Day 22: Sarah’s Jump into Rebirth

Day 22, 1st entry

They said they want me to write about waking up. I don’t want to. I hate writing. Writing hurts. But they want me to record how I feel, what I’m thinking. It’s a Grimm fairy tale, at least in my case.

Once upon a time there was a girl who needed to love too deeply for her own good. Naw, this is how it really happened.

Day 1: My eyes won’t open. Actually they will, but I do not want them to. Better that they’re closed. When they were open the last time, all I saw was the surface of the water speeding toward me, or rather me toward it. Me, speeding toward the end of pain. Me, making the emptiness go away. Me, pushing the silence away.

The sounds around me are anything but water; beeps and the occasional woosh combine with soft voices speaking almost in whispers, making them soft upon soft. I can hear them. I can hear them? I shouldn’t be hearing anything, except perhaps the buzzing that has been my constant companion for years, buzzing caused by the anti-anxiety/anti-depressive medication cocktail.

There is no buzzing. Just soft upon soft murmurs and the sound of monitors beeping and pinging. The sounds are so clear, my God, clear. I haven’t heard crisp sound in so long.

No guts no glory. Time to open your eyes, Sarah. Pop ’em open, yeah, like that.

Someone is standing over me, smiling. Or I think it’s a smile, I can’t really tell. It wavers, that face; is it a face? It shifts from two dimensions to three, then back again to two. Still it must be a face and that must be a smile. Too confusing, and I close my eyes again.

“Hello, Sarai” it says, words clear like bells. It knows my name, my name from before. “How do you feel now?”

I feel cheated, betrayed, but physically fine. “I’m fine, peachy” I say with my eyes still closed.

“Is that a good kind of fine, or a sarcastic fine?” The bell-like voice is smiling, the words ring like a melody. A teasing melody, actually. My mouth can’t help itself and it smiles, even if I don’t want it to. I have more control over my eyes, and they stay closed tight.

“Caught me. Sarcastic. Seriously, I actually feel pretty good. Expected to feel a whole lot worse.” My throat feels a little raw, dry. Something pokes at my lips: a straw. Just like a baby, I suck at it with the reward of a lightly sweet liquid, and my throat instantly smooths, my voice becomes less reedy, more steady.

“Do you know where you are?”

“Some hospital. University or Baptist General?” It’s harder now to keep my eyes closed. The part of me that wants to remain ignorant is quickly losing ground to the curiosity revealing itself like the layers of an onion. I peek under eyelids, a slit of light.

The walls are white, not cold, a warm white that I can almost taste. Not fruity, like the liquid, but creamy. Yes, the walls are delicious. The bell voice sounds again, breaking the synesthesia. The walls are simply white, but the shade makes me feel comfortable somehow.

“No, neither University or Baptist General. You are in place called the Resurrectory.”

“Resurrectory? Where is this, I mean, what state? What town?” It jars me to think that I floated down the river before someone found me. I hadn’t intended to survive that long. The plan was oblivion, not rescue.

“It’s not really a place, at least not the way you think. You have been resurrected from the dead.”

Well that’s amusing. I finally manage to successfully kill myself and I end up resurrected? I wait for the gaping maw of pain to swallow me, but it doesn’t. There is no pain and I don’t feel its absence.

“Do you understand that you were dead?” The face becomes a little more clear, more defined; I open my eyes a little further. The face shimmers, then fades into a regular, ordinary person’s face. Strangely, she looks like my third-grade teacher.

“My name is Belle, like the musical instrument. And you are Sarai.”

“I changed it to Sarah.” Hearing my old name causes a twinge of recognition, but only as if it were something belonging to someone else.

“So Sarah, do you know that you died?”

“Well, that actually was my plan. I have to tell you, I am surprised. Well, more than surprised. If there is such a thing.” My body is starting to cooperate, and I reach for the glass of liquid. Nope, not cooperating enough yet; I grab at it, clutch at air, and knock it over.

A slim pale hand catches the glass before it spills and competently sets it back in my line of sight. The matching hand takes mine, guides me to wrap my fingers around the slick plastic glass and to draw it closer to me. I sip. Funny, but I don’t see a real connection between the pale hand and the face. Also funny because it doesn’t seem important now.

Belle becomes more solid; her outline becomes more defined. Good, my eyes are starting to focus. She pats the covers, pulling them up to cover my chest. Oh my God I’m naked!

Calmly, she tucks the sheets around the sides and speaks, her words making more sense as I sip from the glass.

“The world as you knew it ended and was remade. Nearly everyone here, including me, has been resurrected. I was resurrected with Zoë, you have been resurrected with Bios.” She has finished tucking in the sheets and reaches into the drawer of the table beside the bed.

“Let me leave you this pamphlet. Read it and we can talk some more when I get back.” Glass put down, I take it from her hand, a slick three-fold in a soothing green. I’ve read the first paragraph before realizing that I’m reading without my glasses. Just one more surprise of the day, and I guess I’m going to get a whole lot more.

Belle wisps the hair from my forehead, pats my cheek, and seems to almost float out of the door. She moves, but doesn’t walk. Strange. I sense, rather than see, that she’s naked too, but I’m not embarrassed or titillated.

Zoe, Bios. I know Belle and I are different from each other, radically so. But Zoe and Bios? I read on with a hunger to know the truth, the words feeding the hunger but never quite satisfying it. I’m reading the pamphlet over for the second time when Belle comes back through the door.

“Do you have any questions the pamphlet didn’t answer?” She is suddenly back in the room, and I know I didn’t hear her footsteps.

“I have plenty of questions, tons of them. I just don’t know which to ask first. First, though, I want to get out of this bed.” Apparently I have indeed been resurrected, because my bladder is demanding attention. Belle helps me stand; I hook one hand over her shoulder for support.

Bios or Zoe, she’s still a nurse and instinctively understands where I need to go and what I need to do. She helps me walk the few steps to the bathroom, and I wave her away at the door. I value my privacy and this certainly is a time for it.

I sit and answer the call of Nature, pat myself dry, then rise to perform my ablutions. Hands washed, time to do the face. The mirror over the sink shows someone I used to know, know well, someone from years ago.

I’d forgotten that my hair was that odd shade of brown caught in midstream between blond and brunette. I grimace and show my teeth, for some reason not surprised that they’re all there instead of gaps on the side or worn out caps. My eyes, the source of my only facial pride, are clear and back to the golden brown that preceded the tired muddy hazel. No bags under the eyes, no blotchy patches on the cheeks from frequent crying. It is the best my face has been, ever.

I’m still horribly tall and still built like my dad, like a fullback. It doesn’t seem to matter anymore. My physical height and build are not important to me anymore, not a source of embarrassment. This is the first time in my life that I’ve felt self-acceptance, at least about my body. Wow.

It feels odd, but good, sort of like stretching a sore muscle to soothe it. No, it’s more like removing the bandage from a healed wound. Yeah, that’s it.

“I have some clothes for you here, and a hairbrush.” Belle calls through the door. Yes, my hair definitely needs to be dealt with; I’d forgotten as well that it was so thick.

Thick too are the towels next to the sink, and they smell wonderful, of sunshine and wind. I bury my face into one. She knocks at the door.

“Here, a brush and some underwear. I have jeans and a shirt out here as well.” I open the door a crack, and as she hands in the underthings, then the jeans and shirt; I wonder what size I’m getting, no, what size I am now. Whatever the size, the panties fit perfectly, the bra doesn’t bite into my shoulders; they match each other, and also match the other clothes. Someone knows it’s my private vice, matching panties and bra to my outer clothing.

The jeans look perfect as well, and the embroidered cambric shirt resembles my favorite shirt from before. Before. Before the pain.

“Do you need help getting into the jeans?”

“No. I’m fine.” This time I don’t curl sarcasm around the word. The clothes glide on like they were made for me.

“Do you want socks or do you want to wear your clogs without?”

She knows I only wear clogs?

“Without, thanks.” She taps at the door, and hands me a pair of clogs that coordinate with the shirt. “Would you like to go to your quarters now?” Belle looks up from making the bed. “We have quarters ready for you, if you wish.”

“Sure. Hey, um, is this real? I mean, is this really the Resurrection?”

She smiles like a mother comforting a child.

“Yes, Sarai, it is.”

I can’t help it any longer; I cry. I’m surprised because they’re not the painful, cold, bitter tears of sadness. My tears are of joy and thankfulness…and I can recognize them as such.

“Thank you. Belle. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Allons-y, my dear.” Her reference to my favorite character on my favorite sci-fi show causes a bigger smile to crack on my new face.

“After you, Doctor,” I quip.

 

Day 1: Oh Lord, the Light

Day 1: Amber’s Journal Entry 1

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 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 25: Reese’s Journal Entry 2: Searching for Helen

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 32: Wayne’s Journal Entry 3: Baling Hay

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. Really 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 Entry 4: About Arjun

Day 36: Wayne’s Journal Entry 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 Calcutta. He had been born high caste, and even though the legal framework of the system was gone, his parents were shocked and disgusted that he would wash the feet of anyone who needed shoes, 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 having someone with a cardboard sign that says “Pennies help” and “Jesus loves.” Some of them were clearly disabled, like the guy with the limp and the cane who frequented the sidewalk outside my office, 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 I tried to ignore them in person.

That was my mistake.

Day 28: Wayne’s Journal 2: Wayne’s Thoughts about Money

Day 32 Wayne’s Journal 2

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. One person is worth the same as another; 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 almost Marxist. Tillie says it’s simply Apostolic.

Day 26: Wayne’s Journal 1: Wayne’s New World

It is good to be alive. I should be grateful. And it’s good to know that my faith in Jesus Christ was well placed, there really was a resurrection of the dead. And I’m in it. But this isn’t what I expected. 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. So, 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, really. I lived well and 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, what kind of Bible radio or TV did he follow? I asked 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 really curious how a Hindu ends up with Zoë life, and I got this.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. As I said, nice digs. I feel as if I’m on vacation at some Caribbean resort. 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. I was good to my janitors. Paid above minimum wage. They got health insurance, a 401k, two weeks vacation. The janitors, mind you. I treated people well. Half my secretaries were Asians, a couple were black. I could see the office pool on my way to my office suite. My firm was voted one of Chicago’s “Top 500 Places to Work” in 1997.

So, 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. That was Mom. Fairy tales. 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. 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 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.”

“Eta?”

“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.”

“Everybody?”

“Nearly.”

“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.

Break time.

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 really 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.