The glowing white tombstones gleamed out of the grass, like Great White shark’s teeth in green gums. A wave of female bodies moved back and forth, searching, gasping, falling, and accepting.
All except one.
Alice had not wanted to come here. Hers was not the role of weeping widow. After all he had deserted her to go and fight in that bloody war, in a town she couldn’t pronounce.
She’d asked the priest about that. Was it classed as a war? After all, it was only in one place, and involved only certain countries. What was the definition of a war?
He had looked at her with calm, patronising eyes, and said that David was fighting not for Britain, but also for God against the Godless. When she’d mentioned that they had a God, he’d merely tried to bamboozle her with theological claptrap, about Christianity being the only true religion.
It left her feeling emptier than when she had first heard the news of David’s death.
David a warrior of God? Hardly! He could just about sort out their bank accounts. She was the one who used her brain to sort out their lives, while he was always off ‘doing his bit for Queen and Country’.
Well not anymore she thought.
She looked in her hand at the handkerchief embroidered with his initials. She’d made it for him for Christmas one year, and it had never left his pocket. He’d called it his good luck charm.
The officers told her it had been found in his combat jacket pocket.
Fat lot of good it had done him when the bullet went through his brain. What was he doing with his helmet off anyway? Wasn’t there some sort of rule about that?
One more son lost to a battle started by politicians. A battle over what? Oil? Land? Prominence?
She remembered the day exactly.
The way the sunlight had warmed her face through the kitchen window, the taste of the cup of coffee at the kitchen table. Reading the letter that he would be home soon. Her heart had sung, knowing that finally the years of being apart would be ended.
A sudden smell of his aftershave wafting across her senses for a fleeting moment, and her eyes wandered to the last gift he had given her before he left. The glass plaque with her favourite poem “Footprints” seemed so much more prominent:
“One night a man had a dream……”
Slow deliberate steps came to the door, in the background the latest news reports on the British in Fallujah showed scenes of death and annihilation. A slow methodical knock. A pause. Whispers had followed from outside “She’s not in. We can come back later and…”
She’d opened the door to two chinless wonders, who weren’t old enough to have left University. Let alone wear an officer’s uniform.
“Oh hello Mrs Johnson. Can we come in?” slow words to make her remember, slow actions to seem they cared. Cold, hollow words fell from the officer’s mouth, as he told her David was gone. “He died as he lived, saving his men”
But they didn’t care. If David hadn’t made sure they had their own house she would have been looking at life back with her parents. She shuddered at the thought. Life with the smell of old people, and death, didn’t have her leaping to the phone to ask to come home.
She’d had enough of death for one year.
Wives had been cast out from their homes because their husbands weren’t one of ‘them’ anymore. Long term girlfriends fared no better.
She felt the most sorry for the children.
The family priest said David was with God. What right had God to him? He should be here with her! He could have been crippled, maimed, or disfigured, just so long as he came back. The rest they could work out. They always had.
God had let her down. What use was He to her now? The one thing she had loved, tended, nurtured, sacrificed for was gone. What prospects did she have now?
That was the moment her love of God died, replaced by a deep hollow hatred of all things Godly.
Sanctimonious hypocrites, blood sucking parasites, that wanted temporal power at all costs. The hatred consumed her, and she was as one without a home.
A ripple of light went through the Universe. Bounced back and forth, until finally stopping at the graveyard where she stood.
What good was she now? No children, no husband, no future, no love! Just a cold, hard, blinding white headstone! She sobbed to herself, as her heart wailed in the silence of her aching emptiness.
An arm surrounded her. Looking up she saw that stood there was the Lord Jesus. Hatred took her over, and before she could think, her hand shot out and slapped Him square across the face.
“How dare you show your face here. You have no right, you bastard. You took him when I needed him the most” her fists found purchase on His body.
He stood and took the blows.
“Where were you? Why didn’t you save him? You’re useless. You are less than useless. Why did I ever allow myself to believe in you?” On and on, the blows came from the very heart of her. The hatred bubbled up like hot magma from her hating, core.
Tears flowed down her face, as blow after blow hit the Lord Jesus. He uttering no sound, as she railed again Him.
Finally exhausted, she fell to the ground at his feet. Then looking up she saw that He to had cried. The intensity of the tears wetting his robe.
He sat down beside her on the grass, “My child, I have not done this to punish you, or leave you in darkness. I love you more than you can ever accept” His soft, peaceful, words flowed over her.
“David was one of my children, as are you, and the loss of any child breaks the heart of a parent. I have come here to give you a gift of knowing. I chose David because he would do what needed to be done. He had a choice, as you all do, to stand up to the challenge and do what was right, or turn his back and leave his charges to suffer their fate. I have faced that challenge, and know what is required of a person to complete that task.” He smiled at her.
“Now close your eyes and accept. Fear nothing, for I am with you” He placed His large, strong, hand over her eyes and she was in darkness.
Suddenly a cacophony of sound hit her ears. Bullets whined past her head, and pieces of vehicles flew though the smoke filled air.
The smell of gunpowder and bodies hit her, as she watched soldiers running back and forth among large, beige, sandy buildings, trying to avoid the onslaught that came from their tops.
She made to run, but the Lord’s hand staid her progress. She tried to hide in his robe, but He turned her around to witness the carnage.
Bodies flew through the air as objects exploded, separating into several parts. Men crawled and cried, while others bled and died. Hell had arrived on earth, and she watched on.
Suddenly she saw David. He was behind a brick wall with what looked like a large radio. He couldn’t move, due to being fired at from a man on a rooftop across from them. She moved closer, not thinking anymore. He was alive!
“These are images of the past my darling. You cannot change anything,” said the Lord.
David was using a strange language she couldn’t understand “fire for effect” and “repeat my last” Strange, yet comforting. The man she had seen as a waste of space, was calm and in control of the situation.
It was then the accident happened.
A young soldier ran from his position at the back of a building to get to David, and fell in the middle of the road. Iraqi soldiers were moving in, and the boy seemed to have something in his hand.
David went pale, and said something about “plans” and “Maps”. Then he ran out from his safe place into the road, and into the line of fire from the Iraqi soldiers.
She screamed at him to get back, but he didn’t hear her.
He fired as he ran, using the small pistol she had often seen him clean at home “It could jam one day when I need it” he’d told her. Now she could see why he was so obsessed about it.
He took down two of the soldiers, before reaching the boy and dragged him to his feet, then pushed him to run towards the safe place David had come from.
The boy made it to safety, but David was grabbed by the Iraqi soldiers and taken away to who knows where.
The reinforcements suddenly arrived, but all too late for David.
She looked at the Lord “What now?” she said.
“Now we follow” the Lord He pulled her by the hand, and she was suddenly in a cellblock. Screams issued from one of the rooms, and she went to enter it. The Lord stopped her “There is no need for you to see. Only wait”
It was then she felt the air fill with tension, and another figure enter. This one was dressed in black, and smelled of dark, dank, places.
“You have come Lucifer,” said the Lord.
“Yes I have. It will not be long now. He will denounce you, and he will be mine” he looked at Alice “Then it’s only a matter of time before you follow” he grinned sharp decaying teeth at her.
Voices came from the cell “Where is your God now infidel. The same place as your Prime Minister. He has deserted you in your hour of need, and you are powerless”
“The old ones are the best,” said Lucifer "Religious fanatics have always been my favourite. Choose a religion and set them off. Pure bliss!"
Alice heard a crack and a scream. She tried to get away from Jesus, but He held he fast. Then the air stilled, and she heard David’s voice calmly start to recite, “One night a man had a dream….” As he said each line, she could hear the blows hit his body, and behind her, she could feel the Lord wince as each one struck David’s flesh.
She knew He was there in the cell with David.
David finally gasped, ““It was then I carried you”. Alice I understand what it means now” Then there was a single shot, and a thud.
It was then the room exploded, and the SAS stormed in.
Lucifer grinned, “Too late I fear. She will still hate you forever,” he said moving quickly to be nose to nose to Jesus.
“I think not,” said the Lord pointing to the other side of the room where the two stood “I had to keep you busy somehow, so that they could be saved from your power”
“Always the big plans, always the big finale. One day you won’t be so lucky!” Lucifer said snorting, and evaporated.
The Lord looked at Alice and her husband. The guard had short David head on, making sure he had seen the gun when it was fired, intensifying the fear.
David had accepted his fate for he knew the Lord was holding him even at this dark time.
Alice had his head on her lap, despite the blood. “I understand now David. I can see why you did this” she smoothed the hair from his face, as she did when he lay on her lap watching the television. Death and blood flew around her, but all she could see was David, “You bought time for everyone, including me darling. Thank you my darling! Thank you!” She kissed him, and laid his head gently on the floor.
It was then a soft light fell through the window, and an angel appeared before her “I am Michel, angel of warriors. I have come to take your husband home”
Alice stammered “But I thought…”
“Yes. Both He and I are the same” then lifting up her husband’s limp body he flew upwards into the heavens. Alice knew then that David was at peace.
She was back! The green grass and the fresh air of the graveyard cleared away the smell of gunfire, and she looked up from David’s gravestone into the face of the Lord.
“His choice was for the greater good, and sent ripples through time that will affect the great pond of existence.” He placed His arm around her shoulder, and pulled her to Him into a hug.
This time she didn’t fight, and sighed into His chest, “I understand now. I’m sorry for being such a bitch”
“It is harder to do what is right, than to do what is good Alice. David knew he would be leaving you behind, but he knew you would have the strength to stand alone when he was gone.” He bent His head to look into her eyes.
“I was with David when he left this earth, and he asked me to do this one favour for him when he was gone. “Tell Alice I did it because “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”, and then he was gone, and here I am”
She looked into His brown eyes, thought for a moment, and then realised something, “Wait a minute, Dr. Spock said that in “Wrath of Khan”
The Lord grinned, “He said you were a bright one” and hugged her again.
The graves echoed to their laugher, and Alice’s walked into a new life.
One night a man had a dream
He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the LORD.
Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.
For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand:
one belonging to him, and the other to the LORD.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him,
He looked back at the footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him and he questioned the LORD about it.
"LORD, you said that once I decided to follow you,
you'd walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life,
there is only one set of footprints.
I don't understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.
" The LORD replied, "My precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you."