Good god, just when I thought it couldn’t be worse. You know what. It gets worse. It does. It really does.
Jay and Lila have been kidnapped. In this section, we’ll focus solely on them, but it’s worth remembering that Dr. Cooper has gone to President Al-Dallam to ask for help finding his children, and President Al-Dallam has dispatched Gozan to take care of it.
So. Jay and Lila.
At that very moment, Jay and Lila were huddled on a floor against a wall in a very small, dark, musty bungalow hidden deep within the intricate maze of winding streets, blind alleys, and obscure passageways. they were both looking up at what truly looked like a ghost: the dimly lit, ragged-robed, leathery-faced old man, the Shaman of the Desert. He stood there against the rough-hewn door trembling, the yellow light form a lone candle casting a slowly dancing shadow behind him.
I’ll remind you that this leathery-faced old man that looks like a ghost somehow snatched two teenagers and ran, dragging or carrying them—while simultaneously preventing them from crying out—through a long series of passageways so quickly that their father couldn’t follow.
Peretti goes on like this, adding more detail:
The old man was blocking the door, but strangely enough he looked at least as afraid of Jay and Lila as they were of him.
With a low and trembling voice, he said, “Please … do not harm me. I mean you no evil.”
Jay and Lila looked at each other quizzically. What kind of a kidnapper was this?
The old man’s eyes were full of fear, and he seemed to be cowering agains the door.
“Do not call a curse down upon me,” he begged, “and may I find mercy in the eyes of your God. I must talk to you!”
Let’s review. The shaman musters up the energy and resolve to physically kidnap two teenagers, and now he’s only described as cowering and begging and trembling?
This made me look back up a moment, and I noticed something. I only show you snippets, so I didn’t give you Jay and Lila’s reaction to being kidnapped, before this bit about the shaman cowering. But it occurs to me that for two children who just got kidnapped in a foreign country in the “bad” area of town, they ought to be doing some trembling themselves, and they’re not.
Here is their reaction to being kidnapped:
Jay spoke first, and angrily. “All right, you’ve kidnapped us, you’ve thrown us in here, and I take it you’re not going to let us go. Now what?”
We have two children, ages 13 and 14, who are calm, confident, and angry, and an old man, the shaman, who is trembling, cowering, and afraid—despite the fact that he’s the one who has just kidnapped and is imprisoning said children. This makes total sense.
The shaman never explains why he kidnapped the children. He says “I must talk to you!” and “I have seen that the God you serve is strong” and “I need your help!” But that’s it. This makes no sense at all. Literally no sense. If Dr. Cooper was willing to drive to the Street of the Scorpion—why the shaman couldn’t just meet with them at the site I do not know—he was clearly willing to talk to the shaman. Why not just talk to Dr. Cooper? Why kidnap his children instead?
None of this makes any sense.
“Not so fast,” Lila insisted. “Let’s clear up the little matter of our supply shed and why you blew it up.”
You see what I mean? Calm, confident, and angry.
“I had to stop you. You … you must not open the Door. Believe me, it does not contain any treasure, but only evil.”
Why does the shaman think kidnapping his two kids and telling them this will make Dr. Cooper halt his team’s operations? What even is going on here.
I want you to notice something. The shaman just said that the door does not contain any treasure, “but only evil.” I want you to notice this because Jay and Lila do not believe him. Everything in this section will be motivated by Jay and Lila’s desire to get the Door open. Literally everything. Jay and Lila convert the shaman to Christianity in order to get him to give up his secrets so that they can open the Door. Yes, really. It’s that bad.
Jay asks the shaman how he knows there is only evil behind the door. He takes a “strange, black box” off a shelf and tells Jay that he is “the Keeper of the Sacred Chest.” Jay immediately notices that the sacred chest bears the same inscription as the door.
“What is this box?” asked Jay. “What’s in it?”
“According to our ancient traditions,” said the old man, “it is the Sacred Chest of Shandago, the God of the Earth.”
Jay asked again, “And what’s in it?”
The old man hesitated before answering, as if he were about to reveal a very dark and forbidden secret. “According to the ancient traditions …” Again he hesitated. “… it holds the one and only key to the forbidden Door of Shandago!”
Jay and Lila looked at each other rand read each other’s face. They knew better than to betray any excitement, but this was a very, very intriguing discovery indeed.
Let’s review. The shaman says the door holds evil. Jay asks how the shaman knows. The shaman says he knows because he is the Keeper of the Sacred Chest. Jay asks what’s in the chest. The shaman says the key to the door is in the chest. Jay is suddenly excited. Why? Because the key would let them open the Door, of course!
The door that contains evil. According to the shaman.
But Jay doesn’t care about the shaman’s expertise any more than his father cared about Gozan’s knowledge about the site and its history. All Jay sees is treasure.
“You’ve never opened it?”“Only Shandago, the God of the Earth, can open the Chest, and only at the proper time.”
At this point Lila asks “say, what religion are you anyway?” No, really. That’s basically how she asks it.
“Uh … just what kind of religion are you, anyway?” Lila asked.
Turns out he’s “a Chaldean sorcerer, a wizard.” His ancestors were “Chaldeans and magicians, well-versed in the ancient mystery religions of Babylon.” The chest has been passed down from father to son for generations, to him.
Sorcerer. Magician. Shaman. Wizard. So many words.
The shaman restates that opening the box is forbidden. See, that’s what Jay keeps asking about, repeatedly—he’s shocked that the shaman has never opened it. The shaman isn’t having it.
“My father tired to open the Sacred Chest, and he died a horrible death! He did not learn from the death of his father, who also died horribly after he tried to open it.”
Now, check this out:
The old man gave a little gasp, and his eyes darted about the room, full of fear hat perhaps the pagan god he served and heard his words of betrayal. He continued whispering to them desperately. “This Sacred Chest … and the Door in the Dragon’s Throat … and the God of the Earth—they are all unspeakably evil. Shandago has lied. He has fooled the people of Nepur into thinking the Door contains a vast treasure so they will try to open it, but it hides a terrible evil that he wishes to unleash upon the world. Please, I beg you. Do not open the door. Abandon any thought of it.”
Let’s be very clear here. The shaman says that the behind the door is unspeakable evil, and that all the talk of treasure is wrong. He begs them to give up any thought of opening the door.
How do Jay and Lila respond?
“Will you excuse us a minute?” Jay asked, pulling Lila aside.
The two of them huddled in a corner of the room and had a quick conference.
“What do you think?” Jay asked.
“I don’t know about any of this. He’s not making any sense.”
“Well, he does make sense if you decipher what he’s saying. Think of it, Lila. Nimrod was regarded as a deity by the ancient Babylonians, and they even believed that he became the stun and flew across the sky every day.”
Lila’s eyes brightened. “The star from heaven?”
“Exactly. All this fear and superstition is part of the old mysterious religions, sure, but clear all that away and what do you have?”
“The key to that lousy Door.”
“And the treasure of nimrod.”
“So what do we do now?”
“Start praying and follow it through.”
They broke their huddle and rejoined the old man at the table.
They’re after the treasure. What the hell makes them any different from Gozan?
And if I may just point out, the shaman has already displayed an interest in their God, and a belief in their God’s power, and they haven’t yet discussed the possibility that they might try to convert him. You would think that that would matter more than any treasure. But it doesn’t.
Jay asked, “What can we do to help you?”
The old man seemed relieved to hear Jay’s offer. “The God you serve is greater than any other god, even the God of the Earth. I do not own this Chest—it owns me! Shandago rules my life and terrifies me with his curses, and now … since you have come and have brought your mighty God with you, I wonder …” The old man’s eyes filled with tears and he began to shake. “I wonder if your God could not make a way of escape for me, to free me from the curse of the Sacred Chest and from Shandago! Your God may have power over the curse that binds me.”
The shaman has to beg Jay and Lila to tell him how he can join their religion. He’s been saying repeatedly that he can see how powerful their God is and that’s why he wanted to talk to them, but no, they didn’t bite! They spent all their time cross talking about treasure and a key!
Jay and Lila are the worst evangelicals ever.
Now that the shaman has begged them to please, please tell him how he can be saved, Jay and Lila share the gospel message with him.
In that little bungalow, by the light of that one candle, Jay and Lila began to tell the old Chaldean sorcerer how to put aside his ancient occult crafts and find true peace and forgiveness in Jesus. They had to put the gospel into pretty simple terms,
but before long the old man began to understand that Jesus, the pure and holy Son of God, paid the price for sins with His own life so every person could be free from sin, fear, and death, and could even be set free from any lying, evil gods that might be controlling his life.
Lord ‘a’ mercy.
Trembling and crying, the shaman prays the sinner’s prayer and accepts Jesus as his savior. He declares himself “born,” and Jay corrects him, saying that he is “born again.”
The old man clapped his hands ass he laughed. “Yes, yes! I have begun to live again! The curse, the evil, is gone form my life!” Suddenly, as the thought returned to the ex-shaman, eh grew very sober. “But the Door! The Door is still there! It must not be opened!” He grabbed the black box and shoved it into Jay’s arms. “Here, please, you are strong in your God. Take the Chest and destroy it.”
“Okay,” said Jay. “But first I’m going to open it.”
Okay, I give up. I thought I could keep going, but I can’t. We will have to continue this next week. I mean, what the hell, Jay. What the hell.
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