Flame and Shadow

By Joshua Carr All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Other

Chapter 57

We had proceeded quietly into the woods for a few minutes so as to avoid any attention garnered by surviving goons or anyone investigating the burning wreckage. After traveling a sufficient distance, Milo declared that we would set up camp here. We gathered some firewood from nearby, and Sera gladly lit the blaze. It wasn’t too necessary for warmth, but for range of vision and to ward off any curious animals. The flickering bonfire was comforting somehow, in the way that it pushed back the dark.

“Alright, we’ll need someone to keep watch.” I pointed out. “Who wants to take the first shift?”

“I will.” Milo and Sera said simultaneously. Then, they looked at each other, smiling, surprisingly.

“You can go first.” Milo offered to avoid conflict.

Sera theatrically bowed with gratitude.

“Thank you brother. I shall keep you both safe from the wiles of the evil ones. You can rest easy tonight.”

“Thanks. I’ll relieve you in a little while.”

Milo lay down near the fire while Sera leaned up against a nearby tree. I wasn’t sure if it would be more polite to lay next to the boy, or the exact opposite side, or if he wanted me near, or far away… Ugh! I didn’t know. This was all so awkward. I physically struggled with deciding where to sleep, rapidly turning left and right. He was probably watching me. I had to do something fast!

Eventually, I just plopped down where I was, around a third of the way around the fire from him. My heart was racing, and my head was filled with confusing thoughts. Did I have a chance with Milo, or would that interfere with the prophecy? Did he even care about me? What if he did, but was too shy to say it? What if neither of us ever said it! But what if I did ask him, and he rejected me?! What would I do?

I thought these whirling thoughts would make resting absolutely impossible, but eventually the exhaustion took over, and I slipped into a deep sleep.

I had no idea how much time passed, but the next thing I knew, the fire had burned down considerably. My sleep-dulled eyes peered at where Milo had been resting, but he was no longer there. I was near the campfire alone. Quickly, I got to my feet, and looked around in a slight panic. Then, I caught sight of him. He was a little space away from the fire, crouched down near a tree. The young man gazed out into the rainforest, obviously lost in thought.

I quietly approached him, but when I was a few feet away, a twig snapped beneath my feet. Although the jungle was far from silent during the night, the sound pierced through the natural ambient sounds like a gunshot. I winced with the noise, and Milo turned to look.

“Hey.” He greeted quietly.

“Um…hi.”

The boy turned back to look out into the night without another word. My heart thumped out of control, and I was sure he could hear it. What should I do? Should I leave him alone, or should I talk to him? What would I even say? I started to feel physically ill. Without even making a conscious decision to do so, I noiselessly walked forward and sat down beside him. I still suffered from a palpable tension, but now that we were sharing this peaceful moment, it didn’t seem so painful.

The sounds of the dusk surrounded us. Although most birds were asleep for the night, some still contributed their calls to the symphony. The main players in the harmony were the insects. Their chirps and buzzing added to the spontaneous melody, and somehow reminded me of the familiar sounds of bees back home.

Although it was dark, the light from the moon up above provided enough illumination through patches in the canopy for us to see some of the flora that surrounded us. The moonlight danced upon a large number of beautiful white flowers, night scented orchids. Their potent aroma added to the sensory experience. I had never smelled anything so…pure. Even the trees appeared more serene and pretty in this situation.

The birds, and the bees, and the flowers, and the trees, and the moon up above…

OH GOD NO!!

What a horrible time to get that song in my head! Ugh! Why does this happen to me! The fact that “The Birds and the Bees” was now in my head made the circumstance infinitely more awkward. I sat quietly, and tried not to think about it. It was a struggle, but I managed to gain up the courage to finally speak.

“Um, where’s Sera?” I asked quietly.

Milo pointed to his right. Sera was leaning up against the tree where she had been keeping watch, fast asleep. I covered my mouth and tried not to snicker.

“It’s OK. It was my turn to take a shift anyway.” He smiled gently.

“You two seem to be getting along better now.” I pointed out.

“Yeah. She’s a great girl. She suffers from a lot of character quirks, but, ya know, they’re what makes her her.”

His expression darkened, and he looked back out into the rainforest. I could see that the young man was troubled. I had no idea if there was anything I could do to help, or even if he’d be willing to share what was going on in his mind. However, I had to try. If there was any chance of him ever escaping the dark maze that his spirit had fallen into, he would need help from someone who would listen to him.

I took a deep breath, and began my placid interrogation.

“There’s something bothering you. You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want, but please remember, you can always talk to me.”

He was quiet for a long moment, and I feared I had overstepped my bounds. But eventually, he began to reveal what was going on in his head, carefully and deliberately placing each word.

“I’m…I’m just a piece of shit. I feel like an animal.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m just an out of control violent creature that can do nothing but kill and destroy.”

“No! No, you’re not. You’re anything but-“

“Hal…When I was with Tsalderek, I killed someone who couldn’t fight back.” He confessed. “And worse, he was Sera’s friend, possibly boyfriend.”

“Oh. Um… have…have you told Sera?”

The boy shook his head. “No. I don’t know how. And even if I did, what if she hated me? Then I’d ruin the prophecy, like I ruin everything else.”

“Milo…”

“That’s not all. There are a couple guys at Tsalderek that I hate for what they did to someone very important to me. If given the chance, I’d kill them. Everyone in Teklos, I want to kill. I wanted to kill Alcatraz for what he did to you, so I did. I want to kill Toby Maguire, and I’m not even sure why!

“Honestly,” he continued more softly. “The one that I hate more than anyone else is me. No matter how hard I try, I can’t let go of the things that are hurting people. I wish I could just stop existing, and everything would be better. But, I can’t.”

I didn’t know what to say. He was obviously hurting immensely. The poor boy was being eaten alive from the inside by hatred, and self-hatred was the worst kind. I know, because I used to feel that. There was no form of human wisdom or therapy that could cure something like this. Only a touch from God would be able to make a difference, but that’s easier said than done. The divine wasn’t something that would just instantly obliterate any unwanted pain with magic, one had to accept it. Accept Christ’s changing power to work in their life. I didn’t know how obstinate Milo would be to hearing the truth that sets men free, but I had to try it or he’d destroy himself, one way or another.

I cleared my throat.

“Milo, I’m not sure exactly how much you believe, but please hear what I have to say. The Bible teaches that God is love. It’s only possible to love people, and not hate, through Him.”

I didn’t receive any immediate resistance, so I carried on.

“The Bible says that if you hate someone, then you’ve already murdered them in your heart. That’s not to condemn you, but to let you know that you need a savior. You see…um…God sent His son, Jesus, to live a life with no sin, then take all of the sins of every human on the Earth for all time onto him, and die to eliminate it all. Um…when He did that, God forgave you. He knew 2,000 years ago exactly what you’d do, but He already forgave you. He thought you were worth dying for, and buying your forgiveness. And because He forgave you, you can forgive yourself.”

Milo still had not said anything, so I hurried forward.

“When you get victory over that first, then He’ll help you to drop your hatred for other people, just like He did for you. Um… do you get it?”

For a moment, he looked back out into the forest. Then, he finally spoke.

“You know, someone else once told me something very similar to that a long time ago. I wasn’t sure if I could believe them. How could they be right, and everyone else be wrong? Plus, it just seemed too easy. Believing that somebody else would take care of everything went against everything I believed in. Then, they went and died, and I had almost forgotten about what they used to teach.

“Now that I’ve been through all this, it’s finally starting to make sense. I probably never would have believed it, if I hadn’t seen everything I’ve seen.”

“So…you’re saying you believe…this?”

“I’m saying, you’ve given me a lot to think about. I don’t think I’ll be getting any sleep tonight.”

“Ah, sorry…I didn’t mean…” I sheepishly began to stand up.

“Hal, don’t be sorry.” He gently reprimanded me. “You’ve given me hope. You’ve shined a light in a part of me that I thought was long gone. Thank you.”

“Um, you’re welcome…”

“By the way…I never noticed your eyes were brown before. I always thought they were black.”

What was this? Why would he mention noticing my eyes? I didn’t even know what to do, so I just looked away.

“Yeah, ha ha. I hear that a lot.”

“Hm. Well, try to get some sleep. We’ll reveal our new page of the prophecy tomorrow.”

“Ah, OK. Thanks, Milo.”

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