Authors: Jennifer Ensley
Human souls are all the same. At least, they start out that way. Your life, your experiences, your
can either strengthen your soul… or leave it emaciated. The decisions you make can sculpt it into something beautiful, or twist it into a hideously gnarled mess. But like I said before… it doesn’t start out that way. When you look upon a small child,
child, you can clearly see… their souls all start out exactly the same. Irrelevant of the wrapper that encompasses it, every baby’s
is completely identical. Take care how you mold that precious life, parents. Good or ill, you
be held accountable.
Copyright© 2016 by Jennifer Ensley
The Journey is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance, similarity, or identification to actual persons, living or dead, events, products or locales is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
Cover Artwork and Design by www.selfpubbookcovers.com/Shardel
Editing by Mel Carey
Formatting by Jennifer K. Ensley. www.JKEnsley.com
**All credit and unimaginable praise and adoration goes to the many scholars and historians who came before me.**
**A special thank you and deepest respect for my preacher and lifelong friend, Eugene Underwood. I would know and understand
, were it not for your capable tutelage, Brother. Namaste—my soul bows to your soul… always.**
All rights are reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form, including but not limited to, characters, text, book design, and artwork all owned solely by Jennifer K. Ensley. Any unauthorized duplication and/or distribution of this work, characters, places, and story in whole or in part may result in civil liability and criminal prosecution.
In loving memory of Tracey Walker George. You still own the whole of my forever-broken heart, Trace… always.
The worst part… is the smell. If I spend too long there, I reemerge emaciated, skeletal, gaunt, ashen. I can’t help it. My physical deterioration is a byproduct of my inability to eat, to drink, and the ever-constant retching. Sulfur—the rotten stench of hell. It burns in my nostrils for
As I now pass through this unfamiliar, decaying maze—desperately seeking the hidden entrance to the beyond place—I stop to watch the unknowing masses I have just stumbled upon.
What draws them here? —the living. What kind of otherworldly pull does this stinking old tomb waft out into the night?
I cannot hear it, cannot feel it… but apparently
can. The elated glow upon their painted faces, their echoing revelry, their passion-fueled dances… these things all speak the truth of it.
Yet, what is it all for?
is it all for? This… I cannot say. All I can say—and with one hundred percent certainty—they are burning an entire night of their precious lives away, for naught.
Not a single creature who passes through this crypt cares one whit for these delusional mortals. The dark ones who walk about this forgotten boneyard do so without so much as a passing glance to their right or to their left. If these humans are gathered here to worship or praise or impress… there is no such deity lurking amongst these cold stones. Only these ancient bones—morbid markers of the long since dead—bear witness to the partygoers misplaced glee.
And if it is not dark attention from the Nether they seek… then what? What can they possibly gain by coming to a place such as this? Another week’s worth of chemically-altered reality? An incurable affliction accosting their nether regions? A killer, mind-jarring hangover? Yes, all of those things can be attained here with little effort, it seems. Yet, I cannot for the life of me figure out the morbid appeal of such self-destruction.
Me? Yes, I am here as well—now surrounded by the many sins of the flesh, my eardrums vibrating with the foreign sound of an industrial beat I find myself becoming pleasantly accustomed to. No, I do not come to this place for the same reason as do these other poor souls. The things
seek… such holds no value with me.
My eyes have been opened and I can never go back to the wonderfully ignorant bliss of the
No, I come here for a different purpose. An
different purpose. I come here for
… for Paltiel. I wait for him to pass through these cold, putrid corridors… wait for him to deem my suffering sufficient enough to warrant his help, warrant his guidance into the void. I cannot tread
minus that old devil’s assistance. He knows such, and revels in that knowledge.
Still, their illegal underground party
bless me with a taste of precious light. I
thankful for that. Yet… I must now move on.
This is not the tunnel I seek. That vicious little Angel won’t pass through here. I know this truth in my heart.
My knees are irrecoverably scarred—forever bloodied from this blind crawling—trudging my way through the unyielding abyss of the bitter trial now plaguing me.
“Ugh… They hurt. They burn. Ouch… Dammit…”
I pull another shard from my left kneecap. I know not if it’s a stone, a bit of broken glass… or a fragment of ancient bone.
Please let it be glass. Please let it be glass. Ugh… It’s cold down here. Sooo cold. How the heck am I sweating?
am I sweating? I’m drenched. My shirt’s soaked clean through.
I immediately put my lips to the fresh cut on my palm… then spit out the dirt that had collected there.
I gag… again.
Why do we do that? –humans. Why do we automatically suckle our injuries?
Yes… a silly thing to think about at a time like this.
I am weary. I have to stop a moment… rest atop these forgotten bones I now crawl through.
“My hands and knees are all but shredded. Before I make it through this wretched darkness, my outsides will mirror the scars my poor old heart has worn for
The stale air is heavy, earthy… old.
Am I well? Perhaps I’m getting sick. Or… perhaps I’m just mad with hunger. Can starvation make you lose your wits? Can utter darkness? Or… am I yet sane?
“Pffts… Nope. Not sane. Not today. But tomorrow… tomorrow I
Yes, I am most definitely marred—marred by loss
gain, marred by suffering
joy… infinitely marred by enemies
It is a powerfully hard thing—trying to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Folks can
such noble words with ease, yes—spread peace and love and proverbs from the highest mountaintop. But down here in the valley… well, down
… it’s often hard to see that light. Real hard.
I remember when I was just a teenager… going through a loss I thought there was no way I could possibly bear. A sweet old lady patted my shoulder, smiling as she said…
“It’ll be alright, Honey. It hurts now, but it won’t hurt forever. You hear me? Just remember, God doesn’t put more on you than you can handle. Trust in that. He’ll never give you more than you can live through. It says so in the Good Book.”
But, that’s a lie. She
That little old well-meaning woman imparted those words to
and give support, to
and be helpful. Yes, I know and understand that. But her sweet-sounding deception… it did much more harm than good. To me, and to
as well. Why? Because she actually
the Bible said that. It doesn’t.
She was confused about first Corinthians. It doesn’t say that. It doesn’t
that. Her quote wasn’t even
to what the Good Book says. What the Bible
say is… God will not allow you to be
beyond your abilities. That He’ll always supply a way out of the
. You just gotta be strong enough to choose the way
and not the way
That is a
cry from telling someone that
will happen to them that is so horrible that they should not be able to bear the burden. Seriously? The truth is, the Bible says the exact opposite. If she would have kept on reading, that sweet little old lady might have stumbled across
Corinthians where Paul writes that he was weighed down with a weight of suffering
his strength. That sure sounds a whole heck of a lot different than telling someone, “God didn’t give us any burdens we couldn’t bear.” And what about Jesus? Was
burden bearable? If so, why did he cry out… My God, My God, why have You forsaken me? Does that sound like someone who’s going through something he can handle on his own?
You see, the problem with all this tidy little encouraging bit of religious sentimentality is… It. Doesn’t. Help. People. It might make
feel better for saying it, but it makes the other person feel horrible, weak, inadequate. You’re just
to their pain, their burden, the weight they absolutely
Look at your little syrupy sweet, bumper sticker, pick-me-up-poster quote this way… Would you say it to a child dying from cancer? Would you say it to a mother who just lost all three of her children in a house fire? Someone who’d just been handed a diagnosis of a fatal disease? Would you say it to an Auschwitz inmate? Any man, woman, or child in a Chinese Death Camp? Would you? Well, would you? Would you walk right up to that helpless, hopeless human soul and say… “Don’t worry about it, Honey. God never gives you more than you can bear”? Not only are you telling that poor, destroyed person they should just suck it up and go on, you’re also telling them that
did that to them. That apparently they
it, that it was
fault. Are you even listening to yourself? Do you honestly believe that our Heavenly Father
bad things happen to us? No!
Don’t believe the lie, my friends. Our suffering is not
by God, no. Ahh… but it
where we can find God. He comes there to meet us, to help us, to hold us while we suffer.
That’s what it means when God says… “Come unto Me all ye who are weak and heavy laden, and
will give you rest”.
Rest… That’s what I need now. I need rest—sweet, beautiful, blissful rest. I am tired, so wretchedly tired of crawling and groping and sitting here in this vile darkness.
The way I feel right now… I can barely raise my head to seek out that faraway brightness, that promise… that hope. The pain when it isn’t real, when the light isn’t there… these torn up old knees mean little compared to
kind of misery.
I think I’m dizzy… but how can you tell in the dark? Perhaps I’m a tad feverish.
The popping of my weary neck bones echoes quietly through this nothingness.
My shoulder hurts… feels like it’s bleeding again. Well, there’s nothing to be done for it now, I suppose.
So, here I sit… in the darkness… in the doubt… in the exquisite
And… here I wait.
My last mission was extensive and tedious. I had to travel the width and breadth of this old world to find the needed words, the needed knowledge to help guide the blind sheep along
journey. Yes, even the ones gyrating back in that bone-strewn cavern. And it is
of those same extensive wanderings, I now find myself injured, hungry, and completely depleted of the vital essence needed to continue
The only way back to the Angel who holds the key… is through that pompous, arrogant, overly pious Paltiel.
Paltiel—the very creature who swore me harm if I should come to him thusly in need, ever again.
Yet, it could not be helped. Not
So… I wait.
I? Well… my story began many years ago in the heart of a peaceful little community located in the beautiful hills and valleys of East Tennessee.
I grew up in a wonder-filled land of beauty and discovery. As a child I camped out in the Great Smokey Mountains, swam the dingy waters of Norris Lake, hiked the many trails of Cades Cove, and basked in the colorful beauty of a place Mother Nature loves above all others.
I was blessed—ignorantly blessed and happy in that ignorance. Yet, as with all things we become accustomed to… I took my rare childhood for granted, thought the whole world was as blessed as I was, or even more so. And like all other children with a vivid imagination and a heart full of fairytale dreams, I wanted nothing more than to leave the suffocating confines of my small town home and strike out into the great big wonderful world.
My head hit that feather pillow every night filled with the most amazing dreams—dreams bursting at the seams with rare magic. My enchanting nighttime fantasies were sculpted by my happy childhood—loving, doting parents, friendships formed in kindergarten, and the contented ability to sleep with the doors unlocked and the windows left open for the cool breeze.
Whether Maynardville, Tennessee was the epitome of wholesome small town living, or simply the byproduct of protective parental nurturing, I know not. Well… I
know. Not back then.
I thought the whole world was as charmed as my lovely little piece of it. I never heard a single curse word at home, went to church three times a week, and made straight A’s pretty much all the way through school. Spanish sort of kicked my butt. Geometry, too, but I emerged
unscathed. Such was my life. I was a child. I knew what I knew, knew what I was taught. As do we all.
I can remember coming home from school, asking my sweet mother the meaning of the strange words I had heard some of the bigger boys saying on the bus. She would answer my embarrassing questions the most appropriate way she could. She always did. I can look back and laugh about it now, but I truly hate some of the things I ignorantly put that poor woman through. My mother was the kind of woman who would make our lunch, then pop it all in a basket and drive to the nearby park just to spread it out picnic-style on the ground. It was the exact same peanut butter sandwich we would have eaten at home, but it tasted sooo much better next to the large swing set and enormous metal slide.