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Official website of Science Fiction and Fantasy Author Carol Hightshoe
The Second Horseman
Sunlight streamed through the large stained-glass windows lining the walls of the sanctuary. They were positioned so the light would fall on the large dais and pulpit; almost like spotlights controlled by heaven. Reverend James Smallman glanced up at the center window on the back wall and smiled as the warmth of the light fell on his face. The glass showing Moses’ and his staff destroying the staves of the Pharaoh’s magicians and proving the power of the one true God was his favorite scene.
“My Brothers and Sisters,” he said as he stepped around the pulpit, and looked out at the sanctuary. The Lord had certainly blessed his work during the last few years; today’s overflow congregation was proof of that. And, why wouldn’t He? James thought. I speak the truth, direct from Him.
“I had prepared a sermon of Thanksgiving on this, the tenth anniversary of our ministry. However, something happened to change that.” James paused, walked the length of the dais making eye contact with many in the congregation and the broadcast cameras.
“You may ask what is so important it would cause me to forego my planned sermon.” James stepped back around the pulpit, picked up a book and raised it above his head. “This is a textbook that my daughter, Diana, brought home from school last week. The title of this book is ‘Gods of the Ancient and Modern World.’
“This morning, Diana told me her teacher was telling her students that the people of the ancient world were not condemned for their faith in false gods, but would be judged based on their beliefs.”
Collective gasp sounded from the congregation and James smiled and nodded.
“Once again the world chooses to attack us and the Living God. It began with evolution; teaching our children that man was not created by divine hands, but evolved from a monkey.” James paused as shouts of “Amen” resounded through the sanctuary.
“Now, they presume to teach that false gods are real!” He slammed the book down on the pulpit. “We must take a stand! We must not allow this blasphemy to continue!” James gestured and two men wheeled a large barrel out in front of the pulpit.
One of the men tossed a match into the barrel, igniting the fuel inside. James picked up the textbook, and brandished it over his head. “Just as the flames in this barrel will cleanse and purify the blasphemy in this book, we must cleanse and purify those who don’t believe in the Living God. Let the cleansing begin!” James hurled the book into the barrel.
“You are summoned, James Smallman, to account for your actions,” a powerful voice, which was neither male nor female, yet seemed to be both, called. The sanctuary vibrated with the power in that voice.
James looked up and saw a tall, light-haired woman, dressed in silver garments stepping to the edge of the upper balcony edge. She stood in front of the window showing Moses and the staves. The light surrounded her, creating a bright aura that burned and shimmering. A silver bow was in her hands, aimed at his heart. He heard a creak and a rush of air then felt the silver arrow strike his chest. The sanctuary vanished in a flash of light.
When the light faded, James found himself standing by a lake shrouded in mist. “What is this? Where am I?” he demanded.
“This is the afterlife, James Smallman,” said the same voice he had heard in the sanctuary. “One version of it. It changes dependent on the faith and beliefs of those who come.”
“This is not part of my beliefs. I deny this place, I deny you!”
Another flash of light and James found himself standing on a hill looking at three crosses. “I never denied you,” the figure on the middle cross, said softly.
“This is a trick! I deny all of this!” James cried. This time the scene dissolved into a gray expanse of nothingness.
A figure stepped out of the shadows. “This is where your faith has brought you, James Smallman. Or, perhaps more appropriately, your lack of faith.”
James stared at the figure, which remained shrouded in gray.
“My faith? That cannot be -- this does not match anything I know about Heaven.”
“Therein lies your problem, James Smallman. That which you have learned is not necessarily the same as that which you believe. To learn something is not the same as accepting it on faith. This place reflects your lack of true faith.”
“No! That cannot be! I know in what I believe!”
“Then prove it. Demonstrate your faith and bring yourself to the place you believe reserved for you.”
When the figure finished speaking, James found himself surrounded by a multitude of unidentifiable figures. “Who you are and why have you brought me here?” he asked.
“We are those who have been worshiped throughout time as gods, guardian spirits, angels and a host of other names. You have been brought here as a result of your own actions. Are you prepared to be judged?” the voice asked.
“Yes! I know I am ready to face judgment.”
“Very well. The assemblage is called!”