“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.