Helen Amber Ponders It All

As I sit my front porch, I can hear my neighbor Ralph mowing his lawn, the slice of the blades rotating across the bar, scrish scrish scrish scrish scrish scrish as he pushes the mower forward, stopping now and again to empty the basket. The smell of fresh cut grass is sweet. I look down the street. Not many lawns. Most of us, Bios and Zoës alike, garden our little footholds on the Earth. I raise flowers in mine, a memorial to Wayne in a way. I took some bulbs and cuttings from his place to remember him by.

I have a job to do and I am not sure where to begin, so I sit on my porch gathering my thoughts and energies, listening to Ralph, who just arrived a few years ago. It’s early summer. The breeze is warm, southerly. A boy bicycles an ice cream cart, bells attached so they ring as boy and cart bounce down my street. Finding no customers, he turns at the corner, passing the letter carrier on her way up my street. Today is a delicious day. Much better to sit on my porch and ponder than scour back issues at the The 1920 Sentinel or records in the basement of the Resurrectorium or the New Harmony town Hall, or search for records in what’s left of New Chennai.

It’s the clouds, puffy and white with flat bottoms, floating above the front warming Region 1920, that bring me back to why I’m here. The clouds remind me that there are no contrails in the sky. The silent flying machines of Region 2021 leave no trails in the sky, and they rarely visit here. This isn’t my front porch on Broad Street. This isn’t the home I shared with Reese, the one where we lived out our old age until I died, crushing him so badly he carried the pain into his resurrection. This home, our home, isn’t in the same world, if by world you take its meaning as the societies and institutions of human of life. That world was swept away.

Things have settled down now in Region 1920, and the Lord has asked me to look into the Rebellion. They never called it that. They thought they were revolutionaries in the best sense of the word, but rebellion is what it was. A coupe by any other name, you see. I’ve been trying to figure out where to begin. I could begin with Reese, I suppose, but that’s tricky because Reese is mine and I’m his. It’ll be hard to untangle that knot. But when it started, we were separated by the fact the Lord had told me not to reveal to Reese who I was. I see now why he ordered that. I didn’t at the time.

I’m having a hard time moving forward with this. It involves exposing a lot of personal feelings — not only mine but everyone involved in the rebellion, maybe even some who weren’t, just to give a full picture of things at the time. There are things that we recall in pieces that we experience as a whole, but sometimes the only way to know them is to look at the pieces. The device 2021 gave me, a sort of tablet, means I really don’t need to go into the basement of the Resurrectorium. The tablet holds all the individual journals and court documents of the time. But I’ll probably spend a lot of time down there, handling the papers instead of pulling things up on this tiny screen. Maybe that’s why I belong in Region 1920. One thing this device can give me that isn’t in the basement is access to some of Jesus’ own observations at the time. I’d love to know how they pulled that one off. It makes the other tech they have seem puny.

Since I’ve been charged with this task, I ought to start with a bit about myself, Helen Amber. I’m Zoë — immortal by the grace of God. Reese was resurrected with the same Bios life he had before he died, and he didn’t recognize me when he woke up. That’s where I think I’ll begin. I’ll include a few other First Day journals because it will give me some perspective on Reese’s resurrection. As for others, Asher’s part in the Rebellion really only took off after Casiel unmade Reese. Wayne came into the picture earlier, but his direction changed —always interesting when compiling a history. And dear Zelda. When I think of her, I sometimes think who the Lord resurrects as Zoë, and who as Bios, is as much strategic as it is how they lived in the world that was.

Not everyone who lives through a revolution is part of the revolution. Some people, like Sarah, live on the sidelines of current events, swept up in more important matters, like love and loss, joy and pain. As an anchor, if you will, a footing in timeless human nature, I think I should include journals from Sarah, and maybe her Zoë Belle. Then there’s Sam, whose son chose to be resurrected with Down’s Syndrome. Sam and his stable kept coming into the picture.

“Start anywhere,” Jesus said when he handed this assignment to me. “It’s your story, not mine.” But he was part of it, all through it in a way since this world is his. It’s like a puzzle I’ve been told to solve. A four hundred year old puzzle.

On the next block I hear Sarah’s dogs barking. She’s come home from the florist where she works. Reese will be home from the Sentinel soon. For the next few months, I’ll be deep into the past, but I think at last I know how to proceed. I’m going to prepare supper. It’s been months since Reese and I ate a meal, and I feel like celebrating.

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.

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 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.”

Day 182: Amber’s Journal Entry 4: Unmade

I met Reese in the resurrectorium. Reese had encountered Casiel while trying to leave Region 1920, despite having been told repeatedly that he must not. Humans do not survive meetings with angels unless the angel holds back all but a sliver of its presence. Casiel did not destroy the planet, or even the region. But Reese and a mile or so of the ground around him was unmade. The Lord himself had to bring Reese back again. I am relieved that he chose to do that, for my love for Reese of old and my love for him as my charge, both would have been wounded. I only hope I was able to get across to Reese how close he came to the Second Death. If another Bios had gone bad and killed him, I wouldn’t have worried: A Resurrection from a sin not one’s own is to be expected. But to be disembodied by an angel for disobedience…

Reese did seem chastened, not for what he did, but for me. This is good, because concern for the impact of one’s actions on others is a surer sign of repentance than concern for oneself. If only he also knew that obedience has its own virtues.

He called me Helen when he first opened his eyes. “Hi Helen.” Just that, and he passed out and slept for hours. When he awoke a second time, I was Amber to him again. But the unexpected ‘Hi Helen,’ came so naturally from his mouth and with such a relaxed and happy smile… I remember when he went in for a minor surgery once. He woke up and said “Hi Helen” with a dream soaked voice and the same happy ‘I knew you’d be here’ smile. Now I know why it moved me so. When he first woke up, all that anxiety about me not being there, about Helen, as he knew her not being there, all that was gone. Never happened. It was the face I would have seen had I been in the resurrectorium as Helen, instead of Amber.

And Father, forgive me, but for the first time I wish it had been so. For a moment, and to see that happiness remain, I would have traded it all: all the glory you showed me, being cuddled in your love, seeing your beautiful face… It was like those happinesses were for someone else, and the one meant for me had just come and gone in Reese’s face.