Cold, clammy terror. Lydia’s breath came in ragged gasps. Perspiration dotted her forehead as she struggled with
the worst nervousness she’d ever known. Her slender, jeweled fingers trembled as she exited her car’s Manual Drive
program, briefly used to reach the free visitors’ parking area of the Hidden Manna Terrace Apartment Complex. Lydia’s
Blue Breezer Smartcar, with its Automatic Drive and Anti-Gravity Flight options, had driven (and flown) itself across the
vast city of Joystar, leaving Lydia free to concentrate on the bridges she had just burned behind her, and to psych herself
up to face an uncertain future. As shaky as she was, Lydia knew she never could have managed the trip without her car’s
calm, high-tech e-brain, with its intricate plasma neural network which mimicked the complex workings of the human brain.
The 24th-century wonder of driverless automotive technology had vastly reduced danger from human error on the roads.
Lydia swept a few golden strands back from her damp brow and feathered them with a tiny brush, to enhance the fringe of
ringlets framing her doll-like face. Her honey blond hair, caught up in a jeweled clasp, fell in glossy waves down to her
waist. One of the most celebrated beauties in Joystar, few would forget her face and might recognize her if she weren’t
Wanting to look fresh and composed, Lydia took her makeup sachet from her purse. She studied the range of skin tone enhancers
in her compact. Yes, Mango Peach would add a glow to her complexion and smooth away the strain of earlier hours. Lydia brushed
the rouge onto her flushed cheeks and applied Raspberry Ice Gloss to her full, Cupid-bow lips. A touch of Mulberry Moods Eye
Shadow and a light spray of Misty Maiden fragrance left Lydia feeling feminine and desirable. She might be a married mother
of four, but why shouldn’t she feel like the gorgeous, desirable girl she was? Lydia was glad to be in the early stage
of young adulthood. A time for dancing and laughing, not worrying about sour-faced religion like old codgers about to die!
Since the Second Coming of Christ, the prime of human life had lengthened dramatically, especially for righteous people.
Those who loved and served King Jesus could expect to live in their mortal bodies for many centuries, just like antediluvian
saints such as Methuselah, who’d lived for nearly a thousand years. Great longevity was one of many Kingdom Age blessings
promised to God’s people in Isaiah chapter 65.
However, Lydia was playing with fire in her contrariness toward God. Unless she repented she might not even live to celebrate
her hundredth birthday, which was almost upon her. Isaiah 65:20, quoted by tabernacle elders of her childhood and spiritual
ed teachers at school, warned that sinners who reached a hundred would be cursed by God instead of blessed with long life.
Even as Lydia reflected on the precariousness of life for unbelievers, she trembled as she remembered an ominous warning given
her earlier by Lord Stephen, Royal Mayor of Joystar. Saul had nearly driven her crazy. But would Bruce be worth it?
As far as the eye could see were picturesque adobe dwellings with red-tiled roofs. Lydia glanced up at the crimson-violet
mist of the setting sun, sprinkled with feathery clouds which kissed the peaks of the Spotted Eagle Mountain Range, beyond
which was the scenic Coastal Highway, itself a breathtaking wonder. Trees laden with luscious fruit lined Bruce’s street.
Beyond the privacy of Lydia’s blue-tinted car windows lay a vista of well-kept flower-dotted lawns, glistening with
pearly dewdrops. Lydia heard a chorus of meadowlarks and robins sweetly warbling praise to their Creator. Even the emerald
green grass must be praising the Lord as it swayed in the early evening breeze.
Despite the lateness of the hour, nature itself was reluctant to surrender the last glimmers of twilight to the starry
sapphire night. As a child Lydia had been taught that the darkness of the Old World was gone, now that Christ, the Light of
the World, ruled in Jerusalem and had bound His old adversary Lucifer in the Bottomless Pit. Despite all these blessings and
more, unregenerate Lydia was quite used to the storybook beauty of her world. She barely noticed it anymore and never had
given God thanks for it. If Lydia were in charge she might even make a few changes.
Lydia clutched her bare arms. The bracing autumn air was quite pleasant for decently clad people, but her revealing party
dress was none too warm. Spiritual winter reigned in her soul and even her body knew it.
Lydia looked all around her, wondering if anyone would recognize her if she left the car. Kids noticed everything, but
surely most of them would be indoors eating their supper. She watched out for people returning from their daily work, hoping
no one would speak to her. Out the corner of her eye Lydia spotted a couple of small children laughing and playing on a nearby
lawn as their mother peeked out the window, smiling at them. The only other adult Lydia saw was a lone mother passing by,
softly singing and pushing a stroller back from the park.
She put her makeup sachet back in her purse. Now to touch base with someone special. Instead of using the phone terminal
on the driver’s console, she unzipped a pouch and withdrew her tiny PINphone (Personal Information Phone). She reactivated
it, for it had been switched off to prevent calls from getting through which might have changed her mind. Even her husband’s
calls would have been screened out, had his spiritual guardians permitted him to make them.
The little phone screen lit up, inviting input from the owner. “LIBERATOR 66B,” she whispered to the robotic
“The GOLDEN GIRL’s back,” she said seductively, once the recipient picked up the call. “I’ll
meet you at the door.”
It’s now or never, Lydia thought. Just DO it! Lydia drew a deep breath and flung her car door open.
She grabbed her purse but left her light luggage in the back seat. She mustn’t appear too eager. First she must test
the waters. A firmer commitment might be in the cards, but she must make sure. She locked the car doors with her phone. Taking
brisk strides, she hurried toward Apartment 66B.
Behind a tall easel stood her longed-for lover, Bruce Hansen. Dreamy grey eyes set in an angular face widened in expectation.
Bruce ran his hand over his bushy brown Afro, checking his reflection in a mirror. His mustache twitched in a devious smile,
revealing a fine set of teeth. Bruce heard a beep. It was best to check first, though the sultry, syrupy accent was undoubtedly
hers. He reached behind the cluttered easel, where a small landscape concealed a tiny plasma screen connected to the household
Nerve-plex system. This digital data system monitored Bruce’s health, kept a kitchen inventory and wrote a tentative
shopping list, monitored power reserves and communicated with his major household appliances.
Security-conscious Bruce had just installed an optical spy system which warned him of approaching visitors. What he saw
rejoiced his heart. It really is her, he thought.
Bruce could hardly restrain himself as he flung open his front door. “Oh, Lydia!” he cried, arms open
wide. “I knew my prayer would be answered and you’d come home to me!”
“I don’t even know if I should come in,” she muttered. Both of them looked around but saw no neighbors
who might wonder why Bruce, allegedly engaged to a brunette, was greeting a provocatively dressed blond beauty at his
“Then why don’t we two visit outside, out in the back yard?” Bruce emerged, apologizing profusely for
his disheveled appearance. “The wall’s so high no one can see us there. That is, unless a Bubble-cab is flying
“For now, we’ll just take our chances outside,” Lydia said.
Bruce bowed and kissed her hand. Lydia forgot she was a married mother of four and giggled like a school girl with a crush.
Bruce took her arm and steered her toward a gate which opened onto an unkempt back yard fenced in by an eight-foot-high stone
wall topped with a trellis of trailing roses. Bruce’s neglected flower beds were strewn with waste paper and weeds.
The overgrown grass was a gallery of discarded junk from Bruce’s bizarre still life painting projects.
“Oh, Bruce,” she breathed, “I’ve never seen your back yard before. It’s so wild and free,
just like you!”
“Shhhh!” Bruce pressed his finger to his lips. “I’m so engrossed in my art I just let the back
yard do its own thing. Just watch your step. Ah, here’s a cozy place. There. Make yourself at home under the orange
tree. We’ll just keep our voices down.” After brushing dead leaves off a plastic chair, he wiped it down with
a rag and eased Lydia into it. Bruce kicked a cardboard box out of the way and pulled his own chair up to the rickety patio
table. He slumped into it and stared at Lydia as if he could barely believe she was there in front of him.
“Thanks, Bruce,” Lydia said in a more subdued tone. “And I’m just dying to know. Who did you pray
“A nebulous flight of fancy. But all that matters is you’re here with me, back where you belong.”
“I didn’t exactly find it easy to come,” said Lydia, her mouth quivering.
“Why? Didn’t you long for my touch?”
“I wasn’t alone in the car, Bruce...as I came here.”
Bruce felt a mad rush of jealousy. He clutched her hand and demanded, “Who was with you, Lydia? Saul?”
“No, Bruce. Somebody else. He glowed. He looked all hazy, almost invisible. I could barely see him. But there he
was, in the seat beside me. I was halfway here, and he just popped up out of nowhere. He said, ‘Turn back, Lydia. You
are in great peril of eternal perdition. Repent, or your loss will be irreversible.’ He looked at me kind of sad,
and I almost ordered my car to reverse course. But then I remembered how Saul has neglected me lately, so I gritted my teeth
and kept on coming.”
“Well, good for you, baby cakes. Didn’t you tell me communication with Saul has broken down and you’ve
kept your hurt feelings to yourself about....you know, what the rulers did?”
“I’ve had to, Bruce. Saul’s mind has been affected ever since those rulers first came to us. Saul acts
like everything’s just peachy, as if he can’t recall much of what I went through.”
“As I said before, Lydia, it could be so traumatic for him he’s been blocking it out so life could be as normal
at home as possible. And..” he said with suave finesse... “you suffered because you believe in me, and you’re
such a beautiful soul you even forgave all the reckless things I did out of love for you! Nobody is more wonderful than you
are, and I don’t even deserve to have you by my side.”
Tears of tender sympathy brimmed in Lydia’s lovely eyes. Her long lashes fluttered as she hung her head and sighed
with a longing to be freed from the past. To leave the past behind she must reach out for something new. “Maybe loving
a beast like you is crazy, but all my bridges have been burnt, and you’re all I’ve got left now.”
Bruce cradled her dainty, bejeweled hands in his paint-coated ones. Lightly, sensuously, his long fingers caressed the
downy softness of her forearm and cupped around her elbows. The couple stood and Bruce held her curvaceous body close, his
eyes closed in bliss. “Burnt by an unquenchable love kings and princes cannot vanquish. Such a faithful friend you’ve
been to me.” He brushed his cheek against her silky hair. “Saul never once suspected you loved me, did he?”
“Well, Saul’s memory comes and goes, and after I got over the Bistro I never mentioned it to him again. Questions
were fewer, so fewer lies had to be told. Still, it’s been hard, keeping my anger bottled up, after the way those rulers
“That no longer matters, baby,” said Bruce, kissing her brow. “Those rulers can’t destroy our love,
can they?” His sensitive fingers traced the curve of her chin. Those deep-set chocolate brown eyes set in her classical
profile, glistening with tears, inflamed his desire. He swallowed hard, determined to take her virtue once and for all.
“Saul’s history, and soon those ghosts of the past will be too.” Bruce kissed her fingertips and took
her by the hand. “Come now, let’s rekindle our romance.”
She looked stricken. Her rosy lips trembled. “But why, oh, why does Saul have to be history? I’m torn in two.
To think, my love could have healed him, Bruce! I could have healed him with my love, but he didn’t want it!”
Bruce drew her closer. “But I want your love, Lydia. I need your love! Without your love, life means nothing
“Well, Saul says he loves me too, Bruce, but he’s been putting up a brick wall between us.”
“Because Saul knows you’ve outgrown him, and he just can’t face the fact,” said Bruce. He picked
a wildflower and stuck it in her hair.“How long has it been since you married him anyway?”
“Fifty years,” she choked.
“Half a century. That’s an awful long time, Lydia. You’re very young and beautiful, but you’re
no longer the starry-eyed kid who fell for Saul Savage. I’ve watched you closely ever since I first took you under my
wing. You’re growing as an artist, and as a person blossoming into greater self-realization. Saul is a good man, Lydia,
but you’ve outgrown him, because he’s locked himself up in a mental monastery. He never was able to grow with
you. Instead, he’s degenerating each passing day, even intellectually. You’re moving on to better things, whether
you realize it or not, and you mustn’t let him encumber your progress any longer. I know Saul has much more money than
I’ll ever see, but I share a commonality with you he never can. There are deeper needs inside your soul that only I
“I’ll let you go back if that’s what you want,” he said vehemently. “I’ll even get
out of your life forever if that’s what you want, too, but it won’t change the truth, Lydia. And it won’t
change Saul. You know that as well as I do, and if you go back now it’ll only postpone the inevitable and prolong the
agony for all three of us.”
Weakly resigned, Lydia nodded. She surrendered herself into his arms.
“That’s my girl!” Bruce soothed. He kissed her hair and fondled her bare, shapely arms. “Our little
heart-to-heart at JoJo’s must have helped clarify things, and now you’ve finally cast off your shackles.
“Whatever happens from this point on,” he breathed hotly, “we two will form a united front against it.
Don’t we have plans to make our own new beginning?”
Smiling tremulously she said, “sure we do, hon. It didn’t take my angel hitchhiker long to get the message.
He just gave up trying to get me to go back to Saul, and he vanished like a puff of smoke.”
Bruce couldn’t conceal his contempt for things divine. “It really was an angel, eh? Did you tell him to ‘buzz
off’, or what?” he mocked, as if he wasn’t too worried about his eternal destiny.
“I laughed at him, Bruce,” Lydia stammered. “I still can’t believe I did it, either. I told him
the only danger I faced was being frozen to death by that iceberg Saul!”
Bruce’s oily voice beguiled her. “No danger of that anymore, darling. You belong to me now, and no one will
ever take you away from me again.”
Although Lydia still felt some misgivings, Bruce swept her off her feet before she had time to change her mind. Not until
she’d already crossed the threshold of his back door did she fathom the gravity of Lord Stephen’s earlier warning.
Lydia felt a part of her die. The blood drained from her face in shock. She went limp.
“What is it, baby?” Bruce asked, worried. “You look sick.”
“I am sick, Bruce,” Lydia whimpered. “I just found out. I can’t have any more kids.”
“Oh, is that all?” he chuckled. “All we need is each other.”
Fresh tears flowed. “Oh, Bruce. What am I doing?”
“Awakening to liberty, just like I knew you would. And you’re about to be crowned Queen of Liberty Mountain.
“Queen . . . Bruce? I don’t understand.”
“Come, we’ll discuss it over a glass of wine. And now, Dr. Bruce will put the sparkle back in your lovely eyes!”
“What if we’re both executed for this, Bruce?”
Bruce laughed devilishly. “Then we’ll die in each other’s arms. With a big smile on our faces, and our
souls will soar together into a more enlightened dimension! What more could we want out of life than the freedom to die happy?
“All power to the people!” he shouted, carrying her off to the bedroom.
“Self-realization!” the angel Zanzidor fumed. “Just like digging in a cesspit for a diamond! Don’t
those rebels realize how rotten their inner selves are, and no good thing can be found in fallen human nature?” He and
his companion Xanthiel, whose efforts to persuade Lydia to turn back had failed, lingered at Bruce’s bedroom door. Both
angels frowned at the outrages they witnessed.
“Truly, my brother,” said Xanthiel, “Paul the apostle, even after his conversion to Christ, declared
that in his flesh nature dwelt no good thing. How much more are these impenitent, ruined souls abhorrent to their own Creator,
Whose pure eyes cannot bear to look upon evil? Lydia, especially, has been given repeated warnings of the destruction which
awaits souls who reject the precious blood of the Lamb. She may receive even sterner ones before all hope is gone.”
“There is no deeper darkness than the absence of hope,” said Zanzidor. “It is a mystery to us both why
we have not yet been given orders to bring these two transgressors before Prince Daniel for immediate judgment and execution.
Yet I take no pleasure in Lydia’s fallen condition, or the peril she is in. Even if she finds no place of repentance
in restoring her marital relationship with Saul, perhaps her soul may yet be plucked as a burning brand from eternal fires
“Amen,” said Xanthiel. “Our God responds to repentant faith found in a humble heart, and with Him
all things are possible.”
Xanthiel looked troubled. His wings folded and his head bowed. Lydia and humility were polar opposites, and her faith was
placed in the wrong god.