An anguished scream pierced the bricks walls and damp gloom of her cell. Another followed, more intense than the first, then wrenching sobs and garbled pleas.
Mi Shan stirred in her restless sleep. The nightly sounds that emanated from the Chamber of the Tortured failed to rouse her completely. Few noises in this prison horrified her.
She would awaken when they came for her. If they came for her.
She slept, and her dreams swirled in her head. Memories of laughter and family shifted into scenes of fear and beatings.
How long before they came for her again?
Unintelligible shouts increased in volume and climaxed with the sudden crack of a gunshot.
Mi bolted upright on the cot. Her eyes widened, then squeezed shut against the sharp back pains that gripped her. She winced.
Gunshots were uncommon in the prison and meant one thing. The interrogation for one poor fellow Christian had mercifully ended. The interrogation of another would begin shortly.
“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” she whispered. “Receive Your servant into Your Presence.”
She kept her eyes shut against the imagined horror of footsteps clomping down the cement corridor. She would never know if the martyr who had just died was a family member or a close friend. It didn’t matter. Wouldn’t they all be murdered for accepting and proclaiming their Lord?
How long before they came?
Mi did the only thing that kept her from insanity during her months in this cell. The melody and words rose up from within. Humming softly, rocking back and forth on her cot, thinking the words, Mi waited.
Was she next?
Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak, but He is strong.
Her song was interrupted by the footsteps of the guards. She shuddered. Closer they came, their boots crunching the grit of the floor underneath their feet.
Were they coming for her?
She drew her knees up and hugged them to her chest. The comforting words repeated in her mind. With a bang, the cell door opened. She drew in a harsh breath and moaned.
Her time had come.
The guard dragged her to her feet.
Her legs would not obey her commands to be steady. Her knees buckled.
Impatient, the guard wrapped his arm around her waist and lifted her twelve-year-old frame. To struggle, she knew, would provoke the guards to even more intense anger.
“I will walk.” Is that my voice? I sound so confident.
The guard grunted and put her down. Between her two captors, Mi trod the concrete hallway to the Chamber of the Tortured. The melody and words repeated in her mind.
Jesus loves me! He who died,
Heaven’s gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin.
Let His little child come in.
They shoved her into the room and forced her arms up over her head. One guard lifted while the other shackled her wrists with chains that hung from a light fixture.
The interrogator sat in a corner at a desk, smoking a cigarette and waiting. He scraped the chair back and in four steps stood in front of her dangling body, pistol in his hand.
“All of this could be so easily avoided,” he murmured.
The melody bubbled up and spilled from her lips. She hung from the chains and hummed, peace washing over her as she remembered the words. Perhaps she would live.
“If you renounce that one who you even now sing about, you may live.”
She would not answer.
“Renounce him!” the interrogator screamed, his face reddening in fury. He aimed the gun directly at her face. She wondered if she would feel much pain.
Jesus loves me! He will stay
Close beside me all the way;
If I love Him, when I die
He will take me home on high.
She stared into the gun barrel, then into his furious eyes.
“How can I renounce the one who gave me life? How can I forsake His holy name? Though you may kill me. . . “
The man’s eyes narrowed. He pulled the trigger back.
“I can never deny Him. I will live with Him forever.”
The explosion came while her eyes were shut tightly. She felt nothing.
Had the pistol misfired? Her eyes opened. A man strangely familiar to her stood before her, and she fell to her knees in reverence and love.
“Sing for me, Daughter,” Jesus said.
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