Defeating the Dogstart, part 2: Light
The defense arrives (an allegory, continued)
The last two weeks have flown by in a blur of work and (unfortunately) bronchitis, 😅 and I can’t believe it’s already time to share part 2 of this 3-part allegory based on the Biblical concept of “putting off” the old self and becoming new in Christ.
If you missed part 1, you can catch up here:
Defeating the Dogstar, part 1: Darkness
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 going through and providing feedback on not one, but two full drafts. 👋🏻💛
If you’d rather read the story (and my other writing) in your inbox, you can subscribe here. 👇🏻
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." - John 1:5, ESV
What choice did she have but to finally accept his presence? She hated everything about him, but she needed somebody to lean on who wouldn't pull away. And he never had. He didn't care about her, but at least he didn't expect her to live up to anything beyond what he already knew her to be. Even her darkest depths didn't shock him.
The smell of coffee filled the room. Her hands shook, uncertain whether to reach out or to fight.
Then suddenly, he cursed, his expression shattering into a kaleidoscope of shock and alarm. The mug dropped to the floor in an explosion of dark liquid and ceramic shards that crunched underfoot as he hurriedly backed away.
"You—" The strangled exclamation caught in his throat, dread overtaking bravado. She stared him, confused, trying to make sense of his reaction. What had just—
A gentle touch on her shoulder answered her unspoken question. For a moment, she didn't dare hope it was true. But she had to be sure. She drew in a breath, turned her head, and saw...
Joshua, who never changed, comfortable but impeccable in a white button-down and khakis, smelling faintly of sawdust and varnish and carrying the faintest hint of a smile around his eyes—eyes that always seemed too old and too sad for his young face but that never lost their light. Joshua, who banished the gloom and reminded her that the ragged man standing in her kitchen with coffee dripping off his boots did not define her existence.
"My sister told you to leave, Abaddon." Joshua's words emerged with power, warm and firm, reinforced by his bright, steady gaze.
Abaddon cursed again as he slipped on spilled coffee and grabbed for the counter to steady himself. "You—" he repeated, this time with a malice that made her shudder. "What is it with you? Why do you always show up?"
"We've been through this, Abaddon," Joshua replied, unfazed in the face of the other man's hatred. "I'm always here. And I will always be here."
Joshua's hand was warm on her shoulder, a solid reassurance that she wasn't imagining his presence, that there was a chance Abaddon might actually leave—and take the smothering darkness with him.
Abaddon: ruin, destroyer. How appropriate it seemed as she watched emotions war for dominance of his features, an internal conflict that stood in stark contrast to Joshua's calm, measured countenance.
"She doesn't want you here." The words dripped from Abaddon's lips like venom, stinging right down into her heart.
It wasn't true—but maybe it was. Sometimes.
Sometimes, she forgot that Joshua was there, but the only way she could forget was if she wanted to forget. That willful amnesia took hold when the darkest corners of her mind seemed to expand, when she felt most unseen and unwanted and unloved, when thoughts echoed in her head and told her that this was who she was, this was reality, and there was no escaping it.
The very same times when—inevitably—Abaddon came back, hauling his baggage of bitterness, sporting scars from a lifetime of being battered by the world, looking for someone to drag down with him as he sank into his own misery.
Joshua had scars, too, but his made him gentle.
"You can't play your game with me, Abaddon." Joshua's response stood firm, like a shield. "My sister told you to go, and you will go."
Abaddon drew himself up, pushed away from the counter, extricated himself from the mess of spilled coffee and mug shards. "Not this time," he snarled. "This time, I stay. This time, she's mine."
The words drove her back against Joshua's side. Everything in her wanted to scream, to protest, to resist—but what little strength she'd had was gone, depleted by the cares of the day and the effort of trying to resist Abaddon alone.
All she had was Joshua.
The light was the first thing she noticed when a mutual friend introduced them. Brightness seemed to be part of him as much as height or hair color. He was so different from Abaddon—different, in fact, from everyone else in her life. Their first conversation left her with an unshakeable impression of compassion, patience, and joy, as if a shroud had been ripped off her life and she was experiencing true sight for the first time.
And somehow, he kept showing up. She ran into him again and again—at the grocery store, in the coffee shop, when she took a walk after work. She came to expect him as a fixture in life's daily details, appearing with a soft smile and a willing ear and words that startled her with their clarity and authority. Asking how she was and actually listening to her answer. Helping her think through confounding problems at work. And offering gracious correction instead of stinging rebuke when her emotions got the better of her.
Abaddon's presence became caustic by contrast. She'd never realized before how pernicious he was, never noticed the parasitic way he drained her of hope. With him, she just was. Nothing more. But with Joshua, she started to believe that there was more to be—that she could overcome the darkness and discover something that Abaddon could never offer or even understand.
So she went home one day and told Abaddon to leave.
The result was explosive, far beyond what she'd expected, ending with a beer bottle smashed through the lid of the record player and a squeal of motorcycle tires so loud that she was stunned no one called the police. But the dramatic exit was only an interlude. She knew, even then, that Abaddon would be back.
She was so terrified that all she could think to do was rush back to where she'd last seen Joshua, sitting by the ornamental fountain at the park, and tell him what was going on. He listened without judgment, sat with her until she calmed down, and came back to the house to help clear away the aftermath of Abaddon's rage.
That was the first time she said, out loud, that she knew Abaddon had to go.
"I don't want him to come back." Words quiet, voice still shaky. "I've let him stay for too long. And—I see how he is. That's not how I want to be anymore. Honestly, Joshua...I'd rather be like you."
Joshua replied with a searching look, a silent examination that made her feel uncertain and exposed for a long moment—but not afraid. It was as if he was making sure she was serious, seeking to confirm what she wasn't completely certain of herself.
"Are you really ready to be done with him?" he asked at last.
She nodded. She wasn't sure what it would mean to not have Abaddon around, but as Joshua's light continued to shine into the darkest corners of her life, she knew something would have to change. She wanted that light to stay.
But she was terrified of what Abaddon would do when his motorcycle came screeching around the corner again and his rage stamped into the house in a swirl of alcohol and smoke. He'd never laid a hand on her before, but she'd also never seen him so angry.
"But I'm scared to death of him," she murmured. "What if he—"
Joshua broke her line of thought with a hug that surprised her in its tenderness. It was the first time he'd done more than touch her arm or shoulder, and the gesture was so needed and so unexpected that all she could do was cry.
Joshua held her for a moment before stepping back.
"If you walk in the light," he said, "he can't harm you."
"How can you be sure?" she asked, unable to share the confidence that was plain in his voice.
"His type only thrives in the dark. But you, my sister"—a smile, soft and reassuring—"are not in the dark any more."
Sister. The way he said it spoke volumes about his care for her, a care no one else had ever showed—not her friends, not her family, and certainly not Abaddon. Joshua never criticized, never shamed, never walked away when she was being difficult. Of all the people in her life, he was the first to give her a glimpse of what love was supposed to be.
He promised, then, that he would always be there. And in that moment, she believed him. That kind of care wouldn't pull away, wouldn't disappear when things got difficult, wouldn't forsake her for some unnamed offense. Joshua had proved to be a refuge she could run to. With him, she would be safe.
...but she didn't feel safe, not as Abaddon surged forward and came to a stop with his face only inches from Joshua's.
"This time," he hissed, teeth clenched, "you leave."
"No!" The exclamation escaped before she could stop it. She clung to Joshua as a burst of fear sent her heart racing again. "No, Joshua, you can't leave. You promised!"
Joshua squeezed her shoulder, his warm gaze still locked with Abaddon's chilly hazel stare. "Only one of us is leaving," he said. His tone made it clear that it wouldn't be him.
He'd affirmed that promise years ago, after the argument. It had been hard, then. Abaddon had shown up about a week later with none of the blazing fury she'd expected, made himself a pot of coffee, and proceeded to act as if things could continue as usual. She hadn't wanted him back but didn't know how to make him go, didn't have the words to tell him she was really, truly done with him because she couldn't quite shake the fear that it would end in disaster.
Then Joshua came and drove Abaddon from the house with a zeal that stopped just short of hauling the man bodily off the couch and throwing him out the door. Like his care, his anger was of a kind she'd never known: anger that defended the ones it loved rather than took revenge for its own satisfaction.
Why did she always forget that? How could she? The shock on Abaddon's face, the relief she felt when Joshua shut the door and turned to her with that eternal gaze of his, smiling the smile of a parent watching a child toddle through its first shaky steps.
And he was there every time, without fail. It became so that his mere presence was enough to send Abaddon running—which was why it was so frightening to see the man now, nose to nose with Joshua, all traces of fear replaced by scathing stubbornness that showed no intention of backing down. His words came hot and fast, flung into Joshua's face like flaming darts: "She's mine. She's always been mine. Your ridiculous hero act doesn't change that."
"You lost your claim on her the moment she stepped into the light." Joshua's voice remained steady in the face of Abaddon's rage. "You don't belong here. Not any more. You can continue to fight the inevitable if you choose, but we both know how this will end."
"Now who's playing games?" Abaddon raised an eyebrow. "She knows how it ends. Ask her." He jerked his chin in her direction. "She knows I'll ever go away. She doesn't want me to. And you know that."
"That's not—" she began, then stopped when Abaddon turned his gaze on her.
"You can't hide from me." The words were a growl, animal and visceral. "I know what you are. And when he gets sick of that"—the slightest tilt of his head toward Joshua—"he'll leave. Then where will you be, without me?"
How could she argue? She knew she didn't deserve Joshua: his patience, his care, his gentleness. His was a love she couldn't comprehend, a love that came alongside and guided, that walked with and supported. She knew that, without him, she would be left to sink into the depths of her own darkness until there was nothing but a soundless, unending scream.
"Your lies have no place here." Joshua's words drew Abaddon's eyes away.
"Who says I'm lying?" Abaddon's retort was smug.
"You've been a liar from the start," Joshua replied. "I promised to stay, and my word stands."
"That's awfully grand of you, Mr. Hero." Abaddon made no effort to hide his disdain. "But everybody's got a condition. Everybody's got a breaking point. You just haven't reached yours yet. And I have no problem waiting until you do."
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.
Okay, I’m horrible again with another cliffhanger. It was really hard to decide where to split this up! But part 3 will be here on March 24th. Until then, feel free to check out my other writing.
I also welcome your reactions and feedback. Are you enjoying the story? Do you prefer essays over fiction? Let me know!