Saturday, October 01, 2005
the child, one hundred four
Starr stared at him. Walker was choosing her?
'Oh, no, you don't!' said Stone and drew his Starr-girl close to his side. 'The lady already has a partner.' And to her, softly, he added, 'For the dungeons, and for the rest of our lives.'
Walker regarded them narrowly for a moment, then said, 'Fine, the short guy there.' And as a highly bemused Mac moved to stand near him, Walker added, 'The only thing is, Stone, I don't have anyone for you.'
A shrug. 'I only found five people, that's why not.'
'But the Master sent six teams. You knew that. So you knew there must be a sixth person, somewhere in those dungeons. Did you look everywhere?'
Walker's face closed like a fist. 'Don't start with me, Stone!'
'Don't start what?'
'Look! You know what it's like down there. You know they don't trust anyone. You know...'
'That you don't believe anyone ever really escapes the deepest dungeons. But here I am.'
Walker's eyes were smouldering. 'It's a fool's errand, Stone! And you're taking that innocent child there with you? Are you mad? Haven't you a lick of sense?'
'Apparently not,' said Stone. He was smiling as he said it, and somehow, the smile was more infuriating to Walker than any other response would have been.
'Walker,' Stone said patiently. "It's all dungeon. From the sunny cells at the top where it hardly seems like a prison, to the deepest miriest cells in the bottom where no light can get in. It's all dungeon, and they all need rescuing. Every one of them. And the Master loves them all. You know that. You know that he gave his life for everyone there. Everyone. He spilled out all his life's blood out of his love for every person in those dungeons.' He regarded his old friend for a moment, then added, 'They're human beings, Walker. Don't you believe that?'
'They're swine, Stone. Filthy swine. You'll go down there, and you won't find a one of them willing to leave their slop.' His eyes were blazing. 'And you'll put yourself in danger of running back to that same slop. Not to mention, putting her in danger.'
'Whatever danger Stone faces,' Starr said softly, 'I face it at his side.'
'Then you're mad too,' said Walker.
'Um - what are we talking about?' Jack put in.
'A very old argument, Jack,' said Stone. 'And getting older by the second.'
'Well - just to let you know, Walker - no one's mad here. We've been through too much together to go calling anyone names anymore.' And Jack laid just the slightest touch of emphasis on the word anymore. 'Care to know what we were doing while we were taking our sweet time about getting here, Walker? I mean, besides taking the scenic route?'
Without a trace of interest, Walker said, 'What?' And, oh, but his face was a closed and locked door!
'Doing this,' said Jack.
Walker frowned. 'Talking?'
'Squabbling. Bickering. Fighting. Call it what you want to. And you know what it did?'
Another very short, 'What?'
'It cost us months, Walker. Months. Until we were ready to stop fighting among ourselves and get into real unity and real love.' Jack tilted his head. 'You know what real unity and real love is, Walker?'
Walker fixed him with a look. 'Apparently I don't,' he sneered.
'Yup,' said Jack, eyes twinkling as he awaited Walker's reaction.
'Oh, hush, Jack,' Lucy put in. 'Look, Walker. No one's trying to gang up on you. It's just that,' she sighed, 'we've learned some very hard lessons on this journey, and we learned them a very hard way. So...'
'I know about love,' Walker broke in. 'And I know about unity. Real love is to love as the Master loves, and real unity is to lay aside our fleshly differences and follow the Master wherever he leads. You lot don't need to lecture me!'
'We knew about love and unity before we started out too,' Linda spoke up. 'But then we learned them.'
Walker snorted. 'That doesn't make a bit of sense. Learning what you already know?'
'That's what happened though,' said Forest cheerfully. 'We learned to be brothers. To be willing to give up our own rights for the sake of another. To trust each other - even when we thought maybe the others were a bit mad. To...'
'Yeah, yeah...' Walker cut him off. 'You learned to draw together and protect each other in this merry little group. Well, you don't quite know what you're protecting, do you?' He looked at them all. 'Do they, Stone?' he asked, raising his voice. 'Do they know where you come from? Where the Master plucked you out of?'
Stone's head was down, and he said nothing. Inside, the conflict between seething in anger at what Walker was doing, and the old lack of confidence in his ability to stay strong once he got back to the dungeons, was hitting up against the profound desire to defend himself from every accusation. Master! he cried within himself. And the cry rent his heart.
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