My upcoming end-times novel, Torn Asunder, ran so long that I had to delete some scenes that felt like cutting off a finger. Well, one in particular felt like a more major limb. The reason for the pain is the truly demoralizing, depressing feeling I get when hearing of the murder of Christians in various parts of the world. In my manuscript’s case, that is the Sudan.
Just so that I can enlighten my blog audience as well as feel that my words didn’t go to waste, I want to share this scene with you.
Punjab lay on his straw mattress on the dirt floor, listening to the night sounds around the tiny hovel. He could hear his papa sleeping in the next room and was sure his father’s arm was wrapped around his mamma. Even in sleep his papa protected his mamma. Punjab figured his father’s subconscious kept aware of the dangers of being a Christian in Sudan.
Punjab thought of his many relatives who were now dead. His uncle, aunt and five cousins were among the forty-three people who had been burned alive while worshipping in their church when Muslim militia barred the door to escape, then set the building on fire.
Another uncle and aunt and three cousins had simply disappeared one night. Family and friends assumed they had either been killed and buried, or carried off and sold into slavery.
Here in their own village, eight days ago, nearly every home where Christians lived had been torched in one night, and when those sleepy inhabitants who could escape stumbled outdoors, the men over eighteen years old were shot dead where they stood, and the women and children carted away on a big flatbed truck.
Punjab and his family would have been victims themselves that night, but were visiting friends two villages away. Nevertheless, Punjab could picture the scene. He could hear the big truck sputter down the dark road, carting away the women and children to who knew where. The women called for their dead husbands. The children screamed in horror and desperation. Fear sent a shiver down Punjab’s spine and he pulled his one thin blanket up to his chin.
Punjab quietly prayed to God. He had seen far too much horror for a boy twelve years old. Peace was all he craved. Peace and a game of soccer, he said to himself, forcing a smile.
He thought of his two little sisters, Pouya and Mimri, and asked Jesus to grant them a life of peace as well. They were too cute and precious for anything else. They didn’t deserve less. They didn’t warrant being objects of hate. Just peace.
He pictured them flanking him, one on each side, holding his hand and strolling to the swimming hole at the nearby river. He looked at them in his daydream. Pouya, eight and full of spunk, eyes always twinkling, funny thoughts spinning around in her head and spilling out on her tongue. If Punjab had known about comedians, or gymnasts perhaps, he would have guessed that Pouya would grow into one or the other, or both.
Mimri, five, was a little princess, a girl if ever there were one. Though pretty princess clothes were unknown in Sudan, she would look perfectly at home in them. Two sets of very big, very brown eyes looked up at him in his daydream. He smiled and breathed a deep, satisfied breath.
Then, abruptly, the tranquility of Punjab’s reverie exploded with a crash at the front door. The door splintered. Their voices snarling, angry men burst into the home.
Punjab had wondered about this moment, what he would do if it happened. There would be no way of escape because the home had only that one door and its two windows bracketed that door. If men were armed, his family stood no chance. Even his father, who could lift a donkey cart all by himself, was defenseless against weapons.
He quickly asked God to rescue them supernaturally, then spun off his mat and ran to his sisters in the adjoining room. Groggy and confused, they looked at his figure in the dark. He knew they knew it was him, but before he could speak, a crushing blow to the back of his head sent everything spinning into darkness.
Very briefly, he heard his sisters scream. Somewhere in the home, his father shouted. Somewhere his mother…
Sometime later, Punjab awoke. His head felt like a knife pierced his skull. It was still nighttime, but he could see the dawning sun struggled to break the horizon. He half-lay on the ground, his upper body propped up against the wall beside his front door, his wrists tied behind him.
He winced at the pain in the back of his head and his temple, and a mammoth man stepped inside the door. A moment later the giant loomed over him and kicked him in the ribs.
“Get up, Christian swine!” he growled and kicked Punjab again, harder this time. Now the pain in his side overcame that in his head, and Punjab struggled to stand up. His equilibrium fouled up, his hands tied behind him, he barely got to his knees when he fell sideward.
The goliath grumbled something and a second man stepped inside. One on each side of Punjab, they grabbed his arms and yanked him up.
“You filth,” the giant said, then spit on the floor, “you become an example.”
Punjab fumbled the facts over in his mind, but the pain made it impossible to decipher them. Everything was awhirl, his vision spinning. Fragments of the night came to recollection. He was in his home. The door had burst open. Shouts. His sisters. Then—nothing. Until now.
“An example to others… like you… Christians,” spat the second man.
“Deny your faith,” demanded the first.
Punjab said nothing.
“Deny Jesus!” the man shouted.
Punjab could not deny his Lord and Savior.
A slap to his face snapped his head back.
“Deny or die!”
“No!” Punjab sputtered, spitting blood. “Never!”
“Then go to Sheol!” the giant growled, and they dragged him outside, shutting the door behind them.
Punjab felt like a rag doll in their hands. He was too weak and in too much pain to fight back. Thoughts of David and Goliath spun across his mind, but he couldn’t grasp them. He felt like his head was tumbling down a hill, over and over, over and over, and he couldn’t stop the sensation to create a clear thought.
In one sudden jerk, the men lifted him off the ground. As one of them held him aloft, the other lifted his right hand to his side at shoulder height. Punjab looked to his right just in time to see a huge spike hammered through the palm of his hand. He screamed and passed out.
Later—minutes? hours?—he awoke to see the rising sun over the field where his father planted soybeans. He felt strangely suspended, with excruciating pain in his hands and feet. He struggled to breath.
He looked about him. He was crucified to the door of his home. If he could see above his head, he’d know that with the blood that had poured from him, his tormentors had drawn a fish with an “X” crossed through it. A message for any remaining Christians in the village.
Hours later, a brave neighbor put his own life at risk and yanked the offending nails from the door, releasing Punjab from his horror. Punjab drenched his clothing in tears. He had no idea what had happened to his momma, his papa, and his two little sisters, Pouya the comedian and Mimri the princess.