by Brian Alan Carlson

He walked, walked for the longest time. He did not know why and it really hadn't crossed his mind. His mind refused to focus and the world seemed gray. There was a kind of cloud over his mind that muffled out his thoughts as the ground absorbed the falls of his feet.

The leaves rustled and swirled around his feet. The few leaves that remained released their death grip and surrendered themselves into the void. Although he did not hear them, he felt their thoughts. Not the thoughts of humans but the thoughts of infinite knowledge. It knew that it was time to go and it let go knowing it was finished.

He thought to himself, will I know when the time comes that it is time to go, time to let go and surrender myself. He whispered his prayers to God to allow him that, that last prayer, that last dignity.

A hill.

The puzzled look in his eyes gave away his apparent calm. He didn't know where he was, but yet he kept walking. Much like most things in his life he really did not know why he just followed where he felt God wanted him to go, so he walked on. As he ascended the gentle slope he felt a cool breeze flow over the mound and bend around like fate to grab him in it's blessed embrace. It penetrated him, cleansing him, pushing his thoughts to the back of his mind until those thoughts relented to the winds.

The crest of the hill beckoned him, like someone calling his name, barely noticeable through the rising wind storm to reach his ears. He swept his gaze from his footfalls up onto the horizon to where the sun had begun to set. He kept his gaze upon the flattened sun until his eyes could take it no longer, and he looked away. There was something here. Coincidence was not a word he used easily. He believed there was meaning to the littlest things. Every occurrence affected his life from the passing glance at a pretty face to the falling of a rain drop. Even when he realized that this was something to take notice of, he thought of nothing other that the wind blowing against him . . . he laughed to himself. Such was his life. Oh, irony. You are like the North Star, to the stranded sailor. Each instance, was the keeper of my sanity, or my insanity.

Things like this happened to him a lot, no . . . More than a lot, these things were as common as each breath he intakes.

The winds rose up like an opponent, testing him for weaknesses, looking for the slightest opening. He would not give it that satisfaction. He hefted his chest and breathed in displaying himself to that monster. The corners of his lips turned up in the exhilaration of the moment. He bared his very soul and he did not fear. The rain beat down threatening his vision, but he did not dare close his eyes. His feet sunk as the grass gave way to mud. Thunder cried out and he cried back.

He screamed at the top of his lungs, beckoning the creature closer, and it did. Lightning crashed around him so close he could feel its impact before the thunder screamed through the sky. The lights seared the sky as well as his vision, and although he felt the tears of pain streak down his face blending with the rain but not for a second did he doubt the outcome of this encounter. He laughed out loud at the beast and it howled back for the crest of the hill. He buried his feet deep within the mud forcing his way to the top. Nothing would stop him, this was his destiny.

His fingers dug into the eroded soil searching for the purchase that would bring him to the final confrontation and he found it. His body was covered in mud. It was as much a part of him as his own skin. It was like holy armor. To think such a dirty thing could be blessed by God. Some would think it an abomination.

The mud flowed now. It was merely another obstacle, another stumbling block. He gave it no heed. He grabbed at anything just to get to the top. Nothing would stop him. He was so close.

He could feel the streaks of deadly searing light now as if they were flowing through his body. His blood coursed through his veins, feeding his muscles. An energy as real as the warm blood flowed through him as well, feeding his soul, giving him the strength he needed. Good energy, white energy, light energy.

He came over the hill and saw his enemy. He coalesced from within the fog and his eyes glowed from within with a pulsating dominating energy. The antithesis of that same power that coursed through his being.

Something caught his eye and in the same instance a lightning bolt found its target. A fragile body, amongst some of the tallest of trees, but his body was not quite fragile anymore. He arched his back and threw back his head and released a roar heard throughout the hearts and souls of everyone in the universe. The deadly energy lifted up his body causing him to rise above his enemy. The energy enveloped him. Looking for any flaws any weakness, but it found none. The Spirit of God embrace dhim, strengthening him, it was like ecstasy a million fold. It was not the power that he was endowed with, but the presence of a being so caring, so protective. Tears streamed down his face. Not of fear or pain or guilt, but of eternal happiness. His body glowed from that internal power, and the creature fled from it, but it could not escape. It had found itself under the penetrating gaze of the light. The storms found themselves being pounded upon, being forced back into the darkness from where they came. The energy from within him grew and grew until his body could not contain it anymore.

It erupted from his body in every direction, destroying the darkness like the fires of purgatory. It blinded him, but he did not close his eyes lest he miss a single moment. As soon as it had begun, the light was gone and he found himself once again on the ground.

His mind was on fire. He had never felt like this in his life. In that moment he had seen everything. All of his questions had been answered. He had been one with God, he had been with him. God had taken him into his caring hands and showed him what he wanted . . . no needed to know. He rolled on to his stomach and pushed himself to his feet.

He looked to where his enemy had been and saw his blackened and scared body. But even that could not keep the recognition from reaching his mind and he began to tremble with understanding.

The body laying on the ground was himself. The part of himself that embraced the evil. If just merely for a second, but it had embraced it. But as he looked into his own eyes he saw not the glowing eyes of his evil opponent, but merely the frail yearning eyes of a being who struggled to understand what would happen now.

He felt know spite for this part of himself. He felt no animosity, no hatred, not bitterness. He felt nothing but understanding and forgiveness. Even after all of this everything that they had gone through, no matter what that part of him had done he could not forget that it was part of him. He gingerly touched his palm to his other self's forehead and closed his eyes. A message emerged from the depths of his mind, that he felt to his core. So simple of a thought. He heard, "It is time to go." So simple of a thought yet so complex differences in meanings. In that instance his other self new that he could let go. And in the same instance he new that he still had so much he needed to do.

The other one let go of his grasp on the grass around him and in his no open light-filled eyes you could see the understanding. He let go and faded away into, not to an uncertain void, but to a destination he would only understand when he arrived.

Much like his other self, everything around him began to blur, and his memory of these events passed from his memory to wherever those passing thoughts go.

He was back to reality, or at least the only reality that he could understand.

He saw himself in front of the Bank, going through the large merger of steel and glass that where the doors. He also so himself aiming the gun at the clerk, yelling at everyone to get on the floor. The money. The frightened cries of everyone around him.

As he walked out of those gigantic doors his eyes darted back and forth. This all seemed so strange to him. He felt the weight of the gun in his hand and the struggling woman in his other. The gun was pressed to her temple, as like she was nothing. He walked out and his mind was on fire. All of his actions seemed like second thoughts, or reflections from someone else's world, a world he wasn't a part of anymore. He was struggling with a decision that he had already made, but that did not make it any easier. He looked from face to face through the crowd, but he did not see the hatred. He saw only the eyes of people who were sorry that this had happened.

Tears streamed down his face at the weight of his decision. The woman cried as much for him as for herself. He saw the caring gaze of everyone around him. He heard the thoughts of the officers, hoping that this would not end the way they thought it would. All of it overwhelmed him. He could not handle it.

His knees buckled underneath him and he released the woman. His hands could not hold the gun any longer and it slipped from his grasp to fall onto the pavement. He kneeled down, still crying, and prayed with all of his being. He prayed for . . . for . . . for help, any help, he prayed that if anyone cared that they helped him. And his prayers were answered.

The woman was guided to protection by the officers quickly disappeared into the crowd of onlookers. They approached and kicked the gun away. He was saved. Not from prison, he knew he would go to prison, at least for a while. But it did not matter anymore, that was not what he prayed for. Everyone had to pay the price of their actions. They cuffed him, brought him to his feet, and took him to a waiting car. He said thank you. Lightly at first, but his voice rose each time he said it. His mind screamed it out as loud as his own voice. He promised himself that he would not stop saying it until everyone had heard him. Thank you, thank you God . . . . . . .

Story Page back to the Short Story Page.

Inner Battles, 31 October 1997