Volume 1, Number 4 -- November, 1996

What Price Salvation?

Jon F. Merz

In the darkness I can hear Them roar.
In the shadows They dance beside me, taunting and mocking.
In my mind, I am Their savior.

The rain falls gently on Charles Street this night, making puddles deepen by curbside shorelines, dampening the feet of so many passers-by. The rain runs long across my windshield, drawing my attention downward, ever downward, until at last it disappears somewhere in the engine block.

It's cool out tonight. Mild for February. My leather jacket provides only a superficial warmth. My core requires a deeper heat.

Water greets my feet as I step out of the car and walk down the street. In this part of Boston, the streetlights are electric versions of the old gaslamps that used to light the way at night. It's a cheap imitation lost only on the Yuppies that inhabit this part of the city.

The cobblestones make footing difficult, compounded by the slowly melting snow from last week's storm. It annoys me. But I compensate.

Someone passes me by in the darkness between lights. I cannot make out appearances, nor do I care to. To me, they are just another one of the victims. Nameless, faceless, without form, rhyme or reason.

But they compel me nonetheless.

And in that compulsion, I turn and follow the fleeting image that dances before my eyes, that briskly walking figure, hurrying home on this most inhospitable night to a dinner of warmth and a television full of cheap and giddy cheer, even, perhaps...

To someone special.

I sigh, but not too loud. I wouldn't want him thinking I was following. That wouldn't do at all. I need to follow - do you understand? I need to follow.

In the darkness, I can hear Them.
In the shadows, I feel Their intentions.

I am the only one who can.

They laugh, you know. Laugh and giggle as They make their way along the street, down side alleyways and small indentations in the brick and stone and concrete. Hidden, but apparent nonetheless, if only to me.

The figure before me grows smaller, but he's not walking faster, it is merely me slowing down, allowing Them to feel to greater sense of security. In this way They grow bolder and come sooner.

But I move still, closer to the goal of my quest. My quest alone. Myself alone. There are no others now.

They have all gone on ahead of me. And I am left behind to continue the work. The work that they started. All of them.

Am I upset? I suppose I am. Certainly it would be nice to be with them, away from this existence. Certainly, it would.

But for me, it is simply not an option. At least not yet. Not until I have finished my work and then perhaps I will receive the sign. The sign of departure. Only then, may I be permitted to go.

Do you believe in divine intervention?

Trust me, it happens all the time.

I am one of those who intervenes in your life. Although you may never even know it. I exist for that purpose. And you may never know until it is too late, if you are one of the chosen ones.

The rain is falling faster now. The figure down the street is almost three hundred feet away. My feet are not making noise, the benefits of rubber-soled shoes. Man-made inventions have, in some small manner, made my work...less complicated.

We pass by the Boston Public Gardens, darkened with impenetrable shadows.

There is where They wait.

Shouting within.

Screaming profanity at me.

They sense me on the fringes of Their subconscious. Tickling the remnants of instincts once honed to a razor's edge, long since dulled by the inexorable onslaught of what we call civilization.

But I am present; a lone obstacle to their climactic resolve.

The figure down the sidewalk is suddenly alone no longer. He does not see Them as I do. He is not aware of Their presence as I am. He is not in tune with the scheme of totality, the laws of the cosmos, or even the flow of life, as I am.

There is little time.

He senses me only at the last second and then I am upon Them as They move to attack. He screams once at my sudden appearance but then howls in agony as Their blades reach him first, cutting skin away from precious organs.

He falls away and hits the hard ground, panting as I move to take Them both on. One of Them lunges for me and I catch the thrust full on, sinking back to absorb the force as He stumbles to catch up with His sudden lack of balance. Too late, He realizes my intention as I suddenly redirect His energy back into His body, causing Him to stiffen once, then break apart.

The second comes at me with more caution, but His flow is compromised by His hesitancy. I make a sudden movement and He reacts, giving me the unbalance I need to move into Him, absorbing His energy, overwhelming Him with my own and splitting Him in two. He falls hard to the ground, cracking several times before lying still.

The man They attacked, the confused victim, is trying to get off the sidewalk. He's bleeding badly but his eyes still gleam with the essence of life. He'll be all right.

He watches me, wondering what to do. I offer him a swatch of gauze from my pocket. Lately, it seems, I have not been fast enough.

"Thank you," he says finally.

I smile once and then walk away. Already, the shouting resumes in my head. The anger swells within me, but it is not mine.

I am a vast receptacle of emotion.

In the darkness, the Evil roars.
In the shadows, They wait.
And I alone, am the only defense for you...

But lately, I am less sure. Lately, I am less skilled. Lately, I am beginning to wonder when I will receive the sign to come home.

And now, more than ever before, I wonder...

What price salvation?

Copyrights held by: John Merz

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