” We got our confirmation Sunday night, October 13, when the news stations finally came back on the air, and we found out what had happened worldwide during the week after the rapture. This was followed by all the earth-shattering events that occurred over the next few weeks. Mitch was right about the earthquakes and the devastation. The string of events that occurred all over the world those last few weeks in October have been far worse than we ever could have imagined; and this was only the beginning.
TO BE CONTINUED…