Journey’s End, Part 4
The world situation continued to get worse until a new trouble developed that no one had expected. Fred read the headlines in the paper: “SCIENTIST BUNGLING MAY CAUSE DREAD EFFECTS.” Fred read the article. It told about strange weapons research that had not been properly contained. It had produced a deadly biological effect, which was released into to the atmosphere. The results could be a dread disease that could cover the earth. It pointed out that many scientists throughout the world were working on a solution.
No remedy was found and many people through the world suffered greatly with sores and baldness and great nausea and many died including two of Fred’s children. The smell of death was so great in the land that flies began to greatly multiply and new species began to develop. This new species bit man and created great sores on his body.
“June,” said Fred. “I have heard that in the city of Ensign where Curtis is that there is no disease or flies.”
“It’s just lies,” said June. “The devil’s trying to deceive naive people like you. The Authorities have admonished to be calm and are supporting our own LDS scientists to come up with something, and I am sure they will.”
Fred groaned within his heart.
Then came the collapse of the dollar. Europe decided that they could no longer take our worthless currency and declared it illegal. This caused a complete collapse and within a few days it was found people lost all faith in the dollar at home and all stores had to shut down because no one had currency with purchasing power. The government was doing everything in its power to control the people and to ease the panic to little avail.
Fred’s Bishop called an emergency meeting of the Priesthood. He spoke to the assembly: “It looks as if the days that we feared are upon us. This is the time we really have to make the Priesthood work as never before. There is a strong possibility that we will have a complete communications breakdown within a few days, but our Stake President has had communication with the General Authorities. They tell us to put all the things we have learned over the years to work and that each ward and stake may be left on their own. We are to take a survey of the amount of food we have in the ward and see how well prepared we are and how long we can survive. They tell us that the Lord will see us through.”
Fred thought that it seemed as if things were happening about the way that Curtis predicted. He was greatly worried.
The Bishop continued: “I’ll pass around this sheet of paper and on it is a list of different commodities. Please list the number of pounds of each that you have.”
An Elder arose: “Are you saying that I have to share my food with others that were too negligent to store their own? I’ll be damned if I am. Heaven knows how long this thing is going to last and I’ll be lucky to have enough for my own family.”
A rumbling spread through the congregation. Fred could hardly believe that was Elder Nathan Williams speaking. He had never heard him use a swear word in his life and he was always preaching about loving your fellow men.
The Bishop again spoke: “Brethren, you must understand that not all the saints are prepared. We have widows and some poor who just were not able to store anything and they are feeling hunger pains already. We must share with them.”
Troy Williams got up: “I agree. If we follow our Bishop and help the needy the Lord will somehow help us.”
“I’ll pass out this form then,” said the Bishop, “and will ask that all of you fill it out.”
Fred was one of the last ones to receive it and he was amazed at how little food everyone claimed to have. He saw that Charles Ray listed that he had only five hundred pounds of wheat and fifty pounds of dried milk and a few other things. Fred had been in his storage room before and he knew that he had about the best supply of food in town–at least two years supply. As Fred reviewed the list he knew that his brethren were not being honest because they did not want to share, and he couldn’t blame them. However, Fred had always been honest and he tried to fill in the form accordingly. This bothered him greatly, however, because it showed him to be one of the best-stocked individuals in the ward, and he knew that he was not.
Finally, the Bishop received the list back. After reviewing it he said: “Brethren. I know many of you personally and am aware of how much storage some of you have and I know that some of you have shortchanged us here. I may have to have a personal interview with some of you.”
Brother Bailey rose up: “I’ve saved up a year’s supply just like we’ve been told to do and I’m not giving it over to the Bishop or anyone else and see my family starve.” He then walked out of the room.
“Brethren,” said the Bishop. “We have people that need food right now. Let us all give ten per cent at least to help the needy. All that will do this much please raise your hands.”
About two thirds of the congregation raised their hands. The Bishop then appointed several individuals in charge of collecting and dispersing the food.
The Bishop continued: “Brethren, these are the days of tribulation that have been prophesied. If we are faithful we will be here when Christ comes again. We must continue to do what is right even when times are hard.”
At home that evening June said: “Well what did they come up with at the meeting?”
Fred told her.
“What!? They expect us to share our food. We don’t know if we will have enough for our own family. We are already out of bread and I never learned how to make bread.” She cried for about five minutes.
“June, we knew in advance that we may have to share with others. That’s why we bought some extra. Now some of the brethren will be here tomorrow and we need to give them ten per cent of what we have. We should have enough left after we give that out.”
“But what happens in a few weeks? Most people in the ward are not prepared and the Bishop will ask for more. And what about our neighbors? Fred. What is going to happen?”
Fred felt that this was the wrong time to tell her that what was going to happen was what Curtis had told her was going to happen. He wondered how he was making out in Ensign. At least there was a group of them there that were all prepared. At least they could defend themselves if necessary. And Fred began to fear that it just may be necessary.
Within a few days all electrical service was cut off as well as all communications. There was no telephone service, no gas for cars, no television, none of the modern conveniences. Fred found a book on making bread and made some himself in their wood stove.
The Bishop called another meeting of the Priesthood. This time a much smaller number showed up. Fred noticed that those who did not show up were those with the most food. Just about all of the have-nots were there.
The Bishop said: “I was very disappointed with the ten percent that we received and I’m even more disappointed at those who have food that have not come to the meeting. The food we collected is almost gone already and we need some more. Will those of you who have extra be prepared to share some more. How about you brother Cole?”
Fred stirred: “We may share some more, but it’s going to cause quite a stir with my wife. Let me suggest that you select several individuals to visit those who are not here today and see if we can get them to share.”
“An excellent idea,” said the Bishop. “I will appoint you in charge.”
Fred had never been so reluctant to fulfill a calling in his life, but did so to the best of his ability. As he visited the various homes he found that most of those who did not come to the meeting did so because they did not want to share. He was only able to obtain a small amount of food. When he reported to the Bishop he was visibly shaken. For the first time, the Bishop, who was a faithful man and quite calm, actually seemed to fear.
“What will I say to the poor?” he said. “After I give them this I am afraid there will be no more. We are out of contact with the Brethren and I do not know what to do. What would you do if you were me?”
“I’d pray a lot,” said Fred.
“If you only know how much I’ve been praying. You know it looks like the Lord would have provided some way for us to have been more prepared than this. Here I’ve got my year’s supply of food, clothing and even fuel and I thought everything would turn out all right in a calamity but it isn’t all right Fred. Everything’s all mixed up. I don’t know what to do. The Stake President doesn’t know what to do. Why did God allow this situation to happen?”
“Maybe God didn’t allow it,” said Fred. “Maybe we did because we did not listen.”
“Didn’t listen? Why I’ve read every conference address for the past twenty years. I’ve followed all the good advice that was ever given out!”
“I know you’ve listened to the authorities, Bishop. But do you remember those writings that Curtis’ group gave out that were sent out to all the members a while back?”
“Yes. I didn’t read them though. I burned them as the Brethren instructed.”
“Those writings that you burned told us that things would happen this way. They also offered a solution. Those people that believed the teachings went ahead and built cities of refuge and right now I have the feeling that they are the only people in the land that are not dwelling in fear.”
“Any other time I would have called you an apostate,” said the Bishop, “but now I’m not sure. Do you have a copy of those things that I could read?”
“Yes,” said Fred,
“I’ll bring them over to you.”
Fred brought them to the Bishop a few hours later and he eagerly accepted them and began reading them right away.
Shortly after Fred got home there was a knock at the door. It was his next door neighbor, Carl.
“Fred, I hate to ask you this but we are out of food and I understand you are Mormons and store a year’s supply. Could you spare a little to tide me by till the government works something out.”
“I don’t know if we still have a government,” said Fred. “I guess we can spare you a little.”
“No we can’t!” shouted June. “We’ve given away all that we can. We need the rest for ourselves!”
“June. I’m going to give Carl a little food. It’s the least I can do.” Against June’s protest he gave Carl some food. Later he wished he wouldn’t have for the next day two more neighbors came to the door. Then he told the first lie he had told in some time. He told them he had no food. The neighbors went away with a hateful look in their eyes.
The next day Fred went to visit the Bishop again. “Did you get a chance to read those materials?”
“Yes,” said the Bishop sadly. “I read them. I read them years too late. I also prayed about them and I know now that God did provide a way for our escape. I can see why the Lord said ‘The Saints will hardly escape!’ Some did hardly escape to the city of Ensign, Fred. But we didn’t.” He cried: “We didn’t. There’s no way out Fred. We are caught in a trap. A horrible trap. If you believed this stuff Fred why didn’t you escape while you could?”
“I would have had to leave my wife and children, and I couldn’t do that.”
“I understand,” said the Bishop. “I understand. What do we do now?”
“I don’t know,” said Fred. “I’m afraid it’s going to be each man to himself. I don’t think it’s going to do any good to have any more meetings. I would just advise you to protect yourself. Do you have a gun?”
“Yes, but I couldn’t use it on anyone.”
“I’m afraid we will be surprised at what we can do if the situation is right,” said Fred. “I know you’re a peace-loving man, but you’ve got to mentally prepare to stand on your own and defend yourself and your family.”
“Maybe so, but I’ve never felt so defeated. Do you think we could still make it to the city Ensign?”
“You and I may make it on our own, but I know my wife and children could never make it. They are quite weakened from that sickness that was going around. That’s the only reason I have not went off on my own. If I have to stay here and die with them, then I guess that’s the way it will have to be.”
“I suppose that’s the decision I will have to make with my family. I never dreamed it would be like this. Never.”
“I’ve got to run back to my family now,” said Fred. “It will not be safe to leave them on their own much longer.”
“See you later. I hope.”
As Fred approached his home, he heard someone screaming. It was his wife. He noticed the door was open so he ran as fast as he could.
As he entered the door he found his wife with a broom, flagging a man who was escaping with several large cans of food under his arms. Fred was able to wrestle the food away from him and the man escaped.
June spoke between tears: “Fred, you’ve got to do something. That man busted in and tried to steal our food just after I took a step outside and went into our storage room. You’ve got to protect us! You’ve got to!”
“I will dear. Don’t worry. Everything will be OK.” Fred wished he had someone to say the same thing to him.
“Our children Fred! The man terrified our children. Our daughter, Shelly, has been screaming in terror and the other two are hiding in their rooms.”
“They’ll be all right dear.”
“Why hasn’t the Church done something?” said June. “I thought they would have some emergency program into operation by now. They’ve got numerous resources and storage centers to feed all these hungry people, don’t they Fred? They’ll come through with something won’t they?”
“I’m sure something is being worked out,” he said knowing it was not the truth.
Fred decided that if he was going to survive for any length of time that he was going to have to depend on himself and use his own common sense to the best of his ability. He was glad that he had stored a lot of ammunition just in case. He got out several handguns and rifles and loaded them and hid them in several convenient places throughout the house. He tried to talk June into going in the back yard and teaching her to shoot a handgun, but she refused. Guns scared her and she did not want to learn.
Next Fred took most of their food out of the storage room and hid it at various places in the crawl space under their house and even buried some in his garden. He left some food in the regular storage room so if worst came to worst he could tell intruders that was all he had in the hope they would leave him alone.
He then got some lumber out of the garage and nailed up all the windows so no one could break in. He also tightly boarded up all the doors but one, and on that one he made a giant lock from the inside using several planks which he felt could keep a gorilla out. He just hoped it would work against hungry people. He knew that the time of being Mr. Nice Guy was over. Everyone out there except other people he also knew had food were his enemies. If there was just some way they could have had even a few weeks notice before the collapse those who were prepared could have somehow banded together for protection or helped each other, but the way it was Fred found that he was the only man in the world he could depend on.
Fred did have an idea he thought would help in his protection. He put the following sign on all of his doors: WARNING: OCCUPANTS HAVE LOADED GUNS READY TO FIRE ON ANY INTRUDER. This seemed to help for several weeks for often he heard feet coming up to his door and then walking away, but he knew that if a man got hungry enough he would not fear guns.
Finally, the time came that Fred was challenged. He heard a loud banging on the door. It sounded as if several people were there. “Fred. We know that you are in there and we know that you have food. Come close to the door and talk or we will burn your house down.”
Fred came closer and shouted: “Get out of here or you’re going to get shot!”
“Fred. This is Troy Williams, your friend. I have a proposition to make to you. Can you hear me?”
Fred couldn’t believe that that was the voice of his friend Troy who was a faithful member of his ward. His voice sounded different. Horribly different. Troy had had a year’s supply of food. Why was he here?
“I hear you, Troy. What do you want?”
“Listen Fred. I’ve joined a group. It’s the only way to survive. Without a group you’re dead. We want you to join us.”
“I’m not trusting anyone or joining anyone.”
“Fred. If you don’t join us then we will have to take your food by force and then you and your family will perish for sure. If you join us and share your food with us then you can help us find others with food and at least this way we can survive. We also help protect each other. It’s a way out Fred. Maybe we can at least live until this thing is over.”
“Who else is with you?”
“There’s Brother Carr, Smith and Jones and several others that you do not know. Altogether our group consists of about one hundred men. About half of them are Mormons.”
“What do you do when someone refuses to share with you?”
“We do what we have to do Fred. Please don’t make us do it to you. You are a friend. I was faced with the same decision you are a while back and I joined rather than getting killed. Fred, think of your family!”
“Then if I join you what do I do? Go around and loot other faithful Mormons with you just so I can survive? I’d rather die.”
“That just might happen Fred. Are you going to let us in or do we bust in?”
Fred heard several other voices murmuring in the background and he knew he was in for trouble. He picked up his gun and shot six holes through the door. He heard screams and curses from several men. Then he heard several shots fired from the outside. He felt the warmth of a bullet pass by his head.
Troy shouted: “Fred. You shouldn’t have done that. Now we are going to have to get you any way we can.”
Fred shot six more bullets through the door. June and the kids were sitting speechless in a corner. Fred took them and lifted a trap door and put them in the crawl space under the house and told them to keep as quiet as possible. Then he got out his other guns and prepared to defend himself. When he came back in the living room he noticed that the mob was trying to bust the door down. A blade of an ax penetrated through the door. Fred made his way over to a small opening in a window he purposefully left and pointed his shotgun through the hole and fired three times. This time the screams were louder than before. He looked out the window and saw that there were about a dozen men in the group and three of them were apparently dead and several wounded. Troy appeared to be unharmed so far. The survivors quickly ran around the corner of the house. Fred ran around the house and looked through several peep holes he had prepared. At the west end he saw that they were lighting fire to the house. He pointed his shotgun through a hole and fired until it was empty. Three more men were killed and several others received buckshot, but the fire was started. What was he going to do now?
Troy shouted out: “Fred! Your house is now on fire. If you come out unarmed and surrender we still have time to put the fire out. If you don’t come out you and your family will burn with the house. You have just a couple minutes to make up your mind, Fred. What do you say?”
Fred realized that he was trapped and there was no easy way out.
He could either surrender and beg for mercy or he could shoot it out with them. Unfortunately, the mob was well armed. If he shot it out with them the chances were that he would get shot then heaven only knows what would happen to his family. If they surrendered there was a chance their lives would be spared, but for what? To starve to death. Many thoughts rushed through Fred’s mind and a year seemed to pass in a moment. Finally, Fred made up his mind. He stuck a small twenty-two pistol under his shirt out of sight and opened the door and threw a couple guns out.
“Let’s go put that fire out before it burns the house down with the food in it,” said Fred.
“Come on out slowly with no guns,” said Troy who had a gun pointed on Fred.
“Can I help put the fire out?” said Fred.
“Go ahead,” said Troy. Fred took a couple blankets and they all rushed to the fire and smothered it. Fred noticed that most of the men seemed to have guns and decided that now was the time to make the move since everyone had their mind on putting the fire out. He waited till the fire was under control and then quickly drew his gun and shot at Troy. The bullet almost shot one of his fingers off and caused him to drop his gun. Then Fred quickly opened fire on the other men who had visible weapons. He shot a couple of them in the gut, but before he could do more damage Troy regained his weapon and pointed it at Fred.
“Hold it right there Freddy Boy. Just hold it or you’re dead.” Fred saw that Troy had the advantage so he dropped his gun.
“I’ve got to admire your guts,” said Troy. “I never thought you’d pull something this slick.”
“It looks like I didn’t do quite as good as I should have. Listen Troy. I’m sorry I shot your finger off and had to shoot these other guys, but what else can a guy do but defend himself?”
“He can get smart. That’s what he can do,” said Troy. “These are my new brothers and they are a lot more helpful than the old ones that were in the church. We’ve all taken an oath to stand by each other. Everyone’s life is at stake if they do not keep the oath, and it’s worked pretty good too. At least we are able to obtain enough food to live on. I must say though that most of the good Mormons do not give us the problem you have. Many have joined us.”
“Sounds like you’ve started your own Gadianton band,” said Fred.
“Listen Fred. Don’t provoke me any more. You’ve killed my brothers and my finger hurts like hell. I could blow your brains out now and feel good about it. Damn good. However, we’ll give you one last chance. I know that you are a man who fears God enough that you would keep the oath if you made it in his name.”
“What is the oath?”
“The oath that you would be required to take is that you swear in the name of God the Father and the Son Jesus Christ that you would work for the good of the group and that you will defend your brothers with your life and should anyone be unfaithful to the group they must forfeit their life. It may not be like the old Mormon ‘brotherhood,’ Fred, but it works and we can survive this way. Then maybe when this thing blows over we can get back to normal living again.”
“If I made oaths with you Troy I would be making the oaths of Cain. Where will your security be when Jesus comes again and the wicked are destroyed? Remember how you used to teach about the Second Coming in Priesthood class? Don’t you feel like a hypocrite now?”
“Listen Fred… I’m going to blow your brains out if you don’t take the oath and if you give me any more guff, I’ll do it anyway.”
Fred spit in his face.
Several of the men grabbed Fred and held him tight. An evil smile grew on Troy’s face that made a chill run up Fred’s back. He felt the atmosphere become cold and dark. Troy came up to Fred and slapped him as hard as he could three times on the face, then he kicked him in the groin. Fred doubled over whimpering and then Troy kicked him on the side of the head.
Fred half heard Troy speak: “It makes me feel good to make a goody goody like you suffer. I probably feel as good over doing this as you feel bad.” He laughed and then cut it short and kicked Fred in the body three more times. Then he laughed again long and loud, and when he had exhausted himself he kicked Fred a couple more times.
“Are you going to take the oath now Fred?” He shouted: “Are you Fred?”
“Go to hell.”
Troy kicked him four more times. Finally, Fred’s body went completely limp and the sport seemed to be gone. “Is he still alive?” said one of the men.
“Oh, there’s lots of life left in him,” said one of them. “We just got to slap him around a bit till he comes to again. Ain’t no fun killn’ a man who don’t know he’s being killed. Specially a man who’s killed our brothers. He deserves more than just regular dying.”
“You’re right,” said Troy. “You’re so right. Let’s go get his wife and kids.”
Posted Sept 19, 2007, written 1979
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