• NIGHT VIGIL
by Kenny Paul Clarkson
A hearth ablaze, a comforter for a wrap and a rocker slowly wasting away the moments — they were a haven from the winter night’s chill. Abigail’s eyes were fixated on the fire. The crackle. The mindless dancing of flames. Flying embers chasing upward through a blackened chimney. She was entranced.
To nature’s hand, each window pain was a canvas to cover in patterns of frost and every sill a suitable bed for blankets of snow. Eerie sounds of howling winds wound themselves through acres of woods and whistled through cracks in the cabin’s door.
An unseen hand gripped the edge of the door and opened it ever so slowly; ever so quietly. Suspicious eyes cast a wary glimpse into the room. A red-caped, gaunty frame slithered stealthfully in from the cold.
Such innocent prey. So easy, he thought, nudging the door, then silently affixing the latch. Abigail heard nothing as padded feet took measured steps approaching from behind. But the odor was unfamiliar, and that caused her to turn.
Her eyes were filled with the frothy figure draped in red. Her vision was dim, near blind in fact, but the cape was unmistakable. “You’ve come,” she said, a delight in her voice. “And in this storm? Oh, you shouldn’t have.”
An evil grin graced the countenance of the beast. His scheme was working as planned.
Bent and broken, Abigail grasped her cane and slowly rose to her feet. She looked at the wolf, squinted her tired eyes, then offered an assuring nod. “Yes, ‘tis stormy tonight.”
“Would you light that, dear,” she pointed the creature to a candle perched atop the mantel. He obliged, amazed at his own cunning.
Her feeble feet followed her cane, step by steady step toward the window. She took candle held it high, then leaned close for a better look.
“My, how you’ve changed,” she bent even closer. “I think your teeth have gotten larger! Yes, you are growing, my child.”
The wolf’s eyes brightened. Teeth to sink into your tender flesh, he thought.
“And your eyes,” she raised the candle again. “I think they too have changed.”
The wolf laughed inside; his wicked smile hidden to Abigail’s blindness.
Her flattering words amused the evil one. He could devour her in a moment, but so delighted, he was, in his own pride that he cared, instead, to engross himself in his clever ploy. Again and again the candle would raise and the candle would lower. The wolf was none the wiser.
The crash at the door startled the beast. He turned to see. The cold night air rushed through the gaping entry, framing the image of a tall and strapping neighbor. The woodsman’s eyes were perfectly whole and burned with rage. No words were spoken. He leveled his rifle as Abigail slipped aside. He took steady aim the heart of the thing. The laughter had gone; the smile driven by fear.
There was a blast. The wolf fell lifeless in a pool of blood. The woodman looked at Abigail. “I saw your signal in the window,” he said.
But she didn’t answer. She bowed to touch the bright red cape, now stained with blood. Tear filled eyes beckoned to her neighbor. No words needed to be said. He, too, recognized the wrap.
He bolted for the door and ran, as he could, through drifting snow, following the path of the predator. How far had he come? He didn’t know, but he would run as far and as fast as he could until he found the little girl.
Around the bend, upon a crag, a white dress could be seen. It was she, he knew. His heart raced and his brow furled as the woodsman imagined the worst. The still frame of tiny girl lay silent in the snow. He reached down, then pulled her close to the warmth of his chest; draping her in his own coat. There was no sound. He began to weep. But a whispered cry and a blink of the eyes turned his cry into joy.
Powerful arms embraced her as he trudged back towards the little cabin in the woods. Once there, he laid the slumbering Riding Hood in the lap of her grandmother. She, too, cried with joy.
The devourer comes. He never knocks. He’s clothed but to deceive. Just a simple prayer and a confident faith, brings the Savior to free the soul.