GRENADA – 1987
Mr. Hank Maldita, a born-again Christian Missionary leader, was having doubts about his faith. He was also missing his connection with his wife, whom he’d left behind. He was in charge of a group of twenty missionaries and he was sure that this was the last time he was going to do this. The mission tour, complete with a Christian themed puppet show for the kids, had been successful. It had been on schedule for the months of September and October. Hank had left his wife back in the United States, in California. His inner monologue was a steady honing of proper thought. Hank had to remain conscious of his Christianity in order for it to work. This meant that he had to train his thoughts to think Christward. Hank was serious. This spiritual dry spell that he’d found himself in needed to end. Hank was going to find God in Grenada. He was ready to believe.
Hank stood a slim 6 feet tall. His short blond business cut gave him an academic sort of air. Hank truly believed that his purpose in life was to evangelize for Christ. He also believed in the supernatural stories that he’d read in the Bible. He believed that Enoch never died, but was caught up into heaven. He believed that God had confused the tongues of men to halt the production of the Tower of Babel. He believed that Elisha had called a bear out of the woods to kill 42 disrespectful children. He believed that Lazarus had come back from the dead. He believed that Herod had exploded outward with ravenous maggots because of blasphemy. Most importantly however, Hank believed that Jesus, the son of God, had come back to life after being crucified.
Hank’s missionary team had driven east across the United States and had lifted off from Miami, Florida – bound for Grenada. As they had flown in low, the flying fish had leapt out of the water, expanding their wing-fins. Why Grenada? Because Youth With A Mission (YWAM), the international missionary group that Hank’s team was with had a missionary base there.
Hank’s co-leader, Mark, had found a loophole in the currency exchange office. It was a small amount of profit, but through a series of money exchanges, Mark was able to generate approximately 9% every time he re-transacted the team’s American money into East Caribbean dollars.
“Render unto Cesar what is Cesar’s, and if he gives you some change, don’t say no!” Mark had joked.
Mark’s second major responsibility had been to secure satellite phone time for members of the team. Mark hadn’t found a cheap way to do it yet, but it was part of his daily hustle.
Mark, a 23 year old heavily tanned white kid from Alabama, had shot up quick in the ranks of the YWAM hierarchy. Some people were able to talk and pray with the leadership in such a way that they earned more and more responsibilities.
Hank had shot up the ranks too, in part, because of his wife and her connection with the wives of the local YWAM leaders. Hank and Sandra Maldita, both in their mid-thirties, were in charge of the of the K-12 youth activities at the California YWAM Base. Hank had agreed to lead this current missionary tour to Grenada because John Harrison, the regular Grenadian Missions leader, had fallen ill.
The large, pillared, sun-porched, white colonial mansion that the team was staying in at the top of the Mount Saint Catherine in St. Mark’s Parish, was in a bit of disrepair. The mansion had been donated by a wealthy British heir that no longer visited the island and wanted the property in good hands. John Harrison from Detroit was a great caretaker of the property, and the house had been clean when Hank’s team had arrived almost a month earlier. The main problem with the house was the low hanging, guano packed ceilings. Millions of bats lived in the attic of the expansive 16 bedroom house. The bats could be heard, moving in the eaves, shifting and getting comfortable during the daytime hours. The roof was a fecal timebomb, waiting to disgorge itself.
The team would sit and eat their light, vegetable-laden dinners out on the balcony that wrapped itself around the front half of the house, sitting on the banisters and the stairs. The missionaries would watch the bats drop, then fly from the eaves at dusk. The bats an innumerable, diseased stream of squeaking, winged rodents, out to tear apart all insects in a several mile radius.
The team had been on the island for three days before Hank finally had the opportunity to relax and talk to John Harrison.
John Harrison was a little over 6 feet tall, and weighed close to 300 pounds, even after being diagnosed with stomach cancer, his weight hadn’t gone down. John was a grey-blond, balding man with cavernous acne scarring from his temples, deep into his pock-marked cheeks. John wore heavy bifocals, with what he referred to as his “librarian strings,” that allowed the glasses to rest on his chest when they weren’t on the bridge of his nose.
John Harrison had been scheduled to fly back to the United States in the next several months for a full chemotherapy treatment. The Grenada base had been under his steady leadership, and with him leaving soon, a hole was opening up. John had felt that Hank and Sandra would be a good fit.
John and Hank sat together, on the banister of the porch and talked over cups of tall, clear glasses of iced coffee in the late-night 75 degree weather. John wore a red Hawaiian short-sleeved shirt featuring multiple glowing sunsets and large, white board shorts. His girth spilled over the shorts like a full bag of cookie dough. He was smiling broadly, and his teeth were slightly yellowed. One of his legs hung over the banister, dangling. His back was against the left support pillar. Beside the pillar was the staircase that led down to a several hundred yard cement pathway. Tall, lush grass hung over onto itself on both sides of the paved, lengthy walkway. There was a tall coconut and brush treeline at the end of it all.
Behind them, the house’s main double doors were open to the living area. The abundant, guano filled latex paint bowed down from the 15 foot ceilings. Everyone who’d walked into that room in the past year had experienced the exact same thought: They’d all silently wondered who would be underneath it when it finally let loose.
“You could run this base easily, Hank. Most of the resident team does the work. The only issue you will probably have will be with the natives.” John said. Hank had noticed John referring to the Grenadians as natives. It was slightly endearing, but Hank felt that it was also slightly racist. Sipping his coffee, he let it slide.
“Sandra and I, we’re going to be starting a family when I get back. We are really hoping to at least. Its time, we’re not kids anymore, and soon we’re going to be too old and tired to keep up with crumbsnatchers.” Hank answered.
“Ah, the family. You know Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7 that it is better for a man not to touch a woman. That has applied to me though. I think you know my testimony.” John said, gravely. Looking down into his cold, milk-compromised drink.
Hank did know John Harrison’s testimony. John had been married for 5 years to a woman that he’d been abusive to. John had gotten a divorce and then shortly after found Jesus. After his conversion, he’d tried to win his ex-wife back, but she wasn’t convinced. John then chose to call himself a “bachelor till the rapture,” and spent the rest his life serving as a missionary. John had proved to his leadership that he was a responsible, God fearing base-director.
“To be honest, I couldn’t do it. I like having a wife. Well, I like my wife, I should say.” Hank smiled. He swirled his cup and took another sip. “You know, we have actually been trying to have a kid for a bit now. The thing is that after long-term birth control, Sandra had a series of miscarriages. Actually, in a way, this time that Sandra and I are having away from each other is good for us in that department. That department can be quite painful at times.” Hank looked up and caught John’s eye, and then quickly looked away. He felt that perhaps he’d said too much.
“I know that struggle. We lost a child back when I was married.” John said soberly. “If you want to talk about this more later, I can be a good sounding board.” He added.
Hank continued to look down. He nodded his head yes, knowing that John was looking at him.
“Well, Listen, I need to tell you a few pointers about Grenada,” John said.
“I’m all ears,” Hank responded.
“Hank, I need to make sure that you comprehend spiritual warfare. We haven’t really talked about it since you have showed up here, but it is an important part of what we are doing here on the island.” John said. “As a Christian, God has empowered you with some weaponry that you are going to need to access while you are on this island,” John stated.
“I do know some. I mean, I saw THE EXORCIST.” Hank joked.
“Hank, deliverance is not a joke. That movie is a mockery of the power of Christ. Let me tell you, if my staff here had been there praying for that little girl, the movie would have ended early on!” John said, smiling with his light-yellow, teeth.
“I know Ephesians 6 and the armor of God. I have seen my pastor tell Satan to leave in Jesus’ name during an altar call, and that’s really about it.” Hank said, humbly.
“Well, we had a deliverance service here 2 weeks before your team got here and we bound up 6 demons and cast them out of here in the name of Jesus. They were in one of the regular native men who came by the house. We did the service right here on this very porch.” Hank rested his drink on the banister and gesticulated widely, showcasing the balcony around him. The yellow smile flashed again. The black-blue night cosmos was vivid before them.
“How could you know that there were 6 demons in that guy? What did it look like? Was there anything that happened?” Hank sat forward and sipped his iced coffee until he found it too numbing to drink around the chunks of ice in the glass.
“We knew that Elliot had demonic forces that were very active in his life. We knew that he struggled with lust, sexual impurity, and alcohol abuse. As we started to pray for him – there were 4 of us- we all felt impressed in our own ways to call on God to deliver Elliot from the clutches of the Devil. What God revealed to us in that prayer session was that Elliot had been unfaithful to his wife. In fact, when James mentioned it out loud, Elliot had a serious reaction. Then we knew that we had to call for the blood of Jesus to protect us while we continued.” John’s voice was just above a whisper.
“So you prayed for him, and you knew some of his struggles and God revealed the direction that you were supposed to pray in?” Hank asked.
“Exactly. I was impressed by Jude 1:9 in the Bible, where Michael the archangel is arguing with Satan over the body of Moses. Do you know what the Archangel Michael said to Satan? Understand that Michael is a war angel, and built for battle.” John whispered again.
“I know that one. Michael doesn’t engage with Satan, he just says something to the effect of “Get thee behind me Satan,” Hank answered.
“That’s the Bible right there! You need to realize while you are in Grenada, Hank, that the Devil is working on this island. He is working through the natives. He has a stronghold here, and we represent a threat to his strength. The Devil is going to throw all of his weaponry at you while you’re here. Remember that it isn’t your strength, it is the strength of Jesus that will save you. Read Matthew 18. Study it. What you bind on earth will be bound in heaven as well.”
“So, supposing I have a full demonic manifestation in front of me, what am I supposed to do?” Hank asked.
“Always address demonic powers with the name of Jesus. For example, you can tell the demon that the person is covered with the blood of Jesus. Demons hate that. Tell the demon to leave, but make sure to reference Jesus’ name. It isn’t your strength, Hank, its His. You said that you’d studied the book of Ephesians, and you should go back and really study the armor of God. Remember that he that is in you is greater than he that is in the world.” John pointed his first finger upward to the clear, star-peppered sky.
“Really? There is a high level of spiritual warfare on this island?” Hank asked, ignoring John’s cheesy finger pointing.
“Like I said, we had a deliverance prayer session for Elliot a bit ago. That was a real eye-opener for a lot of the people on my team.” John sighed.
“How is Elliot now?”
“Well, Jesus did mention that if a demon is cast out, that he goes to the dry places and finds 7 other demons stronger than himself, and they go back to the person and they really demand their real estate back. I suppose that is what has happened to Elliot.”
“Elliot became re-possessed?”
“I know that he did. I also know that he hasn’t been back, and everyone who knows him says that he wants nothing to do with us and this house up in their hills.” John answered, solemnly.
Hank considered what John had told him in his heart. He chose to make spiritual warfare part of his inner focus for the final Grenadian leg of the tour.
“I hold a little blame for myself. I wonder if my heart isn’t entirely pure. If your heart isn’t pure, you have no true authority to talk to demons.” John said softly.
“All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Hank responded, shaking his head with encouragement.
“Let me tell you about a dream I had two months ago that I believe was a form of spiritual warfare, I just haven’t been able to translate it yet.”
“Really? A dream? Tell me.” Hank asked.
“Its disheartening on all levels, Hank. I dreamed that all the living world Christian leaders that I respect, David Wilkerson, Loren Cunningham, Pope John Paul II and Billy Graham were all standing over me. In the dream, I had white-skinned, necrotic leprosy. I was falling apart, and decomposing before their eyes. The message that they said to me one at a time was that they couldn’t heal me because what they were practicing was broken.” John sighed heavily, and stopped talking. His back slumped.
“What, that their faith was broken?”
“No, that Christianity itself was broken.” John said gravely.
“What do you think?” Hank asked.
“I believe that we as Christians have gotten away from what Jesus asked us to do with the Great Commission in Acts 2. We aren’t working together as one group. In the Bible, all of the disciples lived together in one accord, collectively sharing their belongings and being one unified force. Now there are that Catholics, the Baptists, the Episcopalians, and the non-denominationals. Do you see what I am saying? We are not one body of Christ at all.” John said. “Those guys in my dream, they represent this.”
“You are right. The body of Christ should be more joined and connected. I’ve just come to accept this as how Christianity is in the modern age.” Hank said.
“And with these televangelists. I am sure that Jimmy Bakker at the PTL Club is just the beginning of God’s exposure of all these quacks with their money and their lusts.” John said added.
“Well, is the dream about you, or about the leaders who visited you?” Hank asked.
“I’m not sure. But I think it has to do with us all. I have begged for healing from this stomach cancer. I have pleaded and fasted, waiting for a miracle. I’ve had as many as 10 people praying over me, because I know that when 2 or more are gathered in his name, there he is in the midst of us. God isn’t healing me. The spiritual leaders that I am under pray and pray, but I am still infirm. Perhaps the message is that it is all a sham? I suppose Hank, that I am in the middle of a crisis of faith. I mean, what am I doing here in Grenada? I secured this house. I led a team to this place, and dropped roots, and now I am stricken with a fatal disease?” John shook his head his eyes were squinted into a painful scowl.
Hank joined in the head shaking, as he was in no position to offer any encouragement. He simply didn’t know what John needed to hear.
The month of missionary work had passed quickly on the island. John Harrison had made sure that there could be missionary outreach activities on every day, including Sunday. They’d had converts. Locals came by the house on a daily basis for advice and fellowship.
Hank’s team of 20 became a tightly-knit group that practiced the Resurrection Play, studied scripture, ate, and prayed together. Their impact on Grenada as a missions team wasn’t measurable, but something positive was happening.
The last few days of the tour things went dark for the entire missions team.
Ever since the first night Hank had been away from Sandra, He’d been the victim of deliriously sharp nocturnal emissions. Hank fought for his thoughts during the day. He analyzed the words he spoke. He emulated Christ as much as he could. But the nocturnal emissions triggered a longing. There was no solution for it. In fact, Hank had purified himself. He had no pornography in his possession and he’d been spending most of his time with other missionaries. There had been no dirty jokes or crude talk. The puzzle for Hank was the energy and volume that his sexual dreams presented. Hank was also perplexed that when in his dreams, he was an avid participant.
Hank wasn’t perfect, even though he strove to be. If he had to admit to a weakness, he would have to say that he couldn’t help but glance at breasts. This was his stumbling block. He would never grope any other than his wife’s, but he would look, and he knew looking was wrong. He also knew that the Bible said that if he looked a woman with lust in his heart, that he may as well have had sex with her.
Hank had done a fantastic internal job of clearing out his promiscuous memories and behaviors from his life before Christianity. In the past, Hank had given himself over to passing, flippant sexual relationships that had racked him with guilt and shame. Part of the relief of becoming a Christian for Hank was his acceptance of God’s forgiveness for his piggish youth.
Hank would spend a portion of his morning prayers, apologizing to God for his sins. He made sure he harbored no darkness. Hank was going to do it. God was going to show him something special on this tour. It was all there in the Bible, specifically, the New Testament. Faith the size of a mustard seed. Raise the dead.
Hank felt that continual daytime prayer should have been enough to purge whatever nighttime demons were pulling on him. He did his best to consider God in his thoughts. To ask God questions when his thoughts were idle. Hank savored his continual hotline with God. He felt that he was getting somewhere. He felt that God was going to give him the revelation that he needed, whatever that might be.
But the daytime prayers weren’t enough. The night terrors, the succubi, the aggressive, smooth, insatiable ones, they wrapped their arms, their legs around Hank, clawing him down, begging him to give in every third night or so.
Hank’s sexual fasting from his wife for two months had turned into a carnal nightmare. His subconscious promiscuity baffled him. The dreams had escalated, and were becoming worse and worse. Were these the dark forces that John had warned him of? Hank was sure that he’d confessed all of his sins, but the dreams continued. His laundry smelled horrible.
Hank Maldita was as conflicted as a Christian male could be. Jesus had died on the cross for his sins. So why the lustful night crones?
Hank set his wind-up alarm for 5AM so that he could sit on the balcony and watch the bats swoop back up into the eaves of the house at the end of their night. Usually, at this time Hank was plagued in one way or another from the previous night’s sleep.
Hank studied and meditated on the aspects of spiritual warfare that he could find in the Bible during those morning times. Hank was worried about what John had told him about the spiritual climate of Grenada, but he was also worried about himself and if the two topics were related. Hank tried to remain rational and accept his nocturnal emissions as a part of his flesh struggling while he was traveling. His dreams were vivid though, and full of fleshy temptations, sashaying, cooing, long-haired women mostly, with a borderline-violent desire to fornicate relentlessly. They didn’t want to make love but to rut, as Hank had subconsciously enjoyed, like animals in a field.
Hank never shared his dream struggles with John Harrison. He did use John as a resource though. John helped by giving Hank several books by Jack Chick and Winkey Pratney, and Bible verses on the subject of spiritual warfare. The men grew very close, spending several evenings a week sharing and praying with each other.
But the dreams continued.
As the weeks in Grenada fell off of the calendar, Hank felt more and more that he was both in the strongest and weakest spiritual space that he’d been in his entire Christian life. In fact, Hank was in the middle of a perfect Christian paradox.
At the beginning of the team’s last week in Grenada, Hank felt that his effectual, fervent prayers had at least assisted in the success that the team had had the night before at the St. George’s First Baptist Church. The team, dressed in whiteface makeup with jeans and t-shirts, had performed a drama in the Baptist Church’s parking lot. The drama illustrated the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, accompanied with a soundtrack that actually had clanging sounds for when the nails were driven into Christ’s wrists. At the Baptist parking lot presentation, there had been four converts to Christianity. Three of the converts had been Rastafarians, and one had been a younger child who was just moved somehow.
On this particular morning, Hank had figured out how the day should go. There was a day of working at St Mark’s Methodist Church and then the team was scheduled to perform during the evening’s Wednesday night service. Hank was going to take Thomas, Nathan, Bonnie, and one more person and walk through the surrounding hills and neighborhoods, advertising the show that they were going to put on that evening. Mark was supposed to be a part of this excursion, but Mark was convinced that if he continued moving the money around several turns a day, at the end of the tour, the team might just break close to even. Mark was very close to the pitfall of loving money, but Hank trusted him.
After breakfast and morning group prayer, the group of 19 (less Mark, who had been at the bank when they’d opened) took a walk down into the heart of St. Mark’s. While they walked, the Grenadians kept their distance, but there was no question that these barefooted locals wanted to know what this group of white Americans and Europeans wanted. Some of the Grenadians had never seen white faces before.
The group, all walking in their own particular cliques, wended their way through the shanties and down the dirt road. A man at a corner household with a machete pulled a goat with a rope to the front of his home and hacked the goat’s head off. He then strung it up, crudely by its back legs and the blood plashed all about and into a filthy white plastic bucket he’d kicked underneath it. The goat’s body bucked a bit and twisted, headlessly. Young boys clustered around, observing the precise blade assaults, jockeying for better positions to view the violence.
Men and women had brought their colorful East Caribbean dollars and their bowls and bags to purchase portions of the butchered goat. The butcher’s wife took the money, and the butcher hacked hunks of meat off of the lightly spasming animal. There were more goats to the right of the shanty, and they stupidly watched the foreign missionaries walk by, with their horsefly-slit eyes. The missionaries did their best to ignore the brutality on the side of the dirt road, silently trying not to judge a different culture.
Stray dogs, with vermin riddled fur, walked in the dust, ribcages pronounced. Children were being led by their mothers to the local school. There were no vehicles to speak of on the road; it was all foot traffic. There were actual buildings, and there were shanties balanced against them, shanties, made with plywood and corrugated plastic and steel, two by fours and planking. There was a large red schoolhouse towering over all of the poverty and dirt. Its bell was ringing.
When the team had reached the Methodist church, Hank plugged them in with the Reverend. Reverend Chip was an ex-Rastafarian who’d been converted to Christianity and who’d actually gone to Oral Roberts Bible School in the United States before coming back to his homeland and building the church. Reverend Chip came from a well-to-do family on the island, and Hank was satisfied that there was this kind of resource for his team to participate with.
Hank marveled at St. Mark’s Methodist Church simply because of what it had stood for. As Reverend Chip had told Hank earlier, the Catholics had given the run-down building to the Methodists. The building was old, probably over a hundred years. Looking up both inside and out, one was able to see the wear and tear. Older wooden planks stuck out randomly from the steeple.
“The steeple looks like it will fall, but I was assured by our carpenter that it is stable.” Reverend Chip had said with a toothy smile.
Reverend Chip had a part of his sanctuary that needed to be painted, so Hank let some of the team work and serve in that area. There was also a day care which some of the girls plugged into. There was also construction that needed to be done with a storage shed behind the church where the rest of the missionaries applied themselves. There were also a few large piles of gravel in need of being raked out in the lot next door, and a stalling Datsun B-210 engine to resurrect. The missionaries had plenty to do.
Hank realized he wasn’t going to have a team to go through the village with him but that he was going alone. Hank didn’t mind this; he felt safe. It wasn’t like he was a French Missionary bringing Jesus to the Iroquois. The Grenadians were a peaceful people. They liked to talk. They were open to Jesus. They were open to the gospel. They also were curious about a six foot tall white man from California, and they wanted to hear his voice and possibly learn something from him. Not all of it was serious though, one young man had asked him a few nights before if he knew the Terminator in California.
Hank set off. The team was fine, and Reverend Chip had promised to feed the team lunch. Hank planned to go door to door until three in the afternoon, and then he would head back and practice the dramas with the team, eat dinner and work on the evening presentation. He felt inspired. Four converts the night before had been a wonderful accomplishment. Hank considered having a special feast with all of the converts before the team left. He could do it, short notice and all. He’d gotten used to island time.
Hank walked, attempting to keep his head prayerful, and wary of rote repetition of prayer. He’d prayed Christian mantra prayers before, but preferred to have the clean conversation with God, rather than the discipline of making sure his repetition was continuing. Hank wanted mostly to guard himself against the trap of religion in his Christianity, and to stay focused on his relationship with God. He missed his wife. Part of his internal prayer life was about his wife and her safety while he was gone. He usually started such prayers with thanks for her; then he followed by asking for God’s protection over her. He usually ended with a request that she be blessed somehow.
Sandra’s spiritual strength had always been something that Hank had marveled at. She was meek, and quick to apologize when she was wrong. She was different from him in the sense that she liked to have her quiet times and Bible studies in the evening. Hank however, was a sworn morning man. Hank also championed several verses in the Psalms that spoke highly of early morning worship of God. David the psalmist was who Hank strived to be.
Hank had been a rowdy young man, pre-Christ. He’d been married and divorced before he’d been saved. The divorce had led to a vacuous world of sexual promiscuity and alcohol. When it had become too much, Hank had picked up his cross and followed Jesus. It happened during a drunken confessional visit. Hank had been asked to leave the church, and he wanted to go back in and confess. The priest had called the police. In the drunk tank, Hank had found a pamphlet from a nearby Assemblies of God church inviting him to Sunday worship services.
Within his first six months of Christianity, he’d met Sandra, and soon they’d been engaged.
Now, years later, Hank still wanted people to see him as a man of faith, just as people saw his bride as a woman of faith, and he told her so regularly.
People looking on from outside definitely saw Hank as a man of the faith. They didn’t know about his struggles lusting after women other than his wife. Hank knew he would never act on such glances, but the stolen, questionable peeks at the opposite sex left him feeling guilty. Hank had meditated hard on the Song of Solomon, and had done his best to internalize what it meant to be in total love with one’s spouse. He still had the memories of his past, and the mutant spawn of these memories had recently been attacking him, exquisitely, in his sleep.
As Hank hiked up the street that was built on a steep hill, he walked towards the first shanties he saw, propped against each other on the right side of the road, like rum-splashed sailors. The left side of the road was a marijuana field. The plants were all juvenile, and Hank’s glance lingered on them and their taboo. Coconut palm dangled 40 feet above and everything was alive and lush in all directions. The only break in nature was the dirt road and the odd shanties piled up everywhere. Hank stepped up to the first one, which seemed no larger than a kiosk at a food court. Marijuana smoke was in the air. Hank tilted forward and knocked on the makeshift door, which gave in several inches as he rapped on it.
The door opened, and the interior was dark. A very well dressed black man, with a buttoned down white shirt, freshly ironed tanned khakis and impeccably polished brown wingtips stepped out from the shadows.
“Hi! My name is Hank. I am from the United States! I’m inviting you to a drama that we will be performing in the lot next to the St. Mark’s Methodist church later tonight.” Hank said. He met the man in his red-brown eyes. Hank took his face in now that he was done with his introduction. There were anxiety lines carved into the man’s forehead. His hair was closely cropped to his round skull.
“Methodist church?” The man asked. Hank nodded yes. Then he noticed it. He noticed that the entire interior of this shanty had been covered with pornography. Hank didn’t want to stare, but it was strange that there were so many women in various positions of nakedness. A question that he immediately suppressed was whether this was North American pornography or something from elsewhere in the world?
“You want to see Nelson,” the well dressed man stated. Hank looked deeper into the room. He saw a card table and a folding chair. He saw what appeared to be a salad bowl full of vegetation on top of the card table.
Something. Something told Hank to run. Bolt. He looked around.
“N-Nelson,” Hank stuttered.
The man stared at Hank.
Hank looked at the women on the walls. He recognized them. He recognized them all. It horrified him. He knew them. He’d ached for them.
His dreams. His late night orgasms in his sleep.
He shook it off. It was the darkness. Naked women at as distance, are naked women, and at a distance they all look the same. Hank’s mind clung to that truth.
“Are you ok, American Hank?” The well dressed man asked.
Hank snapped back, realizing that he had been gawking at the pornography on the walls. Embrarassed and confused, he tried to save face.
“Yes, um. tell me more about Nelson.”
The smoky, burnt rope smell of scorched marijuana leaves was strong in the air, drying the back of Hank’s throat.
“Yes. Nelson will be your friend. He is up the hillside more,” the well-dressed man said. Then, he brought a large, lit conical spliff the size of a rolled up paperback novel to his mouth. The embers bloomed intensely as he inhaled. Hank hadn’t noticed the spliff, he’d been trying to maintain eye contact. As an aside in his head, he wondered how much of the marijuana he’d inhaled.
It then occurred to Hank that this was not a residence, but one of the many small rooms that the locals purchased their marijuana from. Hank turned to the salad bowl and saw that it was full of the ripest clusters of marijuana buds that he’s ever seen. Sticky and piled high.
“How far up the road?” Hank asked. Suddenly, he was very uncomfortable.
“Four houses, on the right side, American. You will have to walk a little.” The well dressed man spoke around the smoke that he was exhaling, it made strange choppy patterns as it escaped his lips and nose. The still air between them carried the cloud of smoke to Hank’s face. Hank tried to limit his breathing.
“Thank you,” Hank said, dazed, and suddenly wanting to be as far from this shanty as possible.
The well dressed man took a step back into the darkness of his shanty, never breaking eye contact with Hank. He took another deep drag of his billy club sized spliff, and all Hank could see were the man’s clothes and a patch of radiant embers in the dark where the man’s head should be.
“No problem my American. Perhaps you will see me tonight,” He said smokily, and then he stepped forward with a cloud wisping and curling about his head and slammed his cardboard thin door. It didn’t close properly at all, and it hung with an uncentered gap against the frame. Hank could hear the man inside sitting back into his folding chair.
Hank turned and worked his way up the road that was curving left. There had been something about his conversation with the well-dressed man. Hank equated his feelings to his discomfort with the blatant marijuana smoke. He also felt a bit of a contact high.
The ivy and green scenery began to loom heavier. Coconut trees interlaced overhead, creating an entrance to a dark canopy. The well-dressed man had said only four houses, but after three quarters of a mile, Hank had seen nothing that looked remotely like a domicile. The darkness opened like a tattered umbrella over Hank, with spiked shards of light cutting through the canopy cover. Hank wasn’t even sure if he was on a road anymore.
Something, perhaps it was the heat, got Hank to thinking about Hell itself. Hank had actually heard a sermon where the argument had been made that the most loving thing God has done for those who don’t want anything to do with him was to create a Hell. The classic vision of a fiery Hell made no sense to Hank. He was convinced that Hell was a cold place, a bleak place, a dark location completely away from the love of God.
Hank knew that by his accepting Jesus into his heart and by not being ashamed to preach the gospel, that a frigid Hell wasn’t an option for him. In order to ensure that his Christianity wasn’t based around a fear of Hell, Hank regularly prayed prayers where he told God that he would serve even if it took him to Hell. Hell wasn’t the point. The point was that Hank had found a connection with the supreme creator. That creator had real estate in Hank’s heart, and Hank wasn’t about to abuse the goodness of his merciful, pure God.
He continually benefited from his tranquility within, and it was a direct result of his relationship with Christ. The peace that passed all understanding had been Hank’s for quite some time. The more that he prayed and shared the inner workings of his heart and his mind with God in prayer, the more shielded and serene he felt. Hank truly regretted his sins, knowing that every time he sinned, he may as well have been a plumed Roman guard pounding nails into Jesus’ wrists. God had met Hank more than halfway. God had forgiven him of his sleazy past, and given him a wonderful wife in Sandra. God had also opened doors both professionally and financially, to make Hank’s servitude even more possible. Grenada was an example of such a door. Hank smiled to himself, knowing that he was doing the right thing.
The side of the hill and the ground under Hank’s feet were completely engulfed in ivy. He trudged on, crushing the leaves with every footfall. The acrid-sweet aroma of the crushed ivy juice dominated the air. Hank looked down and saw an empty, discarded package of birth control obscured in the leaves. All of the pills had been popped through the foil. He stopped and squatted, looking but not touching. There was a Planned Parenthood of St George’s stamp on the edge of the package. Hank sucked the air between his teeth, and trudged deeper into the unfathomable darkness that made noon seem to darken to 7pm.
Hank’s walk in the darkness continued for several more minutes. He was about to turn around and head back to the light when he saw them: 4 shanties. They were clustered together, made with plywood, two-by-fours and odd paneling scraps. Each was about 10 feet tall, and their heights were all the same within six inches. The shanties were in a clearing, built out of the hillside. The only illuminated area of the path that Hank was on. The area was blazing hot and emanating heat, as it was the only place open to the sun. The closest of the buildings had been painted red, and the others were their natural wood tones.
The wet muggy air seemed to stave off Hank’s thirst in the heat. The smell of nutmeg was in the air. The fields were close by. Hank tried to notice of any other details about these houses and he couldn’t. The blood-red shanty took all of his attention.
Hank made the decision internally to knock on the door of each of the four shanties and have four separate interactions with all of the different inhabitants.
He looked down at his chest. He’d felt something. An insect, a hefty one with pincers, wings and horns. It was lodged in the opening of his button down shirt. Hank had never seen such a thing. It burrowed into his shirt against his skin and clawed about. What he’d seen of it was orange. It’s legs were like elongated cricket legs. Hank danced backward, horrified. Against his skin, the insect burrowed against him, and then suddenly stopped, as if determining its surroundings. Then it started again. The insect, was two and a half inches long.
Hank, grabbed the front of his shirt with both hands, and used it like a rag to lift the writhing thing off of his body. He felt a prick in his thumb, the thing started to buzz somewhere, and then he had to kill it. He bashed it against himself, many times. He never knew what manner of insect it was, he’d mangled it too hard with the inside of his shirt.
For a second, he considered Sandra, and how she would have absolutely hated this tour. The heat and the bugs alone were almost too much for Hank. The beach would have killed her too, Hank concluded. Between the crematorium temperature and the biting insects, Sandra would have waved the white flag.
The sand flies would have found her to be sweet, as the mosquitoes in California did. The sand flies, the irritating, stinging black dots which Hank had joked to Mark were probably all jaws and teeth when under a magnifying glass.
Hank stood still. He composed himself. He would obviously, go to the house on the right, the red one, first. He wiped his brow. The heat, the humidity, it was overwhelming. Hank suddenly had an intense urge to turn. To simply head back. The pornography on the walls. It had been a warning. He fought that urge down. He’d made it this far.
Hank stepped towards the first shanty on the right, painted a glossy crimson. He scrutinized it for a second to determine the entrance.
“Hello my friend.” A voice spoke. Hank jerked. A man from the other side of the path, in the humid darkness of the ivy was greeting him and walking towards him. The man was very, very black. He was shirtless, and his sinewy musculature was pronounced. In the shadows his hair resembled an angry octopus on top of his head. The man wore generic bluejeans that were cutoff at the knees, the white strings hung down his well-calved legs which were in the light. Hank wondered how long the man had been observing him. The hair on his forearms pricked. Adrenaline locked his throat.
“My friend, what are you doing here?” The man asked. His accent was smooth. Almost sounding English-trained.
Hank cleared his throat, “I am looking for someone named Nelson,” Hank said nervously.
“I am the Nelson you seek,” The man said, stepping closer. Hank realized that this was a man in his late forties and not a younger man as he’d assumed. He wasn’t so black now that he was out of the shadows. The man had speckled grey and black dreadlocks hanging about his head haphazardly. The amount of hair on the man’s head must have been his entire life’s worth. It resembled a large beehive wrapped in grey-black rope ends. Varying tendrils dripped everywhere. Nelson was observing Hank intensely. He dramatically looked him up and down, like he was a rare, valuable specimen that had just come from the jungle.
He went to work.
“Hi! My name is Hank. I am from the America! I want to invite you to a show that we will be presenting down the road at the St. Mark’s Methodist church later tonight.” Hank said. He was a bit winded from the walking, and his message had come out weakly as he’d gulped for air. Also, something in the air wasn’t right.
“I am interested,” Nelson said soberly.
“You are? Good! We have a team of Americans and Europeans here, and we would like to talk to you about Jesus.” Hank said. “Do you know any kids? We’re also going to have a puppet show,” he added.
“This place is further down the road than Jesus,” Nelson said slowly. Nelson’s eyes were wide. The dark pink orbs twitched in his skull as his black-brown pupils looked Hank over, like one would look over an item they were about to purchase. It was exaggerated. Hank mostly ignored it. It was a closer proximity than he wanted. He could smell the man’s breath.
“Why do you say that, Nelson?” Hank asked. His head was racing. Hank was uncomfortable with Nelson’s leering, but he felt that they might be able to have a serious conversation about the Lord. The door of spiritual opportunity was opening. Hank felt an excitement. The nervousness that he’d felt intensified. It was the anticipation of something wonderful, not an alarm.
“There’s evil in these woods,” Nelson answered, still scrutinizing.
“The world is an evil place, Nelson. But with Jesus, and his protection, it can be a wonderful place,” Hank said.
“This is an evil greater than your Bible. Greater than your Jesus.” Nelson said.
“Nelson, as far as I know, that is not true.” Hank responded.
The tension between the two men held. The differing religious opinions startled Hank. He’d never heard anyone discount the Bible or Jesus in such a way. Never been challenged like this. His heart started to rip in his chest.
“Come with me to my house. Tell me about this protection of Jesus. If it works, we all need it it here on the mountain.” Nelson said. He turned and started towards the fourth shanty, jutting from the hillside, its roof dripped with ivy leaves. Hank followed.
In Hank’s mind, he could see the opportunity to share Christ opening up before him. But something wasn’t right. Weird somehow. Off. He was in a foreign country, he rationalized.
“Nelson, do you know what happens when you are baptized?” Hank asked, following.
“Yes. Baptism means that the man I was, I am no more. I am a new creature in Christ,” Nelson said over his shoulder. His dreadlocks bounced heavily on his bare back as he walked, from the twist of locks at the top of his head to some strands dangling to his thighs. They pulsed as he placed his weight into his steps over the vegetation. Then Nelson, at his door, pushed it inwards. The door itself was as thin as the door to the pornographic house that had sent Hank in this direction. Hank followed closely.
“You are right Nelson! Its rare that people can explain exactly what baptism is. Also, are you aware of the blood of Jesus? How you can ask it to cover you and protect you?” Hank asked. He stepped to the front of the shanty and stopped. The uncomfortable nervousness burned through him.
“I have heard of the blood of Jesus. But my friend, I know that the evil in these hills is greater than the good that you speak of,” Nelson said from inside his shanty, which was a little larger than an elaborate several stalled restroom in a western restaurant. Nelson turned and gesticulated lightly for Hank to enter.
“I can’t come in and sit with you now, Nelson. Perhaps the same time tomorrow? I need to tell more people about our performance.” Hank said. The nervousness had shifted. His stomach swirled. Fear. His heart charged.
Fear. It had him. It was on the back of his neck. Hank drew his shoulders up.
He’d never been so spooked in broad daylight.
Something was horribly off. It was the same “off” that Hank had felt while with the well-dressed man.
“I must tell you something, American. Your name again?” Nelson asked.
“My name is Hank.” He announced. He forced himself to sound strong. There was something. Something emanating. Pushing.
He was stuck in his tracks. At the threshold. It was as if he’d suddenly forgotten to step forward. The cool silence from the vegetable canopy all around fueled the acid in his gut. Something was not right, not right at all.
“American Hank, please come inside of my house,” Nelson said, beckoning with his hand. “I have to tell you something.”
Hank considered his options. He hadn’t heard of any violence towards missionaries in Grenada before. In fact, the worst things that he’d seen of the Grenadian people was their outright bootlegging and reggae remixing of the new Michael Jackson BAD album. That and heroic amounts of marijuana smoke. With his heart pounding out his ribcage, Hank stepped into the pallet-floored shanty. Into the darkness that seemed to push him back.
There were expensive clothes hung on everything that would hang them. Patchouli was in the air. There was a coat rack and several hooks that housed fashionable silk shirts. Two brooms were against the wall each with a pair of designer jeans neatly propped on each, apparently drying. On dozens of slapdash thumbtacks punched into the four plywood walls hung thin multi-colored dress shirts. There was a card table in the center of the room hedged by 3 older, heavy wooden dinner chairs, each with blown out leather seats, with yellow stuffing spilled over, dangling against the chairlegs. Draped over the backs of the chairs were Izod, Polo and Christian Dior dress shirts. Hank saw the value in the clothing and wondered if they were all knock-offs. The table was a miasma of expensive socks, more shirts, high-end leather belts, ties, hats and other such items.
“Sit down, Hank. Sit down. Would you like a drink?” Nelson said. Nelson worked his way towards a part of the room that Hank hadn’t focused on yet, there was a small, dirty white icebox, with a stack of American Time magazines in pristine condition on top of it. Nelson lifted up the stack of magazines, slid the heavy black lid of the icebox back and looked inside. Hank sat.
“I am OK. Thanks though.” Hank said. He was breathing hard, and wanted a drink, but had to say no. A small lie perhaps. Hank was really just trying to get a feel for the place. There was also electricity coming from somewhere that fueled the one ghastly, clear bulb hung in the center of the room.
“That is good, because my generator was out for a lot of the time yesterday and today, a lot of my food went bad. Then my nephews showed up. I might not have a drink here for you after all. I expect to be restocked soon though,” Nelson said, speaking smoothly through his accent, as he poked around in the icebox.
“Nelson, what was it that you wanted to tell me?” Hank asked. He was having a hard time settling into the chair. The loss of the padding made the seat completely useless for comfort. He shifted in it and moved its place several times. Hank’s agitation was apparent.
“Did a man from the bottom of the hill send you?” Nelson asked.
Hank swallowed. He suddenly thought that he was in the middle of some sort of trap that he couldn’t get out of. He didn’t know how the trap worked.
“Yes, a man in a small shanty sent me up here.” Hank said. “He had all these pictures on his walls. . .” Hank used both hands to shape a woman with the classic hourglass figure.
Nelson gave absolutely no reaction, his eyes betrayed a hostile indifference.
Hank wondered what the connection between Nelson and the well-dressed man was.
“Hank I have to tell you about something. Something that will interest you and your St. Mark’s Methodist friends.” Nelson whispered. He shuffled jerkily up to the table and sat across from Hank. The bulb, a few feet above them, illuminated the room dimly with a constricted trebled droning.
“Nelson, I have already been impressed with your knowledge. You know baptism and you know about the blood of Christ. Do you know about the armor of God?” Hank asked.
“Hank, your baptisms and blood and armor are no protection against what I am about to tell you about,” Nelson said, in a hoarse whisper. “In fact, they don’t matter here. Your beliefs aren’t strong enough for this evil.”
“I don’t entirely understand. But Nelson, I am having a hard time believing you. God’s power is absolute.” Hank looked Nelson in his red eyes. Nelson didn’t falter.
“Even if you don’t believe, you still have to reckon.” Nelson answered, softly.
The jack-hammering in Hank’s thorax was enough for him to reach up and rest his right hand on his chest. Hank had been sweating, as one would in the humid summer Grenadian climate, but the weeping out of his forehead had become even more pronounced.
Nelson reached forward, rummaging through the articles of clothing on the table and found a thin, unintelligibly monogrammed, silk white handkerchief, which he tossed across to Hank.
“Nelson, my understanding of the Bible is that nothing can stand in the way of the love and power of Jesus Christ. We are told to command things in the name of Jesus, and they will be under his authority.” Hank said. His hands began to shake as he reached for the handkerchief and unsopped his forehead. His breathing was shallow. He was almost hyperventilating.
He couldn’t determine what was wrong. There was no one else in the room. The silence was so striking that it made his pounding heart louder. Yet it was just Hank and Nelson in the room. Nelson didn’t look dangerous, just red-eyed, shirtless, and heavily dreadlocked.
“Hank, there is a man on this hillside, a man I know very well, who is so evil that he can change from a man to an animal then back into a man again,” Nelson said, with the same controlled hoarse voice.
Time stopped for Hank. The goosebumps horripilated up and down the backs of his arms, and neck. His ears were hot.
“An animal?” Hank asked. His heart was so loud and his ears felt the pulse.
“A beast,” Nelson said. His dark-pink whites and black-brown pupils never left Hank.
Thoughts whirled through Hank’s head. He could back out now. But that would make a weird situation even weirder. Or, was this his big opportunity to perform actual spiritual deliverance? He believed in the power of Jesus’ blood, but he didn’t know if he was pure enough or strong enough to exercise it against whatever Nelson was talking about. Hank needed backup. Hank wanted John Harrison and maybe two or three more team members with him before he stepped into the arena of full-on spiritual warfare. Hank needed John Harrison. John Harrison had just dealt with six demons the week before. Harrison would know what to do.
“This man, with the beast, is he close by? Can I meet him?” Hank asked.
“He is near,” Nelson answered. He added, “I think he also wants your help.”
The thoughts fired behind Hank’s eyes like bullets. He remembered Mark 5: 9 where Jesus asks a demon its name and the response was “My name is legion for we are many.” He also recalled Dr. Rebecca Brown’s book HE CAME TO SET THE CAPTIVES FREE, he thought of her satanic encounter with a werewolf. He thought of Malachai Martin’s book HOSTAGE TO THE DEVIL and the deliverance tactics of Bishop X. Hank remembered how Harrison had run him through Christian spiritual warfare tactics. Hank knew that he had to control his fear. He was going to engage with evil on a level reserved for the saints.
“Tomorrow, Nelson. I will come up here tomorrow, with a team. We will start fasting tonight. We will purify ourselves. We will confess all of our sins and make sure we are ready. We will come up here tomorrow and you can introduce us, and we can have a session of deliverance. We can, through the help of Jesus, rid this man of this plague.” Hank said. The words had spilled freely out of his mouth.
“Hank, we don’t have until the next day. In fact, your Jesus can’t help.” Nelson said. There was a twinkle somewhere in Nelson’s red-brown eyes. Mischievous. A smirk.
“My Jesus can’t help…?” Hank asked. “I have a friend I would like you to meet. His name is John Harrison and he. . .”
Nelson pitched forward, into the table violently. Belts and socks fell off of the sides. As if someone had shoved him forward from the center of his back. Nelson’s recoiling head whipped back on his neck like a swivel, staring upward. Both of his hands, flat on the clothing and items before him. From his seated position, his upper body began to spasm. Jerk. As if being pulled.
“YOUR JESUS CAN’T HELP,” Nelson said, deeply, hollowly, upward towards the ceiling. The resonance of the voice vibrated off of the walls of the shanty. He continued to shudder, sharply, while looking upward.
Nelson then fell to his right, out of the chair and curled up on the plywood like a twitching fetus. He coughed. He rolled onto all fours. His flesh seemed to activate, plucking and pulling weirdly in the dim light. Blossoming under his skin. Nelson’s face contorted into a chiseled mask of feverish concentration. Hard. He looked like he was considering the worst decision of his life. A buzzing, insect noise filled the room.
“God. Jesus. Give me strength.” Hank prayed aloud. He could barely hear his voice over the buzzing and his own walloping heartbeat.
The drone of scraping dry vocal cords and flesh rumbled deep in Nelson’s throat, the pangs of the unspeakable, the unseeable forced itself into reality. It presented itself. It was noise not meant for Hank’s ears. Nelson’s body contorted and his limbs began to balloon weirdly. He was wet and slick, liquid was oozing out of him. Dark and unctuous. His eyes had rolled back and a dirty white froth discharged from his foam packed mouth. Jerking about, Nelson’s skin twisted and bubbled all while leaking that dark, oleaginous liquid out of his pores. The gaseous smell, almost like flatulence funked through the air. New, denser layers of skin rolled up to the surface through the older. Steam and a sulfuric smoke wafted off of him. The blackened skin ooze smeared and dripped on the floor. He’d already doubled in size.
Hank composed himself. He convinced himself that this was what he had been praying for. God had heard his fervent, persistent prayers. God had seen. God had empowered Hank to handle this evil. This was a moment of Biblical proportions. This was it. The story. The real manifestation of the spirit realm, that only a select few ever see.
Hank remembered Ephesians, “Put on the whole armor of God.” It was time. Hank had seen enough of Nelson flopping about. The droning, indeterminable buzzing sound dug into Hank’s ears and the hairs on his shoulders and the back of his neck pricked. While Nelson mutated, he whimpered pathetically. Hank was frozen, his heart crushed his chest cavity with its thrashing. Nelson whimpered gutterally, unintelligibly, his eyes furrowed shut. He was hypnotized by the transmogrification happening within and throughout him.
Long, course, grey and black-needled hairs began sprouting out of Nelson’s scalp, between and through the dreadlocks. He coughed, stopped whimpering and growled. The hairs grew and his face changed, elongated. His moaning voice hit a deeper, huskier preternatural timbre.
Nelson’s entire body fluttered, skin and limbs, in a preternatural seizure. There was a bubbling and stretching beneath Nelson’s skin as it continued to bubble and stretch with the plash and coating of newer, smokier layers of skin. He dripped fluid and he sweated relentlessly. His soupy flesh, raining pools and splatter throughout the room. Convulsing violently, Nelson swelled more in size.
“Stop! I command you demon, in the name of Jesus Christ, leave this man.” Hank said sternly.
If Hank couldn’t control this evil with the name of Christ Jesus, then what did this mean about his faith?
The mutation continued, and the moans coming from the back of Nelson’s throat were now lower than possible out of a human neck.
Hank stood his ground, not knowing if he should or even could step forward and lay a hand on Nelson. Hank wanted to empathize, but it was dangerous. Nelson’s spasms caused him to flop and roll about, lashing his re-skinned, extended, bulking arms about as he grew. Dust cascaded through the air. Blunt, rough, tapered talons extended out of Nelson’s fingers.
In the sweltering heat, the insect sound crescendo’d and suddenly stopped.
Nelson’s back then flexed and arched, gaining mass of unspeakable rigidity. Curved, heavy, coarse hairs forced their way out of follicles all over his body, rough, thick, quill-like whiskers, with the consistency of sewing needles. His greying dreadlocks, dragged over his face and spilled in all directions, as his edgeless skull stretched and rebulked itself. The dominant powers of hell reconstructed themselves in the physical realm before Hank, and Hank felt fear.
His heart. His heart couldn’t pound harder.
Nelson’s throat expanded with a pressurized popping sound. Muscle skeined over muscle, surging, and wrapping itself, Building into something tempered and impervious. Veins shot through the epidermis, forced between the skin and the flexing red meat. The muscular striation throughout Nelson’s flesh directly underneath his skin was weblike and perfect.
Then the realization hit Hank, and the fear inside of himself that he was trying to control began to escape in pressurized bursts.
The realization was that before him was a wall of unspeakable flesh and rage, smoking. The realization that Hank was trapped and he was going to be a victim of whatever this abomination had for him. And trhis was the insanity.
This was the madness. There was too much to process.
The situation was impossible. But Hank had to continue. This was where he really had to hunker down and do it. The situation was real. This was the reality. The spirit realm had crossed over and all Hank had was the teachings of Jesus that he’s been studying so hard. Hank had been training for this very moment. This was where he would be able to do that which was needed. What else had he been studying the Bible for?
This was it.
“I call upon the blood of Jesus, to cleanse this man! Nelson! you are covered with the blood of Jesus!” Hank yelled.
The thing Nelson had become weakly looked up. Through the dreadlocks, its gray eyes burned with a deep, resonant hatred. The center of its face had become a snout, stubby, dark and whiskered like a bear’s. The heavy, brutish presence filled the room.
Darkness, in the form of small pillow-sized scratchy dark clouds flitted about in the corners and shadows of the shanty. The buzzing, locust-plague fluttering sound started again, and grew louder. The clouds darted about. The lights winked out and weakly back on. There were whispers from some forgotten, uncouth language cutting through the revolting din. The spirits were everywhere, clouds of evil in all of the shadows. Hank felt pushed again.
In Jesus name, begone demon!” Hank said again, to no avail.
All of the spiritual warfare training didn’t even faze the metaphysical reveal spilling afoul into the shanty.
Nelson’s transformation into the Gonteekwa was complete. Monstrous and livid it stood, extending its back against the ceiling to its full 12 feet and flexed over Hank, breathing hard. Hotly. Preparing.
All of the darkness. The dreams. That niggling in Hank’s head that had been pulling. All of it focused in one loud explosion of thought and revelation behind Hank’s eyes. His reality was now one with frayed edges. Hank breathed deeply, the tears continued.
He knew that he was seeing that which shouldn’t be spoken of.
The Gonteekwa’s full, animal form had taken over the shanty, and the ceiling was being lifted as it bent over Hank. Its heavily muscled arms spread to both walls, clawed fingers splayed, preparing to clap, with Hank at the center.
Hank had nothing. He had no power in the situation. All he could do was look the beast in the eyes. The black eyes of the Gonteekwa snapped and met Hank’s. It breathed hard, looking into him. Hank felt as if his brain was being coldly probed by foreign thought-processes. He felt violated and sickened by the though of the violation at the same time. His thoughts jumbled and dropped. Frank lost track of his individuality for a second. His mouth was dry. His heart was at full-locomotive, to the point of pain, and the sweat flowed cold down his back.
The threat of imminent violence was acute. The Gonteekwa’s weathered eye sockets alluded to a thousand different lifetimes. Its eyes were lucid, with red speckled whites the black pupils focused. It looked as if the monster was about to speak. The Gonteekwa’s muscled, bulky frame, shifted forward closing the distance, settling its massive, dreadlocked head two feet above Hank’s.
Jesus’ name hadn’t worked at all. Fear and confusion crackled in Hank’s head. It was all inexplicable and Hank’s sanity loosened as he tried to believe what he was seeing. He understood that if it was real, he was the next victim of this unspeakable abomination. Hank was doing his best to prepare to die.
What did this mean about his Christianity? What did this mean about Jesus or his resurrection? His mind roared at him, and then countered itself.
The beast lifted its haunches, dropped to its front claws and stood on all fours which let pressure off of the plywood ceiling. There was new stress to the walls on either side of Hank, as the Gonteekwa leaned against them.
The shanty groaned, shook and wobbled as it adjusted to the immense behemoth within. The walls buckled with the Gonteekwa’s physical adjustments.
The crack in reality took its final toll on Hank, and tears re-dribbled down his cheeks. There was no way to explain that which could not be explained. There was no protection or control over the situation. Hank smiled and sobbed as derangement worked its toehold in his mind.
Their eye-lock continued. The lips peeled back and Hank saw the white, translucent edged fangs, symmetrical and conical, top and bottom, fitting together perfectly, open. The black eyes widened, and the heavy, deep-muscled brow furrowed.
Hank broke eye-contact and fell submissively to his knees in the oily wetness and hung his head. He forced his eyes to close so hard that he could see sparkling lights.
The hopeful thought that perhaps this was all the result of a secret drugging took form in Hank’s brain. Perhaps the marijuana smoke that the well-dressed man had been blowing had altered his perception. Perhaps he was actually in the middle of an elaborate hallucination. He’d heard of such things before. Tribes with mindbending concoctions and blowdarts that could hurt his sanity. He kept his eyes closed.
Sweating from the humidity, he felt the hot breath of the colossal monster on the back of his neck.
Hank braced for impact.
It didn’t happen.
The Gonteekwa was suddenly agitated. So much so, that Hank opened his eyes and looked up. It was moving to the left and right, placing weight on each arm. The single bulb, dragged about through the dreadlocks on its inky-gray black head. Its head turned snout-down, and it relocked eyes inches from Hank’s face. Animosity was the grimace as the teeth clenched, and a gelatinous wisp of drool dropped and plashed directly in front of Hank’s knees.
Suddenly, Nelson’s body dropped down, out from underneath the dark, fleshy shadow. Nelson’s body hit the floor with a splat, soaking wet like a newborn directly in front of Hank.
The shift in the form of the beast was immediate. It became a cloudy, almost dustlike shadow with indurate yet unfocused outlining. It gathered, murky, unholy, as a swirling storm. The previous grimace, the focused eyes, the sharp and white, disintegrated and were consumed in the dark roiling cloud that consumed the space that its physical form had dominated.
The other spirits in the room, along the edges in the shadows skitted about and soon churned into the core of the heavy, black suphurous torrent. The nebulous fog assumed an aggressive, muscular yet indefinable apparition over Hank.
Hank was lightheaded. He could do nothing but observe from his disabled position. Something was going to happen, he had to take it, and he didn’t know what it was.
The fear again clawed up his throat and wrapped its pincers around his brain.
The form billowed in its unrealized haziness. The brawny, 12 foot tall column, revolved angrily with smokey froth and began to creep, with black, corrupt feelers, closer to Hank, further choking the room out with its gloom.
Hank was ready for it all to end.
His struggles with his flesh, his nocturnal emissions, and with his wandering eyes didn’t matter anymore.
Hank trembled. He considered his wife Sandra, for a second, and the connection that they were about to lose. Hank’s crisis of faith and life was complete.
The corrupt spirit of the Gonteekwa, like a tornado, darted heavily back and forth in the room, leaving its center of mass directly over Hank just below the makeshift ceiling. Then, like a huge, precise fist followed by an arm, it shot straight down into Hank’s face, into his mouth, nose, and eyes. His ears. The cloud splashed about him, sprayed then regathered and continued to pummel and enter his face. Liquid from the floor pulled up and funneled down his throat.
“Jesus. . .” Hank coughed pathetically.
The spirit continued blasting itself into Hank, forcing his body to buckle and shudder. Nelson had been right. This was an evil stronger than anything Hank had studied in the Bible.
“The blood of. . .Jesus.” Hank whimpered, through the unyielding torrent forcing itself upon him. Hank knew that the pain was coming. He braced himself for the impact.
Hank saw all the images. He saw all of his sexual dreams of the past month and a half. He saw all of the blasphemy. He saw the bodies of the dead he didn’t know and that he would know. He saw his wife Sandra, and knew that she was now connected to it all. He felt the yearning, the desire to have a child. The horror began to wear to madness. He dreamed of all of the evil ungodly orgasms again. The Bible verses that he’d memorized in his head, all seared. They cauterized inwardly, force-exhumed.
The painful mental scrubbing made Hank grit his teeth and yell through them, as he adjusted to the new harsh sensation. He relived his past life, with his previous wife. He relived all of his promiscuity between his longterm relationships. Hank felt his self-hatred reaching a structural breaking point. Jesus couldn’t save him. Jesus didn’t save him. Jesus wouldn’t save him. Hank Maldita was damned.
The peace, it was gone. God had not protected him. Whatever it was that he’d experienced, seemed to work around Hank’s own faith. The fear in his chest grew and wept through his body. His understanding had been that there was nothing bigger than God, so why had this happened? Why had his faith been deliberately confronted and abused?
Hank left the shanty, Nelson’s body, broken and breathing weakly on the floor behind him.
Hank’s eyes were wide.
And bloodshot to a dark pink.