“Yes, Zeke. I am here.”
“How can this be? The spirits?”
“Not exactly, and the time has come for you to learn the truth. For the spirits you have been serving were actually demons masquerading as Indian spirits. It was by their power that you were able to change forms and enable others to do the same. Does not the results of such serve as sufficient proof in and of itself that evil was at work?”
“What about the Zuni spirit I saw take Dancing Fire into the flames and disappear?”
“Taking him into the flames was sure telling.”
“What are saying? That it was a demon dragging him off to Hell?”
“It is not for me to say where he was taken, but there are only two places to spend all of eternity after leaving this world. The good go to Heaven, and the bad go to Hell.”
“Dancing Fire was most certainly a good man!”
“Perhaps not good enough?”
“No, I am not going to believe the crap spewed forth by your father!”
“You would do well to not believe much of what he preached, but not all of it was false. Search your heart. You have it within you to know what is true and false.”
“I truly believe that what Blue Wolf and Dancing Fire were teaching me was true. If it was false, how can I be sure of anything?”
“You saw what you wanted to see. That is not the same as seeing what is true. Apostle Marcus James will be coming by in three days to start teaching you how to make amends for all of the damage you have wrought. You made a good start with Warden Wright, but you still have a long road to travel before you make it to the Promised Land. I want you to spend all of eternity with me and your father. However, the choices are yours to make. Choose wisely, my son.”
“Is dad there with you?”
“Yes, and he is waiting for you to join us. Your remaining time in this world will not be nearly as long as it naturally seems, and you have much to make up for before you can spend all of eternity with me and your father. There is no time to waste.”
Zeke awoke the next morning with the conversation he had with his mother still clearly on his mind. He believed that it was merely a dream, but it sure was real to him. Every bit as real as seeing what he had thought were Zuni spirits, and every bit as real as being able to take the form of a mockingbird and still talk as a man in different languages at the same time. Did he just imagine seeing those broken bones knit back together and Warden Wright being brought back from the dead with just the touch of his hands?
Zeke felt dizzy with it all swirling around in his head, and he fell back on familiar practices by building a great bonfire in the hope of it lighting the way he should go. Zeke was still staring into the flames when Apostle Marcus James stopped by three days later.
“Nice fire. Are seeing anything you want to see?”
“Apostle Marcus James?”
“Yes. I assume that you are Ezekiel Erickson. How do you know my name?”
“My mother told me that you would be coming by.”
“Hmm, I would like to ask her how she knew. Is she around?”
“She was murdered several years ago. She appeared to me in a dream three nights ago.”
“Wow, the Lord most definitely works in mysterious ways.”
“Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Do you not know Him already, Ezekiel? You are named after one of the major prophets who came before Him.”
“I have heard some things, but I have never placed much confidence in them.”
“Well, that certainly changes things. Is there someplace we can go to sit and talk inside?”
“Yes, please follow me. By the way, I prefer to go by Zeke.”
“Okay, Zeke. Lead the way.”
Apostle Marcus followed Zeke inside his house and to the living room. After going to get them both glasses of iced tea, Zeke sat across from Apostle Marcus half-dreading what would be probably coming next.
“What do you already know about Jesus, Zeke?”
“It has been many years and it came from my grandfather, who was pure evil.”
“He may have been rather stern, but I am sure he had your best interest at heart.”
“No, he had no one’s interest at heart but his own. He was a Holiness preacher claiming to be called to cleanse this region of wickedness. He led a small army in murdering hundreds of innocent people, including my mother and father. He died while trying to kill me.”
“What was his name?”
“Reverend Jeremiah MacLister.”
“HE WAS YOUR GRANDFATHER?”
“Yes. I still have nightmares of him and probably will for the rest of my life.”
“The peace of God goes far beyond all understanding.”
“If He is the One who called my grandfather, I do not want anything to do with Him.”
“He wasn’t, but I cannot teach you what you do not want to learn. Shall we proceed?”
“Out of respect for my mother, I suppose.”
“You, me and all that exists were created by God for His good pleasure.”
“He enjoys seeing us suffering so?”
“Oh no, our suffering is the result of sin entering into this world through Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God created this world to be perfect, and He has been at work cleaning up our mess since. He even sent His only begotten Son, Jesus, to pay the price for our sins so all who would but believe in Him could go to Heaven. More than that, all who will have enough faith can do the things He did and more, such as live an abundant life, heal the sick and even raise people from the dead.”
“I can already heal the sick and raise people from the dead. Well, at least I could. I haven’t done too good with the abundant life part, though.”
“You have healed the sick and raised the dead?”
“Just one dead person, but I have mended the broken bones of two different people with just a touch of my hands.”
“Anything else of a spiritual nature?”
“I have been told on separate occasions that I have spoken in different languages at the same time, but as far as I knew, I was just speaking as I normally do. Oh yeah, I could change form and become different animals and birds, but I do not think I can do that any longer. I would not want to even if I could because I became evil for a lot longer than I want to remember.”
Apostle Marcus had a look of pure terror on his face as he rushed out of the door without saying another word to Zeke. Zeke chuckled to himself with the thought that it had not taken him long to run off the good apostle, but the next thought made him sad. For it was about disappointing his mother.
With not much else to do, Zeke spent the next several days just puttering around the house trying to familiarize himself with his new surroundings. Nonetheless, thoughts of how happy his mother would have been with a house like this made him quite sad.
It did not help Zeke feel all that much better to be outside. For the entire place seemed haunted by memories of stolen happy days.
Zeke found his father’s old still smashed to bits. He sarcastically hoped it brought the local ATF agents a lot of satisfaction to finally accomplish after his father’s death what they had failed to do while he was still alive.
Zeke was walking back to the house from where his father’s still had been when he saw three sedans slowly driving up to the house. He recognized Apostle Marcus when he left the lead vehicle, and Zeke assumed that he had brought reinforcements. Zeke grinned broadly when he noticed as he approached the group that each had a large Bible in their hands held out in front of them.
“Welcome back, Apostle Marcus! Did you bring some friends?”
Apostle Marcus looked stunned at Zeke’s warm greeting. For he expected the demon possessing Zeke to react quite violently to seeing anointed warriors armed with the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. They had prayed and fasted for a solid week and were ready for battle.
“In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to come out of Ezekiel, you vile spirits!”
It was now Zeke’s turn to look stunned. For Apostle Marcus’ group had formed a circle around him and were babbling in what sounded like gibberish. Then the thought occurred to Zeke that they were speaking in what the Pentecostals call tongues, and he had to fight hard to stifle a snicker.
Zeke just stood silently in the middle of their circle while Apostle Marcus repeated his command several times. When Zeke tired of their exorcism ceremony, he offered a suggestion.
“This would be a whole lot more entertaining if you-all would dance as you chanted like my Indian friends. I could make drumming sounds if you think it would help with rhythm?”
“Mock us all you want, demon. We are not afraid of you. For the power of God upon us is stronger. Our faith in the Almighty will sustain us. You have been bound by His might and can no longer do anything to hurt anyone. Now, go back to the pit of Hell from which you came!”
“Um, if I remember right, don’t you need to know the name of the demon before you can bind him, my dear Apostle Marcus?”
“You are not as clever as you think, Legion. For I recognized who you were the first time I came out to meet Ezekiel, and if you knew the new angelic language, you would know that we have been calling you by name in our prayers. Since you do not, I will tell you plainly to come out of Ezekiel, Legion, and be thou cast back down into Hell!”
Zeke was too lost in his thoughts to respond to Apostle Marcus right away. For he seemed to be having quite an argument with himself over changing into a grizzly bear again to put an end to the nonsense. Zeke was adamantly opposed to the thought because of the vow he had made to himself to never change forms again, but he had grown quite weary of Apostle Marcus and his group of holy warriors.
“I do not know who this Legion is. My full name is Ezekiel Edward Erickson, and you-all have worn out your welcome. Remain on my property at your own peril.”
Instead of changing into a grizzly bear, Zeke became a very large African lion and cut loose with a deafening roar. Apostle Marcus and his group dove into their vehicles and sped away before Zeke’s roar subsided.
“It is really not a laughing matter, but that was funny, anyway.”
“If you say so.”
“You are going to have to lighten up a bit to endure to the end.”
Zeke had closed his eyes to keep out the dust stirred up by the spinning wheels of the vehicles driven by Apostles Marcus’ group, and when he opened them, Zeke saw that had not been continuing his discussion with himself. For standing around ten feet in front of him was a lamb with fleece as white as snow.
“It has never been you. It has always been Me.”
“What do you mean?”
“Being literally bulletproof, changing forms, talking in different languages, mending broken bones and bringing Warden Wright back from the dead were not your powers to wield, Zeke. It has always been Me displaying My power through you.”
“Who are you?”
“All in due time, My son.”
“No, he cannot do anything, and it was not your mother appearing to you in a dream the other night. It was a delusion that was necessary to accomplish what I want to in and through you.”
“No, I am not playing this game anymore.”
“The choice is yours to make, but you have been placed on a path that many would have given everything they had to tread. It will be an arduous journey, but well worth enduring until the end. You have it in you to make it all of the way. I made sure of it. Do you see the Bible laying on the ground over there?”
“Go pick it up and read it from cover to cover. For the information it holds is all connected and will serve you well along the way. I have enabled you to understand what My Scriptures are really saying and to have what is often called a photographic memory. Therefore, it will not be difficult for you to remember what is where as you reason with those who would much rather believe what they want to instead of what I have actually said is absolutely true. You will not be alone, and if you go to the AQ Chicken House in Springdale, you just might find more than an excellent meal. I hear their chicken-fried lamb chops are to die for.”
“As I have already said, you are going to have to lighten up a bit to endure to the end.”
The lamb vanished from his sight, and Zeke wondered if he was being suckered again. “After all,” Zeke thought to himself, “Surely Mary’s little lamb would have no more difficulty fooling him than a Blue Wolf, Dancing Fire or Ghost Owl.” Yeah, Zeke was taking the advice to lighten up a bit to heart.
It was with great trepidation that Zeke went over and picked up the Bible dropped by someone in Apostle Marcus’ group. For Zeke was plumb serious about not wanting anything to do with anything his grandfather had been involved in, but he felt compelled to at least read the contents of that King James 1611 Authorized Version.
From the very beginning, it was much more than just a strong compulsion. For Zeke felt fully immersed in a narrative that went far beyond what mere words could express, and he did not want to come up for air until he reached Revelation 22:21, which occurred three days later.
Zeke laughed out loud when he came to references of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and he cried when he came to the Lamb of God and what He had done for all of mankind. Not that Zeke understood everything—far from it, actually, but he wanted to with every fiber of his being.
Zeke did not need to fully understand the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to have full and complete faith in it, but he felt like it would not count until he went public and was baptized for the remission of his sins. That would have to wait, though.
Needless to say, when Zeke finished reading the entire Bible, he was beyond famished and went into the kitchen to fix him something to eat and drink. Several glasses of milk sure hit the spot, but the thought of the AQ Chicken House weighed heavily on his mind.
Zeke made a note of the churches he passed as he was driving to Springdale. Most were Southern Baptist, which he did not know all that much about.
Zeke figured that arriving at the restaurant during the middle of the evening would probably mean a long wait to just secure a parking spot, but there was one in the front row right in front of the lower entrance. Zeke was paying absolutely no attention to whether or not anyone was sitting in the cars already parked when he heard an echo from his distant past coming from nearby.