Someone was crying.
Music sounded from outside, signaling the commencement of the Lord’s Sharing. I closed my eyes, trying to push away the images of what would be happening there. The crying through the wall seemed to grow louder.
“Hello?” I said, wincing as the word scraped at my raw throat. I swallowed in an attempt to wet my vocal chords. The crying stopped. Straining my ears, I caught the sound of shuffling.
“Hello?” I tried again. “Is someone there?” I became frustrated as my voice came out too weak and too quiet. I pushed myself closer to the wall, my chest pressing against the stone. I took a deep breath.
“Yes . . . someone is here.”
Excitement flooded my chest. The voice was barely a whisper, but whoever was in there had responded. I drew my head back, trying to see through the gap above the stone brick. I still couldn’t see anything. But I could feel their presence on the other side of the wall.
“Who are you?” I asked.
Several seconds passed in silence.
“My . . . my name is . . . Harmony.”
My muscles froze. The voice belonged to a woman. Harmony. Her name was Harmony.
“Harmony,” I whispered. My heart began to beat faster.
“What . . . what is your name?” Harmony asked. I closed my eyes both at the sound of her soft voice and at the question.
I breathed in and out, once, twice, three times. I didn’t know how to answer. I didn’t know who she was, why she was even in the cell. I couldn’t tell her my name. The prophet was named Cain. I didn’t want to be Cain. Nothing within me wanted to be associated with that name ever again. And I certainly wouldn’t name myself Judah.
“Your name?” Harmony asked again.
I didn’t think about my answer. It barely even registered that I had one until I found myself saying, “Rider . . . ” I took a deep breath. “My name is Rider.”
I swallowed and cast a worried look back to the door of my cell. Nerves racked my body. I wanted to keep my voice low so as not to draw the attention of the people outside. New Zion’s guards had checked in on me a few times, and each time I saw a certain lustful look in their eyes.
“Rider,” the deep voice replied. “My name is Rider.”
“Rider,” I repeated. My eyebrows drew together. “It . . . ” I said nervously. “That is not a name I know.”
Rider was silent for a while, then he said, “Then it fits . . . as I am not worth knowing. I am no longer a good man.” My stomach flipped at the obvious pain in his voice. I heard him take a strained, crackled inhale. “I think I was once, maybe, I don’t know . . . but I’m not sure who I am anymore . . . everything is so messed up.”
I drew my head back slightly, confused by his strange, cryptic words and his coarse use of language. But then a flicker of understanding hit me. “They have proclaimed you a sinner?”
I heard Rider’s sharp intake of breath. “I’ve . . . I have done bad things.”
“Is that why you are in that cell?”
“Yes,” he replied, sadly, but there was something else laced in his voice—confusion, hurt . . . anger?
The sound of my cell door opening filled the room. I rushed to sit as I had been before, wiping my remaining tears from my face. I would not let them see the evidence from my moment of weakness. I was afraid that it was one of the guards, but as the door opened I saw a familiar face.
I relaxed, praying that the man from the cell next door did not speak. I did not know why I did not want Brother Stephen to hear him. I knew he would not care that I had been talking to the stranger. But he also would not want me to put myself in any kind of jeopardy. Speaking to a fellow sinner would most certainly fall into that category.
“Hello, Brother Stephen,” I said quietly.
Brother Stephen walked into the cell, a tray of food in his hands. He crouched down, placing it at my feet. I cast him a grateful smile. Brother Stephen looked behind him to the door. When he saw it was clear of any guards, he said, “Two disciple guards from Puerto Rico have been put in charge of us here in the cells. The prophet’s head disciple guard, Ezrah, decided it would be best since they are familiar with us.” I drew in a deep breath and slowly released a long exhale. Relief settled over me.
The sound of Rider moving around in the next cell came drifting through the small crumbled gaps between the old bricks in the wall. Rider let out a low, pained groan. Brother Stephen frowned, and his dark eyes darted to me.
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