Anthony and Danielle never returned to Petra. What arrived instead was the news that they had both met horrible deaths at the hand of the false prophet they had gone to see.
"I warned her not to leave Petra," Annie said.
"I know you did," David told her. "That was all you could have done, sweetheart. Please try not to get too upset about it. You might hurt the baby."
To try to take her mind off what had happened to her friends, Annie went to visit her new friend Bethany and Bethany's newborn son, Gabriel.
"He's adorable!" Annie exclaimed when she saw the baby. "Can I hold him?"
"Sure." Bethany carefully placed little Gabriel into Annie's arms. He stirred slightly but then went back to sleep.
"What was it like?" Annie asked her friend. "Did it hurt really bad?"
"Not at first," Bethany replied. "The last part really hurt a lot, but it didn't last very long. Don't worry. You'll do fine," she said when she saw the expression of fear on Annie's face. "Are you hoping for a boy or a girl?"
"Dr. Ben-Judah told us that we would have a girl, and that we were to name her Mercy," Annie replied.
"Well, if Dr. Ben-Judah said it, you can be sure it will happen," Bethany told her.
News from outside Petra filtered in. The Bowl Judgements began. First the world's entire freshwater supply was turned to blood, and then the earth's surface temperature rose dramatically, scorching the followers of the Antichrist. Finally, a deep darkness fell over the entire kingdom of New Babylon.
In the meantime, Annie's pregnancy progressed normally. She was sitting quietly in the tent with David after the evening meal when she went into labor. David rushed her to the hospital in Petra, where Hannah examined her.
"You're definitely in labor, all right," Hannah told her. Annie undressed, and Hannah helped her into bed, then quickly started an IV and hooked her up to a fetal monitor.
The first few hours weren't that bad. Annie dozed off and on and chatted with David and Hannah. Around midnight, the contractions became stronger and more painful, and Annie began to feel frightened.
Hannah examined her again. "You're almost there, but not quite," she said. "Don't start pushing yet."
"It's going to be all right, hon," David encouraged his wife, gently touching her forehead with a damp washcloth. "Hang on just a little while longer."
Hannah examined Annie again a little while later. "Now you're ready!" she told her. "Go ahead and push!"
Annie groaned and pushed as hard as she could. Nothing seemed to happen, and she felt discouraged.
"You're doing fine, sweetheart," David said, touching the washcloth to her forehead again. "Just keep pushing."
Annie pushed a few more times.
"She has black hair just like you, honey!" David exclaimed after a few more pushes.
His words gave Annie renewed strength. She pushed mightily again, and the baby's head emerged. Another push and the shoulders were out, and after one more push, the baby's entire body slid into David's waiting hands.
"Here she is!" Hannah exclaimed joyfully. David cut the umbilical cord, and little Mercy wailed lustily and moved her arms and legs.
"She's beautiful, honey." Annie saw tears in David's eyes as he handed their daughter to her.
"She looks just like you," Annie replied. She was crying as well.
David and Annie were happily surprised when they received a visit from Dr. Ben-Judah a little while later.
"She's a beautiful child," Dr. Ben-Judah said as he held little Mercy in his arms. "The Lord has truly blessed you."
"We named her Mercy, like you said," Annie told him shyly.
"It suits her," Dr. Ben-Judah said. He prayed a short prayer over baby Mercy.
"Thank you for visiting us," David told him when he was finished.
"You're very welcome. May God bless you both," Dr. Ben-Judah said in parting.
Mercy cried, and Annie began to nurse her. Resting contentedly with her husband and daughter, Annie could almost forget that she was literally living in the last days of the existence of planet earth.