Onward Christian Soldiers
by Sarah Booker
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On the first of April, in the year of our Lord, twenty hundred and three, a miracle occurred. It was heard about in lands round about and in lands far away. It was shouted on the rooftops in the hills, and the people jumped for joy. A nation's faith was confirmed--in God, and in human nature.
A woman had chosen to lay down her life rather than suffer herself to fall into the hands of her enemies, but by and by, her life was spared. On a bed under a stiff white sheet, she lay for a week and a day, suffering many wounds, yearning for the family she had left behind.
Beyond the cool desert sands, and over the mountains and across the many waters, her family lay thinking of her--her father praying that his little girl would come back to them, her mother wondering if she was cold or hungry or frightened. She prayed that whatever happened to her, she wouldn't forget who she was. Her brother sat on the edge of his bed, his head in his hands, wishing it were him instead of her, her sister crying into her pillow, simply missing her.
Where are the others? The woman wondered of the fate of her comrades. It was as if a veil had been placed over her eyes, as if a thin layer of gauze had been wrapped protectively over her memories of that day. It had all happened so fast. There had been no time to think--only to act. Gunshots reverberated in her ears. Was it the memory or did it come from outside these dingy yellow walls? She remembered how the cold metal had trembled in her hand; with each shot, she had felt an awesome surge of power emanate from her somewhere deep within her as her body screamed like an entity unto itself while submitting to the madness that was going on around her.
Surrounding her, men in black, known only as the Fedayeen, hovered ominously. Their language was no longer strange to her, though she could not comprehend it. One of them was speaking with gleeful animation, pointing to her leg, which was badly damaged. Her heart pounded, like soldiers stomping into the battlefield. Through the windows, partially blocked by another Fedayeen, she saw a man. He wasn't dressed like the others and stood speaking to the man who guarded the door, glancing her way a couple of times, but never for too long.
At the foot of her bed, the men exchanged words. Two left, one stayed, the two taking the guard with them. The one remaining circled her bed, as if surveying his capture before descending, towering over her. He was strong and formidable-looking. He delivered a stinging slap across her face, and then another.
The man saw, and his bowels filled with mercy, his heart with compassion. He had a six-year-old daughter. This woman was someone's daughter, and she was much loved. He had to help her.
The man in black had disappeared.
The years seemed to peel away from the woman's face as she closed her eyes, trying to shut out what had become her world now. The man slipped in, unnoticed. He thought he saw her lips moving, but no sound came from them, for she had fallen asleep with a prayer on her lips.
She heard a voice. "Don't worry," it said. She opened her eyes, but the only evidence of the presence was the fluttering of some papers, like the fluttering of angel's wings.
Fear gripped the man's heart. It was dark in the city. The Great Dictator's likeness was everywhere. His eyes seemed to follow his movements. A dirty sheet of paper, a long-forgotten announcement, blew past his feet, carried away in the starless night. He traveled like a man whose lantern had burned the last of its oil. It was as if he were a stranger in a strange land, where there were no trees, but shadows of trees, where there were no beasts, but shadows that crept upon the earth like cavernous wolves, looming large and ferocious.
Six miles he traveled, until he approached a group in foreign uniforms. "What do you want?" one asked suspiciously. The young soldier's fingers curled on the metal rod at his side.
"I have information about woman solider in hospital," the man replied meekly.
"Speak." It was a command.
And that was the beginning of a mission that was nothing short of miraculous.
How blessed were the words to her ears, "Yes, Private Lynch, we are here to protect you and take you home."
"What man of you, having an hundred sheep,
if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness,
and go after that which is lost, until he find it?"
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