BY: MOLLY NEELY
In the ancient mountains of the Sinai desert, a child is born. The half-demon son of the devil’s greatest general, Malachi grows up with one foot in the human world and one in the darkest pits of Hell itself. Soon, a power struggle will force him to choose. Will he claim the dark heritage promised to him by Lucifer? Or will he learn firsthand just how far evil will go to destroy mankind?
Caleb Glass is a young priest with a flourishing flock and a successful church. Plagued by strange visions and a tragic past, he’s also beginning to question his faith. When he’s suddenly thrust into an ancient feud, Caleb must decide whether wearing the collar is a part of God’s plan, or an excuse to hide from his pain.
Is it possible for a broken priest and a sand dweller to achieve redemption, or are they both doomed by circumstance beyond their control?
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In The Sand Dweller by Molly Neely, Malachi is the son of a demon and a human girl. The demon sires the boy to win a bet against another demon, who also has a son, Ra. Back in the day when Egypt was still ruled by pharaohs, Ra’s demon mother seduces the pharaoh and Ra is the result. Malachi’s father takes a young Bedouin girl as she sleeps. When Malachi is born, the girl’s father believes she consorted with demons because no man has stepped forward to claim the child. When the mother is subjected to a “trial by fire,” she is declared innocent, but the child is not so lucky. He is rejected by the tribe and is raised alone in the desert by an old man. When the old man is killed by Roman soldiers when Malachi is eighteen, he wants revenge and joins the King of Judah to fight the Romans. Because he fights better than Ra, he is invited to serve beside his father. But Malachi doesn’t want a place of honor in Hell. He has been raised to be an honorable man, and all he wants is to go to Heaven when he dies, which won’t be for some time as he is immortal. The story follows his life and trials from then until the present day as he struggles to obtain what seems unobtainable.
The story is clever, with interesting characters and a strong plot, shinning a different light on the struggle between good and evil.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: The Sand Dweller by Molly Neely is the story of the war between good and evil, this time as a wager between two residents of Hell. Azazael, the devil’s greatest general, has a score to settle with Lilith, a fallen human condemned to Hell for eternity. Lilith stole something precious from Azazael, and he wants revenge. So he suggests a bet between the two. Each will have a child on Earth, and the two children will grow up and fight each other. If Azazael’s son wins, Lilith must do whatever he tells her to do for eternity, making her his slave. But if she wins, then the demons in Hell will leave her in peace. Lilith accepts and the two get Lucifer’s approval, as he is the one who will decide who wins the bet after the big battle. Lilith goes straight to the top and has a child by the pharaoh of Egypt in 2489 BC. But Azazael sires a child with a young girl in a nomadic tribe. Lilith’s child becomes the Sun God Ra. Azazael’s son is Malachi, raised in the desert by a god-fearing old man who saved the child when his mother’s tribe abandoned him. His foster father is a good man, and he teaches Malachi to be the same. But can the son of a demon ever get into Heaven?
The Sand Dweller is the story of one man’s immortal quest to prove himself worthy before his god, despite the darkness within. It’s a tale of courage, sacrifice, unconditional love, and never giving up, no matter how impossible your dream appears to be. A delightful and thought-provoking read.
“Well, I think that’s enough for today,” Father Caleb said. “You have a lot to meditate on, Bob. Let’s schedule another session for two weeks, and see how you’re doing, okay?”
Bob wrung his hands nervously. “You really think I need to come back?”
Caleb smiled. “You have been struggling with alcoholism for many years, Bob. You can’t expect to be totally cured after one session with a priest.”
“Yeah, b–but–” Bob stammered.
“No buts,” Caleb said. “You’ve developed a destructive habit over the years. It’s going to take more than an hour to break it.”
Father Caleb scooted his chair closer to his charge and extended his hands.
“Come on. Let’s pray,” he said.
Bob gave a slight nod and took Caleb’s hands in his. For several moments, the room was silent, save the quiet ticking from a wall clock that hung over the door.
Caleb took in several deep breaths, waiting for the right words to come to mind. But there was nothing. Panic began to set in. Why was his mind a complete blank? Caleb’s breathing grew shallow as he tried to pick his brain for a word, a psalm, anything to offer in prayer, but he found himself to be at a complete loss.
He opened his eyes and scanned the walls of the office for some visual inspiration. As his eyes fell on the large bookcase behind Bob, a scratching sound grabbed his attention. Caleb let go of Bob’s hands and stood up. Cautiously, he walked to the bookcase, peering into the small, dark spaces between the books.
A high-pitched shriek pierced the air, as a small winged creature jumped out from behind a row of dusty pew Bibles, clawing Caleb’s face.
“Son of a–” Caleb cursed, clutching his cheek. He pulled his hand away and looked. Blood.
The creature perched itself on the sill of an open window and hissed, releasing a cloud of sulfuric stench into the room.
“What in God’s name are you?” Caleb whispered, crossing himself.
Repelled by the gesture, the creature turned its head, moaning as if in pain. Then it leapt from the sill, knocking over a small potted fern, and flew straight at Caleb.
As the creature darted past Caleb’s head, he swung his arms wildly, trying to swat the beast out of the air.
Like a buzzing fly, the creature U-turned in mid-air and took one more pass at Caleb, before bee-lining for the open window. It hovered there for a moment, cocking its dog-like head to one side, as if sizing up Caleb for another attack.
Caleb stood motionless in the center of the room, his hand clutching the edge of his desk. Looking down, he spied his letter opener. Quickly he grabbed it then pointed it at the creature.
“Be gone, devil.” His voice trembled.
The creature let out another ear piercing shriek then darted out the window.
Bob’s eyes remained closed, pressed together with desperate resolve, waiting to hear God’s words of encouragement flow from the lips of his priest. A small bead of sweat formed on his temple and slowly traced a thin line down the side of his face. Distracted by the feeling, Bob brushed the perspiration away with his shoulder. Then he frowned.
“Are you waiting for something, Father?” Bob asked.
Father Caleb opened his eyes. Still seated across from his charge, he looked around the room in confusion. Everything was in its proper place, even the fern was resting comfortably on the window ledge.
“Uh…no,” Caleb said finally, “We’re sitting in quiet meditation. Focus all of your attention on the Lord, Bob. When He gives you inspiration, go ahead and just speak out.”
Bob nodded, gripping Caleb’s hands tighter.
“Holy Lord,” Bob called out. “Help me with this burden. I feel so weak against the desire to fill myself with booze. Because of it, I am failing as a husband, I’m failing at my job, and my kids are afraid of me. Lord, send down Your Holy Spirit, to reinforce my soul. To give me the power and authority to banish this sin from my life, once and for all. In Jesus Name, Amen.”
“Amen,” Father Caleb echoed. “It’s good that you took the lead. Christ wants you to reach out to Him. How do you feel?”
Bob stood up and stretched. “Pretty good, actually.”
Caleb glanced around nervously as he rose and shook Bob’s hand. “I want you to offer prayers to God every day,” he said, “No matter how busy you are. Check in with Him, even if you’re feeling strong, and don’t forget to call that eight-hundred number I gave you. Alcoholics Anonymous will provide you with tons of support. I’ll see you in two weeks.”
Bob grabbed up his jacket from the back of his chair and started for the door. He reached for the knob then turned back around. “Thank you, Father,” he said, “Oh, and you might want to close that window. There’s a bad smell coming in from outside.”
Caleb quickly went to the open window, his eyes darting back and forth, searching for the creature. Satisfied that it was nowhere in sight, he closed the window. “There,” he said with a weak smile. “I’ll have to ask my secretary to bring me an air freshener. See you in two weeks?”
“Yes, you will,” Bob answered with a chuckle. “And thank you again, Father Caleb.”
When Bob was gone, Caleb’s ran his hand across his cheek. He could still feel the sting of the creatures claws, yet somehow the wound had vanished. He walked back over to the window one last time and looked out. The blue sky peeked shyly through the trees that bordered the courtyard outside his office.
“Lord, what just happened?” he asked.
The only answer he got was the steady ticking from the wall clock.
© 2016 by Molly Neely