Devin’s throat was raw from the scream that tore through it when the gun was fired. The scene burned into his mind’s eye. It was as though time froze. From his vantage point, crouched by the fire, Devin could see every detail with a clarity that filled him with both terror and resignation. Isaac stood with his arms wide spread, as the third assailant squeezed the trigger of his AR-15. There was no possible way for him to stop Isaac’s death. He had never felt such helplessness in his entire life. All he could do was watch as his cousin was thrown backwards onto the frozen earth. His body crashed down in silent finality, an unmoving heap in the middle of the clearing.
The gunman looked down upon his victim in apparent detachment before turning his face toward Devin who remained rooted to the ground, completely immobilized by fear. Leaves crunched beneath the man’s feet as he paced closer, stepping over Isaac’s lifeless form. Each footfall felt like a hammer blow to Devin’s chest. The man’s presence seemed to pulse outward in blasts of energy that increased in direct proportion to his proximity. He had never wanted the ability to disappear more than he did right now however, with no place to hide, Devin could only await what he knew his fate to be. Unable to take his eyes away from Isaac, Devin sensed more than saw the intruder raise his gun to point the barrel at his chest. He tensed for the shot that would end his life, just like it had his cousin’s.
“So much for chosen.” A voice like a lit cigarette burned Devin’s ears. The word choice grabbed his attention and he looked up at the assassin.
“What do you mean chosen? Chosen by who? For what?” Devin was surprised he had been able to put voice to his thoughts. He was no coward, but he had never watched anyone executed right in front of him before either. It would appear he had become more desensitized to the violence of this new world than he had thought.
“Chosen by God to make straight your ways.” A voice ashed from behind a monster’s mask. The words would have staggered Devin had he not already been on his knees. His cousin acting as God’s emissary seemed a little far fetched. Recent events would be much easier to explain if it were true though. Seeing Isaac’s impact on the two other men in the clearing certainly left a void in reason. Something supernatural definitely was at work.
“If he is chosen by God then that would make you….” Devin’s voice trailed off as truth rolled through his mind. At that exact moment the most powerful surge of energy yet crashed over him. He could tell that the stranger was pleased by this recognition of his dark origin.
“Now you begin to see what’s really happening. This is my master’s world. You and everyone in this place belong to him.” There was reverence in the tone, or possibly fear.
“I don’t belong to anyone but me,” Devin retorted before he could stop himself, but the figure simply laughed a horrifying howl that sent chills down Devin’s spine.
“Then you have already given yourself over to him. Your independence is your undoing. Instead of the strength you believe it to be, it is your greatest weakness. Pride is my master’s favorite weapon against the weak-minded.”
Devin felt like he had been punched in the gut. Recognition of his own failing flooded his mind. Regret began to bubble like tar, ensnaring his thoughts in guilt. He looked up at the creature before him, as he now knew it was the furthest thing possible from human, and was surprised to see that it had lowered its gun. Triumph emanated from its mind. Devin knew now that the energy he felt before was really the demon’s consciousness overpowering him. It was drawing strength from his weakness, pain, and fear, but there was nothing he could do to stop those feelings in that moment.
“I thought you were going to kill me.” Devin stuttered the words, terrified he was asking for his own death.
“Then who would tell everyone their prophet is dead?” the demon’s voice burned even hotter in Devin’s mind.
Suddenly, a great rushing wind exploded in the clearing. It was unlike anything Devin had ever experienced before. All his breath was sucked from his lungs. He lay on the on the ground, gasping for air as the unreal scene unfolded. Trees were snapped liked matchsticks and thrown around like so much kindling. A blinding swirl of dead leaves and pine needles whipped through the air. Then it ceased as quickly as it commenced.
The fire had been instantly extinguished, yet a light almost too bright to look at was blazing from the center of the clearing. Devin had to shield his eyes with his arm, not just from the light, but from the heat. He imagined being exposed to a blast furnace felt similar. His antagonist was not faring any better than he was. The demon howled in pain as soon as the light and heat broke over them. Devin desperately searched for the source of the scorching heat but was blinded by the intensity of the light.
Then a voice reverberated through the clearing with such power it made the demon’s pulse of energy feel like a whisper in a hurricane. Devin flattened himself to the ground with his arms covering his head. Still, every cell in his body responded to the voice, drawn to it like it was being called home.
“Don’t be so fast to claim victory, demon! I am no prophet. Where you see a servant, the Master dwells. I died once, for all time. Death has no authority over me! Now be gone! Return to the pit from whence you came.” The voice grew steadily in power, which seemed impossible, even considering what Devin had already witnessed.
As soon as the voice was done speaking light exploded through Devin’s squeezed shut eyelids and he heard a wail filled with pain unlike anything he could have ever imagined. The smell of sulfur overwhelmed him to the point he had to roll over and wretch. Terror filled thoughts ran rampant through his stunned mind. Devin considered himself to be as level headed as they come. Demons and all powerful voices definitely didn’t fall into his realm of expertise. He wiped the sick form his lips and, with great trepidation, looked around to see where the voice had come from, unsure whether or not he actually wanted to know.
Before he could discern who had saved him, Devin came face to face with the smoldering pile of ash that had been his oppressor. There was no longer any doubt where the sulfurous stench had come from that made him ill. Just as Devin made the effort to get to his knees, a hand came in offering assistance. Without thinking, Devin took it and was pulled to his feet. To his utter amazement, Isaac stood before him. The trademark smirk he had inherited from his father tugging at the corner of his lips. Devin couldn’t conceal the shock on his face. The sheer impossibility of what was happening was more than he could comprehend.
“What? Aren’t you happy to see me?!” Isaac quipped sarcastically.
“But you’re dead. I watched you die.” Devin spoke with justifiable incredulity. He wanted to believe that anyone in his position would have reacted in a similar way.
“Death can no longer hold me.” Isaac spoke with an authority that was almost as unfathomable as his resurrection from the dead.
“What does that mean?! How is that possible? And how did you know what to say to those men? Where did that come from?” He could hear the demand in his questions but felt entirely unapologetic. Considering what he had just been through he felt he deserved answers.
Isaac clearly didn’t feel the same as he turned away from Devin and walked toward the other two men who were still in the clearing, lying on the ground. He knelt next to the first man, Alfred, gently shook him awake and helped him to his feet.
“I know you don’t understand what has happened here, but you need to go to your daughter. Just know that you have been set free, and so has your daughter, Ellie. Now go, and tell no one of what you have seen here.” Isaac spoke with the same authority as Devin had heard in the voice speaking to the demon. Alfred stumbled from the clearing, going back the way they had come.
Isaac moved on to the second man who had already gotten to his feet. Leeroy watched warily as Isaac approached him.
“You have nothing to fear from me, Leeroy. In fact, I have great plans to prosper you and your family. Go to your mother and tell her that her faith has restored you to her. Faith like hers is rare. I will call on you when I need you.” As he spoke these last words, Isaac placed his hand on Leeroy’s chest and a glow emanated from beneath his palm. Leeroy gasped as though he were emerging from a prolonged stint under water. He grabbed Isaac’s shoulders to keep from falling to his knees.
“I am yours!” Leeroy breathed the words as he continued to try to catch his breath.
“Thank you. Now go and tell no one of what you have seen here.” Isaac removed his hand from Leeroy’s chest and the man ran after his companion.
Isaac turned back to Devin who had watched everything that passed between his cousin and the two men with wonder and amazement.
Devin fell to his knees. He could see his cousin standing before him, but he was so much more than the man who he had climbed the mountain with that morning. The man had been transfigured.
“Can you see me now?” Isaac spread his arms, “Do you recognize me?”
“Yes, Lord! I can see you!”
Check out all the chapters of The Mountain by Duane Deats