Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor
Volume XI, Issue XVII
Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah.
Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.
And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee.” -- Psalm 39:5-7
The Big Diomede Service Plaza was by now fully in operation again. The van pulled into a loading dock behind the kitchen that served the various restaurants in the building that spanned the highway. The driver helped Fred… now ‘Joe’ with his bag. “For Heaven’s sake, remember your new name!” whispered the driver. “Come with me.”
Now the two entered the busy kitchen and its pantries. “We need to slip into the Ladies’ room,” the driver said. ‘Joe’ hesitated but the man urgently pushed him along. The room was momentarily deserted but the driver made some frantic gestures in front of a mirror and quickly pushed them both into a trucker’s shower room. Locking the door, the driver held his finger to his lips, calling for silence. He opened a locker in the room and the back soon opened as well, revealing a secret passageway.
Joe’ went on alone. The dark hallway appeared to be a steam tunnel and it went on for a considerable distance before ‘Joe’ sensed the presence of another human being. “This was Mama Greene’s greatest triumph!” the shadowy figure whispered. “Call me ‘Ransom.’ You might be interested to know that when the great bridge was built, Mama Greene was the Pastor’s wife and she sort of shocked everyone by taking a job at the service plaza. She was the reason many of her coworkers found ‘The Way,’ but there was one thing about the great bridge that really troubled her…
It was the young girls, they passed through here constantly in the company of their benefactor-captors… headed for the vilest and most degrading form of servitude. The secret passageway allowed her to whisk many of them out of here unseen. She would lead them through this portal into a new life!”
They walked along as ‘Ransom’ spoke. “Now I shall show you what redemption looked like for these young women.”
Passing now from back to front of a similar cabinet to the one by which they had entered the tunnel, they found themselves in the locker room of some sort of workspace. Mannequins and sewing machines identified it as some sort of clothing factory. “Mama Greene knew that without the hope of something better, the girls would simply disappear into servitude again… so she created this! Here she created a line of designer clothing and cosmetics, right here on Big Diomede. Everyone thought they came out of New York City in the ‘Lower 48,’ but that was not the truth.
This is the basement of one of the college residences in the original Biosphere. I know you may have heard that this area is permanently sealed off due to a lab accident that happened as a result of the disappearances. Indeed there was a small radiation spill, but that has been dealt with. We ‘seed’ a bit of radiation near the entrances to the Biosphere and that keeps the enforcers away. Even better, I and some of my fellow staff are in permanent ‘isolation’ here because we are classified as ‘radiation survivors.’ We get supplies from the Service Plaza via a robot carrier but no-one wants to come in and bother us!”
Joe’ was now ushered up the stairs where he was assigned a little room and ‘Ransom’ left him to freshen up. The room was simple and tastefully furnished. On a nightstand was a copy of the book: ‘Notes to Priscilla and Aquilla’ and a Gideon Bible. ‘Joe’ picked up the little book and picked up where he had left off with it. He was dozing off and dreaming about magic wardrobes, or something like that when ‘Ransom’ knocked on his door, inviting him to dinner.
Stepping out of the little building, ‘Joe found himself in a place of well-manicured lawns and somewhat overgrown gardens. Little robot mowers quietly striped the deserted greens and a perfusion of bright hollyhocks bordered them. Here and there was a miniature horse contently grazing on the crisp pastures. “Another of Mama’s inspirations!” the man said. “She insisted on there being butterflies and hummingbirds here. The little horses were one of her projects too. She thought they would eventually replace the little mowers.”
Above them was the dome of the Biosphere, which sealed out the harsh Wintery weather of the far North. The panes were blue-tinted and milky so no one could photograph what went on inside… they were ionized so that you could electrically clear them when there was a glorious sky that everyone wanted to see but during the months of prolonged darkness they remained milky… reflecting back the full-spectrum lighting that simulated a more normal day. The Biosphere was driven by geothermal energy and since it had its own source and power plant, no one bothered to ask why it was still running.
“When the Dome is clear,” ‘Ransom’ continued, “You can see across that green to open sea and the rising sun! As the sun first illuminates a new day, we can see it here.” ‘Joe’ continued to take in the wonders of this new place. As they walked to the refectory, a brilliant hummingbird or butterfly frequently punctuated their conversation.
As they rounded a corner, ‘Joe’ froze. He pointed silently to a rather large BEAR who was ambling into the building they intended to enter. “Oh,” said ‘Ransom,’ “You will need to make the acquaintance of ‘Mister Bultitude!’ You see, we had a little biological research lab here studying hibernation. They hoped to find out how to slow down the human metabolism to fight diseases, so they engaged the services of a most experienced hibernator! He’s quite friendly and the staff all love him.”
Around tables in a paneled room, a small but rather diverse group of people were enjoying some rather deep conversation. ‘You will get to meet our students in the days to come.” Said ‘Ransom,’ “but for now enjoy a decent meal and our hospitality.” The students actually dined in courses, which they took turns serving to their fellows. There were tablecloths and cloth napkins… the whole setting seemed to be from another Century, right down to the soft lighting. Ransom explained: “Dr. Greene felt that the high dinner was often a better setting for learning than the classroom. In the day, students actually dressed for dinner. Greene was not one to write dress-codes and you are quite fine in what you are wearing, but you must know that Dr. Greene was one to nurture traditions of meaning, particularly when they were instituted by his students.
I remember when his little daughter would dine here with her parents and politely tell the young men how nice they looked. Indeed there was a sense of a higher way of living established here, aside from bears in the refectory! The students nicknamed her ‘Queen Lucy,’ for she, tomboy as she was, loved to put on a long dress for the dinners. The students would always feign wonder at the ‘transformation,’ but in reality they saw it as another affirmation of the work they were engaged in. They loved her for it even as they teased her mercilessly when her smiling face appeared upside down from the tree she was hiding in!
After dinner, ‘Ransom’ and ‘Joe’ took a leisurely stroll on the campus grounds. “Here is the first real house that was built on Big Diomede,” said ‘Ransom’ as he pointed out the little parsonage. It is empty now for since the family disappeared none of us have wanted to disturb it. Most of the good Doctor’s books found their way over to the college anyway and though those of us who remain did not at the time love his G-d, we loved Dr.Greene! We try to continue the work here as he would have wanted us to.”
Walking beyond the campus, the two men passed the Zimmerman family houses, which were also dark and uninhabited. “Here is where the men and women who designed and built the great bridge ultimately spent their lives. It is no accident that the houses look to be of the same size and design as the parsonage. They were all built by a Swedish designer from Virginia who valued beauty and economy in construction. In the end, the Zimmerman and O’Malley families sought a fairly simple and unencumbered life as they pursued their various projects to build the ‘Better Kingdom.’
Joe’ wanted to learn more. “How does one come to study here?” he asked. He was used to admissions forms and standardized testing from his academic career in the ‘Lower 48,’ so he was a bit surprised when his host said: “You’ve already begun the process if you wanted to.” ‘Joe’ was perplexed, but ‘Ransom’ continued: “It always started with dinner with Dr. Greene. Greene would watch you as you interacted with him and his family. He was particularly observant of how you treated children and how you treated us who were in the custodial department. You could be the brightest bulb in the bunch but if you had no respect for a man in coveralls you were already out.
Greene had this thing about ‘Imago Dei,’ the ‘Image of G-d’ being in every person. If you couldn’t see it, he felt like he had nothing he could teach you. I remember once when some powerful leader decided that his son should get educated by Greene. Greene was so recognizable then as an academic leader and a man of G-d, but Rupert Zimmerman put on his coveralls and was replacing lamps and ballast in the building when the young man arrived. He was indeed impeccably dressed and Zimmerman bided his time as the youth waited in the lobby. He presently saw his opportunity and asked from his ladder if the young man would hand him up a bulb.
The youth responded in an arrogant manner that he was here for an appointment with the head of the college and didn’t want to get his hands dirty! Soon Greene’s assistant ushered him in to the office and the matter was forgotten… until a few hours later at dinner at the Greene’s house where an impeccably dressed Rupert Zimmerman joined them. Greene’s wife and daughter had been painting together that day and conspicuously wore the evidence on their fingers. Zimmerman, though he’d used a finger brush, still wore the evidence of his encounter with a rather dirty fixture he had worked on.
Greene began the pre-dinner introductions: ‘I assume you have met Mr. Zimmerman, former chair of the Zimmerman Bridge and Highway Company? He now serves on the board of this college.’ Zimmerman, for his part said later that he had really had to apologize to the young man later for the way he was enjoying the silent dinner. ‘There I was, savoring that macaroni and cheese in silence, and LOVING every minute of it!’ Rupert confessed later. Needless to say, the poor young man voluntarily withdrew his application but later became a very wise fellow in his own right… at a regular university, or perhaps we should say in SPITE of a regular university! The greatest lesson he ever learned, he would recount in speeches around the world, was taught to him that night at that dinner table!”
Ransom,’ for his part had been listening intently to ‘Joe’s’ story even as he touted the wonders of the Biosphere for him. He sensed that this young man was ready to move into some more perfect way of discipleship.
And so began a time of learning and wonder for ‘Joe.’ He began to get to know the handful of other students better as they wrestled with Scripture and its application together. He was sad that there were no longer any women there, wondering at the joy that ‘Queen Lucy’ must have cast over such a world. Those who were here, he learned, were the ones who had shut out the knowledge of the Way from their lives, even as those around them pleaded to Heaven for their loved ones to taste Eternity. They had been, sadly, like Kay in the palace of the Snow Queen, blinded to the wonders meant for them and untouched by the warm tears of their Gerdas. Untouched that is until the disappearance caused those prayers and tears to finally melt their hearts and in their anguish they turned to that which had been most precious to those who loved them.
The love that had melted their hearts was something they all cherished and that love drew them together. Outside the Biosphere, Mátyás Corvinus, head of the Worldstate Combined States Government, was working very hard to eliminate this movement, but even the threat of beheading by his ‘enforcers’ could not compete with redemptive love. Five hundred miles away in Fairgate, Corvinus was indeed plotting their demise, but for now the little company was safely hidden at the ‘End of the World.’
(to be continued) [click to read]
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