Chapter 1

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

But the beginning was only a means to this end…

“Elijah! Get down out of that tree this instant! You are going to fall down outta there and kill yourself! I swear I’m getting that thing cut down first chance I get to a phone!”

Elijah David Abbot spent many afternoons sitting high atop the old pine tree that grew in his grandmother’s back yard. He knew how his grandmother felt about him being up there, but there was something liberating about looking out over the neighborhood rooftops. The town was small and from up here he could see all the way to the dike that ran along the river. Pines and weeping willows reached up between the houses blocking much of his view, but he enjoyed watching the clouds pass by more anyway.

High in the distance, the American flag stood over the trees on top of Flagpole Hill. It waved in the breeze like an old friend saying hello. The white flagpole stood in bright contrast against the deep blue sky, looking like a sentinel standing guard over the small town. He had walked up to the base of the flagpole many times with his father while visiting the adjoining cemetery. And at night, from his room, he could see the flag, hanging in the darkness, illuminated by the three bright lights affixed halfway up the pole.

The spring breeze brushed across his face carrying the scent of pine off to be enjoyed by the poor Earth-bound souls that were too afraid to climb. Looking up into the deep blue sky he almost felt like he was not part of the world anymore. Rarely did he feel like he fit in around this place anyway. He liked working with computers and science fiction; few kids shared his interests in this small farming community. Perhaps out there across the clouds there were others more like him. His grandmother’s yelling quickly brought him back down to earth.

“If one of those dead branches let loose, there’d be nothing stopping you but the ground!” Sarah Abbott stood on the porch waiting for Elijah’s descent. She was now in her sixties and had already raised her own child. But having Elijah there somehow made her feel young again. He was so much like his father. They looked so much alike that you could hold any of their school pictures side by side and not tell who was who. Both had sandy brown hair and such innocent looking blue eyes that she often told them they could charm a fish out of the river without a pole.

Elijah took one last look at the sunbeams that pierced the distant clouds before he unwillingly began climbing down through the sap-covered pine. Gnarled branches shot out in every direction. Slipping through the branches was easy for him. It seemed to come naturally, almost second nature. He was also small for his age, always had been. Despite what his grandmother thought, he wasn't too old to be climbing up there and besides he knew better than to put any weight on the bare branches. Soon his feet popped out from the bottom of the tree and he dropped to the terra-firma below.

Elijah regained his land legs, ran across the yard, and jumped up the back steps two at a time past his grandmother and into the kitchen. Sarah, or Gram as everyone in the family called her, eyed him as he passed and followed into the house.

He turned as Gram started to speak again. She was an expert at not letting up until she was sure her point had been driven home. He was successfully letting everything she was saying go in one ear and out the other. Despite his attempt at not paying attention, he couldn’t help notice how the sun coming through the screen door behind her made the gray in her hair light up like fire, giving her a angel-like appearance.

Suddenly the front door burst open. It was his older sister, Becca. “Hey Eli,” Becca said grinning from ear to ear as she bounced into the kitchen. “You can hear Gram yelling at you from like halfway down the street!”

Elijah frowned back.

“Up in that tree again? I've always said your head was in the clouds,” Becca continued to taunt.

A sharp glance from Gram quickly let Becca know that this was not the time for instigating a fight. Becca sat down at the table and flicked her hair as she turned away from Grams' glare. Much like Elijah took after their father, Becca looked more like their mom, taller and with darker hair. She might not be able to start something, but she could at least stick around for the show. Seizing the opportunity to get away from his grandmother's ranting, Elijah turned and made his way for the stairs to his room.

“And just where are you going?” Gram called after him.

“To my room,” shouted Elijah retreating up the stairs.

“Well, you can redd up the floor a little while you’re up there! That rooms turning into a pig’s sty. And don't forget the yard needs mowing,” was the last thing Elijah heard Gram say before making it into his room and closing the door.

It was a small bedroom, but big enough for a bed, dresser, and computer desk. He spent many hours here thinking about what he termed as life, the universe, and everything. School, girls, or life in general, yet there was always something else in the back of his mind, just out of focus and indistinct. Some earth-shattering thing that would change the world as we know it! Maybe he just wanted there to be something more. Perhaps he had seen too many of the recent movies that portrayed the human race trapped unknowingly against their will by an unseen enemy.

Most recently Elijah’s thoughts had turned towards religion. He wasn't sure why. His parents had never been overly church going, but they did get there occasionally. That mostly included the major holidays, Christmas and Easter, and a regular Sunday from time to time.

His father was raised Methodist and his mother Lutheran, but he wasn’t really sure which one he liked better. They did however raise several questions in his mind. Why does there need to be Lutherans and Methodists? Aren’t we all following the same God? And where has God been anyway? There must be a reason why He stopped talking to people. These seemed to be questions that he would have to wait until he reached Heaven to get answered.

Elijah tried searching the Internet for answers, however there was too much garbage mixed in with the good. And the good websites couldn’t agree even on the simple subjects. He enjoyed working on his computer and was usually able to find anything he needed quickly. Being impatient, if he couldn't find something quickly he would walk away from it for a while, leaving him to wonder about it on his own.

It wasn’t long before Gram had called everyone for dinner.

“Chicken again!” groaned Becca. “That’s like totally tweaked, Gram!”

Elijah sat quietly. He just couldn't shake the subject of religion from his mind today.

“I’ll have you know that chickens good for you! But if you would really like some variety you can start pitching in and make dinner tomorrow night.” Gram returned sharply.

This would usually have brought a comment from Elijah and when none came, Gram changed her attention towards him. “What’s wrong honey?” Gram asked. “You haven’t touched your dinner.”

“Just thinking,” Elijah replied.

“Well if it’s about that tree, it's coming down and I don’t want to hear another word about it! If you don’t die climbing around like a monkey, you’ll be running around naked like one because it’s almost impossible to get the sap out of your clothes.”

Not one to let an opportunity like this pass by Becca added, “and with your skinny, pasty white body... Well, nobody wants to see that!”

Ignoring his sister Elijah turned to his grandmother. “I’ve been thinking about church. I’d like to start going.”

This caught Gram a little off guard. She had gone to church all her life. She never missed a Sunday, even went to Wednesday night Bible study. But shortly after her husband had passed away her attendance dropped sharply. It wasn’t that she was mad at God for taking him; Heaven knows he suffered long enough. It was more about the way people started treating her. She was still the same person, but now she was treated like poor old widow Abbot.

Church had been on Gram’s mind more and more as the kids got older. These were tough times to be growing up in with the “War on Terror,” all the natural disasters, and school shootings. Just watching the nightly news made her shudder inside. Gram often encouraged the children to pray and read the “Good Book,” but she also knew they needed more.

“That's a great idea, Elijah. I've been wanting to get back myself. Have you thought about where you'd like to go?” Gram asked smiling back at him.

“I haven’t figured that out yet. I was thinking maybe we could go to several churches first and then decide which one we liked the best later,” Elijah said hoping this sounded like a good idea. He knew his grandmother would want to go back to the Methodist church where she was raised and had raised her son. To Elijah’s surprise, Gram agreed.

“Well, I think we should go to that place over by the school,” Becca chimed in, trying to sound like it was just another option. Her tone changed quickly when Elijah clasped his hands to his cheeks and started batting his eyes. “You just want to go there because that’s where Markey Warkey pooh goes.”

Becca's face turned redder than the ketchup she was dipping her chicken in. Of course she thought that John Mark Roche was the cutest guy in school. Who didn't? Mark (as he made sure everyone knew was his preferred name) was tall, handsome, and captain of the football team. She felt butterflies in her stomach at the mere thought of him. But for Elijah to say it out loud, in front of Gram no less, made her butterflies turn to bullets, all aimed at her brother.

“Well at least I don’t, like, need a keyboard and mouse to talk to someone with a pulse,” Becca shot back at him.

“Oh yeah, well my computer has ten times more personality than him,” retorted Elijah, already waiting for Becca’s come back.

“Enough! Enough from the both of you! I won’t have fighting at the table,” said Gram as sternly as she could.

This calmed the conversation down quickly and the rest of dinner was fairly quiet. Elijah spent the rest of the evening at his computer doing his homework and browsing his favorite web sites. The computer had been a Christmas gift from his dad. Dad told him and Becca that they could have whatever they wanted with a 'within reason' clause. Elijah had asked for a fast setup so he could do some gaming and Dad, being a computer nerd too, had delivered. Quad core processor with four 'gigs' of RAM and a half terabyte SATA hard drive, all wrapped up in a sweet black case with red LED's lighting up the front.

Becca on the other hand had asked for clothes and accessories. How they came from the same gene pool he would never know.

Before he knew it, it was time for bed. Despite his bickering with Becca, he felt good about his talk with his grandmother. He felt good about going to church. In fact, he felt better than he had in a long time. Perhaps this was the start of bigger and better things for him.

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