The Tempter Comes

14) The Aftermath



14   The Aftermath


You cannot save the world unless you yourself are already saved



The next day everyone was gathered at different places discussing whom the Niss got and who escaped. Oftentimes you would hear, “Well, that doesn’t surprise me.”

The biggest discussion was always about Floyd. Although the stories grew in drama as the day wore on it seems that he laid on the floor until the next morning. Then he stirred and moaned and rolled onto his side. Finally he wearily got up and staggered around. No one else was in the house. Like a drunk, he yelled out a few times for his wife but there was no answer. He made his way into the kitchen where with a sweep of his arm he crashed some items from the countertop onto the floor. After a while he went into the street where the sun hurt his eyes. While blinking profusely and screening his eyes with one hand he vigorously told people to get out of his way while haphazardly trying to swat them away with his other arm. Once he tried to hurl something at a young boy who was staring at him but then realized that he did not have anything in his hand. Everyone knew that his fall was great and that his final descent was going to be quick. The only question was how it was going to happen.

Wherever Russell went people would slap him on the shoulder and say things like, “If there was anybody who could survive like that I would have put my money on you” and “We all knew that you could do it.” At first it made him feel really special but then his shoulders started to hurt so he went back home. All his mother could do was to wring her hands and pace the floor while saying, “Where were you? I was worried sick. Don’t you even care about me? You’re going to send me to an early grave, I tell you. You were lucky this time, but next time you won’t be so lucky and then where will I be?” Danielle stayed out of the way for the most part, but when Russell first came home she gave him a great smile and thumbs up from the top of the stairs.

Mrs. Fullman and her two children were not at home because she had taken them to Pastor Goldsmith. She was sobbing in his office telling him how weak she had been all of these years and how sorry she was. She said that she should have been more supportive and protective of her children. She apologized to the Pastor, to her children, to God and to everyone in town if they had only been in his office also.

The pastor talked about God’s grace and how He blesses even those who are most undeserving. He talked about the many people in the Bible who messed up and yet God gave them second, third, and even more chances.

For most of the time her son just sat there with his arms crossed silently challenging anyone to deny him. But eventually his arms softened until they slid into his lap. When the pastor said, “No sin is greater than God’s forgiveness” her son burst into tears. “I didn’t want to let them in. I swear it. I… I just opened my eyes a tiny bit and it was… it was… too late.” His mother and sister wrapped their arms around him. The pastor got up from behind his desk and came around and knelt down and put one hand each on Mrs. Fullman and her son’s shoulders. When they had both finally caught their sobs they wearily looked up at the pastor. He gave them a reassuring look and said, “Let’s pray.”

When they left his office several hours later they were all very tired and weak but felt washed inside. Each one of them finally understood hope.


That same night when it was very late a featureless shadow crept towards Grace Bible Church. He hesitated as he drew near like a buzzard approaching its potential prey making sure that the corpse was ready for picking. He had a large container in one hand that he carefully protected. He maneuvered himself to a large tree that was close to the church. At that hour there were no cars, no people about. And especially after the attack that day everyone was exhausted and sound asleep. “This is going to be easy,” he thought. But he knew not to get cocky. One slip and he would be roped.

He paused and listened intently for several minutes. There was nothing. Crouching low he slunk up to the side of the church. It was not made of brick but was one of those old-fashioned churches made of white clapboard. “It will be gone in minutes.” He grinned not from joy but from hatred. He unscrewed the top of the container and splashed its contents against the wooden walls in several places. A little splashed into his hair. The fumes caused him to step back a few feet. He rubbed his hair and then smelt his hand. He cursed when he realized that he got some on himself.

Pastor Goldsmith was stirring restlessly that night. The Niss and what happened to several of his congregation laid heavily on his mind. He was very thankful for Mrs. Fullman and her children’s visit but he was concerned about Floyd’s influence. He also wondered how he should handle the situation with Jackie and Dan and a few of the others. He did not know if he should wait for them to come to him or if he should go to them and, if the latter, if he should give it a few days for things to settle or just go tomorrow.

He also wondered where he might have gone wrong. Why did he not see problems in those people? As their pastor he felt responsible for them. Was he becoming too focused on his big plans and forgetting about the people that he was responsible for?

For several hours he wrestled with these questions. Finally he felt a strong urge to pray. He tried to pray in bed but did not feel comfortable. So he got up, put on his night robe and wandered out into the darkness of the sanctuary. He paced around asking God for guidance and wisdom.

Outside the church the shadow put the empty can down and crept back to the tree. He pulled out of his pocket a long tightly wound piece of paper and straightened it out. He gave it a couple more twists all the while greedily keeping his eyes on the side of the church by the can.

Pastor Goldsmith felt unusually constrained in the church. “Maybe I need some fresh air.” He went out the door at the back of the church and stood on the small concrete slab there. He breathed deeply and looked in wonder at the stars.

The shadow tucked the paper under one arm and pulled a matchbook out of his other pocket. He lit a match and when it was burning fully he held the paper upside down and lit the bottom. His eyes nearly glazed as he watched the flame burn up the paper. Then as the flame approached his hand he reached back to throw it against the church.

The sudden brightness of the flames caught the pastor’s eye. He turned and hesitated as he tried to figure out what was actually happening. When he saw the person’s arm cocked back he yelled out. “Hey! What are you doing there?”

The shadow hesitated trying to decide whether to run or to throw the flaming paper anyway. In that moment of indecision the pastor sprinted towards him. He dropped the paper and turned to run. His right side smacked into the tree and pushed him off kilter for a second.

“Stop! What are you doing?” the pastor yelled again as he narrowed the distance between the two of them.

The shadow tried to run but it was too late. A good tackle took him to the ground and put him on his back.

“Get off of me! Get off of me! Leave me alone! I wasn’t doing anything!” The dropped paper lay burning in the grass.

The pastor sat on top of him and pinned his arms to the ground. “What were you doing there?”

The lights in several adjoining houses went on. The grass around the paper started to smoke. The grass was dry from a lack of rain for three weeks.

The shadow squirmed and continued yelling, “Let me go! Get off of me you idiot!”

“What’s going on out there?” several voices shouted.

The grass ignited.

The pastor being 6’2” was not going to be easily toppled. He knew that the shadow person would eventually exhaust himself.

The fire spread a foot in every direction. The pastor heard crackling and turned. The fire was moving rapidly. There was not a moment to waste. He did not want to let the arsonist escape but he could not let the church burn down either. He pointed at the person and commanded, “Stay there!” and got up and ran over to the fire. He tried stomping it out but it was growing faster than he could contain it.

The shadow rolled over, got to his knees, and ran. He managed to get ten feet before he was tackled once again. This time it was one of the neighbors who came out to see what was going on. Within seconds another neighbor also got a hold of him and forced him to the ground. Seeing that it was hopeless he gave up.

Meanwhile, the fire was within a few feet of the church. The pastor dashed to the back of the church and returned with the end of a hose. He frantically turned it on and doused the fire. He soaked the ground until it was almost a pond.

From behind some wailing sirens came the flashing lights of a police car. It drove up on the lawn and stopped near everyone. After a very quick explanation from the pastor the officer cuffed the arsonist and stood him on his feet. “Let’s bring you over to the light and see who you are.”

The entire group followed the officer to the front of the church.

“Carl!” gasped the pastor. “What were you doing here like this?”

Carl merely scowled at him and turned his head away.

The officer jerked him around and marched him to the car. “If what he threw on the church is what I think it is then he is going to be spending quite a number of days in jail.”

After thanking everyone for their help Pastor Goldsmith went back into the church. He slumped down in the back pew and his heart sank. “This is going to kill Viola.”


Every day the next week Floyd arrived late at work. A dark sloppy pullover hung where the white shirt and tie used to be. As he passed by his co-worker’s cubicle he would raise one hand and loudly shout, “Alexander.” Alexander with a self-satisfied smile would intone “Floyd.”


Two weeks after the Niss, Jackie was hovering outside the church doors. Her face was drawn and her hair and clothes were in competition to see which could appear the most unkempt. She was staring at the doors but was reluctant to push them open as though they might burn her hands if she touched them. She stood there quite a while not a few times almost turning and leaving.

It was at one of these moments that the pastor’s wife came up behind her and gently said, “Come on, let’s go in” and opened the door. Jackie looked in as if guard dogs caged behind the altar were about to be unleashed. “I don’t really want to go in. I don’t believe in that stuff anymore. I went to your church for most of my life. Religion was good for a while, but it’s like a shoehorn. Once you get your shoes on you don’t need the shoehorn anymore. Well, I’ve got my shoes on now.”

The pastor’s wife stepped into the door, “Come on. I’ll make you some tea.” Jackie hesitated, but then followed her in. As they walked down the center aisle Jackie was saying, “You know, I respect what you do; I really do. You’ve given up so many things in order to help other people. I think that’s quite admirable. More people should do what you do; the world would be a better place. I just think your reason for doing it—trying to follow the Bible, doing what you think Jesus would do, and all that other religious stuff—is where you’re wrong.” Mrs. Goldsmith paid serious attention to everything that Jackie had to say but said nothing.

Mrs. Goldsmith opened the door to the kitchen and invited Jackie to sit at a table while she heated up some water. Jackie continued, “There’s just too much wrong in this world to believe in God. Too many people are hurt; too many people just don’t care. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you and your husband are phonies or anything. I think that you’re both sincere in your thinking. I just think that you’ve been deceived by all of this religious stuff.”

Mrs. Goldsmith set two cups of tea down on the table. They sat silently at the table sipping tea. Jackie put the cup down and stared at nothing.

“So why were you standing outside the church?” asked Mrs. Goldsmith.

Jackie started to cry. After a long minute she said, “I want to be forgiven.”

For the next hour she spilled out all of the anguish that was inside of her perhaps even more graphically than need be. But the pastor’s wife listened intently, never interrupting, never tossing out easy platitudes. When Jackie had finished, Mrs. Goldsmith put her arm around her. She said, “Do you want to hear about forgiveness?” Jackie nodded.

Thirty minutes later when Mrs. Goldsmith was finished she said, “Do you want to pray.” For the first time Jackie looked her in the eye and tried a smile. Then she nodded.

Jackie went home feeling like a new creation.


Dan stopped going to church and his obsession with pornography took on even a darker side. His paranoia of thinking that everyone was onto him spread to include even strangers. If anyone even looked at him he would give them a look that would cause them to quickly turn away. He felt dirty on the inside and his outer appearance reflected that more and more.

Patrick Eggers, who always had a touch of fault-finding, now delighted so much in forcefully pointing out other’s mistakes and gossiping that he ultimately was treated like a leper. Of course to him, the problem was that everyone else was just jealous of him because he was so clever and they were so weak and corrupt.

Joey Riddledale took up drinking as if it were a form of nutrition. His work became so sloppy that after six months he was fired. So having no income he figured that the quickest way to make up the difference and get rich would be to gamble. That was until he had absolutely no money left at all. Then he tried stealing jewelry from a store figuring that he could pawn it for some quick money, but he was caught and wound up in jail for a month.

Melinda Nemes began getting into frequent arguments with her family and friends. She spread harsh rumors about her co-workers and as she became more and more isolated her level of bitterness deepened. The few times anyone tried to approach her about her attitude her response would always be “Well, excuse me! Aren’t you just little Miss Perfect!” Then she sat home alone every evening and weekend spitting out, “Who needs those losers anyway?”


The day after the invasion, Russell, Sarah, Thomas, and Toni gathered at the chocolate shop. Even though everyone was talking about the Niss they grabbed the booth in the furthest corner. They had other things to talk about.

Toni said, “Yesterday was just the start.”

Thomas looked very pale, “You mean they’re coming back?” He thought about taking tomorrow’s bus back home.

“No,” Toni answered. “The Niss rarely come back that quickly. They are like a train that blasts into the station, does what it is supposed to, and then hurries off again. The Niss usually don’t just come by themselves. Most of the time other strange things start occurring around that same time.”

“Like what?” Thomas was ready to jump over Russell and bolt.

“There already have been some strange things going on,” said Sarah in a low voice. “What about those strangers that we’ve seen in town these last few weeks and how they’ve been hanging around people like Floyd and Terese and Dan? I think that they’ve been a bad influence on them. Granted, they all haven’t exactly been auditioning for sainthood these last few months but still, their fall came much faster and harder than anyone would have expected. I even heard that Floyd came close to being fired.”

Russell chimed in, “I’ve heard about a few other new people, too, that I’ve been told—well, to put it in a nicer way—are a bit unsavory.”

Sarah added, “It’s like someone is trying to drag our town down.”

Toni was looking at Thomas. Finally she said, “Thomas, you’re looking rather thoughtful. Is something going on in that puzzle-mind of yours?”

Everyone stopped talking and looked at Thomas. He looked up but still did not say anything. One eye was shut and the other eye stared at nothing. A good minute went by. Eventually he spoke.

“Obviously I don’t know anything more than you. In fact, I probably know less than you since all of you seem to be quite familiar with things like Niss and Angst-feeders.”

Sarah and Russell jolted upright.

“Angst-feeders!” Russell almost yelled the words. He had to put his hand over his mouth. Then he whispered, “Angst-feeders. Why do you mention them? Are they around, too?” He leaned back against the back of the booth. “This is not good. This is not good at all.”

Sarah watched Russell and then turned back to Thomas. “Have you heard about the Angst-feeders? Did someone see one?"

Thomas sat there like he was shot. Toni took it up. “Yes, Thomas saw them twice right after he got here.”

Now Sarah was the one who yelled, “Twice!” She, too, had to clamp her hand over her mouth. “And you didn’t tell us?”

Russell just sat there with his head back and mouth open. It was good that there were not many flies in the place.

Sarah repeated herself but much more quietly this time. “You saw them twice in just a few days? And you didn’t say anything?” Realizing that no one was going to answer her question she continued. “This is just one more bad thing happening here. It’s like we’re being invaded.”

Russell still did not move.

Sarah asked, “Is there anything else that you aren’t telling us?” This time she directed the question at Toni. “Should we grab some knives from the kitchen before heading back home?”

Toni gave a sideways glance at Thomas who just sat there staring at the table. She leaned over and said very quietly and deliberately, “There was this incident in the woods a few days ago.” She then told Sarah—and Russell if he was even listening, it was hard to tell—all about the snake in the woods and the two large men.

When she was finished Russell slowly brought his head down close to the table and looked at her. “You’re kidding? A branch turns into a snake and two large guys rescue you from it? And you didn’t tell us?” He looked over at Sarah with bewilderment but she did not move.

Toni looked embarrassed. “Well, we didn’t say anything because it was just too weird. We didn’t think that you’d believe us.”

“Listen, girl,” said Russell, “with what’s been going on around here lately, I’d believe anything.”

Sarah spoke, “Did you tell the police?”

“About the Angst-feeders, the snake, or the two big guys?” asked Toni.

Sarah hesitated, “Um, well, I can see why not.”

“Besides,” said Toni, “the two big guys helped us out. I wouldn’t call the cops on them.” Toni pondered for several seconds. “Who do you think those guys were anyway? I mean we have a bunch of instigators stealthily descending on our town, but then we have another group—well, two that we know of—who are helping us out. Or at least it so appears.”

Without looking up Thomas spoke, “I’m sure that all of this is tied together somehow. All of those unsavory people did not blow into town coincidentally at the same time. The Niss, the Angst-feeders, killer snakes—it’s like all of this is being coordinated. I don’t know who it is or what they want but something wicked is in the air.”

Everyone stared at the table. Then Sarah said what no one wanted to hear. “Maybe we should do something about it.”

The other three slowly lifted their heads and stared grimly at Sarah.

Sarah shifted in her seat. “Well, um, it was just a thought.”

“And a good thought at that,” proclaimed Russell.

Thomas likewise nodded his head as though this was the ultimate puzzle.

Toni was startled. “Let’s think about it first and reconvene tomorrow here at, say, 11:00.”

“I hate the word ‘convene’,” said Russell. “Nothing good ever comes when people convene.”

Copyright Bob La Forge 2011        email: