Monster clouds hung in the sky and rumbled in the distance. Pastor Tim grabbed his trench coat.
His four year old daughter ran to his arms, her ponytail swinging. “Daddy, where are you going?”
Tim kissed her petal soft cheek. She looked like her mom with jet black hair, stray curls framing her face, and wearing a red flowered sundress. They both loved red. “I’ll be back soon, pumpkin.”
“Can you buy food? My tummy hurts.”
“I’ll try. Don’t tell Mommy or Grandma. It’ll be a surprise.”
“Okay, daddy. I love you.”
Tim could feel her bony joints protruding through paper thin skin like a baby bird. His heart ached. He wouldn’t come home without food for his family.
Everything changed so fast. Last year he taught at Hope Academy in addition to pastoring a church of three hundred; his wife, Jill, worked at home as a freelance artist; his mom lived upstairs and helped care for Josie; they spent their summers camping on Lake Winnipesauke or touring Europe. Josie attended one of the top preschools on the East Coast. Not anymore.
About five months ago, world leaders officially announced: all countries would use ID chip implantation for one world currency. Paper money became instantly worthless.
And Pastor Tim began a mission, preaching against the chip. “Read God’s Word...don’t take the mark of the beast. Don’t gamble with your soul,” he’d warn with fists waving, eyes tearing.
His family listened; church members listened; even Hope Academy students listened. At first.
Weeks passed, and those without the chip couldn’t buy food. Lines formed for church handouts. Twice, military police raided Tim’s church, and people went home hungry.
Pastor Tim tried to encourage them. “Be strong...our present sufferings aren’t worth comparing with the glory that’ll be revealed in us....We mustn’t give in.” At home he and his wife rationed their food, but nothing was left except for some oatmeal.
Eventually, one after another, church members conceded and received the chip like toppling dominos. Tim continued to preach, but every time he looked into his Jill’s worried eyes or watched his daughter toss in bed, hungry, a part of his own heart chiseled away. But he was the leader; he couldn’t give up.
He didn’t bother carrying an umbrella; just let the rain pour down his face and wash his tears away. The line snaked around the block outside City Hall. Eighty or ninety people? He pulled his hood down to shield his face; any church member would think he was the worst sellout. Pastor Tim glanced at the back of his hand. An assigned number would soon cover his tense veins.
Someone tapped his shoulder. “Pastor Tim? I thought it was you,” said Margie. “I’m not surprised you had the same idea—to witness to the people on line. You’re such a man of God.”
Tim started to say, “No, I was...” but smiled instead and shook her hand. “I’ll see you on Sunday.”
“Okay, say hi to Jill. I saw her towards the front half of the line, but she didn’t hear me call her.”
“I said she didn’t—”
“Excuse me, Margie, I have to run.”
Tim was weak from hunger, but adrenaline pulsed through him as he raced to the front of the line—the enemy’s line. He couldn’t lose this battle.
But he couldn’t find her, hidden by rows of umbrellas. He kept calling her name and asking, “Have you seen a pretty woman with long black curls about this tall?” Those who answered shook their heads. Others just stared straight like they lost all sense of feeling.
He spotted black curly hair. Tim rushed to her and grabbed her arm. “Jill, don’t!”
The woman turned. “Get off me, you creep.”
He climbed a ledge for a better view and traced the line with his eyes. A red-striped umbrella bobbed, third in line—it had to be Jill’s. He jumped down and sprinted. Chips only took thirty seconds to inject and ten more to tattoo a number.
Guards formed a human blockade around the injection post. Jill pulled her hand away from the needle, but slipped it under again. “I can’t watch Josie die.”
Tim pushed past the guards and hopped the fence. “Please don’t. They can starve us, but they can’t starve our souls. I love you.” He took her hand, tattoo-free, and kissed it. Her hands never looked more beautiful. And he saw what God sees.
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