Prologue – Present Day

The Gatherers 

Year One
Episode # 1 – The Vanishings

Prologue – Present Day

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
-John 14:1-3
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
-I Corinthians 15:50-57
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” – I Thessalonians 4:13-18

________

“I was told this day would come, and I believed it…I just wasn’t ready.” – Albert Barrington

******* *******

Rain was falling at a steady pace.  As the sky darkened with storm clouds, the rain slowly began to increase.  It was the rain which fell upon his face that eventually caused him to regain consciousness.  He blinked open his eyes and slowly raised his arm up as if in a dream.  He shaded his eyes from the rain and looked up.  He realized he was lying on his back with his feet extended slightly above him.  He was startled to discover he was upside down on a hill, and tried to make sense of what had happened.

For a moment, he lay still as he tried to gather his wits about him.  He had no idea how he had come to be in this position.  He had no idea why he was lying on the wet ground beneath a stormy sky.  Something was wrong.  Something was threatening to swallow him whole where he knew he would be lost forever.

That something was Despair.

Something horrible had just happened.  He knew it without one shadow of a doubt.  As certain as he knew that his name was Albert Barrington, he was just as certain that something tragic had occurred only moments ago.  Something so horrible, it meant to him as if hope had just left the world.  He couldn’t understand why he was sure of it, but only that he was.

The despair was so powerful, it was threatening to overwhelm him.  He knew if he didn’t fight it, he would be lost forever.  So Albert Barrington took a deep breath and let his arm fall back beside him on the ground at his side.  He allowed the rain to fall on his face, and concentrated on the sounds around him.  There was a loud whine somewhere in the distance, like the whine of a buzz saw.  At the moment, it was the only consistent sound.

He held his breath.

There were other sounds, he realized.

Someone was screaming.  A car horn was blaring non-stop.  To his left, he heard a ticking sound.  He slowly turned his head and saw a car several feet away from him, the passenger door hanging open.  The front end was mashed into a tree.  There was someone sitting behind the steering wheel, unmoving.

Barrington realized he must have been thrown from the car, but that would have meant he hadn’t buckled himself up.  That couldn’t be right.  He had always worn a seatbelt.  For him, there was no reason not to wear a seatbelt.  His entire life was by the book.  To the letter of the law.  Always follow the rules and never stray beyond the boundaries.  That had been his motto, unlike his partner, Michael Lenox.

Barrington finally forced himself to sit up with a groan.  He felt groggy, lethargic.  Despite the rain, his mouth was dry.  He was suffering from a splitting migraine and hoped he didn’t have a concussion.  When he put his hand up to his head, his fingers came away wet with blood.  So somewhere along the way, his head had struck something; but everything else seemed to work.

He forced himself to his feet and intended to help his friend who was still in the car.  The whine sounded closer, but he was still unable to determine what it was.  He couldn’t concern himself with it anyway.  Not until he could help his friend.

He made his way to the car as a flash of lightning lit the sky for a split second off in the distance.  He moved around to the back end of the car and when he got to the drivers side, he pulled open the front door.  Lenox was sitting there, staring ahead of him.

“Michael…?” Barrington said, concern in his voice.  The dread he had felt earlier was trying to resurface.  He concentrated on helping his friend to keep it at bay.  “Michael…Knox, man…are you with me?”

Lenox swallowed.  “Al…?”

“Yeah?”

There was a pause.  “Why…is there a tree crawling out through the hood of the car?”

“Uhm…It…it’s not crawling out of the hood.  You hit it.”

“Huh.”  Lenox snorted in disbelief.

“Are you alright?”  Barrington noticed his friend was holding onto his left shoulder, seeming to favor it.  “What’s wrong with your arm?”

Lenox took a deep breath.  “Argh…I think it’s dislocated.  I really hate that.”  He looked into the rearview mirror.  “What the…?”  Scowling, he slowly turned to look into the backseat of the car.  “Where’s our prisoner?”

Barrington had a good idea where the prisoner was, but he didn’t think Lenox would want to hear it.  At least, not yet.  Lenox did not appear to notice the pile of clothing in the backseat of the car.  “He’s gone,” Barrington responded softly.

Lenox checked the shoulder holster at his right, relieved to find his weapon was still there.  He gritted his teeth and pulled himself out of the car with his good hand as he glared at Barrington.  “Do you still have your piece?”

Barrington checked his holster, startled by his discovery.  “It…it’s gone.”

“That’s just great!”  Lenox cursed.  Then, he began to head up the hill, holding his wounded shoulder.

“Knox…I don’t think he took it.”

Lenox didn’t seem to hear him.  He came to the top of the hill and stopped.  Then, he just didn’t move.

Barrington felt the despair all over again.  “Michael…?” he inquired.

But Lenox did not respond.

The feeling of dread tightened its grip as Barrington made his way slowly up the hill.  He wasn’t certain if his mind was playing tricks on him, but he thought the sky darkened ominously with every step he took.  The rain began to fall harder and stung as the wind whipped around him.

When he reached the top, he stood beside Lenox and understood why he had not responded to him.  Spread across the north and south bound lanes of Interstate 90, and across the divider that separated them was the wreckage of a plane.  Debris and bodies littered the highway around the crash site.  Other vehicles were either off the highway, turned over, or crashed into each other.  And this was as far as he could see beyond the crash site from either side.  A car on the shoulder was burning in spite of the rain, part of the wing of the plane resting atop it.

That was where the whine was coming from, Barrington realized.

There was a man on his knees, facing the wreckage, wailing.  He was shaking his fists toward the darkened skies, oblivious to the hard rain falling on his face.  It was as if the man were cursing God for the tragic scene around him.

Barrington swallowed and dropped to his knees because somehow, he knew.  He knew what had happened; not just here, but all around the world.  And the only reason he knew was because he had been warned that this would happen.

He just hadn’t listened.

_______ _______ _______

To Be Continued in Chapter One – The Day Of Salvation.

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