Hela returned home from the marketplace weary from the taunts and jeers he received while selling vegetables. Worried about why his father was home, Hela rushed inside—to see his parents’ happy faces. Before they could tell him why they were so joyful, an angry mob began shouting threats outside. Rocks were thrown at their home, and the door was ripped off.
Hela had never heard such noise or felt such anger. Fear clutched at his stomach. Laman loomed menacingly in the doorway.
“What is it you want?” Hela’s father asked Laman.
“I want you. We will hold you believers in Christ until the three days are over. We have had enough of your preaching and calling us to repentance. It is you who needs to repent of your foolish tales.”
“Kill him! Kill him! Kill him!” came the cries from the crowd behind Laman.
“You have three days,” Laman sneered. “If the signs don’t come by then, you die.” He grabbed Hela’s father, jerked him around, and pushed him through the crowd. Two other men grabbed the boy and his mother. The enraged mob followed them.
Hela’s heart was racing so fast that he thought it might jump out of his body. Kicking and screaming, he tried to break loose from the man who held him. “I have a real fighter here,” his captor yelled, and laughed.
Hela looked at his father and was surprised to see that he walked without struggling. His mother also made no resistance. Tears filled Hela’s eyes. Will Father just let this happen? he wondered. Why doesn’t he do something?
Hela’s anger helped to chase away the fright he had felt. Using all the strength he could muster, he kicked his captor’s shin. The man yelled and grabbed at his leg with both hands. Instantly Hela ran. Several men chased him, but Hela had the advantage of knowing the land. Quickly he headed for the woods behind his home where there were many hiding places. His ears filled with the pounding of his heart, and his chest heaved as he gasped for breath. He could hear his pursuers gaining on him.
“Get him!” the voices shouted. “Get the boy!”
Somehow Hela ran even faster, but his muscles burned and the bottoms of his feet stung. Straining his utmost, he reached the woods and left the path. He knew he had to hide before his pursuers entered the woods, or they would see him. Jumping over a fallen log, Hela scrambled toward a pile of fallen trees. No, he thought, this will be one of the first places they will look.
Hela stumbled on, exhausted, until he came to a thorny thicket. They will never look for me here, he decided. He dropped to the ground and, despite the scratches and pain, scrambled into the thicket. Lying still, the boy waited. He could hear the men drawing nearer. He tried to slow his gasping breath so that it wouldn’t be heard, but he couldn’t gain control of his lungs. Fortunately, the pounding of running feet and the shouting of angry voices were louder than his own tortured breathing.
Finally there was silence. He waited. Still nothing. At last he began to relax. Curling his tired body into a ball, Hela fell asleep.
When Hela awoke, he didn’t remember where he was or why he was there. But when he rolled over, making new scratches on his back, the awful events flooded into his memory. “I must get out of here,” Hela murmured to himself. “I must find Mother and Father and free them.”
As Hela slid out of the thicket, he inflicted additional scratches on his tortured skin, and the bleeding began once more. He wanted to scream with the pain, but finally he was free.
As he cleared the trees and stepped onto the road, Hela was puzzled because it was still light. He must not have slept as long as he thought he had. Or he had slept much longer, even into the next day. Or …
There was a differentness about the day. But there was no time to stop and ponder it. Hela tried to run along the deserted road toward Zarahemla, but his legs were weak from being huddled up while he slept. And as much as he wanted to hurry, his tired, injured body refused. Collapsing on a rock beside the road, Hela caught his breath. Then, gathering a few berries and edible roots, he sat down in the grass and ate.
Finishing the last of the berries, Hela lay back to think. At first his only thought had been to find his parents. Now he realized that he couldn’t just run into the angry mob. He would need a plan. But what?
Silence filled his ears. Silence? This was the main road into Zarahemla! It was never empty, especially in the middle of the day. Hela’s eyes searched the sky to find the sun so he would know what time it was. Jumping to his feet, he turned around and around.
“There is no sun! It is light—as light as noonday. But there is no sun. No sun! What is happening?”
Images and words crowded into his mind: the look on his parents’ faces when he had come home from the market, Samuel the Lamanite’s words as he spoke from the walls of Zarahemla many years ago, his father’s teachings, the beautiful day, the empty road. Suddenly it all made sense.
Hela’s scratched and dirt-smudged face lighted with a smile that grew until his whole face was aglow with happiness. As he started for Zarahemla, the weariness had left his body, and a great joy filled him with renewed energy.
“My father knew!” Hela shouted aloud as he ran. “My mother knew, too, and they were about to tell me!”
Hela ran so fast that he felt as if he were flying. Ahead were the gates of the city. The mob had probably taken his parents to the town square. Breathlessly Hela passed through the open gates and ran toward the square.
“Father! Mother!” he cried as he rounded the corner of the square. “It is the day!”
Hela stopped short, his heavy breathing exploding in his ears. His eyes grew big in disbelief. The entire square was covered with bodies lying facedown on the tiled plaza. Hela gasped. In the center of the square about two dozen people were standing and talking, but around them were hundreds of motionless bodies!
“Hela! Hela!” His mother called to him from the group standing in the center as his father made his way over the bodies to come to him. Throwing his arms around his son, he cried. “You are safe! But look at you.” He gently ran his big farmer’s hand over Hela’s scratched cheek.
Hela, still stunned at the sight that greeted him, did not answer his father’s greeting.
“Do you not know what has happened?” Hela’s father asked, sensing his son’s bewilderment.
Hela nodded. “The signs have been given. The Christ will be born this day.”
“You know? Then you should smile.”
“But these people! Samuel said nothing about the people being destroyed.”
“Do not fear, my son. They have not been destroyed. When the sun set last night and the darkness didn’t come, they, too, recognized that the sign of His birth had been given. They have merely been overcome with the remembrance of their own wickedness. Right now they are sleeping with the nightmare of their past. When the Lord wills it, they will awake. Come now, the sun is about to come up.”
Hela’s father led him to the group of people in the center of the square. As they reached the center, Hela’s mother encircled him with her arms. The others, whom Hela now recognized as faithful believers, also greeted him with warm words of welcome.
“Look! Look!” someone shouted.
The group grew silent as they looked to the east, where the first glimmer of sunlight was appearing over the mountain. Hela felt chills go up and down his spine. What a sight to see the sun come up in an already brilliantly lighted sky!
Hela glanced around. Tears of gratitude filled the eyes of the people around him, and many of them were silently praying.
“Such a day!” Hela whispered reverently, his own eyes flooding with tears of love. “The first sign has been given. The Savior is born.”
“Such a day,” his father repeated. “And I have been allowed to live to see it.”
“A night without darkness,” Hela said. “And I almost slept through it. But now together we will wait for the new star. Tonight, as Samuel promised, it will shine brighter than any other star in the sky. It will be another sign to show the world that on this day the Savior is born.”