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Fire of HeavenCan One Couple's Love Save the World from the Attack's Hell
By Bill Myers
ZondervanCopyright © 2003 Zondervan
All right reserved.
PrologueKatherine Lyon wasn't sure if she'd heard her son scream or if she'd dreamed it. It didn't matter. She flung off the coarse wool blankets and hit the cold stones of the floor running.
There it was again. Faint, distant, but impossible to miss. It was her son and he was screaming.
Katherine grabbed her robe, raced to the wooden plank door, and threw it open. The first traces of pink reflected off the snow-covered mountaintops and filtered into the courtyard. Dawn was about to break, but she barely noticed. She turned left and ran across the second-story balcony toward the men's quarters. Once again she cursed the fact that they were separated. But Eric was thirteen now. The thickening fuzz on his face and his unsteady voice made it clear he was entering manhood. And segregation in the compound was expected, demanded.
Then there was the other matter ... the growing number of devotees who insisted upon calling him Master, or in some cases, God. Somehow it didn't seem fitting for God to continue rooming with his mother.
The two of them had been on their own for eleven years now. The first seven after Gary, her husband, was shot in the line of duty. The rest after Michael Coleman, a close friend, had laid down his life for them-but not before accidentally infecting Eric with a special DNA. A DNA that many believed to come from the blood of Christ.
Katherine passed two young women wearing sandals and loose colorful pants called punjabis. As disciples who were privileged to live within the compound, their joy, their pleasure, was to serve Eric and members of the Cartel. And they did so with unwavering devotion. Even now they carried pujaas, plates of colored rice and flowers, as an offering that would soon find its way outside Eric's quarters.
Initially, she and Eric had tried to shun the adoration. But their attempts were only mistaken as humility, which only offered more proof of his godhood. This along with his uncanny insight into other people's thoughts continued to deepen his followers' reverence. People talked, rumors spread, and the harder Katherine tried to clear the record, the greater the worship grew.
Breathing heavily, she reached the men's section. She rounded the corner and nearly ran into an armed guard stationed outside Eric's door. He was military but not from Nepal. No surprise there. More and more countries were offering their services in order to court the Cartel's favor. The soldier was simply one of a rotating group of international representatives. Southeast Asian, the best she could tell.
"What do you want?" His accent was thick. He was new and obviously unnerved from the screaming inside.
"I am the boy's mother," Katherine said, trying to catch her breath. Despite the number of months living here in the Himalayas, she had never entirely adjusted to the thinness of the air. She started for the door, but he blocked her path. She looked up, glaring at him. "My son is having a nightmare. If you don't let me in, you may bring his displeasure upon you." She took another gulp of air. "And I'm sure neither of us wants that, do we?"
It was a ploy she used more and more often. And, given Eric's recent outbursts of anger, it usually worked. Changes were happening with her son just as they had with their friend Michael Coleman. Although Eric's supernatural powers continued to grow, the tender mercy and compassion he'd once exhibited had begun to die. The deterioration that Coleman had fought in himself was now happening to her son. It was all Eric could do to control his hostility ... an unfortunate reversal and not-so- minor side effect of man trying to reproduce the genes of God.
There was another scream. Muffled this time, almost whimpering. Katherine's gaze remained fixed on the guard. She would not back down.
He shifted again, glancing around the courtyard, obviously hoping for someone to rescue him. But there was only Katherine. He took another breath, swallowed, then finally nodded and stepped aside.
Katherine brushed past him and threw open the door.
The room was several times larger than hers-an eclectic mixture of East meets West. Saffron silk drapes here, the latest computers and monitors stacked over there. A giant, blue-skinned Krishna statue leaned against one plastered wall, while posters of the latest rock idols were taped on another. And there, writhing and tossing in the giant four-poster bed, was young Eric.
Katherine raced to him, scooping him into her arms. He was still asleep and whimpered slightly until she began to rock him.
"Shh, now, shhh ..."
Instinctively, he wrapped his arms around her, clinging to her as he had when he was a baby. Emotion rose deep within Katherine, tightening her throat and making it ache. She'd read once that there was no love more pure than a mother for her child. She agreed. Despite his out-bursts, despite the embarrassments he caused, he was her son. He would always be her son.
"It's okay," she whispered hoarsely as they continued to rock. "It's just a dream, it's okay."
He stirred, then opened his eyes.
She kissed the top of his head. "Was it Heylel?" she whispered. "Did he show you something scary again?"
Eric gave no response but turned his head and continued to cling.
Katherine had her answer. Originally, she had been wary of Heylel's appearances to her son. But after listening to half a dozen experts on the subject who insisted Eric was communicating with his guardian angel or a spirit guide, and after reading another dozen books extolling the benefits of such communication, Katherine had begun to relax ... a little. As an embittered preacher's kid who was toying with returning to the faith, she could find nothing wrong with her son's experiences. Wasn't the Bible chock-full of angels speaking and directing people? Why should Eric, with his heightened sensitivity to the supernatural, experience anything less?
Heylel was careful never to reveal his exact identity. But, because of his piercing insight into political situations and the absolute accuracy of his predictions-which he communicated to the Cartel through Eric-several thought he might be the departed spirit of some military genius, perhaps Napoleon or Alexander the Great. Those with a vivid imagination suggested Eric could be channeling some wise and benevolent alien from another planet, while many with a more scientific bent suggested that Heylel was merely a subconscious extension of Eric's own supernatural giftedness.
It made no difference. The point is, everyone was positive Heylel was good-the books, the counselors, Eric, the specialists Katherine had insisted be flown in to examine him, the Cartel, everyone. Everyone ... except Katherine. Because, despite the overwhelming evidence, she still found something unsettling about the times Eric would give up control of his voice and become a channel for this entity to speak through.
Still, Heylel was always courteous, never abusive, and he always offered brilliant counsel. A counsel that the Cartel had grown more and more dependent upon. A counsel that this semisecret organization of international bankers, politicians, and world leaders was using for the betterment of all.
And yet ...
Katherine pushed back her son's damp hair and kissed him on the forehead. He did not pull away. She tried to lift him from the bed, but those days had long passed. He was far too heavy. Instead, she helped him to his feet and gently guided him toward the door.
"Come stay with me," she said softly. "Just for a while."
She was pleased Eric didn't resist as they headed for the door. God or no god, this frightened boy was going to spend the rest of the early morning hours with his mother.
Brandon bolted up in bed. He sat there for several seconds, catching his breath, waiting for the last of the nightmare to fade. It was always the same one. The one where he stood before the altar of his father's church con-fronting a giant serpent head. As always the vaporous specter had floated above the aisle, just a few feet before him. As always, it had opened its tremendous mouth in preparation to devour him. And, as always, Brandon stood terrified, staring helplessly into its throat, seeing a whirling vortex of human faces, fiery apparitions that twisted and distorted, faces screaming in agony as they swirled around and around, spiraling down into an end-less abyss.
The vision was horrifying. It always was.
So was the wind. The fierce, screaming wind that tugged at him, trying to draw him into the mouth. As in the other dreams he had spun around to grab hold of the altar, hoping his grip would somehow prevent him from being sucked into the throat, from joining those thou-sands of tortured, screaming faces.
The nightmare didn't come often, but when it did, it always left him cold and shaken. The reason was simple. It was identical to the confrontation he had actually had in his father's church over a year ago. Only, in that confrontation, his grip on the altar did not hold. The encounter had been fierce and excruciating. It had taken his father's life, and it had nearly destroyed his own.
But tonight, there had been another difference. As he clung to the altar, he had noticed some sort of crescent moon and five-pointed star carved into the wood. The image seemed vaguely familiar, but he couldn't place it. And, even now, as the last of the nightmare faded, the moon and star continued to linger in his mind.
He turned to the clock radio on his nightstand. It read 2:39. He wouldn't be able to go back to sleep, he was certain of that. He pulled off the damp sheet that still clung to his body, snapped on the light, and sat on the edge of the bed. Scattered on the floor around his feet were the remains of yesterday's newspaper. There were the usual headlines about the recent crash of the Tokyo stock exchange and fears that Wall Street and NASDAQ were following. Another article spoke of the masses of people starving from the drought. There was also something about the rapid spread of a new virus they'd nicknamed "Scorpion." Latest estimates were that 1.3 million of the world's Semite population, mostly Jews and Arabs, were already infected, and it was going to get a lot worse before it got better. Finally, there was another article on the progress Lucas Ponte and the Cartel were making toward world peace.
But yesterday's headlines were of little interest to Bran-don now. Now, his eyes were drawn to a pile of sketches on the dresser across the room. Sketches made by Gerty Morrison before she'd died. No one had taken the old woman seriously when she lived, but the prophecies she had given regarding Brandon and Dr. Sarah Weintraub had proven eerily correct, down to the tiniest detail. Still, the past prophecies were nothing compared to the ones she claimed were yet to be fulfilled. The ones insisting that both he and Sarah were the two end-time prophets mentioned in the Bible.
Of course, it took more than one woman's predictions to get them to take such a claim seriously, no matter how accurate those predictions had proven in the past. And God seemed only too happy to oblige with further evidence ... such as the words of other so-called prophets spoken over his mother when she was pregnant with him ... and the demoniacs who always screamed whenever he or Sarah entered their presence ... and the results of the paranormal tests Sarah had run on him when they'd first met ... and the showdown between heaven and hell that had killed his father and nearly taken his own life.
There was, however, one further piece of evidence, perhaps stronger than all of the others combined: the emergence of Brandon's own prophetic gifts. And, just as importantly, his newfound ability to heal the sick.
If God was trying to make a point, he'd certainly gone out of his way to do so. Yet, at the same time, he was frustratingly silent when it came to any details on the how or the when.
With a heavy sigh, Brandon rose from the bed and shuffled toward the pile of sketches. Many of them were detailed drawings Gerty had made of him at pivotal moments in his childhood. The fact that she had never seen him during this time made them even more compelling. But the last sketch was the one he and Sarah had found the most unsettling. He riffled through the pile until he found it. It was a sketch that featured both of them together. Their hair was cut short and they stood side by side in an ancient walled city. And hovering directly in front of them was the vaporous snake head of his dream. Its mouth was opened wide, and it was poised to devour them. But equally disquieting was that the ser-pent was held at bay by what looked like flames of fire ... spewing from Brandon's mouth.
Brandon stared at the sketch a long time before setting it back down on the dresser. Then, taking a deep breath and slowly letting it out, he glanced back at the time.
It was now 2:43.
He headed back to bed. He shut off the light and stared up at the ceiling. It was doubtful he'd be able to sleep, but he needed to try. After all, today was going to be a busy day. Busier than most.
Today, in just eleven hours and seventeen minutes, he and Dr. Sarah Weintraub were to become husband and wife.
Excerpted from Fire of Heaven by Bill Myers Copyright © 2003 by Zondervan
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.