“Don’t be afraid, Daniel,” he said to me, “for from the first day that you purposed to understand and to humble yourself before your God, your prayers were heard. I have come because of your prayers. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for 21 days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me...
The cool, fall breeze rustled through the surrounding maple trees while dislodging some of the amber colored leaves before twisting and spinning them to their final resting place upon the ground. That time of year had always been her favorite. Although it marked the end of summer’s reign of bountiful life, warmth, and flowers, there was always something energizing about that particular change of seasons.
That particular late October evening was no exception and she waited with anticipation for all of her costumed visitors to arrive. She had never been one to celebrate the dark side of Halloween, but she also couldn’t resist the fun of passing out large quantities of candy to eager neighborhood children who had waited patiently all year for this opportunity. Seeing their smiling faces at her door, always lifted the young woman’s spirits, as she had no children of her own.
But, there was more to her story than that. Having no children was far too simple an explanation. Even as she greeted the smiling faces at her door each year, there was always an accompanying element of sadness which she was very careful to suppress as much as she could. She strove to find some solace among the laughter, but it remained elusive. Countless had been her prayers. Countless had been her tears. The heavy weight remained.
Perhaps that year would be different. She poured the assorted bag of candy into her large, orange Halloween bowl and placed it by the front door in anticipation of her first visitors. She was sure that the evening would follow the same pattern as it had most other years. Usually, in the late evening before sundown, the youngest children would arrive first having been driven by their parents so that their short legs would not fatigue too quickly before they had gotten their limit of candy. The older children would then arrive next with the final group being the young teenagers whose love of candy still outweighed any embarrassment produced by wearing a costume. She took one last quick look outside her small home to make sure that she had remembered to turn on both the outside house lights as well as the orange colored decorative lights that she had strung around her front porch banister. She then stepped back inside to grab a quick bite to eat.
Like clockwork, the children began to arrive exactly as she expected. The youngest children were always the cutest and she adored watching them waddle up her steps in their costumes to reach with wide-eyed excitement into the bowl of treats. She didn’t mind them taking more than one handful of candy as their hands were small and she had made sure to buy plenty of candy that year. Even before the youngest groups had completely finished, the slightly older children begin to roll in with larger numbers than the previous year. She didn’t recognize many of the families, most likely because they had come from surrounding neighborhoods. After all, the better candy you offered, the more trick-or-treaters you could expect. She found herself so caught up in the excitement that she almost failed to notice one small child who was dressed as a ghost in a simple white sheet. Her initial thought was that the child resembled one of the ghosts on the Charlie Brown Halloween special. However, as far as she could tell, he had not been brought by any adults or family members but seemed to appear in the group on his own. The small phantom would never approach her with the other children to get his treats but would simply stand at a distance, motionless. She was unable to see his face and yet she had the uneasy sensation that the pair of eyes underneath that white sheet were fixed directly on her. She attempted to approach the child after greeting the other children, but as soon as she refocused her attention on him, he had vanished.
For a short period of time, she did not see him again until, to her surprise, he reappeared later in the evening when the older kids begin to make their rounds. She was handing out candy to a larger group of teenagers when she suddenly noted him again circulating outside of the main group at the bottom of her front steps. He again made no sound and did not approach but continued to place his full attention on her. He seemed larger than before, almost as if he had grown to match the age of the trick-or-treaters. The other children who were present seemed to pay him no attention, as if he was not there at all. She also noted that the ghostly covering was no longer purely white as it had been previously, but had a crimson hue which seemed to darken with the shadows. Disturbed by this mysterious visitor, she had made the decision to approach and confront him but she was delayed as the last of the teenagers stepped into her path to get her share of the candy, However, the ghost had disappeared as soon as the young woman turned again to face him. With all of the trick-or-treaters temporarily gone and the evening getting later, the young woman looked around her porch and in the surrounding landscaping for anything suspicious but saw no sign of her strange visitor. Satisfied for the moment that she was alone, she walked back up her front steps and opened the creaking storm door before entering her house. Perhaps because of that evening’s visitation, she turned and bolted the door, something that she usually did not do. Then, cradling her bowl of candy in her lap, she sat down in the front foyer and watched her front door in the event that some late trick-or-treaters decided to arrive. She was swirling through the remainder of the candy in her bowl when the weariness of her day finally caught up with her. Leaning her head back against the wall, she drifted off to sleep.
A scuffling sound on the front porch awakened her from her slumber. Her first thought was that the noise was likely from a raccoon or possum as both animals tended to roam through the neighborhood at that time of evening. A flash of crimson/white flashed briefly across the window causing her pulse rate to quicken. What appeared next was even more terrifying as the head of the earlier phantom, still clothed in his crimson-tinged covering, slowly tilted into the frame of the front door’s window to stare in directly at her. The apparition was even taller than it had been when she last saw it. Startled, the young woman quickly stood to her feet, dropping her bowl of candy onto the floor. As the treats scattered across the wooden floor, she watched in horror as the front door knob turned and the door opened slowly, its lock still remained firmly bolted yet offered no resistance. As she continued to back away, the door suddenly flung open fully and revealed her unwanted guest.
“Who are you?” she cried in terror, continuing her slow retreat.
“You don’t remember me?” asked the inhuman voice. It’s tone held no redeeming qualities, full of only hate and malice.
“How could I?” came the trembling response. “I’ve never met you before tonight. And even if I had, you’re completely covered.”
“You spoke the truth when you said you’ve never met me before. You made sure that would never happen. But, oh, you remember how close our connection was.”
She continued to back away.
“We shared life. You felt me move.”
It couldn’t be.
“Don’t you remember what you did to me?” the voice hissed as the visitor’s covering changed completely to blood red.
“Oh, my heavens...no...” came the weak response as all of the old pain and guilt burst into new flame. She bumped into the hallway table and the lamp fell to the floor with a crash and the sound of shattering glass.
The crimson apparition suddenly lunged for her and with a scream she turned and ran to her bedroom at the end of the hallway, all the while feeling its foul breath on the back of her neck. She immediately slammed her door and locked it knowing full well from her earlier experience just how ineffective that would be. She collapsed sobbing onto the floor, fully expecting the door in front of her to open just as the previous one had. However, the door remain closed and the only sound was the sound of scratching on the other side of the door as if claws were scoring the wood.
“Try to hide,” the hissing continued. “It’s what you do best. But you can’t hide from me. From what you did. From the innocence you so selfishly took.”
She covered her ears but nothing could drown out the words. As horrible and terrifying as the voice was, perhaps the most terrifying part of all was that she could not deny the truth.
“If you have anything against me, you need to take it up with my Father...” she spoke as she tried to resist with what faith she had, but her answer was interrupted by unearthly hissing and spitting from the other side. The door trembled and the claws dug deeper into the wood.
“Your Father!” it bellowed from the other side. “Your Father! I’ve seen your so called Father and He wants nothing to do with you! You killed one of His own! Is that something that you think He merely overlooks?”
“Father, you promised...” she whimpered.
“An eye for an eye, little girl. That’s what He wants. That’s why I’m here. It’s what you deserve.”
A pale, clawed hand shattered the middle of the door and broke through to the other side.
“Beg all you want. He’s not listening.”
Just as her words fell, all became silent as the young woman became aware of a new sound. It was not associated with the creature outside her door, but was nonetheless close by. It had the distinct sound of feet hitting the ground, reminding her of a landing paratrooper. Organized. Not chaotic. The pale hand withdrew from the ragged hole in the door.
“That is enough!” a new voice boomed.
“I thought I taught you a lesson.” the hissing responded.
“I’m a terribly slow learner.”
The entire house was then suddenly filled with the sound of an intense struggle. There were the constant sounds of booming and shattering accompanied by hissing and screeching. Initially paralyzed and unable to move, the young woman finally gathered enough strength to crawl to the door and peek through the jagged hole. What she saw before her defied all logic, yet she could not deny what was directly in front of her eyes.
Her tormentor remained in the hallway but was no longer wearing his crimson covering either by choice or because his adversary had ripped it off. She could now see that he was tall, thin and very pale, almost like death itself. His long, spindly arms terminated in fingers armed with the same dagger-like claws that had destroyed her bedroom door. The mouth snarled and hissed constantly. His most striking feature, however, was the pair of eyes which glowed with a pale chlorine green color and protruded from the gaunt features of his face.
But he was not alone. Opposing him was what appeared to be a smaller man dressed in what most closely resembled a military uniform, although its design was completely foreign. On his shoulders were emblems that appeared to be two winged creatures facing each other with their heads bowed and their wings swept forward with the tips touching. His most striking feature, in direct contrast to his opponent, was also the pair of eyes but in contrast his shone with an unearthly but beautiful shade of blue from which only compassion and sacrifice poured. No matter where his pale opponent attacked, he continued to interpose himself between the creature and the shattered bedroom door.
But he was hopelessly outmatched. The blows with which the creature struck him rattled the entire house. The soldier fought back valiantly for every inch that he was able to push the creature back from the door. Yet, the gains were only temporary as a quick counter attack by his opponent threw the soldier back against the bedroom door, drawing a scream from the terrified woman. The creature then grabbed the front of his uniform and swung him violently against one side of the hallway and then the other, completely smashing him through the drywall. The white, chalky dust swirled throughout the hallway and engulfed the two combatants as the soldier was forced to his knees.
“You should have never come back,” the hissing chided.
But just before the final blow was to be delivered, there followed a second sound of feet hitting the ground. Almost instinctively, the creature released the defeated soldier and turned to face a new arrival whose sudden appearance behind him was almost hidden by the cloud of dust.
What the young woman saw through the haze was what appeared to be another man dressed similarly to the first soldier, but whose uniform bore insignia which appeared to indicate higher rank. He was much larger than the first soldier and was even larger than the creature itself as his head barely cleared the ceiling. The same piercing blue eyes shone from his face, filled with duty and determination.
“You...” the creature hissed.
Without another word, the creature savagely attacked the new arrival using the same blows that he employed to defeat the other soldier. This time, however, the blows were completely ineffective and the second soldier stood like a stone wall absorbing everything that was thrown at him. When he had finally endured enough of the bothersome attack, the second soldier’s hand flew forward to grasp the creature’s face before violently smashing him to the ground. With incredible speed, he flipped the creature over on its face and pulled his arms behind his back before securing them there with a large chain. With the creature hissing and screaming the entire time, the second soldier then lifted the creature as easily as the proverbial sack of potatoes and disappeared around the corner.
The complete silence that followed was broken only by the young women’s anxious breathing and the pounding of her own pulse in her ears. The second soldier and the creature were gone but the first soldier still remained slowly rising from the dust and brushing off his uniform. He then turned his attention to the bedroom door and peered kindly through the hole.
“It is alright,” he said gently. “He is gone now.”
At first, the young woman did not respond.
“No one is going to hurt you.”
Her trembling hand reached out and opened the door. The man on the other side greeted her with a compassionate smile.
“I thought he was going to kill you,” she muttered, not knowing what else to say.
He smiled again, his sapphire eyes gleaming.
“It does not exactly work like that for us,” he responded.
His hand then reached up to stroke his jaw where many of his adversary’s blows had fallen.
“That, however, does not mean that it does not hurt.”
He then pushed the bedroom door gently until it was fully open and after taking one step inside he sat down on the floor a few feet away from the young woman.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“You. And many others for that matter.”
“I was sent because you asked for help. I am here because your Father does not approve of His children being treated like that.”
“And,” she began, almost not being able to speak of him yet. “What was that thing?”
She did not know how to respond.
“But a very strong one,” he continued again rubbing his jaw. “I could not stop him alone. But, Michael came to help me.”
“But what it said about me was true,” she continued, the tears welling up and overflowing into her cheeks. “Years ago, they told me it wasn’t really human yet. I was so afraid then...I did kill one of His own...”
The man reached out gently and brushed one of the tears from her cheeks.
“I do not fully understand these,” he stated softly while studying the teardrop on his finger. “But I have seen bottles of these that your Father has collected. Many of them yours while asking Him for a second chance. None was unnoticed. The charges against you have been erased.”
The young woman wept as the events of the evening began to weigh fully on her.
“I don’t deserve that.”
“Nor does anyone else. Do not try to earn, only accept.”
With those words, the man rose to his full height and looked down upon the young woman with great compassion.
“It is time for me to take my leave for now. But do not be afraid. I will always be near. From the place where Michael is taking that liar, he will not be returning.”
“But he told me that he was my child. He spoke about all the terrible things I had done.”
“That was not your child.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I spoke to your daughter right before I came to you.”
Before she could ask any further questions, he reached down and placed his hand gently on her head and she immediately fell into the most peaceful sleep she had ever known.
The next morning she awoke back in her bed with sunlight streaming through the window. She sat up with a start as she suddenly recalled the events of the previous evening. However, as she looked around her room, she noticed that all was in order. There was no gaping hole in the bedroom door. She leaped out of bed and flung open the door to find that the hallway and walls were in perfect condition without the least trace of dust. In the foyer, the empty candy bowl was not on the floor but still on the front table. She lifted her head and breathed deeply, feeling as if a great weight had been lifted.
“Thank you,” she breathed into the morning air. “And please, tell my daughter that I look forward to meeting her.”
You always post great stories! It’s such a joy to read them!ReplyDelete