The first time I went to the meetings was when I was about eight. I’d noticed the tattered white tent go up Friday in the unused baseball field, not too far away from my school, but I didn’t really think twice about it. Next day though my mom woke me up bright and early, telling me to comb my hair and put on my good shoes, we were going to see The Miracle Son.
At first I thought she was talking about some weird movie I hadn’t heard about before. But I was quickly disappointed as my mom took me to that tent. There had to be a hundred cars parked up and down the street and in other parts of the field. The muddy ground squelched under my feet as my mom hurried us along to the tent. There wasn’t a single seat left so we stood at the back of the room. I was already grumpy as hell, I had to get up early on a weekend, my nice shoes pinched my toes, and now I had to stand in a drafty tent packed with people. I probably whined about all of that but my mom just shushed and told me to pay attention.
A man got up front on this little carpeted platform and stood behind the pulpit. I already knew I hated him, his smile was more plastic than a Ken doll’s and his blond comb over did nothing to hide how very bald he was.
“Miracles!” His voice boomed out over the mumbling crowd. “Five years ago I thought they were only a thing that happened in Biblical days. I’d lost faith. I was searching for a sign. Then that day my son…,” He paused dramatically, “My son fell into Lake Redrin. The very lake at this town. We searched for his body. We… we found him at sunset. He wasn’t breathing. His body was cold. He was dead.”
My mom was hanging on every word. I saw a tear trail down her cheek. I on the other hand was trying not to yawn.
“But through the mercy of God, he lives!” The minister’s hand slammed onto the pulpit. “When we prayed over his body, he drew breath and he lived!” Once again his hand slammed down and he pointed at the front row. “Noah, my miracle child, he lives and he is with us today!”
A boy in the front row stood before joining his father at the pulpit. He was a few years older than I was, with neatly cut blond hair and bright blue eyes, wearing a white suit and shoes. You couldn’t get a more perfect miracle son.
Noah was handed the microphone and the older man stood back, grinning as Noah cleared his throat and began to speak.
“On some days I wonder why I’m still here. Why did God choose to spare me on that day. And I believe it was to prove that he is real. He is real and he loves us all, and his power is real and now… now it is in me.”
The crowd shouted amen so loudly my ears began ringing.
Between singing hymns and the minister reading Bible passages, Noah would invite people up to the front. For some all he would do is rest his hands on their shoulders and whisper in their ear. I had no idea what he said to them, but they’d leave the front with wide smiles and tears coming down their cheeks. Others were people who were clearly ill and had been for a while. I remember most clearly an elderly woman who was wheeled up by a just as old man, the old woman wheezing with each breath and her head lolling listlessly to the side.
My mom held her breath as Noah took her hand and rested his other hand on the side of her face. He looked positively heavenly as he closed his eyes and bowed his head. And much to my shock the woman’s breathing eased and color returned to her cheeks. The old man burst into tears and shook Noah’s hand heartily, thanking him again and again.
I remember seeing my mom take all the cash from her wallet and place it in the offering plate. I tried to ask what she was doing but she shushed me again. She had seen miracles and had been moved to give all she had.
The next week we had a lot of instant mac and cheese for dinner. Money was tight. But my mom was the happiest she had ever been.
Noah and his father, an Evangelist named Riks, stopped by once a year in their tours around the country. My mom had to struggle to make me go each time, especially as I got older and more done with religion in general. All I saw from it was how my mom would empty her wallet looking for salvation in box video sets and CDs, struggling to pay the bills and just assuming God would provide if she gave all she could to anyone preaching the word of God.
But when I was twelve a typical visit to the doctor came to a screeching halt when a blood test set off all the alarm bells.
Cancer. I was twelve years old and I was dying because I had a fucking tumor in my brain.
This didn’t help the chip in my shoulder when it came to religion. If anything it got worse. My mom was inconsolable. She dragged any minister who would listen to her to anoint my head with oils as they prayed over me. I might have told a few to fuck off. This would only upset my mom and one guy even had the nerve to smack me and tell me I was being selfish.
Selfish. I was dying. I think I had the right to be selfish.
But then Noah and Evangelist Riks came back in town with that sad looking tent and my mom thought this would be my only chance.
At this point, it wouldn’t hurt. The tumor was inoperable and not responding to treatment. I was already deciding which my things would go to which friend. I knew it wouldn’t work. But my mom was desperate and I decided I wouldn’t kick up a fit.
Before the meeting started my mom had a talk with Riks. I didn’t hear much but I definitely saw money pass hands. The smug look on that bald fucker’s face made my blood boil. If I didn’t feel like utter shit that day I absolutely would have punched his glasses off.
Half way through the meeting, Noah looked down at me in the front row. “Edward, would you like to come up?”
I bit down the immediate response of ‘fuck no’ and instead walked up, my mom by my side. Noah still looked as perfect as ever, if he wasn’t a minister’s kid I imagine he would have made a great model. He helped me sit down in the chair up there and rested his hand on the side of my face.
“… So, cancer, right? There’s a tumor in your brain. The doctors can’t help you,” he smiled gently and I suddenly felt so peaceful, “But I’ll see what I can do. Just let me help, all right? I know it’s hard to think someone else has your best interests at heart, but I promise I want you to be healed.”
I didn’t have anything sassy to say for once. I just nodded.
“Everyone, bow your heads, and pray with me! Pray for Edward, pray for our Lord to heal him!”
“Pray for the Morning Star’s light to consume him!”
The second voice echoed so loudly in my ears I nearly jolted out of my seat before I felt a sharp pain in my forehead. I couldn’t scream, I had to struggle to open my eyes and when I looked upon Noah I was struck with terror.
There was no life in Noah’s eyes. His eyes were glazed over and his cheeks had turned blue, his bloodless lips tugged into the most morbid grin. His fingers had grown claws that had dug into my skull, scrambling my brains and digging out rotten flesh and skin-
And then everything was normal. I was gasping for breath, I’d nearly toppled out of my chair and my mom had managed to catch me. She helped me to my feet, my legs wobbled like Jello as I looked out on the crowd. Noah spread his arms and shouted, “He is healed!” and everyone started weeping and praising God.
Noah didn’t look like he did seconds ago, he looked perfect. But the way he grinned… it chilled me to the bone.
The next day the doctors ran all the tests, did all the scans, and it was like the tumor was never there. I felt like a million bucks. Physically at least. But every time I closed my eyes all I would see was Noah digging into my brains.
That night I asked my mom to take me to the second meeting. She was shocked but gladly did so, thinking I was finally coming around to the whole religion thing. Noah only came out briefly to pray before excusing himself, saying he wasn’t feeling well. I was obedient until the meeting was over.
Then I snuck out the tent and went to the trailer that Noah stayed in while they were on the road. I knocked on the door, making sure no one had caught me.
“Dad, if you try to make me come out again…,” the door opened and there was Noah. It was weird seeing him in a Legend of Zelda t-shirt and jeans rather than the suit that seemed glued to him. His eyebrows raised as he looked down on me. “… oh. Edward. Hi.”
I swallowed. All my courage from earlier had abandoned me. “I… I saw what you really are!” I blurted out, now working up the energy to bolt.
Noah seemed genuinely shocked. “Wait, seriously?” I nodded and he slowly nodded. “Huh. First time for everything. I’ve been doing this shindig since I was younger than you are. Everyone just. Accepts what I do on blind faith. Or they don’t have the guts to admit what they really saw, but I don’t really care.” Noah reached into the trailer and grabbed a black hoodie, throwing it on before jumping out. “Let’s go for a walk, kid.”
I nodded dumbly as we started walking. My mother intercepted us near the cars. She looked ready to tear my ears off until she saw who I was with. “Noah! Is Edward bothering you? I’m so sorry-”
Noah laughed quietly and raised a hand. “It’s fine, ma’am, he just wants someone to talk to. I’ll get him home before it’s too late,” he said, sounding every inch the most innocent of angels.
My mom smiled. “Well, if it isn’t too much trouble. Thank you so much,” she said before almost skipping back to her car.
Noah and I started walking down the nearby trail into the woods. He stuffed his hands in his pockets, seemingly lost in thought. “Maybe it’s because you had a brain tumor that you saw what I am. I’ve actually never tried curing a brain tumor. My dad underestimates my powers and always gives me the softball ones, pisses me the hell off. I guess he made an exception because your mom bought him off,” he sounded so angry when talking about his dad.
“So, what exactly are you again?” I asked.
Noah chuckled. “I mean I’m human. I’ve just been… blessed with special powers.” He paused before his face darkened. “My dad’s a fucking liar, you know the whole drowning story, back when I was five?”
I nodded. “Did it not actually happened?” I asked.
Noah shook his head. “No, it did. Just not how he likes to tell it. That I just fell in. I didn’t. I remember what happened.” The trees parted and I realized we were on the edge of a lake.
Not just any lake. Lake Redrin.
Noah sat at the edge and patted the ground next to him. I hesitated but I sat beside him, watching the small waves lap up to my toes.
“… My dad is a real fucking bastard.” Noah’s laugh was filled with bitterness. “He likes to say it was the alcohol that made him mean but he was stone cold sober the day he threw me off the pier. I was whining because I wanted to go swimming and needed help putting on my life jacket. He just snapped, grabbed me by my shorts, and tossed me in. I remember him yelling at me to quit being such a baby before I sunk to the bottom.”
Holy shit. My jaw dropped as Noah continued to tell his story. “I remember praying. Praying for Jesus to come and help me. But he didn’t hear the prayers of a terrified, drowning kid. Someone else did though.” He picked up a stone, examined it, and then tossed it over the lakes, watching it bounce on the water before it sank. “This lake actually used to be called Morningstar Lake by a select few. It’s so deep and there are so many hidden caves, it was rumored to reach to hell. And down there, I met the Devil. He said he heard my calls and offered his hand to me. For the first time since my mom died, I felt like someone cared. So. I let him help. When I rose up from that lake I was a new kid. In more ways that one. I became the Miracle Son.”
I wanted to call him a liar. That he was just full of shit and trying to make fun of me. But I knew he wasn’t. He turned to me and smiled.
“But you’re special, Edward. You also know what it’s like. Feeling alone. Dying. Knowing no one can help you. That’s why I brought you to this lake.” Noah unlaced his tennis shoes, pulling off his socks and placing them inside. “I want to show you something, Edward. Would you let me baptize you?”
If maybe you were the star of this story, you would have said ‘fuck no’ and legged it. I wouldn’t judge you.
But instead I found myself taking off my shoes and saying, “Let’s do this.”
Noah led me into the water, where it went past my chest. He set his hands on my shoulders. “This is going to be rough. But I promise you won’t die. Do you trust me?” he asked.
“Then in the name of the Morningstar, I baptize you.”
Noah shoved me down under the water and held me still. Instinct made me struggle, but I couldn’t get free. My lungs burned and my vision went black as I finally tried to gasp and ended up breathing in water.
My baptism was amazing. I’d seen such amazing things. Demons. Angels. Past, present. Maybe some of the future. How everyone Noah had healed had taken a little something extra with them. A little darkness. A little questioning. But I was the only one who was truly aware of it. And now I was going to reap the reward of embracing it.
I woke up on the shore, gasping for breath as my new friend sat beside me. His head was bowed in prayer. His prayers paused before he looked at me and I never felt so elated.
“You are my very first true disciple. I think we’re going to have a lot of fun together, Edward.”