Warrior, A Short Story

Black night shielded him from prying eyes as he stole through the village to the temple, heavy club clutched in the sweaty palm of his hand. He tried to calm himself, but ragged breaths broke the stillness and his heart pounded, sounding like thunderous drums to his ultra-aware ears.

The inner temple was quiet, the priests having retreated to their beds long ago. The stone-clad reason for his coming stood silently, formidably, condemningly, at the front of the room. He moved toward it, feeling afraid despite the Man’s words.

Something about Him had been different. It was more than His sudden appearance or His strange way of calling him a man of valor. It wasn’t the confidence with which He spoke or the unbelievable prediction that he would be the one to defeat his people’s enemies. No, the difference was visible only in the Man’s eyes. Those eyes had not been bound, had not been beaten into submission. Those eyes knew freedom, a freedom he had never dared dream of.

As he stared at the stone god towering above him, he brought the memory of the Man’s eyes to mind once more, just before swinging his club toward the idol’s head.

He was no warrior. But the Man had called him one, and so that was what he would become.

 

The priest stalked through the pre-dawn streets, hammer in one hand, fluttering scroll in the other. The words written there were his heart, his sweat, his tears. They might become his blood. He believed they were truth…yet he trembled at the voices that still shrieked in his mind.

Sinner! Filthy, despicable, weak! Ignorant, proud, presumptuous! Unworthy!

But he kept walking, pausing only when he reached the church doors. He spread the scroll flat against the wood, hesitated.

“I am yours,” he whispered. “Save me.” Then he swung the hammer.

He was no warrior. But the Man had called him one, and so that was what he would become.

 

The wool was rough under his fingers as he laid it beneath the tree. As he let it slip from his hand, he prayed – a desperate prayer with no words, just a plea for help, for clarity.

The next morning the wool was wet, the ground dry.

It should have been enough, he knew. But it wasn’t. He should be stronger, more faith-filled. But he wasn’t. And so he asked again.

The next day the wool was dry, and he knew. He knew.

 

The voices in the room hushed when the young politician rose to his feet. He straightened his cravat, cleared his throat, then paused. Faces around the room waited impatiently, but he could feel the weight of the moment settle on his shoulders.

“God Almighty has set before me two great objects, the suppression of the Slave Trade and the Reformation of Manners,” he had written in his journal two years before. He still felt the heaviness of that conviction. And yet…

Surely, there is someone else, he thought. Someone who would do a far better job than I.

But there was no one else. And so he opened his mouth, and his rich voice rang out.

He was no warrior. But the Man had called him one, and so that was what he would become.

 

The men spread out before him in groups of tens, hundreds, thousands, and he felt his confidence grow as he watched them. But then came the whisper.

There are too many, the Man said.

He felt his heart sink as he watched them leave, first in a trickle, then a stream, then in hoards.

It is not enough, he thought.

It is enough, the Man said.

 

The theologian rose from his knees, ran his fingers through his thinning blond hair, pushed his glasses back up his nose. His legs felt stiff, weak, and his heart quivered in his chest. For so long he had sought an answer without finding one. Now the answer had come, but…what an answer.

It cannot be, he thought. Not this way.

He sank into the chair at his desk and allowed his head to fall into his hands. Breathed in, then out. Again. The answer did not change. He sighed deeply, picked up his pen, and began to write.

“…when a man takes guilt upon himself in responsibility, he imputes his guilt to himself and no one else. He answers for it… Before other men he is justified by dire necessity; before himself he is acquitted by his conscience, but before God he hopes only for grace.”

He was no warrior. But the Man had called him one, and so that was what he would become.

 

His enemy’s camp was near. Too near perhaps. But now, on the eve of battle, his body was too edgy to stay away. As he drew closer, he heard two of the soldiers talking.

“I had a dream,” one of them said. As he listened, he heard a strange story of bread and tents being smashed to the ground. Then he heard his name.

“It was him,” the other man said. “He’s coming.”

Yes, he thought. I am. Or rather, we are. He felt rather than saw the Man smile.

 

The young pastor slumped at his kitchen table, the light bulb over head barely pushing back the darkness he felt eating away at his spirit. He could still hear the angry voice in his ear, threatening him, his people, his children.

“Please,” he whispered. “Please. I have nothing left…. I cannot face it alone.”

For several long moments, the room remained quiet, and his shoulders sagged further. Then…

Stand, he heard. Stand for righteousness. Stand for truth.

He raised his head, looking for the source of the voice, though he knew he would not find it with his eyes. He set his palms flat on the table before him and pushed himself to his feet.

He was no warrior. But the Man had called him one, and so that was what he would become.

 

It was night once more. But this time he did not hide. This time, he shouted until he was hoarse. The dark sky filled with fire, and the desert quiet was broken by blasts of trumpets and the breaking of clay jars. His sword flashed in and out among his enemies, and he watched them fall before him. The fury of battle rose up within him, and he fought.

He was no warrior. But the Man had called him one, and so that was what he became.

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