Friday, May 12, 2006

The Burning: Part Two

Link to Part One

"I just don't drink, OK?" Khem insisted.
He was in a pub near the site of the new casino, where he was senior electrician, trying to persuade a burly bricklayer to order him a lemonade.
"Take after that looney-tune father of yours, that's your problem!" the brickie laughed.
"He's not a looney!"Khem shouted, lunging for him.
The rest of the crowd cheered as Khem wrestled the big man to the floor - all of them, including Khem, if he thought about it, knew the bricklayer was putting it on, and would be able to get up just as soon as he chose.
The crowd of builders looked to the door, where the old man stood with a young woman in a white coat.
"They're coming to take you away, too!" one of them quipped.
The brickie loosened his grip on Khem, who stood up, blushing slightly.
"Hello, Dad," he said quietly.
"I think you'd better come with us," Zalbeth said.
Khem brushed past them silently, and hurried out of the car park, not stopping at his father's people carrier. He was still angry when his father drew up alongside him and offered him a lift.
"I'd rather you drank than built casinos and started bar brawls, Khem," R'Leef said patiently.
"Didn't start it," Khem muttered.
"Well, it doesn't matter now," R'Leef said. "You'll not be doing either for much longer."
"You can't stop me from working there, old man."
"I don't intend to. But unless you change your ways and listen to me, God will judge you along with the rest of humanity."
"OK, OK." Khem held up his hands in protest. "I've tried to go along with your religious stuff; I've given up drink, I've said my prayers every night - what more do you want?"
"Just listen to him," Zalbeth said. "He's trying to save your butt."

Having persuaded Khem to help him, R'Leef had a slightly easier job in getting his eldest son, Uax, to cut short his latest voyage - although he did have one objection.
"But I'm on my honeymoon, man!"
"Your wife is welcome, of course," R'Leef smiled into the video-phone, "as long as she does her share of the work."
"How long?"
"God will wait until we are all safe," R'Leef told him. "But don't let's keep him too long," he added hastily.
"We'll be there as soon as we can," Uax said.
"See you soon," R'Leef nodded, and switched of the phone.

A few days later, R'Leef was chairing a family meeting in the family's modest semi on the edge of the city. Since Uax and Zalbeth were both married, Khem had been permitted to bring his girlfriend along too. The others had been unenthusiastic about this initially, but she had promised to be faithful and obedient to Noah and to God - and so far had been a better worker than Khem himself.
"The bunker is in the desert," R'Leef explained. "Khem will be in charge there-"
Khem looked up suddenly - his name had never been used in the same sentence as the words 'in charge' before.
"Because he's the only one with any knowledge of construction work," R'Leef added.
"Thanks," Khem smiled.
"I have some rough plans to share with you later. We will also have responsibility for the animals - this is where Zalbeth comes in."
"What do you want us to do?" It was her husband who replied.

"The animals will all come to us to be kept alive - how you do that is up to you, but we owe it to God to preserve as much of his creation as we can."
Zalbeth nodded thoughtfully, and then said, "How much equipment can I take from my lab?"
"You may not need much. The bunker used to be a research lab - it's likely the Lord has provided all you need."
"If God is going to provide the animals," Zalbeth said, as much to herself as to her father, "then theoretically if I could take a DNA sample from each and keep it safe, that would be enough."
"Can you repopulatethe world from a few blood samples?" Khem asked.
"With the right equipment," Zalbeth nodded. "But that's the difficult part."
"The Lord promised to provide for the future," R'Leef said. "Although he will wipe out everything living on the planet, the city - civilisation - will remain for us to inhabit later. Your lab - and any other - will be available for creating your clones later. If the technology exists, we can find it later."
"Are you sure?"
"Have faith. Speaking of which, we will need to keep some animals for food and sacrifices; if Zalbeth's plan will work, these will be the only livestock to enter the bunker with us. Someone will need to take responsibility for them."
"Cool!" Khem's girlfriend spoke up. "I love animals!"
"Don't get too attached," Khem said. "They're our lunch."
"I know."
"Then you've got the job," R'Leef smiled. "On the subject of food, my wife and I have some experience of growing fruit, herbs and so on, and will see to this in the bunker. I must also spend time with God - we all must - and I will set aside time to pray for each of us. I would ask one of you, therefore, to help when I am otherwise occupied."
"I will do that," Uax's wife volunteered.
"What about me?" Uax said.
"As my eldest son, you will be my deputy. Oversee everything; help wherever you're needed."
R'Leef looked around the table, seven pairs of eyes firmly fixed on him. "Any questions?"
They all shook their heads.
"Then let's not keep God waiting any longer," he said. "You know what you have to do."
Six of them left the table.
"I take it you wanted to see those plans?" R'Leef asked Khem once they were alone.
"Yeah," he answered, "but there was something else..."
"What's that?"
Khem looked carefully at a small scratch on the table in front of him. Took a deep breath. Looked his father in the eye. "Sorry I doubted you," he said, and looked quickly back at the table.
"That's history now," the old man said, resting a hand on his son's shoulder.
Khem smiled up at him, a smile he hadn't seen since Khem was five or six, amazed by his Dad's talent with superglue...
"Come on," R'Leef said. "We've got work to do."

Continues here

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