Prism - By Rachel Moschell



THE SILVERY BRANCHES OF THE MOLLE tree whispered in the shade, sprinkling soft leaves in the dirt of the boy’s path. The sky shone sapphire behind the lacy branches, and the only other life along this back road were two tawny cows grazing in the silver white grass of the ditch. Behind them ran the same crumbling adobe wall the boy saw every day as he walked this way out of town for the afternoon session at the Christian school his parents sent him to.

Today was Tuesday, and that meant Bible class. In one coffee-colored hand, the boy clutched his fat black Bible with gilded letters, a present from his parents on his last birthday, fourteen. He shuffled slowly along the road, feeling the Bible burn into his fingertips, trying not to free the furious tears scalding the back of his eyes.

He should leave the Bible here in the ditch by the cows.

Because now the boy knew: none of it really mattered. Oh, he was quite sure there was justice and virtue in the world, and he intended to find it. But it was not here. Not in this book, and not in anything that his parents had ever taught him about it.

He had finally told them what had happened and they didn’t care. They hadn’t moved a finger to help. The boy’s hazel eyes narrowed and his lower lip quivered like a baby’s.

What in the world was he supposed to do now?

And then he saw the blackened fingers rising from the silky grass in the ditch. The boy’s mouth opened in slow motion and his whole world congealed to frozen; then he lurched forward towards the horrible sight, heard his heavy Bible thump to the dirt.

The fingers were a child’s, even darker than his own, blackened by dirt. The boy fell to his knees on the sharp stones of the road and flung the grass aside, shaking so badly he could hardly breathe. Another boy was sprawled face-up in the ditch, face bloodied and swollen, unmistakably dead. The fingers hadn’t belonged to a small child, but to someone the boy’s own age, dressed in torn navy sweat pants and lying here dead in the ditch on the road to the Christian school. Oceans of bile rose up in the boy’s throat and he collapsed into the white grass, emptying his stomach into the weeds until he felt himself heave, insides scraped dry.

It was him, the boy’s best friend. The one no one cared about.

The boy forced himself to stand up, tears dripping off his chin and onto the embroidered gold cross of his white school uniform.

His friend was dead, and he hadn’t been able to stop this.

Wiping his chin on one sleeve, the boy began to march back towards town, stepping over the muddy, crumpled Bible. He would take his stuff from his parents’ house and leave. If he never saw them again, that would be just fine.

The Bible would be staying here.





WHEN PASTOR MARTIR MENTIONED THAT the Quechua Bible conference was a ways out in the Bolivian countryside, he certainly hadn’t been kidding.

By her calculations, eight hours had gone by since they left the vibrant garden city of Cochabamba, climbing higher and higher into the clouds. Wara Cadogan slit her eyes open and squinted around the darkened interior of the Jeep. The windowpanes had frosted now that the sun hid behind the jagged peaks of the Andes. An elbow jabbed her side and Wara heard her friend Nazaret Martir yawn, a squeaky, muffled sound that caused her father, Pastor Martir, to glance at both girls in the rearview mirror.

“We’ll be there any second,” he told them, much too chipper after being cooped up in the Jeep all day. “I know it’s freezing now, but soon we’ll get you warmed up. It’s a long hike.”

Wara stuffed her numb hands into the sleeves of her alpaca sweater and bit her lip. Why had she let herself be talked into this? She loved the Martirs, and their large family had basically adopted Wara during the six years she’d been a missionary here in Bolivia. As a linguistics major, Wara usually jumped at any chance to travel out into the countryside and practice speaking Quechua. So when Pastor Martir said he needed her to translate from Spanish to Quechua at this conference in Potosi, Wara had enthusiastically answered, “Why not?”

Bad idea. A very bad idea.

A Bible conference, Wara? What were you thinking?

Pastor Martir steered the Jeep into a cavernous rut, and Wara felt