The Great Emptying aftermath. WIP: ‘Mount Jensen’

The injured voices will always fill the night, the child will always need succor. Who among us will harden their hearts when the cry comes? Whose will soften? There will come a time when your answer stares back at you. What you reply will be the measure of your soul.

The deacon’s diary after he and townfolk visit a troubled settlement.

The Great Emptying

Oct 5, 65. Skies so deeply dark, as are my thoughts. Warmth drenched away by a third day of heavy rain. The village ceased but for a stray farmer’s wagon. This is not God’s salvation. This is not our baptism. It’s as if we are drowning. We will not emerge clean and reborn, I foremost. This chill will penetrate us as people, as a village. There was a question before us that we failed to answer.

For these three days I have sat in the dark of my shelter, refusing those calling at my door. I have nothing to say to them and I do not want their good cheer to sway me from my thoughts, dark though they be.

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

I had sunk from the world as the flames destroyed the frames of building in that closed valley. My companions said, good enough, our job is done. Bless their souls. But I saw we burned away their existence, wiped them from this region. The woods will creep in, the critters reclaim. But we could not burn away the smell, the consuming sourness of life gone awry.

The first night I dreamed of the fire , the skeletal outlines dark against the orange flames, like creatures moving in a dance, some unholy celebration, a purging, not of the evil of the place, but of the goodness of hearts that might have saved those who sought refuge there.

I recalled my first visit and how my heart was filled briefly with hope that we could offer those people sustenance and brotherhood that could tide them through them, first hard days.

That hope burned in the flames and I felt the coldness settle. Who is so brazen to challenge so carelessly the ways God put afore them? Who so selfish they believed that time and the seasons bend only to them?

I watched the rain from my window for three days, barely moving even to spark the fire. I did not deserve the warmth, and could not reconcile my comfort with the restlessness of my darkening soul.


Oct. 7, 65. Sun at last. Three of our rescue number with their teams were filling a deep crack in the road worn by the heavy rain. Nearby was a load of stone and in the hole two men were laying the start of an arch that would carry the water beneath the road into the lake.

Ralph Mannix leaned in to say that a teamster who slept in his barn for two days because of the rain said he came across a straggling group out in the Mercer Bog. In real bad shape but they refused his help to establish a small dwelling. Sounds about like the valley folks. Refusing needed help. Don’t mean to be unchristian, Deacon, but they shoulda took it. Not mean, but there’s time ya get what’s ya ask for. Foreigners, that what they be. Come prepared. Or stay home, I say. We’re not here to save you.


Oct 9, 65. In the days after the rain the talk was all about contagion. The flooded streets and streams birthed fears that Mount Jensen might become that cursed valley. Some had heard repeated Dr. Shaw’s concerns and turned them real. Not even the destruction of the settlement by fire, or the closing of the road calmed them. “By our own hand,” they writ. Was that self destruction or the awakening that their grand experiment had brought on their end?


Oct. 12, 65. The members must have thought my sermon odd. It had no scripture, no lessons, just questions: Who among us will seek the voice crying in the night, or stop to assist the driver of a broken rig, or feed the stranger, warm the crying child or relieve the suffering of an injured animal? The injured voices will always fill the night, the child will always need succor. Who among us will harden their hearts when the cry comes? Whose will soften? There will come a time when your answer stares back at you. What you reply will be the measure of your soul.

Surprisingly my voice was a firm and friendly. They did not hear the breaking of my heart or the wracking of my soul. There is work in the northern woods and I desire for a time absence from my fellow man and to breathe the deep silence of the forest.





About michaelstephendaigle

I have been writing most of my life. I am the author of the award-winning Frank Nagler Mystery series. "The Swamps of Jersey (2014); "A Game Called Dead" (2016) -- a Runner-Up in the 2016 Shelf Unbound Indie Author Contest; and "The Weight of Living" (2017) -- First Place winner for Mysteries in the Royal Dragonfly Book Awards Contest.
This entry was posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, BooksNJ2017, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Sally Ember, and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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