WRITER’S NOTE: Hi there! The series has reached its finale. But, if you haven’t read the previous episodes, don’t feel left out. The links are right here.
Episode 1: The Cop
Episode 2: The Trap
Episode 3: The Ultimatum
Episode 4: The Alternative
Episode 5: The Real World
And now … let’s get into the story, shall we.
Saturday mornings are usually used for clean up around the house. To rearrange furniture, dispose of the garbage, and to clean the surrounding greenery. For Jerry Jenson, this was also true. But this morning, it would be a different kind of clean-up.
In his backyard, the flames were now dying down, leaving a black indentation in the ground. He had not felt any dependence on the drugs any longer, but he did not want to leave any behind. The bottles of alcohol lay in pieces a few feet away, their contents emptied into the earth. Never again would he keep this stuff.
Perhaps he was being too extreme. There had to have been more decent ways of getting rid of stuff. He just did not want to have any reason to return to them if a moment of desperation came. He may be a different man now, but he was just being cautious. He had gotten on and off the wagon enough times to convince him that he needed to do this. He knew that the real clean-up he needed was inside, where he could decide whether or not to purchase more of this stuff.
But what worried him the most this morning was what had happened to him. Really, what had happened to him? Why did he wake up in his bed and not at the Centre? Had he dreamt all of this? It had all seemed so real.
He wanted to talk with her, but his phone was gone. Besides, the Man had said that Grace was now alive in Jerry. The fact that all of this did not make much sense any longer troubled him deeply. And if he was alive now, having been dead before, what did that mean? What was he supposed to do now that he was out of a job?
What would happen now?
Shine the Light in the Darkness, the Man had said. If that meant going and beating up Kraven now, one thing Jerry was sure of was that he did not feel ready to do that. But he couldn’t just sit there. It might be just a virtual reality, but it seemed so real. At least, while he was there.
Was he sure all of this had not been a dream? Aaargh! The uncertainty was annoying. But then he sobered. If it really had been a dream all along, he would rather take sleeping pills so that he could return to that dream and be there forever. Never before had a dream felt much better than reality.
And that was good reason to worry.
This was the last place he would have ever wanted to be. He had not been here since he was a kid. But this was the only place that made sense to be.
First Towne Church was an old building that had seen the better part of the last century. The sisters at the Irene Williams home used to bring the children here every Sunday morning.
So, this is it, Jerry. You’re back here. What a twist.
The doors suddenly burst open, and two men in work clothes carried a wooden pulpit out and down the steps. “Steady,” one of them said. “Steady, steadyyyy… DROP!” They dropped it on the landing, visibly tired.
Jerry stepped out of his car and walked over to them. It didn’t feel right to just stand around. “Hey, can I help?”
They stared at him. The older one smiled. “It’s OK. We’re good.”
The other one was winded. “Hey, can I…?”
“Sure go ahead.” He smiled as his partner hurried off. “He’s really hardworking, that one. He’s been holding it in for quite a while now, but he wouldn’t tell. Uh, where are my manners. Have we met before?”
Jerry extended his hand. “I’m sorry, you can say I’m kinda new here. I’m Jenson.”
The man took it. “Brian. Good to meet you, Jenson.”
“I just … I got some questions,” he said. “I was hoping I could see the pastor.”
Brian shook his head. “I’m sorry, Pastor’s not around. He went out camping with the kids.”
“Oh…” Jerry nodded. Now there’s a twist. “It’s OK. Thanks. I, uh… guess I’ll come some other time.”
“Hey, anytime bro. But, if you don’t mind talking with a deacon, I’ve got the time.”
Jerry paused. “A deacon?”
“I help around with some stuff in here. I also get to sit in front, if that qualifies.” Jerry liked the man. “Here, have a seat.” Brian led him to a park seat on the lawn.
Jerry got right to it. “You know, I’ve never really been a religious person.”
Brian nodded. “Yeah. You’ve been on tippy-toes ever since you got here. I know the look, but it’s OK.”
There was no easy way to say this. “I’ve been trying to convince myself that I’m not crazy. But there’s some crazy stuff that’s happened to me in the last twenty-four hours, and I was hoping someone could make some sense out of this for me.”
Brian pursed his lips and shrugged. “It’s OK. Let’s hear it.”
Jerry stared into his eyes. “You sure?”
“Even if I wasn’t, you’ve spooked my curiosity already.”
Jerry stared into the distance. He wanted to launch into his story, but he was never used to exposing himself to people he did not know. He would have to be careful with his words if he did not want to sound like a loon. “Do you believe in God?”
Brian blinked and smirked. “Really? Sure, yeah. I do.”
“Like Someone that’s writing our stories, yours and mine, and that’s also a part of it.”
“Wow … I’ve never heard it put that way before, but it’s true. That’s God. He writes our stories and plots our journeys. But we also have free will.”
“I thought I never really believed in God. And then … He suddenly comes crashing into my world. It’s like …” he paused wondering if he should go this far. “There was this darkness in me, and He’s taken it all and given me something better.”
Brian nodded. “That’s what Jesus did for us on the Cross. He took our sin and our past, and made an end to it. When we believe and receive it, we come to life.”
Jerry rested his hands on his knees. “Why is it so easy to forget these things? I’ve been sitting up all morning wondering if all of this was a dream. I mean, it seemed so real. But as the hours pass, the memories fade away. I feel more and more like this world is the real one. My problems and regrets and stuff are still there, and I don’t feel so different.”
Brian inhaled. “It’s never been about feelings, you know. God gave us our feelings, and they’re important for expressing ourselves. But He always demands faith.”
Ah, faith. Another million-dollar church word he had associated with blind ignorance.
“Faith, huh?” Jerry asked.
“Yeah. Sometimes He lets us see the real things to help us believe. Sometimes he doesn’t. ‘Blessed are they which see not, yet believe’. But you know what faith is? It connects us to the Real World.”
“The Real World?”
Brian pulled out a book from his pocket. A Bible. “Well, we know that this world, this reality, isn’t all there is. He’s told us about what really is, in here. ‘By faith, we know that the worlds were framed by the Word of God’. I’ve learnt that if I keep on studying His words in here, my mindset will be based on that, just the way He wants it. Like when He tells us ‘we’re seated in heavenly places in Christ’, we must trust and believe that, even when it doesn’t look like it. It’s the only way we can live the way He wants us to, in what we say and do, by His power and grace at work in us. It’s all in there.”
Jerry could not mask his excitement. It was as if this man had seen what he had seen. And all of this had been in the Bible all this time? “Where are you, really?” He remembered the Writer’s question. I’m seated with You in heavenly places, and my hand is in Yours.
“What’s that?” His other guy came out from the back. “Take five. I’ll be over in a moment.” He nodded and went back inside.
“So, is prayer like, when you talk to God?” Jerry asked. “Kinda like, breaking the fourth wall?”
“Even when you’re not asking anything?”
“It’s communication. Like a relationship. The more you interact, the more you become like the other person. And He speaks to us too. It’s not all the time we hear Him audibly. Most times, we don’t. But it’s kinda like a nudge inside. He speaks in our hearts. So we can become more like Him.”
“So we can be like the Light in the Darkness.”
Brian chuckled. “I like your philosophical take on these things. Christ used such imagery too when explaining His points. And you’re right. The Darkness controls the hearts of the very people we are here to rescue and bring to the Light. We must … let it shine.”
Jerry leaned back and relaxed. So then, it had been true. He had really experienced all of this. He really had seen the Light. Christ, the Author Himself, living in our world. Think about reality in this sense made him feel so … tiny. There’s so much more at work here than meets the eye.
But that also meant Gigi was gone. And that his Father was with Him.
And that meant that the Darkness was still real. And Kraven was still out there.
“So, what am I supposed to do now? Do I just up and go after Kraven now?”
Brian was staring back at the road where a policeman was approaching them. “Kraven? Who’s that?”
Jerry turned to see the cop. Uh-oh.
He flashed his badge. “You’re under arrest, mister.”
Jerry squinted. “Clint?”
Clint Barker cocked his head with a coy smile. “That’s what I would say if I was gonna arrest you, but I’m not. Where you been, Mr. AWOL? Morning, sir.” He tipped his hat to Brian, who simply chuckled nervously.
“AWOL?” Jerry asked. “Didn’t you hear? I got the sack.”
“Yeah, like that’s gonna happen. Get in the car. Chief’s waiting.” He tipped his hat at Brian. “Sorry for interrupting, sir. But your friend here’s trying to play hooky.”
“Wait, Chief?” Jerry asked. “As in, he wants to see me?” This could not be good.
Clint looked confused. “What’re you talking about?”
Jerry turned to Brian. “I’m sorry. Gotta go … sort some things out. It’s not what it looks like.”
Brian nodded. “You’re always welcome. Hope you can come by sometime.”
“Yeah, I’d like that.”
As they walked towards the squad car, Clint nudged him. “Were you actually in church? Now that’s new.”
“Good to see you too, Clint.”
”So what’s your deal, man? Haven’t been able to get through to you since last night.”
“Clint, I’d tell you, but, then, you’d think I was crazy.”
A couple of minutes later, they arrived at the precinct.
“You were right,” Clint said. “You’re crazy.”
“It’s OK, I’ve always thought you were crazy, Jerry. But I still love you, man. I don’t know about all you’ve told me, but, whatever it was seems to have made you happy. I think I like the new you.”
“It really happened, Clint. I couldn’t have made it up.”
Clint turned to him. ”Jerry, there was no operation last night.”
Jerry blinked. “What do you mean?”
“It was a dream, Jerry. Just ask anybody. There was no threat. No terror on the streets. No Taser. You, of all people, should know that. It was all in your head.”
Jerry squinted. “What about the graffiti? The curfews?”
“Jerry, don’t you think it’d have made the papers if such a thing happened?”
Jerry grabbed the dailies from the dashboard. A cursory scan turned with nothing. No news about the threat or anything. Nothing.
“This is all crazy. Clint, you know I’m telling the truth, right?”
“Well, for one thing, I had a good night’s rest last night. Just ask my wife.” Jerry was not sure if he was just seeing things, or if he noticed the bags under his eyes. It would be no use pointing it out to him. He would not listen. What was going on?
“But you remember Gigi?”
Clint shrugged. “Who’s Gigi? You’ve never mentioned her to me.”
“But … you told me to go with her to dinner last night.”
Clint patted his back. “You must have really had an interesting night, bro. Don’t worry, it’ll pass.” They exited the car and headed for the building.
This was frustrating. He did not know what to expect when they finally met the Chief. Would the man also have forgotten about last night? He could only hope…
God help me. He had never taken prayer seriously. But now, with all he had seen, this took on a new meaning.
Jerry turned. There was no one around. Clint arched a brow. “What?”
“I thought I heard a voice.”
Clint rolled his eyes. “Hey, Jerry, wake up. This is the real world.”
No it’s not. He was certain he had heard a voice.
HOW’RE YOU DOING, SON?
And that’s when he got it. “Father?” he whispered. “Is that you?”
“Really?” This was what Brian had been talking about. “How come I don’t hear you all the time? I was beginning to think I was crazy.”
YOU NEVER TALK TO ME.
It dawned on him. “So, you want me to talk with You … as if you were here?”
I AM HERE.
Thinking about communicating with the Author of this script brought a chuckle to him. Clint turned from up ahead. “Are you coming or what?”
“I’m coming,” he quickened his pace.
“You know, I’m beginning to worry about you,” Clint said. “It may have been a realistic dream, Jerry. But don’t let it make you a freak.”
“Don’t worry about me, Clint,” Jerry said. “I’m alright.”
The others at the precinct greeted Jerry, and some wondered why he had not come to work. He just smiled and nodded, wondering what Chief wanted with him. Beyond all this, he wondered when Kraven might come after him, or if he will. He had to confirm what was really going on. Jerry hurried to the dispatcher’s cubicle. “Hey, Hal!”
Hal looked up. “Jenson. Why aren’t you in uniform?”
Jerry smiled. “Long story. Hey, I just wanted to confirm. Didn’t you hear anything about the Taser last night?”
Hal arched a brow. “Yeah, he had a tea party with Bigfoot and Nessie.”
Clint showed up beside him. “Hal, he’s having a moment. Just ignore him.” Hal nodded knowingly, as if he understood.
“Hey, what’d you mean by a ‘moment’, Clint? I’m not crazy.”
But that’s when he noticed a familiar face behind the waiting desk up ahead. He stopped, nudging Clint. “What’s that kid doing here?”
Clint turned. “Who? Him? Caught him earlier this morning, selling dope. Put up quite a chase.”
Jerry squinted. “Isn’t he the one we brought in yesterday? Jamie?” The kid raised his head to stare at him, no recognition in his eyes.
In that moment, everything around Jerry disappeared in a flash and he was in the dark laboratory again. He was staring at Jamie, only this time the kid was lying against the wall, lifeless. He was connected to the system by his head. As realization dawned on Jerry, he blinked and it was all gone. He was back in the precinct, staring at the boy. What just happened?
“Yesterday?” Clint was saying. “Jerry, I’ve never seen this kid before. But he reminds me a lot of you, all criticizing and tough and all, though you can tell he’s a wimp on the inside. Not that I’m saying you’re a wimp or anything, but…”
But Jerry was not listening to him. “Did you see that?”
“See what?” Jerry turned to stare at Clint. Flash! He was back in the lab again, but this time it was Clint by the wall. The feeling of apprehension overtook him again as he watched his friend asleep, connected to the system. Lifeless. No humor on his face any longer. Flash! It was gone. Oh no, not Clint too…
Clint was staring at him, incredulous. He shook his head. “What’s up with you, man?” he asked. “Thought you were on the wagon again.”
Jerry realized that there was more at work here than he thought. These people were connected to the system, and they believed whatever it made them believe. But they were not just anonymous entities or statistics. ‘These people’ were people he knew. Like Clint, his friend. Kraven had erased all their memories of last night. How did he do that? He did not know how to bring this up, because Clint was staring at him, worried. “Clint, we brought this kid in for selling dope yesterday.”
Clint stared at him for a moment, was about to say something, then stopped, shaking his head. “You sure you don’t wanna see a therapist?” Clint finally asked.
It’s the Darkness. It’s controlling their minds. They really don’t remember anything from yesterday.
“This is crazy,” Jerry said, running a hand through his head.
“Tell me about it,” Clint muttered under his breath.
YOU SAW THAT, DIDN’T YOU, SON?
Jerry did not need to stare around anymore. He knew Who was speaking to his heart. “I did. It … wasn’t very nice.”
THAT’S THE REAL WORLD.
“So the Darkness has got them, like it got me?”
Jerry thought of Jamie. If Kraven could alter their memories, Jerry wondered how many times Jamie had really been arrested. And the kid would not even know it. Or how many times Grace had really come to town. It was sad, realizing there was so much evil out there, controlling Towne. Controlling the people.
They were now approaching Chief’s office. “What’s gonna happen? What do I say to him?”
“Just say you slept in, or something,” Clint replied. “It’ll go on your record, but with luck he’d let it slide.” He knocked. “On the other hand, let me do the talking.”
Jerry simply nodded. Communicating between two worlds was quite interesting, but a little strange too.
Baynes stared up at them from some paperwork on his table. “Jenson. Barker. Take a seat.”
Jerry stared hard at him as he sat. The man did not bat an eye. It did not surprise him that the man had forgotten all about last night as well.
Clint tried to keep Jenson from replying. “Sir, he had a very long night out and—“
Baynes held up a hand. “Jenson, we’ve been expecting you.”
Jerry kept staring in his face. “I must apologise, sir. I had quite a … uh…”
“A night of self-discovery,” Clint hurriedly said. Baynes gave him a look. “He’s had a very terrible week so far. He needed the rest.”
Jerry thought he should be frank. “I thought you’d fired me last night.” Clint did a face-palm. There, he had put it on the table.
Baynes looked genuinely surprised. “Fire you? Now, why would I do that?”
“Because I was going after Kraven Moore.” Baynes squinted at him.
Clint tried to save the moment. “See, he had this weird dream last night…”
Baynes shook his head. “You’re not one of those conspiracy nutcases now, Jenson, are you? Everyone pins some sort of evil plot on this Mr. Moore. But until proven guilty, that guy’s good in our books.”
But Jerry knew more. Baynes worked for Kraven and was protecting his tail. Not only that, but he had also honestly lost any memory of their encounter last night. The only file with all their investigation was gone. Kraven had emptied the recycle bins, so to speak. The thought was enough to make Jerry’s skin crawl.
And Clint did not even remember any of this, or of their prior investigation.
Jerry scratched the back of his head. “I, uh… I’m sorry, sir.” Baynes was also being controlled by the system. Jerry did not see the laboratory this time, but he knew. Yeah, I truly am sorry.
Baynes simply nodded. “Besides, I can’t really fire you. You work for the government, not for me.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Take the day off, officer. You need it.”
Clint shook his head as they left the office. “You know, he’s right. You should get some air today. And get a new phone, too.”
Jerry smiled. “Yeah, well … thanks, Clint.”
“So where’re you headed?”
Jerry stared back into the hall, where the other precinct staff were working. He was a cop at heart, and had always wanted to be one. If he got his job back, he wanted to do it with the best he’d got. Would he still go after Kraven? Should he?
“I gotta go somewhere first,” he said. “Something I need to do.”
The cool breeze blowing across the landscape over the many tombstones gave a serene mood to the Towne Cemetery. Jerry never saw the need to take visits to the place where dead people lay. He was not even sure what he was doing there that morning; people did it in the movies, and it always was a deep emotional scene. But in real life … well, it was different. For him.
Perhaps it was because death had taken on a new meaning to him, now that he had crossed worlds.
The tombstones were side-by-side. Hayley Tamara Jenson. Marty Irene Jenson.
He held two bunches of flowers he had picked along the way. But he just held them now in his hands. Those stones were not his family, he knew. Even if he dug into the earth, their bodies would have degraded by now.
Jerry inhaled. He still missed his wife and daughter. He still had regrets. He still wished he could do something more. But, there was a difference now. He knew he was different now. He was different. His past was over and done. Somehow, it just felt right to return to a place of significance between himself and his family, the ones he missed the most. Perhaps he was really here to say goodbye to all that represented his past. All he regretted. All that had held him down.
Thinking about it now, it felt unfair to make his wife and daughter represent all those things.
I miss you, Hayley. You too, Marty … I really wish I could change the past.
It might not be easy, but he knew he would find the strength to face the future. His Father had promised to be with him. The Father of all worlds.
He would hold on to that.
His family had lived under the control of the Darkness for long before it finally took them away. His friends were still stuck in that evil system. The Darkness would remain until that day when the Writer Himself came and blotted it out with His Light. He could not break His own rules. But for now, He would fight the Darkness through people like Jerry, shining the Light.
He realized that this was his new mission. His friends. The people around him. Baynes Clint. Jamie. Everyone. He was to let the Light shine. It may not be by pushing a hand on their faces, though that would also be fun. It would be through his lifestyle and words. To brighten their lives, and let them see the Light at work in Him. That way, they would believe and then it can take them in, like it had taken him. And bring them to life. Igniting the Writer’s characters.
In one small way, he guessed that made him a ‘Taser’ too.
Like He had said, Grace had been written into every person’s story. As long as the Darkness remained, Grace would be there ever stronger, ready to save another soul and bring them to life.
It was raining when Clint Barker parked his car at the Towne Post Office. The man at the door hurried over to his car, the package in hand. Getting the Post Office to leave someone with the package on an evening like this had taken a lot of phone calls. He was already late, as it was.
“Thanks, man,” Clint said. “You’re a lifesaver. If I didn’t bring those packages in today, my wife would kill me!”
“Nah, it’s not a problem.”
As soon as the young man was in the car, they sped off.
“So what’re my charges? I know they don’t pay you to wait overtime for lousy people like me. Sorry, I had to stay in at work. Some clumsy cases to deal with.”
The kid shrugged. “It’s OK. No charge. Another day, another smile on a customer’s face.”
Clint peered at him. “You’re alright, kid. So what’s your name?”
“Nah, I’m Jewish.”
“Nice to meet you, Jewish,” Clint said. That elicited a chuckle. “So what does Hanan mean? I know you Jewish folks always have meaningful names and stuff.”
He chuckled. “Well, I guess everyone does. It means Grace.”
Clint arched a brow. “Grace, eh? That’s quite … amazing.”
And Hanan smiled.
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5, NIV)
Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:20-21 (NKJV)
Thank you all for following the story thus far, folks.
This story was God’s idea. And it’s been totally AWESOME!!!
More than anything, I hope you keep these words to heart, because they tell of the reality that is.
God bless you all. Keep the Light shining.
Let it shine, shine, shine
And it will chase away the darkness
Let it shine, shine, shine,
And it will chase away the night!
(from ‘Father of Lights’ by Petra)
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