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The Will Changers: Dark Forces Rising

The Will Changers: Dark Forces Rising

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The Will Changers: Dark Forces Rising

Lunghezza:
339 pagine
5 ore
Pubblicato:
Nov 17, 2012
ISBN:
9781449774073
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

The will of God has always been set in stone until now.

Rick Walters knew that his life was meant for something greater, but he had no idea just how great it could actually be. Praymar, an angel of God, has joined with Rick, empowering him with Gods light and strength, revealing a world beyond the limits of Ricks understanding. With Praymars help, he can mend the destructive ways of the church, unifying them under Gods glory and light. As he falls in love with Christine Feldman, a close friend and local lawyer in the small town of Marquette, Ohio, Rick begins to realize just how important each and every choice is. Together, with help from heaven, Rick and Christine struggle to rescue their embattled church from collapse.

But their close friends have a secret, one that will open their eyes to a world beyond the realm of human understanding, a world of heavenly angels and sinister demons; a world of sacrifice, betrayal, and death, and of those who would change Gods will for good and evil purposes. Hell is on its way to Marquette. As the darkness closes around each of them, Ricks greatest choice could be his very last.

Dark Forces Rising, the first novel in the Will Changer Series, exposes the ultimate spiritual battle raging with all of us: If you had the power to manipulate Gods willwould you?

Pubblicato:
Nov 17, 2012
ISBN:
9781449774073
Formato:
Libro

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The Will Changers - Chad Wilkinson

Morales

THE APPROACH

Heave and pant, heave and pant. No longer sure how far up the stairs she had gone, she willed her legs to rise and fall. The climb had begun as a sprint, but now all Jane Richards could do was step and breathe, step and breathe. She glanced up and saw the ladder against the wall on the next landing. She was almost there. Heave and pant, step and breathe. Her thighs were like water, her calves burning with every movement.

Gone were the racing thoughts about her abject failure, the insurmountable guilt that had consumed her down on the street. As she reached the top step, she stopped and leaned on the railing. What was she doing? How had it come to this? Closing her eyes and sucking in air, Jane tried to remember why she felt so certain about her decision. Distantly, she recalled the exhausting numbness that was her life. Nothing mattered. Nothing really mattered. Her head felt heavy, a boulder bearing down on her neck and shoulders.

She gritted her teeth as she looked at the ladder. What were the chances the hatch would be unlocked? Her bangles slipped down her wrist to clang hollowly against the railing. She looked down at the shiny bracelets, then let her eyes wander up the thin forearm to the little tracks on the inside of her elbow.

An old promise from God skirted the edges of her thoughts, but she shoved the better memories down deep and let the giddiness of the drug take her. Suddenly aware that she had paused, Jane glanced between the railings circling down to the bottom of the stairwell. Some maintenance guy was going to hear the racket. Somebody would come.

No one is coming. No one cares. Nothing matters. Stepping forward, Jane reached tenderly for the ladder rung level with her shoulders. The cold steel made her realize how sweaty her palms were. The high was in full gear now, baring her senses. She leaned into the ladder and rested her forehead on the chilly metal. Dizziness threatened her, but she staved it off. Looking up at the hatch, she grinned mirthlessly.

It’ll be locked, she said. You can’t even do this right.

Not until she was pushing it open did she realize she had climbed up to the door in the roof. Brisk night air lifted blonde hair out of her eyes and behind her. The wind was stronger up here. The chill on her arms made her shiver; made her desperate to be on the street again. Standing at the top of the ladder, doubt began to worm into her mind. What am I doing again? Why did I climb all the way up here?

The questions pooled around her feet. She looked down, expecting to see them there. Breathing heavily, closing her eyes, she tried to get her bearings. Her thoughts drifted, reappeared, drifted again in the haze of the drug. She felt its warm embrace, and entrusted herself to the conviction to move forward. Every desperate heartbeat prodded her toward the edge. She no longer fought her feelings.

Nothing matters. whispered a man in a black sailor’s pea coat. Naked moonlight spilled into the shadowy recess of the landing across from the ladder, illuminating his pallid skin. His lips were dry, cracked from the cold, nearly colorless. His dark green eyes watched her, calculating, pitiless. What he really wanted was to kill her himself. He could sense the doubt worming its way toward belief in her mind. He focused in preparation to reach out and force her to take those steps.

No, he heard Pious whisper. No, James. She must do this herself.

James suppressed a groan. She was standing still now, the winter wind lashing at her. He searched her will and realized the wind was waking her, dampening the high. She got on the roof by herself. James decided to make sure she did not come back down. He climbed the ladder after her.

No!

Wincing in pain, James put a gloved hand over one of his ears and fought to hold onto the top rung and regain his feet. Pain blossomed into rage and he could feel Pious rummaging inside his emotions, searching for a way to calm the swell of fury spreading warmly from head to breast.

James, no. She must do this herself. Otherwise, her death will not mean Death for her.

James looked up and saw that Jane had backed up and was now standing just above him, facing away. He had to move his hand so she wouldn’t step on it as she searched with a foot for the top rung. More than ever, he wanted to grab her and rush her to the ledge, but he knew Pious was right. This close to victory and he was letting his emotions get the better of him. How long would it take for her to come back to this place? He could not afford to lose focus now. Concentrating, he poured himself back into her soul. Vividly, as if in high definition, he saw her mother walking toward her with her arms outstretched. Mrs. Richards was smiling, her eyes swollen with tears.

A good memory?

Yes, whispered the demon.

Let’s fix that. He gave over his spirit to Pious and felt them enter Jane’s soul.

Jane watched as her mom approached and remembered that day, long ago, when she had begged her daughter to come back home. It was the only time Jane had believed she was loved by someone in her family. The memory played out before her, as real as the day it happened. The crow’s feet at the corners of Mama’s eyes crinkled as she reached out to her. Jane couldn’t help herself. Stepping back onto the roof, she held up her arms to accept the imagined embrace.

Suddenly, her mother’s face distorted, hardened. The smiling, loving mother dissolved into narrowing eyes and pursed lips. Jane opened her mouth to say something to the illusion, but she was silenced by a full-armed slap. Was this real? The sting of her cheek was accompanied by ringing in her ears as if her mother really had just smacked her. She put a hand to her face to lessen the burn and wondered if the wind had at that moment hurled something into her face.

You worthless, lousy failure! The words stung more than the wind or the imagined slap. Drug-infested slut! No wonder you have to sell your body for sex! No one would have you for a wife now!

Tears sprung from her eyes and she nearly collapsed. Her vision blurred and the image of her mother disappeared. Shaking her head, Jane lowered her chin to her chest, took another deep breath, and steadied herself. The sealed surface was smooth with ice under her high heels; the wind whipped her short dress until it was gathered around her waist. She tried to pull it down and then gave up. What did a little cold matter? In a few moments, she would be feeling no more cold, no more pain. Her heart beat steadily in her temples as the hose on her legs seemed to freeze against her skin. When was the last time she felt this alive? Tears cut chilly tracks down her face. No longer will I cry.

At the top of the ladder, James vaulted easily onto the surface. He was just steps behind her, but he had no fear of her turning around. Pious didn’t have to teach him how to become unnoticeable—he’d been living that way for years before the demon showed up. He stood there, watching her sway with indecision. The satin dress beat against her body, her hair flailing back and forth in the wind. He had worked so hard for this moment, his moment of triumph, his moment of truth. Now, he would prove himself to the demon. Just as victory was in his grasp, James felt his power shut off like a faucet.

"What’s going on, Pious?"

She has help. Open your eyes, and see.

Open my… His frustration evaporated. Beside her, a flicker of movement caught his eye. Light swelled around his victim, nestling in the curve of her neck and whispering into her ear. What is it?

The enemy sent one of His.

James observed the curious interaction, realizing Jane had no idea the creature was there any more than she knew he and Pious were standing behind her. Why?

She does not yet know if she believes.

James felt the demon withdraw, surprised by its sudden terror. No. He would not let his work be undone. Rage curled around his thoughts; narrowing his eyes, James focused on his prey, focused all his will, and mouthed one word. Run.

I’m losing my nerve, Jane said. She wanted so badly for it all to end—the judging looks from her mother, the passer-by who pretended not to see her; the men who abused her and left her scrounging up enough money for the next hit. Doubt vanished and the pain and remorse of her life came flooding back to her. Without thinking, she thrust into a run. The ledge was only three feet high and maybe fifteen feet away. If she just ran and jumped, she wouldn’t doubt anymore. The heel of her left shoe caught in a crack and her right foot slid out from under her at almost the same time.

Slipping and falling, Jane caught her balance, lunging forward as the ice prevented her from slowing down. The top of the ledge smacked into her solar plexus, leaving her bereft of air. Hanging out over the twenty-five story drop, she fought to breathe, fought to live. Pain shot through her body, and she was suddenly aware of her situation, the numbness almost disappearing. Down below, cars passed and people walked, but no one looked up. Panicky, Jane pushed herself back. Kneeling against the low wall and extending her arm, she tried to stretch herself straight to allow her diaphragm to begin working again.

No sound, no breath, no life. Then, air.

Gulping sweet, life-giving oxygen into her body, she pulled herself up to where she could see the view. She cursed loudly, realizing what she had almost done as the light of sanity seeped into her eyes.

What was she thinking? Had it been so long ago that she was helping men and women at the homeless shelter, teaching them to break their own addictions? Hadn’t she felt called to them? Where was God now? What did it all mean? Hadn’t all her work meant anything? Surely, she could still find hope in the desperation of her life.

You’re losing her!

I know! James bit his lip as Jane straightened up. Had she heard him? He brought his will to bear once again upon her. Now was not the time for him to doubt. He had to focus, had to make sure it was completed. He no longer saw the Spirit around her. It must have left her when she decided to run. He walked up behind her and whispered, Where was God when you needed him? Where was he when you could have said no?

James smiled. There’s truth in that statement. She collapsed to her knees, her shoulders racked with sobs of the lost. This is it. This is my moment. James whispered one last word.

Jump…

Jane couldn’t stop crying. God hadn’t been there. God was never there, except to point His finger at her and remind her she had failed again. What purpose did she think she could have with Him chastising her for every little mistake? How could she have thought she mattered? Nothing matters. Her friends and family were gone. She felt no more hope, only agony and despair. Standing up, her knees stung with pain as she looked down once more at the street. She could see the people and cars moving about like miniatures in a little diorama.

They have purpose, she whispered, edging closer to the ledge. They have purpose…and I don’t. Closing her eyes, she let the cold breeze surround her, brush her hair back and bite her skin. All the sounds of the world disappeared. She felt, heard nothing but her heartbeat and the thousands of voices screaming in her mind, telling her life meant nothing.

You want to do this. It is all that you can do to make them realize you matter. They hate you.

She didn’t see the man who stood behind her, his jaw clenched and his eyes wild. She didn’t know how alive he felt right then, that every detail—the stark cold, the blustering wind, the callous face in the moon, even Jane’s desperation—was as open to him as it was to her. She had left everything behind her.

I hate me too. The words hung from her lips as she stepped into air and over the edge.

Alone on the rooftop, James pulled out a cigarette and lit it. He inhaled deeply and let the smoke leak out in laurel wreaths. A sparkle in his eye, he turned and slipped down the hatch and ladder. He practically skipped downstairs to the door that led him back onto the street. The demon followed, its triumphal delight ricocheting around in his soul. Fumes from his cigarette filled his lungs, power encompassed his body.

A crowd had gathered around her body by the time he exited the back and slipped into darkness. Ambulance sirens blared in the distance as people looked, even though they didn’t believe they wanted to see. Jane Richards, a 34-year-old single white female, lay motionless on the concrete sidewalk. Another drug addict with a tragic end.

She was too dangerous to let live.

James lingered on the thought, walking toward the train station. The demon nodded in agreement and followed him, its dark presence fading into stygian shadows as James’ darker silhouette melted into the parking lot. After several minutes, the headlights of a black Suburban stabbed the night. As the vehicle headed toward the highway, a cloud of cigarette smoke trailed from the driver-side window.

THE MEETING

Headlights flashed across his vision as another vehicle pulled into the parking lot of the church. Rick Walters shook his head. He was new to this whole church politics thing, but he was pretty sure this was shaping up to be the best attended board meeting in the history of Marquette County Community Church.

Perfect. As if his stomach wasn’t already turning flips. Rick pressed his forehead against the cold glass of the front door, leaning his left forearm on the top of the panic bar. Closing his eyes, he breathed in deeply and held it, then let it out slowly. These were people he saw every Sunday in church. Did that make it better or worse? He squeezed the metal jamb with his right hand and pushed himself back. The imprint from his perspiration mired his view, but it didn’t matter. All the troublemakers were already in the sanctuary. What did it matter who showed up next? Wiping his brow on the checkered black and brown sleeve, he rested his head on the soft flannel crook of his elbow for a moment.

There you are.

Rick felt a hand on his back and turned to look down into sharp green eyes. Christine Feldman’s features were angular, almost harsh, unaided by the way her blonde hair exposed her face. Her eyes, though—so clear and vivid, so entrancing that they softened the rest—always left him momentarily speechless. She smiled at him and tilted her head. For the first time, he noted how even her teeth were.

You okay?

He smiled back. Okay to be nervous?

I’d be worried if you weren’t. She chuckled and punched him on the arm. Dropping his eyes, he followed the sleeve of her red sweater to the matching color of her fingernail polish, her hand uncomfortably close to his on the panic bar.

Pulling his arms up to cross over his chest, Rick looked back out across the parking lot. Jeb Parkinson was helping his wife out of their black Cadillac. Both of them had to be at least seventy. They held each other’s hands as they slowly crossed the gravel lot. Maybe Jeb could take his place. He was certainly vocal about his support.

Tell me something, he said.

I’ll try.

Why are we here?

Christine laughed. Oh, I hope you’re more prepared than that.

No. Rick’s smile faded. Why are we here? Christine’s brows pinched together as she returned his smile. Before she could answer, Rick shook his head. Never mind. I guess I’m just stalling.

He smiled gamely as he opened the door, stepping back as Mrs. Parkinson inserted her walker. Jeb tipped his fedora, at first using a wispy, chocolate brown hand to caress the glass—just in case Rick let go of the door—and then adjusted his tie. Even a Tuesday night board meeting was a formal affair for them.

Miss Sarah, Rick said. She smiled up at him, but the tightness around her dark brown eyes told him she was not amused. Jeb may be for the church expanding, but Sarah was definitely not. Since the Parkinsons were not board members, it mattered little either way. Rick’s stomach churned. Christine squeezed his shoulder, easing his tension as he drank in her smile. He suddenly had too much to say.

You two coming? I think we’re ready to start.

Pastor Fields stood in the doorway of the foyer, dressed as though it were Sunday morning. Rick and Christine looked at one another. Odd, since he usually wore sweaters in the fall and winter. The crisp white dress shirt and navy blue tie would have looked too formal if he hadn’t rolled up his sleeves. Thinking about it, Rick suddenly understood. It gave the perfect balance: I am a working man among working people, asking all of us to work together.

Joseph ran an uneasy hand through his thinning hair peppered with grey. For a moment, his hazel eyes looked hard and cold, the very harbinger of death. Rick shrugged off the thought. Never had those orbs held more than passion and compassion. They had shared much these last three months, their friendship deep enough to reveal personal struggles and lately very few triumphs. Rick was still uncomfortable calling him by his first name, though. Pastor Fields deserved the respect his title suggested.

Turning, Rick saw Christine nod, the heat he thought he had seen in her eyes, gone now. Shrugging, Rick gestured with his left hand for the pastor to lead the way. Light splashed across the three of them—another late arrival. As they walked down the short entry hall past the bathrooms and approached the sanctuary, Rick glanced at the clock hung on the wood paneling above the double doors. Ten after seven.

"Maybe we should have Praymar,’ Pastor Fields mumbled as they entered the back of the sanctuary.

What? Rick asked as they paused just inside the door.

I said, ‘maybe we should’ve prayed more, Joseph responded, picking lint off his right shoulder and waving in the same direction to the teenager sitting behind the soundboard. Christine punched him on the shoulder and Rick smiled, curiously calmer knowing he wasn’t the only tense one in the group.

The Parkinsons had turned immediately left inside the door, heading down the aisle three rows and waiting for the Sessions family to scoot down and make room for them. Forced to choose an alternate route, Pastor Fields strode toward the center aisle. Rick glanced at the boy working the sound to see if he could remember his name, but a computer monitor shielded the boy’s face.

Rick turned his gaze forward to the double doors that led to the Fellowship Hall. Most board meetings were held in there. Too many observers were in attendance for those acoustics, though. This was only his fourth board meeting, but Rick knew how unique it was to have all these people here. Twelve had voting positions, but the quorum needed to do business usually came about after a few phone calls to the absentees. No one ever attended as guests.

Not tonight. Everyone was there to talk about the future of the church. The new location for the meeting, driven by the attendance of more than eighty adults, was filling up quickly. This many people debating one issue could get messy.

That’s it, Rick muttered to himself. The glass is half full.

Grimacing at the sight of rundown pews, he looked up and to his right, catching the brown eyes of Darla Jensen. Allowing a faint smile, Darla neither nodded nor looked away from them entering the sanctuary. Her wavy dark hair caressed her shoulders as she turned her head to watch them come in. Realizing he was avoiding the sight of their destination, Rick forced his eyes to take in the stage. Three of the long cafeteria tables sat in an angular crescent where the new band normally played on Sunday morning. Most of the board was already sitting up there.

Rick tried to ignore how silent the congregation got as they passed. He felt like he was wearing ankle weights as he hopped up the three steps to the stage. A familiar friend gazed back at Rick from the opposite end. Ryan nodded reassuringly, exuding confidence as he listened to Earl Dearborn. Earl said something, causing Ryan to turn and focus on the conversation, his shaved head nodding in approval, his striped long-sleeve shirt hanging loosely from his frame.

At least someone’s comfortable.

Rick walked behind the leftmost table and pulled the metal chair back, seating himself next to Claire Reisling. She shoved her glasses back onto the bridge of her long nose and shot a glance of approval at Rick before turning to face the congregation. The murmurs had returned, hollowing his stomach. Rick slumped in his seat and concentrated on the table, refusing to look up. He could actually feel his Adam’s apple rise and fall.

Stop stalling, he whispered.

Finally looking up, he was pleasantly surprised to meet the almond-colored face of Kristen Monroe. She smiled and waved, the wooden beads of her bracelet rattling exuberantly. At least one person was excited to be here.

More faces stared back at him, most of them guarded. Darla turned her tanned face from Cliff Peterson to Rick, her brown eyes slits above her smile. Good, another friend in the crowd. Suddenly, everyone bowed their heads. Rick realized the chairman, Alan Ebersole, had stood up to open the meeting with prayer. If only he could have Alan’s confidence. Though he should have been joining in the prayer, Rick watched as the older man presided over the congregation. His deep voice boomed through the sanctuary as he littered his language with Thy Will, Thou Art, and Heavenly Father.

Strangely drawn to keep his eyes open, Rick surveyed the sanctuary. Two sets of pews, each eighteen rows deep, straddled the center aisle. Despite the record attendance for a board meeting, the hall was less than half full. This gave Rick a better view of the sanctuary and made the shabbiness of the place more noticeable. Worn walls with patches and touch-ups starkly reflected the need for fresh paint. Two fluorescent light panels near the back flickered. How could Pastor Fields teach on Sunday nights with that flickering to distract him?

Joseph, he quietly reminded himself as he continued his assessment. The pews were covered with country blue upholstery, the veneer peeling back in places to show a different color wood. Coffee stains and dark circles from communion cups pockmarked the carpet. Any given Sunday, he could have noticed those things but didn’t. He wondered what a fresh look at his living room would reveal at home.

Rick turned his attention to the people, so silent and still, so…indifferent. The light in the back flickered a little. He shot a glance toward it and found himself looking into Darla’s eyes again. She smiled reassuringly, her head not bowed but facing him with confidence.

Queasiness settled just under his stomach. Suddenly, the light was too stark, the edges in the faces too sharp. No, No, not the light too stark but the shadows too deep, the lines in each face chasms, the petulant expressions sinister. One of the lights in the back flickered and the sensation passed, the queasiness gone.

Through Christ our Lord, Amen, Alan said. Rick nodded his head as the congregation looked up. Only he and Darla knew they had not participated.

Robert’s Rules of Order settled over the meeting, a familiar blanket. Old business took twenty minutes and Rick spent most of it tapping his hands on his worn jeans. The longer the meeting stretched, the less sure he was. Why were they here? Was it to make a bigger church? Fill more pews? Prove their relevance?

Why make changes?

He knew that answer was linked to when Pastor Fields changed. Joseph had broken down a year ago in the middle of a sermon and swore that he would no longer sit idly by while his congregation fell into darkness. No one knew what he meant right away, but since that moment he had been on a mission. Worship times were moved for the convenience of the community, a worship band was created, and his preaching became incisive. A tidal wave of change, really, one which Rick believed the church was ill-equipped to handle. It had strained and forged relationships in different ways, some good and some bad.

Rick’s own turnaround occurred roughly the same time as Joseph’s. With the deeper teaching came an overwhelming urge to learn more. Never much of a reader, Rick stopped beating himself up about never reading the Bible all the way through and started reading the shorter letters. The first letter of John had caused him to ask so many questions that Pastor Fields would chuckle if Rick gave him a quizzical look before service.

What’s your question this time, Mister Walters?

He didn’t always have an immediate answer, but their shared search had

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