Times Past, 1985
A Higher Power
Wesley Dodds (the Sandman) has been an atheist his entire life. Will the simple faith of a small child change his mind?
April 7, 1985 — a few months before the Crisis on Infinite Earths:
It was a little past noon when the old man heard the bells ringing again. He had heard them several times since he woke at eight o’clock, but this was the first time he had really taken note of the sound. He noted the odd coincidence, that on this day of all days, he should be reading a rare translation of the Bible, this one in Aramaic. He stood and walked to the window and saw several families emerging from the church down the road.
“Something wrong, darling?”
Wesley Dodds turned to see his lifelong love Dian Belmont in the doorway of his study. “No, not all all.” He walked over to her, taking her in his arms. “Just watching the world go by for a little bit.”
“Wesley Dodds, doubter extraordinaire, watching the Easter parade?” Dian’s laugh was like a waterfall in the wilderness, rolling over him. She was as old as he was, but to Wes she was still as beautiful now as the day they met.
“Well, who is to say I’m not watching a pagan fertility festival?” He reached for the cane leaning against his chair, something that reminded him of how old he’d gotten since the heart attack. “I was just reading the account of the resurrection, according to Luke. So many possibilities for misinterpretation in there; is it any wonder the cult of Christ splintered into so many different sects?”
“And I’m sure that you will regale Wendi and Rex with your opinions on each of them, dear, but you really should get dressed. It’s a long drive out to Long Island, and Wendi did ask us to be there before three o’clock.”
“Yes, ma’am, I’m going!” said Wes, giving a little hop as he started out of the room. “But don’t worry about my getting into any religious discussions. I remember how sensitive Rex gets on the subject.”
“Oh, I don’t think Rex is still mad at God,” said Dian, following him. “Wendi tells me that he is finally coming to accept that what happened to Ralph wasn’t a punishment from God. A horrible, horrible mishap, but not directed at Rex personally.”
“Good — I’ve been trying to tell him that for years.” Wes made his way down the hallway to his bedroom. “There is no shortage of mysteries in this world, but a divine being exacting retribution because he used his knowledge of chemistry to enhance his strength and endurance is ridiculous.”
Two hours later, Dian and Wes were on the Long Island Expressway, with Dian at the wheel of a silver Mercedes Benz. Traffic was steady but moving fast in the clear weather. As they approached a bend in the highway, they heard a sound like a gunshot to their left.
“Dian! Watch out!” shouted Wes as he saw a car that had been passing them veer toward their car. Dian glanced briefly to the left, then reacted immediately. She turned the wheel to the right a little and slammed her foot down on the accelerator. Wes was thrown back in his seat as the car shot forward. There was a jarring impact as the other car struck their back fender, then the Mercedes moved forward and out of the path of the other car. Dian steered left again to keep the car on the road, moving to the left lane, then to the median. Wes was already reaching under the seat and pulling out a box as the car skidded to a stop. “Stay here!” he ordered, grabbing his cane. “Try to flag down someone to summon help!”
“Dammit, Wesley,” called Dian as he hurried off. “Be careful! You shouldn’t be running around like this at your age!”
The brown Chevy had struck the guardrail on the right side of the road and was resting there with the engine still running. Through the windows, he could see a figure slumped over the steering wheel and two smaller ones frantically moving in the back seat. He opened the driver’s door and saw a heavy, middle-aged man with brown hair and glasses, with blood running from his nose and a wound on his forehead. Wes reached in, shut off the engine, and leaned the man back in his seat.
“Are you all right?” asked Wes, looking over the two small girls in the back seat. “Are either of you hurt?”
The oldest one answered him. “We’re OK. Daddy always makes us wear our seatbelts.”
“Can you get out of them?” asked Wes. He realized that the oldest one had already done so. He laid his hand across the driver’s neck and felt a pulse. It was steady, though not very strong.
“Should we pray for Daddy?” asked the younger girl. Wes pegged her at about six years old and her sister at two or three years older. Wes almost snorted at her suggestion but caught himself.
“I don’t think that’s really necessary.” Wes opened the first aid kit and pulled out a thick gauze pad. He pressed it to the man’s forehead to staunch the flow of blood from the scalp wound.
“But Miss Simpson says we should always pray for people who are hurting.”
“That’s right. Nothing is sronger than prayer,” added the older girl.
This show of faith gave Wesley Dodds pause. “All right, then.” He looked at the older girl. “Would you like to lead us? I — I’m not very good with prayer, I’m afraid.”
“Bow your head,” said the girl. She looked first at Wesley, then at her sister to make sure both of them complied. “Dear Heavenly Father, please bless my Daddy and let him be all right. And bless this man who you sent to help us. We ask this in the name of your son, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
“Amen,” repeated the younger girl.
“Amen,” added Wesley. As he said it, the driver stirred in his seat. “Here, now, take it easy. You took quite a hit, here.”
“What about my girls?” he asked. “Are they OK?”
“They’re fine. They’re right here. They’ve been praying for you.” In the distance, Wesley could hear sirens approaching. “Let’s get you all out of here, OK?”
A short time later, Wesley, Dian, and two small girls watched as the girls’ father was loaded into an ambulance. “We’ll take you to the hospital and stay until your mother gets there, OK?” asked Dian. Wes had already made the arrangements with the police officers for them to accompany the girls. Dian looked at her lifetime companion. “You’re awfully quiet, dear. Is something wrong?”
“Wrong?” Wesley looked around him, at the ambulance, the tow truck taking the damaged car away, and the girls. “No, I wouldn’t say there’s anything wrong. Just, I don’t know, a little strange perhaps.”
“There’s nothing strange, Mr. Dodds,” said the older girl, whom they had learned was named Linda. “We prayed to God, and he helped Daddy.”
“Oh,” said Dian. “I see what’s going on. The great philosopher, unwilling to believe in simple coincidence and fearful of admitting to a higher power. So what does that leave in this case?” She smiled and reached for Wesley’s hand. “Just let it be, darling. It’s happened, it’s done — just let it be.”
“Perhaps. Or perhaps there is something more.”