Knowledge does not walk in the door and sits down opposite you.
It must be chased down the block, around corners, over fences, and tackled,
pinned down, and interrogated,
and even then you must ask the right questions.
Sarah’s assignment was to go to the
library to see if there were any books on the history of Jabesh specifically if
ever some ancient wayfarer passed through the town during a tumultuous time.
Perhaps he left something that was now drawing everyone’s—or more properly,
“If we have anything at all on
Jabesh it would be in the original section of the library.” The librarian
pointed past Sarah to a singular door on the opposite end.
Whereas the new part
of the library was glass and metal the original section was bricks and
stones. It was not lit very well and had the mustiness of her great-grandparents’
house. There were only around ten aisles of books but they were each very long
and every one was quite packed with books. No one ever came into this part.
She wandered up and down the first
two rows and scanned the general topics of each section. There was nothing of
interest, mostly a lot of old tomes that nobody even touched for the last fifty
years. She stared at a few of them and wondered that if she tried to remove
them if they would simply crumble into dust.
Going down the third aisle the
title on one of the spines caught her attention. “Monstrosities
and Horrors. What a cheery title. Maybe they’ll be something in here
about what we’ve been running into.”
She pulled out the book. As she
did, she noticed that the space where the book had been extended clear through
to the other side. For some reason she felt compelled to casually peer into the
space. Her eyes grew wide and she recoiled in panic. Leering at her from the
opposite end was a malevolent face, its eyes tight with rage. She dropped the
book and its corner landed right on top of her foot. She hopped up and down and
grabbed her aching foot. She looked up again and the face was gone. Realizing
that she was on the verge of hyperventilating she put her hand on her chest and
took deep breaths. After a few seconds she bent down and picked up the book.
“I better get out of here,” she
thought. She turned to her right to exit the aisle. Only a few feet away from her was a very tall, willowy man standing at the end of the
aisle and blocking her way. It was the same one who was just glaring at her.
His arms were longer and thinner than normal. He was staring her down with that
same look of fury.
She once again dropped the book and
hastily backpedaled. Her throat was paralyzed. The willowy man very
deliberately raised his arms and put his hands on each end of the shelves; his
head jutted forward.
When Sarah was three-quarters of
the way down the aisle she heard a loud bang behind her. She let out a little
scream and nearly jumped as high as the top shelf. She quickly turned around
and saw that the two ends of the shelves had come together thereby blocking her
way. She was trapped. She spun around and looked down the aisle towards the
man. He was leaning forward with his hands still on the shelves. His eyes
flared with anger.
She knew that if he charged her
there was nothing she could do. She tried to scream but her breath got caught
in her throat. She heard another bang behind her. She snapped her head around.
The shelves were coming together like a zipper that is closing. What was the
better fate—being crushed or running into…?
She hastened away from the
collapsing shelves. As she got closer to the man she could see a sinister grin
forming. He licked his lips. The banging of the shelves was coming closer. When
she got to within ten feet of the man she threw herself on the floor and
frantically kicked several feet of books through the shelves and onto the floor
on the other side. The converging shelves were now just feet away and coming
With an adrenaline rush that would
have made an Olympic sprinter proud, she pushed herself through the opening.
Actually the last half was easier because that was when that shelf violently
slid towards the middle of the aisle and slammed into the shelf opposite it.
The result was that she slid right through and into the next aisle. She sprang
to her feet. If she ran to her right she had to go all the way down to the far
end. But if she ran to her left she would have to pass right near where the
willow man was and one of those long arms could easily grab her. She ran to the
right with all that she had. As she was running she could hear the shelves
opening up again and pounding steps keeping pace with her on her right on the
other side of the shelves.
There was only one door out of this
section and he was closer to it than she was. She had no idea what she was
going to do other than to run. She reached the end of the aisle and without
even looking ran to her left using the end of the shelving to swing as quick a
turn as possible. She had her head down and was not even aware that she was
heading towards the final aisle and the corner of the room where it was the
darkest. Behind her she heard a hissing.
Then she hit something that knocked
her backward onto the ground. She cringed waiting for
the willow man to smother her. Instead, all that she heard was that same
hissing sound like steam escaping through teeth. She looked up and saw towering
over her a large man. Twisting her head around she
could see the willowy man advancing with determination though he had stopped
running. His eyes were locked onto her. She got up and ran behind the large man
and put her arms around his waist and peered out from behind his left arm. The willow
man kept coming. His rage was unabated. Sarah’s fingers dug into the large man’s
arm. She felt a lump coming up her throat.
And then the willow man suddenly
stopped. He narrowed his eyes as he glared to the large man’s right. Sarah
looked up at the large man who was looking with surprise at the man next to
him. It was another very large man. His fists were clenched and the muscles in
his arms were tight. He was staring down the willow man.
For several seconds there was a
standoff. Sarah was too afraid to even faint. None of the four moved. They each
glared at each other as if in a dual. Then the willow man spit a black lump at
the feet of the second large man and turned and left. Sarah let her breath go
and then slumped to the floor with a thump and cried. Her research at the
library was finished; she was going to return her library card.
After letting her expel her nerves
with a good cry, the second man helped her to her feet. “My name is Abil and this,” he pointed to the man that Sarah was
standing next to, “is Seth.” While she clung to him, Abil
guided her out of the library and to her house with Seth leading the way
keeping an eye out for any trouble. When they got to her door Abil handed her a book. “Maybe this is what you were
She took the book and blankly
stared at it. Everything was still blurry. It was not until later that night
when she was more settled that she actually looked at the book and was able to
read the title—“The history of Jabesh.”
Thomas was sitting in Pastor
Goldsmith’s office. After the usual formalities and general questions Thomas
cut to the chase. “So, pastor, are there any, um, hidden objects or rooms in
The pastor leaned back in his chair
and gently chuckled. “Are you on some kind of treasure hunt, Thomas?”
“Um, no, not
really. I’ve just heard that, um, there is a lot of history associated
with Jabesh and I thought that, um, while I’m here this summer that I might
check some of it out.”
“And one aspect of this history
that you’ve heard about is that there is some secret hidden in this church?”
The pastor was playing along.
“Well, no, not really. But I
thought that it might be as interesting a place to start as any. This is the
oldest church in town and, I mean, don’t lots of churches have things hidden in
them? I mean, like relics, or ancient books, or…”
“The bones of
martyrs?” The pastor chuckled.
Thomas looked down. He knew that he
The pastor, seeing that Thomas was
feeling humiliated, seized the situation. “Well, I’ve only been here for five
years and the church is over 50 years old so I don’t know everything about it.”
Thomas looked up. The pastor continued. “But, as you know, running the entire
length of the sanctuary is the basement and it is all classrooms. The floors
down there are solid concrete. I don’t think that there is anything buried
under there. The walls are also pretty solid. But you are welcome to go down
and investigate yourself.
“The rest of the church is pretty
simple. There isn’t any room for false walls.”
Thomas looked pensive. “What about
“There really isn’t much of an
attic. I’ve only seen it once and it is quite claustrophobic and certainly
steeple?” Thomas wondered. “Have you ever seen inside of it?”
steeple? No, but I can’t imagine anyone storing something in there.”
“Because the only way into the
attic is through the closet in the secretary’s office and the steeple is on the
other side of the church. You’d have to practically crawl all of the way across
the attic. It wouldn’t be fun.” The pastor could see Thomas mulling this over.
“But you are welcome to check it out. You’re smaller than me so it might not be
quite so bad for you.”
Thomas perked up. This was the only
possibility left. If anything at all were hidden in this church it would have
to be in the steeple. “Do you think that there is anything there?”
The pastor leaned forward and said
with a good-natured sinister sneer, “Only bats, most likely. And we don’t want
you disturbing them. They’re the good guys. Without them we’d be slapping
mosquitoes ten times as much.”
Thomas knew that bats are harmless
but, still, he did not want a face full of them. He hesitated. Then he looked
up and said, “Do you have a flashlight?”
Upstairs, the pastor opened the
closet door. Thomas turned on the flashlight and stepped in. There was no wall
on one side, only a few crude steps that lead up to the attic. And, yes, the
pastor was right; it was a very tight attic. The roof slanted at a steep angle
on either side and only the middle was maneuverable and was only three-foot
high at that. Thomas took a deep breath and shone the light down the center to
the opposite end where the steeple was. It looked like the longest 100 feet
that he had ever seen. There was no floor, only joists at sixteen inches apart.
Thomas looked back at the pastor
who just shrugged. Thomas turned towards the steeple and started his way down.
The air was motionless and so thick that it felt as though it was half air and
half particles from old insulation. Taking precise
sixteen-inch steps on the edge of boards while in a tight crouch in heat over
100 degrees is not the formula for a joyful time. But with great
deliberation, Thomas crept his way across the attic. By the time he was only
halfway there the sweat was already dripping off of his chin onto the joists.
He could hear behind him, “Thomas, how are you doing?” He replied that all was
“For all of this trouble,” he
thought, “I better find something good.”
Eventually he made it to the edge
of the steeple just as he thought his legs were going to permanently cramp. He
gingerly sat on a joist and stretched out each leg. There was a large opening
that went high up into the darkness. The floor under the opening was covered
with a kind of gunk. He really did not want to step in it so he contorted his
body so that he could keep his feet outside the gunk but still see all of the
way up. He slowly aimed his flashlight up the steeple.
He strained to figure out what he
was looking at. Instead of smooth walls or at least familiar studs everything
was jagged and irregular. The smell was horrid. Then it dawned on him that
there were hundreds of shapes. He looked more intently. It was not just shapes
but hundreds, if not, thousands of eyes staring down at him. He thought of the
Niss and in his panic he lost his balance and fell with a yelp into the gunk.
The shapes were startled and with
high-pitched sounds swirled wildly within the steeple.
Thomas was stiff with fear but
managed to cover his face with his arms. In that place he could not run nor
could he fight. This was the end, he thought, he would be torn to pieces. He
tensed and waited. He could feel things brushing quickly against his face and
hands again and again. The sound was terrifying.
But then the screeching gradually
ceased and the shapes settled down. Thomas took one quick glance around the
steeple with his light and then with twice the speed made his way back to the
“Whew,” said the pastor pinching
his nose. “Looks like you were rolling around in some guano. I thought that
only dogs liked to roll around in stuff like that.”
Thomas’s clothes and hair was covered in the stuff.
“Bat poop. From all of the noise
that I heard I guess that you did manage to disturb them. But hopefully no harm
was done. Follow me.” He went to lead Thomas by the arm but quickly withdraw
once he remembered what Thomas was plastered with.
“I keep an extra set of clothes in
my office. You, um, might seriously want to consider changing your clothes. And
it might not be a bad idea to rinse your hair in the sink in the bathroom. I
can give you a towel.”
Toni’s task was to visit all of the
town’s old-timers and anyone else who kept an eye on things to see if she could
discover anything bizarre or significant.
She thought that the first place to
go that morning would be the nursing home. There had to be some people there
who remember stories regarding when the town was first built. She asked at the
desk who was the oldest person there who was still lucid. They brought her up
to the third floor. When they entered the room there was small raison-like man
sitting in a chair by the window. He did not move even when they came right up
next to him.
The nurse spoke loudly. “Pop, this
is Toni. She’d like to ask you a few questions about the town.” The nurse
turned to Toni, “Everyone calls him Pop. He turned 98 a couple of weeks ago.”
She motioned over towards the wall. “Go bring that chair over here.”
Toni retrieved the chair and faced
it towards the man. The nurse signaled for her to sit down. When Toni did she
had a better look at Pop. His eyes were closed. She looked up at the nurse.
“He’s asleep. What should I do? Maybe I should come back later.” The nurse just
shook her head and gently put her hand on his shoulder. His eyes slowly opened
and with eyes like blueberries looked right at Toni. Then he got a big smile.
“So, I have a visitor. Are you
coming to take me to the dance? I can still cut a rug with the best of them,”
The nurse left and the two struck
up a lively conversation. Pop was more lucid than many of her classmates. Eventually
Toni got around to Jabesh.
“Yes, our little town seems to be
quite the lightning rod for strange happenings. Twice since I’ve been alive the
Niss plundered our town. The first time was the worse. I was only around ten.
After they left a lot of people just seemed to go crazy. There was a lot of
crime and several murders. The jail filled up and some of the worse ones were
sent to the state penitentiary.
“The second time was maybe forty
years later. From what I know it was unusual for them to come that closely
together. But by then things were getting better in town and they didn’t wreck
as much havoc. We still had a number of people affected but nothing like the
“How did they compare to this last
time?” Toni asked.
Pop looked puzzled. “This last time?”
“Oh, never mind about that.” Toni
figured that they must have moved everyone into a large inner room and no one
was the wiser. “So what do you think brings them here?”
He knit his eyebrows. “Brings them
“You know, is it a great persistent
wind? Is it a dry spell? What rouses them and brings them to Jabesh every so
Pop folded his hands in his lap and
tilted his head ever so slightly, “I don’t know, my dear, I’m not a
What does theology have to do with it?”
“The Niss aren’t cicada. They don’t
crawl out of the ground every 17 years and descend on some town. They just
don’t just happen.’ They are directed.”
“There is only person who can
direct such an evil horde,” replied Pop.
Pop twisted the corner of his
mouth, “OK, two persons, but God is not the one who directs such horror.”
“Then it must be Satan. Are you
saying that the Devil determines when the Niss should gather and where they
“But why Jabesh
and why now?”
Pop reached forward and put the tip
of his index finger on Toni’s knee. “That is for you to figure out.”
Russell had what appeared to be the
easiest task of all. He had to go to the other six churches in town and see if
they had anything hidden. Two of the pastors viewed him as having a serious
case of lunacy whereas the other four merely humored him. There was no crawling
through any attics for him, but there were no answers either.