Pastor took a few minutes to square away his domicile, then ushered Brad out the door. They made it up the ramp to level ground when a bell tolled. Burning torches illumined a podium and logged seating area within a park apparently set aside for that purpose. The people of Haven sat on the logs, quietly conversing among themselves.
Brad faltered by the podium stairs.
“Ii’ll be wi ya the whole tiime,” Pastor assured.
Climbing the stairs, Brad stared over the heads of the crowd.
“People of Hairven,” said Pastor. “We haave a newcomer to our gates. Hes name is Brard Morton and ya’ll be pleased to knoo, the boy’s a Christian.”
“He’s come a long waay, looking for sanctuary. If you haave any quairstens aboot him, noo is the tiime.”
Brad stepped forward as Pastor rested a heavy hand on his shoulder and muttered a soothing prayer.
“When did you become a Christian?” a man from the back of the crowd asked.
“I can’t remember. From a young age. My mother always read to me when I was little. Somewhere about primary school I made the decision to accept Jesus as my Lord and saviour.”
“How did you get here?” asked another man.
Brad indicated with his hand. “From that direction; weeks, possibly months away.”
“Iii thunk it’s safe to beliieve hum,” Pastor said, drowning out their discussion. “He’s herre, in’t he?”
“Did you come alone?” asked Mrs Baker.
“No; I had help.”
He dreaded more questions on the subject as he saw no merge mutations on the seats. How could they understand that a manine had trained him and accompanied him all the way; even died for him?
“Who?” asked a red haired girl about his age.
“Her name was Teyata?”
“Was she someone close?”
Her question seemed innocent enough, but he sensed a twinge of hope from the girl. His voice constricted as he fought back tears. In the end, he limited himself to a simple nod.
“What happened to her?” asked the woman beside her.
Brad assumed she was the girl’s mother. The answer to her question clogged in his throat as his tears began to flow.
“Do you realise how long it took me to find you?” he sobbed, dropping to his knees. “What I went through to get here?”
Pastor stepped closer and hugged Brad into himself.
“Thaat’ll be enough for teniight. As ya caan see, the boy is overwhelmed. Maybe we should just allow him to talk when he’s ready.”
Murmurs and a few nods answered his request.
“Come on noo,” he said, helping Brad to his feet. “Coming herre was the wust of it. Let’s go for a waalk.”
People respectfully dispersed, as Brad accompanied Pastor out of the meeting area. They went through the cornstalks back to where they first met. A few moments passed in uncomfortable silence, as Pastor took a pipe and tobacco out of his pocket. He filled and lit it, taking two puffs, before taking it out.