DEEP CITY in Times Roman

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Rising Above

Black smoke swirled as it soared and hovered high above the smoldering structure owned by The Lines—or at least, what was once the newspaper’s building. Although joists and studs remained in spots, they were scorched, and most of the building’s scaffolding was enveloped in flames or lie in ruins. Not one stone of the building was left standing upon another. The flames burned wildly, yet steadily, like brimstone. The smoke churned round and round until it formed a huge, black ball of haze that emulated a black sun, and the moon glowed deep red, a red deep as the red in the long-stem roses the Unies had once peddled on street corners and in the airport terminals here. Lynette and Sophia stared at the rising smoke, which kept rising and then blossomed into a mushroom shape high above the debris. Suddenly, white lights—as intense as a thousand LEDs together—flashed far above the mushroom cloud, and lightning flashed in two directions, forming a glowing cross. And then a mass of clouds formed into a huge white horse with eyes gleaming like fiery flames. Other clouds formed into a legion of white horses, shimmering as if they were clothed in white linen. Finally, what appeared to be a bearded figure stood upon the vapors, his arms outstretched at each side. Light more intense than the light haloing his body flowed from his eyes, which looked like blue lasers radiating pure energy. Those lights beamed over all of the people in the grassy area outside of the parking lot and outlined their faces so they looked like characters in an adventure comic book.

Suddenly, from a side street, The Reverend appeared with his wife, Yunu, in tow. First, he stopped abruptly, and Yunu rubbed the back of his neck. Then, he stared for a long time at the disintegrating structure he had worked so hard to build. His face turned ashen at first, then it flashed crimson. Tugging at what was left of his hair, he ran screaming into The Lines building, and no one—not even his wife—could break his run. One of the security guards tackled him just before he scurried into the flames. Both of them hit the sidewalk with a loud thud.

Shirley, too, stared at the crumbling building. “I can’t believe we did it. It worked. The place and all its evil propaganda is gone.” She smiled, then bent over in laughter.

“Shhh!” Lynette moved in close to her friend and whispered. “We don’t want to advertise. No one knows how or why the place was bombed. That shell I made would have exploded into at least a thousand tiny shards. And no one was in the building—not even the guards. Not one pound of flesh was damaged. Thank God.” Lynette squinted into the flashing light, crossed herself, and dropped to her knees. She still felt bad about taking such extreme actions. “Lord have mercy,” she said loudly and crossed herself again. “Christ have mercy.” Although the group could not remain near the crime scene for very long, Lynette performed her penance.

Then she glanced at Sophia, who also had fallen to her knees and crossed herself. Crying, Sophia clasped one of Jason’s hands and tugged him to his knees. She bowed her head. “It is finished,” she said. “And it’s our fault. Lord, forgive us.”

Jason smiled. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” He grinned again and squeezed Sophia’s hand. “John 8:31.”

She glared at him. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free? What do you mean by that?” Her eyes flashed, and breathing grew heavy. She knit her eyebrows. “Are you agreeing we are responsible for the end of the world?”

Jason stared at her a moment. “The end of the world?” Now he laughed. “What makes you think this is the end?”

“All the signs are there—in the sky.” She pointed to where the lights had flashed, and where, a mere few minutes before, a bearded figure had glowed in the atmosphere.

But everything had dissipated. No bearded figure stood with lights glowing from him. And the laser light show had faded. Only huge columns of smoke continued to swirl and float into the stratosphere. Sophia shook her head. “What happened?”

Now Jason laughed heartily and enveloped her in his arms. “I don’t know what you saw, but if it was the end of the world, it was merely the end of the Unis’ world—and perhaps the end of The Reverend Yung Sung Ghuunes’. Otherwise, it wasn’t the end of the world. At least, not our world.” He kissed her on the mouth. “In fact,” he whispered. “Our world may have just begun.”

Sophia leaned her head on his chest. “You might be right.” For the first time that day, she smiled. She looked at the night sky. The hug clouds of smoke had cleared, and in the distance, lights in the Washington Monument. In fact, the blinking light coming from one of the slit-like eyes of the obelisk seemed to wink at her.

She cracked open her Bible to John 13:34. “Love one another,” she read aloud and smiled.

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