“Jessiah Douglas – You have been Chosen!”
His legs wouldn’t move. Had his name really been called? The pats on the back and the cheering assured him it was true. His competitors – now his biggest supporters – pushed him forward, jump-starting his legs, forcing him to move. Still, Jessiah stumbled a bit as he made his way to the Moderator.
“Jessiah Douglas, you have passed the test for physical endurance. You excelled in mental ability and intelligence. You topped the list in spiritual commitment and concern for your fellow man. I am proud to announce to the world that You Have Been Chosen!”
The Studio Audience jumped to its feet, cheering. Thunderous applause rolled on and on. Embarrassed, Jessiah focused on his image on the Monitor.
He was glad Kenya had insisted he wear his best suit – even though he wasn’t sure that he would win. The grey suit with matching tie and beige shirt complemented his jet-black skin, and perfectly fit his tall muscular body.
The thought of his wife and their twin daughters proudly watching caused him to smile – flashing his straight white teeth for all the world to see.
In the year 2110, the global unemployment rate was a staggering 79%. Competition for jobs was so fierce that it was widely believed – though never proven – that some people had murdered to obtain jobs. And now Jessiah – without killing anyone – had a job, too!
During the long limo ride home, the magnitude of his accomplishment finally sank in. Having majored in Structural Engineering, Jessiah was offered a job right out of college. It was at the start of the “Collapse Epidemic,” when large modern structures – skyscrapers, monuments, tunnels, bridges – inexplicably crumbled. Ancient structures that had stood the test of time continued to do so. Even the Washington Monument, the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower survived. It took nearly a decade of experiments and studies of ancient structures to discover the problem. But by then, Jessiah and Kenya had lost their jobs.
Jessiah looked out the window and noticed that the landscape had changed. Grimy people without jobs or permanent shelter lined the road. Even the air was grimy with smoke from their make-shift fires. Jessiah blinked back tears as he thanked God that his family would never have to live like this. He had done back-breaking menial tasks 18 hours a day to give them the “luxury” of four walls and a roof. He looked forward to getting home.
He was surprised that Kenya opened the door. She threw herself onto his chest and wrapped her thin arms around his neck as Shona and Shylah wrapped their arms around his legs. Kenya’s hair smelled faintly of orange blossoms – just as it had when they first met in college.
Kenya was crying. He marveled aloud that she was able to make the trip down the hall from the bedroom. She stepped back and opened her blouse, pointing at the bulging oxygen capsule just under her skin.
“A month’s supply – just until they can grow my new lungs,” she sobbed. Then she gestured first at the coffee table covered with catalogs of model homes and furniture, then at the dining table loaded with boxes of food.
Kenya’s lungs started failing a couple of years ago. She was drowning in her own fluids. The technology exists to grow her new ones, but without money...Jessiah was amazed at how quickly things were falling into place! Oxygen, new lungs, food...and soon a new home and quality education for their twin daughters.
Shylah and Shona were excited to show their Dad the new toys and books. But Jessiah asked them to wait until after they had given thanks and eaten. So together they all went into the kitchen to prepare the meal.
They had just finished making love for the second time. Jessiah’s job had kept him away for nearly a month this time. He was being consulted on every aspect of the bridge’s design and structure. It was to span from Oakland to San Francisco replacing the double-decker bridge that had collapsed the last time nearly a decade ago. Since then, commuters were ferried back and forth between the two cities – or used helicopters, if they could afford it.
“I saw the house,” he whispered in Kenya’s ear. “It is beautiful.” Their new home was being completed across the country on what used to be called “Alcatraz Island.”
She lifted her head from his shoulder and looked into his eyes. “How long? How long before you leave us again?”
He wanted to look away, but couldn’t bear not seeing her face. “We are ahead of schedule. When I leave this time, my work will begin.”
He saw her face struggle to hold back the tears. Then she buried her face into his neck, crying. “What do I tell our daughters? They miss their Daddy.”
“A man must do whatever he can to take care of his family,” he said, lifting her face to his. “Not just out of duty, but out of love.”
All of her, not just her hair, smelled of orange blossoms. “I want to taste you,” he whispered. “I want to taste all of you.” And for the third time they moved together to make love.
Jessiah awoke in darkness except for a TV monitor where he could view the ceremony. It seemed as if the entire world were here! He had heard that this was the largest crowd ever for a foundation ceremony.
He knew that he was in a caisson on the San Francisco side of where the bridge would be constructed, submerged deep in the Bay. It is necessary that he be awake for this part of the job. All of his strength and commitment must be focused on what he is to accomplish. He understood this from his studies in Ancient Architecture and African culture. What had caused modern construction to crumble had been an overwhelming and pervasive lack of faith in the structure, a lack of faith in life itself. He knew that his presence and the presence of the crowd played a huge part in maintaining the faith needed to keep this new bridge standing forever.
The cold concrete rushing in at his feet shocked him. “Oh, God!” “Oh, God!” his brain screamed, over and over. On the monitor, he saw his family. A closeup showed Kenya’s tear-stained face – eyes closed, lips moving fervently in prayer. Then his mind calmed. He was the best of the best – selected for his intelligence and knowledge, physical strength, commitment and concern for his fellow man. He breathed deeply and spread his legs and arms, imagining supporting the bridge that would be built over the Bay, named in his honor.
It was at his waist now. His legs were numb from the cold. Soon the weight of the concrete would prevent his chest from moving and he would draw his last breath.
He thought of the new house. His family would be able to see the bridge from there – the Jessiah Douglas Bridge. He could see Shona and Shylah going to school, growing up, having children of their own.
He inhaled deeply, his last breath. Images of the completed bridge, Kenya, his daughters, the sounds of the crowd, and the smell of orange blossoms bombarded his brain as the concrete covered him. And as his brain exploded and the TV monitor winked from sight, he remembered: He was Chosen!