Everyone was silent for a few moments after Craven’s rant, but then Mike said in a soft tone, “We will also accept your offer, Old Man.” Mike and his brothers had been discussing the decision with sign language while the Pastor and Craven had their argument.
The Pastor interjected, however. “You boys are minors. The decision isn’t yours.”
Floyd interrupted, “No, the decision is mine, as I am the boys’ legal guardian still, and if this can undo at least the physical damage that was done to my boys, then I give them permission, and I also will accept so that they have a father for as long as they are children. I am being given a second chance to be a father. I was a piss-poor one in the past and caused not only physical harm to my boys but emotional and mental as well. So, I am going to do whatever I need to, to make my own amends.
You aren’t going to take this opportunity from my sons due to your prejudice and small-mindedness. Aberly has been a part of this town since it’s inception, and he ain’t never once hurt no one, despite what he is. Yet, you, like myself, have abused your own child, and then disowned him when he didn’t choose to follow the path you tried to shove down his throat. You’re just as nasty and violent to your son as I have been to my own, you were just sneakier about it. I at least had the excuse of being a mean drunk, what is yours, Samuel?”
Samuel protested. “I did not abuse my son,”
Hank interrupted, “Apparently, you have a different view of abuse, Pastor. From the one incident I saw, you have and do abuse your son. Floyd is right. Aberly has never caused anyone in this town harm. Personally, I am going to need some time to consider his offer. It’s not a decision I can make right this moment. I need to discuss it with my wife but I am not going to begrudge the choice to any who do want it, and the boys want it, as well as Craven. This is a choice that you can only make for yourself Pastor, not for anyone else. God gave us all free will, and though you may not personally approve, you have no right to make this kind of choice for anyone. Craven is not only emancipated from you but he is now a legal adult at eighteen. He’s no longer your concern. You were the one who disowned him, not the other way around.”
Jarrel clapped his hands. “Oh, I want to be a were-creature. Can I, Jonny? Please, please, please, pretty please with a cherry on top?” Jonathan was about to answer no, but then he turned to Aberly and asked, “Will this change heal Jarrel’s mind?”
Aberly shrugged. “I can’t say, Jonathan. His brain will change, in regards to becoming much more complex than a human mind. So, there is a possibility, but I can promise that. If his condition is entirely psychological, then the structure of his brain won’t matter. But then again, it might affect it. I’m not a physician or a psychiatrist to really know. All I can say for certain is that it won’t change his basic personality. He’ll be the same gentle, man that he is now.”
Jonathan was quiet for a moment before responding. “If there’s even a small chance that it might help, then I am willing to take that chance, and at the very least, it will help ease my concern for Jarrel coming to physical harm. With regenerative abilities, though he may get injured, it will take much more to end his life. And I will accept for myself as well so that I will always be in Jarrel’s life to watch over him. Barring accidental death, but that can’t be avoided even as I am now. So, I see nothing to lose, but more to gain by accepting. My wife is free to make her own choice.”
Jarrel gleefully clapped his hands in excitement.
The Pastor shouted out, however, “I won’t live in a town full of monsters!”
Luke walked over to the Pastor and shouted at him, “You already live in a town full of monsters! And you are the worse one! I may have only been five when my Uncle Lloyd took us but I remember you beating my ass in your homeschool with your paddle. And like your own son pointed out, you’re also a hypocrite.
You were so concerned about saving our souls but you didn’t give a shit about saving our physical bodies from abuse. You knew that our father was abusing us and you added to that abuse by paddling us at school. You saw our bruised and blistered bottoms and added to that pain. And you didn’t do a damn thing when we went missing. You’re supposed to be a Man of God. Would Jesus have just left us wandering out in the world all alone, saying oh, well, they’re probably better off? Or would he have come to find us? Didn’t he talk about the shepherd who left his entire flock to look for the one lost sheep? So, don’t you stand there and call Aberly a monster, and anyone who wants the gift he’s offering, and it is a gift. It’s not evil. You are evil. You’re self-righteous and cruel.”
The Pastor went to raise his hand to slap the insolent boy, but Floyd was right there to grab his arm. “Don’t you dare raise a hand to my boy. If the boy needs discipline, then I will be the one to administer it but everything he said is the truth. He doesn’t deserve to be hit simply because you don’t like hearing the truth about yourself. I sure as shit am no saint myself, but neither are you. If you don’t want to live in a town with Aberly and any others who accept his offer, then no one is keeping you here, Pastor. You know the way out of town.”
Samuel’s just trying to save your souls, Martha said in defense of her husband. “This isn’t natural. It’s not God’s creation; these were-creatures. They’re genetic experiments gone wrong.”
Adeline cut in. “And humans were genetic experiments gone right? If we’re to believe the history that Aberly has told us, then the humans that we are descendent from were genetically engineered to be slaves to those aliens. God created the human soul, but aliens created the physical body of Man.”
Aberly cut in, “And they achieved that by using a bit of their own genetics. That is why God–the One True God–assigned them as earth angels over humanity because humankind is their children in regards to biology.”
“Lies! All lies!” Samuel shouted. “You are Satan in the guise of a hybrid human, spreading your lies in order to corrupt human souls. You have no proof that your version of history is the truth.”
Aberly nodded, speaking in a calm tone, despite the Pastor’s angry one. “True, you only have my word, but I am a man of my word. Lies don’t sit well with me. If they did, then I would have had no problem taking part in the lie that Lance and Peter had wanted us to all tell. You, however, I remember, chose to participate in that lie. So, you have no right to point fingers and accuse others of being liars. You may not want to believe what I have told you, but it is the truth. As I have lived through those periods in history, I believe I have a better idea of what happened back then than you do.”
“I am not a liar! I was scared for my life! Lance and Peter were threatening to shoot anyone who went against them!” Samuel exclaimed, and Hank nodded; “Yes, and those who had integrity took that risk. You say better to be physically handicapped as these boys are than to burn in Hell, but can’t you also say, better to tell the truth and risk death, then to burn in Hell?
How can you point fingers when you yourself are not a righteous man, Samuel? Not that anyone is holding it against you; the choice you made. You were scared, as were many others. I was scared for my safety as well, and so was Aberly and my brother and Buford, but we made the choice we made because we knew it was the right one to make despite the risk it imposed.
We get that you are concerned for our souls, but you are a fanatic Samuel, and you can’t see the forest for the trees, you are so singularly focused. That is what narrowmindedness is, it creates blinders to a wider view. All you need to know is that Aberly is a good man, has always been a good man, and has never caused anyone any harm, though he’s lived generations among the people of Land’s End.
I don’t care if a person is covered head to toe in fur. If they are a good person, that is all that matters to me, and that should be all that matters to you. The nature of Aberly’s soul is clearly evident if you merely step down from your pedestal and treat everyone as a Child of God. Not just those that you feel worthy, but every one of God’s creatures. It doesn’t matter if Aberly is the result of genetic experimentation, or that he was of a different line of humans than the rest of us are descendent from. It doesn’t matter what ‘tool’ God uses to make his creations, whether it be by His own hand, or a proxy… every living thing is a Child of God. Animal and human alike, as are the plant life and insects. Everything.
Satan does not create life, Samuel, because he is not God. So, Aberly is not a child of Satan, he is a Child of God the same as you. Let go of your fear. Maybe this choice isn’t the choice for you and Martha, and that’s fine. That is your choice, but don’t belittle the choices that others make simply because it’s not the one you choose. Simply trust that God will sort it all out in the end. God did not assign you to be overseer of any soul other than your own. You became a pastor of your own will and desire. God did not assign that task to you. He doesn’t need you to judge souls, because he is the final–the only–judgment where it comes to souls. Not you.
It is fine to take on the role as a spiritual guide to others, but not to where you take the role of judge of another’s purity of heart or soul. Especially, when your own is far from pure. You can make whatever excuses you want to sleep easy at night, but you are just as responsible for what happened to these three boys as the rest of the town who knew they were missing and did nothing about it. You all should have done everything in your power to find those boys, but you stopped short of that for whatever reasons you had. The reasons don’t matter.
You were negligent, willfully so, and you also willingly chose to participate in the lie that Lance and Peter wanted to present to the authorities. You can lie to yourself, you can lie to others, but God knows the truth, and you know that. So, stop preaching and start doing more loving and understanding of those who are different than you, those who might believe differently than you. You don’t have to agree with other’s decision in this matter, but you should respect their right to make that decision and be civil and loving and compassionate if you feel they are making the wrong choice–a choice that may affect their souls.
Beating and bullying righteousness into others is not the message that Christ gave to the world, and that is what you are doing.”