DAY THREE HUNDRED FIFTY SIX
Elijah tells me it was all due to a growing hardness of heart. He saw retribution coming.
The patrol boats dispatched in pursuit of us did not even make it out of the harbor. One minute they were roaring along at full speed, the next they were dead in the water.
The pilot scheduled to take us out never did show. How providential that one was supplied to us.
The teamwork exhibited by the crew – old and new members together, has brought great satisfaction to the Captain in this new day. They were so bent to their tasks that they did not witness the streaks of light descending through the sky behind us.
They did see the glow of destruction.
DAY THREE HUNDRED FIFTY SEVEN
The glow of a conflagration radiates from the area of the port out of sight behind us. Much speculation about the meaning of it all has set the lower decks abuzz.
I think most telling has been the reaction of the two armed guards assigned to the government shipment. One has given up on his duty and sticks solely to their cabin. The other one won’t leave their charge. I believe there exists tension between them.
Elijah has noticed this too, and he has made overtures to each in turn. So far, neither has responded. But if I know Elijah he will persist.
The rest of the crew remains open and in their down time ask a lot of questions.
DAY THREE HUNDRED FIFTY EIGHT
Despite the great distance from our last port, the night sky in that quarter was illuminated still by raging fires. It dimmed only with the rising of the sun.
The Captain informed Elijah that he expects to raise the next port within a week.
Elijah encouraged him to pay a call on the guards. The Captain queried them in turn about the contents of the container in their charge. Neither claimed to have any knowledge about its contents. Even the disaffected one was emphatic that their orders prohibited the breaking of its seals.
The Captain challenged them that they no longer have to answer to a superior.
They countered that they will indeed have to answer at the next port.
DAY THREE HUNDRED FIFTY NINE
I should have paid more attention to Tomas. To his state of being.
But his duties kept him out of our sight and busy. And the Captain, not yet familiar with his personality, had no standard against which to judge any seeming anxiety or concern in his new First Mate.
Our paths crossed today. Off duty, Tomas stood idly by the rail, staring blankly into the sea. I gauged his demeanor to be due to homesickness, and tailored my comment in an effort to bring him out of his funk. It failed.
I sent for Elijah who got to the bottom of the matter. He assured Tomas that his family is safe and like him had a job to do.
DAY THREE HUNDRED SIXTY
A tragedy transpired over night. We only know the aftermath at present. Who knows if anyone aboard knows the whole story. For certain, no one knows the reason for it except the victim, if indeed he is a victim. Whichever is the case, he is beyond our reach.
In the first watch of the new day, the guard who kept to their cabin, left it, ran to the rail and leapt over it. There were three witnesses to his action – the officer of the deck and a hand from the engine room up on a break.
And Elijah. He saw the guard’s action. And confirms that the other witnesses were present to see it too.
Elijah thinks he lost hope.
DAY THREE HUNDRED SIXTY ONE
Clear weather has made for good sailing. Hence the Captain believes we may even gain a day, if it continues.
The clear skies also made for good visibility in all directions, though as we learned the main focus had been directed towards our front. That is the most likely reason why the lookout had not noticed the ship shadowing our movements astern until late this afternoon.
The Captain estimates that it should have been sighted this morning.
After reprimanding all of the lookouts, he met with Tomas and the Purser as to their responsibilities in various contingencies.
The question of the hour remains, friend or foe? We will press on and await developments.
The Captain has asked for Elijah’s counsel.
DAY THREE HUNDRED SIXTY TWO
We began the day by identifying the vessel behind us. Tomas brought in the verdict. It is a warship. The mere knowledge of which fact colors our perception of her as a threat, even though there have been no hostile actions nor even a hint of any.
The Captain’s orders for course and speed remained unchanged throughout the day. He is resigned that little opposition could be mounted in the event of the worst case. His major concern is to keep everyone safe.
He did not come right out and ask Elijah for his aid, but we could tell he was angling for any favor in his power.
Elijah has tried to explain that it does not work that way.
DAY THREE HUNDRED SIXTY THREE
The lone guard sent word to the Captain that he desired to speak with him.
He was quite agitated when the Captain, in the course of his rounds, at long last arrived. He demanded to know what exactly the Captain planned to do to ensure the security of his government’s container. He was aware of our shadow and the reports of various crew members have been feeding his suspicions.
The Captain explained his thoughts on the matter, much to the guard’s dissatisfaction.
I chimed in with the possible explanation that the warship may just have the same destination and only appears to be following us. And that we should not read anything more into it than we have evidence for.
DAY THREE HUNDRED SIXTY FOUR
Soon we will be released to be on our way.
In no way were we assured of this outcome at the beginning of our ordeal.
Some time in the night our shadow had slipped around to our front and by morning lay athwart our course. To the Captain it was clear that they would have us halt. Tomas concurred, identifying for the Captain its lone weapon trained on us. A rail-gun.
The guard burst in. The ship had contacted him, following expected protocols. Its recitation of the password removed all of his doubts. His orders required him to transfer his container to its deck.
At that moment Elijah came in to advise the Captain it was safe to accede.
DAY THREE HUNDRED SIXTY FIVE
The transfer at sea was an arduous process of delicate maneuvering and careful timing. It required all hands into the wee hours of the morning. I assisted what little I could.
The warship lent no hands for the simple reason that there was not a single living soul aboard. It was all automated. Robotic.
The guard petitioned to join the warship, but was refused. He watched with longing as it turned south and we again took up our easterly course.
The Captain estimated that we have lost a day and a half, and should have the coast of our next destination in view come late tomorrow.
Both Elijah and I believe we shall cross paths with that robotic warship again.
DAY THREE HUNDRED SIXTY SIX
Land in sight. A continent by the looks of it, extending across the horizon to our front and wrapping around to our port side.
The Captain is puzzled. The port should be dead ahead, but with the onset of night, not a glimmer of light indicates its presence. Despite the Captain’s familiarity with these waters, Tomas advised him to hold off for daylight before venturing in any closer. The Captain agreed and ordered him to set a sea anchor.
No one saw the guard today. Though most thought he was catching up on some much needed sleep, I went down to check he intended no harm to himself and was pleased to find him resting.
No one saw Elijah today.
DAY THREE HUNDRED SIXTY SEVEN
Things always look different in the light of day. Or so Elijah is fond of reminding me. And so he does now. What was invisible in the dying light, now stands out in full relief. Though by contrast, where Elijah had been and what he had been doing is still “invisible” to us.
The harbor of this port is wide and deep, easy to navigate. The Captain took us in without the aid of a pilot. It is his home port, hence his familiarity, and what he has seen has shaken him to his core.
No ship stood at anchor to greet us. Instead, two rested with broken backs atop the nearer tall buildings.
Otherwise, all life has been scoured away.
DAY THREE HUNDRED SIXTY EIGHT
The Captain and the Purser returned to the ship after a day ashore on a quest for news about their families. Everyone else was confined to the ship in their absence. Both went out hopeful, but came back drained.
Elijah could see it in their demeanor as they neared the dock, so he descended to meet them. Some of the crewmen confronted the Captain to beg leave to go into the city also, but he refused to hear their pleas.
Later, he recounted the tale of their day to us and Tomas. They found the Purser’s home abandoned but undisturbed. The Captain’s, however, showed signs of violence.
I sense he has steeled himself and will focus only on his duty.
DAY THREE HUNDRED SIXTY NINE
A double watch was set over night. Even the government guard joined in. But he went missing some time after he was relieved.
Volunteers queued up to go after him upon the discovery, notably those from this port, but the Captain wouldn’t allow it. At least not until he can decide what to do next – be on his way, or stay and figure out what to do with the containers slated for this port.
Elijah has decided opinions as to what needs to be done, but he won’t broach the subject until the proper time.
I agree as to the main detail – we need to go ashore, but I believe it should be now not later.
I acquiesced to Elijah.
DAY THREE HUNDRED SEVENTY
The Captain has made his decision. He will offload those containers invoiced for this port under two criteria, those not filled with foodstuffs and those with no possible future use.
With this decision which will place the ship in port for the immediate future, Elijah felt moved to approach the Captain with his request. He asked permission of the Captain for us to go on shore.
When he asked why, Elijah told him we must seek out followers of Hamashiach. Though reticent the Captain gave his assent.
We met with the Purser to talk about his family and how to find his home. He gave the information whole-heartedly.
We made our way through the empty streets to his home.
DAY THREE HUNDRED SEVENTY ONE
We spent a quiet night at the Purser’s home.
The silence continued into the next day. We took our time searching the house. Here and there we found evidence of their attachment to Hamashiach.
It was Elijah who picked up a scrap of paper that had fallen behind a desk and turned it over to find a note from the Purser’s wife. In it she wrote to her husband that they had left to his mother’s place in the country. I knew from my conversations with him the general direction. And that it was further away than the Captain would allow.
We debated whether or not to return to the ship to inform the Purser.
We decided to press on.
DAY THREE HUNDRED SEVENTY TWO
Staying in the open last night presented no problems. The heat of the day stayed with us, so it was comfortable.
Upon commencing our journey, we were surprised that the silence over the city was broken. Then we realized that the sounds were down in the dock area and most likely due to the offloading of containers from our ship.
The noise faded away as we increased our distance from the city.
We came across a stream which was flowing back towards the ocean. Elijah suggested that we follow it to its source, knowing that the home belonging to the Purser’s mother, is on a lake.
Before the setting of the sun, we had our first glimpse of the lake.
DAY THREE HUNDRED SEVENTY THREE
I stayed awake to count the stars in the sky last night. Hence, I was a witness to a light that briefly appeared on one side of the lake ahead of us.
It was the first area we searched. And as there were fewer homes on that side of the lake we quickly found the only one occupied, and the source of the light.
The occupants are indeed the wife of the Purser and his children. She has set the light nightly in hopes that it would lead her husband to them. Though disappointed that “we” were not him, they are overjoyed to hear he is well.
She desires that he come join them in their flight from the city.
DAY THREE HUNDRED SEVENTY FOUR
We are in a quandary.
We want Mary and her children to return with us to the ship. But she dares not go back.
And the more she shares with us her reasoning, the more we are swayed to her thinking. All the followers of Hamashiach left the city after a prophetic warning from one of its leaders.
Having missed the Glorious Appearance through unbelief, they are all skittish about departing the path prescribed for them. She has only lingered in this area in hopes of her husband’s return before the deadline.
Elijah and I agree that we will soon have to return to the city and the ship. Our path continues from there.
What will we tell the Purser?
DAY THREE HUNDRED SEVENTY FIVE
In the end, knowing the ultimate goal of the followers of Hamashiach will be the port that is next on our ship’s schedule, has made it easy to decide what to do.
Elijah is returning to the city and the ship to bring news to the Purser about his family. I will remain here with Mary and the children for four days. If the Purser can join us before that time, that would be excellent. Otherwise we will begin a trek overland to the next port and plan to meet everyone there.
Elijah and I passed a few moments together, each committing the other to the love and care of our Master.
We bid God speed and confirmation crowned us.
DAY THREE HUNDRED SEVENTY SIX
I again have the onerous chore of chronicling my activities. I miss Enoch.
My arrival at the ship added greatly to the confusion then embroiling the crew. They had just completed offloading the cargo designated by the Captain, when that gentleman discovered a list of containers at this port slated for transport. In the midst of this new task, the runaway guard turned up with dire news. Somehow he came across the prophecy about this place and urged our immediate departure. I confirmed the dilemma.
Now Captain and Purser have important decisions.
Passed a sunny day down by the lake. Mary’s two children, the boy Mawuli and the girl Retha took me to all their favorite spots.
Such pleasant companions.
DAY THREE HUNDRED SEVENTY SEVEN
The Captain got us to sea with only a short delay. His plan had been to take aboard as many containers as possible, but curtailed that notion in favor of a few select ones with foodstuffs.
Once underway and with our course set southward, Tomas and I brought the government guard up for questioning.
Tomas doubts his truthfulness, but I thought him quite forthcoming. He had held up all alone at a barracks outside the city. There he found the communications that pulled him back to the ship. That marks the limit of his knowledge.
I know more. The container transferred to the warship was a weapon resupply.
Mary doesn’t want my help packing, so I passed my time fishing.
DAY THREE HUNDRED SEVENTY EIGHT
Under orders from the Captain, the crew is being held on their stations – to keep them busy, and their minds on work and off of the fiery illumination that sprang to life during the night and is still with us this morning.
We are on our way.
Much earlier than planned, as we no longer believe that Elijah will be returning to the country home with the Purser.
The children are helpful, eager in fact, to shoulder their small portion of our belongings.
Mary looks back at the burning sky behind us and worries. I assure her in the strongest terms that her husband and Elijah are safe and most likely at sea. I can feel it in my bones.
DAY THREE HUNDRED SEVENTY NINE
The crew is happy to be back on normal shifts. The Captain tells me we are a day away from our next port, barring any unforeseen difficulties. The Purser, in hope, cherishes the thought of being reunited with his family there.
In my wanderings about the ship I chanced across the government guard and spoke to him about the warship. He confirms that the container did indeed contain ammunition.
We have been through a dozen villages. All deserted. The one ahead shows signs of habitation, but its gate is closed. Probably too many refugees have trekked this way.
We shall skirt around it and camp down by the river on the far side.
Mary hopes to catch a riverboat there.
DAY THREE HUNDRED EIGHTY
We arrived off our destination in a blinding storm. And as the rain moved off we discovered that we were not alone. The robotic warship has taken up station outside the harbor.
The Captain has ordered the ship all ahead slow.
Tomas tells me that just like the Purser, his boss is hopeful his family may have escaped to this city.
Mary had enough to pay for passage on a riverboat down to a riverfront town which is a hub for roads in the area.
Many refugees have preceded us, but we are told they are keeping to roads that run further inland. They are avoiding the one that we must take to our intended destination.
No one knows why.
DAY THREE HUNDRED EIGHTY ONE
We had no opposition to our entry into the harbor. No signal nor any communication from the robotic warship.
A swift boat came out and ordered us to heave to. They brought a pilot to bring us in. Within the hour we were tied up at a pier.
The Captain was absent the rest of the day and all night chasing down the harbor master.
In the morning he reappeared. He now knows how and where to offload his cargo, but has also learned that although the warship allows ships in, none have yet been cleared to leave.
We have put many miles behind us today. And not a village did we see.
Probably the reason few come this way.
DAY THREE HUNDRED EIGHTY TWO
I paced the deck all night waiting for the hour when I would be allowed to leave the ship. I had to wrestle with the Captain over the issue. Though I won the point I had to agree to return before nightfall.
The price of not having Enoch with me.
During a stop for rest, Mawuli chased his sister with a dead snake. Their mother was engaged otherwise, so I saw to his discipline.
Mary judged him suitably contrite before we again took up our march.
Sometime after that stop I realized we were passing through fields that formerly must have been highly cultivated. Now a wasteland, picked clean, I can tell, by the passage of those pests – the locusts.
DAY THREE HUNDRED EIGHTY THREE
Almost time to go on shore again. Last time, though I found the sign of the fish in several places in the vicinity of the docks, I did not come across any followers of Hamashiach.
I have asked the Captain for permission to take the Purser with me. He knows the city beyond and desires to look for his wife and children.
I hope to see Enoch soon.
We have traversed into bushy terrain. Looks like even the locusts have passed it by. There are other things prowling about though, rustling in the bushes at night.
I have borrowed Mawuli’s sling and keep it close. Yet I must not trust mine own arm but to the One who strengthens it.
DAY THREE HUNDRED EIGHTY FOUR
The Purser and I have reached the northern gate by which his family and Enoch should be arriving. No one at the gate recalls any entrants by the description we gave.
We are turning our attention to the inns and hotels that line the streets between here and the dock.
Along the way we learned there was a mass exodus to the interior of the followers of Hamashiach a month ago.
Used the sling twice against snarling, hungry beasts. That and the heavy sticks we have armed ourselves with chase them away.
I wish I had Elijah’s staff with me.
We have arrived at a cliff edge and we realize we are atop an escarpment.
We see a city below.
ON TO MONTH FOURTEEN