“You will save us, Elias. I know it,” whispered the ashen faced woman to her eldest child. “Just like Jesus told the disciples, ‘Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.’ We’re goin’ to meet the others on the beach and we will be exonerated. Do you understand, son?” Her thin fingers trembled as she straightened the baggy shoulders of the young man’s jacket.
“I guess, momma,” said Elias in a hushed tone, not wanting to disturb his little sister. The red-haired girl played with a lumpy doll made from an old sock under the kitchen table where her father sat with his head in his hands. The older man was sinning today but the occasion called for the cup of moonshine that sat half-empty on the homemade tablecloth.
“There ain’t no guessing about this, boy,” slurred his father from across the room, causing both Elias and his mother to wince. That cup was most certainly not his first libation of thick corn whisky today. “We’re goin’ down to that beach and you’re gonna tell that damned preacher that you never did nothin’ with his daughter. You understand me, boy?” His words nearly frosted the glass window panes next to him.
“I…I guess, sir,” Elias stuttered, quickly continuing as his father’s eyes widened in rage. “There’s just…I, I just can’t see how this is all gonna be made better by me lying to everybody! I mean, we’re just kids and it wasn’t like I hurt her or something…heck, she was the one who asked me to meet her over at the lumberyard!”
Tears ran down his mother’s cheeks as she crumpled to the floor. The little girl came out from under the table and plopped down on her mother’s knees, still clutching her sock doll and humming to herself like nothing was wrong in the world.
Downing the cup of moonshine in one hasty gulp, his father rose from the table. Though Elias stood just an inch shy of six feet, his sire was a Goliath among men. One step brought him right above his terrified son’s nose. “There ain’t no lies gonna be told today, boy. The truth is that you ain’t never touched that girl. You wasn’t ever at no lumberyard and you ain’t never thought nothin’ improper ‘bout nobody. I ain’t gonna say it again, boy.” With that, the hulking beast snatched his cup off the table and strode out of the house toward the old wood shed, slamming the screen door behind him as he stalked off.
The congregation had gathered onto a remote beach near the delta called Parsons Creek. It was well past midnight and the moon hung low in the sky, casting an eerie white glow over the Atlantic Ocean. The summer air was viscous and heavy with no breeze to bring comfort to Elias and his family. There were three large wooden crosses stuck into the sand twenty feet or so from the tepid waves.
“It is with deep concern that I have summoned my flock here this evening,” intoned a fiery-eyed man in his late fifties to the sixty or so people gathered before him. He wore simple clothes and carried a large black Bible which he held close to his heart. His thin black hair, which was greying at the temples, was slicked back over his scalp. Elias, who stood but ten feet from the man, thought he smelled of gasoline. To his right stood a pretty young woman in a plain dress, her brown hair hanging over her face in a vain attempt to cover a large purple bruise.
“Now, I have spoken with my daughter at length and though she at first resisted my attempts to siphon the truth out of her beleaguered body, the Holy Spirit triumphed and I was able to cast the devils placed inside of her and bring her back into the fold,” said the preacher as he extended an arm out to put around his daughter’s shoulder. The girl instinctively recoiled but held her ground.
“You see, my children? She is still afraid to be touched even by those who love her. Now, Tabitha, I want you to show everyone here what the perpetrator did to your face,” the preacher said loudly with a pointed glare cast in Elias’ direction. “We will not show them how he has scarred the parts of your body that were supposed to be kept sacred for your future husband. Please, child, the demons have left you now. Show them, show them what he did to you.”
Tabitha spared a fleeting look of anguish at Elias before she stepped in front of her father, out of the reach of his grasp, and parted her hair, revealing a giant fresh bruise covering the entire right portion of her face. It looked to be the product of multiple blows and there even seemed to be marks where a knuckle or a ring had left permanent indentations on her battered skin.
“Behold!” cried the preacher as he reached to one of the burly men holding torches near him for a fiery brand. The crowd gasped as he raised the light into his child’s face, revealing the wound in all its gruesome glory. “There is no question, my children, that the Devil walks amongst us.”
The preacher let his daughter slink back out of the light as he moved over toward Elias and his family. “Yes, truly the Devil is at work here. His insipid claws have gained a hold in one of my flock. He is amongst us even now, lurking in the dark shadows of an unclean being. My daughter, bless her damaged soul, tried to hide the identity of her attacker from me. She was so ashamed of what had happened to her that she bottled it up deep inside.”
Gasoline vapors filled Elias’ nostrils as the preacher moved within a few paces of him. “But the Devil is no match for a servant of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, amen,” said the preacher, the amen echoing back to him from the crowd. “After hours and hours of intense healing, the Lord used me as a doctor would use a delicate instrument to extract the name of the perpetrator from sweet Tabitha’s lips. And that name was…Elias Miller!”
Shouts of hysterical rage and furor erupted from the crowd like lava frothing out of a long dormant volcano. Elias could feel the heat from the encroaching torches as the mob that was his community closed in about him. He had nearly forgotten that his family was behind him until he suddenly heard his father yelling.
“Stop this! Stop this madness, right now! All of you have just gone nuts here, you have! My boy deserves to defend himself, Reverend Brown. He at least deserves a chance to say his piece! Are ya’ll gonna pass judgment on a man before he’s allowed to defend himself?” asked the elder Miller in a voice filled with indignation. The members of the congregation lost the frenzied look in their eyes for a moment when confronted with reason.
Reverend Brown quickly took control. “Allow the Devil to speak?” said the preacher in a hushed voice, causing the crowd to quiet even further. Sweat beaded on his brow and ran in rivulets down his contorted face. “Allow the monster who defiled my daughter to say his piece? Well, alright then Jacob. I’ll let your son say his piece. Do you have something to say for yourself, boy? Do you deny the accusations that my daughter has brought forth upon you?”
Elias quivered in fear. His father stepped back and clutched the shoulders of his wife who was sobbing and clinging to their small daughter. The look in his eyes begged his son to deny that he had ever met with the girl, to say that he had never spoke to her outside of church, to say anything to draw down the ire of the crowd. But Elias was no liar, and he wasn’t about to start lying today.
“Reverend Brown, I ain’t never did the things you is accusing me of to your daughter,” pleaded Elias in a choked voice. “But I ain’t gonna stand up here now and start lying to you neither. We did meet up outside of church. Tabitha asked me to meet her at the lumberyard…so I did. I knew that we wasn’t supposed to be doing it but, but she kindled something in me, Reverend, something deep and passionate, like from one of your sermons at church. We kissed but I swear that’s it, sir.”
“Tabitha,” implored Elias in the battered girl’s direction. “Please, Tabitha, you gotta tell them I didn’t never do this to you. You know it’s the truth, Tabitha! Please!” Elias broke down into tears and sank to his knees in the gritty sand. Tabitha didn’t so much as raise her chin up to look at the boy.
The only sounds on the beach were the splashes of the waves on the packed sand, the sputtering of torches and the ragged breathing of Elias Miller as he knelt before the congregation accused of a crime that he was not capable of committing. He found no redemption in any of their faces. His father finally let his own tears flood his face as the inevitability of the situation came crashing down upon them.
Reverend Brown had just opened his mouth when Tabitha finally raised her head. Her face was hard to look at but Elias stared at her, eyes brimming with hope.
“It was him,” said Tabitha in a voice smaller than the head of a pin. She raised a shaky hand and pointed a trembling finger at the boy she had asked to meet at the lumberyard. “Elias Miller beat me…and, and then he raped me. It was him.”
The frigid waters lapped against Elias’ smoldering skin while a cool breeze blew pieces of sand into the sockets where his eyes had once been. Groaning in confusion, the young man leaned up on his elbows, reflexively trying to blink his eyes that no longer existed. Panic constricted his chest, seizing him like the brutal hands that had held him down while others poured gasoline on his body. He could still feel the heat, hear the chanting, see the disemboweled corpses of his family strung upside down on large wooden crosses. Curses rose to his lips but he no longer obtained a tongue to make the thoughts audible.
Despite his ordeal, he felt strong. An energy coursed through his body unlike any he had ever known. He knew that he should be dead. The last thing he remembered was being strapped into that tiny boat, just a little wooden fishermen’s dinghy the mob had found discarded near the scene of the massacre. Gasoline had leaked into every orifice of his body, gagging him and strangling his screams. They pushed him out into the waters as they burned the crosses that his mother, father and little sister hung upon. The tide pulled him out as the flaming torches descended on his make-shift pyre.
Shaking his head to try to rid himself of the horrific memories, Elias stood up on powerful legs and surveyed his surroundings. Instead of the black void that he should have found himself in, he saw the world in a sweeping watercolor mosaic composed of the elements: the ocean water before him undulated in sweeping brushstrokes of blue; the air whipping all about him appeared as rushes of grey. He raised his hands out in front of him and marveled at the blazing heat that was his body, a tempest of fire and rage barely contained by his corporeal form. Beneath his hands he could see whisks of sand softly outlining where his prone form had lain.
In a rush, Elias remembered his condemnation, how he had struggled against the hands of his neighbors as they strung up his family and tortured them in front of him. His burnt body racked with sobs although no tears were able to form in the holes that were his eyes. Pain was all he deserved. I should’ve listened to Pa, thought Elias as he crawled across the sand to the piles of charred embers that signified the remains of his family. I should’ve never gone to that lumberyard…I should be dead.
But dead Elias was not and that gave him pause. He sat back on his haunches and tried to comprehend his new existence. What was he? Was this how all blind people saw? The power that he felt in his hands couldn’t be natural. What was he capable of?
Elias stood up, confused and uncertain but supported by a single emotion: vengeance. He pictured Reverend Brown holding a large knife up to his tiny sister’s exposed stomach and rage consumed him, turning his hands into blistering fireballs that engulfed his watercolor vision. At first, Elias thought that the fire was a product of his imagination, his anger and fury rising up into an image that his mind’s eye could see. He could feel the heat in his hands but he couldn’t be sure if that heat was just a hallucination, a byproduct of his horrific burning. Looking at the trees a few hundred feet from where he stood on the beach, he decided to see if the fire was really an illusion.
Raising a hand up before his face, he marveled at the glowing ember that was his extremity. It pulsated and throbbed along with the waves of his anger and hatred that coursed throughout his body. He took that same hand and pointed it at the trees. Picking out a particularly large cypress tree that towered over its companions, Elias raised his other burning hand and willed his anger out in front of him.
The result was spectacular. Even with his watercolor vision, Elias could see the fire that had consumed his hands shoot out toward the cypress tree and blast into its trunk. The force of the explosion was so great that the large tree was nearly cleaved in two, its leaves flaming into smoking crisps as the trunk bent and fell with a groan into the surrounding foliage. All around, the forest started to catch fire from the massive blaze that Elias had created with his hands.
An evil grin twisted onto his contorted and disfigured face. Perhaps I really am the Devil, thought Elias as he looked down at the ashes of his family. Let’s see if Reverend Brown can heal me.
“Papa, no!” screamed Tabitha as Reverend Brown pushed her face down harder into the homemade quilt that she used as a comforter on her bed. There would be no comfort for her this evening as her father rammed into her again and again, violating her lost maidenhood and desecrating her battered body.
“I am going to teach you a lesson tonight, child,” growled the Reverend as he pulled back on Tabitha’s hair, eliciting a scream from the abused girl. “The only man in your life is to be God and I am his servant. You will obey me! You will submit to me!” Tabitha’s head sank back into the cotton quilt as her father resumed raping her.
Tabitha assumed she was hallucinating when she felt a striking cold seep into the room around her. The picture frame on her nightstand that held a faded photograph of her long dead mother started to crackle with ice. Only when she felt her father move away from her did she realize that the cold was real. She hastily crawled on top of the bed and wrapped the quilt around her exposed bottom, shivering in the suddenly frigid room.
“Now, now, Reverend Brown,” said a voice from just outside her closed bedroom door. “Is that any way to treat your precious daughter?”
The white door started to glow a scarlet red, the freeze that had taken over the room receding in a sudden heat. The preacher backed away from the bed as he pulled his trousers back up over his offensive loins in a haphazard manner. Tabitha looked in horror as the door melted away from the frame, revealing a man so covered in burns that his features were unrecognizable. He had no hair atop his head but the crevices in between his numerous wounds glowed with an unnatural light. No clothes covered his muscular frame which looked nearly asexual to her eyes. He licked his lips with a fiery serpent instead of a tongue.
Taking a step inside the room, the burned man finally elicited a response from the baffled preacher. “Be gone, ye fiery Devil from the abyss!” cried Reverend Brown as he ripped the cross hanging about his neck from under his ruffled shirt and held it out in front of him to ward off the evil that confronted him. “I call upon the Lord, my Saviour, Jesus Christ! Let him cast you back into the hell from whence you came!”
The preacher made a dramatic leap forward toward the charred devil before him. The man, however, was no longer looking at Reverend Brown. His face, which Tabitha now noticed held no eye balls, was turned toward the ravaged girl cowering in fright on the bedspread. He saw the fresh blood on the comforter covering her lower extremities and turned with what seemed to be a look of renewed rage on his face to the preacher.
“So…it was you all along, was it Reverend Brown?” growled the devil come to Earth in his gravelly voice. “You strung up my family, you killed them before my own eyes to hide your own devilry?”
The preacher’s eye grew wide in horror at this revelation. “It can’t be…Elias?” croaked the Reverend as he backed toward the lone window in the room. “I…this cannot be possible! I saw you die…I saw you burn!” Tabitha shuddered at the devil that the boy she fancied had become, unconsciously soiling the bed underneath her as her entire body shook in fear.
“Yes, Reverend Brown, it is me. Elias Miller. Elias the Devil. Elias the Unchained Beast. Elias…but I think you can call me a new name from now on,” said Elias as he raised hands out in front of him that suddenly burned brighter than torches. “You may call me Judas, for I shall purge this world of you who claims to be so near and dear to the Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.” The fire in his hands shot forward into Reverend Brown’s chest, consuming the malevolent man’s entire body. The preacher collapsed in a burning heap of screams and melted flesh.
Turning to the cowering form of Tabitha, Elias, or Judas as he had now proclaimed himself, turned away from the preacher and made a step toward the bed. Tabitha immediately screamed, pulling the soiled quilt up to her chin, her eyes wide with terror. The brow of the burned man furrowed in confusion.
“I…I freed you, Tabitha,” said Judas as he made another step toward the trembling girl. “We can go away now. You are free of him. We can make a new life away from this terrible place. I can take care of us with my new powers…I, I am just beginning to understand them. But I can protect you. I can keep you safe Tabitha.”
Tears ran unbidden down the scarred girl’s cheeks. “You…I can’t go with you, Eli…Judas, is it? You are a monster! A monster!” screamed Tabitha as the newly proclaimed Judas backed away from the girl. Tabitha, seeing the indecision painted across his burnt face, leapt off the bed and raced out the charred remains of the door. Judas sank to his knees as he heard Tabitha screaming, running down the steps and out the front door of her house.
So many emotions flashed through his mind that Judas could barely contain himself. Sadness for the loss of his family and now Tabitha swept over him and as his disfigured frame convulsed with sobs, a gentle rain manifested from the ceiling of the room, covering everything in a thin layer of cool water.
“Why!?” sobbed Judas, raindrops falling down his face like tears. “You have taken everything from me! My family, my love, my eyes…why did you leave me feelings at all! Take those away from me too, cursed Christ. Why must you leave me here with nothing but pain?”
The rain subsided as Judas gained a bit of control over his emotions. He gazed at the fried corpse of Reverend Brown, his final expression one of anguish. The anger that Judas had felt previously toward the man who had caused this whole calamity came back in a wave. Judas got up and stood over the body of the preacher. It was then that he heard the crowd outside.
“We know you’re in there, boy! Come down here!” shouted a voice from the throng that had grown out in front of the Brown residence. Judas went to the window to look out, instinctively coating the panes in a layer of frost to obscure his countenance from the horde outside. He saw Tabitha still wrapped in the bloody quilt toward the back of the congregation. She pointed a finger up at the window, where Judas stood, and screamed.
The pain that Judas felt was gone, replaced by anger and rage. It consumed him as a few burly men who held similar torches to the ones that had been used to burn his body ran up to the porch of the Brown house. They threw the fiery brands at the structure and soon the whole front stoop was consumed in flames. They had no idea how futile their actions were.
Fire devoured Judas’ entire body as he crashed through the window on the second story of the Brown residence. He landed on his feet directly in front of the mob, the house burning behind him. Flames covered his entire form as he stood before the congregation. They backed up warily, some holding out crosses and others crying out for help from God.
Judas chuckled. “God? You cry to him now when you see an actual god before you?” asked Judas with a blazing grin as he strode toward the people who had murdered his family. “Do you think he can save you now? Well, let us see.”
The fire that engulfed Judas’ body intensified as he ran toward the first line of people in the mob. They were a group of tall and bulky men who had looks of fear plastered across their faces. One of them shook off his terror and raised a pitchfork at the approaching Judas, leveling the makeshift weapon at the flaring apparition with a battle cry.
What little courage the man had mustered quickly faded as Judas batted the weapon aside with a fiery hand, igniting the wooden shaft into flames. The man threw the weapon aside just in time to catch a blazing fist thrown directly at his head. He crumpled into flames, his face melted away by the blow.
The rest of the crowd backed away from Judas. Tabitha let loose another scream and ran down the road toward the center of town. A few of the wiser people in the back followed suit. Judas spared no mercy for the rest of the dumbfounded congregation.
With a flip of his wrist, Judas sprayed liquid flames at the crowd before him, using his outstretched hands like a blowtorch. The parishioners melted away before him like candle wax. Screams and the stench of burning flesh filled the air. Judas relished it.
Walking through the burning pile of corpses, Judas allowed his anger to fully dominate his entire being. He summoned a gust of wind under his feet and began to run through the air, quickly rising to the height of tree branches as he raced toward the town’s center.
There was chaos in the town. He found Tabitha beating upon the now locked door of the local tavern, the gaping patrons looking out the large window as Judas floated to the ground. Tabitha turned around in dismay when she realized what they must be looking at.
“I will allow you to reconsider, Tabitha,” said Judas in his gravelly voice, flames licking his lips from the fiery tongue that had replaced the one that had been cut out of his mouth. “Come with me. Leave these people to their fate. Let us build a new world together!”
Tabitha screamed again, turning back to the door of the tavern and beating upon it furiously. “No! Please! Help me! Someone let me in! He’s a monster! He’s going to kill me! Please! Help!”
Judas spat burning plasma upon the ground which sizzled the pavement beneath his feet. “Very well. You shall die, then. Like my mother. Like my father. Like my poor tiny baby sister. Like me. For Elias is dead. Judas will cleanse this place of filth with fire and water.”
The town’s center erupted into flames as Judas held out his arms and the sky literally rained fire, tiny meteors crashing into buildings and rendering every structure within his sight into a burning piece of rubble. Bringing his arms down then holding them out in front of him, he blasted rock from his hands, the summoned earth crashing into the burning buildings and knocking the wood down about the foundations. Screams filled the air. The terror only excited Judas.
Summoning another gust of wind, Judas rose up above the town. Holding his hands up above him, Judas called forth water to purify the wasteland that was his hometown. A deluge poured down upon the burning debris. Smoke filled the air in giant tendrils.
Judas flew away from the town center on his chariot of wind and began to destroy the surrounding houses and farm buildings. Barns blazed as cattle and sheep ran throughout the streets. Any persons that did not escape the structure they occupied were quickly brought down with a fireball or flying rock from his hands. All bowed before him.
Finally, Judas came to one small house on the eastern periphery of the town. The occupants looked to have fled but had forgotten a small girl in the confusion. She couldn’t have been a day over four years old, clinging to a tiny sock doll like the one Judas’ sister had played with. Overcome with emotion, Judas flew down to the girl who screamed in terror at the monster that was destroying her world.
“Come child,” cooed Judas as best he could with his gravelly voice. “Come here, I will not harm you. Come to me.” The girl would have none of it. She crumpled into the first step of the porch screaming.
The screams reverberated throughout Judas’ head. He couldn’t be rid of them. Clutching the sides of his face, he was suddenly overwhelmed by the enormity of what he had done. “Make it stop,” he pleaded but the girl only screamed louder. “Stop…stop…STOP!”
Destroying the last shred of humanity that he had left, Judas loosed a fireball at the tiny girl. She stopped screaming as her diminutive body was engulfed in flames.
Judas no longer felt pain. He did not feel sadness. All he felt was rage as he flew toward Atlanta.
The terrified employees of CNN huddled in front of the main news desk before the disfigured man who called himself Judas. Furniture burned in random parts of the building and there was a great fissure in the glass where he had burst in from the air. Many were dead. The few who were still alive cowered with bowed heads.
“I have a very simple request,” said Judas in his gravelly voice. “You will turn on the camera and you will broadcast my message across the globe. If you do this, I may entertain the idea of sparing your pitiful lives. If you do not, I will kill you.” Judas let the gravity of his words hang in the air before continuing.
“Let’s go. Get the camera ready. We will broadcast in sixty seconds or I will burn this entire building down around you.” A few of the people looked at each other in disbelief before springing into action, the mere hope of staying alive spurring them to do whatever this devil commanded.
Judas started counting aloud. “30…29…28,” he said as he paced in front of the pretty newscasters with smeared make-up. “20…19…18…”
“Done! We’re ready!” cried a small man in a high-pitched voice. “Just look here into this camera. It will broadcast you to every affiliate with an open connection…just please, please don’t kill us. I have a daughter…”
“Shut up. You are insignificant. Let me know when I can begin,” said Judas as he brushed some of the embers off his burnt body and looked into the camera.
“You’re live,” said the cameraman as he slithered away with a bowed head.
“Hello. My name is Judas. I have come from the depths of Hell to purify this world. All who have ever knelt in a church pew shall fear me, for I am fire, water, earth and air. I am a heathen god of old. I am death personified. I have no demands. You cannot stop my judgment. But know this: I will not stop until I am destroyed or until I have destroyed every living thing upon this cursed planet.”
Judas let flames engulf his body as he summoned a gust of wind and rocketed through the top of the building out into a world that was not ready for him.
Jeff Martin is a poet, aspiring novelist and singer/songwriter based out of northern CA. Having a deep love of the written word since an early age, Jeff’s first loves in literature were the fantasy series novels of Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms. In his teens, Jeff fell in love with the works of Terry Goodkind and Terry Brooks. Jeff has always dabbled in writing but did not seriously begin producing prose until earlier this year. He is working on the first novel in a fantasy series, a sci-fi thriller and is a prolific poet and short story writer. You can learn more about him at The Oak Wheel.