Oct 4th, Year 1 of the Vow
This was awkward… Standing face to face with- We’d been in New Mexico for a couple weeks. It was strange having father around but not running the show, I was in charge. Every minute I doubted every choice I made… But- like- I thit HUH!
Writing in ink was dumb?! Maybe I should type my journal entries. I don’t even know where I’m supposed to begin. This would be where father would remind me, “That’s why you journal every day before you go to sleep… so you leave nothing out and everything is fresh.”
It was natural to dislike when parents were right, right?
Like, I’m still processing what happened in New Mexico. I feel like I’m not ready to write about it. I’m not ready.
Oct 7th, Year 1 of the Vow
Luckily for me, father had to help a friend out after we wrapped up in New Mexico. He’d be all over me about not having any record of what happened on my first solo assignment, under supervision.
For starters, I met an intriguing set of sisters. They all followed in their father’s footsteps and took the Vow. They don’t usually work together, but this matter was close to home, and it was personal. I was called in to help because my family had the information to take down the threat they were up against: Skinwalkers.
Yeah, there was a movie about werewolves under that title. It was terrible and nowhere close to realistic. Werewolves weren’t real, but there were ancient witchcraft practices that birthed the lore of the nefarious moonlight beasts.
Basically, demons and witchcraft go hand-in-hand. Where there were demons, there be witchcraft!!! LOL. Can I be silly with my entries? In a hundred years, some person like me will be reading my words, well, if the world lasts a hundred years… Then again, I’m pretty sure every generation after Adam and Eve said the Messiah was coming, so who really knows when everything will end.
Anyway, back to the Samuelson Sisters. I nicknamed them the Slaying Six because they are bad- can I curse in my journal entries?
This entry wasn’t very professional. Coming toe-to-toe with death would do that with you, though, wouldn’t it?
Maybe before talking about the sisters, I should just start from the beginning of the trip.
Father assigned me to read a journal of Samuel Priestly to prepare for my first solo mission in New Mexico. He lived in the late 1800s and served in the U.S. Army as pioneers settled west. He was a great, great, however-many-great uncle. Never married or had any children, but he faithfully served as a Modern Nazarite from his 20s until his death in his 40s.
This journal was filled with Samuel’s experience with the Navajo Nation, but mainly the “Navajo Witch Purge” of 1878. Nearly 40 Navajo people were killed under the suspicion they were witches. Samuel didn’t agree with the decision to kill them for there wasn’t irrefutable proof, but he did encounter a few “yee naaldlooshii”, which in Navajo means, “with it, he who crawls on all fours”. It was his work tracking, fighting, and delivering these few that lifted the curses off the Navajo Nation, not their purge that shed innocent blood.
Samuel faced off with Jon Blacksmith. A powerful skinwalker that wore the skin of a wolf. He killed his brother Rook to be accepted by his dark order. By day, he paraded around as a regular man, but at night he took on the form of a wolf. He could run as fast as the force of sixty wild horses. His strength was the muscle of fifty men. And his beastly bite, the mightiest ever known. While in human form, his eyes looked wolf-like, and while in animal form, his eyes looked human-like.
He lived in the wilderness. Inside a cave, hidden in a canyon. He and his order would rob graves to generate wealth and to get supplies for their black magic rituals. They often killed for their own sheer survival. To defy death again and again, they needed the blood of others.
Samuel first shared the gospel with Jon when he found him, but the skinwalker wanted nothing to do with God. He enjoyed the power the devil gave him. Sadly, Samuel had no choice, but to kill him. Jon met his match in Samuel. Unlike other people, Jon couldn’t lock eyes on Samuel and control Samuel’s mind like he could do with anyone else who crossed his path. The battle nearly killed Samuel but he was able to sever Jon’s head from his body and right before his eyes, Jon’s body rapidly decayed and decomposed into a horrid goop of blood, bile, and rotten tissue.
The other skinwalkers asked for mercy from Samuel. They asked him if their souls could be left to wander the earth; they weren’t ready for hell yet. Samuel was confused, why didn’t they want to just repent and choose to live for God. That was when they explained.
After they kill their sibling and/or relative and steal their hearts, they undergo a ritual, using the skin of their animal of choice to transform into. During the ceremony their souls were separated from their bodies and a demon from hell came to dwell in their bodies. Their souls were then placed in the heart of their dead relatives and kept in ritual jars. In human form, they were connected to their souls, but in animal form, the demons from hell were in control. As humans, they could use mind control and practice witchcraft as they pleased, doing whatever they wanted for themselves. But once they perished as a skinwalker, their souls were sent to hell. They wondered. if they chose not to fight against the Lord’s servant, could their spirits be allowed to roam the earth. However, the LORD was clear, the skinwalkers needed to be removed from the earth. Samuel killed the rest of the skinwalkers, sending all of their souls straight to hell.
Samuel never returned to New Mexico after the Purge. He went east to deal with darkness in Asia.
Father glanced over at me, taking his eyes off the road as we traveled down the bumpiest, rockiest, dirt road. He must’ve changed his mind about saying something to me because he sighed and went back to paying attention to the road. A cloud of red dust trailed behind the old, blue truck we picked up at the private airstrip we flew into a few hours from here.
I tried asking father on the plane ride where our money for traveling, living, and battling came from and he said it was from our generous cousins. He deliberately wouldn’t give me details, but then again, maybe he didn’t know more.
Father wouldn’t stop staring at me, occasionally, out of the corner of his narrow, deep brown eyes. He creeped me out a bit.
Finally, he spoke his mind, “You’re done reading everything already?”
I tried not to sigh myself, but I think I did anyway, “Read most of it. Skinwalkers are basically demonic animal zombies. No choice but to kill them. No need for evangelism. I can be real cut and dry with this one. Go in, track the beasts, fight to the death, and leave.”
Father shook his head no in a disappointed fashion. “You will do as the Lord leads you in this case. No two people are the same.”
Nothing I do pleases father. He must loathe being stuck with me as his legacy.
He stopped at a closed wooden gate, where an old woman on horseback waited. She slowly dismounted her spotted pony and opened the gate for us. Father drove through and stopped again. In the rearview mirror, I watched the woman close the gate and lock it up with a chain. She remounted her horse in one swift motion. She directed her horse to pull up on father’s side of the truck, father rolled down his window to talk to her.
“Nizhoni, it’s good to see you.”
“You as well, Joshua. Little Jude is with you?”
“He sure is. This is his first mission, I’m just here to observe.”
“I will go gather the others and meet you at my hogan. Blaze and my granddaughters are waiting with mutton stew, ashbread, and blood sausage. We shall feast good tonight.” Nizhoni said, smiling as she giggled.
She commanded her pony into a gallop and dashed off. We followed the dirt road until we reached an apparent living space. There were rotting wood sheds near a well to draw water. In the center, stood a wooden building shaped like an octagon with a rickety porch and glass sliding doors. Off to the side, there was a slender, tall wooden box that read “Outhouse” on it. Not too far from that was a chicken coop. A few sheep roamed freely around the area.
The Navajo may be in the 21st century, but not many lived in it. They lived off the land with no running water and no power. Many of them were sheep herders and cattle drivers, and would work the ranch before dawn until dusk. Well, the Navajos that weren’t addicted to alcohol and illegally making moonshine and working with drug cartels to smuggle drugs into the US from Mexico.
We heard someone playing the guitar. Judging there was light and smoke from a fire behind the main building, father and I got out of the truck and made our way to the back of Nizhoni’s hogan.
Sunset kissed the blue sky with pink and orange tones. And the mesa top cliffs in the distance appeared purple and teal as the starry night sky emerged.
The presence here was warm and radiated peace like that of the Holy Spirit.
Coming around back, we saw a man around my father’s age sitting on a hand carved chair by a fire pit made from stones. On log benches, six beautiful women sat around the fire making fresh ashbread. The man around father’s age didn’t look Navajo. He looked white and he wore a gray hoodie, a trucker hat, jeans, and brown cowboy boots. The women were definitely Native American. Silky, black hair. Gorgeous, brown skin with red undertones like clay. Brown eyes. Strong and sleek cheekbones. I am going to marry one of these women, preferably the one closest to my age. I’m a bit nervous about going older, but I’ll try it.
Father elbowed me in the bicep, “I can feel that lust boy. Simmer down.”
Father retook the Vow to train me, which meant his sensitivity to the spirit realm allowed him to feel what others felt. Every Modern Nazarite was like that.
Holy Spirit, help me keep my emotions in check, let me not sin against you, God, or dishonor these women in the company I keep tonight. Thank you, in Jesus’ name. Amen. I prayed quickly in my head.
Just like that, I could think a little straighter. I was no longer enamoured with their beauty.
I assumed the man was ‘Blaze’. He noticed us first and set his guitar down on the dirt ground, how disgraceful, and leaped up to come greet me warmly.
He held out his hand and as I took his to shake it, he squeezed my hand with super strength, therefore, I likewise firmly shook back but with an extra kick.
“Ah, boy, you got a strong Samson grip there.” He said retracting his hand speedily. “You must be Jude, Sarah’s son. You look a lot like her.” He pointed out. I think I looked the most like father. Levi looked like mother.
He tucked me under his arm and guided me toward the fire where the ladies sat. The ladies stood up in unison to greet me.
First, he introduced me to Marge. She was the tallest. She wore cat-eye glasses and sported a pixie cut. She was curled up in a wool blanket, she seemed to wear jeans and she had black slides on. She carried herself like a firstborn.
“Marge is my first baby girl. Then there is Jaime.” He said, referring to the next down the line.
She wore her black hair down at her shoulders. She wore a knitted jacket, a tee, and cargo pants. She had tennis shoes on.
“Next, we got Leece.” Blaze smiled.
I think out of all of them she was the 10, while the rest of the sisters were like 7s, 8s, or 9s. I deliberately kept my eyes on her eyes to avoid the well endowed areas on her well sculpted body. She wore her long hair in a single fishtail braid. I didn’t look to see how long it was, I just noticed it hung in the front over her shoulder.
Zala looked shy and she avoided eye contact with me. She wore a jean jacket over her jean overalls. He hair up in a ponytail.
After her, was Amarise. Her hair was up in a messy bun. She wore a tank top and shorts. The nippy air didn’t bother her at all.
Lastly, was Nike, yes, like the shoe. Her hair was wavy and long and more of a dark brown than black. Her eyes were different. They were hazel, not dark brown like her sisters. She was bundled up with a woven blanket. She seemed to have sweats on and she was barefoot. The way she carried herself made me like her the most, and I don’t know why.
“If you ever date any of my single girls, I will have your head on a platter. You think I’m joking, I dare you to test me.”
Blaze’s demand placed a little fear of God in me. Like, I knew he was dead serious. Marge recognized father and rushed to give him a hug.
“I’m so sorry for your loss.” She said compassionately.
Everyone’s mood got sad and sorrowful, even Blaze’s mood.
The ladies seated themselves back down. The mistreated guitar on the dirt floor stole my attention.
“You should play something for us,” Nike suggested. “Your band was really good. I’d kill to hear Sweet Fire while sitting by a fire.”
“We don’t need to hear no devil’s music here.” Blaze huffed, picking his acoustic guitar off the ground.
“It’s actually about the Holy Spirit.” I defended my music.
“Oh, maybe some other time then.” Blaze said.
Father sat in an empty carved chair near the fire, across the way from Blaze, putting plenty of distance between them. I took a seat on a log bench by Nike.
We sat and we started getting to know each other.
Though all the sisters were Modern Nazarites, fighting darkness and all the travel was new to them. They didn’t grow up traveling with their dad. Their mom never took the Vow to make it a family business. They matured into women on the Navajo Nation, ranching with their grandma and their mom. It wasn’t until their mom was killed by a skinwalker, a relative in need of her heart, they learned who their father was. Only five of them took the Vow, Nike took her vow a couple years ago.
Mrs. Samuelson died about seven years ago. The skinwalkers didn’t cause trouble with people after her death. They kept to themselves. Occasionally, stealing some livestock. Rumor had it, they ran off to Utah to torment the Utes. The five sisters spent their free time tracking the skinwalkers when they could, but the Navajo didn’t talk about the witches, so their search never got far.
What suddenly changed that gave the sisters a fighting chance to take down the skinwalkers? In the past month, there have been 3 murders. Witnesses attest a relative was the murderer and none of the killers were in police custody. All the clues to find the guilty ran cold quickly. The sisters did some investigating of their own for the last week and they were able to get a local medicine man to share what the spirits told him. Demons liked to talk, they were big gloaters.
The skinwalkers wanted to build a strong pack, and for the first time in history, they were going to leave the land and go to team up with other forces of darkness. Apparently, Papa Satan was ready to initiate plans for the apocalypse.
Great, it figured I would be under the Vow when the Devil attempted to end the world. Oh wait, the Enemy has worked to destroy humanity and the world since the Garden. Every generation of Nazarites dealt with this, probably, I hope, I think?
To make matters more alarming, teens to prominent families in the community were missing. Days passed without any dead bodies appearing, which meant something a little more unfortunate than death, the teens were recruits to be the new skinwalkers.
One young man was Marge’s brother-in-law, the current chief’s youngest son. He had a large number of victims to choose from, including Marge’s husband and her little boy who just turned two. Marge sent her son and husband away, far from the tribe, when the skinwalkers emerged a few months ago. She wanted to keep them safe.
Jaime, Zala, and Amarise were engaged and all getting married soon. Zala was engaged to a local Youth Minister who had no idea what her secret line of work was about yet. I couldn’t imagine that going over too well.
That meant the only two I would be interested in dating were available to date… yikes… I’m going to need a whole lot of help from God during this mission.
“You’re stained, huh?” Nike mentioned, referring to the ugly brand on my inner left forearm, directly in the nook where the arm bends.
Normal people couldn’t see it. Only Modern Nazarites and others that could see into the spirit realm. It was a parting gift from Celly, a leftover from her hex that made me love her.
“Something we have in common,” Nike commented as she stuck her left forearm out to reveal the bend at the elbow and she bore the exact same mark.
A faint wine-stained crescent moon paired with a matching fanged V. The crest of the Vampira Coven, an all female witch coven, which meant Nike experimented in her love life. She was once involved with a woman. I know I have no place to judge in comparison to all the sins I committed, but wow… I’m shocked. Then again, she wasn’t raised a Nazarite, but I thought the Navajo frowned upon homosexuality because they were huge on heritage and producing more Navajos… I didn’t really know though.
“Maybe I’ll get to hear that story one day,” I said insanely curious. Like black-cat-met-death-curious.
“Maybe.” She smiled coyly.
Nizhoni and two others came galloping up to the fire on their horses. It was two middle-aged men. A beefy guy on a black horse and a skinny one on a dark brown horse. They dismounted, and grabbed some empty carved chairs sitting around, picked a spot close to the fire, and seated themselves.
Nizhoni introduced the beefy man as Angus, and the skinny guy as Slim. I honestly couldn’t tell if those were nicknames or actual names. The two were brothers, and each had a son that went missing. Having wives and more children who could fall victim to their sons recruiting rituals, they sent their families away like Marge did. But the boys still had relatives left on the land, Nizhoni was Angus’ and Slim’s aunt. The men have been staying on her ranch, to help protect her and the Slaying Six. They knew their second cousins by blood were Modern Nazarites.
Nizhoni wanted to bless the food before we ate, she asked us to bow our heads. She prayed to the God of the Bible, sealed it with the LORD’s name, and as she said, “Amen”, we all echoed her.
Leece and Nike got up and served everyone food, a little bit of everything on a tin plate. There was no silverware. We were given cloths to wipe the food grease from our hands as we ate.
Blood sausage was made from the sheep, it wasn’t pork, but it still wasn’t kosher. Yet, father ate it, so I figured it was okay for us to eat. I must admit, not a fan. The only thing I could stomach was the flat bread made over the fire and even then it could use a little salt to boost the flavor.
Nike and I started vibing, even though I seriously tried not to with her.
“It was your show in Old Pueblo, Arizona where I met the one who stained me.” Nike shared.
“Really, how long ago? We toured that city often.”
“Four years ago,” she said.
“Interesting, that night, I met a bunch of Celly’s friends. She said they were like sisters.”
“So, the tall slender one, with a blonde faux hawk, and the bull nose ring, remember that sister?”
“Wren?” I guessed, feeling like I’m wrong.
“No, Wren was the flower child. My stainer was Brynn.” Nike clarified.
“Wow, Brynn was…” I was hesitant to admit the truth.
“Gorgeous,” Nike and I said in unison.
“She is a famous model now, deservingly so.” Nike added.
Nike went on to talk about for the last six months she’d been trying to track Brynn down. She was ready to sever the soul tie and get rid of the stain. She was tired of any subtle reminder of her ex-lover.
I’d never been this fascinated by an individual. I needed to know as much as I could about Nike. I especially wanted to find out if she was still attracted to the same-sex. Before I could ask that, a tiny pebble hit me in the cheek, it stung a little. I looked in the direction it came, and it was from Blaze. He didn’t need to say anything. I could see in his eyes he didn’t want me chatting up his daughter anymore.
I excused myself to get away from all the tension. Nike and I were building a sincere connection. They probably all felt it too. Maybe it was gross for them. I think I would be disgusted if a young man was trying to pick up my daughter in front of me and he felt everything I felt and I felt what my daughter was feeling for him… completely gross. How does the Holy Spirit dwell in God’s children?
“Hello, Jude,” A deep, bold voice said from behind me.
I looked up and saw the tallest man I’d ever seen. Like 9 feet tall he stood, or possibly 10 feet, like a basketball hoop.
He was dressed oddly. He wore a white tunic and a red cape. A sword was attached around his waist on a leather belt.
“I’m Raphael, the archangel.” He stated.
He had short brown hair that slightly glowed with a halo-like effect but he didn’t have a literal halo, nor any bird-like wings.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“I’m here to help you fight the skinwalkers. Their numbers are too large for your crew, even with all your strength. The LORD thought you could use the help.”
“I haven’t read about Raphael in scripture.”
“I’m not in the Protestant Bible. Just the Hebrew one.” He confessed.
“How do I know I can trust you, who is Jesus?”
“Son of David. Son of God. Son of Man. Emmanuel. The Messiah. The Christ. God incarnate.”
He used like every bible title for Jesus, well, not every single one but a lot.
“What is the Gospel?” I asked.
“I’m not permitted to share the Gospel, that is only something believers can do. Wait, I can say that He is risen. The Savior lives.”
The hoot of an owl subtly sounded. Raphael looked up and I mimicked him. We watched it glide above us, when the wise night owl looked down at us, I sensed a dark vibe.
“That owl belongs to the skinwalkers. The bird spies on us.” Raphael explained.
“What should we do?” I asked.
“Did you read about Samuel Priestly and his experience during the Purge of 1878?” Raphael asked, scrutinizing me as if he knew the answer to his own question. The truth.
“I haven’t read all of it.” I hung my head, kind of kicking myself for trying to take the easy way out on this case.
“I advise you to change that. I’ll follow the owl and see if I can locate the cave of the skinwalkers. I’ll come back by morning.” Raphael said.
He withdrew his sword and held it at his side. He leaped high into the air, reaching the soaring level of the owl and he disappeared like a vapor in the night sky. The owl swirled around Nizhoni’s hogan a few times. Everyone else stopped talking and stared at the bird as the night-sky-predator made its round, and then, in silence, we observed the bird fly away toward the canyons.
I managed to make it back over to the bonfire.
“We should set out and start looking for them. We’re just sitting ducks here.” Nike snapped.
“That isn’t the first spy they sent. If they were going to attack us here, they would have already.” Blaze said.
“They want us to find them?” I guessed.
Jon Blacksmith found Samuel Priestly at a makeshift camp site in the canyon. Jon thought he was ambushing Samuel unexpectedly, but the Uber Great Uncle Sam was ready for him and it was a trap set for Jon.
“What do you mean they want us to find them? If that was true, then we are damned either way. We sit here, they could kill the other recruits’ family members and grow their numbers. We go after them, and we find where their cave is and they’ll have the home court advantage and they could destroy us.” Marge said.
Blaze stood beside me and put his hand on my shoulder. Confidently, he said, “That’s why Jude is here. He literally has the book on how to defeat the skinwalkers.”
Nothing like adding an immense amount of pressure on a Nazarite’s first assi\gnment. I thought we were all going to die. And I was half right, terrifyingly.
*Edited by Kristen Wenneborg