Do you remember the opening line of that book by Charles Dickens, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’?”

John Matherson whispered the famous line with hands wrapped around a warm mug filled with, of all things, coffee—real coffee. He looked over at his friend Forrest Burnett, who had arrived bearing the precious gift. Where it had been looted from John had learned never to ask.

Forrest’s crooked face, twisted up by his old Afghan wound, left eye socket covered with a patch that certainly gave him a pirate look, smiled in reply.

“Wasn’t that from the movie where the guy gets his head cut off by the French mob at the end?” Forrest replied.

John chuckled. “Yeah, something like that.”

“That guy was crazy, stepping in to take his friend’s place at the guillotine, and to top it off, the guy who gets rescued escapes with the girl. Never did like that movie. Why mention it?”

John sighed, standing up and walking over to the window of his office to look out.

The first snow of late autumn had arrived early this year, blanketing the Montreat College campus with half a foot or more. Old-timers prognosticating over woolly caterpillars and nut-gathering squirrels had predicted this was going to be a tough one, and this early November snow appeared to be the first proof.

Before the Day, a first snow, for John, was a time of relaxation and happy memories. Classes were usually canceled, forewarned by the Weather Channel on the Internet. He would have stocked in extra firewood, and it would be a long day of reading by the fire, Jennifer and Elizabeth outside playing, coming in soaking wet for some hot chocolate, and later in the day board games like Clue or Monopoly. If the power went out, so what? It added to the cozy feel, at least for the first few days, camping out by the fireplace and watching the woods fill up with snow.

The Final Day (John Matherson Series #3)