Sam led Ben to the cherry tree. They stood beneath its leafless branches while a frigid breeze stole warmth from their skin. There was silence for many minutes. Ben stared at the tree, but his focus was elsewhere.
“What is it you wish to reveal to me, Mr. Franklin?” Sam finally asked. This was followed by another awful silence. “Are you well, sir?”
“Do you believe in God?” Ben asked. Sam was caught off guard.
“I believe in God.”
“Do you believe in his son?” Ben asked, coldly.
“Yes, I do.” Sam replied.
“And who can blame you? I do not. I envy simple people like you. And it is the simplicity of it all that prevents me from accepting any of it.”
“But, why should something so important be difficult to understand?” Sam asked. Ben removed his left hand from his pocket.
“When they ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, God made every effort to keep them from the Tree of Life. He feared what they would become. Why would God fear a man?”
“It was not fear, but compassion. It was love. If they had obtained eternal life in such a fallen and corrupt state…”
The void denied him any more words. It denied him any more breath. It denied him any more warmth. Ben’s hand smothered Sam’s mouth, which almost instantly caused it to become devoid of any moisture. This effect spread throughout Sam’s body. Ben closed his eyes to avoid the terror, and instead focused on the incredible life energy that flowed into his being. Clearly, this young man had much to live for.
When the flow of energy ceased, Ben opened his eyes to see the gray corpse of Sam Joy fall to the ground. He held up his newly strengthened hands. The dark mark on his left hand was gone. The void had its fill.
Ben rolled up his sleeves and felt his revitalized skin and muscles. He then ran his fingers through his hair, which had become thicker. After that, he jumped into the air, which he had not been able to do for many years. Finally, he felt his pulse. His heart beat slow and strong. He felt no guilt. He was far beyond guilt.
From a distance, Ben heard George Washington’s cry. He had hoped to make an escape, but neglected to notice that George could see everything from the window in his office.
“What did you do? This is an abomination!” George raged. He did not need to check for Sam’s vital signs. He knew death.
“I did what all men want to do.” Ben said with conviction. “It’s deep in the race to desire life.”
“You killed a boy! He was going to be married tomorrow. This is a monstrosity. No form of vengeance would satisfy the cry for justice here. You deserve more than death.” George pulled out a dagger.
“I would not do that General. He was surely a decent man, but only decent. You and I make up the Minority of the Gifted. We must take more because we give more.”
“His wife…how could this be allowed to happen? Damn you! This man was greater than you.” George took a step closer. Ben smiled.
“Perhaps, you are not as great as they say, Mr. President!”
Ben sprinted at George, who did not have the reaction speed to make a timely thrust. Ben simultaneously gained possession of the dagger and knocked the wind out of George with his elbow. Unable to breathe, George could not regain his composure before Ben grabbed both of his arms to drag him near the cherry tree.
The dagger pierced George’s hand, and the full width of the tree. George cried out in agony.
“I did not expect it to go all the way through. I cannot imagine the pain, but I want to say some things before I kill you.” Ben began to pace. “First of all, know that I did not want anyone to die today. Death is merely a consequence of a simple desire to live. Oh, do not try to remove that. You could not possibly tear it from there. You may be wondering how I was able to accomplish any of this. An old friend came to me and offered some secret knowledge regarding the nature of life and death. Only a fool would turn from the path of life and knowledge. You see, I am getting quite old, or was, I should say. What accomplishments can a dead man achieve? What influence does a dead man have?”
A soul melting shriek stabbed Ben’s ears. Turning to the source of the sound, he caught the image of a woman running toward Sam’s body. Although he had never laid eyes on her, Ben knew that this woman was named Rose. He felt his heart through his chest.
“Sam…Sam…Sam.” Rose collapsed over his body. She did not consider the two other men.
Ben began a slow march in her direction. His pulse intensified with every step.
George pulled at the dagger with his free hand, but to no avail. He considered the horror of witnessing the murder of his friend’s love, and it overrode the tremendous physical pain he felt. At all costs, he had to stop him. Pulling again, with all of his strength, he slid his wounded hand down the blade until it stopped at the base. With the effort of both hands, he tore the dagger from the tree.
Ben was now standing over the woman and her fallen love. His entire body pulsated with every heartbeat. He knew this woman had to die.
George held the dagger in a striking position.
Rose looked up into Ben’s eyes. At that moment, he fell to his knees, dead from within.
George dropped the dagger. The woman gazed into his eyes, and neither of them said a word as the sun set on the horizon.
George climbed into bed, long after Martha. He spent most evenings sitting alone in quiet reflection. Martha often tried to speak with him regarding the events of that day, but he always turned her away. She understood that time can sometimes be the only cure for matters of the heart, but she also understood that it can help the process by opening up to someone else.
“George, I want you to know that I love you. We do not say it often, but I wanted to tell you.” George turned to his wife.
“I love you too, Martha. I wish…I want to tell you what happened.”
“It is time, I think.” Martha said. George sat up.
“I have already told you about Ben’s dark arts, so there is no need to discuss that awful matter further. What I have not told you is what caused Ben’s death. When I held that poor woman in my arms, she told me that Ben died the instant their eyes met. I have not been able to make sense of this.” George said. Martha sat up with him.
“You told me once that Ben somehow stole the boy’s life force. Imagine that, George. Ben had that boy’s life inside of him. That boy’s heart lived in Ben’s heart, if Ben even had a heart left at that time. He must have been crying out to her from in there. Seeing her eyes must have been too much. I am no authority, but I want to believe that God let that boy go free because the pain was too much to bear.”
“I loved him as a son, Martha.” Rare tears streamed down his face.
“And you have witnessed the power of love. You have seen love conquer death. It must be a comfort to know that the spirit is real, and does in fact live on. There is much we do not understand George, but there is much that we know.”
“Someone once told me that my heart shines with a greater light than my own. Martha, what do you think he meant?”
“Who told you that?” Martha asked.
“An old friend, I believe.”