Excerpt for Faith And A Shofar: The Sound of the Apocalypse by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Faith And A Shofar: The Sound of the Apocalypse

by Brenda Cruz

Published by Brenda Cruz at Smashwords

Copyright © 2018 Brenda Cruz

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Faith And A Shofar: The Sound of the Apocalypse

Gray clouds rushed in before Esther Grant’s eyes, it blackened the blue sky behind them as with a flood of Octopus ink. The proud palm trees that lined the boardwalk of a beach trembled under the terror of the invading night. People scattered at the rumbling of warplanes, the screaming of multitudes spread panic. At the blasts that broke the ground, and the stink of burning smoke, the people ran for their lives. And as the screaming echoed for miles, the words ‘like a thief in the night’ appeared fingered in the sand on the shore.

Those words woke her up light as a feather, as if it were only her spirit that sat up in bed. That’s when she heard the voice, the one that said, ‘like a thief in the night’. It pressed against her like the depth of a trumpet wave, and she instinctively knew, that voice was more than just her conscience—it was how angels spoke.

It wasn’t just a terrible nightmare, or a night terror, but one Esther considered prophetic. What’s the calling in it for me? She wondered this for months. She shifted from the bed as if she already had her morning coffee, but it was just to race for it. Her deep, sincere appreciation for finding the presence of God banished thoughts of resenting struggling with money; the monthly rent, the internet bill, gas, many of the things that we all appreciate living secure about every day. Fears of eviction notices and bill cancelations stormed into the vast sky of her mind, and whether their frequent snacks of bread and butter would keep them healthy enough to enjoy better times. At least, she still had coffee.

Her heart, as colorful as her faith, was pounded by a black thunder of traumatic memories, cracked by disappointments, consumed by solitude, rage.

Even worse, her husband Bernie was overweight, his hands and feet cracked by white psoriatic patches. She knew they were roughing it, but his addiction to simple sugars wasn’t going to make things any better.

He was the lumberjack type trucker without the checkerboard pattern, a dark skinned Puerto Rican. A sincere appreciation for the emotional connections in life ruled his heart, and to him the gospel was simple—Love. But it seemed those who served with their hands, with beating hearts over the palms, get hurt the worse. It was a unanimous ruling, after he gave a sermon prepared by his wife which convicted the monarchy of God’s judgment, that he lost his preaching privilege. After all, how could they bear to be treated the same as sinners?

Like a devoted servant, he never suffered the shame of having his generosity taken for granted—a Bishop’s robe was satisfactory reward, but when exposed to that reality by his wife and a rising insurgency from the Church of the Truth, he began to feel even more discouraged. And what better to lift up a heavy spirit than a tub of cheap ice cream.

It was a charismatic church that kept with it Catholic doctrines, that started Bernie’s ministry overseas. Ruled by a hierarchy of priestly robes over African Americans, it operated under their own assumptions, until the day a financial investigation alleging fraud spilled the truth out of the church and with it, its followers.

They were warned. Esther had warned them months before that God would shut down the church, because of all the doctrinal confusion.

Bernie cared less about the exchange of philosophies, for him there was no better feeling than talking on the microphone. Esther raged about him swinging it away along with his hand gestures as if he just didn’t need it. Though it burned her, she loved him very much. She remembered where he came from.

Over dark times, through nearly a decade of alcoholic homelessness, he was plagued by the blame that pierced his heart over his father’s death, but she helped him through it. Now, he stood brilliantly, sported a mafia look on his spare time, perhaps a hint of the flares of a past drug dealer.

That morning, he trucked loads though the interstates; Philadelphia, Tennessee, Florida, Ohio, Texas—he witnessed the life of several states. For over a thousand dollars of one day worth of driving it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t stable either. Sometimes whole weeks had passed, dampened by the lack of job contracts calling. He shared the Amazon link to his e-book, GOD Kept Me as a way to bear fruit to his gospel, but it hadn’t sold outside of the free copies handed out. It told about his life, since infancy, the horrors that no one else on Earth had experienced, at least during his lifetime so far that he knew.

Esther fixed herself on the move, in a hurry, from room to room. She didn’t believe in charms. Though expensive fashion promised her the honor of a King Solomon’s verse, her inner voice, was like the fragrance kept in bottles. It was the low hum of a patient hymn that melted the heart of worries; words that trembled the soul with truth, justice, loyalty and family. Tight blue jeans, knock-off boots and a t-shirt were all that was needed to be fashionable.

She saw a new message on her cell, from her sister Marilyn. It she read: The war has started in California! Check the news. Marilyn’s call interrupted the confusion in Esther’s face.

It was among several things that bonded them together—bible prophecy in current news.

“Esther!” Marilyn cried. “Oh my God, it started.”

Esther’s heart sunk inwardly, pulled by a crippling fear that electrified her whole body in one quick surge. “What?”

“The Chinese are attacking in navy ships, shooting bombs all over the United States. Put on the television.”

“How’s that going to be?” said Esther as she turned on the news in the living room. She moved to the kitchen, to make herself coffee as the news anchor enthusiastically impressed the sense of impending doom. “And Bernie is out in Denver!”

“Listen to me. Call him, call everybody, before all the radio signals go out. The North Koreans have an EMP and Russia is helping them. I’m going to call Mike.”

Esther’s heart pumped adrenaline that gave her a bowel movement, the kind you experience with the first cup of Bustelo in the morning.

Mike was Esther’s nephew who moved there a few years ago to marry a woman who came into his Google+ through prayer confirmations. He left a cursed borough of New York to have thanksgiving at Virginia with Esther, then Florida, where their telephone conversations started a connection, then Ohio, and finally, Burbank airport.

Esther recalled his wife’s dream weeks after telling hers, about families running out of the shore of a beach. Loud bullets, racing firefighters that brightened the sky with their missiles, fires and billowing smoke, it shared the same terror. She took it was a dream confirmation.

Esther dialed Bernie, but he didn’t answer.

He must be driving and that’s why he’s not picking up, she thought to herself, before dialing her daughter, Jasmine. Her grandkids were in Elementary School and their mother Jasmine worked at a McDonald’s. The call went to voicemail.

She must be busy at work, Esther thought.

The cold grasp of fear, of being alone, beat wildly from her heart. The warmth of family closeness, reserved for her hibernation through tough times seemed had vanished, left her bones frosted. She sipped her coffee and dressed quickly, like a soldier in morning boot camp.

In her mind, recalling Mike’s apocalyptic teachings, thoughts of decapitation by Muslim swords made her nervous. She needed more caffeine to keep up with her fluid imagination.

She hurried to her coffee mug in the kitchen, drank another third of it, and stopped in the middle of the living room. A beautiful Shofar, shipped from Israel displayed proudly in a glass cabinet. She pulled it out, closed her eyes in a deep meditation and prayed, saying, “Father, your will be done.”

She blew on the Shofar, but no sound came out. She then blew harder, until the deep echoing sound of the forest blasted long and steady. A presence filled the room, as if someone had entered—someone powerful.

There wasn’t human person, but the presence of a figure loomed, lingered. A wave of energy instilled in her heart the strong desire to tell people what was happening. She knew the nations of the East would rise against the United States and Israel. She accepted that the rapture belief of Christians was a lie that only blinded many to sudden terror. But she feared that even war wouldn’t be enough for people to accept the errors in their religious beliefs, and it would be their own curse.

Esther grabbed her little purse and went out for her jeep. She figured she’d call her son, Gabriel, who just recently moved to his own house.

Gabriel answered, “I’m at work, what?”

Esther felt a brief relief. “We’re being invaded, and where’s Jasmine that she doesn’t pick up the phone?”

“She’s at work.”

There was a silent pause, before she broke, saying, “You heard me right, we’re being invaded?”

“Yes! I gotta go! Call you later,” he said, before he ended the call.

She sucked her teeth in distaste of his blunt disregard and called Mike.

“Hey, are you guys okay?”

“Yeah, I’m driving through Rosamond and the sky is full of warplanes from Edwards Air Force Base.”

“They’re headed to the coast, Mike! The Chinese army is coming in ships and jets, oh my God, like in my dream, remember?”

“I know. My mother called me, too.” Mike received both Gmail and Yahoo notifications on his cell phone, alerting him of the news. The television only streamed the Amazon Fire Stick and his laptop was mostly for writing, research and publishing e-books on self-publishing digital platforms, but he updated himself with the news regularly. “Stack up on some food and water if you can. If this keeps on there’s going to be looting.”

A fresh flush of terror flooded Esther’s body.

Suddenly, sirens blew across Virginia followed by the rumbling of fighter jets coming from Langley air force base stormed through the Hampton skies. “Go home!”

“I’m on my way with another box of MRE’s from Walmart. Later!”

As Esther turned a corner, a car drove into her front bumper. Her hood steamed, the engine shut down and it wouldn’t restart. She slammed her palm on the steering wheel. “COME ON!” Esther had a quick temper between seasons of humorous conversations and it rose with the volume of her voice. Under such weather, her words bolted out like a crippling thunder.

At low speed, her head whipped once, lightly. It whipped again, harder this time, when another car crashed the car behind the one that hit her. She recalled the talk of cars crashing during the apocalypse because of the souls of Christians that would be taken in rapture up to the white clouds. But these clouds were tainted with soot and as she looked back, the drivers were still in their seats.

The man from the second car stepped out, with a scoped rifle aimed at the driver behind her. In a second, shot. The bullet pierced his brain. She saw the blood splatter onto the windshield.

Esther glanced back to the shooter, as he pointed his rifle towards her and sent a bullet that shattered her rear car windows. She released her seat belt and ducked, moved onto her passenger seat and opened the door. She wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.

She made it two blocks away before she lost the shooter. As she walked quickly through a quiet street of houses, psychopathic features giggled in the face of an awkwardly looking man who jumped at the shoulders as he walked. He spoke outwardly as if to people near him, but there weren’t any. She slowed her steps stealthily behind parked cars and watched as the figure crossed the street, striking a look of restraint-less perversion with a noticeably constant smile. He seemed to be giving agreeing facial gestures to a row of imaginary figures lined up in a row. Esther’s impression of him was simple; he was a mischievous clown who escaped a prison for loony tunes and only offered things that hurt.

Like a human cartooned by sagging clothes; the large hooded sweater that sagged over his medium sized frame was courtesy of the third victim he’d murdered. He choked a tall man to death in the parking lot of a mall, to fit over an orange prison shirt. The baggy sweats before that belonged to someone’s fat overgrown nephew who came out of an Alberston’s supermarket with a tub of carrot cake. His swat boots that contained the bottom of the sweats, were from a cop who only expected to roll down his windows and answer questions. Instead, he was met by consecutive throat stabs, as the smiling stabber giggled, uttering incoherent words. The cop punched and grabbed and kicked, but he was soon dizzy, then dead.

Esther was amazed and confused, struck by the sudden dramatic street slaying before her eyes. She dialed 911 again, this time to report the killer.

Back at home, she let out a huge sigh of relief, but she still needed to get in contact with her family. The words United States Under Attack streamed all over facebook, as she surfed all the profiles of her daily routine. Notifications tagged her last post I got hit by a car with questions and concerns from relatives and friends, but she was too nervous to type anything. Marilyn posted several short video clips of blazes in various West Coast states. The one Esther saw was about ten city blocks wide, its smoke like black tornadoes between the jets.

A call came in from her other sister, Maribel, who lived by a coast in Florida. Her voice broken, her throat tightened, because of the Navy carrier her son was in, it limped on the sea as the USS Ronald Reagan fought to defend itself against a barrage of missiles. Between that, Esther shared her accident and strange occurrences.

Esther grabbed the Shofar and sat on her couch again, to catch her breath. Photos of more explosions streamed through the television, scurrying American fighter jets chased by furious invaders, a vast fleet of foreign ships in the Pacific, coming by the hoards towards the United States. The reporter announced immediate retaliation by the United States military, but it was clear, the boundaries of war had spread throughout the entire planet.

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