Day 1: Belle becomes by the Grace and Love of God

The before was nothingness, not out of the lack of the world but due to blindness. I was blind. And deaf. The nothingness came with no sound. Color was beyond black and quiet was beyond silence. I had existence within the nothingness but knew nothing of existence.

A noise came about, and I had no knowledge of noise. It was a roar and I did not understand it. How I heard it, I do not know because I did not understand what it meant to hear.

Then came something I could understand. Pain layered on pain layered on pain. Ripping, burning, then sudden cold. My eyes saw light, but it faded into darkness.

I found I understood the darkness. When I came to realize that I as an entity was in darkness, another light came suddenly and bathed all of me in its warmth and softness. A voice called to me out of the brightness, calling me to understand that I existed and had meaning. It told me of light and love and acceptance. It cradled me in itself and gave me knowledge of my self and of it.

My eyes opened, and I saw love. And God had seen me back. The nothingness no longer existed; it itself was nothing. I would not be in the nothingness again, because the Light had come and it was God. It was love. God’s love.

God said to me:

“My hands have given you shape and being within your mother’s womb. From there you have come to Me, I have called you. I give you understanding so you may learn My will and power. I have given you understanding so you may fulfill My purpose.”

When I heard His words, I felt myself come into the world. I knew I was bound to Him forever and that the burning, tearing pain would never happen again. I felt eager to do what He commanded of me, because I knew He would not ask anything evil of me.

And God spoke to me again:

“You are beautiful in My sight, and I will give you a name so that you will know yourself and others will know you. You are Belle. You are beloved of Me.”

And my first day in the presence of God began.

Day 68: Sarah Sees Something in the Air

Life has been one long blank grayness. I’m not happy, I’m not sad, I’m not anything. I can’t sit still and don’t want to move.

Ed and Bea are confused; they lay on the floor unmoving and watch me for hours even if all I do is sit and stare out the window. At night, when I finally lay down on my bed and stare at the ceiling all night, I can hear Ed patter from window to window, back to check on Bea, then check on me, then he lays down for a half hour or so. Then it’s back to pattering back and forth, checking things. I wonder if he’s checking to see if I’m breathing.

If they had any alcohol in this damned place, I’d bring a bottle or three back to this crappy box of a place and drink myself into a stupor. But there are no liquor stores, no bars, not even a section in the local market for wine, much less hard stuff. Oh, there’s the wine for Communion, but it’s been a month exactly since I took the sacrament.

Thirty-one days. Except for going out to get food for the dogs, I’ve been sitting in my habitation box and doing nothing. No journals, no reading. This is my first entry in 31 days. Oh, I lied. I have been staring out of the window and seeing nothing except that night falls occasionally and then day comes.

Being Bios has its drawbacks, chiefly that I still have to do basic maintenance on this meat envelope I walk around in. I washed my hair when it started to itch and go to the bathroom when the need arises. Oh, yes, I did change my clothes a while ago, but I can’t clearly remember when.

The only clear part of my life is what Bea and Ed need: food, occasional assurance that I’m breathing, and walkies. The latter is always at night, if I can manage it. I don’t want daylight, at least, I don’t want to be moving around out there when the sky is light. Bea, the little love, has a bladder the size of a thimble so we end up outside during the day, but we don’t go far. Just far enough to find a patch of grass where she can squat.

I need Belle. She is nowhere to be found, at least, nowhere I care to wander. I try to send a mental message to her, respectfully requesting that she come save me. But like the disjointed, distracted prayers I offer up, I get no answer.

Harry came by a couple of days after I saw him at the restaurant; I didn’t answer my door. He came back the next day, and the next, and then skipped a couple of days. I never answered his knock, although Ed did inform him loudly, at length and in no uncertain terms, that visitors were not welcome. After two or three more visits at odd intervals, he stopped coming to my door.

For the first few times, he would leave something: flowers, a note, more flowers, more notes. Notes and flowers all ended up in a pile by the door where I would kick them. Harry finally got the message and would come empty-handed to knock.

I did see him from my window, always by himself. He’d walk hurried to my door, then leave a short time later at a much slower pace. A couple of times I saw the woman he’d been with following him at a distance, then hiding when he left.

I remember the following and hiding; I’d done a lot of it myself. Actually did enough of it to hone the art to a fine point but never to get sloppy and get caught. His new love, however, didn’t seem to see the nuances; he caught her after a few visits to my door, and they had a pretty loud argument at the end of the sidewalk next to the street. After that, Harry came early in the morning a couple of times, then his visits stopped.

I don’t want to be here. I want to be somewhere else. I want to box up my books, take my dogs, and find another place; it wouldn’t help, I suppose. Even if he didn’t find me and I didn’t run into him, he’d still be in my head.

I want to get out of my head, want to shake the dust out, want to be clean again.

###

Just writing this journal entry has helped. The clutter in my brain seems to have settled a little, and I feel more like myself. The dogs have noticed; they’re bouncing off the walls, nipping at each other playfully, bumping up against my chair and whining.

###

I gave up keeping Ed and Bea quiet; they were like little kids on Christmas morning, begging to be let out. The daylight didn’t look as frightening; I felt a little more at ease and even the atmosphere seemed lighter, so we went for a walk.

My ankles felt loose, or maybe it was my legs as a whole, but it felt like I was walking on sponge rubber. Joints, tendons, muscles…something felt out of alignment, weak and wobbly. Even my hands and arms felt weak. It was hard to keep up with Ed and impossible to keep up with Bea, the little minx.

After the debacle with Harry, I stopped talking, not only to other people but to myself. For me, not a good thing. Since I was hiding away anyway, on those rare occasions when I did have to talk, my voice was rusty, squeaky, like an old hinge.

I’ve started talking to myself again. In the old world, it was considered a sign of madness, but even then I talked to myself to work out problems, address people or things that I couldn’t address for some reason. Here, well, I guess it’s a harmless habit. Bea and Ed seem to be happier that I’m talking again.

###

Belle has been missing in action for, shoot, must be well over a month. I’m getting out and about for a change but haven’t gone back to work yet; they probably think I’ve fallen off the face of the earth.

Ha, I made a funny. As if anyone could fall off the face of this world. I haven’t heard of anyone dying or disappearing permanently, so apparently death is not a run-of-the-mill usually occurrence.

I’d ask around to see if I could find her. Haven’t looked too hard anyway. No, not true. I’ve scanned the groups of people and Zoes on my walks with the dogs and trips to get food, that is, I’ve scanned the increasingly smaller groups of Zoes. Thought I saw her once, or at least a Zoe resembling her. They seem grayer and more like smoke now. I hadn’t noticed that before.

People have no faces to me anymore, generally. I mean, they do have faces, but I don’t see them past a cursory glance to see how many and if they’re male or female. I did focus on one guy walking his Newfie in the park because the dog was trying to play with Bea, much to Ed’s dismay. Oh, he didn’t challenge the far larger dog, but he did grumble a lot. I looked up to say something to the Newfie’s owner who was sitting on a bench, reading. For the first time in weeks, I actually saw the color of his eyes and the cut of his hair.

I compared that cut with the way Harry was wearing his hair the last time I saw him come to knock fruitlessly at my door. Harry came up second in the comparison. Come to think of it, Harry came up short on every criterion I use when I notice someone. I’ve become judgmental, which is normally not a good thing, but now, since I’m just getting back to the world, judgmental means I’m seeing reality again. I can stop the judging once I’m back on my feet. I hope.

Anyway, I said something to the Newfie’s owner about my Ed getting jealous and laughed a little. It sounded sour, uncomfortable, that laugh. The guy must have heard the hollow ringing as well, because he looked up from his book.

“Beg pardon?”

“Oh, I said that your Newfie’s attention to my little female is making my other dog jealous.”

The guy glanced at the dogs, then trained his eyes back on my face. He smiled, shyly and a tad crookedly.

“Yeah, you’re right. Funny, huh?”

“Funny yes. In a normal life sort of way.”

“Guy.”

“Girl. She’s a girl. Beabea.”

“No, not your dog. My name is Guy, Guy Wellington.”

“Sarah, my name is Sarah. I’m not sure what my last name is now.”

He closed his book and tucked it into a pocket of the vest he was wearing. I’ve never seen a vest with so many pockets.

“You’re not sure what your last name is now? How come?”

“Well,” I lengthened the word to hide the fact that I wasn’t sure how to say what I had to say. “Well, I guess I’m divorced now. At least, I feel like my husband isn’t my husband anymore.”

“Either that or he’s dead, which seems to be incredibly rare.” Guy laughed at his own joke, which I didn’t quite get.

“People can die?” I sat down at the opposite end of the bench rather suddenly. My legs didn’t seem to have any muscles again.

“Haven’t you heard about it? It isn’t really like death, because you come back again, but your body is,” he hesitated, his eyes glancing up and side to side as he tried to come up with the right words, “disintegrated.”

My body suddenly was cold, even though the sunlight was ample.

“Disintegrated?”

“Oh, I think they may call it ‘being unmade’ or something like that.”

“How does that happen? Have you seen it happen? Did you know the person who was, um, unmade?”

He held up a hand and chuckled.

“Whoa, hold on. I’ve only hear rumors, and not from dependable sources either.”

My whole understanding of the permanence, the basis of Resurrectorium, was sliding sideways and upside down a little. Perhaps because much of my reality had gotten skewed.

“Hey, don’t fret your pretty head about it, okay?” He scooted closer to me and put a hand on my arm. “It’s probably all rumors anyway.” If being called pretty hadn’t been enough of a jolt, something strange happened.

The contact, skin to skin, was like static electricity. I felt some sort of current run from that point, up my arm, across my shoulder, and flush up my neck to my face. Oh, I’d shaken hands and been touched on the hand or arm or shoulder a lot in this world; people seemed to make physical contact a lot more than in our old lives. But this quivering jump of crackling sensation was totally new, alien.

Guy probably felt it, too, because he snatched his hand back as if he’d been burned. I snapped to my feet and called for my dogs; the air between Guy and me seemed tangible and more like a physical entity.

Physical in a Zoe kind of way. I briefly wondered if there was some sort of connection between this odd feeling and how the Zoes existed. As quickly as the thought occurred to me, it disappeared.

Guy looked up to my face, his mouth a little open, his eyes wide.

“Did you feel that?”

“What?” I busied myself whistling, urging Ed and Bea back to me. I had to get out of there, away from this guy.

“That, well, sparkle? Electricity? Whatever, it made the hair on my neck rise!”

“I don’t know what you mean. Must have been static electricity.” We had to get away, my dogs and I. Right then and there. My head said to run like the wind but my heart kept both feet planted firmly next to the bench.

“No, it wasn’t. Nope. You felt it too; you had to. Your face is pinked.”

“Pinked?” I let out a little chuckle, which surprised me.

“Um, you’re blushing a little. Not bright red, more a warm rosy pink.”

“Oh, like the color in your face?” My muscles eased and the fight-or-flight urge faded.

His hands went to his cheeks, rubbing some invisible something away.

“I don’t blush.” He cleared his throat and rose. “Gotta go.”

Oh, so he felt the need to run away as well. He called out to his Newfie to cover his apparent confusion. I knew exactly how he was feeling.

“Justice, c’mon. Let’s go.”

“Justice?” I wanted him to stay there, to talk to me. The urge was stronger than any other feeling I’d had about people.

“I bought him from a lawyer, well, back on Earth. Thought of calling him habeas corpus but imagine what I’d be yelling at him to come. Hey Corpsy?” His turn to chuckle, a rather rusty and seldom-used sound.

“Sensible, very sensible.” Brief silence.

“So, what’s your male’s name and why Beabea?”

“She’s Beabea, which is short for Bouncing Beatrice. And his name is Ed Wood. After the B-movie director.”

We stood there for a few seconds, not saying anything, looking around at everything except each other, our dogs bumping into us, running away, coming back. My stomach suddenly growled, loud enough for Ed to hear and cock his head.

“Hey, Sarah, want to get something to eat? Anywhere, that is, if you want to.”

It was the same concept I was pondering. How to keep with this guy without being overt about the fact that, strangely, I was drawn to him. If this were Earth, I’d say we were flirting.

“I guess I could eat. Where?”

“There’s a drugstore with a soda fountain not far from here. They make good burgers.”

The greasy, satisfying taste of a well-seasoned burger sparked my stomach, and again a growl issued forth from my midsection

“Sure, I know the place.” Harry’s panicked face flashed briefly in my mind and then was gone. “Yeah, that sounds pretty good, actually.”

“Well then, let’s go. Allons-y, Alonzo.” He hesitantly took my elbow and drew me along willingly.

“Dr. Who? Well, I’ll be wibbly wobbly!” I tried to snicker delicately, but it came out a snort.

We both laughed, comfortably. So off we went, not really touching but occasionally being bumped into each other by a huge dog, a slightly smaller dog, and a little black dog who kept stopping and turning in a circle, then dancing off ahead of the pack.

Dang it, I was happy. I hadn’t remembered happy, but now it seemed familiar. I felt like I’d just found something I’d lost for a very long time and forgotten about, then found again. I had to giggle out loud.

“What?” Guy stopped briefly.

“Oh nothing. Just a thought that popped up.” I came to a halt just ahead of him and turned back to face him.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash coalesce into a vague human form. The face snapped into clarity, and I recognized Belle. She was smiling. Then the image was gone.

“Must have been a good one, then. C’mon, let’s go. I’m starving.” He took my arm again to urge me into motion and then put his arm around my shoulders. Not a oppressive gesture seeking to control, but a gathering into to form a whole.

With the dogs prancing around us, the promise of a greasy hamburger, and his arm warm on my shoulder, the light around us was brighter and I could feel no pain at all.

Day 785: Amber’s Journal Entry 11: Blood in the Street

I held his body in my arms, felt the life draining from it with the blood that was everywhere. On me. In the street. The bullet had passed through Reese, through me. Reese was dead. He had taken the bullet meant for me but that would have hit Paula. I held Reese in my arms. He was dead. I fell to my knees, Reese in my arms. I could feel my pulse, the warmth of the blood in my veins, I was Zoë and no bullet could harm that. Reese wasn’t. Paula wasn’t.

The Sheriff grabbed Edward, who fought to get loose. The Sheriff bulked over Edward but could barely hold him. I saw pure animal rage overtake a man and leave him a snarling animal, and I knew at that instant I had within me the power to destroy Edward, to unmake him like Casiel unmade Reese. All I had to do was focus on Edward and he would die. He was a murderer. I had the right to stop him from harming anyone else. I looked at him, focused my thoughts on him, and then I felt a wave of grace sweep over me. I saw Eddy struggling and was reminded of a boy when I was in grade school having a tantrum while the teacher bulked over him, holding onto him. I let go of my hate. That let me mourn Reese.

Paula sat beside me on the curb and threw an arm around me and we both cried for Reese. I barely knew for a while what was happening. In the back of my mind I knew the people from the interurban had disembarked. The crowd stirred then parted. Edward stopped thrashing. The Sheriff was still holding him when Jesus walked up to them. I knew who he was, but to the Sheriff He put his hand out and touched Edward on the forehead. Edward slumped a bit then stood still, no longer struggling against the Sheriff.

“You can release him now, John,” Jesus said. The Sheriff let go of Edward.

“Do you still think I’m an alien, Edward?” Jesus asked him.

“Maybe,” Edward said. “Maybe this is mind control.”

“Does it feel like your mind is being controlled?”

Edward shook his head ‘no’ with a small wag.

“Walk with me,” Jesus said.

He stopped where I held Reese’s body in my arms.

“Why do you weep, Helen Amber? You know he will return.”

“Because I waited so long for him, Lord.”

“Then wait no longer.” He knelt down, tugging Edward who knelt with him. He placed Edward’s hand over the bloody red hole the bullet had made through Reese’s heart then placed his hand over Edward’s. “Reese,” he said, “hear my voice. Qum.” I felt an electric jolt go through Reese and through me. Reese gasped then a huge shiver ran through his body. Edward pulled back his hand with the most astonished look on his face. Jesus stood up, and then Edward stood. Reese opened his eyes and just said “oh,” then smiled.

“What was that?” Edward shouted. “What just happened?”

“Now you know, Eddy.”

Eddy stared at Reese. Reese blinked once, then coughed. Then he began coughing hard and after a moment he sat up.

“We did that?” Eddy said.

“No, Eddy, Jesus said. “I did that. But I did it through you. That’s the way it was until my Kingdom. What I did was always through others. It was the way the Father wanted it. Small, meek, tender. You never understood that. But you should have, Eddy. Everything you did, everything you wanted to do, you did through others. You organized people to stand up and be proud of their labor. That was a good thing, Eddy. You fought for them, suffered with them. When they won, you won. When they lost, you lost. That was how my Kingdom on earth worked, too, Eddy.”

“Okay, but that world’s done, right? That was the old world, right? Why the crater outside of town, put there by your angel? And why the tornado? Look at what it did. People lost everything they built, all they worked for. Homes, businesses. This is supposed to be your Kingdom. Heaven on earth, right? The endless banquet? Oh, I know. I took my catechism. But there’s still pain in this world, Jesus. Why?”

“Ask yourself what is not like the world you knew? What is missing?”

“You’re not answering my question. Why is there still suffering?”

“I removed one pain, Eddy.”

“What pain?”

“Death. I conquered it long ago, but now that victory is lived out. There is no death in my Kingdom. People have lost their greatest fear. In the old world, being fearless toward death was hard to do. I know. But not anymore. That is my gift. My gift is what’s missing.”

“What? What’s missing?”

“Death.”

“What about Mortimer. Ain’t he dead?”

“Mortimer is where he fits better.”

“So that’s it? We don’t die. We live, but we suffer?”

“How much of that suffering did you bring on yourself, Eddy? What was it you showed Reese at the Hardware?”

“It’s not important now.”

“What was it you showed Reese at the Hardware?”

“I’d rather not say.”

“If you want their forgiveness, Eddy, you need to tell the truth.”

“I thought I was supposed to ask your forgiveness.”

“You already have it. What was it you showed Reese at the Hardware?”

Eddy mumbled something. Mumbling wasn’t like Eddy.

“Speak up,” the Sheriff Gosyln said.

“I said a pipe bomb. I was making it for protec… I wanted to scare people with it. I wanted the Zoës out.” Eddy looked around, then hung his head. “Okay, okay. I screwed up. But why punish everyone, Jesus? You still aren’t telling me why there is suffering.”

“Hear me, all of you,” Jesus said. His voice surely carried as far as anyone who had ears to hear and was listening. “What I say, I say to you all. To be human, you need to know all your emotions, and those include loss as well as joy. But the greatest loss, loss to death, you will never know again. What you once had to believe, that I have conquered death, now you know. No other differences are necessary. I have removed every obstacle not of your making. This earth is heaven, if you want it enough.”

“There’s a lot I don’t get about this,” Eddy said. “But I’ll give it a go.”

“It’s all I ever asked of you.”

“So now what?”

“I will tell you that as we walk together,” Jesus said. He reached down a hand to Reese and pulled him to his feet, then he raised me as well. Paula had already gotten up and was clapping, which got the whole crowd clapping. Jesus embraced Reese, then me. “Let’s go Eddy,” he said, and the two of them walked toward Resurrectorium 1920. I never saw Edward again.

Day 785: Reese’s Journal Entry 27: Time to Go

Helen Amber did more than speak to people; she brought them back to the newspaper office. We had a newspaper crew. It was like living in a Frank Capra movie. We were printing The Big Announcement. That was our plan: announce a meeting for tomorrow night. Saturday.

 

MEETING TONIGHT

Regional Hall

A very important meeting will be held in the Eta Regional Hall regarding your future and the future of Region 1920.

 

Admittedly, it wasn’t a plan. We had no plans for when the meeting started. We were going to wing it. I had already set the type. The few words in the flyer only had to pique curiosity and talk and get a quorum to the Regional Hall. Whether Eddy liked it or not, we would hold the meeting. No matter what Eddy and the Sheriff did to stop or disrupt it, the assembled residents would be witness to one more item on his list of failures to govern.

I felt no personal fear, but I was afraid that failure was still an option. I didn’t imagine God was going to pull a rabbit out of our…hats, which we weren’t wearing. Even if God could not fail in the long run, we could succeed or fail tomorrow night.

We kept away from the front office and blacked out other windows with cardboard. I had enough apprentices to train two sets of printer’s devils that could take twenty minute turns feeding paper into the press and taking it out when printed, keeping the plate inked, and cranking it down onto the paper. It was right out of the nineteenth century, and would have been right at home in an office in Region 1819. But you work with what you have.

The flyers were bundled and we began distributing the first batch.

“Take these to the other cities,” Helen Amber said. “That way the furthest people out will get the most time to read the flyers. Don’t just deliver one to each house. Wake people up. Get them reading the flyers tonight.”

“Do we meet up here after we’ve distributed the flyers?” Wally asked.

“This is the first place they’ll look for us, Helen,” Marnie said.

“Let’s hide in the open,” I said. “We’ll meet back at the Regional Hall. It’s where we wanted to end up in any case.”

And so our counterrevolution got under way. It was getting light out, and the Eta group was told to just drop the flyers off and move on. The locals would have time to discover the flyers and talk about them with neighbors — and deputies. Helen Amber and I stayed behind to clean the press after the last of a thousand flyers left for distribution in Eta itself. I hoped, prayed even, that someone would be free to use the press again soon.

The sun had been up for a while by the time we finished cleaning the press. A few residents were up and out Saturday morning when we left the Newspaper office for the Regional Hall. The back door of the Hall was off an alley, but getting around town and to the alley entrance was going to take luck — or something better.

The bell rang over the office door as we closed it behind us. The street was empty. No one saw us on the way to the Regional Hall building. It was locked.

“I should have expected this,” I said. The door was wood, but too solid to break down. There were no windows in the back to open.

“Now what?” I said, regretting my big idea of “hiding in plain sight” in the Hall.

“Let me try,” Helen Amber said. She put her hand to the lock and either concentrated on it or prayed over it. The door opened. Even with bare feet I could hear our steps in the empty main room.

“It won’t be long now,” I said, and could hear the vacancy of the hall. “People will start arriving. First ours, then the Sheriff and his men — with Eddy — and then, hopefully, everyone else.”

“I’m sure it will work out,” Helen Amber said.

“I think you’d say that even if they haul us off to jail.”

“Yes, I would. Especially after today.”

“Just do your magic on the jailhouse door again?”

“Just do what I am told to do, even if that means… Well, whatever it means.”

“I’m not ready for that yet,” I said. “I don’t want to lose you again.”

“I would think by now you’d realize that you can’t lose me. That you never lost me. I had to hold back because you weren’t ready to let me go. Don’t forget that when you came to the resurrectorium that last time, it wasn’t to find me. You came to find him.”

“I went there to find peace. Shalom, I called it.”

“Same thing, if you think about it.”

I heard the back door open. The first of our messengers was returning. The Sheriff would not be far behind.

“How’d it go?” I asked.

“Hi Wally,” said Helen Amber.”

“Oh, hi,” Wally said. “It went okay. I left fliers everywhere. I even gave one to the two guys standing guard at the Sheriff’s office. They thanked me. Seemed to be a bit high or something.”

“Did you drug them on the way out?” I asked Helen.

“Of course not. Seen anyone else, Wally?”

“One of the other local people went inside someone’s house. Another got into an argument at the bakery, but she left in a little while. They must have made up, ’cause she was smiling and they hugged each other.”

The first of our messengers, the one to Delta, arrived.

“Back so soon?” I asked.

“They let me borrow a horse. It’s out back. I’m going back outside to take it down to the livery, but…”

“I’ll take your mount,” Wally said. “I want to go over there and patch things up with Clarence. Sam would want me to.”

“Thanks,” the rider said. “Well, I wanted to let you two know Delta is coming. Most of the town. The had already deposed their Sheriff and had been trying to figure out what to do next.”

“I’m trying to figure that out, too,” I said.

“We will be fine,” Helen Amber said. “You’ve got to trust that.”

I’ve never been good at that. Trusting even myself was hard. Helen was about the only person I’d ever learned to trust, back in the old life. I suppose that was part of what made it so hard that she wasn’t there when I woke up. Not that she’d broken trust with me by not being there, but that I’d broken trust by not finding her, and they’d broken trust by not getting us together. In reality, it was my lack of trust that was keeping us apart. Amber kept saying ‘trust me’ and I didn’t. It must have hurt her that I wouldn’t trust her. We’ll have to talk about that some day, I’m sure.

Paula showed up. I didn’t see her smile often, so seeing her show up with such a wide and lovely smile was good.

“Wally said you’d stopped at the bakery,” Helen Amber said.

“That I did, and I’m glad of it. You know that Eleanor is good salt of the earth people. I just hadn’t given her a chance to show me. We started off arguing and then it hit me. It had hurt her feelings that I didn’t trust her. I was going on about ‘my bakery this’ and ‘my bakery that’ and she took a cookie and practically shoved it in my face and said ‘you never even tried one of my cookies.’ Well, that shut me up, I can tell you. I ate the cookie, and I have to admit, she’s a better baker than I. When I told her that, she smiled and I saw a tear in her eye and next thing you know we’re both crying and hugging each other and I asked her if I could come back to her bakery and learn from her because she had a gift from God for cookies.”

More and more messengers came in, including a rider from Epsilon. Finally, one of the local messengers brought the news I was dreading. “The Sheriff is coming,” she said.

A few seconds later the front door was unlocked and several deputies walked in armed with clubs, then more with swords and two with muskets of some kind. Then the Sheriff entered. I think from his look around the room there were more of us than he realized.

“You’re all under arrest,” he said. “Disturbing the peace and breaking and entering. For a start. Come along.”

“We’re waiting for the meeting,” Helen Amber said.

“What meeting?”

“Didn’t you read the flyers?” I asked.

“No, of course I didn’t read your illegal flyers.”

“Then how do you know we’re disturbing the peace?” I asked.

“Don’t get smart with me. Distributing flyers, and from what I hear, waking people up to do it. I got a phone call from the Sheriff of Zetatown, and he told me what was going on there. You’ll be facing charges there, too.”

“When I left Zeta,” one of the messengers said, “he was no longer in office.”

Zeta being the closest town to us, she probably hiked back and just slipped into the hall without announcing her arrival. Her news gave the Sheriff pause, but he recovered his aplomb.

“If that is the case, and I doubt it is, I would add inciting insurrection to the list of charges against you. That is a capital offense. Deputies, take this man to the jail. Her too,” he said pointing at Helen Amber. “And this time do not let her out. The rest of you,” he said shouting, “disperse to your homes to await further charges or be placed under immediate arrest.”

“What should we do, Amber?” Paula asked.

“Please wait here, everyone,” Helen Amber said. “The other towns will be arriving soon. Zeta will be here very soon.”

The Sheriff spoke to two of his deputies with swords who pushed through the crowds to the back door and exited the building closing the door behind them. Helen Amber and I were dragged out, along with Paula, and the doors to the hall were locked behind us. Having everyone locked in the Hall gave me an uneasy feeling.

Eddy arrived in his car.

“This it?” he asked the Sheriff.

“No, I left the rest in there,” he said, “I hear we’re going to have people from the other towns arriving, so I didn’t want to fill the jail with that lot. Besides, that’s more than the jail can hold. And with her here,” he said and pointed to Helen Amber, “they aren’t going anywhere.”

“Hello, Eddy,” I said. “Nice wheels.”

Eddy ignored me. “Where are you taking these three?” he asked the Sheriff.

“To the jail to await trial.”

“Here comes the trolley!” one of the deputies shouted.

“That’ll be the interurban car from Zeta,” Helen Amber said.

“That’s it!” Eddy said. “No time for a trial. I want them out of the way before that trolley gets here. Shoot them.”

“Now, look here, Eddy…” the Sheriff began.

“That’s Governor Edward Lombard, in case you forgot.”

“That’s Sheriff John Mansfield, Governor,” the Sheriff said. “We’ll have a trial. That’s what I am sworn to.”

“And I am sworn to protect this government.”

“It’s a government of the people, isn’t it Governor?” I asked.

“Who asked you? You and your alien Zoë friend have interfered with us for the last time,” Eddy said. He grabbed on of the muskets from a surprised deputy and pointed it at Paula. Time seemed to slow down as I saw him clench his jaw and tighten his grip on the musket. I jumped sideways in front of Paula and felt a punch to my chest. Pain from my chest drowned everything else out, but I could tell I had fallen to the ground. I could hear shouting, felt someone, Helen Amber I think, holding me. But I couldn’t see anything. Then I slipped from her arms and began falling into cold darkness.

“Back so soon?” someone said. I’d heard the voice before.

“I can’t see you.”

“I know. That was your problem all along, Reese. You couldn’t see me, only yourself — and, I grant you, your beloved Helen Amber. That was both your problem and your saving grace. Loving her kept you from loving only yourself.”

“I loved other people.”

“You did?”

That stung. “Sure. My parents. Coworkers. Lots of people.”

“Each of them gave you better than they got. How loving is that?”

That stung even more. “I think I know who you are.”

“You know my voice? You didn’t before.”

“Yes. Your voice is familiar.”

“Who am I?”

“Eric Satie.”

“Wrong.”

“Are you sure?”

“I should know who I am.”

“Then who are you?”

“You should have asked that long ago.”

“How could I?”

“Many others managed over the years. They only had to look around.”

“That’s going to be hard to do now. I can’t see anything.”

“You couldn’t then. You wouldn’t open your eyes. Try now.”

The light was blinding and suddenly very hot. The person I was talking to was outlined by a brilliant light behind him. His coat or cloak was billowing in the wind. His hair, catching the light behind him, glowed like a halo. I couldn’t tell where we were, could only see the light and this one standing in front of it.

“Where am I?”

“The crucible.”

“What is that light?”

“Me.”

The person I was talking to stepped aside and suddenly the full force of that light fell on me. My skin burnt in an excruciating flash. I tried to look at my arms but I could only look straight ahead, into that burning light. I was sure my eyes would burn out from my head and still the blinding light poured over me. I felt my skin cracking, falling from my cheeks.

Then it was gone, and for a moment I thought I was back in the blackness. I saw a light out of the corner of my eye. As I got nearer, it seemed to be a window. There was a boy there. It was me. I was cheating at a game with my great grandmother, whose cataracts frightened me. I felt guilty for cheating. Even without seeing the cards, I could tell she knew something was off. Maybe a card that had come up once before couldn’t have come up again, as I said it had. She was hurt. I could feel how hurt she was. Then she was asking a teenaged me for help but I said I was busy. The deep disappointment stung.

One by one, I went through all the hurts I caused others, little ones and big ones, the ones that left others hating me. Hating themselves. And all the joys. But on balance, I dealt out more hurt than joy. Sometimes this person, sometimes that. Sometimes I was one age, sometimes another. Each pain I inflicted, I felt. And each joy I gave, I got back. I regretted not creating more joy. Not because it would have reduced the pain for me now. But because I could not go back and touch their lives anymore — those people I could have loved more. The past was fixed. The pain I caused could not be unfelt. When they forgave me, I felt the pain get lighter — mine and theirs. When I was not forgiven, I felt how it hurt them even more, the pain I caused doubling down and being re-suffered — sometimes again and again. We re-suffered it together.

“I’m sorry. I was a fool. I lived with my eyes closed.”

“Then open them.”

“It’s so bright.”

“Yes.”

“It hurts.”

“It has to. You’ve covered yourself with a shell. It needs to fall off.”

I was afraid if it did, I’d burn even worse.

“As long as you cling to it, that shell of pain will hurt. I can’t salve the burns until then. How long will you wait and hold on to that pain?”

“I know you now.”

“Yes. We’ve met before. In the resurrectorium.”

“Before that. Here. I wouldn’t let go then, would I?”

“Not all of it. So I had to send you back the way you came. Naked and alone.”

“How do I let go? My hands are cramped. I can’t open them. Help me.”

He touched my hands. My hands unclenched. The movement broke open the skin like breaking open a burnt crust. I could see the scabs fall from my hands, felt dead flesh fall from all over my body. The skin, if it was skin, from beneath the dead tissue was glowing. The burning light no longer hurt.

“You’re wanted elsewhere. Time to go.”

I wasn’t ready to go. I wanted to stay in the light.

“You’ll always be in the light now. Time to go.”

Day 273: Wayne’s Journal 11: Tornado Town

I sure as hell didn’t see it coming. In California we get earthquakes. Tornadoes are so rare that some people think of them as an impossibility. I never saw one. No one I know…knew has ever seen one. So when the sky started to get dark I thought “storm,” as in one of those whoppers off the Pacific. But not what we got.

I ought to be glad the New Harmony Delivery Company was largely skipped with only a few broken windows from stuff blowing around. The stable downtown where all our horses stay was demolished. All the horses dead. Sam’s heartbroken and fit to spit nails. Charley was killed, too. It’s a blow to everyone’s confidence in the Zoës. I’m hearing talk I’ve not heard since I got here.

Eddy seems to relish it. He’s in his element. He says he can sense things are about to change.

“You’ll be able to profit by your labor,” he says.

“I thought you used to be a big union organizer.”

“The enemy of my enemy and all his cousins. You may have been a rich industrialist…”

“Investment banker.”

“Just as bad. But you were an American for all that. We didn’t see eye to eye on what was good for America, but I fought for her just the same. Is this kingdom to your liking?”

“No.”

“Fuck, man, you hate it. I can see it written all over you, your face, your posture. Everything. You’re like a pent up racehorse, Wayne, raring to get out there and build something. This Podunk business you run, I know you. You want to do more with it. Hell, Wayne, I’d fight you at the barricades to bring in the Teamsters, but before I can organize your workforce, ya gotta have a fuckin’ workforce worth organizing, not two wagons with sleeping drivers. The bigger your outfit, the bigger the union. We’re two peas in the same pod, Wayne, and you know it.”

I could see him trying to read my face, and it couldn’t be that hard. I didn’t like the limitations the Zoës put on everything. Soft socialism didn’t build anything, it only fed off what was already built. I could go places. There had to be more people like me, here, in 1819, in 2021, people ready to build a new world. Even guys like Eddy had a place in it, as long as they didn’t get too big about it.

“So what do we do?” I asked. I could see Eddy was brewing something.

“You need to have a word with Michael. I’m blacklisted, but you’ve still got his ear.”

“A word?”

“This tornado calls for a Town Hall event.”

“Oh.” I wasn’t sure what he meant.

“A public meeting. Get it?”

“Oh, I see.”

“No, I don’t suppose you do. But try to arrange one. And soon. You know how upset people are. Tell Michael he needs a Town Hall meeting to bring peace and order to things. Butter him up. Say anything you have to. Just get me, us, a meeting.”

“Okay.”

“Don’t fail me, Wayne. Our freedom starts with this meeting.”

Day 37: Looking for Harry Who Doesn’t Want to Be Found

Worked the morning in the florist and a couple of hours at the tailor before dinner. I feel really restless; the dogs seem to have picked up on it as well and keep bugging me to do something, anything. When I ask Ed what he wants, he gives me his famous GSD end-of-the-world groan and walks to the door, then sits. Bea, well, she follows Ed’s lead but her groan comes out like a warbling whine.

The weather has been pretty good, like that’s anything different. Maybe that’s where this unease is coming from. No, that’s not it. Belle did tell me something was coming. I thought that meant Bea showing up out of the blue, but apparently she was simply a distraction from the main event.

Well, if I sit here I won’t find anything.

Even my books aren’t satisfying this particular itch. I open one, read a few lines, slam it shut, and put it back on its assigned pile. We need more bookcases; there are too many piles on the floor. Bea has found out that she can knock them over and choose a tasty book for herself. Reminder: I need a new copy of “Catch-22.” She ate it in one sitting.

Having two of creation’s best dogs as companions is great, but there’s something missing, and I think it’s Harry. He could be a real pain in the butt emotionally, but the good times were spectacular. Belle tells me that he’s somewhere here in one of the Resurrectorium areas but also that he might not be able to get to 1920. She’s not telling me something.

Not odd, her holding something back. Lately I feel like she knows far more than she is willing to say. No, that’s not quite it. She obviously has information I need but is so distant toward me now that she doesn’t care. I’m really not completely sure.

There’s no way I’ll get anything straightened out sitting here at my desk, Ed curled up at my feet and Bea making a nest on my bed out of my blanket. Gotta move. Maybe the clogs in my head will loosen up outside. Will write more later.

— ### —

We left the apartment house and headed toward the park where Bea found Ed. She doesn’t amble around as much as she did at first, so the walk was a lot more pleasant. I got hungry pretty quickly, and of course both dogs have no problem in eating snacks frequently, so we skirted the park and headed toward the central part of town, where the café and restaurants are.

Great thing about this existence: since you can’t get sick or injured, letting dogs wander in and out of eating establishments isn’t that big a deal. Nonetheless, I made them sit-stay in front of the café while I went in to get us a trio of burgers.

Wish I hadn’t stopped, at least, not there.

The old guy was there again, as always happy to see me. I asked for a cheeseburger for myself and a pair of plain burgers for the dogs (no cheese, no condiments, just a burger with cheese on a plain bun). Out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of a man’s head, just the right shape that slender Harry shape I’d been seeing in my dreams. The man had his back to me and was sitting in a booth with a woman, not yet 30 years old looking. She was laughing at what he was saying, although I wasn’t close enough to hear individual words, it seemed he was having a good time, too.

“Here you go, sweetheart. Three burgers, one for you and one for Ed and Bea.”

“Thanks!” Taking the bag with the burgers, I turned to leave. Something stopped me, something made time congeal. Through the stiffness of the air, I turned back.

The man in the booth froze when he heard the old guy name my dogs, and jumped out of the booth when he heard my voice.

“Sar? Sarah?”

The slender Harry shape was Harry himself. He stood there like a scarecrow, one hand up as if he were going to wave, the other loose at his side. Harry looked at me like a little boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar, which gave me a pretty good guess about where he’d been and what he’d been doing.

The woman slid out of the booth and touched him lightly on the arm.

“Harry, who is this? Someone you knew before?” The only word that came to mind when I heard her voice was “vacuous.”

“Um, yeah, ah yeah, this is, I mean was, my wife, Sarah.”

I smiled at him, my ironic sarcastic smile that used to bug the hell out of him, waved at him like a railroad wig-wag, and walked with wooden legs out of the door and into the street.

He followed me, I could hear him assuring her that he’d be back shortly, could hear her rather nasal whine. Or perhaps I assumed she’d have a nasal whine, I don’t know. I kept moving.

Bea and Ed fell into step, thank God. They ambled along with me, eyes locked on the greasy bag loosely dangling from one hand. I would have left them there, my dog buddies, the fog in my head making me forget everything except that the man I’d spent years with, the man who’d fathered my dead child, the man I trusted, that man who was following me pleading and whimpering.

We kept walking, my dogs and I, fast then faster. Harry’s footsteps stopped and his voice faded, but not entirely. It kept sounding in my ears, his voice telling someone else that I was his wife. Past tense. Nothing in the present.

We wandered around the park until the light dimmed. I’d dropped the bag at some point; Ed and Bea ate the burgers, paper and all, then ambled over to where I came to rest, sitting on a bench under a light pole.

God was playing a joke, He had to be. I felt sick, and we weren’t supposed to get sick, or so I thought. Nauseated, light-headed, leaden limbed…I felt awful. I stared out into the dimness, unable to see anything or to turn my gaze anywhere else. My mind was floating around a whirlpool I couldn’t see clearly.

I have no idea how long we sat there, but finally I shook my head clear enough to become aware of my surroundings. Ed was sound asleep, snoring; Bea was busy chewing on a stick she’d found, laying on her side with the stick propped between her paws, her butt pressed lightly against Ed’s sleeping back. The center of their universe sat in neutral gear, and they waited patiently for us to move forward again.

Up I got and forward we moved, back to my refuge from the now sour world. All I wanted to do was sleep, to get away from the painful sludge my life had become suddenly.

Day 260: Reese’s Journal Entry 13: Personal: Where in the Galaxy Are We?

Eddy, the guy who calls me Meteor Man, suggested I write my journals with my own pen and paper. He’s right. I’ve been talking to Eddy while we finish filling in what most people call Casiel’s Crater (some call it Reese’s Crater). Interesting guy Eddy. Gives me a new perspective. I’m tired of having my Journals read by strangers. George Orwell call your office. More like a prison journal the warden can read. This one’s for you, too, babe. When you get here, Helen, I’ll show it to you. I wonder if keeping this private journal is like telling a lie? It feels like it. But hell.

We went to a dance the other day, we being a friend of Eddy’s from the pit crew, Mort, and my boss Wayne, and I. We had a blast. Not that I danced. Even in the Resurrection from the Dead, your Reese does not know how to dance. But with the music and laughing I did let go for a while of the loneliness. Oh, I still wanted you to be there with me, but somehow it didn’t hurt. Mort pulled a bowl out of his pocket and Eddy signaled me to follow. I was curious. I’d knew what Mort was holding, but I didn’t know what he intended to smoke in it.

We went out back, and there was a seating ring around a fire pit. Once I got used to the chill of the stone, it wasn’t bad. I could hear the music, but now it was fainter, like a backdrop to all the stars overhead. There are very few lights on at night, and there are so many stars. We didn’t see the Milky Way very often in the world that was. Now I see it every night and it never gets old. Ever.

Mort built a fire in the pit and after it got going he took his bowl out again.

“Okay, Mort, what is that?”

“It’s pot,” Eddy said. “We don’t smoke tobacco.”

“Nobody does anymore,” Mort added. There was a bit of disappointment in his voice.

“So where did you get this stuff? In the woods somewhere?”

“This ain’t ditch weed,” Mort said.

“I got this in the Dispensary, Meteor Man old pal,” Eddy said. “They carry it as just another herb.”

It’s true, Helen, that we Bios don’t die and never get really sick. But we eat and drink herbs to keep everything running smoothly, and that apparently is part of the ‘original plan.’ I’m still fond of Chamomile tea. But I never knew about pot in the Dispensary. Eddy explained that its tincture is used as medicine for us Bios and the herb is recommended as a light tea. I suspect they never planned on us smoking it since they do not sell pipes or papers or anything like that anywhere.

“Isn’t that against the law?” I asked.

“What law?” Eddy said. “You know of any laws?”

I had to admit, there really aren’t any laws on the books, because there aren’t any books so there aren’t any laws — just love God and love all the people. Sounds easy, but I find it isn’t all the time, as you’ve noticed from this journal.

“Okay. So it isn’t illegal. I bet your Zoë doesn’t approve.”

“What Arjun doesn’t know, won’t hurt him. He can’t read minds. If there is a God, I thank him for that. Not like I’m apologizing mind you.”

“If you think about it, Reese,” Wayne said, “people have needed altered states of mind since we first woke up from being monkeys.”

Eddy nodded. Mort was holding in a lung full of smoke.

“You know how they’re always on us to read the Bible?” Wayne asked.

“Yeah?” I said. I wondered where he was going with this.

“Well I went one better,” Wayne said. “I read about the Bible. That incense Aaron made for the Tabernacle in the book of Exodus? It included cannabis. So Morton made us our own pipe. God, I haven’t smoked since the commune.”

Wayne passed me the pipe. It has been ages since we got high together, hasn’t it Helen? The Woodstock generation was calling me back.

“Sure,” I said. Casiel brought out something of the rebel in me. As I waited for the high to hit me, I looked up again. I like looking at the stars and gas smeared across the sky. No wonder the ancients called it the Milky Way.

Eddy saw where I was looking, exhaled a stream of smoke, and said, “Can you spot the Big Dipper?”

I couldn’t. It shouldn’t have been that hard. I was beginning to think it was because we where high.

“The Pleiades then?” Wayne asked.

“Who are the Pleiades?” Mort asked. He had also brought a mason jar of something to drink, and began offering it around.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“Something you thought you’d never see again,” said Eddy

“A jar?”

Mort rolled his eyes and slipped a small bottle from an inside pocket. I could see a clear fluid inside. He pulled a cork out and handed it to me. “Drink deep,” he said. I got it half way to my face and could smell the alcohol.

“Vodka?”

“200 Proof,” Mort said.

I took a sip and gasped. I couldn’t stop coughing for a long time while the vodka burned my insides from my throat to my guts.

“Shit, that was strong,” I croaked, eyes watering.

Mort smiled. “I’ve been working part time at the hardware after we finish on the crater. I take small stuff home no questions. For bigger stuff, I wait until we close, come back, and take what I want. Tillie never says anything.”

“She has to know, doesn’t she?”

“Sure she knows,” Eddy said. “You couldn’t take a nail out of there and she wouldn’t know it.”

“That’s theft.”

“Nah,” Mort said. “She never charges people if they don’t have money.”

“You’re supposed to ask, Mort.”

“Don’t lecture us, Meteor Man,” Eddy said. “We took a few parts for a still. You blew a fuckin’ mile-wide crater in the ground. Fuck her anyway. Fuck you, too.”

“The Seven Sisters,” Wayne said.

“What?” I asked.

“We were talking about the Pleiades,” Wayne said.

I passed on a second sip from the bottle.

“So what?” Mort asked. He took a long swig, and some of it flowed down his chin.

“Simple, Mort my boy,” Eddy said, “the night sky is wrong.” Eddy seemed to take this seriously. Like he was mad about it.

“The constellations are shifted,” Wayne said.

“Right,” Eddy said. “I’ll lay it out for ya, Mort. None of us witnessed the so called Apocalypse, right? Who knows how long things went on. Just how long do you think it’s been, Meteor Man?”

“No idea. There’s a Region 2021 down the line, but no one will say if there’s another after that.”

“Or another, and another? We have no idea how long things went on. Wayne says at least 13,000 years. Maybe it’s 26,000? 130,000? Maybe these Zoës are evolved humans. We could be as out of date as a cave man. What would a cave man think if he witnessed the Trinity a-bomb test? Saw a B2 stealth bomber on a low flyby? Hell, five minutes of Maude would have him kissing your feet.”

“And begging for mercy,” Wayne said.

Mort drained the last of the bottle into his mouth then filled the bowl again. I decided I’d had enough.

“Or maybe,” Eddy said, “these Zoës aren’t evolved humans. Maybe they aren’t human at all. Do you see any Zoës here at the dance? Do you ever see any of them at any of the dances? Concerts? Gallery openings? Poetry readings? Hell, game nights even? Socializing in any way? If they’re human, why won’t they mix with us? Ever think about that? Hell, maybe we’ve been kidnapped. Where in the galaxy are we?”

Day 225: Reese’s Journal Entry 12: Meteor Man

I feel like I’ve been puttering about. Nesting, almost. It’s starting to bug me. I cleaned the house like I’m expecting you to show up any day now. As if my reward for being a good boy is that they’ll finally let you come to me, however they arrange it. For a while, the hope blazed brightly enough to get me out of the house and even get me looking for work again. And yes, I did get another job. I got assigned one, actually.

Back home, in the world that used to be, pulling a stunt like I did would have had other repercussions. Like being found out to have been a criminal, I’d have been shunned. No shunning here. No one brings it up. No one looks sideways at me. Half the town is out there undoing my screw up, but people are as nice as ever, like nothing ever happened, like there wasn’t a mile-wide crater just outside of town. Of course no one was hurt. I think Casiel saw to that. But a cornfield and a rail line didn’t concern him. So as blamelessly as if it were a meteor and not a strike from Angel B52, the good citizens of Region 1920 organized a work party to put it all together again. They never made me feel like it was a form of community service. One of the guys, Eddy, has taken to calling me Meteor Man, because, he says “it took an angel falling like a meteor to stop you.”

So my new job, fittingly enough, is with the crew working to fill in the crater the angel left after it unmade me. Not that they trust me with heavy equipment. I can see that. ‘Hey, lets put the guy who caused this on a front end loader.’ In case you wonder, in a world with plenty of supernatural events, including air strikes by Heaven’s angels, why is the hole in the ground the responsibility of the Bios to fix? Why not just wave an angelic wand and ‘presto!’ no hole? Because that would be cheating, since it was a Bios who drew angelic wrath on the wheat field in the first place.

I get my hands and feet and everything else dirty each day shoveling earth back into the crater. Next, we’ll begin reseeding it. Another crew has temporarily run the rail line around the crater. Each day, working under the warm sun, I stop to watch a gorgeous locomotive engine of brass and red enamel go steaming by pulling wood-sided cars with decorative arched windows — and me standing in a field Van Gogh should be painting, wanting so much to get on the train, because you could be waiting at the next stop. And then the warm sun cools my temper. A child laughing as it delivers a drink to someone stills my anger. The common meal we share each day satisfies my hunger to search for you. I know something in me has changed. All I can do is wait for you here.

You’re near me, Helen. I can feel you at times. Something happens and I am about to turn to you and remark on it, and instead of twisting up because you are not there, I sigh. Sometimes I turn and Amber is there and I speak to her as if she was you, and she smiles and for a moment, she is you. One day, I will turn and you will be there. Not a sigh. Not Amber. You. I know it now. Call it faith for want of a better word.

Day 192: Reese’s Journal Entry 11: Casiel’s Crater

Just got home from the resurrectorium. The one for 1920. Woke up there because I was dead again. Angels can do that very easily. It seems I went too far, far enough that Amber says she was deemed “incapable on her own” of making it clear to me I had transgressed. So her angel, Casiel, came in person. You know how in the Bible the angels always say, “fear not” when they first appear to someone? There’s good reason for that. I got the full-on Ezekiel treatment and then some because the angel wasn’t asked to dial it back to keep me alive. I saw a vaguely human shape approaching me from a great distance and speed. As it got closer I realized it was hundreds of feet high. The thing was impossible to see whole. The face had eyes suddenly appearing where the mouth should be then that mouth becoming the beak of a raptor. Hands became wings that became lamps. The feet, when they could be seen, extended into the far distance then became clawed paws then human feet then disappeared again. And motion! All of it in motion everywhere changing moment to moment as I struggled to look at it and failed. I was a pebble at the foot of a mountain. My mind rebelled against looking at it. I got vertigo seeing it. Its foot approached me, toes or claws I could no longer tell, then it stepped on me, a snowflake ground beneath a glacier. I felt my body crushed into an impossibly small space, folded, flattened into a dimension lower than ours, squeezed until there was no room for breath, no room for thought.

Then I was somewhere else. I had no body, and I remembered being there before, and the thought entered my head “yes, you were here before, and judged not ready.” When I heard that I felt crushed. Deformed. I felt dirty. Naked in a shameful way. “Go back. Listen to her.” I remember thinking “I’ll try,” but without much conviction. Not that I didn’t want to, but that I wouldn’t be able to. Yet.

Helen, when I woke up and opened my eyes for a moment I could swear it was you sitting there. Something about Amber’s smile just then. She was so glad to have me back, she said that with her smile, your smile.

I’ve been wrong about her. She’s not my jailor, not my guard. I’ve been treating her like that, and I could see at times that it hurt. I don’t want to do that again. How can I justify hurting her trying to find you? What kind of guy would that make me? Why would you trust me to love you if I treated someone, anyone, that badly? If I were in a real prison, if she really were some Orwellian Big Sister, maybe then I could ignore what it does to her when I pretend she’s not there, or pretend she doesn’t have feelings.

I used to think she didn’t have feelings, that Zoës are different from us. In some ways, they’re never entirely here. I suppose part of them is always in Heaven. I thought that meant she didn’t want to be here. Part of her doesn’t, that’s clear. But it’s equally clear now part of her wants to be here, and even more surprising, be with me.

That, too, reminds me of you.

We talked when I woke up. She knew about the angel, of course. That’s when she told me about being told by her boss, some Zoë named Michael, “incapable on her own” of keeping me in line. Between not wanting to hurt her feelings and not wanting to get her into any more trouble, I can’t venture to leave the region again. It’s not like I haven’t tried. I’m going to have to wait until you come to me.

That reminds me of the old me — waiting on you to make the first move. Sorry if I’m repeating an old pattern from when we were together.

Day 182: Wayne’s Journal 10: I’m Not Webster

I paid for my breakfast and walked down to get a copy of The 1920 Sentinel hoping there’d be something in it about the explosion. Last night a huge explosion blew out some of my windows and a few seconds later I was literally shaken from my bed and dumped on the floor, earthquake-style. It brought back a terrifying memory. Just before I died the same thing happened. The south side of Chicago lit up one night as if the sun had come down for a look around, then the wall of my apartment blew in. I seem to remember being drilled by debris in a moment of intense pain. I woke up in the resurrectorium. I haven’t thought about that night since.

Edward was already there at the Sentinel building, looking over a copy. “Nothing,” he said when he saw me.

“Nothing?” I went inside. Edward followed me in. There was no one at the front office. I could hear someone in back. “Hello?” I called. No reply. “Hello?!” More noises from the back. Edward stepped around the counter and through the door to the back.

“Hey!” he shouted. “Mark, ol’ buddy.”

“Oh, Eddy,” I heard Mark reply from the back. “Come on in.”

I followed Edward back. Mark’s dark green jumpsuit was mostly black, as were his hands, which were furiously working on changing the front plate of the paper.

“New Edition?” I asked. Mark looked up. I could see he was trying to place me.

“This is my buddy, Webster,” Edward said.

“Wayne,” I corrected. “Wayne Bailey. I run the New Harmony Delivery Company.”

“Oh,” Mark said, “Reese’s boss. I’d shake your hand, but…” He waved his ink-stained hand at me. “Reese is well-liked here at the Sentinel. Zelda especially—”

“So, Mark,” Edward said. “What happened last night? It wasn’t in the paper.”

“Oh, we mostly write that the night before. The news cycle is usually pretty slow around here.”

Edward snorted at that. “So, what’s the story?” he said. “What’re you gonna to put in the paper?”

“Zelda’s out getting the whole story, but it looks like a comet landed outside of town.”

“When will she be back?”

Mark was putting in the headline COMET STRIKES! NO INJURIES when Zelda opened the alley door. She didn’t see us in the other doorway.

“Mark! Mark, it was an angel. An angel unmade Reese!” By now tears were flowing. “I just got back from the resurrectorium. Amber is there, and she—.” Zelda saw us standing in the doorway. “I’m sorry. I didn’t see you.”

“They came,” Mark said, “because the first editions didn’t have the scoop. Eddy, Webster, if you’ll excuse us, Zelda and I have a paper to get out.”

“It’s Wayne,” I said. We saw ourselves out, dropping our morning editions in the recycle bin just outside the front door.

“Shit,” Edward said. “That nails it, Webs…Wayne.”

“Nails what?”

“Let’s get a cup of coffee and I’ll tell you.”

Marnie’s is open.”

“Nah. She went native long before I got here.”

“Went native?”

“You know. She’s naked half the time. In a restaurant. Like she was a Zoë or something. I’m a couple blocks off Main. I’ll brew us a pot.”

“Well, I…” I looked at my wrist out of habit. Edward started laughing.

“Reflex, eh? Look, you know as well as I do, whatever it is, it can wait. If there’s one thing I do like about this burg, it’s that no one’s in a hurry.”

“I ought to get to the office.”

“You got employees for that. Come on.”

We were a block off Main street when Edward said, “The delivery company, right?”

“What?”

“You said you run the delivery company. The one Reese works for.”

“That’s right. I suppose they can open without me.”

“You know they can. I was wondering what you thought of your transportation.”

“What do you mean?”

“Your fleet of trucks. They running okay?”

“Oh. I see.”

“Here we are,” he said when we reached his home. It was an unassuming workman’s cottage. It was painted gray, but it had a double lot and the yard next to it was filled with a riot of flowers with a path of brick winding through it.

“You’re quite a gardener, Edward,” I said.

“Eddy. I’m Eddy, Wayne,” and he emphasized my name. “My dad called me Edward. When he was pissed at me. Which was all the time.” We went back to the kitchen, which was large considering the size of the house. He busied himself heating water and setting up a drip while I sat at a table.

There’s a kind of guy you don’t anticipate having a domestic side until you encounter it. Eddy was that kind of guy. First the yard full of flowers. Then there were the water colors, of flowers, I’d noticed on the walls of the living room as we passed through to the kitchen. Then seeing him bustle about pulling cups down and setting them on the counter near the stove, pulling down the sugar bowl from another cupboard and putting it on the table, and getting the creamer from the small, 1940’s style refrigerator. He wasn’t wearing it, but there was even an apron hanging close to the stove. The house was neat, in a way atypical of single guys. My place back in the world, even with a dishwasher, always had dirty dishes on the counter, and my digs here are the same. Not Eddy’s. Here, a broom stood in the corner, the dustpan standing on its edge in front of it. There was a large vase of fresh flowers on the table, and a single rose in a vase on the widow ledge. Domestic Eddy.

He poured the coffees out and set one before me. He flipped his chair around and sat on it backwards.

“So, spill, Wayne. Tell me about this new life, here in The Kingdom.”

The way he said ‘the kingdom’ carried his air quotes and disdain for the place.

“Where are all the cars and trucks?” I asked. He knew it was a rhetorical question and nodded to indicate I understood what he was getting at. “That press, back at the Sentinel, that thing’s an antique even in the real 1920. Yet Marnie’s is a stainless steel diner, with vinyl seats and all the appliances you’d expect. In that diner green, no less.”

Eddy nodded.

“And then there’s the fact that there are travel restrictions.”

“Blammo!” Eddy shouted and slammed his hand flat on the table, then pointed his finger at me. “I knew you saw it. This whole set up is fake, Wayne. As fake as a movie set.”

“Is that what you meant when you said, ‘Look up at the night sky’?”

“And did you?”

“Look up? At the sky?”

His face said ‘yes.’

“Yes. It’s all wrong.”

“Exactly!” he shouted again.

“I grew up without electricity, so I was used to seeing the night sky. Once you pointed it out, it was obvious.”

I ended up telling Eddy about the commune. He told me about his life growing up in the Great Depression, Union organizing before World War II, getting wounded at Anzio, then shot to death by his lover when he drove up to their apartment in his new Edsel convertible.

“I miss that car,” he said. “I went from sitting in the front seat of this turquoise beauty — Mack loved turquoise — to waking up in that resurrectorium. From seeing my blood soak the seats of my new car — seven miles on the odometer — to hearing beeping sounds in that operating room.”

It was an odd reminder that we weren’t back home, in the world that was, because if we were, I would be talking to a man from Eddy’s generation in a nursing home, or, at best, on his front porch as he struggled to speak past loose dentures.

“As I was saying earlier,” I said, “The night sky. It’s wrong.”

“Can’t find the Big Dipper.”

“Oh yes, I can,” I said. His eyebrow shot up saying both ‘no shit?’ and ‘are you calling e a liar?’ “But it’s moved. Orion is in the summer sky, and Polaris isn’t the pole star. We’re not in the Southern Hemisphere, either. I found the Pleiades, but not where they should be. So if what I am seeing is what I think I’m seeing, with Vega in the constellation Lyra as the pole star, we’re half way around the precession. 13,000 years.”

Eddy whistled. “I knew something was off.”

“Mind you, I’m not an astronomer. But that’s what it looks like.”

“More coffee?”

I nodded, and Eddy refilled our cups.

“So, we’ve got your precession, and now Zelda claims an angel came down from heaven and killed Reese.”

“Unmade,” I corrected him.

“Yes, strange word to use. Look, Wayne, put it all together and it’s clear we’re not being told the truth. Zoës and all that. Angels. The Kingdom. Jesus has returned! Sure, sure. I’ll believe it when I see him. I have a word for you, Wayne.” He sipped his coffee, waiting for me to deliver his line. Eddy was obviously good at manipulating drama.

“What word, Eddy?”

“Aliens.”

I screwed up my face enough that he said, “I kid you not. Aliens or humans 13,000 years in the future. Or both. Could be both.”