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 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.