The crowd fell silent as the man continued his story. He was building up to something, everyone could tell. What it was, they didn't know. If they had, maybe things may have turned out differently. The lighting seemed dim and cast strange shadows about the room, making it seem as if there were so many more people there than there really were. They slinked about as he stalked through the center of the audience. They stretched long and seemed to grow edges as he smiled from the stage while giving his performance.
A performance that would be etched into the minds of the audience, forever.
Mark Yearling had had enough of the entire thing. He'd gone from skeptical to amazed and now was beginning to feel a cold chill up his spine. The man had taken a darker turn. He began talking about an "Age of heroes" and "an end to the chains holding us down." All it required was belief, he said. Belief and sacrifice. This was when Mark knew that he had to leave this place. He was scared for Victoria. This man was obviously dangerous and the word "sacrifice" kept echoing in Mark's head. He had a headache. He had enough.
He stood, holding Victoria's hand and began walking toward the exit when the strangely smooth voice of the man called out to him.
"Don't be afraid, brother" he said.
"I just want to leave" Mark said, mustering as much defiance as he could.
"Come to the front, let me see you" the man said, smiling in a way that showed too many teeth.
"I said, that I'm going to leave. We're going to leave and you aren't going to stop me" Mark insisted.
"Alright, I'm not done yet but, alright. You can leave. If… "he paused for effect.
"No, we're leaving" Mark said as he walked to the exit.
"If you come to me, willingly… I'll let you rudely leave."
Something struck Mark at that time. A sharp and sickening thought. This… man can stop me from leaving. The doors are blocked he thought to himself, horrified. Mark had never been in such a position of weakness before. He was a smart man, he served in the military, he believed in facts. As sickening as it was, the most important fact in this situation is that he was trapped. He couldn't protect Victoria from someone who could carry enormous pillars. How could he stand up against someone who commanded the weather itself?
That was when Mark turned to look at the man.
That was when he realized that this man… wasn't a man at all.
He was something else. Something that looked and spoke like a man but bent reality to his will. This thing didn't listen to facts. This was a thing out of stories. This was a thing that did not belong. Mark turned slowly, his mind reeling from the realization that he was at the mercy of some kind of monster. He released Victoria's hand. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew that Victoria was yelling something. She was yelling at Mark. She yelled at the audience to do something. She didn't understand. Maybe, she never would. He stood in front of the strange man and though Mark stood a few inches taller than him, Mark felt like he was a child looking up at an adult. The man had a predatory look on his face. The smile never faltering as he addressed the audience.
"So, that lady there says that your name is Mark. A fitting, biblical name for someone. Did you know that the book of Mark is one of the few books that doesn't actually talk about the birth of Jesus?"
"Yeah.." said Mark, in a hoarse voice.
"Though Mark is often called 'dull,' it is actually the earliest of the books of the New Testament. In a real way, Mark paved the way for the others. His story gave birth to the stories of the other disciples. You could say that his story was the beginning. The most important of all."
"We just want to go home," Mark said.
"Mark, I want you to kneel and say my name."
"What? I… I don't know your name," said Mark, panic obvious in his voice.
"I will whisper it to you and then you will turn to our gathered brothers and sisters and you will proclaim me. You will be the first to tell my story."
"I don't understand…" was all that Mark could think to say to this.
"Miracles come in threes, Mark. I've performed two. I must perform a third. It's important. Don't you think it's important?"
"I… sure… it's important… We just-"
"I'm glad that you agree. I will tell you my name now and you will proclaim it to everyone here," the man said, smiling.
With that, the man took a step forward and whispered in Mark's ear. Mark's eyes opened wide in shock and confusion. "I… you want me to say that? You can't be serious?" But the man merely nodded as the smile turned into a snarl. He walked to the stage and closed his eyes, hands behind his back.
Mark turned around and his eyes scanned the audience. There was a mixture of awe and fear. They wouldn't help him. No one would. Mark looked at Victoria and knew that something terrible was going to happen to him. In a real way, it already had. If what he said was true, the man completely eroded away the foundations of everything that Mark thought that he knew. He mouthed the words, it will be okay… I love you to her.
He knelt down.
One knee and then the other.
"This is Thor," he said and though his voice was barely a whisper, it seemed to resonate with power throughout the whole tent.
There was a blinding light followed by a rumbling that seemed to go on forever.
Then, there was chaos and screaming. The audience tripped over each other and trampled one another in a mad attempt to escape. They threw themselves at the door and it burst open. Somehow, Victoria managed to avoid getting caught in the mob. She was almost lifted off her feet by the panic filled crowd. Outside, they scattered like roaches in the light. Dashing into their cars, tires screeching into the cold night.
Thor looked at the hole in the roof of the tent. The edges of the hole still smoldering. Tiny bits of amber light against the charred black of the burned fabric. Through the hole, Thor saw the night sky. It had cleared and the stars were perfectly visible. "The people here will tell their story. Most won't be believed but, some will. The evidence that we leave here will be cataloged and inspected. The authorities will search for a reasonable answer for what happened here today but, they won't find any. So, the story will grow. My story will grow," Thor said to no one in particular.
"Thus the Age of Heroes was reborn," said Thor, smiling.