Jason stood in the shadows of the doorway leading to the balcony, looking down over the massed crowd as he hugged the wall.  His face was grim, and he seemed to need the wall’s support to even stand.  Far beneath him was the assembled army of the Citadel, standing with shields and spears in long rows and columns of massed death.  Jay shook as he backed away from the sight and fell down into a chair in the Hall of Elders.

            Has it come to thisWhat are we doingFighting a war against people we set out to protect so many years agoAgainst our friends and family?  He rested his head in his hands, trembling.  He was so tired.  He knew that they were wrong, that everything they did was wrong, that he should have followed Alex and Eve seven years ago, but he wasn’t as strong as them.  He didn’t have the courage.  Jay was afraid.  Not just afraid of the war, but afraid of standing up and saying anything against it.  Of expressing any doubt in Neal’s leadership.  He was afraid to even leave, for he suspected that they would track him down.  His healing power was integral to their work here, even if it was growing increasingly ineffective.

            He knew it was because of his faith.  Or, to be honest, his lack thereof.  Jay would lay hands on people and know that, for whatever reason, they would have wounds and diseases healed.  But he also knew that they would be back within a week or a month with a new problem.  Nothing he did mattered, so with most things he stopped trying.  At first he had been certain that the healings were a gift, but then he realized that, once they had started, his prophetic visions had disappeared.  He had felt like he had been cast into darkness, and despair clutched at his heart.  Prayer, worship, church, none of these things made him feel the presence of God anymore, and he wondered if he had ever felt it.

            Jay gradually got to his feet and shuffled down the corridor, his shoulder leaning into the stone wall as he made his way to the stairs and headed up to the floor with his rooms.  He wished he knew how to pray again, wished he knew that God was listening, or even existed.  He knew deep in his heart that they had forsaken God a long time ago.  He had been able to ignore the signs at first, overlook Dan’s promiscuity, look the other way when he saw Owen or Evan hand someone money surreptitiously during a meeting, a chance encounter in a hallway, or during services.  He could justify their taxation of the land, as they were the only government, he could pretend that Neal was a principled and trustworthy leader, but now he could not hide from the truth.

            When your best friends raise up a bloodthirsty army whose sole purpose is to march out and destroy everything in its path, it is extremely difficult to pretend that your friends are not murderers.

            He slumped down on the sumptuous couch in his apartments, leaning back and putting his feet up.  Jay was always tired now, whether he exerted himself or not.  It felt as if he had a stone tied around his neck, dragging him down.  It felt like drowning most of the time, like he just kept sinking deeper and deeper.

            Because of him, people had trusted their church.  They had called him a miracle-worker, a gift of God, and the congregation swelled.  It bought them authority, publicity, and brought them the riches and power that surrounded him now.  Without him, it would never have happened.  He might not have planned it, put together the organizational structure, led their troops, committed the murders, but he had stood by and let it all happen, and all of it happened only because people trusted his healing power.

            Jason held his head in his hands, his fingers tangling in his thinning blond hair, and he began to weep.  Sobs wracked his skinny body as he sat there alone in the dark.  Without friends, without courage, without hope, without God.  Some people would have given in to their despair, ended their lives.  Not Jay.  After all, he was the type of person who could never do anything.  He ran from his friends, his responsibilities, his God.  He just suffered through it, and watched evil happen.  Allowed it to occur.

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