Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Fellowship (among believers) (10/11/07)
TITLE: Fellowship of Darkness, Fellowship of Light
By Sandra Petersen
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Diane Fredrick shivered and hurried to catch up to her boyfriend two paces ahead of her.
“So where’d you tell your mother you were going?” Troy slid his arm around Diane’s waist.
“To Jan’s house to watch some videos.”
He chuckled. “What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. Right?”
The girl frowned and gnawed her lower lip. “I guess so.”
“It’s Halloween. What’d she expect you to do? Stay at home while she entertained those self-appointed witch-hunters from her church? Maybe make some cookies while they prayed?” Troy smirked and shook his head. “We’re gonna have a lot more fun than that.”
Diane nestled closer and allowed Troy to lead her down the street toward the lake.
Miriam Fredrick twisted the stove knob to the off position. The teakettle sputtered, the water bubbling and popping. On the kitchen table were a china plate with pumpkin bars and a bowl with tea and hot cocoa packets. At each of the five places was a coffee mug, a spoon, and a folded napkin. Everything was ready for the weekly prayer meeting.
Miriam sighed, the argument with her daughter echoing in her head. She had not wanted Diane to go out, not even to spend two or three hours with Jan.
Diane had glared at her. “What? I can’t even spend a little time with my friends?” Angry tears spilled onto her cheeks and she brushed them away with a fierce swipe of her hand.
“Tonight is not a good night to be out and about,” Miriam protested.
“Oh, yeah, Mom. I forgot. The little ghosties’ll carry me away. Gimme a break.” She snorted and rolled her eyes.
In the end, Miriam had relented. Uneasiness settled in her belly and grew as she watched Diane leave and slam the door behind her.
Lord, keep my daughter from danger and bring her home safely.
The doorbell sounded, announcing the arrival of the Lake Vista Fellowship Church prayer warriors. Miriam greeted them, tears glistening in her eyes.
Wood smoke wafted through the air and mingled with the aroma of leaf mold. Storm clouds clustered about the moon as if to quench its light. The couple felt their way along the lake path. The flames of a beach bonfire rose into the sky. Turbulent waves crashed onto the shore.
Troy stooped by a boulder at the end of the path. He groped around its base until he located a plastic grocery bag.
From it he removed a black hooded cape and a white linen cloth. He tossed the sheet in her direction. “Here. The others are waiting.”
Diane unfolded the cloth. “Am I supposed to wear this?”
“Yeah. Kind of like a toga.” Troy settled the cape over his shoulders and fastened the silver clasp. Diane hesitated. “Come on. We’ll miss the fun.”
The girl shrugged and tossed one end of the sheet over her shoulder, wrapping the expanse of white around her and tucking it into the waist of her jeans.
“Perfect.” Troy held out his hand to her and grinned.
Indistinct voices chanted in unison in the dark. An eerie shriek split the air and then all was silent. Within a minute, the voices began again, louder and with an urgency that clutched at Diane’s heart.
“What was that?” She willed herself to stop trembling but her body would not obey.
“Part of the fun,” Troy said. “You scared?”
“Nothing to be afraid of as long as you’re with me.” He gripped her hand but she pulled away.
“I’m going home, Troy. This feels wrong to me.”
Troy’s eyes reflected the bonfire’s flames and he scowled. “I’m staying. This is my fellowship; these are my people. You’re right. You don’t belong. Go home.”
Diane shuddered as he strode away. His cape snapped in the wind and he pulled the hood over his head. She stumbled up the path in tears, discarding the sheet as she went.
Another shriek rent the air and she glanced back. Shadows swayed around the bonfire, keeping time with the rise and fall of the chant. She thought she saw Troy hold a knife aloft, its blade flashing in the firelight.
Diane took a shaky breath and set out for home, sensing rather than seeing a host of angels guarding her way.
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