Friday, March 30, 2007

Chapter 18: A fast, a decision, and you

Tonight as I write this I am thinking back to the events that were unfolding 310 years ago tonight.

The entire province of Massachusetts had been called to pray and fast.

According the an entry in the diary of John Marshall, dated April 1697:

"This (Hannah's actions) was done just about the time the council of this province had concluded on a day of fasting and prayer through the province."

There was a passing comment that the Merrimack river around the Penecook Island was flooded.
Perhaps the weather had warmed, or perhaps there had been heavy rain.
Either way, the Penecook Island was inaccessible save through the use of a boat, or more precisely, a canoe.

"When she learned where they were going, (Canada and a rendezvous with other Indians for a gauntlet run) a plan took definite shape in her mind, and was secretly communicated to Mrs. Neff and Samuel Lennardson.

Samuel, who was growing tired of living with the Indians, and in whom a longing for home had been stirred by the presence of the two women, the next day casually asked his master, Bampico, how he had killed the English.

"Strike 'em dere," said Bampico, touching his temple, and then proceeded to show the boy how to take a scalp.

This information was communicated to the women, and they quickly agreed on the details of the plan.

After reaching the island, the Indians grew careless. The river was in flood.
Samuel was considered one of the family, and the two women were considered too worn out to attempt escape, so no watch was set that night and the Indians slept soundly.

Hannah had decided that the time had come."

H. D. Kilgore, HistorianDuston-Dustin Family Association

Take a moment now, if you will, before we go any farther with this story, and reflect about what Hannah had experienced over the prior fourteen days.

Only this time imagine yourself in her situation.

Only this time, imagine that the events have been happening to you, in March 2007, over the past 13 days.

You are in bed, contentedly cuddling your new baby.

You have a friend that you have known your whole life over to help you out a bit with recovering from the birth of your twelveth child.

Your husband, in addition to working on your property as a farmer, is working on finishing your new home, a home that you and he have been designing and building for awhile, to make room for your growing family of children.

Brick by brick he is building you a beautiful new home.

Take a moment and picture yourself in that life. Picture yourself, your husband, your home, your babies.

You've already had to buried three of your twelve children, and you are 39 years old.
Your five year old is so much fun, and your oldest two daughters are planning their weddings. The children are a blessing in your home, and you love them all greatly.

Earlier you and your family had knelt in prayer.
You husband of twenty years had read scripture, and then you all had gathered together for a breakfast before dispersing outside to do various farm chores, which took your husband far out onto the edges of your property.

Imagine now that you've gone back to bed.

Suddenly you hear your husband yelling as he pulls up in front of your house.
Bursting into your bedroom, he screams that terrorists are swarming up the road, heading towards your somewhat isolated house.

"Where are the children?" you ask frantically.

"I told the kids to to run through the woods" he answers, his hunting rifle clenched in his hands. "They are headed toward church (or school or where ever you would send your children to safety)"

You are still weak from the difficult child birth.
Your body is still bleeding, your breasts are producing milk.
Your mind can not take it all in.

You find that you are paralyzed, you are frozen in place.
You can't get out of bed.
The adrenalin rushes into your body and you begin to shake.

"Go get the kids!" you scream in horror.

Somehow you and your husband agree he should leave you, that he must stay with the children.
Your husband races out the backdoor of your house, and jumping into his car, guns the engine, peeling out of your driveway just as the terrorist burst into the front door of your house.

Imagine seeing your friend catche up your new baby and trying to escape out the backdoor, heading away from the house.

You hear items being shoved and broken, yelling and screaming as the terrorist voices get closer and closer.

Suddenly there are what seems like a roomful of terrorist around you.
One of them shouts at you; "Get up"

Somehow you manage to stumble out of the bed.
You back into the open door of your closet, trying to become invisible as the horror around you unfolds.

"Get dressed. NOW!" one of the terrorist orders you.

You grab the first thing your hands touch, a loose slip on dress.
It is one of the few things that fit right now, and blindly you pull it over your head, then reach for your shoes.

You can only find one shoe. Slipping it on, you look about for it's mate.

As the surreal scene whirls around, you feel the terrorist leader grab onto your arm.
Shoving you harshly along, you and the others in the house spill out into your front lawn.
Down the street you can see other terrorist invading the next home over.

Imagine seeing your children's friends falling in a rain of gunfire.

More crashing sounds, and screams break through the morning air on all sides.
The terrorists have piled papers, clothing and tossing gasoline about, light a match then whoosh, your home is being burned, it's windows shattered, and the world around you is colored by flame and smoke.

You are barely aware of the snow underneath your one bare foot.

You see your friend, clutching your infant daughter being lead back to you by the terrorist. Everyone seems to be carrying stuff from your house, shoving things into back packs and bags, and then shoving you, telling you to get moving.

You look over your shoulder at your house.
You look everywhere, everywhere there seems to be houses aflame, terrorists knifing people, shouting, gun fire, cars being gunned.

The terrorists have regrouped, there are about twenty, maybe thirty of them, and they have with them thirteen of your neighbors.
Some have their hands tied behind their backs.
Some have injuries, bullitt wounds, there is blood soaking through sweatshirts, and running down cheeks and hands.
All of your friends look dazed.

"Come on, move, get going, keep moving or I will kill you!" the terrorist threaten your reluctant friends.

You see your friend just ahead of you shifting the baby to her other shoulder, trying to get balanced as she is walking through the slippery leaves and crusty snow.

You are almost to the edge of you property.
You try to get ahead, to help your friend, to take your baby.

Just then one of the terrorists, one of the ones that seems to be one of the leaders shouts at your friend.
She stumbles, taken aback at the violence in his voice.
He strides over to your friend, and roughly grabs your baby, who is now wailing in a terrorized tone you had never heard before.

You try to run to her.
The world collapses in to a small tunnel, all you can see is your baby.
Her little mouth is wide and her whole body is convulsed in the effort to put forth her tiny voice.

In slow motion, you watch as the blanket falls from your baby, and dangling the baby by her feet, the terrorist leader lifts his arm back, then in a furious swing soundly knocks your child's tiny head against your family's apple tree.

He doesn't even stop to look at the crumpled body.
Your scream seems to be taking up all the air available.
You can't stop screaming.

The terrorist shoves you again.
"Keep going!" he commands.
And somehow you do.
Your mouth is screaming, but somehow your feet manage to move, one in front of the other, over and over again.

Your one bare foot went numb immediately when you first left your house, and stepped into the snow.
Your other foot went numb moments later.

Your hands, your face, your heart one by one went numb.

The first of your neighbors stumbled, he had a gash on his head to begin with. Your neighbor, two houses down the street.
The one your husband helped build his house.
A hatchet cleaves his head cleanly, and weirdly, one of the terrorist leans over your now dead friend and slices off his scalp.

The woman three houses over is hatcheted next.
She screams and babbles as the terrorist approaches her as she collapsed on the ground, her ankle bent, fighting for breath.
They beat her until she is silent, and dead.

By the time your third neighbor falls, you have learned not to look.

Imagine watching as one by one your friends are slaughter.

It's a small town; these are people you know, and have known, since the day your were born.
These murdered people are your friends, are people who have been your neighbors all of your life.

Take a moment and think of thirteen of your friends in your area.

Imagine (briefly...) them being hacked in front of you, their blood splashing on you, and you have to keep on walking away from them as they lay screaming from the pain as they die.

As you are traveling through the fields and woods, you keep hoping someone will come and stop this all from happening.

Instead you approach a stand of trees, and out walk a lot of women, and children, who greet the terrorists with excitement, and they begin to dig through the back packs, eating the cheetos and cookies, inspecting the purses, pulling out money, trying on the jewelry.

Your cheetos, your purse, your money, your jewelry is pawed through, and shoved back into a backpack.
The back pack is then forced upon you.
It is the least of your worries.

The walking is endless. Your back is now rubbed raw and bloody from the backpack that has rubbed with each step against the slip dress you are wearing.
Your feet are bloody, your back is bloody.
Your hands are bloody from grabbing rocks as you climbed,

You are hungry, you are thirsty, you are exhausted.

It just doesn't seem real.

You have zoned out, gone numb, escaped to some corner of your mind where all the Bible verses that you ever memorized are now repeating.
As long as you can hear those verses, you know you will be alright.

As darkness falls the endless walking ceases.
You are told sit, and tents are erected.
A fire is built, and the terrorists sit in a circle talking.

Imagine you don't know what they are saying, you don't speak their language.

The food they are eating looks disgusting.
You turn away from it, it smells like nothing you would ever want to eat.

Days later, the same food, the same smell is mouthwatering to your senses.

But for tonight, you are so tired and shocked that you have no appetite at all.

Nothing tempts you to eat tonight.
Your mouth is too full of tears.

Imagine sleeping next to your friend, holding each other, shaking in the cold, in the dark, trying to stay warm.

When you awake, you are more stiff than you have ever been in your life.
But the terrorists threaten you, and you move, standing wrapping your arms around yourself trying to stay warm.

The backpack is loaded onto the scab that have formed on your back during the night.

The walking begins again.

Imagine yourself walking, stumbling, and have no idea where you are headed.
You have no idea if your husband and other children are alive.
You wonder if your brothers and sisters and your nieces and nephews are alright.
You wonder about your mom and dad.

But mostly you just stay numb. Mostly you just keep going back to that space in your head where the verses keep repeating.

And slowly you mind awakes enought to match consciously what unconsciously your spirit has been uttering.
You begin to pray, pleading with God that you will be safe, that your children are safe,that your husband is safe.
You pray the psalm in your head, the one that says you will not die, but will live.

You and your friend mutter prayers as your walk.
Imagine when you stop, that you hold each other when you can, and together you reassure each other and pray.

The farther you walk, the more the terrorist talk with you, taunting you.
They describe the horrible things that will be happening to you "once we get to where we are going."

Imagine you know the place that they are talking about.
The terrorists had won in that place.

The news had been covering the fall of your neighboring area to terrorist.
There had been attempts to route them out, but the attempts had not been successful.
All the news that you had heard of recently said there was little that could be done, save to be aware that the terrorists were attacking small neighborhoods at will.

What the terrorist described would happen to you was brutal, humiliating, and frightening.

You had heard from people who had manage to escape what happened in the terrorist camps.

You just never imagined it could ever happen to you.

This has been your life for two weeks.

One of the terrorist, a leader, the one who killed your baby, has claimed you and your goods as his own.
He travels with three women, each of whom have children of various ages, and a single man as well.

At one point the rest of the terrorist, the twenty or thirty who ravaged your neighborhood and their women and children took one fork of the trail, while the terrorist leader, the one whose face you will never forget, because he's the one who killed your baby, headed down another fork. The single man shoved you along.

Soon you are at the edge of a river.
There are several small boats beached on the river's edge.
Dumping the sacks of pilfered goods, the terrorist jumps into the boat, and the women and children climb into the other boats.
You and your friend climb into one of the boats as well.

The river is moving fast.
The water level is high, the current swift.

The terrorists skillfully row their boats out towards an island. After reaching the island everyone piles out of the boats, pulling them up into the trees, and begin to unload the loot. There are tents and stolen goods piled about inside.

As you approach the tent, out steps a young man who looks familiar.
He says his name, and you remember him; he was the one that they had the missing child bulletin about about a year and a half ago.

He tells you he was captured while he was fishing near the river by his home, and that he wishes he could go home.

A meal is cooked, and as you and your friend pray, the terrorist yells at you to stop it.
He explains that you should pray to his God, or not at all.

He tells you about how he used to live with one of your local minister's family.
Imagine you know that minister's family; it seems impossible that this terrorist could ever had been sheltered in that kind and gentle home.

Then he tells you about how he went to live with Catholic monks.
He tells you how he thought they have a better take on God.

"Just to make sure God is on my side" he boasts, "I make all my family recite a prayer three times a day." He sneers "None of that worthless constant mumbling that you two do. Three times a day, that's enough to keep God happy."

He reminds you that soon you will be tortured, and likely will die, or at least be knocked out, and beaten, and scarred.

He goes into great detail, how you and your friend will be stripped naked, and forced to run amongst all the terrorist in the newly formed terrorist town.

You will be whipped with ropes, stuck with axes, hit with rocks and fists, kicked, plummeted, dragged,and this event will be a source of great amusement to himself and all of his people.

Mocking you and your one comfort of faith, the terrorist has one final thing to say to you tonight as he left to sleep in his tent.

"But hey, don't worry about it.
Why look so downcast?
If that God you keep trying to talk to is listening, He's going to save you, right?"

The terrorist and his family and the single man with them are just glad to be back to their base camp, where they have their belongings stored, and where they can get a good night sleep.

They piled up their hatchets, knives, guns and other weapons, knowing that you and your friend are exhausted and leave you to sleep as best as you can under the trees listening to the sounds of the rushing river.

Imagine realizing that after they kill you, the terrorist will return to terrorize other neighborhoods, will slaughter other men, women and innocent babes without a moment's hesitation.

In your head though, a psalm is chanting:

"Vindicate me, Oh God,
And plead my cause against an ungodly nation.
Oh, deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!
For You are the God of my strength;
Why do You cast me off?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

Oh, send out Your light and Your truth!
Let them lead me;
Let them bring me to Your holy hill
And to Your tabernacle.
Then I will go to the alter of God,
To God my exceeding joy;
And on the harp I will praise you
Oh God, my God.

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.'
(Psalm 43)

You and your friend and the young man have communicated.

You have conceived of a plan.

What would you do to save yourself, to escape this nightmare?
What is your plan?
What are you willing to do?
What must you do to live?

I am truly sorry to have to had such brutal details in this modern rendition of Hannah's story.
But these details I felt were necessary in order for you to search your own heart and find the answer of what you would be willing to do to live.

Tomorrow I will tell you what Hannah did.

She has been acclaimed and reviled, applauded and condemned for her decision and her actions.

Before you know what Hannah did, I want to give you a chance to think about what it would be like if you had such circumstances befall you.

She has been acclaimed, and reviled, applauded and condemned since this night three hundred and thirty years ago.

Praise and judged for her decision.

These imaginary terrorists do plan to kill you.
Slowly, painfully, and they've already killed your friends.
For thirteen days you've struggle, every moment aware that this terrorist murdered your youngest child

Every day you wonder about your other children, and your husband.

Decide now. What would you do? How far are you willing to go to be free?


Laura said...

Deep! but i already know the end. Back to oncology. I am enjoying the saga.

Becky said...

I know, you are looking for answers from a Mennonite pacifist. Well, I must admit, I don't think you'll find one here. I doubt if in that circumstance I would be too much of a pacifist. Even my own Dad has questioned the blanket of pacifism. Its an age old debate which seems to need redefining (at least in my mind). God had many different methods of delivering his people from the hands of the enemy. He seems pretty creative with various means with each different scenario. So, Hannah, go for it! Do what you feel God leading you to do! I think for all of us, its our close relationship with God, trusting in His word, and being open to new, perhaps untried, methods that leads us to freedom.

Lovella said...

Amazing writing Jill.

I will think about what I would do.

When you put it in today's scenario it sure hits home . .

Julie said...

Jill, you deserve some kind of medal for making all your readers 'run down your gauntlet of suspence!!' I WANT TO KNOW WHAT HANNAH DID !
I have no idea what I would is truly one of those life situations where you cannot judge until you are there.... I would hope that my trust in God would not waver nor my stubborn faith believing that He will guide me in what to do...and I would trust in His miraculous intervention!!
You are a great story teller and I love your love of research!!