From the book
The VisionOn a warm July afternoon in the town of Yonwood, North Carolina, a woman named Althea Tower went out to her backyard to fill the bird feeder. She opened her sack of sunflower seeds, lifted the bird feeder's lid--and that was when, without warning, the vision assailed her.
It was like a waking dream. The trees and grass and birds faded away, and in their place she saw blinding flashes of light so searingly bright she staggered backward, dropped her sack of birdseed, and fell to the ground. Billows of fire rose around her, and a hot wind roared. She felt herself flung high into the sky, and from there she looked down on a dreadful scene. The whole earth boiled with flames and black smoke. The noise was terrible--a howling and crashing and crackling--and finally, when the firestorm subsided, there came a silence that was more terrible still.
When the vision finally faded, it left Althea stunned. She lay on the ground, unable to move, with her mind all jumbled and birds pecking at the spilled birdseed around her. She might have lain there for hours if Mrs. Brenda Beeson had not happened to come by a few minutes later to bring her a basket of strawberries.
Seeing Althea on the ground, Mrs. Beeson rushed forward. She bent over her friend and spoke to her, but Althea only moaned. So Mrs. Beeson used her cell phone to call for help. Within minutes, four of her best friends--the doctor, the police chief, the town mayor, and the minister of the church--had all arrived. The doctor squatted beside Althea and spoke slowly and loudly. "Can you tell us what's wrong?" he said. "What is it?"
Althea shivered. Her lips twisted as she tried to speak. Everyone leaned in to hear.
"It's God," she whispered. "God. I saw...I saw..." She trailed off.
"Merciful heavens," said Brenda Beeson. "She's had a vision."
Of course they didn't know at first what her vision had been. They thought maybe she'd seen God. But why would that frighten her so? Why would she be muttering about fire and smoke and disaster?
Days went by, and Althea didn't get better. She lay on her bed hardly moving, staring into the air and mumbling. Then, exactly a week later, a clue to the mystery came. The president of the United States announced that talks with the Phalanx Nations had reached a crisis. Their leaders would not give in on any of their demands, and the leaders of the United States would not give in on theirs. Unless some sort of agreement could be reached, the president said, it might be necessary to go to war.
Brenda Beeson made the connection right away: War! That must be what Althea Tower had seen. Mrs. Beeson called her friends, they told their friends, the newspaper wrote it up, and soon the whole town knew: Althea Tower had seen the future, and it was terrible.
All over Yonwood, people gathered in frightened clusters to talk. Could it be true? The more they thought about it, the more it seemed it could be. Althea had always been a quiet, sensible person, not the sort to make things up. And these were strange times, what with conflicts and terrorists and talk of the end of the world--just the kind of times when visions and miracles were likely to happen.
Brenda Beeson formed a committee to take care of Althea and pay attention to anything else she might say. People wrote letters to the newspaper about her and left flowers and ribbons and handwritten notes in front of her house. The minister spoke of her in church.
After a few weeks, nearly everyone was calling her the Prophet.
Chapter 1: The Inheritance
Nickie Randolph's first sight of the town of Yonwood was a white...