Forever 1.8: Psalm 23, Mercy

            Glen pushed through the prickers and burrs until he came to a dead patch.  He thought that was a bit of grace when he first saw the weeds quit and only patches of hardy grass ahead, until he got to it and realized it was an oil slick, and maybe tar.  The oil was hard to navigate.  There were pools from waist deep to over his head that he dared not slide into.  But the tar was worse.  Glen could only envision getting stuck and sucked under like quicksand.  Glen imagined the consternation of the archeologist who dug him up in the future beside the dinosaur bones.  That brought a chuckle, but made him all the more careful.

             Glen managed to get through that area with only one minor mishap.  He slipped, careful as he was, but he kept himself from falling into a pool of black crude by grabbing on to one of those stubborn bits of grass.  His face fell forward and slapped against the oil.  He came up sputtering and wiping the awful stuff from his mouth, nose and eyes.  All he could think was it can’t have helped his appearance. 

            After that, Glen saw the river on the surface of the land.  He got excited.  He ran to the edge of the chasm, but found only a cliff where the river cascaded down to the bottom in a great waterfall.  He tried to think.  He could not imagine how that chasm was made, but it seemed there were cliffs on both ends and all along the sides.  At the end where Glen started, the hedge made crossing impossible.  Now, the waterfall did the same thing.  The river was much too swift and wide and deep for him to navigate. 

            Still, it was water, and without too much thought, Glen washed off all the briars, oil and cleaned his reopened wounds.  He drank, not caring if the water was poison itself.  He drank until his stomach was full.  Only then did he think that a stomach full of water was not so wise.  He still had to travel.

            He moved on until he came to a little bit of a rise.  It was the first break in the flat land he had been traveling.  He paused at the top for a good look and two things caught his eye.  The first was near, on the other side of the rise.  It was the big man with the dark hair, dark eyes and cut beneath his left eye who paused the day before long enough to beat Glen senseless.  At first Glen thought he was asleep.  But then Glen noticed the man was cut in any number of places and his shirt was torn off and lying nearby.  To be honest, he looked beaten far worse than Glen was ever beaten.  Glen suspected the man was unconscious, though not dead because his fingers still moved now and then and tapped against a rock.

            The other thing Glen saw was where the road on the other side of the river curved toward the water.  There was a bridge in the distance and the road rose up a ridge that stood watch over the river valley.  On top of that ridge was a tremendous dwelling.  It might have passed for a rustic hotel like one might find in a national park.  It might have been a monastery or nunnery.  It was big enough to be all three combined, only at the moment Glen did not care.  It represented in his mind food and shelter and a bed out of the wilderness.  He wanted nothing more than warm covers and sleep, hungry as he was.

            Glen’s eyes darted back to the man down below.  He took a deep breath.  Despite everything, he could not just leave him.  He went down, half-expecting the man to wake, but as he drew near he heard only one soft moan.  The eyes never opened.  Glen found the man’s shirt and went to the river to soak it.  He came back with it dripping and washed the man’s face where the blood was beginning to cake.  The man never woke.

            After his cuts were washed, Glen thought to turn him over.  He imagined if he was cut on the front he was likely cut on the back as well.  It took some effort to turn such a big man and a couple of moans on the part of both of them, but when the man was turned, Glen took a step back.  He had been whipped.  The marks were clear and deep.  Whole strips of flesh had been ripped off and Glen ran to the river several times and did all he could for the poor fellow. 

            At last, he wrung out the man’s shirt, but before he laid it over the man’s back.  Glen had a thought.  Even wrung out, the wet shirt would not offer much protection.  He glanced again at the distant building to be sure it was not an hallucination, and then took off his own, relatively dry shirt and laid it gently against the man’s back.  Then he spoke.

            “I’ll be back,” Glen said.  “I’ll get help.  Just hang in there.”  Glen did not want the man to die.

            Glen found then that his legs had more in them than he imagined.  He could only walk, but it was at a good pace, especially after he came out from the bushes and found himself on soft, green grass.  He hustled and scrambled up the ridge.  He fell to his knees over and over before he made it to the top.  He huffed and puffed, but bent over, with one hand on his knee, reached up and clapped the knocker three times against the great wooden door.  He did not have to wait long.

            A man came.  Glen supposed it could not be helped that the doorman appeared to be an angel.  He was dressed all in white, and he had a most welcoming smile before it turned into a frown.

            “There is a man,” Glen started to speak and pointed back the way he came, but the one in the doorway interrupted.

            “You are late.  Where have you been?  There is no excuse.  You were expected yesterday.”

            A second angel came up and a third, but Glen’s mind was stuck.  “There is a man,” he started again, while the two newcomers reached for Glen as if they intended to carry him inside if necessary.  Glen backed away.  He would not budge until he delivered his message and they just had to wait until he got it all out.

            “Don’t worry,” the first angel said.  “We will send others to fetch him.”  Glen nodded, and then he was not sure what happened.  He probably passed out.

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