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The Visitor--an inspirational short story series

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For The Strength of Youth

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    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
Submitted by Steven ODell on 12 January 2009 - 4:16pm.

The Forest
Steven G. O'Dell © 2008

It was quiet in the forest tonight. Too quiet. There was no wind, no chirping of crickets, no sound at all. Alexi stood a few feet beyond his porch and stared up at the stars. It was exceptionally bright tonight. Quiet and bright. The stars seemed close enough to allow one to reach up and touch them. There was something different about this night—more than the quiet and the clear sky and bright stars. What was it?

A distant sound now reached Alexi's ears. It sounded as if someone were walking up the path toward his cabin. He strained his eyes in the direction of the sound, but saw no light approaching. How could that be? He was far from any city and only a fool or a man wanting complete and utter solitude would be out here. Alexi grimaced as he wondered if perhaps he were a fool to be here. And just as quickly came the reassurance that he wanted to be alone, a desire that was about to be violated.

“Who is there?” Alexi called out into the darkness. No answer, but the sound of boots kept coming closer. “Answer me or I will shoot!”

“No need for that. I am a friend.”

The voice was still some distance away, but closing in. Alexi was annoyed at the intrusion. How could anyone have found him out here and in the dark? It was impossible. And then the thought struck that perhaps this man had night vision goggles. Perhaps he was KGB. Or worse, if such a thing were possible.

“Who are you? Identify yourself or I will shoot you!” Again he called out.

“My name is John. John Servant. Do not shoot me.” The voice was almost upon him now. Alexi shook with a mixture of fear and anger. And he kept wishing he had a gun in his hand right then.

“What do you want?”

“Only a place to sleep for the night. Perhaps a bite to eat in the morning. May I?” The voice stopped right before him, yet it was too dark to clearly see this man. He appeared to be an inch or two shorter than Alexi and solidly built. His voice was anything but threatening, yet Alexi knew that an agent of the government would have been trained to be calm in all situations and speak in a manner as smooth as glass. Alexi did not trust easily. Yet he must see this man and size him up more accurately.

“Alright. Come in and let me see your face.” He spoke matter-of-factly, as distant as he was authoritative. The stranger followed carefully as Alexi backed toward the cabin. As he opened the door, the light from the lantern disclosed the features of the stranger. He was pleasant looking enough and seemed unarmed, from what Alexi could see. No bulges in his light coat. “What are you doing out here, so far from a city?”

“I might ask you the same thing.” The stranger smiled.

“That's my business and no one else's.”

“And I could answer the same to that question, as well.” He was still smiling when he asked the next question. “You don't trust very easily, do you? I would think a man would be very lonely out here. Don't you ever miss human contact?”

“Why should I? What have humans ever done that they did not eventually bring a curse on themselves for?” He turned to his chair and motioned abruptly for John to sit across from him.
The visitor obliged easily.

“I guess that is your business, after all, but it is a miserable way to live, if you ask me.”

“You will be leaving in the morning?” There was no warmth in his question, only impatience.

“Yes, Alexi. In the morning.”

Alexi stiffened suddenly. This man knew his name! All his red flags were in the air now. Something was wrong. He wondered for a brief moment if he should jump and get his handgun, but the new man spoke to allay his fears.

“Relax, Alexi. I have not come to harm you in any way. I am here to help you. To instruct you. There are those who have your best interests at heart.”

“How do you know my name? From where have you come? And how did you get here without any lantern or flashlight?”

John laughed aloud. “Which of those shall I answer first?” His manner was non-threatening and Alexi found himself involuntarily relaxing, as John had suggested. I know your name because I was sent with a message from your family. I have come a very long way to talk to you. And I have no need of light when God guides my steps. Now, it is my turn—why do you live so far out here in the forest, miles from civilization?”

“No,...first you will tell me which of my family members sent you. You will understand if I do not easily accept such a story.”

“I was sent by a vast number of your ancestors, Alexi. And at God's request. My mission is to help you to help them.”

“My ancestors? You are mad—I can see that now. Only a madman makes such claims and stumbles about in the dark.” His eyes never left John for a moment and he was on alert again.
John took a deep breath and sighed aloud. “Alexi...do not be so tiring. I have little time and you will hurt a lot more people than yourself, should you persist in being so stubborn. You must listen to me closely and trust me. The time for mistrust is over, if you know what is good for you.”

The man spoke to Alexi as if he were a troublesome child. No one had spoken to him that way since he was a boy. The man did not act mad, Alexi had to admit. And what did it cost him to listen? There was something fascinating about a madman who didn't appear to be mad. What a contradiction.

John continued, “Many of your family lived through the years of Communism and the Cold War, Alexi. They did what the government told them, when it told them and how it told them. They were little more than slaves.”

“Have you come to give me a history lesson? I know these things like I know my own face. You tell me nothing new.”

“You then know that they were all very devout Christians, but had to conceal their devotion from the government. The churches were little more than museums and were only attended when the Party had to show off the 'freedom' of it's citizens to some outside visitor.”

It was true. Alexi cringed for some unknown reason. It made him uncomfortable, even now that this period of their history was behind them.

“Alexi, your family tried to keep their faith alive and true, but it was difficult without the means to read the teachings of Christianity. It was too difficult to get the books and too dangerous to keep them. They spoke only in whispers and after seventy years of partial teachings, many of the details were lost. The entire nation suffered this same fate, Alexi.”

“What am I to do about it?”

“You are to be a savior to your ancestors, Alexi. It will be a great blessing to you and to them. You will do what they cannot do for themselves. There is soon to be built a great temple to the most high God. It will be a building unlike any that you have ever seen. In the House of God will be performed many necessary ceremonies and covenants that will seal your family to you and to one another, allowing you all to return to the presence of God, your Father. You can feel that what I say is true, Alexi. That is because you have a royal blood running in your veins and the Holy Ghost is witnessing to you that I speak the truth.”

The man did speak with an assured authority. And Alexi was drawn in, against his will, to believe John's words.

“A royal blood? Are you saying that I am heir to the throne? I am no Czar. The royal line is all dead, so far as I know.”

“Not that throne, Alexi. You have the blood of Israel in your veins. Your family is of that descent and as such, they have the promises of God to them and their posterity. He will keep His covenants and never forget. The time has come for that great blessing, Alexi, and you are to be a part of it. I am here to help you fulfill the measure of your calling. Are you ready to learn?”

“Yes...I will listen to you.” He was more calm of spirit now. Never had he heard such words. It fascinated him, yes, but there was something more. There was a power to it and the promise of a better life. He could feel it in his soul.

The discussion and lessons went on all night. Alexi was surprised when he suddenly noticed daylight pouring through the window. But he had been entranced with what he heard. There was nothing to do but to listen and to ask questions, the answers to which had calmed his troubled spirit. Perhaps there was hope for happiness in this life, after all. And perhaps there was a better life in the next world, as well.

Alexi had become the good host and had cooked a substantial breakfast for John and himself. John had blessed the food and Alexi, noting his mission that was now to be completed.

“You know that you will soon need to find a home near the temple site, do you not?”

“I...yes, I guess I do.” To hear it voiced aloud was a surprise.

“And you will need to locate the missionaries to teach you in further detail, so that you may be baptized, when the time is right. You have a great work to do, Alexi. Do not fail God, for He will not fail you.”

John rose and took Alexi by the hand in a firm grip of brotherhood. A sudden sadness came upon Alexi as he realized that the man who had been a stranger and a perceived threat was now a brother leaving him and would be sorely missed. Only God could make such a change in a man's heart in so short a time.

“I leave the blessings of God upon you, Alexi, wherever you may be called to go. Go in peace.”

“And you, my new brother, John.” He grabbed John and embraced him in a manly hug and when he let go, there was a tear in his eye that bore witness to the great change he had made in so few hours.

Alexi waved to John and watched as he disappeared into the forest again. His prayers now went with this man that had been unwelcome but hours before. Alexi stood a few feet beyond his porch and looked skyward once again, hearing the birds and this time thinking what a beautiful day it was going to be.

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