Defeating the Dogstar, part 3: Truth
Hope endures (an allegory, concluded)
It’s here, part 3! Writing this story was a long journey that reawakened in me a love of fiction that I let lapse over the last 15 years. Now that I’ve had a taste of it again—creating scenes, letting characters interact in ways I hadn’t imagined, jotting notes at random times during the day as ideas suddenly come to me—I’m glad I’m back. And now I’m toying with ideas for a novel…😅
Until then (or until I decide to post more fiction here), please enjoy the conclusion of “Defeating the Dogstar.”
This story came out of Season 2 of Foster, and I’m deeply indebted to my fellow participants who helped me bring the narrative to fruition:, , , Asad Rhaman, Jess Sun, JG of , Lisa Dawson, and Rick Rollins. My friend and brother in Christ, Rick, also deserves a big shout-out for providing feedback on the first and second drafts. 👋🏻💛
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"...if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17, KJV
Joshua tensed, his arm dropping from her shoulders. She started, surprised. Was it over? Was Joshua...giving up?
No. Joshua never gave up. But Abaddon was smirking, his smug self-assurance almost palpable, as if he knew he'd finally broken Joshua's defenses—the only defenses she had.
She should have expected it. Joshua had been patient with her for years, never withdrawing his care even in her darkest moments. He never left her alone, just as he'd promised, but that didn't mean he was always there where she could see him. It had taken her a long time to get used to the way he would go without really leaving, his physical presence absent but the light remaining.
She tried to hold onto it, tried—as Joshua had instructed—to walk in that light, but her own darkness railed against it. She struggled. Wavered. Doubted Joshua's words. Failed to trust his promise. Forgot everything he'd told her and let the troubles of her life buffet the light until it seemed to be no more than a guttering candle flame.
And when Abaddon returned and cast his cloud over everything, it was as if he dragged the old shroud over her life and smothered what remained of her confidence. Then Joshua had to come and get rid of him, again and again and again, because she was too weak to do it on her own.
How could anyone, even someone as longsuffering as Joshua, put up with that forever?
"You're welcome to, if you have forever to wait." Joshua's words broke through her thoughts and turned them around. "When I make a promise, I keep it. You can roar about victory all you like, but whatever ground you think you've gained is insignificant. The battle is over, Abaddon. She will never be yours, not in the end. It's time for you to go."
For a moment, the two men stood, neither making a move to yield. She held her breath, suspended somewhere between terror and hope. And then—
Abaddon's smirk dissolved, and she caught a glimpse of the crack in his armor again before the mask of malice returned. He took another step toward Joshua, eyes narrowing.
"This is not over," he hissed. "I will be back."
Joshua shrugged, untroubled as always. "I'll be waiting."
And then Abaddon was gone, out the door in a cloud of smoke and coffee—but not before shooting a glance at her that drove ice down into her bones.
He would be back. She knew it even as the door slammed behind him and his motorcycle roared away down the street. She knew him too well to think he'd surrender that easily.
"Let's get this cleaned up." Joshua touched her shoulder again, bringing her back to the moment.
She let out a shaky breath and nodded. The kitchen was a mess of coffee, ceramic, and sauerkraut juice. Cleaning up seemed almost trivial after the confrontation, but it was solid. Tangible. Outside her head and away from the spiraling darkness that was Abaddon and all he represented.
Joshua retrieved cleaning spray, two cloths, and a broom from the closet by the pantry, and they set to work. For a while, they were silent, no sound except the occasional clink as they gathered up what remained of the smiling mermaid. Then:
"Why do you stay?" She couldn't help asking. She knew she could trust him, but it was so hard to remember, especially when Abaddon's words so often whispered at the edges of her consciousness.
They were whispering now, reminding her of every weakness, every transgression, every time she'd tried to rise above the darkness and failed.
Joshua knew. She knew that he knew. And she couldn't shake the fear that, one day, it would be too much, the other shoe would drop, and Joshua would disappear and never come back. That was the way people worked: they loved you as long as you measured up, met their standards, made them happy. As soon as you didn't, they went cold. You might figure out how to appease them if you were lucky, but it was a long journey through hostile silence to try and get there—a journey you had to take again and again because the cycle never stopped.
And maybe that was why she held onto Abaddon. They'd known each other for so long that the man could practically climb inside her head and see what she was thinking. As much as she might insist it wasn't true, they were the same. She didn't have to look hard to see the deepest parts of herself in him: coarse and dark and horrible. He understood that, and he didn't expect her to be anything more because she could never be more.
She could never give someone as good and pure as Joshua a reason to stay. It didn't make sense, the way he cared about her. She hadn't done a thing to earn his unwavering kindness.
Joshua sat back on his heels and looked at her, a hint of sorrow in his eyes. "I told you I would never go. Remember: you're not in the dark any more."
"I know, but—I thought you were going to leave me with him." She cringed at the words as they emerged in a rush, the awful sound of fear given a voice. "When he was yelling. When he said—"
Joshua shook his head. "Don't think about what he said. Think about what's true."
"What's true is that he's right, Joshua. I can't deny it. He's exactly right about what I am. And even though I absolutely hate him, part of me always wants him to come back. And then when he's here, I want to get rid of him, but I can't. I can't because he is me, Joshua."
Joshua set his cleaning rag aside and considered her for a moment.
"If you keep looking inside yourself," he said at last, "he is all you'll find."
She stared at him, stunned to hear Abaddon's words coming from his mouth. "How can you stand that?" she exclaimed. "How can you stand knowing that he is what I am, deep down? That I can never get away from it? I wish desperately that I could. I've tried. You know I've tried. But he always comes around again."
"He doesn't have to. You have a choice."
"What choice?" Her voice rose on a wave of hysteria. "How can I stand in the face of that? You saw him, Joshua: he didn't back down. He usually runs like a scared dog, but not today. It's like he's getting stronger—or I'm getting weaker. I don't know. I'm just so sick of fighting him."
"It's time to stop trying to stand in your own strength," Joshua replied quietly. "I meant what I said. The battle is over. He lost years ago, and nothing can change that. You have the light now. You can see the truth."
"What does that even mean when you just said he's all I'll ever find?" she exclaimed. "You know that's what I am, Joshua. You know. I know it. And it hasn't changed, or he wouldn't keep coming back."
"That doesn't mean he's true," Joshua countered. "Listen to me: all he can ever do is lie. There is no truth in him. He's done well constructing a reality that suits him, but it's all shifting shadows. That's the way he wants it. The light exposes his lies for what they are. It destroys his only means of justifying the darkness he finds in himself.
"But you are not him. You were, once, and he'll do everything he can to keep you enslaved to his deceit. He'll remind you of who you were and tell you nothing has changed. He'll try to shut out the light and make you doubt its power. But he doesn't control your life now. You walk in the light."
"With you," she said. Looking for confirmation, an anchor, something to help her remember his words the next time she was tempted to forget.
Joshua nodded. "With me."
She sighed, made a few half-hearted swipes at the remaining streaks of coffee. "I wish I believed that all the time."
"You will," Joshua assured her. "One day."
"But he is going to come back, isn't he. For now."
"Yes," said Joshua. "He's convinced himself that he can still win."
"So what do I do?"
"Don't give him a foothold. Stand firm in the light." Joshua got to his feet and held out his hand to pull her up. "And I'll be there."
They tackled the sauerkraut next, soaking up the spreading puddle with paper towels and sweeping the broken glass into the trash. Joshua retrieved the grocery bag from where she'd dropped it, and they salvaged what they could from the mess.
"I think that's about all we can do," she said once they'd sorted through. "Thanks for helping me clean up—oh Joshua, your shirt."
Joshua looked down at the crimson spots of sauerkraut juice spattered across his cuffs. Another streak marred his side where he'd hefted the grocery bag. The color stood out stark against the white. He shrugged, smiled, knowing and enigmatic, a familiar expression that she'd never quite been able to read.
She hesitated. Then: "Joshua—"
"How do I stand firm?"
That smile again, soft and reassuring with an undercurrent of sadness. "Trust the light to show you what's true. Every day. Every moment."
"Even when he comes back."
Joshua nodded. "When he realizes he can't cast his shadow on you any more, he'll leave."
The firm assertion gave her hope. "For good?"
"In time, yes. Until then," Joshua paused, laid his hands on her shoulders and gave her a long, steady look, so different from Abaddon's piercing stare, "let the truth be your defense."
She looked back, saw the firmness and sincerity in his eyes: a foundation that couldn't be shaken. She could trust that foundation because Joshua was true. A true friend. A true brother. Someone who loved her in the way she had always needed but had never known where to find. That truth embodied something bigger, something expansive and fundamental that existed outside of her.
Joshua had been showing her that truth all along, illuminating a different way of being—strong, enduring, steadfast. And he would keep holding her up so she'd never fall. She turned the image over in her mind as they walked to the door, trying to cement it in her memory.
Joshua paused when they arrived and turned to give her a gentle hug. "I love you, my sister."
She stood with her arms around him, silent. One day, she'd be able to echo the words and mean them without any shadow of Abaddon standing in the way. But right now...
"Thank you, Joshua."
She went back to the kitchen after the door closed behind him. Put the salvaged groceries away. Dumped the rest of the coffee down the sink—
And stopped short.
The chipped blue mug was still sitting on the counter. It looked back at her like a challenge, a question waiting for an answer.
"Trust the light to show you what's true."
Now that she thought about it, she had seen something in Abaddon's face before he left, something exposed in the flicker between expressions: he knew he had lost the moment Joshua showed up. Not just that day, but years ago when Joshua first pulled her out of the dark. The battle had ended then. Everything else was just the aftermath, the messy road to a triumphant end.
The next time Abaddon came, she would be ready. Joshua was right: the man was a liar. A defeated enemy who couldn't win. Not when she stood in Joshua's light. Not when she could see the truth.
She took a deep breath, picked up the mug, and tossed it in the garbage with a satisfying crash.
Thanks again for reading. What did you think? Is there anything you particularly liked or disliked? Feedback is always appreciated! 🙂