“What are you doing?” Fatima asked. “Playing? Can I play?”
Hakim looked up from the bottom of the hole. It was a big hole, deep enough that he could kneel in it, and he was a lot bigger than Fatima. Next to the hole was a huge pile of dirt. She couldn’t imagine how long it took to dig all of that. He must have been digging all day!
Hakim wiped the sweat from his forehead, leaving a smear of dirt. “Do you remember Mom?”
Fatima frowned. “You mean Mommy Chloe, or Mommy Irene, or Mommy...”
“No.” Hakim shook his head. “Our mom. Our real mom. From before. Do you remember her?”
“I don’t know.” Fatima sat down on the edge of the hole. It was hard to remember anything from before. She’d been really little when Jesus came. Some of the grown-ups talked about before, about Sin and Iniquity (she didn’t know what Iniquity was, but it sounded bad), and Tribulation, which sounded bad but was supposed to be good. Sometimes she thought she remembered bits, like Mommy brushing her hair, or the smell of Grandma's cooking, but these never sounded like Tribulation and Iniquity, so she wasn’t sure she was right.
Hakim put a grubby hand on her shoulder. “Try. Think. She had black hair that was really long and pretty and shiny. She smelled like flowers. She used to sing us songs before bed, and kiss us good night. You’d go out in the garden while she was working and pull plants apart. She taught you to pull weeds so you didn’t destroy the vegetables. You have to remember something. It’s important.”
Cameron looked down. A little girl was tugging on his pants-leg. Fatima; that was her name. Six years old, he thought. Somwhere around that age. One of the COTs; the Children of Tribulation. No parents; that made her the duty of him and all of the resurrected to guide and care for. He smiled. "Yes?"
"Where's my mommy?"
Cameron took a deep breath. He'd been anticipating that question. He'd always thought it would be awkward, but right that moment, miraculously, he didn't feel awkward at all. Thank you Jesus, he thought.
He bent down and put his hands on his knees. "You remember the Judgment, with Jesus and the Pit?” She’d have been what, four or five then?
She nodded, looking solemn. "Yes."
"All the saved people got to come to paradise and the unsaved people were cast into the Pit of Fire."
She nodded again.
"Well," said Cameron, putting his hand on little Fatima's shoulder, "your parents weren't saved."
Fatima's eyes went wide. "So they're down in the pit?"
Cameron nodded. "Yes they are. But don't worry. As long as you accept Jesus, you won't have to die and go in the pit. You can live a thousand years up here, and have eternity with Christ."
Her lip wobbled. "Did Jesus put them in the pit?"
"Yes." Cameron patted her on the shoulder. "People who decide for Jesus get to live up here and then go to Heaven forever, but the people who don't are cast into the Pit of Flames. So it's very important to trust and love Jesus, understand?"
"I understand," said Fatima.
The boy looked up from his digging. "What?"
"You were right. Mommy's down there. In the ground. Daddy Cameron said." Fatima climbed down to the hole. "Give me a shovel."
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