The Pastor slowly awakened. He opened his eyes to the soft glow of candles. He was in his study, lying on the sofa. No clouds! He sighed with relief.
He sat up and rubbed the sleep from his face. Is it over? Has the nightmare ended? But, of course, it has! I‘ve been sleeping! I’ve been right here in my study all the time! A smile of relief came to his face.
Minutes later he sat down at his desk with a fresh-brewed pot of tea. “It was a bad dream,” he muttered, “that’s all, only a bad dream. Grandfather said it was all in my mind.” He smiled to himself, then laughed. He felt light-hearted. When was the last time I really laughed? he wondered. It felt good.
He picked up a pencil from his desk and playfully flipped it into the air. He caught it then flipped it again, only to fumble the catch. He leaned over to pick up the pencil. As his hand reached for it, he saw a faint, white vapor oozing out of the carpet.
Continue to Chapter 10 >
He bolted up in his chair, wide-eyed and trembling. All across the floor the mist was rising from the carpet. He jumped from his chair and frantically looked around the study. “Jonathan!” he yelled. “Where are you?”
The fog crept around his legs, then picked up speed and grew into a dense, spinning cloud that filled the study. The walls and the fireplace became a blur. Vertigo came over him.
The Pastor didn’t know how long he had been unconscious. But now he was floating in a peaceful cloud.
“Jonathan?” he said in a whisper, breaking the unnatural silence. He looked around. “Answer me ! “ he demanded, squinting, looking for Jonathan in the thick cloud.
“Here I am,” came Jonathan’s voice from behind. The Pastor spun around to see Jonathan’s faint image in the cloud.
“How dare you continue to subject me to this!” the Pastor protested.
Jonathan walked through the cloud toward him. “I could have been killed, you know. Leaving me alone in this—this cloud! It’s a horrifying experience.”
“You make it tough on yourself,” said Jonathan. “It could have ended by now—and it could end right here. That’s up to you.”
“Then let’s bring a halt to this nonsense, right now!”
“Are you sure you’re ready?” Jonathan asked. “To hear and see? To surrender and enter in to God's rest?”
“Riddles!” spat the Pastor. “Nothing but riddles! Every time I ask you—” He cut himself off in mid-sentence, frowned and looked around. He cocked his head, listening. “Do you hear that? What is it?”
“I know it’s music,” snapped the Pastor. “Where is it coming from? Where are we?”
Lights of many hues began to flash here and there inside the cloud. The Pastor heard crowd noises over the din of disco music. Then images slowly materialized. In seconds it became apparent: He was standing in a cocktail lounge.
“This is Joplin’s,” said Jonathan. “One of the trendiest places in Denver—so I’m told.”
A dazzling array of neon lights was suspended high overhead in infinite black space. A blue haze of acrid cigarette smoke hung in the air. It stung the Pastor’s eyes and lungs. And frequent utterances of profanity singed his ears. People were mingling around the crowded bar, drinking the devil’s brew, boisterously laughing and talking. Others were sitting at round cocktail tables. Off to one side a young man and woman were unabashedly embraced in a lingering kiss.
“Disgusting!” snorted the Pastor.
Jonathan shrugged indifferently.
The small dance floor was jam-packed with dancers. The Pastor watched in shock as people danced suggestively to the most fleshly music he had ever heard. Women wore gaudy makeup and were hideously coiffured and scantily clad with revealing tops and skin-tight mini-skirts.
“A blatant ritual of sex if ever there was one!” said the Pastor. Never before had he seen such an open display of lasciviousness. “Shameless heathens!” he shouted.
“Save your breath, Pastor, they can’t hear you or see you.”
“Why have you brought me to this den of sin?”
“C’mon, you’ll see.”
The Pastor followed him over to an arched entry that opened to a private dining room. A dinner party was seated around a long dining table. The Pastor scanned the group, then gasped when he spotted Curtis and Robbie. “My own nephew! In a place like this! I’m appalled! Absolutely appalled! She brought him here. See what a bad influence that divorced woman is!”
Curtis rose from his chair and clanged a glass with a table knife to get everyone’s attention. “I suppose you’re all wondering why Robbie and I invited you here tonight,” he said with a grin.
Someone shouted out: “Robbie’s pregnant and you have to get married!”
Everyone at the table laughed. But the Pastor’s mouth dropped open and he stared incredulously at his nephew.
“No, not quite,” Curtis said, smiling and blushing.
Robbie stood up and hugged him. “I’m not pregnant—not yet,” she said with a smile. “But I’d like to be—real soon!”
The Pastor shook his head and mumbled something to himself. Were he wearing sackcloth he would rend it.
Curtis went on talking: “We wanted you all here so we could formally announce our engagement.”
His friends applauded, whistled, and cheered.
“So when’s the big day?” asked a young woman sitting across the table from the engaged couple.
“We were going to set a date this afternoon,” said Curtis, “but—”
“Getting cold feet already?” called one of the men.
“No, nothing like that,” said Curtis.
“I’ll tell you why,” volunteered Robbie, the smile gone from her face. “We wanted Curtis’s uncle to marry us. We went to talk to him today to....” Choked by emotion, her chin quivered and her eyes watered over.
“You all know who my uncle is,” said Curtis. “Pastor Desmond Morehouse. Well, because Robbie and I are both divorced, he said he won’t marry us.”
The Pastor smiled with smug self-righteousness.
The people at the table groaned and there were a few disparaging comments about the Pastor.
“No, wait,” pleaded Curtis. “Please don’t hold it against my Uncle. Robbie and I certainly don’t.”
“Humph!” grunted the Pastor.
“Hey, hey! Enough of this!” called out one of the men at the table. “Curtis loves Robbie and Robbie loves Curtis. That’s all that matters!”
“I propose a toast,” came the voice of another man who was standing up and raising a glass. “To Robbie and Curtis. We love you and pray for Jesus to grant you His richest blessings!”
The people at the table raised their champagne glasses and toasted the couple.
“Now it’s my turn,” said Curtis, raising his glass. His friends grew quiet. “I want to toast my bride.” That he did, then gave Robbie a tender kiss. Their friends whooped and whistled.
The Pastor shook his head and mumbled under his breath: “Kissing in public, drinking champagne—Curtis knows the church’s policy against drinking. Why, if he could see me and hear me, I’d....”
“Ah, young love,” Jonathan said wistfully.
“Love?” snarled the Pastor. “In a place like this? What do those two divorced youngsters know about love? Infatuated, carnal fools are what they are!”
Jonathan looked upward and said, “You didn’t tell me he was going to be this tough.”
“What’s that?” asked the Pastor.
“I wasn’t talking to you,” said Jonathan. “You know, I think you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be young and in love.”
“Maybe you need a little refresher course.” He raised his index finger upward.
Jonathan’s arm began to sparkle and glow.
“Please, not again!” cried the Pastor. “I beg of you!”
© Frank Allnutt. All rights reserved.