By Charles Reis
Many people run from something. Maybe they run from their past, or from pain, or from evil itself. There are many reasons, but whatever is giving the chase, it always catches up. Nothing lasts forever, for all things have to come to an end… even if it takes centuries.
It took Kimberly over four hours to drive from her home in Rhode Island to Sleepy Hollow, but it was a trip that had to be made. She was on a mission to join her local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. After graduating from college, she got a job at a history museum in Newport and volunteered with several historical societies. Her patriotic passion drew her to the organization, but in order to join, she needed to be descended from someone who fought in the American Revolution. While her mother told her that she was, she had no documented proof. After nine months of research at libraries, historical societies, and state records, her search was getting close.
She was able to trace her lineage to a man named Peter Van Tassel, who was born in 1770 in Sleepy Hollow, then part of Tarrytown, but he moved to Newport, Rhode Island in 1791. While Peter was too young to fight in the war, Kimberly hoped his father, and her 7th great-grandfather, did serve. Unable to find records locally or on the Internet, she had no choice but to continue her search in Sleepy Hollow.
After spending a few hours at the Historical Society in Tarrytown and at the Sleepy Hollow Village Hall, Kimberly found her man: George Van Tassel. While she didn’t find a detailed military history, she found records and letters proving George served in the Continental Army under General John Sullivan. She even discovered where his burial plot was located.
With time to spare, Kimberly visited his gravesite at the burying grounds at the Old Dutch Church. As she drove there, she remembered the tale by Washington Irving and was surprised to see that Sleepy Hollow was quite developed, but after several hundred years things do change. In fact, the Headless Horseman Bridge was now a four-lane main road. However, the Old Dutch Church kept its historic look.
After talking to several people there, she learned that George and his wife Charlotte were active members of the parish, along with the extended Van Tassel family. An elderly man, who knew everything about the church and the Van Tassel family, led her to the gravesite of George. He was buried right next to his wife, and they died months apart in 1790—she died of fever in January while George died in April after a barn fire. Taking out her iPhone, Kimberly kneeled before the gravestone and took a picture of it. She posted it on Facebook with the headline “ My Ancestor, My American Patriot.” Mission accomplished! She now could join her patriotic organization. After making the post, she kissed her hand and placed it on the tombstone. She then looked at another one to her left.
Along with being buried next to his wife, George was also buried next to his younger brother, Christopher. Like George, Christopher joined the Continental Army, but was killed in battle in 1776. She looked at his gravestone, and with great respect she saluted it.
Kimberly figured it would be fun to check out graves of other prominent individuals. When she stood back up, she heard a female calling her, “Hello, can you hear me?” She heard the voice, but ignored it. This was not from one of the tourist, but rather from an otherworldly source. She knew the difference: an otherworldly voice was clearer and sounded closer to her ears.
Another spirit. She chose not to even look at it. Sometimes it was weeks before she heard or saw one. The more she ignored them, the less they bothered her. One day, she hoped it would stop all together. With her mother telling her throughout the years her ability was ungodly, she did everything to reject it. Ignoring them was a way of life. This was not going to ruin her day however, so she continued to explore.
It was a perfect sunny autumn afternoon. There was a gentle wind blowing dead leaves across the ground, though plenty of others remained on the trees. It was relatively quiet except for the occasional tourist. It created a peaceful atmosphere for Kimberly to enjoy. Sleepy Hollow Cemetery was adjacent to the Old Dutch Church Burying Ground and was easily accessible from there. Her first stop was at the grave of Washington Irving, and she was surprised at how small and humble his marker was compared to others in the cemetery, where some were the size of houses.
She took photos with her iPhone of the various sights like the Henry Villard Memorial and the William Rockefeller mausoleum. She walked to the opposite end of the cemetery and came across the mausoleum of Walter Chrysler. While she admired the mausoleum of a great American, she was drawn to a nearby oak tree. The tree was to the side of the mausoleum and close to the pathway. It was about fifty feet tall with several large roots poking out from the ground and stretching from the base, some covered with moss. The wind rushed through the branches causing it to move as if it was dancing. She looked at the branches and watched several leaves fall. She couldn’t wait to show the ladies at the organization what she found. Closing her eyes, she smiled as she breathed in the fresh, crisp air. Nothing was going to spoil her moment.
“I’m singing in the rain, just singing in the rain!” sang a man with a deep, cheerful voice, “What a glorious feeling, I’m happy again.”
Not another one. It was an annoyance to hear the voices of the dead, but considering where she was, it was to be expected. She hoped this one would leave her in peace too.
“Well, hello my good lady,” the voice was coming from the pathway and was getting closer, “Hello? Miss? I know you can hear me.” She ignored it, for nothing was going to ruin her enjoyment.
“I’m talking to you!” It shouted with a strong, hostile voice. “How dare you! Don’t you walk away from me!” the spirit growled, but she continued to walk.
Something grabbed her right leg that stopped her from moving. When she looked down, she saw that one of the roots had reached up from the ground. Like a snake, it wrapped around her leg, going as far to her knee. It was rough and it scratched her, drawing blood in some spots. Kimberly screamed and reached down to free herself. Her heart and thoughts raced as intense fear overcame her.
More roots reached up to grab her right arm. They wrapped around her limbs, squeezing so hard she felt the blood having trouble pumping through the veins. She screamed as loud as she could. Once that happen, more roots sprang forward to grab the left arm and leg. She was trapped.
Kimberly saw was a tall and very thin man with a bald head and pastel skin. He wore a light green tuxedo with a matching top hat and bow tie and a white dress shirt. He stood there smiling, showing his blackish teeth while he leaned on his black cane. Her eyes opened wide with horror. She didn’t yell for help, only shook in terror.
The man spoke as he wiped his jacket’s lapel with his fingers, “You know, I just hate to be ignored…” he pointed his cane at her nose, “ I get a little… mad… I’m very sensitive.” The man stabbed his cane into the ground, “Well, let’s get started my dear girl.” He looked into her eyes as he licked his lips. “Hmmm, ahh … Kimberly Maguire, ” he said as he rapidly blinked his eyes. He opened his eyes wider. He looked confused, but after several moments he looked at her with anger as he squinted his eyes and grinded his teeth.
“Not again!” He bit at her face, barely missing her nose, “Sometimes I wish your kind had been wiped out during the Witch Trials of Salem!” Kimberly didn’t know what to do or say. As she looked at this hideous man, fear flowed through every portion of her body like a raging river. She shivered and cried.
He grabbed and squeezed her nose to stop her from breathing from it, “I was appointed by the one above and the one below to be the judge of Lost Souls.” He pulled on it to bring her closer, “And I take my job very seriously!” After he let go of her nose, Kimberly pulled her head back and took a deep breath. Tears began to fall from her eyes.
“Look at me!” he demanded, but she closed her eyes and ignored the request, “Look at me!” he shouted again. The roots began to squeeze harder and she felt her hands and feet tingle as they started to go numb. She continued to pray as she squeezed her eyes shut. However, the pain was too much, so she gave in and looked. When she did, the roots loosen their grip.
He stepped back, “Well, I know your name, so please allow me to introduce myself.” He took his hat off and bowed. “I’m Minos, the Infernal Judge. I’m a man of wealth and taste…” He laughed as he returned to a proper posture. “If you can see me, there has to be reason. Your type cannot see an immortal being unless Father grants it. So, who are you looking for? Who needs to be saved?”
She didn‘t want to respond, but felt liked she had no choice, “Wh-what…” she paused, “I wa-was just doing family research…that-that’s all.” Her voice quivered. The pain from the roots intensified as her fingers and toes went numb.
“Have it your way, chica! Time to get my Christian Grey on!” From behind him appeared his long, black, and leathery tail that Minos cracked on the ground like a whip “YeeHaa!” The tail wrapped around her neck and she screamed since she feared he was going to strangle her. Then, various images appeared. They were so fast and lucid that she could only make out two of them. One was men in colonial era uniforms firing muskets. The other was fire, but everything else was a blur.
“Hahaha, you are one of those types… can’t accept who you are, sweetie?” he mocked as he unwrapped his tail, “Good, so you will stay out of my way. He shouldn’t be saved. He has been running for a long time. Many have run from me–Achilles, Diomedes, Lancelot. They ran too, but I caught them! The running always comes to an end and they get what they deserve!”
The sky turned light green, and all other colors turned into a slightly darker shade. What came next made Kimberly freeze in fear. Two horrific creatures stepped out from behind the tree. They were seven feet tall and thin with brown decaying skin like that of a corpse. Their fingers were long and bony with sharp black fingernails. Their eyes were nothing more than empty sockets and their mouths had no lips and showed sharp teeth. The rib cage protruded outward and their stomachs had an orange crystal embedded in it. They approached and stood side by side with Minos. Again, she prayed in hopes that God was listening.
Suddenly, the roots let go. She needed to run, but the numbness hindered her from standing up.
Minos knelt down, “What you see here is not for you. So, don’t stand in my way.”
Fear-induced adrenaline filled her up as she stood off the ground and stumbled backwards.
Minos cheered, “Run little girl. Run home!” The crystals on the creatures glowed, then a swarm of locust flew out from them. When they flew, the swarm created a loud humming noise. She started to run away but they chased her. There were so many of them that they turned the sky black.
“Hell hath come! Run! Run!” he shouted.
Running became her salvation. It wasn’t long before she noticed everything had returned to normal and the locust had vanished. Gasping for breath, she stopped in the middle of the pathway to rest. She fell to her knees and started to cry. She wasn’t sure if it was safe, but she had to rest.
Looking forward, she saw in front of a mausoleum a large bronze statue of a woman in a shroud. It was sculpted with her sitting on a chair with her hands on her left knee. A large cedar tree was on each side of it. Sitting on the statue was a man in his thirties, with dark skin and short black hair. He wore all black: trench coat, shirt, tie, dress pants, and shoes. Her body quivered and her heart raced as fear infested her because she knew he was another entity.
“Rough day?” he asked as he stood up.
Gently rubbing her bruised and blooded wrist, she rose up off the ground but wasn’t sure what to do next. She wondered if she should run or talk to him.
The man kept his distance, “You tried to ignore spirits your whole life, and look what that got you. Come now, I’m sure you have many questions.”
She looked at him. There were so many questions she wanted answers. If she ran, they would remain with her forever.
“Wh-what is an immortal being? Are you-ou one? Wh-who are you?” she asked as she kept her distance.
The man was pleased. “Progress! Three questions on the first try!” He laughed. “My name is Marduk, and, yes, I’m an immortal being.” He took a small step closer.
“You mean… like angels?”
He shook his head, “Yes. Angels. Demons. Djinns. All immortals.”
Marduk took a step forward, but she took one back and then asked, “ Ar-are you an angel?
He looked down as if ashamed, “Sort of…” Kimberly’s eyes opened wide out of fear as she stepped even further back. “No-no…I’m not a fallen angel.”
Marduk stepped back towards the statue. “The most important things to angels are their wings. It’s their identity, and to lose them is humiliating. Fallen Angels have had their wings removed by Father.” He stepped to the right and placed his hand on the cedar tree. Looking down, he closed his eyes. When he did, two large wings appeared from his back. Kimberly looked at them in awe, for they were magnificent. The wingspan was about eight feet with beautiful, bright white feathers. She smiled in admiration for their beauty. However, she noticed not all was right with Marduk. He squinted his eyes and was using the tree as leverage. The wings retracted and vanished. Marduk looked up and had tears in his eyes.
Kimberly was confused, “Did that hurt?”
He shook his head. “A lot. When the War in Heaven happened, many angels remained loyal to Father, others sided with Satan, and a few, like myself, took no side. Instead, we ran and hid.” He had a guilty look. “When we emerged after Father’s victory, He was not pleased with our cowardly acts.” Marduk turned to his side to show that in-between his shoulder blades was impaled a two foot pole with a small amber colored flag attached to it. Once he retracted his angelic wings, they vanish from sight but the pole remained.
“Our sins were not so great for Father to remove them, but He felt this was a proper punishment. By impaling this into our backs, our wings, when in use, cause us great pain, rendering them virtually useless.” He turned to her. “He then banished us, and now we’re forced to roam Limbo for eternity. Me and my kind are called ignavus.”
He saw her blooded hands. “I can help with that.”
She held out her hands, and Marduk touched them. A cold sensation was felt on her hands and feet. After a few seconds, he let go and the injuries were healed.
Marduk continued. “After the War, the Fallen Angels created their own kingdom called Pandemonium. Soon after, God created Hell for sinful Lost Souls. Hell consisted of nine circles based on a sin, such as Lust, Glutton, and Fraud, though some have sub layers. All Lost Souls enter the First Circle, Limbo, until they could be judged and cast into the appropriate circle.Though some, like the truly insane and Virtuous Pagans, remain in Limbo.
Limbo and Earth inhabit the same place but on different planes of exitance. Remember the world that looked like this one, only with green skies? That was Limbo. Occasionally, Earth and Limbo interact, leading to what people call paranormal activity. As for Minos, he was created in a rare agreement between God and the Devil to act as a judge. He is a neutral entity, neither an angel nor a demon. He alone determines the correct punishment for the soul. He’s unbiased. Despite his outrageous behavior, he’s always fair.
Using his tail to read the Lost Soul’s sins, Minos uses that information to make his judgment. Most can’t escape it, but there are some that get a second chance for salvation. They receive a predetermined amount of time to roam Limbo. During that time, if they ask for forgiveness, they go to Heaven. If not, Minos judges them. That’s where mediums, like you, come into play.”
Kimberly still had doubt, “My mom told me that my powers were a gift from the Devil.”
Marduk laughed, “Moms, they mean well, but sometimes they are wrong. No, it’s neither a gift from the Devil or Father. It’s all natural, just like a child prodigy in music. It’s how you use it that makes it good or bad.”
She began pacing back and forth, “So, I’m suppose to save someone?”
“Yes, a medium’s purpose is to convince Lost Souls to accept forgiveness so they can head off to Paradise. However, mediums usually only see spirits, but an act of Divine intervention would allow one to see Immortals.”
She looked at him with intense eyes, “I don’t want this responsibility!”
“I’m sure it’s no coincidence that you have arrived in Sleepy Hollow. It’s destiny. Now, are you going to run, or finally embrace what you were born to do?”
“Okay. I’ll give it a shot. Now what?”
Marduk was happy. “Well, we first must find out who Minos is after.” He took a step forward holding out his right hand. She was nervous, but she allowed him to place his hand on her forehead. Once he did, instantly she felt dizzy and her vision went black. Images began to appear, much like the time Minos had her, only everything was clear and understandable. It was like watching a movie.
The first thing she saw was the deck of an old wooden tall ship. Information began to flow into her mind. The year was 1763. It was night and two young boys dressed in dark, torn clothes leaned over the ship’s railing to look at the sea. It was like she was actually there. She could even smell the salt air and feel the fringed night. Everyone on the ship, including the boys, spoke Dutch, but she was able to understand them.
“I can’t wait! We arrive in Philadelphia in just two days, Christopher” George said to the other boy.
Christopher responded, “Yes, how long are we staying there before we travel to Uncle’s farm in Tarrytown?”
“About a month.” George placed his hand on his brother’s shoulder. “This is a new land, brother. Opportunity awaits us!”
Next, Kimberly saw the inside an old Colonial tavern, where several men sat around tables and drank. They were of Tarrytown, and the year was May of 1775. She saw Christopher and George standing in the corner, now young men, listening in on a heated debate.
An older man with long gray hair and dressed in black spoke with passion. “Brothers, it’s time to take up arms. War has begun! Shall we remain oppressed under the King, or shall we fight to make our own destiny?”
George turned to his brother, “I vote for liberty.”
“I also, but what about your wife? You have a family now.”
He smirked. “If it was allowed, she would be fighting alongside us! Besides, I’m doing this for my family.” George held out his hand, and Christopher grabbed it in a sign of unity between them.
Now Kimberly found herself in the mist of a chaotic battle, with muskets bursting and smoke filling the sky. It was Brooklyn on August 27, 1776, in an area today known as Battle Pass. The Patriots were desperately fighting off German mercenaries that overran them. All she heard was screaming and explosions. Some Patriots resort to using their muskets and rifles like bats. She saw George and Christopher taking cover behind a tree. The brothers fired their muskets at the Hessians, killing one and forcing others back.
“Christopher, get out of here!” shouted George.
He responded back, “We both need to get out of here!”
George saw an incoming Hessian, “Run, I’ll follow! Promise!” He charged towards the enemy. The Hessian tried to impale him using his bayonet, but George evaded it and responded by smashing the man’s head with the butt of his weapon. With furious strength, he managed to deliver a deadly blow that cracked the skull of his enemy. The body fell to the ground, and now there was an opportunity for escape.
When he turned to run, George saw his brother standing backside towards him. Christopher slowly fell to the ground and revealed that a Hessian had killed him using a bayonet. George charged towards the enemy and caught him off guard, then he used his musket to hit the Hessian in the head. When the body fell to the ground, George repeatedly struck the man.
A Patriot approached. “We got our chance, we need to retreat!”
However, George was overcome with grief as he kneeled before his brother. He turned the body over and cradled it. Kimberly felt his pain and misery and it brought her to tears. George picked up the body and hoisted it over his shoulder. He couldn’t leave him behind.
Kimberly then witnessed the coming years, with George struggling with severe depression. Everyday without his brother felt incomplete. He started to drink heavily to cope, but his wife kept him from going too deep into the abyss. He often pretended to be happy, putting on a facade for his family, friends, and church members, but on the inside, he was torn. Charlotte knew this, but was always supportive. When she died, he sank deeper into depression. He began to drink more and started gambling. The farm went into disarray, though his sons kept it from going completely under.
Finally, she reached the last vision. It was April of 1790, and George was heading to his barn at night. He looked awful, with blistering skin, a ragged beard, and dirty hair. His clothes were torn and smelly. He held a lantern as he stumbled into the barn where he kept his horses. He placed it on a barrel and started to walk over to one of the stables. However, due to his drunkeness, he tumbled backwards and knocked over the lantern. Crashing on top of hay, it started a massive fire that quickly spread. George tried to put it out, but he was overcome by the heat and smoke. He, along with his four horses, burned alive as the structure collapsed.
The visions ceased and Marduk spoke, “He’s after your ancestor.”
“It’s not fair, he doesn’t deserve Hell. It’s not his fault.”
Marduk responded, “I agree, his actions were dictated by his mental breakdown, which is why he was granted a second chance. But, if not forgiven, he will be guilty of a form of prolifigates. He forsook his home, goods, and his personal life. He wasted his potential. If he isn’t helped, the Forest of Suicide awaits him in the seventh circle of Hell. He will be forced to run naked through thorny bushes. Those creatures you saw with Minos will pursue him and unleash flesh-eating locust on him. Once the locust devour him, he shall be reformed and forced to do it all over again. So, are you going to do something about it?”
George was a broken man, but to Kimberly he still was her American hero. If she had the ability to save him, she had to do it.
Marduk was pleased. “Saving him will save you too. That must be Father’s plan. With Minos roaming the cemetery, your ancestor has to be close by. We’ll search together.”
Sleepy Hollow Cemetery was 90 acres, while the Old Dutch Burying Ground was another five, so they had a large area to cover. She hoped that George was still nearby. They figured the best place to look first was in the back of the cemetery along the Pocantico River, since it was more wooded and a perfect place for a scared soul to hide.
“So, how do I do this?” she asked. She noticed several people nearby looking at her strangely. While she saw Marduk, no other living person could. So Kimberly took out her iPhone and pretended to talk on it.
“By talking to him. You need to convince George to accept responsibility for his sins and ask for forgiveness before time runs out. A second chance is merciful, but it’s not a permanent offer. In other words, act like a friend, or a psychologist,” he explained.
They started walking down a hill towards the river. “Why does Minos hate mediums so much?”
“Well, Minos believes all Lost Souls are deserving of Hell. He doesn’t believe in second chances for salvation. People like you interfere with that.”
Kimberly stopped midway down the hill, looked around and realized how big this place was. She clutch her fist. “I’m never going to find him, this place is too big. If he’s even here anymore.”
“Kimberly, you have blood ties to this man. Focus on him, concentrate, and listen. You have the ability, just don’t get frustrated.”
Standing in place, she closed her eyes and started to think about George. She focused on what she saw and felt in the visions: his happiness, his loss, his pain. She attempted to connect with him on an emotional level. As she did, she heard all kinds of voices, both human and spirit. Compassion and sympathy filled her heart. As time went on, less voices were heard as she started to home in on his. Eventually, all that remained was the cries of a man… she had found him.
“This way!” she shouted. Running down the hill, she followed these cries. The mission now wasn’t to join the organization, but to save a soul. For once, she was running to something, not away. She headed towards the replica of the Headless Horsemen Bridge, which spanned over the river about twenty feet. It was a simple yet strong wooden bridge, with boards making up the deck and thick branches making up the railing. Unlike what was seen in the movies, it wasn’t a covered bridge. The river below was a few feet deep, and hiding under the bridge was George. He sat upon the rock curled up in a ball. Though the water was hitting him, he wasn’t getting wet.
Kimberly, filled with compassion, approached the river bed and kneeled down in the mud. “George Van Tassel!”
He responded with a fearful tone, “Go away!”
Marduk was right behind her and whispered, “Connect with him. Remember, your blood.”
She took a deep breath, “George, I’m your descendent. I’m Kimberly, your long distance great-grand daughter.” That caused him to look at her. She saw he had a dirty face, messy hair, and his eyes were droopy due to years of sorrow.
“A legacy of mine? How I must disappoint you,” he cried.
“No, not at all. You are my hero.”
He interrupted, “I’m no hero. I did my duty, true, but, I failed in other ways.”
She inched a little closer “Christopher’s death wasn’t your fault. I know of that battle. it was chaotic, many people died. But you and Christopher saved many lives too!”
He looked into her eyes. “I’m his older brother! I should have been there for him.” He curled back into a ball. “I deserve no forgiveness.
“Do you think Christopher would approve of this?” she asked.
He looked at her, “He could, but I can’t.”
She held out her hand. “George, come with me. I have something I want to show you.” He just looked at her. He wouldn’t budge, instead he cried again.
Hands reached out from the water attempting to grab George. They were like fish jumping out of the water to catch a bug. They missed their target, and he screamed. He got up and ran, but crashed into Kimberly, causing both of them to fall to the ground.
Three ghastly creatures came out of the water from under the bridge, and slowly approached. Panic overcame Kimberly. Her heart raced as she stumbled trying to stand. She saw the sky was green and knew she was back in Limbo. Getting on her feet, she shielded George with Marduk standing behind him. There was a dark energy present that made her skin crawl. More creatures started to appear from all directions, acting like they were moths drawn to a flame. They were surrounded by dozens of them and they left no way to escape.
“Papé Satàn, papé Satàn aleppe!” Minos shouted. She looked up and saw he was on the bridge leaning over the railing.
Marduk responded. “Can’t come up with something of your own, Minos?”
He mocked, “Ahh, Marduk, still trying to get back into Heaven after all these years? Pitiful! Abandon all hope, my friend!” George started to cry hysterically. “Oh, George!” Minos opened up his arms, “Come to me, accept your fate.”
“No!” Kimberly shouted.
“You mediums, little roaches. Much like Marduk there, you got to learn to give up,” he replied.
Kimberly panicked, “I’ve got to get him to Dutch churchyard.”
“Done,” Marduk replied. Suddenly, she felt a cold grip around her waist. It felt like ice was being wrapped around her. She looked to see Marduk had his arms around her and George’s waist. He spread out his wings, which caused him to wail in pain. The wings began to flap and they took off into the air.
The gravestones looked like ants and the trees looked like blades of grass. The sensation of being over a hundred feet in the air and having wind blowing in her face gave her a temporary feeling of euphoria. But for Marduk, flying brought pain. He bared it all to help them escape. After less than a minute in the air, they descended fast towards the churchyard. Marduk glided six feet over the ground and released the two. Kimberly hit the ground hard, receiving a few bruises, and her ears rang for a second. Marduk crashed several yards away towards the road. He screamed in pain the entire time. Looking around, she saw George was in a fetal position. With haste, she ran and grabbed his arms. Her hands became bitter cold from touching him.
A few feet away was the grave of Christopher, so she dragged him to it. Luckily, he hardly resisted. She placed him right in front of it, and when he saw it he was overcome with grief. Kneeling before it, he placed his hand over the name of his brother and bowed his head.
“Brother, I should have protected you.” Sorrow filled his voice.
Kimberly knelt beside him. “It wasn’t your fault. You don’t need this punishment. Forgive yourself, you had suffered long enough.” She saw his body trembling.
“I-I know what needs to be done,” he said.
Kimberly placed her arm around him, “Receive forgiveness, you deserve peace.”.
“Forgiveness? He had over two hundred years to receive forgiveness. What a waste!” shouted Minos.
George and Kimberly turned around to see their foe with two creatures accompanying him. She immediately stood up in front of George to shield him.
“Yeah, like that’s going to help,” Minos mocked. “Mr. Van Tassel, it’s time to embrace judgment.”
Kimberly approached Minos and started shouting at him, “No! I’m not letting that happen!”
“Didn’t you just grow a pair! What a change from earlier,” he laughed.
She was no longer afraid. “Yea,h I’m not going to fail either. You can’t have him!
“Wait!” shouted George. He stood up and wiped away the tears. He looked more at peace than before. He approached Minos, got on his knees, and held out his arms.
“What are you doing!” shouted Kimberly.
George looked up at her, “Thank you for trying to help. You are my legacy, and that pleases me. But, I must accept my punishment. It’s what I deserve. I have no one to blame but myself.”
Kimberly’s heart pulsated. “No! You can’t!” She felt a cold tug on her back that dragged her several feet away, an invisible force and it kept her on the ground. Minos wrapped his tail around George’s neck and lifted him up. He didn’t resist. Instead he embraced it with arms wide-open.
Minos proclaimed. “Guilty of Profligates, you are sentenced to the Forest of Suicide! But, you accept responsibility for your sins and are not making excuses. Therefore, your punishment will not to be chased, but rather do the chasing!”
Cracking noises were heard as the limbs on George twisted and his skin wrinkled. He screamed in agony, but Kimberly was helpless. It sounded like a bunch of branches being broken. His clothes ripped off and the skin turned brown. Popping noises were heard as his eyes vanished, his chest pushed forward, and an orange crystal burst forth from his stomach.
Once the process was completed, Minos unwrapped his tail. For a few seconds, George examined his new body. He wasn’t sad, rather content that he was no longer running. He stood up to join his new brothers. The creatures started to walk away, but George looked back at Kimberly for a brief moment before moving onward. She couldn’t bare the thought he was now a minion for Hell.
Minos, in a softer tone, spoke, “Kimberly, you helped him more than you realize. He works for me instead of being tortured.” After those words, the force that held her down was gone. The sky had turned back to normal, Minos had vanished, and people were all around. She sat on the ground depressed.
Several tourist stopped and looked at her with confused faces. “Where did she come from?” said an elderly lady.
“Mommy, that woman magically appeared,” said a little girl.
Kimberly realized that while in Limbo, no one could see her. Once she had returned, she seemed to materialized out of nowhere. She got off the ground and ran. Her car was parked on a side street across from the Headless Horseman sculpture. Taking out her keys, she ran to her vehicle.
As she approached her car, she heard “Kimberly, I’m so sorry.”
She stopped and looked towards the sculpture and saw a heartbroken Marduk.
“It is what it is. I guess being a monster is better than being tortured,” she answered. “Tell me something. Were you mainly helping me in order to gain forgiveness for yourself?” He remained silent. “Oh, I’m not angry. You endured a lot of pain to help. But, do you think it will work?”
He started to tear up. “Maybe if I do enough, He will eventually forgive me.” He wiped away his tears.
“Well, I hope He does.”
He grinned. “Kimberly, I sense our time together is coming to an end. But I must know, are you going to embrace who you are?”
Kimberly looked up to the sky in her moment of clarity. “I know He wants me to.” She looked back at him. “This experience was an eye opener, I can’t turn my back on it now. I may have lost one, but I will try to save as many as I can in the future.”
He clapped his hands. “Excellent! Well my friend, I wish you goodbye. I hope we meet again.”
“Goodbye,” she said, and then Marduk vanished. She was sad to see him go. Nevertheless, a new life awaited her.
When she started to unlock the car’s door, she heard a voice. “Can you hear me?” It was the same voice from before her big adventure. She was glad to hear it again.
Kimberly looked to her right and she saw a woman in her fifties attired in a black Victorian dress.
“Yes, I can.”