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God hid me.
That’s what I thought when the government men in their gold lettered jackets walked right on by me. Turned out the dominion didn’t want us young boys. It was the girls they took, the Apostle too, and some of the uncles.
That was six days ago and there hasn’t been any peace since. Tobi won’t stop barking. Even mother Ruth who is gifted with the animals can’t calm him down. We had to shut him in the barn just to hear each other speak.
My birth mother won’t stop crying neither, nor any of the women ’cept for the Apostle’s sisters. Those two are cool as can be on account of the Almighty likes to work in mysterious ways. In morning school Martha wrote scripture on the board that said, ‘And there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again to their own border.’
At first I didn’t miss the girls. I used to get jealous of the way they were treated special, and that they got to go places with the uncles … places outside. Now I want them back, if only because the grown-ups are so angry all the time. When I asked my mother if I could go and see Tobi, she told me off for being selfish and hit me with a broom handle. Then she set me to sweeping the steps of the Sanctuary. She called it a penance. I thought it was dumb. The wind’s so dusty here I wasn’t ever gonna get that stair clean.
I got bored and thirsty real quick out in the sun. The only thing that kept me from going crazy was trying to catch the shiny little beetles that are always running in and out of the cracks.
It’s been stupid hot this summer. We water the trees and grass all the time but they still turn brown, and the mountains shine so white it hurts your eyes to look at them. I never see any birds like they talk about in the Bible. No owls, no doves, no ravens, no sparrows. Nothing.
Night’s my favourite time. We, the boys I mean, sleep in a cabin back of the Sanctuary. Night is the only time that we get away from the adults, away from chores and lessons. I love the smell of the sawn beams, and hearing the coyotes hollering like the jackals of Edom.
You can see the stars too: millions upon millions of them. They make me think about the war in heaven. We talk about stuff like that a lot. By day, when dust devils are dancing outside the walls, every word of the Apostle fits perfect – just like the stones we piled up to make the corral. At night though, the world seems deeper and colder than words.
The little boys cry sometimes until we shut them up. And the rest, they whisper about the world outside. They speak about it like some folk speak about Paradise; with a kind of happy-sad, faraway look in their eyes. I listen to them but say nothing. You can’t trust them that are waiting for the winnowing ’cos they’ll sell out anyone for a kind word from the Apostle. At sixteen or seventeen you get a bride or you get exile, and far more feet have trod the dirt road than stepped to the altar.
A long time ago, when I first came here, some of the boys used to tease me about my sister; like they were gonna marry her. It made me angry that someone I barely knew could be such a weakness to me. I closed my heart to her then and she disappeared into the life of the women’s house.
At breakfast today there was a rumour of the people that were took being returned. My mother near fell out a window craning to see dust clouds on the road. It was a false alarm and she sat back down, her face loose as a spill of salt.
When I leave here I ain’t ever looking back.