The sparkle grew, spreading from the corners of the eyes and reaching along the lower eyelids.
Arnold looked closer. Where was the light coning from that could produce such an effect? He looked above and to the right. It had to be coming through that row of small windows near the ceiling. To think he'd been attending this church for so many years and never noticed this before. It looked just as if -
A tear rose over the edge of the eyelid and dropped onto the wooden cheek, tracing a thin wet trail down the face and onto the beard.
Arnold stared, frozen, his mind stuck between seeing and believing. He felt no sense of awe, no overshadowing spiritual presence. He heard no angelic choir singing in the background. All he knew was that he was watching a wooden image shed tears as he stood there dumbly.
Then his first coherent thought finally came to him. I have to get up there. Yes, that was the thing to do; that would settle it. He hurried as fast as the pain in his feet would allow him and brought a ladder from his storeroom in the back. Pausing before the altar to bless himself, he stepped around the altar and carefully leaned the ladder against the wall. Every climbing step brought a sharp complaint from his feet, but he gritted his teeth, grimaced, and willed himself up the ladder until he came eye to eye, level to level with the carved face.
His eyes had not been playing tricks on him. The face, only a third life-size, was wet. He looked above to see if there was a leak in the ceiling but saw no sign of a stain or drip. He leaned close to study the image for any sign of a device or some kind of trickery. Nothing.
He reached, then hesitated from the very first twinge of fear. Just what was he about to touch? Dear God don't hurt me. He reached again, shakily extending his hand until his fingertips brushed across the wet trail of the tears.
He felt a tingling, like electricity, and jerked his hand away with a start. It wasn't painful, but it scared him, and his hand began to quiver. Electric sensations shot up his arm like countless little bees swarming in his veins. He let out a quiet little yelp, then gasped, then yelped again as the sensation flowed across his shoulders, around his neck, down his spine. He grabbed the ladder and held it tightly, afraid he would topple off.
A strong grip.
A grip without pain. He stared at his hand. The vibration buzzed, and swirled under his skin, through his knuckles, across his palms, through his wrists. He lightened his grip, tightened it again, held on with one hand while he opened and closed the other, wiggling and flexing the fingers.
The pain was gone. His hands were strong.
The current rushed down his legs, making his nerves tingle and his muscles twitch. He hugged the ladder, his hands glued to the rungs, a cry bouncing off the wall only inches from his nose. He was shaking, afraid he would fall. He cried out, gasped, trembled, cried out again.
The electricity, the sensation - whatever it was - enveloped his feet and his screams echoed through the building.
Copyright Frank Peretti 1999. Published with the permission of the publisher - Word Publishing. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
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