But I had a dream this morning that was so remarkable, in a strange way, that I knew I had to write it down. I knew I had to remember.
There are a thousand implications in this story. I have drawn none definitely.
But it may be that someone, somewhere, is fighting an invisible foe while trying to deal with a visible enemy. If so, take courage. The man in white gave you a sword for a reason.
The challenge came at an unexpected time. But when I heard it, I knew it had to be.
The messenger, whoever he was, must've smirked as he left me, pondering the weight of the challenge. If you believe in this cause so strongly, you'll fight for it. And if you'll fight for it, you'll fight us.
I took him up on it. And when I saw who had volunteered to be in the ring with me, I indulged in my own smirk. I knew this one. I looked into his eyes and saw that he knew me, too. It was a recognizing glance.
He was trying to save me, to save my life. He wouldn't kill me. I knew that. I would win. And that book that had been spreading such evil, such darkness, would be destroyed. The enemy would lose. And truth would be triumphant again.
The commander, the ringleader of it all, stood a little to the side and watched as I faced his chosen combatant. The two of us--my would-be savior and I--compared our weapons. His was decidedly longer.
"How could we call this contest fair," said I, "if our weapons are not the same size?"
The commander sneered at me, as if I were an insolent puppy. "You will use the weapons I decide on."
My opponent looked into my eyes. He looked down at his weapon. And without a word, he changed it for the other one lying on the table beside us; the one that matched mine. Then, he walked away.
I raised my chin, looking at the real antagonist. His eyes burned fury at me, but he too, walked away.
Back in a room, before the contest, I donned my gear, taking special care with the pieces that would protect me during the fight. I had seen those eyes: the eyes that had looked into mine held sympathy. He agreed with me, with the cause I was fighting for; but he'd never had a chance to avow his belief in the truth I espoused. This would give him that chance.
That book. I shuddered as I thought of it. It was that book whose power almost none could resist. Its influence seething through the multitude like liquid darkness, it evaporated the strength and sapped the courage from the strongest, the bravest, and the best. When its deadly taint moved on, it left only shells of humanity behind.
I clenched my fist in anger at the thought. But then, I straightened again. Today, the decision would be made. We would see who really was God upon the earth.
As I finished my preparations, a man in white came in. He carried a long, sharp sword. "Here." He held it out to me. "Put this on."
I stared in confusion. "But the weapons have been decided upon already. And I am a fair fighter, regardless of how debauched the force I face."
"You will want it," the man said.
"But I will win!" I insisted. "I saw the eyes of the one I fight against. He will not kill me. He means to spare me."
The man put the sword in my hand with a definite gaze. "You will need it. Put it on; but secure it beneath your garments."
The memory of fastening the sword and even of the man himself is vague. The next I knew I was on the field, with my small weapon, facing my opponent. His face looked like flint, but those eyes: they told me all I wanted to know. This conquest would be won; and I could finally destroy that book. Forever.
I glanced to the center of the field. The book stood there, on end. The cover blazed with a scarlet and purple sunset. I set my jaw. Today it would be vanquished. No more lives destroyed. No more insidious evil in the ranks of truth.
We closed in, circled. Weapons met several times, daggers glinting off one another and an occasional hand wresting with a strong arm. The sides opposite us watched in silence.
Then came the moment. With one swing, he was down; and though he could have pierced me as he fell, he didn't. He lay at my feet, alive; and as he glanced up, I saw the emotion on his face. He'd never done something like this before, spared a life for the sake of the truth. It had cost him dignity, but it would be repaid a thousandfold. I knew that.
I turned on the book now, ready to sever it. But a shout arose from the sidelines, and in a moment, the commander himself, purple with rage, leaped the bounds and came at me. I saw a long, sharp sword in his hand, raised high; and then, he vanished. I knew he was still there. I heard the feet running. But I couldn't see him anymore.
Now the book itself became mobile, almost seeming to dance about me, just out of reach. A furious outcry arose from both sides: the honor and chivalry of this contest had been smashed in a moment.
As the invisible foe approached, I withdrew my own sword. I thought back to the man in white, telling me to put it on. And as I blocked my head from an invisible pass, I remembered his words: "You will need it."
My arm, my sword, gained direction from something greater than I. Every pass thrown, every cut well-aimed from the invisible commander; I met it all with a strength I knew was not my own. A sharp crash, and I would hear him stumble backwards, crying in rage.
I would then turn to the book, chasing after it, trying to slice it in two; but always before I reached it, the commander's invisible sword came down and I had to defend myself again. After a time or two of this, I realized why he put up such a fight: that book was the lifeblood of his very being. If I could destroy the book, I could destroy him. My determination quickened.
It seemed hours that this went on; defending my head, sending him to his knees, then swiping at that wretched book, a scarlet-and-purple blur on the field. All I could see was that book, still living. All I knew was that I could not quit this field until it had been destroyed.
An almighty crash with the flat of my blade sent the invisible antagonist flying across the field. With eyes that I never before knew had existed, I saw him lying in a heap, injured but not done for. I turned now on the book. It stood still in the field, sitting on one end. I reached it and began to hack at the top.
The commander, still invisible, cried out in horror and rage. He may have tried to rise; but he never came at me. A force more powerful than he had decided this contest.
The book stood like steel as I tried again and again to sever it, bringing the edge of the sword straight down time and again. However, it could not last. One final swing sheared the instrument of death in half, top to bottom, though the book remained on end.
I now approached a place on the ground where I knew he lay. My sword directed itself, point now touching an invisible throat. "This day is the saying fulfilled in your ears," my voice said. "Have you any last words?"
The specter gave me no response. One swipe finished him.
I now returned to the book. Sheathing my sword, I kicked the two halves over first, then bent to pick them up. The covers were lined with page upon page of black ink, written words that I knew had been the death of thousands. No more.
With a heave, I threw the whole pile into the air. And the fluttering pages scattered to the ends of the earth, never again to be put back together. Truth had prevailed again.