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.”
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.