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In the Precious Blood of the Lamb

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Sam walks two-lane, unmarked asphalt cut through thirsty chaff. Burnblister sun, wind, grit, mudtracked cheeks and barefeet. Homes, AM signal in a thunderstorm:

Would you be free from your burden of sin…

and a tractor path, eastward, for no reason at all.

…power in the blood…

Pickup trucks in ploughrows. Banjo, bass and steel guitar.

Would you o’er evil a victory win…

HAWTHORNE CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD, hand-stenciled, black-on-white.

…wonderful power in the blood…

REVIVAL

Men wearing pressed pants with workboots pull back tent flaps. Rows of old-style folding steel hold generations: Moms fuss, kids fidget and grandmas fan—praying hands, printed die-cut cardstock stapled to sticks.

… power, wonderworking power…

Sam stumbles, shuffles aside and a woman stands.

“Praise God! Praise Him!” and her arms rise. Head falls back and syllables pour forth. Latinate, Semitic, cries for Jesus, gibberish but the rows go

     “Amen!”

and

     “Speak it, Sister!”

wide-eyed and neck-twisted and the band picks on. Singers, silent, save the odd

     “Praise God!”

and

…wonderful power in the blood…

Spidery touch at his elbow. Slipperyfaced blonde in a white dress tips her chin, summons him.

“Brothers and Sisters,” boom the speakers and the congregation stirs, “have you considered,”

     “Praise the Lord!”

“the reality,”

     “Amen!”

“of Hell?”

Sam fills a vacancy.

“Have you considered,”

     “Amen!”

“eternity? Eternity!

     “Speak it, Preacher!”

“In the Lake of Fire?”

     “Praise Him!”

“Who will pay your debt of sin?”

     “Amen!”

“Our Dear Heavenly Father” and the people rise. “We bow our heads in humble thanks, for the blessings of this day and the brothers and sisters who gather here.”

     “Thank you, Father!”

“We thank you, Lord, for the little children,”

     “Amen!”

“for their mamas and daddies, grandmamas and granddaddies, raising them up in the Light of your Word.”

     “Praise God!”

“Yes. Thank you, Father. Praise you, Lord.” Pastor sips a sweaty cup. “We ask in humility, Father, for your hand of protection and guidance, your servants. Stranded in a wicked land.”

And next to Sam, more tongues. Eyes crack on a pate-shined, age-bent true believer staring back and Sam thinks, Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and the old man nods, and few there be that find it.

“Amen,”

     “Amen.”

“and Amen.”

Sam

fuzzes out.

…free from your passion and pride…

And Sam sees-not-sees the tent roof billow above its skeleton above his Heavenward hands.

…cleansing at Calvary’s tide…

Syllables pour forth, Latinate and Semitic, gibberish but the rows go

     “Thank you, Lord”

and

     “Tell it, Brother.”

Pinch, at the back of Sam’s neck.

…power in the blood…
…power in the blood…
…power in the blood…

So when it soaks Sam’s face, floods in his mouth, artery-warm

and the tongues turn Enochian

and Lucifer laughs; chest bisects like a dollhouse…

He’s not even surprised enough to scream.

     “Amen!”

     “Thank You, Father!”

and

     “Tell it—”

“Hey! Hey you all right little brother?”

Bicep vise grip and Sam’s knee bangs its favorite spot on the dash. Mouth tastes copper and pain drives out the vestiges.

“Cage again?”

Sam grunts. “More or less. Variations on a theme.”

Dean whips to the side of the road and Sam groans. Pinches his nose.

“Okay, first of all, Vicodin.” Dean points to the glove box. And, “Listen, man. You sure this is a good idea? ’Cause, I ain’t seen you this messed up since—”

“No, Dean. I let the Darkness out. Me. And if I have to sit down with Lucifer to clean that up…”

Dean studies him. Sam holds his gaze.

“Okay.” Dean grits teeth, shifts gears. “I don’t like it, but okay.”