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Walking In the Midst of Fire

Remy Chandler - 6

by

Thomas E. Sniegoski

For Brian Kozicki— Gone far too soon, but never ever forgotten

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

With love, and gratitude, to my lovely wife, LeeAnne, and to Kirby for sharing with me some of his best ideas.

Thanks also to Christopher Golden, Ginjer Buchanan, Katherine Sherbo, Rosanne Romanello, Liesa & James Mignogna, Scrawny Johnny Morrison, Kathy & Dave “thing from another world” Kraus, Pam Daley, Erek Vaehne, Garrett Jones, Mom & Dad Sniegoski, Paul Deane, Mom & Dad Fogg, Pat & Bob, Kenn Gold, and Timothy Cole and the Walking Dead down at Cole’s Comics in Lynn.

By the prickling in my thumbs . . .

PROLOGUE

Jericho

26 AD

Simeon was dead.

He was not aware of the length of time he had been lying within the cold embrace of the ground, wrapped in a shroud of burlap, for he had transcended such mundane, physical concerns, his spirit destined to unite with the other life energies that comprised the stuff of creation.

These energies . . . these souls as they were sometimes called, were the clay of the Almighty, and Simeon was joining them, experiencing the unimaginable joy of being one with the Creator as all that Simeon once was gradually melded with the whole that was God’s glory.

Simeon had believed that he’d known bliss in his lifetime: the love and devotion of a good woman, three healthy children to carry on his bloodline, strong hands that allowed him a craft to support his family’s lifestyle. It was all that one such as he could have hoped for in life, but it was nothing compared to the euphoria he experienced as he gave freely of himself, merging his own love with the love of all who had lived, and died, and would live again in another of the myriad forms of existence.

This is what it was for, Simeon thought as he was about to surrender his identity.

About to experience the completion of the cycle of life.

About to become one with God and creation.

One moment he was there, and the next . . .

Simeon was suddenly confused by the absence of joy and the sensation of pain.

He’d thought himself beyond the torment of the physical, but it appeared that he was wrong.

Simeon could feel the tether around his spirit, dragging him inexorably back to the corporeal world. He tried to fight it, begging the Creator to take notice of his dilemma.

But God did not see, or He chose not to.

Powerless, Simeon was pulled back through the veil of death, each level of his reemerging physical existence adding another dimension to his agony.

To have come so close to rapture, only to have it ripped away.

Deep within the cold darkness, Simeon was screaming, the pain unlike anything he’d ever experienced, worse even than it had been before his passing.

And no matter how much he begged to be released, nothing changed.

Nobody was listening.

He thrashed in the embrace of burlap, his fingers now claws tearing through the sack that had held his corpse. His once-dead lungs screamed for air as he pulled himself up through the dirt and rock meant to be his final resting place. And in a perversion of the rite of birth, he emerged, hands snaking out from the sand, the gentle touch of the hot desert breeze sending waves of sheer agony through his body.

Through a haze of anguish, he pulled himself from the ground and collapsed atop his burial mound. Everything hurt: his joints, muscles and skin, even the hair upon his head and the beard that sprouted from his face.

Simeon had no idea how long he’d lain there, immersed in a cocoon of suffering, before he realized that he was not alone. Even though it felt worse than any injury he had ever experienced, he lifted his eyes to the form that stood before him.

The figure was tall, with a kind face that bore a look of absolute shock. But its dismay soon transformed into the warmth of a smile.

Simeon gazed up at the youth, and as he looked upon him, he suddenly knew that this boy was responsible for his misery.

That this young stranger had somehow stolen Simeon from the vast comfort of the Lord God’s embrace.

A single croaking word managed to break free from Simeon’s throat, along with a cluster of hard-shelled insects that had made their nest in the rigid flesh of his trachea. “Who?”

The young man continued to smile as he bent to one knee beside Simeon. “I am Jesus of Nazareth,” he said. “The Son of God. And I have raised you up.”

Those words were even more painful than the agony his body was enduring. This boy—this child—had dragged him back from the euphoria of death and the promise of eternal union with the Creator of All Things.

“Why?” Simeon asked. “Why would you do this?”

The youth smiled all the wider, reaching down to touch Simeon’s pale, dirt-covered face. “To see if I could,” he said simply.

The words attacked Simeon, burrowing deep into his flesh, squirming their way into his heart and mind. The pain was so great that he began to scream.

And he did not know if he would ever be able to stop.

CHAPTER ONE

Remy Chandler’s eyes wandered to the television hanging above the crowded bar.

He didn’t want to watch, but he couldn’t help himself. There was always a nervous trepidation these days, a fear that he would see something that might compel him to act. Things were different in Boston—in the world, really—since a tear had been rent in the fabric of reality. It had swallowed up the top floors of the Hermes Building in Back Bay before Remy was able to close it.

And thanks to the media, millions of people throughout the world had caught a glimpse of something that had, until then, managed to remain in the shadows.

The news tonight was more mundane—tornadoes in the west, a school shooting in California, more sanctions about to be imposed upon a hostile Middle Eastern nation, and an eighty-nine-year-old woman who had hit the lottery for two hundred and fifty million dollars.

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