© 2009 Sandra Pavloff Conner


When they went inside, Noah decided maybe it would be best to have David get ready for bed before the movie, figuring it was late enough that his guest would probably be asleep before the end. But within a few minutes they were sitting on the sofa with their feet propped up, watching a good old-fashioned cowboy show. Halfway through, Noah put a bag of popcorn in the microwave, but before David’s bowl was empty, he was sound asleep, still in a sitting position with the bowl on his lap. Noah relieved him of the bowl and picked him up carefully, carrying him into the second bedroom and putting him into the twin bed.

Back in the living room, Noah sat down in front of the movie again, but he wasn’t watching it. His mind had gone back to the things David had told him about his day. Noah leaned over, resting his elbows on his knees and putting his face in his hands, letting out a painful sigh. Finally, he reached over and turned off the video and the TV. He stood and walked out onto the porch. He was too restless to sit still. He stepped off the porch and looked up at the night sky. The moon was almost full, and the stars were so brilliant they seemed almost within arms’ reach.

Usually looking up into that vast panorama filled him with a special kind of peace, but tonight, he couldn’t capture it. There was no peace for Noah Bennett. Not now — not after what David had told him. “Why here, Lord? Why now? You know . . . You know I can’t deal with it again!” He spoke softly, but his words carried pain in them. He took a few more steps into the yard. “Don’t expect me to get involved this time, Lord. I can’t. . . . I can’t!” He turned and walked out to the corral to check on Moondancer. The horse had been for the ride with David, but Noah could tell that he was eager to go for a moonlight run with Noah.

“Not tonight, buddy. We’ve got company, and I don’t want to leave David alone in the cottage.” He stood there petting the horse’s nose and then his neck. He finally leaned his head against Moondancer’s neck as if to draw some kind of solace. The horse whinnied softly, nuzzling Noah’s shoulder, sensing his master’s mood. At last Noah chuckled a little and pulled his head away from the horse. “You know me pretty well, don’t you, Boy?” He patted the horse’s nose once more. “We’ll go for a run in the moonlight tomorrow night. I promise,” he said and turned back to the cottage, hoping, somehow, he could get himself to sleep before dawn.

The following Wednesday morning, at the Library Club, David was upset to find out that they were going to hear more from the same book that Lacey had read from on Monday. This time the events she read about were gruesome as well as evil, and after several minutes, David covered his ears so that he couldn’t hear it very well. He noticed that Trent was listening, but he didn’t want to say anything to him and cause Lacey to stop and scold him for talking, so he just tried to put his mind on other things.

After the snack, Miss Parker sat them down and explained a new game she said they would really like. “The name of this game is ‘Inside Myself,’ and when you play it, you get to find out what all kinds of interesting things there are inside of everyone of you.” She told them about some other students who had played it and met some special spirit guides who lived inside of them. “It’s been very exciting,” she said. “You just have no idea who or what you might meet until you play the game a few times.”

David and Trent looked at each other with a look in their eyes that suggested maybe Miss Parker had lost her mind. And David was surprised that three other kids from his church were in the club and seemed to be agreeing with everything Miss Parker said.

“Now,” she continued to ease them into the game, “I’m going to turn off the lights, and I want you to lie down, close your eyes, and get completely still.” When the students had all complied with her instructions, lying on little rug mats that she had provided, she spoke again. “Now I want you to try to picture all the thoughts in your mind and all the feelings that you are feeling right now as little birds or butterflies. . . . Concentrate. . . . Can you see them, flitting around in your head?” One or two of the children answered, “Yes.”

“No, don’t talk,” she said. “Just listen and do as I say, and when I ask you something, just answer in your own mind, but don’t make any sounds. Now, I want you to picture every one of those little birds or butterflies flying out of your head one at a time, and then your mind will be empty. Make sure you imagine any anger or fear or any other feelings the same way and see them fly away.” She paused for several minutes and then continued.

“Now I want you to listen to this word that I say over and over, and then I want you to begin to say it with me.” David listened, but what Miss Parker was saying didn’t sound like any words he’d ever heard. It was some weird sound, between a word and a sort of loud humming sound. He sneaked his eyes open and looked at Trent. His friend was lying there with his eyes closed, but he wasn’t trying to say the word either. And David certainly wasn’t going to do so. He didn’t feel good about any of this. He didn’t really know why, of course. He was too young to really understand that the Holy Spirit inside of him was guarding him from all of this. He just knew that it made him uncomfortable, and that his Aunt Serie wouldn’t approve of it.

After a few more minutes, Miss Parker said, “Now as you are saying this word, begin to imagine a being coming from deep inside of you, taking shape and coming into focus in your mind. This being will smile at you and may even reach out a hand toward you, and if you’ll concentrate really hard, you may even be able to hear it speak to you. . . . I want you to concentrate very hard.” All through the exercise, Miss Parker had kept her voice very quiet and soft, almost as if she were trying to put them to sleep, David thought — the way Aunt Serie did when she was reading him a story in bed at night.

Finally after what seemed like a long time to David, Miss Parker said, “All right now, students, in your own mind, with your thoughts only, I want you to ask this being what its name is, and then the very first name that comes into your mind will be the answer to your question.” So she gave them time to carry out her instructions, and then said. “That’s enough of the exercise for today, so I want you to smile at your new friend and think the words, ‘I’ll see you again soon,’ and then let the being drift away, back down inside of you. Keep your eyes closed until your new friend is completely gone, and then you may open your eyes and sit up.”

One by one the students began to sit up, and David and Trent followed suit. David looked at Trent again, and they both grinned at each other and rolled their eyes. Miss Parker got up from her chair and turned on the lights. “Now, the last thing I want you to do is take out a piece of paper and write down the name of your new friend and then write one or two lines describing him or her or it. Then, if your friend told you anything, I’d like for you to write down what it was, and turn the paper in on my desk as you leave. Also, don’t forget, Wednesdays are the days to check out a book to take home and read. Two of the eighth graders will help you find what you want. Now sit down at a table and start writing while everything’s fresh on your mind.

David and Trent went to a table together and sat down. David took a piece of paper out of his notebook and then handed one to Trent, whispering. “I didn’t see anything, did you?”

“Nope,” Trent said, shaking his head. “I don’t think I like this game.”

“Me either. And I don’t think Aunt Serie is going to like it either.”

“What are you going to write?” Trent whispered.

David thought for a moment and then began to print one short sentence. When he was done he pushed the paper over for Trent to read. Unfortunately, Trent couldn’t hold back a giggle when he read, “I didn’t see anything” written on David’s paper.

“Boys, no talking or giggling,” Miss Parker admonished from across the room where she was already beginning to read some of the papers the students had turned in.

Trent hurriedly wrote on his own paper, “I didn’t see anything or anybody. Sorry.”

Both boys laid their papers on the desk in the midst of several other students doing the same thing at the same time, so Miss Parker didn’t have time to see what was on David’s and Trent’s. She was talking with one of the girls about her paper anyway and seemed very pleased at what the girl had written. She was one of the students that went to David’s church, and he wondered how she could be so eager to take part in all of this. But his next thought was that he wanted to check out a book to take home before the time was up, so he and Trent began to wonder in and out of the rows of bookshelves, trying to choose.

Trent selected a junior level biography of a baseball hero, and David chose a story about a palomino pony. The boy behind them asked for one of the Sally Stone books, but the eighth graders manning the library desk said that all of them were checked out already. Gosh, thought David. That meant a bunch of these kids really did like reading those stories. He just shook his head in confusion at that thought, and by that time, Miss Parker was lining everyone up to leave for the day.

About thirty minutes later, when Elizabeth brought David home, she asked Serenity if she had a minute to talk. Serenity assured her that she did and insisted that Elizabeth and Trent stay for lunch. Since the boys were usually starved by the time they reached home, the women decided to eat first and then have their talk afterwards, but Elizabeth couldn’t keep from asking Serenity one question while they were putting food on the table.

“Did David tell you what all the children did at the Library Club on Monday?”

“He told me most everything, I think, and I’m pretty sure what your next question is. Did it cause me to be concerned about whether I should keep sending him? And the answer is yes, but Gramps and I decided to let him try going one more time and see what happened, in case the events on Monday were an isolated event.”

Elizabeth nodded her head. “That’s pretty much what Luke and I decided, but when I picked the boys up today, they started right in telling me everything that happened as fast as they could. If it’s all right with you, I’d like to let them tell you and Clint while we eat, and then maybe we could discuss what we ought to do about it.”

“That sounds like a good idea. I’ll call Gramps from

upstairs if you’ll yell at the boys to come in and get washed up.”

So over lunch, both boys talked — taking turns — mainly because that was the only way either one could have time to take a few bites of food. Otherwise, they probably would have been talking at the same time, stumbling over each other trying to tell everything. Serenity could see that both boys were disturbed by what had been going on at the school library, and she made up her own mind right then that David would not be going back. But when they had finished their story and had been given permission to go outside, she waited for Elizabeth to say something first.

“Would you think I was being foolish or alarmist if I said that I don’t think I can send Trent back into that?”

Serenity reached out and laid her hand on her friend’s. “Absolutely not! That’s exactly what I’ve decided as I’ve been listening to all of this. Furthermore, I think it’s time I had a talk with Miss Parker and maybe Mr. Kelso. Would you like to come along?”

“Yes, I think I would. Let me run all this by Luke this evening, just in case he has any good reason to object to that plan, but I’m pretty sure he’ll be a hundred percent in favor of it.”

“Can we go out now?” David asked, since he and Trent were finished eating.

“Sure, just don’t play too hard until your food settles,” Serenity answered, and both boys headed for the door.

“How to do feel about all of this situation, Gramps?” Serenity asked now.

“I don’t think you have any choice, Serie. David definitely doesn’t need to be in that kind of atmosphere on a regular basis, and I think we need to know if this program is indicative of the kind of things he’ll be taught during the normal school year. We may just decide to home school him again this year . . . that is . . . unless you feel that you’d have to take him back to Ohio and put him in school there.”

Serenity turned to Elizabeth to explain that statement. “I lived in Cincinnati before I came here last fall, so that David could have this peaceful environment and his great-grandfather to help him recover from the loss of his parents. Gramps and I had been praying about whether I should move back now or stay on here for a while, and I had decided to stay, assuming David could go to school at Hamsted. I don’t mind home schooling him, but I was just hoping he could make more connections with other children his own age if he went to a regular school.”

Elizabeth nodded her head in understanding. “Would you move back to Ohio if you don’t feel you can put him in school here then? I hope not,” she hurriedly added. “Luke and I would sure hate to lose you and David as close friends. We’ve felt so comfortable with all of you from the first time we met you, and Trent has never had a closer friend than David.”

“I know. Dave feels the same way. No . . . if I decide not to send him to Hamsted, I think I’ll still stay here, at least another year. He enjoyed the home schooling last year, so I don’t think it will cause any problems to just do that again.”

“Of course, there’s the Christian school in Barclay,” Elizabeth said. “But that is about a forty-five minute drive each way. I’m hesitant to take Trent that far every day for nine months. But it is an option, at least.”

“That’s true. I hadn’t really considered it, because I liked the people in Hamsted, and they seem to be very interested in keeping their school up to date and involved in the community. I thought perhaps it would be a good atmosphere for David, especially since we teach him so much about the Lord here at home. That, along with his involvement in everything at church that he can be involved in should cover any needs he has for spiritual training. But now . . . well . . . I guess the school in Barclay is something else to pray about.” She stopped and sat there in thought for a moment. “Maybe we’ll know more after we talk with the people at school.”

“Right,” Elizabeth said, getting up. “I’ll give you a call after I talk with Lucas, and maybe we can arrange to go tomorrow, before there’s another meeting of the Library Club.”

“Sounds good. I think the sooner the better.”

Clint spoke up then. “You know, what really bothers me is that David said there were three other kids from our church who go to that Club, and that they seem to be getting involved in everything that’s going on. I can’t understand that.”

“Me either,” Elizabeth said. “And come to think of it, Trent mentioned that he had seen several kids from our church at the club too.”

“Maybe we need to talk to our pastors too, and see if we can find out what’s going on,” Serenity said. “Although, I always hesitate to do that because I don’t want to sound like I’m talking about some other members of the congregation. Boy,” she added, shaking her head in a frustrated gesture, “this is starting to get complicated, isn’t it?”

Elizabeth chuckled slightly, trying to lighten the moment just a little. “Well, I’d say that probably means it’s prayer time again.” And with those words, she started to the door, Serenity rising by that time and following her.

“Trent,” his mother called to him across the yard, “it’s time to go, Hon.”

He and David came running up together, and Trent spoke first. “Do we have to go back to that dumb Library Club?”

“No, Honey,” Elizabeth said, brushing the hair off his forehead. “Serenity and I agree that you and David don’t need to go there anymore.”

“Yea!” they both shouted, obviously relieved and thrilled, and Serenity and Elizabeth just looked at each other, their concern so heavy that it was almost tangible.

Find Chapter Eight here tomorrow.

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