Flame and Shadow

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Chapter 52

After breakfast, the six of us all went outside. Hal and Sera were playing tag with the little girl Arihi, and her parents were watching over. All the laughter and family togetherness stabbed like a railroad spike into my heart. I distanced myself from the others, and sat down quite a ways away.

The only one that I loved was thousands of miles from me, and everything else I had ever held was gone. Plus, I had done so much wrong, I deserved exactly what I was getting. I had followed false teaching, betrayed people that had placed their trust in me, and murdered an innocent boy who was just trying to protect his friend.

The only thing that kept me moving through life was the thought that if I could help fulfill the prophecy and bring an end to the fighting, I could redeem my past mistakes. Ha! Not likely.

I was so deep in thought that I didn’t even notice as Devon came and sat down next to me.

“I don’t suppose you’d be willing to talk to me about anything.” He presumed aloud.

I looked sullenly away from him.

“Yeah, I get it. You’ve got a lot going on in your head. I understand.” Devon paused for a moment. “You know how I understand?”

I shook my head without making eye contact.

“Because you remind me of me, before I found Christ.”

I wasn’t really in the mood to be preached to, especially not by someone who had some perfect life set up out here. However, it seemed like more effort to try to make him shut up, so I stayed quiet.

The two of us sat without speaking for a while. He then pointed to the device strapped to my wrist.

“That’s a really awesome gadget you’ve got there. Did you build it?”

“No. I’m not good at building stuff. I just use it.”

“Ah. Well, I’m a bit of a tinkerer myself, and I couldn’t help but notice the impressive construction of that thing. I spotted the workings of a grappling hook, knock out darts, and a lock pick. But I also saw some kind of knife that I didn’t recognize. What is that?”

I rolled my eyes, but decided to oblige him. With the press of a button, I flipped out the serrated knife. Devon’s eyes widened.

“Is that what I think it is? An English Muffin cutting knife?”

I honestly didn’t know what to say.

“Meda actually makes homemade English Muffins, but we’ve never been able to cut it in such a way as to preserve all of the nooks and crannies! This is a stroke of genius!”

Again, there was nothing I could really say, so I just ignored him, and folded the knife back away. We wordlessly stared off at the early morning countryside for a while longer, before Devon continued speaking.

“I can see it in your eyes and even the way you walk and act. Your heart is full of hatred. Mine was too. You’ve probably heard this a million times before, but I’m gonna say it again. Filling your heart with hatred is like drinking poison, and waiting for the other person to die. It’ll rot your soul from the inside.”

I nearly gasped aloud at those words. They were nearly identical to what Dani had told me, what seemed like an eternity ago. There was nothing I could say, the painful memories coming back. My host took advantage of the hush to continue speaking.

“Who do you hate, Milo? Who’s hurt you enough that they continue to destroy your life through your own hatred?”

I couldn’t stay silent any longer. My anger was boiling inside of my body, and I had to let it out.

“Yes! I hate! I hate the people that kill for no reason! I hate the people who refuse to help those in need! I hate everyone who trample others just to get their own way! And most of all… I hate myself!!”

With that confession out of my system, I choked out several gasping tears.

“More than any other person, I hate me. I’ve lied. I’ve betrayed, and I’ve murdered. I killed my sister’s friend, possibly her boyfriend. It was never supposed to be like this, but the harder I struggle to fix my problems, the worse everything gets. It’s like I’m trapped in a net, and the more I fight to get out, the more tangled I get.”

Somehow saying out loud what I’ve had in my head for so long made it sound even more vile. And why was I pouring it all out to this guy? He really had a way of being convincing without being condemning. Maybe that’s why I trusted him.

I attempted to hold back tears as I stared furiously at the ground. Devon sat quietly beside me until he thought I was ready to listen.

“Have you told your sister yet?” He asked.

I only shook my head.

Devon let out a deep breath.

“Man, that’s a tough one. I don’t have all the answers for you, but what I can tell you is this. Hatred of yourself is every bit as destructive has hatred of someone else. Even when you think that you’re beyond repair, there’s one person who thought you were worth dying for.

“It seems like your problems are halfway between what I struggled with, and Meda’s. I felt anger hatred toward the world because nothing ever went the way I felt that it should. Meda detested herself because she thought that it was impossible for her to be loved after everything she did.

“Again, I’m not saying that I’m some great sage who knows everything. I’m learning more every day. In fact, this very moment I’m learning the true meaning of a verse from the Bible. I don’t remember exactly where it is…Corinthians somewhere I think…but it says: ‘God comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.’

“Basically, that’s why God lets us go through things sometimes; so we can learn from it and use the experience to help others. I don’t know everything, but I know this: Jesus can set you free. He did it for me, he did it for Meda, and he can do it for you. All you have to do is believe that ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly’. That’s the only way you’ll be able to let go of all the hate you have inside.”

When he had finished talking, we sat in silence for a long time. This sounded a lot like what Takeji and Trinity had been teaching. We could never be free by doing more good things. The world, and even my own mind, is too screwed up to be able to be good enough to make up for every misdeed. But could it be so easy, as to just accept a free gift? Just stop working so hard and let God hold me in his hand? Somehow, that sounded even harder.

Suddenly there came the sound of squealing from behind us. Devon and I both turned our heads toward the girls. Hal had created a force bubble around her hand, the mid-morning sun was creating an aurora effect through it. Arihi thought that was just the coolest thing ever. She laughed and clapped and tried to poke the force field. Whenever she touched it, Hal would release it to make the girl think that she popped it, but then she’d form it again, and the game would continue.

I couldn’t help but smile. The somberness of the previous conversation seemed to be fading away.

“You’ve got a good family, Devon.” I stated honestly.

“Thanks. So do you.” He replied, patting me on the shoulder.

Huh. I had never really thought of it like that. I mean, I knew that Sera was my sister of course, but somehow I didn’t think of exactly what that meant. A family was a group of people, however small, that would stick together, no matter what. I guess I did have that, and I’d just been too stupid to recognize it.

Devon began standing up.

“Come on. Let’s get back to them. Nothing lasts forever, and I want to enjoy our time together as a family while we have it. You should take advantage of your time with them too.”

“Yeah. You’re right.” I stood up and followed him. I wasn’t necessarily convinced of everything, but I certainly had a lot to think about.

“Plus, I think it’s time to take a look at some ancient prophecy that I’m just dying to see!”

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