Ally had grown used to floating around. At least it was comfortable. Ally tended to see things from ‘this world’ Ally’s point of view, however, because it had grown so boring to watch everything happen from above. Especially when Ally, that is, herself, was asleep. Who knew that one’s spirit stayed awake when the body slept? Must be the stuff of dreams. Hey, now there’s an idea! Maybe I can influence myself through dreams? But what would I attempt to communicate? And why did it take me nearly forty years to think of doing that? She would have to think of a plan.
She followed, as she must, Ally and Joel as they traveled to a new location. Ally, now forty-five-years old, asked Joel, “Where are we?”
Joel answered, “What does you angel sense tell you?”
She sniffed the air and then told him, and he said, “Correct.”
She never realized how regularly that scenario played out. One would think she would have learned by now. Ally vowed she would change that dynamic once she returned to her world.
If she returned to her world. She’d given up a long time ago hoping for any solution to getting back to her real world. Every five years she would contact the wizard and all he ever said was, “I’m working on it.” I mean, really, how long could it take to round up a counter spell that would get her out? He’s had at least six hours, his time. Unless the spell required him obtaining some hard to acquire items, she couldn’t imagine what could take him more than an hour or two. She had begun to suspect he wasn’t being honest with her.
Joel said, “Maybe you should engage your emotional connection. That appears to be the easiest way to figure out who or what is our assignment.”
“Sure” Ally willed her connection open. “I’m sensing some distress in that building over there.” She pointed to it.
“That is a hospital. Of course there will be distress there.”
“Well, I don’t know. Maybe God sent us here to heal someone in there.”
Joel started walking toward the building.
“Wait! Do you actually think I’m right?”
“No, more than likely you’re wrong. But I figured it was worth checking out to keep you happy.”
Ally shook her head. “Really? You think I’m wrong?”
“Not definitively, but more than likely.”
“Keep me happy?” Ally threw up her hands. “Angels.”
They both marched toward the Hospital, with the “Ally balloon,” as she had taken to calling her spirit trapped in this world, in tow behind the Ally of this world. But Ally would tire of listening to herself and Joel chat about stuff. So she would often distract herself from what they were talking about. I wonder what it is about our conversations that I don’t want to hear? She had never asked herself that question before. But it was painfully obvious that something didn’t sit well with her.
I know. Ally contemplated her thoughts. I think it is Joel’s attitude. He is so arrogant, because he is superior to humans in many ways. And he tends to assume that he is and acts accordingly. He even comes across to me like he’s using me. There, she had said it. Something she had inwardly felt for a long time. Being an observer of their interactions had revealed that truth to her. In addition to her own “love-sick” attitude, where no matter what Joel said or did, she acted like a love-sick puppy around him. It might be expected of a teenager, but it didn’t look good at all on a middle-aged woman. Maybe it was the sense of distance she felt as well. While the “this-world” Joel was a decent substitute, it had been years since she had made any direct contact with her Joel. I wonder if this Joel accurately reflects my real-world Joel? Maybe the dynamic I’m seeing here is, well, wrong? Somewhere deep inside, however, she feared it wasn’t.
Kaylee and Joel had more conversation with Josh, but about other topics, more to help time pass than anything. But finally they left Josh’s house after enough time had elapsed that Joel figured Ally should be close to dying.
As they said their goodbyes and stepped off of Josh’s porch to head back, Kaylee turned toward Joel and said, “I have a favor to ask of you.”
He paused, then asked, “Does this have to do with further ‘active-waiting’?”
“No, and yes.” She paused, attempting to read Joel’s facial expression, which appeared blank to her. So she continued, “No, in that my first request was more of where we should go to wait, given that she was on her way to her house, wouldn’t it be logical to believe that her house is where she would first appear?”
Joel smiles. “Why, yes she would. But your second request?”
Kaylee didn’t look directly at him. “I was wondering if it was possible to stop and take a peek at the time-warp you were both talking about.”
“What? Why?” Joel’s left eyebrow was cocked up along with his left cheek and his mouth slightly half-cocked along with them.
“I don’t quite know, other than just to see it.” She knew the angel enjoyed showing-off his knowledge.
“Hum, I suppose it could be managed. It isn’t normal to say in that transportation state very long. But I think I can manage it.”
“Think or know?”
“I know I can, what I’m unsure of is how powerful the draw on you will be. No problem when you are traveling multiple-times faster than the speed of light. But to stop and take a gander at it, you could end up in the time trap yourself.”
“That’s a risk I’m willing to take. I mean, if the only real risk is losing a day, then I think it is worth it.”
“Are you sure?” Joel stared at her. “You would be sucked in right before Ally returns. While it is a day in our life, it will seem to be an entire life-time before you get to see her again.”
“I think so.”
‘Think or know?” Joel smiled at her.
Kaylee looked him in the eye. “Know so.” Kaylee smiled back. “After all, I trust you not to let me get sucked into his trap.”
He sighed. “The things I do for you girls.” Then they disappeared in a flash of light.
Kaylee jerked when she same out of the angel transport. Her feet weren’t touching anything solid, just air. Or whatever the equivalent of air in this place was. It felt more like a void to her. When she jerked, she slowly started spinning until she was upside down. “Which way is up!”
Joel laughed. “Everywhere is up and everywhere is down. You need to stop kicking the void if you don’t want to spin.” Joel grabbed her hand and moved her until she was “upright” with him.
Kaylee scanned the scenery. A ball of something stood in the distance. The darkness was punctured with little lights, like the kind one might see on a summer’s night in Camellia. Except now, there were untold numbers of them everywhere, some brighter than others. To her right, at least currently, there was a cone of whirling stuff. She pointed at it, “I assume that would be the time warp?”
“Yep.” Joel stood staring at it.
Kaylee started drifting toward it. Joel grabbed her hand and pulled her back. “Okay, you’ve seen it. Best we go on.”
“Wait! Can we get closer?”
“I don’t think that would be a good idea. Already it’s pull on you is getting stronger.”
Kaylee knew he was right, but also trusted the angel to save her. The pull, however, was indeed getting stronger. This would have to do. She yelled out as loud as she could, “Ally, kill yourself to escape!”
About that time, Kaylee’s hand slipped from Joel’s, and she tumbled toward the hole. Joel zipped toward her. “See, I told you we needed to leave!” His hand drew closer to hers, until their fingertips touched.
The next sight Kaylee saw was Ally’s living room. They rolled across the floor until they stopped just short of the living room wall.
Joel stood and dusted himself off, breathing heavier than usual. “Why did you do that?”
“Just a hunch that she might get the message.” Kaylee also rose from the floor and straightened her hair.
“But she should be old right now, ready to die at any time. Even if your message gets through, she’ll die maybe a little earlier, but only by a few minutes.”
Kaylee growled, “But to her it will feel like years! Don’t you even care what she is going through? Your own wife?”
“Of course I do. It’s just that, I have no choice in the matter.” He stared Kaylee in the eyes. “The Big Boss said wait. He might get me a demotion or something. My only out is—“
“That I did it because I love her. God loves her too. Don’t you think He cares?”
“Well, of course. But why did he tell me to wait, then?”
“I don’t know. Only He does. Maybe it was a test to find out how much you love her. Ever thought of that?” Kaylee waited for the angel’s response with her arms crossed.
“Honestly,” He bowed his head. “That thought never even crossed my mind.” He paced the floor. “If it was a test, it was a mean one, because I failed it miserably. All I could think about was—”
“Yourself. Your potential promotion in the ranks of angels.”
“Doing what the Big Boss told me to do.” Joel flopped onto the couch.
“In other words, yourself, to make yourself look good for the ‘Boss.’” Kaylee sat beside Joel. She said with a soft voice, “I know you love her, God knows it as well.”
“Maybe not after this.”
“No, he even knows what’s in an angel’s heart. My guess is that he wanted you to realize it. Because if you didn’t love her, you would not be so heartbroken about it now.”
He wiped his nose on his sleeve. “Why yes, you are right.” He smiled at Kaylee. “Well, we can always hope what you did will get through to her. You never know.”
She smiled back at him. “No, you never know.”
“There is one other thing. I don’t know for sure whether I should reveal this, but I think I already have.”
Kaylee’s eyes widened. “You mean, you’re going to admit to it? Of course I already know. I was hoping you would eventually fess up.”
“I did erase her memories of her emotional connection she had up until entering the steam house.”
Kaylee’s eyes grew wider. “You did! Just those memories?”
“I thought you knew?”
“I thought you erased all her memories.”
“No, just the ones concerning her experiences of an emotional connection.”
“Best I wait to divulge that once Ally has returned. It should be within the hour.”
“You mean, within five years for her.”
“Unless she receives you message and is able to act on it.”
Kaylee sighed. “Yes, I know it is a long shot, but I had to try.”
Joel’s arms reached around Kaylee and hugged her. “Did I ever tell you that I love you as well?”
“You didn’t have too. All the years you provided me with tea was evidence enough.” Kaylee squeezed Joel back, but he failed to let go. “You said Ally could reappear at any time? If so, you should stop hugging me like this. You don’t have any idea what seeing us like this would do to her.”
He released Kaylee. “Sorry.”
Ally sat alone. Kaylee would pop in every once in a while to check on her, but by and large, Ally was alone, sitting in a chair. On occasion, Joel would flash in, talk a bit, and then he would be gone on his next assignment. He had set up something called a TV which he had enabled it to receive some Earth stations, as Joel called them. They did help pass the time, but were poor substitutes for real interaction. It was a weird feeling, being bored while in Paradise.
However, she did so enjoy when Joel did come. His presence gave her cause to look forward to seeing him, though the visits were always way too short. She assumed he generally didn’t stick around very long because he could bear to see her in her old age.
Now happened to be one of those visits. Joel sat in a chair, telling her about his last assignment.
He stopped chatting. “Yes, Sister?”
“I had a strange dream, sort of a semi-real dream the other night.”
Joel’s eyes perked up. “Do tell?”
Ally had to use short bursts to talk, it strained her voice to talk too long. “I dreamed that, I heard a voice, as if from, a void.” Joel watched as she struggled to catch her breath. “It sounded like, Kaylee’s voice.”
Joel’s eyes grew wider.
“She said, ‘Ally, kill yourself to escape. But to escape, what I have no idea. This life?”
“It would do that.” Joel stared at her. “You’re not really thinking of doing it, are you?”
“It goes against, everything I’ve, always believed. Yet, it is tempting, I’ll admit.”
Joel threw up his hands. “But you live in Paradise? How could you be tempted to die while in Paradise?”
“Have you looked at me, lately? I mean, really looked at me? I’m old, my energy has been spent. I’m merely waiting, here in Paradise, to die? I’m alone. I’m . . .” She glanced up at Joel to make sure he listened. ‘Lonely. In Paradise. Do you have, any idea, what that feels like?”
Joel slowly shook his head. “I’m sorry. I don’t know. Though I can tell you are having a hard time with it. I can empathize to a degree with you.”
Ally watched from above at herself chatting with Joel. She could empathize, because she had grown bored and felt lonely watching her sit in a chair for hours on end, then to go to bed and sleep, over and over for the past four years.
But this dream she had related to Joel was something new. She knew she had rarely ever had dreams such as that, and she immediately knew it must be Kaylee’s attempt to contact her. To tell her what to do to get out of this time-trap.
It all made sense to her now. The one thing the wizard never intended to tell her all these yeas was how to exit the trap. He probably didn’t really believe her that she wasn’t a wizard, out after his secrets. So he intended to keep her locked up in here as long as possible. How dare he!
But the bigger question was how to influence herself to kill herself so this “fantasy” could end? That wouldn’t be easy. She had minimal influence over her this-world-self, but what she could do, she would. She had no idea how much longer she would live in this state. But she hated it, as obviously her this-world-self did too. Though she knew it would only be minutes more in her world, it would be another year or three in this one. She wasn’t sure she could survive that long. She had to laugh at herself at the last comment. But she did have some hope in that she had said that she was tempted.
Joel appeared before Ally in a flash of light. “I believe I have some good news for you, Sister.”
Ally struggled to open her eyes as she had been napping. “Really? This had better be good.” That came out more sarcastic than she intended, but at this stage of life, she didn’t care.
Joel said, “Whatever. But based on your dream, which you received, I took the initiative to ask the Big Boss, and he said that your death is a go.”
“Is a go?”
“As in, ‘let’s do this,’ ‘get the job done,’ or ‘do it.’ In other words, he’s authorized me to kill you.”
“Hold on, Brother. I said I was tempted, not that I was ready.” Ally thought for a moment. “So God actually said it was okay for you to kill me?”
“Yeah.” The angel smiled at her.
Ally frowned. “You don’t have to look, so happy about it.”
Ally above, was deep in mediation, in the hopes of influencing herself to take the angel up on his offer. She did not want to continue this charade for another several years. She repeated the words, kill yourself, kill yourself, over and over again in her mind.
“But, I thought you would be happy?” Joel raised an eyebrow. “You certainly aren’t now.”
“To tell the truth, there doesn’t appear to be much point to continue living. I can’t do anything productive—”
“Except a thriving prayer ministry!”
“Except I don’t have anyone to pray over. Most everyone I know is in Paradise already.”
Joel scratched his head. “I see your point. The Big Boss did allow it, in this circumstance that he labeled as highly unusual.”
“I’ll say this is a highly usual circumstance.”
“Most definitely.” The angel watched Ally, awaiting an answer.
“Since God has granted this request of yours, it must mean he thinks it would be the best option, right?”
Joel paused before answering. “Just because he allows something doesn’t always mean it is the best outcome. That said, I do sense that it very well may be the case in this instance.”
Ally examined Joel’s eyes before smiling. “I think I’m ready then. After all, once I’m dead, I’ll return here and, maybe we can go on some assignments again.”
Joel smiled. “Yes, that is definitely a possibility.”
“I think I would like that.”
Joel examined her for a moment. “I probably have not said it enough these past years, Ally of Reol, but I do love you.”
Ally wiped her eyes. “And I you.”
With that, Joel waved his hand over Ally. She lost consciousnesses and slept a very deep sleep.
“Ally, Ally! Wake up!”
Someone shook Ally. She groggily woke up. “What? What’s all the commotion about?” As Ally focused, she saw what appeared to be Susan’s face, but much different. But she also saw her own body from above, as if she were floating in the air above them as well.
Susan’s wide eyes and gaping mouth dissolved into a smile and relaxed eyes. “Thank goodness. One minute you were sitting on the bench, the next you had fallen to the ground. I couldn’t wake you up.”
Ally rubbed her eyes. “Where am I?”
“You don’t remember?” Susan watched as Ally shook her head. “Why, you’re in the steam house. You must have hit your head or something. I was afraid you were so bad that the steam house decided to kill you.”
Leave it to Susan to get all dramatic about someone falling asleep. But maybe Susan was right about her hitting her head. There were holes missing, things she thought she should or did know, but were no longer there. Like, she recalled that Susan didn’t much care for her, but she had no idea why.
It’s because of what Joel did to me, Ally yelled from above, but then she realized no one could hear her but herself. She was truly an observer, no longer able to interact with this world through her body. Must be what Joel did. He made me forget about the whole emotional thing, in order to start fresh.
It wasn’t the steam house that gave her this ability, it simply erased her memories up until then as well as forgetting who Joel was, in order to keep the fact he was an angel a secret. So that’s why I never could identify the man at the steam house. It was Joel, only I couldn’t remember it! That’s also why I’ve always figured it was the steam house that gave me that ability, because I couldn’t remember ever having it before going in there. But why? Why erase my memory instead of healing me?
Ally lifted herself from the floor and sat on the bench. “You go on out, Susan, and let my mom know I’m okay and will be out in a minute or two.”
Susan lifted her nose and headed for the door. “I see you’re still giving out orders, Ms. Angel.” She promptly walked out the door.
Ally waited for her head to clear. “Ms. Angel? Why did she call me that? Must be some type of put down, knowing Susan.” Susan, her face had changed. The best word that Ally could come up with was “homely.” She used to always be so prim and proper, so pretty. Now, however, she was the opposite of those things. Apparently the steam house decided she needed some humility. “I wonder in what ways I’ve changed?”
Ally stood up. She took a step to gauge how well she could walk, she gave it another step to see how she did. She walked toward the door. “Here goes nothing.” She stepped outside.
Ally above cringed when she saw herself go out the door. She recalled so well what she felt next. She couldn’t bear to watch it all over again, so she stayed in the steam house. She recalled her words, like “Make it stop!” and “Why me?” and “I’ve been cursed by the steam house!”
To divert herself from her crying and screaming going on outside, she focused more on her current situation. First, I must have become separated from my body in this world because what Joel did to me. Though she wasn’t sure it was a good thing he did. She became incompatible with staying inside her own body, being that the “this world” Joel couldn’t affect her other-world self. For which she was thankful that he couldn’t make her forget about himself even if this “this world” version of herself had. Boy, one can go crazy thinking about such things!
On the other hand, being separated from this world could mean she was a step closer to her own world. Maybe Joel could help her. So she thought as loud as she could—whatever that might look like—and cried out, Joel! Come save me. I’m here in this world. Right HERE!
A voice responded, though it wasn’t Joel’s voice. Why, what have we here? Looks like I’ve caught a human in my trap. My bad. But it will take some doing to get you out, I’m afraid.
Who is this?
My name is not of concern.
What do you mean? I am in your trap, as you call it! I’d say your name is of concern to me.
Because I’m afraid I could be expelled from the Wizards’ Club if you knew my name.
Ally crossed her bodiless arms. Look Whoever you are, I am Ally, married to an angel who will know your name and will be very, very peeved that you have caught his wife in your trap. Now, if you cooperate with me, I’ll do my best to make sure you are not kicked out of your club. If you don’t, however, all heaven will break out upon you, and membership in your club will be the least of your worries. Got it?
She heard the wizard laughing. You expect me to believe that an angel would marry a human? That’s crazy!
You are correct that such a marriage has never happened before, and I dare say, will not happen again. However, I am the exception. Disbelieve what I’m saying at your own peril. Because, I can guarantee you that he will not be happy with you when he finds out.
Okay, okay, I believe!
Ally contained her surprise. She didn’t expect him to give in so easily. What made you change your mind?
Let’s just say, it explains how you were caught in my trap. Angels and those with them are excluded. For you to be caught would mean that not only are you human, but that you were alone. And if you were alone, then you must have angelic powers to transport through space and time.
So, how long will it be before I’m out of here?
Hard to say, but I’ll get to work on it right away. But one other thing you should know. By now you will have spent around sixteen years in my trap?
Ah, yes. Well, outside the trap, time runs differently. So for every hour here, it will feel like five years have passed in your world.
Ally did the math in her head. So, it has only been almost three hours in my world since I’ve been in here?
Ally felt a little comfort in that it hadn’t taken Joel fourteen years to come to her rescue.
The wizard however, continued to talk. So, if you pester me every hour or so as it would seem to you, it will mean a constant bombardment of request every second, and I won’t be able to make any progress on getting you out.
Therefore, I could contact you once every five years as it would seem to me?
That would be acceptable.
Ally didn’t know whether to trust him or not. But what choice did she have? She didn’t know the first thing about wizard spells. But her gut told her he was on the level with her. His emotions matched his words. Hey, I can read emotions again. She scanned the area to discover she was being pulled along with the “this world” Ally like a kite on a string. Her mother and herself were walking home, all were not happy with how things turned out in the steam house. But now she knew the truth. At least in part. One of the first questions she would have for Joel when she got out of here, assuming she ever did, would be, “Why did you never tell me that my gift from the steam house was not the ability to feel emotions, but the erasing of my memories up until then long after I had already accepted it and primarily dealt with it? What was the point?”
The negative for her was that it could feel like it would take a lifetime to tell him, even if she only lost a few hours in her world.
Kaylee pointed at Josh’s house. “How come his is bigger than yours? He has a mansion!”
“I know,” Joel said as he approached the door. “Quite the waste of good real estate don’t you think?”
“Am I sensing a bit of jealousy?”
“Who me?” Joel knocked on the door. “What would I even be jealous of? I’m perfectly content.”
Kaylee twisted the edge of her mouth upward. “Yeah, right. Perfectly contented.”
“I am. Really I am!”
The door opened. A strange man in a black set of coat-tails stood before them. “Good evening, sir and ma’am. What can I do for you today?”
Joel looked around the man. “We’re here to see Josh. Is he here?”
“Do you have an appointment?”
“An appointment? You’ve got to be kidding.” Joel displayed a scowl.
The man appeared unflappable. “I don’t kid, sir. Who should I say is calling?”
“Joel and Kaylee. We are very close friends of his.”
Kaylee grunted. I wonder if he’ll even let us in?
With that, the butler guy snapped his fingers. A puff of smoke enveloped him. Once the smoke cleared, Josh stood where the butler had stood. “Ta-da! What do you think? You like my ‘answering service’?”
Kaylee frowned. “Only if you enjoy irritated guest.”
Josh examined Joel’s demeanor. “I see what you mean. I figured I would test it on you two. I knew you would give me an honest opinion.” He waved them in. “I’ve got some special coffee with a strong hint of blueberry flavor from Ethiopia on Earth. It will help sooth the savage beast.”
Joel and Kaylee followed him in. Joel turned to Kaylee. “Great! Now I’m a savage beast.”
Kaylee chuckled. “By the way, Josh, are ‘strong’ and ‘hint’ opposites? What exactly is a strong hint?”
He turned his head. “You’ll soon taste it and see.”
The coffee did taste very delicious. Surprisingly so. Kaylee now understood what a “strong hint” was: she could definitely taste the blueberry flavor, but it wasn’t artificially strong, rather it tasted like it was naturally part of the coffee. As Josh explained it, that’s exactly what it was. Nobody added blueberry flavoring to the coffee bean, except God.
They had been talking to Josh about Ally, and they related the whole story. Joel ended by saying, . . . so we were hoping you might be able to enlighten us if there is such a wizard’s spell that could cause such a time warp.”
“Oh dear. Yes there is. I should have seen this coming. Why didn’t I see this coming!” He banged his fist on the table.
“Didn’t see what? Tell us what you are talking about.” Kaylee wanted to bang her fist on the table too, but didn’t want to give Josh the impression she was angry at him, so she refrained.
Josh breathed deep. “It isn’t as bad as I’ve made it seem. It is more an inconvenience than anything. They are what are called ‘Time traps.’”
Joel nodded. “Yes, I’ve heard of them. Some sort of spell used to trap ‘enemies’ and to protect something valuable for a wizard.”
“Right. The basic concept is it will hold them in a trap for most of a day in order for the wizard to check on it to see who he’s caught trying to steal whatever he’s protecting with it, and deal with them. What it does—this is pretty cool—is it traps a person inside a time bubble where they can relive their entire life.”
Joel’s eyes grew big. “Their entire life, as it really existed?”
Josh nodded. “And, as it will likely exist into the future given one’s current path. Every hour in this world is the equivalent to five years inside the time bubble, at least that is the default. A wizard can adjust it, but they rarely do.”
Kalyee sipped more of the calming coffee. “So, it’s been about four hours, which means she’s lived about twenty years in the time bubble. Poor girl. She probably has no idea what happened to her. How does one exit the time bubble?”
Josh starred at Kaylee for a few seconds. “They die.”
Kaylee spewed the coffee she was drinking over the table. “Die! Like as in gone to Paradise, die?”
Joel pointed at Josh. “You mean she dies in that world, right?”
“Correct. That world isn’t fantasy, but it isn’t real either. It’s sort of like you watching a movie of your life, except you’re staring in it. Dying in it doesn’t effect her in this life. It simply ends the ‘movie’ for them.”
Joel waved his hand toward Kaylee. “I’ll explain later.” He focused on Josh again. “Alright, what is to stop someone from simply killing themselves, assuming they realize that is what happened to them?”
Josh adjusted himself in his chair. “That’s just it. They generally don’t realize that it isn’t real. The only exceptions are angels. They have an awareness of both the world they are in, as well as memories of their life in this world. Plus, as you know, angels have exceptionally long lives. It would take forever for an angel to die, like literally forever. That is why the spell excludes angels from the trap. So self-preservation is the answer to your question.”
Kaylee shook her head as if shaking out cobwebs. “That’s all and good, but there is a missing piece here. Ally just went back to her house to get a book.” Kaylee held it up. “Are you trying to tell me that a wizard felt this book was so valuable that he put a time-trap spell on it? What did Ally try to steel from a wizard?”
Josh shook his head. “Nothing. That’s where the time warp you experienced comes in, and why angels are specifically excluded from it, or anyone traveling with one. Whenever a wizard casts a time-trap spell, it creates random time warps in space-time. Any one other than an angel can accidentally get trapped in it. But I didn’t think about Ally, because there has never been a human with angelic powers before.”
Joel nodded. “So you didn’t put the two together. That’s understandable. Don’t beat yourself up over it. As you said, and as God has directed us to do, all we have to do is wait for her to die.”
Kaylee’s eyes glazed over. “Can we communicate with her at all?”
Josh thought for a moment. “That is a little tricky. It is possible, but under most circumstances it never happens. Even with angels.”
Joel sat up in his chair. “Kaylee, God said wait.”
“All I’m doing is laying out our options.” Kaylee turned her attention back to Josh. “What would be the rare exception? As you know, Ally’s circumstances are unusual. If anyone could hit the exception, she could.”
Josh took a couple more sips of his coffee while he thought on his answer. “The only exception I can contemplate is if somehow, someone caused her to become incompatible with herself.”
“Like, give me an example.”
“Okay.” Josh drained the remainder of his cup. “Remember, I’m not saying this happened. But, if at some point Joel, in that fake world which mirrors our own, were to cause her to erase part of her memories, then the two entities would become incompatible. And our Ally would become one step removed from that world and could communicate with the wizard who set the trap.”
“But only that wizard?”
“Joel?” Kaylee looked over at Joel, who appeared to be sleeping. She knew better, however. The angel would do that when he felt guilty about something and he wanted to pretend he didn’t hear it. “JOEL!”
He jerked his head up. “What?”
“Angels don’t get sleepy. Now, did you do anything at any time that could have caused that to happen?”
“I really don’t see the point in this. I mean, just for arguments sake, if I did do something like that, first we would have to discover who cast the spell associated with that time warp, which I assume would be difficult to pin down, being they are random events.”
Both Joel and Kaylee turned their heads an awaited Josh’s answer.
“Well, yeah, the only way I know to do that is to go to each known wizard in Camellia and ask them if they’ve been contacted by someone from their time trap, and if they say yes, then one would have to determine if it is Ally, and if so, send a message to her through the wizard.”
Joel pointed his finger toward the ceiling. “And by then, she would have died to that world and she would have returned to us. Thus, God’s call for us to wait.”
Josh nodded. “Unless you were extremely lucky on the first three to five wizards you contacted. Plus, a wizard is more likely to lie about his time traps than not.”
Kaylee sighed. “So the best course of action really is just to wait.” She begrudgingly took another sip of her coffee. “But, Joel, this doesn’t get you off the hook. I know you’re hiding something. I’ll bet you did erase part of her memory at some point.”
He smiled. “I’m not saying I did, nor am I saying I didn’t. It’s classified.”
Kaylee smiled back at him. She knew she caught him. And he likely knew it as well. But unfortunately, none of it would matter to Ally right now.
At fourteen-years-old, Ally had experienced a world of hurt and joys. The emotions would intrude upon her own as if they were her own. She had learned to be something of a hermit. Rarely going outside, avoiding play with the other kids. Less emotional stress that way. But she had few friends who could put up with her sudden mood swings whenever someone who was angry, crazy, depressed, or just plain annoyed or irritated with someone, invaded her life. She had made too many enemies and lost too many friendships by spending time with them, so she learned to keep her distance.
But now, she would be forced to enter a crowded place: the local steam house. Why? She didn’t fully understand the reasoning behind it, but every kid in Reol entered adulthood by spending time there. Of course, her mother and father hoped the steam house would fix her. She hoped it might as well, but she feared that it would curse her more than bless her. After all, it wasn’t like she could control the thoughts and emotions that bombarded her, and the steam house was known for its attempts to “fix” one’s character. Could it distinguish between emotions she had no control over and her own issues? She doubted it.
But now she stood before the doorway. Above it, an old, cracked, and weathered sign said, “Steamy Realities Steam House: Sweats out both body and soul. Warning: Only the pure of soul should enter. We are not liable for negative results.” Many a person entered in their pride only to exit the steam house, in a different form as the steam house attempted to correct flaws in their character. Ally feared, however, that it might mistake another person’s emotional state as her own. That’s one reason why she chose around five in the afternoon to go into the steam house: it usually wasn’t that busy around dinner time. The fewer people in it, the less chance for catastrophe.
She glanced back at her mother who stood waiting to find out what would happen to her. Then she plunged in through the entry to the octagonal building. Inside, there was only one other person, apparently a man, sitting on a bench with a blanket over his head, which Ally thought strange, not only because of the towel over his head, but also because supposed to be only women here at this time. Had she made a mistake?
“Sorry, sir, I thought this was the woman’s time. I’ll come back later.” Ally turned to leave.
The man said, “No need to leave. It is the women’s time. Why do you think I have this towel over my head?”
As if that would explain it. Ally didn’t feel very comfortable, only wrapped in a towel, but she decided to chance it. She sat close to the door in case the man tried anything.
The man said, “Please put some more water on the rocks.”
Ally rose all the while keeping her eyes on the man, took the ladle, and dipped out some water, then poured it over the hot rocks. A sizzling noise arose with a deep cloud of steam. She breathed in; the steam cleared her mind to reveal some facts. First, despite the man sitting there alone, she no longer felt any emotions from anyone, not even him.
She liked it at first, but she had grown accustom, to some degree, of the emotions of others. It used to drive her crazy, but like anything else, one’s brain learns to ignore them, most of the time, save for the strong ones. But to have the constant bombardment of emotions to totally cease, that was different. Much too quiet. Guess I never thought I would hear myself say that! After all, when you knew for real what people dealt with, at least from their perspective, it was easier to know how to help them.
Ally gave that last thought some more thought. I wonder whether this will be my gift from the steam house? To make me normal? Could be, or maybe its just this building shields me from other’s emotions?
“I’d say the later would be true,” came the voice from underneath the towel.
And second, this man’s voice sounded familiar, almost like someone she knew a lifetime ago.
Ally cocked her head to one side. “What are you talking about, sir?”
The man peeled back the towel and allowed it to hang around his shoulders. “What you just said about the building shielding you. That is why you aren’t experiencing any emotions currently except your own.”
“But, I didn’t say that; I thought it.” Then Ally recognized him. “Joel!” She leaped from her bench, and dashed toward him until her arms held him tight. “I knew you would come to rescue me!” Then Ally released him. “But why did it take you fourteen years to rescue me?”
The angel’s jaw had dropped open and he simply stared at her.
Ally waved a hand. “I’m sure you have a good explanation. Anyway, the important thing is, you’re here now. So we can go back to your house in Paradise and this will all be over.”
Joel still stared at her with the same expression.
“Joel, aren’t you going to say anything?”
“Uh, well, for starters, you’re naked.”
Ally examined her body. She glanced back where she had sat—a towel was lying on the bench. Heat rushed to her face. “Oh! I’m so sorry!” She ran back and wrapped the towel around her body.
“And also, why do you think I’m an angel, how do you know my name, and you believe I live in Paradise?”
“Well duh! We’re married, you know.”
Joel attempted to hold back laughter, but it kept escaping from the sides of his mouth until he could no longer hold back—a full belly laugh exploded from him.
Ally paced the floor, patiently waiting for him to stop laughing. She didn’t see what was so funny.
Joel gradually regained his composure. “You had me going there for a while, but your fatal flaw is you went too far when you said you where married to me. That could never happen in a million years. So who put you up to this? Michael? He’s always playing practical jokes.”
Ally thought a few seconds. “So, you don’t have any memory of our marriage?”
Joel’s big grin faded. “No. You’re serious, aren’t you?”
He started pacing. “I don’t know how you know I’m angel and where my house is, but married? Us?”
“And Kaylee lives with you as well. I’ve been there. Her and I were chatting right before I left to go back to my house in Camellia.”
“Yeah. That’s what I call this world, or at least, the world I am from. I have no idea whether I’m re-living my life in a dream, or in another world, or something even stranger.”
“In this world we are in right now, I’ve never met you in person, until now. I just read your file from Headquarters yesterday after receiving you as my assignment.”
“What are you supposed to do to me?”
Joel scratched his head. “I’m not sure now. This isn’t how this was supposed to go. Guess I’ll need to have a talk with the powers that be, before I can proceed. I’ll return promptly. Wait here.” A bright flash of light enveloped him, and he disappeared.
Ally shook her head. “’Promptly’ for an angel could mean days.” She said louder, “I do have to eat. There’s no food service in this steam house. Just sayin’.” She poured some more water on the rocks before returning to the bench.
Bit and pieces of memories drifted into her brain as she attempted to process this Joel who hadn’t ever met her before. She did recall a guy the original time she went into this steam house in Camellia, which she was becoming more and more convinced that this was not Camellia, or that she had somehow gone back in time while still retaining knowledge of her future to watch her life unfold all over again. That last guess was more accurate based on what she had experienced to this point. However, from the vague memories she could recall, that “guy” must have been Joel. She thought he was a wise man. Now she wasn’t so sure. She laughed.
“What’s so funny?”
Ally jerked her head in the direction of the voice. It was one of the girls from school. Not a particularly pleasant girl to be around. Her name was Susan. “Oh, hi Susan. Are you doing your adult steam house visit today as well?” Normally, Ally felt jealousy from her, but being in the steam house, she was an emotionally blank slate to Ally.
“Yeah, my mother said I could go now. I was ready a few months ago, but my mother kept putting it off.”
Ally had a thought. “What are you hoping to get out of this experience?”
Susan straightened out the towel wrapped around her near perfect body. “I’m not exactly sure, but . . .” A big smile crept across her face. “A handsome and well-built husband would be wonderful.” She looked at the ceiling as if she might see one fall from heaven at any minute.
Ally laughed. “You just missed him. He vanished into thin air right before you entered.”
Susan giggled. “Oh, Ally. You’ll say anything to get to me, won’t you?”
Ally almost said something, but she held back, especially considering where she was. Instead, she said, “Sorry. It was just a joke. But, I was really hoping to get you to focus on what you wanted in hopes of getting it.”
Susan lifted her nose into the air. “Really? I seriously doubt you had such noble motives, little Ms. Angel.” Then she promptly went to the other side of the steam house and ignored Ally, as if she no longer existed.
Yes, even though it had been a few years since she tried to convince her parents that she was married to an angel, word leaked out about the subject so that everyone thought she was crazy. People like Susan would rub it in Ally’s face, like she just did then, to one-up Ally by referring to her as “Ms. Angel.” She offered a brief prayer of mercy for Susan. She feared what might happen to her.
A flash of light later, and Joel stood before her. Ally pointed at Susan on the other side of the room. Joel craned his neck around to spot her. “Who’s that?”
“A girl I go to school with named Susan. This should get her attention.”
“Nah, I can’t just flash into a room without checking who’s in it. I immobilized her.”
“Oh, rats. I wanted to show her I wasn’t joking.”
“Sorry. No can do.”
Ally sighed. “It’s not important anyway. What I want to know is what did the ‘Big Boss’ say?”
“What? You know the nickname I gave Him?” Joel pointed up. “Well, the Big Boss said go ahead as planned.”
“And that plan is . . .” Ally stared at Joel in anticipation of his answer.
“To do this!” Joel began waving his right hand over Ally’s head. “This will take away all the painful memories of childhood, or at least make them fade with time, as well as all memories of me.”
“Memories of you! Wait!” But about then, her head grew weary and she fell asleep.
Kaylee decided to check on the book that Ally came to retrieve. It was easy enough to find, as it lay beside where her bed had sat, on a nightstand, with a bookmark hanging out of it. “Joel, I found it. She apparently didn’t make it to her house.”
Joel entered the room. “How do you know that’s the book?”
Kaylee paused, but then said, “I don’t know for solid sure, but she told me she was in the middle of reading it when she met you. So I put two and two together and deduced that this was likely the book she came to retrieve.”
“A most logical conclusion.”
Kaylee smiled. “Thank you.”
“But, even then, we have no way to know if she didn’t arrive, but failed to retrieve the book before being whisked away. After all, logically speaking, the time for angel travel is near instantaneous, so the laws of probability would suggest that she arrived here, but didn’t have time to grab the book.”
Kaylee huffed. “The point is that she was angel-napped at some point before she was able to retrieve this book.”
“And that’s important to know because . . . ?”
Kaylee flung her arms into the air. “I don’t know! I thought narrowing down the time might give us a clue to what happened to her.”
Joel thought for a moment. “So, let’s say it did. Then what? You know the Big Boss said we have to wait.”
Kaylee pointed to her right. “There is passive waiting.” Then she pointed to her left. “Then there is active waiting.”
“And I assume you want the active waiting?”
Kaylee nodded. “I can’t just sit around and do nothing.”
Joel scratched his head. “You know, I didn’t think anything about it, but there was a little time warp I experienced that I wasn’t expecting on the way here the first time.”
Kaylee thought for a moment. “But don’t you experience those all the time?”
“Yes, but not often do I experience one that was not there before.”
“So what could cause them?”
“Let’s see.” Joel pointed his finger as if counting invisible realities. “It could be a simple new time warp forming, or a temporary disturbance in the force, or—”
“Disturbance in the force?”
Joel grinned. “Sorry, I couldn’t resist throwing that in. What I meant to suggest is there are formations of a temporary nature. Such time warps are caused by certain phenomena, like a comet that crosses the gravitational pull of a star at just the right time, for example.”
Kaylee blinked. “I think I like the first explanation better.”
“I thought you might. The only other possible explanation I can think of would be a wizard’s spell.”
“What kind of spell?”
Joel sighed. “I’m not up on wizard spells since I just do my ‘magic’ by willing it, but I know someone who does.”
Kaylee’s eyes widened. “Josh!”
Joel smiled. “Correct, as usual. Hum, do you think we could ‘actively wait’ at Josh’s house?”
Kaylee nodded emphatically.
Joel bowed to her and said, “My wish is your command.”
“My wish is your com—?”
The pair vanished.
Ally woke up in Paradise, stretched her arms out and yawned big. Joel was no where to be seen, but she knew he could pop in at any time. Plus, having angelic powers herself (she still couldn’t hardly believe all that had taken place), she could find out where he was easily enough. She focused her thoughts on Joel, and she discovered that he was chatting with the “Big Boss” as he called God, and his angel friends.
It dawned on Ally that she was an angel; why wasn’t she invited to this angelic gathering? “I suppose I’m not really an angel officially. Just a human with angelic powers.”
The smell of freshly brewed coffee, bacon and eggs invited her to get out of bed, get dressed, and follow the fragrance. So she did just that. She sat down to the delicious breakfast. Kaylee sat at the table with her own cup of coffee. “Good morning.”
“Good morning.” Ally took a bite of scrambled eggs and a gulp of coffee. “I was going to ask you before we were so rudely interrupted by Joel last time, how come you didn’t marry Joel? I mean, you live here with him. You could be going on all these adventures with him instead of me.”
Kaylee giggled. “Two reasons, really. First, I had no idea that I could even marry an angel. You may recall when he was telling us about you getting married to him, I was surprised as you were. That was the first I’d ever heard that angels even got ‘married’ much less to a human. Second, we made other arrangements which I’ve already told you about.”
“You mean the whole house-sitting thing once you arrived in Paradise.”
Ally nodded. “That makes sense. Are you still jealous?”
Kaylee didn’t answer right away. “Well, in a manner of speaking, yes, but not to the point of discontentment. I mean, I love living in Paradise.” She giggled. “Especially when you consider the alternative.”
Ally chuckled. “Most certainly! I never even imagined this place existed like it does. I mean, one hears stories, but to experience it is a whole ‘nother thing.” Ally thought for a moment. “There is one additional thing that would make Paradise perfect for me.”
Kaylee stared at Ally, her eyes wide and a “what!” expression on her lips.
Ally nodded. “Books. I need something to read. Some good fiction, really.”
Kaylee smiled. “Joel is so busy going from place to place, I know he rarely stops to read save what is required of an angel, which isn’t much. That’s the only reason he has so few books around, especially the fiction type.”
“That reminds me of a book I was in the middle of reading before I met Joel. It’s back at my house. I’ll just zip over there and grab it.”
Kaylee said, “I’m not so sure I like that idea very much. Maybe you should wait for Joel? He knows where to find some excellent fiction books.”
“Sure, I have no doubt he could. But he is currently tied up with a meeting with the ‘Big Boss.’ I know the way, and I’ll return almost immediately. I’m just going to get a book. I need something to read while I wait. What could go wrong?”
“Okay.” Kaylee shook her head. “If you say so.”
“It’s not like I’m going on an assignment alone. Just to my old house.”
“Don’t let me stop you.”
Ally finished her breakfast, then stood. “I’ll be right back.” She willed to transport herself to her old house, and Kaylee watched as Ally vanished from view.
Kaylee waited for Ally to reappear. After twenty minutes had passed, she thought, She should have been back by now. It doesn’t take an angel that long to go grab a book. So she yelled out, “Joel, come quick! Something has happened to Ally!” She paced the floor before deciding to make some tea. She had a feeling she would need it.
Joel watched as a frighten Kaylee appeared before him. “What did the silly girl do this time?”
“Oh, Joel! You’ve got to go and check on her. She said she was going back to her old house to grab a book. That was about thirty minutes ago. She said she would be right back, but then she didn’t.”
Joel waved a hand at Kaylee. “She’s probably taking a nap or something.”
“Taking a nap? Really?” Kaylee put her hands on her hips. “Unless she was under someone’s spell, not likely since she just woke up about a couple of hours ago.”
“You forget, she has angelic powers now. There isn’t much that she can’t handle.” Humans can be so easily upset. But best I humor her. “But I’ll go and check on her.”
“Thank you.” Kaylee sat on the couch. “I’ll be waiting here for you to get back.”
Joel nodded, then vanished in a flash of light.
Ally felt a sudden urge to cry. Why? She didn’t know. “Whayyyyyyyy, whayyyyyyyyy.” Ally opened her eyes to see a toddler holding onto a toy horse for dear life, and her hand firmly grasped its foot and Ally was pulling for all she was worth. Which, for some strange reason, didn’t appear to be enough. Had she grown weak in her angelic state?
“Ally Ann, you let go of that toy right now!” An adult towered over her like a giant.
Have I somehow ended up in the land of giants? What am I even doing here? All Ally could recall was something about going home. Yeah, that’s what she wanted most in the world, to go home to momma. Fresh tears and screams erupted from her throat. Very loud screams, actually. Ones that any woman would be proud of.
“Now, now, Ally. Here is another horse toy just like the one that Davy has. You two can play together!”
She felt the toy slip from her hand. She had allowed herself to be distracted. “Nooooooooo,” Ally screamed out. She pointed at the toy that Davy had. She intended to say, “But I want that one.” All that came out was more screams and crying. If he had it, it must be a better horse toy.
“Ally, Ally, Ally, my dear. What is the matter. Are you poopie?”
Am I poopie? Does she think I’m a baby or something? Ally wiped her eyes with her sleeve and looked down. I’m wearing a diaper? The truth dawned on her. I am a toddler. But how?
A giant arm wrapped her in a locking embrace, then plopped her on a giant knee. Another hand stretched her diaper on the back end open. “Phewee. No wonder you were so fussy. Diaper change time.”
Geross! To the max. “Whaaaaaaa, whaaaaaaaaaaaa.”
Then the two giant hands reached under her arm pits and lifted her so high into the air as if she was on display for being poopie. After that, however, she was laid onto a cold, hard, wooden table top. Then, they exposed her privates to the world by ripping off her diaper. But wait, there are boys in here! They will see me naked! How embarrassing! Thankfully for Ally, all the kids appeared to ignore her, including Davy. They were too focused on their toys to bother to look at her. In a way, this bothered her too. What? Am I that uninteresting that no one wants to see girl parts? She raised her head. Well, I do appear to be on the chubbier side, so maybe I am that gross to look at. Especially when they are smearing poop all over my butt.
A woman entered the room. Ally nearly leaped off the table. “Momma!” She discovered one word she could say at least. With such a limited vocabulary, she could even ask simple questions, like, “What am I even doing here?” Or, “Am I really starting life over again?” Not that she expected people in this strange world to have such answers, but still.
“Hi little one!, Are you poopie?”
Well, duh! Still, Ally couldn’t stop smiling at her rescuer. Her eyes were glued to her, wanting her to pick her up. Which she knew would happen at some point, but she wanted it now! So it didn’t take too long before her ignored outreached arms and a smile turned into a cry and throwing a royal tantrum.
Momma talked to the woman changing Ally. “Oh, thank you so much Gina for watching Ally. I know she can be a pain sometimes.”
A pain? Me?
“That’s alright, Mrs. Ann. I do this for a living.”
“Still . . .” Momma watched Ally crying on the table. “She is a special case. I wish we could figure out what is wrong with her, but her doctor are stumped.” She opened her purse. “How much do I owe you?”
Ally didn’t hear the rest of what her mother said. All she could focus on was the words that conveyed that something was wrong with her. So much so that she stopped crying, and she developed a blank stare.
“Well,” her momma said, “Something appears to have quieted her down.”
Joel returned with a scowl on his face. “I didn’t find her at her old house.”
Kaylee jumped up from the couch. “Can’t you use your angelic powers to locate her?”
“Don’t you think I’ve already tried?” The room turned dark and a chilling wind blew through the house.
Kaylee shrank back, her eyes opened wide and her mouth askew with horror.
The darkness receded as fast as it arrived. “Sorry for the angelic rage.” Joel sighed. “It’s just so frustrating not to know what to do.”
The poor angel. It had been so long since he was in this situation and he didn’t recall how to handle it.
Joel put his chin in his hands. “It’s almost like she doesn’t exist anymore, at least in this world.”
“But maybe in another world?”
A brief smile appeared on his face, quickly replaced with a frown. “But which world? There are an infinite number of them you know. It would take forever to go to all of them and search for her, even with angelic powers.”
Kaylee patted Joel on the back. “Could ‘the Big Boss’ help?”
Joel snapped his fingers. “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?”
“Good question. But I suspect the answer is because you don’t have to depend on God as much as us lowly humans do.”
“However, I think I’ll talk to his Son. He’s human too, you know, so he’ll understand.” Joel rose, and disappeared.
Kaylee shook her head. “Angels.”
An ethereal voice sounded in the room. “I heard that.”
Ally shifted in her seat at the dinner table. She recalled this part of her childhood, sitting at a table, unwilling to finish her food that she didn’t order, but made to sit at the table until she finished every last bite of broccoli, of all things. Her mom and dad knew she didn’t like it, but they attempted to make her eat it at each meal, so it seemed. Sure, there were a lot of foods she didn’t like—it was easier to list out what she did like—but that was aside the point.
The “fight” over broccoli was on, and Ally was determined not to loose. No matter the cost. Even if it meant not getting to go play with the rest of her brothers and sisters, and instead watch a plate of cold broccoli sit until her mother finally gave up and sent her to bed hungry. She knew her mom would have to eventually feed her something editable, like cake, candy, or at least some cheese. Even an oatmeal cookie or two would do.
She was five years old now. Once her cognitive skills were able to process what had happened to her—more the what than the why—and she was able to verbalize it, she attempted to tell her parents that she was trapped inside this kid body. That she was really an adult who was married to an angel named Joel, even though she couldn’t grasp what being married meant beyond a rudimentary understanding of the concept.
All her parents would say is something along the lines of “Boy, aren’t you the creative one” or “You’ll make a good story-teller someday.” When they failed to believe her, she grew more adamant that they did believe her. All that happened is after a year of her pounding her head against that brick wall, they grew concerned about her mental stability and they had talked of sending her away to a special home for “people like her.” So, she stopped trying to convince them.
A smile spread across her face. At least they won’t win the broccoli battle! I know what I like and what I don’t, and nothing can change that. Maybe once she was an adult again, she could prove to them that she was right.
“Hey children!” Her mom’s voice called out, “Come get desert!” Then she sat on the table one of Ally’s favorite desserts: blueberry pie. The smell wafted across Ally’s nose, weakening her resolve. Oh, she’s a crafty one, my mother! Well, it isn’t everyday we have blueberry pie. I suppose I could hold my nose and try to eat this stupid broccoli. She opened her mouth, held her nose, and swallowed all the broccoli on her plate in one gulp.
Her mother stared at Ally gleefully, sort of like a wicked witch or something. She experienced her mother’s emotions of victory and accomplishment.
“Now, see Ally, that wasn’t so bad, was it?”
“Nope, wasn’t bad. Just horrible is all. I fought to not throw up.” That muted her enthusiasm. Ally smiled, which caused an emotion of rage in her mother, which subsided quickly. She had, after all struck a deal with Ally, and couldn’t not give her some desert. Mother cut a small piece of pie and gave it to Ally, then went off and complained to her Dad. Even though Ally ate the broccoli, she felt she had won. She knew her mother felt the loss as well: she had failed to make Ally like broccoli.
That was the first time I recall feeling someone else’s emotions. I had forgotten that fact. She recalled now, that it grew from sensing and experiencing her mother’s emotional state to sensing many people’s over a span of five years. It about drove her crazy. Her memory had blocked it and she blamed the steam house for it, but in reality, the steam house made it better by giving her “gift” purpose. If one could call that making it better. It was her dear Joel that actually made it better by giving her control over it instead of it having control over her.
Kaylee paced the floor. She frequently went to the window to see if anything happened outside. She absentmindedly went to the kitchen to make yet another cup of tea. Even Joel’s tea leaves appeared to do little to calm the growing fear that Ally had fallen pray to some ill-fated trap of some kind.
“What could be keeping Joel for so long?” she wondered aloud.
“Running into dead-end after dead-end. That’s what,” Joel’s dejected voice replied.
Kaylee turned toward the sound of his voice to see him slipping through the back door. That was not a good sign for him to do that. “What happened?”
Joel sat at the table. “It’s more like what didn’t happen. I’ve been pacing outside trying to figure out what to tell you.”
“And I’ve been pacing inside waiting to hear it. So, just tell me the truth.”
Joel breathed deep. “Okay, here it goes. The only ‘truth’ I’ve been able to deduce is that no one either knows the truth or they are unwilling to help me find it out. All I’ve learned of the situation is that we should just wait.”
“Wait? Wait! You mean to tell me that is the only answer you received?”
“Now you know why I paced outside trying to figure out how to tell you.”
“And you’re just going to sit there and wait?”
“What else can I do? When the Big Boss says wait, you wait.”
“He didn’t tell me to just wait.”
“Sure He did. I just told you what he told me to tell you.”
“But I can’t just wait around and do nothing. I’ve been doing that already.” Kaylee thought a minute. Then she stood tall. “I demand that you take me to Ally’s old house.”
Joel shook his head. “Nope, He said to wait.”
“Did He specify where we should wait?”
“No, I don’t think He said where.”
“Then I want to wait at Ally’s old house.”
Joel took a sip of tea, then shrugged. “I suppose out of all the places we could do nothing while doing something, that would be one of the safer places.”
Kaylee’s face lit up. “Thank you, Joel. Nothing against your place, but you know how weird it feels to be depressed in Paradise.”
“No, I don’t know, but I’ll take your word for it.” Joel willed it, and they both vanished in a blaze of light.
Ally sat at a table back in Joel’s house, chatting with Kaylee about all she had seen and done on the planet Neptune. “And you know what?”
“What?” Kaylee took another sip of her coffee.
Ally gazed longingly at the ceiling as if staring off into the sky. “It was the most amazing time of my life! I mean, to go to a world so different from anything I’d experienced before, and to do it with Joel, of all people.”
Kaylee ran her finger over the rim of her cup. “I’m very glad that you had such a great time.”
Ally watched Kaylee’s gaze as she said it. She didn’t look Ally in the eye. “You’re jealous, aren’t you?”
“Who wouldn’t be?” Kaylee’s eyes shot up to meet Ally’s. “After all, I used to be like you about him. Of course that was before I knew he was an angel. Now I wonder how I failed to see it. But he never revealed himself to me, not like he did you. That’s what I really jealous about. Everything would have made more sense if I had known.”
Ally nodded. “I can see that.”
“But I do have to warn you.” Kaylee looked around, as if she might spot anyone spying on their conversation. “That because you are aware he’s an angel, that it does introduce a certain incompatibility between you two.”
Ally scrunched up her forehead. “Incompatibility? What are you talking about?”
Kaylee cleared her throat. “That you are human, subject to change, whereas he is more, static, for lack of a better word.”
Ally retained her confused facial expression. “I don’t understand. He’s changed even by our marriage.”
“Okay, I’ll state it more bluntly then. Humans change. That’s our nature. While he won’t end up changing at all.” Kaylee held up a finger as Ally opened her mouth. “I’m not saying that he won’t change, only that for him, his change is very, very slow. Keep in mind, he’s been alive for . . . “
“Over 5000 years, if I recall correctly.”
“Right. And I’ll bet he has changed very little in all that time. You, however, will change. A whole lot in your short lifetime.”
Ally gave what Kaylee said some thought. She opened her mouth to ask a question.
Joel materialized in a flash of light. “Are you two talking again? I always wonder what plots you two are hatching behind my back.” He gave them a big grin.
Kaylee smiled. “I’ll never tell!”
Ally simply left her mouth open.
Joel frowned. “Looks like you might confess, sister.”
“I . . . I was about to ask Kaylee a question I had.” That was true enough.
“Go ahead. Don’t let me stop you.”
Ally waved her hand. “Oh, it wasn’t anything important. It can wait for another time.” That probably wasn’t quite true. Thankfully, Joel couldn’t read her mind, one of the benefits of having angelic powers. Oh well? Guess I’ll have to wait to find out exactly what Kaylee meant by that. “What’s up, brother?”
Joel grabbed a cup and filled it with coffee, then sat at the table. “I did promise the Big Boss that I would be responsible for training you. Are you ready to begin?”
Joel sipped his coffee. “The first thing you need to learn is how to get your assignments.”
Ally smirked. “Seems to me, we’ve always flown by the seat of our pants.”
Kaylee wrinkled her nose. “Flying by the seat of your pants? How can anyone do that?”
Ally wondered herself. “Oh, you know, to be spontaneous. Have no plan.” Ally turned to Joel. “How did I know that?”
“I’m not exactly sure, but I assume it must have something to do with your time on Earth in conjunction with your emotional connection.”
“But that isn’t the first time we’ve been to Earth.”
Joel shrugged. “I’m not really sure, but the first time we did visit during a different time period. Maybe that has something to do with it. At any rate, there is more to getting an assignment than ‘flying by the seat of your pants.’ That’s just how it appears to people.”
Ally grinned. “Okay, brother, I’m listening. What do I do to get my assignments?”
Joel downed the last of his coffee and rose from the table. “I’ll show you.” He waved for her to follow him.
She finished her coffee and followed him to the middle of the room.
Joel said, “Now, it is true most of the time that I don’t know where I’m going, but that doesn’t mean there is no plan. It’s just that the Big Boss is the one who knows the plan.”
Ally smiled. “Ah, I see. Sort of a need to know basis.”
Joel stared at her for a moment before saying, “Yeah, that’s how He operates. It appears random and capricious to the casual observer, but He always has a plan and purpose to his movements.”
Ally laughed. “Sort of like, the Lord moves in mysterious ways.”
Joel shook his head. “I’m becoming concerned about this emotional connection you appear to have with Earth’s twenty-first century.” He frowned. “Now, focus, please. This takes some concentration.”
Ally straightened up. “Okay. I’m ready.”
“Close your eyes if helps, but you need to meditate on the following phrase: Lord, not my will be done, only yours.”
Ally looked at Joel. “But that’s just a prayer?”
“Exactly. Now, think about only doing that, concentrate as hard as you can.”
Ally focused on that prayer, but after almost a minute had passed, she said, “This doesn’t seem to be working.”
“Close your eyes and try again.”
She closed her eyes and focused on the words of the prayer. After five seconds had passed, she felt a change of wind hit her face, a colder wind.
“What?” She opened her eyes. A flat plain with a road—highway, that is—stretched both ways into the distance. “Where not back on Earth are we?”
“What does your angel sense tell you?”
Ally sniffed the air. “That this is Earth, Kansas about 2008, give or take a year.” She faced the angel. “But why would God send us back here?”
“Either there is someone different here we need to help, or we need to do something more for the lady we helped last time, or . . .”
“Or what?” Ally didn’t like the way his sad eyes looked at her.
“Or, you are afflicted with an unhealthy link to this world, and God has sent us back here to figure out what it is.”
Ally nodded, but stunned at Joel’s prognosis. “Maybe my connection with Earth will always bring me back here?”
“That’s what I said. You have an unhealthy connection to this world and time period. You can’t go anywhere else until that is solved.”
Ally hated ambiguities. “Define ‘unhealthy connection’?”
Joel grimaced. “It’s so mushy of a concept. It’s sort of like, not healthy, as in—“
“Joel! Tell me plainly. What do you mean by unhealthy?”
“As in, if we are not able to figure out why this is happening, it could be the end of your angel career, and . . .” Joel fell silent.
“And . . . your time with me.”
“Think about it. We are married to each other. How effective of an angel could either of us be if we could only go to one place and time?”
“So, you are unable to go anywhere but here too?”
“As long as we travel together, yes. The only way I can go anywhere else is without you.”
Ally huffed. “Then we had better figure this out. Where do we start?”
Joel walked in the same direction that they had walked the last time. “Our first goal should be to eliminate the easier-to-deal-with possibilities. Starting at the lady’s house we visited last time.”
Ally followed the angel, fearing that the “simple” solution wouldn’t end up being the real solution.
* * *
Ally followed Joel as they approached Joy’s house once again. “How long do you think it has been since we vanished on her?”
He sniffed the air. “Roughly, about a week or two.”
“Do you have any idea what seeing us again will do to her?”
Joel shrugged. “Hard to say. Individuals are so . . . individual in their responses.”
“Well, here goes nothing.” Ally knocked on her door.
In a moment, Joy opened the door. At the sight of the two, her mouth fell open for a moment, then a smile crept across her face. “Come in, come in my angels.”
Joel frowned. “Why do you call us angels?”
“Because I know in my heart that’s what you are, at least to me.” She led them to her table sat them down, and started to make tea.
Ally wondered, so she asked, “Do you believe in God now?”
“Oh yes. After seeing you two, ‘from another world’ simply disappear on me, I started to believe God sent me two angels to lead me back to Him. Praise Jesus!”
Ally met Joel’s eyes and smiled. “Looks like we accomplished our task here, then!” But her smile turned into a frown. “But that means it isn’t so simple as finishing our task.”
Joel nodded. “I think you are right.”
Ally shook her head. “Shit!”
Both Joy and Joel turned their heads to face Ally. “What did you just say?” Joel peered deep into her eyes.
Ally glanced at Joy before focusing on Joel. “Sorry. Not sure where that came from. For some strange reason, it just seemed the right word to use.”
Joy sat cups of hot tea before them. “So, is this the problem you are having?”
Joel sighed. “How do I explain this to you? Without confirming or denying our angelic status, I believe I can confirm that we are from another world, another dimension, if you will, than your own. Ally here has a special ability that no one else has in her world, of feeling what others feel. When she was here last, we fear she may have developed an unhealthy connection to this world, so she comes here anytime she tries to go anywhere.”
Joy banged her fist on the table. “I knew it!”
Joel and Ally both responded, “Knew what?”
“That you are both angels!”
Joel threw up his hands. “This is hopeless.”
Joy’s voice grew quieter. “Could you two come to see my friends play bridge, and do your disappearing act for them?”
Joel’s eyes grew big. “No way!”
Ally threw up a hand. “Hold on. Why do you want us to do that?”
“Because of what Joel said the last time. That belief in God is based in a relationship with him. You have to experience it to believe.”
Ally turned to Joel. “Maybe that is what we need to do to finish this out? Maybe then my link to this world would be broken?”
Joel thought for a moment. “You’re right.”
Ally sat up in her chair. “I am?”
“Yeah. Maybe is just a maybe. We could go through an endless list of maybes. I need more than a maybe to justify breaking a big rule established by the Big Boss.”
“But it could result in many more believing in God.” Ally crossed her arms.
“It could also be dismissed and used to justify disbelief as well.” Joel crossed his arms.
Ally responded, “But it worked for Joy here?”
Joel said, “But like I said earlier, individuals have individual responses to such events. You can’t predict how anyone will react. Apparently God knew how Joy would respond, which is why he sent you here.”
Joy nodded. “He’s right. For the past two years, I’ve watched an atheist program on the Internet and the regularly dismiss such experiences as coincidences, hallucinations, the placebo effect, and the list goes on and on.”
Ally understood the words she spoke, though she knew she shouldn’t. At least she got the idea she was conveying. “But some would believe, wouldn’t they?”
“Maybe.” Joel drank a gulp of his tea. “But those people would likely believe in other circumstances as well. Those are the people with ears to hear. That is the major difference between your world and this one. Most people in your world, Ally, do have ears to hear. Too many here, do not.”
Joy placed a finger on her chin. “I wonder, Ally, when did you first noticed this disbelief in you?”
“While in this world.”
“I know that.” Joy took a sip of her tea. “What I want to know is when you first experienced it while you were here?”
“Oh.” Ally gave it some thought. “I know Joel noticed I was being influenced by this world upon arriving in it. But I believe the first time I recall noticing unbelief in me was . . .“ Ally glanced at Joy.
“Go on dear, say it.”
“When I first opened up an emotional connection with you.” Ally bit her lip, afraid of Joy’s reaction.
“Any why do you suppose you detected it?”
“Because you didn’t believe at the time?”
“Exactly.” Joy smiled. “So now that I believe, what do you think the result would be if you connected to me?”
A big smile grew on Ally’s lips as she realized where Joy was going. “That it might reverse that connection! Oh, Joy! You’re brilliant!” She jumped up and hugged Joy. Joy’s hug was as warm and loving as Ally imagined it would be.
Then Ally met Joel’s eyes to see what he thought of Joy’s solution.
Joel held up his thumb. “Sounds logical to me. You didn’t finish what you were sent here to do: Not only to help Joy here believe, but for you to experience unbelief so you might empathize with those who don’t believe as well. However, He didn’t intend for you to stay in that state.”
“So he sent me back here to finish my task!” Ally said to Joy, “Hold on, I’ll open a connection with you.”
Ally closed her eyes and willed to open herself to Joy. She prepared for the worst, but instead of the disabling emotion of disbelief she experienced last time, she received an emotion she could only describe as blessed assurance.” She opened her eyes to see both Joy and Joel with their mouths gaping while they stared at her. “What? Is something wrong?”
Joel shook his head. “No, everything is perfect. You are glowing with divine light.”
Joy nodded, then waved bye as she faded from view.
Joel’s house appeared before Ally.
Joel materialized before her. He scanned the area before facing Ally with a big smile. “Let’s go see Kaylee, She needs to see this before it fades away.”
“Joel, one question.”
“Am I supposed to understand that I’m healed of my unhealthy connection by our sudden departure from Joy?”
“Unless you initiated it, I would say that our sudden departure was the Big Boss’s way of saying you’re healed.”
Ally breathed a sigh of relief. “Good, because I didn’t initiate it either. That means we don’t have to get a divorce. Right?”
Joel smiled. “You are correct.”
Ally wrapped him in a hug. “That’s wonderful news. I’m not sure what I would do without you.”
Ally released him, and noticed tears flowing down his face.
Ally said, “What’s wrong?”
“I’m crying because I know with a certainty that at some point, I will have to do without you.”
“Awe!” They hugged each other for a while before going inside to tell Kaylee all that had happened.