And after that …

(This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance between any person or place and the real world is strictly accidental. Copyright © 2019, Henry E. Neufeld.)

Fifteen years and $250,000,000 later, Steven (never Steve) Porter got a sign.

There was a great wind

It was a stormy day, and as he was going to work, there was a gust of wind down the street, between the rows of tall buildings on either side. Debris flew wildly. People driving in rush hour traffic thought their cars might actually be moved. An old brick wall in front of a church collapsed, and the sign fell, concealing part of the writing.

Steven looked around after the gust of wind and saw the sign: It said:

“What Are You Doing HERE?”
Steven

It was partially hidden behind the pile of bricks resulting from the wind. The second line had read “Rev. Steven Branson,” but the “Rev.” had fallen off, and the “Branson” was blocked by the bricks.

For a minute, Steven found himself wondering if God might be behind the unusual gust of wind, but that thought was 15 years out of date in his thinking.

“Fighting this stinking traffic,” he muttered. “That’s what I’m doing here. Like everyone else.”

Meteorologists concluded that a very unusual combination of air pressure, movement, and heat had produced a freak wind. But only after they ran the circumstances through a super-computer a few times and tweaked the parameters.

And after the wind an earthquake

The earthquake as much more normal for this beautiful town in southern California. Steven was standing by the table on which he had just signed documents that would make him a few million more dollars when the building started to shake. He was on just the 12th floor of a much taller building, but still there was no escape.

It was only minutes later, however, that the building’s safety manager called for an evacuation. Steven was able to watch the collapse from several blocks away.

Another supercomputer worked out a scenario which would allow the earthquake resistant building to collapse in the way it did, while other damage in the city was quite trivial.

The lawyers didn’t accept the word of the supercomputer, and spent years in court making careers out of it.

And after the wind a fire

He’d lost his car in the collapse, but eventually he was able to leave the area of the collapse and get a ride home. Oddly, despite the collapse of one large building, the earthquake damage had been rather mild elsewhere in the city.

The cab drove along that same street with the row of buildings on either side. Steven thought he smelled smoke. Before he managed to frame a question for the cab driver, the inside of the cab was filling with smoke. He opened the door and jumped out, then stood beside the driver as the care went up in flames.

The car fire didn’t require a supercomputer to explain. There was a wiring fault. It was just a natural event.

The sound of silence

Steven turned and found himself facing the sign again.

“What Are You Doing HERE?”
Steven

It was the same one he’d seen that morning.

He looked at the church, and saw in his mind another church yard, as a younger Steven approached the building. The church council was meeting, and the subject would be whether they wanted to keep their young pastor, and whether he should be allowed to carry out some of his plans.

That younger Steven was to appear to explain himself. As he stood in front of the church, he decided he just didn’t want to put up with it any more. Why should he fight with the old fogies who ran the church?

He’d felt the tug of his calling, but he decided he turned away. He called the chairman of the council on the phone and resigned. He was very good at business. Very good.

He looked at the sign.

“What am I doing here?” he asked.

(With apologies to 1 Kings 19:8-18. Featured Image Credit: background from Adobe Stock, not public domain. Combination is my own.)