“Have You Ever Seen A Miracle?”
“Power is what I want. Give me a real god with some real power, then, I’ll believe.”
He paused for a moment and seemed to reflect, then said,
“And I don’t care if it’s the devil himself, I’ll serve him and do his bidding.”
“You don’t realize what you’re saying John, and you can’t possibly mean that.”
“Tha Hell I—”
“John!!” the Priest interrupted forcefully, “Let me remind you that you are in a church!” He said firmly.
“Alright, alright. Tha ‘heck’ I don’t mean it! You’ve been a priest now for what Arthur, thirty five, forty years now?”
“Yes,” said the priest wearily. He had just wanted to enjoy a simple game of chess with his old friend, not get into a three hour theological debate.
“Yes John, forty three to be exact, what of it?” he said wishing his friend would shut up and move, as his own eyes carefully surveyed the board looking for hidden traps.
“Have you ever seen a miracle in all those years?” John asked with feigned innocence toppling a bishop.
Father Arthur Chadwick Thomas, “Doubting Thomas” they had called him in seminary as a young man, paused in contemplating his friend’s last move, and probing question. He had been unprepared for either one. He looked deeply into the eyes of his long time friend for a very long moment. He sensed what was coming next, and it was for such questions as these and the one’s that would surely follow, that he had been nick-named “Doubting Thomas”. And here they were again, confronting him once more through his friend. Was he any better prepared to answer them now, than his instructors had been earlier?
He doubted it.
“What are you getting at John,” he said, keenly aware of the intent.
“Bishop takes Bishop”, said his well-dressed friend, “And it’s your move Arthur,” he said with a crooked smile.
The priest’s jaw tightened. He removed his wire-rimmed glasses and his grey eyes bored into his cross-board rivals’.
They had been in seminary together many years ago, at first experiencing the same exhilaration, the same hopes, the same dreams of saving the world and then later, in their third year, the same doubts and nagging questions.
Arthur pursued his answers among the stacks of books and writings and round table discussions with his professors and fellow students, John on the other hand chose not to. Discouraged and disheartened and nagged by doubts and the oft repeated but never satisfactorily explained “We take it all by Faith, Brother John…” John left, swearing never to return. To never waste his precious time anymore on the frivolous notion of there being a rhyme or reason to this maddening world, or a God who is some how in control of it all…”
Jonathan Rawlings Smith was a very successful self-made man.
After leaving seminary he embarked upon a personal pilgrimage in the pursuit of power. Lawyers seemed the real movers and shakers in his estimation at that time, so, after four years in Harvard Law School, he became one—a very successful one. Indeed, one of the best criminal lawyers in the country. Everyone from kingpins to Congressman courted his favor. His ability to sway a jury inspite of the evidence was phenomenal. His reputation preceded him, and people sent the required one million dollar retainer fee sight unseen, begging him to take their case. Eventually, he only picked the impossible ones, because the difficult ones were no longer challenging…
And yet and still, this was not enough. He wanted more. More power. More influence. He found it in establishing his own law firm—for a while. Letting his junior partners handle all the cases that his name and reputation pulled in, while he jetted around the world.
He had met her while in Brazil on one such jaunt. A dark skinned, dark haired beauty who told him of ‘real power’. A neophyte herself in the Dark Arts, as she called them, she had tried to persuade him to join her. He on the other hand, was interested in only one thing.
Her incredibly potent and very passionate nature…
He had attended a few ceremonies, but was unimpressed, attending only because she implored him, and for the hot-blooded nights that followed. After a brief but torrid affair, they somehow lost track of each other.
Eventually he retired from the firm a multi-millionaire with connections and influence in nearly every major seat of power in the world. But through it all, he never forgot her and remembered fondly those warm Brazilian nights…
Then, quite unexpectantly, she had contacted him last week. As mysterious as ever, she said that she had followed his career and successes over the years with interest, and actually had a business proposal for him, and that she would be in the nation’s Capitol this coming weekend and would love to see him.. He’d always been a handsome man and could have by charm, power, or influence any beautiful woman he wanted, but this woman, he found after so many years, was still the only one who could raise his pulse, his temperature, and his curiosity…
He had met her at an expensive French restaurant in downtown DC for lunch.
He’d recognized her immediately.
He rose as she approached. She hadn’t changed, not one iota. It was remarkable. Ten years had not dulled her beauty one bit, and inspite of himself he felt his pulse rate climb as she drew near.
Her hair was a dark waterfall that cascaded down her shoulders framing a stunning face with bright green eyes and full moist ruby lips that
caused beads of sweat to form on the foreheads of male patrons throughout the restaurant. Her form was encased in a tight fitting but regal looking black dress that clung to her every body-swaying movement. All over the restaurant eyes like radar followed her across the room. Wives, girlfriends, business partners, and clients with billion dollar business deals were forgotten until the Brazilian beauty had been seated. She had been pleased by the stir and reactions of all the others, she craved it, but especially John’s. He tried to control it but she knew immediately that he wanted her…
Maybe later, but not before ‘their’ business had been concluded.
After their small talk—and after several small arguments around the restaurant between husbands and irate wives had been settled—she got down to business.
“Are you still as interested in ‘personal power’ as you once were”? she said coyly, fingering the rim of her wine glass seductively.
He pulled out an extremely expensive Cuban Cigar, lit it and slow-puffed a large ‘O’ ring toward the crystal chandelier high above their table.
“For the past thirty years I’ve amassed a wealth of political power,” he said bragging. “I’m a multi-millionaire and have also amassed monetary power that is the envy of Kings. I can even make people ‘disappear’ if I want to.” He stared at her, waiting for her reaction.
Again, a coy smile, a shy and almost sly one, child-like, one that said, “That’s nice, but mine is still bigger than yours...”
So, he continued with what he felt would be his most impressive statement.
“I have the private numbers of twenty kings and thirteen presidents in my cell’s contact list, and can audience with any of them at a moments notice, if I choose...
“I have all the power I need. There’s no form of power that I don’t have,” he said confidently.
Her eyes were green magnetic diamonds that sparkled mischievously, toying with him.
Something hypnotic about them, alluring. Even, dangerous—but, so impossible to resist…
She locked him with their stare.
“You’ve talked about political power. You’ve talked about monetary power, etc…”
She leaned forward, parting her moist blood-red lips, her bodice falling slightly forward, showing a bit more cleavage—cheese being flashed before the eyes of a hungry rat…
“…But I asked you if you were still interested in ‘personal’ power… Are you?”
“Er, uh. Yes…” his throat went dry, “Yes, I am,” he said, trying to appear in control, but her nearness and her perfume were weaving a net around him as powerful as quicksand, and he could pretend all he wanted, but he could feel himself beginning to sink into it.
Come on John, you know how this game is played. Don’t appear to be so eager…
“Maybe…” Then taking another puff he said,
“What kind of ‘personal power’ are you talking about…?”
“Power like that of which you once dreamed. Wondrous power!” she said warming quickly to her subject, “The kind of real Power that men and kings have only dreamed of. Power to—!”
She paused in mid-sentence. He green eyes flashed caution for a quick moment. Mustn’t spill too much, too soon, can't appear too eager…
She calmed down, picked up her fork, and toyed with the remains of her Lobster.
“It is real power John. The kind that we talked about when we were young. Remember?”
She looked up at him and into his pale blue eyes again.
“The Power to change the weather John. The Power to change the course of World Events. The Power to move Mountains, John. The Power to reach up and grab hold of the stars of Heaven itself and lay them at your feet…” she said with powerful meaning, then flashed a seductive smile.
He scoffed a bit and said, “You make it sound like you’ve found the secrets to the powers of the gods, Gabriella.. I don’t remember such power back then. Just some childish ritual I let you talk me into. The most ‘powerful’ thing I remember from back then were the passionate nights we spent together…” he chuckled.
“Don’t laugh, John. I’m serious…
“Very serious…” then she paused and said, “Because there comes a time when all ‘children’ grow up, even in the things of The Dark…
“I know more and have learned more things than I could ever tell you in a single night. I’d have to ‘show you’. Serious things…
“And, if ‘you’re’ serious, then meet me at this address, tonight, at 11:45. The John Rawlings I knew, would’ve been up for anything…” she said meaningfully.
She slowly put down the wine glass. Her full lips having left a bright red lip-print around the rim of the glass and for some reason unbeknownst to him this excited him, tremendously.
“Why?” he said swallowing hard, but again, trying to appear calm and in control. “What do you have in mind? I’m a busy man, my time is valuable, and I need to know what you hav—”
She rose from the table cutting him off, smiling her most alluring and suggestive smile. She knew she had him now. He was hooked. So easy.
But just one last ‘teaser’ before she left…
“What did I have in mind? Why Jonathan, don’t you remember? I certainly do. Infact, I remember very, very, well…” she said in hushed tones and slipped a neatly folded piece of paper into his left hand. She then turned on her heels and swayed her way out of the restaurant garnishing stares and sparking new arguments.
“Don’t be late…” she called back over her shoulder, aware that, inspite of himself, his eyes were locked on her undulating hips. He had gotten away from her once, she would see to it that he would not get away from her again…
All eyes turned to him now. One guy slowly shook his head and whispered to him across the restaurant.
“You lucky dog!” smiled and winked. The man’s wife promptly slapped him, hard, across the face, and walked out.
“Ow! Honey, darling, wait!” said the stranger, “I was just kidding dear! Wait! Honey! Wait for me!” He hurried out behind her, knocking over and spilling drinks.
Jonathan, no stranger to the public eye, nevertheless was somewhat embarrassed. He unfolded the piece of paper Bianca Sierra Gabriella had given him and read the address.
4401 Kalorama Road N.W.
It was two blocks from the Parrish of his old friend, the Priest, Arthur Chadwick Thomas. Perhaps he’d drop by there, see his old friend first, and kill some time...
So thus they had come to their current chess game and their current conversation.
“Have I ever seen a miracle?” said Father Thomas repeating his friend’s question.
“Yes”, said Jonathan as he sat back and crossed his legs, chin held high exuding a sense of confidence. Feeling he held the upper hand in both the subject matter, and the game at hand.
Father Thomas opened his mouth to speak.
“…And I’m not talking about the “miracle of birth” either Thomas. I mean a real, bonafide, honest-to-God, miracle.”
The priest grew slightly impatient with his petulant friend, then calmed himself. Who knew but what the Lord may have sent him by at this
time and for a reason. This could well be the last time to reach his friend, who knew?
He ran his fingers thru his gray hair and chose his words and his answer carefully, the tightness of the clerical collar serving to remind him not only of his responsibility to mankind as a whole, but to his friend in particular.
“Yes,” he said matter of factly, “Yes, I have.”
His friend was taken aback and eyed him suspiciously. His eyes narrowed on the priest and he leaned forward.
“I thought ‘priests’ we’re not supposed to lie, Thomas.”
“I’m not lying, Jonathan.”
“Of course you are! You know as well as I that there are no real miracles today, if there ever were!
“And all this talk about “morals” and “God” and “Family Values” is just a smoke screen to continuously impose some archaic, puritanical, moral ethic on everyone. That does not work, and never did! You just want to best me at something don’t you! Admit it! You couldn’t stand the fact that I was the better student in school, the better athlete. That after so many years that I had the sense enough to get out of seminary when I saw it was going no where! That I went to Law School and made something of myself! Made a name for myself, established my own firm and became a millionaire while you, like the rest of the has-beens who don’t have the guts or talent to make it in the real world, stay locked up in some seminary and then have the audacity to make moral laws for the rest of us to obey. Those of us who do have the guts to live in the real world without the aid of mental, man-made, crutches, called ‘God’ or ‘miracles’ or ‘religion’ to rely on!”
Arthur remained calm, toying with his King’s Knight during John’s outburst.
There was a very long and silent pause between them...
“What brought that on...” the Priest queried calmly.
Jonathan was red-faced. He honestly didn’t know. For some reason, for a priest, albeit his old friend, to tell him that he had seen a ‘miracle’ when he, Jonathan, knew he couldn’t have possibly seen one, infuriated him…Or was it because that deep inside, he was some how afraid that there was the possibility that his friend had…
“I…I don’t know.” He said sheepishly, “I’m sorry…I don’t know what happened.. I-I honestly don’t know what got into me, Thomas. I just became dreadfully angry for some reason…”
“Do you remember Charles Winthrop?” interrupted Arthur.
“Yes, yes, I do. He died of a massive coronary didn’t he?”
“Yes, and I was with him when he died,” the Priest said solemnly,
“…And came back...”
“And what?? Some kind of ‘out of body experience’, is that what you’re trying to tell me? You really don’t expect me to believe tha—”
“You can believe whatever you want John. You asked me a question and I’m trying to give you an honest answer. Now, either you want to hear it or you don’t. Now, which is it?”
“Continue…” John said slightly exasperated.
“Well, as you know, the three of us went through seminary together. After you dropped out, Charles and I continued on. Well, two years after you left, Charles’s mother passed away suddenly, and apparently they were extremely close. Well, after that, he made a complete turn around. He left the seminary and became an atheist.
“Smart boy.” Interjected Rawlings sarcastically. Arthur ignored him and continued,
“He blamed God, cursed the Dean, and stormed off campus blaspheming God and swearing off religion forever. Even though he only lived minutes away from our Parrish, not once did he come to visit.
“Well, 15 years later when he was on his death bed, I received a call from him, asking me to take his confession..”
“What???? But I thought you said—“
“Let me finish…”
“Like you, he too had done well for himself and had purchased a very large and stately home, not to far from here, actually. 4401 Kalorama Road.
Jonathan Rawlins Smith stiffened slightly. He hoped that Thomas had not seen it. It appeared not, as he continued his story.
“This house is a huge monstrous thing and very foreboding. It sets back off the road abit, atop that steep hill near the end of the street. The doctors had simply sent him home to die since his heart was so weak, there was literally nothing else they could do. His health had deteriorated so much over the years that he was not a good candidate even for a heart transplant. It was felt that the stress of such an operation would be too much. He’d refused to go to a hospice, so, they just sent him home.
“I walked in just as the visiting nurse was leaving. So I asked her, ‘How is he this evening?’ She walked right past me without saying a word.
After she had opened the door, she stopped, turned, looked at me, then said in a low whisper,
“I certainly would not want to be in his shoes, or in this house…” and left.
“No! No! No! Not yet! No, I said, not yet! Not yet! Not yet! Not Yet!!!”
The shouting came from a bedroom upstairs.
It came from Charles’ room.
“STOP scratching me!!”
“What was the matter with the man? Was he mad?” Interjected Jonathan Rawlings.
“Some might think so. But I know better. Especially with what I’ve seen…” the Priest said with a far away look in his eye…
“I went up the long winding stairway of Charles’ mansion, for that is what it truly is, a mansion. The house was completely devoid of any other living soul. His children, now grown, had moved out years ago. Having lost his moral compass long ago, the children had been allowed to practically raise themselves and, had had numerous wild parties in the house till he kicked them both out, demanding that they ‘grow up’.
The girl, ‘Moon Glow,’ has been in Rehab the past two years in Houston, and the son, Michael, is backpacking through Europe somewhere the last anyone heard of him.
“What about his wife?” queried Rawlings, “Uh, uh, Darcy! Yes, that’s her name. I heard they got married in some big outdoor affair, married by a justice of the peace, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, I offered to do it for free, since we were old friends, but neither one of them wanted a ‘Priest nor a Reverend’ to perform the ceremony. They didn’t want ‘God’ involved in it at all, they said. So, He wasn’t. They declared that they had an ‘open marriage’, a ‘modern relationship’. That
they, either one, could ‘sleep with whomever they wanted as long as they came home.’
“Well, that certainly sounds different, and maybe not so bad, eh?” Joked Rawlings, laughingly.
“Yes, lasted just ‘great,’ till she came home with some young stud-muffin one evening who eventually moved in. And till Darcy started giving ‘Ted’ keys to all of Charles’ stuff. His cars, boats, jet skis, motorcycles, etc, and Charles came home one evening to find the guy drunk in and throwing up in, his private Jacuzzi. Charles was furious” He paused here before he said, “..And, he found the guy increasingly in their bedroom...”
“Sounds like the kid was trying to take over,” stated John.
“Yes, he was. He wanted access to everything, he already had total control over all of Darcy’s things, then, through Darcy, control over all of Charles’ things—with out his knowledge or permission—and finally… He wanted access to ‘Charles’ himself…”
“Really? I didn’t think that Charles was, uh, ‘inclined to go that way—”
“He wasn't. And that’s where Charles drew the line. Darcy then said that she thought theirs was to be a modern and ‘open’ marriage and that if Charles couldn’t give in to Ted’s demands, that she would just have to leave, since Charles had ‘broken their vows’. Charlie again, was furious.”
“As I can well imagine.” John interjected.
“So, by this time, he was so fed up with them both, that he felt that it was just as well, and told her to get out, to leave, and to take her ‘Teddy Bear’ with her. He’d had enough. Last I heard, she and Ted were living in Calif. With a third party who owned a Town home in San Diego somewhere, and who was, uh, ‘open’ to Ted’s wishes and varied ‘appetites’. They ended up divorcing ofcourse and she took him for half of everything he had.”
“I see…So that’s how Charles ended up living all alone…”
“Charles’ bedroom looked like something out of Gone With the Wind. A just incredibly massive bedroom suite, large fireplace, huge canopied bed. I’d swear it was at least as large as The Presidential Suite in some grand hotels.
Each bedroom had its own color décor. Blue, Red, White, etc., he was laid out in the Blue Bedroom.
“When I walked in he was lying half in bed and half out. He tried to prop himself up when he saw me, but he was too weak. When I got close enough to help him sit up in the bed, the first thing I noticed was his labored breathing, sunken eyelids and the smell of his sweaty bed clothes. Seems he’d been in bed like that for more, than a month, and by the time I saw him, he was nearly skin and bones…
“Thomas! Thomas! I’m so glad you came. You’ve got to help me!”
His voice was old, weak, strained and scratchy—barely above a whisper, and with a tinge of desperation and panic.
“I-I can’t eat, I can’t sleep and I-I can’t leave this room. They-They won’t let me. Fir- first, They-They wouldn’t come in here. In my room. But-but now, They, They aren’t afraid to come in here any more.. Then added, furtively,
“Especially the Big One, with the ‘hooves’...
“’The Big One with the ‘hooves’? Hooves?? So, what was he talking about—He really had gone nuts. So by this time he was seeing things, huh?. Demons, ‘centaurs’ and elves??” Burst out Jonathan,
“What on earth was he babbling about? Obviously he was delusional. Having hallucinations. Do you really expect me to believe this ‘rot’!?. That he saw half man and half animal in his own house?? Hmph! ‘Hooves’, indeed…” He said in an air of disgust.
Then, suddenly turning jocular again, Jonathan jested, “Or perhaps he was hitting the bottle a little ‘too much’, he joked.
“None of the above,” Father Thomas Chadwick responded,
“He was deadly serious and the fear in his eyes as they darted about the room checking every crack and every crevice, reflected that.
“The words flooded from his mouth as if his life depended on saying everything before he was interrupted. Infact, I could not get a word in edgewise till he finished. He kept furtively glancing about the room as if he was expecting unseen invaders any minute.
“Yes, I’m here Charlie, you can relax now. Relax, it’s just you and I here now. It’ll be ok. And—“
“And-and you won’t leave me!”
“No Charles, I won’t leave you… Now here, drink some water.” And I poured him a glass of water from a pitcher on a table by his bedside.
He gulped the water down holding it with two emancipated and shaking hands. He came up for air once, “You do believe me, don’t you Thomas? They are worse than horses hooves, and razor sharp…” And then drank heavily again.
It seemed he tried to put his whole face into that glass he was so thirsty. The upturned glass was soon drained and then—“There it is! There’s one of them right there!” he screamed, and threw the empty glass at a small picture on the wall just beside the bedroom door..
“Did you see it! Did you see it Thomas! Tell me! Tell me that you saw it! They-They use to be afraid to come into to this room... But-but They-They—They are not afraid anymore.” He said repeating himself. Then continued,
“Because They know. That’s right, They know, Thomas. They—they know that it’s nearly my time now. They know…
“WHAT am I going to do Thomas!!! They know!!!” he screamed coming up out of the bed and grabbing me by my shirt with the kind of almost super human strength that only abject terror can bring forth from its victims..
“Calm down, Charles, it’s going to be alright.”
Just then, behind me, I could have sworn that I heard a low, short, but intensely vicious “growl.’ It startled me, so I quickly turned to face the sound.
But there was nothing there…
“You, did hear it, didn’t you?” said Charles.
“I…heard something, but I’m not sure what it was…”
“You heard it,” he said. “That’s good. That’s good. You always hear Them before you see Them…”
“Whoomp…” I caught my breath, surprised.
“What was that?” I asked.
Charles shrank back in the bed and pulled the covers up to his chest as if they were some form of protection he could hide behind. Then he whispered,
“You’ll protect me won’t you? That’s the job of a priest, isn’t it?”
“What is that noise Charles? Is there someone downstairs? Someone else in the house besides you and I?”
“No…” he said meekly.
The noise continued, slow and lumbering, like some giant with echoing footsteps slowly making his way up the stairs. It was rather unnerving.
“Are you sure?” I queried, “Because I could swear they sound like large heavy foot steps, coming up the stairs.”
“It’s him!!” He whispered in an almost panicked state.
His eyes grew wide with terror and pure abject fright.
“It’s who?” I queried.
He gasped and sputtered and tried to say a Hail Mary, but choked on it and ended up muttering, “Oh my God, oh my God, o my God, oh my God!” over and over again.
“Charlie! What is wrong with you! Who is that?”
“He’s—he’s coming for me.” He grabbed me suddenly in the collar again, and whispered intensely, “You got to help me Thomas! You’ve just got to!”
“All right Charlie, I’ll help you, just calm down, lie back in the bed and relax. That’s right, let go my collar, now lay back and relax. Good. Now that you’re calm again, I’ll just go see who it is,” and I rose to go to the door and open it and look down the hall.
“NO!” He screamed. Already unnerved by the pounding steps, his sudden scream came so suddenly, it startled me.
“Charles! What is wrong with you! You act like a man terrified to be in his own house.” I was half way to the door and his eyes were wide as saucers at the prospect that I had been on my way to open that door.
“Don’t do this to me Thomas, I beg you, please, in the name of our friendship and all that is holy—please, don’t-open-that-door!!”
The noise, the slow and ponderous footsteps had stopped at Charlie’s frightened scream. He gripped the covers to his chest as if they were his last hold on reality. I returned to my seat, exclaiming, “Well, since the noise stopped I guess there’s no point in pursuing it any further… But what is going on here, Charles? And how long have you been living like this?”
He sank back into the bed visibly relieved as I turned back from the door and returned to my seat.
“She warned me this would happen… She tried to tell me.”
“Tell you what Charles? Who warned—“
“…But I wouldn’t listen. She told me, my mother did. ‘Charlie,’ she said, ‘people make choices in their lives and there comes a time when you have to pay for those choices you make.’
She took me by the hand on her deathbed and said to me, ‘Charlie, I made some wrong choices early on in my life, and now, they have finally caught up with me.’
“What do you mean Mother? What choices? You mean like smoking, is that what you’re talking about?”
She’d smiled at me, took my hand even tighter in her own and gave it a loving squeeze, ‘Something like that son, which is why I always told you not to smoke. So yes, it was that, and other things, which I’m not going to take the time to explain. But, like I said, we all make choices son, and there comes one day that you have to pay for the choices you make. Now the Doctor says this is incurable, so I’ll be leaving you soon, and I’m telling you all this because I don’t want you to blame anyone. Not yourself, not your father, and not God. Do you hear me? Do you understand what I’m saying to you?”
“Yes, mother, I understand.”
“Charlie, you’re 33 now and it’s way past time that you settled down and married a nice girl and gave me some grandchildren. And even though I won’t live to see them, promise me that you’ll find a nice girl and settle down and get married? Ok?”
“But Mom, you know I’m training to be a Priest and—“
“Yes, Mom, ok, I will…”
“Good boy,” she said patting my cheek like I was still a ten year old.
“And remember what I said about not blaming yourself or your father, or God either, for that matter. Charlie, remember that. Some people make lousy choices in their lives, then at the end they want to blame God, when it’s not His fault, He doesn’t make your choices for you, you make them.
And I’m not going to be one of those people who blames Him for the choices I’ve made in my life.” She then looked me in the eye and said,
“And Charlie, don't you be one of those people either…”
But, he was one of those people. He blamed God for his mother’s death, just like she had told him not to. She had also told him that people that ended up blaming God for everything, ended up living lousy lives and dying miserable deaths. Ended up having nightmares and night terrors, abandoning the only protection against both the seen and unseen forces and dangers that permeate this world.
He wished he had listened, but he had been so full of himself at the time, he couldn’t hear what anybody else was saying, not even his Mother on her deathbed. Her words of wisdom had gone in one ear, and out the other…