28. Back to the Village

“For our newcomers: while Tony & I are on the road, please enjoy his book, ‘Leaving the Trail’ as a weekly series in condensed form. Be sure to go back to the beginning to understand the story! If you can’t stand the suspense, simply order a copy from Amazon or write toinfo@martonpublishing.com.”

The way out of the canyon was steep, but easier than they anticipated. Before long, they were standing on the edge of the cliff, looking back down at the way they had come. “What do you think, Sandy,” asked Fisher. “Should we work our way back to the trail, or try to make a straight shot of it overland?”

Sandy was looking over his shoulder when she pointed and said, “It looks like we have a beacon to follow, in that direction.”

Fisher turned and saw a column of smoke rising just above the treetops. “Oh no,” he said quietly. “We may be too late already. Let’s go.”

They set off in the direction of the smoke, all the while trying to put together a plan. “Without our backpacks, we have nothing to use,” said Sandy. “You don’t have your sword, and I can’t even pull out Lizzie’s wooden spoon to use as a weapon. Shouldn’t we perhaps be getting as far away from this place as we can?”

“I admit it: the thought crossed my mind too. But I keep thinking about all those people. They’re the same people God called us to, aren’t they? And even if God is planning to rescue them, it’s still possible that He intends to use us in the process, if we’re willing to be used. So what do you think?”

“I’m thinking the same thing you are. I just wanted to make sure you didn’t have any doubts about it on my account. No matter what happens, I know God has led us here, so either way, we win. Lead on.”

The trees finally gave way to a corn field, and they stopped before stepping out into the open. At the far side of the field a house was in flames, and a man’s body was lying near the front door. Beyond the rooftop, they could see another column of smoke rising, and so they skirted around the edge of the cornfield and went on in that direction. At the edge of another field, they paused and studied the scene. The house itself was already burned to the ground, but the gazebo out front told them that it was the home of Lisa’s grandparents.

“Oh Fisher,” cried Sandy, “you don’t think …”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “But remember that when we left them, they were at the big meeting place. Maybe that’s where we’ll find everyone. Let’s check this place out anyway.”

Looking in every direction, they broke from the cover of the undergrowth and ran to the gazebo. Crouching in the relative shelter, they peered over what was left of the house.

“I can’t see any bodies,” said Fisher. “Maybe there was no one home. I say we scrounge around here for something to use as a weapon and then head straight for the meeting place.”

Sandy agreed, and they looked around until they found a tool shed with shovels and rakes inside. Fisher took a shovel, swung it around a couple of times and set it aside. Then taking a rake, he placed his foot on the head, breaking it off. “Well,” he said, studying his work, “you’ve heard the expression, ‘beats a poke in the eye with a sharp stick’. Care to give it a try?”

“Not unless I have to,” she said, taking the rake handle. “But I guess it’ll do.”

Now somewhat armed, they sped on through the woods toward the meeting area. By now, it was a simple task, since the sound of conflict was growing louder by the moment. Screams, roars and the incessant beating of wood on wood filled their ears, and left them with no illusions about where they were headed.

When the darkened woods began to give way to the clearing ahead, they slowed down, cautious now as the sight of moving figures came into view. There was the meeting place, a huge building which had been constructed for the purpose of storing and manufacturing goods necessary for the farmers in the area. Scattered about the building were a number of smaller structures: private homes, offices and retail shops, but most of those were now in flames. Demon warriors were running around these, peering into the flames for any sign of humans who might be trying to hide. Here and there was evidence of some who had been doing just that, and had paid for it with their lives. The main force, however, was concentrated around the large building, which was now closed up on all sides. Small windows along the second floor were serving as defensive portholes from which men were throwing everything from burning embers to sharpened sticks, with little effect except to make the creatures more careful in their approach. It was clearly only a matter of time before they would be overrun.

“What can we do?” cried Sandy, gripping her rake handle all the more firmly.

“If I only had my sword, I might be able to do some damage from behind, but …”

Fisher’s observations were cut short by the roar of a beast who had spotted them. So far, none of the others had noticed, but the sight of the single charging warrior was enough to spur the couple into action. “Follow me!” yelled Fisher, jumping to his feet and running headlong toward the oncoming creature. This was something it had not anticipated, since every other human it had attacked had always run full speed away. A change of tactics was called for, but that was the one thing the beast had neither the capacity nor the time for. Before it could react, Fisher was face to face, drawing back his shovel in a carefully calculated swing, coming around just below knee height. As tempered metal connected with flesh and bone, there was a resounding crack and the creature fell headlong. Without pausing for a second swing, he made sure Sandy was close behind then ran on toward the meeting house. “You people inside!” he yelled. “Open up and let us in!”

He wasn’t sure if they had heard or seen them approaching, but ran on anyway, knowing that was their only chance. Sandy added her voice. “Please open the door! We’re here to help!”

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