The crumbling walls of Astoria stood as a monument to a once proud city. Those who endured the nuclear assault lived half lives—prisoners condemned to hunger and hopelessness. Many had moved back into the city seeking shelter, companionship, and hope.
“Joseph, can you see anything yet?”
“No, I’m trying my best to push through this rubble. I can just barely make out another room beyond these stones. It’s really dark.”
The two children clawed the dirt and stone, squeezing their way through the narrow passageway. Their fingernails captured and held the dank aroma of death and dirt, carrying it with them just as they toted tattered fabric remnants upon their emaciated bodies. It was the adventure of their young lives and just another day in the survival game they both were trying desperately to win.
After one last arduous push, the two children found themselves tumbling through a collection of sharp stones and landing in a heap together on a cold, wet stone floor. The air was slightly stale and damp. A pinprick of daylight filtered through one end of the vast cavern, lighting up the wall closest to the children.
“Wow, Anna, this will make a great hiding place for us.” Joseph picked himself up and began an inspection. “Come on, follow me.”
Picking their way around debris and loose stones, the children managed to identify a large brick wall on one side that appeared to be intact. The source of the light across from the wall was a tiny window with a broken pane.
“Anna, let’s get the place straightened up so we can stay here tonight.” Joseph began moving the lighter stones against the walls and Anna silently joined him in the work.
After sharing a meager meal of crumbly bread, the two siblings bedded down for the night in the far corner of the room with Joseph cradling his younger sister.
The next morning dawned, awakening the children to strong sunlight struggling to make its mark on the brick wall. Joseph blinked against the sun and sat upright. Focusing his eyes, he shook Anna fiercely.
“Look, Anna, there’s writing on the wall.”
Anna yawned, stretching her tired body. “What . . . what did you say?”
“There’s something written on the wall. See?” He pointed to the large brick wall. Approaching the writing, Joseph puzzled over the elegant script. “I think it says: The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.1”
“What does that mean, Joseph?”
“I’m not sure. But it’s nice, though, don’t you think?”
Joseph stepped closer to the wall and into the warm of the light. The wall glowed with a luminescence. Reaching his hand out, his dirty fingertips caressed the writing. His heart began to race as he realized that the wall was warm to the touch. It’s probably just the sunshine that’s warming the bricks.
Anna drew near as well and Joseph lifted her up so she could touch the words. She flattened her hands out, patting the wall. And then she giggled. “It feels warm all the way down to my toes.”
Joseph couldn’t help but smile. A tiny glimmer of hope infused his being. “Anna, let’s find old Thomas. Maybe he can tell us what the writing means.”
The children scampered through the room and squeezed their way through the tunnel to the ruins outside, seeking their dear friend. Thomas wasn’t hard to find. He occupied a permanent spot near the old library. He said he loved the comfort of the “old words.”
“Thomas, Thomas,” the two yelled to catch their friend’s attention.
The old man looked up from under his tattered woolen cap. A wide smile spread across his scruffy, bearded face and a gloved hand rose in greeting.
“Thomas, we found some writing on a wall. Come see. Hurry.”
“Now slow down, little ones. What did it say?”
Catching his breath, Joseph finally was able to repeat the words he had read.
“My, my. Those are very important words you have seen. Let me see if I can tell you what they mean. Those are words of an ancient prophet who loved our Lord God. He told God’s people that even though they lived in a dark world His light would shine for them again. Don’t lose hope little ones. Believe the writing on the wall for it is truth. ”
1(Isaiah 9:2 NASB)
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