~ Return ~
Mason tried to block out the pastor’s droning voice. He tried to block out the sight of the long wooden box displayed at the front of the church. He tried to block out the sound of his aunt’s sobbing. He tugged at his shirt collar. His neck was sweaty and his suit was itchy. And the seat hurt. And James was dead. Again.
“Turn with me, friends,” Pastor Booker said, opening his Bible, “to John 11:25.” There was a rustling of pages as the congregation turned to the passage. Mason glared at the rust-colored Bible in the pew-rack in front of him. The pastor cleared his throat. “‘Jesus said to her,’– meaning Martha,” he began, “‘“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”’”
Mason huffed. Lies. All lies. James had believed in Jesus, but he still died – twice! Mason had given this God a second chance and still He couldn’t manage to keep James from dying! He shook his head in disgust.
At last, the service ended, and Mason found himself in a row with his family, shaking the hands of everybody as they filed past. He suddenly found himself looking into Daniel Booker’s dark brown eyes.
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” Daniel said, sounding like he meant it. Beside him stood his younger sister, Maia, with long dark hair and a tear-stained face, smiling sympathetically.
The pastor was behind them, and he held out his hand to Mason. “Your cousin was a good man,” he said kindly, “I know that this is hard, but take heart in the fact that he is safe in the arms of his Savior. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”
Mason managed to keep from rolling his eyes, but he couldn’t force himself to return Pastor Booker’s smile. James wasn’t anywhere. He was dead. His body was cold and pale in the casket, and he was dead.
But he hadn’t been. For three beautiful days, he had been alive. Mason balled his fists. James could be alive again. All he had to do was to find Old Ken and the Voyager.
Mason didn’t even go inside once he got home. He climbed out of the car and set off down the street in the direction of the woods, suit and all. He didn’t turn when he heard his mother call after him. She wouldn’t know anything about it in an hour.
“Well, son?” Old Ken said, leaning over his porch railing, chewing a toothpick, “Have any luck?”
Old Ken shrugged and blinked as a raindrop landed on his forehead. “Well, it doesn’t usually go quite right the first time.”
“I need to go back.”
“Of course you do.”
“Well?” Mason demanded, “Are you going to take me back again or not?” Old Ken didn’t answer, but just stared absently down at him. The toothpick waggled up and down between the old man’s cracked lips. Mason glared.
At last, Old Ken pulled the toothpick out of his mouth and flung it across the yard. “What are you going to do differently this time?”
“I’ll keep him away from all danger,” Mason said, setting his jaw. “I’ll chain him to his bed if I have to.”
“You can’t know that you’re keeping him from danger until you know what the danger is,” Old Ken replied.
Mason felt his brow crease. “What do you mean?”
“Let’s see if we can work this out. How did your cousin die the first time?”
“I told you,” Mason said with annoyance. “A car accident.”
“But why was he in an accident?”
“Some stupid driver wasn’t…”
“No!” Old Ken interrupted. “What was he doing in the car in the first place?”
Mason thought back. “He was going to pick up some missionaries at the airport,” he said at last.
A bitter smile creased the old man’s face. “Now we’re getting somewhere. How did he die the second time, then?”
“He crashed his bike,” Mason answered, trying to block out the images that bombarded his mind.
Old Ken sighed. “But why did he crash his bike?” he asked, in a tone that teacher might use while trying to teach a very slow child a simple concept.
“Um… He was following Daniel down the hill?”
“The pastor’s son.”
The grim smile broadened. “Now where is the connection between the two?”
Old Ken rolled his eyes. “What is the factor that both deaths have in common?”
“They… uh… both happened on wheels…?”
“No, nitwit!” Old Ken almost exploded. “Use your brain! They both happened,” he lowered his voice to a sinister whisper, “Because of the Christians.”
“Think about it,” he pressed him. “He was going after the Christians both times. First to help them out, and then to prove himself to them. Don’t you see? James wouldn’t be dead if it weren’t for those Christians of his.”
Mason clenched his fists. “So what do I do?”
“Get him away from those people. There’s no chance it’ll work any better this time unless you do that. I’m not going to jump you back a million times for nothing.”
“Of course I’ll do it,” Mason said. As he stepped inside the Voyager, he grinned. It would work this time, because, this time, he knew what the problem was. He could convince James of the stupidity in the old fairy tales he put so much faith in. James wasn’t stupid; he’d remember the truth. And he’d never beaten Mason in an argument.
Photo Credit – https://gamboa.ph/dark-valleys-4eb372862cf9