Pastor Forbes stood by her bedside in the maternity ward and watched, as his wife peered lovingly into the nearby bassinet.
"My...what a fine baby," she mused outloud, "he looks like his daddy."
Rita rolled her eyes, giving her an annoyed look. The pastor's wife ignored her looks and walked to the bed...she stood beside her husband.
"So...tell us," Pastor Forbes ventured with a smile and a kind voice,"...what now?"
"What do you mean?" Rita replied with marked acidity.
"I mean...your son...and you. We've been talking about this...you are going to come to church aren't you?"
Rita didn't answer.
"We'll be happy to pick you up...no problem for us at all." His wife added.
"Look...," Rita glared at them, "I've had just about enough! I've tolerated your visits since my husband's funeral...but this has got to stop! I don't need ...you," her eyes darted back and forth between the two of them, "or you! You're both more than I want to take...and I don't mean just for now...I mean forever. I don't need you two! You keep coming with your words...like you know it all...like...well, I know you're not saying it, but...like my way of living is so wrong and yours is so right. I don't go to church...I don't have to, and I am o-kay....and so is he." She gave a quick look at the bassinet and back at them.
"I understand what you're feeling..." Pastor Forbes began.
"No you don't," Rita rudely cut him off, "you think you do but you don't." She sat up straighter in bed and adjusted her covers. "Okay...so you came around to see me...after everything happened...I was taking it hard and I do appreciate that...but, I am tired of hearing the same yang...yang. If God is real...He'll come and get me...He'll talk to me!"
"That's what God is using us to do, Rita. He's talking to you...He's knocking at the door of your heart...He wants to come in."
Her eyes, full of spiteful ridicule, took him in from head to foot.
"Sorry," she said sarcasticly, "you don't look like God to me."
"And what does God look like?" he replied, "do you know? He comes in all shapes, sizes and colors...He uses whoever or whatever He needs to reach whom He wants to reach...and He will reach you, Rita."
"You wanna bet?!" She shot back haughtily.
"Please, Rita", his wife spoke up, "think about it. Your father-in-law was killed in a bad drug deal five years ago...and four weeks ago, his son, the father of your child, was killed also, during a drug deal gone wrong. You have to face the facts; the streets are hard out there alone...especially for a mother trying to raise a man child on her own."
"So what??!!" She lashed out at her. "What does that mean? You think I'm not capable? Well, I can raise my son on my own...and I don't need you nosey church folks in my business. Now, this may come as a shock to you...but he and I?" She jerked her head in the direction of the bassinet "...will be just fine...without...you two!"
"Yes...," came her soft reply, "I agree...you will be just fine without us...but you won't be just fine... without God."
"You don't know that," Rita spit the words out, "...you can't say that...and I wish you would both leave...now!"
"Please, ...." The pastor's wife began again, but her husband's gentle hand on her shoulder silenced her.
"Okay, Rita," he spoke calmly, "we'll go...but just one thing...?"
"What is it?!" She asked roughly.
"Can we have prayer before we go?"
"Do you promise that you'll leave then?"
"Well, thank You Lord!" Rita said mockingly and her voice had a heavy exasperated tone when she added, "Yes...yes, have prayer...please do!"
The pastor's wife bowed her head and reached for her hand, but she refused it and stared fixedly at the bed covers, as the pastor began to pray.
"Dear Father, we want to first say thank you for Rita's safe delivery of her son. We want You to know that we are aware of the fact it was no mere coincidence that we met her at the funeral parlor, four weeks ago and...it was no mere accident that we were at her house visiting this evening when she went into labor...it was all by Your will. And Lord, we understand that we are here now lifting her and her son up before You...by that same will. You saw this day a time long ago, so we come Lord, believing and trusting that You are a God who is more than able to finish what You have started. Here is an infant and his mother...that need You so desperately...but they don't know it. I am pleading for this young woman...a young woman who holds her and her son's life in her hands. I am pleading that you touch her heart and mind...open up her understanding, Dear God, that she might realize the magnitude of her need. There is a vicious, tragic cycle that has begun in her family and it has to to be stopped, now...and only You can do it. I have done all You've led me to do...I am stepping back out of the picture completely. They are in Your hands Father, as they have always been, and through Your prescious blood shed on Calvary...I claim Your victory for this dear lost soul and her child. Though I am leaving this situation physically... Your Spirit...will never leave them. I am thanking You...praising You, O God...in advance...for Your kind intervention in this so very pressing matter. It is in the wondrous name of Jesus...I do pray and say, Amen.
Rita did not look at them when they moved towards the door, but she heard the last words of the pastor's wife;
"If you need us...call."
When the door closed behind them, Rita reached for the remote, flicked through the channels, looked over at her infant, who was resting peacefully and turned off her bedside lamp. She adjusted her pillows and leaned back with a loud, audible sigh. Slowly...her eyes closed.
Suddenly, she woke to find herself engulfed in total blackness! She was no longer lying on a bed in the hospital...she was on her feet and she was moving forward...involuntarily! As she continued to move, there were sounds...sounds that she strained to identify, but couldn't. Then the air....the air became filled with a putrid, rotten smell of pure decadence as the sounds, now more audible and horrowing, continued to grow louder and louder.
She wanted to stop and run...to scream, but she couldn't utter a word...she was not in control of herself! Only her eyes were able to move. The haunting din of languishing moans and groans filled her ears unrelentlessly as the ordor, more intensely neaustiatingly identifiable now with the added stench of excrement, invaded and arrested her total being.
And she found herself entering a domain...she had never known!
The agonizinging, suffering yelps and squeals that sounded like those of injured animals, enveloped her. She could 'feel'...the hopelessness...the devestation of the pain and severe torture that was so present. She knew, she would never forget this horrible, unforgettable place into which she was so unwillingly, but steadily, being ushered.
Her pupils, slowly, began to adjust to the ebony atmosphere. And, as if looking through a thick fog of dark blue, hazy light, her surroundings were seepingly ...revealed.
A vast world of torment unfolded before her! A place where inhuman forms and shapes, undistinguishable as to gender or age, seemed to be standing, sitting, lying and hanging...high and low...existing...in an unmeasurable vestibule of separateness and desolation. And she somehow realized...this was never ending! This was...hell!
It was a few moments before she became aware that she was no longer moving. Her eyes darted here and there, frantically, and then...she saw them. She watched, petrified, eyes wide like saucers, as two 'forms' moved forward...together...one just slightly ahead of the other. They were moving towards her! They proceeded with a pronounced lethargic motion..laboriously... as if each step caused excruciating pain. They seemed to be bent over...so much so that their long, dangling, extremities that remotely resembled arms... swayed, almost touching their alien, skeletal looking feet. The first form stopped at a small distance from her, but the other continued to advance...drawing closer and closer...until it was almost upon her...then...it too, stopped. Its breathing was heavy and audible. The odor of a rancid, foul breath preceeded a raspy, eerie voice... that spoke with much difficulty and was hardly heard above the deafening wails of the vanquished.
"You don't want to come here...save my son...please...go to church...do it now!"
Then the 'thing'...the form...began to raise itself up so that its face could be clearly seen. Her bulging eyes were rivited, her body rigid and her petrified gasp...mute! There was no hair or skin on a scalp that exposed...bone. Hideous eyes of a yellowish-red hue with a slit for pupils...buried in hollowed, sunken, perishing, sockets...glared at her! Glared...from a grotesque, distored face...that was both animal and man. A thick, slimy green residue flowed slowly... from cavities...holes...as 'it', a mass of festering, decaying epiderm and flesh, began once again to draw even closer to her!
Frenzied with fright, she shut her eyes tight and from the depths of her muteness, with every ounce of her strength... she 'willed', she 'demanded'...a scream! And she did scream! She screamed at the top of lungs...a piercing terror filled scream!
She was still screaming that way...when the nurse rushed into her room and attempted to arouse her. The baby in the bassinet...was bawling.
"Mrs Richards! Mrs Richards!" The nurse called as she shook her awake. "Are you all right??!!"
When she opened her eyes, Rita was trembling. She was panting and perspiring heavily ...barely able to reply.
"Y..yes...yes. Ju...just a ba...bad dream," she tried to explain. She leaned forward, looking over at her baby anxiously, "m...my...bab...my baby...?!!"
The nurse walked over to the bassinet and picked up the frightened infant. When she cuddled him, he immediately stopped crying.
"He's fine," she said, as she placed him back in his bed, "you woke him up." She started to leave then paused for a moment at the door. "Are you sure you're all right?" She asked.
She nodded and when the nurse left, Rita leaned back on the pillow...still quite shakened but satisfied that her baby was safe.
She lied there, unmoving, for a moment, then she sat up quickly and reached for the phone. She dialed. There was a short period of silence before she spoke into the receiver;