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Ephie and the Good Book

Once upon a time, there was a young girl named Ephie who lived in a city where it was illegal to worship the one true God. Her parents had been taken in the night several years ago for being God-worshippers; their prayers had ascended like purple incense above their small apartment and the police came to arrest them for treason against the state. The only gods legal to pray to were Shemelehu and his river wives, for they controlled the movements of nature. It had only rained in their country three times in the past twenty years and the desalination plants were almost to the point of exhaustion from turning the bitter sea water into a liquid potable and ready for irrigation. 60,000 days seemed to be the limit for the water-purifying machines, and rain was needed.
After her parents were arrested, Ephie decided to avoid trouble by avoiding the one true God. She shut the windows that had opened to the heavens on their 4th-floor flat. She stopped praying before meals because it was the state that brought her the food allotted to orphans and she didn’t want that to stop (even if it was awfully tasteless). Ephie got rid of all the books her parents had read to her, except one—a Bible. The smell of the old book reminded her of better days. She taped it up nicely underneath the piano bench so that the book opened downward. That way she could still smell it when she played.
One day while playing the piano, she smelled something delicious—fresh bread. A knock sounded at the door, altogether too early for the orphan allotment to come. She peered through the peephole. It was an old woman who looked kind, so Ephie took a risk and opened the door.
“Hello,” cackled the old woman. Her voice was not very pleasant. “Want some bread?” Ephie’s stomach rumbled with hunger and her eyes betrayed her hunger through her suspicion. “Yes, please.”
The old lady tenderly placed the bread in Ephie’s hands and urged her to eat it. With a nod of her head, Ephie invited her uninvited guest to sit down inside.
“It smells familiar in here,” scratched the voice of the old woman. “Psalms?”
Ephie froze. She had heard of even children being arrested for having a Bible and now she was fifteen—legally not a child anymore. One thing she remembered very clearly from her parents, though, was that it was best to be completely honest when you have been caught in something.
She swallowed the big bite of bread in her mouth.
“Yes, mum. It is.” She motioned to the piano bench and smiled, although her hand was trembling.
Acting as though she didn’t care that having such a book was illegal, the old woman turned to Ephie and asked,
“May I play the piano for a turn, daughter?”
Her eyes were not hard and cold but warm and kind, so Ephie shrugged in assent. Her companion sat on the bench and started a scale, simple but elegant and beautiful. All the sudden, she burst into a dramatic dirge and played slowly at first, then faster. As she played, the pages of the hidden Bible were loosed from the tape that held them in place and they swayed back and forth, as dramatically as the sounds from the small woman’s fingers. Only the strong tape Ephie had placed on the binding remained intact, keeping the book from falling from its perch.
Not only were the pages fluttering vehemently as if someone where turning them, but Ephie could also smell glorious fragrances which seemed to be coming from the piano bench—more fresh bread, the salt of the sea, a perfume she would later come to know as myrrh, and then its companion spikenard—so many new smells, all distinct and precious. Roses? “Oh!” she murmured as she remembered the time her father brought home a dozen for her and her mother. How sweet the smells were to her! It seemed like her visitor played for hours and hours, every moment of which Ephie was surrounded by a joy she had forgotten. It lulled her into a deep sleep.
When she woke up, the woman was gone.
“It must have been a dream,” Ephie thought, but when she looked around she saw three loaves of fresh bread on the table. The memories of that day echoed in her heart, awaking a sleeping hope that life was worth more than she had believed. Ephie thought of her parents, and her heart ached for them more than she had let her little heart ache for a long time.

1 Comment

  1. Quang says:

    Noooooo, cliffhangers! Don’t stop there!

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