Day Seven Hundred Seventy Seven #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

We took the Captain’s usual advice and gave wide berth to the hunters’ village. Yet time after time Tomas had to adjust our way again as village after village cropped up across our path.

The whole process moved us steadily away from our desired compass point.

Finally, Tomas brought us all atop one hillock to see rings of villages between us and a city at the edge of the prairie.

I looked to Elijah and he nodded.

I knew this city was our next stop. But then we debated how to get there.

Did we dare enter one of these villages? They were more than likely responsible for the attack we had overheard.

And had they driven out the Hamashiachites?

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Day Seven Hundred Seventy Six #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

The wide prairie was lost to our view as we wandered among the hillocks. There being no clearly marked path, Tomas kept us pointed in a northerly direction as best he could. To that end he would climb one of the hilltops to check at regular intervals.

On one such occasion, he returned to us to report an armed group passing through on the other side.

We stayed in place while Tomas and Mei climbed to the top of a higher hilltop to observe them.

They were gone quite some time.

It turns out that Mei left Tomas to follow them, bringing back the news that they entered a village not too far distant.

She believes them to be hunters.

Day Seven Hundred Seventy Five #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

The sound of two gunshots and an answering fusillade crashed out of the pathway to our left.  Before their echoes trailed off, we made our easy choice, the right-hand fork, and hurried out of the area.

Tomas ran ahead to sweep the path and to ensure we wouldn’t come up against another surprise.

Mei took up her favored position,  keeping a constant watch behind us. The Captain dropped back also to keep her company and lend additional support.

Thus we continued all day.

I walked with Elijah. With not a word between us. A whole new vista was opening up before us – the hills flattening into rolling prairie to which we could see no end.

“Almost there,” said Elijah.

Day Seven Hundred Seventy Four #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

Yesterday was a refreshing day of rest for all of us. We each drew apart at times for communion with the Spirit.

Both Tomas and Mei desired to venture on to see what lay beyond our line of sight, but we prevailed upon them to just wait.

This morning, therefore, we were more than ready to depart. So, we let loose the young people to tumble down the mountain ahead of us.

More switchbacks eased our descent and we remained bundled up against a bracing cold. And thankfully no sign of Stan’s presence, brooding or otherwise, disturbed our peace.

The Captain and I lagged behind and filled our time with conversation on many topics. But  at their center was Jerusalem.

Becoming a Father

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I’d always wanted to see “The Seven Samurai.” Ever since I heard about it, that is. I think I came across the title for the first time among the listings in a 16mm film catalog (for non-theatrical rentals) that I acquired somehow along the way – that and The Film Encyclopedia that sat prominently on my bookshelf, when I wasn’t pouring over it.

Then on practically the last day of 1977 up pops an ad in the newspaper, touting the showing of “A breath taking 3-hour epic” at the Movie House in the U-District – “The Seven Samurai.” I made plans for my wife and me to see it. I invited our best man (and my fencing buddy) Dave along for the show.  And that last decision probably saved me. For if he had not been there, I would have been in for a world of hurt.

As it was, the seats in that particular venue delivered a world of hurt. Hard, unyielding wooden chairs, not a hint of padding. You see, my wife was five months along in her first pregnancy, and three hours of swords and samurai on those concrete-like seats were not her idea of a fun time. But she held in there, mainly for the sake of not making a scene before our friend.

Was it worth it? Maybe I shouldn’t answer that. (My wife sometimes reads these posts).

Anyway, the movie wasn’t the only thing that had an overly long running time.

By the end of April of 1978 we were going past her due date. One week late. Two weeks late. As the number of days past the due date mounted, she began to dread the inquiring phone calls – “Haven’t you had that baby yet?” And people began to offer various suggestions for “helping” the baby along. Like taking the prospective ‘mommie’ on a bumpy ride over the railroad tracks. Two more weeks went by and that began to sound like a viable option.

There was one activity though that we chanced upon that held out the promise of inducing labor. Sonics fever!

At the time, ‘our’ team, the Seattle Super Sonics was battling the Washington Bullets for the NBA championship. They came in fourth on the season in their conference, so it was a huge struggle for them just to get into the finals. They had to top the other three teams – the Lakers, the Trail Blazers and the Nuggets. And we watched with great interest, my wife especially.

The first two games were held in Seattle. The Sonics won the first in a comeback finish, but the Bullets took the second. It was during that second game that my excited wife was down on all fours, belly to the floor, cheering the team on.

My wife delivered before the next game was played.

And I was right there with her. We had done the Lamaze classes, so I was sort of prepared for it.  But the baby had been gestating for ten months; so come time that the water broke, there wasn’t much left. And I wasn’t prepared for when the physician brought out a pair of forceps, inserted them around the baby’s head and started pulling. I watched in shock as my wife’s body was dragged down the table with each yank.

We were both relieved when our baby was out with us, but concerned for the marks on the sides of our daughter’s head. And the unforgettable look in her eyes. A look of bewilderment that conveyed a sense of feral fear. The very second our eyes locked my heart lept.

One talks about mothers bonding with their babies. I bonded with our baby in that instant. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do for her.

Well, the Sonics lost the series in 1978, but were back in the championships the very next year. And after losing the first game, swept the next four. And beat the Bullets in that rematch.

And our little toddler was gleefully ripping the books from my bookshelf, cascading them into a heap onto the floor. And I didn’t care.

Day Seven Hundred Seventy Three #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

I startled awake at an early hour, for a moment disoriented, left wondering where I was. That I was in a cavern was immediately apparent. But I must say I was flashing back to another time and another cavern – when Elijah and I were accompanied by the young bearded man, Stan.

I could not but conclude that he was somewhere near at hand, roaming about seeking our trail.

I arose and cautiously went outside. The sun’s morning rays were stretching over the eastern horizon, feeling their way around the mountain towards our position. Nothing else stirred, not even on the winding path just emerging from the darkness.

Elijah joined me and declared we would stay put for one more day.

Day Seven Hundred Seventy Two #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

Our young people returned with good news.  Indeed, there was a passage under this mountain that disgorges onto the other side.

With this comforting knowledge we settled down to pass the night in the safety of the cave.

Come morning we pressed onward led by Tomas and Mei.

There were a couple of tricky sections where we had to descend a good height by handholds chipped from the rock by persons who had explored this way before. Who knows how long ago?

Once through to the other side, Mei and Tomas waited for us to catch up. Tomas collected our firebrands and suggested that we rest up and spend the night again in the cave.

His thoughtfulness was very welcome.

Day Seven Hundred Seventy One #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

We have turned aside after a long day of ascents back and forth across the face of the highest mountain in the area. Definitely our last choice for a way out of the valley.

We turned aside because the way ahead is choked with snow and ice. And Tomas judged it to be too hazardous. Instead he thinks a nearby cavern will lead to a passage that will take us to where we want to go.

So, we made camp inside the mouth of the cavern while he chases down the flutter of air coming from somewhere further on.

Mei begged to be allowed to accompany him, arguing forcefully that no one should undertake this particular task alone.

We agreed.

Day Seven Hundred Seventy #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

I saw him perched atop the fearsome beast winging between us and the moon and stars. Just like in the dream related to us by Mei.

Stan was searching, flying in a pattern to and fro across the sky.

On a sudden I sensed a presence at my elbow. Elijah had joined me.

He told me to pay him no heed for he had blinded him as to our location. And that he was only striking out randomly in his frustration. It seems the easy explanation of what has been happening to the various routes out of this valley.

We apprised the others upon rising. Mei was gratified to have the confirmation.

At Tomas’ recommendation we tried another northern route.

Day Seven Hundred Sixty Nine #DiaryoftheEndoftheWorld

The lush meadows have disappeared under the onslaught of devouring locusts. They descended in a cloud from the mountains to the north of us.

And we dived back under cover and remained there until they passed on, leaving naught but bare earth and our tents behind.

Afterwards we took turns comforting Mei. For though not unfamiliar with these insects, their close proximity was new to her experience.

We watched them form up again over the mountains to the south and held our breath as they descended out of our sight – down to where the city beside the lake must lie.

Elijah and I applied ourselves to prepare Mei and Tomas for what we were certain will come next.

Winged Abaddon.