March, 1996

    He saw the heavens open up, heard the trumpet but ignored the command to come forth because he was schizophrenic and had seen and heard many things in his forty-seven years, many of them delusions. To him this was, at first, just another delusion, and therefore nothing to take seriously, and definitely nothing to get upset about. Then he heard the sirens that seemed to be coming and going in many directions at once. So he turned on the television about a half hour later to see what was going on.

    “. . .moments ago in a widespread area, perhaps the entire earth.” a news commentator was saying.

    He turned up the volume to see what the man there on television was talking about.

    “The disasters seem to be tied to the strange disappearance of thousands, if not millions, of people including your regular announcer. Nobody has an explanation and it appears that nothing like this has ever happened before.

    In New York a cab without a driver sped into a bar killing 16 patrons. In San Francisco a school bus crashed on the Golden Gate Bridge killing everyone inside, however it is rumored there was no driver in that accident. And that is just two of the gruesome stories flooding the newsroom at this hour, stories that have one thing in common; people are disappearing, or rather have disappeared, people going about their ordinary daily routine not expecting anything just as the rest of us at precisely 1:43 P.M. Eastern Standard Time were doing.”

    He then turned down the sound as pictures flashed upon the screen from all over the United States, and much of the rest of the civilized world. There were fires, car accidents, bizarre events of a wide variety, and all at apparently the same time. It was all very alarming and very puzzling. Had he indeed missed the Rapture of the Saints by chalking it up to a mere hallucination? Or perhaps he was simply continuing on in the same hallucination, and none of this had happened anywhere but in his mind? He decided to give Safe Ways a call and talk to his counselor.

    The line was busy and remained busy for over an hour. What was going on? He had never had any trouble getting through to his counselor before. There had always been someone at Safe Ways to at least tell him he would have to call back later. It was all very unusual. So he decided to call his friend David. David was a good Christian and he could help him through this strange crisis if anyone could. He was amazed he had not thought of David before.

    David did not answer, but he left a message on his friend’s answering machine for David to call him right away should he return. Where was David? It made no sense. David was a real homebody, going out only for coffee at a nearby restaurant, and only then after an urgent plea. It was not like David to go by himself, except to the store or to an appointment. He would just have to wait.

    He changed channels on his television only to see the same things on all channels. So he turned off the tv and decided to listen to the radio. Some music might take his mind off of it for a while he thought. But there was nothing on the radio other than a message being repeated over and over telling him where and how to tune in the Emergency Broadcast System. Thus, on a lark, he tuned in the proper frequency to find out if the global phenomenon his delusion seemed to be saying was happening, was also happening in his hometown.

    “We are asking that all able bodied persons please report to the Armory at Fourth and Mason. There has been several accidents and we are in need of assistance. In fact, even if you are not all that able bodied we would appreciate anything you might do to help out. Take care of yourself first, if you can, but by all means help others. We have never been faced with an emergency of this type, or scope before. Please get out there and help!
    Repeat . . .”

    He turned the radio off, grabbed a coat and headed out for the armory, now fully convinced that some major catastrophe had taken place, and wondering at the same time how foolish he would seem to the rest of the world should he share his delusion with anybody.
    He opened the door to his apartment and stepped out into the hall. It was crowded with people.

    “Have you seen Jerry?” the girl from 2B asked him.

    “Jerry?” he said. “I thought he was home with a cold today.”

    “He is,” she said. “I mean, he was. We were just sitting there watching television when I looked over and he was gone. I thought he had went to the bathroom or something but when he didn’t come back I went looking for him. He’s not in the house. None of his Christian friends answer their phones, they haven’t seen him at work, and in fact it was those jokers he works with that gave me the biggest scare. They said that half of the plant just up and disappeared. It’s a real mess down there. A front end loader crashed into the cafeteria and lots and lots of people were injured. I thought maybe he was with you.”

    “This is for real?” he said, unable to believe what he was hearing.

    “What? The state of emergency?”

    He nodded, almost ashamed of himself for asking such a silly question of such a distressed woman.

    “You don’t think it’s the end of the world too, do you?” she asked and he could see the panic begin to take her over.

    He didn’t know what to think. Was it really true that God had called all believers into the sky to be with Jesus, called them all from whatever they were doing, watching tv, driving a front end loader, a school bus, or a cab? Was God now a God of chaos, when He had stated over and over again that was not the case? Had it finally happened? Was the Rapture of the Saints actually over? And had he missed it?

    The girl from 2B suddenly put her hands up in the air and screaming she ran through the crowd for the door. The commotion caused the crowd to follow her outside where they watched as he chased her down the street yelling at her. Then others took to screaming, and weeping openly in the confusion.

    He chased her about a block and then suddenly stopped. He could do her no good even if he caught her. He knew she was not a Christian even though her husband Jerry had been converted a couple of months earlier. He knew she thought it was all some evil plot to break him and her up, to ruin their marriage. But he thought she now was concerned only that it was the end of the world. And that it was, in a way, the end of the world as anyone had known it before 1:43 P.M. Eastern Standard Time.

    “Come back!” he yelled in her direction. “It’s not the end of the world!”

    She was almost out of sight and he was sure she didn’t hear him.

    “It’s just the beginning of the Tribulation,” he said softly as he might have to his voices when in public. “But what am I to do now? I didn’t believe it was God and now I am left behind.”

    “Andrew!” a voice behind him shouted. “It is you! See I told you it wasn’t the Rapture. If anyone would go it would be Andrew here. He’s a died in the wool Christian from way back.”
    It was Jeff, his neighbor and favorite pest.

    “Andy, my good man! What the hell is going on? They’re saying that only holy-rollers
    disappeared. So a bunch of us went looking for Christians. But now I’ve found you, I know they’re wrong. Nobody’s as religious as you are. It can’t be the Rapture! Tell ’em.”

    “I can’t, Jeff,” Andrew said. “I think it might be the Rapture,”

    “Awe. Come on, Andy. This is your old buddy Jeff. You can level with me. If it was the Rapture they would have taken you too. You can’t tell me any different. I know some things. Hell you tried to teach me often enough. Now’s no time to turn into a kidder!”

    “I’m not kidding, Jeff. I seriously think I missed it.”

    “Awe. Hell,” Jeff said unable to accept the truth as usual. “If you’re going to just play mind games with me, I’ll have to find somebody who won’t. See you, Dude. Hang ’em high!”

    What did he mean by that, ‘Hang them high,’? He was always saying something Andrew didn’t understand. It was a real puzzling thing to try to figure out Jeff, and he was glad he was gone. But he was not glad he had failed again to enlighten Jeff. Some people he figured just couldn’t trust anyone’s word. They had to figure everything out for themselves. And some things he knew are beyond understanding, like the Gospel, and most of what God stood for, let alone the Rapture.

    Andrew made his way to the armory by about 6 o’clock. They were loading people on trucks and taking them off to help direct traffic around the many accidents that had occurred at 2:43 P.M. his time. He felt sure by then the Rapture had occurred but he did not know what to do about it. And in the end he had decided that the first order of business was to clean up the mess, get things back into some sort of order and then to share what he felt was the truth about what happened with as many people as would listen.

    The truck they put him on stopped on the far side of town where there were five cars piled up in one major accident. It was not the first accident they had seen but it was one of the worst, cars were driving over bodies lying in the road and there were no police or ambulances anywhere around. Two guys jumped out of the truck and grabbed a corpse and pulled it out of traffic, while several others began milling around the destruction, more curious than helpful. Andrew found himself one of the latter even though he was not willing to just stare.

    He saw a little girl lying on the seat of one of the cars and thought he saw her move. But when he was closer he could see that she was more a mangled mess than a little girl. The sight made him very nauseous and he turned aside to vomit when he saw an old man laying in the wreckage too. He was sure the old man was not dead because he saw him turn his head to look at him.

    “Take it easy, Sir,” he said. “We’re going to help you as soon as we can.”

    “It was the damnedest thing,” the old man struggled to say. “My daughter, she just up and disappeared right in the middle of telling me one last time about Jesus.”
    “I know, Sir,” Andrew said.

    “And you know?” the old man said. “I think I almost believed her that time. What happens to me now? All Hell has broke loose.”

    “I-I don’t know. All we can do is pray.”

    “Pray? Are you one of those Christian’s too?”

    Andrew nodded, not sure he qualified any longer.

    “I am too,” the old man said. “I accepted Jesus as my Savior the minute I found out I was alive.”

    “That’s good,” Andrew said and patted his arm.

    “Look out, Dip!” someone in a car shouted as it came very close to hitting Andrew.

    “I’m not long for this world, Son,” the old man said. “Bleeding internally. I was a medic in the war. I know the signs. And there is no way they are going to get me to the hospital anyway.

    Anything you want me to tell Jesus when I see Him?”

    There was and Andrew knew it. He wanted the old man to ask the Lord for a second chance, come what may he really wanted to be with the Lord in Heaven.

    “Ask Him to forgive me,” Andrew said as the old man slipped away into unconsciousness, and Andrew wondered if he heard him.

    “You there! Take this vest and stand over there. Don’t let anyone get close enough to that wreck to cause a spark. She’s leaking gas and she’ll blow for sure.”

    Andrew took the vest and stood by the car reeking with the smell of gasoline and motioned to car after car to please stay away. But it was to no avail. One man saw what the problem was and tossed his lighted cigarette Andrew’s way. And the last anyone saw of Andrew he stood calmly in a ball of fire with a smile on his face. He knew that even if he was not given another chance he would at least be spared the Tribulation ahead. Thus he died a happy man, filled with joy, just as every Christian should be when they die. And, it no longer mattered whether he was mentally ill or not.