"I know you."
Ezekiel turned to look at the man who hadn't been there seconds before, he'd swear it. Even with all his tricks, Ezekiel couldn't tell where the man had come from. He was too far to have come from behind a tree, and there was no other cover.
"I know you, Ezekiel," the man said, moving to stand in front of Ezekiel. He had a kind face, and a kind smile. He reached out a hand and touched Ezekiel's cheek, brushing his fingertips softly over Ezekiel's skin, and Ezekiel shivered, a warmth spreading through him, and a strange yearning. "I know you, and I know you were never meant for a life like this."
"How do you know my name?" Ezekiel asked, his voice rough. Fingers still trailed lightly over his skin, tucking his hair behind his ears, and there was so much compassion in the other man's eyes that Ezekiel felt tears well up in his own. "Who are you?"
"My name is Mister Smith, and God sent me to tell you that you will be at peace soon, Ezekiel. He wants you to know that you are loved. That all the loneliness and pain of your life has had a purpose. That you have done well."
Ezekiel didn't have much faith, but what he did believe in, he believed in whole-heartedly, and with great passion, and as easily as that, he believed in this man, in this man's God, in his promises, contrary as they were to all the experiences of his life. Mister Smith's words rang true, and they touched something deep within Ezekiel, something frightened and childlike and hurting. As he closed his eyes, Mister Smith wiped his tears away.
And when Mister Smith leaned over and pressed his mouth to Ezekiel's, Ezekiel could only helplessly respond. It was sweet and tender, and he could feel Mister Smith's hands framing his face, and he raised his own hands and held on to Mister Smith's arms, shaking, and felt himself loved.
Mister Smith kissed his tears away, and then he whispered into Ezekiel's ear, "You've been a good son, Ezekiel. Your Father loves you, and he's waiting for you. And when you get to Him, there will be no more thunder, and no more hurting."
Mister Smith pulled back, keeping his hand still on Ezekiel's cheek, but Ezekiel kept his eyes closed, not wanting to see him leave, not wanting to be alone again.
"When you've finished your work, Ezekiel, then you'll be at peace."
Ezekiel cupped his own hand over Mister Smith's daringly. "And will you be there, where I find it?"
There was a long silence, and still Ezekiel kept his eyes closed.
"I don't know the answer to that," Mister Smith finally said. "He doesn't tell me very much about my own life. But you won't be alone, I promise."
Ezekiel nodded, and smiled. "I believe you."
"Go in peace, Ezekiel." And Mister Smith kissed him again once, softly, and was gone.