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SHADOWED: THE FINAL JUDGMENT A NOVEL
By JERRY JENKINS
TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC. Copyright © 2005 Jerry B. Jenkins
All right reserved.
Chapter One PAUL STOOD BEFORE THE TELEVISION, fighting to keep from hyperventilating. He had been in life-and-death situations, had faced his share of kill-or-be-killed scenarios. He had long trusted his instincts and had proven that his prodigious intellect could sort through myriad possibilities even under pressure and keep him calm enough to make wise decisions.
But never had he been awash with so many consequences, all bad. Could anyone anywhere doubt that this global catastrophe -the sudden, inexplicable death of every firstborn male child, regardless of age, in every family that refused to acknowledge God-was anything other than what had been warned?
On one hand, Paul envisioned a mass turning to faith on the parts of terrified people around the world. On the other, the carnage was unimaginable. What percentage of the global population lay dead where they had stood, sat, lain, run, walked? And what would this mean to the economy, to service industries, to law enforcement, to the military? For that matter, what would it mean to normal existence? How would people simply get around?
There had to be bodies everywhere, and if it was true they were supernaturally slain by God, not one would likely exhibit any examinable pathology. There would be no bleeding, no trauma, no evidence of why hundreds of millions of men and boys and even infants merely ceased to live. Perhaps rather than a massive turning to God, the opposite would be true.
Jae herself had said that a global curse like this would have to persuade her of the intervention of God into the affairs of man, but that she would also have a hard time understanding or liking Him much. And this from a woman clearly on the cusp of belief. Surely millions would use the chaos and mourning to justify their hatred toward such a seemingly vengeful and spiteful God.
It would be quite a step, Paul told himself, from atheism to begrudging acceptance that there was a supreme being. But most, he was sure, would have preferred to have been convinced there was a God who was about only love and peace and harmony, not also about justice and righteousness and judgment.
As he flipped through the channels, Paul was reminded of the amateurish TV news work he had perused in the archives during his doctoral studies years before. History had provided occasions when events overwhelmed even the most professional newsperson. The assassination of U.S. president John F. Kennedy, nearly eighty-five years prior, had caused reporters to pale and a celebrated anchor to succumb to emotion.
A U.S. space disaster in the previous century had left news journalists scrambling, airing rumors and unconfirmed reports, reading from newswires rather than teleprompters and then having to correct misinformation, often in obvious anger.
Terrorist attacks from before Paul was born showed broadcast journalists clumsily trying to sort fact from rumor and appearing to try to maintain an air of professionalism while plainly ashen with fear. Historical broadcasts during World War III showed the same, as the death tolls from the tsunami and other nuclear-caused massacres overwhelmed on-air personalities.
It was the same now. Just minutes old, the horrific news from around the world unmistakably rocked broadcasters appearing desperate to remain objective. But as the enormity of the situation hit them-several newsrooms with talent and behind-the-camera staff lying dead-those remaining seemed to realize the ramifications.
If this was what the underground zealots had predicted, had prayed for, and now claimed, everyone would be affected in some way. Rare was the person who didn't have a relative-father, brother, grandfather, uncle, son, cousin-who was a firstborn male. And what about friends and acquaintances? Paul saw the truth begin to register on the faces of the reporters and anchorpeople. They had to be frantic to get off the air and onto the phone to confirm their worst fears.
And with every second, the death toll rose. Of course, it was not limited to firstborn males. The slaughter extended to innocents, to passengers in planes piloted by firstborns, or driven in cars, trucks, buses. Pedestrians had been wiped out by driverless cars; surgeons had collapsed onto patients; fathers had dropped infants; electricians had fallen into live wires; firefighters had dropped on the job, their fire hoses shooting away from blazes.
The extent of the cataclysm would not be known for days, perhaps weeks. Paul couldn't imagine the demand for funeral services. Surely there could be no keeping up with the corpses already piling up around the world. Mass graves would become necessary, colossal funeral pyres, refrigeration for those who could afford to wait for burial space.
Atop all this, of course, would be the devastating toll of human grief. How does a family, a clan, a people, a nation, a world mourn a loss so all-encompassing? Nothing would ever be the same, Paul knew. Not for the USSA. Not for the world. And certainly not for him.
It was a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God.
Excerpted from SHADOWED: THE FINAL JUDGMENT by JERRY JENKINS Copyright © 2005 by Jerry B. Jenkins. Excerpted by permission.
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