Bryan ran through the night. Something was chasing him.
The wind howled and he stumbled once. Impulsively, Bryan braced himself with his left hand, determined to protect the amber bottle in his right hand.
It had been several years since Bryan had been released from the camps. His family was gone, and no one wanted to hire a man who was haunted by his past. The only comfort he could find was in the bottom of a bottle.
Snow dusted the ground, leaving Bryan's trail open for his hunter to track him down. He ran on, looking back, hoping not to spot his pursuer. Bryan didn't want to remember.
He ducked into an alley, took another swig from the bottle, and dragged his arm over his mouth wiping the excess off his mouth. He needed to catch his breath before he could go anywhere else.
The wind whipped through the alley, billowing Bryan's green patchwork trench coat open.
Desperate to keep the cold air away, Bryan pulled his coat in closer. "No...I don't wanna remember," he mumbled, stumbling out of the alley. It would be too painful to remember.
It was starting to snow harder but he pressed on. He had to escape. The chase continued down the back alleys and up the side streets.
"Too many dead...too many gone...no place to go...no home to call my own..." Bryan managed between gasps. But the pursuer pressed on, stalking Bryan like a mountain lion before finally pouncing, attacking, and shaking Bryan to the cold ground.
Remember ME! I AM the Maker and the Finisher of your faith. I AM your Healer. I AM your Rescuer!
Bryan whimpered at the onslaught, curling his fists into the snow, the glass bottle now forgotten. "Stop...please..." He whimpered. "Just wanna forget..."
Remember MY LOVE, MY SACRIFICE, and MY PROMISE.
Bryan hiccupped, shaking his head once. He had ruined so many lives. He had betrayed them while thinking he was protecting them.
"I...I can't..." He whispered.
There was a flare of anger from the Owner of the voice and Bryan curled up into a ball. The wind howled over his exposed neck like an angry lion.
The floodgate was opened; there was no stopping the pain filled words. "I thought I could lie to the enemy, take my brothers and sisters into my own company and provide for them...protect them...but I failed!"
I AM your Provider and Strong Tower. I AM your Protector. Remember...
Bryan flinched as someone touched him.
"Mister? Hey, mister..." A young voice broke through the silence. "Dad, he's alive, but he's freezing."
"Alright, letís get him..." The older voice paused for a long moment. "Samuel, run home, tell your mom to get blankets warm...tell her...tell her that it's Mr. Bryan."
Strong arms lifted Bryan up, and he mumbled, "Don't deserve..."
Remember MY promises.
I called you to protect MY people and now they are providing for you.
Bryan felt his head sag against the man's shoulder. "That's right, Mr. Bryan, I gotcha now. Just rest, allow me to take care of you." The man whispered.
"...wanna go home..." Bryan managed.
I know, My son. Soon.
"Mr. Bryan, you'll be home just in time for Christmas; safe and warm. It's my turn to take care of you," the man stated as the dark, cold night shifted to a light, warm building.
Bryan opened his mouth to protest the kind treatment and the woman removed his tattered coat as her husband placed him in front of the fireplace. A warm blanket took the coats place and the icy chill that had settled over his heart so many years ago started to thaw.
Yes, you are home.
"Welcome home, Mr. Bryan, and Merry Christmas." The woman whispered before pressing a gentle kiss to his cheek.
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