Authors: Christopher C. Payne
The Savior Rises
Christopher C. Payne
Copyright ©2010 by Christopher C. Payne
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This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, names, incidents, organizations, and dialogue in this novel are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
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JournalStone rev. date January 28, 2011
Cover Design by Christopher Perez and Denise Daniel
Edited by Whitney L.J. Howell
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As always, I would like to dedicate this book to my daughters, Emily and Cassidy. Without them in my life I am not sure I would find the energy to accomplish what has turned out to be an exhilarating, fantastic journey.
Even though I never let them read any of my books – the content is just not appropriate, I do love how excited they get when they see one of my novels in print. They inspire me to be, and to continue to become, a better person each and every day.
I also want to thank my fiancée, Connie Johnson, who will hopefully become my wife in the summer of 2011. With each new dedication, we find ourselves in the midst of exciting adventures as we share our lives and future. Even with publishing what I hope to be four novels in 2010, the most exciting moment of my year was when she agreed to marry me. I am truly a lucky man.
I would be remiss not to mention two close friends who helped inspire my writing and were integral catalysts when I launched my new career. Dennis Morin and Glen Auyoung have continually encouraged me; and if it weren’t for the two of them, I am unsure if any of my books would have made it to print.
Kudos to Christopher Perez and Denise Daniel on an awesome book cover. They transformed the beautiful Tammy LaShelle into an amazing gargoyle figure while depicting the overall essence of the book.
As I continue to mention names, I am afraid I will miss somebody, and if so I apologize. I have been lucky to have so many people in my life who have helped me navigate to the point where I am today – Preet Takhar, Richard Rattan, and, especially, my editor Whitney Howell. Thanks to you and many others for the support you have given and continue to give.
Peace is an elusive thing in life, and there are very few of us who manage to find it within our short tenure on this planet. Most of us do well just to get out of bed and crawl to work each day.
Anything else is as fragile as the watchful eye of a gargoyle, perched on our nightstand, waiting in silent protection for things we cannot see and cannot imagine.
Stefani sat all alone in her bedroom, huddled up in a corner with her arms tightly wrapped around her folded legs. Her hands shook as she clutched her Raggedy Ann doll tightly. The doll itself was almost as big as she was. She received it from her mother when she was 4-years-old and had slept with it every night since. The red-yarn hair was matted in a few places. It had been several months since the doll had last made it to the washer for its cycled cleaning. With Stefani’s mom working two shifts, the household chores seemed to continuously pile up with no completion in sight.
“There never is enough time in the day to get everything done,”
her mom always said.
Stefani cried uncontrollably now, probably too loudly she knew, but she couldn’t stop herself. She was so scared.
”Please, help my mommy,”
she sobbed to the only one, or thing, that would listen.
Her doll just stared back at her, unresponsive and stoic. It provided her a little comfort, but she really wished her Grandma was there. Actually, anyone walking through the door would be a relief at that point. It is sad being 10 years old, listening to your mom cry out in pain, not knowing what to do or how to help.
Stefani and her mother Jade lived in an apartment building in Daly City. It was a four-unit flat, and they had lived there for the last two years. They had never stayed in one place longer than 12 months prior to this, so it had seemed like such a luxury when her mother gave her the good news and registered her for the second time in the same school system. She had even begun to make friends -- something she had never before been able to comprehend. At 10 years old, she’d finally been to her first sleep over, and it was one of the most exciting nights of her life. None of that mattered now, as she heard her mother let out a shrill scream of pain and heard something smash against the outside of her bedroom wall.
The two of them had always lived on their own. She had only met her Grandma recently. Their nomadic lifestyle never seemed to land them anywhere close to family. Until she and her mother arrived at their apartment with a truck full of boxes, Stefani hadn’t even known her Grandma was alive. This little grey-haired lady had been standing in the doorway of their new apartment, holding a plate of cookies. Her mother had cried for hours as they sat and talked. It took Stefani a little while to warm up to this stranger, but now they were best friends. Her Grandma was always over, playing with her and picking her up after school, since her mom worked so hard during the day.
Stefani jumped as what looked like the leg of a kitchen chair smashed through her paper-thin wall. It was the only protection she had against the ongoing assault which now seemed to be lasting for hours. Who was this man? Why had her mother even let him in the house? She crawled under the bed trying to escape, thinking if she closed her eyes maybe this would all go away. Maybe her life would be back to the way it had been only a couple of hours ago.
Like most days she had gone to school and, then, headed over to her Grandma’s house afterward. The house was small, but it was amazingly beautiful and surrounded by the cutest little white picket fence ever made. It was just like in the movies. It was an actual wood fence that her grandfather built. He died a few months before they arrived in town. His death seemed to be the reason they had finally returned to the area. Stefani and her mother came back so they could all be close to her Grandma, like a real family. She was sad she would never know her Grandpa in person, but at least she had her Grandma now.
A family was something little Stefani had never known before. She never could figure out why they had ever moved from this area. Every time she asked, she was told to mind her manners.
“Mind your P’s and Q’s,”
her mother always said. What did that mean anyway? Mind your P’s and Q’s? At least when her mother told her to mind her manners, she could understand this.
She heard the man yelling at her mother. It sounded like he was holding her down. What he said didn’t make any sense.
“Just give it to me,” he screamed. “Either give it to me or I will do things to that little kid in there you could never imagine possible!”
Then, she heard him begin to laugh. It wasn’t a normal laugh. It sounded like a laugh from one of those old movies where Dracula bellows out his satisfaction with the carnage he has just inflicted on the minions. Stefani wasn’t supposed to watch horror movies, but she sneaked out to the living room late at night and watched them anyway.
She didn’t understand what her mom said next. It made no sense, but at this point she could hear the entire conversation as if she were standing in the same room with them.
“How could you do this to us, you piece of crap?” her mom blurted out.
“With pleasure,” he responded quickly. “After the things I’ve done in my lifetime, I might even enjoy watching you squirm in pain as you and that damn little girl suffer…“
Then, there was a loud crack. It sounded like a giant had suddenly snapped its fingers. Stefani jumped so quickly she hit her head on the bed frame, and it flew forward from the impact.
Not being able to control herself any longer, she decided she had to go and see her mom. She couldn’t be alone anymore, no matter what was happening in the kitchen. Maybe she could help somehow. Maybe she could hit the man with a stick of some kind. If she could grab the broom, she might be able to use it to help her mom fight off this monster. Life wasn’t supposed to be like this. This was the year they were going to be happy. It was their year of togetherness. Her mom had been telling her for several weeks that their luck was finally about to change.
As she poked her head around the corner, she couldn’t figure out what was going on. The man had both hands wrapped around her mother’s neck, and he held her against the refrigerator. Her face contorted in odd angles and looked like it was turning purple. What scared Stefani more than anything were her eyes. Her mother’s eyes were almost talking to her, pleading with her to run. If Stefani hadn’t known any better, she would have sworn her mother was talking to her even though words were not escaping her bulging lips.
The man didn’t even seem human. His breath was billowing smoke, like fire, as puffs escaped from his nostrils. He almost seemed like a dragon that was about to spurt forth flames and roast her mother at any moment. Stefani had seen demons in some of her late night movies, and she trembled slightly, thinking she was now face-to-face with a living, breathing entity straight from Hell.
The only anomaly was his blonde hair. Demons should have black hair to accompany their lost, dark souls. His almost-white hair stood out as a contradiction to his contorted, hate-filled face. A scar stretched from the top of his hairline, in a crisscrossed pattern, all the way down to his chin. It radiated heat, as it almost seemed on fire, emitting a fluorescent red glow.
On the other side of the room, the broom leaned against the wall, exactly where she left it a couple of hours ago. It was easily within her reach. It was strange that a short time before she stood in this very place and swept the floor.
It had been her chore to clean up the kitchen, which was now a complete disaster. Broken pieces of dishes were strewn everywhere. The chairs and table were toppled over, lying at odd angles with one chair hanging by its leg, stuck in the wall. It was lodged there like a painting or piece of artwork for all to admire.
The kitchen was tiny with an even smaller eating area. It opened up to the living room and, then, the front door. The little hallway was the only other walkway, and it led to the two bedrooms with a single bathroom, splitting them down the middle. It was a small place, but the neighborhood was decent. It had served them well for the past couple of years.
Stefani could’ve escaped through the back door, but there was no way she was leaving her mother. The two of them had always been together. They were a team. Her mother was the only friend she had known in her life, and they would face this possessed man together, even if it meant they both ended up dead.
She had stopped crying. She almost felt calm. A quiet peacefulness had somehow crept inside her and warmed her as she approached this beast of a man choking her mother. She thought about her last year in school and how the curriculum mandated she play a sport. She chose softball for the only reason that made any sense to her – Sarah had asked. Sarah was now her best friend, and Stefani would never have attempted to participate without Sarah by her side.
She now stood a couple of feet away from the man. His back faced her as he focused all his concentration on her mom’s contorted face. He squeezed as hard as he could, and it looked as if she were already dead. She hung in his arms moving less than Stefani’s favorite, limp, life-less Raggedy Ann doll.
Stefani took up her stance, raised the broom handle, and as she had been taught, swung with all her might. She was a natural at softball, the first real sport she had ever played. The coaches talked about her innate ability, and on several occasions she practiced with the boys’ team. She hit more home runs than everyone else in the entire league combined that year. The two times her mother came to her games, she launched one ball after another over the heads of the outfielders.
As she watched the handle connect with the back of the man’s head, she noticed his shirt was all red. The crimson color seemed to grow as it engulfed the top of his pants and inched across his belt. It had to be blood, but she had no idea from what.
Then, like a bomb exploding, the handle hit home, and the splintering crack was only drowned out by the man’s high-pitched scream of pain. It felt so good. It was almost like she could sense his spine snapping in two while she stumbled forward, following through on her perfect swing.
Her mother fell into a heap on the floor, her head bobbing against the cheap vinyl-covered surface. It was the same floor Stefani cleaned only 30 minutes before, as she listened to her mother vacuum for the last time, right before this man entered their lives. He tapped on the door, as anyone would, and asked them if they would mind talking to him for a few minutes. She didn’t understand why her mother let him in so quickly. They never let strangers in the house. It was almost like he was familiar. Maybe he was a long-lost friend from her past.
As quickly as he entered their lives, he stumbled his way out. He smeared his hand across the entryway, wiping a bloody path with his left fingertips as his right hand grabbed the handle. She heard him cursing; and then he flung open the door, embedding the knob directly in the wall, leaving a nice circular hole. It seemed he carved a hole in everything he touched. Stefani bent down, tears pouring out of her, and grabbed her mother.
“Are you ok? Mommy! MOMMY! MOM, PLEASE WAKE UP!”
She kept screaming and, then, saw one of her mother’s eyes slowly open, pleading with her to listen.
“I know you won’t understand this,” her mother garbled amidst the blood oozing out from one corner of her mouth. “Just listen to me, and try to understand what I tell you. That man – I thought he was dead. But at this point, I’m not sure he’ll ever die. Just make sure he never finds it. Keep it hidden. Protect it. No matter what, he must never get his hands on it, or everything I’ve lived for will mean nothing.”
“What? What are you talking about?” Stefani screamed as her mother’s head rolled back in her arms. It wobbled there for a second or two and came to rest, staring back at her, the eyelids never closing.
Her eyes held an eerie feeling of continued life even though Stefani knew her mother was dead. She just sat there, staring into the lifeless, vacant, empty holes that were so recently full of sparkle. It wasn’t just her mother who died that day. A very large part of Stefani died, as well.
Losing a parent is traumatic. How many animals in the wild could make it through childhood without the nurturing love and protection of their mother? How many small children can survive in the unknown without somebody to guide them through the tumultuous ups and downs? Stefani sat there, rocking back and forth on her knees, holding her mother’s head, crying. She had never seen death. Not like this.
How was she supposed to know that her life would be surrounded by the stale air of so many people taking their last breaths? She was only 10 years old, too young to understand anything, really, and she was certainly too young to be filled with an all-consuming hatred for a man she would spend her life hunting.
She knew, even then, she would find him someday, and the pain he would feel would be like nothing imaginable on this earth. He wouldn’t just die; he would suffer more than anyone ever had before. At that thought, she wiped away the tears from her face and smiled.