For Innumerable Evils
Seda stalked about picking at the packs and occasionally hefting a sword she took a fancy to before choosing another one and tossing the previous choice aside. Sojourner sat on his bedroll with a scroll open on his lap acting as if nothing had happened the night before.
Simay left the tent to look for Malcus who had risen earlier to start looking through the provisions the mob had left behind last night. She soon found him confiscating some dried meat from one of the smaller packs.
She lightly tapped her husband’s shoulder, and Malcus turned to see who had touched him.
“Good morning, Simay. Did you sleep well enough after… everything last night?”
“Yes, I actually slept better than I have in a long time…”
“No dreams last night?” Malcus inquired.
“None.” She shook her head.
Every night since Malcus had rescued Seda and Simay from the slavers, Simay had suffered from bad dreams – until last night. Last night she had slept without even the shadow of a dream. Another thing that had not happened last night was that Diana had not spoken to her. This lack of communication disturbed Simay greatly. Surely the goddess would not hold any of last night’s events against her. She had no control over anything that had happened, but the goddess was rather changeable in her moods, especially of late.
Malcus nodded and looked back down at the pack he was rummaging through.
Simay took this shift of attention as her excuse to leave, and she quietly crossed the camp and walked up behind Sojourner. At first he did not notice the young woman’s presence, but soon he finished the section he was reading and became aware of the shadow that had fallen across the ground beside him.
“Hello, Simay.” The Ephesian looked up at his young visitor. “Is there something I can do for you?”
“No… no, nothing… I don’t think.” She faltered.
“Are you sure? You seem to be thinking about something every time I see you.” The stranger looked at her kindly and waited for her response.
Simay looked around uncomfortably, trying desperately to find a reason not to talk to the man – dousing the fire, sanding the dishes, grooming the livestock – anything. She searched in vain. Her loyal friend and follower Seda had already seen to those chores. Simay was stuck. She finally looked back at Sojourner and very hesitantly began to reveal the truth to the man who had inexplicably saved all of their lives the night before.
“I have these dreams…” she began, then thought better about telling the man about her dreams involving her goddess, so she revealed only part of her nightly terrors, and in some ways, the piece of her thoughts she chose to reveal was the most frightening of all.
“In my dreams,” she continued, “I see this man. I can never completely remember his face, but… I always see his… eyes.” She looked away, as the familiar presence of Diana overshadowed her, but something, or maybe Someone, held back the familiar spirit as Simay continued in a trembling voice. “Every time I see Him, he reaches out to me, like He wants me to come to Him, but… I can’t.” Simay looked back at Sojourner. The look on his face coaxed her on.
“I always think I’m crazy… but just out of the corner of my eye I think I can see…” she hesitated to say it because it sounded ridiculous, but once again, the Ephesian’s eyes seemed to give her strength to continue. “I see His hands, and each one has a scar – not just a small one, but an obvious one at the base of each hand… And His eyes look so familiar, but every time I try to remember where I’ve seen them before… my mind just clouds over… It’s like someone’s throwing a blanket over my eyes…”
Sojourner’s face lit up at Simay’s description of the Man, and then fell when she described the aftermath of seeing Him.
“You think I’ve lost my mind, don’t you…” she said despondently.
“No! Not at all. I think you’re completely sane, and I want you to know something.”
“What?” Simay looked at him hopefully, not entirely sure what answer she was hoping for.
“I don’t know why you can’t remember who He is, but I know the Man you’ve seen. In fact, I’ve known Him for years.”
Simay’s face lit up when she heard this. Was it possible that she might finally know the answer to her question – the name of the One who kept coming to her night after night, and whose identity her goddess seemed so eager to expunge from her memory?
“Who is He? Please, I have to know.” She pleaded.
“He is – ”
“Simay!” The panicked voice shattered the moment and Simay whirled to see the speaker.
“Seda?! What’s wrong?!”
“Come! Now! It’s Malcus! He’s collapsed.” Seda gasped.
Without another word Simay picked up the hem of her garment and sprinted across the open space that separated her from her husband. Her long awaited answer lay forgotten on the tip of Sojourner’s tongue.
Simay’s heart pounded as she fell to her knees beside Malcus. His breathing was labored and he gripped his left arm tightly. If she had not been able to surmise it from looking at him, Malcus’s face told his wife that something was terribly wrong. Simay was afraid to even touch him.
“There’s only one person who can help your husband, and it’s not any of us.” Sojourner’s voice came from behind her.
“Who?!” Simay demanded. “Whoever he is, get him to come now!”
“He’s already here, Simay.” Sojourner replied.
“I don’t see anyone!” Simay snapped.
“But He sees you. And He sees your husband.”
“Just help him!”
Sojourner nodded and as Simay watched, the big Ephesian bowed his head and began to say something,
“Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O LORD:
let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me.
For innumerable evils have compassed me about:
mine iniquities have taken hold upon me,
so that I am not able to look up;
they are more than the hairs of mine head:
therefore, my heart faileth me.
Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me:
O LORD, make haste to help me.
Let them be ashamed and confounded together
that seek after my soul to destroy it;
let them be driven backward
and put to shame that wish me evil.
But I am poor and needy;
yet the LORD thinketh upon me:
thou art my help and my deliverer;
make no tarrying, O my God.”
Simay and Seda were deathly silent. Malcus’s eyes fell closed and he lay still on the ground. Simay was too stunned to process completely what had just happened, but to her surprise, she could think clearly. To her terror, she realized that she could not sense Diana’s presence, and she felt very alone.
Simay continued to stare at her husband, petrified that she had just lost him. She held her breath as she watched his chest lie very still. What seemed an eternity later, Malcus’s chest began to rise and fall normally once again. Simay let out a sob of relief and threw her arms around her sleeping – but very alive husband.
Sojourner helped Seda and Simay move Malcus back to the tent where he slept very peacefully for most of the day. While he slept, the camp was very quiet. Simay stayed as far away from the Ephesian as she could, and Seda ignored the man as much as possible. When the younger girl looked at the stranger, fear was in her face.
Both young women had an inexplicable sense of foreboding looming in their hearts and minds. It got worse as the daylight hours passed. The closer it came to twilight, the more intense the sense of dread became.
As the day wore on, the camp became barer and barer. By the time night fell, the only thing that hadn’t been packed up was the tent that Malcus slept in, Seda’s bedroll, and some of Sojourner’s things. The fire had a healthy blaze and shone brightly in the center of the former campsite, its light contrasting with the mood surrounding Seda and Simay.
Seda turned in fairly soon after the packing was finished, but Sojourner and Simay stayed up, sitting on opposite sides of the fire. No words passed between the two for a long while. Without warning, Sojourner looked up at Simay and broke the silence.
“The Man you have seen in your dreams - He is Yeshua HaMashiach; He is Jesus, Messiah. He is the very Son of God – the Son of Yahweh.”
“The NAME!” came the shriek. “The NAME!”
Seda flew out of the darkness behind Sojourner, but when she got to within two feet of him she suddenly stopped, her face and body contorting into horrific shapes as she continued to screech her disapproval.
“You must not say the NAME! Great is Diana!”
Simay stared at her friend in horror. In her heart Simay knew exactly what – or rather who Seda’s problem was and a dark chill ran through her accompanied by a sense of guilt as Simay recoiled from her friend.
Sojourner looked intently at Seda and said, “Spirit, in the name of Jesus – ”
“No! Not the NAME!” Seda clamped her hands over her ears, but this did not deter Sojourner.
“In the name of Jesus, tell me your name.”
Seda visibly struggled not to open her mouth, but the power of the Most High overcame the power of the foul spirit within her and the answer spewed forth, “You should remember me, servant. I am Diana of the Ephesians. And I will not leave! He won’t force me to leave a willing host! She has a choice!”
“Yes, she does. And so do I; I made my choice long ago. And I do remember you, spirit. I’ve felt your touch on my mind and seen you manipulate men, woman and even children to do your master’s will. Your host is willing, but if you think that the Most High can be thwarted by you or any of your master’s minions, you will be gravely disappointed.”
Sojourner stared down the Spirit of Diana through the eyes of young Seda.
“Leave us, spirit. And take your host with you.” Sojourner pointed authoritatively across the camp to Seda’s bedroll. To Simay’s surprise her friend went without a word of protest.
“Simay?!” Malcus’s voice carried easily to his wife’s ears and she immediately got up and went to him, happy for an excuse to leave the stranger who had given her the answer she so desperately wanted and at the same time had frightened her out of her mind.
She shook visibly as she pushed open the tent flap, entered, and knelt down beside her husband. “What is it, Malcus? How are you feeling?”
Malcus reached out and took ahold of Simay’s arm, “I need to talk to Sojourner.”
“No, no Malcus. Please, don’t do that.”
“I have to Simay!” the insistence in Malcus’s eyes convinced her to go against her instincts and allow him to talk with the now-terrifying stranger.
Simay silently slipped back out of the tent and walked as slowly as she could across the now-cold ground. She stopped as far away from Sojourner as she could and still be able to tell him that Malcus wanted to see him. She needn’t have worried. As soon as he heard her footsteps coming toward him, the Ephesian looked up. Simay looked down and pointed at the tent where Malcus lay waiting.
Sojourner saw the pointing hand and left his vigil by the fire to go and see why he was needed elsewhere. Once he was at the entrance to the tent, Simay cautiously returned to her seat by the dwindling fire and prodded the coals back to life.
The Ephesian pushed aside the tent flap and entered quietly
Malcus did not tell Simay what he asked Sojourner about the night after his mysterious collapse and miraculous healing, but in the days that followed that event Simay noticed changes in her husband. He would often go off by himself and come back an hour or two later with not a word of explanation. He would talk with Sojourner every night around the fire, sometimes talking into the night and a few times into the early morning. Once Simay even caught her husband reading one of the stranger’s scrolls. And if all of the changes in Malcus weren’t enough, another surprise shook Simay’s ever-broadening world.