We last left off with our heroes having more and more inmates crowded into their cell, with the guard reminding them that everyone is counting down the minutes until the prisoners can be killed.
Do prison guards actually do that?
At midnight, the buzzer buzzed, the bells rang, the lights flashed, and the guards came up to the cell. By this time there were nearly 20 people crowded together in our cell.
“Well, your numbers are up,” the guard laughed, opening the door.
One guard, 20 prisoners. Also rookie mistake.
The guard calls out some names and takes the people out of the room. Because these are the most well behaved prisoners ever who don’t even consider trying to jump the guard so they can escape.
Because Jesus. Or something.
This is probably realistic…. but a bit disappointing. I thought everyone was going to die now, but nope. The guards just leave them alone for 2 days straight without food and water. Are they hoping not to have to waste the euthanasia drugs on them? Wait, how did they execute people in the 1960s?
Little Judy, the 4 year old, is having an especially hard time not drinking any water, so Tom lets her drink from the toilet tank. Points to Teenage!Merikay for thinking of this. I am not even sure this is something Teenage!me though of, and probably would have been incredibly grossed out by.
Of course, teenage!me knew a little bit more about prison than teenage!Merikay, and probably would have checked my books and discovered that there isn’t really a tank in most prison cell toilets (you’d have to drink directly out of the bowl, but you could still do it. Gross, yes, but when you’re desperate, you’re desperate), but teenage!merikay had neither the internet nor an obsession with Alcatraz, so we will wink at her ignorance and move on.
Book!Merikay tells us that there was a lot of praying and singing and reciting of bible verses. Book!Merikay laments she didn’t memorize more scripture.
Tom’s name gets called as one of the prisoners to be executed. He presses something into Judy’s hand to take away her fear, and tells Book!Merikay to take care of little Judy. When the door swings shut, Merikay sees that Little Judy has been given a picture of Jesus.
How could he have gotten that in here? I wondered. We were all given a complete search and were put in the cell with nothing but the prison clothes we wore.
Dear Book!Merikay, I think I have some answers for you. But it’s probably for the best that you don’t think about them.
In all seriousness, I wonder if Teenage!Merikay knew just how complete those prison searches actually are. Teenage!Me learned it because teenage!me read a book about Alcatraz. When exactly was that Great Escape? Was Alcatraz still a functioning prison in the 1960s?
Probably best I don’t think about it.
I wondered as I remembered his kind face and friendly smile, his helping words and thoughtful comfort. I wondered.
So, here’s another thing. If I were a prison guard in a society which wanted Adventists to either convert or die, another thing I would have is a Designated Prison Spy. He could gain the trust of the other prisoners, learn from them the location of other Sabbath Keepers, and report back.
I’m just saying, Book!Merikay should be doing a helluva lot more wondering.
Finally, the guard comes and calls Book!Merikay’s name. She says something comforting to Judy, and follows the guard.
Now I was scared. What happened to people after they left the cell?
I actually think it’s a good thing that, at least at first, this is kind of a mystery. The unknown often being scarier than that which is known.
I was assuming they were going to try and kill her right away, but nope. First they are going to try and convince her to convert.
I had a similar scene in Parable of The Sower, and all I can think of is why? Why did the government go to such lengths to try and protect Book!Merikay and Book!Me from the death penalty? If they have that many people they are trying to kill, you’d think they’d mostly just…well, kill them. If they go through this whole business of trying to convert everybody first, they are going to be very bogged down in bureaucracy very fast.
In any case, Book!Merikay is taken to an interrogation room where a man confirms her name and address.
“You are a Seventh Day Adventist?”
This is a good question, and one I have been wondering for the entire duration of the book. Even when I was 17.
The question startled me. In all the reading I’d done on the time of the end no one had ever asked “Why?” They always asked the reasons for keeping Saturday instead of Sunday. They’d ask the reasons for different customs. But no one ever asked just plain, “Why?”
Points to Teenage!Merikay for bringing this up. This is not something that I ever noticed, so well done.
She loses points, however, for not really answering the question. She brings it up, and then her answer…well, it’s kind of a non answer.
“Well, because I believe the Bible is the one and only rule of faith, and Seventh-Day Adventists base all their beliefs on the Bible.” I was surprised at my answer. It was no masterpiece of oratory, but it was right.
I suspect, at this time, the answer was closer to “because my parents converted when I was young, and I just went along with it.” That answer wouldn’t have gotten her an A on this assignment, so even if that was true, she’d never say it.
Set that aside. That’s not important. What is important is that this is the way Adventists think. Adventists think that they are the only Christian denomination that bases their beliefs on the Bible. And only the Bible. Don’t ask about Ellen White, she was just a prophet. Of course we do not take her writings as seriously as we take the Bible.
Adventists also assume that the way they interpret the Bible is 100% correct. I was a non Adventist Christian for a few years before I became an atheist, so I understand that interpretation of the Bible is actually not that black and white, and some of the things Adventists come up with “from the Bible” wouldn’t even be there if Ellen White wasn’t there to show us how to twist scripture.
Instead of focusing on the fact that this is a total non answer to the question, or following it up with, “Like what? What beliefs do the Adventists have that are Biblical? In what way do you think other churches are lacking?” The guard instead starts asking Book!Merikay about specific doctrines.
This is closer to what Book!Merikay was expecting, so now Book!Merikay is on familiar ground.
This part of the book, right here, is the entire reason teenage!Merikay wrote this. Remember, this was written in 2 days as an assignment for Bible Doctrines class. “Elder Brown” (I have since learned that this is not his real name) wanted the students to demonstrate what they had learned.
I actually want to save the theology for another post. It’s going to require quite a bit of dissecting I just don’t have the spoons for. So I’ll end with this:
“All right now, Merikay. I like you.” The man settled down in his chair and began rearranging papers on the desk.
Why? Why does the guard like Book!Merikay?
I don’t quite blame Teenage!Merikay for writing this. Teenage!Merikay needed a reason to shoe horn this in as part of the required assignment for Bible class. On that alone, I would excuse this.
I think, though, that this is also part of being a teenager. A lot (not all, but a lot) of teenagers have a “me” focused world. And there’s not necessarily anything abnormal or wrong about that. Most 17 year olds haven’t really seen enough or had enough experience to know that they’re not really part of the big picture.
Teenage!me wrote similar scenes, in which I was singled out for a conversion attempt. Of course I did. I was the center of my own story, after all.
If this had been written by a grown up, I would need a reason it was so important to convert book!Merikay. Is she particularly famous? Are her parents particularly famous? Do her parents have enough money to be able to pay someone somewhere to at least try to stop their teenage daughter from being murdered by the government?
I’m not going to harp too much on this. It can be extremely difficult for a student writing a story for class to write about things that are required for the class and still have the story flow nicely. This is especially true for a teenager who has grown up attending Adventist schools, where the quality of writing isn’t as stressed as the theology.
Speaking of the theology, that’s what’s coming up next.