Looking at Luke’s broken body Abdon couldn’t help but be moved. Here was a broken man still faithful to the cause not having given up hope. Although Luke could no longer see it, Abdon could see the faith and hope which remained.
Abdon turned his gaze from Luke to the adjacent room. The scene unfolding there would make most men shudder.
The tormentors, Ray and Eric, stood hunched over a man bound to a table. Ray and Eric seemed to delight in the work they were performing as they plunged instruments into him. Knowing the man wouldn’t divulge useful information at this point, their goal was for him to recant his belief in the cause, even if possible in his dying breath.
What Luke, Ray, nor Eric could not see was the answered prayer. The bound and bleeding man began to shine more brightly as Luke’s prayer reached heaven. Abdon’s old friend Maciek watched over the man while encouraging him to remain steadfast.
“Is Gabe going to make it Maciek?” inquired Abdon.
“Yes, the Protector will carry him through this,” replied Maciek. “It has been a long road we have traveled together these twenty-seven years. He has been steady since he overcame the loss of his family. He has done well and lived worthily. I’m looking forward to escorting him home.”
Maciek and Abdon waited as the tormentors finished their work.
With all that he had left within him, in his last earthly breath, Gabe cried out, “HOME!”
Instantly Maciek reached down to grab Gabe by the hand. Gabe rose from within his body. Sitting upright, then standing to his feet, Gabe looked with awe at his surroundings.
‘This is a favorite moment of mine,’ mused Abdon, ‘that first glimpse of eternity.’
“Welcome to eternity,” spoke Maciek softly as Gabe was becoming aware and looking around.
Gabe’s face was full of joy, peace, and a smile larger than any human could fathom. Around him, Ray and Eric began to clean the room and prepare his body for incineration, unaware of the eternal realm.
“I made it!’ Gabe shouted, unaccustomed to his new eternal voice.
Having seen this drama play out thousands of time, Abdon couldn’t help but chuckle at what he knew was coming next.
With a quizzical look Gabe turned to Maciek, ‘Who are you?”
“Maciek,” he answered matter of factly. “You didn’t know me by name before now, but I have been walking with you, encouraging you, watching over you, and helping you for the past twenty-seven years.”
Nodding in the direction of Abdon, “now that you have joined us in eternity, I am here to take you on your last journey home.”
With wide eyes Gabe spoke, “You’re my angel!?”
“Yep,” answered Maciek.
“The voice directing me all these years?”
“Not always, but some times. The Protector does most of the directing.”
“Thank you!” cried Gabe.
“Don’t thank me, I’m just a servant like you. Speaking of which, would you like to start your final journey home?”
Beholding his body being placed on a cart, Gabe faced Maciek and proclaimed, “Yes! Absolutely! Let’s go.”
Maciek turned to Abdon, “see you soon.” Abdon nodded in silent reply. Maciek wrapped his massive arm around Gabe’s shoulders. Together, side-by-side, they whisked upward through the material world.
The cries of agony stopped upon Gabe’s departure. In the silence Abdon stood watchfully over Luke as he tried to sleep before the next prisoner would arrive. Abdon watched the all too familiar scene in the adjacent room. Two demons emerged from within the men like gentlemen sitting down for tea.
“We failed again, the master is not going to be happy!”
“Don’t worry,” replied the other, “with the war in the heavens he doesn’t have time to punish us.”
“I fear he may find the time!”
“He won’t. In this time it’s every being for himself.”
“If you say so, but that brings our record to a new low! We’re at the bottom of the performance scale!”
“How bad off are we?”
“We are running a .342 rate!”
“Oh, that’s bad.”
“Compared to the Big Pine Center they average .671!”
“Well, the problem is with our slugs. These two kill too quickly.”
“They do seem to die often,” mulled the second, lost in a distant thought. After a moment he spoke up, “No. The problem is the faithful ones here are battle tested.”
“What do you mean?”
“At Big Pine, they get all the new ones. We are stuck with the ones who have already been sustained through much suffering.”
The other demon motioned for the first to continue his argument.
“Take that last abominable faithful one. We almost had him when his family was killed. His anger and bitterness almost caused him to forgo the cause. It seemed we had him. But cursed faithful friends stuck with him through that. As he regained his foothold a resolve was placed in his spirit.”
“I could feel that resolve!” interrupted the other. “No matter what we had our slugs do, that remained!”
“Exactly my point,” continued the first. “Those years of suffering produced in him what he needed to remain steadfast.”
“I see,” sighed the other in dejection.
“Big Pine has those who’ve not had hardships to harden them against our attacks. They are easy, and fall away quickly. You and me,” he pointed back and forth between them, “we are in tougher territory.”
“Yeah, that’s it!” chimed the other. “Speaking of which you remember that red head? Wasn’t she…”
Abdon tuned out as the demons droned on in boasting of past successes and what a great job they were doing in the circumstances. As the Ray and Eric were finishing cleaning up the room, the demons turned to enter back into them.
“How is your hold on your slug going?” asked the first.
“Good, although a faithful one today spoke a truth that resonated with him. Even now I can see him mulling it over. Could cause me to lose some grip.”
“Well remind him of the plague that swept the globe, killing his daughter. Remind him the terrorists did it.” Pausing to come up with a better lie, he continued, “And if the enemy was kind, loving, and real he would have protected his daughter. Let his bitterness choke the truth. Who knows, maybe it will even increase your hold!”
“Great idea!” shot the other demon. Just before disappearing he asked, “say, what’s the score for my slug achieving the recant?”
“187 to 183, my lead,” gloated the first demon.
With that the demons disappeared out of sight into Ray and Eric as they rolled Gabe’s body out into the hall.