The salty taste of blood coated his mouth. He was certain he had opened his eyes, but the inky blackness of wherever he was gave him no idea where that might be. The last time he remembered anything but blackness was the silhouette of the city against the stars while on the roof top of the Garret Tower. It wasn’t the sprawling neon light of the city that never slept as it once was. Dylan imagined it was more as it had been back in the early 1800’s. Soft candle light burning through the evening mist. A city full of fireflies lingering over the peace of an expansive river. The image was so appallingly far from the reality that Dylan closed his eyes to it. That’s when whoever else was on the roof hit him from behind. The knot on the back of his head throbbed as a reminder. He would have sworn he had been thrown from the top of the tower. An unshakable sense of falling through time and space still plagued him. It was possible the shroud of nothingness that surrounded him may have added to it.
Dylan attempted to sit up, but the agony that erupted throughout the entirety of his being pinned him flat. Plummeting to the ground was clearly not a dream but a reality. The next question that had to be answered was how he had survived, and then should he really be grateful for that? It was certain that someone had wanted him dead, but he had no idea who would want him alive if it had not been his brother or someone sent by him. He couldn’t imagine a situation where anyone that knew who he was would leave him to wake up in this kind of pain. It wasn’t long before fear crept in around the excruciating physical torment Dylan had inflicted upon himself by moving. It occurred to him that he may never be able to move again. That he had broken too much of himself to be repaired with the limited medical resources available in the post modern world.
Just as despair threatened to engulf him a flickering speck of light traced a path toward him. It was impossible to be certain of what he saw at first. Dylan even thought he might have imagined the light in a fevered dream. The muted orange glow floated closer, which effectively dismissed the dream idea as a possibility. He dared not move in any way to get a better look. His initial experience with motion had dissuaded him from any further ventures down that path. His patience was rewarded a moment later when a lantern materialized out of the darkness at his side. Dylan was surprised by the assault on his senses. He was forced to squeeze his eyes shut tight against the onslaught, as though it were a spotlight. A few seconds passed and he could feel his eyes adjusting even as the glow passed through his closed lids.
A hand was placed on his brow. It felt cool. The skin was rough but the touch wasn’t. The light was less powerful so Dylan opened his eyes in the hope he would recognize his rescuer. A hooded figure stood above him, backlit and, therefore, impossible to see in any detail. It was definitely a man from the size and feel of the hand on his forehead, but he couldn’t distinguish any other physical characteristics. The man smelled of earth, soil to be more specific. Dylan assumed he must have worked regularly in a garden of some sort. Any who wished to survive had one at this point. Still, it was too familiar a smell to be random. Recognition in some deep recess of his subconscious had been triggered. Dylan needed the man to move, or speak, something that would give him another clue to the stranger’s identity. He was too incapacitated by his own injuries to move, or even speak. Defending himself would have been impossible. Had the stranger wanted him dead he would have been, though. That brought the train of thought back around to who this stranger was and why he had decided to help.
The man removed his hand and turned away. Dylan could hear him rustling through what sounded like a toolbox. Fear gripped him as he imagined a myriad of possible tortures that could be eminent. The depravity of the new world had conditioned him to think in such a way. There was so little good left in humanity that evil seemed ever present. When the man turned to face him again it was no implement of pain he held, but a book. He took up residence on a stool next to where Dylan lay immobile, opened the tome, and began to read aloud.
“The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.”
Dylan’s eyes widened. The voice was as familiar to him as his own. Though, he reasoned, he must be mistaken. It was not possible for that voice to have been there in that moment. That voice had died. It had ignited revolution in its martyrdom. There was no way it could be true. Yet, there was no mistaking who had spoken. Even the verse was familiar. For the first time since he had committed his life to the revolution, Dylan felt a surge of true hope. If this were real, if it were truly the man he believed it had to be, then anything was possible.
Every part of him tensed yearning to hear the man’s voice clearly. Scripture continued to pour forth, as a balm to his very being. The delivery was so melodic it was almost hypnotizing. Dylan fought to remain present and not get lost to the lull. Each word resonated within him, like striking a tuning fork. He had always believed but this was like discovering truth for the first time. Tears leaked uncontrollably from the corners of his eyes, leaving a salty trail that stung the abrasions he didn’t realize he had.
“Well, it looks like the holy spirit showed up,” the voice rumbled in a whisper.
The man placed his hand again on Dylan’s forehead. Dylan heard him whispering intently, but couldn’t make out the words. He couldn’t even be certain they were in English. He gasped as he heard the man say, “Amen.” Peace radiated through the core of Dylan’s very soul. It would have been easy to assume it was simply a figure of speech, but the reality was that the moment the word was spoken, his pain had vanished along with his fear. A presence had come upon him and there was hope it had affected him as powerfully in a physical way as it had emotionally. He fought the sobs that were building in his chest. The pain would undoubtedly push him back into the blackness and he was determined to hang on to this current joy. There was so little of it these days that he didn’t want to waste a moment.
“Why don’t you sit up and take some broth?” The voice was accompanied by a hand slipping behind Dylan’s neck. Before he could protest, he was lifted to a sitting position. The pain Dylan was certain would simply obliterate him never came. He raised his hands to the rough stone cup that was pressed to his lips and and felt the warmth of the broth leaching through. The salty liquid raced over his tongue as he sipped greedily, replenishing his drained energy stores. The closer Dylan got to the empty bottom of the cup, the more cluttered his mind became with questions. The whole situation seemed so much less than possible. The first thing he had to know was the identity of his rescuer. Dylan wanted to believe what he suspected to be true, but disappointment was so common in this life that he had to know for sure.
“Who are you?” he asked with a thick tongue.
“You know who I am,” the man replied gently.
“No. I don’t know. I know who I want you to be, but that is impossible. So who are you?”
A soft laugh was the initial response Dylan received. Then the confirmation and reassurance he sought desperately washed over him in a familiar admonishment.
“How often have I told you Dilly Bob?! Nothing is impossible. When you are grounded in faith, you have but to ask.”
Check out all the chapters of The Mountain by Duane Deats