I started this book last year when the virus first hit. At first, it was going to be a young adult book just following Lily, but as I wrote it, I struggled. Then last September, I had the idea to turn it into book 3 of the Are You Listening series. It wasn't the original idea for book 3, but it seemed to work, and the BETA readers have already told me there will need to be a book 4. So, I'm hoping you'll love the first chapter and click to pre-order it. Even though it's so close to my last release, I think this one is so relevant that I don't want to wait on it, so it will be live March 1st. Happy reading!
Chapter 1 - Just after the rapture
“Raven, where are you going?” Jason stood a few feet from the entrance to the gym, a purple bruise already forming on the side of his face. He was an amazing trainer and fast as lightning, but he’d obviously been hit by something when the car crashed through the window. “Brian’s called an ambulance and the police. He wants everyone to stay put until this gets sorted out.”
“I have to get to Kat’s house. She left me something that explains all this. Something I’m going to need.” She turned back to assess her options. The main entrance to the gym parking lot was not an option. People wandering around aimlessly blocked it, and an accident filled all four lanes of College Street less than a block from the exit. Perhaps the back entrance would be passable. That street saw less traffic, so she might get lucky enough to weave through whatever cars might be there.
“Need? For what?” Exasperation threaded Jason’s normally even tone. “Right now we need to find the kids and Kat. Where is Kat anyway?” His eyes wandered to Kat’s blue Mini Cooper still parked in the space nearest the side door.
Raven bit the inside of her lip. What was going to happen to Kat’s car? Or the rest of her stuff? Did she have family who would come looking for her? People that Raven should notify? How would she even know?
She turned back to him, intensity in her eyes. “Kat is gone, Jason. The kids are gone. We could search forever, but we’ll never find them.”
“Gone? Gone where?”
“Come with me. I’ll show you and hopefully it will all make sense.” Raven motioned for him to follow her even though she actually had no idea what would be waiting for her at Kat’s place. Nor did she know if he would believe her. She certainly hadn’t been easy to convince, and one thing she’d always liked about Jason was that he didn’t buy into crazy theories. This was definitely the craziest theory she’d ever entertained, but suddenly she didn’t want to do it alone. She didn’t want to go into Kat’s house, find nothing, and realize the last week had been some bad hallucination, but even more than that, she didn’t want to find something that proved Kat was right and not have someone there with her.
Was this why she’d been left behind? Because she still doubted? She’d been about to tell Kat she believed, but did she really?
Jason’s gaze flicked back to the gym door, and Kat shook her head. “You can stay if you want, but no answers reside in there. I can give you answers if you come with me.”
His curiosity won out as she figured it would, and he followed her to her Jeep. After they were both buckled in, she fired up the engine and the radio blasted forth the emergency broadcast warning.
“This is an emergency alert. People are being encouraged to stay inside their houses. At least five planes have fallen from the sky over Washington state leaving fires and catastrophes in their wake.”
“Wait, planes are falling from the sky?” Jason turned his attention to the sky out the window. “How is that even possible? Was this a terrorist attack?”
Raven sighed as she turned the key. “No, this affected the world, and those missing people aren’t coming back.”
“How do you know?”
Jason said the words slowly, cautiously, and his face wore the one expression she had hoped to never see on it. The one that said he thought she was nuts and might even regret getting in the car with her.
Raven avoided Jason’s question as she looked behind her before throwing the Jeep in reverse and backing out. Could she tell him the truth? Did she truly believe? Once she uttered these words, their relationship would change forever. Was she really ready to do that?
Believe! The word floated through her mind like a whisper and carried the hint of Kat’s voice. Raven stepped on the brakes, took a deep breath, and turned to Jason. “I know because Kat told me just like she told you. These people are gone because they were raptured, and now I’m pretty sure I have a job to do.”
His eyes searched hers as if looking for the joke, the catch, but she didn’t have time for him to catch on. She threw the Jeep into drive and gunned it, causing Jason to grip the dashboard with white knuckles.
For a moment, he said nothing and they traversed the street in silence. Then, finally, he uttered three words. “Job? What job?”
But Raven didn’t answer. She didn’t know the answer. She only had the few pieces that Kat had been able to tell her. The truth was she didn’t really know what the future held.
She felt she was supposed to be some sort of guide and she knew that a ton of people had disappeared and that more bad events were coming, but that was the extent of her facts.
“I don’t know. I’m hoping I’ll figure it out when we get there.”
They continued the rest of the way in silence which Raven was thankful for as she needed to focus on navigating the obstacles in the road. Even though this way was less heavily trafficked, there were still accidents and dazed people wandering the streets. Finally, Raven pulled up to Kat’s house.
“Moment of truth,” Raven said as she put the jeep in park and turned off the engine.
“What is it you think Kat left you?” Jason asked as they stepped on her front stoop.
Raven bent down and retrieved the key from under the welcome mat, just where Kat had said it would be. “I’m not sure exactly. She just said she left something for me. Something that would help explain all of this and what’s coming.” Even in Kat’s normally quiet neighborhood, the sound of sirens and confusion carried on the breeze.
She inserted the key into the lock and pushed open the door. It felt weird stepping into Kat’s living room. It would have been weird even if Kat were still here as the two hadn’t been friends, but there was something even more eerie knowing that Kat wouldn’t be coming back here.
Her touch was still palpable in the room; Raven could see it in the arrangement of the furniture and the placement of the pictures. She could feel it in the carefree way the shoes were placed by the front door and a chair back held a recently-worn sweater. One that would never be worn again.
Raven wandered the room, hoping whatever Kat had left for her would be obvious. Though she was not above snooping through drawers, the thought felt a little like disturbing a dead body.
“Well, she certainly was neat,” Jason said as he too walked through the room. “Hey, Raven?”
“Yeah?” She scanned the coffee table for any sort of clue, but there were only a few magazines.
“You might want to come here for a second.”
Raven put the magazines back in place and crossed to the kitchen where Jason stood staring down at the table. An unlit but half burned candle sat in the middle surrounded by a plastic wreath, but she was pretty sure it was the small black book and journal that had garnered his attention. Sticking out from the journal was a white envelope with her name across the side.
With trembling fingers, she pulled the envelope the rest of the way out of the journal and opened it. A single sheet of white paper was folded inside. She pulled it out and read the pretty cursive.
If you are reading this, then it means I’m gone. Hopefully, it was due to the rapture and not some tragic accident. I wish I’d had more time to research and talk to people who really studied this, so I could pass on more information for you, but what I can tell you is that the next few years will not be easy. The Bible isn’t exactly clear on what will come, but it is clear that it will not be an easy time. Famine, earthquakes, and lawlessness are mentioned, but in this day and age, the tribulations could be anything. You’ll need to keep a vigilant eye, especially for anything that creates dissension or instills fear in people.
Also, at some point, a figure will emerge who will claim to be able to unite the world in harmony. I assume this figure will be a man, but again, don’t discount anything. Do your homework on anyone who claims to be able to do something that seems too good to be true, and listen for anything that seems to go against God’s word. I know you haven’t been a believer in a long time, so I’m entrusting my Bible and my journal to you. I’ve marked passages I thought were important as well as written my thoughts in the journal.
One more thing. In Revelation, there is talk of a “mark of the beast.” Though no one knows exactly what this will be, most assume it will be some numbers or symbol that people take. Many will line up to take it willingly and those who do not will be killed. The mark will probably become a requirement to do certain things though that is just speculation that I’ve read. My point is that you need to be aware of it. Anything the government wants you to take, you should research. These will be trying times, and I wish I could have left you with more guidance. Search for others like yourself - those who realized too late or knew but chose a different path. Unite with them and learn all you can. Try to rebuild the churches as they will be needed now more than ever and help those who will be grieving.
Know that I will be praying for you and counting down the hours until I can see you again.
Raven lowered the letter and looked at Jason. “I think this is what I was looking for.” She tucked the letter back in the envelope and picked up the Bible and journal.
“Don’t tell me you actually believe all that,” Jason said. Raven could tell that he was having the same internal battle she was - only she was confident she was closer to fully believing than he was.
“Do you have a better explanation?” she asked, throwing the ball into his court. She’d tried to come up with anything that could explain Micah and the dark shapes she’d seen, but all roads had led back to Kat.
“I just…” his brow furrowed, and he sighed, “No, at the moment I do not, but I will come up with one.”
Raven chuckled. “Yeah, that’s what I thought too. Come on, we should get back to the gym and help Brian with the clean-up. It looks like we’ll have a lot of that in our future.”
* * *
Dr. Candace Markham grabbed the railing of the hospital bed as she felt the ground shake beneath her. “What was that?” she asked the nurse on duty once it stilled.
The nurse, a woman in her late twenties or early thirties by the name of Julie, looked up at Candace with wide eyes full of fear. “I have no idea. Earthquake?”
“I don’t think so,” Candace said. “Too short.” She turned her attention to their patient, a man who’d been in a hit and run, but he seemed stable for the moment. “Page Dr. Edwards in surgery and tell him we’re bringing one up.” The scan had shown the patient had internal bleeding and though he was stable at the moment, Candace knew that wouldn’t last long.
Julie nodded and crossed to the phone on the wall. She lifted the receiver, punched in a few buttons, and then asked for Dr. Edwards. Then her face fell. “Okay, is there anyone in surgery free?”
A knot of apprehension twisted in Candace’s stomach. She couldn’t hear the conversation, but it was clear from Julie’s face that something was going on. Something that had to do with that shaking?
“What’s the matter?” Candace asked when Julie returned to her side.
Julie blinked a few times as if in shock before finally managing to squeak a few words out. “They say Dr. Edwards disappeared.”
“Disappeared? Well, did they bother paging him? He’s probably taking a break somewhere.”
“No,” Julie shook her head, “the nurse said she saw him disappear.”
“What?” Candace shook her head; she didn’t have time for this nonsense, but before she could say anything else, her pager went off. She glanced down at it. Emergency on the roof? Had a helicopter crashed? She supposed that could have set off the vibration. It vibrated again. Multiple crashes reported citywide. All hospitals to be on standby alert for patient overloads.
“What is it?” Julie asked, clearly sensing something was wrong from the expression on Candace’s face.
“Multiple crashes citywide. They say to brace for patient overload. What exactly is going on here? Look, get him up to surgery with whoever they can find and then get back here. It sounds like we’ll need all hands on deck.”
Julie nodded and Candace helped her get the bed wheeled into the hallway, but as the elevator door opened and Julie stepped inside, chaos erupted in the ER.
* * *
The sound of ceramic shattering sent Gabe Cross jumping to his feet. “Melinda, are you okay?”
His wife had been grabbing them both a mug of afternoon coffee - a rare treat around his house. Normally, he would be at work right now, and she would be wrangling the kids, but he’d finished work early, and she’d taken the kids to her mother’s house, so it was just the two of them. They’d decided to have a cup of coffee and watch a movie before her mother brought the children home.
“Melinda?” He stepped into the kitchen and froze. Shattered pieces of mugs lay in a pool of brown liquid. At the edge of the liquid lay the jeans and sweater that Melinda had been wearing. Though he knew it was irrational, Gabe tore through the house calling her name, but she was nowhere to be found. That could only mean… The kids! The thought pierced him like a knife and he placed a hand against the wall as a vise squeezed his lungs. Would they be gone too?
When he could catch a breath, he pulled his phone from his pocket and dialed Melinda’s mother’s number, but all it did was ring. No, this could not be happening. Not now! Not yet!
Grabbing his keys, he hurried to the car. He had to find the kids. They couldn’t be gone. Not all of them.
* * *
Lily dialed Katie as the sound of sirens grew louder around her. Normally she didn’t mind being home alone after school. It gave her time to get a snack and unwind before her parents came home and peppered her with questions about how her day was, but right now, she didn’t want to be alone.
“Lily, are you okay?” Katie was Lily’s best friend, and she’d never heard the kind of fear she heard in her voice now.
“I think so, but the sirens are so loud. What’s going on?”
“I don’t know, but my neighbor is screaming that someone took her son. She’s starting to freak me out. Are your parents home?”
“No, are yours?”
Lily took a deep breath and tried to remain calm. Even though Katie was as scared as she was, just having her on the phone helped. “It’s okay. It will be okay.” She moved to the window to glance outside, but not much seemed out of the ordinary here. Of course, she lived on a quiet residential street. Whatever had happened must have happened closer to the business side of town.
But what? An explosion? No, she would have heard that. A robbery? Possibly, but there were so many sirens and that didn’t explain Katie’s neighbors’ kids.
Lily let the curtain fall back over the window and walked into the living room, her eyes searching for the remote. She clicked it on and stared at the images invading her television. “Oh my gosh.”
* * *
Pastor Benjamin Westley felt it. He didn’t know what it was at first - a cold sensation, the kind that he imagined he would feel if a ghost ever passed through him, but then an immediate weight descended
upon his shoulders. And he knew. He knew that Jesus had come and he’d been left behind.
Dropping his head to his hands, he began to sob. “I’m so sorry, Lord. Please forgive me but use me now. Let me be like Samson. Use me to save as many as possible. Please Lord.”