Joe blinked as the light faded and he closed his eyes, trying to adjust to the change. He felt almost blinded and tried several times to see what was around him. He finally sat down on the ground and rested his head on his arms, which were folded on his bent knees. Slowly, he lifted his head and could see that the bright light was gone, and so was the darkness that had preceded it. It took him a few minutes to recognize his surroundings and realize he was alone. At least he thought he was, until he looked behind him and saw Jeff lying prone on the ground.
“Jeff!” He called out. “Are you okay?”
Jeff slowly lifted his head. “Wow! I had the weirdest dream”
“I don’t think that was a dream.” Joe said. “If it was, I had the same one. Where did everybody go?”
Jeff got to his feet shakily and looked around him. “I don’t know – at least, I’m not sure.”
Joe scowled. “Well where do you think they are?” he stood up and walked over to the tents, peering inside them all, then inside the two helicopters nearby, with Jeff following behind. “Did they go down to the house?”
Jeff was still feeling dazed and confused. “We’d better go and have a look.” He headed down to the track leading across the creek and up to the house.
Joe followed behind him and stopped to look inside the huge shed. There were three beds and two mattresses on the carpeted floor, a pile of machinery and various items of furniture stacked at one end. He continued up the steps to the house behind Jeff, and through the back door into the kitchen. “Hello! Anybody here?” He shouted.
Jeff peered into the living room and bedrooms, then stood in the middle of the room looking dazed.
Joe looked worriedly at him. “If you think you know where they’ve gone, you’d better tell me before I go nuts.” He sat down on one of the easy chairs in the living room.
Jeff sat opposite him on the couch. “It went all dark – do you remember that?”
Joe nodded his head.
“Then this bright light suddenly appeared and got brighter and brighter?”
Joe nodded again.
“Then I saw my parents in the bright light. I got all excited and went towards them, but Dad put his hands up to stop me and said ‘Don’t touch me. It’s not your time yet. You are needed here.’ Then he put his hand on my shoulder and I blacked out.” He looked over at Joe who was looking at him with wide eyes. “Did I dream all that?”
Joe put his hands over his face. “Oh shit! I should have listened to her.”
“Huh?” Jeff was feeling more and more confused.
Joe looked up at him. “My sister tried to tell me, with everything that was happening all over the world in the last few years, things were going to come to a head. When people all around us started just disappearing, she said they were being ‘taken up’. She quoted several passages in the Bible that predicted all the things that were happening – and I didn’t believe her. I thought there had to be a logical explanation. Did you know about all this?”
Jeff nodded. “Jack explained it all to us, but I don’t think even he knew how soon this would happen. He said he felt sure we were all prepared. If that was the case, why didn’t they take me? I believed.”
Joe scowled. “What was it you father said in your dream?”
“He said I was needed here.” Jeff also scowled. “But why? What on earth can I do to make things better?”
“How long have you been living up here?” Joe asked.
“Almost a year.”
“And have you learned anything else besides what was happening to the world?”
“Dave taught me lots. I already knew about farming from what my father taught me, but Dave taught me a lot about tanning animal hides and woodturning and gardening. And I learned a lot from Dorothy as well about self-sufficiency. But what good is that going to do now?”
Joe shrugged his shoulders. “If what everyone has been saying is true, it looks like there are going to be people around who are going to need those skills. Maybe you are meant to teach them.”
“I can’t see me being a very good teacher.” Jeff stretched out on the couch.
“Maybe that’s the way Dave felt until he had someone to teach.” Joe said.
“Maybe, but Dave was a lot more experienced that I am.” Jeff sat up again. “Anyway, there’s nobody left around here to teach – unless…” he leapt to his feet. “I think I’d better go check out the other houses in case there is still someone around.”
Joe stood up. “Not a good idea lad, it’s going to start getting dark soon. How about leaving it until tomorrow and I’ll come with you.”
Jeff stopped with his hand on the ranch slider door. “I suppose you’re right.”
“We’d better try to get something for dinner.” Joe walked into the kitchen. “Do you think there’ll be something here, or shall I go and grab something from the camp?”
Jeff opened the pantry door. “There’s bottled fish and veggies in here. We could just open something. And there’s bread that Dorothy made yesterday. Will that be okay?”
“Sounds good to me.” Joe said. He stood watching, while Jeff took plates and cutlery and laid them on the bench, then started opening jars. “They sure were prepared for all this, weren’t they? I guess they knew what was coming.”
Jeff explained again how Jack had taught them all about the bible prophesies and how they were all happening around them.
“So where were you when it all started?” Joe asked.
Jeff told him the story: “My parents had gone over to a neighbour’s to make sure they had heard the news about the meteorites heading for earth and while they were away, everything started happening, so I jumped on my horse and headed for the scrub. There was a deep hollow where the creek ran through, so I went in there. It was like a nightmare. Explosions all around and the scrub caught fire. I made poor Domingo – my horse, go into the deeper water and we just stayed there for a couple of days until the fire died down and everything seemed quieter. When I felt it was safe to come out, I went to my parent’s house and it was almost gutted. It was made of brick and was still standing and some of the cupboards still had canned food in them. I figured Mum and Dad must still be at the neighbours, so I rode over there and found the house burned to the ground. There was no way they could have escaped. After I got my head around what had happened, I decided I was going to have to try to get along without them and try to get the farm back to working order – it was a mess. I think a couple more days went by and I noticed a bunch of scruffy looking girls trying to catch my horse. They got a fright when I spoke to them.” He grinned at the memory of the girl’s startled faces.
“When they explained what had happened to them – they had been trapped in a cave for a few days and missed all the horror outside – I took pity on them and invited them to stay. I had to tell them what had happened, as they didn’t have any idea. They wanted to get to Auckland to see if their families were ok. I had already ridden up the Waitakeries and taken a look, so tried to talk them out of it, but they insisted, so I went along with them. One of the girls – Kathy I think it was, had hurt her leg in the cave, so I let her ride Domingo. As we got closer to Auckland they chickened out, but two of them – Marion and Claire decided they wanted to continue on. The rest of us started heading up here where Julie’s parents were, hoping we’d find things better. We stopped at a place near Helensville for a while with John and Doris, who were really a big help. John found us that Nissan Safari out there – full of diesel – and we headed up here.”
“So how did the other two girls get here?” Joe asked.
Jeff continued. “They had changed their minds once they got closer to Auckland and found their way to John and Doris’s place and eventually Ross decided to fly them up here in his plane. As they were leaving, the big earthquakes started, so he grabbed his family and brought them up as well.”
“Where did they land?” Joe asked.
“On Jack’s topdressing air strip. It’s just up the road.”
Joe looked hopeful. “Topdressing? There must be a fuel tank up there then?”
“Yes there is. We’ve started using the fuel in the cars, but there’s still plenty there.”
Joe scowled. “You do realize aero fuel is not good for the cars?”
“Yes, we knew that, but decided we might as well use it so we could get some use out of the cars before they conked out. We don’t use it in the Safari of course as it’s diesel.”
Joe nodded, then said, “I should be able to fuel one of the copters up then?”
Jeff looked worried. “You’re not thinking of leaving are you? Where would you go?”
Joe laughed. “Don’t worry, I wouldn’t leave you here on your own. I just thought we could take a good look around and see who or what there is out there.”
“We did take a look around in the plane and apart from a few isolated houses in the higher parts, there’s not much left. We did see a cruise ship in the harbour, but that’s gone over to Australia.”
“How do you know that?” Joe asked.
“Old Hank up the road has a radio and Jack was talking to them on it after Hank died.”
Joe raised his eyebrows. “We’d better have a look at that tomorrow as well, might get some news.”
“You know how to use it then?” Jeff looked hopeful.
Joe grinned. “Shouldn’t be any different to the copter ones. Mind you, I couldn’t get much on them when we were looking for somewhere to land. I didn’t try any of the other channels though.”
“Okay,” Jeff said, we’ll go there first thing in the morning. In the meantime, I’m going to have a shower.”
Joe got to his feet as Jeff left the room, and walked over to the bookcase. Looking through the titles, he found a well-worn bible with papers marking several of the pages and sat down to take a look through it. By the time Jeff came back rubbing his head with a towel, Joe was completely engrossed in what he was reading.
Jeff left him to it and went into the kitchen to clean up, then went and sat on the couch. “Are you married?” He asked. “Was you wife amongst the group you brought?”
Joe looked up. “No – well I was once, but she ran off with a truckie. I’ve never been brave enough to look for another wife.”
“Did you have any children?” Jeff asked.
“No, I think that’s the reason she left. She wanted children so badly and it didn’t happen with me. “She’s got two children now, so she’s probably happy at last.” He scowled. “I don’t even know if they’ve survived.”
“I suppose it depends it on what her beliefs were.” Jeff suggested.
“I’m pretty sure she was a good Christian.” Joe said, that’s why I found it so hard to understand what she did.”
“Even Christians are human.” Jeff said. “I remember Jack saying something about; none of us are, or can expect to be perfect, but to just live life the way we believe is right, and not lose our faith just because we make mistakes.”
Joe sat thinking about Jeff’s words, then said; “Maybe her mistake was marrying me in the first place.”
“Not necessarily.” Jeff said. “She probably learned from you what she needed to know before she moved on.”
Joe raised his eyebrows. “You’ve got a pretty wise head on those young shoulders young fella. You’ve obviously been mixing with the right company.”
Jeff shrugged embarrassedly. “I guess I’ve learned more since I’ve been here than I realized.”
“Well there you go.” Joe said. “You’ll be a great benefit to any others still wandering around there,”
“We’ll see.” Jeff grinned. “There’s obviously a reason I’m still here, so I’ll just make the best of it.” He yawned and got to his feet. “I don’t know about you, but I’m about ready for bed. Just grab any bed when you’re ready. It doesn’t look as if anyone else will be using them.”
Joe got to his feet. “Sound good to me, I’d rather sleep in here than up at the camp by myself.” He waited to see where Jeff went and took the room next to him. He stood looking at the comfortable bed for a few minutes, then stripped down to his underwear and climbed in. He had barely lain down and closed his eyes before he fell into a deep sleep.
Jeff on the other hand, lay awake for some time, still feeling confused about the day’s events. He found it hard to believe that everyone he had shared his life with over the past few months had gone. “What now?” He thought to himself. “What’s going to happen next? What if there are no other people around? What will I do if I have to live the rest of my life alone here” He remembered Joes words; ‘I won’t leave you here on your own’. And that gave him a little comfort. “I guess I’ll just have to take one day at a time and see what happens. We’ll go up to Hanks place tomorrow and see if we can contact anyone on the radio. There’s no use worrying about anything until we do that.” He tossed and turned for a time, then finally fell into a fitful sleep, dreaming about his father walking towards him and saying. ‘It’s not time for you to leave yet, you are needed here’. He saw his mother standing in the background smiling at him. “At least she seems happy,” He thought. “Maybe one day soon, I’ll be able to join them. I’ll just have to be patient.” His dream changed and he was working with Dave, learning to tan animal hides, learning the best way to grow corn, hearing Dorothy talking about ways to live without power, using corn to grind into flour, sewing leather into clothing, baking in the camp oven, caring for other people and much more. He saw Jack reading passages from the bible, explaining how everything is in God’s hands and all we have to do is believe that if we have asked him to take over our lives and allow the Holy Spirit of Jesus to live inside us, all will be well. His dream changed, and he was the one reading passages from the bible and explaining them to other people who were standing watching him. In his dream, he looked up and saw a bright light shining above them all and his heart filled with peace.
He woke early the next morning and, as had become his habit, went outside and looked up at the sky. It was still covered in smoky clouds, but he was sure the smoke had thinned a little. There was still a breeze blowing and he felt hopeful that it wouldn’t be long before they could see blue sky again. He walked over to the garden and looked down at the many types of vegetables the girls had been growing, as well as the potatoes and corn he and Dave had been taking care of. They didn’t seem to be growing very fast, but at least were still alive. “Just a little sunshine and rain is all they need.” he said out loud. He looked up at the sky again and headed back inside.