Chapter 8

Total Meltdown

For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.

~1 Thessalonians5:3

Present day, Orlando, FL. Monday October 27, 8:05 A.M. 1st of the last 7 years of the end of days 

Bob unlocked the store like he had done for the past 10 years. Nothing had seemed different or unusual until he turned on the big screen T.V. at the front of the store. He usually tuned the DVD player to play the latest offering in the way of Christian films that was on sale that week. This morning, however, he felt like switching the monitor to the cable TV setting to catch up on the news before setting up the store. What Bob saw and heard was shocking to him but not unusual. It seems that while he was sleeping, the Asian markets had a problem. The Chinese and Japanese markets had lost 45% of their value overnight and the Dow, S&P, and NASDAQ were all poised for major losses in 45 minutes at the open of the American markets. "Wow", Bob thought, "just like  '86 and '08." Referencing the last 2 major stock market crashes he could remember. There may have been more but at the moment he couldn't remember. He just stared at the screen with wonder and fear. Fear that his business would eventually take a hit, but wonder at the reports on the ticker at the bottom of the screen. It seems that several Asian businessmen committed suicide from several different companies. This was not an isolated problem, it was widespread. Bob could never understand why people would take their own life over something that would eventually work itself out. As the 9:00 hour approached, Jimmy walked in in a panic, "Have you seen what's going on?" he said, as Bob matter-of-factly, turned off the TV. 

9:35 A.M. Winter Garden, FL.

 "Wake up Judy, its started" Robert said. Judy didn't get too many opportunities to sleep in, so jumping up to find out what had started was less than thrilling at that moment. "What started?" Was her sleepy reply. "9:35 and the DOW Jones is down 1000 points already, Suicides overseas over financial losses, emergency meetings being called in Washington, Tokyo, London, and God knows where else, I didn't think you'd want to sleep through this Philly girl, its gonna be a heck of a ride."

10:00 A.M. Windermere, FL.

 As Parents began pulling up to Windermere high school to pick up their kids, you could sense the panic in the air.  Local Sheriff's deputies had been called to handle the mob, and people were scattered everywhere. Sam and Jed were talking as Jessica pulled up to pick up Sam, "Are you gonna listen to me now?!" Jed yelled as Sam took off like a flash and jumped into Jess's car. "Its a free day, Bible boy, and I ain't gonna waste it talking to you" Sam yelled back as they sped off, narrowly missing Jed's mom's car, racing away amidst the myriad of cars. "Was that Sam?" His mom asked. "Yes, and just as closed-minded as ever, I think hes in real danger, mom"

10:30 A.M. Windermere high school

"Its just a stock market crash" Tracey said to the principal, whose decision it was to call all parents, close school and end the day. "there's been like a dozen hasn't there?, whats the big deal?" "Tracey" he said "I can appreciate your dedication, but this is bigger than a stock market crash, People are killing themselves, there's widespread panic in the streets and I don't need chaos entering this school, have you ever seen the American markets lose 50% of their value in an hour?" Tracey didn't want to admit it but she was scared, its just that work was her only activity that relaxed her, what was she suppose to do now? "I hope Al got home O.K." was her only thought as she tried to get out of the parking lot.

12:00 P.M. Kissimmee, FL.

 When Tim went to lunch at 11, there was a 75% occupancy, when he returned from his car, where he always ate alone and listened to his CD's. almost every guest had checked out, Tim's boss was telling him to go home for he day, and most employees had left. As he pulled away from the Hotel, he turned on the radio to find that the Stock markets had crashed, and the world was decaying into widespread panic. He had never followed politics or the markets, they were foreign to him. All he cared about was getting home to Frankie, not knowing that Frankie was gone and all that remained was a note explaining why.

6:00 P.M. Orlando, FL.

 As the Rioting, looting, and gunfire ramped up throughout the City of Orlando, Bob Realized for the first time in years that he was alone.  No wife, no close friends, not even the presence of God was felt by Bob tonight, just the cold handle of a 9 mm handgun, and his blinding terror at the scenes outside his window.  Bob knew the score, this was not going away anytime soon, the world was in trouble.  But more important, Bob was in trouble. With only about 7 days worth of food in the house, Bob's military survival instincts kicked in.  As he heard a knock at the door, He released the safety on his gun and slowly walked to see who it was. 

6:05 P.M. Winter Garden

 Tracey had never seen mayhem like this.  Her worst memories of chaos involved field trips and fire drills up to this point.  As she sat in her favorite chair, her knees drawn to her chest, shaking and sobbing, her husband stood guard at the door, shotgun in hand, hoping that he wouldn't be using it tonight.  

6:06 P.M. Kissimmee

 Tim didn't know what to do.  He wasn't sure what upset him more, the carnage going on in the city, or the crumpled up note in his hand.  Frankie had left, permanently, and he was all alone with his fear and doubts once again.

6:08 P.M. )rlando

Sam considered himself the big man on campus, but as he and Jess tried to comfort each other, he felt more like a wimp every minute. The scene outside Jess' window scared him like he had never been scared before. He tried to call his mom, no answer.  His dad was unreachable as well. It was Sam's turn to be the leader in this situation, and he was failing miserably.  Fortunately, Jessica was already in route to the kitchen to formulate a game plan. 

6:09 P.M. Winter Garden

"About a month, if we scrimp, Heck I've been meaning to take off a few pounds anyway, Philly girl, Gotta keep my figure." Robert could be heard through the whole house as he shouted his answer to Judy's question about how long they could hold out.  They had started stock piling after the sermon at church about the tribulation.

6:09 P.M. Winter Garden

 In contrast, the Browne house was cool, calm and collected.  As the kids slept,  Jed and his parents, Johnathan and Catherine, formulated their plans. The stock pile would last months if needed, and the Ammo would hold out longer. 

6:10 P.M. Orlando

 As Bob opened the door he was met by his next door neighbor, Tony  who he barely said two words to on a good day.  Tony said nothing as he fell into Bob's entryway, he seemed to have fainted but as Bob turned him over he noticed a blood stained shirt. Bob quickly pulled Tony into his living room, locked the door and went to see if Tony was alive or dead at this point. He felt a pulse, ran to the bathroom to get whatever first aid supplies he could find and returned to find Tony with his eyes wide and coughing loudly. "What happened, Tony?" Bob said excitedly. "I think it just grazed me, can you help me clean it off to see?" Tony said. "What grazed you?" Bob said "The bullet" Tony said as he stared at Bob's gun, now on the floor not 2 feet from Bob as he frantically tried to clean Tony's wound. Bob reached for his gun, picked it up just as the door was kicked in and a big man appeared in the doorway, gun in hand, but before he could fire, Bob squeezed off 2 quick rounds and the big man fell backwards onto Bob's front porch as he jumped forward and relocked the front door with the upper dead bolt that was still operational. As he looked back at Tony he exclaimed, "Friend of yours?" Tony responded with a nervous laugh and "no, but he's probably short a bullet in that gun."

7:00 P.M. Winter Garden

"Prophecy", Al said loud enough for Tracy to hear. "What?" she screamed. "This whole thing is prophesy." Al said.  "You're nuts!" Tracy exclaimed. "And you are basing that on what? All those bible studies you missed by getting to work early, or that liberal church you go to that sticks their head in the sand and never discusses prophecy." Al shouted back.  It was the first time Tracy heard Al raise his voice in years. "Stop shouting at me!" she yelled. "I suppose you believe that freaky pastor over at Morning Glory whose got his whole congregation believing the world is going to end?" At that remark Al whipped open the curtain, pulled up the mini blinds, and gestured into the street at the burning cars and mayhem that had plagued the quiet suburb. At that she began to sob louder as he closed the drapes and went to embrace her. "We gotta keep our heads straight." Al said "This thing's gonna last a long time and we gotta keep cool or we're done for. "And I suppose God told you to buy that thing, not very Christian like." She said pointing to the shotgun.  "Luke 11:21" Al said smiling back as he wiped away her tears. As he returned to the window, gun in hand, to guard the scene, Tracy looked for the family bible in the den and just for a moment let down her cynicism and believed Al may be on to something.

8:00 P.M. Kissimmee

As Tim watched the news his first thought was, how long is this going to last?  How long could he hold out?  Visions flashed on the screen of fires, accidents, and suicides.  "Won't things get better?" Tim spoke out loud to nobody, quickly remembering that Frankie was gone.  Tim couldn't comprehend why people would be killing themselves, "wouldn't it get better eventually?", he thought, "it always does" That made him think that these people must have thought it wasn't going to get better. This was it, the situation that had him making fun of all those conspiracy theorists at work, had finally arrived.  Now all he wanted to do was talk to one of them.  All they ever talked about was their guns, ammo, and stockpiles of food, water and medicine.  Tim thought they were all whack jobs, but now the situation was rapidly coming together in his mind, and he didn't like the conclusion.  The last image he saw on the screen was a recap of the day's markets. The Dow Jones closed out at 6777. Down from the record high 26,666 that was hit the day before. Then the lights went out, not just Tim's, but the whole visible area out of his window.

8:15 P.M. Orlando

"You got any candles in here, my cell light won't last all night on half power." Sam said as he heard Jess trip over something in the kitchen.  "Way ahead of you." Jess said as she found several tea light candles, a flashlight, and an aim and flame.Jess had always considered herself a strong independent woman, and Sam was the head of everything at school, but this had them both rattled.  "Do you understand any of what's going on?" Sam said "What the Hell is this, What's gonna happen, I feel like we should've known about this, I.." He kept babbling until Jess cut him off and said "The only thing I know is that you are losing it, you need to get control if we are gonna get out of this alive. No I don't know what's going on, and I don't care either. I just know that we gotta shift to survival mode or we are in trouble." As she was talking she had the whole place lit up from the candles and Sam had begun to calm down, as he put his cell phone in his pocket, it went off. "Hello" Sam said. "Where are you?" the voice on the other end said, it was his dad. "I'm at Jess' place, the power's out all over and its crazy outside, I don't mind telling you, Dad, I'm scared out of my mind."  "I'm coming to get you, Jess can come too if she wants, I've got food, protection, and plenty of supplies, be there in ten minutes."  As Jess called her parents to make sure they were O.K., She saw the look of horror on Sam's face, torn between the phone ringing and Sam's expression, she said, "What's wrong?"  "My mom's dead." Was his reply, just as Jessica's mom answered the phone She was relieved and sad at the same time.  "Mom, Sam's dad is coming to get us do you want me over there or Should I go with him, Sam just found out his mom died in this mess somehow so I think I'm gonna go with him, are you guys O.K.?"  "That's terrible, we will pray for you guys, you stay with Sam and his dad, I know the reserves he has, you'll be safe there, don't worry about us, we're fine" Her mom said. As Sam's dad pulled up, not in the driveway, but onto the front lawn inches from the doorway, he shouted, "Bring nothing, get in now!" As they drove into the night Jessica's last thought before she dozed off on Sam's shoulder was of Judy her boss at the church. "She was right." 

8:00 P.M. Winter Garden

 "It's getting worse, dad" Jed said "do you want me to bring in the generator before..." he didn't even finish his sentence before the lights went out. As they felt around the garage in the dark, Johnathan Browne started to chuckle. "You couldn't have had that thought 30 minutes ago." He told Jed. And they both broke into laughter. Catherine appeared in the dark and exclaimed, "I fail to see the humor in this situation!" To which Jed said, "Actually, I fail to see anything at the moment, but I feel the generator, Dad"  "Give us 15 minutes Cat, and we will all be able to see everything, humor included" Johnathan said. And at that, Catherine Browne smiled for the first time in hours. As they hooked up the generator, Johnathan said, "I fail to see how a few thugs and opportunists can make the electricity go out as far as the eye can see, or rather not see." To which Jed replied, "What is going on then, Dad?" As Johnathan Browne was putting on a jacket, loading up extra ammo, and surveying what he could see from his front porch, he answered, "I don't know Jed, but I'll be back in an hour hopefully with some answers." That was met with a resounding "No way!" from Catherine and Jed in unison. But as usual, Johnathan's logic and candor won out in the end and he set off to the police station where the chief of police, David Caughlin, Was a close personal friend of his. It was only 10 minutes away by foot so Johnathan couldn't see the point in driving which in a blackout would just draw attention to himself. 5 minutes into his walk he was startled to hear, "Johnathan, is that you?" from behind him. He turned around to see Kevin Johnson, and his son coming up to embrace him. 

9:30 P.M. Orlando

 Having a conversation in the dark was difficult, but there was no way Bob or Tony would be leaving any time soon. With mayhem ramping up, and a dead man on the porch, Bob was suddenly content to sit in the dark and talk calmly with His neighbor, who he hadn't spoken to, outside of a friendly "hello", in months. "So, how long you think this will last?" Bob said. Tony's reply made him recoil. "a little over 6 years for some, others less than that, 2 or 3, you should know that, don't you read the bible?" Bob mustered up all the disgust and self rightousness he could and replied, "More than you do, apparently, what does all this have to do with the bible, let me guess, you attend morning glory too?" "Sure do, I can't believe that a man who owns a christian book store, knows the bible backwards and forwards, can't see what's going on here." Tony said. Bob replied, a little less smugly, "Well why don't you enlighten me with your theory, we aint goin' anywhere for a while anyway." At that cue, Tony proceeded to try to educate the most educated man in town on his own turf, about his wheelhouse subject, but as Bob would find out, prophecy and end times were not the strong points he had thought they were in his resume. 

10:00 P.M. Winter Garden

 As Judy and Robert lie sleeping in each others arms, the blackness and noise did not seem to bother them. They slept soundly secure in the knowledge that while they did not know what the future held, they knew who held there future, and there was nothing like resting in the Lord. 

10:00 P.M. Kissimmee

Tim was terrified of the dark, like he was terrified of lonliness. As he tried to call his mom, the cell phone was not connecting. What would he do? How long would this last? Tim had no answers and nobody to ask. With no t.v., and no company, he lamented his life and eventually cried himself to sleep. 

10:00 P.M. Winter Garden

 Al set down the Gun and calmly walked over to Tracey, she seemed to be deep in thought and jumped at his touching her shoulder. "Penny for your thoughts." He said. "what are we gonna do?" she said. "How long can we wait?" She said louder. "Honey, I'm gonna say this with as much love as I can, That liberal church has destroyed you." Al said very lovingly. "How can we both believe in Christ and only one of us is a basket case at clear prophecy which we knew was coming." She shouted back, "Well I didn't know this was coming!" Al then said, "That's 'cause sacred palm never told you. They were more interested in your happiness and the collection plates than in prophecy. Now would you like to know what's going on?" And for the first time ever, Tracey relented to Al's "over zealous" take on the bible, and listened carefully to his views on the current crisis. 

10:00 P.M. Orlando

As Sam, Jed, and Jessica Followed Jed's dad along with Sam's dad and step-mom, the conversation was anything but dull. "So you're saying God's doing all this?" Sam said. Jed replied, "No, Man's doin' it, God just predicted it." Sam quickly said, "And all this is in the bible?" Jed quipped, "Who would know better than bible boy." which brought a smile from Sam. Jed thought he was getting to him until they all got back to the house, it was there that Sam launched into a tirade about his mom. "I don't want to hear this crap, my mom's dead, my life stinks, and now you're telling me that God loves me? I don't buy it, I don't buy you, And I aint buyin' God." As he stormed away, Jessica said, "Give him time, and tell me more."

How long this would last, only God knew. One thing was clear, there was no turning back. The world was in serious trouble. Money was worthless, food was scarce, and Governments were decaying rapidly. Violence was at an all time high, and police, sheriffs, and military could do little to squelch the fire. What this world needed most was a savior, unfortunately, most were depending on the wrong one.

Chapter 9