D. A. Ratliff – The Boat

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support!

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The Boat

By D. A. Ratliff

“Boys, come help me.”

Olivia Carter raised the hatch on her SUV and began to collect the bags of groceries from the back. Her sons, Micah and Elias, popped out of the kitchen door into the garage. Eli lowered the garage door to block the driving rain spilling out of the first strong feeder band from Hurricane Anna.

Grabbing the bags from her, Micah grinned. “Geez, Mom, did you leave any food for anyone else?”

“No one else has kids like you two that eat so much. Luckily, the store still had lots of food and water left.”

He nodded. “I guess since the storm is only going to pass by just off the coast, no one panicked except us.”

“Funny boy. It’s the beginning of hurricane season, might as well stock up now.”

She and Eli followed Micah into the kitchen with the other bags. As she put the food into the storage bins to keep it dry, the boys brought in the water she had bought.

“Mom, there’s enough food and water here for the neighborhood.” Eli grimaced as he and his brother carried two cases of water each into the kitchen. “There are eight more cases out there.”

“That’s the idea. Your dad knows a lot of people don’t realize how long power could be off. He wants to be sure we can help them. Even the fire station might need water.”

Micah ripped open a box of granola bars and took a couple out. “We got all the shutters closed, and all the outside stuff in the shed, and the grill is on the lanai. Drained a few feet of water from the pool and shut off the pump. The generators are full of gas, and we moved them out on the pad with the covers still on, and the cords are ready. Dad called while you were gone. Said it looks like the storm is staying offshore, but he wants Eli and me to go check on the boat.”

“Did he say when the main feeder bands were going to get here?”

“Not until about four p.m. when the winds began to kick up.” He yelled for Eli. “So we’re going to go now.”

“That is only three hours. You come right back.”

“We will.” Eli pointed to the back yard. “Pete’s outside on the lanai, thought he’d like to stay out as long as he can.” Both boys kissed her on the cheek and took off.

She wanted all the clothes in the house clean in case they lost power and had just put the last load of clothes in the dryer when Micah called. “Mom, Jose at the dock asked us to help him. He’s got a boat stranded about a half-mile offshore, and he needs it towed in. Won’t take us long and then we’ll be straight home.”

“Micah, I really wish you would come straight home.”

“Mom, it’s okay. There’s a family on board, engine died. They’ve been out there for a while. Just a quick trip out and back.”

Unease crept into her thoughts, but she pushed it aside. Her sons were smart, and they had been boating since they were small. They could handle themselves.

Olivia busied herself getting the last of the laundry folded, then reviewed the checklist her husband had made for them when they moved to the Gulf Coast of Florida from Buffalo. She always teased him about being a Boy Scout, but he had been a firefighter for so long that preparation was second nature to him. She and the boys had managed to accomplish everything they needed to do to prepare. She took the clean clothes and towels they might need and put them into a large plastic storage bin. If water came into the house, they would at least have dry clothes and clean towels.

She decided to bake oatmeal raisin cookies for the boys, all three of them. Entering the kitchen, she flipped on the TV before heading to the pantry. As she opened the door, one of the local weather forecaster’s words stopped her cold.

“We just received an emergency update from the National Hurricane Center. Aircraft flying through the storm report that the pressure is dropping more rapidly than expected. In fact, faster than we have ever seen. The storm was a low Cat 1 on the last fly-through. While the Hurricane Center hasn’t released the numbers yet, it appears this storm has strengthened to a possible strong Cat 3. Steering winds are changing and folks, this is beginning to look bad.”

The news anchor for the station responded. “We are expecting a message from the governor within a few minutes. Everyone, we suspect that this hurricane is going to come closer to shore and be at least a Cat 3. We cannot emphasize enough that this is now a highly dangerous storm that will impact us more than we expected. Please make your preparations now and get to a shelter if possible or to your home as quickly as you can.”

The words were barely out of his mouth when her phone rang. It was Dan, her husband.

“Baby, this storm is getting worse. I want you and the boys to stay put, too late to go to a shelter so …”

“Dan, stop. The boys … they’re out on the boat.”

“What? What are they doing on the water? They were supposed to check the moorings and come straight home. I told them not to stay there.”

“A family was stranded about a half-mile from the dock. They were the only ones with a boat able to get to them. Micah said they’d be home as soon as they got the family onshore.” Her voice trembled. “Dan …”

Her husband’s calm voice echoed in her ears. “Liv, they’ll be fine. Both are level-headed, they won’t take any chances.” He paused, and she knew he was trying to stay composed. “This storm is going out of control. I am going to notify the Coast Guard to look for the boat. I am sure they are back at the dock by now.” She heard someone yell his name. “I’ve got to go. Keep listening to the weather, and I’ll call you back as soon as I can. Don’t worry about the boys. They’ll be okay.”

Dan ended the call and tears spilled down her cheeks. She knew him too well. He was worried. So was she.

The howling wind was becoming stronger, the rain pelting against the metal hurricane shutters. She hurried to the lanai to let Pete inside, then pulled the metal shutters across the wide sliding glass door, secured them and locked the doors. The golden retriever brushed against her as if he knew she was upset. Olivia knelt and hugged Pete. “They’re going to be okay, Pete. I promise.”

She needed to keep busy. The boys would want cookies when they got home. Returning to the kitchen she started the cookie batter, the TV on and the laptop monitor tuned to the security camera on the front door. She wanted to know the minute when the boys arrived.

The storm predictions were becoming ominous. The pressure was dropping and the winds increasing. A storm which was supposed to be passing them by with a glancing blow was becoming a serious threat. Olivia packed the cookies into a plastic container and put it with the other food and cleaned up the kitchen. Coffee in hand, she and Pete curled up on the couch to watch the weather reports.

The storm had stalled just south of them, gaining strength. The weather experts at the Hurricane Center had no idea what was going to happen next. Her mother and Dan’s father called to check on them. The storm’s erratic behavior had everyone on edge. She tried to call Dan at the city emergency center, but the call went to voice mail.

Pete snuggled closer to her and whimpered. She scratched his head and sighed. “We’ll be okay. All of us.”

As rain once again plummeted the house, Olivia jumped when her phone rang. She answered without looking. “Micah? Eli?”

“No, baby, sorry.” The pain in her husband’s voice ripped through her heart.

“Dan, no …”

“I don’t know anything. The Coast Guard tried to locate them, but they couldn’t keep the helos in the air. The storm is far too strong. We know the boys. They’re smart. They would have seen how the weather was deteriorating and headed for shelter.”

“I’m scared.”

“I am too, but let’s have faith in them. Now listen, we received a warning from the hurricane center that the storm may turn toward shore. It’s stalled right now and continues to gain strength. If it hits here, you are six blocks inland and shouldn’t get caught in the storm surge if we have one. I need you to stay calm. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“Baby, I love you.”

She gripped the phone so hard her hand began to cramp. “I love you. Stay safe there.”

“I will. And the boys … I feel it in my soul. They’re okay.”

The grandfather clock in the foyer chimed five times, and her heart fluttered. Her sons had been gone since one p.m. with no word. As the minutes ticked away, she stared mindlessly at the TV barely comprehending what the cable weather team was saying. She switched the TV to the local station, which was broadcasting from the city emergency center, hoping to catch a glimpse of Dan. His job during a storm emergency was to coordinate damage reports and plan deployment of all fire rescue teams so they could begin search-and-recovery operations once the storm passed. When the emergency weather broadcast alert blared from the set, she and Pete jumped. Her heart thumping in her chest, she wrapped her arms around the dog as she listened.

The National Hurricane Center has issued a hurricane warning for the southwest coast of Florida. As of five forty-seven pm, Hurricane Anna is now a Category-3 storm with sustained winds of 121 mph and pressure at 956 millibars. Storm is eight miles offshore, moving rapidly at 12 mph and beginning to track to the east-northeast and is expected to turn due east and reach landfall somewhere between Siesta Key and Venice around eight pm this evening.

Her blood turned to ice as the emergency broadcast ended. All she could think of was her sons somewhere in the middle of a hurricane. Dan had to be right, the boys had to be safe. Micah and Eli had learned to drive a boat by spending a lot of time on Lake Erie with Dan and his father. That they knew what to do wasn’t a concern. The power of the storm was, and she was scared.

For the next hour, she sat curled on the couch with Pete watching the endless loop of radar as the storm began to turn. Rain beat against the metal hurricane shutters covering all the windows and doors of the house, incessant drumming sounding the same pinging thud. Wind gusts were stronger with each feeder band that came through.

The intense rain let up for a bit, but the wind was relentless. The howling wind was becoming more persistent. Sitting inside her closed-up house, she could sense the barometric pressure dropping, or was it the fear growing within her that weighed so heavily on her chest. She didn’t fear the storm but what her sons were facing. She prayed Dan was right and they had found shelter.

As the torrential rain returned, another weather alert sounded. The storm had turned due east. They were going to take a direct hit. Seconds after the alert ended, the power went off. Using her phone’s flashlight to light the way, she grabbed her laptop from the couch.

“Come on, Pete. Time to go hide.”

When they bought the house, Dan was more excited about the large interior walk-in closet nestled at the end of the hallway than any other feature. He thought it was perfect as a place to keep his family safe. She opened the door and turned on the camping lantern sitting on a shelf. The floor was padded with cot mattresses and pillows, the boxes of food and clothes to get them through the storm stacked in the corner. An audible sob spilled from her, and she sank to her knees. Her sons were supposed to be there, and they weren’t. The closet was too empty.

Pete pawed at her arm, and she rubbed the dog’s head. “No worries, big guy, I will keep you safe.”

She closed and locked the door and opened the vent in the ceiling that Dan had installed to keep fresh air circulating in the closet. Settling on the floor, back against a pillow and Pete snuggled beside her, they began to wait.

A constant stream of storm updates floated from the battery radio but as the eye of the hurricane grew near, the wind was howling so loudly Olivia could barely hear the voices. A constant roar filled the room, coupled with the torrential rains pounding against the house. The bad side of the storm with the winds at their peak was wreaking havoc. The house creaked and moaned as it withstood the wrath of Anna.

Olivia felt as though she was being compressed. Pressure was building in her sinuses, and she felt dizzy. Pete whimpered. No doubt he was feeling the same effects that she was. She slid down to lay next to him, wrapping her arms around him. The emotions she had tried to keep in check couldn’t be contained. Sobs racked her body as the pain of not knowing where Micah and Eli were overwhelmed her.

The boat. That damn boat. Dan had spent months looking for a seaworthy boat that they could afford. He knew how much the boys loved being on the water, but he had wanted them to be safe. Her heart felt like lead, each heartbeat a struggle. They shouldn’t have bought the boat. Now her sons were missing, and it was their fault. She pounded the floor with her fist, crying uncontrollably. They shouldn’t have bought the boat.

Sensing her fear, Pete pushed against her, placing his head on her lap. She hugged him tightly. “They have to be okay, Pete. They have to be.”

The storm raged for another hour violently. Over the roar of the wind and rain, occasionally she heard a loud crack, certain one of the tall palms in the neighborhood had fallen. She wondered if Eli’s car, parked as close to the house was damaged. Throughout the night, the winds calmed, and about three am she fell asleep.

A scratching noise woke her. Pete was standing at the door, looking back at her. She glanced at her phone, a little after six am. Should be light outside.

She stood up and scratched Pete behind the ears. “Bet you need to go out … I will let you in the garage if there is one.”

Walking through the house, she decided to see if she could call Dan since she had a couple of bars. Despite being frightened about what she might learn if she talked to him, she needed to hear his voice.

His phone rang, and as he answered, Pete ran toward the front door. “Liv, you okay?”

“I’m fine … the boys?”

“Open the door, I’m outside.”

Her hands trembled as she unlocked the door. When she opened it she stepped back seeing Dan in the doorway, a huge grin on his face. “You know these two, baby?”

He stepped out of the way and her knees buckled as Micah and Eli entered the house.

Eli grabbed her. “Mom, we were worried about you.”

Through tears, she replied. “Worried about me? I was so scared for you guys.”

Micah hugged her. “Yeah, Mom, we hated leaving you here alone. Glad you are okay.”

“I am glad you are okay. What happened? Where were you?”

Her oldest son smiled. “Winds and the waves were getting rough. That family was on vacation, had rented the boat for the morning. Eli checked the motor … no oil, so the engine seized. We tried to tie a rope to it, but the waves were too high. So, we got the family aboard and left that piece of junk there. But the waves were getting wicked and the rain and wind horrible. Got the family in the cabin and since we were up the coast a bit, we decided to head directly to shore.”

Eli interrupted. “When we got to the shore, I realized where we were. Remember where I was a lifeguard last summer?” Olivia nodded, and Eli continued. “The county has a main water pump station there, a big one. I’d been in it when the water company dudes were there working. Sturdy concrete building — door facing away from the water. I figured we’d be safe there. Lucky for us, the door wasn’t locked. When the storm let up, Micah left and found a police officer. She said they were looking for us and took us to Dad and the family to their hotel.”

Micah laughed. “For once, little brother was right. And Mom, the boat … we drove it up on shore and tied it to some palms. Came through like a trooper and in all that weather, she got us to safety.

Looking toward her husband, she saw tears in his eyes, mimicking hers. Their boys were safe. Not a bad boat after all.

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Please visit D. A. Ratliff’s blog at https://thecoastalquill.wordpress.com

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Sarah Anne Steckel – Anthem of Man’s Dying Day

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support!

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Anthem of Man’s Dying Day

By Sarah Anne Steckel

The divine and otherworldly being hovered far up above the bustling seaside metropolitan city, completely unseen to the human eye, as he watched the ant-sized men and women as they scurried to and fro in their menial daily lives. His obsidian wings gently flapped to call forth the twilight and blanket the sky, causing the city lights to rage and burn like fire against its radiant darkness. Clutched firmly in between his hands was a leather-bound tomb, and in his free hand was a quill pen with a single vulture feather; for he wasn’t an ordinary ethereal man but an angel of death, and it was his job to write down the death of man.

Off in the distance there was the low rumbling of thunder, and from his high vantage point he was able to witness the turbulent storm as it rolled in across the eerily calm ocean front. The ocean air grew thick and heavy, as waves that only grew larger and larger began to crash angrily against the somber sandy beach. The maleficent gray clouds masked by the darkness of the night, plump and heavy with rain, opened up their mouths and spewed hail and flooding rain on the civilians down below. Chaos erupted within the streets as individual blocks of power began to experience mass power outages at a single time.

The omnipotent being began writing on the pages of his book, his keen and wary eye on the tsunami that had formed in the center of the ocean, its epic size continuing to rapidly grow as it traveled further inland. The sounds of sirens caused his attention to shift to the humans below him as they screamed and wailed, their city streets already flooding with a mixture of rainwater and sewage. What remained of the city lights flickered and died, leaving the metropolitan metropolis lifeless and dark; the city went eerily silent, the literal calm before the storm.

The tidal wave arched high above the tallest building, casting a shade even in the darkness of night across the entire island. The celestial man gracefully flapped his wings a second time, pausing briefly in his writings to watch the exact moment that the water crested over and descended down on the silent city. A bolt of lightning illuminated the sky with its bright, electrifying blue-hued brilliance, capturing the wave as it struck the tallest skyscraper, the water’s weight toppling the iron-rod building as if it were made of straw.

The humans below screamed and bellowed as the water swallowed entire buildings and blocks whole, dragging them along with their occupants helplessly into the hungry sea. Whatever had remained after the first wave was quickly demolished by the second tidal wave that bludgeoned the already welted and deliberated streets; there was less of a human rebuttal now, their cries and pleas only a murmur in his ear. He made a few more scores in his epic tomb, listening as the rumbling of thunder began to roll north.

The archangelic man smoothly flapped his obsidian wings a final time and closed his book; observing how the once lively and bustling city and all of its scurrying and busy creatures quickly perished. He could feel their restless souls as they still continued to cry on, unwilling to accept the truth that they all had died. He felt no remorse for them, this was a job that he was sent to do, and dutifully he obliged. In silence he placed his vulture quill pen behind his ear and took flight. Just like he arrived, Azrael, the angel of Death, departed the human world unnoticed but sure that he would be called back once again to dutifully record the anthem of man’s dying day.

©Sarah Anne Steckel

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Please visit Sarah’s page at https://www.facebook.com/Sarahs-Writing-and-Art-2310272992552740/

Kenneth Lawson – Any Port in a Storm

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support!

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Any Port in a Storm

By Kenneth Lawson

Two more palm trees came crashing down on the beach as the computer finished final preparations for automatic shutdown. The automated weather station had triggered a shutdown when the rains and winds had hit certain marks.

The solar panels and a small wind turbine, that generated power that ran the inverters and batteries that ran the station, began to shake on their foundations as the winds and rains picked up.

Meanwhile, deep inside the stone and concrete building, an automated computer had been monitoring communications on the tiny island of Leetown, a private island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The waves began to crash against the outside of the building. Within minutes the tiny island was covered in twenty feet of water which crashed over and through everything. While most of the smaller less well-built buildings lay flat in a matter of minutes, the old stone-and-block building didn’t completely submit to the water. It remained standing.

However, the ancient mortar-and-cement casing did partially give way to the intense weight and pressure of the water as it swept across the small island. Water found its way into every little nook and cranny that had an opening at all, forcing blocks and stones to shift and let in more water. When it was done, three feet of water made itself home throughout the tiny building. Computers and electronics were waterlogged and fried.

Several weeks later, Cole Webber made his way back to the tiny island.

In the weeks following the storm, he had made a financial killing off the data siphoned off the internet and private networks he had been tapping into for several months. The cost to set up the substation had been high. But the need for secrecy was higher. This particular island had been chosen because of its location to the main backbone of the internet running under the ocean and to the nearest land-based server center—thus allowing him direct access to the main trunk traffic of the internet and the ability to piggyback on others who were spying on the internet. Also because it was so far out in the middle of nowhere, it would never occur to them that anyone would set up a hardware system to tap into the servers.

The usefulness of the substation was now past. He had what he needed from it, and with the storm destroying everything, he thought it was time to come in and rip everything out.

As he expected, the island was a total washout. By now most of the water had subsided and found its way back to the ocean. However, there were still pockets where several feet of water sat and the bugs were making themselves at home.

The solar panels and inverters and all of the external hardware that had run the small computer station were in ruins outside the building.

Pushing the door open, he was greeted with water up to his knees. The water came gushing out of the door around his legs. Using his flashlight he looked around inside the small building.

There on the far wall, mounted high, was a single monitor, its cords dangling against the wall. To his surprise, a single light was flashing. The screen had a small blinking oblong dot in the upper left corner. Cole recognized it instantly as a DOS prompt.

Stepping into the room, now covered with slime and mud, he saw computer components lying all over the tables and floor. He approached the one screen still working.

And the built-in speaker spoke to him.

“Hello, Cole, we’ve been waiting for you.”

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Please visit Kenneth’s blog at http://kennethlawson.weebly.com/

Larry Stephens – Boxer Briefs

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms. Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support!

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Boxer Briefs

By Larry Stephens

Everyone knew a real crap-storm was imminent, but the real question in the mind of Greedy O’Shamlin was when.

Because when mattered to Greedy.

Greedy played the odds, always, and since he was a perpetual betting man, he was betting that the raw unbridled fury of nature would take its sweet time making landfall, thereby screwing up all sorts of stuff with limitless tons of dirty water. Whether the water fell from the sky or washed up from the sea, well, it was still dirty, and Greedy really had no affinity for dirty water.

But still …

Because while Greedy loved playing against the Fates, he hated filth more. It’s why he lived alone and it’s why he was quite happy living alone. Simply put, people were filthy.

And so Greedy reveled in the steaming pellets of clean water that pummeled his skin, and yet, a tiny niggle of doubt squirmed around in the reptilian part of his calculating brain.

That doubt had a little but persistent voice that kept repeating stuff like, ‘you need to get outta here, dumb-ass,’ and ‘it’s a freaking Category-5 hurricane, dumb-ass.’

Greedy decided to respond to that small, annoying seed of doubt by lathering his long, blond hair in a wonderful, enriching, lavender shampoo. Tea-tree oils evoked a tingle on his scalp that was quite pleasant.

Alas, the hot-water tank had reached its limit and the streaming shower began to grow tepid in temperature, and so Greedy rinsed his tresses until they squeaked between his pressing fingers.

He tapped the shower control to OFF, slid the opaque glass door open soundlessly, and stepped onto heated marble flooring, eschewing a bath sheet in favor of air drying, and waited for the fog to clear from the vanity mirrors on two walls of his custom bathroom. He really hit a hard workout earlier in the morning with great focus on his triceps, shoulders and quads, and he wanted to see the fruits of his labor.

In the interim, Greedy decided to brush his teeth for the fourth time on this day—a bit excessive, but filth had a way of hanging on stubbornly between one’s teeth. It was when he shut down his sonic toothbrush that he heard a very jarring noise from the exterior of his home, one that certainly warranted further investigation.

He pulled a pair of boxer-briefs from a hook over the door, stepped first his right foot through and—

The jarring noise again! Sounded like parts were being ripped off the house itself, and there was some kind of outrageous roaring going on out there, and right at that second Greedy felt that it was time to stop playing the odds and maybe expedite matters to the point of a rapidly-ensuing personal evacuation.

The grubby cat can fend for itself.

He hoisted that left knee up to jam his left foot through the briefs and the big toe somehow got stuck and then Greedy wobbled, losing his balance, and he reached his hand out to halt his fall but missed the granite vanity completely and saw the unyielding vanity surface rushing up toward his view and then…

Blackness.

Wake up already!

“Huh?” Greedy opened his eyes with the memory of what he saw last vivid in his brain, and he completely expected to be in a hospital or something, or at the least, lying sprawled out on his bathroom floor, thankful for the warm tiled floor.

But that’s not what Greedy saw, not at all. What greeted Greedy’s view was … gray. Like everything was gray. He looked around—absently noting that he had full movement of his neck, which meant that his neck was not broken, and saw gray.

No floor, no ground, no walls, no outside or inside, no ceiling, no sun. Nothing. Just gray. What the—

So, you were doing something pretty stupid there.

“What? Who’s talking?”

Allow me to answer your question with a question. Do you know your name?

“What kind of stupid question is that? Am I paralyzed or something?”

Or something. Now, your name please.

“It’s Greedy O’Sh … wait a minute; hold on a sec.”

Take your time, I’ve got all the time you can imagine.

“Something’s off. I remember my name being ‘Greedy,’ but I remember something else too, something … older?”

Now you’re getting there. Keep working at it.

“Why the fu—”

Don’t allow yourself to get distracted by your circumstance. Your name? WHAT IS YOUR NAME?

“Okay, okay, don’t get your panties all in a bunch—”

When you figure out WHO you are, you’ll realize just how inappropriate that comment is, Child.

And yes, there! Just a tiny little thread right at the edge of Greedy’s memory, an old thing that he didn’t really understand (like quantum physics or women), but he found that little niggling thing and latched onto it tenaciously.

“It’s Jrgshddl.” He shook his head, or at least it felt like he shook his head. “Did I just say that?”

Welcome home, Jrgshddl.

“Wait. Am I … dead?”

Your physical shell is lifeless and will be returned to the earth by fire.

“Oh shi … er, crap! So what is this … place, and who the heck are you?”

You already know the answers to those questions, Jrgshddl.

“Are you … God?”

You know I am.

Greedy/Jrgshddl’s mind reeled. He struggled to absorb and understand everything that happened and that was now happening, but … so many questions! “Okay, God. So what is this place and what’s the plan for me now?”

You should remember that this is just a holding place for you. It’s a place for you to rest and reflect and to understand your place and remember your progression.

“So, like Purgatory.”

You would do well to not ascribe your silly Catholic rituals and fantasies to me, Child.

“Well, I’ve just had my pee-pee slapped by God Himself.”

You no longer have a pee-pee. In fact, you no longer have a physical body.

“I was being figurative, not literal.”

Yes, Jrgshddl, you’ve been like that since I gave you your first spark of life.

“So, um, God? Do you mind if I take some time here to try to get my head wrapped around all this?”

Listen to me now, Child. Your physical shell is gone. Dead. Reduced to ash. You have to let go and do so as soon as you can. Once you let go of your physical trappings, you’ll trigger the ancient memories you’re supposed to trigger, and then we can move on to the next phase for you.

Without a physical environment, Greedy was at a bit of a loss as to what exactly he should do. Pace? That seemed to work for him when he was … alive. Sit down? On what, and where? There’s nothing—

That’s correct, Jrgshddl, there’s nothing. I designed this place like that to make it easier to let go.

“Well you certainly did a fine job.” No response. As Jrgshddl attempted to look around and be confronted by nothingness, he tried to push, or project his mind out from himself and into the nothingness.

Why not? There was nothing else to do. But the odd thing—as if any of this wasn’t odd anyway, was that as Jrgshddl tried to expand his consciousness, the memories of his life as Greedy O’Shamlin seemed to flit away. This was a gradual thing and it continued until Jrgshddl’s mind was soothed and integrated with the surroundings, the surroundings of nothingness.

Jrgshddl?

“Yes, God.”

That’s much better, Jrgshddl. Now we can talk.

“I’m all ears, God.”

I always did enjoy your humor, Child. But now we must be serious. In your life as Greedy O’Shamlin, well, you left a bit to be desired.

“In my defense, nobody’s perfect. Well, nobody, except for you and Jesus.”

Child, there is no need to defend. I know all and I see all. I knew what was in your heart from its first throb until you rejoined me here. I’ve known it for ages, Jrgshddl, and I will know it when you finally pass to the next stage in your evolution.

“Which is what?”

Which is not for you to know yet. But I will say that I gave you an illustration of what’s next for Mankind in my Word, which you call the Bible.

“Riddles! Why not just come out and give up the deets?”

Because you are not yet ready and you have to return.

“Well, I don’t see the problem because I won’t remember all this anyway.”

No, Child, that’s not accurate at all. Allowing a slight bit of remembrance is what helps Mankind to elevate themselves to their next phase. So yes, you will remember just a bit more than last time, and you’ll be that much closer.

“This seems like a colossal time-suck to me. I mean, why all the back and forth, why all the life and then death? Why not just bump us up to that next stage without all this … stuff?”

Jrgshddl, in the world of the living, there is a metal that you pull from the earth. It is beautiful and pure and clean, and Mankind treasures it. It is called ‘silver.’

“Okay, sure. I’ve had some silver.”

Do you think it comes from the earth shiny and beautiful? It does not. To create the beautiful metal, the impurities have to be removed from the ore. That is done through fire, which is called ‘refiner’s fire.’

“Okay, so I’m not really getting all this yet—”

Truly refining that metal takes more than one pass through the refiner’s fire, Child. You, and all of Mankind, are like that ore that’s pulled from the earthfull of wonderful potential and beauty as well as impurities.

“So going back and forth like this will remove impurities?”

Absolutely. So if this ‘pass’ cleanses you of all your impurities, no further refining will be needed and you can move on.

God’s thoughts echoed in Jrgshddl’s mind with the impact of a gong on a distant mountain just as a blast of shockingly cold seawater engulfed him and he sank below the surface of an extremely angry sea.

He kicked his legs and feet frantically and finally broke free of the riotous surf and opened his eyes in shock and then wonder. A raging deluge of rain hammered the ocean, which protested by heaving gigantic surges and surf back at the sky, which responded with insanely powerful winds and jagged bolts of lightning.

And Jrgshddl was right in the middle of it.

He kicked himself in a circle, feeling like a microbe against the heaving vastness of the seas, amazed that he was able to keep his head above water, and spied a red lifeboat with lights flashing fore and aft, bouncing around on surf determined to crush the small craft.

It was durable though—built to withstand a hurricane! He struck out toward the boat, no more than one hundred feet from it and closing in, when he heard voices.

He looked toward the boat, seeing the door ajar; long hair whipping around, and a familiar face etched with frantic worry screaming his name, and he longed to go to her.

“Come on, Jordon, COME ON!”

Jordon?

He knifed through the pounding storm surge, fighting crisscrossing undercurrents that strove to yank him under as exhaustion began stealing over him and then …

Small hands snagged the collar of his shirt and pulled him toward the craft and he pushed and clawed and climbed to be free of the angry hands of the sea until he fell forward on top of the woman who held him violently, clinging with every ounce of desperate strength.

He gasped, shaking saltwater from his mouth that was causing his belly to rumble. “You saved me. You saved my life.”

She kissed him. Deeply with frantic passion. “No way was I letting you go, Jordy. It wasn’t your time, my love.”

Together the two kicked the hatch door shut and held each other as the Category-5 storm raged.

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