Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: It’s Christmas Day (in the present or living memory) (11/27/08)
TITLE: Lines of Longitude
By Gregory Kane
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Raashid Mukherjee bowed low before the clay statue of Jesus. His wife had only given him daughters and he hoped the god of the Christians would grant him a son, especially on this holy day when people celebrated the god's birth. Raashid made the sign of the cross, copying the pattern he had learned from the missionary fathers. Then he replaced the figurine in its alcove and took out the idol of Ganesha, his personal favourite of India's 330 million gods and goddesses. The flash of light that ripped across the sky was so sudden, so intense, the clay statuette slipped from his fingers and shattered into pieces. Distraught, the young hindu fell to his knees and cursed the very heavens.
Sandra McAllister struck the red phosphorus head against the rough sandpaper and smiled in triumph as it burst into flame. Damp had seeped into every corner of her Aberdeenshire croft and it had taken four frustrating attempts to light one of the obstinate matches. Reverently she pushed the blazing wood towards the wick of her fifth and final Advent candle. Her vicar had prattled on that morning about Christmas being a time for inward reflection. But for Sandra, Christmas had to do with the joy of knowing that her Saviour had stepped humbly into the world. Slowly, painfully, she bent one creaking knee and began to pray. Far above her thatched roof the afternoon sky turned to fire but Mrs McAllister fixed her eyes on Jesus and took no notice.
Tommy Morrison picked up the discarded house of Duplo bricks and hurled it against the far wall, narrowly missing the head of his little brother. The ensuing protests dragged their mother out of the kitchen where she had been slaving over the festive goose. The two boys were frogmarched out into the garden where they huffed and puffed because there was nothing to do. Their Christmas presents were back inside the house and all their friends and neighbours were off at church. Tommy picked up a stone and was about to chuck it at a passing mongrel. But the rock fell from his hands as he stared at the most beautiful sight his eyes had ever beheld. Moments later, his elation gave way to feelings of abject grief and terror as Tommy fled to the safety of his mother's arms.
José Ramírez's first thought was that World War Three had started. His brain was still reeling from the effects of too much cocaine and too little nutrition, but even in his befuddled state he knew that it ought to be dark at that hour of the morning. José threw open the front door of his studio apartment and peered up at the comet trail of light that lit the firmament from one horizon to the other. It reminded José of a sci-fi movie but he couldn't remember if it was the one starring Will Smith or that other one with Tom Cruise. What was clear to José was that the end of the world was well and truly nigh. Staggering into his kitchenette, he picked up a pack of Marlboro Reds, lit a cigarette and waited to die.
Archelon turned to his friend Hephistames and slapped him on the back. “Do you think anyone's noticed us yet?” he asked, not really expecting a reply. Every eye was fixed on the two figures at the front of the massive angel train. Michael held his great trumpet by his side. Any moment now, the Master would give the nod and the archangel would sound the command. Then Archelon, Hephistames and thousands upon thousands of their kind would descend upon the earth to catch up the elect. It was fitting that the Lord's second Advent should take place on the very day that the world celebrated his first appearing.
“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (Mt 24:30-31 NIV)
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