Day 3

Joe asked me, when we were walking the other day, “Ash, will you tell me something true about yourself? Something from life?” It was relatively early in the morning, maybe eight o’clock. I’d woken up after the best sleep of my life, and for the first time in a lot of years, there were no bad dreams. No jerking up out of sleep, gasping for breath, no startling at phantoms in my room. It’s the way you sleep when you’re a little kid, on a summer’s night, after playing all day and you’ve just worn yourself out, and your mom puts you to bed and the window’s open and for those few precious moments, everything is right with the world. You slide into sleep like a dolphin cutting through deep water.

In recent days and years, my sleep resembled a half-submerged epileptic seizure, full of bad memories and even worse dreams and I could count on the fingers of one hand the nights I didn’t wake up – literally – screaming.

This is what happens when you think you’re getting away with something. You never really do. You might think you do, but the only one you’re kidding is yourself.

I didn’t know what Joe meant with that question and I said so. “I’m a lawyer,” I said. “Or rather, I was a lawyer. I don’t know what I am now. Nothing, probably.” Then Joe got this look I’ve noticed, this face he makes when something I say irritates him, this flat-eyed expression that reminds me of a dead fish. “Alright, okay. Just turn off the look, will you? Jeez.”

I thought for a moment. We were walking along this little pathway that wound in and out of a grove of trees. All kinds of trees, some I didn’t recognize, and birds singing in the trees. I remembered there was a park near where I used to live, and I’d walk there sometimes, early in the morning, if I had a difficult case I needed to work out, get my head around. It nourished me. “Something true about myself.” I stopped walking. I decided to tell him the truth, without embellishment.  “I cry a lot when I’m alone…and I’m alone a lot.”

“Why do you suppose you’re alone?” Joe asked.

“I don’t know.”

“I think you do know.” Joe reached to pluck a leaf from an overhanging branch. It was a bright, vivid green, juicy-looking, bursting with life. He held it up to the sun so the light shone through it, showing all the little veins and capillaries, the delicate cells that made it what it was.

“I’m alone because…” I hated talking about myself like this. I don’t “do” personal stuff. Come in, sit down, tell me your troubles, that’s what I do, it’s my job. I don’t make friends with my clients. I don’t fraternize outside the office or the courtroom.  “I’m not a nice man.”

Joe clasped a hand at the back of my neck, kind of like a father would do, or your favorite uncle, the one who only came to visit maybe twice a year, but all the same you knew he loved you. “That’s not why.” He squeezed my nape, then let his hand drop.

“Because I’m a lawyer, and everybody hates lawyers?” I asked.

“No,” Joe said, infinitely patient. It’s not hard to imagine him as a career cop. He’s the guy who’d interrogate you for hours, and never get tired. Good cop; bad cop. He’s one of them, or both. “Try again.”

We moved off the path and onto a space of lush green lawn with benches and a bubbling fountain. Flowers of every hue and description bloomed all around us. Your Honor, the Zoë is attempting to lead the witness. Objection. Overruled, Mr. Lipinski, stop wasting the court’s time. “I don’t open myself up to people, okay?” I sat down on one of the benches and crossed my arms, hugging myself. “I’ve learned not to. It’s safer that way.”

“It’s lonelier that way,” Joe said.

“Rebuttal: I’d rather be safe than sorry.” A handful of pigeons fluttered down in front of where we were sitting and started making the whirring noise every pigeon anywhere on the globe seems to make.

I love birds. I’ve always loved birds, and when I was—

When I was alive

“You’re alive now,” Joe said. “You’re more alive now than you’ve ever been. Remember that, so I don’t have to keep repeating it till I’m blue in the face.”

“But it’s all different now,” I argued. “Come on, you can’t honestly expect me to believe that some great sky fairy took pity on me in the last moments of my life and decided to give me a do-over?” I made a derisive noise.

“When you put it that way…” He turned on the bench so we were facing each other. “Asher, look at me.”

“I am looking at you.” I didn’t want to raise my head and see what was in his eyes. I knew what it was going to be, the same thing I saw in everybody’s eyes when they looked at me: contempt. And boy howdy, I deserved it. I have done more reprehensible things in my 48 years…

“Regular Hitler, eh?”

“Stop reading my mind.” The fact that he could essentially see inside me freaked me out. It meant he had access to all my secrets. My usual spin wouldn’t work on him. I couldn’t bluff my way out of anything with Joe. Yeah, I was learning that real quick. “I’ve done a lot of unforgivable things.” I wasn’t about to listen to some New Age bullshit about how much God or the Universe or Whoever loved me, and how everything was forgiven, the slate wiped clean.

Joe drew a long sigh. He sat forward and tossed some seed to the pigeons. I don’t know where the seed came from but, with him being what he is, I suppose he can conjure things out of the air if he wants to.  “The only one who needs to forgive you, Ash, is yourself.”

That’s never going to happen.

 

 

 

 

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.

“What?”

“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.

“I do.”

‘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?”

“Yes.”

“And you are a member of that Commission now. Is that right?”

“Yes.”

“And the Commission serves under The Articles of Emergency. Is that right?”

“Yes.”

“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?”

“It is.”

“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.”

“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?”

“They did.”

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.”

“Sin and…”

“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.”

“I do.”

“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 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.

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. Just people. Some in the wagons, some on horseback, most on foot. I rode forward to greet the first of 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 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 still remember that we woke up with nothing.”

“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 groove.

“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 only by reflection of the waning quarter moonlight on its green glazed block walls.

Among the lights in town I spotted one in motion, then several more. Vehicles. Soon I could see that they had formed a line. I expected it was the Sheriff. I was pretty sure they’d catch up to the Little Exodus before it crested the ridge. As the last of the people was reaching the crest, the noise of the motorized posse reached us.

“Don’t panic. Keep walking. They won’t hurt you.”

I could see doubt on the faces nearest me. They were defenseless. I decided not to ride down the hill to confront the posse. The posse could meet me right here. I sat on my horse and waited as the stragglers passed, praying: 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. So, I guess that’s why I am here. 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.

The last of the Little Exodus people passed 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.

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.

“It’s Casiel,” 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 wagons were working their way up the hill. 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 the Sheriff,” Edward said, gesturing to the plump guy with the star on his chest. “And I’m the Governor of the Region. Duly elected representative of The People. We’re the law here, not you. So, 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 trucks and wagons stop,’ so I held forth my hand and said “Trucks, stop.”

The pass was suddenly very quiet. Headlights continued to shine, but all the engines stopped running. This raised a ruckus from the men who now piled out of the trucks as if they were haunted.

“Stop you goddamn pussies!” the Sheriff yelled.

The rout that began stopped cold. The men began to gather in front of their trucks, their shapes silhouetted by the headlights revealing several guns and a good many clubs and knives among them. The wagons had arrived bringing more men. An armed posse surrounded me. The lights from the trucks behind the posse made it impossible to see their faces. “Get out of the way, Zoë bitch,” Edward said, “or one of us will be forced to fire. You’re obstructing a legally deputized posse during a lawful pursuit.”

“Into the wagons, men.”

“Horses, stay.”

Even as I stood, waiting for another Word on what to do, one man started whipping his horse and with a gesture I sent him off the seat and onto the ground. “You can go no further,” I repeated. “You have no authority 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, even a few of those with guns. 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 cleared his throat. He could tell that his voice had been amplified. I saw the wicked smile on his face at that.

“Citizens,” he called, his voice loud enough to echo from the opposite side of the pass. 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. For 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?

“Come on people!” Marked yelled to those pausing at the barrier. “Let’s cross over. Leave this little man behind.” My Joshua had spoken, and the Little Exodus resumed crossing over.

Edward began calling out to them, but his “megaphone” had been turned off. He turned to me with genuine disgust. “Fuck you alien bitch,” he said and walked back down the ridge toward the waiting Sheriff.

“I’ll send someone for the trucks tomorrow, Gov,” the Sheriff said.

The last of the Little Exodus was crossing over when I reached Mark.

“What was that all about?” Mark asked. “Before Eddy’s speech. It looked like the crest of the ridge had caught fire.”

“Edward and the Sheriff and I had a dispute.”

“He’s done now? Now he’s said his piece?”

“They went back to town.”

“Sorry I missed being there. 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’re 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.

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. He was still wearing his orange work coveralls, as were a number of people in the general populace.

“You are under his Love. Your King’s love for you is undiminished. And in perfect love is found his peace.”

“Then what?” said another Bios from the floor, this one also in orange coveralls. “What’s with the 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 the coveralls.

“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 coverall suited 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,” the Zoë 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.”

“So it’s our fault,” said Eddy, also in orange coveralls, 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 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. So, 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 sharing a bottle of high-octane hooch with 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? So, 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 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.

“What’s this?”

“Something you’ve probably never seen.”

“A bomb?”

“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?”

“Self defense.”

“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 riped 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 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.

What’s Going On?

You awaken in a hospital and you’re told you’ve been resurrected from the dead. As you explore this new world, you’re asked to keep a journal. Did you awaken with eternal Zoë life? Or with Bios life in perfect health at your physical prime?

Resurrectorium 1920 contains helpful material like

Explore, read, and then sign up to start writing! You do not need to be a “pro” or an experienced writer of fiction. You’re writing a diary.

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.”

“Why?”

“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 2 – I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues

So I’m still here, wherever this place is. Today I spent a couple of hours in the common room – that’s what they call it, but it’s not a room, not really, more like an arboretum. It’s a towering space with a glass roof that lets in the sun. I’ve never seen light this clear before. It’s like there’s no air pollution, no smog, none of the crap we’re all used to seeing, living in, breathing. There are more kinds of trees here than I can even begin to recognize, and there’s fruit on some of them – apples, bananas, peaches, plums, and some exotic fruits I’ve never seen before, in freaky-ass hues of brilliant pink and neon green. They encourage us to pick as much fruit as we want to eat, and there’s a spring with cold, clear water that tastes better than Perrier or Evian. I’m not kidding. If somebody had never tasted water in his life, and he woke up on that very first morning and tasted this, he’d say ‘yeah, I think I’ll call this stuff ‘water’.’

I keep telling them I need to call my office. Francine is gonna wonder where I am and I’ve got that McLaren case day after tomorrow – big lawsuit there, ever since old man McLaren slipped on that wet floor at Walgreen’s. I know Walgreen’s hired Benson – hah! Incompetent asshole. If he doesn’t show up drunk, I’m gonna buy myself a lottery ticket. Then there’s that Kesselman kid, the drug rap. That’ll be open-and-shut. Cha-ching! Ladies and gentlemen, please leave a generous donation in the collection plate as you leave. And I gotta call Ken back, see if I can talk him down from the fifteen years he wanted for the Lorbers. I mean, ‘tax evasion’ is a nasty set of words. I prefer “innocent oversight.”

I…I haven’t seen Jamie yet. Don’t get me wrong, worrying over that kid doesn’t exactly keep me up nights – I’m just wondering how he’s doing, you understand. Twenty eight years old, you think he’d be able to keep his ducks in a row, but not Jamie. How many times have I had to pull his chestnuts out of the fire? I ask you. The kid owes me. It’s just weird that I haven’t seen him around, especially now that I’m starting to get a handle on my situation. The old guy who comes to see me, he said his name was Joe. Used to be a cop, back in the day, which just goes to show you my instincts are still bang on the money. “How do you like your new digs?” he asked. We were sitting in the arboretum together. I was trying to do a crossword puzzles but my concentration is mostly shot these days. Maybe it’s something to do with the accident. “This place must be a step up for an ambulance chaser like you. Where’d you live before?”

“I had my own apartment.”

“Right, yeah, I remember. Over that Chinese place, what was the street? Off the Strip, if I recall.”

I always get the feeling when I’m talking to him that he recalls everything just fine. He’s just messing with me.

“It was a fine Korean restaurant,” I said, “in East Las Vegas.” Even I know this is bullshit. There’s nothing ‘fine’ in East Las.

“And they let you live,” he said, laughing in that pain-in-the-ass way he has that’s beginning to annoy the shit out of me, “just a stupid gringo ambulance chaser. You musta done okay for yourself, fixing parking tickets for all the little abuelitas. Picking up a little slip-and-fall business here and there, maybe a few skeevy divorce cases.” His small blue eyes bore into me like lasers, like ice-colored old man lasers. This bastard misses nothing. “You got to be a pretty important guero,  laundering money for the Latino gangs.”

“I never said I was auditioning for sainthood.” Who the hell let this guy in? And how much longer do I have to listen to him?

“But then you screwed up.” He peers at me like I’m an insect under glass. “Got yourself killed.”

“I had a car accident. As you can see, I’m perfectly well and healthy.”

“You sure it was an accident?” he asks. And then he tells me: the pickup truck that swerved at the last minute to drive me off the road? Deliberate. “Somebody wanted you dead,” he says, “and here you are.”

This, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is bullshit. I am not dead. I can hear and feel and think. I could get up out of this wheelchair right this minute if I wanted to and walk the hell out of here.

“You are alive,” Joe says. “You’re more alive now than you’ve ever been. You’ve been given a second chance, Ash. The question is: what are you gonna do with it?”

 

 

 

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 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.