Jack O’Lantern sat in the glow of Hell’s ember, carving yet one more pumpkin in replacement of the rotting moldy one currently housing the Devil’s coal. Having been rejected by Heaven and doomed by Hell, Jack had walked the Darkness between them for uncountable years with only the light from Hell’s fire to guide his way. He had lost his soul, but he still retained the gift God gave him—his artistic talent.
Over the years his pumpkin lanterns grew devastatingly beautiful, but Jack couldn’t see it. So instead, his astounding artistry contined to be displayed in the toilet paper designs left on neighborhood trees and in the spray paint designs covering the windows of local businesses. Max, his dog and sole companion, was trained to attack on command.
One autumn night, in front of a bookstore window where he was painting a portrait of his last meeting with the Devil, Jack heard a voice,
“Hey, nice pooch!”
Jack whipped around startled that someone could surprise him while Max was on guard. A man was squatting on the sidewalk and joyously scratching Max’s head.
“Max! Get him!” Jack yelled. In uncommon response, Max rolled over to let the stranger rub his belly.
“You’re a talented artist,” The man said calmly continuing to scratch Max, “but plate glass is an unusual choice of substrate. Ever tried canvas?”
“Who the hell are you?!” Jack demanded, his heart racing. The stranger looked up.
“Oh, sorry. I’m Gabe. You’re Jack right?” Jack was silent. Gabe smiled and continued, “I run a…program… for the arts and I’ve been told you’d be a great addition to our workforce. Local law enforcement was kind enough to show me some photos of your past work. Quite a portfolio.” Gabe grinned knowingly. Jack didn’t know what to make of him.
“Are you an artist?” he asked.
“A musician,” Gabe replied, “I …uh…play horn.”
Jack laughed. “Like Gabriel the archangel tooting his horn?”
“Kind of.” Gabe was silent and for a while no one spoke. “Where’s your lantern?” he asked.
Jack froze and he and Gabe locked eyes. “What lantern?” Jack asked slowly.
“You know. The one with the burning ember from the fires of Hell that the Devil threw at you.” He grinned. “Do you still keep it in a turnip?”
Jack just stared. “Turnip rotted. I use pumpkins now. Are from Heaven or from Hell?”
“Heaven.” Jack sighed with relief.
“Are you letting me in? After all this time are you here to let me in?” Jack felt sick. Gabe looked at Jack with pity. So many years wandering, such a waste.
“No. We need you here. You have great talent given to you by God.” Gabe stood up. “This world is in trouble, Jack. I’ve been sent by the Almighty to reach the people granted the talents of beauty–artistry and music. We need them to get to work now, in the service of God and to spread God’s love. Each and every one. We need you, Jack. We need you to help us.”
Suddenly, all Jack’s tense muscles went loose. He hadn’t felt this calm in years
“What can I do? I’m nothing. I’m mean-spirited, destructive. I even made my dog mean.”
“The pooch?” Gabe smiled and played with Max’s ears. “Nah. Choose otherwise and we’ll be here to help you. All the way. We’ll call into your heart each time we need you. Okay, Jack?”
Jack thought for a minute and asked weakly, “Gabe? If I do this? If I listen, and if I use my talents for God then can I leave the Darkness? Please? I’ve been wandering for so long?” Tears began to run down Jack’s face.
Love welled up in Gabe’s heart, “Jack, as soon as you start listening to that calling in your heart you will leave the Darkness.” With that Gabe walked away.