Tuesday, October 25, 2044
I’ve been having odd dreams lately. In one, The Boy was an old man with no feet, riding in a cart while younger men clear a tangle of brush off the road ahead. In another, Mrs. Fetched attended my funeral, accompanied by a band of odd-looking hunter-gatherers. I guess it’s true:
Your old men will dream dreams.
It’s been a long time since I’d even thought of the Prophet of Atlanta. But perhaps he’d thought of me in his mansion up above. This is last night’s dream, as best as I can remember:
We were walking along a beach, young and healthy as two men could be. I never saw The Prophet as a young man, but I knew him as well as I knew this dream-body that never was. There were other people scattered here and there along this endless beach, some lying in the sun, others chatting, a few sailing away from shore. Patches of dune grass sprouted here and there, away from the surf, and thatched shelters dotted the beach… not that they were needed; the sun was warm and a breeze made it perfect. The sand reminded me of Lake Michigan’s, blonde with little specks of black. Steel drum music played from… somewhere. It was everywhere, but only noticed when you listened for it.
“This is heaven. I could stay here forever,” I said.
The old black man, now a young black man, shook his head and smiled. “No. You’ll come alright, but you’ll only stay a little while. Then you’ll move on to Heaven.”
“Then what is this?”
“One of the resting places. Those who have labored on Earth, those who were heavy-laden, are given rest before entering Heaven. It is also a place where they remember what they have not forgiven, that they may forgive, that they in turn may be forgiven. And thus it is Purgatory as well.”
“So how long am I staying?”
“Only a few minutes, this night. You will awaken in the morning and live on yet a little longer. The Lord has sent me to you, to prepare you for your final journey.”
We walked on while I digested this bit of news. Finally I asked, “So everyone gets some time at the beach?”
The Prophet shook his head. “Only those who see Heaven in the beach. Others see Heaven in other places. Your wife wandered far through the mountains where she saw Heaven, until she was ready to turn aside from the reflection and see the true vision.”
“So… when I get here, how do I know when it’s time to move on?”
The Prophet turned into a shelter we were about to pass, and I followed. The back was cool and dark; several kegs with taps stood in a row behind a bar. He ducked behind the bar and poured me a beer, the best I ever tasted. “The Living Water,” he said, reminding me of something I saw once, and poured himself a cup as well. We emerged into the sunlight, not needing to squint, and continued our walk.
“You will hear the call when it’s time,” he said, and nodded toward the shoreline. There, a young woman pushed a small sailboat into the water, laughing. She jumped in, hoisted the sail, and it carried her out to sea. We stopped and watched for a while as she receded. It seemed that as she approached the horizon, her boat lifted instead of dropping below the horizon, rising out of the water and into the sky. She had to be miles away by now, but we could see her clearly for a long time until she… simply vanished. “When you hear the call, do not tarry. Some go by water, others walk over the dunes, some simply continue down the shore. All paths from here lead to Heaven.”
I finished my cup, and we walked along. Somewhere along the way, I realized I wasn’t holding the cup anymore. I spun around, looking back the way we came — littering on this of all beaches would certainly be blasphemy — and started a step before The Prophet stopped me with a gentle hand on my shoulder.
“The cup had served its purpose, so it was taken,” he said. “As I was. As you will be.”
“That reminds me of something I wondered about for a long time: it seemed like after the Restoration, you just disappeared,” I said. “Whatever happened to you?”
“Does it matter? The servants of God rarely retire. Some are martyred, others simply die. A very few are taken to Heaven — no, I was no Elijah, even if that was my middle name.” He grinned. “After Jerusalem was freed, I laid my burden down and went to my resting place, and then to Heaven itself.”
I wanted to ask him what his resting place was, but he stopped me. “It’s time for you to go back. You yet have a little work to do. Nothing very difficult, but the time for knowing all answers is not yet come. Go in peace. God willing, I will speak to you again.” And the beach dissolved into chaos, or perhaps something I’m not equipped to comprehend right now, then I woke up with the old familiar aches and throbs.
I think I would have rather it had been a surprise, but I suppose you don’t get to make those kind of choices at my age.