Introducing Running Bumblebee!

Hello Friends,

Today I’d like to unveil my newest blogging project: Running Bumblebee.

Chubby bumblebees with their stubby wings shouldn’t be able to fly. I grew up believing that I was too short and thick and unathletic to run–but bumblebees fly, and Geralyn runs. Running Bumblebee was started to share my ongoing story of running, health and fitness, in hopes to inspire others to greater health, and to attempt things that seem impossible. I invite you to join me.

Visit Running Bumblebee

Thank you to the many followers of this blog. I’ve appreciated your support and interaction over the last two years. Running Bumblebee will, for the present, replace this blog. I plan to have a writing-related site up soon.

Thanks,

Geralyn

My Half-Marathon Shoes

I had perhaps the most traumatic shoe-shopping experience of my life–and the most enlightening.

I prepare to lace up for the first time.
I prepare to lace up for the first time.

My first pair of runners were just the pair that fit the best and were the right price, bought at the local Shoe Warehouse. The extent of my research was ‘what’s the difference between a runner and a cross trainer?’ I had no idea if I’d even finish Couch to 5K, after all. The shoes were my Gideon’s fleece. If there was a pair for less than X dollars, I’d buy them and start running that day.

And there they were. Purple New Balance runners. I had no running gear, but I put on a pair of sweats and a t-shirt and hit the pavement. That was June 2014.

Today I drove to the big city to hit up the Running Room for a real pair of runners. I wanted the whole fitting experience. I wanted to know if I walked funny, supinated, pronated, whatever all that was.

Unfortunately, despite the help of a nice young gentleman, I didn’t find any shoes there. I have weird, freak feet apparently. As IMG_0893a sidenote, you won’t see skinnier legs than in a running store. Not even on the catwalk in Paris.

Anyway, I moseyed on down to City Park Runners. Or I should say, I tested the full limits of my iPhone’s navigational skills. That was the traumatic part. When I finally ended up in the right store, the sales girl measured and observed and studied (I have one neutral foot, and one that pronates it seems) and then started pulling out shoes. Oh did I try on shoes, and none of them fit! Finally I found one pair to test on the treadmill. They were okay, though a bit clunky. Electric blue, too (that was fine, though). Then I found the winners, my beautiful Mizuno Inspires.

And dang, they didn’t come cheap. But I suppose education costs money. Before today I didn’t know about neutral shoes, or stability shoes, or different types of heel padding. What I wanted was a full shoe education, and it seems I got what I wanted.

And on the way home, my phone died. That was traumatic. Fortunately I was in sight of familiar territory. 🙂

I realized then, that I’d just bought my first half-marathon shoes. I’m pretty pumped about that. I’m a bit sentimental about retiring my first pair of runners, but I’m excited about where these new shoes will take me.

Sneak Peek of ‘Sons of Earth’: Read the First Chapter

sons of earth final ebookHi Friends,

The release of Sons of Earth is immanent! Like next couple days, immanent! So to share my excitement, I am releasing the first chapter for you to prime your appetite. Click the link to read the entire first chapter.

Chapter One Sons of Earth

Once the book is live, you can bet i’ll be shouting it from the rooftops. In the meantime, I’m pleased to announce that We are the Living will be offered at $1.99 on Amazon Kindle at the same time.

Enjoy the first chapter. All details shall follow.

Geralyn

Separating the Pulpit from the Novelist’s Pen

The Misunderstood Power of Christian Art, Part 2.

Christians are obsessed with truth, and rightfully so.  We bear our statements of faith with pride.  We have the knowledge.  We have the proof.  But do we have the medium?

Tim Downs said:

“In the last forty years both the quantity and quality of conservative Christian scholarship have exploded.  Evangelicals today are able to marshal more impressive, scholarly information on behalf of our position than ever before.  We now have, by anyone’s standards, world-class philosophers, theologians, and scientists on our side.  It’s no exaggeration to say that evangelical Christians have experienced a literal renaissance in our science.

Unfortunately, there has been no corresponding renaissance in our art.  We have more to say to our culture than ever before, and less ability to say it in a persuasive and compelling way.  We are enamoured with our content and cannot understand why the world isn’t fascinated with our latest proofs and evidences.”

In a generation brainwashed by film, television and music, carried along by the jet stream of social media, the Christian art industry has yet to catch up.  Music and film has increased in quantity and quality, yet the mainstream hears about it only if it is controversial.

We shove our artists to the front, put the Bible in their hands, and say “Preach!”  But what if a sermon isn’t what we need?

Preaching: The Only Messenger?

There is a point in many Christian novels where the main character reaches his lowest point.  They have expended their resources.  Their mission or relationship has failed.

Cue the entry of a wise friend who opens the Bible, quotes verses, and shows them what they need is a Saviour.  And you just know that when the protagonist falls to his knees in prayer, victory is around the corner.

Or say a movie is made about a farmer.  He’s not a Christian, and this is readily demonstrated by his workaholicism and regular drinking binges.  One summer, the corn crop he is counting on is ravaged by a hail storm.  The farmer throws everything into replanting while there is still time.  But this is thwarted by persistent rain.  His financial future is bleak, but worse, his wife leaves him because of his drunkenness.

If you have seen three or four Christian movies, you can predict the end.  The farmer will hit bottom, and while wandering in a hammered state, ready to end his life, a Christian will rescue him and clean him up.  The Christian will tell him that he needs Jesus, and the farmer will fall to his knees.

His crop will be saved, and his wife will return.  He may, in fact, become an evangelist.

Rarely does a movie or novel break this mould.

The Power of the Covert

Every novelist knows the adage “show, don’t tell.”  Telling, or explaining, is considered weak writing and rather insulting to the intelligence of the reader.  Sermonizing is precisely this: telling.

I saw a powerful example of ‘showing’ recently.

In the movie Dallas Buyers Club, Matthew McConaughey plays Ron, a low-brow cowboy with HIV who begins smuggling illegal medication to treat AIDs.  His foil is Rayon a transgender man, now woman, who is dying of aids.  Rayon is played by Jared Leto, who is by all accounts, a heterosexual man.

The empathy and passion Leto put into the role is evident, even from the short clips I watched.  Rayon is no cardboard cut-out.  She is a feisty dreamer, but also a deeply hurting person who just wants love.  You can see it in her eyes.  Though I am uncomfortable with her lifestyle, I cannot look away.  I have to say, “this is a person, and I kind of like them.” (I cannot recommend that movie, by the way.  I decided against watching it because of graphic content).

At no point does an actor turn to the screen and say, “Accept this person!  You are a bigot if you do not accept this person!”  Neither do they say, “This is a good lifestyle!”  I accept Rayon because I cannot deny her personhood anymore.  I empathize.

Create empathy within the heart of the viewer, and you have won the greatest part of the battle.

Catch and Release

I also see that if the art is not used as a carrier for preaching, it is often used as bait.  For example, a prominent evangelist often uses free concerts with Christian rock bands to draw people to their crusades.  Likewise, Christian movies are often marketed as ‘witnessing tools’.  Does this work?  I don’t know.

But there is a level of dishonesty about it.  It says, “We are like you.  We like what you like.  Come, try our music,” and then slams the audience with an altar call.

In fact,  sermonizing such as the ‘basic movie and novel plot’, can also be inherently dishonest.  It wants the reader to believe so badly, that it makes ‘pie-crust’ promises, easily broken.  Will the farmer’s wife come back the day after he believes?  Probably not.  He may win her back after months of trying, with the wisdom and strength of God.  But faith isn’t the magic bullet we sell it as.

Let the Artists Be!

I feel like our preachers and theologians have convinced artists that their work is useless if not didactic.  Sort of a ‘why can’t you be like us?’  But if we believe in the priesthood of all believers, we must value the artist as much as the preacher and not force one to conform to the mould of the other.

Dorothy Sayers said:

When you find a man who is a Christian praising God by the excellence of his work – do not distract him and take him away from his proper vocation to address religious meetings and open church bazaars. Let him serve God in the way to which God has called him. If you take him away from that, he will exhaust himself in an alien technique and lose his capacity to do his dedicated work.

It is time to let artists be.  Let them do what only they can truly understand.  And when they have served in obedience to the work, and to God, the message within their art may be greater than any sermon you could insert.

Read Part 1: Defining Christian art, and the artist’s mandate, here.

 

 

 

 

 

The Misunderstood Power of Christian Art, Part 1

What makes art ‘Christian’?

I’ve talked about my disgust for the movie God’s Not Dead, and how I discarded Christian music.  After I released We are the Living, I had a couple of good conversations with people simply because it wasn’t a “Christian book”, or at least, I wasn’t sure their junior high kids should read it.

I feel the concept of Christian art has been misunderstood, and, as it is a subject I am passionate about, I thought it was time to discuss my philosophy of faith and art with you over the course of the next few posts.

In the field of imparting ideas, the piano and paintbrush are more powerful than the pulpit.  Not to put down preaching.  It is wonderful.  But art has power to cross boundaries that sermons cannot, and that is why it is important that we as Christians understand it.  A preface: while informed by Scripture and Christian artists and thinkers, this is my humble opinion.  No doubt it will evolve as I do.

Can Christian Art be Defined?

Art is loosely defined in the New Oxford American Dictionary as:

  • The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
  • Works produced by human creative skill and imagination.
  • Creative activity resulting in the production of paintings, drawings, or sculpture.

No explicit mention of film, literature or music is mentioned, but I expect there is little doubt that these are part of the arts.

But what is Christian art?  This is much more slippery–like a wet football, in fact.  Here is the definition I’m going to work with: Christian art is that which is produced by a Christian, in obedience to, and to the glory of God.

But what glorifies God?  That is where things become more difficult.

What is the Call of the Christian Artist?

Madeleine L’Engle said, “The artist must be obedient to the work, whether it be a symphony, a painting, or a story for a small child.  I believe that each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius, or something very small, comes to the artist and says, ‘Here I am.  Enflesh me.'”  If God calls his child to art, the art becomes his or her duty.

But the manifestation of that art is their unique calling.  Some will be called to hip-hop, like my friend Malcolm.  Others will write speculative fiction, like me.  And some will write Amish romances (which I neither understand nor enjoy, but others love), some will do acrylic paintings, and some will dance.  Some will write to a strictly Christian audience, and some will write to a mainstream audience.  Each field needs Christians who are obedient to the works God has prepared in advance for them (Ephesians 2:10).

Art is the work of the artist, and as Dorothy Sayers said, “Work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker’s faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God.”

My Philosophy of Christian Art

I believe Christian artist must be these three things:

  • Excellent.  The Christian must perform or create their art to the best of their ability.  Where they lack, they must practise, research, and submit to mentorship by more accomplished artists.  There is no half-heartedness here.  There is no ‘I won’t memorize my lines for the church play’.  There is no ‘I’m not getting paid’.  It is your best, or nothing.
  • Courageous.  When you are inspired to a work, the decision to do or not to do must be based on conviction and wisdom, not fear or selfish ambition.  I believe this applies, especially, to censorship.  Censorship is sometimes necessary, but it should not be because you are afraid to not conform, or because you want people to like you.  Rather, it is because you think you’ve transgressed beyond God’s laws, or good sense.  The truth is NOT always sweet to the ears.  Just because it is scary does not mean it is wrong.
  • Truthful.  Christian art cannot fall victim to denial, self-indulgent fantasy, or a lack of integrity.  This is not to say that it cannot be ‘fictional’.  I’ve often said that just because it’s fiction doesn’t mean it’s not true.  Simply, Christian art must not engage in deceit, nor try to make the receiver believe an untruth.

The Opportunity

The Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 5:1, “Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.  Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (ESV).  What an excellent description of our mandate as artists!

When we are obedient to the work, we produce what is good, right and true, and we expose darkness. This takes courage, for sometimes the darkness we expose resides within us, and we wrestle with our selfish desires as we create.  But out of this courage comes work that can probe where no scholarly literature or sermon can go.  That is the nature of art–to bypass the well-guarded gates of the mind, and go straight to the soul.

Which means that art can be very dangerous as well.

In the next post I will discuss why I departed from the genre of Christian fiction, and where Christian art may go awry.

Suggested Reading:

Dorothy Sayers, Why Work?  Read this excellent essay on the sacredness of work here.

Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water.  A rambling but inspiring account of her philosophy of Christian art.  I really enjoyed her perspective.

 

 

 

Two Tear-Jerker Commercials

In honour of Labour Day weekend, here are two awesome videos that made my eyes well up.  Never mind that one is a commercial for scotch and the other for life insurance.  These two commercials got it right.  Watch and enjoy.

Geralyn

Unsung Hero

A young man’s kindness may not bring him fame, but it will make a difference.  Wow, this one nails it!

I Read Your Book

An elderly man learns to read for a special purpose.  Oh this one made me choke up!

 

Don’t Ask These Questions!

I don’t know why we ask these things.  We can’t seem to help ourselves.

Let me set the scene.  You’re seventeen.  It’s May.  You’re graduating in less than a month.  What do people ask you?

Right!  What are your plans after school.  Aunt Agnes asks.  Grandpa asks.  That person who knows your Mom, but you don’t know them, and they meet you and your mom in the grocery store–they ask too.  You cringe and you stammer a well-rehearsed answer. Face it, it’s as much a part of grad as the mortar board.

If you say, “I’m going to University,” the asker will nod and smile like you’ve answered correctly.  You may wonder why they are so keen on putting yourself in tens of thousands of dollars of debt.  Or you’ll be like me and say, “I’m looking for a job,” and you’ll imagine that they’re thinking “Can’t get into college, eh?  Poor soul. Destined to slave in a menial job for the rest of her life.”

They aren’t thinking that.  To them it’s just a question.  But to us, it is something that pokes at our deepest insecurities, or some of the biggest decisions we’ll ever have to make.  Why do they ask it so casually?

What about this one?

Are you seeing anyone?

This is the one your aunts and uncles and older family friends will ask, perhaps with greater and greater frequency as you get older. They’re just curious, of course, but if you haven’t the faintest hope of a date, you may hear “So, no one’s taken you yet?  Don’t worry.  I’ll put out an ad.”

Take a guess

And if you are seeing someone:

So… When are you getting married?

“But, we’ve like, been on two dates.”

“So?  Chop chop.”

And then, once you are married:

So… When are you having kids?

A professor of mine had a good answer for this one.  He’d say, “Thursday–after supper.”  It was quite effective.  I mean, they didn’t really want to know.

I hate kids

Actually, maybe this would be a good approach to all the questions.

“Are you seeing anyone?”

“Oh yeah, I have five or six guys on rotation.”

“What are your plans for after school?”

“I was thinking about joining a monastery.”

What gives us the right to ask these things?  Do we ever think about how insecure the ‘questionee’ might be about the answer?  What if they’d like to go to college but they failed one class and now they can’t?  What if they’re convinced they’ll never get a boyfriend because they’re ‘fat’ or ‘ugly’?  What if they can’t have kids because of infertility?

Oh, twist the knife in the wound, will you?

I guess I’m touchy about this right now because people keep asking “so, how are your book sales?”

Do you want me to tell you how much I weigh and my yearly income as well?  They think it’s a simple question.  It’s not. It’s just my biggest dream, my greatest battle and the culmination of years of work. It is going exactly as it should at the very beginning: slowly and with great effort.  Momentum isn’t working in my favour–yet.

Yet.

This is a great, big, hairy word in the world of dreams and success.  Yet.

George R.R. Martin, author of Game of Thrones series, said that writing requires “being ready to accept rejection. You can work on a book for two years and get it published, and it’s like you may as well have thrown it down a well. It’s not all champagne and doing interviews with The New York Times.”

From what I’ve read, success in anything can be like that.  But the word is ‘yet’.  I’m not there ‘yet.’

Martin said, “I’ve been very lucky. There were times when I was afraid I would never sell another book, but I never doubted I’d write another book.”  Yes, even George R. R. Martin, who’s been more successful than most authors would dare to hope, feared he’d never sell another book.

So right now I get to suck down my ire, smile, and give my well-rehearsed answer.  I hope we can consider this when we’re tempted to blurt out these stupid questions.  There is so much backstory behind the answer, and so much ‘yet’.  Do you really want to know?

And yes. I did go nutty with my meme-maker for this one. Call it stress relief. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Did It! I Completed Couch to 5K.

I ran 5 kilometres for the first time this week.

It was awful.  But I’m so proud.  I began running eight weeks ago.  That day I ran 6, 1 minute intervals.  I had such an intense stitch in my side that I thought I was going to keel over.  That whole week I wobbled around the factory on rubber legs.  By the next week, I was running 2.5 minute intervals and feeling stronger.  Three weeks ago, I ran my first mile.

As I walked home from my run that day,  I reflected on why I was doing this.

When I was in my early teens, I was at a youth conference with members of my church.  One of the chaperones met a friend there, and they planned to go for a run.  One of my friends was tagging along and I, desperate to be accepted, said “Sure.  I’ll come too.”  How hard could it be?  I was left behind in less than a minute, humiliated and unable to continue.

That Saturday, my first mile run behind me, I said “This mile’s for you,” to my friend and my chaperone.  I could keep up with them, but it was too late.

I said “this mile’s for you,” to my peers who were always faster and more athletic than me, who I couldn’t keep up with and finally gave up on.

I said “this mile’s for you,” to my Grandpa, who ran competitively well into his seventies, until an injury took him out of the sport. He now organizes races with the Manitoba Runners’ Association, and coached me through my training.

I run my first 5K race on August 17th.  My Grandpa and my family will be there to cheer me on as I cross the finish line.  Today, in the last half-kilometre of my run, I pictured their faces and heard them yelling “Go Geralyn.”  I imagined getting a surge of energy, and picking up speed as I crossed the finish.  I almost began to cry.

Not my usual stomping grounds.
Running on my parents’ acreage

I’ve learned this over the past months: the power of seeing the end at the beginning.  “Greater things are yet to come,” I’d say to myself on one of my three-minute runs.  Running, which is truly only a small thing, became a romantic battle, a fight between myself and my tired legs, my burning lungs, and the lure of the couch after a long day of work.

If I can do this, I can do so much more.

Right I don’t plan on increasing the distance of my runs.  I’d rather run 5K a little faster than run 10K.  5K is still too painful to want to run twice as long!  But I’ll never say never.  These two months have also taught me that.  Because I shouldn’t be doing this.  I’m built like a Clydesdale, not built a gazelle.  I’m artsy, not athletic.  I’ve never played sports.  But here I am.  I probably won’t ever win a race, but I hope that others will look at my tiny example and be inspired to try something that, by rights, they shouldn’t be able to do.

 

Must We All Grow Up to be Humbugs? 5 Fun Things Challenge Wrap-Up.

Will I eventually become a boring adult?

I fear it is inevitable.

You know the ones.  They spend 80% of their lives on their butts.  The other 20% is spent shopping or mowing their front lawn.  They go to work via the Tim Horton’s drive through, and then come home through the same coffee-filled avenue.  They spend the evening in front of the TV, or on better days, at their son’s hockey game.  They’d never lift a finger to play a game.  They’d rather die than run.

They probably would die if they tried to run.

They talk about their deteriorating health and bash their bosses, and they think Tim Horton’s makes good coffee because they haven’t had anything else in two years.

I’m painting with a brush as wide as a football field.  I know.  But that is who I fear becoming.

When I was a kid, it bewildered me why the adults I knew only wanted to sit around and visit with each other.  Why would they never, ever participate in the fun game that we had going?  I realize now that adults are tired folk.  And why not?  Many work a minimum of forty hours a week and then come home, cook dinner, and do laundry.  Most of them eat absolute garbage, and don’t have time to exercise, and can’t sleep because they’ve had too much Tim Horton’s.  They spend every evening taxiing their kids to soccer and ballet and piano lessons.  I know this is because they want to give their kids the best shot at life, but I fear they’re living their lives vicariously through their kids because they gave up on their dreams long ago.

If that’s what it means to grow up, I don’t want to do it.

I’ve come to the end of my 5 Fun Things Challenge.  I ended the challenge on an 11 hour work day, which admittedly makes fun a little more difficult.  It’s fitting.  Most of my days are work days, so I need to learn to make them fun.  I’m a grown-up now.

Day 3, Monday:

I went to Folklorama and visited the Chilean pavilion.  I enjoyed lively music, sublime singing, and dancing that was a mix of courtly and all-out love for life.  The empanadas and drinks were good too. 🙂

Day 4, Tuesday:

I had to wear a respirator to spray caustic cleaner, so I breathed like Darth Vader.  Disclaimer: laughing under a half-mask respirator may break the seal.

20140805-213033-77433073.jpg

I caught a ride on a pallet as it went by.  Then I got scared and jumped off.

I watched this video and giggled like a maniac in McDonalds.  If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, skip to about 5 minutes in and see Seth McFarlane do Liam Neeson’s Taken phone call in Kermit the Frog’s voice!

To sum up the experience…

Why end now?  Tomorrow I’m going to try to make it a fun day.  I know that tomorrow will have just as many adult experiences–a work day, important business stuff, cooking dinner, and going for a run.  But I’m grown-up, not dead.

And I’ve got a dream, and thus, a lot to live for.  Why not have fun–BE fun while doing it?

Lyon’s Gauntlet

This is a scene from my upcoming novel, We are the Living.  Kayla and her friends, after being taken hostage by a terrorist group in the city of Lyon, have been broken out by one of the terrorists.  They are fleeing the city in a stolen French troop carrier. 

Again we were driving blind, feeling bumps and turns, knowing nothing. After about ten minutes of driving, Simone stopped the truck. Her face appeared at the back, just visible from behind the crates. “You can move the crates now. Liam, will you drive with me?” She tossed a pistol and an assault rifle and several magazines. “Morgan or Alex, take these. Liam, I have one for you up front.” She never even looked at me. She had guts as Liam said. I was a snivelling nobody.
Can’t even read a map.
“We’re going to have to take small streets to avoid the blockades,” she continued. “They haven’t been cleared, so keep an eye out the back for infected. If they get close, shoot them.”
Alex’s Adam’s apple bobbed as he gulped. He and Morgan stood staring at the guns at their feet. Finally Morgan picked up the assault rifle and Simone nodded at him and turned to go. Liam jumped down and followed her. Good, he liked her. He could keep her company.
“Do you want to shoot infected?” Alex muttered to Morgan. “They look too much like people to me.”
“We do what we’ve got to do.” The gun looked so foreign in Morgan’s hand, huge against his slender frame. He crawled to the back of the truck and rolled the canvas up about eight inches. He tied it that way and settled down against the tailgate. The truck rumbled to life and into motion smoothly.
“Liam must be driving,” Alex said under his breath.
I’ll bet.
We watched the city streets go by. They were beautiful streets, so normal that they could have been Toronto if they had not been empty. We clanked over a bridge that spanned a wide, blue river. The bank was lined with trees and yellow brick buildings with red-tile roofs—so quaint and pretty from a distance. Then the truck turned onto a narrow street, hemmed in by shops. Glass storefronts were smashed, the contents of the store spread on the sidewalk. Little tables of a café were overturned and scattered in the road, and the truck had to swerve around them. I fell against the side.
Morgan cried out. “Infected!”
I pushed myself upright. I could see them through the gap at the back of the truck. They were a mob, racing at full tilt after the troop carrier. Too much like humans, Alex had said. I couldn’t see the human in these—the contorted faces, the fish-belly white skin, the shredded skin and hair. They skittered like insects, some even on all fours, foaming at the mouth. I could hear animalistic growls and cries. How could they move so fast like that? The human was well gone from them.
“Do we shoot?” Panic laced Morgan’s voice.
“Only if they get close.” Alex had the pistol gripped in both hands, ready.
The truck roared down the narrow street. It leaned as we swung around the corner. Still the infected came on. Morgan thrust the barrel of the assault rifle over the side, his hands trembling. But we were gaining. They were becoming smaller and smaller to our view.
Then I heard a human yell. I gasped. I caught sight of a man in the corner of the gap. The brakes of the troop carrier squealed as it slid to a halt.
“Hurry!” Liam voice bellowed from the front of the truck. “Morgan, let him in. Hurry!”
A man, his legs pumping, came racing toward the truck. Morgan and Alex dropped the tailgate in time for the man to vault into the carrier. I could see the whites of the infected eyes.
“Hurry!” I screamed.
Alex yanked the tailgate shut with a bang. Morgan pulled the trigger of the assault rifle. It rattled out a stream of ammunition. Gore flew, bits of flesh and hair, and then I squeezed my eyes shut. The truck jerked into motion. Liam gunned the engine, chirping the tires. The gun chattered again, and I had to open my eyes. A zombie reached for the tailgate, but Alex swung the pistol toward it. It sailed backward, into the mob. Then we left them far behind.
“Merci, merci!” The man slumped against the side of the truck, swiping at his forehead with his sleeve. He was middle aged, clad in a black dress shirt and a white clerical collar. A priest. He raked his hand through his salt and pepper hair and spoke in French: “God has preserved my life through you. Thank you.”
“We couldn’t leave you,” said Morgan. The priest’s face was blank. I translated.
“All the same, I thank you.”
I translated again, then addressed him. “I’m Kayla. This is Morgan and Alex. Liam and Simone are in the cab of the truck. We’re Canadians, Simone is from here.”
“Alexis Bertolette.” He turned to gaze out the back, at the street rapidly falling away behind us. “That is what is left of my parish. God have mercy on their souls.”
We all fell silent, but for our quick breathing and my own pulse pounding in our ears. Our blood was too high for small talk. The truck swung around the corner and accelerated down a wider street with towers and wires overhead. We rattled across a railway track. Not far off a passenger train stood abandoned.
“Where are you going?” the priest asked.
“Torino,” I said, my eyes still on the city around us.
“And if the infected have reached Torino?”
I looked up. “Have you heard that they…?” If Lyon was overrun, surely Torino was also gone.
“Reached Torino?” he ran his hand through his hair again. “Yes, yes they have.”
I moaned. “No, no!”
Alex and Morgan were watching us, wide-eyed. I gulped and translated. My voice shook. Alex cried out. Morgan just looked grim and very much like Liam.
“Oddly enough, the internet was still working in my church,” Father Alexis said. “I could stream the BBC. Belgium is overrun. Holland was evacuating as fast as they could. Their border was like the front of a battle, troops patrolling every meter. England has sealed its borders, as has Canada and the United states. No one from mainland Europe is getting in. At last I heard, no infection has reached England, or North America.”
We absorbed this in complete silence. So our country was safe, even if we were abandoned.
“So then why don’t you stay in Lyon?” Morgan asked softly.
Father Alexis smiled sadly. “My purpose is to serve God’s people and in Lyon I am alone.” He looked around at us. “Are any of you members of the church?”
We glanced at each other awkwardly. I met Morgan’s eyes. “He asked if we are Catholic.”
“No, Father, none of us are members of the church,” Morgan said. “I am a Protestant.”
I repeated it in French.
He nodded. “I do not ask so that I can condemn you. I simply ask so that I may extend whatever spiritual comfort I may. I am at your service.”
I relayed this to the guys and thought to myself, I could use a little comfort. Mom and Dad had brought me to church on Christmas, Easter, sometimes Thanksgiving but I’d never taken it seriously. And now I was pretty damn sure I didn’t believe in God. All the same…
Father Alexis spoke again. “There is one other reason I wished to leave Lyon. On the BBC broadcasts I heard about a town in Italy–Emilio it is called. It is said they can cure the infected there.”
“How?” I leaned forward. “They have a drug?”
“The report did not say. But the town was never infected, and a priest is healing infected. It is a city of refuge. Perhaps,” his dark eyes were bright, “It is a miracle of God.”
I turned to the boys and translated to them. “He says there is a town in Italy where a priest is healing the infected. The town is a city of refuge.”
Their eyes lit up. Alex lifted his head. “Where? What is it called?”
“Emilio…” I trailed off and turned to Father Alexis. “Where is Emilio, Father?”
“Tuscany, near Siena.”
I relayed this.
I could feel that the mood had lifted with this infusion of hope. We could get to Emilio. We had a truck now, we had weapons, heck, we even had a priest.
But Lyon had yet to give us its parting shot.

Thanks for reading.  I keep on saying my ‘up and coming novel’.  Well, it is coming. Unfortunately, this is my first novel and I am learning as I go.  It’s taking a little longer than I thought.  Stay tuned!