Short short Fiction Story
BORN AGAIN (1000 words)
Copyright, 2005 M. Westlake
The white banner made from a sheet pinned onto the 50 foot square tent front stood out. Different colors of spray paint, barely readable, said “You are in God’s fluid womb, now get Born again.” The writer was talking about the fluid of the flood waters that had risen to four feet overnight in a large rural community. There were no streets visible, no grass; only vast miles of water with the tops of a few ruined houses showing. People struggled to walk in waist deep water.
The twenty-five strangers from all parts of the territory had been propelled there by torrents of water; they were traumatized and agaw, and unable to speak. They knew not whether to laugh or cry at the banner’s words but simply struggled separately to get to the tent.
Being ‘born again’ could be a wish-fulfillment for the wanderers since they were certain they were in hell.
Earlier, before it would get colder and pitch dark, a short, thin evangelist, sitting on a floating flat wooden gate, had gone paddling around shouting to them, “If you can make it, go to the tent near the old highway and get saved, you can see it from here.”
Well, everyone was waiting to be saved; saved they desperately wanted to be.
The tough canvas tent bravely stood on slightly higher ground than anything miles around. Although filled inside with water up to the knees, its tent poles were steel, strong and fortunately grounded into a thick cement floor; and the rigging was tight at the top. It looked like a miracle of endurance itself.
The people who had swashed in through the gaping entrance of the tent were surprised; it was bright and cheerful. What should have been a dark dank room was lit with fifty candles of different sizes sitting on heavy, rock-stabilized book shelves and tallboys that had been retrieved as they floated by the evangelist and his assistant. The candles were another floating find, and the evangelist took advantage of the serendipitous provisions to create a get-born-again situation.
Although in an emotional condition, the small farm townspeople in the state were accustomed to evangelist’s tented visits every year, and so felt hope. Yes people were drawn to it.
The evangelist tentatively stepped onto a flat home-built dais, which was anchored to a concrete stage. He spoke “Alright people, everything may seem bleak tonight, but I want you to remember the happiness you felt before the storm; remember the love you shared with your family and friends before the rains started – love is real, and hold that love in your hearts. And by God remember that we are alive and there is nothing that the greatest God wouldn’t do for us if we will just reach out and see.
“I know what God can do to you,” yelled out a sun-weathered man in an old beat-up straw hat and torn overalls. When he tipped his hat you could see the calluses on his hands that only years of working with teams of horses can make.
“Speak up brother, please,” the evangelist said.
“I said look what God has already done.”
“You mean the flood water, sir?” said the evangelist hoping that was what the farmer meant because there was a good answer to it.
“Exactly. Look at the ruin. And these people have wandered around in all that water without a sou in their pockets.” The old farmer spit out the words, “They have no homes left, and most can’t afford insurance so they’ll have to become wards of charity if there is any charity after paying off the debt this flood has cost,” and then bowed his head to hide the profound emotion on his face. He mumbled quietly, “Look at that, why don’t ya.”
“Good sir, we feel your pain, we have the same pain, but look at the flood that was in the Old Testament,” the evangelist replied. “There was no one spared except Noah and all those in the ark. We are thousands of times better off than that. Do you see the difference? We are here and alive; most importantly we have each other to console each other. I’m here to tell you that unlike old stories, God didn’t do this to you and that God loves you for your endurance. Reach out and find help within your Mind; don’t get morose or let tears rob you of vision. You need to be functioning right now. And those who can, help others here function.”
Head still bent, the farmer said “Yeah, I see it.” He looked up at the warm, smiling eyes of the evangelist. “I guess I do.”
“How many of you need to find members of your family,” the evangelist continued. Fifteen people raised their hands. “Well we’re going to form a committee when it gets light and help each one of you go looking. Some of your families have probably reached dry land by now. Some of them probably are already rescued. We’re going to help everyone. I know you don’t know one another, but do not believe that you are here alone.”
At those words everyone moved to the center of the room, closer together. They hugged one another. Several women couldn’t hold back their tears. Those nearest them comforted them with gentle words of hope. “Don’t worry,” they said to each other, “tomorrow we’ll all help one another.”
The women stopped crying and looked up at the evangelist with adoring gratitude.
The evangelist was taken by their instant connection; he stood there watching them, smiling. Tears of inexplicable joy flowed down his face when he saw them all smiling back bravely as one team.
Then they all heard a terribly loud noise outside.
“Never mind the noise,” the evangelist shouted, fearing another barrage of water or worse, “look at these wonderful--” the noise got louder, “--people.”
The noise got closer and closer until it took up everyone's attention.
Everyone rushed to get outside, wading as well as they could.
"Look at that, look at that," the farmer shouted, pointing to the sky.
They all looked up into the sky and hugged again; they saw three helicopters flying in to rescue them.
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