The boy stirred at the sound of his name, but drifted back to sleep without answering.
“Tony, wake up!”
Tie Li stood in the doorway of Tony’s room, her oversized bathrobe draped tightly around her shoulders. Her voice quivered slightly as she spoke into the darkened room. “Wake up, Tony. I scared.”
Tony turned, still asleep, his breathing deep and slow.
Tie Li stood silent. She listened to the wind beating against the old farmhouse, its low moan rising every few seconds to a treble shriek, then settling again with a deep snarl. Suddenly the curtains twisted and fluttered, driven by a mighty gust of wind. To Tie Li it looked as if white lacy fingers were reaching out across the room, trying to grab her. As the cold blast hit her face, she let out a scream.
Tony’s eyes opened wide, just in time to see the rapidly growing image of a bathrobe sailing through the air as if propelled by a cannon, heading straight for him. He too let out a scream, but was cut short as the speeding bundle landed hard on his chest. With a loud crash, Tony, Tie Li, box springs, mattress, bedside table, lamp, and clock radio fell into a blanket-entangled pile on the floor.
The silence that followed was broken by the sound of running feet in the hallway. Mr. Parks, with his wife not far behind, burst into the room and flicked on the overhead light. Mrs. Parks spoke breathlessly. “What on earth is going on in here?”
Slowly a hand reached from under the pile and pulled on the top blanket. Tony’s face appeared, eyes blinking, trying to adjust to the bright light overhead. He looked over at his parents, then around at the tangled wreckage of his usually neat room.
“I may be wrong,” he said, clearing sleep from his throat, “but I think someone dropped a Tie Li bomb on me.”
With that, he threw back the covers. There, with her face buried deep in his side, was Tie Li, arms wrapped tightly around his shoulders and chest.
“Poor baby!” Mrs. Parks hurried over to her daughter. “It must have been the storm. She was scared. Oh, my poor baby!”
The woman gently loosened Tie Li’s arms from around Tony and lifted the bundled form to her lap. “It’s OK, Tie Li,” she said, rocking back and forth, speaking softly, encouragingly. “Everything’s OK. It’s just an ol’ storm, that’s all.”
Mr. Parks walked to the window, shivering from the cold air blowing into the room, and brought the sash down with a thud. The curtains stopped their wild fluttering and hung limp and lifeless once again.
Tie Li opened her eyes and looked at Mrs. Parks, then Tony. A tiny smile played at the corners of her mouth. “I don’t like storm.”
“No kidding,” Tony said dryly, rubbing his chest and lifting his chin first one way, then the other.
“I sorry, Tony,” Tie Li apologized, stumbling to her feet, eyeing the window curtains. “You go back to sleep now.”
The girl walked across the room, smiling up at Mr. Parks. At the doorway she turned and surveyed the scattered blankets, bed frame, and overturned nightstand. “Tony, I need to teach you good housekeeping. Your room a mess!”
A pillow flew through the air, just missing Tie Li’s fleeing form. Her happy squeals mingled with the laughter coming from Tony’s demolished room.
The next day as Tony and Tie Li made their way along the driveway leading to the main road, they had to step over fallen branches and uprooted vines. The storm had been a pretty bad one, even by Tony’s standards.
Most of the kids at school had their own stories to tell of downed power lines and lawns littered with debris.
During the noon break Simon sat down at the same table with Tony and Tie Li. “Well, well,” he said, looking at the girl. “I thought the wind last night might have blown you away.”
“Nope.” Tie Li filled her mouth with a steaming spoonful of baked beans. “Big wind didn’t bother me.” She looked over at Tony, then added, “Much.”
Simon lifted a sandwich that looked to Tie Li to be about the size of a throw pillow and took a bite. He spoke between chews. “We still on for this afternoon, Tony?”
“Where we going?”
Tony got up to leave. Pausing, he turned and whispered into Simon’s ear. “And don’t eat so much or we won’t be able to get out of this century.”
Simon stopped chewing. Tie Li stifled a laugh.
“See ya,” Tony waved at his sister.
Tie Li smiled and continued eating.
A gentle breeze was blowing across the stones and small bushes clinging to the rough, sandy soil of the mountain top as Voyager settled with a bump on the uneven surface. Above, the sky was clear, except for a formation of white clouds marching across the distant horizon.
Far below, a large body of water shimmered in the sunshine, reflecting in its silent swells the sullen faces of distant mountains warming in the noonday sun.
Voyager’s door swung open and deposited Simon spread-eagled on the ground. Tie Li stood in the doorway, and removed her football helmet.
“Simon Gorby, you too big. You need to go on very long diet and lose maybe 500 pounds.”
Simon stumbled to his feet, rubbing his hip. “Very funny, very funny! I’ll have you know that I’m not fat; I’m muscular.” Simon flexed his arms, trying to draw some sort of bulge from under his skin. “Look at this. Pure strength. At least I’m not a bean pole like you.”
Tony eased past Tie Li and turned to help her down from Voyager. “Will you guys stop arguing? I didn’t bring you up here to discuss Simon’s weight problem.”
Simon stopped in his tracks. “Weight problem? What weight problem?”
“Why you bring us here, Tony?” Tie Li scrutinized the mountaintop. “What we going to see?”
Tony tossed Tie Li’s helmet into Voyager and closed the door. “A miracle.”
Tie Li’s eyes opened wide. “A miracle, Tony? A real miracle?”
Simon jumped up on a boulder and looked down toward the water. “Oh sure, and tomorrow we’ll visit Santa Claus up at the North Pole!”
Tony ignored the bully. “Remember the baby I told you about before we left—the one who was put in a basket by his mother so the soldiers wouldn’t kill him?”
Tie Li nodded her head. “I remember. His sister make sure everything was OK by watching from cow bushes.”
“Yeah, those. Baby was scared. He cry.”
Simon scanned the distant shore. “Don’t tell me he floated clear to that ocean down there. He’s probably seasick by now.”
Tony placed his hands over his eyes and moved his head slowly from side to side. “No, Simon, he didn’t float to the ocean. And by the way, that’s not an ocean. That’s a sea—the Red Sea.”
“Doesn’t look red to me.”
Tony sighed and continued. “As I was saying, the little baby in the basket grew up to be a great leader. Now he’s taking God’s people, who were slaves in Egypt, out of that country and is trying to lead them to the Promised Land. Come, you can see them from over here.”
The threesome walked to a vantage point at the edge of the mountain. Tie Li took hold of Tony’s hand and gingerly looked down over the edge. Far below, a vast throng of people filled the valley by the sea.
“Look, Tony,” Tie Li said, taking in a quick breath. “There are so many people! It like a city with no buildings, just people.”
Simon studied the scene. “Awesome! Rush hour in the desert.”
“They’ve come all the way to the Red Sea. There are mountains on each side.” Tony pointed as he spoke.
“Some leader they’ve got,” Simon noted with a chuckle. “Led them right into a dead end. Now they’ll have to turn around.”
“No, they can’t turn around. Look out in the desert. What do you see?”
Tie Li shielded her eyes from the sun. “I see big cloud. Maybe it going to rain.” Simon stiffened. “Wait a minute. That’s no rain cloud. That’s—that’s an army! A very big army! And they’re wasting no time coming across that sand.”
Tie Li grabbed Tony’s arm. “Why, Tony? Why army coming?”
Before Tony could answer, two people, a man and a woman, suddenly ran up beside the three young people and looked toward the desert.
“I knew it, I knew it!” the man said, not trying to hide the fear in his voice. “We’re trapped. Moses has put every one of us in a great big trap. Oh, why did we listen to that crazy man?”
His companion sounded determined. “I’ll tell you why. We were slaves, and he said he’d deliver us.”
“Forget Moses!” The man pointed at the advancing army. “He lied. We can’t fight an army. And even if we could manage to defeat the Egyptians, we’d just die out here in the desert. We should have stayed in Egypt. Oh, if only we had stayed in Egypt!”
The man and woman turned and ran back toward the valley. Simon started after them, then turned to face Tony. “Well, Mr. Genius, what kind of God would lead a whole bunch of people out into a desert to die? I mean, being a slave is better than being dead! Look down there! All I see are very scared people with no place to go. I don’t see any big miracle.”
Tie Li looked up at her brother. “Will they all die, Tony? I don’t want them to die.”
Tony lifted his hands in the air. “Listen, I don’t know why God does what He does. Sometimes He waits till the very last minute before He does anything. But God promised He’d deliver those people. I read it in the Book. All they can see are mountains, an army, and a lot of water. Maybe God sees something they don’t. Maybe they have to believe in Him even though they don’t understand how He can help. When there’s no turning back, maybe that’s all anybody can do.”
Tie Li looked scared. “Oh, Tony, the army is coming so fast. I can hear the horses. What’s going to happen to those people? How can they escape?”
“Come on.” Tony started running. “Let’s go find out!”
The three time travelers followed him down the mountain, toward the valley, toward the advancing army.