Screech. The cell door was yanked open causing Faye’s heart to jump. Orange light flooded the room; her eyes watered and smarted but her weak arms couldn’t rise to rub the burn. She averted her gaze to a dim corner as tears warmed her cheeks. Her heart rushed blood through her ears causing them to ring.
Shackles clunked to the ground as the lead chain was unlocked. Rusted cuffs pressed into her wrists as a man jerked her out of the cell. She shuffled irregularly down the dim corridor, dragging her feet while allowing the weight of the iron to pull her shoulders forward. Her stomach ached; her body groaned. The floor swayed beneath her. So, she focused her heavy eyes on her chains as her soul throbbed. Is this it? My God, is this the end?
Orange, gray, and brown blurred before her, prompting her to stop gazing at her cuffs and rather to the side. Though everything swirled, her eyes recognized a dirty face, ringed by unkempt hair, peering through some bars.
“Asha,” Faye mouthed but wanted to shout with joy at seeing a friend. Asha wrapped her hands firmly around the bars, smiling. Faye’s chains pulled tight; she stumbled.
“Have hope, Faye!”
A guard smacked the bar with the hilt of his sword and Asha withdrew while Faye forced herself to stand up straight. Asha called out once more,
“God is with you!”
God is with me… Thank you, Lord. I know you are… But…
The door creaked open and Faye was pulled harshly out into the daylight; hollow sound echoed beneath her as she walked up a wooden slope. A voice, firm but not harsh, came from behind her.
“You know your charge; it’s the same as all the others, and I give you the same command. Now is your chance.”
Faye turned, squinting to make out the man’s shape. The sunset behind him in a brilliant display of purple, gold, and pink. As her eyes adjusted to the sun’s glare, she saw him. He stood tall and proud above her, a royal white robe draped around him with a silver circlet on his head.
“Be free.” He said. Her chains were unlocked. They fell, thumping against the slippery wood beneath her.
“Be… free?” She looked around her. Her bare feet rested on a oil-drenched platform. Along its border were bundles of sticks and four expressionless guards with downcast eyes, prepared to set ablaze. Faye shivered and wrapped her arms around herself.
“This would be your fate, but you will make the right choice. Will you not?” The man laughed. “The choice is only to bow to me in worship.”
Faye’s heart nearly stopped. Her back and legs stiffen. Then, her heart began pounding rapidly. Lord…give me strength.
“I will… but not before you.” Her voice quivered with the last word.
The sun was now behind the wall and Faye could look up without hindrance- but she didn’t dare.
“To whom then will you bow? The god you worship? This is my kingdom! You worship me, you will bow to me… or burn as a sacrifice and proof of my authority.”
Faye’s heart pounded ever harder causing her knees to shake.
“Bow to me.”
Her stomach churned. My God? Where are you? Where is your strength? Your peace? I know who you are, Lord. I believe in your hope. Make me brave… a fire of passion for you.
“What good is dying, girl? Your god has abandoned you- can’t you see? I am lord here! I decide your fate.”
He slapped his hand on the stone wall before him punctuating his statement, but Faye hadn’t noticed. Her eyes rested on a line of people being led from the jail. Beaten, starved, and weary they moved slowly, but a few held their heads up and shoulders back while returning her gaze.
Do not be afraid.
Lip trembling, she lifted her face and spoke. “No, my God has not abandoned me! Even if I can’t see Him, can’t hear him, He is still here. Whether I live or die I am in His hands.”
“Lies! How can someone be here if you can’t see or hear him? It’s an illusion. A story for weak minds- are you truly that gullible? You can see me; you can see my power. It will be by my will that you live or suffer! Bow to me.”
No, you are not an illusion, your power will be made visible through me. Lord, you are not! Make your power visible, as you did in those before me, those… those I saw… I will not!
“I will not!” She shook, but spoke confidently. “My God is the only one with that authority, in Him is my hope. If I should die then I will be with Him, but He has the power to deliver me. I will not bow to you!” The pounding in her chest lessened and she stood straighter.
The man stiffened eyes focused on her. “Then you will die. Burn her!”
Faye did not resist as her hands were bound to the pole.
Torches were tossed onto the platform which immediately erupted into an inferno.
Expecting searing pain, Faye clenched her eyes shut and pressed herself against the pole. But instead, a gentle heat wrapped itself around her. The smoke tasted dry on her tongue but didn’t choke her. Her eyes opened to gaze at the flames that twirled up her legs seemingly consuming her but causing no pain. She laughed.
“All glory to the One True God!”
Fire leapt up the pole, burning through the ropes. As soon as their grip loosened, she lifted her arms to the sky that was hidden by the smoke. Energy surged through her and she grinned. She inhaled deeply, allowing the Lord’s spirit to fill her with song. Then, she danced in the flames.
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