by s. nicole böcek
2017 and AD 354
Having a journey in the middle of the night sounds exhausting, but sometimes, it’s just the way to help someone fall asleep…
Amber sits on the edge of her bed, fingering the watch. It is a restless night for her. All she can think about is the journey she had a couple days ago.
The surface of the watch shimmers blue, casting a light on the ceiling. Amber enters in the number AD 33, thinking, Maybe, this time…. But the blue light flashes red.
Sighing, she hunches her shoulders. She opens her laptop and skims through her online dashboard on the question and answer site Quora for her Bible homework. A question title catches her eye. Someone asks, Why do Christians say babies are evil? Amber snorts and clicks on the button to answer it.
“Babies are not evil,” she says to herself. “Everyone knows that. This is plain nonsense. What kind of Christian would say that?”
She plans out a long answer and begins writing it when something knocks on her window. Clicking the save draft option, she shuts her computer lid and looks out the window.
Nope. Nothing there. Amber returns her interest back to the watch. Should I go to the next date? She sighs. The man in the pea green coat did say his life depended on it. I wonder if he dies, will it be my fault? She didn’t want to risk that. I’d better go.
Amber looks out the window once more, and enters the date September 10, AD 354 into the watch. The blue dome comes around her, ensuing the room in darkness. Bright light flashes like an electric rainbow, and she finds herself in a stone-made room.
Amber tip-toes toward the wooden door. It is a good thing the door is already open, or Amber would have created a heck of a noise breaking the medieval-looking lock. She sneaks through the hallways, catching a glimpse of scrolls in one room. Scrolls? It’s a library! In 354? She darts in. So who am I supposed to meet here?
Amber runs her fingers along the shelf, trying to keep herself from touching the scrolls. But she can’t help herself. She opens one. Latin. Bummer. She puts it back down then hears voices coming her way. She ducks behind a shelf of the scrolls, holding her breath.
“I cannot accept this,” says a man’s voice.
“It is only truth,” says the other voice, also a man.
“Men become sinners. They are not born sinners. Consider my sweet daughter Maria. She is a mere infant. She has done nothing wrong.”
This is the topic of that Quora question!
“How can you call her a sinner, Bishop Augustine?”
Amber’s breath catches. She almost coughs but manages to hold it in. Augustine! It must be Saint Augustine! Jaynee did a presentation on him in class last month. I wonder why the Pea-green Coat Guy wants me to meet him.
Peering over the shelf, Amber sees Augustine take a deep breath and stop, facing the other man. “You speak of your infant daughter. What then was my own sin at that age? Was it perhaps that I cried so greedily for my mother’s breasts? Certainly if I behaved like that now, greedy not for breasts, of course, but for food suitable to my age, I should provoke derision and be very properly rebuked.”
Amber blushes, sinking further behind the shelf. The other man laughs and agrees with Augustine. “No sane man would consider you with respect were you to scream like that for food. Good point well made.”
A flash of green draws Amber’s attention. She looks toward the corner of the hallway; she catches a glimpse of something pea green. What? Her mind piques with interest. She cannot go over toward that corner because Augustine has stopped in the middle of the hall. Is it that guy?
“And of course the tantrums,” Augustine continues, “the actions of a child who begs tearfully for objects that would harm him if given, gets into a tantrum when free persons, older persons and his parents, will not comply with his whims, and tries to hurt many people who know better by hitting out at them as hard as his strength allows, simply because they will not immediately fall in with his wishes or obey his commands, which would damage him if carried out?”
Augustine takes a deep breath here, his chin elevated a bit, “The only innocent feature in babies is the weakness of their frames; the minds of infants are far from innocent.”
The other man lowers his head, nodding.
“And Paul said, ‘There is no one righteous, not even one.’ The law of Moses proved this to us, Ciro. The law was like a teacher to prove we are not ever able to meet God’s righteous requirements.”
“But Bishop, what of our desire to do the right thing? What of our works?”
“It is not our works. Consider that Joshua told the people in the Promised Land that they would not be able to keep the law. No. Not law. Not works. Christ brought for us this righteousness. We are justified by him alone, not by being good and avoiding sin.”
“Yes, I see your point. Even my darling Maria cannot be righteous on her own. Sin is inherent within her, just immature.”
Augustine puts his arm over his friend’s back. “Yet because of Christ, God sees us as innocent as doves. This is the gospel.”
They continue their walk down the stone hallway. Amber rises to her feet, her mind whirling. Innocent as doves? Jesus had said something about that. On Emmaus Road.
She hurries toward Augustine to ask him how, when she is surrounded in light and dark. No, no, don’t take me away from here! I want to learn more! She covers her face…
…and when the blue fades away finds herself standing in her bedroom in 2017 again. “Take me back!” she whispers.
Amber groans at the failure, wiping her face of sweat.
Why do I always get taken away at the most important moment?! She sits on her bed to consider what she saw. I guess Augustine was making sense.
Remembering the numerous times she got in trouble as a toddler, Amber blushes and looks down at the ground. I was a little rotter; and I did sin. Mom said as a baby I was a nightmare to put to bed. And I was greedy, I stole candy from her whenever she wasn’t looking.
She nods to herself. I guess I was wrong about babies sinning.
Her eyes catch the window frame and she walks over, her mind drawn back to the pea green cloth she saw in the library corridor. Was it him? Is he stalking me? How did he get there in the first place? Who is he? Amber leans out the window, wondering if he will climb through it again.
She sees no one but she can’t help feel a bit spooked out. He had given her the dates. Somehow they would save his life. But how? Jesus, Augustine. Hmm. Latching her window, she goes back to her bed and picks up the yellow paper.
The next date is December 25, 1522. Jesus’s birthday! I should try AD 33 again.
Amber flops on the bed and puts her head on her pillow. I saw Jesus! She stuffs the note under her pillow, closes her eyes remembering Jesus and Augustine. Before she knows what is happening, she falls into a peaceful slumber.
TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS IN THIS SERIAL NOVEL,
S. NICOLE BOCEK’S DEBUT BOOK,
What do you think? Who is the Pea-green Coat Guy? What are these dates? Write your predictions below…