3 – Passage

PASSAGE

Gabe felt the upward movement once Maciek took hold of him. The sensation wasn’t walking or floating, it was simply movement. Looking down on the detention center where he had so recently been in relentless pain, the thought ‘what will become of my friends?’ passed through his mind.

“Many of them will endure and join you,” spoke Maciek.

Surprised, Gabe jerked his head to intently peer at Maciek, ‘Did he just answer my thought?’

[In eternity], there are no secrets. Your thoughts are as though spoken.
“Yes,” replied Maciek. “Here, there are no secrets. Your thoughts are as though spoken. Although, we prefer to communicate by spoken language, for in it is much power.”

“You hear everything I think?” asked Gabe incredulously. “Without me saying it?”

“Yes, and yes.”

‘Does all of heaven hear my thoughts?’ wondered Gabe anxiously to himself.

“Well it isn’t quite like that,” replied Maciek.

“Ahh!” exclaimed Gabe again in surprise, “I forgot you listen to my thoughts!” Regaining his composure, “why don’t I hear yours?”

“What you focus on is what you hear. What you ignore you won’t,” explained Maciek. “You will get used to it soon enough,” he added matter-of-factly.

“But that doesn’t make sense! If that were true how does God keep track of what is going on everywhere?”

“God’s unlimited in all capacities. God’s intently focused on every human, spiritual being, and all of creation. And as such, is able to tune into every thought and spoken word in existence simultaneously. Even with all of our abilities we can only tune into five or six-”

“So he just heard my last thought?” Gabe interrupted sheepishly.

Maciek roared with laughter, “Yes, God heard that thought too. And the words you just softly spoke. But don’t worry, God delights in all that you do!”

Gabe turned from Maciek to focus on not thinking a thought. It was hard to think about not thinking. While trying not to think, Gabe gazed downward and to his amazement could see the North American continent. Yet, if he focused, he could see individual people on the earth.

Sensing his confusion Maciek explained, “things here are much different. Here, senses are heightened thousands of times.”

Watching people on the continent, Gabe was aware of a growing shudder within him. With each passing moment it grew more intense. He initially thought was a natural feeling in eternity, but suddenly it began increasing rapidly. It was as though his whole spirit wanted to shake.

Suddenly they stopped moving.

The quiver inside Gabe moved to his frame. Maciek removed his arm from Gabe’s shoulder to his sword hilt. Looking for courage or an explanation, Gabe noticed Maciek too was quivering ever so slightly.

“Maciek, what’s going on?”

Maciek did not speak, but looked to the left. Gabe followed his gaze not knowing what to look for, seeing only darkness.

Gabe held his breath. Trembling, his darting eyes scouted around.

Only darkness.

Then he heard it … no them.

Far away, an awful noise was advancing quickly on their position.

Growling, snarling, and shrieking, a horde of creatures was heading straight for them!

Panic engulfed Gabe. Maciek drew his sword.

Gabe stepped in tight, slightly behind him.

“What is it?!” cried Gabe.

“Hell’s furry,” shot Maciek tense.

“What are we going to do?!” cowered Gabe taking another step behind Maciek, placing Maciek between him and the noise.

“Wait,” replied Maciek confidently, “and battle if need be.”

Glancing around, Gabe could see no cover, no help.

…out of the darkness shadowy shapes began to take form. A retched stench exploded in Gabe’s nostrils …
From out of the darkness shadowy shapes began to take form. A retched stench exploded in Gabe’s nostrils as they drew closer, his stomach lurched. In only a moment they would arrive.

‘What then?’ thought Gabe fear stricken. ‘Can they kill me here? Capture me and torture me? How is this possible?’ His mind raced with possibilities.

Now firmly pressed against Maciek, Gabe poked his head around to watch the scene unfold. With eyes glued on the horde, he watched as an enormous shadow arose, eclipsing the horde. The vile beast let out a heinous, rage-filled roar of delight.

With the corner of his eye, Gabe glanced at Maciek. Towering at nearly four meters and holding a two meter flaming sword made Maciek a formidable opponent. Certainly, if he were fighting humans on earth they wouldn’t stand a chance. He would be able to take down a battalion of elite soldiers with ease.

Things were different here. The encroaching horde was filled with equally strong, yet vile creatures. However the heinous beast had no equal in this fight. Three times larger than any other creature, this beast’s claws were the size of Gabe’s torso.

His beady, yellow eyes fixated on Gabe, sending fear screaming down Gabe’s spine.

Gabe knew that Maciek, even in all his strength, could not withstand this beast. Seeing no escape, Gabe closed his eyes, clenched Maciek, and waited for the end.

<<< Chapter 2 – SHIFT <<<  |  >>> Chapter 4 – PASSAGE >>>

2 – SHIFT

SHIFT

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 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.

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.

<<< Chapter 1 – ARRIVAL <<<  |  >>> Chapter 3 – PASSAGE >>>

1 – ARRIVAL

ARRIVAL

Cries of pain echoed down the hallway. The noise was deafening in this place of continual screaming and pleading; a forsaken place where you are left to die or be executed. Scratch marks plastered the concrete walls proclaiming encouragement and rage mixed with odd figures.

In this place of continual screaming and pleading, the pain never stops, the torture never ends.
“Welcome to hell!” The welcome haunted Luke as he lay, body racked with pain, on a thin mattress.

A single, twenty centimeter square recessed in the ceiling provided the only light. A small corner hole functioned as the toilet, while a smooth, thick, steel door imposed the impossibility of escape. The heat was unbearable. Luke wished he could crawl out of his skin to cool off. Even the concrete was warm to the touch. Escape was all Luke yearned for.

“There is no escape from here,” the voice replayed in his head. “Only torment and death if you don’t choose to help us.”

Despair had long ago settled in Luke’s heart. ‘The pain never stops. The torture never ends. I long to die, but they never allow-’

“AHHHH! Dear God, HELP!” Another scream rang through the cell piercing his thoughts, followed by deafening silence.

“Poor soul,” spoke Luke out loud to no one in particular.

Three months stuck here, he was forced to listen to men and women, one after the other, being tortured. A high value prisoner, he was housed next to the room where souls were brought to be tormented. Day after day, hour after hour, in a relentless cycle, new people and new voices cried out for mercy. The only respite was after a soul either confessed or passed on. As disturbed as it was, Luke looked forward to these moments of silence for rest.

In the momentary silence, Luke’s mind wandered.

‘I miss my family…’ Luke’s mind replayed a seemingly distant memory.

 

Surrounded by friends, Luke stood in front of twenty people in his close friend Gary’s living room. On the couch sat his wife and thirteen year old daughter paying close attention. Luke, speaking to the cell he was leading, was giving instructions.

“Things are looking bad, but do not be discouraged, we know in the end we will win. Though they may try their best, the coalition cannot stop our cause. We will overcome them! They may capture and kill us, but for every one they kill another two will rise up in their place! Do not fear death, imprisonment, or torture, for you will receive your reward if you stay faithfu-”

The window shattered, glass flying inward cutting his sentence short. A canister landed on the floor. Joe, sitting closest, pounced on it. The full electroshock tore through his body, killing him instantly.

“Police, run!” Luke screamed.

The cell moved in coordinated unison. This attack was fully unanticipated. Even so, they had planned for such an event. Jumping from the couch, Luke’s wife grabbed his daughter. Turning to flee with other cell members they darted to the basement escape.

Seconds later, three electric grenades simultaneously broke through different windows.

Knowing there wasn’t time to escape the blast, Luke lunged for the basement door. His wife looked on in anguish toward Luke with a final gaze. The moment Luke’s full body weight slammed the basement door closed the grenades ignited.

10,000 volts burned through his body immobilizing him. He slumped against the door.

“Remain faithful!” came his wife’s muffled cry…
Twitching uncontrollably on the floor, he saw a final canister spew gas throughout the room as his wife’s muffled cry from below sounded, “Remain faithful!”

Commanding voices and boots crossing the porch were the final sounds he heard as the gas took effect. Luke slipped into unconsciousness.

 

Luke’s head pounded as ammonium carbonate wafted under his nose repulsing him. He jerked straight up to get away from the smell.

“Awake! Good!” came an unknown voice.

A hood blinded Luke. He tried to move but found his hands and feet shackled. A buzzer went off overhead causing Luke to jump.

“Where am I?” questioned Luke.

From behind him voices laughed under their breath.

Luke strained against his restraints, to no avail.

“Can you remove this hood?” he asked to no reply.

Giving up trying to escape, Luke stopped pulling at the restraints, instead straining to listen, the only sense he could use. He could hear only the rhythmic breathing from two, maybe three people in the room.

“Hello? What is going on? Who are you?”

Again, only silence.

After what felt like an eternity, the screech of a door opening to his right pierced the eerie stillness.

“He’s awake. Good,” spoke an unfamiliar voice as feet shuffled about the room.

“Hello?” questioned Luke, turning his head in the direction of the voice.

Feet approached Luke. The sound of a chair easily sliding across the floor was all he could distinguish. A body sat heavily in the chair. Luke didn’t wait for the person to speak, “Who are you?”

“You don’t have to worry about that…we won’t meet again.”
“You don’t have to worry about that,” snarled a man’s deep voice. “We won’t meet again.”

Luke’s heart quickened in worry with ominous dread at the tone the words.

“You are a known terrorist of the state,” continued the voice. “In fact, our intel suggests you are one of six leaders of the cell. Is this correct?”

Luke choose to remain silent. ‘Do not turn against your cell!’ he mentally encouraged himself.

“No answer. I assumed that would be your response,” spoke the man. “You have one of two choices right now Luke. Yes, I know your name. You have eluded capture for a long time. Justice has finally caught you.”

“You don’t know true justice,” replied Luke sharply.

“Your warped sense of justice, no. But the state’s-”

“The state,” spat Luke, “is full of lies! Your government is as dark as this-”

“Enough!” demanded the voice. An unseen punch above the left eye jarred Luke’s head to the right.

“Your blind rhetoric is useless here. Now then, I’ll give you two options, cooperate with us willingly or unwillingly. Either way, you will give us what we want to know. Which will you choose?”

Luke sat silently reflecting while regaining his senses from the blow.

“There’s one more option,” Luke coolly answered.

The voice waited for an answer. Luke enjoyed toying with him.

“So?” came an impatience voice. “Indulge me.”

Hearing the impatience, it was only a matter of time before another blow would land. Saving himself the blow, Luke jested, “it is plain to see.”

“Really? What is so easily beheld?”

“Escape!”

Loud laughter roared forth from the man and around the room. “That’s humorously ironic coming from a hooded man! You are severely misled Luke! There is no escape from here, only torment and death if you don’t choose to help us.”

Luke sensed the man spoke the truth. He sat unresponsive.

“I take by your silence you choose the unwilling route,” spoke the man with malice. “Well then, welcome!”

“Welcome to where?” asked Luke trying to glean as much information as possible.

The body arose from the chair across from Luke. He could hear footsteps walking in a small arch toward him. Luke tensed, ready to absorb another blow as the feet drew near.

“Where?”

Luke jumped at the voice directly next to his ear. The voice paused, then in a very low snarl answered, “Welcome to hell!”

 

“PLEASE STOP!!” another victim cried in anguish…
“PLEASE STOP!!” the anguished cry of another victim thrust Luke back into the present.

Still staring at the ceiling, Luke mentally relived the scene. Now, an unknown amount of time later, Luke was believing the truth of that statement.

Muffled voices of the tormentors could be heard through the wall as a man continued to cry for mercy.

‘Another one falling prey to their insatiable appetite,’ Luke thought.

Abdon interrupted, “Luke, take courage it will be alright.”

‘Yeah right’ he thought, focused on his pain and others’ torment. ‘How will it be alright? There is no escape from this hell. I will never get to see my family again. The agony is constant!’

“Your family is taken care of. It is just your body aching,” encouraged Abdon.

‘Just my body?! I can’t stand! My legs are crushed from toe to knee.’

The tormentors had cut, gouged, and broken them during the last session two weeks ago. Bandages kept him alive but purposely didn’t bring relief.

Grasping his legs, Luke tried to think of the last time he had been without pain.

“AHHHH! I WILL NOT!” another scream pierced the walls.

‘He is in the last steps of torment,’ Luke reflected. ‘Must have been an unimportant person with the quickness in which they finished him.’

“There is no unimportant person in the cause,” admonished Abdon.

‘Right, I forgot,’ thought Luke pessimistically.

“Take your eyes off yourself and pray for him!” commanded Abdon.

Luke lay with a war waging within him. When he had first arrived he prayed for every person being tortured, hoping it would help them. After four weeks of listening to the same routine day and night, his faith had wavered from his convictions. Despair was winning the war of faith. On the other hand he had always believed that every prayer is heard and answered. This truth, deeply seated in him since his youth, seemed far removed.

Abdon continued urging him, “Pray, in this case it will make a difference!”

Luke contemplated that argument. He hadn’t prayed for over a week and didn’t care to. It seemed like only a concrete wall was listening anyway.

“He needs you,” pleaded Abdon.

‘I’m sure he does.’

“Just a quick prayer, that’s all.”

“Fine,” spoke Luke to no one in particular, “as long as you leave me alone.”

Thinking for a minute, Luke finally prayed, “God, may he endure until death.” Content with his prayer, he closed his eyes and lay still waiting for silence so he could sleep.

Abdon smiled not at all discouraged by the short prayer, it was all that was needed.

‘If only you could see the difference that made,’ he thought.

Abdon couldn’t help but remark within, ‘Well, the prayer wasn’t much, but it was a start.’

>>> Chapter 2 – SHIFT >>>