art by Steven R. Stewart
Like the Fourth of July
by John Paolicelli
The Children of Chiron sat silent in prayer as they waited for their holy leader Joshua to enter the temple. The red-robed zealots bowed their heads as they genuflected, making the crowded hall look like a roiling sea of flames. Rebekah looked around at the undulating crimson and wondered if she was in Hell rather than the portal to Heaven.
"Mary," she whispered to the woman seated next to her. "Mary, I had a dream last night for the first time in a long while. It felt so real; it looked so vivid, so beautiful. I dreamed--"
"Shut up Rebekah. Please keep the blasphemy to yourself," Mary replied.
"I just thought it would be nice to talk to someone one last time."
"Please be quiet. There's no time for that now. You should be praying," Mary said.
The great door behind the gray marble altar creaked open. Joshua appeared from an inner sanctum and strode to the pulpit like a gunslinger on his way to a shootout.
"My children, the day of the Rapture has come," he exclaimed. "The Lord's message will be brought on the wings of an avenging angel, the comet Chiron. It will burst upon the Earth with great vengeance, taking the weak and wicked. We, the strong and faithful, stand ready for judgment."
He paused a moment to catch his breath.
"The cataclysmic explosion will light the skies like one trillion Fourth-of-July celebrations," he said, twanging each syllable like the Bible belt preacher he once was.
Rebekah turned and looked out the small side window at the clear blue sky. The words, like one trillion Fourth-of-July celebrations, resonated in her. They unearthed memories of long ago summers; memories she feared lost when she left her other life behind.
She closed her eyes and felt the warm, moist breeze blowing off Kahler's Pond. She pictured her family sprawled on picnic blankets waiting for night to fall and the fireworks to begin. She even heard her mother's excited voice call across the playground, "Cyndi, hurry or you'll miss the fireworks."
That's right; my name was Cyndi. When was the last time someone called me Cyndi?