The Angels of Mark Collins~A Short Story~Part-1
My name is David Rollings and I am a Presbyterian minister. I’ve been a minister for thirty-one years preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and tending to the spiritual needs of the faithful at three separate churches during my career. I am currently assigned as pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Lucasia, Ohio from where I’ll probably retire, if I ever do retire. I’ve been pastor there for 16-years. It is a wonderful congregation, more like a family than anything else and I love it now more than ever. Our membership fluctuates with people moving and dying and various other reasons. We welcome about fifteen new members each year which seems to balance out the congregation at around 100-members. About 6-years ago it was my pleasure to welcome several new congregants, three of which were Mark Collins, his wife Donna and their 8-year old daughter Simone. They had just moved into town and were transferees from Donnybrook Presbyterian church in Tolman, Ohio. Mark worked for Jamestown Lighting and Donna was a librarian over in Kline. Mark seemed like a nice enough guy although he wasn’t overly active in church functions. A few years ago he was asked to be an elder to serve on the church session but he declined. He did help out with the rummage sale a couple of times and sometimes stands in when one of our ushers doesn’t show up on Sunday, that is, if he himself is there. He’s a sporadic attendee at best. Donna, on the other hand, is very active in the church and heads up the senior high youth group and teaches Sunday school each week to the third and fourth graders. Simone is involved in the youth group and has been on a couple of mission trips with us along with Donna. I really never gave Mark much thought. From my perspective he was like a lot of Christians who want to be a part of a church for whatever reason but don’t want to put anything into it. To be honest, I’d pretty much written Mark off, that is, until the incident. I don’t know who or what I was up until that point. I only know that now, in the aftermath, I am a completely different person or entity or thing. Up until now I have not told a single person including my wife about what happened. You are the first my friend and although after hearing this you may think I’m insane or delusional or a pathological liar I don’t care. I just have to tell somebody.
Donna Collins called me on a Wednesday. I know it was a Wednesday because I had just finished my weekly swim at the YMCA and I was just getting out of the pool when my cell phone buzzed. She was frantic. Mark had fallen ill the week before and was now in the hospital with an unknown ailment. At first, doctors thought it was the flu and that he was just overly dehydrated but on Tuesday he’d fallen into a coma. She asked me to pray for him and if I could please check in on him at the hospital when I had time. I assured her that I would be there by 2:30 that afternoon and we could have a prayer together. She thanked me over and over telling me how grateful she was and how blessed our church was to have a pastor like me. I told her it was no problem that it was my job and reassured her that I was always available to my congregation at any time for whatever reason. Little did I know at the time that my “job” was about to take on a completely new paradigm.
I’m no stranger to St. Vincent’s hospital. It’s the only one in town. During my tenure as pastor at First Pres. I’ve witnessed countless births and deaths and sickness there. Sheri, the girl at the front desk, always greets me with a smile.
“Hello Reverend.”, she chimed as I walked in.
“Who are you here for today?”, she asked.
“Mark Collins.”, I answered. “What room is he in?”
She looked down at the registration sheet on the desk.
“325. His wife just left to pick up the daughter from school.”, she said.
“325, I know where it is. Thanks.”
I put on my Clergy ID badge and went to the elevator and pressed 3 for the third floor. There were only two nurses on duty at the nurses station, one was a church member, Kerry Lesko.
“Hi Reverend. Here to see Mark?”, she asked.
“Hey there Kerry, 325 right?”
“Right. Donna just left to pick Simone up from school. They shouldn’t be too long.”, she called after me.
I made my way down the hall. As I approached 325 I noticed a flashing bright light coming from the room. I approached cautiously thinking perhaps they were doing some sort of test on Mark. Standing in the doorway I heard a voice, a female voice inside.
“Come in David.”, she said.
When I entered the room there was a young girl standing next to Mark’s bed. Mark was sleeping. There was a light emitting from her that my mind frantically tried to explain but couldn’t. It seemed to be radiating out of her in waves. When the light hit me it emitted a warm and pleasant sensation but when she looked at me, her eyes were an ice blue color of such depth, that I felt as though I was being drawn into them. I was frozen and for the first time in my life, experiencing utter terror.
“Do not be afraid.”, she said. “I have good news. He will be back with you at days end.”
She touched Mark’s face then turned to me and said, almost as if a command, “Remember me.” then she exploded silently into thousands of particles of light that swirled around the room then quickly dissipated. I ran. I don’t remember Kerry Lesko or Sheri or the elevator or anything. I just ran. The parking deck was across the street and somehow I remembered my car was on the fourth level. I do know that I did not take the elevator or the bridge. I ran all the way up to the fourth level which is an unbelievable accomplishment for a man of my size and age. I managed to unlock the car door with my clicker but my hands were shaking so uncontrollably that I couldn’t get the key into the ignition. As I sat there gripping the steering wheel gasping for breath and bathed in sweat I realized I had wet myself. Just as I was starting to get my bearings, I felt the same warm sensation that I had felt in Mark’s room. Like I said before, it was pleasant but in my terrified condition it was of little comfort because it was unmistakably the same unique feeling. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest as my anxiety began to rise. I remember thinking to myself, “For the love of God…” Then I heard the voice.
“Yes David, that’s right.” It was a child’s voice.
I couldn’t believe it was happening again. Lord please!
“You better settle down before you have a heart attack Reverend.”, it said.
It was then that I realized there was a child sitting next to me in the passenger’s seat emitting the same pulsating light I had seen in Mark’s room.
“You’re supposed to be a minister aren’t you?” he said mockingly, almost on the verge of laughter.
I might have said yes or shook my head or something. I don’t know. I didn’t want to look in it’s eyes.
“Do you think you could help us out and maybe do your job?”, he asked. The voice was stern now.
“Tell Mark his gifts have been returned without restrictions. Can you remember that? Tell Mark his gifts have been reinstated and that there are no restrictions this time. Now go home and change your pants.”, and with a child’s mischievous chuckle he burst into the same light show I had witnessed in Mark’s room only this time it was in the very small confines of my Honda Civic.
I covered my eyes against the flash of light and when I finally uncovered them, miraculously and all at once my tremors and terror were gone. I was still out of breath and sweating profusely but my terror, my fear, was gone. I opened the car door and violently retched up the contents of my stomach onto the garage floor. As my body relaxed into exhaustion I sat there in the parking deck spent, trying to sort out what had just happened to me. I kept thinking, why, why me? Who was Mark Collins? What were his gifts? What were these beings? They were certainly angels. Four years of seminary and all the scriptures I had rigorously studied and preached on over the years should have told me that. You idiot! “You’re supposed to be a minister aren’t you?”, he had said, taunting me. “Do you think you could help us out and maybe do your job?” I was ashamed of myself and with that thought I began to cry, hard and loud, in a way I had not done since I was a young child. Sobs racked through my body as I imagined my entire life and identity a hollow shell, a sham. I was not the man I thought I was. Oh God how could I have been so, so blind. I was an embarrassment to my vocation, to my faith and most importantly to my God. I cried to the very depths of my soul that afternoon. I was feeling very sorry for myself slumped over in my car sobbing, covered in my own tears and snot, vomit and urine. Then something struck me and I began to laugh. Maybe it was hysteria, probably was. I laughed none the less, as hard as I had cried. I pulled out of the parking deck cackling like a lunatic remembering what the little angel had last said, “Now go home and change your pants.”
Part-2 will be posted sometime next week...