Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Hell's back door

Logan and Liam were hellraisers long before they died and went to hell. When they were still alive, they thought hell was a big joke. Even so, they quipped about how, if hell was real, they'd rather end up there because it was way more fun than heaven and all their friends would be in hell. The wisecracking was enjoyable until they died together in a car wreck. 

For some newcomers, hell was initially exhilarating. They were finally in their natural element. However, it didn't take long for the rush to wear off. 

To their everlasting consternation, hell had no women. Or, for all they new, hell had women, but hell was sexually segregated. 

In addition, hell consisted of roving, marauding goon squads who periodically captured and tortured members of opposing goon squads. They'd skin you alive or pull your teeth out or bury you up to your neck, pour honey over head, then empty a jar of fireants on your head. Fun stuff like that. And the damned rejuvenated, so the cycle continued ad infinitum. Maybe all of hell wasn't that bad, but for hellraisers like Logan and Liam, that's what they experienced.

Demons were the prison guards. Damned humans made deals with the fiendish guards. Hell was the ultimate place where everyone had his price. 

A basic job of demons is turning humans to the dark side. New arrivals in hell had intel on the living, intel on their classmates, coworkers, and other suchlike. In exchange for demonic favors, newcomers would debrief demons on the vulnerabilities of their classmates, coworkers, and the like, giving the demons an opening. 

Newcomers demanded different things in exchange. If, say, you were killed by a rival gangbanger and wanted to exact revenge, you could have a demon arrange a freak accident. Soon you assailant found himself in hell with you, and you had the element of surprise. 

There was an ancient, immemorial rumor that hell had a back door. That it was possible to escape if you could find the back door. 

Some of the damned had long memories because they'd been in hell for so long. The quest for the back door to hell, if it existed, was a diversion and preoccupation of the damned. Was it just a legend to give the damned a perverse sense of false hope? Only the demons knew for sure, but demons were notorious liars. 

In hell, the only disincentive to lying is that if you wanted to make a deal, you had to keep up your end of the bargain. If you had a reputation for reneging on a deal, you couldn't be trusted to do a favor in exchange for a favor. 

According to one rumor, the back door to hell was hard to find because it moved around. It might be in one place one week and another place another week. 

By calling in a lot of chips from gambling debts, Logan and Liam finally got an up-to-date map to hell's back door, drawn in demon blood. When they got there, at the end of a dimly-lit tunnel, sure enough there was a door. But was it the door out of hell? 

Using a one-time key, they unlocked the door and went through it. The door closed and locked behind them. 

It looked like they are back on earth, above ground. Indeed, it was a trail through the woods, on the edge of the small down where Logan and Liam grew up. They made it!

They went inside the local bar to rustle up some beer and broads. But no one was there. Just the jukebox wailing and echoing in the abandoned tavern. The whole town was deserted. Every house was empty. A ghost town. And the sun never rose. Just the glaring street lights. And a howling, dusty, bitter wind. 

They were still in hell. The backdoor as an ambush. A trap. 

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Waiting in vain

Weston was Dora's only son. A teenager. She became increasingly dependent on him for companionship, protection, and help around the farm after she was widowed. But war was looming. She dreaded the prospect that he'd be conscripted to fight. Dreaded that she might be left alone to fend for herself. Dreaded for his own sake that he might die in battle. 

She prayed that they'd be spared, but no amount of dread or prayer kept the day from coming when she watched him ride away to war, leaving her behind and bereft. As she watched him turn his back and start up the road, watched his receding figure, watched him passing out of her life, she didn't know when, or if, she'd see him again. Didn't know when, or if, he'd ever come home.

Days wore into weeks, then into months, then into years. She prayed day and night for his return. She struggled to manage the farm by herself. Sometimes the parson could spare a bit of food. She watched neighbors move away and childhood friends succumb to illness and malnutrition. 

One day, as she was sitting on the porch, she saw a familiar figure limping towards the house. She leaped out of her chair and ran to him as best she could. They embraced. And then she woke up. It was only a dream.

Another day, as she was peering through the kitchen window, she saw a familiar figure riding towards the house. She rushed out of the house to greet him. She was overjoyed to see him and he was overjoyed to see her. It almost seemed too good to be true. And then she woke up. Alone in bed. Alone in the chilly darkness. Another fickle, tantalizing dream.

Finally the war ended. Her side lost. But she continued to hope, wait, and pray for his return. Yet as the weeks wore into months, he didn't return. She never received official confirmation that he died, but had he survived, he should have come back by now. It was too late to hold out hope.

So she painfully reconciled herself to the fact that all that time she was hoping in vain, praying in vain, waiting in vain–for a reunion that never was to be.

Yet if she had it to do all over again, she'd do the same thing. Even though she waited in vain, he was still worth waiting for. She had nothing better to look forward to. 

She refused to say good-bye. She couldn't go forward or backward. So she just wandered in circles. 

Then she herself sickened. Struggling for every breath. She was nearly bedridden. Then she saw him come through the door. She must be dreaming again. Indeed, she was dreaming. She was dying in her sleep.

But this time it seemed different. Weston was different. Radiant. Healthier than when he left for war, so long ago.

It was a dream, but more than a dream. The waking world was fading like a dream as the dreamworld became a bridge to heaven. He had died on the battlefield, years before. Now he came from heaven to bring her back. He took her by the hand. As she rose from her deathbed, she was young again. Then they walked into the light, as the world behind them went dark. 

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Rounded with a sleep

Fernando was quarterback at Naples High. A popular, dashing, but reclusive, mysterious student. He seemed to live alone. No one ever met his parents or siblings–assuming he had any siblings. 

Miranda, she of the shimmering hair and flashing eyes, was his girlfriend  Although Caliban played on the same team, as wide receiver, he was jealous of Fernando. At first resenting the fact that he was the quarterback, making Fernando the titular star player.

To make matters worse, Fernando and Caliban were both in love with Miranda. When Miranda became Fernando's girlfriend, that fueled the jealousy, but he concealed his ire.   

Fernando's home lay at the foot of a woodsy trail, with a brick gateway. The estate was enclosed by a high brick wall. Once inside, a footpath led to a log cabin on a hillside. The cabin had a balcony with a sweeping a view of the lake below. Sloping down and out from the hillside was a sprawling mossy front yard with fruit trees. On one side was a forest. On the other side a ravine with a brook that emptied into the lake. 

The estate seemed to have its own climate, impervious to seasonal fluctuations in temperature. Although the foliage underwent summery or autumnal variations in color, with the occasional dusting of snow in winter, the deciduous foliage was never denuded. Fruit trees bloomed year around while songbirds warbled year round. 

Fernando and Miranda used to walk home together after school, hand-in-hand. They hung out at his place. Before dark, he'd escort her back to her own home. One time Caliban followed them, shadowing them at a distance, to keep out of sight. Standing behind a tree, he watched them pass through the gate. After a few moments, to approach it undetected, he resumed. But when he went to the gate, it was locked. Through the grillwork he could see a footpath on the other side, but the view was cuff-off by a bend in the trail. And the walls were too smooth and high to scale.  

On one rare occasion, Fernando invited the entire team over for a post-season BBQ. They trooped down together from the high school to his house, with Fernando and Miranda in the lead. The party continued into the evening hours, with a bonfire down on the beach. Then everyone went home. 

A few days later, Caliban skipped school. He wore a backpack with a rope, grappling hook, and accelerants. He was planning to set fire to Fernando's house. But as he made his way down the trail, there was no gate. The trail continued down to the lake. No cabin, fruit trees, or songbirds. Just a narrow footpath in the forest. And the air had a frigid edge. 

Was he on the wrong trail? But how could that be? He distinctly remembered the trail. And there was no other trail. 

A few days later he skipped school again, renting a little motorboat to find the estate from the other side. But the entire shoreline was forested. No cabin on a hilltop, with a sprawling front yard. 

On graduation day, when festivities were over, Fernando and Miranda walked down to his house. That's the last time anyone ever saw them. 

Caliban was baffled. Did the estate not exist in our world? Was the gate a portal to a parallel world? Or did the estate only exist in the imagination? A phantasmagorical projection onto a real spot in space and time? 

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Bound for the Promised Land

Brian woke up in the E.R. He didn't remember how he got there or why he was there. He did have a headache. 

Turned out he suffered a concussion at the football game. This was the first time he regained consciousness since the accident. Other than the headache he was quite lucid. 

His parents and younger brother Bobby were at his bedside, relieved to see him come to. Yet they weren't as happy as he expected them to be. They seemed to be hiding something.

A few minutes later the neurologist came in. He began by telling Brian that the concussion probably did no permanent damage. But Brian sensed another shoe was waiting to drop. 

The brain scan revealed an unsuspected aneurism. It may have been there for years. And the location made it inoperable. 

Brian was confused. At first he didn't register the significance of the finding. So the neurologist explained to him as gently as he could that this meant Brian could die at anytime. He was very unlikely to have a normal lifespan. He'd probably die sooner rather than later. 

It's like the hospital room suddenly went dark. The news robbed Brian of his future. All his youthful dreams snatched away. 

He counted on having a normal life. Marry his high school sweetheart. Have kids. Coach football.

But now he couldn't plan long term. How could he risk having kids if he wouldn't live to see them to adulthood? How was that fair to them? 

He didn't tell Coach about the aneurism. That enabled him to finish out the football season. Playing football with the brain aneurism was risky, but what did he have to lose? He was going to die young, anyway. 

But after that he dropped out of school. Became increasingly bitter, angry, and alienated. He had nothing to live for. Nothing to look forward to. He was just waiting for the time-bomb in his head to detonate. 

He was sullen with his parents and his kid brother. He broke off old friendships. Broke up with his girlfriend. Spent hours a day walking alone on wooded trails, brooding. Or sitting by the pond, brooding. 

He had a therapist for counseling, but the therapist could do nothing to change the situation. He didn't need happy talk bromides.

But after months of feeling sorry for himself, and not without justification, he decided that was a dumb way to spend his remaining time. If he was doomed, shouldn't he make the most of whatever time he had left rather than squandering it? Rage was pointless. 

But even though he knew what he was doing was a waste of time, he had no constructive alternative. Then he remembered the Bible a girl at school had given him. She was always witnessing to other students. Everyone made fun of her behind her back or to her face. She took it bravely, but it hurt.

He had tossed the Bible in his locker, buried under muddy sneakers. Now he took it home and began to read. And read. And read. He drank it in. He warmed up to his kid brother, which was timely because since Bobby was going through a really rough stretch and desperately needed Brian's support. 

And watching Brian engrossed in the Bible, as they sat side-by-side on the bed, made Bobby curious, since he was into whatever his big brother was into. So he started reading the Bible, too. 

Their parents were irreligious and didn't quite approve of Brian getting religion, or infecting Bobby with the virus. But they preferred Brian this way to the sullen, disaffected Brian. 

Over the next few years, Brian coached younger boys from fatherless homes. And it gave him a chance to share his discovery with them. Some weren't ready for it, but he was sowing seed.

One day Bobby went over to Brian's apartment. Went inside. It was silent. Went into the bedroom to find Brian's lifeless body upright on the bed, with a Bible in his lap. Brian dead at 23. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Can I get a witness?

Dillion Achord Sr. had a dramatic conversion experience as a teenager when his best friend took him to a revival. After that he become more zealous than the friend who took him to the revival. 

He became a Baptist lay preacher. Spent lots of time witnessing. Some people figured it was just a phase, but he remained fervent–until the wheels started falling off his life. 

Despite his zeal, he never wanted to become a pastor. His dream was be a high school football coach. After that, he rarely went by "Dillon". Everybody called him "Coach". He liked that.  

Mentoring the next generation, that was his goal post–more than the goal post on the field. Mind you, he had a passion for football. He knew what was going on in the lives of his players. He prayed with them and for them. He had voluntary home Bible studies for players. The football field was his mission field. They respected and revered him. He was a role model of manliness. For many, he was the only father-figure they had to look up to.  

Then his wife left him for another man, abandoning their teenage son. Life without a wife was a physical and emotional hardship. 

His son might have been a huge consolation were it not for the fact that Dillion Jr., or "Junior", as he was always called, was hard into teenage rebellion. That originated in rage over his mother's desertion. Made worse because Junior started hanging out with juvenile delinquents. So he started getting into trouble with the law.

As a result, his father's grief over the breakup of the marriage was compounded by grief over the stormy relationship with his son. With just the two of them living together, it was an ideal time for them for father and son to deepen their bond, but instead, forces were tearing them apart. 

Coach used to go to the football field to pray, walking round and round the track after school when the field was deserted. His prayer life use to be full of praise, contrition, and thanksgiving, but now he was yelling at God. 

After he picked up his son at the police station for–he lost count–they got into a shouting match at home, and Junior ran away from home. That led to more yelling at God.

To make matters worse, he lost his job. Although he loved the players and they loved him, the town loving winning, and the team lost more games than it won. 

That's in part because Coach didn't always pick the best players. He didn't pick boys from well-to-do families. He picked working-class guys. Many came from troubled homes. Football was his ministry. He recruited boys who desperately needed someone to befriend them. Coach cared about sinners, not winners. They put their heart and soul into the game because they adored their coach, but they never had the talent to beat the best teams. Most parents didn't appreciate his priorities. They wanted winners, not losers. 

When he was fired, the team was furious. It was a tearful farewell. But turnover is rapid in intramural football. 

After that he yelled less at God because he prayed less. He lost his wife, his son, and his dream job. 

He took a job at the local used car dealership. In a small town he had to be nice to customers who got him fired. 

A few months later he began to feel stabbing abdominal pain and back pain. He went to the doctor. After a battery of tests, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The prognosis was dire. 

At that point Coach dropped out of church. And his prayer life, already at low ebb, dried up entirely. He might as well die. He had nothing left to live for. 

A few weeks later, his estranged son found out through the grapevine that his dad was dying of cancer. At first, Junior was dumbfounded by the news. Then he drove back to his dad. All that time, Junior was living just one town up the road. He wept all the way back. 

When Coach came to the door, Junior was shocked to see how gaunt he was. He dad was always buff. But now he was wasted. 

Junior moved back in. Fixed all the meals. Bathed his father. Helped him use the bathroom. Gave him morphine injections. 

As Coach became increasingly bed-ridden, he asked his son to read the Bible to him. Mainly from the Psalms and the Gospel of John. 

One evening, Junior cradled his dad in his arms while recounted happy memories of stuff they used to do together when he was younger. Hiking, hunting, rafting, horseback riding. His dad would nod or smile at each anecdote. It all came flooding back in Junior's mind's eye–which is why he didn't notice when Coach became unresponsive. He craned his neck around and saw that Coach's pupils were dilated. His dad died in his arms. Junior got out of bed, closed his father's eyes, kissed him good-bye, and pulled the sheet over his face.

Junior used to visit his father's grave every day, weather-permitting. Later he brought his little boy along. Then he drove to high school football practice. His son played around the bleachers while Junior coached the team. 

The Chosen

Praetorius was sitting alone on the front deck of the ferry, taking in the ocean view and sea breeze, when an agitated young boy came outside and sat next to him. Concerned about his state of mind, Praetorius asked the boy what was wrong. The boy said he was being pursued by two men who intended to abduct him. 

Praetorius wasn't quite sure what to make of this. Kids have a lively imagination. But the boy's fear was palpable. He asked him if this was the first time. The boy said, no, he was constantly shadowed and hunted by the two men. He was always able to give them the slip, but now they had him cornered. There was no escape. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. 

Praetorius introduced himself to the boy and asked his name. The boy said his name was Michael Angelus. Praetorius sensed something else about the boy, but couldn't quite place it. 

Then two men came out onto the deck and fixed their eyes on Michael. Praetorius had his arm around the boy, so the men stood there, mulling over what to do next. 

Praetorius could see that they were unrelated to Michael, so they might well be kidnappers or human traffickers. But there was something even more sinister about the men. Praetorius instantly sensed that they were demoniacs. 

Praetorius wasn't an ordinary man. His grandparents were witches. And they acquired occult abilities through sorcery. But that came at a terrible cost. A family history of insanity, nightmares, depression, suicide, and violence. For that reason, Praetorius shunned Satanism. Indeed, he wore a cross and went to church. Nevertheless, he inherited the occult abilities of his grandparents. But he figured he could use his powers for good. Ultimately, all supernatural power derives from God. 

Not only could he sense their true identity, but the demoniacs could sense something uncanny about him. Praetorius and the demoniacs both had antennae for the realm of spirits. So there was a standoff until the ferry made port, at which point Praetorius got up to chaperon Michael off the ship and protect him from the trackers from hell. The demoniacs immediately blocked the doorway. 

Then, with a wave of his hand, Praetorius immobilized them and threw them overboard. Michael was shocked, but pleasantly surprised by his wizardry. 

Praetorius drove Michael home with him. He found out that Michael had been in and out of foster care after his parents died in a freak accident. As a very young boy, Michael frequently sensed something malevolent watching him, lurking in the shadows. But it was only as his coming of age became imminent that he was seen to be a looming threat. That's when they began to stalk him in earnest. But by seeming miracles, he was able to elude them whenever they were about to close in on him. 

Praetorius always wondered if he'd ever have a chance to use his hereditary powers for good. It couldn't be a coincidence that he as on the ferry at the same time Michael and the infernal trackers boarded the ferry. Some invisible benefactor must have guided Michael to the ferry. From now on, Praetorius became his bodyguard and guardian. 

Drowing the demoniacs bought Michael and Praetorius some time. Of course, that didn't obliterate the evil spirits. But the trail went cold as they had to rustle up new human hosts. Praetorius had misgivings about drowning the demoniacs, since that killed the human host. It was a snap decision under duress, to protect an innocent boy. But as it turns out, the trackers only possessed humans who dabbled in the occult. 

Praetorius was able to generate a field around Michael and himself which made them indetectable to infernal surveillance. But Praetorius wasn't omniscient or omnipotent. His powers faded over distance. And his conscious powers waned when he slept. Through lucid dreaming and telepathy, he was able to draw Michael's mind into his own when he slept, and shield him from surveillance outside the dreamworld. But Praetorius could only direct or concentrate his powers when he was awake or lucid. It was draining to be in a state of high alert all the time, and sometimes his concentration flagged, which gave the trackers a chance to catch up. 

One time the demoniacs were able to track down his house. But as they got closer, Praetorius sensed them and woke up. He and Michael got dressed. As they were about to leave, Praetorius saw the trackers in the driveway. He went outside, then encircled them in a ring of fire. That posed a dilemma for the trackers. If they tried to escape through the fire, the human host would burn to death. The demons would survive, but they'd be impotent to interface with Michael or Praetorius until they commandeered two new hosts. That gave Michael and Praetorius a window to skip town. By the time the trackers took possession of new hosts, they lost the scent.

After that they had to live on the run, moving from place to place. One time, when Michael and Praetorius were working at a tavern, and Praetorius became distracted, the trackers zeroed in. But Praetorius could always sense their approach. When the trackers arrived at the bar, they were confronted by Hell's Angels. This was, however, the first time Hell's Angels came face-to-face with real angels from hell. They were outmatched because the demoniacs had superhuman strength. But the diversion enabled Michael and Praetorius a chance to flee the scene. 

Praetorius could never discern what was special about Michael. Then one day, Praetorius accidentally spilled boiling water on his hand in the kitchen. Praetorius required medical attention. But Michael instinctively pricked his finger with a needle and smeared a few drops of blood over the scalded hand. It healed within minutes. 

Praetorius then realized that Michael was a golden child. A healer. His blood had therapeutic properties. Yet he still didn't understand why the dark side felt so threatened by Michael. But a year and a half-later, a well-funded group of antinatalists, bioterrorisits, and ecoterrorists developed an airborne, mutant strain of leukemia. People began to die by the millions. The human race was on the verge of extinction. 

Evidently, the dark side foresaw this event. Indeed, the dark side engineered this event behind-the-scenes. Michael was immune to the contagion. He was a carrier, but a therapeutic carrier. He offered his blood. Of course, there was only one of him. How could a single blood donor save the human race? Yet a transfusion from his blood not only cured the patient but changed their blood, so that each cured person could cure others by becoming blood donors. The rate of healing was as exponential.

Yet millions continued to die. Children were cured, and Christians were cured, although not all churchgoers were cured.  But the blood didn't cure people who persecuted Christians. The disparity didn't go unnoticed, leading to Christian revival around the world. 

Praetorius was seriously injured in a traffic accident. Comatose for days, the trackers were able to detect Michael. By that time it was too late change the outcome. The contagion was broken. But that made the dark side all the more vindictive. They infected Michael with a scratch. A mutant strain of bubonic plague. He died hours later, hugging his Bible. Having healed millions, he couldn't heal himself. 

When Praetorius regained consciousness, he was enraged and grief-stricken. He couldn't fathom why heaven let Michael die. But after watching coverage of world-wide mourning, he changed his mind and concluded that perhaps it was better for Michael to die young, lest he become an object of worship, and all the adoration go to his head.

Still in his twenties, Praetorius hadn't married, in part because he was guarding Michael, and in part because he feared transmitted his occult powers to his own children. But now that he no longer had Michael to protect, he renounced his hereditary abilities, got married, and became an exorcist–using ordinary means of grace like prayer, Scripture, and hymn-singing to combat the dark side. 

Monday, October 21, 2019

War orphan

-i-

Sherman was a G.I. fighting behind enemy lines in a war-torn country, ravaged by civil war. He found a war orphan in a burnt-out village. A young boy named Jason. At first the boy was terrified, until he saw that Sherman meant him no harm. Sherman gave him a pat on the head and some chocolate, which the hungry boy wolfed down. The boy was hoping Sherman was his rescuer. Sherman looked into his trusting, pleading, desperate eyes. He felt a strong instinctive pull to take the boy back with him. 

But attempting to rescue the boy would put Sherman at risk. The boy would slow him down. They were surrounded by the enemy. 

He hated the idea of leaving the kid behind to die–or worse. But he knew that was just his evolutionary programming. He was being manipulated by blind evolution to be altruistic and sacrificial. 

Fact is, the kid was just a temporary biological organism like the rest of us. Eminently and ultimately replaceable. One child is pretty interchangeable with another. What difference does it make to world history if there's one more child or one less child, a thousand more or a thousand fewer? It's all so random and arbitrary. 

Why should Sherman risk the only life he's got to save a child's life? Sure, he'd feel rotten if he abandoned the boy, but that's just evolution guilt-tripping him. Why should he let himself be suckered by his biological brainwashing? It's like a phobia: you can't shake the feeling, but you know it's irrational, so you have to override it to do what's necessary.

It reminded him of the movie he saw one time–Screamers–where killer robots disguised as war orphans clutching teddybears mimic vulnerable children. They emit plaintive cries. But underneath it's just a heartless machine, like evolutionary psychology in camouflage. 

Regretfully, he turned his back on the boy and walked away. The boy was later captured by combatants from a rival clan. They took him to a compound with war orphans of all ages, whom they rounded up. The older boys brutalized the younger boys. And the guards brutalized all the boys to toughen them up and turn them into the next generation of soldiers for the revolutionary cause. Jason grew up to be a pitiless killer who massacred old men, mothers, daughters, and young children from the wrong clan, raping the women before shooting them in the head. 

-ii-

In a parallel universe Jed was a G.I. fighting behind enemy lines in a war-torn  country, ravaged by civil war. He found a war orphan in a burnt-out village. A young boy named Jason. At first the boy was terrified, until he saw that Jed meant no harm. Jed picked him up in his arms and hugged him. 

There was no question about leaving the boy behind. Here was a child with an immortal soul. Yet Jed knew that attempting to rescue him was very risky. They might not make it out alive.

As much as possible they had to avoid public roads and open fields where they might be spotted. Stick to the woods. But that made for slow going. Hunting slowed them down. Often Jed had to carry Jason in his arms through the underbrush. Sometimes they shivered in the rain. While hiking, or huddling before a campfire, Jed told Jason Bible stories about creation; the garden of Eden; Noah's flood; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph; the Exodus; King David; Daniel–and especially the Gospels. He taught Jason the Lord's Prayer. Every night, Jason slept in Jed's arms. 

They had many miraculously narrow escapes as they were pursued by the enemy. They sometimes used streams to cover their tracks, and mask their scent from dogs. One time, when the enemy sent hunting dogs to track them down, Jeb had to shoot them. That wasted bullets he might need for self-defense, and the shots gave away their location. Thankfully, the enemy was far enough away that it couldn't find them. 

This went on for weeks. As they were approaching the border, the enemy finally caught up with them. Jed and Jason were cornered. Jed figured it was better to die together than for them to be captured alive. The enemy had a terrifying reputation, confirmed by firsthand observation. He prayed the Lord's Prayer with Jason. Then he pulled out his revolver. It was empty. All the bullets were spent from shooting game and killing the dogs in hot pursuit. But the enemy didn't know that. He pointed the revolver at the approaching combatants. They machine-gunned Jeb and Jason, who died in his arms. 

A moment later, Jeb and Jason stepped out into an amber-lit garden. They heard unearthly music in the distance. Then a nimbic Jesus came to them. He embraced Jeb, then took Jason by the hand, and led them towards the music.