It was an unusual pain. Cameron gave a pause from peeling the onion. A very small onion that had her wondering why it matured and yet remained so small. A second twinge, then a run, then another twinge. Her shoulder hurt like there was arthritis, yet in the past her doctors had said she did not have arthritis. A thought came to her in a flash. Heart attack! Cameron wasn’t sure if she was making a statement or asking a question. The twinge again.
“Oh well”, she thought, if this is the moment then there isn’t anything I can do”. It would be a disappointment considering she would prefer to remain alive for the sake of her young daughter and her old father, but this is a moment that was outside of her planning or control.
She stepped away from the counter and made sure the front door was unlocked and that her phone was within reach. It was the best she could do. She could hardly call 911 because she was upright peeling onions with even breaths and a good pulse so far. Yet, the impending doom she had heard about felt nearby. She’d have to be more certain. She’d have to wait for the moment. She could not preëmpt the usual anxiety and dread. Heart attacks came with a certain set of rites and rituals that cannot be denied any more than night following day.
Cameron went back to the kitchen to continue preparing her supper. She mused, “Last supper?” She shrugged resignedly, and all at once felt the presence of another. Seated at the kitchen table was some kind of figure or specter, a wisp, an entity. Cameron could not describe what was at the table, nor could she believe how calm she was. As if it understood her bewilderment, a more cognitive perception materialized. A man. She had finally conjured up a man. A fleeting joke. What the heck? was her unspoken body language regarding the man seated at the kitchen table. His features kept changing ever so subtly. He looked old, then wizened, then he was vaguely handsome, nondescript at times, and hard as she tried, Cameron could not fix an ethnicity. He seemed to be everyone and everything all at once.
She knew she wasn’t dreaming or drunk. The shoulder twinge returned as if to make her focus on the situation instead of engaging her curiosity elsewhere. After a brief staring match, the man said,
“Hello Cameron Campbell, I am here”
“Who are you?” Cameron asked, although she had a terrible suspicion. Something must have gone awry.
“Oh shucks, don’t tease, you know who I am, and I know who you are, so let’s not play the game.”
“I do believe I know who you are” Cameron said, “but you are mistaken to come here.”
“Really, I do not make mistakes Cameron, you know that.”
“No you don’t, generally speaking, but the thing is, I wasn’t expecting you. “Cameron chuckled, “I most certainly was not expecting you, you do not fit in with my expectations and I won’t go off with you without some explanation.”
The man leaned forward as if he was giving what she said some serious thought. Suddenly he threw his head back and laughed so heartily. His long curls bobbed and swayed. They became locks like ropes and entrapped Cameron’s ankles
Cameron calmly looked down at her ankles. The onion was in her left hand, she bent down to cut the locks with the knife she had in her right hand.
“Don’t do that”. The man sounded agitated. “I can remove them,” and like that they disappeared, so did his head locks and curls. He was now bald with grey eyebrows. His clothes were a dazzling white covering that appeared to be feathers encasing him from his throat to his sandaled feet. “Don’t worry so much about my looks Cameron, just come along.”
Cameron thought a while. She looked Lucifer in the eye and shook her head. “I can’t unless you tell me why you are so sure you came to the right place. The police do that all the time and then have to retract and retrace their steps. Tell me you made a mistake.”
Lucifer rifled through his under-arm feathers and produced a scroll or sheet. Nothing was certain with this creäture. “Okay, I have here some dialogue. Tell me, tell me with clarity and conviction why you think that I am making a mistake.”
Lucifer barely finished speaking when Cameron blurted out angrily, “because you do not corroborate my beliefs, nor does your presence express the tenets of my faith, and because I really don’t like what you represent, I never have, so how could you have come? I never encouraged you, with any particular commitment”
You know nothing about me, I don’t need much encouragement,” he said this and cold air snaked from his nostrils and ruffled his feathers. I presumed too much. “But tell me”, he continued, “What do you believe? Tell me and convince me to go away like an errant police. What do you believe Cameron Campbell? How do you know that I am not God? The only God. Tell me Cameron. Make me go away. Be bold, make a case for your defense”. He folded his beautiful feathers tightly around his body and sat back on the chair. A self-assured look was on his face. Dirty combat boots had replaced the sandals he wore and they were an ugly contrast beside the white feathers.
Cameron felt clammy, the twinge in her shoulder had spread to her chest region. She felt panic rising because she had been given short notice to defend her faith. How can this be happening? She questioned herself. Lucifer cleared his throat. How annoying is he? I am in a pickle and he clears his throat to signal my attention. Cameron ignored the pulsing in her neck and sat down facing Lucifer. She raised her head and fixed his gaze.
“First of all you are not God. Let’s be clear about that. I can’t prove with certainty that there is a God because I have never seen God but I have experienced God and it was unlike the experience I am having with you now. Those experiences were peaceful and redemptive. There wasn’t one iota of the fear that you expect of me. God would not show himself to me because his glory would consume me. No one except Moses ever saw God and lived. The Prophets wrote those words. I believe the words of the Prophets and submit to the covenants God made with mankind. I believe in the Triune Godhead. That God was made manifest as Jesus the Son, primarily for my sake. I believe in the resurrection of Jesus as a promise of the Old Testament, that the Son of God would die for my sins, and that I am a child of God and would be a part of the union of Holy Spirit and live eternally.” Cameron caught her breath. She was breathing in fits and starts, gulping air like a fish out of water, which is how she felt. Her statement was so lame.
Lucifer kept his gaze fixed on Cameron. “Go on”, he prodded.
Cameron realized that she had become very calm despite the pulsing in her neck and her miserable confession, and realized too that her mouth was a bit dry, but she continued to speak. “I have always followed the 10 Commandments as rules to live by and I believe that I have adhered to them for the most part. That is what I believe and those things I have cherished in my heart all my life so how can you say that I don’t belong in that other group. Surely you can’t deny me all that I have said?”
“No I cannot, but saying that you believe is only half of the defense. You have outlined the beliefs of Christianity, but tell me one personal experience with your invisible God and send me on my way. You rattled off all those rules and regulations of the Christian Church, yet Cameron it means nothing. I don’t see God in any of that.”
A numbness rose in Cameroon’s throat. He was right to say so. Any fool can memorize words and repeat them at will or even randomly. She began to be troubled. She realized that she was not putting up an airtight defense and would be dragged off to Hades in short order. She pushed the chair back and went for a bottle of water. The cold water slaked her very dry throat but did not seem sufficient to quell the heat that was building in her neck region. Cameron paced around the dining table. Her shoulder tightened viciously but she remained upright.
“God please help me”, the words flared in her heart. “I know that you hear me. I know you exist. I know that you listen. Remember the time with mama? You listened and you intervened. Then there was the 9/11 situation when you guided me to safety and kept me company throughout the furnace. Remember how I talked to you the whole time and how you comforted me at every turn? You were listening to me God. Even the ancients knew that you listen. Seneca himself declared, “For who listens to us in all the world, whether to be friend, or teacher, brother or father or mother, sister or neighbor, son or ruler or servant? Does he listen, our advocate, or our husbands or wives, those who are dearest to us all? Do the stars listen?”
‘God, I don’t need to tell you what Seneca said, I only wanted to make the point that you have always listened to us and best of all, answered our call. Come to me now my Father and save me from destruction. This destruction sitting at my table. Help me O God, or I will perish.”
The noise rushed through Cameron’s ears like a hurricane. She felt faint and held the water bottle tightly. Lucifer never took his eyes from Cameron once. He watched her pace around the table. He heard her pleas and saw her indiscretions glide by slowly. Cameron saw them too and was filled with remorse. The last thing Cameron recalled was Seneca’s final statement,
“Is there no one to listen? You ask. Ah yes, there is one who listens, who will always listen. Hasten to him, my friend. He waits on the hill for you.”
Lucifer had heard enough. He realized that the jig was up. He let go of Cameron’s heart muscles because she was one of the ones that prayed to the Listener. Cameron fell out of the bed with a thud and a groan. For a few seconds she was totally confused. Did Lucifer push her as he ran from the kitchen in his bid to escape the greater Specter that was more of a burning fire? A warm steady light. It was so comforting.
Cameron lay awake on the floor for a long time and recalled the dream. What a nightmare, what a bloody nightmare. She noticed a single white feather on the floor beside her. Was it a warning or a reminder? no telling with that creature.