Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Calling

Kate’s mind flooded with about a million questions, but it didn’t seem the right time to ask them. She noticed a couple of the kids from orchestra, one from her algebra class, one from English, and one she knew from Chemistry. Everyone else was a stranger to her. Some of them seemed as nervous as she was. Some of them, like Kevin, seemed comfortable but with the same tension a bow string might have if it were pulled back and about to be released.

She wondered who all had received an invitation like her own, and of those how many were crazy enough to accept such a thing, She might not have accepted herself if not for Kevin. The possibility of spending more time with him, no matter what crazy thing she might have to do, had been enough to draw her.

The sun slipped down under the horizon and people began pulling out flashlights, making an eerie location somehow even more so. The warmth of the sun departed along with its light, and Kate was glad she’d worn a jacket. Temperatures had been running in the 70’s during the day, but without the light of the sun to keep it going they rapidly plunged into the low 50’s. Even with the jacket she found her teeth chattering just a little and hoped that whatever was going to happen would start happening already.

As the last person arrived and took their seat, an older man stepped forward and began to speak.

“My name is Father Christopher Donovan. Thank you for coming this evening. There are several among you who are new to our number, and undoubtedly wondering if your invitation is real. Is there truly a battle going on, I am sure you are wondering, and if so why have you been chosen to fight it? I asked myself the same thing nearly 50 years ago. The answer to both questions is that yes, there is a very real battle being waged. You have been chosen to fight it because you have shown yourselves to be humble, courageous, and capable of thinking for yourselves. Each of you possess a unique talent or gift, one which can help us achieve victory,” he paused for a moment to look around at the group, making eye contact with each of them.

His eyes were pale blue and he was bald. He was an average height but trim. His eyes held hers momentarily and she felt him search her for something. Apparently satisfied, he moved on to the next person. She wondered what it was that he had seen there, what gift or talent of hers that could be important enough to invite her here. She didn’t have long to ponder as he continued speaking.

“Though the war that wages on is very real, I want to make clear to you that our battle is not with our neighbors but for their sake. Our sword is not made of metal but of the unwavering Word of our master. Our shield is the truth. We have on our side a legion unseen who fight for us each day. You might wonder why you have never seen this battle taking place, never noticed it before. This is because your eyes are not trained yet. You do not yet know how to pierce the shroud that veils the reality so that you may see it unaided. This will be part of your training, should you agree to fight with us,” he finished.

The boy from her algebra class shot his hand up in the air. “Yes, Gregory, what do you wish to say?” he asked calmly.

“Father, if we aren’t fighting people then who are we fighting against?” Gregory asked. Kate wondered the same thing. How can you fight a battle that doesn’t involve people? What kind of battle would that even be?

“Gregory, you ask a very good question. The darkness that I spoke of in the invitation, lad, this is the thing we fight against. It is the darkness of evil and of ideas which lead men to evil. It is a battle that has been going on for as long as man has walked the planet, my dear boy, but it is a battle which is nearing its end,” he replied, “Does that answer your question?”

Gregory nodded reluctantly. She could tell he wasn’t comfortable with the answer but was even less comfortable with the idea of asking another question. She reluctantly raised her own hand to ask the question that wormed its way to the front of her mind.

“Your question, Kathryn?” the priest asked.

“How do we fight a battle with words and the truth? That doesn’t seem like a whole lot of equipment to do much of anything with,” Kate said.

The priest’s blue eyes focused on her once again and this time they were like twin jets of blue flame. “The chains I spoke of in your invitation, the things that enslave all men and snare them in nets of their own making, are lies and falsehoods. When we wield the truth, we cut through those chains and falsehoods to free our fellow man. It’s not easy. It’s not just a matter of presenting the facts. The fact of the matter is that a man who is deeply ensnared in a lie may have become so used to that lie, so used to the bindings that tie him down, that he will try to stop you from removing them. He will fight against you with everything he has even though your only purpose is to help him because he thinks that those chains are keeping him safe and making him happy. You and I know better, but it may take time and a great deal of effort to convince the person you’re trying to free,” Father Donovan finished.

Maybe it was the way that Father Donovan had said things, maybe it was the look in his eyes as he spoke, maybe it was the fact that for the first time in her life someone really and truly needed her help, but something inside of her flickered to life. She wasn’t entirely sure that they’d chosen the right person, but working to free others and set people free was something noble and good and she wanted very desperately to be a part of that. She still didn’t know what talent or gift she might possess that someone else would care about or need, but she was willing to offer it up to them to use in this fight.

Another hand shot up in the air, but she couldn’t make out who it belonged to.

“Yes, Deborah, what is your question?” Father asked.

“Why all the secrecy? If we’re supposed to be fighting for what’s right, why are we the ones in the shadows?” Deborah asked.

“You ask a valid question, and I’ll give you the honest answer. We meet in shadows because for the time being it is the only safe place, the only place left to us. The government who rules us is itself controlled by the darkness. Homes, schools, work places, churches, they’re all being monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We meet in secret so that we can fight those who seek to keep our people enslaved without interference. I told you, in my invitation, that there were many dangers ahead. I warned you that if evil cannot convince you first that it doesn’t really exist, it will try to stop you from joining the battle by hurting those you care about most. We meet in secret to protect those we love,” Father responded.

Perhaps it was the wind that blew through the cemetery, carrying with it more leaves and even colder air, but the cemetery suddenly seemed to lose what little warmth that it had carried with this statement. She slouched deeper into her jacket and thought about the people she loved and whether or not she would be willing to put their lives and their happiness on the line. She thought about the monitors watching everything she did, everything her mother did, everything the twins might do. It angered her, and she decided right then that she was going to go home tonight and find out the truth. If this was true, if everything was really being done the way he said it was being done, she would join them just for the hope of freeing those she loved most from such a thing.

Father waited for a time before speaking again, “Each of you received an invitation from someone who saw much potential in you, someone who vouched for your personal integrity and your character. If you have further questions, they will let you know when the next meeting is. Please do not discuss with anyone outside this circle what has taken place here tonight. Good night, and God bless,” Father said.

As the rest of the group began to depart, Kevin smiled at Kate. “I am so glad you came. Do you want me to walk you home?”

Kate said, “Sure, but I don’t have to be home until 10. I kind of told my mom you were taking me to a party at the park. She’ll think something’s wrong if I come home too soon.”

“The park it is then,” Kevin said. He noticed she was shivering and threw his jacket around her shoulders. It smelled of leather and Hugo, not a bad combination. She could get used to that smell, she thought.

“So, what did you think?” Kevin asked as they walked.

“Intense and kind of scary,” Kate replied, “but what’s really scary is if it’s all true.”

“Oh, it’s all true,” Kevin said. “Don’t let it scare you, though. I cheated. I looked at the end of the book. We win.” Kevin said with a smile.

“What do you mean you looked at the end of the book?” Kate said with a puzzled frown. “What kind of book predicts the future?”

Kevin laughed. “The Bible does, Kate. The Bible does.”

“Seriously? That’s what this is all about? The Bible?” Kate asked, incredulous.

“Hey, don’t laugh, Kate. The Bible’s more than just a book, you know. It’s a whole lot more than that,” Kevin said, becoming very serious in tone.

“I didn’t know you were religious, Kevin” Kate said. “I hate to tell you this, but I’m not now and I never will be. I like science, not a bunch of fantasies.”

“Hey, Kate, I like science, too. There’s nothing in religion that prevents you from liking science. The two aren’t incompatible, you know,” Kevin said.

This was not the discussion that Kate had envisioned having with Kevin over the past two years. Finding out that he was religious changed everything in her mind. She’d never met someone who was truly religious before, someone who took seriously the whole evil and good thing. It kind of annoyed her to think she’d almost bought the whole thing.

“You’re a better woman than that, Kate,” Kevin said.

“What do you mean by that?” Kate asked.

“You are about to change your mind because of what you think religion is rather than giving things a fair chance. You’re about to decide that it’s all a big ruse designed to get you to join our church and then you’re going to decide to get mad at me and go home anyway, aren’t you?”

Kate wondered how he knew exactly what she’d been thinking and planning on doing. It made her mad that he’d been able to call it with such accuracy. He didn’t know her.

“I was not. Look, you bring me proof of this battle being real and I’ll join in the fight not because of some God but because it’s the right thing to do. I want my friends to know the truth, just like you do,” Kate said.

“It’s a deal,” he said as they reached the park. “Race you to the slides?” he asked.

Kate let down her guard and put away her thoughts about the meeting as she gave a grin and took off like a bullet. They didn’t speak another word about religion or the meeting, and he walked her home at 9:40, delivering her straight to her front door by 9:55 p.m. He thanked her for a wonderful time, thanked her mother for allowing her out that evening, and left whistling.

Thank you for reading Chapter 3: The Calling. If you enjoyed this, you can continue on to read Chapter 4: The Visitor from my Nanowrimo novella: The Chosen.

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