It is late October in the upper-Midwest. It is mid-morning, but the exact hour has escaped him. It is to be the last day of Mark's life.
There is something about an autumn day in this area of the world. Even when it is cloudless, the lengthy shadows give the morning an eerie and empty feeling. Despite the bright brilliance of the sea of leaves, colored red, orange, purple, brown, and all variances thereof, there always is – surrounding you – the distinct aura of death, waiting patiently to pierce the soul.
The children of summer have been back in school for nearly two months; their joyous voices are merely an echo in chain-linked fences. A high-school marching band is forever practicing in the distance; the pounding of the bass drum, like the beat of a broken heart, always barely perceptible. And jack-o-lanterns, with their fiendish faces representing the souls of the lost, are sitting; laughing; mocking, on every front porch.
The most perceptible thing about an autumn morning here is the wind. Spring and summer have breezes that are gentle, calming currents of air, and winter winds are sporadic, bone chilling gusts. The winds of autumn are continuous. They blow through naked branches like streams of water down a river, bold and endless, cold and relentless. Perhaps the most obvious way to see them at work is to cast your gaze downward. The waves of leaves are constantly blowing over your shoes, and, as the winds continue, they begin to pile up at your feet. If you stand still long enough, the breeze will eventually prevail, and a bunch of leaves will be carried past you towards the heart of nowhere. Those that dare remain on the branches cling to their foundations like passengers on a sinking boat.
Even for the more aged, all of these things bring back memories that we would, at one extreme, love to hold onto and never let go, or at the other more than happily block out, if we could. And hanging in the air is the melancholy cloud of sorrows, regrets of risks never taken, and dreams unfulfilled.
He was alone on a day such as this when he made the most desperate, decisive and final act. He no longer had the will to fight. He had, in all honesty, stopped fighting long ago. He walked out to the garage and opened the door, pulled his car into the garage, and shut the door behind him. He then lay down in the backseat and floated off.
Mark’s soul began a rapid decent into hell, the place of eternal torment for the lost. Abruptly, his fall was interrupted, and he heard a voice proclaim powerfully, “You may not have this one, Satan. His name is already written in my book.”
“Yes, but he has rejected your Holy Spirit by attempting to end his life.” Satan chose his words carefully. “And your law states…”
“I know what my law says. Have you forgotten who the author is?” It was unquestionably the voice of Christ. “I know his heart, and it has surely embraced me all of his years. He has by no means blasphemed my Holy Spirit. You were given your chance to make him suffer; now he belongs to me!”
“But certainly there must be consequences to his action,” Satan asked ambiguously.
“There will be a consequence,” Jesus assured him. “Now, be gone evil one.”
Mark had heard the whole conversation. The savior of the world had just reached down and rescued him from eternal damnation. He was unable to speak to defend himself while Jesus was claiming the victory over Satan, but now Jesus took him aside and began to speak to him. “My precious child, I have known you since the beginning of the world, I have also known that it would come to your use of free will. This is not my Father’s will, however. I am giving you another chance.”
“What will the consequence be, Lord?” Mark humbly asked.
“You chose the path of silence and darkness, my dear one,” Christ began. “So I am going to restore you to life, but damage to your brain will be found.”
“You mean, I’m going to be crippled?” a somewhat confused Mark asked.
“Yes, you will have severe physical limitations. The alternative is eternal damnation in the fires of hell.” Jesus caused Mark’s spiritual eyes to open, revealing a vision of what lay below.
“Oh, Lord. Please send me back.”
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