Something dark and unspeakable crept and coiled its way toward Angel Falls, Texas. Invisible to the human eye, it spread itself over the area, twined oily arms around the small town and wrapped it in a suffocating, unholy embrace.
The quaint location looked the same as always. Clean streets fronted well-maintained homes and businesses. In the town square, brightly colored flowers exploded from large planters hanging on each of at least a dozen old-fashioned street lamps. People went about their lives as if nothing had changed. They opened their shops and offices, greeted friends and customers, played their games and made their deals.
Above their heads, the brooding presence hung like a pregnant cloud, from which an occasional tentacle of darkness spiraled downward into specific groups of people.
Near its center, the darkness whirled and pulsed with chaotic energy. This portion of the townâ€™s unknown visitor hung directly over a large building topped by a tall steeple. A gold cross towered at the apex of the steepleâ€™s point, and the angry cloud seemed unable to hold its shape and density over that gleaming symbol. It tried. Tendrils of darkness twined toward each other, reaching, straining for a grip. But a constant flow of pure, white, bright power foiled every attempt to mend that one weak spot in the roiling entity.
A large sign at the intersection of Halo Street and Harp Avenue identified the steepled building as The Falls Tabernacle. On a large marquee at the front of the property, scrolling letters spelled out a verse of Scripture: Psalm 91:11â€”For He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
If any seed of truth lies within those words, there might yet be hope for Angel Fallsâ€¦.
Aria Robbins stepped outside the door of her little cottage in the popular Heartâ€™s Haven rental complex, and immediately gasped for breath. The air felt weighty, pushing against her with an almost palpable force as she plodded through it to the cheery red pony car waiting in the driveway. She paused, one hand on top of the classic vehicle she babied with quiet pride, the other shading her eyes as she ran a quick visual scan of the complex.
Nothing looked out of place. Hers was the only cottage with a car out front, so the other tenants had gone off to work or playâ€¦whatever they did while she worked her two part-time jobs every day. Across the lot, her landlord, eccentric octogenarian Andrew Hart, knelt in one of his treasured flowerbeds, a trowel in one hand. But he wasnâ€™t working. Head cocked to the side in a curious, attentive posture, he gazed up into the sky as if studying something in the cloudsâ€”except that there were no clouds.
Aria shrugged and climbed behind the wheel. Who knew what Hart was thinking?
Rumor had it the old guy carried on conversations with angelsâ€”who actually made themselves visible to him. Well, why not? Angels were real. She couldnâ€™t claim to believe the Bible and not believe in Godâ€™s special messengers. Sheâ€™d never seen one, but that didnâ€™t mean they werenâ€™t out there.
As for Hartâ€¦well, the old fellow kept mostly to himself, didnâ€™t have a lot to say to anyone other than his wife Vivâ€”an outgoing, friendly, utterly sweet woman about as unlike her husband as a wife could possibly be. But they seemed happy, and Aria loved seeing them together. Strange he might be, but old Hart had made Heartâ€™s Haven one of the most sought-after rental-cottage complexes in the state. Aria had considered herself blessed when her application was accepted, and sheâ€™d moved into the friendly community last month.
She flipped on the air conditioning and turned the dial to high. Little trickles of perspiration slid down the back of her neck, and she shook her head. May was brand new. Her dad would say spring had barely sprung, and yet this heavy heat felt more like late July. Something seemed...off. The unseasonal humidity was unlike any sheâ€™d ever feltâ€”and Aria was East Texas born and bred. She knew humidity.
Well, heat or not, humidity or whatever, she had a job to get to. Two of them. She loved the work she did at both places of employment, but it had been a tough week, and Aria was firmly on board with the whole TGIF thing today.
Arriving at The Falls Tabernacle, she entered the church office, tossed her purse under the desk and switched on the computer before she even sat down. When her screen opened up, the weird weather and the day of the week became the furthest things from her mind. All she could see, hear, feel or think was focused on the e-mail message plastered in easy-to-read, eighteen-point Helvetica font all the way across the twenty-inch monitor sheâ€™d absolutely love-love-lovedâ€¦until this very moment.
Good morning, Aria! I heard this amazing song yesterday. Itâ€™s phenomenal! Went ahead and picked up the sheet musicâ€¦which youâ€™ve already seen right there on your desk, right?
At this point in the unwelcome message, one of those ridiculous, animated smiley facesâ€”moronicons, in Aria-speakâ€”grinned at her like some kind of evil joker.
Her gaze swung from the computer screen to the sheet music centered squarely on her desk blotter. Without meaning to, she took in the songâ€™s title: â€śHe is Risen! Risen Indeed.â€ť
She clamped her lip between her teeth and returned her attention to the message.
Soâ€”now that youâ€™ve checked out the sheet music (because of course thatâ€™s what you did the moment I mentioned it), have you heard the song? Let me know what you think. Canâ€™t wait to hear what the Praise Team does with this one. CB
Aria snorted. â€śYou have got some nerve, Corbin Bishop!â€ť