The cynical see a plan and say, “It won’t work,”
the fearful see a plan and say,
“Let’s wait for something better,”
the lazy see a plan and say, “Let
someone else do it,”
the ambitious see a plan and say,
“Let’s make it work.”
Thomas woke up the next morning
feeling strangely anxious and yet, in another way, he was feeling better than
he had in a while. Yes, his friends were there for him. He sat up in bed and
inhaled the breakfast that Mrs. Donnelee was
Sarah had heard about what had
happened and wanted to hear it from Thomas’ mouth. After all, he was the first
person that she knew who had ever been inside a Narciss.
The four got together in the park.
It was a crystal clear day with a refreshing breeze. It was a day that almost
washed away the last few weeks.
At Sarah’s prodding Thomas
reluctantly shared the story about the Narciss. Sarah
was full of questions but Toni sensed that Thomas did not want to relive the
experience that deeply again so she tried to cut the account to the quick.
They talked about the change in
Floyd and his family although one was getting worse while the other three were
doing much better. Toni commented, “I noticed that in the couple of weeks right after the Niss that Floyd sat at the very back
of the church while his wife and children sat up front in their usual places.”
Russell added, “And last week was
the first time that I didn’t see him in church at all.”
“But the rest of his family was
there,” put in Toni.
Everyone looked contemplative.
Finally Sarah spoke out. “Well,
what do you think?”
“About what?” replied Toni.
“What do you think about what is
going on?” Sarah answered. “I mean, we’ve never had this many creepy things
going on all at once.”
Thomas cut in, “I think ‘evil’
would be a better word.”
“Well, you like puzzles, Thomas.
Isn’t this like one big puzzle?” Sarah had something deliberate in mind that no
one else was getting at the moment.
Thomas appeared confused. “A puzzle? What are you talking about?”
Sarah took a rather serious
posture. “Think about it. In the last few weeks we had the Niss, a Narciss, really big rats, a snake-man, several large men,
an influx of creepy visitors, and, as if that wasn’t enough, the Devil.”
Thomas added, “Don’t forget about
the angst-feeders.” He started to feel bad again.
Sarah continued with purpose,
almost enthusiastically. “See, we rarely get any of those things let alone all
of them all at once. Something is going on. We just need to put the pieces
together. See, it’s like a puzzle.” She sat up straight waiting for the light
bulb to come on in everyone’s head. However, no one stirred. Sarah became
disappointed and tried once again to rally everyone to her idea.
“Don’t you see? Why is all of this
happening? Why here and why now? I’m sure that the Devil has better things to
do than hang around Jabesh. We’re a nothing town in the middle of nowhere. Why
is he here? Any why are all of the other things here?”
The others began to stir. Sarah was
beginning to feel vindicated. She continued, “In my lifetime (which admittedly
isn’t all that long) we’ve never had any of these things. Now it’s as if
they’ve all been summoned here for a reason. The question is, ‘What is that
reason?’” She felt that she had made a brilliant summation to the jury and that
they had no choice to return a favorable verdict. She waited.
Toni spoke first. “Sarah’s got a
point.” Sarah squared her shoulders and tried to suppress her confidence.
“Something is going on here. The last time the Niss were here my grandfather
was a boy. I remember him telling us the story. Let’s face it,
an awful lot of particularly bad things have happened lately.”
Russell added, “And we’ve had an
awful lot of visitations by bad people and bad things; particularly some of us.
Something or someone is attracting them here.”
“So what is it?” asked Thomas.
“You’re the puzzle boy,” affirmed
Sarah. “That’s what we’re hoping you’ll figure out.”
Thomas quickly shot back,
“Everybody else here knows way more about these things than I do. You’re the
ones who should be figuring this out. I’m only here for the summer.”
“You know,” Sarah alleged, “all
this seemed to start when you got here. Are you sure that you didn’t bring
Thomas looked exasperated.
“I’m only kidding,” Sarah said. She
was going to lightly punch Thomas on the shoulder, but Thomas sulked so she
left it alone.
To break the tension Russell took a
swig from his glass and proclaimed, “The water from the fountain is
particularly good today.”
Sarah knit her eyebrows and looked
intensely at nothing. Her mouth twisted. Everyone else silently scratched at
the table or played with their fingers. Suddenly Sarah bolted upright. “I know
Everyone quickly looked at her.
Toni spoke. “You do? You’ve figured it out already?” She paused in amazement.
Then she said, “So what is it? What’s the answer?”
“Water,” Sarah proclaimed loudly.
She then looked rather pleased.
Russell looked more confused than ever.
“Yes, water,” answered Sarah.
Thomas was even more confused than
Russell “What are you talking about?”
That’s the answer to your last riddle. Remember when we were sitting at the
bench just before that guy got into the car with Terese? I forget exactly how
it goes but it was something about you can’t burn it but it can burn you. It
can move big things but is small enough to hold in your hand. The answer is
water.” She leaned back and crossed her arms in front of her chest. She did not
even bother to conceal her triumphant smile.
Thomas spoke hesitantly. “I, um,
guess that you, um, won that one.”
“OK,” said Toni, “since we’re apparently in a
riddle solving mood let’s get back to tackling the big
one. Let’s see what we can come up with. All of these… horrors have come here
for a reason. They want something here in Jabesh. What can it be?”
“Wait a second,” Russell responded,
“maybe they don’t want anything here in Jabesh.”
Sarah returned from her victory
pedestal back to the grave situation at hand. “Then why are they here?”
Russell continued, “Maybe they are
going someplace else and are just gathering here. You know how troops gather at
some agreed on place before heading out to the battlefield. Maybe this is where
they are gathering before heading out.”
“Then why are they causing
trouble?” asked Sarah. “It seems that if they were merely gathering here then
they would lay low. And anyway, why here? Why not gather somewhere deep in the
woods where no one will see them?”
“And besides,” suggested Toni,
“they’ve been here for a while. And those creepy guys, you know, the ones that
seduced Floyd and Terese and—from what I understand, some others—they came in
and took jobs. They are planning on being here a while.”
“And another thing,” added Sarah,
“the Niss came and went. It’s not like they are hanging around and waiting. I
don’t think that this is merely a gathering place. I think that Jabesh is the
That last remark startled Thomas
out of his pout. “OK,” he said, “then we have to
figure out what is in Jabesh that they want. It’s time to start putting the
“It could either be a person or a
thing. Let’s start with the idea that it might be a person. It seems that no
one person is the focus of these attacks. Terese was ensnared by Peter. Floyd
was baited by what’s-his-name. There have been others that were also roped in
by these new comers.”
Sarah jumped in, “My neighbor, Dan,
I think was one of them.”
“There you go,” Thomas affirmed.
“Plus each one of us except for Sarah has been attacked. So I don’t think that
there is any one person that they are after.”
Toni’s “hmm” stopped anyone else
from talking. Then she said, “It may not just be one person. Maybe they are
after a number of people although that does seem rather farfetched since it is
hard to see a connection between all of those people.”
“So then that leaves a thing,”
suggested Russell. “But what? If this were a movie it
would be some ancient relic or book that would give power to the forces of evil
so that they can overthrow God, or something like
Thomas responded, “As silly as that
might seem, let’s examine it anyway. We shouldn’t dismiss anything out of hand.
Does anyone know of anything unusual in this town? Maybe a
rumor about something hidden in a church.”
Everyone thought for a while. Then
they all mumbled variations of, “No, nothing that I can think of.”
Thomas pressed on, “Is there a
history of some settler or strange gentleman who passed by the town and left
There was again a long moment of
contemplation. Then several, “No, nothing that I ever heard
“What about people’s souls?” asked Sarah. “Maybe that’s what they want.”
Russell said, “I doubt that the
‘souls’ here are any tastier than anywhere else.” Sarah shot him a look. He
continued, “It’s too much firepower for just a few souls. It’s got to be
something more important, more special or unique.”
“Well then we’re just going to have
to do a little scouting around,” proposed Sarah.
Russell got a bit boisterous,
“That’s easy for you to say! You’re the only one here who hasn’t been attacked.
The rest of us were nearly killed. I don’t think that the rest of us have much
Toni felt the need to defuse the
situation. “Speaking of which, Russell. How did you go
from being passed out in the woods to being at your front door? I rather doubt
that Satan took pity and brought you home.”
Russell seemed uneasy. “I’ve
wondered that myself.”
“I have a suspicion about that,”
Russell anxiously looked up.
“Remember how you said that just
before you passed out you saw the shapes of people out beyond the earthquake or
whatever it was?”
“I’ve wondered if that might have
been Jocum and some of his buddies. And that he carried you home.”
“But there were a number of them.
You’ve only mentioned Jocum, Seth, and the guy in the car,” Russell stated.
But I think that I saw more than that.”
Thomas thought for a moment.
“That’s the only ones that we’ve seen. How do we know that there aren’t more?”
He paused. “Another clue that it was one of them was the bag of wafers that
were left with you. Somehow that seems to be their trademark.”
“Or at least Jocum’s
trademark,” Toni affirmed. “The big guys seem to be on our side. But anyway,
that is all a side matter, what are we going to do about the not-so-good
Sarah seized the opportunity. “Like
I was saying, maybe we should do some investigating.”
Toni shuddered and looked sideways
at Thomas. “The last time anybody tried to do that it became a crisis.”
Sarah agreed, “Well, we don’t have
to go hunting them down where they live. I’m talking about going to churches,
talking to the pastors and priests and see if there is any history there that
we don’t know about. Maybe someone should go down to the library and see if
anyone wrote a history of Jabesh. Things like that. I’m not suggesting that
anyone charge with head down and lance in hand into the enemy’s lair.”
No one seemed particularly enthused
so Sarah tried more convincing. “Admittedly it’s a rather fetal plan, but if we
want to figure out this puzzle we need to gather more pieces.”
“Sarah’s right,” Thomas added
reluctantly. “If we are going to figure out anything we need more information.”
Toni and Russell fidgeted. “It should be fairly safe.” Toni rolled her eyes;
Russell sunk his head into his hands. “How about we split up this way?”
Russell’s head snapped up, “Hey, I
don’t remember green-lighting any plan.”
Thomas gently responded, “We’re all
in this together and without each other we’ll never get anything figured out.
We each have a necessary role. If one of us cuts out then the whole thing falls
apart. It’s more dangerous if fewer of us are involved.”
Russell countered, “Why don’t we
just get the Yellow Pages and look up suicidal spies? That would make our roles
just that much easier.”
Thomas ignored him. “Sarah, since
you were the one who suggested going to the library why don’t