In the woods, Simon Simple continued to run. Not that he thought anyone was chasing him yet. He just enjoyed running in his newly granted grace. No shamble, no clumsy run that made him look like a flailing chicken. Instead, a clean, direct stride with no wasted movement. He felt like he was flying.
Davey hung to him. The boy had stopped crying and buried his head against Simon Simple. Simon thought the little fellow was about to go to sleep, which would not be a bad thing all things considered, particularly when Simon considered the terrors the night would hold.
As he ran, he began to think. To consider all the possibilities that his previously limited intelligence had denied him. To think about his life and how -- by being his companions -- the Shining Ones had influenced him.
He altered his direction at an ancient oak tree and carried Davey away from the gnarled woods behind the Watts house into a true forest. Trees that had lived at least two hundred years or more. A green canopy overhead. Shaggy moss. The trees grew taller the further he went, and the air filled with mist.
In a small clearing circled by bone white stones, three Shining Ones waited. Simon stopped, catching his breath. He checked Davey; the sleeping boy didn't stir. Simon stepped in the circle. He placed the little boy on a long stone. Davey shifted and opened his eyes, and seeing Simon, smiled a sleepy smile before drifting off again.
"I've had time to think," Simon said, still watching Davey.
Yes? The Shining Ones glanced at each other and waited.
"What if I kept running?" Simon asked softly. "What if I didn't stop until Davey was several states away? Would he be safe then?"
Perhaps, the first Shining One said. Is that your decision? If the Shining Ones had been humans, they would have held their breath.
"Will I lose my ... intelligence if I do?" Simon asked.
The second Shining One shook her head. What gifts have been granted would remain. You could live a good life. Perhaps marry and have children of your own. You could be happy. She paused. We would not condemn you for choosing happiness over pain and death, dear Simon.
Simon looked at her. "If you hadn't made me so smart," Simon said, "I'd choose that. I'd have a good life. Davey would have a good life." He smiled sadly. "But I can see plainly there would be a cost to my decision."
Yes, she said.
"What would happen to Nate and Bettie?"
They would be lost, the second one said.
"And Mattie? Jacob?" He stopped as his mind put together things he remembered but had previous lacked the ability to understand. Those nights Mattie had slipped out and returned early in the morning. Her strange comments at times to the children. Things she whispered under her breath. Her fits of temper and the remorse afterwards. He looked at the Shining Ones with stricken eyes. "Mattie! I didn't realize ..."
Do not judge her harshly, the third Shining One said. She is young and lonely. She is only seeking comfort. She doesn't understand what she has carried into her home. All humans make decisions that impact their future. None of them know the consequences of their simplest choices until time passes.
Simon closed his eyes. "If I choose to be happy, if I choose to take Davey to safety, everyone else suffers."
It is not all your burden, the first Shining One said. They have choices, also. No one future is set. But a handful of futures are more likely if you choose your happiness. In those handful, the children and their parents are irrevocably lost.
"So I must sacrifice myself to save them," Simon said. "This new world, my new future, the limitless possibilities ... I have to give it up."
It always comes to sacrifice, Simon, the third Shining One said. We do not know why humans have to purchase wisdom with pain. Nor life with sacrifice. But that is the way of this world. Simon, you don't have to choose this path.
Simon looked at him bleakly. "Yes, I do. Nate, Bettie ... Mattie, Jacob, they're my family." He half-smiled. "Surely they're worth whatever I have to pay, but before I do this, I require a promise."
If it is within our power, we will grant it, the second Shining One said. The first one looked at her, but did not speak.
"Protect Davey," Simon said.
We will try -- she started to say.
"No," Simon interrupted. "Promise to keep him safe. For me. Let that be my price."
We cannot promise-- the third one started.
We will protect him, the first one said. As we have said, so will it be.
The other two Shining Ones looked at him briefly and then repeated his words. As we have said, so will it be.
"Thank you," Simon said. He took a deep breath. "Now, what do I do next?"
First, we must tell -- now that you've made your decision -- that more lives hang in the balance than you might have realized, the first one said. The fallen ones have chosen this town to wage a conflict. If we fail, the evil unleashed here will spread. It will eat away the morality of thousands and create a nightmare where unspeakable horrors will be the norm. The first one stepped forward. We cannot allow that to occur. We must stand here or there will be nowhere left for anyone to stand.
Copyright 2015 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.