Waking Annie ~ Curate of Souls – continued…

“Wake, child.”

The witch stirred uneasily.  She had been down for a long time in the Silence when the soft voice called her.

“Wake.  You are needed.  It is time.”

She resisted.  Her slumber of centuries should not be interrupted.

The voice grew insistent.

“Annie.  Now is the time.”

Memories began to flood her mind.  Angry, violent memories.  Warm, carnal memories.  Memories of the life she led so long ago.  Palm trees.  Breezes of the Caribbean.  Sharp-edged blades meant for cutting sugar cane.  The taste of blood on her lips.  Heart-pounding.  Fear.  The salty air as the wooden walkway creaked beneath her feet.  Panic. Escape. Rhythmic pounding of drums.  The gurgling hiss of her husband’s throat as she cut.  The taste of the dark skin of her lover as lovemaking kept time with the drums outside.

And  then she could see.  Grass.  Trees.  A hazy figure standing over her.

She was not in the Caribbean.  She did not feel alive, but she was aware.  Angry, mournful and confused.  What was happening?  Why are all these images in her head?  Why was she back in this godawful place that she had freed herself from with swigs from the amber bottle so many, many years ago.

Her vision cleared.  The figure standing over her was a woman.

“It is time.  Come with me.”  Annie heard the words, but saw no movement of the woman’s mouth.

Annie felt herself moving in the direction of the figure, but without actually walking.  It was as if she was magnetized, getting pulled along without effort.

“Come, child.  I need you to do what you excel at.”

“And what is that?”

“Seduce a man.  Seduce…and kill.”

“Who is this man?”  She didn’t need to ask why.  She never needed a reason before.  It amused her.  Men were drawn to her in life, drawn to her beauty and her body.  She knew this.  She loved the thrill of enticing…letting her dress slip off her shoulder.  Letting a little too much cleavage show.  Men were easy to draw close when you let your hips sway and undulate a little. So easy to predict.  Fumbling, shaking hands groping, and she loved to let them.  She loved to let them think that they had the power, right up until the moment they felt the clean, sharp sting of the steel on their neck.

The Demon Why

Yesterday, I read an amazing blog post by my friend, Don. You can find his blog at donofalltrades.com. Don is a good cop, maybe the best of them. He understands how compassion, kindness and humor can defuse and remedy a lot of the awful situations he faces every day. I admire him and his writing is superb, but I especially admire his ability to do a job that I once thought I wanted but realize that I don’t have what it takes.
His latest post is called “A senseless death” and by reading it, an all-too-familiar demon was summoned.
The demon “Why?”
Through my years as a funeral director, I have had many encounters with clergy of all faiths who have been unable to dispel this particular demon satisfactorily.
He’s a demon that I just can’t seem to shake.
I have one of those jobs that brings things into my life that makes me wrestle with “why” on a regular basis.

*Why does a 6 year old have to take a bullet from some sub-human and die?
*Why did two sons from the same family die a couple of years apart? Both of them under 40. In unrelated circumstances. Why did I have to try and bring comfort to their wonderful, loving parents who hugged me and handled the loss seemingly more at peace than I did?”
*Why did the mother of an 8 year old boy (whose death from cancer stirred emotion from even us weather-beaten old salts) get murdered only a year or so after his death?
*Why did the friends of my parents have to suffer the loss of 2 children? One from suicide and one from a car wreck?
*Why did all the prayers of so many people that were being said from my father’s dying wife have no apparent effect?

For all my conversations with clergy, the common theme seems to be faith.

And forgive the brevity of this post, but I am having a hell of a hard time keeping faith alive when confronted with the demon “why” every day. I don’t know how my friend Don holds it together when he sees even more than I do.

Curate of Souls

“Do you remember, Gerard?” the angel asked me from across the battle-scarred table.  “Remember how it felt the first time you accepted His will?  How good it felt?  How loved you felt?”  His gaze was intense…burning right through me.  His eyes were a brilliant silver color.

I must be dreaming… and I really hoped that the bikers that surrounded us were totally ignoring this conversation.

“Don’t you want to feel that way again?”

I couldn’t answer.

“You still believe.”  It was more of a question than a statement.

I just stared at him.  The silence was answer enough.

“Don’t you?”  Baleful.  Chiding.

“I don’t know what I believe anymore.”  Fifteen years of doing His work on earth left me scattered emotionally and faithless.

“You were tortured by leaving the work.  Can’t even describe how it feels, can you?”

“I have enough to answer for without adding that to His list.”

“At least you had the option of walking away.  Some of us don’t get that luxury.  But the price for walking away is what you’ve been feeling.  Just a tiny taste of Hell.”

“How do you know that?  How could you know that?”

Occasionally some biker would glance over at the table and wonder what I was on, sitting by myself and staring intently at the empty seat in front of me.  The whole conversation was silent, strictly in the minds of the angel and I.

“You are the curate of lost souls.”  The words rang like steel against marble.

My temples started to throb and I felt my blood pressure rising.

“Ezekiel 25:17.”  The angel was clearly hopeful that this meant something to me.

“What?”

“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness. For he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children.”

“Why me?  Don’t you need someone pure?  Someone like you?”

He smiled.  Indescribable eyes.

“No.  We need someone… He needs someone who can think like they do.”

“Who are ‘they’ exactly?”

“The damned.  Lost souls.  Eternally suffering.  God’s lost children.  Just like you.”

I felt the creeping sting of shame and anger, like anyone stung by deserved insult.

The angel continued, “You’ve been astray yourself, thinking your deeds unseen.  But they weren’t unseen, Gerard.  No matter how hard anyone wished they were.”

“So what is this then? Punishment?”

“Atonement?  I can see why you might think that.  But you never really believed Him to be that way, did you?”

“You were the one who just mentioned my tiny taste of Hell.”

“That wasn’t Him.  That was you.  Your own soul feeling the pain of knowing His love and then turning your back on Him.”

“I didn’t turn my back… I just simply couldn’t do it anymore.”

The eyes.  The angel’s eyes started to glow.

“Couldn’t or wouldn’t?  You lost your faith.  You lost your belief that your strength came through Him.”

My anger cranked up to full steam.  “What is this?  I did it.  For fucking years I did His work.  What did I get for it?  A paycheck and the burden of knowing what the true nature of this life is.  I saw and I felt the agony of good, faithful people handed tragedy that they did not deserve.  I saw countless unanswered prayers from bedsides of the dying…prayers that ‘never fail’.  Novena after novena… all the while I’m having to taking dead babies from their mother’s arms…it was just…”

What was that I saw in the angel’s eyes that changed?  Did the pain I felt slip in and scatter his focus a bit.  I saw an opening and decided to keep digging.

“Where was He when these horrible things were happening?  Where was He?  It’s a fair question.  Go ahead and think about it.  I’ll wait for answer.”

The waitress slipped past the table, trying not be noticed.  She wondered why I hadn’t said a word since walking in.  I hadn’t asked for a drink.  She was grateful I hadn’t.

No answer came.  I knew it wouldn’t.  Long ago, in my studies, I came to the conclusion that when the prayers of His own Son went unanswered, my own would be quite farther down on the list.

“What is it exactly that I am to do?”

There was no answer in the angel.  His look intensified.  “They will be drawn to you.  To destroy you.  All you need to do is make them notice you.  The rest will just happen.”

“’Drawn to destroy me’…sounds wonderful.  You’re not really selling me on this gig.  What if they catch up to me?  I don’t like the idea of spending my life as demon bait.  Tell Him I said ‘no thanks.’”  I got up and headed towards the door.

I walked out and threaded through the row of choppers and bikes, cautious not to touch any of them.  I was a lot more afraid of pissed-off bikers than I was of supernatural trash.

My car was parked just up the block.  I slid in the seat and keyed the engine.  As it cranked up, I glanced to my right and nearly jumped through the driver’s side window.  The angel was sitting to my right, hands folded in his lap.

“How shall I put this?  You really don’t have a choice.  Well, you do have a choice.  You can either do this with our protection, or do it without.  But you will be pursued by them.  You always have been.  You’ve just never known about it.”

“Why me?  What have I done?”

“You’ve simply been chosen.  Chosen by both sides,” the angel continued “before you were ever born.  You are of the Nephilim bloodline.”

I remember reading of the Nephilim in my seminary days.  They were the offspring of Angels and human women, known by their large size and were sought out and destroyed as abominations.

But they must have missed one.  One who was able to be sheltered and protected.  One who would go on to father future generations.  But enemies remained, and they still hunted.

My gut started feeling hot and loose…pure fear.

“You remember feeling terrified at times and not knowing why?  It meant that one of them was very close to you.  Close enough to feel your heartbeat.  You were in the gravest danger and your instincts were putting you on alert.  Even though you couldn’t see anything, you could sense the danger.”  The intent stare was back.

“But nothing ever happened. It was just nerves. Nothing ever happened.”

“You don’t think so?”  The angel’s look was long and telling.  “No thanks necessary.  You’re welcome.”