Get Me Out of Here

I don’t want to be here, dammit. The longer I’m here – and I’ve been here a long time – the more I think it’s some kind of hellish afterlife where you pay for your sins by losing everything you thought you wanted, everyone you loved.

I was told this was the great resurrection, when everybody was made whole and no sickness or sadness could persist, and death would have no dominion. Really? That’s not what I’m seeing.

— You’re trying too hard to control it, Joe said. He was sitting in the sunny windowsill of the place I’m trying not to consider my cell. Even if it doesn’t look like a prison, I know I’m in one. –Let go and let the change come.

— I don’t want to wait, dammit. I have a life to get back to. I have clients who need to see me. How the hell am I gonna pay off the mortgage on my condo? What about the lease payments on my car?

–You see anybody around here driving a car? Joe asked. He was chewing on a toothpick, moving it easily from one side of his mouth to the other.

— Not the point, I said. This was my condo, my car, my life.  Besides, everything around here seems to be going to you-know-where in a hand basket.

— Lemme show you something. Joe hopped off the windowsill.

–Something like what? I asked. We walked down the road for a while before Joe answered.

— What’s the most important thing to you? he said. Before you died and ended up here. What did you hold the most precious? Now, I want you to think about this, Asher. Joe stopped in front of me so I could see every wrinkle in his old-man face, the hard twinkle of his pale blue eyes.

I didn’t have to think. I already knew. But I didn’t want to tell Joe. It would be embarrassing. He might even laugh at me.

We passed a field of people working, tilling the soil, planting crops or whatever. I don’t know from agriculture. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, although how anybody could enjoy standing out in the hot sun for hours on end, I don’t know. Beats me. Joe stopped in front of the fence separating the field from the road.

— See anybody you know? he asked.

I scanned the little group of people. There was nobody I knew, just two older women busy scraping the ground with hoes, and four young men down on their hands and knees, widening a hole that they’d probably use for planting a tree. They worked quietly, talking to each other now and then in low voices. One of the young men sat back on his heels and took off the straw hat he was wearing against the sun’s head, and fanned himself with it. He gazed at Joe and me, seemingly without interest, until he lurched to his feet and ran to where we were. He’d tossed his hat away and his dark blond hair caught the wind. I knew he would have blue eyes. He would have blue eyes as clear as a prairie sky. I knew he would.

Jamie. I’d just about given up all hope of ever seeing him again.

— Asher. He was panting, out of breath. He bent over and put his hands on his knees.

— In the flesh, kid. I tried hard to sound cheerful. I tried hard not to sound clutching or desperate, while inside I was screaming his name over and over JAMIEJAMIEJAMIEJAMIEJAMIE!

— I’ve been looking for you. He glanced at Joe, then shot a questioning look at me.

— It’s okay, I said. He’s safe.

— Ash. In one fluid movement, he jumped the fence. Oh my God, Ash.

He opened his arms and I went into them.

Interview of Bios Rose Warner. Two months post-tornado.

Resurrectorium 1920-η: Michael Leete Director: Transcript of Interview of Bios Rose Warner by Zoë Michael. Two months post-tornado.

Bios R:  “Not again. Not again! God! Not again!” That was all that I could think of when I saw it coming. The last one I saw killed my whole family. Don’t you see? Everybody gone but me. Everything gone. My house, my mom. My little sister just home after being born. I never had a dad. No brothers and sisters but for Betsy. No pets. Mom was allergic. Just the three of us, and I was fine with that. But that tornado took everything. I was in the third grade and my life was never the same.

So when I saw this tornado coming my way I thought “God, how could you? This is supposed to be your Kingdom. How dare you!” Strike me down if you want to, but God in Heaven, you can’t do that to me again.

Zoë M:   Did you have so little faith that you feared God would let your family die again?

Bios R:  Why not? Why shouldn’t I doubt Him? I was standing there and I saw it, just like when I was a child. I remember that day. It’s..let me see…four hundred and thirty years ago, I think. I’ve been here a while. But I remember. I was ten. But like everyone says, it could’a been yesterday. I sat at my school desk lookin’ out the window as the sky turns gray, then dark blue, then green streaks start showing between the clouds when the lightning lit ’em up, then the sky went black outside.

But the school people, they didn’t know what was coming and let the school out. Trees big around as a summer sausage flopping back and forth like they was weeds. Shingles blowin’ in the air. The bleachers blew over. Little girl standin’ next to me was blowed over and rolled down the sidewalk. I grabbed a sign post. Hand over hand I walked myself down to the ground and lay flat and prayed “Please, God, don’t let this tornado hurt Mommy. Don’t let it hurt my baby sister.” So when I looked up for my deliverance instead of God or an angel that devil tornado came roaring across the farm fields, pelting me with stinging dirt, blowing so I could barely see. Ice cold rain. Big branches knocked down. And it kept getting closer and closer and closer. And I prayed that he take me instead of them. But he took them. He took ’em. And I never prayed again.

I remember when I woke up in that resurrectorium and they said God brought me back to life, and I thought, “Why’d he do that?” I didn’t want anything from him anymore, not since I was ten.

Then he comes and brings another tornado and I thought, “He’s going to take everything away again.”

Zoë M:   And did He?

Bios R:  Did he what?

Zoë M:   Take everything?

Bios R:  Yes! My home is gone. My flower shop, gone. All the things I owned in this world, gone. Flattened or blown away. I had photos of my old friends who passed on, became Zoës. They’re not coming back here, are they? So now I got nothin’ to remember ’em by.

Zoë M:   What about Slim? He’s back. And Karlie. She’s back. Even your dog Smidge is back. So, the man you love, your daughter, and your dog, all returned to life.

Bios R:  But not right away. I waited weeks for Slim, almost two months for Karlie. God help me, I love little Smidge, but you brought her back first.

Zoë M:   But they’re all back.

Bios R:  But why’d they suffer? Why were they killed in a tornado if that’s not supposed to happen in God’s Kingdom? What about all his promises? No pain in his holy kingdom?

Zoë M:   No death.

Bios R:  But they died.

Zoë M:   They don’t remember it. You know that. You asked them. Tell me, Rose, when you were a little girl, and that tornado took your mom and your sister, did you get them back a short while later?

Bios R:  Course not.

Zoë M:   But you got to meet them again in the Resurrection, didn’t you?

Bios R:  It’s not the same.

Zoë M:   Why is that, Bios Rose? Why isn’t it the same?

Bios R:  Because they didn’t know me. The me my Mom knew was a little girl. Betsy never knew me before she died. You brought Mom back, but when she saw me last I was ten years old. You say, “Rose, here’s your mama, here’s your baby sister.” But I’m not ten years old anymore. I may look twenty two, but I had sixty more years of living under my belt than that. I was older when I died than my mom was when she died. How do you make that all better?

Zoë M:   I don’t.

Bios R:  I thought not.

Zoë M:   You do.

Bios R:  Don’t give me that.

Zoë M:   I’m serious, Rose. That’s your real job in this world. The one that matters. Not selling flowers.