During the summers at Urban Bridge we like to tell stories. We have shared our own testimonies as well as original, redemptive stories birthed in the creative minds of the Urban Bridge Design team. This summer we are sharing an allegory called A Good Gathering - it is a tale of redemptive community in a post-apocalyptic world.
Wk 1 we learned that most of the world’s population has been killed by a disease called “48”. ”48” marked its presence with a tenderness of the left occipital bone. Those with “48” experienced minor discomfort behind the left ear, followed by vertigo at 47-hours and death by 48. No one knows how it started or why it ended… “48″ created such fear that to touch one’s left year was to invite death from a mob. Chapter I finished with the collapse of a large iconic monument. The monument symbolized hope and its collapse further demoralizes the population.
The ruin of the monument spurs Eve, an emergency room surgeon to leave what she knows in search of something better.
A Good Gathering – A tale of redemptive community in a post-apocalyptic world
“Find what?” Neil raised his head; his hands black with filth and dried blood were raised in open palm defeat. He repeated,” “What are you going to find.” Eve, eyes scanning lost souls wandering the ruins replied, “I’m not sure, but you were right. You keep telling me things aren’t going to improve, but there has to be something somewhere better than this and I am going to find it. They say there’s a community rebuilding on the west coast.” She paused, “I think I’ll head west.”
Neil was standing now, His body square to Eve as though he was trying to block her thoughts. ”You know it’s just a rumour, there’s no way to know for sure that this community exists.”
“What do we know here?” She hesitated the way people do before sharing an – Elvis is still alive – theory. “Not long ago I treated a patient who said he had been there. He said it was off highway 1 on the west coast and it was almost like heaven. He came back for his wife, but she was dead and his kids had gone to the Orphs. He died before telling me more.”
They began walking back to the hospital, neither had slept and their clothes were an indecent brown and red, but their shifts were about to begin; besides the hospital would need help with monument victims.
The air horn sounded well before it passed, moving to the sidewalk they turned to watch. Fewer and fewer vehicles were operating. There were many on the road but most were abandoned. Having run out of fuel or the means to find it and then barter for it, owners would glide to a stop and walk away. They were known as Orph hotels, catering as it were, to the parentless.
It was a big yellow school bus, with “for hire” painted on the sides, and they could see that the driver was a 30s something bearded long hair. Passing them the bus stopped at the Hospital emergency entrance.
“Come on Neil,” Eve pushed herself to a tired jog.
The driver opened the door a crack. From the sidewalk she asked, “Would you like to take a trip?”
The driver laughed, “ A trip? That’s what I do, Where do you have in mind?
“I have a long ride mind, give me one hour and I’ll tell you more.” He laughed again, “You’re serious.”
“Yes, I’m serious, promise me, one hour.”
He nodded then shook his head, “Ok.”
Eve grabbed Neil’s shoulder, “Don’t let him leave.”
Eve had a clarity that comes with crisis. It is what made her excellent at her work as head of the emergency ward. She functioned ok in the mundane and the routine. Her day-to-day work was best described as satisfactory. Appraisals of her performance, pre “48” of course, used adjectives like efficient, orderly. They were necessary qualities where chaos quickly ruled if not first overruled. But it was in crisis where she flexed her strengths; it was in crisis where she felt most alive. In the past multiple ambulances urgently queuing and medi-vac flights dropping down had encouraged her to a willing excellence.
The orderly, come communications runner was sent to find the hospital administrator. In fifteen minutes motivated by his perpetual crush for Eve he found and more importantly convinced the Administrator into attending the emergency ward emergency meeting without divulging any incriminating details. Pulled along by the orderlies insistent manner the administrator arrived at Eve’s office red-faced and sweating.
20 minutes gone.
I am resigning effective two days from now. I am owed six months back pay and eight weeks vacation. I expect to be paid in full.“
“Please don’t,” this said as he clutched a chair with one hand and his heart with the other. “We need you and we can’t pay…” raising her palm she interrupted “Please let’s talk.”
The hospital administrator rose and shook her hand. I think you are making a mistake but I wish you well. Eve had bartered 6 months pay and 8 weeks vacation for a busload of medical supplies.
She smiled, 5 minutes to spare.
Her knees were buckling; grabbing Neil’s shoulder and wrenching him to her face she shouted, “Why didn’t you do something, why didn’t you stop him?” Pulling her level he pointed and whispered, “See, there behind the garbage. Security made him move.
The bus door opened and she could see him drop down; the garbage hill swallowed him before reappearing. He was wearing a tired U2 360 t-shirt and even wearier converse high tops. He looked like a bus driving roadie. The sidewalk lined up to stare at his mp3 player and ear buds. Batteries had pretty much disappeared from the planet. This guy was resourceful.
“Where we going?” he asked.
“The west coast.”
eHe laughed, “how? I trade in goods for rids then barter them for fuel. My contacts are here, my rides are here, my fuel is here…. my world is here. How are we going to get there?”
“With bandages” Eve grinned. I have enough medical supplies to trade to Tokyo.
Neil was also in. He joked that someone had to protect Eve from the hospital orderly. The orderly, Angus begged to come and Eve agreed on condition that he quit pursuing on her. Paxton, owner of the yellow bus brought along his younger sister Faith and her husband Brian. Everyone agreed to meet in 48 hours in front of the emergency room entrance.
Returning home Eve saw the middle aged man from the alley who had been quarantined with “48”. His name was Ray and he thanked her for the water. He looked so lonely. Ray accepted her offer of a chance for a new life on the west coast without hesitation. She plucked a bluebell from the composting garbage heap and smiling, put it in her hair.
Where’s Neil, Paxton wonder out loud. Angus had arrived with his pack and guitar. Faith obviously had Paxton’s gift for negotiating because along with their suitcases Brian and Faith brought a pound of coffee. Eve hadn’t had a cup of coffee in months. Ray showed up in fatigues.
“What’s this?” Paxton demanded?
“I was CSOR. I led a unit”
Paxton unconvinced demanded, “What’s CSOR?”
“It’s the Canadian version of Special Forces” was Ray’s response.
“We aren’t fighting man, we’re looking for hope even peace”
“Don’t worry I’m not looking for a fight. The fatigues are tough and comfortable and remind me of an earlier more valuable time in my life. They’re hopeful.”
Again Paxton asked, “ Where’s Neil?”
“He’ll be here.” was Eve’s response, “Neil’s a rock. I count on him. He’ll be here.”
“No, he won’t” It was the charge nurse from the Emergency Ward. She had a fistful of bluebells in a plastic jar.” She paused, “I was picking these for you, for your crazy trip” as she said this she pushed the jar towards Eve, “I heard a “48” shouting, It’s Neil and he’s surrounded by Orphs.”
“We have to save him!” Eve was desperate, “We have to save him!” clambering into the bus Paxton was already moving as Ray the last one in pulled himself up.
“Hurry up Army”
There were at least twenty of them, holding bricks, golf clubs, and rebar. Girls and boys; Orphs, planning to do this “48” some serious harm. Neil his back against the wall was pleading. “It’s a mistake.” I don’t have “48” I was just scratching my ear. Really I’m ok.” Ask her, she’s a doctor.”
They turned to Eve who had positioned herself just outside the bus door. Ray was beside her, hands on hips.
“There hasn’t been a case of “48” for months.” “Don’t do this. I know this man, his name is Neil, and he’s not contaminated”
“Then why the ear, only “48s” touch their left ear.” The one speaking was a very pretty blond with dead blue eyes. Frightening eyes. She was wearing a prom dress and hiking boots; a lost child of the middle class.
“Think about it” Eve was looking into her eyes , desperate.” We all scratch our ear, this craziness has to stop”
Neil edged towards the bus.
“We have aspirin” Eve negotiated, “Lots of aspirin, how much do you want? Just let Neil go.”
The blond prom queen responded, “Codeine, have you got codeine.”
“We have codeine.”
Neil started running. The blond turned and in one smooth motion threw her brick. It hit him in the shoulder. Now all of them were throwing. Neil staggered and fell.
“Get the bus!” the blond shouted.
“Get in!” Paxton, foot on the gas yelled, jamming his foot to the floor.
Eve hadn’t wept since Robert’s death. She wept now. “We should have done more” No one could respond. Paxton was maneuvering the bus through an urban neighbourhood when Faith said, I hear a “48,” slow down Paxton”
Eve repeated, “Yes, slow down, stop just ahead I see her.”
“We can’t stop every time we hear “48” Eve.”
“We can stop this time Paxton”
The girl was in her early teens, an Orph abandoned by Orphs. She was talked on the bus with a bottle of re-filtered water.
Eve place the jar of blue bells on the dash. Head west Paxton.
“Let’s pray first” It was Faith.
“You’re joking” Eve couldn’t believe what she heard.
“No, I’m not”
“I know the greatness of Christianity: it is a past greatness. I know that, but for those early Christians, we should never have emerged from the chaos and hopeless disaster of the Dark Ages. If I had lived in the year 400, pray God, I should have been a true and passionate Christian. The adventurer. But now I live in 1924, and the Christian venture is done. The adventure is gone out of Christianity. We must start on a new venture towards God”. DH Lawrence
We are often dissatisfied with the state of our relationship with Christ yet we do not pursue change. What are the risks of change?
Christianity is at its best when it is on the more chaotic fringes Michael Frost “Leap of Faith”
What changes do you need to make to introduce adventure and hope in following Christ?