Chapter Nineteen: Griffin brother versus Powergirl sister
Stephanie's natural inclination had been to pray for at least two hours before entering Nick's mind, but the Lord had other plans. She had only prayed for about five minutes when she strongly felt urgency from the Holy Spirit that she should go now.
So she did.
Nick was on his knees huddled in one corner of the small padded room, one lone hanging lamp dimly illuminating his corner of the room. Stephanie kept the room dark, a concession she made out of love for Nick, as his natural inclination was to prefer the darkness. But now it was time to come into the light.
God's presence leaked off her like a strong perfume, and Nick reacted like a man allergic to the smell, struggling against his straightjacket, determined to get free and flee the room lest the aroma of God's presence cause anaphylactic shock and endanger his life. But he was held tight.
She could smell the pungent odor of sweat in the air from her mom's earlier battle and knew the floor would soon be dripping with the sweat of both she and Nick, perspiration the closest thing to a bloodletting that either would face. This was a battle for the mind.
The lamp beamed a ray of hope over Nick, a silent physical witness to Jesus, the light of the world that lights every person who comes into the world. Nick's face and shoulders were slumped to the right, keeping his face out of the light, as if it were acid that might burn his face.
"Turn your face into the light!" Stephanie said.
Nick cursed and started to reposition his head as commanded, but then cursed again and slumped his face into the darkness.
Stephanie moved her wheelchair in closer. "In the name of Jesus, I command you demon to look into the light!"
Nick let out an inhuman wail and immediately shot straight up, pupils contracting to pinpricks in the glare. "Little sister gonna save me?" he taunted. He cursed again and spat in Stephanie's direction, now only several feet away, and landed a direct shot in the middle of her face. She felt the spit run down into her mouth. "You can't even wipe that off your face, you crippled fool! How you gonna save me?"
Stephanie focused her mind, and in the spirit, she saw a tube of light extend from her forehead and fasten above Nick's eyebrows. He squirmed. The end of the tunnel was blockaded in darkness.
"Sorry, Nick. I have to do this to help you."
She forcefully projected her consciousness down the tube and rammed the dark entrance to his mind, breaking through it like it was tissue paper. She heard Nick scream before she lost awareness of the outside world.
She silently prayed for the Lord's direction and felt His strong presence, as He told not to fear and that she was free to leave anytime. But the Spirit also warned her to proceed with extreme caution if she chose to stay, because her experience would be different than any she had ever had before.
That sealed her decision. As long as she still felt the Lord's strength and direction, she would stay for Nick's sake and see this through to the end. She decided to exercise her authority in Christ to conform Nick's mind to her command.
"Light fill this space!" she said, and light flickered around her slowly, like a reluctant fluorescent light at startup, before it suddenly blazed forth. She felt uncomfortable with the time it took for her command to affect her surroundings, wondering if the hesitancy was a premonition to expect more of her powers to be muted.
Stephanie found herself in a fun-house of mirrors that immediately made her think of a childhood memory, a time at the country fair. She and Nick had entered a fun-house of mirrors but Nick had disappeared from her sight. When she had rounded the corner, Nick had yelled, "Boo!", and scared her silly. This looked like the exact same fun-house.
They had both had a good laugh then. But this was no laughing matter.
"Little sister come out to play?" a voice said, as if over a loudspeaker, deeper than Nick's normal voice but still recognizable as his own. "Remember what happened that day? Come around the corner and let big brother give you a scare."
Not this time, she thought, as she stared at her reflection in the mirrors. She wore a white warrior's uniform, cutoff at the shoulders but with a deep V neck, a one piece suit that crisscrossed at her stomach, leaving her belly button exposed, and finishing in flowing miniskirt about midway to her knees. Her flame red hair reached to her shoulders and flowed freely down the sides and back. Her shoulders were broad and thick muscles rippled around her entire skeletal structure.
"Shield and sword appear," she said and slowly her requested weapons materialized, solid metal but lightweight shield appearing in her left arm, and long broad sword appearing in her right hand. Again she felt uncomfortable with the delay. Perhaps if she concentrated more.
She focused her mind harder this time and said, "Muscles increase!" Instantly her reflection seemed to puff up, especially her biceps and leg muscles seeming to double in size. That was better, she thought, realizing muscles were irrelevant anyway, for everything she saw was a mentally projected illusion. The battle was for the mind, and that's where her strength was.
She commanded the fun-house mirror illusion to disappear but it would not. She focused harder and commanded again for the fun-house to disappear in the name of Jesus but nothing happened. This did not bode well at all.
"Little sister having trouble?" Nick said. "You don't give orders here in my world! Leave while you still can."
"That's not going to happen, Nick. I'm going to free you whether you like it or not. I love you with the love of the Son of God."
"You mean the one and only Son of God?" Nick said. "Jesus is not so unique, you know. I'm already one of the sons of God. What do I need Him for?"
"No you're not. Sons of God is a phrase used in the Bible to refer to angels, spirit beings, not humans. You're a human being. You're my brother. I love you and I've come to take you home."
"Little sister thinks she's so smart, but she doesn't even know her theology. Stro-kar has taught me many things since we've become so intimately acquainted. Did you know the phrase sons of God appears in numerous places in both the old and new testaments and is used to refer to both angels and humans?"
Stephanie felt a chill go down her spine, as she tightened her grip on her shield and sword and took up a fighting stance. She didn't understand what Nick was trying to say, but something began to stir deep down inside her, a primal fear she had never felt before.
She pushed the thought away and slowly moved towards the corner, knowing Nick was around the bend but not knowing what to expect, pushing back any apprehension by powering up her mind with the idea that she was a lion stalking her prey. Her faith surged a bit and she started to glow. But she already knew this encounter was going to be different, her powers not being totally up to par, not knowing why but trusting the Lord's leading anyway. Perhaps she was just exhausted from the recent battle to free her mother.
She knew Nick was probably monitoring her thoughts, so she broadcast an image of herself moving slowly and methodically down the long corridor of mirrors and locked this image in her surface mind, while hiding her true intent. Then she ran down the corridor and quickly rounded the corner, hoping to take Nick by surprise.
She saw a blur of red and white before she felt a strong furry arm blast her face. She was hurled several feet away and landed on her back.
A creature stood before her with the head, beak and wings of an eagle, the body of a lion, and the tail of a scorpion. It stood at least eight feet tall on its hind legs and had red fur covering its entire body, except for hands and feet which were covered in white fur, and its fingers and toes ended in sharp talons.
The creature lumbered a few feet towards Stephanie and spoke with Nick's voice. "You think you're so smart. You think you're saved? You're no better than me. If I'm going to hell, then I'm taking you with me."
They were on a round slice of land, about a twenty foot perimeter on all sides. The patch of dirt was floating on an ocean of molten lava, which gurgled and made popping noises. A smell of something like sulfur and rotten eggs wafted through the air. The fun-house she had perceived just a moment before was nowhere in sight and the sky was a light pink, peppered with only an occasional white cloud.
Stephanie rose from the ground, sword and shield still tightly gripped in her hands, fighting the urge to run again, primal fear pulsating up her spine and assaulting her mind. She had never felt this way in any battle before, some sort of power in Nick's words that weakened her.
She steeled her will and got ready to charge. This part she was familiar with, fighting the demons into submission in whatever form they took. She couldn't kill them, but then neither could they kill her. It was more a battle of wills that manifested in this thought realm as a physical fight.
"You're going to be sorely disappointed," she said to Nick, but more addressing the demon. "You're leaving my brother's mind one way or another."
The Lord's Holy Spirit had always been with her in mighty power. She had never failed before and she wasn't about to start today, not with Nick's eternal life in the balance. Her plan was always to inflict enough pain that the demons were forced to eventually accept defeat and vacate the victim's mind. Stamina was the key, as the longer she battled, the more God's power flowed through her body and the stronger she became. How and why it worked that way, she didn't totally understand. It was a paradox, sort of like fasting, in that the longer one deprived oneself of food and should be getting weaker, the more spiritual power they would attain. The longer she fought, the more spiritual power flowed through her. Victory was simply a matter of time.
Nick cackled, and his eyes flared red. "I know you're afraid like you've never been before. You have to learn how to use the fear to your advantage, let the hate and rage well up and focus it towards God, convert it into raw power, strong enough to destroy even God Himself. Stro-kar showed me how. Come, let me teach you."
"That's the demon talking," Stephanie said. "You're deluded. There's no way you can destroy God. You don't have the power."
"Really? Let me show it to you. There is no forgiveness for the sons of God, the angels who rebelled! You're an evil angel and you're going to burn in hell forever!"
Stephanie fell to her knees and started to gasp. "No...I'm a human, a child of God, forgiven by the blood of Christ."
"All humans existed as angels before they ever came to earth! You still sin everyday just like everybody else. That makes you no better than even the devils. You're an imperfect fallen angel, and all imperfection must burn in hell forever!"
Stephanie grunted but started to rise to her feet. "I'm not perfect, but God doesn't expect perfection, just a repentant and contrite heart, and to do your best not to sin."
"No! He expects sinless perfection. Matthew 5:48 'Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.' You fail everyday loser. You're an evil spirit being and you're going straight to hell!"
She felt as though Nick's words were a hammer that just cracked her on top of her head, and she fell to her knees again. His words and thoughts were being pushed into her mind against her will, something she had never experienced in battle before. She realized he was even using her revered translation against her, the King James version, much like she had similarly used it against him as kids when they had had fights about religion. But she had never had power to affect him like this.
"You're a liar," she said weakly. "Humans and angels are an entirely different order of creation."
"No, stupid, truth is you are simply an evil spirit being living a human experience! You betray Him everyday by sinning, you Judas. Devils have no forgiveness. Burn in hell!"
Stephanie's mind fogged and she started to loose touch with her surroundings. "There is no forgiveness for devils," she said hypnotically and started to sob. "I have no forgiveness?"
Nick said, "Job 1:6 'Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them,' and Job 2:1 'Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord.'"
It was true, she thought. God's word was clearly referring to angels in the book of Job. The New Testament used this phrase often in reference to humans. Humans and angels must be one and the same. Her sins were so many, each day, so true...she was far from perfect. Then she must be a fallen angel, destined for hell. She began to perspire heavily, as a confused mixture of emotions assaulted her mind, fear...guilt... remorse...condemnation...
Stephanie's conscience started to burn, her mind on fire. Panic stricken, she instinctively thought to call on the Lord for aid but she was suddenly terrified of Jesus, a feeling she had never felt before. She needed His help but couldn't ask for it.
Instead, she decided that her memory must be failing her. The phrase in the New Testament must be sons of Man, referring to humans. She was human and humans could always repent and seek forgiveness. She didn't have to be perfectly obedient like angels, one little slip up sending her to hell forever. Encouraged, she began to stand up.
"Wrong again!" Nick said. "New Testament quote John 1:12 'But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become sons of God!'" Stephanie fell her knees again, gasping, dimly aware that Nick was using her thoughts against her, but powerless to defend herself against his quotations that seared her mind like a hot iron.
"Romans 8:14 'For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God,'" Nick said. "The Spirit has left you little sister. You are NOT being led by the Spirit of God because you are a devil, doomed to eternal hellfire."
She clutched her stomach, feeling an ulcer-like pain.
"Romans 8:19 'For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.'"
Her esophagus burned and a taste like bile formed in her mouth.
"Philippians 2:15 'That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke...'"
She threw up a brownish-yellow liquid.
"John 3:1 'Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.'"
Suddenly, the Holy Spirit pushed through the fog in her mind and encouraged her by simply reminding her that not all angels were destined for hell and that she needed to trust Him completely.
"John 3:2 'Beloved, now are we the sons of God...'"
She felt only mild warmth in her cheeks this time and stood up stiffly. Then the Holy Spirit began popping scripture verses into her mind. "Even if what you say is true, I'm not a devil anymore. At the core, I'm a changed spirit, Christ has renewed me! 2 Corinthians 6:18 promises that God will be a Father to his people, and His people will be as sons and daughters. I'm a forgiven daughter of God! Psalm 23:4: 'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will FEAR NO EVIL!'"
Her faith surged, as her strength returned and she started to shine. "Fear is of the devil. I won't let you put it on me anymore. Timothy 1:7 'For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.' So stick that in your pipe and smoke it, demon!"
She ran forward and swiped across Nick's chest with her sword before his huge clawed hand slashed her face. She was flung to the ground, blood flowing from huge gashes on her face. The creature roared and stepped back, blood oozing out of the open cut.
"Stupid bitch," Nick said, as the cut closed like a zipper on a pair of pants and disappeared.
Blood from Stephanie's face stained the ground red, but she thought the wound away and new flesh closed in on her wound as quickly as Nick's chest had just healed itself. She rose from the ground just in time to put her full weight behind her shield and barricade herself against Nick's charge. He hit the shield full force and was thrown to the ground.
Nick got up, roared, and extended his razor sharp talons, like a cat opening its claws to slice some prey. He snarled and lunged forward, slashing the air with knives for hands, pummeling Stephanie's metal shield and making screeching noises that sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard. He knocked her back with each blow, and she tried to push back but he was too strong, a powerhouse reminiscent of the time she fought Satan's second in command, Daimagon, but she realized Nick's strength dwarfed even that evil being.
Stephanie held the shield high and blindly slashed back with her sword. She saw an opening and plunged the blade deep into the lion's chest, right where its heart should have been, pulled the blade out quickly and got splattered all over her body with gushing blood. While the thing was still stunned, she slashed horizontally across its eyes, cutting them both deeply and blinding it temporarily.
The creature wailed and roared and stepped back, flailing its arms in a defensive gesture. Within seconds, the creature's wounds had cleared and it charged again, stopping just a few feet in front of her and swiftly turning to one side. Stephanie only caught a glimpse of its scorpion tail before it swept her legs out from under her.
She landed on her back and the thing pounced, engulfing her in a blur of red and white fur, knocking her head about like a punching bag while it slashed at her face. She could feel warm blood spilling over her cheeks and gasped short breaths, kicking at Nick but unable to throw him off.
She could see nothing but blackness, and her eyes stung as if sulfuric acid had been thrown in them. As she covered her face with her arms and focused her mental energy on healing her eyes, Nick grabbed her by the hair and dragged her along the ground, gurgling sounds from the molten lava getting louder, a feeling of warmth getting stronger. Her vision cleared in time to see a huge fury white claw grab her by the throat and plunge her head over the side of the circular plot of land and deep into the molten lava.
Stephanie's faced burned and she opened her mouth to scream, only to swallow a mouthful of hot lava. Nick pulled her out of the hot viscous fluid and held her high above the ground by the neck, laughing. His grip slowly tightened like a vice and she could only inhale in short gasps. She had dropped her shield but still held her sword tightly, and used it now to plunge the doubled sided blade deep in his chest, sawing it back and forth rapidly until he dropped her.
Stephanie shouted a warrior's cry and flung all her strength into a forward charge, knocking them both clear across the patch of land and into the molten lava on the other side. The sensation of being blasted with a thousand flame throwers racked her body, but she dropped her weapon and held the creature tightly, as it flapped its massive wings and tried to propel itself from the lava.
"I'm not letting go until you leave his body," Stephanie said.
Its wings beat the air rapidly, wind pelting her body and cooling the fire somewhat, but she was determined to hold tight. Soon, they both started to rise straight up, slowly at first, then faster and faster. Nick viciously kicked with his hind legs, razor sharp talons slashing her arms repeatedly until they were severed at the elbow.
She dropped through the air, hurtling towards the molten lava below, as Nick laughed and started to fly away. She willed her arms to rematerialize and for wings of her own to spout from her back, mind focused by enough of an adrenaline rush to push aside the dampening effect of Nick's world and her thoughts immediately came to fruition. She flapped her massive wings and took off after Nick.
She pursued him across the sky, closing the distance with each mile, the bright yellow-orange molten ocean below seemingly endless, but as she closed the gap to within about one mile, she could see land rapidly approaching on the horizon. By the time she was only a few feet behind him, they were directly over the landmass and approaching a huge castle. Stephanie gave one last push of her massive wings and tackled Nick to the ground.
They tumbled and rolled on the hard unforgiving dirt, littered with small sharp pebbles that ripped at her skin with each turn. Nick stopped their forward rolls by steadying himself with his scorpion tail, then quickly plunged its spiked end into Stephanie's abdomen, instantly sending its fiery venom throughout her every blood vessel and racking her body with pain.
"Let's see how brave you are in my castle," Nick said. "I have lots of friends."
While she steadied herself and willed the venom to clear from her body, Nick flew over the castle wall. She created a new shield and sword, took a deep breath, and flew over the wall after him. She landed in the middle of the outer court and found herself surrounded by dozens of Nick creatures.
"Little sister gonna have some real trouble now," the creatures said together in perfect harmony. "You gonna burn in hell forever."
At Nicks' words, she felt the blood rush from her face and she almost fainted, but the Lord spoke strongly to her spirit that she was His forevermore and she stood firm.
"That's Stro-kar talking," Stephanie said. "I'm not afraid of anything you try to throw at me. The Lord is with me and we will prevail! Take your best shot, demon!" She tightened her grip on her sword and shield.
The Nicks laughed and said together, "Stupid girl doesn't even know yet that Stro-kar is already gone."
Stephanie reflexively reached out with her mind to search Nick's heart, an instinct within her wanting to confirm Nick's statement was a lie...but she sensed no presence other than her and Nick. She had sensed such a malevolent evil when she had first entered Nick's mind that she had just assumed all along it was the demon, but it was true that only she and Nick were here. Confusion overwhelmed her, as she realized they shouldn't even be fighting then, just repent and invite the Holy Spirit in and they could all go home.
Then the Lord revealed to her the real reason she was having so much trouble handling Nick, and ordered her to flee Nick's mind immediately.
"Oh, no, Nick...no, no, no..."
"Stupid little sister finally understands."
"No, Lord. Let me stay. I volunteer to do whatever it takes."
The Holy Spirit commanded her more forcefully this time to leave. She pushed back her emotions and obeyed.
She saw her father, Jeff, walking towards her. Then he started to run. She continued to wail and as he neared, all she could say was, "Oh, dad, it's horrible," and sobbed some more.
"What!?" Jeff said and stopped directly in front of her. "What is it? What's the matter? What happened?"
"I'm sorry, dad. I'm so sorry. There's nothing I can do for Nick."
"What are you talking about? You've never failed before. Did someone tell you about Jarius' assault tomorrow? Don't worry. If we have to, we can take you both with us and continue to work on Nick far away from the complex."
"No, you don't understand! Nick totally gave his mind over and fully integrated with evil! He's committed the unpardonable sin, blasphemed the Holy Spirit! He's branded with the mark of the beast now, doomed to hell forever. Nothing can be done to change his destiny."
Jeff's face went white. Then he fainted and collapsed in front of Stephanie's wheelchair.