The bottle grazed Maya’s skull.
Where … where am I?
Gray. That’s all she saw. A haze, like fog, swirled around her. If she were dead, there should be a tunnel with a light at the end. At least, that’s what everyone said. No one had ever mentioned fog. This certainly wasn’t heaven. That’s where she should be if she had been killed.
What is this place?
She wasn’t even sure it was a place. Maya couldn’t see ground or sky. She was afraid to move, unsure of what might be underneath her feet. It was some place, and no place.
Something moved near her and she jumped, turning toward whatever it was, crouching in the defensive position that the National Guard had taught to all the reservists.
A shape took form in front of her.
“Who … who’s there?”
“You first. Where are we? What happened?”
The shadow moved closer, dissolving into a woman Maya knew from church. Her face was bloody, the skin pale and her eyes watery. The younger woman’s hair hung in damp, limp strands.
“Were you in the march?”
Maya shivered. The tear gas had started to fly along with the bottles and rocks. She’d lost her helmet as the reserve unit pushed forward, driving the students back. That must have been when the bottle struck her. She never focused on the faces. She didn’t want to see, or know them.
“There were lots of us there—women, old people. There was no place to run when the water canon opened up.”
There was a hint of reproach in Miriam’s voice.
The only reason Maya had stayed at the church was to convince those among the membership who were dissidents that they needed to accept Christ. She believed with all her heart that people like Miriam couldn’t possibly be believers and not be supporters of a government so committed to liberating the nation from the influence of godless foreigners.
“If you had only listened to me, accepted the Lord, and joined the movement, you wouldn’t be here. You’d be okay.”
Miriam laughed, the echo sounding hollow in the semi-darkness.
“What are you doing here then—wherever “here” is? You’re the one who should repent. I’ve been telling you that for months. No true Christian can follow this megalomaniac with a Messiah complex who is determined to turn you all into little robots jumping at his every command, obeying blindly, and trampling all over the rights of everyone else.”
“Wait a minute. That’s not true. I’m …”
The voice startled both women. They trembled, even though the sound was not harsh. Miriam slid closer to Maya.
“Who … who are you?”
“I think you both know. Now I want you to listen. There is no more time to waste. Have you forgotten the mission I left for you both to complete?”
Neither woman was a fool, but Miriam was the first to respond.
“Yes, Lord, of course. You told us to go and make disciples …”
“And that’s what I was trying to do …” protested Maya.
“Me too, but she …”
“Miriam, since when is political affiliation the benchmark that decides whether or not a person is a Christian?”
Maya allowed a slight smirk to cross her face.
“Maya, when did you stop following me to follow a man?”
The smirk died a sudden death, replaced by an equally sudden realization.
“You’ve wasted time trying to convince each other to do something already done. You’ve hated each other because of political differences, and demonstrated that to all those around you. You’ve brought shame on my Name.”
Like teardrops, their silence clung to the fog.
“Maya, when was the last time you spoke to one of your fellow reservists about me? Miriam, have you bothered lately to speak to any of your fellow students about their need of a relationship with me?”
The grayness deepened.
“When will you work together for the Kingdom rather than against each other …”
The final words hung in the air.
“… and against me? When will you look at each other, and the world, through the cross?”
The crash of a gurney coming through the door of the emergency ward woke Maya. She looked straight into the eyes of Miriam, occupying the bed opposite her. Her head hurt, but not nearly as much as her heart did.
The reservist reached out her hand.