The Night Mares and the Rose

The Kingdom of heaven is like a rose suspended in the sky. Once we inhale its fragrance, it is all that we desire. We shall behold it as long as we seek it. We shall possess it by the perseverance of our faith.

He watched her from a corner of the room, and He ached for all the wounded hearts gathered around her bed. Stale air reeked of medicine and other vain helps. The relatives could not see Him standing there, waiting by the side of an unconscious child. And if they could see Him, there would have been pleas for her recovery, fervent prayers and more tears. But they couldn’t see Him. Not even now.
     “Sarah,” He spoke to the child. “It’s almost time for you to awake.”
     “I can hear You, but I can’t see You.”
     “Yes you can, Sarah, try.”
     “It’s so dark. Will it always be this dark?”
     “No, little one, it will be morning soon. Listen to the sound of My voice. Do you hear crying, Sarah?”
     “Yes.”
     “Then I want you to get up and follow the sound. Don’t be afraid. I will be with you.”
     She obeyed Him and left her place to follow the cries, those deep, penetrating cries.
     “What do you see now, Sarah?”
     “Why, it’s a rose! A very, very pretty rose. But it’s surrounded by thorns and they are making the poor rose cry. Oh, what can I do to help her?”
     He made no answer, but allowed her to watch the tormented rose tremble on its stem as the thorns on the bushes surrounding it stabbed at its petals drawing great swelling drops like dew, or tears. And as each liquid jewel fell away from the rose, the flower became weaker and weaker.
     “The rose will die if we cannot help her!” Sarah cried. “And it’s still so dark I can hardly see her anymore!”
     “There is a great battle for the rose, Sarah, a great warfare. You must hold onto her with all of your heart, and let nothing separate you from the rose.”
     “But I can’t see her anymore and it’s so dark I can’t touch her because of the thorns.”
     “Hold onto her, Sarah, hold onto her.”
     “But how?”
     A chalky twilight began to creep into the atmosphere illuminating a barren, gray plain. It was a pocked marked landscape of nothing. Sarah found herself standing in this existence, mourning for the rose that seemed so far away. Her flower had dwindled to just a dark, writhing speck on the horizon.
     “That is my rose,” the child said. “She belongs to me.”
     Sarah took a deep breath of gray air, and then began to stride determinedly toward her flower, knowing that it would surely become larger the closer she came. If only it would stop crying, for even though the rose was so far away, the pitiful cries it made were even louder. Oh, if only those thorns would fall away...
     There was the sound of thunder. Could there be thunder where there is no sky? The little girl stopped and listened to the sound. It was harsh and unrelenting. It was getting louder. There was a sudden thrust of movement, then a horse and a rider swept by, coming from nowhere it seemed. There was a shower of metal sounds striking the ground around her like hail as the rider sowed the plain with nails.
     The nails penetrated deep within the stony ground burying themselves as if they were alive. Then the concrete plain began to undulate as the new crop pierced the surface throwing great blocks of stone into the gray air. There was a deafening earthquake noise that continued to magnify as the harvest came into being.
     The terrified child covered her eyes. When the silence was once again allowed to reign, Sarah refused to behold the landscape the rider had sown.
     “No!” the child screamed. “I can’t see my rose anymore!”
     She was standing at the foot of a concrete and glass tower. It was so tall she couldn’t tell if the structure ever came to an end. The wall that was blocking her way seemed as endless. She knew she would have to walk for a long time before she would ever find way around it.
     Despair forced her to cry, and as she submitted to its power, she heard the sound of laughter in the air about her. It was not a joyous sound, for it was as cold and hard as the wall before her. She was afraid to look around, but she did anyway.
     There was a gray fog drifting across the plain. She couldn’t see a thing for a while. Then four shadowy forms began to emerge from the fog as the laughter slowly dissipated. The isolated sound of horse’s hooves stepping measuredly across the concrete made the child tremble. When the sound stopped, Sarah looked up at a white horse, a red horse, a black and a gray, each with a rider to match. One wore shining, cold white armor; another the colors of war and bloodshed. The other was cloaked in the contrasting colors of famine and luxury. Death alone was naked.
     The figures stared at her in icy silence. Though terrifying as they appeared, for some reason Sarah wasn’t afraid of them. It was almost as though there was a shield between her and the evil these beings represented. Then she heard His voice and the sound of it caused her to turn her eyes away from the horses.
     She looked down the long concrete pathway as the Voice said, “Walk slowly, Sarah, confidently. You shall see an opening in the wall ahead. It is a narrow passageway. Follow it and it will take you to the other side of this barrier.”
     Sarah began to walk as she was instructed. With every step she could hear the movements of the horses behind her as their steps followed hers. When Sarah finally reached the promised passageway, the horses increased their pace slightly, as if they did not want her to escape their gaze.
     Sarah turned into the alley quickly. It was long and dark. Piles of debris littered the ground. Her little bare feet carefully stepped over cans, bottles and old newspapers. The horses were following her. She could hear the sound of glass crunching under their hooves. Then she reached the end of the passageway and stepped out onto a sidewalk. She found herself surrounded by more towers and streets congested with slow moving traffic.
     She heard a sigh, a sound of great weariness. She turned to see a street man sitting on the sidewalk nearby. He was looking wistfully at the building on the opposite side of the street as if he wanted to return to some place he used to be and could not. Then he started to sing. It was a slow song, like a dirge.
     “Fields of gold and fields of wheat, stripped by a million prancing feet. Oh, were I to flee the flying horde and escape the chairman of the board! Mercy pleadings at neon feet compete with the munching sounds all up and down Wall Street, while mortals attempt escape from decision – which plague is worse? a locust swarm or a swarm of politicians? Like a dry well on a desert bare, or a field of death with not one flower left there, no mortal plain can escape the rampages of these grasshoppers and corporate scavengers. With teeth of steel and jaws like knives to tear the aching heart alive, they descend upon the fields of men to take and take and take again. Insatiable their appetites; greed that feeds relentlessly – parasite upon parasite; until the last lone cry can be heard to soothe a dying man with one final word,'It is finished.'”
     Then the man stopped singing and slumped over on his side. Sarah didn’t know if he was dead or just exhausted.
     A bell rang and a multitude of doors flew open as people streamed out of the buildings. Most of them were carrying briefcases. All of them were staring at their watches. As the crowd surged toward her, Sarah realized that this was no place for a child, or anyone who thought like a child, or wanted to be a child, could ever survive for very long.
     She saw the panic on their faces as they raced to keep their appointments to avoid the tragedy of getting off their schedules. And Sarah knew that she’d better turn and run too in order to keep from being trampled by the mob. She desperately looked for some place that might offer her a means of escape. She saw a hole in the ground several yards ahead with a rail and a staircase leading to somewhere.
     With no other choice, and with the sound of stampeding feet coming closer, she ran toward the staircase and hoped that it would lead her to a place she was supposed to be.
     She followed the staircase down, way down into a subterranean tunnel. She stepped off the last step and looked around. Once again she was filled with an aching despair. “Oh how will I ever find my rose?”
     The passageway before her was a wide hall with several openings. Each one was dark and ominous. Then she head His Voice. “Sarah, you are entering into the realm of man’s inventions. Whatever pathway you choose will lead you to the same place. Pick an entrance and follow. I will be with you, even here.”
     Sarah cautiously moved toward the opening that was directly in front of her. Its shadows enfolded her quickly and escorted her into the narrow hall. Sarah felt as if she had entered a museum. There was a light coming from somewhere that was softly illuminating the walls and what was on them; elegantly framed advertisements for everything from deodorants to business machines. She realized that she was no longer walking on a hard surface. The floor was thickly carpeted without a trace of lint on it anywhere. She could see vacuum cleaner tracks and she started to walk on tiptoe to avoid soiling the pristine carpet. There was a humming sound, the kind of sound a machine would make, coming from a room up ahead. She saw a light shining into the hall and she cautiously walked toward it. She reached the door and peered inside.
     It was a laboratory of some kind. The walls were lined with scientific paraphernalia. A small man in a white coat was bustling around a large machine, which turned out to be the source of the humming sound.
     The man in the white coat suddenly looked up and saw Sarah standing in the doorway. He was startled.
     “A child!” he cried in astonishment. “My goodness, a child! I haven’t seen a child in ages!” He was smiling so Sarah wasn’t afraid. “Come in, come in,” he beckoned. “Come in if you want to look around. I’m delighted!”
     Sarah wasn’t sure she wanted to go into that room. “I’m trying to find my rose,” she stated.
     “A rose? There are no flowers in here, child, just practical things we use to make our inventions.” He turned to look at the machine he had been fussing over when Sarah appeared.
     “This is Algol,” he continued. “And I am honored to be able to show him off to you. This is something that will most assuredly help to further your education,” he stated proudly.
     The machine looked like an inverted trash can with a bald, dome-like head. A small satellite dish was protruding from the summit of the metal mountain. There was a screen on its forehead, and two large knobs on either side of it that gave the impression that it had ears.
     And maybe it did. The lights that were dotted all over the machine’s torso like little pimples, seemed to respond to the sound of the inventor’s voice. When he spoke excitedly, the lights flashed brighter, and when the human voice subsided, the lights did also.
     “Algol is my masterpiece,” the inventor announced. “He is the first machine ever invented that can take the place of a man’s brain. Just think of it! an artificial life form that can think for itself. Imagine the possibilities! There is no end, no limitations to the things he can do. He’s almost, almost like – a god!”
     The inventor stared with adoration at the work of his hands, then he turned to face Sarah. “He is worthy of our adoration. Worship him, child. Bow at his image. He is here to serve you – and you him.”
     As the inventor was speaking, the pimple lights danced excitedly. Slowly the machine opened its round, bulbous eyes. They shone with a metallic brilliance as multi-colored computer chips undulated beneath its metal eyelids. The robotic eyes rolled in their sockets and focused themselves on the inventor. His back was turned toward the machine, as he continued to extol Algol’s virtues to a very skeptical little girl.
     The machine’s large mechanical mouth began to open slowly, like a bored yawn. There was the sound of metal lungs sucking in air. Then the beast fully inhaled and the inventor was instantly pulled out of his shoes. He disappeared with a weak cry into the mouth of his masterpiece. A motor hummed in satisfaction as the machine’s mouth slammed shut. The eyeballs rolled again and scanned the room, then stopped to focus on Sarah. Slowly, the machine began to roll toward the little girl.
     Sarah screamed, then turned and ran down the corridor as fast as she could. She heard the machine angling itself into the hallway behind her. There was a staircase up ahead. Maybe the stairs would slow the machine down and she’d have a chance to get away.
     As her little feet landed on the first step, she could hear the eerie creak from the machine’s mouth opening behind her. Then she felt the suction of its breath begin to pull her back.
     “No!” she screamed, “I don’t want you!”
     The pressure increased as she forced her way up the stairs. She was halfway up when she heard the thing clank against the bottom step. Would that stop it? She was almost to the top now. Daylight was streaming onto her face. But the pressure was increasing, tugging at her, trying to yank her off her feet to cast her down into the black abyss of the beast’s mouth. She thought she wasn’t going to make those last few steps. Then she felt a Hand on her back, a gentle touch that was helping her to move forward, reminding her that she wasn’t alone. The pull of the suction was growing weaker and she gratefully realized she was safely beyond its reach.
     Then she remembered being told that no matter which path she chose in the realm of man’s inventions, it would lead her to the same place. What would she find at the end of the stairs?
     She burst out into the daylight, then stopped at the edge of a busy street congested with rush hour traffic.
     The pedestrians began to jostle her. In the process she was swept along the sidewalk with them. It was so crowded, there was hardly any space left for anybody, let alone the four horses that were walking in single file beside the curb. No one seemed to see them except Sarah.
     “Why are they still following me?” she wondered. “And where is my poor rose? I’ve got to find her.”
     She thought she could hear the flower’s sobbing faintly in the distance and the sound of it distressed the child greatly.
     Someone shoved her from behind and she almost fell. She thought if she did fall would anyone notice or care? Would they just walk over her?
     She needed some room to breathe and she began to look for a way off the pedestrian’s treadmill. She couldn’t see anything to her left or her right except the moving bodies. Then she looked up and she saw the shining, white spire of a church. It filled her heart with hope. “A church!” There would be people there who cared about her. She thought of her days in Sunday school and remembered the stories about the fishermen and an empty tomb. There was a sanctuary for her, even here.
     She began to push her way through the people as the human stream continued to carry her along. She was flowing past the spire, then with one final effort, she broke out of the throng and spilled onto the steps of the church. She fell on her knees, tearing her nightgown slightly, but she wasn’t hurt.
     Sarah got up and ran over to the front door. She was so grateful that it wasn’t locked. She opened the door and stepped into the large foyer. There was a pedestal with a guest book on it by the closed door that led to the sanctuary. Sarah was very tired. She thought it would be so comforting to lie down on one of the pews and rest for awhile.
     She went over to the door and pulled it open. Then she stood there staring into the enormous room. It didn’t look like a church at all. The pews had been removed and were replaced with tables, all elegantly set for a formal dinner. There was no pulpit on the podium, no cross on the wall, just a bandstand with a huge map of the world draped as a backdrop over the drums. In the corner there was a large television set. It was on and it was tuned to a football game.
     Sarah was confused. Then a woman’s voice said, “Welcome.” Sarah looked over at one of the tables. A woman was sitting there with a wine glass in her hand. The woman stood, left the glass on the table and walked over to the little girl. As she came closer, Sarah could read the nametag that was pinned to the lapel of her sleek, red jacket. It said, “Jezebel – Director of Social Activities.”
     “My dear child,” the woman said. “You look exhausted. Come in. Don’t be afraid. I’m here to help you.”
     She held out her hand. Before Sarah reached up to take it she asked, “Is this a church?”
     “Of course, darling. Doesn’t it look like a church to you?”
     “From the outside it does.”
     “But isn’t it what’s on the inside that counts?”
     Sarah had been taught that before. “Yes. It’s what’s inside that’s most important.”
     “And God sees everything, doesn’t He?”
     “Yes.” Sarah smiled. She felt better. This lady knew about God. But the room still bothered her. She didn’t know what it was for. “Is this the room where you worship God, or is there another one with a pulpit in it?”
     “Times are changing, dear. We do things differently now. But it’s okay. You’ll learn. Come with me. I’ll get you something to eat, then we can watch some cartoons.”
     “Are they about Jesus?” Sarah asked as they weaved their way around the tables.
     “Sort of. Here, sweetie, sit down and I’ll be back in a minute with some goodies.”
     Sarah slid into one of the chairs and waited. The woman disappeared through a doorway behind the bandstand and reappeared a few minutes later carrying a tray filled with cake, ice cream, soda and a bowl of hard candy. She set the tray on the table, then she picked up a remote control device and the football game dissolved into a cartoon. There was a wizard repeating an incantation as a ball of light floated into the air and gradually began to take a semi-human shape.
     Sarah wasn’t watching. She was looking at the cake and not really feeling all that hungry.
     “I need to find my rose,” she said. “I can’t stay. I just wanted to rest for awhile.”
     “What’s so important about a rose, dear?” Jezebel asked as she sat down next to Sarah.
     “She needs me. If I don’t find her she’ll die.”
     “Nonsense! There are no absolutes anymore. The right way is whatever way you choose for yourself. You have the power within you to change your own destiny. This is the truth now. You don’t need to be sorry for anything you’ve done either. All those archaic notions are a thing of the past.”
     Jezebel leaned over the tray of sugar and stared at the child intently. The TV screen behind her back was flashing pictures of a woman holding a crystal in her hand. She was gazing into it as a caldron bubbled and little green beings danced in a circle around her legs.
     “The truth is my dear, that you can let your rose die. You don’t need it anymore. That was all an unnecessary lie. Look at all the stress you’ve been under searching for an imaginary rose. You’ve obviously been the victim of a great deal of abuse. You need to stay here with me and I’ll take care of you. I can give you everything you need.”
     As she was speaking, Jezebel pushed a fork into the cake, dug out a large piece and steered it toward Sarah’s mouth.
     “Can I go to the bathroom?”
     “Certainly, little one. I’ll show you where it is.”
     Jezebel got up and Sarah followed her down the hall. The woman pointed to a door on the left.
     “Thank you,” Sarah said. Then before she stepped inside she asked, “May I have a sweater, please? I’m cold.”
     “Of course, dear. Who would send you off in a nightgown?” Jezebel shook her head as she turned back down the hall. “Abuse,” she mumbled as she went.
     Sarah watched her go. Then she looked down the opposite end of the hall. There was a door with a big “exit” sign over it. Sarah ran toward the door and in seconds she was gone.
     The child flew down the back steps and landed with both feet on the parking lot. Then she took off across the pavement. She looked back briefly. The rear of the building didn’t look like a church at all – just a broken down old warehouse.
     Sarah didn’t stop running until she felt she was far enough away so the woman couldn’t find her. She stopped at an intersection where she tried to catch her breath. Then she heard the rhymic clopping of horses’ hooves. Sarah turned around and saw them following behind her on the sidewalk. The white horse and its rider were in the front, followed by the red, the black and the pale horse of death. Sarah shivered and wished she did have a sweater, for these riders generated a coldness that permeated the atmosphere around them.
     Then she heard the cry once more. “My rose!” She turned away from the horses and looked up the sidewalk before her. The river of pedestrians was moving toward a fortress-like structure in the distance. It was like a castle with turrets, a gray wall that swallowed the horizon. She could hear music and she saw a wheel turning in the air above the wall. She thought it must be an amusement park, for everyone was walking toward it eagerly.
     She didn’t want to go there, but behind her were those evil horses, an irate machine who wanted to swallow her, and a woman who wanted to control her. Sarah had no choice but to join the crowd of pleasure seekers. She flowed along with them until they passed under the archway, then the people began to disperse. Sarah was left standing alone in the entrance looking into a vast plain of diversions. There were ferris wheels and roller coasters, tents, booths, clowns and animals; lots of things that could make a child happy. But there was only one thing on her mind.
     “How will I find my rose?”
     “Roses? I’ve got plenty of roses here, kid. You’ve come to the right place.”
     Sarah looked over at a man who was dressed in a formal red suit. He had a thick, black mustache and he was holding a baton in his hand. The carnival master smiled at the little girl. “You want to find a rose, follow me!”
     He turned and marched off into the crowd. Sarah didn’t want to go after him, but she didn’t know what else to do. Maybe he did know where she could find her rose.
     She followed after him through the melee. He led her past a merry-go-round packed with people circling on gargoyle shaped animals. They past an assortment of other rides with fun names like, ‘Cyclone,’ ‘Water Spout,’ ‘Earthquake’ and ‘Twister.’
     There were booths and games where people eagerly threw their money away into little pod-like siphons that giggled every time a coin fell into their mouths. One man tossed in a dollar coin. A pod burped back a couple of pennies. “I won!” the man exclaimed joyfully. Then he threw in another dollar.
     They came to a long line of people streaming into a theatre. The sign on the marquee said, ‘Adults Only,’ but there were children, some of them not much older than Sarah, filing into the darkness with the grown-ups.
     The carnival master stopped in front of the theatre. “Hey, kid, wanna see the movie?” He was grinning.
     “I want my rose,” Sarah answered with determination.
     The carnival master sighed. “She wants her rose. Okay, kid. C’mon. I’ll take you to the rose garden.”
     He took off again. He led her in between the circus tent and a racetrack. Then he stepped out onto a patch of brilliant green astro turf. Rows and rows of stiff looking artificial flowers were blooming there in the light of a sun lamp.
     “Here they are, kid, all the roses ya want. And they’re only a buck each.”
     He picked one of the plastic flowers and handed it to her. Sarah looked at its lifeless petals and she wanted to cry.
     “It’s not my rose,” Sarah sobbed. “God didn’t make this rose.”
     “Of course not,” the carnival master sneered. “I made these roses. What’s the matter with you? Everybody loves these roses. You don’t have to water ‘em. They won’t wilt. Why are ya bein’ so fussy? What difference does it make? They’re only a dollar. Take one.”
     “It’s not my rose – and I don’t have any money.”
     “You don’t have any money?!” the carnival master shouted. He looked at the rose in her hand and ripped it away from her. “If you didn’t have any money then why’d ya come here in the first place?” He was screaming. “Look, kid, this is an amusement park – MY amusement park. You’re supposed to be amused. I haven’t seen you smile since you came into this place. What’s wrong with you? Everybody wants to be entertained. All you want is a stupid rose!”
     He knelt down until he was eye level with her. Then he spoke with a firm, sinister edge to his voice. “I’m gonna give you a little time to get your act together. Then if you’re not willing to join in the festivities...” He paused and smacked the end of his baton into the palm of his hand. Then he slowly rose to his feet.
     Sarah looked up at him. “Can I just look around for awhile by myself until I find something I like?”
     He smiled at her. “Yeah, sure. Go look around all you want. I won’t be too far away. Remember that.” He stepped aside and let her walk past him. She started to cross the astro turf.
     “Hey, don’t step on the grass!” he bellowed.
     Sarah jumped back onto the gravel pathway and followed it to wherever it wanted to lead her.
     The path twisted and weaved behind the tents and booths along the wall that bordered the amusement park. Sarah looked ahead of her and saw a tower that was built into the wall. There was a little lookout station up there with a stairway leading up to it. Sarah thought that maybe if she climbed the tower she’d be able to get some idea of where she was and possibly locate a means of escape.
     She looked around to see of the carnival master was following her. She couldn’t see him anywhere. Then she quickly ducked into the tower and climbed to the top. She was out of breath when she reached the summit. She peered out the window overlooking the amusement park, and gazed at the collage of color and movement. Ferris wheels were turning around and around, race cars were circling on their tracks. The merry-go-rounds were spinning. Sarah looked at the multitudes. It seemed as if going around in circles was the only purpose they had.
     Sarah sighed. “I want my rose.” Then she heard the flower cry again. It was louder than it had ever been before. She turned and looked out the opposite window. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. “My rose!”
     She could see it so clearly. It was on a not too distant hillside struggling in its bush of thorns. Above it was a cross silhouetted against a sky that seemed to be struggling also, as if the murky gray atmosphere was resisting the light that was trying to break through the clouds.
     From her place in the tower, Sarah could see that there was an exit on the wall several hundred feet away. She quickly turned and raced down the stairs. She burst out of the tower and ran as fast as she could toward the exit. As she flew past an opening between the booths, she heard a woman shout, “There she is! Stop her! She’s been abused!”
     Jezebel had been talking with the carnival master and they both looked up in time to see Sarah whiz by. Immediately they started to chase after her.
     Sarah had almost reached the exit, when a clown in the middle of one of his routines, burst onto the path in front of her. She was running so fast, she couldn’t stop. The clown saw her in time and did a somersault over her head. As he tumbled onto the ground, he became a human bowling ball and rolled into the carnival master. The force of the collision spun both of them backwards in a flurry of dust and ruffles. The clown’s bright orange wig flew off his head and slapped Jezebel in the face as she barely avoided falling over them.
     “Idiots!” she screamed as she flung the wig into the dirt. “She’s getting away! Stop her!”
     Sarah bolted out of the archway and raced toward the hill. She felt she was being propelled by a strength that was not her own. She barely felt her feet touching the ground. She knew she was being pursued. She could hear the footsteps running behind her. She heard the horses galloping, the hum of the motor and the machine’s wheels churning in the distance.
     She reached the base of the hill. The cross was above her and its long shadow stretched out before her for almost a mile. She could see it wavering as she came closer. Then she realized that it wasn’t a shadow at all. It was water that was mirroring the cross. Then she heard His voice again, and the panic she was feeling in her being quickly subsided.
     “Sarah,” He said, “you’re almost home. Do exactly as I tell you.”
     She had stopped running. The water was lapping at her toes.
     “Sarah, I want you to step out onto the water.”
     She looked at the sparkling, blue pathway that led to the foot of the cross in the distance and her beloved rose. Then she placed her foot on the water’s surface where it remained solidly supported as if she was standing on a rock. She felt the velvet ripples undulating beneath her feet.
     “Sarah,” He continued as the angry sounds behind her kept getting louder. “Keep your eyes on the cross and no matter what happens, no matter what you hear, do not look back.”
     She nodded and fastened her eyes on the cross as she was told.
     “Start walking toward your rose, Sarah.” He said.
     As she started to walk across the water, she felt the pull of the forces behind her and the oppression they generated. It seemed as if angry noise at her back was just about to descend upon her. It was all she could do to keep from turning around. Then she heard the rumbling sound. Insulated by the water path, she couldn’t feel the ground tremble. With her eyes on the cross, she couldn’t see the earth quake and open up beneath her. Supported by the cross’s watery shadow, she didn’t know that she was now suspended high above a bottomless cavern.
     The pit had opened up so quickly, the four horses barely had time to skid to a stop. Jezebel and the carnival master came racing up and stopped at the edge of the vast canyon out of breath and cursing as they watched the child calmly walking in the sky so far beyond their reach. And the machine, who thought it was going to out run them all, raced toward the abyss unable to stop – omnipotent machine had swallowed its inventor before he had finished wiring its brakes.
     Compared to the enormity of the ravine, the machine looked like a little silver pebble as it flew out over the edge and descended down, down into the darkness without so much as a metallic whimper.
     All was silent now, for the distance Sarah was in separated her from the angry sounds. And gray fog erased the figures that stood on the shore of her past, as the water expanded and filled in the cavern leaving only a wide, blue sea that no evil could overcome. The only sounds the child could hear now, was the water lapping – and her rose sobbing.
     Sarah walked over to the thorn bush. The flower was writhing in agony as the thorns, like vipers, struck at the rose again and again. The child reached out to try and rescue it, but the rose was so thickly imprisoned by the vicious branches, Sarah knew she’d be torn to ribbons before she even had a chance to set her flower free.
     “My poor rose!” Sarah cried. “I’m so sorry. I can’t help you. I’ve come so far, and it’s been so hard, and now that I’m finally here, there’s nothing I can do to save you!”
     As the tears flowed down her cheeks, Sarah saw a nail-scarred hand reach into the bush. The thorns recoiled as if they had been struck. Gentle fingers wrapped themselves around the flower and carefully picked it from its stem. Immediately, the torn and ragged petals began to be restored. And when Sarah held out her hands to joyfully receive her precious gift, the wounds and the scars on every single petal had completely disappeared. The flower was pulsating with new life. Sarah cradled it to her heart and felt the rose throbbing against her breast. She looked up at her Savior and smiled. “Thank You,” she whispered.
     “This little thornless rose will never die, Sarah. She’s yours forever.” Then He reached down and gathered the child into His arms. She rested her head against His shoulder and wrapped her arm around His neck as He carried her and her rose away from the thorn bush. Its branches began to wither until all the torment and tribulation within its boughs had completely dissolved into nothing.
     He walked toward the distance as light broke through the clouds, and a rainbow, a great band of exuberant color, married itself to the sky. Flower stars pirouetted like fireworks as a city began to emerge from the horizon. Sarah had never seen anything like it before. It was a beautiful city that glowed like jewels and shimmered like virtue. No fear could enter in there, or anything that would hurt or destroy. As Sarah looked at that city filled with multitudes of fragrant roses, the child knew she was home.

    “I’m sorry,” the doctor said. It was the only thing that was spoken as the man and his wife looked at the still figure of their daughter lying in a hospital bed. In their minds they shouted, “Why?” They held onto whatever faith they possessed with both trembling hearts and tried to believe there must be a reason they could not understand. Maybe in time...

    When courses are rearranged by events beyond mortal control, and sorrow drives the wounded heart to an altar, perhaps a child’s death can only serve one purpose. Like an unseen hand reaching out to lift a weary head to behold something beyond what human eyes can see, it is death that births the quest in all of us to seek for a rose.

copyright 1999 by H.D. Shively

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