The first time Cole ever heard of rapture children was at the orphanage, where there were three: a boy and two girls. Rapture children had been around before, but since the pandemic there were lots more of them. Rapture children were children who’d been sent by God to be lights in the coming dark. They would be among the first of the living to be caught up to Jesus’ side (right after the holy dead). God had endowed them with special spiritual powers so that they could lead others in the countdown to the Final Battle. Though Pastor Wyatt says there is nothing in the Bible to justify this, his wife Tracy is among those who believe it.
Tracy has a niece named Starlyn who is a rapture child.
The rapture children at the orphanage got so much attention, naturally everyone wanted to be one. Some kids declared themselves raptures and would do almost anything—including lie through their teeth—to prove it. But only grownups could say who was or was not a rapture child.
Cole has heard about rapture children performing heroic deeds and even miracles—the boy at the orphanage was said to have run into a burning house to rescue a baby when he was hardly more than a baby himself—but Cole has never seen anything like that. The older of the two girls said that every night when she knelt to pray Jesus came and stroked her hair. But Cole has learned that seeing Jesus, or at least conversing with him, is not such a rare event.
Some rapture children are unusually gifted. Michaela plays music without having been taught and sings like an angel (there are those who insist rapture children are angels). But though everyone says Cole is gifted, too, no one has ever said he might be a rapture child.
One thing all the rapture children Cole has met have in common is that they are good-looking. Almost every one of them is blond. (Michaela’s hair is so pale it’s more white than yellow; from the back you might even mistake her for an old woman.)
The biggest difference Cole can tell between rapture children and other children is that raptures have a way of making adults happy without even trying. He has seen Starlyn walk into a room and people light up as they do when dessert is set in front of them. He has heard grown men and women pour out their hearts to twelve-year-old Michaela, asking for her advice about grownup things—should they take this new job, should they have another baby—or for her blessing. The same kind of thing that had happened at Here Be Hope. Some of the other orphans were a little afraid of the rapture children because of this power they had with the adults. And Cole is a little afraid of Michaela. The way she always seems to be either laughing or crying. The way, in church, she is able to keep singing out strong even with tears streaming down her face. A girl with almost no meat on her bones and enormous hungry-looking eyes. There would not have been enough hours in the day for her to fill all the requests she got from people to pray for them.
Cole is afraid of Starlyn, too. But that is love (and a secret). “Did you used to be one?” Even before he asks Pastor Wyatt this, Cole knows the answer is yes. But Pastor Wyatt gives a loud whoop as if Cole had said something crazy.
“Me? Oh my, no, no, no. I was—my mama would tell you—I was more of a—of a reptile child.” And when Cole looks confused Pastor Wyatt stops laughing and says, “It don’t matter, Cole. It don’t matter what kind of child a person is. Like the song goes, Jesus loves all the little children.” And he opens the Bible to Mark 10:13, to show Cole where it is written.