Louisa and Jordan ask Brian to let the doctor check him out because he admits he feels strange after the ritual. Andre shows the others the videos and Marissa’s overly religious father is sure it’s demonic possession. His wife gives him a good talking to.
The adults and teens sat in mute shock as the scene unfolded before them. Fortunately, the children were enjoying the lovely fall day outside with the dogs.
Nadine Pennybaker stood, marching over to her husband on the other side of the room. Shaking her finger under his nose, she continued. “This ends today, this very second. You can be Mr. Religion all you want, but you leave me and our daughter out of it. Marissa has a place in all this. She’s been chosen. I’ve taught her what I could on the sly, camouflaging it so you wouldn’t know, but she’s got a place to fill, a job to do. She can’t do it with you hollering about demon possession and all that other crap!”
Nadine turned to the rest of the group. “I apologize for this. It should have been a family matter, but I can’t stand listening to it another minute. So, Harold, what’s it to be? Can you set this nonsense aside and focus on the real problem?”
“I’m sorry, Nadine. I thought I was. This is serious! That boy could be injured or sick in the head. We did this to him. Us and that witch doctor from the Outback.”
“Dr. Meru is a well respected historian who lives in Sydney,” Andre stated calmly. “And your wife’s right. This isn’t helping Brian. You’ve got some mad skills, Mr. Pennybaker. Skills we need.”
“You don’t have to be scared of this, Daddy,” Marissa said quietly. “I was terrified until last night. Brian took on that job, even though he didn’t want to. I know he was scared, but he did it. Whatever experience he had, it was fantastic! He’s not possessed—I know Andre can confirm this. There’s not another person inside him. I can see it. It’s like Heath said, he’s got a Rider.”
“A Rider is like a demon on your back,” her father protested.
Marissa stamped her foot. “No, it isn’t! Must you be so utterly obtuse? Let me put this in terms your primitive little brain can understand, okay?”
Her father crossed his arms, glaring at her. Andre and Chase moved closer to Marissa. Chase took her hand in both of his, nodding at her to continue.
“The Rider, Heath mentioned, it’s energy. You know how pirates are always depicted with a parrot on their shoulders?” She cast about the group for a response.
The others nodded. It was a familiar, comfortable image.
“A Rider is like that. Like this little bird perched on your shoulder. It’s not there to cause trouble or hurt you or anyone else in any way. It’s an observer. It would be like the Google maps guy who walks around with the camera on his head.”
The young people chuckled softly, understanding that image even better.
“Maybe he was sent by the Peddler. Maybe he is the Peddler. Whatever’s the case, he’s here to help. I can see it.”
Jackie and Andre exchanged a look.
“Whatever it is, it’s changed his aura,” Jackie said. “Not in a bad way. It’s like he’s got this golden—something….”
Andre motioned toward his right shoulder. “Here. Like the parrot. It glows white hot. It’s not dangerous.”
“It’s pure good,” Jackie concluded. “They can run tests, but it’s not something to worry about.” She went to Maribelle, hugging her. “Brian is fine, Mamie. Whatever the Rider is, it’s here to protect him—to protect us. If it was evil, don’t you think one of us would have spotted it? Or the dogs? They are better judges of evil than any human I know.”
Harold Pennybaker tossed up his hands in disgust. “I see no one will listen to the voice of reason.”
“When you’ve got something reasonable to say, Harold, we’ll listen,” his wife snapped. “Meanwhile, I’ll pray for a change of heart for you. We need everyone at a hundred percent capacity. You can’t pretend this isn’t real. Everything we’ve seen in the last year, should convince you.”
He hung his head, shaking it.
Marissa took her father’s hand. “It’s okay to be afraid, Daddy. We’re all scared.”
He put his arms around his wife and daughter. “Do you think I’m scared for myself? Never for a minute. I’m terrified of losing the people I love. You’re all I’ve got. If anything happened to you, it would kill me. Forgive me for hiding behind God, baby girl.” He kissed Marissa’s brow. “He is our shield and protector. I wanted His strength to aid us.”
“No one’s denying God’s existence, Daddy. We’re just spreading our faith. Who’s to say God didn’t put us here? Seems to me, the world is a mess and needs all the help it can get.”
Harold kissed his daughter’s forehead. “How’d you get so wise?”
“I listened to you and Mama.”
Harold chuckled. “My friends, I apologize for the drama. I got so snarled up thinking this was wrong, I couldn’t see what was right.”
Everyone hugged everyone else. Maribelle’s phone rang. It was Miles.
“Hey, darlin’,” he greeted her when she answered. “He just got out of the MRI. It looks good, according to Claude. The radiologist has to do her thing with it, but Claude watched the whole procedure and said he’s never seen a prettier brain.” He paused for a moment. They could hear another voice, a woman’s, speaking. “Doctor Rosenthal agrees. Beautiful brain. That’s a relief, anyway. They did blood work and so on, but won’t have the results on that for awhile. We’re checking out now and should be on our way home in an hour at the latest. We’re probably going to stop for lunch. We’re starving.”
© 2017 Dellani Oakes