Being A Collection of Resurrectees’ Journal Entries
by Robert Springer
Beginning: Amber’s Journal Entry: Prologue
There are things that we recall in pieces that we experience as a whole, but sometimes the only way to know them is to look at the pieces. I’ve been asked to look at the pieces of the events in Region 1920 that were part of the revolution that rejected the rule of the King, including my part in it. So I’m here in the Archive Room below Resurrectorium 1920, looking at journal entries — mine, Reese’s, Asher’s, Wayne’s…all the players who left journals. One of the key players, Edward Parker, who went by Eddy, never wrote any journals.
Which pieces matter and which ones don’t? If I want a whole picture of what was going on, I’m going to have to look at journals from people who did not play a part in the revolution, like Sarah. Was she even aware of what was going on? There’s no other way to see these events in depth if we only look at the players. We need to know how these people felt about being resurrected from the dead, since so many seemed to have difficulty adapting, grasping the enormity of what happened to them.
Michael, director of Resurrectorium 1920 during the insurrection, handed me the key, a little golden thing. Even though he’s a Zoë and is truly immortal and has transcended materiality, I could see all this time later that it was a touchy subject with him. It’s funny, that link with his older humanity, the part of him that still worries about success or failure in God’s Kingdom.
Here I am in a basement archive I only found out about because of my task. The Resurrectorium above goes on bringing the dead back to life, goes on being the center of Region 1920, where people from the from the late 19th to late 20th centuries are brought back to life. Far worse individuals remain to be resurrected than anyone involved in the insurrection — if indeed the very worst are resurrected at all. That’s not up to me. This is one time when “let God sort it out” really matters.
I decided to begin my work by re-reading my own Journal 1, the one I wrote when I got to 1920 after my time in heaven.
Amber’s Journal Entry 1: Oh Lord, the Light
The Light. Oh Lord, the Light of the Creator’s love was so strong as I approached. I could feel parts of me burning off, and I got lighter and lighter. Then there was a moment when I was afraid, because I thought if I got any closer to that Light I would burn away, nothing left. Then you stepped between us. I saw the outline of your form, almost like a shadow of a man. Then there we were, together, the Light streaming around you, lighting you up, too, and I knew that somehow you were that Light. I saw the wounds on your wrists where the nails pierced you as they hung you up, the string of cut marks across your forehead where the thorns punctured to your skull. The puncture wound in your side from the spear that told Roman soldiers you were dead. And when you wrapped your arms around me, I was reborn. I could stand in the Light. I was still me, but not me alone. I was me with the Spirit fully alive within, the Spirit no longer peeking out from beneath the shell of my flesh and blood. For a moment I thought you had made me into an angel. Then I saw an angel, a being whose radiance next to God’s is a candle near a supernova, but next to mine is a searchlight next to a match.
“Child,” you said, and I loved hearing you say that. Suddenly I was wrapped in acceptance; I was in Ohio on the porch in my father’s lap; I was in my sick bed and my mother was wiping off fever sweat with a damp cloth and snuggling me into dry flannel pajamas. “Child, your heart is still in two places. Part of your heart is here with me, and part of it longs to be with Reese.”
“No, my Lord, I love you with all my heart.” And for a second I thought you might send me away. I longed to be right where I was forever, in this place where my pain did not follow me.
And I DID love him, I know I did. He had to know that, too, because I knew he could see right into me, right past all the places he’d glued back together, all the ways in which I had held him at bay all my life, hiding and holding on to my pain, my separation a cloak I pretended he could not see through.
“Child,” you said, “I accept that you love me with all the heart you have left, all that is not still with Reese. And your love, divided as it is, is precious to me. You also love your Reese and it holds you to who you were. You must go to him as his Zoë. I have brought him back. He will not see you as you were but as you are, and so he will not know you. That will hurt. You must decide what to do with your pain, what to do with that love. What you decide, I will bless. Go to him now. But be wise. Watch him. Be sure he is ready.”
Day 23: Reese’s Journal Entry 1: Awakening
When they resurrected me from the dead, you were not there. I swear, Helen, everything followed from that.
The first thing I was aware of were the usual hospital beeping sounds. I opened my eyes and saw people standing around my bed, a few of them naked, as I was. I thought at first it was one of those Swedish experiments. But some of the people looked odd, hard to see straight, like a wiggle picture or something. They looked like one person, then when I turned away and looked back, they looked like another, similar but different person. Some of them seemed to be dressed in form-fitting clothes that glowed. One of those people looked like you for a moment, Helen.
That’s why this first journal is Day 23, by the way. They wanted me to journal right away, but I only wanted to know where you were. I’ve spent the first twenty-two days trying to get an answer from someone.
“You’ve been resurrected from the dead,” one of them said that first day.
“What does that mean?” I asked. One of them, one of the hard-to–look at people, said, “You were dead. Now you’re alive,” like I was supposed accept that. Just like that. ‘Resurrected from the dead, oh and by the way we removed that hangnail.’ Well, no one really said anything about a hangnail, but the ho-humness of the way they said resurrected got me. He brought a mirror for me to see myself. Talk about disorienting. We think we remember when were old what we used to look like, but no portrait painting, no photograph, no video, nothing has the immediacy of looking into a mirror. The person looking back at me was me, but not the me I expected. I saw a man fifty some years younger than I was.
They saw the shock; probably see it all the time. They wheeled me into a recovery room, put a blanket on me to keep me warm and in a few minutes I was asleep. I dreamt about that girl that looked like you — they way you looked when we first got together during that snowstorm. She sprouted wings and flew off, but I didn’t have wings and I couldn’t follow her and it made me very sad. Then I was looking through the windows of our front room in the old house and I saw a kid walking a dog down the street and suddenly the light became blindingly bright. I woke up with a start. My heart was racing like I’d run miles.
One of those wiggle people came into the room, the one that looked so much like you.
“Bad dream?” she asked.
A dream of a memory.
“They’ll be along in a bit to take you to your room. I’m Amber, your Zoë guide.”
The wiggle picture part seemed to stand still, and I was able to look at her.
“So, I’m really dead,” I said.
“No, you’re not dead. You were dead, but now you’re alive again.”
She said I had the option of wearing a gown, so I chose a light green outfit like hospital scrubs. She and a guy — an aide, I think — got me into a wheel chair and wheeled me to a room. The view out the windows was lovely. It must have been late summer or early autumn — the sun was still angled high. You knew it was warm out just by that. I watched birds and insects.
“The view is lovely,” I said, “but this place doesn’t look like heaven. It’s a hospital.”
“This isn’t the afterlife,” she said. “This is the resurrection. You’re in Region 1920. In Resurrectorium 1920-η.”
“There are seven cities in Eta. New Harmony is the seventh city. Region 1920 is the region where people born from the late 19th to late 20th centuries arrive. Eta is the closest to the kind of life you knew.”
“So all the people who were dead are coming alive again, in these resurrectoriums?”
“Something like that, yes.”
“What about Helen, my wife?”
I could see she was thinking about how to answer me.
“Remember what you said when you took your vows: ‘til death do us part’? Well, you both died. You are no longer married. If she were here, she would no longer be your wife.”
“Okay, okay, I get that,” I said. “But where is she?”
“In time,” she said. I wanted to bug out right then and look for you. Now it’s twenty-three days later, Helen, and I haven’t left the region and I haven’t quit trying to find out what happened to you. Are you still dead? No one is telling me anything, including Amber, my Zoë.
“Write in your journal.” She said that first day and then she left. I hear that from her a lot. Like I said, we’re supposed to keep journals. So, Helen, this journal is for you. I don’t know any other way to be close to you until I see you again, and you know I’m sure as hell going to see you again.
So, Journal Entry 1 starts on day twenty-three. I guess I should have started sooner.
If you were here, we’d be happy. I left the hospital — they call it a resurrectorium. Reminds me of “vomitorium.” You know, where the Romans went after dinners? The earth is vomiting up its dead.
Anyway, I have a place for us already in the small town down the hill. It’s a beautiful place, really, just the kind you always said you liked. It’s a Craftsman bungalow. What a Craftsman era bungalow is doing here in the afterlife, I don’t know. Some of this world seems like normal, like when I was alive before. I’m not even sure of being resurrected from the dead means we’re in an afterlife or not.
Where we are, when you arrive, my — our — neighborhood is like a typical town in America — maybe California would be closest, kind of Mediterranean warm and dry. A perpetual series of good days. But there are differences from the life before. I see them sometimes out of the corner of my eye, like lots of people porch-sitting an evening but no mailboxes or flags flying anywhere. Some changes are more direct, like the near total lack of automobiles. Tons of bikes, horses here and there. I know the technology for the automobile exists because I came from the resurrectorium to my house in what is the Kingdom equivalent of an ambulance (you’re sent home healthy but still needing time to build up your strength). You don’t normally see cars on the roads, which seems funny because the resurrectorium has this sort of Art Deco, 1930’s—1950’s flair to it, with green glazed tile and aluminum-framed windows. So I expected cars from that era. None. I haven’t gone to look to see if the Fire Department uses horses. I’m not sure they have one — a Fire Department, that is. More on that later perhaps. Also more on the rest of the region. I’m going to start exploring tomorrow. Get this: The fare is a whopping 5¢ — with free transfers.
Which brings up two things I should note in my journal, since I am supposed to keep a journal. Being a new resurrectee, I can tell you that the tech differences are nothing compared to the politics. They’ll say there are no politics, and in the sense of a Republic or political parties, there isn’t. There is the Kingdom, run out of New Jerusalem (old Jerusalem having been turned to glass just before I died. Maybe that started things off? Our town was nuked not long after that, so I don’t know). And there is the matter of the King. Yep, it’s Jesus. Jesus is on the throne in Jerusalem, or so they tell me. But the Zoës in charge of everything don’t seem to have a religion.
Also, I have no idea what year it is, but there he is, or so they tell me. The Zoës say I will meet him face to face. In fact, my Zoë, Amber, says I already met God, spirit to spirit. She says I don’t remember that because I was still dead, which she says is normal for us Bios. Oh, a Bios is what the Zoës call us.
I am sure that the person most likely to read this journal, other than you, will be some Zoë functionary, but my instructions are that I write it to a fellow Bios. They didn’t need to tell me that since I am writing this to you. And I am told to be honest, Helen, but I can’t lie in it anyway. Weird. I just can’t bring myself to flatter myself or make something up when I’m writing in this journal. Oh, I can write a short story about rainbow-farting unicorns (I tried that) just fine. But I can’t say I treated someone well if I didn’t (I tried that, too). And since I am writing to you, you know I’m going to tell it like it is anyway. That, by the way, not being able to lie as easily as we used to do is one of the seemingly small details about living here that gets really big in practice. More on that in a second, because I wanted to tell you about Zoës and Bios.
A Bios is you. Me. We’re exactly what we were before we died; only now we’re all about the same age and in perfect health. I have to say, having died at 83 (I was hoping for 90 but Armageddon must have broken out after Jerusalem was nuked), it’s great to have my health back. My eyesight is perfect again. I can walk as far as I want again. That slow decay that is death by old age, I can still remember it, of course. But I feel like I did a few years after High School, as young and vital as ever, and better. You, babe, your arthritis won’t hurt any more, the discs in your back will all be healed… That’s what being a resurrected Bios is. They say we will not die of old age again. I can only die if the King thinks I have done really bad deliberate evil. That’s not a bad deal, really. Just go along to get along and things will be fine. Well, I’m told I am to work toward being a Zoë, to having that kind of immortal life. Some day, who knows when, it will be Zoës all the way down. No date on that, of course. Lots of stuff is kept vague. And I do mean lots.
Speaking of being young and healthy, we’re our perfect selves, but we’re still ourselves: Taller, shorter, thinner, fatter, that’s us. Not obese, not anorexic, just whoever we would have been with perfect health. That, I like. One thing I especially love about New Harmony (that’s the name of the town) is the public bath and swimming pool. The public bath is coed, body shame being another thing that, like death, is absent.
I am told that the world is tilted differently now. Not that we’re no longer 23˚ to the plane of the elliptic as we orbit the sun — though with all these sunny days, maybe we aren’t. It’s tilted differently in a moral sense. This part I don’t think I can convey properly to you. And I myself am still trying to wrap my head around it. It’s different morally because it is easier to do the right thing than the wrong thing. It used to be easier to do the wrong thing over the right thing the way it’s easier to go downhill than uphill. It used to be like morality followed the law of gravity, or the law of entropy more like. Now it’s easier to be good. Not perfectly good, not perfectly easy. I can attest to that. Just easier. Part of why I’m not getting along here is because I’m honest with them that until I am with you, I’m not going to make it easy on them — or me. In a world of go along to get along, I’m not going along, getting along, or in any way moderate about getting you back.
Okay. I’m back. Took a walk to the park in the center of town just to cool my mind. Where was I?
I was going to tell you about Bios and Zoë’s. Bios then are like we all were, but Zoës, on the other hand, sometimes don’t seem human. They look like we do, once you learn to look at them. They can eat and drink if they want to. We Bios have life derived from other life. We eat food — consume life — to live. But Zoë life is derived only from its source: the Creator. In that sense, it’s life in and of itself. Wrap your head around that one, Helen! To Zoës, food clothing, and shelter are no longer necessities. In that sense, they really are like “the birds of the air.” Usually they appear clothed as we do, sometimes nude (since for them the Fall is reversed and shame is gone), but occasionally they appear clothed as if in glowing skin or glowing robes — like on dress occasions.
This last bit took a while for me to understand. I’ve done some studying, and from the Gospels (yes, Helen, I’m actually reading them, and no, the book didn’t burst into flames the minute I touched it). It seems Jesus was resurrected with Zoë life. When he appeared to the disciples in a locked room, they thought he must be a ghost. But he ate with them and had Thomas put his fingers in the wounds. In other words, he had a body. But the body didn’t bleed though it was still wounded. If you have Zoë life, your body is the form your mind makes of it. That’s what happened on the road to Emmaus. Jesus stops and has dinner with some disciples, and they don’t know who he is until he breaks bread with them. It’s more like a Zoë is a mind wearing a body, the way we can be described as bodies imbued with minds. Try this. A door won’t stop you if you can imagine yourself on the other side of the door. Does that make sense? My Zoë can get into my house with the door latched. (Notice I didn’t say locked. There are latches, but no locks. Keep out the wind, keep out wild animals — and yes, there are wild animals even if they’re not a danger — but keep out your fellow man? Why?)
Here’s how I found that out. I had an argument with my Zoë. It was about you, of course. I keep asking where is Helen, and Amber, my Zoë, just keeps giving me platitudes like “In time. It will be fine. Don’t worry.” Recently, we had a real blowout. I get so mad at times I start to shake. Because, babe, I miss you. I still remember holding your hand in the hospital that last night. You knew it, you knew you were leaving me behind and you kept apologizing for that. I didn’t know what to say to comfort you. You were the one dying, not me, you needed the comforting. But you were so worried about leaving me alone. God knows, I wasn’t all that young at 75, but I wasn’t decrepit. You I always knew I was able to shut off how I feel about things. We both knew I could manage better alone than you could without me. If it had been me dying first, leaving you alone, I’d have had a few things to say to God when I saw him. So we parted, with both of us expecting to be together after death. That’s what everyone said, right? All the sympathy cards, TV movies, sermons on TV. The whole world said the afterlife was something you just walk into and BOOM! You’re with the people you love. I spent the next eight years with that expectation until a miniature sun exploded over Indianapolis.
Day 25: Reese’s Journal Entry 2: Searching for Helen
Remember I said carfare was 5¢? That is so 1890s, isn’t it? So today I took the interurban car to the next nearest town in Region 1920. The interurban car was this green contraption with a lot of art nouveau ironwork, green leather on the seats. It’s different than riding in an auto or even a regular railroad: the interurban sort of leaps from motionless to 10 mph. The tracks aren’t that level, so the car sways a lot. The town, New Harmony, is small, and we were in the country in no time. There was an anticipation in me as we went. Like buying a lottery ticket knowing you just might win. I had my ticket and you just might be in the next town, waiting for me there.
After that, I went to all the other resurrectoriums within the region, and they showed me their records. No you.
Day 26: Wayne’s Journal 1: Wayne’s New World
This isn’t what I expected. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to be alive. I should be grateful. And it’s good to know that my faith in Jesus Christ wasn’t a waste of time, there was a resurrection of the dead. And I’m in it. It’s just… Well, I thought that when I died, I’d be in heaven. I figured all my sins were forgiven, so I was as good a Christian as any other.
My Zoë says it isn’t about that. He says it’s about Kingdom life. I wasn’t ready for Kingdom life. Too much living as if it was all about me. I’m not sure about that, but he insists this is what Jesus told him about me. Like a case file or something. My Zoë says I’m to put into my journal some stuff about me. He says as I do that, I might see a pattern. I know what he means. He wants me to look for my pattern of failures.
I shouldn’t be too bummed. It’s lovely here. The weather is just gorgeous day after day. I’ve go a nice home. People are great. I’ll have a job next week he says, and in the meantime, my instructions are to relax and meditate on my life and try to recall my meeting with Jesus. You’d think that wouldn’t be possible to forget, but for us Bios, it can be like recalling a dream. Arjun, my Zoë, insists that I met Jesus in heaven before being resurrected and He explained it all to me. I only have to recall it.
That’s another surprise. My Zoë, Arjun, is Hindu. “Was Hindu,” he says. “What are you now?” I asked him. “A child of God,” he says. I thought I was a child of God, back in the day. I went to church all my life, sang in the choir when I was a young man, tithed regularly. And I tithed well, too. I made good money. Great money, in point of fact. God knows I gave him enough money. Sure, I lived well, but my tithe was probably bigger than a lot of the incomes for some people in my church. I was one of the 10% in America who keep most churches on the road. And it didn’t stop there. I gave money to the George Slater Hour of Radio Evangelism for years. George’s broadcasts were heard around the world. I asked Arjun about them. Did he hear them there in India? He said no. So I asked him, what kind of Bible radio or TV did he follow? I figured even if he says he was a Hindu, he had to have been a secret Christian. He said, “This isn’t about me. It’s about you.” When I pressed him on it, he said we could talk about him another day. I’m curious how a Hindu ends up with Zoë life, and I got just Bios life.
Not that I’m complaining, mind you. As I said, nice digs. I feel as if I’m on a real vacation for once, kicking back for a while at my Caribbean time share. If Arjun dressed the part, he could well be my waiter. He looks the part, sort of. Not Afro-Caribbean, but very dark skinned. Not that I’ve got anything against dark skinned people. I hired people at my investment firm regardless of color or creed or any of that. It wasn’t my fault the only qualified people I found were white men. Half my secretaries were Asians, a couple were black. I could see the office pool on my way to my office suite. I was good to my janitors. Paid above minimum wage. They got health insurance, a 401k, two weeks vacation. The janitors, mind you. Me, I worked hard to keep people like him employed, give them good jobs. I treated people well. My firma was voted one of Chicago’s “Top 500 Places to Work” in 1997.
About me. Wayne Bailey. Born April 21st, 1968. The Summer of Love, my mom used to say. Mom thinks I was conceived while she was reading the Lord of the Rings the winter before, and named me Aragorn. Her mother and father (I never met them, they died when I was two) threw a fit so she suggested Gawain, after the Green Knight of King Arthur’s Round Table. Before my name got registered, her parents got her to agree to Wayne. I think they gave her money to change it. That was Mom. Fairy tales and an eye on a handout. My first years were spent in a commune in California. I got my first shoes at five. I got stoned a lot when I was little. Passing joints to the adults I’d puff a bit. Enough that they thought I was a funny kid. First acid trip at 12. Bad bad bad. Everything looked smeared. Like Mom’s yurt. It took me a long time to find that word to describe the squalor of my childhood in the commune. I know, not all communes were like that. Ours was. We even had our own Uncle Ernie, as in the rock opera Tommy, who molested some of the kids. Not me, but I was surely on his radar.
So I left the commune and when the cops picked me up in Utah; at 12 I looked 16 and was big enough to hitchhike a bit; at 12 the Utah cops contacted the California version of Child Protective Services, and I was never sent back to my mother’s commune. Mom showed up to the hearing on acid. I knew it, even if the judge didn’t.
My foster parents were good people. Solid Christian people. Dad — the only Dad I ever knew — was a banker. Mother did charity work. Solid people. It was the exact opposite of the commune. It wasn’t a smear of color and shape and fluttering banners and the whole Yurt thing of the commune. Delineated. Steady. Sure. I gave myself to that life, and in doing that, I gave myself to Jesus Christ. I got serious about school — the first formal schooling I ever had. There was a lot to catch up to. But I will say this, I was ahead in some ways. Much better read than a lot of the kids — Mom had an old set of Great Books of the Western World in her yurt that she got at the Salvation Army. And “Uncle Ernie” in the commune, when he wasn’t molesting kids, taught math — had been a scientist of some kind.
But Dad, as I said, was a banker. And he showed me how it was done. How money was made. We weren’t one of the 1% of the country, with homes in Europe and a private jet. We were in the top 10%, though. A large home, an estate I’m sure some would call it. Mexican cleaning and grounds staff. Private school and tutoring when they saw I was serious about catching up on my studies. The Lexus was leased new each year.
I always figured, since I came up from being a shoeless commune brat, that anyone could make it as well as I did. It took application. Maybe a few lucky breaks, but most “lucky breaks” we make by seizing our opportunities. I could have been a slacker. The Baileys (I took Dad’s last name) had some previous foster kids who were. I could have felt sorry myself or resented them for the years before I was fostered. Other kids did. It’s attitude. It’s all in your attitude toward life.
And that’s what made me a success. That’s why I was one of the financial pillars of the church. I put in long hours making my money, hours I tithed to God through the money I earned. And the last year of my life, I had a big windfall and I tithed that, too. One of the small firms I had snapped up on the side had developed some medical device. And it caught the eye of one of the big firms in the industry. So they bought out my firm for cash and stock. Sales of this device through their firm took off like a jet and made everyone a boatload of money, including me. My last year I was rolling in the dough. I wish Mr. Bailey could have seen it. Mother Bailey was in an Alzheimer’s Center, and Mom, well, lets say I don’t think she would have cared about the money I made. In fact, I have no idea where she is now. Once the Baileys took me in, I only saw her one more time. I was fourteen, and she came to my birthday party. On acid.
Day 27: Reese’s Journal Entry 3: Cultural Translator
I was given a job. My Zoë, Amber, says I was a tough case to find a good fit for. If I asked you to guess what you think I do, I’m sure you’d say I was a teacher, and you’d be close. I’m not teaching anymore. I’m a Cultural Translator. You see, the name of the Resurrectorium includes ‘1920’ not because it’s Anno Domini 1920, but because people here are from the mid-nineteenth through the late twentieth centuries. You can imagine that creates some linguistic confusion, even when we’re speaking the same language. So with my background teaching they asked me to help people learn each other’s lingo, and more than that, work on cultural expectations. I’ve got people here wanting to know when they can get a cell phone, and I have to explain there are no cell phones. Then I’ve got people here who have to be taught to use a rotary dial. Oh, the rotary dial is easy enough, but having to remember someone’s number… They usually call the operator. But the Regions aren’t all Euro-American: Other areas of Region 1920 have other cultural groups so that people feel at home when they arrive. Unlike moving up and down the timeline, say to Region 2021, these are parts of the same region, 1920, that anyone can travel to on the interurban.
Here’s an example of what I do: It turns out ‘twenty three skidoo’ really was a phrase people used in the nineteen twenties in North America, but not many people used it. Jazz musicians took ‘hot’ for someone who played hot jazz licks (itself a coining) and turned it around into ‘cool.’ The old meaning remained so that even though ‘cool’ means ‘not warm’ to everybody, by the time we were growing up it also meant ‘good, okay, fine,’ etc. There’s a lot of that, and I work with some pretty neat people. Lots of couples. Sometimes whole families. It’s a mixed bag, emotionally.
Day 28: Wayne’s Journal 2: Wayne’s Thoughts about Money
When Arjun first told me he’d arrange for work, I assumed he had read my resume and he’d get me in with a bank. I didn’t take long to find out that there are no banks here. There is money, which I thought meant there had to be a banking system. But none of the Bios I talked to has any idea who mints it. The Zoës won’t say. It isn’t important, they say. The money is just a cipher for hours worked. How many hours or what work, again no one is saying. I get “paid” whether or not I work, though I’m sure if I refused to work, there would be questions. It’s a stipend. But the stipend easily covered my expenses the first week after I settled in. I never ran out, but I found out that if I did, everything was free for the asking.
“Then what’s the point of having money?” I asked the clerk at the hardware store, Alex. “It prevents theft,” he said. I thought that odd. The owner of the store, Tillie, heard us talking. “What are you on about?” she said. Alex shuffled off. I suspect he and Tillie don’t see eye to eye on this. I asked her about the money system. “It keeps people honest, which isn’t the same as preventing theft, Alex,” and she said the last in a shout to Alex’s back. “The money is there because it reminds us that things do have value, and that in the end, all value is derived from effort of some kind. It’s there to help you manage your resources, too. But value is not the same as worth. We’re not returning to that world, oh no. Here, one person is worth the same as another and no one is worth more than anyone else. Our King washed the feet of his disciples.”
“I remember that from the Gospels. During the Passover meal.”
At that moment, Tillie and I were no longer strangers. That’s the way things work here. It’s like some old-timey TV show or something. I can’t put my finger on it. Banking was a business where you made friends slowly. We built trust over many years of solid deals. And trust only went so far. Lawyers backed everything up and put it all in writing.
This, on the other hand, seems Marxist. Tillie says it’s simply Apostolic. “I got nothing good to say about Commies.”
Day 29: Reese’s Journal Entry 4: Little India
I’m writing this real quick while I’m on the interurban, not in my usual journal. Just to give us translators some perspective, they’re sending me on a field trip today. There is a section of 1920 with people from the Indian subcontinent, 1920-alpha. (There’s also one with people from Africa and another from Southeast Asia, and a few more but I don’t remember exactly what they said in the meeting.) This regional subdivision idea is a smaller-scale version of the bit on the back of the pamphlet that asked if we speak Babylonian: even if we had a translator device in our ears, the cultural differences would be unbridgeable. In fact, there’s a section of the 1920 timeline that is so “distant” culturally it has their own sub-Region of 1920: We call it “1920 M” with “M” standing for Mecca. I won’t be going there. Not all Muslims go there, either.
Even within connected regions, as people rub elbows in ways they didn’t before, their lives change. What’s kind of fun is that as you travel within the region, there are blends between the different architectures. You can watch the building styles change when you ride the interurban line between towns. One of the riders called the region I’m going to today “Little India,” but that makes it sound like some low rent district outside the zone of the upper “Euro-American” classes, but it’s not. But I was told to expect to be surprised. I’m to meet a Zoë named Arjun, who will be my guide.
I’m back home. I’ve transferred everything to my official Journal.
It was quite an exhilarating experience. God, I’ll miss the food in Little India. Everything here is dull by comparison. I jokingly asked Arjun if anyone was going to open an Indian restaurant in New Harmony soon, and my question was taken seriously.
One thing I realized was that our section of 1920 shares some traits with 1920-a more than it does the world that was in the American Midwest. It hadn’t dawned on me that in New Harmony, there are none of the big-box retailers we were used to dealing with. Just as there are no 50’ semi-rigs, the distribution system can’t support centralized retailing. And since there’s no monetary gain to be made from that kind of consolidation, New Harmony is more like my own childhood Midwest, which still had a lot of Mom & Pop retail stores and grocery stores. It took going to Little India (apparently it’s a term of endearment there, a reminder that there are many more people from the India that was who will be waking up in their resurrectorium) to bring to mind the differences.
Arjun had me start by going to the Ashram of Jesus Purusha. There I got an interfaith lecture on the oneness of God and how God is revealed in the Vedas. The teacher, Father Davies, assumed a lot of knowledge on my part of Christian theology and scripture and he went so fast I didn’t have a chance to tell him I was as much a newcomer to Christianity as most Hindus were. From there I met with a Brahmin acharya, a teacher, named Krishna Tatacharya for a whirlwind introduction to the ancient faiths of India collectively known as Hinduism.
What I got from Fr. Davies was that the universality of the Resurrection of the Dead is not an afterthought, but something that was foundational, and that it wasn’t only the Hebrew and Christian writings that testified to that foundation. Krishna Tatacharya knows Fr. Davies and says he is excited to return to his scriptures, the Vedas, to find the Purusha.
Oh. The Purusha was referred to in some of the oldest Vedas as the man who was slain and hung on a tree at the foundation of the cosmos (before humans were created), whose devotees drank his blood and ate his flesh. The parallels to the message Jesus gave at the last supper and some of the writings in the Gospel of John were astounding.
Well, that’s it. If I think my job as translator is tough, I just remember the job Zoës like Arjun and the Bios that work with her like Fr. Davies and Krishna Tatacharya have in translating the concepts in the Vedas and the many gods into the Resurrection and the one God. I can tell you that neither man sees his job as destroying a faith or replacing one faith with another so much as learning and imparting how each faith points to the other. The Immanent God is what they call him there. Christmas carols talk about this Immanent God as Immanuel, the God Who Dwells with Us.
Day 32: Wayne’s Journal Entry 3: Baling Hay
I have a job. I have to laugh. I am a hay baler. Arjun assured me it wasn’t a joke, a play on my name, as if he was worried he’d offended me. I thought that was pretty funny, since Bailey is an English name and not etymologically related to baling or bales of hay, but to an Old French word, “bailli” and “bailiff,” an officer of the court —a term still used in the States. A bailey was also the courtyard of a castle — take your pick. I think they’re all related through Latin.
Baling hay is another matter. This is a great job. I love it doing it. I used to spend a lot of time outdoors when I was growing up. Mom made sure of that. We grew our own food on the commune. I will admit, it was good food. Fresh food. I never thought about it after I left the commune, how much I missed fresh tomatoes, plucked from the plant and eaten in the field. Now that I think of it, food at the Bailey’s was pretty bland. I wanted bland at the time, and bland became my style of food. And clothes, and everything else. I love the Baileys to this day, but they were bland. And I became bland. They were solid, and I became solid. We were pillars, we Baileys — unmoving, unblinking pillars. Solid. But growing things is another kind of solid, the way dirt is solid but living.
I’m getting a bit of a tan. It’s harvest time for the hay. The baler is an antique, and the tractor is an antique, shared by several area farms, who use horses for most of the rest of their farming needs. When speed matters, like getting the hay harvested and baled, the farmers take turns harvesting and baling each other’s hay. The same system apparently works for other crops. I don’t know much about farming per se. What the commune did was truck farming. So when the regular farmers got into discussions about monoculture and sustainability and all of that, I just tuned them out and got into the Zen of the work. My body loved it.
As the sun warmed the day, some of the crew shed clothing like Greek athletes and spent the heat of the day working nude. When we were finished baling, we all showered and dressed for an amazing meal. I was a bit sore at the end of the first few days, but it felt good. Harvest was over too soon.
Day 36: Wayne’s Journal 4: About Arjun
I’m finding almost all of what I did for a living is useless here, and much of what I thought about life seems out of place. I love the Baileys not a whit less, and my Mom will always be a zany hippie to me, but her “let the sunshine in” life doesn’t seem such a waste now. The harvest got me in touch with the barefoot boy part of me I had forgotten.
I asked Arjun about his life in India. He ran a charity organization that gave food, clothing, and dignity to the homeless in Chennai. He had been born high caste, and even though the legal framework of the caste system was gone, his parents were shocked and disgusted that he would wash the feet of anyone who needed shoes and then put new shoes on their feet. He coordinated food aid and set up a series of halfway houses to help people transition from the streets to productive lives. He says he realizes now how much he was influenced without knowing it by the Christians in India who came to help. He is constantly thankful to be part of Jesus’ “other flock.”
His life was a brochure. As he was describing his charitable work, I kept thinking to myself how I gave a lot of money to charities, but when it came to interacting with the homeless, I avoided them. It was messy passing people with cardboards sign that say “Pennies help” or “Jesus loves” at the entrance to our building, and in the interests of commerce, I had the police remove them more than once. Some of them were clearly disabled, like the guy with the limp and the cane or the one near the last intersection before the highway who would repeat “Drive safe. God bless” for hours at a time while shaking a plastic fountain drink cup. I figured I had done my part for them by supporting the shelter, and told myself giving them money wasn’t helping them long term. To be honest, I preferred to ignore them in person.
That was my mistake.
Day 37: Wayne’s Journal 5: Edward’s Zoë
I’m looking at that last entry. To say “that was my mistake,” taking the homeless people for granted, was the only reason I awoke a Bios and not a Zoë suggests that it was…well that it was just the one mistake. Hardly. It represented an attitude. My arms-length attitude toward the homeless was part of an arms-length attitude toward everything but success. I guess the first divorce did hurt a bit, but after that relationships were cooler. Lots of people live like that, I know. It’s actually harder not to. Still, whatever the reason, and that includes the better ones, people cut themselves off from other people, especially the ones who are hurting. Life is easier that way. For us.
The hay baling gig didn’t last long, so Arjun and I are casting about for something else that suits my talents yet fits the new world. I’m not worried about finding something. Making the best of my opportunities was something Papa Bailey taught me well. Meanwhile, the community garden is always taking volunteers.
In some ways, good ways, I’m rediscovering things I lost. Simple things, like being able to enjoy clouds, to see shapes in them, watch them float overhead dipping us into cool shadow. That was one of the things Mom and I liked to do in the commune, stare at clouds. I was working in the New Harmony Gardens yesterday when a cloud that looked like an old lady in a rocking chair floated overhead. I said aloud what I thought the cloud looked like (it had just stopped raining and the sun was coming out), then someone spotted her dancing dog and soon other people stopped working. Before long we were all just looking at the clouds, naming what we saw. Even the Zoës among us.
That was the first time I saw them like that. The Zoës. They’re usually quite distant from us. Quiet. Sort of like they were monks under a vow of semi-silence. ‘Don’t talk if you don’t have to.’ Only once in a while do I see a Zoë smile. I asked Arjun about that one day. He seemed surprised. Then he denied they were like that then said perhaps I was right.
“Got a lot on your mind?” I asked him.
“You could say that. Perhaps we take our role as guides too seriously. I enjoyed the clouds yesterday. I talked about it with Amber, and she said she had not had that kind of fun in a while.”
Then he went silent for a while, and I asked him what he was thinking about. He said he was thinking about a man named Edward. Arjun is friends with Edward’s Zoë, Joe, and Edward was in the garden yesterday and said something that has Arjun worried. Or concerned at least. It isn’t like a Zoë to worry. Ask one if they’re worrying about something and they’ll tell you God will take care of things. I can imagine a Zoë would say that if a tsunami was rolling at him. But even if he might deny worrying, I can see Arjun is worried about Edward.
I’ve never talked with Edward, so I’m curious about why Arjun is worried about him. Frankly, this Edward sounds like an interesting guy in a vanilla world. Perhaps tomorrow.
Day 68: Reese’s Journal Entry 5: Möbius Town
Yesterday, I was going to take off and look for you in one of the other regions.
Let me back up a bit. At first I worried that I could happen to be blowing town the same day they decide to bring you back at Resurrectorium 1920-η. So I just cooled my jets. But the idea that you were out there and they wouldn’t tell me kept growing, and soon it was more than I could take. I tried to get a train ticket, but they said I didn’t have my Zoë’s permission to leave the region. I tried to hitch a ride, but none of the drivers of the carts headed toward the next region would give me a ride. No one would loan me a bike when I told them where I was going, and — remember what I said about it being easier not to do bad things? — I couldn’t bring myself to lie to borrow one or steal one from someone else, and I hadn’t earned enough yet to buy my own. So I set off walking toward Region 1819. There were no guard posts on the edge of town, no dogs, no patrols in the woods, nothing. But, I couldn’t leave town. I did that three times with the same result, and each time it spooked the shit out of me, because each time I ended up where I started. As I was walking, I would turn my head to see something out of the corner of my eye, then when I looked back, I appeared to be back in town again in a street I didn’t recognize.
Instead of calling it Region 1920 they should call it Möbius instead. I know you get that. It’s like a Twilight Zone episode.
Anyway, when I found I couldn’t leave town, I went to where my Zoë hangs out, the resurrectorium, and we had a scene right there.
“I have others to attend to. Please wait until tonight,” she said. “I’ll come by and talk to you.”
“I’m sick of this shit,” I said. Yes, we can still cuss. “Where is Helen?”
“Reese,” she said, “please don’t force me to have you confined to your home.”
I split. I walked for hours, but since I didn’t try leaving again, no spooky shit. I just walked. People saw the scowling face, and some of the Bios tried to talk to me. I mean, they’re all really nice people. Like being in church all the time. But I wasn’t ready to play “what’s the matter, brother?” so I went home. I didn’t want my Zoë trying to make me forget my anger. My anger was the only thing that felt normal right then. I went home, latched my door and barricaded it with a table and chairs. So I am just starting to forget how pissed I was at finding all roads lead to Möbius when my Zoë, Amber, sort of appeared in my living room.
“Hello, Reese” she says, as if I knew she was already in the room. The argument started again and went downhill from there. They won’t tell me where you are. They won’t even tell me why they won’t tell me. Telling me I’m not ready only makes things worse. It’s like failing a test and asking the instructor to see your paper so you can look at the marks and see what you missed only your instructor won’t let you see the paper and just says ‘study for the next test.’ It’s bullshit all the way down.
Okay. I’ve had some time to think. Amber is all right, I’m sure, with her other clients. I must drive her nuts. I’m sure she thinks I’ve got a one-track mind. She’d be right. But enough of my endless argument with Amber. I meant to start journaling earlier. Getting late, and I’m sleepy. I saw your face in a dream the other day, looking like you did the day we got married. I can’t wait to see you again, hug you again, kiss you again, make love to you. Like I always told you while we were together, you’re my heart in the world. That world is gone, and with it my heart. Until you come back to me, I live here without that part of my heart that you carried with you. I told you then I’d always love you. I wasn’t kidding. So where are you, my love? Where are you?
Day 72: Wayne’s Journal 6: What Reese Said
I signed up for garden duty today, again. Edward wasn’t there, nor was Arjun. I don’t think any of the Zoës were there. It’s not like they always have a Zoë with us, as if the Zoës were guards. It’s more like we’re kids on a field trip and there has to be a teacher with us at all times. Unless there isn’t one. Like today. Today it felt more like we were grownups.
I talked to a guy named Reese today, and he had a similar attitude. He described it like being on probation. We had to get permission to go to the other regions, he said. We do not have freedom of movement. When he put it that way, it bothered me. He said he found out the hard way. This place is set up like a Möbius strip. Try walking due east to the next region and you’ll find yourself back where you started.
When he said that, it made me uncomfortable. I felt trapped. I travelled a lot in the world that was. Germany. China. Switzerland. The idea of being forbidden to travel smacked of totalitarianism. My older cousin George fought Communists in Korea. My wife’s mother almost got stuck in Nazi Germany. For my own part, I will always remember the Berlin Wall. Restricting travel is the first thing a totalitarian regime does.
But until I talked to Reese, it never felt like that kind of place. Then I remembered, there is more than one kind of tyranny. There’s 1984, and there’s Brave New World. Until my conversation with Reese, I hadn’t seen that the Zoës could be guards instead of guides. Or both. Maybe they’re the den mothers of our Cub Scout pack. That would be putting a Madison Avenue spin on things.
Day 73: Wayne’s Journal 7: Ambivalence
I asked Arjun about what Reese said. I told him travel restrictions make me uncomfortable. He reminded me that we were free to travel anywhere within our region. And he pointedly reminded me that there was an interurban train between every town in the region.
“And what about the railroad between regions?” I asked. “Who gets to ride on that? Zoës don’t need it. You guys can…you know, pop in and out like ghosts.” I could see he was upset with that last crack. A place to put leverage had just opened up.
“Many of us prefer travelling by train,” he said.
“All I’m saying is that there’s disaffection. Maybe not anything people even say, but it’s on their minds, like it was mine, waiting for someone to point it out to them. Why not let us go there and see it for ourselves?”
“It would be like seeing the future.”
“Well, then maybe the other Region. 1819. We could go there.”
“It would be like them seeing their future.”
“Send a representative. Go there and report on it for us.”
“Because we’re curious.”
“When did you become curious? You’ve been here 73 days and only yesterday do you become curious? Who put this on your heart?”
“Never mind,” I said. I could see he wouldn’t agree. And he was right that until someone told me, I didn’t much care. But that’s the way of things, isn’t it? Everyone thinks like us until we find out otherwise? Maybe no one else is curious. I doubt it.
Day 96: Wayne’s Journal 8: Edward Has a Theory
Not much had been happening since my last post, so I left off journaling. But I was between jobs again and was working New Harmony Gardens, and today I finally met Edward. He was and wasn’t what I expected. He’s… I hate to use the word petite, but he’s a short slim guy, and like a lot of guys smaller than normal, he’s a live wire. And he’s clearly an operator. That comes off right away. He’s the kind of guy you want on your negotiating team when you’re talking to those hard-headed Swiss or the Chinese, who are more dangerous as Capitalists than they ever were as Communists. But Edward’s also not the kind of guy you want on your team if you don’t have the time to keep tabs on him. Otherwise you’ll find out the hard way he’s gone over to the other side. Any other side will do with a guy like that, as long as what’s in it for him is more than what you’re offering.
I asked him if he knew about Reese’s Möbius-town experience.
“Oh, yeah. I expected that. Divide and conquer and all that.”
“We can travel to other parts of the region,” I said.
“Maybe this is all there is,” he replied. “We only have their word on it.”
“So you don’t trust them?”
“Trust them?” He snorted his distaste. “I know what they say about themselves in that pamphlet. Life of God and all that. I know what a pamphlet like that is for. I used pamphlets to sell time-shares in Florida. But there weren’t any time shares, get it? Only the addresses were real — shitty swampland real or abandoned sink-hole–land real. No, believe you me there’s something else going on here. I don’t want to say just yet what it is, but I have my theories. All I’ll say right now is ‘look up.’ Look up at the night sky.”
Joe was watching the whole exchange. Edward looked over at him.
“My shadow,” he said. “I hear he gets all the tough cases.”
Day 153: Reese’s Journal Entry 6: I Quit
They have mates, but you’re not here. It comes down to that, really. I’d see someone else alone, missing their mate, or worse I’d see a couple reunited, sometimes whole families all happy as can be. It just got to be too much. I‘ve lost count, Helen, of the number of reunions I’ve seen, and as a Cultural Translator, I meet most of the resurrectees.
I wonder what Amber was thinking when she arranged this job for me. Zoës don’t seem to have much of a grasp of human psychology. Okay, I should have seen myself in the first few weeks. So I almost made my “90 day review,” if there was such a thing. 85 days. I hate to be a quitter, but I’ve had it.
It’s my fault, I suppose. I would always, always ask recently reunited couples how long they were apart. Days. One waited a week. I’m on day one hundred and fifty three, Helen. I tried leaving to see if you were in another town, but that’s forbidden. I’ve tried waiting patiently, but that’s not my nature. Rock, meet hard place — the one at the top of my skull. I was never very good at changing who I am. I can’t refashion myself into a paragon of patience.
The most recent couple had been married a year longer than we had. Nosy me, I had to ask them, because when she said “forty six years” of marriage I felt something in my stomach twist up. Some couples get reunited. Some were only married a short while, but they got to be reunited. Not us. I know it isn’t anything you did. So I’ve been trying to figure out what I did that’s keeping them from resurrecting you. Even if it’s because I tried leaving town and we’re both being punished, what about those first sixty seven days? What were they waiting for then? So, I broke a rule on the sixty eighth day — an unwritten, unspoken rule — that we’re not to leave the region. Thanks, Amber, for the heads up. So eighty five days later they’re still punishing us?
Okay, enough of that. Rehearsing my anger isn’t going to solve anything. I’ll find another job. That’s one of the great things about this place. There’s no rat race.
Day 161: Wayne’s Journal 9: Hiring Reese
I haven’t written a journal in a couple of months. Too busy. Arjun told me that the gal who ran the New Harmony Delivery Company had “gone Zoë.” I never met her myself, but I gather she was well liked. I guess that’s how you make the transition: Butter everyone up, treat them with kid gloves… I could hear it in my head: White Glove Customer Service. That was going to be my company motto.
Arjun said New Harmony Delivery Company did intra-regional delivery.
“So who handles the inter-regional delivery?” I asked him.
“No one.” Sometimes I think he answers before he thinks.
“No one? I’ve traveled much of the region and there are no factories here, but we’ve got a lot of manufactured goods. They come from somewhere.”
“I see,” he replied. “Yes, no factories here or in 1819 or 1718 and below for that matter. Well, not many. Only ones situated near streams to use water power. But we didn’t want to recreate the pollution of the technology from the 20th and earlier centuries. The factories in 2021 are clean and mostly automated.”
“How nice. I’d love to see them.”
“So you say. Back to my original question. Who handles the inter-regional delivery?”
“You have Zoës unloading goods at the depot? Angelic beings huffing crates off boxcars? Is that supposed to be credible?”
“Oh, I see what you’re asking. No, we have Bios do that, mostly.”
“Bios from 2021?”
He shook his head ‘yes.’
“So some Bios can be trusted to move between regions?”
“Yes. No. It’s not about trust. It’s about contam… We have them work at night to prevent culture shock by anyone in 1920.”
I knew there wouldn’t be any culture shock. Only the shock of finding out some people could go between regions and others were stuck in Möbiusville.
“Why not have us deliver to 1819?” I asked.
“You have no manufacturing, so there is less to deliver.”
“What if I came up with something? Manufactured something. Could we deliver it?”
“You mean, build a factory?”
“Sure. We’ve got streams. We could build a factory that’s green.”
“The labor wouldn’t be green. It would require laborers.”
“And 2021 doesn’t?”
“No. It would be automated. Once they set it up, the factory is automatic and self-regulating.”
“We’re off topic,” he said.
I can imagine what Edward would think of our conversation. After that we returned to the topic of the New Harmony Delivery Company. With a brief tour or the warehouse and transfer dock by the tracks, I was able to size it up. She ran the place with 9 to 5 hours. Deliveries from 2021 were brought in after closing. Although the city did not have a curfew, people weren’t to loiter around the dock or warehouse after hours. We were also a place where local truck farms could bring goods to be distributed throughout the region.
Yep. I’m looking at the entry and I still shake my head at it. Mind you, I knew long before today that there were few autos in Region 1920. And that makes it weird compared to the world most of us came from. Even the make-believe paradise of Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show had cars and radios.
“We need to get a fleet of trucks,” I said to Arjun when we got to the warehouse.
“Sorry, but that would necessitate a fleet of fuel trucks delivering fuel to petrol stations throughout the region.”
“The automobile is not a clean technology.”
“And horses are? With all their horse shit and the flies? That’s clean?”
“For now, the Region will retain animal-based transport except for the interurban and vehicles deemed essential, such as fire, ambulance, and other essential services.”
I didn’t recall seeing the Fire Station ever go into action. And what exactly is ‘essential’?
“Then it actually isn’t Region 1920, is it?” I said. “I have to tell you, it was more than a bit of culture shock for me to find out there were no cars, no computers, cell phones, no Internet. And no TV for God’s sake. What do we have that 1819 doesn’t?”
“The electric lamp and the telephone. And refrigeration. That’s a big thing you know.”
“But those are mostly 19th century technologies, aren’t they?”
“True, but only as the 19th century was about to become the 20th. And the appliances. You do not see them because they are ubiquitous when you were alive. Someone from 1819 would not be used to all your electric gadgets.”
“Damn. I’d hate to live in a region without power.”
“All regions have power. Animal or water or wind power perhaps. But power nonetheless. 1819 has enough electricity for the telegraph.”
I looked around me as if seeing this place for the first time. While I was doing the gardening and little more, it was like being on an extended vacation. I was content to have a “get away from it all” mentality, so no phones, computers, none of that bothered me. My commune childhood fit nicely here. But to run a delivery company with horse-drawn technology?
“Wayne, I can see this is making you uncomfortable,” Arjun said. “Perhaps something less… Perhaps where the interface of commerce and technology is less acute.”
“No, I said. This will do. I’ve been lollygagging around too long.”
That’s how I became the new boss. The other bios who worked there, Nancy and Artie, weren’t interested in running the place. As if it would be too much to hold all this in their heads. As if the stress and deadlines of a horse-powered delivery company would be too much for them. Nancy would be right at home on Mom’s commune. Artie should be in art school. That way he could stare at clouds all day, paint brush in hand. What kind of world could they build?
Arjun introduced me as the new manager. The word “boss” never came up. He left me to find my way right after that. The hardest part of taking over was figuring out the books in an age of pencil and paper. Nancy helped with that.
“We’re short handed,” Artie said when the first wagon was loaded and he was about to set out on his route.
“What do you mean?”
“We have two routes. When Ann went Zoë, I started doing Louie’s route as well as mine. But today, I won’t have time. Most days I won’t.”
“What happened to Louie?” I asked. Artie shrugged his shoulders then turned away, gave the reins a light flick and clicked a couple times, and he and his horse and wagon took off.
Nancy said to call the resurrectorium.
“Is Louie dead?” I asked.
“No, that’s how you reach Arjun. Tell him you need a new driver.”
The switchboard at the resurrectorium said they’d take care of it, and a few hours later, Reese showed up.
“Long time no see,” I said, but I didn’t extend my hand. Reese had gone native, wearing only a loin cloth.
“Problem?” Reese asked. Reading my face and body language didn’t require expertise. I wanted to telegraph my displeasure. ‘Problem?’ he asks. Where do I begin? If this was the old world, there’s no way I’d give this guy a job. Here, I didn’t even know if hiring decisions were my own. I felt like such a rube not knowing the basics of how to run a company. I didn’t even know if it was my company to run. Who owns this gig, anyway?
“No,” I said, “though the job will require loading and unloaded a wagon, and you’re not dressed to do that. Plus, you represent the company with customers.”
“Oh. I’ve got a jumpsuit I can wear.”
I wanted to say ‘Then why the hell aren’t you wearing that?’ but again, what are the rules here in commune-land?
“Good,” I said. “Consider your jumpsuit your work uniform. I know for certain there are some in the region who are scandalized by the lack of standards.”
“My last job was as a Cultural Translator, so I know about the problem most people have with nudity.”
“Yet you showed up here nearly naked?”
“I haven’t got the job yet.”
“Do you want the job, Reese?”
He straighten up a bit and some of the commune attitude fell away.
“I’ve been going through a rough patch,” he said. “Amber, my Zoë, thinks this job would be good for me.”
“I don’t care what Amber thinks. I may not be here to make money. God knows, no one can get ahead here. But I’ve been asked to run this company, and I plan to run it well. If we agree the job is for you, show up for work in your jumpsuit.” I could see that got to him, so he wasn’t a full-blown commune slacker.
“Have you ever handled a horse-drawn wagon?” I asked, moving on from his appearance.
“Nope. Never met anyone in my life who did. Can you?”
“Yes, but that’s besides the point.”
“That is the point.”
He was right, and I had already forgotten my shock when Arjun brought me here.
“Okay,” I said. I decided that he’d figure out how to drive a wagon soon enough. “You’ve got the job. Do you know where the stable is?”
“Go there tomorrow morning, and they’ll get you set up. Come here with your rig, and in your jumpsuit mind you, and we’ll get you started on your route.”
He extended his hand and I shook it.
This wasn’t the same Reese I’d met before, the one that Edward was so impressed with. ‘Möbius man,’ Edward had called him. Reese seemed worn down. Maybe he’d been running the Möbius loop all this time. I remembered a comic book from when I was a kid. A man was running on a treadmill in the sky, clouds and the earth far below him, running as hard and fast as he could, because if he stopped or slipped he’d fall. There were a lot of times my life had felt like that. Investment banking could be like that at times. When the markets turned bearish, it was a struggle. I saw that kind of struggle on Reese. I wondered if they sent him to me because they thought he needed a low-stress job. Well, he’s got it. Welcome to commune world, Wayne.
Day 162: Reese’s Journal Entry 7: Riding with Bertha
It’s been a while since I’ve written a journal. Time seems funny here, Helen. Remember in my last entry when I mentioned that I couldn’t steal a bike in order to leave Möbius town, and I hadn’t earned enough yet to buy my own wheels? Well, there are jobs here. I guess it would make sense, because without work people aren’t their best.
I had to get another job. You see, working with people as a Cultural Translator, day in and day out, made it harder to ignore you not being here. I’d see someone else alone, missing their mate, or worse I’d see a couple reunited, sometimes whole families all happy as can be. It just got to be too much.
So I’m a driver. Kind of funny, but remember I was working a delivery truck for a living when we met. Now I drive a horse-drawn wagon.
The people at the resurrectorium called me yesterday and said some guy named Wayne could use another driver and Wayne sent me to see Sam today. Sam runs the stable in the middle of town. I could smell hay and horses long before I entered. It was nice and cool inside. Someone at the back was turning over hay to air it out.
“Are you Sam?” I asked.
The boy chuckled. He must have been all of fifteen. Fleshy but muscled underneath. And he had Downs.
“Sam is my father,” he said. “He will be back very soon. Do you need to borrow a horse?”
“I’m supposed to work for your dad.”
“We can always use help with the horses,” he said. “But you have to be nice to them. They’ll be nice to you.”
“I’m sure they will.”
“Hello!” someone called. I turned to see a man with a broad straw hat at the door of the stable. “I see you met Charley,” he said, extending a hand. Solid handshake. I could feel the calluses. “I’m Sam.” Sam was old for a guy who’d been resurrected. Most resurrectees are in their twenties. Sam was at least mid-thirties, maybe early forties. Some wrinkles. Sun-aged skin. “Charley, Reese is going to drive a wagon. I think Bertha would be good for him.”
Charley smiled. “Bertha is always good for everybody.”
“Come on in the office, Reese, and I’ll give you your route and some instructions. Ever drive a wagon?”
In the office, Sam picked up a clipboard, pulled a pile of bills of lading and a map from a corner of the desk and, clipping them to the board handed it to me.
“Go ahead and ask,” he said.
“The papers aren’t self-explanatory?”
“About Charley. You were wondering about Charley.”
It was true. It was Charley who wasn’t self-explanatory.
“I’m glad your son is here with you,” I said.
“But…” Sam continued for me.
“Okay. But why does he have Down syndrome? I thought all that was supposed to be fixed when we’re resurrected.”
“It’s what he wanted.”
“It’s what he wanted?”
Sam must have seen the look on my face a thousand times. “In heaven, Jesus asked him. And Charley said he liked who he was just fine.”
“Retarded?” Charley said.
He’d been listening in the doorway.
“I’m sorry, Charley, I didn’t mean…”
“I told Jesus in heaven that my heart is not retarded. He smiled at me. I told him ‘make me the same again. I don’t want to have a retarded heart.’ And pop and I are okay. Right pop?”
“Right, Charley,” Sam said.
He handed me the clipboard. I looked at his sunburned hand. I didn’t pry further, but I’m guessing Sam is the same age he was when Charley knew him best, back in the world that was.
“Martha knows the way to the loading stops,” Sam said. “Hardware, feed store… After that, follow the list and the map. Charley, is it okay if we send Tickle along with Reese today?”
“Tickle?” I asked.
“My pigeon!” Charley said. “She doesn’t need a cage any more. She stays on the wagon until she comes home. If you have trouble, just say ‘Help, Tickle.’ We will come get you, Pop and me and Tickle.”
So, Bertha and I headed out. One light flick of the reigns so she’d know I was ready, and we were off. Tickle, too, sitting on the bench next to me or sometimes pacing. She flew off after my first few deliveries, came back later, then was off and back all day.
So, Helen, let me tell you about the job.
A horse-drawn wagon is like a self-driving truck, or nearly so. Bertha only drives herself home at the end of the day, but that’s when you most appreciate it. We did fine right off the bat. Not bad for a guy who never rode a horse. I drive the wagon back and forth across town, meet nice people, and get exercise unloading it. I like it. It’s usually sunny… I didn’t tell you about that, did I? We had a thunderstorm the other day, and it blew down the big tree in the town square.
Some people got really upset about it. Not that it doesn’t rain. Sometimes we get a real soaker. It was that the storm did damage to something. One of them got mad at me when I said big thunderstorms are part of perfection. So the Zoës held a regional meeting to explain that storms are part of God’s order or something. I stopped listening after a few minutes. I just scanned the faces looking to see if you were there and my Zoë hadn’t told me.
But you weren’t there. You’re not working at any of the places I deliver to. You’re not walking down the sidewalk or in the lane, not looking out of any of the windows I pass. I’d recognize you, the way I recognized you back at that service station when we were first alive and still young. I know you remember that because we often talked about how we met in that snowstorm by chance, each not knowing the other was back in town. You said later you recognized me by the laugh lines around my eyes. You hugged me and left the scent of Cinnabar perfume on my coat. My partner on the run that day kept laughing. “You got it bad,” he’d say. “You got it bad.” And all I could do was smile, because he was right. All the rest of that day I couldn’t think of anything else but calling you up. My hand would go to the note with your phone number and I’d look at it and he would say “Yep. It’s happening.” And it was, even then. We left had town years before to our different destinies, and we parted friends. Somehow, I knew meeting you in the snowstorm that day there would be more. I wanted more. I wanted you.
I want you now. Here in this Resurrection. Where are you, babe?
Day 163: Sam Sprecher’s Journal 1: Meeting Reese
I wasn’t too impressed with the latest guy they sent me, Reese Smith. Maybe not a troublemaker but he is troublesome. Troubled. You know. He asked me about Charley. People ask about Charley all the time. More now than in the old world. Everyone’s suppose to be perfect now. I think Charley is perfect. Always did. Before he was born the ultrasound showed the Downs. Emily and I never thought we might abort him. We named him that day. Charlie Gordon Sprecher after the character Charlie Gordon in the movie she liked Charley who was retarded and then became a genius. Our Charley was never going to be a genius. We knew that. Emily was a great Mom. I hope to meet her here some day. My Zoë Gary says I will. That I’m well on my way. And I think most of the time I am. Until someone comes along all meaning well and asks about Charley. Why is Charley retarded. Then I tell them again its because Charley wanted it that way. That’s what Charley says and Gary says I should take that at face value. Charley remembers asking and that’s that. I guess the problem is when I woke up in the resurrectorium I wanted Emily and Charley with me. But once I found out that in the resurrection people are made whole I was ready to get Charley back with his genes fixed so he’d be Charley without the Downs syndrome.
I know it’s going to sound like I don’t love Charley as he is. I’d break any man’s jaw who told me I didn’t love my son. But the life I had with Charley wasn’t the same as the life I expected to have and good as it was well Charley is a loving, wonderful, kind gentle kid. All of that but it wasn’t good the way I had hope for. People say your kids aren’t suppose to be your friends and I get that. But Well I thought I’d have a Charley more like other sons this time around. A fresh start. I’m still working it out. Maybe that’s why Charley came back the way he did. Maybe that’s why Emily isn’t along yet. I’m holding everybody up. And Reese Smith just reminded me of that. He’s OK otherwise. Charley and Bertha like him. Charley’s got good sense about people. Smarter than most people are about people. Em said it was God’s gift to help Charley in a harsh world.
It’s not that harsh a world now. Charlie likes it. He says the love is more real. I don’t know. I hope he’s right.
Day 164 Reese’s Journal Entry 8: Good Enough for Chamber Music
Something odd happened today. Amber, my Zoë, said something you used to say. We were working the community garden together, planting something — I don’t know what — and Amber said, “good enough for chamber music.” Not ‘good enough for government work’ or ‘good enough for the union’ or the Kingdom or anything like that. Chamber music. And when she said it I looked up and I swear it was you there in that garden. Even her voice sounded like you when she said that. Then I blinked and it was Amber again, a Zoë, and being who has eternal life, who can stand naked in the presence of God. Not an air breathing, food gathering, warm-blooded mammal like us.
I say ‘like us’ because I know you’re going to show up. You’ll awaken in Resurrectorium 1920 tomorrow, or the next day, but you will awaken. And if not in 1920, then another one. 2021 maybe.
Well. I’d better stop. Thinking this way, I feel like I let you down, Helen. Maybe you did awaken in 2021 or in 1819, and they won’t let you leave town, either. I should try again to get to you. I must be developing Stockholm Syndrome.
Day 164: Amber’s Journal Entry 2: Good Enough for Chamber Music
Reese doesn’t know me as Helen, and I can’t tell him. I want to so badly. I want to tell him that his Zoë Amber is, or was, his Helen. It pains me, and pain is something I thought I would never know again. Pain is something I wouldn’t know but for him. My Lord, I long to be in your presence where there isn’t any pain, in heaven again. I still remember meeting you there. Letting go of my life was only difficult because of Reese. I moved and breathed and lived in pain and was so ready to let go of my body, of life as I knew it. When I couldn’t hold on any longer and came to you…I remember each moment as if it was etched into my being…
Reese looked at me for a second like he knew me as Helen. I said something about chamber music that touched a memory in him and I saw his face light up bright as a star then it went dark and he looked at me as I am now. He saw his Zoë, Amber, whom he seems to like at times and treats as a jailor other times.
It hurt. I’ve been thinking about what my Lord said to me: Be wise. Reese is too focused on Helen, on the life he once led. He is not focused on others. The Lord was right, of course. That is the basic flaw that Reese brought back with him, a form of self-centeredness that even when he was pouring all kinds of love out on me, right up to the minute I died, he was doing it to protect himself from loneliness, to secure my love, afraid that without all his efforts I might take my love from him. Nothing I said to the contrary was able to get through to him. It was why he returned as a Bio.
And in some ways, this extended separation now is continuing that. He’s so fixed on Helen’s return that he can insult or ignore Amber, and not only me, but his neighbors. He got fired from his job translating. I suppose as a driver he’ll be fine. But he’s not engaging as many people that way, not in a way that can break through and make him start to live for other people.
So I wait. I am surprised to find part of me wants to be Helen for him again. Show him the ‘me’ he remembers. Love him again because he is so lonely. But that would be like spraying a fixative on the rough sketch of his spirit: He would never grow the way he needs to in order to become a Zoë. That’s why he’s here. That’s why they’re all here. The God of Second Chances. He may be the God of a Thousand Chances — that is beyond my knowing. How many do I give Reese? How long do I leave him to grow on his own like a seedling? I always killed my plants by overwatering. Lord, let me not do that now.
Day 165: Reese’s Journal Entry 9: Bertha at the Border
I got fired from my driver job. Another escape attempt. I thought, if I can’t walk out of Möbius town, maybe Bertha can. Well, no. She reached some invisible fence or something at the crest of the ridge just outside of town and just stopped. I got out of the wagon and tried to reason with her, but after all, it she is just a horse. So, I figured, what the hell, let’s go back. But she wouldn’t budge. I was miles from town and sure as hell didn’t want to walk back — not without the wagon and especially not without Bertha. Sam, the Stable Master, would have a fit.
To tell the truth, Helen, I’d been wondering if there even was another region. This whole Möbius-town thing smacked of something out of M. C. Escher. Today, the Möbius-strip didn’t curve back on itself. Today there was just an invisible wall, one only Bertha could see. And of course, this not being my first day, Charley didn’t send his pigeon along. Tickle wasn’t there to tell her ‘Help, Tickle’ which would send her back to her roost, signaling I was stuck on my route somewhere. But word must have gotten around that I was out there stuck on the road. Amber came to get me on her bike. (I know, right? She could have “appeared” there without it.) I decided not to argue with her. We tossed her bike in the back of the wagon, and she took the reigns. One light tug on the reigns and Bertha turns around, and we’re headed back.
We didn’t say anything for a while.
“You thought I’d given up?” I asked. At first she didn’t reply. Then she asked when I was going to understand that I was not going to have things my own way.
“You think this is about me?” I asked. “It’s about Helen. Why isn’t she here? You’ve got people who were born before we were born and after. People who died before she did and after. Hell, you’ve got…”
“I know you well enough.”
“Don’t get me wrong. I love Charley. But that’s all the more reason why Helen should be here.”
“This is not a eugenics experiment.”
“Not that. I didn’t mean that Charley has Downs.”
“Charley can ask to be changed any time he wants to.”
“Oh. I never meant that, anyway. It’s just that Sam and Charley have each other. When I make deliveries, I see couples reunited who had lost babies they get to raise now. I’ve seen whole families of several generations all in one place. So where’s Helen?”
Amber didn’t say anything. “Look, if you’re not going to tell me anything, I have to find out on my own. I’m not going to stop looking for her.”
Then she said, “The problem is, Reese, you’re looking for the wrong reasons.”
“Wrong reasons?” I said. “What do you know about loving somebody?” I could see when I said that I’d hurt her feelings. “I’m sorry,” I said. Then I asked her: “How can a Zoë understand longing? Loneliness? Incompleteness?” Then she started crying. I thought Zoës were like angels — perfect beings. “Did I hurt your feelings?” I said.
“No,” she said. “I’m crying for you.”
That was pretty nice of her, don’t you think, Helen?
Day 165: Amber’s Journal Entry 3: Bertha at the Border
Reese tried to get to region 1819 using the horse that his pulls wagon, thinking the horse wouldn’t know any better. Of course the horse stopped before leaving the Region. And then, with God’s “no” stuck in its horse brain, it wouldn’t move. I borrowed a bicycle and rode out to release the horse. The horse is home again, happy in its stable. But Reese lost his job over it. And this time, he is restricted to his home until we are sure he will not wander again.
“Where would I go?” he asked, but we both knew exactly where: Region 2021. “The horses don’t deliver to that region, and I’m not going to get access to an automobile.” It saddened me to hear him lie like that. If he had the horse, he’d try to ride it out to 2021. If he had a car, he might try the same thing. If he thought he could take the train or even walk, he would. That’s how much of a one-track mind he has about finding Helen. How do I tell him that she doesn’t exist as he knew her? How do I tell him what it means to be transfigured? Literally born anew, not only a new body but also a new kind of body? To know that the limits imposed by embodiment are self-imposed and can be put on and taken off like clothing? To be able to stand in the presence of the Creator God, the ground plane of existence, the Love that undergirds reality and makes everything possible? To lose Self in Love and let Love be Self? Words fail me, become poor stand-ins. But there is no way to express what this is like. How do I tell any of this to Reese? I can’t dangle being a Zoë in front of him like a carrot, a reward for being good. It isn’t that. It never was. I can’t tell him I was/am Helen as well as Amber. There is no browbeating him into genuine consent. All I can do is wait.
Day 179: Reese’s Journal Entry 10: 2021 or Bust
I am thinking of making one last attempt to leave town, see if the Möbius curve that brought me back has any doors or even windows I can slip out of. If Region 2021 is our future, there is a chance, Helen, that you are there. That was where I tried to go the first time when I tried to get a train ticket. I won’t try that again. I’m just hiking out of here, down the tracks like I used to when I was a kid. I don’t think I’ve any better chance of making it this time than I did with Bertha. But I just can’t bring myself to give up yet. Since you died first, you should have been here first, but time isn’t linear. Nothing else is, either. Here goes, Babe. See you on the flip side. 2021 or bust.
Day 182: Amber’s Journal Entry 4: Unmade
I met Reese in the resurrectorium. Reese had encountered Casiel while trying to leave Region 1920, despite having been told repeatedly that he must not. Humans do not survive meetings with angels unless the angel holds back all but a sliver of its presence. Casiel did not destroy the planet, or even the region. But Reese and a mile or so of the ground around him was unmade. The Lord himself had to bring Reese back again. I am relieved that he chose to do that, for my love for Reese of old and my love for him as my charge, both would have been wounded. I only hope I was able to get across to Reese how close he came to the Second Death. If another Bios had gone bad and killed him, I wouldn’t have worried: A Resurrection from a sin not one’s own is to be expected. But to be disembodied by an angel for disobedience…
Reese did seem chastened, not for what he did, but for me. This is good, because concern for the impact of one’s actions on others is a surer sign of repentance than concern for oneself. If only he also knew that obedience has its own virtues.
He called me Helen when he first opened his eyes. “Hi Helen.” Just that, and he passed out and slept for hours. When he awoke a second time, I was Amber to him again. But the unexpected ‘Hi Helen,’ came so naturally from his mouth and with such a relaxed and happy smile… I remember when he went in for a minor surgery once. He woke up and said “Hi Helen” with a dream soaked voice and the same happy ‘I knew you’d be here’ smile. Now I know why it moved me so. When he first woke up, all that anxiety about me not being there, about Helen, as he knew her not being there, all that was gone. Never happened. It was the face I would have seen had I been in the resurrectorium as Helen, instead of Amber.
And Father, forgive me, but for the first time I wish it had been so. For a moment, and to see that happiness remain, I would have traded it all: all the glory you showed me, being cuddled in your love, seeing your beautiful face… It was like those happinesses were for someone else, and the one meant for me had just come and gone in Reese’s face.
Day 182: Wayne’s Journal 10: I’m Not Webster
I paid for my breakfast and walked down to get a copy of The 1920 Sentinel hoping there’d be something in it about the explosion. Last night a huge explosion blew out some of my windows and a few seconds later I was literally shaken from my bed and dumped on the floor, earthquake-style. It brought back a terrifying memory. Just before I died the same thing happened. The south side of Chicago lit up one night as if the sun had come down for a look around, then the wall of my apartment blew in. I seem to remember being drilled by debris in a moment of intense pain. I woke up in the resurrectorium. I haven’t thought about that night since.
Edward was already there at the Sentinel building, looking over a copy. “Nothing,” he said when he saw me.
“Nothing?” I went inside. Edward followed me in. There was no one at the front office. I could hear someone in back. “Hello?” I called. No reply. “Hello?!” More noises from the back. Edward stepped around the counter and through the door to the back.
“Hey!” he shouted. “Mark, ol’ buddy.”
“Oh, Eddy,” I heard Mark reply from the back. “Come on in.”
I followed Edward back. Mark’s dark green jumpsuit was mostly black, as were his hands, which were furiously working on changing the front plate of the paper.
“New Edition?” I asked. Mark looked up. I could see he was trying to place me.
“This is my buddy, Webster,” Edward said.
“Wayne,” I corrected. “Wayne Bailey. I run the New Harmony Delivery Company.”
“Oh,” Mark said, “Reese’s boss. I’d shake your hand, but…” He waved his ink-stained hand at me. “Reese is well-liked here at the Sentinel. Zelda especially—”
“Mark, old pal,” Edward said. “What happened last night? It wasn’t in the paper.”
“Oh, we mostly write that the night before. The news cycle is usually pretty slow around here.”
Edward snorted at that. “Give it up. What’s the story?” he said. “What’re you gonna to put in the paper?”
“Zelda’s out getting the whole story, but it looks like a comet landed outside of town.”
“When will she be back?”
Mark was putting in the headline COMET STRIKES! NO INJURIES when Zelda opened the alley door. She didn’t see us in the other doorway.
“Mark! Mark, it was an angel. An angel unmade Reese!” By now tears were flowing. “I just got back from the resurrectorium. Amber is there, and she—.” Zelda saw us standing in the doorway. “I’m sorry. I didn’t see you.”
“They came,” Mark said, “because the first editions didn’t have the scoop. Eddy, Webster, if you’ll excuse us, Zelda and I have a paper to get out.”
“It’s Wayne,” I said. We saw ourselves out, dropping our morning editions in the recycle bin just outside the front door.
“Shit,” Edward said. “That nails it, Webs…Wayne.”
“Let’s get a cup of coffee and I’ll tell you.”
“Marnie’s is open.”
“Nah. She went native long before I got here.”
“You know. She’s naked half the time. In a restaurant. Like she was a Zoë or something. I’m a couple blocks off Main. I’ll brew us a pot.”
“Well, I…” I looked at my wrist out of habit. Edward started laughing.
“Reflex, eh? Look, you know as well as I do, whatever it is, it can wait. If there’s one thing I do like about this burg, it’s that no one’s in a hurry.”
“I ought to get to the office.”
“You got employees for that. Come on.”
We were a block off Main street when Edward said, “The delivery company, right?”
“You said you run the delivery company. The one Reese works for.”
“That’s right. I suppose they can open without me.”
“You know they can. I was wondering what you thought of your transportation.”
“What do you mean?”
“Your fleet of trucks. They running okay?”
“Oh. I see.”
“Here we are,” he said when we reached his home. It was an unassuming workman’s cottage. It was painted gray, but it had a double lot and the yard next to it was filled with a riot of flowers with a path of brick winding through it.
“You’re quite a gardener, Edward,” I said.
“Eddy. I’m Eddy, Wayne,” and he emphasized my name. “My dad called me Edward. When he was pissed at me. Which was all the time.” We went back to the kitchen, which was large considering the size of the house. He busied himself heating water and setting up a drip while I sat at a table.
There’s a kind of guy you don’t anticipate having a domestic side until you encounter it. Eddy was that kind of guy. First the yard full of flowers. Then there were the water colors, of flowers, I’d noticed on the walls of the living room as we passed through to the kitchen. Then seeing him bustle about pulling cups down and setting them on the counter near the stove, pulling down the sugar bowl from another cupboard and putting it on the table, and getting the creamer from the small, 1940’s style refrigerator. He wasn’t wearing it, but there was even an apron hanging close to the stove. The house was neat, in a way atypical of single guys. My place back in the world, even with a dishwasher, always had dirty dishes on the counter, and my digs here are the same. Not Eddy’s. Here, a broom stood in the corner, the dustpan standing on its edge in front of it. There was a large vase of fresh flowers on the table, and a single rose in a vase on the widow ledge. Domestic Eddy.
He poured the coffees out and set one before me. He flipped his chair around and sat on it backwards.
“All right, Wayne. Spill. Tell me about this new life, here in The Kingdom.”
The way he said ‘the kingdom’ carried his air quotes and disdain for the place.
“Where are all the cars and trucks?” I asked. He knew it was a rhetorical question and nodded to indicate I understood what he was getting at. “That press, back at the Sentinel, that thing’s an antique even in the real 1920. Yet Marnie’s is a stainless steel diner, with vinyl seats and all the appliances you’d expect. In that diner green, no less.”
“And then there’s the fact that there are travel restrictions.”
“Blammo!” Eddy shouted and slammed his hand flat on the table, then pointed his finger at me. “I knew you saw it. This whole set up is fake, Wayne. As fake as a movie set.”
“Is that what you meant when you said, ‘Look up at the night sky’?”
“And did you?”
“Look up? At the sky?”
His face said ‘yes.’
“Yes. It’s all wrong.”
“Exactly!” he shouted again.
“I grew up without electricity, so I was used to seeing the night sky. Once you pointed it out, it was obvious.”
I ended up telling Eddy about the commune. He told me about his life growing up in the Great Depression, Union organizing before World War II, getting wounded at Anzio, then shot to death by his lover when he drove up to their apartment in his new Edsel convertible.
“I miss that car,” he said. “I went from sitting in the front seat of this turquoise beauty — Mack loved turquoise — to waking up in that resurrectorium. From seeing my blood soak the seats of my new car — seven miles on the odometer — to hearing beeping sounds in that operating room.”
It was an odd reminder that we weren’t back home, in the world that was, because if we were, I would be talking to a man from Eddy’s generation in a nursing home, or, at best, on his front porch as he struggled to speak past loose dentures.
“As I was saying earlier,” I said, “The night sky. It’s wrong.”
“Can’t find the Big Dipper.”
“Oh yes, I can,” I said. His eyebrow shot up saying both ‘no shit?’ and ‘are you calling e a liar?’ “But it’s moved. Orion is in the summer sky, and Polaris isn’t the pole star. We’re not in the Southern Hemisphere, either. I found the Pleiades, but not where they should be. So if what I am seeing is what I think I’m seeing, with Vega in the constellation Lyra as the pole star, we’re half way around the precession. 13,000 years.”
Eddy whistled. “I knew something was off.”
“Mind you, I’m not an astronomer. But that’s what it looks like.”
I nodded, and Eddy refilled our cups.
“Look at it, Wayne. We’ve got your precession, and now Zelda claims an angel came down from heaven and killed Reese.”
“Unmade,” I corrected him.
“Yes, strange word to use. All right, Wayne. Put it all together and it’s clear we’re not being told the truth. Zoës and all that. Angels. The Kingdom. Jesus has returned! Sure, sure. I’ll believe it when I see him. I have a word for you, Wayne.” He sipped his coffee, waiting for me to deliver his line. Eddy was obviously good at manipulating drama.
“What word, Eddy?”
I screwed up my face enough that he said, “I kid you not. Aliens or humans 13,000 years in the future. Or both. Could be both.”
Day 192: Reese’s Journal Entry 11: Casiel’s Crater
Just got home from the resurrectorium. The one for 1920. Woke up there because I was dead again. Angels can do that very easily. It seems I went too far, far enough that Amber says she was deemed “incapable on her own” of making it clear to me I had transgressed. So her angel, Casiel, came in person. You know how in the Bible the angels always say, “fear not” when they first appear to someone? There’s good reason for that. I got the full-on Ezekiel treatment and then some because the angel wasn’t asked to dial it back to keep me alive. I saw a vaguely human shape approaching me from a great distance and speed. As it got closer I realized it was hundreds of feet high. The thing was impossible to see whole. The face had eyes suddenly appearing where the mouth should be then that mouth becoming the beak of a raptor. Hands became wings that became lamps. The feet, when they could be seen, extended into the far distance then became clawed paws then human feet then disappeared again. And motion! All of it in motion everywhere changing moment to moment as I struggled to look at it and failed. I was a pebble at the foot of a mountain. My mind rebelled against looking at it. I got vertigo seeing it. Its foot approached me, toes or claws I could no longer tell, then it stepped on me, a snowflake ground beneath a glacier. I felt my body crushed into an impossibly small space, folded, flattened into a dimension lower than ours, squeezed until there was no room for breath, no room for thought.
Then I was somewhere else. I had no body, and I remembered being there before, and the thought entered my head “yes, you were here before, and judged not ready.” When I heard that I felt crushed. Deformed. I felt dirty. Naked in a shameful way. “Go back. Listen to her.” I remember thinking “I’ll try,” but without much conviction. Not that I didn’t want to, but that I wouldn’t be able to. Yet.
Helen, when I woke up and opened my eyes for a moment I could swear it was you sitting there. Something about Amber’s smile just then. She was so glad to have me back, she said that with her smile, your smile.
I’ve been wrong about her. She’s not my jailor, not my guard. I’ve been treating her like that, and I could see at times that it hurt. I don’t want to do that again. How can I justify hurting her trying to find you? What kind of guy would that make me? Why would you trust me to love you if I treated someone, anyone, that badly? If I were in a real prison, if she really were some Orwellian Big Sister, maybe then I could ignore what it does to her when I pretend she’s not there, or pretend she doesn’t have feelings.
I used to think she didn’t have feelings, that Zoës are different from us. In some ways, they’re never entirely here. I suppose part of them is always in Heaven. I thought that meant she didn’t want to be here. Part of her doesn’t, that’s clear. But it’s equally clear now part of her wants to be here, and even more surprising, be with me.
That, too, reminds me of you.
We talked when I woke up. She knew about the angel, of course. That’s when she told me about being told by her boss, some Zoë named Michael, “incapable on her own” of keeping me in line. Between not wanting to hurt her feelings and not wanting to get her into any more trouble, I can’t venture to leave the region again. It’s not like I haven’t tried. I’m going to have to wait until you come to me.
That reminds me of the old me — waiting on you to make the first move. Sorry if I’m repeating an old pattern from when we were together.
Day 225: Reese’s Journal Entry 12: Meteor Man
I feel like I’ve been puttering about. Nesting, almost. It’s starting to bug me. I cleaned the house like I’m expecting you to show up any day now. As if my reward for being a good boy is that they’ll finally let you come to me, however they arrange it. For a while, the hope blazed brightly enough to get me out of the house and even get me looking for work again. And yes, I did get another job. I got assigned one, actually.
Back home, in the world that used to be, pulling a stunt like I did would have had other repercussions. Like being found out to have been a criminal, I’d have been shunned. No shunning here. No one brings it up. No one looks sideways at me. Half the town is out there undoing my screw up, but people are as nice as ever, like nothing ever happened, like there wasn’t a mile-wide crater just outside of town. Of course no one was hurt. I think Casiel saw to that. But a cornfield and a rail line didn’t concern him. So as blamelessly as if it were a meteor and not a strike from Angel B52, the good citizens of Region 1920 organized a work party to put it all together again. They never made me feel like it was a form of community service. One of the guys, Eddy, has taken to calling me Meteor Man, because, he says “it took an angel falling like a meteor to stop you.”
So my new job, fittingly enough, is with the crew working to fill in the crater the angel left after it unmade me. Not that they trust me with heavy equipment. I can see that. ‘Hey, lets put the guy who caused this on a front end loader.’ In case you wonder, in a world with plenty of supernatural events, including air strikes by Heaven’s angels, why is the hole in the ground the responsibility of the Bios to fix? Why not just wave an angelic wand and ‘presto!’ no hole? Because that would be cheating, since it was a Bios who drew angelic wrath on the wheat field in the first place.
I get my hands and feet and everything else dirty each day shoveling earth back into the crater. Next, we’ll begin reseeding it. Another crew has temporarily run the rail line around the crater. Each day, working under the warm sun, I stop to watch a gorgeous locomotive engine of brass and red enamel go steaming by pulling wood-sided cars with decorative arched windows — and me standing in a field Van Gogh should be painting, wanting so much to get on the train, because you could be waiting at the next stop. And then the warm sun cools my temper. A child laughing as it delivers a drink to someone stills my anger. The common meal we share each day satisfies my hunger to search for you. I know something in me has changed. All I can do is wait for you here.
You’re near me, Helen. I can feel you at times. Something happens and I am about to turn to you and remark on it, and instead of twisting up because you are not there, I sigh. Sometimes I turn and Amber is there and I speak to her as if she was you, and she smiles and for a moment, she is you. One day, I will turn and you will be there. Not a sigh. Not Amber. You. I know it now. Call it faith for want of a better word.
Day 260: Reese’s Journal Entry 13: Personal: Where in the Galaxy Are We?
Eddy, the guy who calls me Meteor Man, suggested I write my journals with my own pen and paper. He’s right. I’ve been talking to Eddy while we finish filling in what most people call Casiel’s Crater (some call it Reese’s Crater). Interesting guy Eddy. Gives me a new perspective. I’m tired of having my Journals read by strangers. George Orwell call your office. More like a prison journal the warden can read. This one’s for you, too, babe. When you get here, Helen, I’ll show it to you. I wonder if keeping this private journal is like telling a lie? It feels like it. But hell.
We went to a dance the other day, we being a friend of Eddy’s from the pit crew, Mort, and my boss Wayne, and I. We had a blast. Not that I danced. Even in the Resurrection from the Dead, your Reese does not know how to dance. But with the music and laughing I did let go for a while of the loneliness. Oh, I still wanted you to be there with me, but somehow it didn’t hurt. Mort pulled a bowl out of his pocket and Eddy signaled me to follow. I was curious. I’d knew what Mort was holding, but I didn’t know what he intended to smoke in it.
We went out back, and there was a seating ring around a fire pit. Once I got used to the chill of the stone, it wasn’t bad. I could hear the music, but now it was fainter, like a backdrop to all the stars overhead. There are very few lights on at night, and there are so many stars. We didn’t see the Milky Way very often in the world that was. Now I see it every night and it never gets old. Ever.
Mort built a fire in the pit and after it got going he took his bowl out again.
“Okay, Mort, what is that?”
“It’s pot,” Eddy said. “We don’t smoke tobacco.”
“Nobody does anymore,” Mort added. There was a bit of disappointment in his voice.
“So where did you get this stuff? In the woods somewhere?”
“This ain’t ditch weed,” Mort said.
“I got this in the Dispensary, Meteor Man old pal,” Eddy said. “They carry it as just another herb.”
It’s true, Helen, that we Bios don’t die and never get really sick. But we eat and drink herbs to keep everything running smoothly, and that apparently is part of the ‘original plan.’ I’m still fond of Chamomile tea. But I never knew about pot in the Dispensary. Eddy explained that its tincture is used as medicine for us Bios and the herb is recommended as a light tea. I suspect they never planned on us smoking it since they do not sell pipes or papers or anything like that anywhere.
“Isn’t that against the law?” I asked.
“What law?” Eddy said. “You know of any laws?”
I had to admit, there really aren’t any laws on the books, because there aren’t any books so there aren’t any laws — just love God and love all the people. Sounds easy, but I find it isn’t all the time, as you’ve noticed from this journal.
“Okay. So it isn’t illegal. I bet your Zoë doesn’t approve.”
“What Arjun doesn’t know, won’t hurt him. He can’t read minds. If there is a God, I thank him for that. Not like I’m apologizing mind you.”
“If you think about it, Reese,” Wayne said, “people have needed altered states of mind since we first woke up from being monkeys.”
Eddy nodded. Mort was holding in a lung full of smoke.
“You know how they’re always on us to read the Bible?” Wayne asked.
“Yeah?” I said. I wondered where he was going with this.
“Well I went one better,” Wayne said. “I read about the Bible. That incense Aaron made for the Tabernacle in the book of Exodus? It included cannabis. So Mortimer made us our own pipe. God, I haven’t smoked since the commune.”
Wayne passed me the pipe. It has been ages since we got high together, hasn’t it Helen? The Woodstock generation was calling me back.
“Sure,” I said. Casiel brought out something of the rebel in me. As I waited for the high to hit me, I looked up again. I like looking at the stars and gas smeared across the sky. No wonder the ancients called it the Milky Way.
Eddy saw where I was looking, exhaled a stream of smoke, and said, “Can you spot the Big Dipper?”
I couldn’t. It shouldn’t have been that hard. I was beginning to think it was because we where high.
“The Pleiades then?” Wayne asked.
“Who are the Pleiades?” Mort asked. He had also brought a mason jar of something to drink, and began offering it around.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“Something you thought you’d never see again,” said Eddy
Mort rolled his eyes and slipped a small bottle from an inside pocket. I could see a clear fluid inside. He pulled a cork out and handed it to me. “Drink deep,” he said. I got it half way to my face and could smell the alcohol.
“200 Proof,” Mort said.
I took a sip and gasped. I couldn’t stop coughing for a long time while the vodka burned my insides from my throat to my guts.
“Shit, that was strong,” I croaked, eyes watering.
Mort smiled. “I’ve been working part time at the hardware after we finish on the crater. I take small stuff home no questions. For bigger stuff, I wait until we close, come back, and take what I want. Tillie never says anything.”
“She has to know, doesn’t she?”
“Sure she knows,” Eddy said. “You couldn’t take a nail out of there and she wouldn’t know it.”
“Nah,” Mort said. “She never charges people if they don’t have money.”
“You’re supposed to ask, Mort.”
“Don’t lecture us, Meteor Man,” Eddy said. “We took a few parts for a still. You blew a fuckin’ mile-wide crater in the ground. Fuck her anyway. Fuck you, too.”
“The Seven Sisters,” Wayne said.
“What?” I asked.
“We were talking about the Pleiades,” Wayne said.
I passed on a second sip from the bottle.
“So what?” Mort asked. He took a long swig, and some of it flowed down his chin.
“Simple, Mort my boy,” Eddy said, “the night sky is wrong.” Eddy seemed to take this seriously. Like he was mad about it.
“The constellations are shifted,” Wayne said.
“Right,” Eddy said. “I’ll lay it out for ya, Mort. None of us witnessed the so called Apocalypse, right? Who knows how long things went on. Just how long do you think it’s been, Meteor Man?”
“No idea. There’s a Region 2021 down the line, but no one will say if there’s another after that.”
“Or another, and another? We have no idea how long things went on. Wayne says at least 13,000 years. Maybe it’s 26,000? 130,000? Maybe these Zoës are evolved humans. We could be as out of date as a cave man. What would a cave man think if he witnessed the Trinity a-bomb test? Saw a B2 stealth bomber on a low flyby? Hell, five minutes of Maude would have him kissing your feet.”
“And begging for mercy,” Wayne said.
Mort drained the last of the bottle into his mouth then filled the bowl again. I decided I’d had enough.
“Or maybe,” Eddy said, “these Zoës aren’t evolved humans. Maybe they aren’t human at all. Do you see any Zoës here at the dance? Do you ever see any of them at any of the dances? Concerts? Gallery openings? Poetry readings? Hell, game nights even? Socializing in any way? If they’re human, why won’t they mix with us? Ever think about that? Hell, maybe we’ve been kidnapped. Where in the galaxy are we?”
Day 261: Reese’s Journal Entry 14: Personal: The Desert of My Future
It was the next day, when Amber showed up for lunch. We were still reseeding that mile wide hole Casiel left behind when he unmade me, and I happened to look up at the moon. I’ve always wondered at the moon, what it must have been like when some homo erectus man sat at the campfire he’d made, gnawing on a roasted leg of wildebeest, and looked up at the moon and wondered “what is that thing, anyway?” or whatever it was a homo erectus man would say when thinking deep thoughts. Sort of like looking up at it during Apollo 11 when I was a teenager and saying to myself, “thank you, homo erectus man, for inventing fire. Now there are men walking around up there.”
So, there was this nice full moon hanging there in broad daylight. We were on our morning break and Eddy was smoking another bowl and had passed it to Mort. I’d had enough for a few months so I passed on it and it went back to Eddy. (We no longer work with people from the whole region, just the three of us, unsupervised. Now that the hole is filled and the tracks are back where they used to be, no one seems to care how much work we get done reseeding a circle of dirt a mile wide. Like being on a permanent community service detail where you can get high if you want to.)
I think I said something like “Nice moon up there, Eddy.”
Eddy was holding in the smoke and he looked up at the moon and silently nodded. He let the smoke out and said, “yeah.”
I told him it “kind of makes me wonder about that big ball of rock swinging around Earth.”
Eddy just handed the bowl back to Mort with an ‘mm mm’ sound.
“It’s been swinging around the Earth a long time, Eddy.” I wondered when he would take the bait.
“Are you trying to freak me out, buddy?” Eddy said. “You know I’m doin’ some mushrooms today, so what the fuck?”
I said I was only pointing out that if we’ve been abducted by aliens and taken to another planet, they brought the moon with them. Not to mention cannabis.
“Okay, Meteor Man,” he said. “Maybe we are on Earth. Wayne’s right though. We’re at last 13,000 years in the future.”
He was right. We really didn’t know how long it was since we died. No one would talk about it, which returned me to the question ‘why?’ that seems to permeate everything. Why was the information we got so limited? What harm was there in at least telling me where you are, Helen? And suddenly, all my complacency vanished. And just as suddenly, I was mad again. Eddy had got me thinking.
Seeding and planting trees in a mile-wide circle of ground makes it hard to stay mad. It takes a lot of energy to do both. And although I kept thinking about it, doing gardening, which is what we were doing, really, has a Zen quality to it. For once, Eddy was silent. He was even shoveling, which was rare. He might have been pondering the moon.
We heard a railcar driving toward us around midday. It looked a bit like Model A Ford on rail wheels — black with large headlights and a cowcatcher on the front. The canvas top was buckled down, but I figured it was Amber. She stepped out of the railcar naked, as Zoës sometimes are.
“For Christ’s sake,” Eddy yelled, “put some fucking clothes on.” Eddy never minced words. Amber immediately took on an appearance of wearing a jumpsuit. It was like looking right at a special effect: Her body became hazy as if she were a mirage, then turned blue, then there she was in a blue jumpsuit.
There had been times lately when I forgot she is a Zoë, when in fact she reminded me of you, Helen. Her laugh, the very things she found funny. And then she goes and pulls a stunt that reminds me she’s not human. Maybe not alien, like Eddy was suggesting the other night. But not human. More like a walking special effects department. She took a basket of food from the car, and I realized that the reason she drove out. Otherwise, she could just appear out of nowhere. Not like a human.
I think she saw the look on my face, because the smile she’d regained after realizing she’d done her special effect, a smile I know was for me — and yes, God, I am grateful for it — the smile was gone when she read my face.
She said she brought me a lunch because she thought I needed it.
I thanked her because all I ever make for myself are peanut butter sandwiches. We sat away from the others. It was a silent lunch. That weighed on me. After all the trouble she took to make the food, find the railcar and drive out, I should have been more grateful. She was even eating lunch with me. I kept casting glances at the car until she finally noticed.
“I cannot let you take the railcar,” she said.
“Was I being that obvious?” I replied. But I knew I was. I wanted to jump on that car, fire up the motor and see how far I could get before I got blasted again. If I got close to a town, would the angel destroy the whole city for one unrighteous man?
“You were doing so well,” she said.
That did it. I wasn’t sure if they thought I was crazy and restoring the hole was occupational therapy or if this was a punishment for criminal activity.
“Doing well?” I said. “You mean behaving myself? Sitting at my desk and raising my hand when called on? Not drawing outside the lines? Listen, Amber, I’ve been getting up from my desk all my life. I’ve been drawing outside the lines and going down the hall to the principal’s office. When I was resurrected from the dead, God sure did a bang up job because I’m still me, still drawing outside the lines. If he didn’t like that, he shouldn’t have put me back the same way.”
“Reese,” she said, “God loves that boy who draws outside the lines. That’s why he brought you, the real you, back.”
“If God loves me so much, why can’t I get an answer to my fucking question?”
Mort and Eddy were watching the whole thing. Eddy said “there’s the tracks, buddy, if it bothers you so much.” But I knew he didn’t mean I should blow it off. He meant I should go, by railcar or on foot, but go. Do what I think best. Me. Not Amber, not the Zoës, not God. Me.
“Come with me then,” I said to her. “Take me to the next region so I can see for myself she’s not there.”
“Are you saying I’m lying to you?”
That hurt, and when she said it, I realized what I had said to her had hurt her the same. I admitted she’d never said anything untrue. But I reminded her she didn’t tell me the whole truth. “And that’s the same thing.”
“You were a parent. You know it isn’t the same thing.”
That made it worse. So my Zoë is my parent now? I headed toward the railcar.
I knew Eddy was watching me, and I didn’t want to explain to him why I backed down. She kept saying ‘don’t’. When I got to the railcar, she was there, sitting in the railcar. I must have blinked. “I can’t let you do this. Not again.”
I stepped on the foot rail and opened the door. “Move over.” I don’t know what Zoës can do, compared to angels. Perhaps she could have blasted me. But she slid over to the passenger side of the car. I reached for the keys and she put her hand on mine.
“Look around a moment,” she said.
I pulled my hand back from the keys.
“Tell me what you see.”
I saw the remains of a mile wide crater, a circle where I and the earth for a mile around had been unmade. Not the verdant earth, rich grasses, trees full of birds. It was a circle of desert. And I had made it.
No. Casiel had made it. My request was perfectly reasonable. All I wanted was to know where you were, Helen. All I wanted was the truth. The whole truth, not the truth my guardian, my Zoë, deems I should know. Not the truth anyone deems I should know. Not even God if it comes to that. I could deal with the truth. It was the half truths I was having a hard time with. And worse than that, it was being treated like a child. Get over it God. The apple has fallen, and not even You can put it back into the tree.
“Tell me, Reese, what do you see?” she asked.
I saw a desert.
“My future,” I said, and climbed out of the cab.
Day 262: Amber’s Journal Entry 5: My Railcar Error
In his wisdom, he has put Reese to the task of undoing some of the damage from when Casiel unmade him. I went out to the worksite. He is assigned work with two other Bios who I am not sure are good for him. One of them is a simple follower, but the kind who follows baser inclinations if he goes anywhere. His name is Mortimer. There is a dark spring coiled within him. The other one, Edward, is trouble of another kind. He seeks it. I will have to work with his Zoë.
It is not the first time I have been asked to “put on clothes.” That was not the problem: It was how he said it. It was everything else about him. I wonder that Reese doesn’t see this person clearly, as a sinkhole of negative energy. The word “troublemaker” came to mind for the first time in many years. I knew that after the first few waves of resurrecting Bios who were on the cusp of being born again into Zoë life, we would eventually begin to resurrect those who, like Reese, were probably never quite going to get there in the world the way it was. People who need a world tilted toward right instead of wrong, where thinking of others — and here let me say that outside of his preoccupation with finding me, Helen, the former me, Reese is a joy to all who know him in Region 1920, just as he was in the world before.
Edward, on the other hand, is of a type I had not encountered since I lived in the world that was. We will be getting more and more of these in the waves to come, I know. We were told at the beginning that the plan was that the vast majority get another chance, in the hope that by starting off with the world righted, the vast majority will be born again before the later waves begin to bring in more and more of those who are so broken they refused to be loved into health, and eventually they will ruin the world one last time.
And now I encounter the first of these. And I trust in Abba’s wisdom in turning them back from this path. And I know Abba loves Edward and Mortimer, too, and wants them to learn to love him.
When I got to the worksite, I could smell cannabis in the air. I was worried at first that Reese had fallen back into a habit of using it, but I could tell quickly from his demeanor that it was only Mortimer and Edward who were using it. But there was still something wrong.
Of course it turned out to be Helen. Reese’s calm acceptance that Helen was not part of his life, even though he was hoping she would be again, had been such a stride forward that I was shocked to see how fully he had returned to being obsessed with her absence. All he could talk about when I brought out a lunch was Region 2021 and were there more regions? Could Helen be in one and why could he not at least “get an answer to my fucking question?” even if he could not go there himself. Edward’s corrosive influence had already begun to work in him.
It was somewhere in that discussion that Edward said “there’s the tracks, buddy, if it bothers you so much.” The way he said it if you didn’t see him could have indicated that he thought Reese was being obstreperous. His voice carried it. But the gesture he made, two fingers on one hand walking across the palm of the other hand, and the wink when we both turned to look at him, suggested he was making a dare.
Apparently Reese is getting better at reading me and saw that I was disappointed. He said he was sorry if he’d upset me, and finally thanked me for bringing out a lunch because all he ever makes myself are PBJs.
I must find out who Edward’s Zoë is.
Day 273: Reese’s Journal Entry 15: Personal: Tornado Town
Long day today. I hadn’t seen Amber in a few days. She came by to ask why I wasn’t keeping my journal. I lost track of how many days I’ve been here, so even if I started back on the journal for the Zoës, I wouldn’t know how to date it. I almost told her I was keeping a private journal, but if I did that my private journal wouldn’t be private anymore. I couldn’t see in her any hint she knew about it. It’s obvious that they aren’t mind readers, and that if God is concerned about it, He’s not telling them. I told her I didn’t want to talk about Zoë stuff like that. She seemed sad, and I knew I had once again cut her off. But I didn’t want to deal with her Zoë concern about me. She left after a little while.
Eddy had said he had something to show me. I was to meet him behind the hardware store where he was working now. Eddy got a job somehow, though. He got off work at 3:00, like just about everybody else. No one works on Sunday, and a lot of businesses are only open a few days a week. This is not your good old-fashioned capitalism. If I needed a shovel for my garden, even though I have no money, and I’ve been out of work since filling in the great Casiel Crater, I could go into Tillie’s Hardware and tell her I needed a shovel, and she’d loan it to me either until I don’t need it anymore or until I was working and could pay for it. There was no paperwork needed, just tell her I need it. Honor system all the way down.
I arrived about quarter after three. The alley, like everything else, was clean. The only litter I saw was at Eddy’s feet. He’d dropped his sandwich paper on the ground. Paper biodegrades pretty quickly, but even so I couldn’t imagine anyone dropping litter on the ground.
“Hey, Meteor Man, what kept you?” he said.
“I got distracted. Have you seen the clouds?”
Eddy said he hadn’t been paying attention. Then he put a pipe in my hand.
“Something you’ve probably never seen.”
“Check it out! Working here’s been a boon.”
A gust of wind blew dirt into my eye. I heard thunder in the distance.
“What do you need a bomb for?”
“A pipe bomb is not a self-defense weapon.”
“A pistol is a lot harder to make.”
“You’re going to hurt people, Eddy. You’ll get hurt, yourself.”
“Don’t be a chickenshit. Like Debs said, ‘“While there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.’ Feeling free lately, Meteor Man? Or is your star already fallen?”
It started raining. Hard. I’ve seen rain here, lots of times. Nice gentle rains, occasional thunderstorm. I’d never seen anything like this. It was blowing hell and we were getting pelted with more than rain. I got bonked by some huge hail before we remembered we didn’t need a key to get into the store.
It was dark inside, and I was dripping water on Tillie’s red and white tile floor. I could hear the hail drumming on the roof, the wind slamming sheets of water against the windows. The brick street out front was a brown river. The restaurant across the street lost its potted plants, then the tables and chairs blew over. One caught the wind and flew, another went through the restaurant window. The awning bent backward against the building, one corner ripped off, then the whole thing flew away. A tree limb went cartwheeling down the street. Then I heard a deep rumbling sound that began building to a roar and felt my ears pop at the sickening drop in pressure.
“Eddy!” I yelled. “It’s a tornado. We need to get into a room with no windows. Like the bathroom.”
“It’s at the…”
The roof lifted off and then fell back askew on the walls and began sliding down into the store on top of us. I dived under a display table just before the roof caved in.
Day 273: Amber’s Journal Entry 6: Tornado Town
A tornado has destroyed parts of New Harmony and heavily damaged the rest. This is hard to write about. Abba tells us that this is necessary. Many lives were…the word “lost” first came to mind, but that word no longer applies. “Displaced” would do, as any Bios lives ended will be returned soon. Their goods will not be returned. It is a huge shock to the Bios in New Harmony, I know. Their Shalom, their living experience of the Peace of God, was briefly taken from them. Abba has allowed the Tikkun Olam, the repair of the world, to be set back. Some of them have paid for the distance others have put between themselves and their King. This is hard to explain. I understand exactly what Abba means, but when I try to put it in words, things get jumbled. I’ve spoken to a lot of innocent Bios the last few days, and my heart goes out to them. Their hard work has been swept away. I haven’t spoken to Reese, who is in the resurrectorium. Abba says not to for the moment. Reese has a path to walk right now, and he will think he is walking it alone. We never walk our paths alone.
Day 273: Wayne’s Journal 11: Tornado Town
I sure as hell didn’t see it coming. In California we get earthquakes. Tornadoes are so rare that some people think of them as an impossibility. I never saw one. No one I know…knew has ever seen one. So when the sky started to get dark I thought “storm,” as in one of those whoppers off the Pacific. But not what we got.
I ought to be glad the New Harmony Delivery Company was largely skipped with only a few broken windows from stuff blowing around. The stable downtown where all our horses stay was demolished. All the horses dead. Sam’s heartbroken and fit to spit nails. Charley was killed, too. It’s a blow to everyone’s confidence in the Zoës. I’m hearing talk I’ve not heard since I got here.
Eddy seems to relish it. He’s in his element. He says he can sense things are about to change.
“You’ll be able to profit by your labor,” he says.
“I thought you used to be a big union organizer.”
“The enemy of my enemy and all his cousins. You may have been a rich industrialist…”
“Just as bad. But you were an American for all that. We didn’t see eye to eye on what was good for America, but I fought for her just the same. Is this kingdom to your liking?”
“Fuck, man, you hate it. I can see it written all over you, your face, your posture. Everything. You’re like a pent up racehorse, Wayne, raring to get out there and build something. This Podunk business you run, I know you. You want to do more with it. Hell, Wayne, I’d fight you at the barricades to bring in the Teamsters, but before I can organize your workforce, ya gotta have a fuckin’ workforce worth organizing, not two wagons with sleeping drivers. The bigger your outfit, the bigger the union. We’re two peas in the same pod, Wayne, and you know it.”
I could see him trying to read my face, and it couldn’t be that hard. I didn’t like the limitations the Zoës put on everything. Soft socialism didn’t build anything, it only fed off what was already built. I could go places. There had to be more people like me, here, in 1819, in 2021, people ready to build a new world. Even guys like Eddy had a place in it, as long as they didn’t get too big about it.
“So what do we do?” I asked. I could see Eddy was brewing something.
“You need to have a word with Michael. I’m blacklisted, but you’ve still got his ear.”
“This tornado calls for a Town Hall event.”
“Oh.” I wasn’t sure what he meant.
“A public meeting. Get it?”
“Oh, I see.”
“No, I don’t suppose you do. But try to arrange one. And soon. You know how upset people are. Tell Michael he needs a Town Hall meeting to bring peace and order to things. Butter him up. Say anything you have to. Just get me, us, a meeting.”
“Don’t fail me, Wayne. Our freedom starts with this meeting.”
Day 311: Reese’s Journal Entry 16: Personal: Bertha and the Hovering Steam Shovels
I woke up back in the resurrectorium, but not because I was killed in the tornado. It seems it’s also the Regional Hospital. Broken ribs and a concussion is easier to recover from than having a super being turn you into an atom bomb. I went to see what happened to Eddy.
“You look like death warmed over,” he said when he saw me in the doorway.
Of course Eddy would use a cliché.
“That would have been more accurate after Casiel was done with me,” I said. “This time it was just concussion and contusion.”
“What do you think of all the commotion?” he asked.
“You haven’t been outside yet? Oh, buddy, you’re missin’ out.”
“I just woke up.”
“Toss me my robe,” he said. I gave him his robe from the hook on the door and we went to the rooftop pergola. Just downhill from the resurrectorium was the town, and it was as close to a beehive of activity as I have ever seen. Black smoke belched from steam shovels. Much of the machinery was diesel powered, but a few pieces were hovering over building sites without visible rotors. Anti-gravity plates?
It was as close to the other regions as I would probably ever get.
“I’ve got to get down there. Now.”
“What’s the hurry?”
“One of those things might be my ticket to Helen.”
I didn’t have too much trouble checking out. I just showed up at the front desk and said I felt well enough to return to work. With no insurance companies or liability lawsuits to worry about, they just noted I was checking out and that was it.
I love the simplicity of this world.
As I was still near the valley ridge, one of the dumpsters from Region 2021 went by. Except for a bit of tire noise it was silent. Not something I usually experience when a huge dumpster goes by. Batteries maybe? A hybrid perhaps. It still used tires. I wanted to get a closer look at one of the hovering things. Who knows what region they were from.
Before heading down toward town, I looked across the river to the other side of the valley and saw several teams of horses pulling wagons up the opposite hill — toward Region 1819.
It occurred to me that if the Zoës were willing to relax the isolation during times of trouble, and if I could get a job driving one of those trucks, I could get into 2021 and check the records for you. Sure, there could be other Helen Smiths, but I had to see for myself. If they turned me down, I still might be able to get my driver’s job back and drive debris the other way, to 1819.
Closer to town it was really bustling. Two of the brick buildings that had come down in the tornado were already cleared out and the wood framing was going up. I passed the hardware store where Eddy and I were when it struck. It hadn’t been cleared yet, and there were a mix of Zoës and Bios pawing through the wreckage — I could tell who was who because the Bios were all in protective gear. If the Zoës hadn’t been in those glowing “skin” outfits, I bet I would have seen the Zoë equivalent of “FBI” on a jacket or two.
What were they looking for? Did they know about Eddy’s pipe bomb? That was probably it. I felt like I was walking past the epicenter of the tornado, like it came from far away because of Eddy and the hardware store, drawn to it like a bull toward a red cape, smashing the offending sin and blowing past until it was spent in the forests somewhere.
I found a Bios with a clipboard, sure sign of a supervisor.
“How can I sign up? I’m a driver.”
“All our diesels have drivers. Try the stable.”
“What about those new ones?”
He looked at me like I was being a smart ass or something. In a way, I was.
“I think they look cool,” I said, trying to deflect his curiosity.
“We don’t assign drivers for those.”
I should have known.
I found the stable, the temporary one, just outside of town. It was being run by my old boss, Sam.
“Hey Sam,” I said, putting on my most innocent face.
“Reese. Glad you’re out of the hospital. Lookin’ to drive?”
“I liked working with the horses.” Telling the truth makes things easier.
“They brought Bertha back. Took a shine to them.”
“Brought her back? As in ‘from the dead?’”
“I know. With all the Zoës have going on, wasn’t that nice of them? She was killed when the stable collapsed. 1819 sent their veterinaries for the rest of them, but they couldn’t save Bertha. Albert, my Zoë, saw to it that she was brought back. Good as new and still the same sweet mare.”
I had known of a few Bios whose pets were brought back when they were first resurrected, but I never heard of an animal being brought back twice.
“You must love her a lot,” I said.
“Best mare I’ve ever had.”
A frown flashed across his face and he was looking off somewhere else. It lasted a fraction of a second and was replaced by a smile that grew to include his whole face.
“Zoë. The stable fell in and killed him. They brought him back a Zoë. If ever there was an angel on earth, Reese, it was him. I miss him. All I got now is Bertha. Let’s get her rigged. Be careful with her around those machines. She gets skittish. The last driver was a bit, um, hard on her.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell Sam I was planning to use Bertha to break the rules again. If I could get into one of those “wagon trains” there was no way Casiel would destroy us all. Even if they brought everyone back, it would be disruptive. Though I had to admit to myself, the disruption would really be my fault. Again. I wondered if Casiel would unmake me — again? Perhaps he could do a surgical strike and even the wagon seat wouldn’t smolder. I hated to think he might take Bertha, too. Maybe they wouldn’t bring her back twice. It would be my fault. If they didn’t bring me back, whose fault would it be?
Theirs. Sometime a rebellion is necessary.
Sam held out a blue cotton jumpsuit. “When the steam shovels dump their loads sometimes it gets messy. I wouldn’t want you cut with something bouncing from the rig. That scrub you’re wearing is flimsy cotton. This may seem flimsy,” he said, tossing it at me, “but it would stop a bullet.” It must have been a figure of speech. I doubt if anyone had tried that. Bios don’t have guns, and Zoës don’t need them. The jumpsuit felt light and soft as silk. It had to be from one of the higher regions. There were carrot pieces in a pocket.
Sam gave me a clipboard for registering the number of loads. I was to haul debris from the site of the old Library. My favorite building in town had been reduced to two walls.
Bertha was easy to work with, of course. She pulled our little wagon in line behind several large wagons with wooden spoke wheels (mine were rubber tires) pulled by teams, and drivers wearing woolens, not bulletproof jump suits.
Region 1819. The steam-powered shovel we were queuing up for might be from there, too.
One by one the wagons got loaded and pulled away. Bertha got more nervous the closer she got and then refused to go any closer. I climbed down off the wagon and went over to her. I took one of the carrots Sam had given me from my pocket, but Bertha was too nervous to want it. I stoked her nose a while, but no dice. The wagon behind me went around me. Sam wasn’t going to be happy about this.
“Come one, little girl. You can do this. I’ll walk with you.” I tried pulling the reins a bit and she took a few paces forward but then shovel blew off some excess steam with a hiss and Bertha pulled back. As the shovel reached down for a bite clanking and squealing its ironwork arms, she began backing into the wagon behind us. I thought I was going to lose her.
Someone behind me said “Hi Reese. Let me help.”
It was a Zoë. He looked familiar, but I couldn’t remember if I’d seen him before. Zoës are hard to picture in our minds sometimes. He didn’t have that wiggle-picture look. He was very young. That shock of blonde hair…
“Bertha, let Reese take you to the work,” he said. Bertha whinnied something — I don’t speak horse. She calmed down enough to nuzzle the carrot still in my hand. I let her have the bunch of them.
“That’s right, Reese. Charley. Bertha knew me before you did. Didn’t you Bertha?” Bertha was too into her carrots to realize she’d been spoken about.
“Sam told me.”
“Yes, he’s sad. I would like to visit, but I can’t yet. He misses me. He’s lonely now. But not for long. She’ll be fine now, Reese.”
“Bertha. She’ll be fine now.”
I turned to see if Bertha was finished with her carrots. When I turned back, Charley was gone. I got back into the rig.
By the time I was a couple of wagons from the head of the line, I was close enough to see two men in the cab of the steam shovel, one standing before a collection of levers, the other standing in the open doorway of the cab — wooden siding over a metal fame — shovel in hand and smoking a small pipe. The operator swung the cab around and dumped a load into the wagon ahead of me, finishing with a short toot.
Bertha and I pulled ahead. When the first shovelful was dumped into the wagon, I could feel the weight and bounce of it. Bertha shifted but kept her cool. I said a prayer of gratitude for Charley. Two more and my wagon were full.
My paperwork told me to head to north side of town, out toward what has become known Casiel’s Crater. (I was glad they didn’t name it after me.) Instead, I followed the wagon ahead of me.
Bertha had no objection, and I noticed the wagon immediately after me, another from 1819, was following me as I was following the wagon ahead of me. The wagon ahead of me crossed the ridge and began to descend. Bertha kept climbing but once again she stopped when we reached the crest of the ridge.
“Come on girl. Nothing to be afraid of. See the horses ahead of you?” I knew it was silly. I could see the horses ahead of us, and the man driving the team. Maybe Bertha could see them, but she had no idea what I was going on about.
The wagon that had been behind me pulled along side.
Woolens — in summer. Straw hat. Bearded. My first thought was Amish; then I saw the mustache. His black hair caught a breeze coming across the ridge. His face had the tanned leather look of a man who spent his life outdoors.
“My horse. She won’t follow the wagon ahead of me.”
He looked at the rubber tires on my wagon.
“Those must be hard for her to pull.” I didn’t know what to say to that. “Your region’s wagons dump north of town. You’ve been going the wrong way, son.”
“Oh,” I said, trying to think of something plausibly ignorant. “I’ve come this far, I may as well take this the rest of the way.”
“Two problems I see with that.” Another long pause. The usual turn taking in speech was different.
“What’s that?” I asked, to keep the dialog moving.
“Your horse is apparently trained to stay close to home.”
“No, I doubt it’s that,” I lied.
He raised an eyebrow. He knew.
“Maybe so,” he said, “but it’s further to go on than to go back.”
It was clear he knew what was up and would not help me to either convince Bertha to go on or take me with him if I was dumb enough to ask.
“Come on Bertha, back home.” I didn’t even have to flick the reins. She pulled the wagon off the road, into a circle, and back toward the road again. The driver from 1819 looked back at me until Bertha had completed her circle, going around the next driver going back to 1819 before pulling onto the road and into our lane.
That was it. No 1819.
I dismissed trying to steal one of the vehicles from 2021. Not only did I think it hopeless, I couldn’t make myself want to do it. Like putting a 9-volt battery to your tongue, you know you can, but it tastes awful and why would you do that? So, for all my rebellious, obstreperous, and every other ‘ous’ ways, I’m not exactly the me I used to be.
Day 311: Sam Sprecher’s Journal 2: Funerals in Your New Kingdom?
So Reese came by today and asked for his old job back. Well he asked for a new job driving again helping with the reconstruction. I hesitated until when he said he liked working with the horses I knew he was telling the truth. And he didn’t hurt Bertha taking her to the border like that. His Zoë had to release her that day, but it didn’t hurt her any. If he would a left her there hitched to her wagon and walked back to town by himself, if she would a been left all alone on the border like that I’d a decked him one next time I saw him.
But he didn’t. He waited there with Bertha. His Zoë later told me he gave Bertha the bread off his sandwich. Since Bertha liked him and Charley had always spoken well of him I let him have Bertha.
Naturally, he asks after Charley.
Reese seems to be one of those people who always asks the wrong thing at the wrong time. It’s been just over a month since the tornado blew down my stable and took everything. All the horses including Bertha and it took Charley.
After it blew over I headed straight for the stables because I knew Charley was still working. I saw the wreckage. A wall and a handful of timbers. When I got close I could see blood from a few of the stalls. They suffered, some of them did. Most of them were just crushed like Bertha.
Charley was crushed too. He was in the office near the back, which wasn’t one of the walls left standing. I found him under wreckage piled on top of the desk. He probably had gotten hit by one of the boards. When I finally got to him, he was already cold.
So tell me God. Just tell me. I know Charley is supposed to be with you now. But was it your idea that there would be funerals in your new Kingdom? First Frank Talbot at the hand of that Mort Drake sonofabitch then the whole town is wiped out.
My Zoë Gary comes by to offer me condolences for my loss. Okay, okay. And Charley? I ask him. They’ll bring back the horses as soon as we can get the stable rebuilt for them. Even Bertha he says. Well, that’s fine, I says. And Charley?
Well Sam, Charley will come back but Jesus says he’s ready to be a Zoë.
So he won’t have Downs anymore?
He gave me this weird look.
Why would that matter?
He cut me in two with that one. Like Solomon’s sword. I love Charley with all my heart. I love that grin he gets when he makes a joke and he sees that I get it. I love how he just loves on people dumps love on them by the bucketful. And God do the animals ever love him. They must sense it how much he loves them. I can’t let go of it though. I just want Charley without Downs. I want both. I want the loving Charley whose goofy grin means the world to me and I want a Charley who can help me keep the books in the stables. That’s not as hard as it used to be, because there’s no real money now. Back in the world that was I hoped he would be high-functioning enough for that. But math escaped him. Before he was born I wanted my son to be a vet. I wanted my son to make his own way in the world. So Gary’s question brought it all back.
I said it wouldn’t matter. Bring him back Zoë or Bios I’ll just be happy to see him again.
He says That won’t happen right away.
I knew I had heard him correct. I just couldn’t believe it.
He repeated what I already heard.
What do you mean not right away?
Apparently, it wasn’t helping me ‘heal’ by having Charley close by. So Charley is going to return as Zoë to a different part of the region. So no Em. And now no Charley.
He said I’m sorry, Sam
Sure I said then I got wiseass. Welcome to the new Earth, same as the old Earth I said. That bit about no more pain and suffering was just BS?
He says For the vast majority of people here, it’s true.
Just my luck to be resurrected here then?
I suppose he says. You didn’t contribute to the tornado, I know. But things like that are mindless. They’re not like an angel who
And here I stopped him. So that’s who, I said. That’s who brought this down on us, isn’t it I asked. I was sure all along it was Meteor Man. Reese.
Not entirely he says. Then he says not even mostly.
Who then? I asked him.
I’m not at liberty to say he says. I’m thinking do I know this guy at all? He’s been my Zoë for years now and here he starts talking like this.
The judgment is not mine he says. Sam, your going to get all your horses back, and your stables. Charley is alive, more alive than ever before in his life. His mind and spirit are in full sink. But there is never anything to regret about his Down’s syndrome. It made him one of the most wonderful souls I have ever met. He’s an amazing person and that’s in part thanks to you.
Me? I asked. But I have to admit that helped soften me up.
You Sam. he said. I know what you wish regarding Charley. But its between you and me and God. Em never knew how you felt and when we bring her back we aren’t telling her. Charley doesn’t know. And you know why, Sam? Why neither of them could see there was a part of you that wanted a Charley without Downs?
Why? I asked. You may as well tell me since you seem to know me better than I do myself.
Because your mind was divided about Charley but your heart wasn’t. Its that simple he says. So let your heart guide you now, Sam. Let it help your mind rejoice for Charley the way your heart has always done. When you do that and let go once and for all Charley will drop by for a visit. Maybe more than that. I can’t say. But he needs to be separate from you right now not because of him but because of you. He’s looking forward to it to seeing you with his new eyes. The eyes that can see God face to face still long to see you face to face. I remember those words of his. Eyes that can see God face to face long to see me face to face.
Day 316: Sam Sprecher’s Journal 3: Charley’s Visit
I think Charley is perfect. I always think Charley is perfect. He actually seems happier now. I asked him is that because your mind is clearer now? And he says no. He says he gets to spend time with God and that makes him happy. He looks the same as if he had Downs. But I think he talks a little different. I’m just so happy when I see him I don’t think about it until he goes then I think of this shiny new Charley and they’re the same. Gary says Em will be here soon.
Day 345: Reese’s Journal Entry 17: Contaminant
In all this commotion of tornado and rebuilding, I never saw Amber. I wondered if it was that she was so busy with the rebuilding that she didn’t have time to spend with me. I wondered if it was that she knew of my escape attempt, aborted as it was, and was too disgusted with me to want to talk to me right now. It could have been any number of things. But I missed her. I liked talking to her. She was never judgmental, yet made me judge my own behavior, or misbehavior, if you prefer.
More and more she’s reminding me of you, Helen. I said once before I had surrendered the idea of trying to find you, of waiting here for you. I am not only back to that, I’m beginning to think I won’t see you. Not that I don’t think you’ll be resurrected. Maybe you already have been and we’re just never going to be allowed to see each other. After the tornado, and the drinking hooch with Eddy I was doing just before it hit, maybe it’s best this way. I feel like a contaminant. You’ll notice, Helen and Amber, that I’m putting this in my official journal, the one I know the Zoës have access to. That’s another sign of surrender.
There’s a regional meeting this week. There are two common topics nowadays, and it’s probably about them: Everyone is talking about the tornado and Mortimer.
Now that we’re far enough along on the cleanup (and the people from 1819 and 2021 are gone) that we’re down to painting and restocking and swapping stories of the event, people are starting to ask why. So, dear official journal the Zoës can read: Why? I’m asking.
Why did a tornado hit? We have flawless days for most of my time here. When we did get a lashing thunderstorm, old timers, bios who’d been here a couple of centuries or so, said it was the first they could remember. Then a short time later a tornado sweeps through.
The other is Mortimer. To me, that’s the bigger news. Mort killed a man.
Resurrectorium 1920-η: Michael Leete Director: Transcript of Interview of Mortimer Drake by Zoës Michael and Joseph Murkowski. Disposition of Mr. Drake TBD. Due to the nature of the proceedings, Mr. Drake’s comments are transcribed as spoken.
Zoë M: Mortimer Drake. I am Michael, and this is Joseph, your Zoë counselor. Do you know where you are and why you are here?
Bios D: I hit someone.
Zoë M: Mortimer, you are in Resurrectorium 1920-η. I am Michael, the Director of the Resurrectorium, and this is my office.
Bios D: I’ve seen better.
Zoë J: Mort, we’re giving you a chance to tell us in your own words what happened. The man you slugged died because you hit him so  hard. We brought him back, and he’s home with family and friends. So this is your chance to tell us what the  you were thinking when you socked him.
Bios D: Read my mind.
Zoë M: Only God can do that, Mortimer. So we have to ask you…. Let me make something clear to you. The Lord has proclaimed, “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain.”
Bios D: What mountain? What are you fuckers talking about? I didn’t kill anyone in the mountains.
Zoë M: It’s a scripture, Mortimer, which says God will not permit you to hurt or destroy anyone in his Kingdom.
Zoë J: Michael, this guy don’t know any scriptures. Mort, we want to figure out why you hit Talbot so hard you killed him.
Bios D: Then why doesn’t he say that? What’s… what’s mountains got to do with it? Look, I know you fuckers got eyes in the backs of your heads. I saw what that angel did to Meteor Man. I was there filling in the fucking hole, remember? So you know what I did. What are you asking me this shit? I killed him behind the hardware store.
Zoë M: Are you saying Mortimer that you accept that you killed Mr. Talbot?
Bios D: Fuck yeah.
Zoë J: Why’d you do that?
Bios D: He pissed me off, what do you think? I don’t just go around hitting people. I’m a pretty mellow guy when you get to know me. Smoke a bowl with my buds, send the bottle around. I’m easy, man. Treat me nice and I treat you nice, you know? What is so fucking hard about that? But this Talbot guy, no. He’s in the hardware store and he thinks he owns the place. He ain’t Alex, and he sure as hell ain’t Tillie. I helped them rebuild it, didn’t I? And I didn’t cause that tornado in the first place, you guys did.
Zoë M: No, we didn’t. That is…
Bios D: Don’t try to weasel out of it. And it ain’t Talbot’s store anyway so what’s his problem? Where’s he get off calling me a fucking thief, man? People take stuff out of Tillie’s all the time. All the time. Tillie don’t care. She’s cool. Just take it.
Zoë M: Tillie requires that you pay if you can and tell her when you’re unable to pay. That way she can keep track of her inventory.
Bios D: Look, professor, I was gonna tell her. She wasn’t there to tell, and Alex was somewhere else. I don’t think he was even in the store. I needed that hammer to work on my house because your tornado took the roof off. See? If you hadn’t sent that tornado I would still have my roof and Talbot wouldn’t have been in that hardware store. Besides, I’d a told Tillie about it later. She knows that. I always come by later and square things with her. We’re cool. But this Talbot son-of-a-bitch starts getting in my face. He’s like ‘Don’t you leave with that,’ and shit. ‘I’ll tell Tillie you’re stealing.’ Fuck that little puke. Who put him in charge?
Zoë J: So then what happened?
Bios D: You know what happened. He grabs my arm and starts screaming like a girl ‘Put it back! Put it back!’ I ain’t seen anything like it since grade school. Why’re you resurrecting little farts like him anyway?
Zoë J: Just tell us what happened, Mort.
Bios D: I hit him, okay?
Zoë M: Inside the store?
Bios D: Yes. Well, no, I didn’t hit him in the store. I hit him in the head. Ha ha. Get it? Fuck. Look. I shoved him. Several times. Inside the store I only shoved him. I pushed him out the back door.
Zoë M: Is that where you were when you hit him?
Bios D: I see what you’re doing, professor. You want to make it like I just pushed and pushed until he was outside then hit him for no reason. I see what you’re up to. It wasn’t like that. He started trying to hit me first.
Zoë M: Mortimer, you’re much taller and almost half again his weight, all of that muscle.
Bios D: Tell that to my arm. He kept grabbing at the hammer. I thought ‘if he ever gets that out of my hand, he’s gonna do some damage.’ So he’s swinging at me trying to get the hammer out of my hand and I’m pushing back on him and each time I push we go further back into the store until we’re at the back door. And we got to the door and he was stuck between these two shelves full of shit so all he can do is open the door. So he pushes on that bar and backs out the door and I think he figured he’d just run away down the alley. But the door closes behind us locking us both out and then we both see the alley is blocked. They’d had a delivery and it was wall-to-wall pallets. He’s cornered and starts scrambling up the pallets and the stuff on the top pallet fell off. It was a bunch of tomato cages and he grabs at them and starts swinging this stack of cages mind you a stack of these wire cages with the sharp wire and shit and he’s swinging them at me so I swung back.
Zoë J: With the hammer.
Bios D: I forgot it was in my hand. I put my left arm up to hold off the wire cages and foom! Swung the other arm at him. Had the hammer in that hand and it connected solid on the side of his head. Fucker hit the ground like a sack. Saw the blood everywhere and figured ‘fuck, I’m toast’ so I took off. I climbed over the pallets and got the fuck out of there.
Zoë M: Then what?
Bios D: I took off. Like I said.
Zoë J: Did you talk to anybody on your way out of town?
Bios D: I ain’t saying. I have a right to remain silent, and I’m exercising my right.
Zoë M: This is not a court of law, Mortimer. This…
Bios D: Then I’m outta here. <Pushes chair back in order to rise from his chair. >
Zoë M: No, Mortimer, you are not leaving.
Bios D: Hey! What the fuck? I can’t move my arms and legs.
Zoë M: I’ve restrained you. If you…
Bios D: Cut it out goddamnit. This isn’t fair.
Zoë M: If you try to leave again, I will be forced…
Bios D: Yeah yeah yeah. Okay. Just stop this. I feel sick. What do you fuckers want from me? You aliens are just fucking with my head. Eddy is right about you motherfuckers.
Zoë J: I’ll ask you again you  for brains. Did you speak to anybody on your way out of town?
Bios D: No.
Zoë J: You’re  lying.
Bios D: If you know that, you can read my mind and you don’t need to ask. I’ve told you what I’m gonna tell you. That’s it. I’m done.
Interview concluded here
Resurrectorium 1920-η: Michael Leete Director: Transcript of Interview of Bios Rose Warner by Zoë Michael. Two months post-tornado.
Bios R: “Not again. Not again! God! Not again!” That was all that I could think of when I saw it coming. The last one I saw killed my whole family. Don’t you see? Everybody gone but me. Everything gone. My house, my mom. My little sister just home after being born. I never had a dad. No brothers and sisters but for Betsy. No pets. Mom was allergic. Just the three of us, and I was fine with that. But that tornado took everything. I was in the third grade and my life was never the same.
So when I saw this tornado coming my way I thought “God, how could you? This is supposed to be your Kingdom. How dare you!” Strike me down if you want to, but God in Heaven, you can’t do that to me again.
Zoë M: Did you have so little faith that you feared God would let your family die again?
Bios R: Why not? Why shouldn’t I doubt Him? I was standing there and I saw it, just like when I was a child. I remember that day. It’s..let me see…four hundred and thirty years ago, I think. I’ve been here a while. But I remember. I was ten. But like everyone says, it could’a been yesterday. I sat at my school desk lookin’ out the window as the sky turns gray, then dark blue, then green streaks start showing between the clouds when the lightning lit ’em up, then the sky went black outside.
But the school people, they didn’t know what was coming and let the school out. Trees big around as a summer sausage flopping back and forth like they was weeds. Shingles blowin’ in the air. The bleachers blew over. Little girl standin’ next to me was blowed over and rolled down the sidewalk. I grabbed a sign post. Hand over hand I walked myself down to the ground and lay flat and prayed “Please, God, don’t let this tornado hurt Mommy. Don’t let it hurt my baby sister.” So when I looked up for my deliverance instead of God or an angel that devil tornado came roaring across the farm fields, pelting me with stinging dirt, blowing so I could barely see. Ice cold rain. Big branches knocked down. And it kept getting closer and closer and closer. And I prayed that he take me instead of them. But he took them. He took ’em. And I never prayed again.
I remember when I woke up in that resurrectorium and they said God brought me back to life, and I thought, “Why’d he do that?” I didn’t want anything from him anymore, not since I was ten.
Then he comes and brings another tornado and I thought, “He’s going to take everything away again.”
Zoë M: And did He?
Bios R: Did he what?
Zoë M: Take everything?
Bios R: Yes! My home is gone. My flower shop, gone. All the things I owned in this world, gone. Flattened or blown away. I had photos of my old friends who passed on, became Zoës. They’re not coming back here, are they? So now I got nothin’ to remember ’em by.
Zoë M: What about Slim? He’s back. And Karlie. She’s back. Even your dog Smidge is back. So, the man you love, your daughter, and your dog, all returned to life.
Bios R: But not right away. I waited weeks for Slim, almost two months for Karlie. God help me, I love little Smidge, but you brought her back first.
Zoë M: But they’re all back.
Bios R: But why’d they suffer? Why were they killed in a tornado if that’s not supposed to happen in God’s Kingdom? What about all his promises? No pain in his holy kingdom?
Zoë M: No death.
Bios R: But they died.
Zoë M: They don’t remember it. You know that. You asked them. Tell me, Rose, when you were a little girl, and that tornado took your mom and your sister, did you get them back a short while later?
Bios R: Course not.
Zoë M: But you got to meet them again in the Resurrection, didn’t you?
Bios R: It’s not the same.
Zoë M: Why is that, Bios Rose? Why isn’t it the same?
Bios R: Because they didn’t know me. The me my Mom knew was a little girl. Betsy never knew me before she died. You brought Mom back, but when she saw me last I was ten years old. You say, “Rose, here’s your mama, here’s your baby sister.” But I’m not ten years old anymore. I may look twenty two, but I had sixty more years of living under my belt than that. I was older when I died than my mom was when she died. How do you make that all better?
Zoë M: I don’t.
Bios R: I thought not.
Zoë M: You do.
Bios R: Don’t give me that.
Zoë M: I’m serious, Rose. That’s your real job in this world. The one that matters. Not selling flowers.
Interview concluded here
Day 350: Reese’s Journal Entry 18: Personal: Choose Life in Order That You May Live
I could have been Mayor. That’s what Eddy was pushing.
We filed into the new Regional Hall. Funny, I’d always known back in the old days about that “new car smell,” even though I could never afford a “new” new car. I never thought buildings could have a new building smell. (We could never afford a new house, either, remember, Helen?) But the Regional Hall smelled new. It hit me the minute I walked in, and though no one else mentioned it, I did see people looking around as they filed in, sort of kicking the tires on the new building to see if they liked it.
I didn’t. The old building was hundreds of years old. It had patina. The floors creaked when you walked on them. And the stair treads, too, of course. There was a comforting dustiness about it made of a mix of street dirt carried in by countless people, mixed with the sweat and body oils rubbed into the wood wherever people placed their hands. All it needed was a touch of cigar smoke hidden in the background and I could have been back in the old world entirely.
The new hall, which looked very much like the old one, smelled of varnish and paint. The floors were smooth as a sheet of float glass, and nearly as shiny. We could have been the first people to walk on them. I think Zoës walk rather than float, but they seem to tread lighter than Tolkien’s elves.
The courtroom was upstairs — the whole second floor of the building in fact. Up front, like a courtroom, was the “Bench,” like any courtroom Bench — an enclosed desk on a dais. Lots of town councils in the old days were set up like this. It helped councilmen see their constituents, but more than that, it set them above and apart from them. Up high, like a judge. That was how democracy usually ran back in the day.
Behind this Bench sat a council of two Bios and five Zoës — none of them were you, Amber. When it appeared we were all present (and it made me realize how lightly populated our region really was), the Zoë in the middle stood and called the meeting to order.
“Thank you all for coming. Few of you have met me before. I am Michael. I am in charge of the resurrectorium for this district.” He paused. The room didn’t settle. “There has been much of late that has changed this region of the world, as this new Regional Hall evidences. We who have been here for very long have all of us, Zoës and Bios alike, grown accustomed to perfect peace — peace with our world, our planet, and peace with ourselves. Now that the peace has been broken, we need to talk again about restoring the balance.
“Several months before the whirlwind struck, we met in the old Regional Hall building because a violent thunderstorm struck, toppling many trees. This was a shock more to those who had lived here for a long time, as no such event had occurred in the long lifetimes they’ve had here. And then the whirlwind stuck, and many are now asking: Are we under the protection of the King or his judgment?”
At this there was enough murmuring that Michael stopped. He held no gavel, but after a while, he stretched forth his hand and I swear I heard trumpets. Faintly, mind you, but everyone stopped chattering.
One of the Bios with us on the floor, Henry I think, stood. “So which is it?” He sat down.
“Your King’s love for you is undiminished,” Michael said. “And in perfect love is found his peace.”
“Peace?” said another Bios from the floor. He was also wearing an orange jumpsuit, as were a fair number of people in the general populace. “What’s peaceable about a tornado?
“A fair question,” Michael said. “Let me remind everyone how the Resurrection works. Resurrection follows with each in his own order: Christ, who so long ago was the first fruit, and after that, those who were Christ’s at his coming, we of all people, women and men of good faith and good works, were raised with Zoë life. This was his judgment, not our own. Believe me when I tell you, the surprises existed on both sides. There were not only questions of “Why am I Bios?” but “Why am I Zoë?” And always, Christ, the King, decides who is on his left and who on his right. If, before death, we assumed to be on his right, often we were wrong. Many who thought only little of Christ, however they knew him, but poured out their lives for others, awoke with Zoë life and only then met him face to face. I tell you, personally, it was a surprise.”
Amid a lot of soft murmuring at that ‘personally’ comment, I saw a few heads lean together.
“This is a world of surprises, is it not?” he went on. “Are we not all beneficiaries of the King’s mercy, resurrected from the dead into a world we did not earn? Do you not have Bios brothers and sisters who have lived here for so long that you would, in the old world, have called it a miracle? Have you not all been given perfect health and a vitality none of you knew was possible in the old world? Where is there hunger or poverty? What do you call a world where every one of you can ‘invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and under his fig tree’?”
“As I said before, what’s with the tornado?” said the second man in a jumpsuit.
“Yes. I will get to that. But I ask you to acknowledge that the world you are living in is not the world from before. In that world, the tornados, earthquakes and tsunamis, the natural disasters were terrible, but not the most terrible. Then, as happened here, aid poured in, people poured in with love and care. Homes were rebuilt, and lives not lost were rebuilt. But then, unlike now, lives that were lost were truly lost. Families shattered remained shattered long after the disasters had passed. Those who thought they had no hope to meet again suffered the most.
“Remember that with this tornado that even as aid poured in from neighboring regions, our neighbors in our midst were not lost. A few personal possessions, none of which were brought into the Resurrection, those were lost. But lives were restored.”
“Charley is alive.”
There were several cheers for that.
“We restored family pets like Abigail’s dogs,” and he gave a small wave toward Abigail, “and Martin’s cockatiel” and he waved in Martin’s direction.
“Even my horses!” yelled Sam.
“Yes, Sam,” Michael said with a smile, “even your horses.”
“When are you going to talk about the tornado?” the first jumpsuited man shouted.
I swear if the man speaking at the Bench has been a Bios, he would have shouted back “shut up and sit down!” In the days before I died, the shouter would have been carted out of the room by beefy security guards. In the days just before I died, there wouldn’t have been a meeting at all. The breakdown, as slow but inevitable as a glacier, had led to demands for stricter and stricter order, the kind that smothers democratic life. Questions even in small town councils, had to be preapproved. Dissent was at first simply branded ‘stupid’ and dissenters, if they were quiet enough, merely had disgusting epithets thrown at them. But the breakdown ground on, as irresistible and as blindingly obvious as an aircraft carrier in a pond. Towns, cities, states, federations of states, international relations, all surrendered to the demand for a restoration of order. Dissent went from unspeakable to unlawful in a thousand ways small and large. Courts began to assume rights emanated from the people, and were thus as malleable as people were. They lost sight of the fact that a government can only be of the people, by the people, and for the people if the rights of the people are greater than the government, greater than the people, inalienable because they are grounded in something greater than themselves. Even someone as irreligious as I used to be could see that.
“Very well,” Michael said. “Let us talk about the tornado. Remember its precursor, the thunderstorm that brought such severe damage. Both represent a break from the rule of the King. And that break is almost inevitable as more and more Resurrectees arrive whose allegiance before their deaths were strictly to themselves, whose repentance before Resurrection was not deep enough. In his mercy and grace, it is the King’s will that all should be saved, and therefore many who never knew the King are being given a second chance. The first Bios, being closer to the life the Kingdom requires, allowed us to live closer to the center of the King’s will, just as they were closer to it in the old world. Later Bios grew into that will, and harmony remained. But as Bios who lived and died further from the King’s will are resurrected, keeping that harmony has become harder and harder, not only for Zoës but for all of us. The growing disharmony is what brought in first the damaging thunderstorm, then the tornado.”
I noticed that Eddy’s pipe bomb was never mentioned, yet I was sure they had to have found it in the wreckage. Zoë technology that could create hovering steamshovels is not going to miss a pipe bomb. They knew the hardware store was the epicenter of the trouble and reason the tornado struck town. That’s the disharmony Michael was hinting at. Why was he holding back? Produce the pipe bomb and Eddy is done for.
“So it’s our fault,” said Eddy, also in an orange jumpsuit, rising from his seat. “You’re going to spin that unscientific hokum just to lay the fault for a natural phenomenon at our feet. You’ve been living with a run of good luck, that’s all. Thunderstorms are natural, even the tornado is natural, and the fact that there was a tornado is proof that you Zoës have been lying about an all powerful King being on the throne in Jerusalem. This isn’t about the umbrella of the King’s will, it’s just you trying to make some of us scapegoat for a tragedy so you can keep your hold on power.
“People,” Eddy said, turning to the assembly, “I’m not saying we’ve not been resurrected from the dead. I mean, they did bring the victims back to life? I’ll give the Zoës that much.” He waved the back of his hand slowly across the Bench. “There may even be Bios here who have lived a very long time. None of that is a miracle; it’s just advanced science. None of this needs a supernatural explanation. While we were dead, people with advanced technology decided to bring us back to life. Poof! Recombinant DNA and all that. I suppose 1819’s steam shovels would be gods or demons to some poor Paleolithic bastard.
“People, the real question is this: Who’s in charge here? They are right now. And we’ve been fine with that because they said the King had our backs, you know, just don’t pay attention to how they run things and everything will be fine. But their luck, our luck, ran out, and it showed them to be hollow.
“Like I said, the real question is this: Who’s in charge here? A King we’ve never seen that might not even be real? A King the Zoës use to rule over us? Or are we going to be in charge? Show of hands, how many of you lived in or remember democracy?”
A number of hands went up.
“Don’t be shy,” Eddy said. “The Zoë’s won’t harm you for telling the truth, will they?” With that he looked away from the crowd to the Bench. The Zoës were impassive. More hands went up, and when Eddy goaded them again to be honest most of the hands in the room were up.
“Okay,” said Eddy. “Just remember that when we discuss the next question, which we need to talk about right now. Mortimer Drake. The Zoës put him to death because they say he’s a murder. His alleged victim is here among us,” Eddy said, pointing at a naked man in the back of the room who seemed to shrink back as if Eddy’s finger would go off. “The man Mortimer Drake allegedly beat to death is here and could testify to what happened to him. We have a great many reliable witnesses. Mort has to be guilty, right?”
Eddy paused while many nodded their heads in agreement and a few said it out loud: ‘right.’
“Wrong!” Eddy said. “Mortimer Drake is not guilty, not because his alleged victim is still here, but because Mortimer Drake has not been tried by a jury of his peers. People, that’s older than the constitution most of us in this part of the region lived under back in the old world. It was common law that a man was held to be not guilty unless found guilty by a jury of his peers, twelve men and women, good and true. It’s why the law has to be greater than any one of us, than any group of us. We the people are the law, but they found Mortimer Drake guilty,” he said, pointing at the Bench behind him. “Mortimer Drake did not get a trial, was not found guilty by a jury of his peers, he was found guilty by Zoës, who are clearly not his peers, Zoës who may. not. even. be. human!” With each word he shouted, he slammed his right fist into his left palm.
Chaos now ran the meeting.
Once again, Michael stretched forth his hand, and once again I heard faint trumpets, but the meeting did not come to order. After a moment, he stretched forth his hand again, and this time there was no mistaking the trumpets. I half expected plaster to fall.
Order was restored. But Eddy, who had never sat down, was the first to speak. Clearly Michael’s trumpet trick didn’t faze him. “I believe I still have the floor, so let me conclude with this. The Zoës who executed Mort can’t die.” He waved toward the Bench but kept his eyes on the crowd. “But we can die, can’t we? The way Mort did. No trial, because there aren’t even any laws, just summary executions. In the name of fairness, in the name of democracy, we the people demand Mortimer Drake be brought back from the dead to stand trial. He needs to be brought back so he can be tried, in a court of law, before a jury and a judge OF HIS PEERS!” And with that shout, the room erupted again, more cheers than chaos.
Eddy must have been a lawyer.
“I say we vote on it. All in favor, say ‘aye.’”
There was a chorus of ‘ayes’ throughout the room.
“Those opposed say ‘nay.’”
A few people scattered throughout the room, including Mort’s victim, said ‘nay.’ I said nothing. Nothings are hard to count.
“The ‘ayes’ have it. Ladies and gentlemen, Bios and Zoës, we not only have a vote, we have a democracy. Before I relinquish the floor, let’s see if that’s right. All in favor of our region living under the rule of law, in favor of having democratically elected council, say ‘aye.’”
There were fewer ‘ayes’ than before, but clearly a great many people in the room spoke up.
“And if you want an unelected Council of Zoës, say ‘nay.’”
Fewer nays than before. Even people who didn’t want to vote out the Zoë dominated council didn’t want to vote against elections.
“Members of the council, citizens of this region, once again the ‘ayes’ have it. The people have demanded an elected council. What will you, current leaders of the council, do with that? You have the power right now. We have peaceably indicated to you our preference. This is not a revolution. This is evolution. What will it be?”
Eddy sat down.
Eddy must have been a politician.
Michael stood up and called for a recess. The Zoës all filed out. The Bios with them left the dais. One of them left the hall. I don’t know where the other went. Mingling perhaps. Lobbying more likely.
“Hey, buddy,” Eddy said, grabbing my arm from behind. He seemed manic, eyes bright and wide, smiling broadly — a very different Eddy from the man working the crater or the man showing off a pipe bomb to me. “If the Zoës do what I think they’re going to do, ‘We the People’ will be running the place.”
I hadn’t seen anyone do air quotes in a while.
“I suppose that’ll be a good thing,” I said.
“Hell yeah it’ll be a good thing. It means we have a say. This theocracy shit is for the birds. I know the power of the little guy. This is a good thing, buddy. It also means we’re going to need to hold elections real soon. Meanwhile, I’m going to propose tonight a temporary council be elected by the quorum present, and I want you to stand for Governor.”
“Me? Why me?”
“Everyone knows you. You’re Meteor Man, the guy that stood up to the Zoës.”
“What I did I did for myself. I don’t think my private rebellion qualifies me for office.”
“Hell if it don’t. Look, Meteor Man is our Patrick Henry. Give me liberty or give me death, and they gave you death.”
“They also gave me life. Twice. They’re pretty good at that. They gave Sam’s horses life.”
“They didn’t give Helen life.”
That hit home. He could see it on my face, too.
“Sorry, buddy. But you have to admit, they dole out life as they see fit, and they saw fit to bring back a bunch of horses but not your wife. Where’s the justice in that?”
The Zoës filed in and the head Zoë did his hand gavel trick again. People quieted down quickly and found seats.
“I, Michael, speak now in the name of your Lord and King, Jesus Christ. Hear the word of the Lord.” He paused to be sure we knew what we were about to hear were not his own words. “’I say unto you a choice lies before you, yet you have already begun walking toward it. I remind you today how you got where you are, raised by my power from the dead, ransomed by my death, reborn into my Kingdom. I urge you by my stripes to love your God, to walk in his ways and to keep his love for you as his statute, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord may bless you in the land where you reside, where neighbor has lived with neighbor in peace longer than any of you can remember, even those who have lived many times the lifespan they knew before I returned to rule.
“’If your heart turns away and you trust your own strength, this is what the politicians who will reign over you will claim as their rights: They will claim to be your servants, but you will be theirs. They will take the fruit of your labor for the common good, but the common good will be what they say it will be. They will gather to themselves your wealth. They will claim eminent domain over your fields and vineyards and olive groves for themselves and their cronies and sycophants, officials and officers. They will ensnare you in a web of laws that they claim will give you peace and security, but these laws will take away even that peace and security you already know until you cry out for relief from the path you have chosen. I have set before you the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live. Thus saith the Lord.’” Michael stopped and surveyed the hall.
“I, Michael, can only pray that the Lord will answer you in the day when you cry out. For you have lived under his grace and rejected it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that what you are about to choose, you have freely chosen. What say you all?”
Michael sat down.
Eddy immediately stood. “Isn’t that funny, coming from the people with absolute power? The people who can appear in your living room with your door closed? Who have complete say over your lives? I don’t know if they’ll go easily. We may be in for a fight if we tell them to butt out of our lives. But if we don’t stand up for ourselves now, we never will. Do we let a king on the other side of the world, if he’s even real, run our lives? Tell us who lives and who dies? If you want a democracy, stand up for it. Stand up right now! Get your asses out of your seats and STAND UP!”
And they stood — most of them. Even me. It’s hard to sit when everyone is standing.
The Zoës filed out again. All of the people who hadn’t stood up left their seats and left the hall — I saw Sam go — but most of the assembly stayed. A spontaneous victory party was brewing.
There was a wood-on-wood banging from the dais. It was Annie Gordon, one of the Bios who was on the original council. When the Zoës started filing out, I assumed the whole Bench had emptied. She had not.
“Before I go with my Zoë brethren, I would like, as the oldest human being in the region, to say a few words to you all if I may.”
The assembly quieted down. Annie looked to be all of twenty three, but I had heard she was several centuries old.
“Thank you,” she said, putting the gavel down. “When was the last time any of you saw someone abuse an animal?”
People began looking at each other. Like me, they were probably wondering what she was going on about, and at the same time checking to see if anyone knew about an abused animal.
“I thought not,” she said. “No dogs kicked. Kittens drowned. We have lots of horses, but when did you see one being whipped? You haven’t. When was the last time you saw a fight, or even heard of one? Can any of you testify to official corruption? Or unofficial? When did you go into a store and come out without what you needed because you could not afford it? I know of some petty thefts…”
And here I swear she looked at Eddy.
“…but none so bold that the shopkeeper who suffered loss asked for redress. Are there any among you who know anyone that is homeless? Hungry? Thirsty? We are secure: at peace with the world and each other. All of us are engaged in constructive work that satisfies us, and we are in perfect health…”
“Until a tornado comes,” said Eddy, but I doubt anyone more than a few feet away heard him.
“…and this is the society you have judged wanting. Well, you have judged and you have voted. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin: People, you have a Democracy, if you can keep it.”
Annie stepped down from the dais and headed across the floor toward the exits. The room parted as she passed. One or two fell in behind her.
Eddy ran up to the dais, behind the Bench, grabbed the gavel and banged it twice. “Thank you Annie,” he said, loud enough to be heard to the back of the hall where Annie paused and turned to face Eddy. “But we know the picture is not that simple. That’s why this meeting was called in the first place. But please, everyone, give Annie a round of applause for her kind words about how we’ve conducted our lives up to now. And I am sure we will all do our part to continue living at peace with each other.” He raised his hands and began applauding.
Annie and two other Bios turned around and left.
“Now, my friends,” Eddy said, “we must conduct some business. We’ll need to set up elections. Can I get five people to volunteer to serve on an election committee?” He had his pick of dozens of people. “Thank you. We’ll talk after the assembly breaks up. Okay. As you can imagine, elections will take a few weeks, and even if the Zoës leave us alone, we’ll need a temporary administration. I’d like….”
“Eddy for Governor!” I shouted. Eddy looked at me but people between us began jumping up and waving and yelling “Eddy for President” and “Eddy! Eddy! Eddy!” and the like. One guy even yelled “Eddy for King!” which, sad to say, did not surprise me. Low information voters are the appendix of politics — except there’s no way to remove them.
Day 351: Wayne’s Journal 12: Our Town
I underestimated Eddy. Holy shit. I’ve never seen anyone operate like that. Eddy must have been a sonofabitch on the other side of a union negotiating table. He literally talked the Zoës out of town and got himself installed as Governor. He had a lot of supporters, too, including Reese, much to my surprise. It was Reese that nominated him. Eddy didn’t look happy about that, like it wasn’t his plan. Maybe it wasn’t, but whatever his plan was, it would have included being in charge.
I didn’t speak up. Didn’t vote. I could see Eddy was going to carry the day, and I need to stay on everyone’s good side. If the Zoës are leaving and need someone to continue the trade, they won’t regard me as hostile. And as long as I don’t push it too far, Eddy will recognize that he owes me for getting Michael to set up the meeting. Push too far and the weasel in Eddy will come out. Got to handle this guy with care. To him, I’m just a useful idiot, a tool to further his revolution. Is that what it was like dealing with Lenin?
The orange jumpsuits were a nice touch. That he was happy for, but until I showed them to him, I wasn’t sure what he’d think of them. As uniforms, they look more like prison garb. It turned out Eddy glommed on that right fact away.
“Where’d you get all these?”
My specialty, of course, is hooking people up. That’s what an investment banker is, really, a sales agent for the house brokerage. I just grinned at him. He doesn’t need to know they’re from 2021. Bad dye lot and how do they dump them? Talk to the guy who’s been hanging out at the depot each night. The guy driving the delivery wagon. Me. Make up some story for why I’m there at night, offer hot coffee and donuts to the whole crew, and suddenly I’m all right. Suddenly, a world of barter opens up. Suddenly there’s a profit to be made on a bad dye lot.
Our region is deficient in manufacturing. But we have great gardens. And dope. They don’t consider pot medicinal in 2021, so no one grows it. Different rules. I should have known. Their Zoës do direct healing by laying on of hands. Michael, the guy who runs our region, prefers to be hands off, do things the way God originally intended. And now that I know there are different rules, I’m finding all kinds of ways to leverage that.
Day 351: Amber’s Journal Entry 7: Retreat to the Resurrectorium
A revolution. I’m not surprised Edward would do what he did. But I am disappointed in Reese. Every time I think he has accepted things as they are, he pushes a different boundary. Perhaps this is what Abba meant by Reese’s path.
After the Town decided to hold elections, despite the warning from Michael that it meant rejecting the rule of the King, we Zoës retreated to the resurrectorium. The King was to meet with us here. It was odd being in the same place on Earth with so many Zoës at once. Most of us clothed ourselves in light-garments, and it gave the resurrectorium an almost festive glow. A group had busied themselves turning the Lounge into a throne room using cheap paper garlands. They had grabbed the desk chair from the Michael’s office (he is the Director of the Resurrectorium) and surrounded it with garlands hanging from the ceiling to the floor. Now they were hanging the rest of them here and there throughout the Lounge.
“What do you think?” one of the decorators asked.
“I’m not sure he needs decorations,” I said.
“He’s the King. We have to do something special to honor his visit.”
Having only met him in the heavenly Jerusalem before, it was hard to say what the King would want. I hadn’t visited him on Earth, in New Jerusalem. If we were going to decorate a throne room, it seem appropriate for the King who rode in on the foal of a donkey for his first coronation to have our local Coronation Celebration committee garland a throne room and throne like something from a grade school play. But, he was coming here because of the rejection of his Kingship. It should have been a somber occasion.
“Whatever we do,” I said, “we’re the ones being honored.”
“True, true. But I think he will like it. The place is too much like a hospital as it is.”
At the corner of the room, where the piano had been shoved to make room for the seats, someone sat down and began playing Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14, the “Moonlight Sonata.” I pulled up a chair near the piano to listen. The pianist smiled at me, then returned to his concentration. His brown complexion had set off a nice smile, one with generous laugh lines. There were a few streaks of gray in his black hair, and that was odd for a Zoë. I watched his hands. I love looking at people’s hands, watching them use their hands. It tells me so much about them. These were broad hands with long fingers. His sleeves were too short, but other than that, he was lovely.
As the sections of the Sonata got more lively, it seemed as if his playing were the animating force behind a roomful of busy people, scurrying about with garlands, negotiating the best set up for the chairs facing the “throne,” other people doing myriad other tasks they thought necessary for the arrival of the King. Everyone was busy except me and the piano player who, for me, had become the focus of all the hubbub. Perhaps he thought the same crazy thing, because when his fingers wrists and arms executed a flying flourish of the keys, he’d look over and flash that smile before losing himself in the music again. With the arpeggio signaling the end then the two final chords, he stopped and stood, turning to face a room that had stopped bustling. A few applauded. Then everyone went back to what they had been doing, though with the decorations in place, there was mostly the low-key murmur of a waiting crowd.
The pianist watched the hubbub for a moment. Then he said in a normal speaking tone, “if you can hear my voice, please be silent.” It grew quieter as the people right next to him stopped talking and looked at him. He repeated, “if you can hear my voice, please be silent.” Only a few people continued speaking. He repeated, “if you can hear my voice, please be silent,” and everyone stopped talking. He scanned the room, and seeing that he had everyone’s attention he said, “Thank you for meeting me here and for decorating for me. It wasn’t necessary, but it was very kind of you.”
It was the King.
Day 375: Reese’s Journal Entry 19: Personal: What Is the Law?
You don’t notice it at first, the fact that the Zoës are all gone. There weren’t as many of them as it seemed — one here, one there. And their departure didn’t change anything at first. At the meeting of The Committee for Law, we sometimes wondered what they did other than bring people back from the dead. That’s still quite a feat, and the resurrectorium is the only hospital should there be another disaster. Otherwise, we Bios stay pretty healthy. No, that’s an understatement. We’re perfectly healthy. Insanely healthy. If we did have a hospital of our own, no one would go there.
Speaking of The Committee for Law, since I refused to let Eddy make me Mayor, I couldn’t turn down his ‘offer’ to include me on The Committee for Law. Eddy had made Asher the Chair of The Committee for the Law. Asher had been a lawyer.
“Well, Asher, how do we start?” I asked. All eyes were on him.
He fiddled with a cuff link. “I’m a lawyer. Not a legislator.” When he looked up, I was sure there was some conflict in the guy. Who knows? But that was pure cop out. “We’re neither,” I said. “We could use some help from the committee chair.”
“The chair is here to advise.”
None of us was happy with that.
“Look,” Ash said, spreading his hands across the table like he was laying out his cards,” if I start running the show, you’re not gonna to be able to say this is your shtick, right? It’ll be Ash’s law. No way I’m getting saddled with that. The bench has ruled. You make the laws. I advise.”
Everyone nodded as if that cop out was wisdom from on high instead bullshit. But I figured it wasn’t worth arguing with the guy. I didn’t see myself winning. But Asher could. I expect he won a lot. But again, there was that look of conflict, like he knew he was running a scam on us and felt bad about doing it.
Wayne said we’d better get on with it, so like Moses, our layman’s committee decided to come up with 10 laws. We pretty much agreed:
- No murder
- No theft
Then Alex added
- No usury
This last one was unnecessary, I said. No one charges interest. In fact, all you had to do was ask someone for something and they’d let you have it. But the rest of the committee said I should just wait and see. There were going to be crooks. “Stands to reason.”
Another, Artie, said there were probably Jews just waiting for the Zoës to leave “so they could go back to their ways.” That floored me. But nothing I could say shook him out of his anti-Semitic stance. “When Jesus comes back, the Jews will convert or die.” I said I thought Jesus was back. He said that was impossible: The Zoës were really demons out to fool the elect. I looked over and Asher could have been drilling holes through Artie’s skull. It was the most glaring, raw, hate I had seen. The ambivalent Asher struggling with some inner angel was gone. This Asher was silent only as a strategic response.
Then one of the committee, George I think, pointed out that all problems started with deception. So we made our list:
- No falsehood
No falsehood sounds good, but I have a feeling we’ll find it impossible to enforce since what we meant by falsehood was undefined. Were we saying little white lies would bring punishments? What about withholding the truth? In a courtroom, that’s illegal. Elsewhere it can be a mercy. No one thinks better of someone who honestly blurts out “Hey, Lady. Your butt is too big. Just sayin’.” Wayne argued with it. Even Asher spoke up. But the committee stuck with it.
- No falsehood
- No murder
- No theft
- No usury
Lucinda pointed out that she was “sick and tired of seeing some people’s private parts.” I thought about the guy in the meeting who’d been brought back to life, and a handful of other Bios like my friend at the café, Marnie, who took to the Zoë attitude that shame was not what one wore but what one did. Lucinda said “all those disgusting naked people” (there were really only a few) was how she knew the Zoës were lying. “I knew this wasn’t heaven. I knew Jesus was not on the throne in Jerusalem. It was just lies like everything else they said. All lies. Jesus would never let people be naked. It’s shameful. That’s why God gave Adam and Eve skins to wear.”
So we added rule #5:
- No nudity
Already you could tell the people who voted Eddy in who were unhappy with the way things were before.
“What about adultery?” I asked Lucinda. “Don’t we need that, too?”
“Not if we stop nakedness.”
“And adultery is already covered under Rule 1,” Wayne added, “since you can’t have adultery without falsehood.”
Amber once explained that sexuality had gotten out of kilter before, had become too prominent. What was supposed to be a normal outgrowth of love between two people who’d made a lifetime commitment to each other had become the reason people made commitments — or pretended to. So the outcome became the reason. Just another inverted thing we had made ‘normal.’
And that was it. The committee was sure we’d done our jobs. Several were quite happy we had a short list. The general feeling was we used to have too many laws before. I thought that was ironic, because under the Zoës, we didn’t have any laws at all. So, the committee adjourned. We hadn’t set up anything workable, I was sure. It was clear that we weren’t lawyers.
Eddy was anything but happy with our list.
“Five laws? This is nothing. I expected you to craft a government. You’re the Founding Mothers and Fathers of a new world, and this is all you come up with? Ash, I put you in charge.”
It was the strangest thing watching Ash and Eddy. I felt a flash of jealousy. I had never before felt possessive of someone’s opinion of me. I had made something of “Meteor Man,” and even though I didn’t want to be Eddy’s pawn, I wanted to be in Eddy’s good graces, important to him. Asher had taken that place. I could see it in the dynamic. So there was this lash of loss, and it felt like jealousy. But another part of me stood outside that flash, like I could take out my heart and examine it, turn it over and go ‘oh, that’s the problem’ or ‘cut that bit out and you’ll be fine.’
I’m beginning to see that the number one thing that sets this world apart from the old one is that we can look at ourselves that way. In the old world most of us were blind to our motivations. We lived from hidden hurts that drove us. We thought we are acting but we were reacting. We were acting exactly like our animal brethren do, from a series of emotional potentials. We were blindly feeling our way through life, happy when things went right and sad when things went wrong, but emotionally we were babies. That’s what’s changed.
Amber, you’ll be glad to know I’ve followed the pack and started to read the Bible. Once in a while. I never read it before. I daresay your buddy Arjun never read it before, at least that’s who Wayne says it. Yet they made him a Zoë, so let’s let the Bible’s importance include that. But I have to admit, there’s some interesting stuff in there. Arjun says it’s a record of people struggling to understand God, and that Israel means struggle because Jacob became Israel after wrestling with God all night. God must like that kind of thinking because that’s all the Bible is, struggle. Arjun also says to never forget the Bible is situated in time but God isn’t. One of the many tensions Arjun finds so fascinating about this faith he’s coming to know.
So there’s this bit in the book of James about taming the tongue. And everyone thinks it’s about watching what you say. But it’s really about not letting your emotions rule you, because when they do, what’s up front in your head comes out of your mouth. If I was letting my emotions run the show, when Eddy told me Asher was in charge, I’d have blurted out something, shown that flash of jealousy before I saw it for what it was.
But I didn’t have to. It’s really the best part of this new world. It’s why people are so friendly. They don’t have to live with their hearts hidden from them. So they don’t have to hide their hearts from each other. That same standing outside feeling came over me watching Eddy do his thing, and watching him and Asher dance their power struggle.
Asher tugged on a sleeve, twisted his cufflink and cleared his throat. “If you wanted me to run the show instead of Reese, you should have said something, Eddy. Jeez. Keep your pants on. It’s not like you need this yesterday.”
“If this is to be a society of laws, not Zoë whims, it has to have some laws. We got nothin’. I was expecting more from you guys.”
“Why not use the Constitution?” Wayne asked.
“Won’t work,” Asher said. “But we can crib bits of it.”
“Yeah, Ash,” said Eddy, “you do that. But this time come back with something I can use.”
We were unadjourned, if that word exists. We came back to our list. We added:
- No merchant is expected to give away goods for less than fair exchange.
This last one was an outgrowth of an argument about “freeloaders.” When I asked Alex what he meant, he said “You know, people who want to buy something, but don’t have enough money for it. They expect you to give it to them. That has to stop.”
“It seems to have been working so far,” I said, not telling anyone that Eddy had freeloaded off Tillie the whole time he worked for her and stole enough parts to make a pipe bomb. I kept my mouth shut. I hadn’t spoken up before, and now it was too late.
“You think so?” Alex said. “Try running a hardware store when people walk in and say ‘I need a shovel, Alex. Tell Tillie I’ll pay later. Then they never do. Or they return it dirty. Try selling a dirty shovel.”
“Anything else anyone wants to add?” I asked. “This is only one more rule than we had when we talked to Eddy.”
Lots of looking at hands, the table top, the nearest window…
“You think that’s it?” Asher said. “You’re done? Nah. You got nothing because you started with nothing. What’s the bottom line?”
We looked at each other, unsure where this overdressed lawyer was taking us.
“Your principles?” he said. “If you don’t know that, this new government is gonna be floppin’ around like a fish outta water.”
We started to refer to our list.
“No no no. What’s your bedrock? The Ten Commandments starts with God saying ‘I’m the real deal, the only real God, so it’s my way or the highway.’ Right? The Constitution starts with ‘We the People.’ So the question is, Ladies and Gentlemen, what are we starting with?”
Blank stares. I thought I knew where he was going, but since he’d made us do all the work on the list Eddy threw back at us, I thought I’d let Asher finally earn whatever fee he would charge Eddy.
“We are moving from theocracy, Ten Commandments, back to “We the People,” right?”
“And the Declaration? ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…’ Unless some of you want to write the Creator out of our new world? I don’t care what Eddy says, the Zoës aren’t aliens. That’s nuts.” Asher looked around the table and no one wanted to take up Eddy’s line about aliens. “Good. Where were we?” Asher looked up as if that was how he accessed his memory, looking at his brain. “Um, yeah,” he said and cleared his throat. ‘…that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.’ The governed, that’s us Bios, see? Derived from us. Not Zoës. ‘That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends…’ like killing Mortimer without a trial by jury, remember? ‘…it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…’ which we did at the Town Meeting, ‘and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.’ So that’s what ‘we the people’ are doin’ here. This is like ‘We, the Resurrected…’ Get it? This is something that’ll be bang on the money. Something that’ll last.”
In the end, we hammered out
We, the Resurrected Peoples of Earth, in recognition that our Inalienable Rights, being grounded in God, cannot be mediated by others, even those who claim to be from God, do establish this Constitution as our Mutual Social Contract.
Section 1. A Representative Government consisting of a Governor and a Regional Council shall be elected once every three years. The number of Counselors shall start at fifteen and shall subsequently be fixed by law at the first Congress.
Section 2. Only Human Beings with Bios life may vote or hold office. Zoë life forms, being immortal and having no natural stake in the Outcome of the Human Endeavor, cannot vote or hold office. Every Bios has an equal franchise and must vote.”
Section 3. Zoë life forms cannot be otherwise discriminated against. Zoë life forms shall have all the rights of Bios life forms but for matters of governance.
I had that last on added, Amber, in recognition that you were really important to me even if you hadn’t been straight with me about Helen. Even Asher and Lucinda agreed to it. Only Artie held out for Zoë exclusion. Our new Constitution continued in four more articles to lay out the foundation of our new society. We took it back to Eddy. I decided I didn’t care what he thought. This was it.
Day 375: Wayne’s Journal Entry 13: What Is the Law?
I was not happy. First I thought Reese was going to run the committee. That’s okay. I know Reese and I know Reese was there with Eddy from the beginning, was kind of Eddy’s inspiration. In commune parlance, he ‘stood up to the man.’
But Eddy appointed his new friend Asher. Maybe it was the clothes I didn’t like. Fancy tailoring, though where he got that suit and the fancy cufflinks from I have no idea. If he has connections with 2021, I can’t find them. And he’s in close with his Zoë, Joe. Or was, before they all left. He’s a smart ass. I suppose though he’s got people who like him. Not the way Eddy likes him, as a tool, but actually like him. He can be funny. And I have to admire anyone here who’s his own man. And Asher is definitely that. In spades. If we were in commune days, he’d be the street lawyer from downtown who bailed us out when we got busted for weed and took a few bags in payment, then represented us before the judge in exchange for some coke, which we had, sad to say, and very odd since we were supposed to be living off the land all natural like.
The committee met upstairs in the empty courtroom, pulling the Prosecutor’s bench into the middle of the room and surrounding it with chairs. In addition to me, Reese, and Asher, there was one other guy I recognized, Alex, from the hardware store, and three others I’d never seen before.
Lucinda was the only woman on the committee for some Eddy reason. She wore a glory bun and a really long and dowdy skirt. It was a look she must have worn well into dotage, but on a woman in her mid-twenties, it was ludicrous. This was a ‘get off my lawn you hooligans’ kind of woman. A Mrs. Grundy to the core. Her mouth had a perpetual downturn. I always wondered whether people like that got that sour expression frozen on their faces through excessive use. And how could she have frozen it that way in this world?
Then there was this creep named Artie. A ruddy man: balding red hair over pale reddish skin. I’d never seen anyone bald here before. Guy had eyebrows that could douse for water. But it was more than being the only bald guy around that made him creepy. More than those eyebrows that probably took themselves out for walks at night. I’ve worked with a lot of people in my business dealings. Some of them cold fish who would sooner put a thousand people out of work than lose five bucks. Artie was a different kind of cold. A ‘don’t go into the basement’ cold.
And finally, George. Quiet George. What he says sounds smart until you look more closely. I can see him as a new age, self-help guru in the world that was. If he could, he’d want his jumpsuit done in blue sparkle-clouds instead of orange. I thought there might be a hint of makeup around the eyes, which would be odd since I’d never seen any makeup on anyone in the new world, male or female, and there isn’t any for sale. Mrs. Lucinda Grundy could certainly use some. It’d be easier than transplanting a sense of humor into that sourpuss.
Ash walked over to the Judge’s bench and took the gavel, then plopped himself down at one end of the table. That was fine since Eddy’d put him in charge. A gentle rap and a quiet “shall we begin.” No one said anything, then Reese asked how we should start. Ash gave him some shit about being here to advise so I ignored him after that.
We decided that we should start with the 10 Commandments. God knows there were enough copies on courthouse lawns available to everyone to read. And it was nice and short. Not as good as Jesus’ two rules, but what can you expect for a bunch of desert nomads fresh out of Egypt?
Maybe everyone had Mortimer on the mind, because we started with Thou Shalt Not Kill. Alex said the second one should be Thou Shalt Not Steal, and no one had a problem with that. Then he said “no usury.” I figured the next thing he’d suggest is audit the fed or something. It was Reese that brought him down to earth. “No one charges interest, so how can there be any usury?” Artie said we should wait, the Jews would be back and then they’d charge interest “up the ass.” He said they were waiting in the shadows for the Zoës to leave. I thought Ash was going to silently pull the trigger on the metaphoric revolver he was holding under the table. He had this ice cold look, bad as Artie’s own, but with a red hot core of hate where Artie had an ice cold core of death. Then Artie went off on some demon conspiracy crap and I could see Ash turn his attention elsewhere while Artie finished his anti-Semitic rant.
That’s when Curious George spoke up. He said that The Great Lie was our fundamental problem, so we needed to start our commandments with Thou Shalt Not Lie. Now, this is the kind of fuzzy thinking that makes for bureaucracies and the lobbyists who feed them.
“What is a lie?” I said. Now, I understood that this wasn’t defined when Moses brought the tablets down, but it was pretty much understood this was a thing about not lying under oath, not lying when you stood to gain by it. But today, Rule #1 seems like using a howitzer to kill a mosquito (if you can find one. I think they’re extinct). Ash ripped into it with a crude example.
Then Lucinda Grundy wanted to add “no nudity.” Now, I’m not into nudity. Not many Bios are. The Zoës, well, who knows if they’re nude pretending to wear clothes or in some kind of suit that lets them look nude, or clothed, or walk through doorways… Skip the Zoës. But I’d just as soon skip telling that handful of sky clad God lovers that they needed to dress to please the rest of us.
Lucinda insisted. She said she couldn’t go around with her eyes averted all her life. I felt like stripping naked and dancing on the Prosecutor’s table, waggin’ my winkie at her until she laughed that frozen face off. But Artie and Alex supported her in it.
I think Reese was still doing a reductio ad absurdum when he asked if we needed a law against adultery, but Lucinda deflected that saying that nudity lead to adultery. I pointed out that adultery was already covered under the no falsehood rule since it’s impossible to commit adultery without falsehood. So, no rule on adultery.
That was it. We did God better by half. Five rules. We trotted down to Eddy’s office, Ash about as engaged as… I don’t know. He should have been walking into things as much as he seemed to be engaged with anything just then.
Eddy was in his office. Eddy was not pleased. He trained most of his ire on Ash, but Reese and I got our share. We were scolded and sent back.
Day 380: Amber’s Journal Entry 8: Little Exodus
The King told me to meet the Bios who want to leave Region 1920 at the border of Region 1819. I hear they are calling it the Little Exodus, but I am neither Moses nor the Shekinah Glory leading the Children of Israel out of Egypt. I’m just Amber. If Zoës had a rigid ranking (I think the angels do. We have hierarchy, but it is nearly invisible), I’d be pretty low on the list, given that I had to have an angel help me discipline my Bios charge, Reese.
Sitting on horseback at the border, I felt like I was in an old Western movie, waiting to greet the wagon train and escort it across the border. I expected to see the cloth-covered hoops swaying and bouncing along the trail. The wind was high and way off in the distance I saw an occasional flash of lightning.
When the Little Exodus arrived, there were a few wagons, but no cloth covered hoops with frying pans hanging from them, no pump organs or great-grandmother’s china carefully packed in wooden crates. There were no crates at all. Things don’t matter as much now. Just people. Some in the wagons, some on horseback, most on foot. I rode forward to greet the first of them, among them a newspaperman named Mark whom the Spirit told me to search out. He and Reese had been on good terms, so I recognized him at a distance.
“Hi, Mark,” I said, pulling alongside his wagon. “I’m Amber. I’m here to escort you all across the border. How many of you are there?”
“I don’t know exactly, but I guess a third to a half of the population.”
“I see you all got the message about personal property.”
Mark looked back at the line of people that extended over the rise in the hilltop. The horses that were animal companions were to be allowed over the border, as were all other pets. Quite a few dogs were in the group; some people carried cats in carriers, cats still being cats here in the New Earth. A few had birds and other creatures with them. Nary a stick of furniture or anything else. “Near as I can see, yeah, we left it all behind, But in a group this large, I’m sure you will find some who want to renegotiate that with you at the border. Could be some at the back of the line I haven’t noticed. But in our last meeting, most people were fine with that. We all remember losing everything to death.”
“I’m going ahead to open the border for you. Please wait exactly where I ask you. You’ll hold it open while I ride back to make sure the rest are following along okay.”
I rode back to the border and waited for him. As his wagon approached, I could see the horse begin to get antsy. Mark had to snap the reins a bit. I dismounted and walked up to the horse, taking its bridle in hand and stroking it under the chin.
“Is this your own horse, Mark? An animal companion?”
“You’d have to ask Sam, the Stable Master about the horses, which one are companion animals. He’s likely to say all of them, but you’d best ask him. The wagon is the newspaper’s.”
“Okay. Just unhitch the horse. It’ll be fine.” Mark’s passengers disembarked. One of the children ran forward and in an orange flash encountered the barrier before falling back on his bottom in surprise. “Abba, Father, please let this people pass into the next land,” I said. I stepped across the same spot the boy had just bounced off of and beckoned him across from the other side. He looked back to his mother who nodded that he should come to me, and he walked forward, feeling for the barrier. When he found none, he ran up to me and ‘tagged’ me, then ran back across to his mother and into her arms. She and the others from Mark’s wagon crossed over. Some of the residents from 1819 began to arrive in buckboards and wagons to greet them.
“Please come here,” I said to Mark. I took his arm in one hand and placed the palm of my hand on his forehead. “Okay, the border knows you now. Please stay close to this spot. When they get here, you’ll be the one letting people through. You can sit down if you get tired, you know, move around a bit. But stay in this general vicinity or the border will close again.”
I got back on my horse and rode to the top of the ridge. Looking down into the valley, I could see our little Exodus was nearing the ridge top. The river valley, with its fitfully lighted city, was spread out below. On the ridge opposite was the abandoned resurrectorium. It was unlit and visible by reflection of the waning quarter moonlight on its green glazed block walls. Then a lightning bolt backlit it, and this time I could hear the thunder.
Among the lights in town I spotted one in motion, then several more. Five vehicles. No doubt the Sheriff. The Sheriff must have commandeered every motorized truck and van in New Harmony. I was pretty sure they’d catch up to the Little Exodus before it crested the ridge.
I felt a few drops of water, cold on my forehead, blown by the wind. Another thunder peal and people in the wagons looked behind them to the gathering storm. Ever since the tornado there’s been fear of storms, something we had forgotten in hundreds of years of peaceful coexistence with each other and our world. More cold drops. Then the rain began to fall in earnest.
The last of the Little Exodus reached the crest. The noise of the motorized posse reached us, drowned out by growing peals of thunder.
I could see doubt on the faces nearest me. They were defenseless. I sat on my horse and prayed, “Abba, you sent me here to guide these people across. I’m not sure why you chose me, but you seem to have a habit of choosing your weakest, least deserving people. I guess that’s why I’m here, Lord. Show your strong arm before these people, your people crossing over, and your people who are coming out after them in the posse. We’re all yours.”
I got a Word in my ear that said, ‘Stand your ground.’
“Don’t panic. Keep moving. They won’t hurt you.”
The last of the Little Exodus people reached me, and I thought someone among them had a lantern. I looked around and could see the light of it reflected off their faces. They were one and all looking at me, and I realized that the light they were seeing was from me. I was glowing. I got off the horse and handed it to a woman passing me by. I waited at the crest of the hill until the last person passed. The pass was lit like daylight. I looked at my hands and saw flickers of flame gathering on my fingertips.
Headlights approached, bouncing wildly along the unpaved road. I could see from their silhouettes that some of the men on the backs of the trucks had some kind of gun. Five trucks full of men, equipped to do violence—even if they weren’t ready to. This was still the New Earth. The trucks started gearing down to climb the grade. In a moment, the first of them pulled up to where I stood.
“Shit,” someone said.
“She’s on fire,” said another.
Two men stepped from the cab of the truck. One, by his uniform, was the Sheriff. The other I knew by sight: Edward.
“Well, look who it is. Men: This is no angel. This is just Meteor Man’s little Zoë.”
The rest of the trucks had caught up and were crowded into the narrow pass. The pass wasn’t wide enough for them to get by me.
“The pass is closed,” I said. “Until everyone is across the border, you can go no further.”
“This is Sheriff Goslyn,” Edward said, gesturing to the plump guy with the star on his chest. “I’m the Governor of the Region. Duly elected representative of The People. We’re the law here, not you. Time to step aside, little Zoë, before you get hurt. We’ve got people trying to cross the border without valid exit visas. Back in the trucks, boys.”
“You can go no further,” I repeated.
I got a Word in my ear that said ‘Bid the machines stop,’ so I held forth my hand and said “Trucks, stop.”
All the engines stopped running. Headlights continued to shine, but the pass was suddenly very quiet. The men piled out of the trucks as if they were haunted. The rain began pouring forth and several of the men began to bolt toward town.
“Stop you goddamn pussies!” the Sheriff yelled.
The rout that began stopped cold. The men began to gather in front of their trucks, gathering near each other in the rain. Their shapes silhouetted by the headlights revealed several guns and a good many clubs and knives among them. The lights from the trucks behind the posse made it impossible to see their faces.
“Get out of the way, Zoë bitch,” Edward said, ducking when a bolt of lightning struck the hill behind me. “Go ahead and kill me then, if that’s what your God calls justice. You’re obstructing a legally deputized posse during a lawful pursuit. Move aside or we will be forced to fire.”
“You can go no further,” I repeated. “You have no authority over any of my charges. They are the Lord’s.”
The Sheriff directed one of the men with a gun to shoot at me. I felt, or heard, something like a giant insect whiz past me. Two more shots, and I was sure one of them had aimed well enough to hit me, but the bullet went through me. Suddenly the men and trucks looked smaller, or I was now standing on a rise. Most of the men fled down the hill abandoning trucks and guns alike. The Sheriff just said “goddamn.” I could tell now from my perspective that I had grown in stature like some sort of angelic apparition. If this kept up I could squish the Governor with my foot.
“You have no right to interfere!” Edward screamed at the top of his lungs. “You can’t do this. We’re the law.”
The Sheriff began tugging at him.
“All right, alien bitch,” Edward yelled up to me. “If you and your so-called alien God aren’t afraid of me, then let me come through alone, unarmed, and talk to them.”
I got a Word in my ear that said ‘bid him to the top of the ridge,’ so I gestured Edward forward and said “Speak from the top of the ridge. Go no further.”
“They won’t be able to hear me,” Edward said.
“Speak. Or not.”
Edward chewed his cheeks for a second and headed toward me trying to avoid walking near me, keeping close to the edge of the pass. He got to the top of the rise and looked down at the Little Exodus slowly passing through the narrow gate into Region 1819. He cleared his throat, then turned to look at me. His voice had been amplified. I saw the wicked smile on his face before he turned back. If I had to guess his thoughts from that smile he was thinking ‘unforced error.’
“Citizens,” he called, his voice loud enough to echo from the opposite side of the pass deep into 1819. Everyone in the Little Exodus could hear him. “Before you leave our community, I ask you, brothers, sisters, Citizens of our Republic, to reconsider. You are crossing into the unknown; into a place you had been prohibited from visiting. You follow this being” and here Edward gestured up to me, towering over the pass “into her realm, a realm of monsters of unlimited power. They say ‘trust us’ but they do not trust you. When you find out the why, it will be too late. These beings, these aliens, will not let you come back. You will know more than they can let you come back to talk about.
“Citizens, your Republic needs you. We need human solidarity in the face of this alien invasion of our planet, because those beings who brought us back from the dead are no more angels than they are humans. They are aliens, and we have a duty as human beings to resist them. Whatever their scheme is, they are bringing us back from the dead for their own reasons, not ours. Search your hearts and see if you do not have doubts about them. Act on those doubts now, before it is too late. Return with us to our home, our Republic.”
I could see some stirring within the Little Exodus. I remembered how soon the children of Israel forgot their deliverance, how quickly they set up the Golden Calf. Abba had sent me to guide them across, and I was afraid I would fail again, just as I had with Reese. How many would cross over with me? How many would return to their belongings, to the lives they were preparing to abandon?
Standing in cold rain at the opening between regions, the Little Exodus faltered.
“Come on people!” Marked yelled to those pausing at the barrier. “Let’s leave this little man behind.” My Joshua had spoken, and the Little Exodus resumed crossing over.
Edward called out to them again, but his “megaphone” had been turned off. He turned to me with genuine disgust. “Fuck you, alien bitch,” he said and jumped when another bolt exploded nearby. He flipped me off and turned his back on me, walking back down the ridge toward the waiting Sheriff. I faintly heard the Sheriff say, “I’ll send someone for the trucks tomorrow, Gov.”
The night covered the rest of their departure, and I was sure it was safe to leave the ridge. The last of the Little Exodus was crossing over when I reached Mark.
“What was that all about?” Mark asked. “It looked like the crest of the ridge had caught fire.”
“Edward and the Sheriff and I had a dispute.”
“And Casiel, too? That would have been some story.”
“I will have a job for you,” I said. I had gotten another Word. “You’re going to visit with Alex and Zelda. Edward is going to take this out on them. Not today, but when he does, you’ll go to them to let them know they’ll be all right.”
“And how exactly am I going to do that without getting arrested?”
“Zoë life,” I said. This one didn’t even require a Word. I just knew.
[Interview conducted regarding events of Day 380]
Resurrectorium 1920-η: Michael Leete Director: Transcript of Interview of Goslyn Clay. Interview conducted by Joseph Murkowski, Zoë.
Zoë J: Okay. Goslyn, this is an information gathering session.
Bios C: Okay? We recording now, Joe?
Zoë J: Yeah, buddy. We’re on. State your name.
Bios C: My name? Oh, yeah. I’m Goslyn Clay. I was Sheriff in the Republic when the Zoës left town and then after the Republic I…
Zoë J: Let’s just talk about the big deal, when you and Eddy…
Bios C: Governor Eddy. Edward. We was elected, Joe.
Zoë J: Right, right. Maybe we should start at the beginning. Before you…before the Republic. Let’s get a bit of background. You’re a regular guy, Goz, and I want some of that on the record, too. Start at the beginning.
Bios C: At the beginning? When I got here? Well, let’s see. I swear when they brought me back, those first years, I was thin again.
Zoë J: It’s nice when we first wake up again, isn’t it? But you weren’t thin, Goz. I was there. Not thin, but you were fit, buddy.
Bios C: It felt nice, too. I found a group for a basketball league and all we did was shoot hoops and grill…all that was missin’ was the beer and that was all right. The Forever League we called ourselves ’cause it seemed like all we had to do those days was play ball and have fun. Gardening, hoops, put up a barn or even a house. A vacation that must have lasted a year or more. God’s truth, the new life was good. Real good.
(—-) Back in the world that was, I was quite the player in my youth. The church had a basketball court. They was big into serving the neighborhood through sports. Three days a week after school pounding the ball on the wood court, echoes… The ball, the guys, coaches’ whistle, all of it bounced around in that little old gym. That sound is in my brain. I played so well, no one could beat me, Goslyn Clay, so they said I was the Cassius Clay of the church league. God’s truth, I never was thin. But I carried it well. Taller ’n bigger than the other kids, but I could run the ball up and down the court all day. For a while, my mom came to watch the league games. They was galleries up above on both sides and one end of the court. She’d lean over the rail and wave, and I’d see the spangles on her wrist catch the light. I spent a lot of time on the court.
(—-) You know, maybe that’s why I ended up the way I did, the better way than my friends, ’cause I spent a lot of time in that court before goin’ on to juvie court. That’s why my juvie days didn’t last long. I figured quick which side of the system to play for. I knew which side was the smart side, see. I never wanted my friends to be on the other side, but if it happened…if it did, I stayed true to my role. You got to do that, once you pick your side in life. You ought a know that, Joe. We pick sides. You become who you think you are, don’t you?
Zoë J: Can’t argue with that, Goz. You were telling us about growing up.
Bios C: I did a stint in the Army to keep out of jail, keep a clean record. Made Corporal. Police academy. A couple of years beat cop in Philly. Met you there, Joe. I loved those years working together. I gotta tell ya, Joe, it made it hard to believe when I woke up here, you know, resurrected from the dead, they said you was my Zoë. I mean, how can that happen? Good cop, good Zoë, that’s you. Nah, nah, don’t get me wrong, Joe. I mean that. You get all the tough guys, don’t ya?
Zoë J: I guess. Been there. Like you, Goz. Okay. What happened after Philly? I lost track of you.
Bios C: Well, I moved to Ohio. Had an uncle there. In Ohio, I joined the Sherriff’s force for Huron County, then ran for Sheriff a while later. Sheriff Clay. First black Sheriff elected in Huron. That’s who I was when I died. On the job, too. Good way to go. I talk to a lot of Bios who grew real old before they went. I’ll never know what that’s like, and God’s truth, I never want to. Did you?
Zoë J: Not exactly. Okay. How did you end up working with Eddy, Goz?
Bios C: Eddy said what was goin’ down was gonna be big. I was going to talk to you first, Joe, God’s truth. I felt bad for splittin’ with you, Joe. I wanted to tell you about why we had to tell you Zoës we was runnin’ the show now, but Eddy said that was a bad idea. He, Eddy that is, had this screwball idea that you Zoës are aliens. I tried to tell him about you, Joe, because I know you’re no alien. But he wouldn’t listen. It was because of Mort. Mort should a been be tried in a courtroom, Joe. I still believe that. That was bad, takin’ Mort away without a trial. Every man deserves a trial. It was too much like a lynching for me to just close my eyes to it.
Zoë J: I never thought of it that way, Goz. None of us did.
Bios C: That day when we all got together, the town meeting after the tornado… God’s truth, that tornado was some sick shit. Gettin’ my house, just down a piece from the resurrectorium, seein’ it blowed over didn’t sit right with me. So that day, Eddy stood up, he stood up for Mort, stood up for all of us regular people, stood up for my house and all my life put into it, that day when Eddy stood up against the Zoës was like a new life for me. Even though I had picked my side long ago in Philly, took the side of order, could look my pastor in the eye ’cause I was the police and not the punk, a part of me looked up the line at those guys on the bench, the Mercedes crowd, who were glad to have me there but would never have me in their homes. That changed a bit when I became Huron County Sheriff, but even then, I felt that my skin came between me and them, even when they were black, too. Cops is like that. Close to the street. We get the street. We close to the street. You used to know that, Joe. There always was too much of the savior type in you, even when we was in Philly. I tell you, Joe, Mort had to be tried. I was goin’ to try to talk to you about it. Eddy said no. So you all left before I could talk to you. God’s truth, it would a been nice to be workin’ with you again. Same side of the line. Good team.
Zoë J: I wouldn’t rule that out in the future, Goz, so, go on. Tell me why you and Eddy followed the Little Exodus.
Bios C: You…the Zoës…the way I thought about you then…was making one last effort to separate us. This time you meant to do it for good by takin’ a bunch of us out of the Region into those regions where you wouldn’t let us go. Just as we establish a government of the people here in 1920, we got to keep a bunch of people from leaving. Too many go and it undermines everything. Eddy was right about that. How we gonna run a region with empty stores, businesses nobody knows how to run? What if Sam and Charley was to go and take all their horses with them?
(—-) We knew something was up. The Exodus people… the Little Exodus you was callin’ it. It was almost cute. Like the Republic was Egypt or something. I remember my Sunday school, Joe, and nobody was tellin’ you or the Bios left with you to make bricks without straws. You was far from being slaves. I have slave ancestors, Joe. I don’t take to making light of it, of slavery, and the children of Israel was slaves. Not the Bios in New Harmony. They’s spoiled brats. Not you. I figured, let ’em go if that’s how they wanna be. But Eddy says no, we got to keep ’em from leavin’. It was all scheduled to go down that night. They wasn’t even trying to hide the meetings. It wasn’t hard to put a man in there to report back. I wisht I could a been there myself. But we had no wires or anything. Like the old old days, I sent my man in and had to wait for him to come out and tell me what went down.
(—-) If ever I thought Eddy was right, it was that night. I gotta admire Eddy. The man had guts. Up to the ridge. All five trucks, all we had in 1920. I’d had a few guys build primitive guns, we had that much time to prepare. Couldn’t aim them. But since none of us knew how to build a bow or shoot an arrow from one, a gun was easier. We had one for each truck. A police force has to be armed. You know that, Joe.
Zoë J: Maybe. Bobbies in England went years without carrying firearms.
Bios C: Well, we had to be armed, okay? You know, sittin’ here I forget what side you’re on.
Zoë J: Your side, Goz.
Bios C: I’d like to believe that.
Zoë J: So why the guns?
Bios C: We were up against people who can walk through a closed door — like you.
[there is a break in the recording here]
Zoë J: Tell me about the black jump suits, Goz.
Bios C: Wayne got ’em for us, a uniform of sorts. You remember being a Uniform, doncha Joe? Nothing does it like putting a uniform on a man. We got together to head out to the ridge leads to Region 1819. One of the trucks wouldn’t start and Slim wracked his shoulder trying to hand crank it. By the time we got rolling, the Little Exodus was mostly over the ridge and a storm was rolling in from Region 2021.
(—-) I will never forget that sight. There she was, little thing, standing in the pass. But she was scary as hell. Orange flames flickin’ off her hair, flames comin’ outta her hands. Her whole body blazing bright. She lit up the pass like a torch. As I was getting’ outta the cab, I heard one of my guys say it was Casiel, and for a minute I thought “shit, I’m fucked.” Then Eddy says it was Reese’s Zoë. Knowing it wasn’t Casiel lifted a load off me. But she was still creepy scary, flickerin’ flames like that. I wouldn’t a been surprised she shot bolts from her eyes.
(—-) “The pass is closed,” she said. And that pissed me off. I suddenly saw where Eddy was comin’ from. I could see why Reese was pissed enough to get hisself blowed up. Tellin’ us we can go no further in our own country, ’cause it was our own country until we cross the ridge and halfway across the valley between us and 1819. I can read a map just fine, thank you. And she says “You can go no further.” Go no further my ass. And Eddy reminded her that I am the Sheriff. True and never more so. “And I’m the Governor,” he said, and reminded her we were the elected representatives of the people, not her. We’re the law, not her. Then Eddy called her “little Zoë” and ordered the men back in the trucks. Then she told the trucks to stop and right there every engine died at once. That creeped me out, let me tell you. But when all my men started to bail out of the trucks, my spine got stiff and my temper got hot. When two of them headed back to town, I yelled, “Back to the trucks you motherfucking pussies!”
(—-) Can I say that on the tape, Joe?
Zoë J: Yes, Goz. Don’t think about the tape. Just talk.
Bios C: Just like interrogation back in Philly.
Zoë J: Friendlier, Goz. And not fake friendly, Goz. I only want to know what went down that night from your perspective. That’s all we’re doin’ here.
Bios C: Okay. Lets see. I got a set of lungs, you remember, don’tcha Joe? They came back. “Now line up in front of the trucks and the next sonofabitch that moves gets shot.” Eddy, not one to mince words, told the “Zoë bitch” to get out of the way. I about shit my pants when right soon as he called her that, lightning hit close enough that I could hear the little snaps in the air before the bolt came down. My ears were ringing after that, but I could hear Eddy tell her “go ahead and kill me.” He taunted God, which made me wince, but worse, he threatened her with my guns. When to fire isn’t something civilian authorities get to decide, and here Eddy was threatening a glowing being towerin’ over us like ants. Well, it didn’t set well with her. She commenced to show what a Zoë can do. She goes from this normal sized creature who just happened to be on fire to this fifty foot woman on fire. “Goddamn,” I said. This giant woman claimed authority over everybody, and that’s when Eddy poked one of my men to fire on her, and this guy shakin’ in his boots, shot her. Then a couple more guys started firing.
Zoë J: Eddy? Eddy egged the men into shooting?
Bios C: Yeah. Nerves. Really stupid. Uncontrolled. I got these idiot deputies shooting at an angel what could wipe us out with one look, and that was when Eddy lost it. I tried pulling him away but he broke free. “Alien bitch,” he yelled. “If you and God aren’t afraid of me, then let me talk to them.” I figured, fuck, here comes the next mile wide crater and I’m at ground zero. But she backed down and let Eddy go by hisself to the top of the ridge. It looked for a minute like Eddy won, ’cause he got that look on his face over somethin’. We waited a while and then he comes down the hill mad as hell. I heard him yell “fuck you, bitch” and another lightning bolt hits. Now this ain’t no coincidence. We started walkin’ down the hill, toward town, tails between our legs, the rain whippin’ up and soakin’ us good. I told Eddy I’d send someone back for the trucks in the morning. I figure her hex on ’em would be over by then.
Interview concluded here with small talk between Joseph and Goslyn.
Day 381: Reese’s Journal Entry 20: Personal: The Sentinel Is Still Free
The Committee went to see Eddy today. He had a lot on his mind. A lot of the Bios left during the night. Eddy and the Sheriff and a bunch of their men had gone out after them in the few trucks there were. They came back empty handed and on foot. I spoke to some of the deputies heading out this morning to bring back the trucks that had stalled out for some reason, and they said they’d been ordered not to talk about it.
Eddy was not happy with much of anything this morning, but the changes Asher made to our declaration of “We, the Resurrected Peoples of Earth” brought a smile to his face. He nodded and ‘hmmed’ and approval at “Zoë life forms, being immortal and having no natural stake in the Outcome of the Human Endeavor, cannot vote or hold office,” but when he got to Section 3 that “Zoë life forms cannot be otherwise discriminated against,” I could see the smiling grind to a halt.
“We just kicked these alien bastards out and you want to grant them full civil rights?”
“We have to, Eddy,” I said. “It’s only fair.”
“Fair? Was it fair to disappear Mortimer? Was it fair to bring down a tornado on us?”
“We both know why the tornado hit, Eddy. You…” I stopped. I could see Eddy knew I was thinking of the pipe bomb, but instead of any kind of shame, I was sure he was daring me to mention it.
“Look Eddy,” Asher said, “anything less undermines our own legitimacy. We assumed power based on Zoë discrimination. We can’t discriminate in return.”
“All right, we leave it in. But when I call the town meeting, I want you wise guys to explain what it’s doin’ there.”
“Oh, and I want one thing added: “No one is to enter or leave the region without a passport.”
“Easily done,” Asher said.
So he called for a big regional meeting. I was in charge letting everyone know, so I thought I’d get some flyers printed. The next day I went to the office of the regional newspaper to arrange it.
The 1920 Sentinel is a small newspaper, four to six pages on average. The offices on Matthew street look like something from the Old West: arched wood doors in white paint and large windows displaying the first run of the latest edition. The doors were open.
I didn’t see anyone up front, but that wasn’t unusual when they were preparing a new edition. I rang the bell on the counter and waited, then rang it again. Finally, Zelda — the assistant, came out, her apron stained with black. She was wiping off her hands with a blackened towel, but she’d gotten enough ink on her hands over time that the skin was practically tattooed.
“Oh, hello Reese,” she said, inspecting the ink on her fingers. “I didn’t hear the bell. Been waiting long?”
“Not too long. Is Mark in? I need to get some flyers printed up.”
“Mark left town. That’s the headline in this week’s edition.”
“Where’d he go?”
“With the bunch that left the region. I think a few went to 2021, but most of them emigrated to 1819.”
“I don’t know. A third?”
“A third of everyone?”
Zelda nodded. “A more exact number will be in the next edition if I can do an informal census. I’m the Sentinel now, so as soon as I’ve finished I’ll be out there on the story. But you must have noticed how empty the streets were on your way over here.”
I had and I hadn’t. The streets have been emptier ever since the big meeting — social life in general had taken an unacknowledged hit. But now that Zelda pointed it out, I realized they weren’t just emptier, they were downright deserted.
“I didn’t think we could go to the other regions.”
“Zoës let ’em through. According to Mark, they’d been readying since the meeting, but when it came time to leave, none of them took a thing with them but their families and their animals — if they had any. No belongings. I followed Mark to the border last night. We said goodbye.”
“Did anyone tell Eddy?”
“Why would anyone tell Eddy?”
We had been acting like Eddy was in charge, since in fact Eddy had taken charge. But it never occurred to me that until we got our regional government running at tonight’s meeting no one was legally in charge.
“Yes. Well, I came to get some flyers printed up. They should urge everyone to attend the meeting in two nights.”
Zelda handed me a form to fill out spelling out what I wanted on the flyers and how many I wanted. I handed it back, thinking I needed to get over to the hardware for hammer and nails.
“That’ll be fifty coins.”
“What? Since when?”
“The Sentinel is still free, for a while anyway. But I have to pay for more things now so I have to charge for the special items, like fliers.”
I didn’t have two coins, let alone fifty. I pulled out the one coin I had — we only had one denomination — a penny coin with wheat sheaves on one side and a figure seated on a throne on the other. “I’ll ask Eddy,” I said, distracted by wondering if I could make out the face of the man on the coin.
“You do that, Reese.”
Day 384: Reese’s Journal Entry 21: Personal: The Ayes Were Unanimous
Eddy assigned some of ‘his men’ to work with me on the flyers. They had paid a visit to Zelda and came back with a pile of flyers for me to hang. Others of Eddy’s men had gone to Alex’s Hardware (Tillie had left the region) and returned with a box of nails and a couple of hammers.
Eddy wore an orange jumpsuit to the meeting. It seemed that was becoming the mode of dress for those who actively supported the revolution. I wore the blue cotton jumpsuit Sam had given me. Zelda took a position in a corner of the meeting room, reporter’s pad in hand. Not surprisingly considering how many people had left the region, there were fewer people than at the meeting that expelled the Zoës. The Exodus (as it was being called in the Sentinel) shook people up. I thought that because only Annie had spoken up for the Zoës, the rest of us were glad to be rid of them, too. With so many gone now, it was inescapable that many people, maybe even a majority, supported the Zoës but were afraid to speak up.
Eddy rapped the meeting into order and presented our seven laws. Not surprisingly, there were questions about why so few laws.
I stood. “The first five are something like bedrock principles,” I said, “and the last two set up a government that will regulate trade and make new rules as we need them.”
Eddy rapped the gavel and took a vote. The ayes were unanimous. We had a government. We set a date for elections and agreed that this first election would be write in only.
Campaigning got under way the moment the meeting ended.
Day 390: Reese’s Journal Entry 22: Personal: Flyers of Selfishness
It’s been a few days since the elections were called. There are posters all over town — across the region I imagine, and to my surprise quite a few voted for “Meteor Man.” I don’t know who paid for and posted them. The majority are for Eddy. Most posters are for the Governorship, but quite a few people are actively campaigning for Council roles.
Sam and Charley are gone. Sadly, Sam took Bertha with him. The provisional government approved having me take over the stable until things could be sorted out. That gives me an income, which I need now, as the stores only sell food. Quite a few people have been caught short of money and there are complaints of hunger. Giving anything away has already ended and we haven’t even held our elections. With more than half the farms idle for want of farmers, food even for those who can afford it is starting to get a harder to come by. I expect it will get a lot worse before things stabilize.
I went over to Alex’s to get some nails for a small repair to the stable. His storefront had “’Gabby’ for Governor” posters all over the windows. From the photo, Gabby was the guy who first stood up at the Anti-Zoë meeting (as it was now called).
“No Eddy posters?” I asked. Alex snorted. “No,” he said, “we don’t need that big shot getting any bigger.”
“I thought you were one of his supporters.”
“Maybe I was. Maybe will be again if he pays for the hammer and nails his boys confiscated to hang posters with. Maybe I will be again if he apologizes to me.”
This is becoming more common, and it’s happening pretty fast. It’s like someone dropped a curtain and Act One is over and a new backdrop is behind our little play, darker and grittier. The lights are dimmer, and when the actors deliver their lines, there is a harder edge to their voices. It’s hard to sort out, because I still think Eddy was right: We should have a say in how we are governed, the laws we live under. But Annie was right, too. Only it’s too late to go back. We’ve eaten the fruit. Again.
Day 781: Reese’s Journal Entry 23: The Trial of A and Z
I’ve not entered anything in a journal for over a year. I don’t know why I stopped keeping any journal for so long. At first I just told myself I was too busy, and there was some truth in that. After the disaster of The Committee for Law’s simplistic attempt to recreate the genius of Moses and James Madison failed and with it the Ninety Day Republic, The Emergency Committee Eddy reconstituted has been running things. I’m chaffing under their rule worse than anything under the Zoës. It’s worse because, once again, I’m part of it. Eddy appointed me to the Truth Commission.
If Act One ended with the Zoës, and Act two with the Ninety Day Republic, Act Three started when The Emergency Committee arrested Alex and Zelda for Conspiracy Against Bios Rule. I could see Zelda’s arrest coming, and even as a member of The Truth Committee, I couldn’t stop it.
I had warned her Eddy was fuming over her editorials. Each one got more strident. The news section of the expanded paper was storied with bad news. The first complaints were minor and unofficial. It was like the old days, several people said to me. I could see what they meant. The first one that caught my eye was a report of a stolen bicycle, since it reminded me of why one of my escape attempts backfired. There were lots of reports of rude behavior. I thought that odd, and less than newsworthy. I asked Zelda about it, because it seemed like a cross between sour grapes and a low-grade, itching powder kind of incitement, to use a word bandied about at Truth Commission meetings.
“It’s news because this stuff never happened when the Zoës were in charge,” she said.
“I’m sure it did,” I said. “You just never reported it.”
“is that a fact? Who was rude, except for Eddy and his friends?” she replied.
“Are you including me in that?”
“I know you were in the hardware store with Eddy when the tornado hit.”
“Guilt by association. Isn’t that the kind of thing you’ve been campaigning against?”
She dropped her gaze. “You’re right. Sorry about that, Reese. See how easy it is now?”
I thought about the bicycle. She saw me thinking her comment over.
“Sin,” she said.
“I’m reporting on something that used to be rare. That used to be fixed right away, at the source. Sin. Here’s a nugget: When people were rude back then, and it was rare, they’d catch themselves and say ‘sorry’ and you’d say ‘don’t mention it’ and it stopped there. Now, if they even notice themselves being rude, doing little things that hurt in some way, they ignore it. Hide from it and hope it will go away. It can’t. Sin is like black mold. Instead of getting smaller because we put light on it, it’s growing because we keep it in the dark. That’s true personally and corporately.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t leave in the Exodus. “
“It was tempting. I saw this coming. But I’m a reporter. People need honest journalism more as things get worse.”
Honest journalism. It got more rare in the old world the worse that world got. I was glad to hear that the concept had been resurrected. As things under The Emergency Committee spiraled downward, I was more glad for that honesty with each turn of the screw. The Committee, obviously, was not. Members began to point fingers at me. When the warrant came out, I was surprised, relieved, and a bit disappointed to find that my name wasn’t on it.
I think Alex was targeted because he was paying for Zelda’s printing costs out of the profit from his hardware store. That made him a co-conspirator. Ever since Eddy’s men came in and confiscated the nails and hammers (never returned) for the election posters, he’d been a vocal opponent of Eddy and all he did. Long after Eddy won the election (it wasn’t even close), Alex kept his Gabby poster up, even though Gabby was Eddy’s second in command. Gabby had to come by and ask for him to take the posters down. Then Alex had Zelda print up a poster with the original Seven Laws of the “The Ninety Day Republic,” which was a dig at the Executive Committee. To everyone who asked and many who didn’t, it was to show that things had been working out just fine with only a few laws. He’d left off the law number eight (the first enacted after I left the Committee) about not leaving town (we couldn’t leave the region under the Zoës). That was another dig at Eddy and the Sheriff. ‘Libertarian principles’ he’d say and take out a diagram he’d been working on that ‘proved’ nearly everyone who entered his shop secretly agreed with him over Eddy.
I arrived at their trial in a borrowed orange jumpsuit. I didn’t want to prejudice Zelda since both of us had attracted unwanted attention by not wearing “the orange.” I took a seat near the back of the hall and watched it fill with people. Since attendance at meetings having gone from ‘a good idea’ to a punishable offense to miss, the jumpsuits were soon wall to wall. Looking over the ubiquitous orange, I realized there was nowhere in the region that many jumpsuits could come from. Region 1920, nearly half unpeopled, could never have made them. Before the Zoës left, we were getting things through trade. So where did all the jumpsuits come from now that we were cut off? Was the mold Zelda spoke of creeping into the other regions? It was as if things were created by magic or invisible Morlocks.
At the Bench, acting as a panel of judges, were Eddy, Gabby, and four others I had seen before but didn’t know. Zelda and Alex were brought before the Bench in orange jumpsuits, their hands bound behind them with cotton–rope handcuffs and one of the Sheriff’s black-jumpsuited deputies holding on to each of them. The sight shocked me, because I could not imagine anyone in the world that the Zoës ran needing to be handcuffed. Then the glaring exception came to mind: Mortimer. Even in the Zoë’s world, we had crime.
Two tables had been set up in front of the bench: prosecution and defense, and Zelda and Alex were seated at one bench. The other was vacant. On the other side of the prosecution’s table were twelve chairs in a roped off area. More I didn’t know. Eddy was drawing jurors from other sections of Region 1920.
Eddy stood and gaveled the meeting to order.
“This trial will come to order. For the record, and because I have been accused of bias…” The crowd interrupted Eddy with boos and calls of support. “Thank you. I have been accused of bias so I want the record to show I am stepping down from the Bench for this trial and will not be part of the Judgment Team. I will, however, be acting in the capacity of prosecuting attorney.” With that, Eddy handed the gavel to Gabby and stepped down from the Bench and the dais and sat at the prosecution table.
Gabby stood and banged the gavel. “This trial will come to order. The honorable Gabriel Stamford presiding. Let the record show that Edward Parker has recused himself from the panel of judges and will act as Prosecuting Attorney. Let the record further show that no one was willing to stand as Defense Attorney and the Defendants will therefore represent themselves.”
I would have been willing to stand as Defense Attorney if I had been asked, but I couldn’t imagine I could do as well as Zelda.
Judge Stamford turned to the jury. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you are hereby sworn in and charged with bringing an honest verdict when the evidence is presented.” He banged the gavel again, said, “This court is in session. This trial is underway” and took his seat at the bench. “The prosecution may open its case,” he said.
Eddy stood. “Ladies and gentlemen of the Jury. The prosecution will prove that the defendants, Zelda Hackmeijer and Alex Fromm have been willfully and knowingly acting against Bios rule. They have supported rule by Zoës, directly and indirectly, and are thus guilty of conspiracy against Bios rule, that is, rule by you, the people. We will prove that beyond a reasonable doubt with physical evidence and sworn testimony. The Prosecution rests, Your Honors.”
Eddy loved it, I could tell. His natural bent toward political grandstanding really shined. This was theater to him. This was letting power flow through him directly in a way he craved, a way he missed as the head of the Executive Committee where what he did was behind the scenes and only indirectly awesome to those he lead. Here, he got to strut his power before the whole region.
“The Defense will present its case,” Gabby said.
Zelda rose and raised her bound hands together and with a look said do you intend me to plead my case while bound?
“The deputies will remove the Defendants’ restraints,” Gabby said. One of the deputies removed a large knife from its sheath, reached across the table and cut the cord binding Zelda’s hands, then cut the cord on Alex’s hands, leaving them to work the bindings loose while he and the other deputy stood to the side of the room, within easy reach of their table.
It took a while to work the rope loose. Zelda stood the whole time, and the Bench and Prosecutor became uncomfortable. It was a misstep: Struggling with the bindings sent a message of thuggery on the part of the State. When the last cords fell, Zelda swept them off the table and onto the floor, pinning Eddy with a glare that made him look down at his table, shamed. In a way, I was a bit encouraged to see Eddy could be shamed. Maybe that’s why the Zoës brought resurrected him in the first place.
“My fellow citizens,” Zelda began. “Ladies and gentlemen of the Jury. The Prosecution will show you the same newspapers you have all read. My case is already before you, already something you’ve long talked about, something you knew because you bought my newspaper each week to see what I had to say next and to see the ways in which we aren’t treating each other the way we used to. They will tell you that my codefendant, Alex Fromm, is guilty of conspiring with me to undermine the order of this region, to undermine your freedom and our democracy and return you to the rule by Zoës. But the evidence they will present, The 1920 Sentinel stories and editorials I wrote and Mr. Fromm supported, will show nothing of the kind. I did not call for the return of Zoë rule; we did nothing to undermine the good order of this region. We merely printed the truth and reflected on our condition. We did nothing to abuse the freedom of the press.”
Zelda sat down and I saw her first tactical mistake. There is no law, no constitutional amendment, under The Articles of Emergency that guarantees freedom of the press. If she tries to build a case on The Articles of Emergency, not only will the legal part implode, it will remind the Jury of the chaos and rancor that precipitated the end of the Ninety Day Republic.
Eddy rose from his table. “The Prosecution enters into evidence this edition of The 1920 Sentinel, reserving the right to enter all publications past and present.”
“I object, your Honors,” Zelda said. “The 1920 Sentinel has been in continuous publication for five hundred years, and only in the recent past have I had sole editorial responsibility.”
“Overruled,” Judge Gabby said.
Eddy continued: “I direct the Jury’s attention to an Editorial printed two months ago. Please note the name affixed at the end is that of one of the defendants, Zelda Hackmeijer. The editorial lists a series of small social faux pas then concludes as follows:
What have we become then since we asked our brothers and sisters of spiritual nature to leave us to our own devices? Since then we have had increasing rudeness, thefts, even public assaults. With what we see in the open degenerating so rapidly from that balanced and growing state we were once in, perhaps there are crimes that go unreported? With fistfights and thuggery gone public, can rape be far behind? Is it already happening?
“That’s what the Editor in Chief of The 1920 Sentinel thinks of you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, people of Region 1920. You are rude, worse than that, you are thugs; you are hiding rapists in your midst. Here is another one:
We have, collectively, recapitulated the Fall [and she capitalized the ‘F’ in fall to link it to the Zoës’ religious bent] and tilted the moral plane downward. What can we do to fix ourselves? The old term ‘bootstrapping’ comes to mind.
“’Bootstrapping,’ in case you don’t remember, is the technique of starting with existing resources to create something more complex and effective. Not bad, if that’s what you mean by it. But she goes on:
But while we may be able to pull on a boot by its straps, we cannot pull ourselves up by our own efforts. We have no lever, nowhere to stand. Our state will continue to decline.
“’Our state will continue to decline.’ Why? Because as it was originally understood and as the Defendant was using the term, ‘bootstrapping’ means doing the impossible, lifting your whole body off the ground by the strap on your boot. The answer then, implied in this editorial, is to have the Zoës come back, isn’t it? Restore us? Lift us up? Rule us?”
Eddy continued pulling out editorials and articles, which the Jury was already familiar with, and one after another showing them in this new light, interpreting the words as a call for the return of Zoë rule. It wasn’t hard to do. I knew Zelda wanted it, or at least was pretty sure that if I’d asked her, she’d have said so. And watching the Jury, I got the sense they were going Eddy’s way. He must have thought so, for when he said The Prosecution rests, he turned to Zelda and smiled.
Zelda rose. “The Defense calls Reese Smith to the stand.”
I wasn’t expecting that. There was no seat near the Bench, since this had never been a courtroom before, so I stood. Zelda looked to the Bench but Gabby didn’t seem to notice he had a role.
“Do you promise to tell the truth, Reese?” Zelda asked.
‘Is that satisfactory, your honor?”
Gabby seemed to realize what was being asked. “You’re sworn in then,” he said.
After a pause, Zelda asked, “Reese, you were asked to serve on the Truth Commission. Is that right?”
“And you are a member of that Commission now. Is that right?”
“And the Commission serves under The Articles of Emergency. Is that right?”
“Do The Articles of Emergency overturn the Laws of the Ninety Day Republic?”
“I object Your Honors, to the term Ninety Day Republic. The Defense is belittling our valiant attempts to create home rule from scratch.”
“Objection sustained,” Gabby said. “The Defense will use no pejorative terms when describing the government.”
“I will restate, Your Honors. Reese, do The Articles of Emergency overturn the laws of the Republic?”
“I don’t know.”
“You serve in the committee that brought the indictment against me and against Alex, and you don’t know whether The Articles of Emergency overturn the laws of the Republic?”
“That’s right. It was never mentioned. There was never any discussion of the status of the laws of the Republic under The Articles of Emergency.”
“And is that not the gist of this article in The 1920 Sentinel? The one that, and I quote to show how vague this all is, ‘among many others,’ is named in the indictment? For the Jury: ‘…that the Defendant did print or aid in the printing of an article calling into question the validity of The Articles of Emergency.’ The article in question simply states what you just stated under oath, that, and I quote you now, Reese, ‘there was never any discussion of the status of the laws of the Republic under The Articles of Emergency.’ There was never any public discussion, which is what the article in question asserts, and apparently, ladies and gentlemen of the Jury, there was never any discussion in the Commission that brought the indictment against the Defendants who stand trial today.”
“I object,” Eddy said from his table.
“Overruled,” Gabby said.
“What? You’re not supposed….” Gabby slammed the gavel hard and Eddy shut up.
“Reese,” Zelda said, barely suppressing a smile, “you were on the committee that drafted the first of the laws of the Republic, is that correct?”
“And what is the very first law? The law your committee felt was the basis of all laws, was more important than the laws against murder and theft and usury, because those all flowed from breaking that first law. Could you state for the record what the first law was?”
“No falsehood. The first law is no falsehood. Do you, as a member of the Truth Commission that brought changes against the Defendants assert that the articles written by me and published by The 1920 Sentinel contain falsehoods?”
“I do not.”
“Did other members of the Commission feel they contained falsehoods?”
I was sorry she asked that. I expect a more experienced attorney would have gone over my testimony with me in advance. Zelda was a reporter acting as an attorney. Even the people attending the trial could see it was a mistake. Gabby brought the trial to order.
“Ms. Hackmeijer, do you rest?”
“No, your Honor. Sorry. Reese, you spoke with me shortly before the indictment came down. Do you recall what we talked about?”
“Sin and reporting bad news.”
“Reporting bad news is one of the crimes I and my codefendant are accused of. So when I explained to you why I reported bad news, what did I say was that reason?”
“You said reporting bad news was shining a light on sin. That when people sinned back when Zoës were in charge, they apologized immediately, and sin was stopped at its source. But now, if people even notice they have sinned, they pretend they didn’t; they hide.”
“And what analogy did I use? To describe sin, what analogy did I use?”
“You said sin was like a black mold. It grew in the dark. But when you put light on it, it grew smaller.”
“Do you think it is a fair analogy to what the articles under exhibit are doing, shining a light on our situation.”
“Thank you. The Defense rests.”
“Is the Prosecution ready to give its summation?” Gabby asked.
“Yes, your Honors,” Eddy said to the Bench. Eddy rose. “Ladies and gentlemen of the Jury. The Prosecution has delivered for your consideration articles in The 1920 Sentinel that call into question our society, that call for a return of the despots who ruled over us, the Zoës. The Defense does not question that these articles were written and paid for by the Defendants. By their own admission, the Defendants assert the lie that Zoë rule was better than Bios rule, that under our own rule we’re just a bunch of sinners, that morally we’re a black mold in need of guidance by the…enlightened? angelic? No! MYSTERIOUS AND CAPRICIOUS! Zoës. They are, by their own admission, guilty as charged of conspiracy against Bios rule. And that question, whether together they did agitate against Bios Rule, is the only question before you, as you will hear the presiding Judge inform you when he charges you with your task.” He sat down. “The Prosecution rests, your Honors.”
“Is the Defense ready to give its summation?” Gabby asked.
“Yes, your Honors,” Zelda said to the Bench.
When Zelda rose in her orange jumpsuit, I was reminded of our former, Zoë ruled state. Before the revolution, we were a community. Honest about our faults with each other. As the orange jumpsuits became the new norm, so did hiding the truth from each other, which was Adam’s first reaction to believing the Lie that he could be like God, knowing good from evil without participating in the evil. He hid himself.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the Jury,” Zelda began, “the Prosecution has declared that we are ‘guilty of conspiracy against Bios rule.’ And there are your two keywords: ‘conspiracy’ and ‘Bios.’ That we opposed Governor Eddy and The Articles of Emergency is clear from the newspapers I wrote and my co-Defendant supported. Many of us do as well, as I know from conversations I’ve had throughout Region 1920. What the Prosecution has done is conflate their rule by decree with ‘Bios’ rule, as if there could be no other rule. But before there was Governor Eddy and The Articles of Emergency we had our short-lived Republic. Whether by design or incompetence, it failed.”
She looked at me when she said that. And she was right, even though it hurt to hear it said.
“But rather than fix those laws or give the new Republic time to work, Governor Eddy, who also happens to be our esteemed Prosecutor, seized power and declared a State of Emergency. We are now under The Articles of Emergency, but they are secret. Unpublished. I ought to know. If they were going to publish them, they’d do it through my newspaper, and Alex’s hardware would have been confiscated to nail them to our lampposts and trees.
“So the first charge is bogus: We do not oppose Bios rule in principle, even if we think it has gone wrong. We oppose The Articles of Emergency in general and Governor Eddy in particular. As for the second charge, ‘conspiracy,’ my codefendant, Alex Fromm, has been subsidizing the printing costs of The 1920 Sentinel. But he has done so openly. Even a cursory examination of our books will show that Alex actually and openly paid for each free copy of The Sentinel. He did that so The Sentinel would remain free to you, as it has been for over five hundred years. So there was no conspiracy, just a free and public gift to you of what so many of you had come to think of as your public newspaper. I was, and am, grateful to Mr. Fromm for this generous, public and civic subsidy. The Defense rests, Your Honors.”
When Zelda sat down, Judge Gabby waited and the courtroom brought itself to order without a gavel.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the Jury,” he said. “The Defendants are charged with Conspiracy Against Bios Rule. You have heard the evidence; you have heard the Prosecution and the Defense lay out their cases regarding the guilt or innocence of the Defendants. The question before you is whether the Defendants have violated Article 23 of The Articles of Emergency that states “all criticism of The Articles of Emergency must be cleared by the Truth Commission in advance of publication.” You must now retire and return with a verdict. Sheriff, please escort the Jury to Samuel Room where they will remain until they call for you to let you know they have reached their verdict. You will then escort them back where their foreman will read that verdict out. This court is in recess until then.”
Zelda stared straight ahead until a deputy grabbed her arm and raised her from her seat. Judge Gabby had at the last second unofficially but completely changed the charges against Alex and Zelda. I was on the Truth Commission, and I never heard of an Article 23. Zelda was right: The Articles of Emergency are not public. Gabby could have made Article 23 up on the spot and we’d never know.
The Sheriff would not let me in to see Zelda. I could hear yelling from the Samuel Room. Several more deputies showed up and cleared the public from the Meeting Hall. I was allowed to stay because I was a member of The Truth Commission. The deputies remained on guard at the doors. I saw Gabby go into the Jury room. I don’t know if that was ethical or not. Shortly after he left, the Jury returned. Zelda’s face dropped when she saw the empty Meeting Room. I think she knew what was coming down. The Jury filed in. Eddy took his seat at the Prosecutor’s table, then the Judges were seated. Gabby gaveled the trial into session.
“Has the Jury reached a verdict?”
“We have, Your Honors,” said a woman in the back row.
“Please stand and read your verdict.”
“On the first count, conspiracy, we find the Defendants not guilty. On the second count, opposition to Bios rule, we find the Defendants not guilty. On the third count, criticism of The Articles of Emergency, we find the Defendants guilty.”
Zelda said jumped up from the table. “I object Your Honors!”
Gabby banged the gavel. “Sheriff, seat the Defendant!”
A deputy thrust Zelda back into her seat. “Your Honors, this third charge was not specified in the indictment.”
“The third charge is implied in the indictment and therefore was included in the lawful directions from this bench to the jury.” Gabby banged the gavel. “Ladies and gentlemen of the Jury. You have discharged your duty. You are dismissed. Sheriff, please clear the Jury from the court.”
With so many additional deputies than the two the trial started with, the Jury was very quickly escorted from the room. I hung back, out of view of the Bench. Gabby banged the gavel.
“The verdict having been delivered as guilty on one count each of criticism of The Articles of Emergency, sentence will now be entered into the record.” Gabby cleared his throat. “You have been found guilty of criticism of The Articles of Emergency, a crime against the well being of society, a crime which undermines society at its root. You are therefore sentenced to death. You will be taken from this place to the Regional Security Building where you will be hanged tomorrow morning at 10:00 until you are dead. This trial is concluded.” Gabby banged the gavel and the bench rose to leave.
“No!” Alex shouted. “That’s not right!” He was still shouting when two deputies grabbed his arms and tied them behind his back. He continued shouting through the black bag they placed over his head. Zelda said nothing and was allowed to walk out of the courtroom with her hands tied behind her back and her head bare. She was enraged but had nowhere to aim it.
Day 782: Reese’s Journal Entry 24: My Heart in This World
I managed to leverage my Truth Commission membership into a visit to see Zelda. She had only three hours and seven minutes to live. As I waited for the deputy on duty to take me back to her cell, all the old Cagney style black-and-white prison-break movies I ever saw as a kid came back to me. But there was no time to dig our way out of jail, no black touring car with running boards waiting behind the Regional Security Building, no gang waiting with Tommy guns should the coppers find us out. I felt shamed that part of my mind was running a humorous fantasy. Someone I’ve known most of my 924 days was about to be hanged.
Hanging isn’t as easy to do right as it seems. I found out that if done wrong it could result in decapitation or, more likely, an agonizing strangulation. A gruesome enough fate for a hardened criminal. Zelda was only a hardened reporter, and Eddy — make that we of Region 1920 — had made that criminal. Eddy and Gabby and their Sheriff may have been railroading us, but we never stood up to them. We let things go from bad to worse and complained without trying to do anything — all of us, except Zelda and Alex.
When I arrived at her cell, she was singing. In the next cell, Alex was quietly praying. This surprised me somewhat. Thank God, they at least took his hood off. I never thought of Alex as religious. He looked up when I entered, smiled, then went back to praying.
“I was hoping to see you, Reese,” Zelda said.
The last time I saw Zelda, her glare could have melted lead. Here she was, smiling a big, broad, going-on-a-picnic smile.
“You’re doing better than I’d expected,” I said.
Part of the smile faded.
“Yes, I know. There’s a door I have to go through that I don’t want to go through. But after that, I will be fine. I talked to Mark last night, and he said he’d see me tomorrow. That’s later today.”
“Wait. They let Mark back across the border and in to visit you?” That didn’t seem like something Eddy would approve.
“No, Mark didn’t ask permission,” Zelda said, her smile returning. “He appeared in my cell…our cells.” Alex looked up from his prayer long enough to smile.
I admitted I was confused. That brought an even bigger smile to Zelda’s face.
“We were too, at first. He’s a Zoë, Reese. They made him a Zoë. He appeared in my cell. Scared the shit out of me at first. He said many of the people that left the region in the Exodus became Zoës. He came to assure us that when we die, when they hang us, we’ll be resurrected in Region 2021. He couldn’t say if it would be as Zoës or Bios, they didn’t tell him that. But that’s fine, either way this isn’t the end.”
“Just a narrow door we have to walk through,” said Alex. “Like the bars of my cell. Reese, it was the weirdest thing. He came through the cell bars, into my cell, and gave me a hug before he left.”
The deputy sheriff who escorted me back opened the door to the cell room. “Time’s up!” he said.
“I’ll see you later,” Zelda said. “One way or another, I’ll see you later.”
Once I left the Regional Security Building, I had nowhere else to go that morning. I had decided to witness the execution. Not that I wanted to see my friends die, but I wanted to be sure the State didn’t force any further indignities on them beyond political murder.
I dropped by the office of The 1920 Sentinel. I expected I would find the presses smashed, but as far as I could tell from peering into the darkened window, they were still there and in good shape. Even the front office appeared untouched. As a member of the Truth Commission, I supposed I could finagle my way into being handed The 1920 Sentinel to carry on the function of a newspaper and public printer, but more and more I wanted less and less to do with this whole thing: Eddy, I was through with. Hell, the whole region was somewhere I didn’t care to live in anymore. Yet I knew I wouldn’t be allowed out. Cut off now at both ends.
I still had two and a half hours to kill. I went to see if Marnie’s was open.
“Coffee’s still brewing,” Marnie said, “but have a seat, love, and I’ll bring you a menu.”
“Got any donuts?”
“If you don’t mind yesterday’s, I have some in the case.”
Marnie was a bundle of energy, as if the energy of a large person was compacted into her small frame. It did me good to watch someone full of life bustle about her business. Her green jumpsuit looked homemade and ill fitting, like she threw it together herself. I hadn’t had a chance to talk to her since the end of the Ninety Day Republic.
She brought me a coffee and a brew “fresh off the top.”
“How’s things?” I asked.
She sat down across from me. Something she’d never done before. Usually, she’ll drape a hand on my shoulder or give me a hug, then bustle off to her hurried life of making sure her customers were happy.
“How’s things?” she repeated. “Look at me, Reese. I’m wearing a sack. I refuse to wear that orange crap they hand out at the Regional Hall. It’s warm out, beautiful weather, and I have to go around in a sack instead of the beautiful skin God gave me. Thanks to you, bucko, thanks to you.”
“I voted against that rule.”
“Uh huh. But now you’re on the Truth Commission. Tell me, who’s asking me how things are? Reese, my friend, or Reese, the Truth Commission official?”
“There is only one Reese. At least now there is. I’m resigning after the… After they kill Zelda and Alex.”
“Are you going?”
“Yes, I think I will. I want to be sure they’re treated humanely.”
“Hanging them for speaking their minds isn’t humane, bucko.”
“I agree. Look, Marnie, I never joined any of those committees, Eddy keeps putting me on them, and I stay there trying to act as a brake to all this stuff he’s doing.”
“Your brakes are worn out.”
I let that drop. “I saw Zelda this morning. I guess I thought I’d try to cheer her up, but when I got there, she was smiling. Alex too.”
Marnie raised an eyebrow. “Smiling?”
“Mark visited their cells. He’s a Zoë now. Promised them they’ll be resurrected in Region 2021.”
“About fuckin’ time something good happened around here.” She rose from the table. “Got to get back to opening the place up. Can I get you another cup?”
“That would be nice, thanks.”
After a moment I took my cup and empty plate and went to the counter.
“Why did you stay, Marnie?”
“I ask myself that every time I put this glad rag on,” she said. She poured my refill and set the coffee pot down on the counter. “When it came down to it, this place is why. Mark and I talked that night everyone voted one whether to go. Being a Zoë fits him. He didn’t seem to mind leaving his press behind. I didn’t want to leave my place here. Hindsight is perfect. That might have been a mistake. I built this business up thinking ‘I’m here for good now’ or for a thousand years anyway. This is my vine. This is my fig tree. I couldn’t let it go. I’d wanted to open a restaurant all my life, but never could. When I got here, there were no restaurants in New Harmony. I put so much of myself into this place, I couldn’t leave it.
“When that Zoë who came to talk to us, Amber, said we couldn’t take anything with us. She led them across the border that night with nothing, only the clothes on their backs. I was there. Said goodbye to some old friends that night. I came back to a different town. Sorry I stayed now. Most of my favorite customers left in the Exodus. Business has been off, and it’s a lot harder to do business in general. Taxes. Rules. Did I tell you about the rules? New ones every day until you can’t take a shit without breaking a rule. Don’t laugh! Businesses only get so much TP you know and the borders are closed. Then there’s Eddy. Governor Eddy. Eddy of The Permanent Emergency Committee. If there was another Exodus, I’d go. The magic’s gone out of the place. And…”
“Look, I ain’t no saint. I don’t expect to be reunited with my family. ‘Bout gave up on that. I figure they’re all right.”
“Yes. No. Not exactly. They’ll have their dad. Frank was the saintly type. What about you?”
“I’m on the committee.”
“I don’t mean the committee. Get a clue. Why do you stick around? I thought you were all for finding your wife.”
“Helen. I haven’t given up.”
“Could have fooled me.”
“I tried, remember? Meteor man? And before that there were other things, and none of them worked.”
“Ever try cooperating?”
“That’s funny coming from you. Your name came up in the committee because you weren’t ashamed of your skin.”
“True. No, I mean, there must have been something the Zoës wanted you to do.”
“They basically wanted me to forget the whole thing.”
Marnie scrunched her nose at that. “Okay, sorry I brought it up.” She refreshed my coffee and went back to preparing the place to open for the day. I sat a while, off in my own thoughts. She told me don’t worry about money and see myself out. I set my cup down and wandered out, my mind on Amber. Amber had come back and didn’t drop in to see me. It hit me just how much I missed her company. I treated her badly the last time I saw her. I’d love to see her again if only to apologize to her for that.
The last time we were together, and this really astonished me at the time, I was home, alone, reading a book and caught a hint of Helen’s Cinnabar.
Look at what I wrote. I wrote you in third person. They’ve kept me from you so long. Funny I should do that while I’m telling you this story, isn’t it. Here I am writing about Amber smelling like Cinnabar and then I write about you like you’re not going to read my journal. Someone else will.
I need a break.
Okay, Helen, I was telling you that I’d been home alone and I looked up and there was Amber, sitting across from me and looking at me. She smiled when I saw her, but I scowled then yelled at her to get out. I made like it was because she had just appeared in my room, like she was some stranger off the street who wandered in and sat down for a brief stare. But that was only a small part of it. As much as I told myself not to, Helen, I kept taking my anger over you out on Amber. Which was ironic, in that Amber reminded me so much of you, that I often mistook her for you, would think I saw or heard you when Amber spoke or walked into the room. And that night, for a second, it really was you sitting there, looking at me, smiling at me. Helen in the flesh, back from the dead, joining me in the resurrection at last.
Then I got mad, and she was Amber again. It was more than I could bear. I said she kept doing that, looking like you, Helen, and I asked if she was trying to break my heart on purpose. She fled my apartment, on foot. Babe, she was in tears. Zoës can cry, it seems. It was the last time I saw her. A few days later, we had our little revolution, and I knew I’d never see her again.
Thing is, I’d come to love Amber’s company. Her smile, her voice. Her presence in my life. I’d try to remember something that had happened during the day so when I saw her again, I could tell her. I was always interested in what Amber thought of things. I hope I haven’t disappointed you, Helen. I don’t want you to think I’ve fallen for another woman. I feel like maybe God is leading me into temptation, creating a Zoë that looks, and sometimes acts, so much like you.
It’s so confusing.
In any case that was a long time ago — or it feels like it anyway.
I wandered the town thinking about her, thinking about you…waiting to go back to the Regional Security Building. I watched the town wake up — as well as it did anymore with half its residents gone, most of its businesses vacant. I finally returned to the Regional Security Building to get my last official duty as a member of Eddy’s ‘Permanent Emergency Government’ over with. After the execution, I was leaving town. I might stop in and say goodbye to Marnie. She was the last friend I had from before. But that was it. I was leaving Region 1920 if I could, and making it hard for the Sheriff to find me if I couldn’t.
The number of people crowding into the Regional Security Building surprised me. We were ushered in the front door and out the back, with deputies stationed along the hallways to be sure no one wandered off. In back, a makeshift gallows had been erected, just high enough that the prisoners would end up feet-off-the-ground when the trap sprang.
Orange. Every public gathering was a reminder of the ubiquitous orange jumpsuits that had become our de facto uniforms. An field of orange dotted here and there with the black of the State’s security apparatus, the Sheriff and his deputies. Eddy and Zelda were brought out, hands once again bound behind their backs, two deputies for each of them. They were marched up the steps and stood upon the traps. The ropes were draped over their heads then tightened onto their necks. One of the deputies started to put a bag over Alex’s head and I heard him say ‘no,’ but they weren’t taking requests, so as he was tightening the drawstring on Alex’s bag, Zelda shouted “The King Reigns in Zion. Christ our Lord, Jesus Immanuel. By his strength, I forgive you all.”
The bag went over her head. Eddy mounted the gallows. He unrolled a scroll of paper, which snapped shut and had to be unrolled again. “Alex Fromm and Zelda Hackmeijer,” he shouted, facing us instead of them, “you have been found guilty of sedition. You have been given a fair trial and sentence will now be carried out.”
He signaled the executioner deputy, who pulled a lever dropping them both down. Alex began writhing, kicking, and I wondered if the gallows would hold him. Zelda was immobile. The rope probably broke her neck. Alex finally strangled to death. Eddy signaled to a man in a black jumpsuit that could have been a deputy but for the lack of a shoulder patch. He examined the two and spoke to Eddy.
“The sentence has been carried out,” Eddy shouted. “Power to the people!” Whatever he meant and whatever he expected, few reacted. Then I heard the people in the front of the crowd clamor and a wave of chatter and movement swept through the assembly of witnesses. The two bodies began to glow. Their orange jumpsuits burst into flame and in seconds the bodies and the ropes they hung by were consumed.
I decided to leave town.
I didn’t take a kit with me. Nothing but the clothes on my back — Sam’s bulletproof jumpsuit. I decided to drop by Marnie’s on my way out of town. I ordered a coffee and an egg and cheese sandwich at the counter. Lucy came over with the coffee pot.
“Marnie in?” I asked while she poured.
“Not yet. Maybe later, but I don’t know when.”
Missed opportunities. That much I didn’t blame on Eddy, or anyone else, including God. Seems like it’s part of existence. The sandwich bread was dry and the coffee a bit acidic. Nice way to set off on my final attempt to leave 1920. I paid for my meal and tucked the rest of my cash under the plate as a tip. I noticed a couple staring at my blue outfit as I was passing by their booth.
“You’re right,” I said. “It is a bit blue.” I took the jumpsuit off, folded it up and placed it on the end of their table. “I’ll keep the sandals if you don’t mind.” They both edged away further into their booth, faces scrunched up as if the jumpsuit were a full diaper.
I no longer cared if anyone saw me slip out of town. Let the whole town follow me out. Let the deputies come and lock me up. I can make trouble from a cell. Or at least, I like to think I can. Either way, I was done with things here.
It was cooler than I’d like for being naked outdoors. The weather had been less predictable since the revolution, which Eddy insisted at every town meeting was just natural variability. The insistence itself set alarm bells off in everyone’s head which they then had to ignore via the growing volume of cognitive dissonance life in the post-Zoë world required. Zelda was right about lies. Life seemed to be turning into one giant lie, as the small lies built up like grains of sand dropped into a growing pile. Every so often the pile would avalanche and the top of the pile would slide down and Eddy would call a new Town Meeting to deal with the alarm. Then the cognitive dissonance machine would get cranked up further and the whole process would start again. Meanwhile, the base of the pile grew wider and filled more of our life space.
The sand pile was always like that in the world that was. What I didn’t know then was whether it part of being human, something we never noticed unless we looked too closely. Maybe it started with the Egyptians and other monumental civilizations, or maybe earlier, with the first settled communities. In any case, it wasn’t part of the world I was resurrected into. The world of the Zoës, despite the frustrations my childlike reaction to being “parented” created for me, was an honest one. Zelda was right about that. There was enough light in that world to keep the mold of sin from growing. People were more than honest with each other; they were good to each other. Friendly, helpful, harmonious in a way that started from the inner harmony we all had.
“All” is stretching it a bit. Eddy lacked it. Mort lacked it. To some extent, every one of us who stayed behind in the little Exodus lacked it. Zelda’s thing was to be a reporter. Marie had her breakfast joint at last. Alex had the turf he called his hardware store. And yes, I lacked it. My obsession with finding Helen, like any obsession, cost me the harmony available to me. I wasn’t sure I was ready to surrender that obsession just yet, but I wanted to. I wanted to change it into something else, a desire, a nostalgia even, something that would give my memories of Helen joy again. The single-minded urge to rekindle the past had kept me from living in the present, in the light of the world the Zoës had made. In that Shalom. Instead of the Tikkun Olam, “building for Eternity,” I was tearing down for my own purposes.
The low undulations of the terrain kept the resurrectorium from view until I was fairly close to it. When I first spotted it, the windows stood out from the chrome and green glazed block exterior because they were all dark. It wasn’t the kind of broken-window and sprayed graffiti abandoned it would have been in the world that was. No weeds sprouted out of the lawn. Just dark. Lifeless, in the way any abandoned building is lifeless. I spotted the ambulance near the emergency entrance on the side, but there was no activity around it.
The front doors were unlocked. The lobby was lit only by daylight from outside. Through one of sets of the doors leading off the main lobby, I spotted an emergency light down a hallway. The building had power, something the rest of the region was beginning to struggle with. No one knew where the electricity came from; we just hoped we weren’t cut off at some point. A lot of things kept flowing in from outside the region. Like the coffee that Marnie made. Like the orange jumpsuits. I had been thinking they were being supplied via some corrupt connection with Region 2021, but that was unlikely, given the scale of the support 2021 was providing.
It was paternalism. We were like spoiled children who slammed the door to our room after a fight with our parents; then we come out and demand a bowl of cereal before going back to our huff. We were like rebellious teenagers still receiving our allowance. They gave us electricity we could not generate ourselves because the Bios who ran the power plant left and no one know how to run a hydroelectric plant. They gave us foodstuffs we could not grow ourselves because the market collapsed when better than half the farmers left their farms overnight. Was there a region that grew the coffee? A region where people were not so spoiled as we? One grateful for the world the Zoës provided? A region still in harmony with itself and the Zoë life forms guiding it? Was there something like a third world? I doubted it. I was sure that whatever region the coffee growers lived in, it wasn’t run the way it used to be.
I stood in the lobby looking through the doors to the hallways leading away from the lobby, trying to decide whether to explore the abandoned building or move on and make my way to Region 2021 and beg entrance, when I saw movement, a shifting shadow, out of the corner of my eye. I figured either a large bird had gotten loose in the resurrectorium, or there was someone in there, and I had just spotted their shadow. Most likely someone was scavenging the place for bits and pieces to sell or reuse.
I debated trying to find a weapon, but I didn’t see anything I could use, and figured bringing a weapon sent the wrong signal anyway. Except for Mortimer, we were, even in our newly fallen state, remarkably nonviolent on a personal level.
The doors to the hallway opened silently. I crept forward. The dark doorways each held some menace. I was always a sucker for the ‘it jumps out at you’ scare. Despite the reassurance I had given myself about nonviolence, I felt vulnerable. I saw light spilling out of a room near the end of the corridor and picked up my pace to a walk.
As I got closer, I realized the light was bright only in relation to the dark hallway, because the room was the Chapel. A woman was sitting in a pew near the front, hair draped over naked shoulders. I announced my presence with a small cough. She turned to see who was there.
“Reese!” she called out. She ran down the short aisle between the pews and threw herself into my arms.
It was you. You were back, Helen. My heart in the world was back.
Day 783: Amber’s Journal Entry 9: Satie
Mark and several others who had passed over into Region 1819 had also passed over from Bios life into Zoë life. The King was there when Mark was given the Eternal Gift. That’s to be expected since all life comes from him. I wouldn’t think of asking why this one was selected and not that one. He does what he will do. Mark was a pretty nice guy, but beyond that surface, only he can see; only he can judge. I took a weight off my shoulders when I finally realized that same truth applied to me.
Those who had retained their Bios life didn’t seem unhappy about it. Some settled in with an 1819 Bios until they were able to rebuild their lives there. Other Bios were transported to Region 2021. Our contingent of Zoës new and old remained at Resurrectorium 1819, a three story red brick and mortar building with tall limestone window frames holding tall wooden double hung windows — all beneath a clay tile roof. Inside, polished wooden floors reflected light from natural daylight and oil lamps in chandeliers.
Each new Zoë had an interview with Jesus, but when the last of them had finished she came out and said he wanted to speak to me. I wasn’t anxious, it’s impossible to be anxious in his presence, but I wish I could say I was surprised. Between us, Reese and I had been an unusual amount of bother, and I was sure it had something to do with one or both of us.
The grainy glass of the door was stenciled “Director.” I knocked and heard “come in, please.” When I entered the room, he was seated behind a desk in a white suit with a pale blue shirt and an emerald green necktie. I realized I was wearing a white robe, though I didn’t remember changing into one.
“You and Reese…” he said.
“I know,” I replied, interrupting him. “We’re trouble.”
Rather than be irritated that I’d interrupted him, he smiled.
“Trouble is sometimes what is needed. Abba has heard your prayer. And Reese is almost ready. But you must wait for him. It may be a little while longer, so be patient. Reese will find you. Go to the Chapel down the hall and wait there until he enters. When he sees you, he will know you as Helen. That is what both your hearts have desired.”
He turned his attention to something on his desk. I knew he was not angry with me. He had to be disappointed. Maybe that’s why it hurt. I stood, expecting him to dismiss me, but he continued with the business on his desk. I wasn’t sure how to exit properly, but I took his silence as dismissal.
“Thank you,” I said, standing up.
“No fear,” he said, but did not look up.
I found the Chapel on the top floor. An empty wooden cross stood in front of an altar with a white cloth spread across it and a communion plate and chalice on it. There was bread on the plate, and I supposed the chalice held wine. Behind the altar hung another cross, this one with the carved image of a crucified man hanging from it — the man I had just spoken to. Above the cross was a stained glass window with an image of a person, man or woman, I wasn’t sure, ascending upward, white Lazarus-bindings falling from the body. The face and outstretched hand glowed in a light coming from above, a light the figure was ascending into. It was an image of resurrection and transfiguration.
I, on the other hand, was now descending; my transformation would be from immortality back into flesh. The robe I had found myself in when I entered his office was gone, though I don’t remember losing it anymore than I remembered donning it. I felt a bit more solid. My arm, when I touched it, was warm. I felt my heart beating, the circulating blood pulsing in my fingertips. Perhaps as Zoë those sensations would have been mine had I stopped to notice. Perhaps not. But I was sure now that I was physical. I must be Bios. I knelt to pray and wait for Reese.
I heard a cough and turned. “Reese!” I called and dashed down the aisle and into his arms. He had called me by my old name, knew me as Helen. I didn’t realize how much I had wanted to hug him. As Amber, as Zoë, I felt I had to be separate from him, keep a mentor/pupil or even master/disciple distance. I don’t know where the idea came from. It seemed to come with the territory of being a Zoë guide. I saw all the other Zoës doing the same. It was a way of being with Bios that worked — except for Reese.
Movies and romance novels were always about the kiss. Our love was always about the hug. I had hungered for this without knowing it. I felt weak, as if going from Zoë to Bios had drained me, and the hug was recharging my soul. He held my face in his hands for a moment as if he had to be sure it was me. Then he kissed me.
Movies and romance novels were always about the kiss for good reason. Time stopped. When it started again, passions I never expected to feel again stirred. I realized we were in a chapel and pulled Reese out into the hall, looking to see if I could find an empty room.
The hall was empty. The building seemed empty.
“Where is everybody?”
“I was wondering that,” he said. “I thought all you Zoës were up here.”
“Up here? Is this Region 1920?”
“Where else could I be?”
I began to wander off to see if it was empty but Reese grabbed my hand and pulled me to him. This time the kiss wasn’t mixed with all kinds of ‘happy to see you’ feelings, it was ‘I want you now’ and he did.
In an empty resurrectorium, finding a private place to make love wasn’t the hard part.
Day 783 Reese’s Journal Entry 25 — to a new Zoë: Satie
Even though that the events I’m recording are for someone other than you, Helen, I think I should continue. If you, my new Zoë, whoever you are, were never in love, I’m sorry for you. But as you can tell from the rest of what I wrote when I was writing to Helen, she was all that I had asked for since my first resurrection.
My Helen was back.
I remember that her skin was warm against mine. I remember that feeling of completion when we hugged, of my soul fitting with her soul, our two souls perfectly formed to complement each other through many long years of loving each other, all flooded back. What I had longed for since my resurrection I had at long last: Helen. In my arms. In my life. In my heart.
“Where were you?” I asked. “I got into all kinds of trouble trying to find you.”
She stepped back a little. “I was right here, all along, Reese. You saw me sometimes. Then you’d lose sight of me.”
“I don’t understand. I never saw you. If I had, I’d have come running!”
“You saw me in Amber. The fact that I was Zoë kept you from seeing me as I was because you were looking for me as I used to be.”
“Was Zoë. I’m Bios now. I’m Bios because I needed you as much as you needed me. So I asked them to make me a Bios.”
She half smiled. “Yes, it is great. We’ll be together for a thousand years or so. Until this new era is over and yet another era begins. We’re mortal together.”
“You don’t seem too happy about all this. I know you’re Helen because I can read your face. You’ve got that ‘smile while it still hurts look’ you’d always get when you pretended your arthritis didn’t hurt.”
“Sorry. Zoë life was…it was more than immortal life; it was life in a way I can’t describe to you. Imagine if I told you I could fly to the sun and not get burned. You’d never understand it. You would be thinking of some fire here on earth and think I could stand closer to that than you can, but fire like the sun is beyond your ability to comprehend. Well, if I told you I was able to stand in the very Light that powers all the stars in the universe, the Light of Creation, and not be burned up, how much less could I get that across to you? But each time I was in that Light, a part of me longed to be with you. So I prayed to be made a Bios again. To be with you again as Helen. And here I am.”
“You gave up being some kind of angel to be with me?”
“I missed you even when I was with him, so I gave up being of a divided heart to be with you.”
“And now your heart is whole? Undivided?”
“No. I wish it were. I thought it would be. Remember the old saying, ‘be careful what you wish for’? Now I can’t be in the Light anymore, and my heart is divided over that.”
“I’m sorry. If I hadn’t been so selfish, you would have been able to stay a Zoë.”
“It wasn’t your heart that was divided. Remember it took Casiel to stop you? No, half of me was in one life, half in another. Divided.”
“Look, if you want to go back to being a Zoë, that’s fine. I mean, well, I would miss you, of course, but knowing you were a Zoë would be a lot better than thinking God had left you behind, never resurrected at all. That’s what was driving me nuts. Not knowing. All he had to do was say something. All you had to do was say something. Why didn’t you? It would have saved us both a lot of trouble.”
“I was told to wait until you were ready, which turned out to mean until I was ready and knew what I wanted.”
I started to speak and she put her finger to my lips. “Shhh. I know, it kind of sucks. Even God has to make choices. As for me, I had to know what I was willing to sacrifice. In the end, I came to know that even if I wasn’t a Zoë, God loved me anyway. But if I was a Zoë, you would never be able to let go. I chose to be with you. That was my prayer, and it was answered.”
We sat for a while in each other’s presence, for the joy of looking into her eyes was one I found I missed more than I could have imagined. We talked. We kissed. We made love.
We heard music. I’m not romantic enough to imagine it was because we had made love.
“That’s in the building,” I said.
“It sounds like Eric Satie,” Helen said.
She would know. She was a musician in the world that was.
“Who’s here to resurrect him?” I asked.
“I think I know,” she said. “Come on. The piano’s in the Lounge.”
The room was festooned with paper garlands and all the chairs were in a semicircle facing an armchair surrounded and overhung with many more garlands. It was a throne. The whole thing, but especially that throne, looked like a set to a play put on by fourth graders.
At the piano in the darkened lounge sat an older man, mid-sixties perhaps, mostly bald, in a three-piece suit and tie from the late 19th century. He turned a smile to us and the wire rims of his glasses caught the dim light and for a second, the glass lenses flared as if his eyes were projecting light.
“He looks like Eric Satie,” she said when we reached the lounge.
“Are you two happy at last?” Satie asked.
We looked at each other. We had just made love, and perhaps the glow still showed. And some sweat perhaps.
“You can’t be Satie,” Helen said.
“I am, in a sense.”
“What sense?” I asked.
“Because I Am, I am everything, and therefore everyone, in fractal. So you are all me, in fractal. I am you, in a small way. And so I am Satie, in a way. But Satie is Satie, too, of course, and his sad, brilliant life was his own. I would have asked him to play for you, but he isn’t ready. This region is…asleep,” he said, and returned to playing for a while. “I love the way his notes create so much by the space between them.” A few notes later he said, “Lives have spaces between them, too. Spaces are as essential in life as they are in art. When I am with Zoës, they want more than anything to remove those spaces between them and me. We need spaces to hear the notes, to see the artists’ line on the page, make the letters into words into sentences into sense. Most Zoës don’t understand that. They want to be like angels, to be binary in singularity. You weren’t made to be binary or singular. You’re trinities: Body, mind, and spirit. I would know something about existing in a trinity. And about being separated from the one I loved. You’re messy because life is messy. It’s death that isn’t messy.” He stopped playing and turned to Amber, holding out his hands as a grandparent would to a child. She stepped forth and took them in hers. “Amber, your love for Reese put that necessary space between us. And in that space, you became willing to do something most Zoës think they are beyond doing: You were willing to sacrifice.”
“I still am,” she said.
“I know. As was Reese. He had finally reached the point where he was willing to sacrifice, give up his quest for you, and give up the past. He was ready to live in the present, whatever it held. He was ready to live again. And you, my dear Amber, were ready to give up Zoë life, and were ready to begin a Bios life with Reese, even if it eventually held death for you.”
“Yes,” she said. “I’m willing to die for us. Just hopefully not today.”
Satie’s smile squinted his eyes behind the glasses.
“You’re satisfied with this life then?”
“Yes. I’d be happy with Bios life.”
“If you wish. But right now, you still have your Zoë life.”
“Yes. And it’s the way Zoë life should be. Fully human, fully alive, and loving it!”
He did a flourish on the piano. As he spoke, the room got brighter. Maybe it was that he got brighter.
“You’ve discovered something all my Zoës must learn,” Satie said. “Sacrifice is a form of surrender. And surrender is at the heart of love. Love is a continual surrender of self to other. At the heart of it all, Abba surrenders singleness to me, I surrender separateness to Abba. Our spirits eternally flowing in surrender to each other eternally birth the One Spirit we share, the Person that is Love, Agápe, or Self-giving. All that is, flows from that Self-giving Love.
“Helen Amber, you are my first Zoë child to reach this. The first to be willing to separate enough to create room for sacrifice, and then to carry out that sacrifice of yourself for another. I had to do the same for all of you. And while most of those I sacrificed for didn’t even know me, I let you have a much-needed advantage: The one you lay down your life for is here.
“Reese, I hope you understand that two of us have now given our lives for you. My prayer for you, Reese, is that you be willing to sacrifice for others even as you were for Helen Amber. And now, what is to be done?” Satie said, closing the piano lid on the keys and turning to look at us.
Day 784: Reese’s Journal Entry 26: And Now, What Is to Be Done?
Helen Amber and I weren’t sure what we would do. Satie’s question, “And now, what is to be done?” wasn’t a call to a conference among the three of us; it was a call to arms for the two of us. Sort of like the disciples sent out with nothing, we were sent back to town from the resurrectorium with nothing.
One thing I had on the way back to town that I didn’t have on my way out was Helen Amber. The one treasure I searched for. My own Pearl of Great Price. Otherwise, Adam and Eve owned as much as we did.
“I love holding your hand,” I said. They say you don’t know what you have until it’s lost. But sometimes, you don’t know what you’ve lost until you have it back. You smiled. We were walking hand in hand and you smiled. We must have been halfway to town before it dawned on me that we had no weapons, tools, or even plans.
“So, now what?” I asked.
“We wait. We go back and see what happens.”
“That’s some plan. Somebody should have given that one to Eisenhower.”
With no other plan in mind, I decided to share my joy of finding Helen Amber again with Marnie. But when we got there, Marnie’s was closed.
“That’s odd,” I said. “Let’s try The 1920 Sentinel. Maybe there’s an article about it.” Surely someone had carried on after Zelda.
But The 1920 Sentinel was closed. Just as I was beginning to think we’d arrived in a ghost town, we saw that Tillie’s Hardware Store, now renamed The People’s Hardware, was open. I knew Alex wouldn’t be there, but someone was. It was early in the morning, and there was no one up front. I thought about the tornado that brought the roof down. The new building didn’t have the molded tin panels on the ceiling, just plaster. Near the back, a red headed man in an orange jumpsuit stood on a ladder counting stock.
“Are you in charge?” Helen Amber called up.
“…Eight. Nine. Ten,” he said, making his count out loud and noting it on his paperwork.” He turned a bit and looked down from his counting. “Get some clothes on, you freaks!” he yelled.
“Are you the owner?” Helen Amber said again.
“No one’s the owner. This is The People’s Hardware. Now get your naked asses out of my store before I call the Sheriff.”
“Where can we get clothes?” I asked.
“New in town? Where’d you two come from? The borders are sealed and the Hospital was looted by the Zoës.”
“It was…” began Helen Amber, but I interrupted.
“…Empty. Yes. So where can we get clothes?” At least I would finally find out where the jumpsuits came from.
“At the Regional Hall building. But you’d better check in with the Sheriff first. He needs to know who’s in town.”
As we left, I knew he was keeping an eye on us and would check in with the Sheriff later.
“You lied,” Helen Amber said.
“No, I just left him believing what he’d been told about looting. You were about to get caught up arguing when we needed to avoid drawing further attention to ourselves. You can make yourself look like you have a jumpsuit, but I should go get one if we want to blend in.”
“I don’t think so.”
“You don’t think we should blend in?”
“If we want to make waves, we should be visible.”
We returned to Marnie’s, now open for business. Lucy was there.
“Where’s Marnie?” I asked.
Lucy looked up from some paperwork she was going over at the counter. There were several customers. All eyes were on us.
“Where’s Marnie?” I asked again.
“In jail,” Lucy said. “And if you don’t want to join her there, get out and get some clothes on.”
“Why is Marnie in jail?”
“For starters, she came to work naked. That’s against the law. You know the law, Reese, you helped write it.”
We left Marnie’s.
“I have an idea,” I said.
We went to The 1920 Sentinel. The offices were locked. We went around the back. Same thing. The back door had a window. I found a large rock.
“What are you going to do?” Helen Amber asked.
“You wanted to make waves? Let’s make waves. Big ones.” I threw the rock through the window, hoping no one would hear. I reached through the opening and unlocked the door from the inside.
“Watch your feet on the glass,” I said.
“So now we’re breaking and entering,” Helen Amber said. “Now the Sheriff has legitimate grounds to arrest us. Grounds I can’t contest. What are we doing here?”
“We need a voice. A pulpit, if you will. No one is using this press — the place has been empty since Zelda was put in jail — illegally, I might add. We’re going to run an extra edition.”
We started with some basic clean up, beginning with the window I broke. We made sure we stayed away from the business office up front and didn’t turn on any lights. Everything we needed was already there: a supply of clean paper, the inks, the cleaning supplies, of course, and Zelda’s ink-stained apron. Hanging on a hook was an orange jumpsuit. I’d never seen Zelda wear it. Perhaps it was bartered. I took it down and started climbing into it.
“What are you going to do with that?” Helen Amber asked. “It doesn’t even fit.”
She was right. My ankles stuck out and the suit was a tight fit in the crotch.
“I was going to go see Marnie.”
“You look like a carrot with feet. I’ll go.”
“No one’s seen you here before. The Sheriff might ask questions.”
“Exodus 4:12: ‘Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.’”
I decided not to argue with that. After she left, I started setting up the press and found an outfit of Mark’s in the back room. I had a feeling I wasn’t supposed to find it before.
Day 784: Amber’s Journal Entry 10: A Word in My Ear
After meeting Reese again in Resurrectorium 1920 (apparently the chapel in Resurrectorium 1819 was also the chapel in Resurrectorium 1920—or something like that) we had a lot of catching up to do. Then we made our plans.
We are going to run a newspaper declaring the Good News, and we agreed it would be nice to get some background on what happened while Reese was out of town and after I led the children of the New Israel (not an official name, just what I had come to call them after that night). So I went to see Marnie in prison.
I was wearing a jumpsuit we found in the newspaper office. Zelda’s jumpsuit fit well enough, but every time I moved I could feel the cloth and the seams dragging across my skin. It reminded me as I approached the deputy’s desk that I was truly Bios, that I could be killed, or worse, jailed with Marnie.
I wondered how I was going to hear him, now that I was no longer Zoë, if he had a Word for me. For Reese’s benefit, I had tossed off Exodus 4:12: ‘Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.’” Moses was a Bios, so the Lord could still communicate with me if he wanted to. Where was there a bush he could burn?
I got a Word in my ear. Well, I think it was a Word. They aren’t as clear as they used to be. He said he could speak through a burning file folder if he needed to. It was good to know he had a sense of humor. I’d forgotten: ‘The rocks and stones themselves.’
The new jail was a hastily built brutal monstrosity of concrete block with gun slit windows on the first floor. I remembered that when the Sheriff came to the pass to stop the Little Exodus, they had primitive guns. Mutt and Jeff deputies sat in a guardhouse outside the door, keeping their black jumpsuits in the shade of a tin roofed shed next to it. Neither had a gun, though the homemade swords they had were probably deadly enough.
“Business?” The big one said. The short one just stared at me.
“I’d like to visit with Marnie.”
“And you are?
The big guy held out his hand.
“I don’t have any. I’m visiting from Linden.” I didn’t tell them Linden is in 2021. I would confront my conscience later on whether less than full information was the same as a lie.
“All the towns in the region are supposed to issue I.D.,” the short one said.
“You’ll have to speak with our sergeant,” the big guy said.
That got me inside, with the short one gripping my arm just above the elbow. He had a strong grip.
The sergeant’s office was just inside the main door. The short one opened the door and pushed me in ahead of him. The slit of a window did not admit much light. It apparently didn’t open either. The room was stuffy and rank with armpit. I spotted a ceiling fan in a corner of the room, which made me look up to see a drawn outline on the ceiling where an electrical box was supposed to be. The desk that sat in the light from the slit of a window had feet propped on it. The man the feet belonged to sat up.
“She’s here without I.D., asking to speak to one of the prisoners.”
“Marnie. From the restaurant. Says she’s from Linden and they don’t issue I.E. there. I thought all the cities in the Region were supposed to issue I.D.”
“Linden isn’t in our region. Is it Zoë?” he said, turning his attention to me.
“No. I’m just here to visit Marnie. I stopped by the restaurant and they said she was here.”
“Where’d you get the jumpsuit, stranger?”
“From one of the people who used to live in the Region, Zelda. She’s a Zoë now in 2021 and doesn’t need it.”
“Zelda’s dead. I saw her hanged. And there is no 2021. Drew,” he said to the big guy, “put this lying thief in a cell. Not next to Marnie. And cuff her.” While Drew cinched the cotton–rope handcuffs, the sergeant wrote an order out for my disposition. Drew took the paper and marched me deeper into the building. I could smell unsealed concrete trying to find a way to dry.
As we approached the deputy sitting next to the door to the cellblock, he rose from his chair and his hand went to the hilt of his sword. Drew handed the paper to him and after inspecting it, this ward of the door tucked it into a pocket.
“I have the prisoner,” he said. Drew left without speaking. The warden slid the bolt from the door and ushered me into the cellblock. The cellblock consisted of two rows of cells; one with window slits the other interior to the building. The only one not occupied was the one next to Marnie. He gave me a small shove into the cell and locked it.
“Put your wrists through the bars,” he said.
I turned my arms so both could go through the bars. He untied the cuffs then tucked them into a pocket.
He looked around at his charges. “You lot are quiet today.” When that didn’t get a rise, he left the block. I could hear the bolt slide across the door.
“Hello, everybody,” I said. “I’m a friend of Reese’s. He asked me to visit Marnie, but I’d like to talk to all of you in turn. I’m from Region 2021.”
“Are you going to set us free?” one of the prisoners asked.
“We’re sorry we sent you Zoës away,” said another, and then followed with “You are a Zoë, aren’t you?”
“If she was a Zoë,” said another, “she wouldn’t be in a cell, would she?”
My attention was drawn to the door of my cell. I got the impression of a Word: ‘Try it.’ I pulled on the door and it swung open. I stepped over to Marnie’s cell and gently pushed her door open. Then all the others. The door to the outside was still bolted, but I was sure when the time came that would be taken care of.
We sat on the floor of the cellblock and exchanged stories.
“They came to my house after work one night,” Marnie said. “They brought me this orange jumpsuit. Thing was two sizes too big. “‘You gotta stop wearing that green jumpsuit,’ they said. Orange was the official color of jumpsuits, ‘No green jumpsuit when you come to work tomorrow.’ So I showed up without it.”
“Is that why they arrested you?” I asked.
“That and my mouth,” she said.
“I’m Wally,” said one of the prisoners. “I took over Sam’s stable. We didn’t have as many horses as when Sam was still here, but what we had became ‘property of the state’ after they declared us a public utility. I wouldn’t have minded that, that’s not why I’m here. It’s ’cause they changed to rules on how long the horses could be worked. Those poor beasts were being worn hard and ridden hard, and they were getting sick. I objected, and here I am.”
“I used to run the hardware store,” said the woman on my left. “Tillie’s Hardware. You know, after Alex left town. He was never one to organize anything, and the books were as bad as the inventory. I got it on a sound footing. No more loaning tools out, you know. Then the economy collapsed. Inventory was running low because we were cut off from trade and half the manufacturers shuttered their doors and left. Whoever had money found it wasn’t worth anything. Edward ran the bank because he ran the banker. So I extended credit, instead. Said people could pay me back when the economy recovered and money was worth something again. Edward said, no, take the worthless money. When I refused, he took the whole store. First mine, then all the other stores became ‘people’s stores.’ Mine, Paula’s bakery,” she said, indicating Paula at the other end of the cramped circle. Paula nodded. “All the businesses in town. Some of us here are from other towns in the Region.”
I listened as people told their stories. Some were business owners jailed for trying to protect their business, or employees, or, like Wally, their animals. Many others were outspoken in condemning changes or advocating for change.
A few repented asking the Zoës to leave. A very few, like Marnie, had voted for us that day but stayed behind because they’d invested themselves in the work of their hands and couldn’t let it go. Some of them blamed the Zoës for leaving as if they’d done it on their own. Others blamed the Zoës for not coming back with angelic force and ousting Edward. When I said I was here alone, most of them wanted to know if I was here to stage a counter-revolution.
“Love is a counter revolution,” I said, confident it was the Word but aware it could as well been something I heard when I was a teenager. I didn’t know what the counter-revolution was going to look like. “Let’s get you out of here first. You can’t love as well from here.”
I approached the locked cellblock door, hoping that I was hearing the Word correctly. I knew there was a bar across the door on the other side, but when I pulled the door, it opened. The sheriff’s deputy had been leaning his chair against the door when I opened it, and the chair fell backward into the cellblock, spilling the deputy.
“Sorry,” I said, helping him up. “It’s time for us to go now.” Whether he was naturally dumbfounded or supernaturally dumbstruck, he stood slack jawed as we walked out of the block and headed for the exit. I realized it had to be supernatural when the Mutt and Jeff deputies on the outside watched us leaving with the same vacant response.
I led everyone to the newspaper offices. Even Marnie and Tillie, after a brief tug to return to their businesses, came with me.
“Reese,” I said as we came in the front door, “we have a newspaper crew.”
Day 785: Reese’s Journal Entry 27: Time to Go
Helen Amber did more than speak to people; she brought them back to the newspaper office. We had a newspaper crew. It was like living in a Frank Capra movie. We were printing The Big Announcement. That was our plan: announce a meeting for tomorrow night. Saturday.
A very important meeting will be held in the Eta Regional Hall regarding your future and the future of Region 1920.
Admittedly, it wasn’t a plan. We had no plans for when the meeting started. We were going to wing it. I had already set the type. The few words in the flyer only had to pique curiosity and talk and get a quorum to the Regional Hall. Whether Eddy liked it or not, we would hold the meeting. No matter what Eddy and the Sheriff did to stop or disrupt it, the assembled residents would be witness to one more item on his list of failures to govern.
I felt no personal fear, but I was afraid that failure was still an option. I didn’t imagine God was going to pull a rabbit out of our…hats, which we weren’t wearing. Even if God could not fail in the long run, we could succeed or fail tomorrow night.
We kept away from the front office and blacked out other windows with cardboard. I had enough apprentices to train two sets of printer’s devils that could take twenty minute turns feeding paper into the press and taking it out when printed, keeping the plate inked, and cranking it down onto the paper. It was right out of the nineteenth century, and would have been right at home in an office in Region 1819. But you work with what you have.
The flyers were bundled and we began distributing the first batch.
“Take these to the other cities,” Helen Amber said. “That way the furthest people out will get the most time to read the flyers. Don’t just deliver one to each house. Wake people up. Get them reading the flyers tonight.”
“Do we meet up here after we’ve distributed the flyers?” Wally asked.
“This is the first place they’ll look for us, Helen,” Marnie said.
“Let’s hide in the open,” I said. “We’ll meet back at the Regional Hall. It’s where we wanted to end up in any case.”
And so our counterrevolution got under way. It was getting light out, and the Eta group was told to just drop the flyers off and move on. The locals would have time to discover the flyers and talk about them with neighbors — and deputies. Helen Amber and I stayed behind to clean the press after the last of a thousand flyers left for distribution in Eta itself. I hoped, prayed even, that someone would be free to use the press again soon.
The sun had been up for a while by the time we finished cleaning the press. A few residents were up and out Saturday morning when we left the Newspaper office for the Regional Hall. The back door of the Hall was off an alley, but getting around town and to the alley entrance was going to take luck — or something better.
The bell rang over the office door as we closed it behind us. The street was empty. No one saw us on the way to the Regional Hall building. It was locked.
“I should have expected this,” I said. The door was wood, but too solid to break down. There were no windows in the back to open.
“Now what?” I said, regretting my big idea of “hiding in plain sight” in the Hall.
“Let me try,” Helen Amber said. She put her hand to the lock and either concentrated on it or prayed over it. The door opened. Even with bare feet I could hear our steps in the empty main room.
“It won’t be long now,” I said, and could hear the vacancy of the hall. “People will start arriving. First ours, then the Sheriff and his men — with Eddy — and then, hopefully, everyone else.”
“I’m sure it will work out,” Helen Amber said.
“I think you’d say that even if they haul us off to jail.”
“Yes, I would. Especially after today.”
“Just do your magic on the jailhouse door again?”
“Just do what I am told to do, even if that means… Well, whatever it means.”
“I’m not ready for that yet,” I said. “I don’t want to lose you again.”
“I would think by now you’d realize that you can’t lose me. That you never lost me. I had to hold back because you weren’t ready to let me go. Don’t forget that when you came to the resurrectorium that last time, it wasn’t to find me. You came to find him.”
“I went there to find peace. Shalom, I called it.”
“Same thing, if you think about it.”
I heard the back door open. The first of our messengers was returning. The Sheriff would not be far behind.
“How’d it go?” I asked.
“Hi Wally,” said Helen Amber.”
“Oh, hi,” Wally said. “It went okay. I left fliers everywhere. I even gave one to the two guys standing guard at the Sheriff’s office. They thanked me. Seemed to be a bit high or something.”
“Did you drug them on the way out?” I asked Helen.
“Of course not. Seen anyone else, Wally?”
“One of the other local people went inside someone’s house. Another got into an argument at the bakery, but she left in a little while. They must have made up, ’cause she was smiling and they hugged each other.”
The first of our messengers, the one to Delta, arrived.
“Back so soon?” I asked.
“They let me borrow a horse. It’s out back. I’m going back outside to take it down to the livery, but…”
“I’ll take your mount,” Wally said. “I want to go over there and patch things up with Clarence. Sam would want me to.”
“Thanks,” the rider said. “Well, I wanted to let you two know Delta is coming. Most of the town. The had already deposed their Sheriff and had been trying to figure out what to do next.”
“I’m trying to figure that out, too,” I said.
“We will be fine,” Helen Amber said. “You’ve got to trust that.”
I’ve never been good at that. Trusting even myself was hard. Helen was about the only person I’d ever learned to trust, back in the old life. I suppose that was part of what made it so hard that she wasn’t there when I woke up. Not that she’d broken trust with me by not being there, but that I’d broken trust by not finding her, and they’d broken trust by not getting us together. In reality, it was my lack of trust that was keeping us apart. Amber kept saying ‘trust me’ and I didn’t. It must have hurt her that I wouldn’t trust her. We’ll have to talk about that some day, I’m sure.
Paula showed up. I didn’t see her smile often, so seeing her show up with such a wide and lovely smile was good.
“Wally said you’d stopped at the bakery,” Helen Amber said.
“That I did, and I’m glad of it. You know that Eleanor is good salt of the earth people. I just hadn’t given her a chance to show me. We started off arguing and then it hit me. It had hurt her feelings that I didn’t trust her. I was going on about ‘my bakery this’ and ‘my bakery that’ and she took a cookie and practically shoved it in my face and said ‘you never even tried one of my cookies.’ Well, that shut me up, I can tell you. I ate the cookie, and I have to admit, she’s a better baker than I. When I told her that, she smiled and I saw a tear in her eye and next thing you know we’re both crying and hugging each other and I asked her if I could come back to her bakery and learn from her because she had a gift from God for cookies.”
More and more messengers came in, including a rider from Epsilon. Finally, one of the local messengers brought the news I was dreading. “The Sheriff is coming,” she said.
A few seconds later the front door was unlocked and several deputies walked in armed with clubs, then more with swords and two with muskets of some kind. Then the Sheriff entered. I think from his look around the room there were more of us than he realized.
“You’re all under arrest,” he said. “Disturbing the peace and breaking and entering. For a start. Come along.”
“We’re waiting for the meeting,” Helen Amber said.
“Didn’t you read the flyers?” I asked.
“No, of course I didn’t read your illegal flyers.”
“Then how do you know we’re disturbing the peace?” I asked.
“Don’t get smart with me. Distributing flyers, and from what I hear, waking people up to do it. I got a phone call from the Sheriff of Zetatown, and he told me what was going on there. You’ll be facing charges there, too.”
“When I left Zeta,” one of the messengers said, “he was no longer in office.”
Zeta being the closest town to us, she probably hiked back and just slipped into the hall without announcing her arrival. Her news gave the Sheriff pause, but he recovered his aplomb.
“If that is the case, and I doubt it is, I would add inciting insurrection to the list of charges against you. That is a capital offense. Deputies, take this man to the jail. Her too,” he said pointing at Helen Amber. “And this time do not let her out. The rest of you,” he said shouting, “disperse to your homes to await further charges or be placed under immediate arrest.”
“What should we do, Amber?” Paula asked.
“Please wait here, everyone,” Helen Amber said. “The other towns will be arriving soon. Zeta will be here very soon.”
The Sheriff spoke to two of his deputies with swords who pushed through the crowds to the back door and exited the building closing the door behind them. Helen Amber and I were dragged out, along with Paula, and the doors to the hall were locked behind us. Having everyone locked in the Hall gave me an uneasy feeling.
Eddy arrived in his car.
“This it?” he asked the Sheriff.
“No, I left the rest in there,” he said, “I hear we’re going to have people from the other towns arriving, so I didn’t want to fill the jail with that lot. Besides, that’s more than the jail can hold. And with her here,” he said and pointed to Helen Amber, “they aren’t going anywhere.”
“Hello, Eddy,” I said. “Nice wheels.”
Eddy ignored me. “Where are you taking these three?” he asked the Sheriff.
“To the jail to await trial.”
“Here comes the trolley!” one of the deputies shouted.
“That’ll be the interurban car from Zeta,” Helen Amber said.
“That’s it!” Eddy said. “No time for a trial. I want them out of the way before that trolley gets here. Shoot them.”
“Now, look here, Eddy…” the Sheriff began.
“That’s Governor Edward Lombard, in case you forgot.”
“That’s Sheriff John Mansfield, Governor,” the Sheriff said. “We’ll have a trial. That’s what I am sworn to.”
“And I am sworn to protect this government.”
“It’s a government of the people, isn’t it Governor?” I asked.
“Who asked you? You and your alien Zoë friend have interfered with us for the last time,” Eddy said. He grabbed on of the muskets from a surprised deputy and pointed it at Paula. Time seemed to slow down as I saw him clench his jaw and tighten his grip on the musket. I jumped sideways in front of Paula and felt a punch to my chest. Pain from my chest drowned everything else out, but I could tell I had fallen to the ground. I could hear shouting, felt someone, Helen Amber I think, holding me. But I couldn’t see anything. Then I slipped from her arms and began falling into cold darkness.
“Back so soon?” someone said. I’d heard the voice before.
“I can’t see you.”
“I know. That was your problem all along, Reese. You couldn’t see me, only yourself — and, I grant you, your beloved Helen Amber. That was both your problem and your saving grace. Loving her kept you from loving only yourself.”
“I loved other people.”
That stung. “Sure. My parents. Coworkers. Lots of people.”
“Each of them gave you better than they got. How loving is that?”
That stung even more. “I think I know who you are.”
“You know my voice? You didn’t before.”
“Yes. Your voice is familiar.”
“Who am I?”
“Are you sure?”
“I should know who I am.”
“Then who are you?”
“You should have asked that long ago.”
“How could I?”
“Many others managed over the years. They only had to look around.”
“That’s going to be hard to do now. I can’t see anything.”
“You couldn’t then. You wouldn’t open your eyes. Try now.”
The light was blinding and suddenly very hot. The person I was talking to was outlined by a brilliant light behind him. His coat or cloak was billowing in the wind. His hair, catching the light behind him, glowed like a halo. I couldn’t tell where we were, could only see the light and this one standing in front of it.
“Where am I?”
“What is that light?”
The person I was talking to stepped aside and suddenly the full force of that light fell on me. My skin burnt in an excruciating flash. I tried to look at my arms but I could only look straight ahead, into that burning light. I was sure my eyes would burn out from my head and still the blinding light poured over me. I felt my skin cracking, falling from my cheeks.
Then it was gone, and for a moment I thought I was back in the blackness. I saw a light out of the corner of my eye. As I got nearer, it seemed to be a window. There was a boy there. It was me. I was cheating at a game with my great grandmother, whose cataracts frightened me. I felt guilty for cheating. Even without seeing the cards, I could tell she knew something was off. Maybe a card that had come up once before couldn’t have come up again, as I said it had. She was hurt. I could feel how hurt she was. Then she was asking a teenaged me for help but I said I was busy. The deep disappointment stung.
One by one, I went through all the hurts I caused others, little ones and big ones, the ones that left others hating me. Hating themselves. And all the joys. But on balance, I dealt out more hurt than joy. Sometimes this person, sometimes that. Sometimes I was one age, sometimes another. Each pain I inflicted, I felt. And each joy I gave, I got back. I regretted not creating more joy. Not because it would have reduced the pain for me now. But because I could not go back and touch their lives anymore — those people I could have loved more. The past was fixed. The pain I caused could not be unfelt. When they forgave me, I felt the pain get lighter — mine and theirs. When I was not forgiven, I felt how it hurt them even more, the pain I caused doubling down and being re-suffered — sometimes again and again. We re-suffered it together.
“I’m sorry. I was a fool. I lived with my eyes closed.”
“Then open them.”
“It’s so bright.”
“It has to. You’ve covered yourself with a shell. It needs to fall off.”
I was afraid if it did, I’d burn even worse.
“As long as you cling to it, that shell of pain will hurt. I can’t salve the burns until then. How long will you wait and hold on to that pain?”
“I know you now.”
“Yes. We’ve met before. In the resurrectorium.”
“Before that. Here. I wouldn’t let go then, would I?”
“Not all of it. So I had to send you back the way you came. Naked and alone.”
“How do I let go? My hands are cramped. I can’t open them. Help me.”
He touched my hands. My hands unclenched. The movement broke open the skin like breaking open a burnt crust. I could see the scabs fall from my hands, felt dead flesh fall from all over my body. The skin, if it was skin, from beneath the dead tissue was glowing. The burning light no longer hurt.
“You’re wanted elsewhere. Time to go.”
I wasn’t ready to go. I wanted to stay in the light.
“You’ll always be in the light now. Time to go.”
Day 785: Amber’s Journal Entry 11: Blood in the Street
I held his body in my arms, felt the life draining from it with the blood that was everywhere. On me. In the street. The bullet had passed through Reese, through me. Reese was dead. He had taken the bullet meant for me but that would have hit Paula. I held Reese in my arms. He was dead. I fell to my knees, Reese in my arms. I could feel my pulse, the warmth of the blood in my veins, I was Zoë and no bullet could harm that. Reese wasn’t. Paula wasn’t.
The Sheriff grabbed Edward, who fought to get loose. The Sheriff bulked over Edward but could barely hold him. I saw pure animal rage overtake a man and leave him a snarling animal, and I knew at that instant I had within me the power to destroy Edward, to unmake him like Casiel unmade Reese. All I had to do was focus on Edward and he would die. He was a murderer. I had the right to stop him from harming anyone else. I looked at him, focused my thoughts on him, and then I felt a wave of grace sweep over me. I saw Eddy struggling and was reminded of a boy when I was in grade school having a tantrum while the teacher bulked over him, holding onto him. I let go of my hate. That let me mourn Reese.
Paula sat beside me on the curb and threw an arm around me and we both cried for Reese. I barely knew for a while what was happening. In the back of my mind I knew the people from the interurban had disembarked. The crowd stirred then parted. Edward stopped thrashing. The Sheriff was still holding him when Jesus walked up to them. I knew who he was, but to the Sheriff He put his hand out and touched Edward on the forehead. Edward slumped a bit then stood still, no longer struggling against the Sheriff.
“You can release him now, John,” Jesus said. The Sheriff let go of Edward.
“Do you still think I’m an alien, Edward?” Jesus asked him.
“Maybe,” Edward said. “Maybe this is mind control.”
“Does it feel like your mind is being controlled?”
Edward shook his head ‘no’ with a small wag.
“Walk with me,” Jesus said.
He stopped where I held Reese’s body in my arms.
“Why do you weep, Helen Amber? You know he will return.”
“Because I waited so long for him, Lord.”
“Then wait no longer.” He knelt down, tugging Edward who knelt with him. He placed Edward’s hand over the bloody red hole the bullet had made through Reese’s heart then placed his hand over Edward’s. “Reese,” he said, “hear my voice. Qum.” I felt an electric jolt go through Reese and through me. Reese gasped then a huge shiver ran through his body. Edward pulled back his hand with the most astonished look on his face. Jesus stood up, and then Edward stood. Reese opened his eyes and just said “oh,” then smiled.
“What was that?” Edward shouted. “What just happened?”
“I will tell you that as we walk together,” Jesus said. He reached down a hand to Reese and pulled him to his feet, then to me. Paula had already gotten up and was clapping, which got the whole crowd clapping. Jesus embraced Reese, then me. “Let’s go Eddy,” he said, and the two of them walked toward the resurrectorium. I never saw Edward again.
Final: Amber’s Journal Entry: Epilogue
There are things that we recall in pieces that we experience as a whole. Even now, long after the Regions from 1718 and up were united into a single Region, that day when Reese was resurrected right there on the street was the one I think most about. I think of it as Resurrection Day. Reese doesn’t like to talk about it that way, since it was his third resurrection and that meant the first two were wasted on him. Most people call that day Resolution Day, when the people of Region 1920 resolved to rejoin the Kingdom. For others, it’s Mercy Day, when — and this is their presumption, I don’t know if it’s true — Jesus showed his Mercy to Edward. We only know he and Edward walked away. No one has seen Edward since.
Much work remains to be done. The further along we go, the more Morts and Edwards there are — and worse by far remain. But then there will be more of us, too, we Bios and Zoës who will try to love them into the Kingdom. And we have the examples of Mort and Edward, even if we don’t know their final fate. So life in the Kingdom still has a few question marks — something that takes getting used to.
I hear from Michael that a much bigger test is ahead, bigger even than finally uniting all the regions, harder than bringing Region Prime, the region from the dawn of mankind, into the fold. We humans, alongside Casiel and his kind, will take part in a final struggle. When I think of that event, our struggle with Edward, the struggle with our suspicious and selfish nature that Edward highlighted, is so minor as to be less than a drop of paint on a canvas vast as the cosmos. Yet it is the same struggle, the same question no matter the scale. There has been but one question since the beginning, and in a way, humans are a small part of it. The whole of the material universe is of no consequence beside it, a mere second act in the larger drama. Yet in a way, humans are at the heart of it. We creatures, poised between the smallest and largest scales in the universe, that crux where matter can become aware of itself, at the crossroad where time meets timelessness, are the battlefield, if not the battle.