Project Sunlight Chapter 10

It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for, everybody! The apocalypse is finally happening! Woooooooo!!!!!!

Here’s the drinking game so far:

  1. The word “bitter” is used
  • Every time I bang my head against the book in frustration
  • Jenny and Carol behave in a way that is not age appropriate (99% of all SDA authors can not write believable children.)
  • The Book goes on and on for pages about Bible Study
  • Sybil acts like a Bible Worker/Sabbath School teacher
  • Sybil does something creepy
  •  One of the characters indicates that they are “crazy” for reading the bible/praying/going to church/whatever normal thing lots of mainstream Christians do
  • Bill acts like an emotionally abusive husband
  • Sybil acts afraid of her husband
  • The author decides to insert stuff into the book that never actually happened but should have. (We have always been at war with Eastasia)
  • Worst. Apocalypse. EVER. So just… be drunk this whole chapter, ok?

 

Two years have passed

What? Seriously? You’re going to wait two fucking years to start your apocalypse because…..?

Whatever. We’re two chapters from the end and I’m done trying to figure out the ridiculous random and arbitrary time skips.

Mankind now has no second chance. Long the Rebel has assured men that they need not fear, that even if they missed the rapture (another theory he prepared to lull them to sleep) there’d be another chance later on.

Umm except not everyone who believes in the rapture believes that those left behind will have a second chance. And either way, no rapture believer I’ve met actually thinks this way. They are all desperately trying to be good enough to get raptured.  Nobody wants to be left behind to face the time of trouble.

Sadness fills heaven, for there are those we loved who simply could not tear themselves away from their activities long enough to hear the pleading voice of Earth Friend.

Well, maybe if he’d actually started speaking audibly so people could hear him…nah.

Jared blathers on for a bit about the lying Rebel and Jesus coming soon. Except that

There is nothing on earth at the moment to indicate that any joyful event lies upon the horizon.

So, Jesus isn’t coming soon, then. He’s coming…whenever he gets around to it. Which is pretty much what’s been going on on Earth for last 6K years.

My eyes are riveted upon the little group in the mountains of New York State, and I am concerned for their safety.

Why? According to you, everyone’s already been sealed for eternity. If they die now, what does it matter, since they’re going to get resurrected “soon” anyway?

They are only a few among countless thousands who have pledged their allegiance to the Word of God. May it all be over soon.

Yes. May it all be over soon, before anybody else dies. I mean, die heathens, die, get here soon Jesus so I can get on with the eternal worshiping.

Jared then gives us a list of people at the house in the Adirondacks:

  1. Meg
  2. Michael
  3. Carol
  4. Joe
  5. Jean
  6. Tammie (Joe’s daughter)
  7. Jason (Joe’s son)
  8. Roy
  9. Ellen
  10. Dale
  11. Anne
  12. Mr. Laird
  13. Kelly

That’s like, 13 people. How big is this house, again?  Jesus better come soon, or all these people are going to kill each other.

Dale has just returned from town with

  1. Several newspapers
  2. rubber rings for canning
  3. a few gallons of gas for the generator
  4. some staples

I’m guessing here that Jared doesn’t mean actual staples, but it is kind of clunky that, in a list of specific things, he’d add “oh and some staples.” I now have an amusing thought that he really did bring a bunch of staples, and that Michael and Meg are groaning because what are we going to do with those?

Dale:….had a strange conversation with the storekeeper today. He asked me if we were one of those crazy communes he’d read about. Said he thought they died out in the 70s. When I said we weren’t, then he asked me why we were up here anyway. I told him we thought cities were no longer safe or healthful and that we hoped to survive simply off the land. Guess that satisfied him that we were harmless, if a bit crazy.

This conversation made sense at first, but then I read it again, because it seemed off. Then I realized that this conversation does not make sense. At all. The angels have just started pouring out bowls on the earth. There have already been terrible calamities, the economy is unstable, and now worse things are happening. There’s been looting and rioting, panic in the streets, etc. All that was 2 years ago, and there’s no reason to think it’s gotten any better. In fact, all good SDAs know it only gets worse over time.

So, why the hell is the storekeeper even asking them these questions? If there’s been a metric fuckton of calamity and crime lately, everyone and their dog should be heading for the hills, not just Bible believers.

The conversation with the storekeeper only makes sense here in the context of a pre-apocalyptic world.

It is my headcanon, therefore, that Sunlight & Co are one of those ridiculous doomsday cult communes, and everyone who’s “persecuting” them is only trying to save them from themselves. The newspapers they’re getting these headlines from? Signs of the Times, of course. Or some other Adventist newspaper. I dunno, use your imagination. It’s more than the author of this book did.

Then Dale reads the headlines of the newspaper:

Sunday Observance Enforced. Violators will be Prosecuted persecuted.

It’s October, so the adults have a fire going. This is a summer home, so it wasn’t ever really meant to insulate. Everyone’s cold. I don’t care.

Joe: Here’s an article about a new health problem in the South Pacific. It seems the population of entire cities are afflicted with excruciatingly painful sores that antibiotics won’t touch.

First off, here’s a writing tip. If you want to write about an apocalypse, and you’re not going to touch your precious main characters, at least have people around them who can be affected. Show us what is happening, do not tell us about it by having your character read a newspaper. That’s boring.

Second, not all diseases are cured by antibiotics! The author should know this. And what kind of disease causes sores, anyway? I know there have to be sores because Bible, but…Oh I know! It’s Measles! Measles made a comeback because idiots quit vaccinating their children, only instead of regular measles that could be prevented with vaccines and treated somehow, it’s now Super Measles, a strain of the disease that evolved resistance to…  I dunno, do I look like I work for the CDC?

Joe: It’s my guess that the first of the 7 plagues is being pored out. Those sores, coupled with the decree that those refusing to worship on Sunday will be prosecuted, are warning flags to the Bible student.

What does “prosecuted” mean in this context? The death decree hasn’t gone out yet, because that doesn’t happen till the end of the next chapter. What exactly is the penalty for not going to church on Sunday? And how are you all able to escape it? You live in a house owned by Michael. The towns people all seem to know about you. I have serious doubts the Church Police wouldn’t have found out about you all by now.

How would enforced Sunday attendance work, anyway? How exactly would they know you weren’t in church? They could take attendance at the churches, but how do they know which church you go to? Is it divided up like school districts? Do you have to fill out extra paperwork if you want to go to a church outside your district? Is there someone sitting there poring over records looking for absentees and hunting them down?

Don’t make me do your job for you, dammit! These questions need answers!

In the paragraph about Sunday enforcement and plagues, the author includes a footnote. Actually, we’ll be generous and say that this is the editor’s doing. I’m in a good mood today.

It is the author’s intention here, and in later chapters, only to give a general idea of how the plagues, outlined in Revelation 16, may take place. It would not seem that these plagues could be universal, lest the early ones eliminate the earth’s population before the later ones should fall. let the reader be alerted that the author has taken the liberty, for the sake of the story, of naming definite geographical locations and time concepts relating to the plagues for which there is no Biblical basis. God Himself will determine where and when the plagues will fall, and over how long a period.

Ms. Strong (Or Mr. Editor) is not the first person to notice that, were all the Bible plagues to fall at once, too many people would die before the latter ones could have a chance of falling. We’ll go along with this explanation, then, as plausible.

No shit the author has “taken liberties for the sake of the story.” That’s just what authors do. Readers know this. But even if we somehow missed the memo, you literally gave us a memo in the first page of this book.

In any case, Meg gets worried and asks if the plagues are going to affect them. Because  Screw all those other people,  I want to know if this is going to affect me.

Joe reads Psalm 91, which I recall being forced to memorize in 8th grade and barely remember it. Kelly agrees with my teacher that reciting it every day at the beginning and end of each day is a fantastic idea. Also, somehow this proves that the plagues won’t fall upon good Bible worshiping Adventists.

Joe: Now, Meg, as to the mark of the beast, the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation are complex, and I do not pretend to understand them in their fine details

I never understood them, either. I finally concluded that it’s because your interpretation is wrong.

Joe:…It seems that just before Christ returns, some power, labeled here as the “image of the beast” arises to carry out the same cruel purposes as the beast had in earlier times. It is the followers of this beast and its image upon which the plagues will fall.

That’s…. not an answer. Jean agrees with me, saying it’s not specific enough.

Joe: I believe any power that would deny man his freedom to worship God as he sees fit. To be even more specific, those powers today that are forcing men to worship upon a day which God has never set aside as Holy. Daniel describes a power which shall think to change times and laws (Daniel 7:25). Which is exactly what happened when the true Sabbath was subtly eased offstage centuries ago, and we will see an attempt to do the same again in our time. this power attempting to wrench from God his authority has been active in every age, under different guises, and all spring from Lucifer’s hatred for Christ.

Jean argues that people should have the right to disagree, and Joe agrees, because forcing people to worship a certain way is a bad idea and makes Jesus cry.

This, by the way, is the same Jesus that sends people who disagree with him to hell.

These are the same Adventists who believe that you will go to hell if you disagree with them. These are the exact same Adventists who do attempt to force people within their circles to worship the same as they do. I will give them credit for staying out of the government, but when I was on Planet Adventist, I was totally forced to do things their way.

There’s more talk about the beast, which is mostly just reading Bible verses, and the dragon, and the Remnant…zzzzzzz. Oh, sorry, right. I’m awake now. Um, where was I?

Jean: Sometimes I think we have made the Sabbath our whole religion

Wow, great insight! Seriously, tell me she’s wrong.

Ellen disagrees, and then blathers on about how the Sabbath is important right now because it was lost, and now it’s found, and it is a test of their obedience.

I’m gonna quote Diamanda Hagan here, because this blew my mind when she said it:

Any God who would expect his followers to tell the truth and die rather than lie and live is an asshole.

When I heard her say that, I played it over and over again and then cried, because I realized that it was true.

Jean doesn’t reply to Ellen, and stalks off. We’re supposed to think that this is because Jean couldn’t say anything because Ellen was right, but I think Jean realized she was dealing with crazy. Sometimes, when you are dealing with crazy, you have to stop talking and walk away.

There’s more Bible verses, then everyone mercifully goes to bed.

In the following months they go to the store less often, preferring to keep to themselves as much as possible.

Increasing isolation. never a good sign.

Note also the time jump. In the following months. So basically, whole months are passing where there is nothing going on.

This, folks, appears to be the real reason this time will be called the Time of Trouble. It will be a long, boring game of waiting for Jesus.

The occasional paper they squire confirms Joe’s predictions. The ocean becomes afflicted with a mysterious “algae” that leaves the waves clotted with stagnant red mass resembling blood. The marine life dies and washes, stinking and rotten, onto the shores.

Interesting. Instead of going with a literal interpretation of the passage, the author goes with this.

A quick google search shows that this situation is possible.

Harmful algal blooms, or HABs, occur when colonies of algae—simple plants that live in the sea and freshwater—grow out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds. The human illnesses caused by HABs, though rare, can be debilitating or even fatal.

http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/redtide.html

Story wise, then, it almost makes way more sense to have the plague of disease come from the plague of the Red Tide (another term for HAB).

But fuck the story, we’ve got bowls to pour out and persecution to get to. Safely offscreen, though. We wouldn’t want to actually show any of that happening to our beloved main characters!

It is late March and everyone is gathered around a fire when they hear the sound of a snowmobile.

Kelly: What is a snowmobile doing out here at this hour?

Clearing off the roads, maybe? Snowmobiles come and go at all hours of the night, lady, jeez.

Tension fills the room, each member of the group well aware that beyond their quiet retreat there have been difficulties for followers of God.

Nope. I haven’t seen anything about any difficulties for followers of God, so I’m calling bullshit. Yawn. Is the apocalypse over yet? Are they actually going to start getting prosecuted?

Surprise, it’s Meg’s Ex husband Jim!  Meg tells him Carol will be excited to find when she wakes up in the morning.

Jim: I won’t be here in the morning, Meg. I have come to take Carol back with me. You must all listen to me carefully and take me seriously. I came here at night, for it is not healthy to mingle with, or aid, those observing the 7th day Sabbath. It is not safe for Carol to be here, Meg. Marie and I will keep her until this all blows over, as it surely will.

I like Jim, here. He’s talking sense… or is he? He’s right, it’s not safe for Carol to be here, and her worthless mother needs to let her go. The government knows where they are, and they could raid at any minute. I like to think they would take all the children and not kill them, but if there is a battle, the children could get hurt in the crossfire.

However, it’s apparently not safe in the cities, what with all the rampant crime and calamities.

So, where exactly is he going to take her? Would she really be safer with him?

This scene makes way more sense if you picture these people as doomsday cultists living in their little commune up in the mountains while back down on the rest of the planet, life continues as normal.

Jim tells the rest of the group to lay low if they’re going to insist on keeping the Sabbath, and that those in the cities can’t buy anything, which makes ordinary living impossible.

They are constantly on television and in the papers as they go on trial for their beliefs.

Question. Why are we hearing about this from Jim? If the author can’t bring herself to let any of her beloved characters go to prison, then for the love of all things holy, at least have the characters themselves watch it on TV! I would still criticize that, but it’s better than having someone tell us about it like this.

Jim is still monologing.

To make matters worse, as you know, some mysterious problem has afflicted the water supply of the entire Eastern half the country. At first it was just the ocean, but now there’s no pure water to be had, and we’re dependent on what’s shipped to us. You can’t believe the mayhem it has caused. By the way, what have you been doing? melting snow?

There is no potable water anywhere. Ok, so, how is normal life even possible right now? There should be mass hysteria and planet wide panic.

Joe: We weren’t aware of the problem. Our drinking water’s fine. Comes from a deep well.

(Ignore the fact that Joe lied. They are very well aware of the issue from reading the newspaper.)

There is no water anywhere. Except here. Jim has a moral obligation to tell someone, on the downlow, so that they can get water to the poor dehydrated cities at once.

Scientists everywhere would want to study this water, see why it’s not reacting like the rest of their supply. Maybe it holds the secret to purifying the rest of the world’s water.

Jim: You can’t give the well credit. Wells haven’t been any cleaner than streams. Everything is choked with that miserable, revolting-red mass. (Revelation 16:4)

Ok, but, this well is just fine. Why are you insisting that this must be some divine miracle, instead of scratching your head and going, “huh, wonder exactly what’s different about this well. I should go inform a scientist and someone who can help distribute the potable water.”

Nope. Nobody ever thinks of doing this, because Goddidit.

This attitude is the enemy of scientific discovery.

Joe asks about Jim’s religious beliefs, and Jim tells Joe he can’t argue with the theology, which is a lie, because the theology is just whacked. Lots of people disagree with it. Adventists don’t believe this, though. Adventists believe that no one argues with their actual theology, because it’s flawless.

Jim: but I have no intention of putting my neck on the chopping block just because of that.

Good for you

My conclusion is that things are going to get worse before they get better

This makes sense from an SDA perspective, but why would a secular person think this way? Joe should be saying this, not Jim.

Joe tells Jim things are never going to get better, and Jim tells Meg to wake Carol up and get her dressed, preferably in warm clothing. Jim has at least brought the group “staples.”

Image result for staples

What the fuck are they doing up there with all those staples? It’s like, the cult of the Staple or something.

Sunlight:…. but about Carol… I really don’t want her to go. She understands the issues involved and is content here in spite of the hardships.

No, she doesn’t. Carol is…what, ten? A ten year old just is not old enough to understand the ramifications of persecution and death.

Jim: will you let her make that decision, Meg?

No, no no no no no NO. You don’t let your ten year old decide to put herself in danger. That’s bad parenting. And too, Jim should be well aware by now that Carol is too brainwashed to ever leave of her own accord.

Jim asks Carol to go with him. She refuses.

Carol:…. Uncle Bill himself said there would be violence in the cities sooner or later

How do you know? Bill hasn’t been with you guys or spoken to you for months.

There is no potable water in the cities. Hasn’t been for months. What do you mean “violence is going to erupt sooner or later?” If there were truly no potable water, nobody would be able to live a normal life.

Jim should be taking Carol and Marie to another area of the mountains where they won’t be harmed once the government finally decides to get around to persecuting people.

In any case, Meg asks about Bill and Sybil, and Jim remembers he has a letter from Sybil to give to her.

Meg tries to reassure Jim that Carol is perfectly safe and content here.

Jim: She’s not even getting an education. It’s unnatural living like this.

Carol: No daddy, Ellen is a teacher, and she has school for Jason and Tammie and me every day. Pastor Joe and Michael teach us all kinds of interesting things, too, and we’ve learned so much about nature out here that I can tell you every kind of bird in these woods. I’ve learned more this winter than in 2 years of school. I listen while Michael teaches Jason algebra, and already I can do it, and I’m only in the 4th grade.

Plug for homeschooling, everyone!

Ok, so, Ellen is a teacher. That’s nice, what kind of teacher? does she have an actual degree in elementary education, or is she just a lady in the role of teacher here at Doomsday Cult Mountain Academy?

And a 4th grader doing algebra is not that impressive. Depending on what is meant here by “algebra,” I’ve known 2nd graders who can do it.

In any case, Jim is right about the lack of formal education. Knowing all the birds in the mountain isn’t necessarily going to help her pass a real science class in a real school, which she will need in order to get into a real college so she can graduate with a degree and get a job that will allow her to not starve.

All this, of course, is assuming that there is not an apocalypse going on. Could schools possibly be functioning anyway if things are so bad in the cities? There is no water, there are “crime and calamities”… are these kids just having classes while tornadoes rage in the background drinking poisonous water?

Jim is a tiny bit relieved, and decides he’s not going to drag Carol away against her will. I still think this is a stupid idea because clearly, life is functioning just as it should be outside the compound, and bad things are going to happen if he doesn’t get Carol out soon.

Realizing that he is outnumbered and that the men here could easily overpower him (not really, this is just my head canon excuse for not arguing further.), he leaves, but gives them “the supplies.”

Before he leaves, however, we have our first defector:

Jean: I would like to ride back to the city with you. I’ve just packed my things.

Smart woman. Get away from the compound while you still can.

Joe: Jean, you can’t mean this. Let’s go and talk it over privately before you make your decision.

How does this not sound like a controlling asshole? How does this not sound creepy? And how have you been living with her for months without seeing this coming?

But Jean has already made up her mind. She blathers for a bit about Joe probably being right (because no one in this book thinks Adventist theology is wrong! That just doesn’t happen in real life!)

When we sold the house, I set aside some money for my personal use, fearing where your search would lead us. It’s in a Rochester bank and will meet my needs until I can get a job. Tell the children that when I get settled and establish a home, I will come for them. Probably in May…

If the apocalypse is raging, why are the banks still open? Set that aside. This is a smart woman. Good job Jean, for following your instincts and trusting your gut.

Readers, If you have sneaking suspicions about where your husband’s religious philosophy is leading him, setting aside money secretly is a good idea. Because, even if SDA theology is right, bad things can and do happen because of it.

Hang on… I thought the economy was wrecked and peoples’ money was pretty much worthless? Why… how… what… I…. nevermind. I think I should have given up expecting consistency by now.

I’d say that Jean needs to take the children with her now, but she and Jim are hopelessly outnumbered.

I’m actually disappointed that there will be no major custody battle. Jim and Jean could just go to the police and say “there’s a group of Sabbath keepers holding our children hostage, and we want them back. We’re worried the kids will be hurt, please help them. Oh and these Sabbath Keepers are unarmed.”

The next thing we know, a law passes saying that Sabbath keepers may no longer have their children, and a mass of social workers come to take them away.

Alas, nothing that interesting is going to happen. This apocalypse is very boring.

Jim and Jean leave. There’s some blather about how discouraged they all feel, and then everyone except Michael and Meg run along to bed.

Meg asks Michael how Jean could just walk away like that, without a word of warning.

I don’t believe there wasn’t any warning. Surely Jean said something? If not, then she probably was afraid of what her husband would do if she found out she was planning to leave. Because that is the most dangerous time for a woman.

Then Meg reads Sybil’s letter. This is awful. This is the part I remember most from this book.

Dear Meg,

The world has turned upside down. The money Bill so carefully hoarded is of little value now in our deteriorating economy.

Is water the currency now? Note also the wording. Bill wasn’t saving his money, he was hoarding it. Which he couldn’t have been doing if he constantly allowed his wife to sit around finding new ways to spend it.

Sybil talks about how, because of Bill, she didn’t feel like she could accept Michael’s discoveries about the Sabbath.

I did not want anything in my life that would be offensive to Bill. But my heart knew Michael was speaking the truth.

Right. All of us deniers know in our hearts that the Sabbath is truth, we just deny it because we don’t want to risk offending our controlling abusive husbands.

Sybil goes on about how she fears it is too late for her, and that if Carol comes back with Jim, they will help look after her.

I go now and then to Jen’s grave. It comforts me somehow.

The grave of a ten year old child is somehow comforting as the apocalypse rages around you? I’m going to pretend I didn’t just read that.

That sentence is stuck in there randomly and makes no sense, in or out of context.

Sybil goes on for a bit about how much Bill hates Sabbath keepers and wants to kill them, and how the death penalty will be enacted soon.

Meg cries on Michael’s chest for a while, and neither one of them can figure out if it’s too late for Sybil or not.

Fortunately, the novel narrowly avoids creating tension (is Sybil still able to be saved? Is it too late for her or will she at last find Jesus?) by having Jared tell us the answer. Phew, that was a close one. I don’t like it when there’s tension and suspense in my novels.

Sybil’s letter tore my heart, for when the Prince left the temple and ceased his intercessory work, it was indeed too late. Not just for Sybil, but for millions of others.

Creepy passage. I can see why some of you had nightmares.

Jared spouts Bible verses for a bit about why, then goes on to say that there is much more suffering to come, more trials and tribulations.

One wonders why God would have the apocalypse drag on like this. I mean, it’s just going on and on and on and I think they’ve been hiding in those mountains for about a year now.

For being really boring,  this chapter has a lot of stuff packed into it. There’s diseases, people coming for their children, and a bunch of other stuff that really should have been sprinkled throughout as backstory. Or things could have been more developed. An entire chapter, for example, could have been done about “the sores antibiotics can’t touch.”

I would have enjoyed this book so much if the author had left aside all other aspects of the story and just wrote about the consequences of certain things. How does Super Measles impact the environment? The economy? Scientific medicine? That would’ve been interesting and wouldn’t require a plot.

Also, note how Jared seems to have abandoned his experiment. He doesn’t ever talk about his findings from observing Meg, he is just… observing her. He never seems to really learn anything.  Jared could have been completely taken out of the story and nothing would be missing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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