LORD, I love the house where you live, the place where your glory dwells.—Psalms 26:8
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.—Hebrews 10:24-25
You're my brother you're my sister
So take me by the hand
Together we will work until He comes
There's no foe that can defeat us
If we're walking side by side
As long as there is love we will stand
-We Will Stand, Russ Taff
With a gasp, Knuckles sat up, panting heavily as he took in his surroundings.
He was back on Angel Isle, in front of the Emerald Shrine. For all intents and purposes, it was as if he had just woken up from a long and involved Emerald Vision. He quickly looked around for any signs that his journey might have been something more, but there was no proof that he had gone anywhere. For all intents and purposes, he had merely had a long, bizarre dream.
Knuckles took a deep breath, realizing that he had a big decision to make. Did he still believe that God existed although he now had no real evidence to back up the belief, or did he simply chalk up the whole episode to wishful thinking?
"Blessed are those who have not seen me, and have little or no proof I exist, and yet believe in Me anyway." The words the Prince had told him when they had met—it now seemed an eternity ago—echoed in his mind.
Knuckles took a deep breath, standing up and gazing upon his Island. Strange, it seemed that creation itself, the birds and sky and trees, all seemed to be shouting at him that God was indeed real, although to his knowledge he had never realized this before. Perhaps he simply was too stubborn to listen?
Whatever the case, what he had experienced had not been imagined. He felt this deep within his being, a deep-seated faith in something he could not fully prove, and yet, it seemed so obviously right now that he could not image ever doubting the Truth.
He could not prove it. He seriously doubted he could properly explain it. He also knew, deep in his gut, that it was true. So…now what?
Knuckles scratched his head as he tried to figure out his next course of action. Knowing and believing were all well and good, but he figured that there was probably something he should be doing about it. Just what that something was though, completely eluded him.
He needed to find Sonic. The hedgehog had been a believer for a long time, so it was reasonable to assume he had figured out the answers to many of the questions Knuckles was now faced with. No doubt he would be able to provide Knuckles with at least a pretty good clue as to what to do next.
It didn't really take any time for the Guardian to hide the Master Emerald in some obscure place on his Island and arm all the traps—he wasn't going to obsess over it anymore, but that was no reason to simply let whatever megalomaniac who wanted it take I without a fight—and with that, he quickly headed down to Station Square.
After about ten minutes, Knuckles realized that Station Square was a lot larger than he had previously estimated. He'd never left the Island unless Sonic asked or the Master Emerald was broken. In the former situation, he never had to look for Sonic because Sonic found him, and in the latter, he had some sort of internal GPS that led him right to the broken Emerald pieces.
He did not have a 'Sonic' setting on that GPS, apparently. How in the world could it be so hard to find a blue hedgehog? Be that as it may, Knuckles couldn't find Sonic anywhere.
"Well, now what do I do?" Knuckles growled aloud. He supposed he could just go back to Angel Island and wait for Sonic to show up again whenever he got the hankering to visit. That could be a few days though, since he'd just visited…uh…however long ago it was before this latest mess started.
'Try the Chaotix."
Knuckles almost choked on his spit, instinctively looking around to see if he could find any psychic doves flying nearby. There wasn't. The voice he had heard in his head was definitely fainter, but unmistakable.
He took a deep breath to recompose himself. The Spirit did say He was always with him, after all…even when he couldn't see Him.
"The Chaotix, huh," Knuckles mused. "I guess if anybody could find a missing hedgehog, it'd be them. I hope they don't charge me for it."
And so it was the Knuckles found himself knocking on the Chaotix's front door, listening to the sound of things breaking and a six-year-old bee sobbing and screaming on the other side.
"Come in!" Espio's voice came through the din. Knuckles opened the door and entered the home that doubled as the Chaotix's detective office. The place was a mess. Clothes were strewn all over the floor, and an ironing board was set up smack dab in the center of the room, where Espio the Chameleon was desperately ironing out a very dressy-looking white shirt. Charmy was flying above a pile of shoes in a little circle, tears streaming down his cheeks as he pointed and lamented that he couldn't find his shoes. And Vector was suspiciously AWOL.
"Is this a bad time?" Knuckles asked hesitantly.
"Hi, Knuckles!" Charmy said, his distress forgotten instantly. "We're going to church!"
Knuckles' eyes widened. He remembered Sonic had wanted to take him there. Perhaps he'd better check this out. "Mind if I come with you?" he asked hopefully.
"Sure! Fine!" Espio looked like he was about three seconds away from heart failure. "I don't have enough problems around here! Make yourself at home! VECTOR!" Knuckles watched with mild amusement as Espio suddenly left his ironing board and started to bang on a nearby closed door. "So help me if you're not up in THREE minutes I'm sending Charmy after you! We have to be there in a half-hour!"
Knuckles frowned and checked a nearby clock. It was nine thirty in the morning. The echidna was accustomed to awakening at five A.M. each day; it was inconceivable that Vector was still sound asleep in his bed. And yet, he was.
"OK, I warned you!" Espio informed the door. "Go get him, Charmy."
"Hurray!" Charmy rushed into the room.
After a few seconds of a heavy, expectant silence, the unmistakable voice of Vector Crocodile cried out. "GAAH! CHARMY! YOU ARE DEAD, DO YOU HEAR ME? DEAD!"
"EEEK!" Charmy screamed, rushing out of the room, a very angry Vector hot on his heels.
"What did he do?" Knuckles asked Espio, being curious.
"Trust me, you're better off not knowing," Espio said. And then he realized that his shirt was smoking. He had left the iron on…
"Oh, no!" The chameleon raced over to the ironing board and yanked his shirt off of it, moaning as he saw the black, iron-shaped mark on the back. "Well, I'll just leave my jacket on, and maybe nobody will notice…"
Charmy had locked himself in the bathroom, and Vector was pounding on the door. "Charmy, let me in! I know you're just hiding in there, and I've got to GO!"
"Not until you make me not dead!" Charmy insisted from the other side of the bathroom door.
"Fine! You're not dead, whatever! C'mon lemme in!"
"Just a minute…" Charmy sing-songed before turning on the bathtub. Vector started to do a very amusing little dance at the sound of running water.
"That ain't right!" he whined. "Charmy! Charmy? Open this door!"
Espio was putting a grey dress jacket on over the burnt shirt which he had buttoned over his upper torso. He either had no other suit clothes, or was too lazy to go find them. "Charmy, stop tormenting Vector and go find your shoes," he ordered the bee firmly.
"Aw…" visibly pouting, Charmy opened the door to the bathroom, and was nearly bowled over by Vector for his trouble.
"Finally!" Vector crowed, slamming the door behind him so he could do his business.
"I can't find my shoes!" Charmy sobbed, suddenly remembering this fact and completely broken up about it.
"Charmy, there are no less than ten pairs of shoes in that little pile that you dug out from the closet. Six of those pairs are yours. Pick up a pair and put them on your feet," Espio ordered.
"But I don't LIKE these shoes!"
"These are the shoes you HAD to have!" Espio replied, completely exasperated.
"PUT THOSE SHOES ON, CHARMY! DON'T MAKE ME COME IN THERE!" Vector bellowed.
Sobbing loudly, Charmy grabbed two random shoes—that did not match each other—and shoved them on his feet, sniffling loudly.
Espio took a good look and mentally told himself to pick his fights wisely, and said nothing. "Vector, hurry, we have to go NOW!"
"I'm ready," Vector said, stepping out of the bathroom dressed in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt he had found lying there on the ground after he had thrown them there several days ago and never bothered to pick them up again.
"Is that what you're wearing?" Espio wondered aloud.
"Yeah, why?" Vector gave Espio a strange look, obviously wondering how the chameleon could doubt that he was wearing the stuff currently on his body, and walked out the door.
Espio sighed, decided to drop it, and herded Knuckles and Charmy out to the Chaotix's minivan. Knuckles and Charmy climbed into the back while Espio got the shotgun position, as Vector had already parked himself in the driver's seat.
Vector turned the key and looked at the van's clock. "Holy crap! It's nine fifty! We're late!"
"We wouldn't be late if you'd wake up at the time I set your alarm!" Espio replied.
"I know a song that gets on people's nerves," Charmy sang.
"Everybody hold on tight!" Vector warned his passengers, backing out of the driveway and then flooring his gas pedal.
"Vector, slow down!" Espio shrieked. Knuckles felt his stomach do flip-flops as Vector turned a corner so fast two of the van's wheels came off the ground.
Charmy, used to Vector's driving, didn't even pause in his song. "Get's on people's nerves, get's on people's nerves…"
A stoplight appeared up ahead, the light on the 'yellow' signal. Vector frowned and checked his MPH gage. "I can make it," he assured his passengers, speeding up slightly.
"It's ok, Vector!" Espio gasped out. "We can be late for church!"
"But I can make it!" Vector insisted.
"And this is how it goes! I know a song that gets on people's nerves…"
"Shut up, Charmy!" Vector, Knuckles, and Espio all snapped at the same time.
"See? I told you it would get on your nerves," Charmy told them smugly.
The van continued to race around town at breakneck speed as Vector kept insisting that 'he could make it' while Espio assured him that they could be late.
"It's OK Vector! So we won't make it for Sunday School. We can skip every now and again."
"Hey, ain't you teaching that Sunday School thingy, Espio?" Vector wondered aloud.
Espio paled—a pretty neat trick as he had already turned white at Vector's driving skills. "Oh, no, you're right. And I left my lesson plan at home—we need to get it!"
"No time, open a Bible, close your eyes, and just talk about whatever verse your finger lands on," Vector instructed, taking one hand off the wheel long enough to shove a Bible into Espio's hands.
Not knowing what else to do, Espio did as Vector said and started to read the verse he'd picked aloud. "Psalms 56:5 'All day long they twist my words; they are always plotting to harm me.'"
"Hey, cool, a Biblical guide to conspiracy theorists. Sounds like an interesting Sunday School lesson," Vector mused, speeding up a little. "I wanna make it in time so I can hear that."
"I'm hungry," Charmy whined. "I wanna pop tart."
"I want five million bucks, a cherry red Ferrari, and a kid that doesn't whine about wanting pop tarts," Vector shot back. "We don't always get what we want."
Then, after sharing this little piece of wisdom, Vector whirled into a parking lot of a medium-sized church and parked near the back. He shut off the engine at the same time that Knuckles and Espio darted out of the van like it was on fire.
"We're alive! Praise the Lord, for he has surely preformed a miracle this day!" Espio laughed triumphantly.
"He did? Where?" Vector asked, looking around interestedly. "I wanna see."
"…Forget it." Espio muttered, taking Charmy's arm. "Let's just go inside."
Knuckles was half-way tempted to run while he still could, but he eventually decided that having come this far, he might as well see this through. And so he followed the Chaotix into the building.
Once inside, Knuckles had to admit it was a very nice building, and was admiring a large painting of Jesus as he was ascending into Heaven when Vector pulled him to the side.
"Come on," he said. "Lemme introduce ya to the Pastor. Yo, Tony!"
Knuckles almost choked on his own spit for the second time that day when a coyote raised his head and looked over in their direction. A very…very familiar coyote.
"Oui?" Pastor Antoine D'Coolette walked over to the two, giving Vector a humoring grin.
"Knuckles, Tony. Tony, Knuckles. Well, my work here is done," Vector made a show of wiping off his hands. "See ya."
Antoine chuckled softly as the crocodile waltzed off, no doubt to get into trouble. He offered his hand to Knuckles, who took it somewhat dazedly. "Actually, mon name ees Antoine," he explained. "But Tony works too, alzough Vector ees ze only un to call moi zat."
"Antoine's fine," Knuckles said, trying to shake himself out of his daze. "You uh, you look like someone I knew a while ago," he admitted.
"Oh? I 'ope 'ee was nice, zen," Antoine joked. "You are new 'ere?"
"No, actually, I've just recently gotten saved," Knuckles replied.
"Tres magnifique!" Antoine's grin got wider if that was possible. "Oh, I'd like you to meet mon épouse. Bunnie? Bunnie, cher, could you come 'ere, s'il vous plait?"
A smiling blonde rabbit with sparkling green eyes walked over to the two of them. "What is it, Sugah-Twain?" she asked her husband.
Antoine wrapped an arm around her waist, looking at her lovingly. "Bunnie, zees ees Knuckles. Knuckles, zees ees my wife, Bunnie. Knuckles 'as recently geeveen 'is 'eart to zee Lord," Antoine informed his wife.
"Well, dip meh in chocolate an' call meh an' éclair!" Bunnie cried with delight. "That's great news, Sugah-Knux. Welcome ta the family, darlin'."
"Thanks," Knuckles said.
"Oh, Ant, Ah jes' remembered, Espio wanted ya ta covah his Sunday School lesson taday, he said somethin' 'bout missin' notes an' conspiracy theories?" she wrinkled her nose as she tried to remember. Shrugging it off, she continued. "Anyhow, he looed awful upset sugah. Do ya think ya can handle it?"
Antoine thought for a second. "Oui, actually, I remember readeeng a very eenteresteeng verse een Psalms during mon devotionals zees morneeng zat I can use…" he picked his Bible up from where he had laid it to greet people and thumbed through his place markers. "Ah! 'Ere eet ees. Psalms 56: 5, 'All day long zey twist my words; zey are always plotteeng to 'arm me.' I weel use zees."
"Alright sugah. I'll go get the little 'uns, it's about time ta start. They're wanderin' round heah somewhere." Bunnie walked away, looking for her children, while Antoine gave Knuckles a somewhat apologetic grin.
"Excusez-moi, Knuckles, but I must be goeeng now. I have to start zee Sunday School class."
Antoine quickly darted off towards the pulpit while Knuckles wandered back over to the Chaotix. Charmy and Vector were sitting in the back row, calmly awaiting for church to start. Espio was standing off to the side, just sort of staring at them. Knuckles managed to make it to him.
"Look at them," Espio marveled, watching his two partners. "It's just like the story of the Gerasene demoniac; there they are, sitting clothed and in their right minds."
Knuckles had no idea what he was talking about, but he nodded anyway. "I see," he said.
"I wonder which was the greater miracle?" Espio looked deep in thought as he pondered this incredible mystery. Knuckles left him to it and went to sit by Charmy.
It was an incredible coincidence that he just happened to stumble upon a church that was attended by three of his friends and pastored by a man who's dimensional alternate had helped him as he was just starting out on his Spiritual journey. But honestly, Knuckles didn't believe it was a coincidence at all.
The echidna smiled. He knew what he believed; and while he might not be able to prove it to anyone else, he had more than enough proof to be convinced of it himself.