I often talk about being a writer, but until now, I haven’t given you anything to read that might make you believe I actually write more than a post here and there. Please enjoy my quick fiction I put together today based on our youth group’s lock-in the other night. Thanks, Pastor, for the great game and inspiration for this piece.
I stood in the doorway with the other Christians. Not now-a-days Christians—the kids at youth group hanging out at the lock in. The then Christians—from Roman times when Christians were hunted down because of their beliefs. The winter chill seeped through the windows and we huddled together, shivering from the cold.
From somewhere in the church, a bell rang. The boys sprinted out of the lit room, their feet thundering down the dark hall, as they sought the secret meeting place before getting captured by the Romans. The rest of us hung back, clutching each other’s arms, giggling nervously. Finally someone stepped past the threshold. As one, we followed. There was safety in numbers. Not to mention it was warmer this way.
Battle cries filled the air as the Romans pursued our fellow Christians. I trembled slightly. I hated the dark and I hated hide and go seek. Even though the cries were staged, a shiver traveled my spine. The inky blackness made the game seem more real. I envisioned the boys being hunted by the Romans in Pastor’s lame attempt to teach us something about the Bible. I didn’t care where I was going. I would simply follow the rest of the girls to the secret meeting place, pretend to listen to Pastor’s lesson, then go to sleep. And I would never come to another lock-in again.
Something shuffled behind me. The softest whisper of cloth against the wall. A footstep out of kilter. I looked back and saw a streaky shadow make its way toward our group. A primal scream ripped past my lips and the girls scattered, leaving me frozen in the middle of the hall. Alone with the shadow.
It approached. A fellow Christian, some friend of a fifth grader maybe, one I didn’t recognize. My vision blurred and I blinked to bring him back in focus. His shirt hung in tatters from his thin frame and he had a cut on his forehead. He panted and clutched at his ribs.
“The Romans…” Before he finished his sentence, he slumped to the ground.
My cell phone buzzed. They weren’t allowed at the lock-in, but I had kept mine. I’d been texting my friends who had skipped youth group, choosing the movies and pizza over a night of Bible study. Not for the first time, I cursed my mom for making me come.
Electricity sizzled through the air. The light from the youth room went out, plunging the hall into total darkness. I flipped open my cell phone. Dead. The boy moaned behind me. “They want to kill us.”
“It’s just your imagination,” I said, though when I remembered the blood on his face, I thought he might be right. My mom would freak when she learned Pastor had flipped and set up a real game of the hunters and the hunted. Romans against Christians. A tiny laugh escaped my lips. At least I’d never have to go to youth group again.
The boy’s voice cut through the dark. “If we get to the secret meeting, we’ll be safe.”
I snorted. “There’s nothing secret about it. Pastor’s worksheet wasn’t about clues, it was about confirmation homework. There’s only one place it could be.”
“Sometimes it’s hard to find things when you’re lost.”
“I’m not lost.” I stood up, determined to find Pastor, call my mom and go home. I’d gone to this church since my baptism and could easily find my way to the sanctuary—even in the dark.
“You’re leaving me.”
It wasn’t a question. He knew I planned to leave him and it made my guts churn just a little. Well, what did he expect? I hadn’t brought him to the lock-in. I didn’t even want to be here myself.
He settled into the dark. “That’s okay. I understand.”
I threw him a bone. “When I find a fellow Christian, I’ll send him back for you.” I ran my hand along the wall to guide me down the hall. After a few steps I called back. “Who’d you come here with anyways?”
“Not really. The person who invited me stopped believing.”
I turned away and shuffled down the hall. The silence was absolute. The darkness almost. Every once in a while I would come across a lit candle. There was one in the choir room and another in the balcony. I looked down upon the sanctuary expecting to see a light and a gathering of kids from youth group. Instead, there was darkness.
The altar had been so obvious. Where else would Christians meet to worship? Now what?
I turned to make my way back across the balcony. From below a horse whinnied. The scent of fresh baked bread permeated the smoke-thickened air. Impossible. Now my imagination was acting up.
I ran my hands down my body and found myself clad in a tunic, leggings and heavy clogs. I kicked off the noisy shoes and felt the cold wetness of stone under my bare feet. Something rustled behind me. I crouched behind a pew turned to stone and waited, breathless, as a group of armored Romans swept past. I shook my head to clear the vision, but they remained.
Clutched between them was a whimpering Christian. “If I tell you where more Christians are, will you let me go?”
A traitor. Pastor said there were some in the game. But this was no longer a game. I held my breath. Angry that this girl would betray others to save herself. A Roman nodded encouragement and the traitor spoke. “There’s a hurt Christian on the hillside, hiding under a large tree. A girl is with him, but she’s not a true believer. She’ll give him up easy enough.”
The Romans drug the girl away, keeping her captive despite the information. Her screams cut through the night and into my soul. Something vibrated in my belt. I reached in and found my cell phone, no longer dead.
We’re outside the back door if you wanna sneak out.
My fingers flew over the buttons. All I had to do was find the exit and I’d be saved from this nightmare. Just before I hit send, my stomach revolted. With a start I realized the boy was the one I had left alone in the hall and I was the girl she had referred to. I had to find the boy before the soldiers did. I made my way to the steps, only to find them replaced by a ragged hill.
I chucked the phone aside and ran over the rough terrain. By the time I reached the unconscious boy, the mountain had changed back to hall and the tree rose behind him as a cross. The light from the youth room flickered on and I could just make out the painting on the wall. I ran my hands along the beam. Something pricked my finger and I pulled my hand away. A drop of blood oozed out around a splinter.
This is my blood, shed for you.
I found my name, painted in yellow by the shaky hand where I had placed it on my first day of Sunday School. I traced over it with my cut finger, binding my name once again to my savior. The boy was gone.
A scuffle of tennis shoes sounded from the end of the hallway. The Romans were here. I ducked inside a room and hid behind a stack of chairs until the sounds faded away. Quietly I made my way through the church, avoiding the Romans and gathering Christians as I went. A tiny light guided us down the aisle and to the altar.
Pastor sat under the candles with a smile on his face. In the stained glass window above him, another smile shone down.