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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Dust and Sand – Chapter 26 – By Sean P. Wallace

Penelope couldn’t take any more of this. She was at her breaking point. Her faith in the Lord had been strong, there had surely been none stronger for her to have lasted so long, but He had not come to help her. He had left her here to rot and shiver. If there truly was a rescuer coming down the corridor… She didn’t know how she would react.

From the ascent of the corridor, three people appeared. Two were worn and poor, a woman and a man. They led a healthy brute wearing clean clothes and defeat. These were the first people she’d seen in days who weren’t looking to torture her and the sight felt almost cleansing. She examined them closely and, as the skeletons dragged their captive closer, she saw that the healthy man had a hefty iron collar on, one with deep and vile-looking characters etched into it.

“There he is,” the demons whispered.

“The Wanted Man.”

“Your Father sent him.”

“And we have taken him.”

Penelope shook her head. She gripped the grate tighter. “It can’t be.”

She scrutinised him for any evidence that the demons were lying. All she saw was a fighter covered in scars.

Then the demons said “Look!”

“His neck!”

“Look at his neck!”

Penelope strained her eyes and caught a glimpse of the man’s neck as he was dragged part her cell; there, as promised, a tattoo of himself writhed, struggling against some unseen restraints, roaring silently in frustration that he could not be freed. Only one person had a moving tattoo of themselves. It had to be the Wanted Man.

She took a step back. The grate slammed shut, drowning her in darkness. The shaking began again, this time more viciously than before. The demons had been right; somehow, her father had convinced a living legend to rescue her and yet he too had been captured. What hope did she have now? What could possibly save her if the Wanted Man was not strong enough? God? But God had not intervened. Or maybe He had and He hadn’t been strong enough to overcome the will of That Which Sins. What if That Which Sins was more powerful? What if She were the one true God?

Penelope sang I Love To Tell the Story to calm herself but the shaking continued. Then she tried Fully Persuaded. Nothing. Then It Is Well Within My Soul. But her self-control would not return; the words tasted like ash.

The convulsions spread to her feet. She lost balance, tumbled to the floor like the Tower of Babel and crashed with just as much force. There she shook, shivered and convulsed and could do nothing about it; no prayer, no act of will, would give her control of her body.

Terror rose in her. What if this wasn’t a mere nervous condition but a permanent disability? What if she would be this horrid, twitching mess for the rest of her life? And what damage could she be doing to herself and her mind in this state? Though she could think clearly for the time being, she didn’t know how long that would continue for.

She had no choice. Praying to Him was not working. With limited control over her tongue, she stuttered “That Which Sins. Help me. Please.”

A deep bass tone responded and then the shivering stopped. The room warmed, almost like it had never been cold, and the grate slammed open once more. Light poured in but it didn’t burn this time; it was warming, inviting, like a summer’s day.

Penelope lay in the warmth and felt… joy. It was a direct joy she had never experienced before, acceptance and love and celebration. There could be only one explanation; That Which Sins had responded to her. That Which Sins had saved her from her treacherous body.

Still, it felt… weird to have broken the covenants of her Lord. A stabbing guilt settled on her like a thick blanket; she had been raised better than that. Her father and her mother had raised her Christian, as had the priests hired to educate her, and she had forsaken them and the countless hours she’d spent, knees bent, praying to Him.

But her mother was dead, killed by a drunken fall. The Lord had not helped her then. She herself had been captured by a cult of another god but He had stayed his hand. And her father had somehow moved Heaven and Earth to get the Wanted Man to search for and save his only daughter but, still, the Lord had not involved Himself and had allowed her rescuer to be captured.

Could an all-powerful and loving god allow that to happen to one of his subjects? And would a supposedly vile and horrible demon show any mercy?

Sean is an editor, writer, and podcast host at Geek Pride, as well as a novelist. His self-published works can be found at all good eBook stores.

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