This story is by Buddy Love and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
You could smell the annihilation as hatred’s ashes littered the sky. It was an aroma that singes your sense of smell for eternity.
As I came upon the charred remnants of my childhood church, I felt the numbness wash over me. I ambled with anger around the cauterized foundation where the choir once stood, looking for any sign of hope. That’s when I noticed her bible; it rested unscathed beneath the flames of a fiery bush.
I saw Brother Harbinger ridden with a scorched pain from across the scene of terror. The sight of him snapped me out of an indisposed shock. I hurried his way with fire and brimstone filling my heart. His eyes met mine with a cavernous stare that cut through the core of my being, scarring my tortured soul. Before he could say a word, I fell to my knees in anguish. The suffered tears pouring from my heart could’ve drowned the devil. I could feel him dancing around the devastation with sinful jubilation, from ash to ash, just to vanish into the death-ridden dust.
Earlier that day, Jonah and I had gone to the florist to get a dozen Larkspurs’ for her gravesite. Genevieve had succumbed to cancer four years ago, on the first day of Fall. Her passing and the longevity of her suffering sucked the life out of me.
After her death, Fall had turned into a downtrodden season for Jonah and me. She was the love of my life and the paramount of a perfect mother. I had fallen into the depths of a downward spiral that was adjacent to an inward destruction poisoned in alcoholism. I could not find comfort in God because I admonished him for the misery that manhandled my serenity.
Jonah was only five when she passed. He seemed okay most days since she left. The truth was that he was more lost than I, without the love that poured from her heart. He hadn’t missed a day of Church since her passing. He went because he said he could feel her love and that was something he never wanted to stop feeling. He often pled with me to come with him. I never went because I was to drunk and distraught with God to go anywhere near a Church.
I took every avenue in the self-inflicted handbook of suicide. I wanted to kill myself with passivity. I came up with all kinds of underhanded ways to make it look like an accident but in the end I could never follow through with my selfish tendency. I had no right to pin my failure of being a father onto him because I couldn’t pull myself out of an alcoholic depression.
Last Fall, I had an inward inflicted health scare that sent me into the hospital for weeks. The repetitive fashion in which I hit rock bottom had caught up to me. It was during this time spent on my deathbed that I started to comprehend the harshness of my self-centered antics. I was lying in bed, dreaming of her while gazing through the window, when his voice startled me.
“She would be very disappointed in you,” Jonah said.
“Without a doubt,” I reasoned with surprise.
“What is the plan moving forward?” he asked.
“We start over from scratch. I am blessed to be alive and I must forgive God, before I can forgive myself,” I sighed.
“I forgive you,” he said.
“I’d like to take you up on that Church offer, if it still stands?” I beseeched.
That’s when she walked through the door. The divinity that engulfed us in this nurse’s presence was akin to perpetual bliss. She was an angel in every sense of the word.
Gaea had lost her husband two years ago to a terrible accident. She had fallen just like me. We fell into each other’s lives with impeccable timing. She provided us with the tender, loving care, we needed. We gave her something to nurture back into being. There was something about her that instilled a newfound sanctity in me. My forsaken failure in fatherhood fell past the wayside of fear in her purified presence. She was our beacon of hope.
The year that followed was filled with joy and harmony. The three of us went to Church every Sunday. God had grabbed my heart and soul, once again I felt whole. Our relationship started to thrive within the sanctuary of her warmth. There were no romantic feelings between us, but I did love her. Love is something that does not need romance to grow. All it needs is patience. I was content just getting to know every mile of her soul.
The first day of Fall had been brutal on us in previous years. I awoke to the abrasive sound of our smoke alarm going off. I stumbled with disconcert downstairs.
“What’s going on down here?” I asked startled.
“I’m making her favorite breakfast, fig crepes,” Jonah bragged.
“Your mother never tried to burn the house down,” I supposed.
We ate breakfast and got ready for Church. We decorated the fall morning with vibrant hues of her memory. The turning leaves of Fall painted the surrounding scenery with an inspired comfort. For once, I was honored to celebrate her life. As I was getting ready, I cried with joy for the first time since Jonah was born. We picked up the Larkspurs’ and drove to Gaea’s house; from there we would walk to Church. I looked forward to Sunday’s because it meant I got to spend time in her god given company.
As we pulled into her driveway, a special bulletin came across the radio. It was horrific news. There had been a recent string of race triggered church burnings in the Deep South. I turned the car off with immediate urgency.
“Even though hatred is spreading like wildfire over this country, we must continue to spread goodness amongst all of humanity.” I told him.
“To defeat evil with a swiftness,” replied Jonah. His adolescent wisdom never left me surprised.
Gaea was waiting on her front porch. She meandered our way and we walked to Church. The message from the service wrapped around us and touched our hearts at their softest spots. It was about finding forgiveness when the soul is left scarred. It was as striking as she was.
After the service was over, we started towards the cemetery just over the hill from Church. I realized that I left her flowers in the car at Gaea’s. I told them to go speak with Brother Harbinger and that I would be right back.
As I grabbed the flowers from the car I saw the towering blaze, a sinking feeling fell through me. I ran as fast as I could. Ashes were falling all around me while screams of sorrow filled my ear, that’s when I went numb. I didn’t see them anywhere. When I saw Genevieve’s Bible, I collapsed. I crawled over to Brother Harbinger but he just stared right through me.
“Please tell me they are alive,” I pleaded.
He didn’t answer my question instead he started to cry.
The anger that boiled within me sent me into a ruthless rage. The goodness was hemorrhaging out of me as vengeance was filling my soul. I picked up her Bible and placed it on my heart. I rose to my knees and started speaking to God.
“Why are you allowing evil to reign over good?’
“From what height did the pureness of love have to fall?”
“Will you give me the strength to carry love back to the height at which it is pure?”
Next, I started to pray with only love in my heart. No anger or resentment, just love.
“I know you will take me higher than I’ve ever been before while your love washes upon my shore. We must shed the blood of evil before we shed the blood of our own, in light of tomorrow’s wicked flood. I will bleed for you while we shed what is true, so love can stage its final coup. I am the light within you.
Within moments, thunder boomed and torrential rain showered the inferno of hatred into a nonexistent crackle. I stood from my fallen stance; the menacing darkness was filled with a light from above.
I turned around to pick up the flowers, when I heard the voice of an angel. It was the sweetest sound my ears had ever heard. “Abraham,” the distance voice cried with elation. My prayers were answered in the presence of eternal bliss, while being tackled to the ground with love and happiness.
“Where did you go?” I asked.
“He wanted to see Genevieve,” Gaea said.
“She saved us again,” said Jonah.
“Yes she did,” I said.
The time had come for hatred to meet it’s reckoning, Together we would change the world, with His word as our only weapon. I promise you, love will never fall.