Body, Soul, and Spirit: A Short Story

By Brent King On October 26, 2014 Under Short Stories

What follows is a short story that I’ve written about death—in the spirit of Halloween, no, in the spirit of Cross…


Cemetery SunsetThe lid of Derek’s casket reflected the colors of the evening sky as it disappeared into the ground. I lingered, watching the blurry forms of machines fill the gaping hole with earth.

“Do you know where Derek is?”

I jumped at the voice behind me. A stranger’s eyes met mine.

“You startled me,” I said. “I didn’t see you there.”

“Most people don’t,” he said.

I cocked my head and squinted at him in dwindling light.

“It’s all in my job description I guess.” The stranger smiled. “One would think that Derek’s mother should have seen me standing by his side.”

“You mean,” my voice quavered, “you’re his guardian angel?”

“Yes.”

I shrank closer to the tomb. Was this a prankster? What a cruel joke to play on a mother burying her only son!

“Fear not,” he said. “For I bring you good tidings of great joy.”

I shrugged my shoulders. “I just want him back,” I said.

“I can’t give you that,” the man said. “But I can show you where he is.”

Curiosity invaded me. “Isn’t he with God?”

The man stepped toward me and laid an arm on my shoulder.

“Yes,” he said.

“I, I…” I froze, staring into the man’s eyes. This wasn’t a man. It was…an angel. Why had he come to me?

“Come with me,” he said, “and I will show you about death and Derek.”

The twilight quickly faded to darkness. All I could see was the angel’s form before me, sinking slowly into the fresh grave. I sunk with him. My heart pounded in my throat. In a moment Derek’s form, cold and still, lay before me.

“I know!” I said. “I know that this is what is left of Derek. Why are you torturing me with more of what I’ve already seen?”

“We are only passing,” the angel said, “on our way to see the parts that you are missing.”

Light exploded into the tomb, washing out Derek’s face and blinding me. I blinked several times, trying to adjust my eyes to the brightness. They finally refocused. The casket was gone, but, but Derek was still there. Well, something was still there.

It floated prostrate between the angel and I, like the translucent glow of a galaxy through a telescope. Yet it was in the form of a man, in the form of…

“Is this Derek?” I asked.

“Not exactly,” the angel said. “This could be Derek, if it were fused with his body.”

“The body we just saw in the grave?”

I shuddered.

The radiance in the angel’s eyes lifted me. “No, a body much better than Derek’s corpse, indeed, better than any you have ever seen.”

“What keeps him alive?” I pointed again to the luminous man-shape before us. “I mean, he is alive, isn’t he?”

“His spirit is,” the angel said. “You know, the part of a man that connects him with God. That is the part of Derek that’s glowing here, but it has no consciousness. Only a soul—a spirit connected to a body—can experience emotional and spiritual life.”

The angel pointed to another shape off to my right. “Not all spirits are alive.”

A similar form floated there, but its substance was like scud in a storm. There was no light within it, only shifting shades of darkness. The image choked me.

“What is it?” I asked. “It’s a fearful thing.”

“It is death,” the angel said. “When Adam sinned, God gave—at a heavy cost to Himself—conditional life to all who are spiritually dead. Every man must choose to connect their spirits with Him to live.”

The angel’s face clouded and dropped. “He didn’t.”

“But I thought that those who spurned God went to hell.”

“You’re looking at hell,” the angel said.

My diaphragm convulsed, and erratic sobs escaped me. I managed to turn from the horror. Derek’s soft glow comforted me.

“You mentioned his body,” I said. “Where is his body?”

The angel extended his arm and touched my face, lifting my eyes upward. I had been so consumed with the spirits in front of me that I totally missed everything else.

I gasped.

Millions of floating spirit forms stretched out in a vast network on multiple levels. Some glowed brightly, but most were a swarm of darkness. Their ascending tiers drew my eyes to a brilliance high above. Rays of light shafted downward in myriad directions, illuminating each of the glowing spirits.

“Where are we?” I asked. “What’s up there?”

“The throne of God,” the angel said. “And His cross.”

“His cross?”

“Yes.” The angel passed his hand through the shaft of light that shown on Derik. “It’s only the power and light of the cross that gives life to Derek’s spirit.” He waved his hand toward the spirits around us, ending the motion with an outstretch finger, pointing behind me. “Beneath the cross the Master works, judging the case of each.”

I turned and my heart leapt within me. Another spirit shimmered before me, suspended before a man who gazed intently into it. He held a book in his hands and I squinted to endure the light that shown from him. It took a second to recognize him.

“Jesus.” I breathed the word under my breath.

A tear traced the cheek of Jesus as I gazed at Him.

“Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.” He spoke with His eyes riveted on the spirit before Him. “God has numbered thy kingdom and divided it.”

The galactic glow in the spirit before Him faded to a swirling man-shaped hole of blackness. I shuddered and spun back toward the angel. “What happened?” I asked.

“His spirit is dead,” a voice behind me said. “How can a soul live when it’s body and spirit are divided between life and death? A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

A hand warmed my shoulder. Jesus wiped his tears away and smiled at me, but I couldn’t smile back. My eyes swept the measureless expanse beneath God’s throne. It contained countless lost spirits, extending in ranks beyond my vision. My legs trembled and my breath came unevenly. I searched Jesus’ eyes.

“It’s a cosmic graveyard,” I said with difficulty, stretching out each syllable. “Heaven is a necropolis! I, I had no idea. Your attempt to save so many of us has been futile.”

“It’s worth it just for one,” Jesus said, stepping closer. “This is your son, isn’t it? Derek.”

I nodded. His fingers flipped through the pages of His book. Fear seized me, and I squeezed my eyes shut. What if Derek’s spirit was dead? I tried to sponge the swirling darkness of damned spirits from my mind. When I ventured a peek, Jesus yet gazed into the glow of Derek’s spirit.

“Well done,” he said, and I dared to breath again. “Well done thou good and faithful servant. Your kingdom shall not be divided, for your spirit and your body shall unite once more at the last trump.”

Jesus stepped toward the angel, knelt down at the head of Derek’s spirit, and worked with something while he spoke.

“In my father’s house are many mansions,” He said, and I knew He was speaking to me. “That means a lot of things for Derek. It means a mansion in the New Jerusalem. It means an estate in the new earth, but most of all it means a home for his spirit in the very heart of God.”

I blinked back the tears that my own spirit refused to contain.

“It also means something a lot more practical,” Jesus said.

His hands placed the last touches on his project and he lifted it up. It was Derek! Well, not all of Derek. I stole a glance at his featureless spirit, still hovering before me. At least it was the Derek I recognized, but so much more than the Derek that lay rotting in a tomb. He rested before me like a suit of armor in the hall of a castle—youthful, muscular, and still.

“It means a new body,” Jesus said, “a body like mine. It waits for Derek here, while he sleeps. And I wait to do the same for you, indeed, for all who will connect with me.” The face of Jesus beamed at me as he held my eyes a moment longer. “But as you can see, I’ve got work to do.” With a nod, He turned to another spirit next to us.

My eyes shifted from Derek’s body to his spirit, and then to the angel.

“What about him?” I glanced back at the man-shaped black hole beside us. “Why is his form still with us?”

“He has yet to be judged,” the angel said. “His spirit will yet be united with his body one last time.”

“Then where is his body?” I searched the area around him and saw no body awaiting him.

“It’s in the grave,” the angel said. “There will be no immortal youth and beauty to meet him when he once again takes breath. Only a body bearing the traces of disease and death.”

The angel continued. “There will come a time when the sea will give up the dead who are in it. Death and Hades will give up the dead who are in them, and all lost souls—so many that they will be like sand on the seashore—will be brought to life. The dead will come, great and small, to stand before the great white throne,” the angel pointed upward, “and the One who dwells there. Then the books will be opened, including the Book of Life, and the dead will be judged by what they have done.”

“An army of zombies,” I whispered.

“Yes,” the angel said, surveying the billions of floating spirits about them. “It is the greatest tragedy the universe has ever known.”

“Why did you bring me here?” I asked. “This is a frightful place.”

“It’s only frightful for those whose spirits are not connected to the cross.” The angel’s eyes returned to Derek’s spirit. “I was there throughout his life. I knew of his connection, and I will guard him here until the last trump sounds. That’s why I brought you here, to bring you courage and hope.”

I ran my hand along the handsome form of Derek and imagined it coming alive and hugging me. Yet even inanimate, it was beautiful in a strange sort of way. I leaned up against it and closed my eyes. When I opened them I was leaning against a tree in the twilight.

“It’s time to go ma’am.”

The voice startled me.

I peered through the gathering darkness at the cemetery caretaker. A shooting star flared across the heavens above me.

“Of course.” I looked out across a graveyard where each stone seemed a spirit, floating in the night. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to keep you.”

At three the next morning, I woke from a dream of Derek lumbering toward me in a knight’s suit of armor and remembered again his resting place and the angel guarding him. My body cried tears of joy and heartbreak, but my spirit reach up for the cross.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments Add yours

  1. AshleeW
    October 28, 2014
    9:36 pm #comment-1

    Very beautiful!

  2. Gary
    November 14, 2014
    9:37 pm #comment-2

    I like the word pictures you created here and the hope they bring.

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