Project Sunlight, Last Chapter (11)

Chapter 11

Hi everyone, are you all ready for more of our exciting, tension filled, apocalypse? Me either, but let’s get this done anyway.

The summer has passed in a flurry of activity for the little community in the Adirondacks

Yes, this chapter starts with yet another time skip. The end times events are taking a very long time to unfold.

We begin this chapter with more drama, at least, the author is trying to create some drama, by having Jean show up to try and take her children away. Spoiler alert, she doesn’t succeed.

Why no one thinks to go to the government to get their kids back from the evil Sabbath keeping rebels, I don’t know.

In any case, Jean tells Meg that she accepted the children’s decision to stay when she left, but now she has come to insist they go with her. She has brought no backup whatsoever and it’s one against 12, not counting the children themselves.

Jean says that she is more inclined to believe that these calamities and disasters are the result of people turning away from traditional beliefs than that they are divinely predicted events. The two are not mutually exclusive, but Jean doesn’t seem to know that.

Meg tells Jean she will find the children “thinner, but tanned and fit.” I wonder what she means by thinner? If the children are too thin, they need to leave the Cult of the Holy Mountain and go with Jean, where she can get them to a doctor who can help them.

Jim has sent, with Jean, a letter and a birthday present for Carol. He may not be man enough to go to court, but damn if he’ll miss giving Carol a birthday present.

Joe, to his credit, worries a bit about Jim getting in trouble for helping them. He is glad to see Jean, and puts his hands on her shoulders. Which could be seen as very threatening, actually.

Jean: I came only to bring the children back. It’s no longer safe for them to be here with you. Sooner or later someone is going to discover this place and that you’re here because of your religious convictions.

Any competent dictatorship would have already found these things out, particularly since the Sunday worship thing has been going on at least a year. Wait, I just accused the US government of being competent. Forget everything I previously said about their ridiculously stupid hiding place.

Joe, the world is falling apart and you’re losing touch with reality. The water supply in America is contaminated (Revelation 16:3,4) Europe is staggering with famine under an intense heat that literally scorches men (Revelation 16:8) And the population in other areas is afflicted with sores that are beyond medical help. (Rev 16:2). If we don’t turn back to God, this planet will be wiped out! Are you hearing me Joe?!

Let’s talk about the science of this for a second. I don’t know much about the subject, admittedly, but Europe is suffering from famine because of an intense heat that “literally scorches men?” How hot would that have to be? And wouldn’t the oceans start boiling before that could happen? And what does “literally scorches” mean? Does this mean they get really bad sunburn? Or does their blood start boiling the minute they step outside? Is it hot enough to melt DNA? (185F, in case anyone cares.) Explain this to me, dammit!

Also, do you think, over in Europe, that “all these bad things are happening because we took God out of schools/money/our sex lives” would really be the response to these disasters? I see this attitude from Americans a lot, and I know the persecution is supposed to start here and spread, but I mean, you’d think that in order for the “we need God” attitude to spread, turning back to God would have to have worked for the Americans. “Oh look, the Americans instituted a Sunday law and they stopped having earthquakes, they have potable water, and are otherwise living normal lives. Why don’t we try that?”

As it is now, they would look at America and think, “well, that’s clearly not working. Let’s not bother, then.”

I don’t know if Ms. Strong knows this, and there was very little excuse for her not knowing this, even then, but Europeans think differently than we do. They think dollar coins are a good idea, don’t like guns, and they’re not as conservatively religious as we are.

But don’t worry everyone, the author won’t take cultural context into account or anything. That would be, gasp LIBERAL!

There’s some back and forth about whether or not the Sunday law is a good idea, with Joe saying it’s a terrible idea to kill those who think differently and has he ever read the Old Testament?

Jean: But the persecution today is only to bring people back to a proper regard for God.

Um, what? Who thinks like this? does anybody you know think like this? I should go find all the Christians in my life right now and see how they feel about this.

There’s more arguing about whether the persecution is good or bad, and I just want Jesus to come and end this book already.

Jason: I think it is usually safer to be among the persecuted than the persecutors.

Jason was 12 years old 2 years ago, so let’s assume he’s about 14-15 right now. He’s old enough to make his own decisions on religion, probably, but not old enough to fully grok the consequences of death and torture. And he’s still young enough that the court would force him to go live with his mom if it was determined that his father was an unstable criminal unable to earn a living. Which he is.

Jean: You won’t think so, Jason, if they find you up here.

Jean has a point. But of course she’ll be shut down because she’s a heathen and a woman, so, what does she know?

Jason: Not safer physically, perhaps, but spiritually. And this is a right cause, Mother.

He blathers on about Bible verses and God being the creator and blah de blah de blah de blah.

Jean(smiling ironically): Hear ye, hear ye! My son, the preacher…

Jean, this is not helping your cause.

Jason: (After a lot of blather wherein he quotes Bible verses that theoretically support his point): The saints are described as those who keep the commandments of God. You can’t keep the commandments, mom, if you reject the 4th one.

On what grounds can men take our lives if they have no scripture to condemn us with?

Our laws are not based on scripture.  There’s no scripture saying it’s a crime to kill your stubborn child, despite the fact that if you do, you’re going to jail. This statement, therefore, is just stupid.

Jean: The whole Christian community can’t be wrong, Jason

Who thinks like this? Does anybody think like this? Does anyone actually believe in moral majority?

Jean tells them she’s had enough, and that the kids need to get in the car.

Jason: I have never disobeyed you, mother, but I wish to stay here with dad.

This is a lie. All children have disobeyed their parents at least once. It is a normal part of childhood development.

Jean: You will have to trust me, Jason. I insist you go back with me.

You know, there’s no real reason his father shouldn’t let Jason go back down the mountain. I mean, he’s just as saved there as he is here, isn’t he?

Also, how, legally, would children work in a world with mandatory Sunday worship? Who decides, for example, the age at which children are said to be responsible for their own attendance? A person like Carol, who is roughly 10, would be too young to go to church by herself if her parents don’t take her. A 14-15 year old could potentially drive him or herself, depending on the driving laws in his or her state and whether or not he or she has access to a car. If the cutoff point is age 18, what about those 18 year olds who, in this wretched economy, can’t get a job, don’t have access to a car, and have parents who won’t drive them? Do they get slaughtered for, basically, the crime of not being able to find a ride to church? Has the public transit system improved so much that this is not an issue? If  there’s no potable water and the economy is in the toilet, how would there be money to get gas to get to and from a church? Does everyone have to bike? What about disabled people?

I forsee either an exponential growth of churches springing up all over urban and rural areas alike, or mass confusion.

Seriously, I have never read an end times novel where the author has sat down and thought this all out. And that’s disturbing.

As far as ages go, how does God work this out? What about children who are too young to decide for themselves they won’t go to church on Sunday? We’re told we must disobey our parents and not work on Saturday when the Sunday laws come, but we can’t really prevent our parents from making us go to church. We know, because many of us have tried it.

You know what, I’m tired of trying to do more thinking than the author did and we still have quite a lot to get to, so, let’s move on.

Joe: I believe the children are old enough to make their own decision, Jean. They know more about their Bibles than most adults.

I’m not going to argue with that, but knowing your Bible and actually knowing the consequences of torture and death are two different things. Legally, we should not be allowing 14-15 year olds to make these kinds of decisions.

Jean says that she is frightened for them, and how could Joe do this to her? Because Joe is an unstable death cultist, that’s why.

Joe: There is no safe place on the face of the Earth, Jean. As yet we have suffered none of the disasters falling upon the planet…. If the children wish to go with you, I will not stand in their way, but if not, I beg you to let them remain here. And it is the fondest wish of my heart that you would stay yourself (his voice breaks.)

Hang on, I thought that probation had closed and it was already too late? I mean, I guess it was clearly not too late for Jean to lose her salvation, but it is too late to gain it back. We have been outright told this. What does it matter if Jean stays or goes? Joe is going to lose her anyway, and it may as well happen now so he doesn’t have to watch Jesus kill her when he finally gets around to showing up.

Jean: I’m sorry I came. (She, too, is close to tears.) You have turned the children away from me. If it weren’t for the trouble I’d bring upon them, I’d report you all to the police. Bill would have done it long ago if it were not for his love for Carol. He hates everything you stand for, and so do I.

I’m not sure what she means here. If she reported them to the police, is she worried her children could get wounded in the crossfire? Does she think the police will just kill all the children too?

I think the children with criminal parents would be removed from their parents care, rather than outright killed. Social services should be swamped trying to find homes for them all. Children do not have the same rights and abilities as adults, and I’m surprised no one is bringing this up. Are the children being punished for the sins of their parents? Would people today really stand for that sort of thing?

Jean is right about another thing. Joe has, like so many Adventist parents, brainwashed their offspring to the point where they do not respect their non SDA parent as they should. He has turned the children away from their own parent. I wish Jesus would kill Joe when he returns. Unfortunately we’re supposed to see Joe as righteous.

Jean goes back down the mountain without further argument, and nothing really comes of her visit. It was, therefore, pointless to include.

Carol shares portions of Jim’s letter with the group that night.

I saw Sybil on the street the other day. She told me Bill went to a popular faith healer here in the city and appears to have been cured of his heart problems, which had really been giving him trouble lately. There is a great deal of healing going on, all kinds of miracles and supernatural events.

Why show when you could just tell, right? Showing us these things would make for a terrible story after all.

In any case, I thought Bill didn’t have any heart problems? All the tests showed up clear. Has he been ignoring the doctor’s advice not to do any work? Or are all the difficulties of life on earth stressing him out too much?

Llook guys, the antichrist finally makes an appearance!

Lately there has been much excitement over various appearances of a being quite different from any normally seen on Earth. He…purports to be Christ (revelation 13:12-15; Mark 13:6; Matthew 24:23,24).

Because if the author doesn’t insert Bible verses awkwardly into the text, you would accuse her of not knowing what she was talking about!

It’s been said he has called down fire from heaven in imitation, I suppose, of whomever it was who accomplished that feat in the Bible. Please share all this with your mom and Michael. They will probably have some rational explanation for it.

Sybil was a serious Bible student at one point. She would know that it was Elijah (Elisha?) Who called down fire from Heaven, among other people. She would also know that this is what the false Christ will do.

Joe gives us all a mini Bible study on the subject of False Christs, and how every eye shall see Jesus, and that this totally isn’t referring to watching him on TV because….?

I actually remember talking about this in Bible class, how Christ would accomplish this. Of course ideas like TV and holograms weren’t considered (because Jesus wouldn’t have foreseen THAT).  “Every eye shall see him” meant, of course, every naked eye shall see him. Speculations ranged from having the earth spin really really fast to us all being gathered in the same place to somehow making the earth flat. It was all very scientific.

Anne (don’t ask me who Anne is, I don’t know and I don’t care) Says all of this is simple enough a Kindergartner could understand, which makes me feel intelligent because I studied this shit as diligently as I could for about a decade before I gave up understanding it.

A few pages later, Joe tells us that “bottomless pit” in the context of Revelation 20 “is nothing more than the earth stripped of all life.”

So, Adventists, how’s that literal interpretation of the Bible working out for ya?

“Every eye shall see him” can’t possibly be referring to TV (No divine being could have predicted this, even though it would be a plausible fulfillment of the prophecy) but “Bottomless pit” doesn’t actually mean bottomless pit?

I’m confused.

More Bible study, more Bible study, Michael says the second coming will be “an awesome day” and I’m thinking “awful” is the word because mass genocide, oh and look, here’s Jared to tell us just how dire things are getting.

How clearly my new friends have charted the course ahead of them. It is sad that all the world has not yet searched the Book as they have. Only a moment of time remains, and well it is, for the fear and suffering on Planet Earth have risen to heartbreaking proportions.

And it took at least 3 years for this to happen. (Things were starting to happen at the beginning of the 2 year time skip, if you’ll remember.)

In the next section, something finally happens! The author finally creates a few tiny moments of tension… but not that many, lest we actually start finding the novel interesting.

So, it’s winter now, and the police finally show up. Took them long enough, jeez. There are 10 of them. Police officers, I mean. But only 2 Adventist men are left because… ?

Wait, how many men (and grown ups, which the author doesn’t care about) were there at the beginning? I need to go back and check my list.

Here’s a writing tip: don’t put more people into your novel than you can develop character for in a reasonable amount of time. 13 people for a >200 page novel is too many. Trim this number down.

Police officer: How long have you people been living here?

Joe: This is our second winter

So, about a year, then? Why doesn’t he just say that? It would give us some frame of reference for where we are time wise.

I get why the author wouldn’t want to name specific dates or years, but that’s no excuse for keeping the timeline this vague. Make another footnote if you feel that’s necessary. Or chop off the time skips.

Police officer: Why are you here?

Joe: We prefer this simple life to the dangers and health hazards of the city

Joe: We are hiding here from the evil government who is going to kill us for worshiping on Sunday.

Fixed that for you, Joe!

Police Officer: (irritation growing in his voice and showing on his face): how did you acquire this property?

I’m going to pretend he is just asking Michael this to see if his answer matches up with the government’s property records. Even I could look all this up if I felt like it. It’s not that hard.

Police Officer 2: What religion do you belong to?

Joe: We are followers of Jesus Christ and trust in his blood for our salvation.

All these evasive non answers are, understandably, irritating the officer.

Police officer 2: Never mind that. What day do you worship on?

Joe: We’re atheists

Just kidding. There will be no atheist holdouts. All the atheists are too scared of being killed to resist the evil Sunday Government. Because that’s totally the way it worked in Nazi Germany!

Joe(hesitating only a moment): The seventh day Sabbath

He’s going to hell for that hesitation. Just kidding, of course not.

Police Officer(smiling strangely): Is there a child here named Carol?

Smiling strangely? What does that mean? When an adult man smiles strangely while asking about the presence of a child, all my red flags go up. Was that intentional? Did this book just get very very dark? Nah, probably just bad writing.

Police Officer: She is under our protection at the request of our informant. The rest of you will be shot at six in the morning when the law goes into effect.

What about the other children. They just get shot?

Joe: What Law?

Are you stupid? The law you’ve been reading about in the paper, the law that your Bible supposedly predicted…. you know what law dammit.

Officer Police Officer finds it hard to believe that these goons don’t know about The Law, so we get told about The Law, the law that makes the crime of not going to church on Sunday punishable by death.

Joe argues with Officer Police Officer, who tells him that the SDAs have invited disaster on the world by refusing to worship on Sunday, and it’s very repetitive and this book has told us this before and I’ve talked about it before and let’s move on.

Joe: Are these your personal convictions or those of the state?

Police Officers don’t make the laws, Joe, they just enforce them. If the victim is white. Or the perpetrator is black. Or there’s a full moon on a Thursday in October.

Police Officer: I didn’t come here to be interrogated, I will ask the questions….sit down in a circle about the fireplace and say what you will to each other and your God, if you have one. you have only a few hours left.

Seriously, the nearest neighbor is 20 miles away. Why don’t the police just take Carol out of the house, start driving, and then shoot the rest of them now, right now? You are giving them precious time in which to come up with an escape plan. Also, I may or may not really want to see Joe take a bullet to the head. No one would know you hadn’t waited, and if the world is in such a state, I doubt anybody would care.

Carol asks the Police Officer if it was her father who told the police on them.

Police Officer: Young lady, I said I will ask the questions. but (chuckling) I guess it doesn’t make much difference one way or the other at this point. No, it was not your father. It was a man named Bill Norris.

Why would the officer not think it was a big deal to tell Carol this? It doesn’t, because in ten minutes Jesus is going to come, but he doesn’t know that. From his perspective, he is taking Carol back to the city to live with her father. Carol will now be unable to trust Bill. Their relationship will deteriorate. Thanks, Officer Police Officer!

If the author wanted to merely communicate that to us, she could have had the police remove Carol from the house before he told the rest of them, who were just going to die anyway.

Everyone starts singing. Carol asks if they will really shoot people. Meg tells her they will, and to tell Sybil she loves her.

Carol: I would rather just stay here. I’m not afraid to die.

That’s because you’re ten. And brainwashed.

Meg tells her she doesn’t have a choice, reminds here that Jesus will always be with her, and tells her she’s a good little soldier of the cross, and then they join the others in singing.

(Over the singing comes another sound, loud, unnatural and frightening. Beneath the old house the ground heaves and shudders. both singers and police race from the building in terror. Outside they find the skies overcast with an eerie blackness, while earth-shattering thunder rolls over the earth. Vivid gashes of lightning splinter the darkness.)

Jason: Dad, the mountains are moving–they really are. Everything is moving. We will never survive.

Joe(Tears streaming down his face): Son, this is not a time to fear. It is a time to rejoice.

Jason: You mean this is it? Jesus is coming?

No, it’s just another major earthquake. Your idiot father knew this was coming, and he moved you into the mountains anyway.

Everyone kneels. There is a rainbow (Jesus loves Gay people! Proof!) there’s hailstones, a hurricane, the police are huddling in terror among boulders along the shore. Shore, what shore? They’re in the mountains, what do you mean there’s a shore?

You know what, never mind. We’re almost done with this book, and so am I.

Carol: the Lake has disappeared, Mother, and some of the mountains have collapsed. The earth looks like the landscape of the moon. It’s a bottomless pit alright.

Lake? There was a lake? I thought they had a spring.

I thought they were just jabbering on a few pages ago about how everyone will be looking up when Jesus comes, not down at the earth? And that this was why TV couldn’t be the way “every eye will see him?”

Set that aside. This book is narrated by Jared. Why, oh why isn’t he narrating now? Carol should not be telling us this. Having her narrate out loud the things that are happening is clunky and awkward. It’s not how real people talk, and it’s not how books are written.

This next passage is also clunkily narrated by Carol. It would have been better if Jared had written it out, play style, like the portion above with the earthquake.

That being said, I still might have shed a tear or two. Because if you squint enough, this passage works.

Carol: Mom, oh mom, an angel is bringing Jen. She sees us. She’s letting go of the angel’s hand. She’s coming. Oh mom, open up your arms.

(Laughing and crying, Sunlight holds the form of her elder child tightly.)….

There’s more praising God, I don’t care.

A tall gentle angel takes his place beside Sunlight. “I want to give you a very special welcome to your new life,” he says. “My name is Jared.”

And I’ve been stalking you on and off for roughly 4 years. No, he doesn’t say that. In fact, this is where the book ends, precisely because the explanation sounds creepy.

Just kidding, it’s actually a decent place to end. It’s probably a good idea not to let endings drag too much.

We are finally done with this book, guys! We made it! Get yourselves a celebratory drink, and go read something decent. You’ve earned it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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