He walked nearly blind as dense smoke rolled across the city, trees and buildings set fire in the latest attack. The sun's meager light cast dim shadows around him like demons haunting the living world. Choked with every breath, Jason stumbled along and prayed for a landmark in the haze. Any sign that he was close to safety and needed rest.
With the two weeks of travel from the mountains to reach Oklahoma, his time was rather relaxing. He had always enjoyed the quiet of the country, and being alone seemed to suit him well, but in the city his troubles multiplied. Before he could reach the safe-house, an old bookstore on the north edge of Tulsa, the bombing began. Whether an assault against certain groups, or more of the Devil's mayhem to bring down destruction, Jason did not want to know.
Having word of his brother in law had sent him to find and hopefully save the youth, but getting him back to safety unseen was always the hard part. He knew he would find help at the way-station shop, if he was able to get there without being killed. The attack now was more hindrance than harm, though it took place in a well-populated area, the only damages seemed to be empty buildings. That and keeping people scared for their lives.
Every sound was magnified by fear, the sirens in the distance, or the occasional car as it drove by, was all he found of life in the surroundings of his vision. Only minutes before, crowds of people passed in the streets, until the bombs began to fall and chaos broke loose. Now, the near silence was frightening, as any vehicle could be Police out to round up innocent people.
Slowly, a breeze stirred the air as the wind picked up and blew the smoke away behind him. Jason knelt at the back of boarded-up building, as he strained to hear if anyone followed, he said a short prayer for thanks in getting him this far.
Used to such long days of running, he was still thankful for the brief rest he gained, wherever he found it. A dog barked off to his right and he jumped at imagined threats. Again he ran on in hope of safety. His steps quickened as the air cleared for a few moments, nearly at a run as he crossed a small park he remembered from years before, then down the alleyway on the North side.
Somewhere in the alleys ahead was the safe-house, if he reached the building by nightfall. Jason had made his way as secret as possible from the Christian colony above Denver. He came across very few people and spoke to no one but those he had met in the past, others like himself who tried to understand God's will in their life, though now mainly on the run or in hiding.
Precious years had slipped passed in a world gone mad, where laws were set up not for man's safety, but to gain power for the wealthy and condemn the weak. The few people who remained that sought peace -- cast out and hunted as animals, all for wanting a Godly life. But still they fought on to that final day.
Until the disappearance of all he knew as Christians, even his own wife, Jason had doubted the words of the ministers, not realizing the truth of the Lord's salvation. After the loss of friends and loved one, living day-to-day in a shadowed existence, he found his strength in God and those who followed Him. He relied on his faith to see him through and counting each trial as a blessing.
Personal nightmares haunted his sleep with visions of the end time, seen all too real in his waking hours. Dreams of a battle that raged on the Earth where man struggled not to win, but to destroy one another. Yet in the last glorious moments, his one true hope -- the mighty return of the Lord and the coming of His great army, angels and martyred saints of long ago.
People from all walks of life, standing witness to the awesome power of the Lord in His final triumph over evil. Those blessed to live out the trial, overcoming the grief of the world's hatred, would shine in the new light of God's glory, living on in eternal peace with the Lord of all creation. This was his only dream, both the nightmare of death, and the hope of unending joy in the arms of a loving King.
Years had passed since Jason truly felt safe, every face he saw possibly a hunter that sought to cast him in chains, for nothing more than what he held in his heart. His faith grew with each passing trial, even as his hope in staying alive until that final day began to grow thin. How long he could stay ahead of the hunters, to brush death and still remain safe? Jason knew it was only a matter of time, and he prayed his Lord would return first.
Evening drew on before he found the place he sought, the old used-book store had been closed for years and boarded up with a look of being abandoned, the secret known to but a few new Christians that worked in the area to help others reach sanctuary. As a guide for such groups, Jason knew the cost of keeping the place hidden and waited to be sure no one was around as he made his way down the alley.
As he neared the back of the old shop, he prayed he might find rest at last, if just for a night. A weathered stain in the wood panels of the door was a mark many would overlook, but those who wanted freedom from the world's chaos saw the cross for the truth it was. A sign of peace.
A quick glance around the area and Jason lightly tapped a set numbered pattern on the door. One part of a code known only to the faithful, the other was the greeting itself. He waited in the shadow for some time before the response came. Just as he began to fear the worst, the small panel opened in the door and a grumbled voice called out.
"Looking for something?"
"The Mount of Carmel," Jason replied softly, speaking of the passage of Elijah and the calling down fire from heaven. The panel closed and he heard the security bar being removed from the other side of the door. As it opened, and the elderly man's face lit up with a smile, Jason knew he was safe.
* * *
"Praise God," the old man said as he looked around the alley before closing the door. "With the bombing this morning I was worried."
"I was out in it," Jason followed the man down a hall then a flight of stairs leading to a basement. "Mostly older building, but a few shops. I didn't stay to see how many may have been hurt."
"We can only pray for the lost," the elder replied. The cellar was rebuilt to look as home like as they could make it, little more than a few chairs, an old sofa, and a dining table, where an old woman sat reading. As she looked up, Jason received a welcome shock.
"Well I'll be," the old secretary from the church he and his wife attended, Melany Granger, rose to her feet and smiled. "Jason Patterson. I always knew you were too nice to be a real Christian."
"Ms Granger?" He said with surprise, "But I would have thought. . ."
"Yes, dear boy, so did I, in my old pride," the woman took him by the arm and led him to a chair. "Pride, my boy, the down fall of many a good heart. Imagine my shock. Pastor Reynolds never came back that day, and then the news broadcast."
"But, you were a Christian."
"It was old Harry here who showed me the true light of things," Melany went on as the old man placed cups on the table, and the smell of fresh coffee filled Jason's mind. "I became bitter after it happened. Hated the fact I had worked so hard doing as I thought best. Even got angry at the Lord for leading me wrong all those years. But this old-man talked sense. Made me realize I had been the one to lead myself all that time, and not for God's glory but my own. It seems I was more interested in the workings of the Church than working for the Church."
"Tweren't me what showed ya," the old man laughed, "I'm just an old drunk. Didn't learn the truth 'til later."
"I was with Mr Reynolds when he was taken up," Jason spoke over his cup as he turned it in his hands, savoring its warmth like a memory. "Nearly wrecked the car he was driving at the time, then found Sarah gone as well."
In the moment of silence that followed, his mind wandered back a few days before the disappearances. Sarah had planned a reunion, a simple cook-out near the lake. They had laughed during breakfast about how badly his family got along. In the end she had her way and everyone agreed to come for the outing. With all his misgivings, Jason was still glad to hear of them getting together in once place again.
In a detached way, he heard Harry speak as he stirred soup in a pan on the stove against the wall. The smell of seasoned stew was truly a welcome aroma. As most of Jason's latest meals were mainly rabbit over an open fire, the idea of fresh cooked vegetables was a blessing.
"Didn't even go to church," the older man was saying as he brought a stack of bowls out of a cupboard. "When it happened I just thought I was seeing things, as drunk as I was at the time. Some woman was handing me a track telling me about the Lord's second coming, and then poof. Imagined I dreamt it all, 'til I saw that flier she handed me."
"So, Jason," Melany began as she placed bread on the table. "What brings out our way? Travel is not safe right now, as you may know."
"Yes, and I wouldn't be here if not helping others out." As they sat down to the meal, Jason told his story of the trials he had passed through. How he helped to set up a colony, and then how word came to him of his wife's brother.
"Not many in the area I don't know of," Harry said. "What's his name, maybe I can help you?"
"Mason, goes by Jim, or used to."
"Oh Jason, I've heard of him," the old secretary shook her head sadly. "He's a bad one. You'll have a time getting him to go, and not safe once he's there."
"He is lackey in a local Coven here," Harry explained. "Runs a group of vigilantes. Most of the burnings here are from his group."
Jason felt at a loss. He had felt responsible for the young man as soon as he heard Sarah' brother still lived. As his heart sank, words of his beloved wife came back to him.
"Sometimes we have to do things we might not like," Sarah had told him long ago. "It's important because it's right, and if we don't, others may suffer."
He saw the sad look of pain on the elder's face as he tried to reach out for his help, and knew he had little choice. He could not leave the young man. Bringing the lost to the hope of peace was his job now -- even at the cost of his own life.
"God help me, I still have to try."
* * *
The fire roared as blistering heat reached the tree lined drive of the home 300 feet away. As he slid out of a borrowed van, parked in the shadows down the street, Jason felt an evil straight from the pit.
He had followed James for some time, waiting for a moment he might get him alone, all in hopes of keeping him safe. Getting word of his brother-in-law still alive, Jason had traveled for days to reach the city. With Harry's help, and use of his old van, he had been able to find the young-man, but the boy before him was no longer his wifeís little brother. Now it was not his life Jason feared for, but the man's soul. Tears mixed with the stinging smoke of the burning home as Jason realized the youth was beyond his help.
Watching in despair as blurred shadows ran out of the flaming house, to be caught and beaten by armed men on the front lawn. The blaze lending a gruesome light to the scene as the man he sought reached for a small child, held firm in a woman's arms.
Overwhelmed with shame for being unable to help protect the family and stop the vigilantes trying to destroy their lives. Knowing the man and the reason behind his actions only made matters worse. James had become one of the Hunters-- those seeking the last remnants of the Christian faith. Jasonís beloved wifeís brother had been possessed of a monstrous evil. The hate of peace in a world of chaos.
The man's fist struck full-force to the mother's face. Knocked to the ground as she struggled to keep her babe safe, only to have it torn from her hands and lifted by an ankle, to be held up to the flames like a sacrifice. Jason viewed the true horror of the man as he screamed at the crying child, a mockery of its fight to be free.
He nearly failed completely as a knife rose above the small girl of perhaps eight years of age. Too young to be taken out of the world, even one with such pain. Anger grew within Jason, knowing he alone could do little against so many, and he knelt next to a tree to voiced a silent prayer for guidance, the means to stand up to the hate of the devil's servant.
A calmness came over him in a moment as resolve poured into his heart and mind, flowing to every shaking limb in his body. Words of strength filled his soul as the will of his God was made known to him. In a flash of determined motion, Jason moved from the shadows in a power that would see him walk through the wall of fire.
Note for Pt1, Pt2, and Pt3:
Scriptural referance from Psalms 12, Matthew 20:16, 25:31-46, Luke13:27, Ecclesiastes 1:2, 3:1-12. NKJ version..