Read 69 INCHES AND RISING Online

Authors: Rebecca Steinbeck

69 INCHES AND RISING (4 page)

 

 

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

 

T
he darkness surrounded Jonathon’s mother and it scared her and she wept for what she no longer had. She wept for her late husband and the pain he suffered when a car smashed hard into another, and she wept for the man she reached out to in her time of need and who responded by taking her hand and her heart and who then let go of the former and blasted a bullet into the latter. She wept for her son and his lady who she could only hope would never know what she had done and who she could only hope would never know who with. And she wept for the man in black who loved her once but proved to have loved himself even more and who hid behind a bullet in a gun when the going just got way too tough. 

Please, God. E
nd it now
.
Please
.

She wanted to say the words but her tears were many and much too loud and she couldn’t get them out. She pulled her knees tight to her chest and she cried some more. Rivers of blood crossed her mind and the bones of dead men and women washed upon their shores. A bony hand grabbed her tight now and her stomach turned. The wall came down and she screamed the words that came to her and they came hard and fast and gut-wrenchingly loud. Gut-wrenching, blood-curdling, and heart-breaking. “For the love of God, Jonathon . . .
please help me
!!” The bony hand moved from her shoulder to her throat and gripped it tight and the screaming stopped and so did the tears.

The words came to Jonathon too and he turned to Serena and looked at her with hurt in his eyes. “My mother is close by and she needs my help.” He stood up and helped Serena to her feet. They turned to where the pillar of light had brought them, and the angel too who was nowhere to be seen. But something else was, and it was big and bad and bloody. A tear came to Serena’s eye as the demon
sent forth by the Devil and which was blocking their way hissed and spat blood and pus at them. “You shall not pass,” it said, waving its blood-stained sword through the air. Blood and pus ran down its chin and still the angel was nowhere to be seen. Jonathon stepped in front of Serena and the demon laughed. “You think you can protect her, you weak human?” It swung its sword at him and struck his arm, cutting into his flesh and he began to bleed. He looked at the wound and fear filled him and it filled Serena too. The demon swung its sword again and it cut Jonathon’s throat and that bled too. He was hurting and Serena knew it and she began to cry. Plumes of smoke began to rise from the ground and they filled the air with the pungent smell of sulphur and it burned Jonathon’s throat and nose. Thunder roared and the demon swung its sword a third time but this time Jonathon ducked and the sword missed him but it caught Serena’s arm. Her flesh burned like the fires of Hell and she prayed to God for His help.

The angel that had taken Jonathon and Serena to their new home was in Heaven before the band of angels she had already fronted and together they looked down on what was happening. “I don’t know what to do,” the angel said. The other angels looked at each other and shook their heads. In a fit of rage, one of the angels grabbed the first angel by the throat and lifted her in the air. “We are tired of your ineptitude.” It then aimed the angel at the ground and threw her with every ounce of strength God had given it. The angel fell back toward the ground and soon it crashed at Jonathon and Serena’s feet and its wing broke and the angel wept.
My God, why have you forsaken me?
Why indeed.

The demon watched the angel for several moments and it nudged it with the tip of its sword. The angel began to sob and the demon smiled. It looked at Jonathon and Serena and raised its sword in the air. It roared and its putrid smell cut Jonathon deeper than the sword’s blade already had. The fires of Hell rose around them and their home began to burn. The demons in Hell danced with joy and the Devil smiled. Game, set, and match. But good will never die, and neither do good men, and Jonathon Steel, for all his weaknesses and short-comings and self-indulgences, was not just a good man, he was a great one and his chance to prove it had come. God could only hope he believed he was as great as those in Heaven already knew he was.

 

 

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

 

H
ours turned into days and days passed, and soon the sun set behind the hills again and darkness swept the land once more. Jonathon looked around. His home had burned to Hell and it was no longer beautiful. But it was still his home and he had to love it and he did, and the love he had for it gave him strength. He turned to Serena and she was sleeping. Her arm was stained red still from the blood she had lost and her wound was a stain on his heart that he did not like. It gnawed at him and hurt him and he had to fight back but didn’t know how. He looked around for the angel and saw her standing on top of a hill that smouldered from the fire that still burnt here and there but was mostly out. Her back was to him and her broken wing hung low beside her body. He climbed the hill toward her, treading softly on the ground for it was hot from the fire and it would surely burn him if he trod heavily upon it. He reached her and saw that her wing had almost broken away from her body and her back was stained with blood.

“I have failed you, Jonathon,” the angel said. “I have failed your mother and I have failed you.” She looked to the darkness and prayed to
God it would swallow her whole and she could forget this nightmare had ever happened.

“There comes a time,” Jonathon said, “when we must turn a blind eye to what is not and accept what is, for what is, is meant to be.” He might be dead, he thought, but he hadn’t lost the ability to come up with a good quote every now and then.
There comes a time when we must turn a blind eye to what is not and accept what is, for what is, is meant to be
. Put
that
on social media.

The angel bowed her head for she knew he was right, and to not believe it would be to turn a blind eye to what is in the hope that what wasn’t would take its place. In that moment her heart began to beat again with the belief that what was in that moment would take them to wherever they had to be. “The time has come, Jonathon, for me to stop feeling sorry for myself and to teach you all you need to know so you might fulfil your destiny, which is to free your mother from the depths of Hell and to rule this land and to do s0 with Serena by your side.” She looked around at the smouldering earth and it almost broke her heart again but she knew, deep down, and deep down was reached because she had peeled away the layer of despair that had built itself around her, that what had been built once could be built again and it
would be, because Jonathon Steel was not just a good man, he was a great one.

 

 

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

 

J
onathon went and sat on the scorched earth next to Serena who was still sleeping. He thought of where they had come from and what they had given up to be where they were. In life before death he had everything he wanted. It wasn’t until he passed into life
after
death that he would get everything he needed. He rested his hand on Serena’s arm. It was as soft and warm to the touch as the very first time he touched it and a tear came to his eye, for he loved her so and he wanted only what was good for her. The warmth from the fires that no longer burned crawled upon his skin, and he wondered how good he had really been for her if all he had done was brought her to a place that was dead.

“I’m terribly sorry,” he said to her, on one hand hoping she would hear him and on the other hoping she was dreaming of a far away place that was full of love and hope, and devoid of pain and hurt. But neither life nor life after death is ever that easy, and the monsters in the dark were hunting Serena for fun and Serena was running for her life. The full moon in the sky laughed heartily as Serena raised her hand and brushed away a low-hanging branch and she passed the branch and then she ran some more. Her breath became short and her body weak. The monsters were close behind her now and their bony hands reached out. They caught her heart and they laughed and played with it, bouncing it on the ground then shooting it to the hoop for a three-pointer and
BANG
the crowd goes wild as the monsters inch ever so closer to the gold medal.

A tear escaped Serena’s eye as she slept peacefully on the ground and the man in black stepped into the light, reached out to the monsters
that were chasing his beloved daughter, and wrapped his hand around their necks and pulled them to the ground. A gut-wrenching scream pierced Serena’s heart and she looked back to her father who was driving the blade of a rusty knife into the hearts of the monsters. The blood of the Devil, which was laced with the venom of a thousand deadly snakes, poured from the wounds. Her father looked up at her. “Run, Serena. Run with all your might and don’t ever look back.” She ran and prayed to God she would never have to.

Jonathon kissed Serena on the forehead then stood up and brushed the dirt from his jeans and looked around. It was dark, and clouds of smoke swirled through the air, leaving a putrid taste on his tongue. He looked down at Serena and wished her a heavy and happy sleep, that she wouldn’t have to face the darkness he had put into words on a page and then, with the help of a masterful marketing team, sold millions of copies of the book the words became to people who thought they owned him but never did. It was a world that wasn’t real, but it was all he had back then and it was everything God had given him and now He wanted some of it back and the time had come for Jonathon to give it. He turned and looked up at the angel with a broken wing who was resting on top of the hill and he went to her, leaving Serena in the bosom of God, trusting Him to protect her as Jonathon had. He came up behind the angel who was looking down to the other side of the hill. At the bottom of the hill was a flat piece of ground and it was surrounded by a dozen soldiers in uniform and they were armed with swords and shields.

“Are you ready?” the angel asked without turning back to him.

He looked down at the soldiers who didn’t look back. They only stood at attention, ready for the battle that was about to take place and one the angel hoped would turn him into what he needed to be. Was he ready? The answer was always yes and it was this time too. He was strong from all the bad things that had happened to him and it was time to put that strength to good use, so of course the answer was yes. It always was.

The angel felt his soul touch hers. She drew strength from his and she thrived on it. Her broken wing began to heal and the goodness in God surged through her heart. She stood up and spread her wings and they were a glorious sight as they reached across the night sky. She touched her hand to her chest and connected with her heart and soul and they radiated love from one side of the Universe to the other. The energy that is, was, and will be everything from the beginning of time to its end tapped into them and it drove the angel forward and Jonathon followed.

The angel and Jonathon climbed down the hill and joined the soldiers at the bottom of it. They walked between them and stood in the middle of the flat piece of ground. The angel turned to him. “You’ve been brought here, Jonathon, to save your mother from the darkest, most putrid depths of Hell.” Jonathon closed his eyes but not before a tear escaped one of them. The angel continued speaking. “Cry if you must, for now is the time to do it. In front of me and in front of these men who don’t care if you cry, who don’t care if you hurt or not. Shed your tears now because the demons you will surely face in your quest to save your mother will destroy you for all time if you show them any sign of weakness.”

“Tears aren’t a sign of weakness,” Jonathon replied, wiping one away.

The angel laid a hand on his shoulder. “Maybe. Maybe not. But they
are
an opportunity the dark side will take advantage of. You can be sure of that.”

More tears came and Jonathon tried hard to quell their flow, but like a powerful river, they kept coming. And with the tears came all the hurt and pain he had known and felt in life that
didn’t serve him then and wouldn’t serve him now. He fell to his knees and he lifted his head high to the darkness and roared like a lion. He jumped to his feet and ran to the first soldier and dived at him. He crashed into him and they fell to the ground, rolling in the dirt and dust and the ashes of what was Jonathon’s new home. The soldier pushed him off and reached for his sword that had fallen to the ground. Jonathon pinned his arm to the ground and the soldier fought him off. The soldier reached for it again and Jonathon bit into his arm and drew blood from his flesh. It was clumsy but effective. The angel was impressed but it wasn’t enough. She had more work to do and she stepped forward to begin it.

“You have plenty of courage, Jonathon,” the angel said. She reached down, grabbed his arm, and helped him to his feet. “I can see why the other angels gave you to me.”

Jonathon brushed the dirt off his clothes and spat the soldier’s blood from his mouth. “What do you mean, ‘gave me to you’?”

The angel smiled. “You have been chosen, Jonathon. In life, you were chosen to tell stories that would help take humanity from where it was to where it was meant to be. In life after death, you were chosen to help your mother from where
she
was to where
she
was meant to be. And you were chosen to do both because they trusted you to get the job done.”

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