Chapter 15 of 21. If you haven’t read the earlier chapters, please read them first. You can find them here: The Willow, a serialized novel.
The sound of tires spinning over a dirt road broke the silence of the morning. Matthew was back. Benjamin looked at Dave. Their conviction showed in the tension on their faces. “You stay with her,” told Benjamin. “Whatever happens, don’t let any of them near her.”
“I will keep her safe,” Dave said resolutely. Willow looked at Dave with a knowing smile. He was not a fighter, which was the real reason why he was being left inside. Willow motioned to Dave to sit down next to her, but he stayed standing. He was trying to convince himself that he was ready for the battle to come. Willow could feel his heart pounding. She knew that Dave couldn’t even keep himself safe, let alone her. Willow prayed that Dave wouldn’t be dragged down by the warrior mentality that engulfed the rest of them.
They could hear the men outside applauding. Benjamin and his men all waited, huddled inside the doorway of the cabin, guns in hands, safeties off. They could almost see Matthew outside, getting out of his car, greeted by the roar of his men. They would only get one shot at this, so they waited until they heard his voice, and were sure of his location.
“I am so happy be here after so much time.” Matthew’s voice, both boisterous and joyous, rose like a song. “I travelled the world over, and everywhere I went, I spoke of the courageous men I had standing guard over the great Satan in their midst.” Benjamin looked over at Willow. Matthew’s words were all the confirmation Benjamin needed. His suspicions were correct. Not only had Matthew not changed, but he had also grown in his paranoia.
Benjamin looked at his men. They were all ready for the fight. They could hear Matthew’s voice growing louder as he approached the door. “Let me go see how Benjamin is doing.” Hearing Matthew’s voice on the porch, Benjamin threw open the cabin door. Matthew stood before him, a smile on his face. Benjamin lifted his gun to Matthew’s chest and pulled the trigger. The men outside were thrown off guard as Benjamin’s men came running out of the cabin, guns firing.
Realizing what was happening, Gabriel yelled, “To the forest!” Only three of them made it to the tree line, as their brothers fell beside them. From there, they exchanged fire with those guarding the cabin entrance.
Benjamin felt a thud and fell to his knees. His head was spinning. He knew that he’d been hit, but couldn’t feel the pain. He knew that he was dying. As he knelt on the porch he could see Matthew’s lips moving, struggling to release his final words. Benjamin put stared at Matthews’s lips, trying to read them. He knew the passage that Matthew was trying to say. With his last breath Matthew mumbled the words, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.”
Looking at Matthew and turning the words on him, Benjamin finished the passage, “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their work.” (2 Cor 11:13-15).
Benjamin lay down beside Matthew on the porch and looked at the rooftop. As he breathed his last breaths, he listened to the sounds of gunfire, and watched as the men standing above him fell one by one.
Inside the cabin, Dave had thrown himself on top of Willow. He told himself that he was protecting them both, but really he just wanted to be as close to the ground as possible, staying clear of stray bullets. Eventually the firing stopped and Dave and Willow sat up together in the middle of the room. They anxiously waited to see who would walk through the door.
Dave had a gun, but he kept it on the floor next to him. He had no intention of using it. If his own men walked in, then he would pretend like he was still guarding Willow. If Matthew’s men walked in, then he would make it clear that he wanted to surrender. After five minutes of silence, the cabin door opened. Dave and Willow sat motionless as Gabriel, Russell and Travis walked in.
Travis laughed, “so they left you in charge of protection, huh?” Russell walked over to them and picked Dave’s gun up off the floor. Letting out a long sigh, Russell put Dave’s gun on the table dividing the main room from the kitchen and sat down on the stool next to it. “What just happened?” asked Russell, as he stared at the wall in front of him. “What just happened here?”
“He was not committed,” said Willow, dryly, “so they left him here to die with me.” Her voice was cold; unrecognizable to the one Dave had heard praying in the darkness over the last ten years.
“This was not my fight,” cried out Dave. “I didn’t even know what the plan was.”
“Sure you didn’t,” said Travis as he lifted his Glock 19 to Dave’s temple.
Hearing the finality in Travis’ voice, Russell turned around to see him smiling, ready to pull the trigger. “No,” he called out. “Enough. Enough bloodshed for one day.”
“They just killed our brothers,” Travis said matter-of-factly.
“They were all our brothers!” yelled Russell, getting to his feet. “This one – he’s just a coward. There’s no way he had a hand in the fight. There’s a reason why he was hiding inside with the girl. Just leave him.”
“We can’t just leave him,” Travis said, looking at Gabriel. Gabriel knew that he was the only leader they had left. He also knew that he didn’t have enough men to keep their mission active.
“Either you’re with us,” said Gabriel, “or you’re against us. There can be no middle path here.”
“I’m with you! I’m with you,” cried Dave.
“Then get outside and clean the bodies up!” yelled Gabriel.
Dave ran out of the cabin and began dragging the bodies to the back side of the clearing.
Travis shot a questioning grimace at Gabriel.
“We need him,” said Gabriel. “And now, he has no one but us.”
Matthew was the only leader they had ever known. Gabriel wondered if anyone else in the organization even knew where the cabin was. Gabriel had never met anyone outside of their local chapter, and hoped that someone eventually would be coming from them.
“This girl is the devil,” Gabriel loudly pronounced so that they could all hear him. “I don’t want anyone ever alone with her. Move everything out of the cabin. This place will be her cell from now on. We will set up everything we need on the outside. No one talks to her. No one.”
“Where are we?” asked Beth. She was floating next to Willow in the darkness.
“Marcus needs us. He is leaving his body. We are his angels and are going to help him along.”
In the distance they saw consciousness, looking something like a cloud of light to Beth, moving towards them.
“That is Marcus,” Willow said.
Beth could see Marcus’ thoughts as if a play were happening within the cloud of light. She could see herself as a little girl standing next to Elizabeth, Marcus’ wife.
“He sees us the way he conceptualizes his own guardians, his own gods. He still sees you as he first did when you met him as a child. Me, he doesn’t see at all, but has superimposed the image of his wife on top of me. You have to talk to him. Give him some direction.”
“What should I say?” asked Beth.
“His spirit will guide him, and he will hear what he needs to hear. His past actions will send him to where he needs to go, but the road will be more gentle if you can help him to have divine thoughts at this time of transformation. He was a Christian, so you can start with that.”
Beth directed her thoughts towards Marcus. “What were your favorite Bible stories?” she asked him. Beth could see that she alone was left in Marcus’ consciousness. She saw herself as a small girl asking him to think of three numbers.
Beth looked at Willow. “He’s processing your request into Bible passages he learned as a kid in Sunday school.” Willow sent her divine energy into Marcus and the numbers 33 17 24 appeared in his mind.
“’Be not afraid, for your eyes will see the King in His beauty,’” (Isaiah 33: 17-24) said Willow.
Willow and Beth watched as Marcus’ cloud floated away from them.
“Where is he going?” asked Beth.
“He’s being reborn,” said Willow. “So that he can find me.”
There was a flash of blinding light and then screams. It took Marcus a moment to realize that the screams were coming from him. He was trapped inside a body – the body of a baby. There were voices in the background. At first they seemed as if they were coming from under water, completely indecipherable. Then he heard the voice a woman say, “It’s a beautiful baby girl. What are you going to call her?”
Full of love, another woman answered, “We’re going to call her Daisy.”
I’ll see you next Friday for chapter 16.
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