Darkness loomed like a cloud on the horizon; the village elders stared in awe and fear.
“What is happening?” I asked.
“Do not be a bother.” Horracio pushed me aside.
My heart raced. “Something is wrong,” I shouted, the timber of my voice rising with every jagged breath. “This is a sign, God is angry.”
“Do not bore us,” he ordered. The others remained silent, their eyes wide with terror.
The blackness engulfed the region like locust upon the crops. The women and children huddled in their huts as the light from the sun vanished and its warmth evaporated.
I ran amongst the dwellings, my eyes attempting to focus in the overpowering crepuscule. My foot hit a rock hidden from my waning vision; I stumbled and fell into a stack of firewood. Pain radiated throughout my body. I dislodged a large splinter from my forehead; the warmth of my blood drew streaks down my face.
Please, he must be there.
I staggered into the town square, the taste of blood tickling my lips. I paused to catch my breath. In the near distance a brief spark caught my eye; soon a tiny flame began to flicker.
“Who is there?” I moved toward the light.
“Be still, my son.” A familiar voice emanated from the shadows.
“Pastor Omani.” I fell to my knees in relief. “What is wrong? Have we angered God?”
“God would not punish us like this.” He held his candle close to my face. “We must tend to your injuries.”
“Not now. We are all in danger.” I pushed myself back to my feet.
“How can you be sure of this?” he asked.
“We are powerless to stop these events,” I bemoaned.
“Find your strength in God.” A hint of a smile tugged the corner of his lips. “Your power lies in your faith.”
“Everyone is frightened. The village elders do not know what to do.”
“Take me to them.” His voice remained calm.
The sound of angry voices resonated; Horracio proceeded to whip the growing crowd into a frenzy. A small fire burned in their midst.
“Please do not fear.” Omani walked toward the mob.
The buzz from the group died down.
“What do you know about this?” Horracio stepped forward, his words laced with anger and distrust.
“This is a mystery. I know what you know.” The religious leader stepped closer to the fire.
“Why do you speak if you do not have any answers?” Horracio barked, a murmuring of agreement echoed from his peers.
“This is a time for calm, not…”
“You do not understand our ways.” The angry villager gestured to the crowd. “You have not lived amongst us for even a year.”
Several villagers shouted their agreement.
“I understand God. Put your life in His hands.” The pastor raised his arms to the blackened sky. “His power and mercy…”
“What good has come from this god of yours? You pray and bad things still happen.” Spittle flew from the village elder’s mouth, his face twisted with frustration. “You pray and we are overcome by darkness, you pray and my wife still died.”
The buzz from the mob intensified.
“Please, remain calm,” the pastor said.
“Maybe you are the problem.” Horracio picked up a large rock. “Maybe if we rid ourselves of your poison the sun will return.”
The mob swarmed the pastor. A cluster of flailing arms and stomping feet raged in the flickering light; elongated shadows slashed across the terrain. Irate shouts from the throng drown out the pitiful pleas for mercy.
“No!” I yelled, my heart heaved with disbelief. This cannot happen. Please, Do not allow this. I remained still, frozen with fear.
Pastor Omani stumbled and fell at my feet, his breathing labored.
Horracio stepped forward and handed me a rock. “Are you with us or against us?”
I stared at the battered and bleeding body. Tears flooded down the blood soaked mud caking my face. I dropped to my knees, my mind numbed with grief. “I…I’m sorry.”
He tried to open his swollen eyes. “Do not grieve,” he uttered, his voice barely audible. He pulled a medallion from around his neck. “You must be strong.” He flinched in pain with every uneven breath. “Pray.”
“You cannot die,” I sobbed.
“Please, forgive them,” he gasped. “Do not let them smother your faith.”
“Pastor…Pastor Omani,” I begged.
The pastor’s body became flaccid; the amulet slipped from his loosening grip.
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