Chapter 20 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 air turned cold and thick, as if the oxygen level had been reduced in the atmosphere.   Feeling the sudden change, Willow opened her eyes to see Matthew standing before her. He was standing just inside the cabin door, as if he were guarding it. His shoulders hunched slightly forward and his arms hung freely at his sides. His head was tilted towards Willow, giving more space for what should have been the whites of his eyes, but instead of white, they were blood red. His whole demeanor exuded disgust towards Willow.

They each waited for the other to speak, neither finding the words to explain their reunion. Willow was unsure what the significance of Matthew’s return meant to her present situation, and Matthew was enjoying the fear that he sensed within her.

“Matthew,” Willow finally acknowledged. Willow was experienced at traveling without her body, but this seemed different. It felt as if Matthew was actually there in the room with her. She could feel the heat emanating from his body, cutting through the chill of the atmosphere, as if he was indeed flesh and bones before her.

“Don’t talk,” he said. “Let us enjoy this moment for a bit.” Even at the height of his power, he had never spoken with the confidence that he now had.

“What are you doing here?” Willow innocently askedv trying not to play his game, but confused as to what game he was playing.

“Why shouldn’t I be here?”

“Well,” said Willow, unsure of how to phrase it, “you’re dead.”

Matthew laughed, “Are you sure about that?”

“I saw you fall,” said Willow, suddenly unsure. “Through the open door, I saw you fall. Benjamin shot you first, to guarantee your death before everything else.”

“My body fell, but my soul hast prospered.”

“Is that so?” Willow wondered why he had not moved on. It seemed that Matthew’s soul was also tied to her, but instead of taking another birth, he was right there before her in his same form.

“For eons,” continued Matthew, “you have believed that you were fighting for righteousness. What gives you the right to assume your divinity? I am the one who fought to ensure that God’s laws, which have been laid out for thousands of years, remained the way of the world. But you, you thought to take power away from God. You confidently taught the blasphemy that all power comes from you.”

“I never taught that. I have only ever taught that the power of all creation comes from one source and that it is indeed available to us all.”

Matthew waved his hands as if to wave her words away. “Your disciple’s believe that the power comes from you. Dress it up in whatever philosophy you like, the result is the same. You belittle the Lord for your own gain.”

“My disciples believe what they need to believe to take the next step. This is a journey, and humans can’t begin to conceptualize the greatness of their creator right from the beginning. First the realm of possibility must open within them.”

“My presence here should be proof enough of whose teachings are supported by the Lord.”

“Of course he supports you,” said Willow understanding that Matthew must be lost in some realm of purgatory. “He supports us all.”

“Don’t you dare condescend to me!” said Matthew, allowing his rage to boil over. “I have been sent here for one reason, and one reason alone.”

“And what reason would that be?” asked Willow.

“To make sure that this is a fair fight.”

“Is it fighting time then?” asked Willow. Matthew let a sarcastic grin spread across his face.

Willow took a breath and closed her eyes, and for the first time, she felt alone. Willow realized that her sight was gone. She was being held in her body. Matthew’s presence was having the affect of suppressing her spirit. This was a feeling she had never had before. After lifetimes of being the master, Willow finally understood what it truly meant to be trapped in the body. Opening her eyes back up, Willow and Matthew looked within each other and saw only confusion.

————————————————–

Daisy retraced her steps through the forest towards the cabin. Beth held on to Daisy’s hand, giving her encouraging words as they moved. The rest of the group watched and hesitantly followed, not knowing what to expect. They had only an uneasy trust in the marvelous stories of a woman who had spent more than half of her life in a psyche ward, and the pretty, down-syndrome girl that could see doors that weren’t there.

Suddenly the group stopped as the trail took a sharp left turn, but Daisy stared straight into the dense forest.

“It’s there,” Daisy said, seemingly pointing at nothing in particular.

“What do you see?” asked Beth.

“It’s like a sliver of light through the atmosphere. If we walk through it, we’ll find a clearing on the other side. Past the clearing is a small patch of forest and through that there’s another clearing where the cabin is.”

“You can see all of that?” asked Beth.

“No, I remember all of that,” said Daisy. “All I can see from here is the sliver of light just ahead.”

“So,” Sam interjected, “we have no idea what is waiting for us on the other side of this… this portal?”

“Exactly,” said Daisy.

“Okay then,” said Beth. “Let us gather in a circle and hold hands.”

Surprised, they awkwardly did as Beth told. Daisy held onto Beth with her right hand and with her left she held onto Martha, who held onto Sam, who held onto James, who held onto Nicholas, who completed the circle by grasping Beth’s right hand.

“What are we doing?” asked Nicholas.

“There is a reason we are all here,” said Beth. “We are the only ones who have a glimmer of the gift needed for freeing Willow. She gave each of us something and now it is our time to give back to her. But we can only do that if we are our best selves. So we have to focus. We have to calm our minds and understand that now is the time for fulfilling our destiny.”

“What should I focus on?” asked Martha.

“Just breathe,” said Beth. “Just focus on your breath. Slowly breathe in. And then slowly let it out. We have to become like one. Willow spread her gift into each of us, but we have to focus it back together, to equal the power we’ll need for the challenge ahead.”

They all felt the weight of Beth’s words and allowed their minds to become still. Listening to each other, they allowed their breaths to move as one. “James,” said Beth softly, “Willow always asked you to sing to the group to calm them. Sing us a song.”

Normally James would have resisted. He was not fond of his singing voice, it was gravely and gruff, but he knew that this was not the time for inhibition. The memories of singing for Willow began to flood back into his mind. He suddenly remembered one hymn that Willow especially liked; How Great Thou Art by Carl Gustav Boberg. In a low, deep voice, full of intention, James started to sing:

 

“O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,

Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;

I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,

Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

 

“Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,

How great Thou art, How great Thou art.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,

How great Thou art, How great Thou art!”

————————————————–

Sarah, Brett and Elizabeth sat around a small table in the motel room, each looking at down the table, struggling to think of something to say. They were all worried about the group, feeling that they should have gone along to help, and knowing there was nothing that they could do. Elizabeth was terrified that something bad might happen, but knew that she couldn’t allow these children to be left alone. She had to be there for them.

“I can’t believe I let them take Daisy,” Elizabeth finally said out loud.

“They need her,” said Brett. “They need my sister. I teased her for her whole life, but she was born for something special. They need her, and if something bad happens to her… I will never have said a nice word to her.”

“And my dad,” said Sarah. “Beth said he might already be dead.”

“I’m sure he’s fine,” said Elizabeth, anything but sure herself.

“No. No I don’t think so. But I don’t know that I feel bad about it either. He was so tortured. If he is at peace, having done one good thing by leading us to find Willow… then maybe it’s okay.”

They sat in silence for a while, before starting back on the same track.

“Do you think they would have reached the cabin?” asked Brett. “It wasn’t really that far away.”

There was a moment of silence and then a noticeable vibration filled the room.

“What is that?” asked Sarah.

“Is that a voice?” asked Brett. “Where is it coming from?”

“It’s singing,” said Elizabeth. “That’s James’ voice.”

As they struggled to hear his voice, it became louder as if it were filling the room:

 

“When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,

And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.

When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur

And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

 

“Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,

How great Thou art, How great Thou art.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,

How great Thou art, How great Thou art!”

————————————————–

Gabriel sat, as he had for years, in his rocking chair near the entrance of the cabin – his shotgun leaning against the side of his chair. Russell sat on a stool to his right, and Travis on a bench to his left. They were all alone with their thoughts staring out towards the tree line. Waiting.

Then they heard it. The low growl, singing voice of a man that was rich in the spirit. They said nothing about it to each other, but they all sat up straight in their chairs, knowing that the time had come.

 

“And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;

Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;

That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,

He bled and died to take away my sin.

 

“Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,

How great Thou art, How great Thou art.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,

How great Thou art, How great Thou art!”

 

 

Travis checked his Glocks. Fully loaded. He rested them in his hands, one on each knee. Russell put one hand to his forehead and slowly combed it back, through his hair. He then pulled the Glock from the crook of his back where it had sat in his belt and let his arm fall straight, his gun pointed down towards the cabin porch. Gabriel simply waited. He felt as if he had been waiting his whole life for this moment. He tried to steady his mind, and like he did every morning, he reminded himself of what he was fighting for. “For we are the protectors of tradition,” he whispered to himself, “we can never let our guard down.”

————————————————–

Willow opened her eyes again to see Matthew staring at her.

“They’re here,” he said.

Willow smiled a sad smile. “How ever this is going to play out, it ends now.”

“That it does,” said Matthew. “That it does.”

They listened to James’ voice as he finished the hymn:

 

“When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,

And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.

Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,

And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

 

“Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,

How great Thou art, How great Thou art.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,

How great Thou art, How great Thou art!”

————————————————–

James finished his song and the group stayed still, resting in the silence. They could hear the wind as it glided through the trees, caressing the birds and shaking the leaves.

“It’s time,” said Beth. “Follow exactly in Daisy’s steps.”

They continued to hold hands as the circle morphed into a line with Daisy in the front and Beth in the back. Beth watched as one by one each member of the group appeared to be disappearing, until for one second she was alone, and the next she saw the bewilderment on the faces of everyone else.

“The cabin is just through that patch of forest over there,” said Daisy as she began walking through the clearing that they found themselves in. They followed Daisy into the forest and then they all crouched together as they saw the cabin and the three old men sitting in front of it.

“That’s my father,” said Martha in amazement.

“I told you he’d be here,” said Beth.

“I know,” said Martha, “but, I didn’t really believe it. I haven’t seen him in years.”

“He looks so old now,” said Sam. “I haven’t seen him for even longer than you.”

“We’re all old now,” said James.

“So what do we do now?” asked Martha.

Beth looked as if she were waiting for a good idea.

“Well Willow had asked for me,” said Sam, “so I guess it’s my turn.”

“No, wait,” said Beth. But it was too late, Sam had stood up and was walking out of the tree line in view of the men guarding the cabin.

————————————————–

Gabriel, Russell and Travis stood up as they saw Sam walking towards them.

“Just stop right there,” Gabriel called out, as Sam stopped thirty feet from the cabin. Gabriel’s heart raced as he steadied himself for the confrontation ahead. Aiming his shotgun towards Sam, he asked, “Who are you?”

“Oh, that’s Sam?” Travis interjected with a smile. “He was almost part of the family.” Travis had no inclination to shoot him right away. This was the most fun he’d had in years and he wanted to take it slow.

“Sam is a good man,” said Russell. “A cop.”

Gabriel sighed to himself as he could still hear Willow’s voice calling after the girl who had come the day before to find Sam. “We’ve been waiting for you.”

“Where’s Willow?” Sam asked. “I want to see her.”

“Take your time, man,” Travis cut in. “Don’t be in such a rush to end this.”

————————————————–

Willow could hear the voices outside. She tried to send her loving energy out towards them, but Matthew was suppressing her efforts.

“You will not intervene in this,” said Matthew. “Your black magic is not part of this story. It is the Lord’s story and it will play out as He sees fit.”

“That it will,” said Willow.

“Do not mock me.”

“I’m not mocking you at all, Matthew. I sit here with no certainty as to how this all ends.”

“That is because the Lord is not with you. When you give yourself to Him, all of your problems and doubts fade.”

“Doubt is not a weakness,” said Willow. “Don’t act as if it didn’t follow you your whole life. Doubt is the acknowledgement that in God’s world, anything is possible. Doubt gives you the chance to reaffirm your commitment everyday.”

“Please to not sully the name of God with your blasphemy.”

“Truly what I mean when I say God, has nothing to do with your interpretation,” said Willow. “So don’t take offense. I mean no blasphemy by it. I respect the dedication that you have shown in your life to a power greater than your own. I would never mock it. At the same time, I do not feel that I, nor my friends, should have to die for it.”

Willow stood up, and Matthew took a step back towards the door. “Do not try and interfere. I will not allow it.” Willow walked towards the door, wondering if she could walk right through Matthew.   She put one hand forward into the space where the image of Matthew seemed to be, and her hand went inside of him. Inside of his space she felt a heat like she had never imagined possible and let out a scream of pure pain as she fell backwards.

————————————————–

Sarah, Brett and Elizabeth looked at each other in horror as they heard Willow’s scream.

“We have to go,” yelled Brett. “We have to go and help them.”

“We have to!” agreed Sarah.

“But we don’t even no where to go,” said Elizabeth. “The cabin is hidden.”

“I know where it is,” said Brett defiantly.

“You do?” asked Sarah.

“Well, I know the place where Daisy disappeared at,” said Brett. “We can at least try.”

Brett and Sarah ran out of the motel room and headed towards the forest. Elizabeth couldn’t do anything but run after them. As she chased them, Elizabeth wasn’t sure that she wanted Brett to be successful in locating the secret door, but she agreed that they had to at least try.

————————————————–

Hearing Willow’s scream lifted the whole group hiding in the forest to their feet and they started running towards the cabin to help her. They were momentarily blinded to the fact that three men with guns were blocking their path.

Sam stretched his hands out to his sides to stop the group from advancing, knowing that the men in front of him were not afraid to use their weapons. Beth, James and Martha saw Sam and snapped back to the reality of their situation, but Daisy kept running forward. Daisy’s mind was wrapped in and possessed by Willow’s scream.

Gabriel recognized her instantly as being the same girl that had showed up the day before. He was curious as to what she thought she was going to do when she reached the cabin door. Gabriel was so taken by the girl that he didn’t notice Travis advancing towards her.

Travis met Daisy halfway up the steps, and in one motion, lifted her up with a smile, and threw her back towards the group. As she hit the ground Daisy again registered the men in front of her and stared at them, wondering what had come over her.

“Get back here Daisy,” Martha called out. “Get back here.”

Daisy crawled back behind her mother, who was staring at Travis in disbelief.

“Do you know who she is?” Martha asked.

“I do,” said Travis.

“She is your granddaughter.”

“Ah Martha,” said Travis sarcastically, “We haven’t been family for a long time now.”

“We can’t just stop being family.”

“Is this your daughter?” asked Gabriel shocked.

“She was.” Turning towards Sam, Travis said, “I’m glad to see that you two are back together again.”

Gabriel turned and looked at Russell in bewilderment.

“I’ve been telling you for years,” said Russell under his breath. “This guy is a psychopath.”

————————————————-

Matthew was taken aback seeing Willow writhing in pain in front of him. “What has come over you?” Lord, is she possessed? he thought to himself.

Willow slid back, not wanting to come in contact with him again.

“What happened?” Matthew repeated. He could see the fear in her eyes, but he was confused by it.

“I have never felt a fire like the one burning within you,” she said.

“Within me?” Matthew looked at Willow’s hand and saw the skin melting off of her fingers. Her skin was red and bubbling up to her elbow. “That was from me?”

“Can you not feel the fire burning within you?” Willow asked. “Have you become so accustomed to it?”

Willow had abandoned her philosophical tone for a stunned one. In her shock, Matthew understood her sincerity. Knowing that Willow was no longer playing games with him, was what worried him the most. The terror showed on her face, and the proof was peeling off of her arm. But in the midst of her situation, Willow was horrified for him, not for herself.

Shaken by Willow’s words, Matthew withdrew into himself. For the first time in a long time, he was able to stop the endless raging of his thoughts and could see into the darkness that was burning within him. As he drifted away from Willow, he saw fire burning in every direction. This was his home. He was simply burning in an anger of his own creation. It instantly hit Matthew that he had lived his whole life on the side of darkness. This revelation caused him to quickly sink into despair and he began to fade into a hole of endless suffering, ready to give in to the fire that surrounded him.

“Matthew!” Willow called out “Matthew, it’s not too late.”

As his mind drifted towards a cliff of eternal darkness, Matthew heard Willows voice calling for him and he grabbed on to it. Following her voice, Matthew reappeared before Willow, humbled and in need of answers.

————————————————–

“This is the spot!” called out Brett.

“Wait, wait,” yelled Elizabeth, desperately, not wanting to fail at her only mission of looking after the children. “Take my hands. If one of us finds the door, we can’t risk them entering alone.”

Both of the children grabbed on to Elizabeth by the hands. Sarah was on her right and Brett on her left, as they walked forward together about twenty feet.

“What is happening?” asked Sarah. “Everything looks the same.”

“We must have missed it,” said Brett. “Let’s go back to the path and try again.”

They walked back to the path and moved a little to the right and then again walked forward.

After about ten feet they stopped. “I don’t think this is working,” said Elizabeth.

“Wait,” said Brett. “We have to try again.” The thought of his sister fighting a battle while he sat around and waited was too much for Brett. He had to figure out a way to help.

They walked back to the path and moved a little to the left of their original spot. Again, they walked forward hand in hand. Again nothing happened.

————————————————–

“What exactly was your plan here?” asked Gabriel.

“We are here to take Willow,” said Beth.

“And who are you?” asked Russell. “How did you even know she was here?” Beth had never been on their radar as someone to watch, so he was surprised to see someone that he didn’t even recognize.

“Wait,” said Sam, walking forward. “Willow called for me. Just allow me to have a look at her.”

“You don’t seem to understand that we have all of the power here,” said Travis.

“Go back to the forest,” said Sam to the others.

“No,” said Travis walking forward.

Sam pulled out his gun and pointed it at Travis. “Just stop right there.”

Travis looked at Sam and laughed. “Okay, I just want to show you something.” Travis walked over to where their trucks were parked and found Dave’s body laying on the ground. He then started dragging him back over to the group. When he reached Sam, he laid the body in front of him. “Do you recognize this guy?”

Sam took a moment to steady himself and then said, “That’s Sarah’s father.”

“That’s right. This is Sarah’s father. He was one of us. Part of our group. But he betrayed us, so Gabriel over there killed him. Now have a look at Gabriel’s shotgun. It’s not aimed at you, it’s aimed at this girl whom we don’t even know. And look at Russell’s guns. They are aimed at the other two. So before you decide that you want to use your gun on me, just ask yourself if you really think that my guys won’t use our guns on you.”

Seeing Dave’s body lying on the ground, Gabriel felt a wave of guilt rush over him. But he knew that it had to be done. It was his mission.

Travis put his hand on Sam’s gun and took it from him. “That’s what I thought. So now, the question is, who is this girl?”

“Me?” asked Beth. She stood tall knowing what was coming next. “I am Willow’s sister.”

“Sister?” questioned Russell in amazement.

“That’s not possible,” said Gabriel.

“What do you mean by sister?” asked Travis.

“I am Willow’s link to the outside world,” said Beth. “Through me, she has brought all of us together.”

“Oh,” said Travis sarcastically. “Well then…” Travis walked right up to Beth so that his nose was nearly touching hers. The sound of a gunshot rang out in the suddenly still forest as Beth fell to the ground, and a pool of blood formed around her.

————————————————–

“Ahhhhh!” Willow yelled in agony. Willows body started rolling on the ground as she felt the pain of her sister’s presence fading from the world. Willow felt the pain of the bullet, as if she were experiencing it in her own body. “Ahhhhh!” she continued to scream. Tears flowed from her eyes as they had never done before.

“What is happening, what is happening?” called Matthew after her.

“They shot her, they shot Beth. They shot my sister.”

“No,” said Matthew. “I told them no violence. I’ve always told them, no violence.”

Willow continued writhing on the floor as Matthew flailed over her, helpless, and confused.

—————————————————

“Did you hear that?” asked Sarah.

“A gunshot,” said Elizabeth.

“We have to find a way in,” said Brett. “We have to find a way in.”

They continued to walk back and forth over the space of forest that Brett was sure the portal to the other side must be.

—————————————————–

Sam gathered his group together as if he could shield them from the bullets with his own body, tackling them to the ground as they screamed. Beth was already dead. Her body lay lifeless next to them.

“Travis!” yelled Gabriel. “What have you done?”

Travis walked back up to his spot on the porch. Russell sat in his chair as he watched Sam trying to protect his group like a momma bear protecting her cubs. Russell could see that Sam and his group had not expected this. They had expected magic. Russell himself was horrified by the violence that he was witnessing before him. “This is not who we are?” he said to Gabriel as he slouched on his stool.

Gabriel was steeped in anger and it was only heating up as he saw the cavalier way that Travis was taking the actions he had just committed. “Travis! How could you?”

“Who are you to ask me that? You are the one who killed Dave.”

“Dave was one of us,” said Gabriel. “He had taken vows to the Guardians, and it was the second time he had blatantly betrayed us, seeking our demise.”

“Are they not seeking our demise?”

“He was a soldier! They are innocents!”

“She said she was Willow’s sister, clearly she’s no innocent.”

“If she was Willow’s sister, then she was a hi-born and not to be killed.”

“If she was a hi-born” said Travis slowly, rationalizing as he talked, “then the bullet wouldn’t have touched her. Clearly she is not that. But she did put all of our existence in danger by being Willow’s connection to the outside world. Whatever else was going to happen here today, this girl was going to have to die.”

“You are not God, Travis, to play with lives. These are innocent lives.”

“None of them are innocent! They are all standing in our way. These laws of yours were for a time when we were in the shadows. Clearly, the time for those laws have come and gone.”

Gabriel’s face dropped in horror. “Our whole purpose is to protect the old ways. Their times do not pass.”

“Father,” yelled Martha as she broke Sam’s hold and stood up. “You are a mad man! You are simply a mad man, with no moral code. You don’t live for anything!”

“We came here to help Willow,” said Daisy, “because she was hurting.”

“We came here for love,” said Nicholas.

Sam understood what was happening. The realization of death had settled into each of them and they were now going to say their peace before their time came.

They stood as a group united and James began to sing:

 

“Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,

How great Thou art, How great Thou art.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,

How great Thou art, How great Thou art!”

 

————————————————–

“You have to help them,” cried Willow. “You are the only one Gabriel will listen to.”

“I don’t understand, Lord, I don’t understand,” cried Matthew as he fell to his knees. Matthew’s whole body was shaking involuntarily as the panic within flowed out towards the world. Tears flowed in a constant stream from his eyes. “I don’t understand, Lord, show me the way! Show me the way.”

A vibration started to build in the atmosphere, growing louder and louder until the cabin itself started to shake under its force. A white light appeared and in that light the image of Jesus stood before Mathew.

“My Lord! My Lord!” cried Matthew.

“My son,” said Jesus caressing Matthew’s cheek.

“What have I done?”

“You gave into anger,” said Jesus. His voice was low and deep, and his words flowed out like a song. “From the beginning you allowed your anger to blind you.”

“I was just trying to protect your traditions.”

“And you forget that I, myself, was a revolutionary. The only tradition that I clung to was that of love.”

“Oh my Lord! Forgive me, forgive me!”

“But I know, son, that your mind was wrapped up in me every step of the way. Though your actions were wrong and came from a dark place, your mind was always focused on serving me.”

“I’m sorry, Lord! Forgive me. What can I do? Tell me Lord, what to do.”

“You have to help those outside. They didn’t come here for war. They came to save the Lord’s servant. Don’t allow your people to turn them away.”

“She never claimed to be your servant.”

“Who ever holds on to the Lord is serving the Lord. The power of creation is infinite. It is only humans who seek to limit it.”

Matthew sat silently shaking before his vision of Jesus.

“Help them, Matthew. Help them.”

The vibration was suddenly gone and Matthew and Willow were alone together sitting on the floor of the cabin, staring at each other.

“Did you see him?” asked Matthew.

“See who?” asked Willow.

“The Lord.”

“That was your vision,” said Willow.

Suddenly Matthew was gone from and Willow was alone again.  As the image of Beth filled her mind, Willow took her usual spot on the cabin floor and waited.

————————————————–

Elizabeth, Brett and Sarah, fell to the ground as the earth shook. They were silent as they stared at each other. They knew that this was not an ordinary earthquake. It had something to do with Willow, and their families. It wasn’t just the earth shaking but it felt like the very atmosphere surrounding them was shaking.

Finally the quake stopped and Elizabeth said, “We have to try something different. Let’s not hold hands. We’ll just walk very slowly. We’ll take each step together and watch each other while we move. Then, when one of us disappears the others will know to follow exactly behind them in that same spot. Okay?”

“Okay,” said Brett and Sarah in unison. They stood up and looked ahead towards the forest. Slowly they took steps, one at a time, looking at each other before and after each step to see if they were all still there. All of a sudden, one of Sarah’s hands disappeared. She looked at the others and they all stared at the space where her hand should be as her arm stretched out before her. “It’s here,” she said.

They all froze, not believing what they were seeing. None of them were quite ready to take the next step.

————————————————–

The shaking stopped and the Guardians gathered themselves on the porch. Sam’s group had huddled closer together but was continuing to sing. Russell and Travis, shook themselves off and sat down for a breather, but Gabriel was still standing. Gabriel’s back was perfectly straight, as he seemed to be looking at something before him. His lips moved slightly as if he were muttering to himself. His body began to rock slightly from side to side as if the wind were caressing him back and forth. Russell and Travis looked at each other confused.

————————————————–

When the shaking stopped, a light appeared before Gabriel. A humming sound filled his ears, as all of the sounds of the outside world disappeared. Gabriel was lost for a second in the hum. Then out of the light, Matthew’s form appeared.

“Matthew!” Gabriel tried to speak, but was over come by emotion.

Matthew looked at Gabriel with love in his eyes, knowing that Gabriel was his true disciple.

“Matthew!” Gabriel started again. “I have been so alone all of these years without you. I’ve tried to be true to our values, but now, at the time when I need them the most, my strength is failing me.”

“That is because God is love,” said Matthew, and his voice penetrated into Gabriel’s very core. “All of God’s commandments come from a place of love first. And we badly want to fight for love, because fighting is natural to us. It is all we really know. But God doesn’t want us to fight for love, he wants us to live for it.”

Matthew reached out and touched Gabriel’s heart and Gabriel could feel Matthew’s loving energy entering his body. “Do you understand what I am telling you?” asked Matthew.

“I understand, Matthew,” said Gabriel as tears rolled down his face. “What should I do now?”

“It is time to let Willow go.”

“Thank you, Matthew. Thank your for not forgetting about me.”

“It is the Lord who did not forget about you. We are simply brothers trying to help each other along the way.”

With that, Matthew was suddenly gone and Gabriel found himself standing back in a world he wanted no part of. Gabriel looked at Sam’s group standing together and singing as one, and he felt compassion for them. He saw his own men sitting confused, lost to any memory of a reason for walking the path that they had chosen.

“Please listen to me now,” said Gabriel as he picked up his shotgun and showed the group that he was putting it behind him, against the wall of the cabin. “I have had a vision. I had a vision of our leader Matthew and he explained to me that God is love.”

They all looked at Gabriel in disbelief of his sudden change. Gabriel’s face seemed softer, and his words were clearer. He was no longer reacting to what was going on around him, but he was empowered and commanding.

“Matthew told me that God’s commandments come from a place of love first. You all have come here out of love for Willow. We kept her here for so many years, out of love for tradition. But now it is clear that love no longer resides on the side where I am standing, and I can no longer stand where love lives not.”

No one was sure about what they were hearing. Gabriel could see the confusion on everyone’s face so he continued, “It is time for Willow to go home.”

Sam’s group began to breathe for the first time since entering the pocket. A hesitant relief started to wash over Russell until he saw Travis on the other side of Gabriel, rising in anger.

“Like hell!” Travis yelled as he pointed the Glock in his right hand towards Gabriel’s temple and pulled the trigger.

Gabriel’s body fell lifeless to the porch. Straddling the corpse to take over Gabriel’s spot in front of the cabin door, with his left Glock pointed at Sam and his right one now pointed at Russell, Travis smiled with the grin of someone who suddenly had all of the power, and asked, “who’s next?”

 

 

 

I’ll see you next Friday for chapter 21.

 

Featured image via http://www.wallpapersafari.com

2 Comments

  1. It is an amazing chapter. Every time I thought I knew what was going to happen I was surprised. I really look forward to reading next week’s final chapter.

    BTW “How Great Thou Art” was a major song in my life when I was in Junior High School. I didn’t even know you knew that song.

    Liked by 1 person

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