Richard sagged his shoulders, then sighed. He rubbed his forehead. "Yes. I am."

Dropping his hand to his side, he bowed his head. "Please, Jesus, forgive me for the wrong I've done." He paused. "Including trying to kill Lester Larson. Thank You for sending me these angels to stop me, and to get through to Lester."

He swallowed. "I—I ask You to come live in my heart, and to use me. Please make me new inside. Amen."

He opened his eyes. The angels and Mark beamed; Mark threw his arms around his older brother.

"Richard, Mark, listen to me." A serious expression etched Tess' ebony face. "Listen to my instructions, because they're from God." She looked from Mark to Richard. "For starters, God has called you to be the same instruments that Lester was supposed to be. That means you will have to feed your neighbors. This home is yours now, along with the food."

Her eyes grew stern; she wagged her finger. "Don't make the mistake Lester made, of thinking that you and you alone can keep yourselves alive in this Tribulation. You can't; only God can. He is calling you to share your food generously, and to trust Him to keep you supplied. He will make the food last. Just as He promised Lester." She looked from Richard to Mark. "Your lives are in God's hands, and that's where He wants you to leave them."

Richard and Mark looked at each other, then nodded. "We will," Richard promised. Nodding agreement, Mark leaned against the dining-room wall.

"One more instruction." Propping her fingers together, Monica glanced at the ceiling, then looked at Richard, then Mark. "In the cellar, there is a closet. You've seen a door to the left of the safe; that's the closet door." The two men nodded. "And underneath that closet is another entrance, leading down into a bomb shelter. Lester didn't reveal this to Gloria or me; God did. This house is several decades old; its original owner had a fallout shelter built beneath that cellar during the early 60s. It's a spacious shelter, big enough to hold quite a few people. And strong enough to withstand all but a direct hit from a nuclear bomb."

She furrowed her eyebrows. "In a matter of months, the war in the Middle East is going to turn nuclear; when that happens, nuclear winter will soon set in. The air will become radioactive and cold. The sky will be dark. And there will be earthquakes."

The two men fidgeted, uneasy expressions on their faces. Monica smiled reassuringly. "Don't be afraid, but do be prepared. It's going to happen, and God wants you to get ready. Because when that happens, you will have to not only provide your neighbors with food—you will have to shelter them, as well."

Tess agreed. She folded her arms across her chest. "In fact, gentlemen, you may have to shelter them sooner than that." She paused. "When the law starts executing local believers for refusing the implant, you will have to hide them in that bomb shelter. You will also have to be prepared to hide yourselves, so take some of that food now in the safe down to the bomb shelter, so it'll be there when the time comes. Move all the bottled water down there, too, because the water supply will eventually be contaminated. There is room enough in the fallout shelter to store food as well as to shelter people. You will have to feed and to hide all believers in the months to come."

Monica nodded. "The shelter will be a safe place to stay out of the radiation. And the air is cool, so you won't have to worry about sweltering down there when your utilities get cut off. The cellar above will be a comfortable place to sleep when that day comes."

The two Campbells acquiesced. "We will do as you say." Mark pushed his glasses up his nose. "We will need a lot of help from God to carry out this calling effectively. Especially if it's going to get as bad as you say."

"And you will have it," Tess promised. "When the need arises, He will send you angels, as He did, this time. Maybe not us, but He will send you angels when you need them. And He will send you whatever miraculous provisions you need, as well."

Tess turned to the others. Until then, she, Monica, and the two men had spoken in low voices. Now, approaching the dining table, she raised her alto voice.

"Ladies and gentlemen, listen to me." Her authoritative voice silenced everyone. "God sent you angels to bring you to a place where you could have food. That food will last here for as long as you need it to." She paused. "Right now, though, I have a very important question to ask you. How many of you have accepted Jesus into your hearts? Raise your right hands if you've accepted Him as your Savior."

All the adults raised their hands. The toddlers just fidgeted, jabbered, and played with their food. Tess looked from one visitor to another, gazing at their hands and their foreheads as she did so. At last, a pleased grin spread across her face.

"Not a single one of you have accepted Puccini's implant. That's good. The Father is proud of you." She beamed her approval. "Here, you will have shelter as well, when the time comes. When the law begins enforcing the mark by threat of execution, you will have this house to come to. Mark and Richard will give you shelter and hide you, when the time comes to go into hiding." Mark and Richard bowed in acknowledgment.

"In the meantime," Tess continued, "God wants you to stay close to Him and be prepared to follow His leading. These are extremely difficult times, and they will get worse before Jesus returns. But God will see you through them, and He will preserve your souls until His Son arrives to begin His Kingdom."

She approached Richard and lowered her voice once more. "I will be back in a few hours, to officiate your wife's funeral. With Lester dead, we will have to hold a double funeral, so a couple of coffins will be sent here very soon—we will hold the funeral here. Your wife's body will be transported here, too." She paused. "I took the liberty of getting you a tomb stone for her, so you wouldn't have to. I will get another one for Lester, too." Richard smiled his gratitude.

Saying good-bye to Richard and Mark, the angels left the house. "I'm so glad these believers will have a refuge where they can be safe while the world faces destruction." Monica paused to gaze up at the towering mansion, a satisfied smile on her face. Her pearl earrings gleamed in the sunlight. A breeze suddenly arose, playing with her hair and caressing her face.

Tess nodded agreement. "So am I, baby. There will be many such shelters in a variety of places, all over the world, for Tribulation believers to hide in. And God will provide them with miracles as needed—designed to keep them alive—as He did for these people." She shook her head. "Without such places and without angelic intervention, Angel Girl, no one could survive to the Second Coming."

"They certainly wouldn't." Andrew appeared next to them. "We angels of death would have to take them all Home, and there would be no survivors to repopulate the earth during the Millennium."

Gloria turned to him. She brushed her hair out of her face. "Is Lester in Heaven?"

Andrew smiled. "Yes, he is. And he and Lila Campbell have already met."

A broad answering smile spread across Tess' face. "I'm glad to hear that, Angel Boy." She glanced at the wispy clouds overhead. "Well, let's go—we still have a funeral and two burials to prepare for, and only a few hours to do it. And after Lester Larson and Lila Campbell have been buried, we have another assignment waiting for us."

The four angels climbed into Tess' convertible and sped down the dirt road, disappearing in a cloud of dust. Overhead, a snow-white dove flew, softly cooing.


©2005, by KathyG.