~ Again ~
“I’m going back.” Mason glared up at Old Ken, who was chewing a strand of grass and leaning against the porch rail.
“You were close that time, kid,” Old Ken drawled absently, without looking down at him.
“Take me back.”
“So close,” he continued. “A tree this time. But those Christians were still there.” He turned to look Mason in the eye. “I thought I told you to get him away from them. That’s the only way it will work.”
“How do you know he fell out of a tree?” Mason blinked. He hadn’t told Ken.
“I’ve got other gadgets in there than just ole Voyager,” Old Ken said, jerking his thumb backwards toward the house. “But why didn’t you keep your cousin away from those people?”
“It’s impossible,” Mason replied. “They’re inseparable. But I can still save him, never mind the Christians.”
Old Ken shrugged and chewed his grass strand thoughtfully. “How can you be sure it will work any better this time?”
Mason felt anger bubble up inside of him. “Just take me back, okay?” he cried. Old Ken looked down at him, his eyebrows raised. Mason tried to steady himself. “I’ll get it done, alright? Just get me back there.”
“Guess it’s better than doing it myself,” Ken grunted. “Entertaining, too. Come on, kid. Friday again?”
Mason leaned back in his chair and reread his text history.
Doing anything Sunday? from him.
Then James, Church.
I mean, after church.
Picking some missionaries up from the airport.
He drew a deep breath. Want company?
Gotta leave right after service. You can come along if you come with me to church.
Another church service. Hooray. Hadn’t he left all that behind ages ago? But anything to keep close to James. To protect him. But Mason still cringed. He’d seen more of that church in the past week to last him the rest of his life. Or… was it really the past week? He groaned. Time was so muddled. To James, this was the first time his cousin had stepped foot in a church in months. If only he knew.
But no. He would never know. He would never be told.
After church, Mason once again found himself standing between Becca and Maddie, James’ sisters. Maia Booker was standing across the room, chatting with a young mother and her toddlers, and Daniel was talking to a group of friends nearby. Suddenly, he turned and saw Mason staring at him. He grinned and walked over.
“Hey Mason!” he said, extending a hand. “Long time no see!”
“Good to see you again, Daniel,” Mason said. Time had become such a tangled mess. One of these days he needed to sit down and think this knot out.
“Hi, Dan,” James said, coming up. “Sorry to break up your chat, but we’ve got to go pick up the Falkners. Ready?” he asked Mason with a grin.
“Sure,” he replied, trying to sound nonchalant. “Want me to drive?”
James tossed him the keys.
“How did you like the sermon?” James ventured after they had been cruising down the highway for a while.
Mason stared ahead at the road. “Uh, fine, I guess,” he answered. He hadn’t really been paying attention.
“Do you think you’ll start coming again?” James said after a minute. “Regularly, I mean.”
“Oh.” Mason hadn’t really considered this possibility. But, if James was going to be spending so much time with the Christians, he would need someone with half a brain around to watch out for him. He probably would still be in danger even after this awful weekend. This same, horrible weekend.
“I wish you would,” his cousin continued. “I’ve missed having you there. The Bookers have, too, I think. Everybody, really.” James paused for a minute, then continued, “And, you know… I’d love for you to keep coming, because, well…”
“I wish you’d become a Christian,” James blurted. “I wish you knew Christ. I wish you could be saved.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t think that will be happening anytime soon.” Mason glanced into his rearview mirror as a big white pickup truck cut off a minivan to swerve into the lane behind them. It promptly began tailgating them. “Stupid driver,” Mason muttered, then realized what that meant. He clutched the steering wheel and tried to breathe easily.
“You okay?” James asked, glancing back.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” Mason replied shortly. “Your seatbelt on?”
And then the driver behind them made his move. The truck roared out from behind them, veered into the lane to the left of the boys, trying to pass them. Mason stepped on the gas as he felt himself break into a shaky sweat. Don’t let him do anything stupid. The driver leaned on the horn and pushed his truck forward.
“Mason, watch out!” James cried, clutching at the door.
Mason turned to make sure his cousin was still alright. And that’s when the vehicles collided. His whole body was jolted as the car groaned. A searing pain roared up his leg and ground into his shoulder. He felt himself flung forward and his head struck a huge, hard, white thing that had suddenly appeared. He heard screaming, but he didn’t know if it was coming from him or James.
His leg was engulfed in waves of burning agony. His shoulder throbbed unbearably with every pulse of his heart. He felt something hot and wet trickling down his face. It dripped, red and sticky, into his eyes. He blinked, trying to clear away the black haze that was gathering in his vision, but to no avail.
He’d have to go back again, he thought wearily as the world dimmed. But, he wondered suddenly, would there be a next time? He felt so tired. But what would come next, if life didn’t go on? A crippling jolt of terror rocked him that hurt far worse than his leg or his shoulder.
Then everything went black.