Jonah bolted up in bed clutching his chest. Her name died on his lips as he became aware of his surroundings. He was home again. No false temples. No demons. No little girl.
A slender arm fell across his shoulders as his wife sat up to comfort him. She had been awakened by his outburst and was shaken by his disheveled appearance.
"Jonah, what's wrong? Are you ok?"
His answer was not quick in coming. A few tense moments passed as Jonah caught his breath. Nancy waited for his reply, brushing his sweat-soaked hair from his face.
Finally, with some hesitation and puzzlement, he released a deep sigh and gripped her hand. "I'm not sure. I just had the most disturbing nightmare."
Nancy rested her chin on his shoulder trying to look more relaxed than she felt. "Want to talk about it?"
"I don't know. I mean, there wasn't a whole lot to it."
"But this hasn't exactly been the first one."
Jonah looked suddenly guilty. He sighed, "No. No it hasn't."
Nancy placed a hand to his chin and gently turned his face to look into hers. "I think it's time you shared them with me, then, don't you?"
Jonah looked into Nancy's eyes and realized he was trapped. There was no getting around the subject. She was not going to overlook his dreams any longer. They were becoming too intense and too frequent to ignore. He could read the concern in that penetrating look she gave him, and saw deep, unfathomable love there. He caught himself smiling weakly, but warmly, in spite of himself.
"Yeah, I just didn't want to concern you with unrealistic dreams. I was blowing them off as harmless fantasy flashbacks. At any rate, I didn't think they meant anything."
"But now you do?"
Jonah looked away trying to sound nonchalant. "I'm not sure. they're all set in a typical fantasy world with the usual fairy tale creatures. Nothing to get concerned about. I seem to forget most of the details, except that in every one I am trying to find this little girl with flaming red hair."
Nancy nodded. "Viviene?"
Jonah glanced at her stunned. "Yes. That was her name!"
His face reflected a sudden glow at the mention of her name, as though he had heard the voice of God. He whispered her name to himself.
"You shouted her name as you woke up, sweetheart."
"I did?" Jonah paused in confusion, and then it came back to him in startling clarity. He remembered the talons and teeth tearing into him, the pain in his heart for the little girl, and screaming out her name at the end.
He sank back against the damp pillow looking up at the ceiling. "I only wish I knew who she was."
Nancy laid on her side beside him again running her hand over his chest. "What does she do in your dreams?"
"She's a victim; a prisoner to demonic influence. They want her for something."
"And you're trying to protect her?"
"No. It's too late for that!" he clarified. "I'm trying to reach her, to pull her back from the demons' power! But every dream I fail. I draw my sword and attack anything that comes between us only to be thrown back. And in this last dream, they finally succeeded in killing me. Each failure brings the little girl deeper and deeper into the occult."
"What about her parents? Don't they play a part in all of this?"
"It's hard to say, but I would guess they're responsible for the foundation of her occult beliefs. I've never seen them in any of the dreams, but it always feels like their present. Maybe they're watching."
"And that's it?"
"That's all I can remember."
Nancy looked puzzled. "Could she be someone you know or just met recently?"
"I thought of that already. None of the kids I teach are anything like her, and I don't recall seeing any that even remotely resemble her walking through the halls of the school either." Jonah sighed in frustration. "No, I've never met this child; at least not yet."
That remark caught Nancy's attention.
"Jonah, do you think she's a real person that you haven't yet met? Could you still meet her?"
"I think she's out there somewhere, yes. I think Viviene is more than a figment of my over-imaginative mind. And I think God has given me these dreams for a reason... maybe to prepare me for the upcoming confrontation. I admit, though, I don't have the slightest notion as to what she is really like. In the dreams, I've never talked to her. She could have a sweet, sensitive spirit that is truly blinded to the occult influences around her, or she could be in complete rebellion to what she knows is right. I don't know. At best, Viviene is an elusive concept to me. I will just have to wait on God to reveal it when the time is right."
He sat up and threw aside the covers, reaching for his Bible beside the bed.
"Where are you going?"
Jonah turned and kissed Nancy softly, tucking her in as he did so, his Bible tucked under one arm. "I'm going to do a little reading, sweetheart. You go back to sleep. We'll talk more about it tomorrow. I'm sorry I woke you."
"Are you sure you're OK? Do you want me to pray with you. " She held his wrist until he answered.
"I'm fine, beautiful. Now go to sleep before you wake the kids. I'll see you in the morning."
"Wait, Jonah. There's something I need to know first. You said all of your dreams were in a fantasy world with monsters and demons. You said 'harmless fantasy flashbacks.' Are you sure they're harmless? If these nightmares are that intense...?" Her grip tightened.
Jonah hesitated. He didn't want her losing any more sleep over the subject, but he knew he couldn't hide the truth from her. She could see it in his eyes. He opted to sugar coat his answer. "I don't think my dreams are based on my past experiences, sweetheart. I think those creatures and that kind of setting may go along with this girl. Maybe that is the way God is relating her involvement with the occult to my mind. It could be that her situation is similar to what mine was. This could be my opportunity to show someone else what can happen as a result of indulging in occultic fantasies. Maybe Viviene just needs to hear how God delivered me from that deception. I don't know, Nancy. Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world, remember?"
Nancy relaxed a bit. "Yeah, I know, but I'd be lying if I said that stuff didn't worry me. It's nothing to take lightly, and you know it."
"Better than anyone. Now go to sleep." He bent down to kiss her once more reassuringly.
She released his arm reluctantly and forced the beginnings of a smile. "I love you."
Jonah returned the smile. "I love you too."
With a quick wink, he turned, grabbed his robe from the bedside chair, and left the room, closing the door softly behind him.
In the stillness of the bedroom, Nancy continued to look towards the hallway door after her husband. Despite his reassurances she was still troubled. It had been several years now since Jonah had last indulged in dreams of other worlds; worlds ruled by sorcery and the power of false gods, where beast-men and demons competed with wizards and faerie-folk over the possession of powerful artifacts and dragon gold. It all seemed so harmless to the average person, but Nancy knew first-hand, the dangers. It had been over a decade now since Jonah had completely surrendered his life to Jesus Christ and renounced the fantasy games that had inspired his obsession. Now he was a father who loved his children and told them only the stories that concerned mighty men of God. His mind was cleansed and filled with Bible theology. He assured her that he could barely remember details of those games now, and Nancy could see the difference that made on her husband's behavior.
But now these dreams had begun to plague her husband and with frequency and intensity that didn't seem natural. She could not help but wonder what that might bring back to the forefront of Jonah's thinking. Suddenly her mind was jumbled with memories of the struggles they had faced before. She remembered the frightening practices her newly-wed husband would initiate with his buddies in the name of recreation; all for a "game." They had taken their occult-ridden fantasy and brought it into reality until it had nearly cost someone's life!
The memories brought on the tears. She found herself crying herself to sleep and whispering repeatedly, "Jesus, don't put us through that again. Shelter Jonah's mind and heart, please!"