Earth plane . . .
I wake-up, back in my bed, shivering and aching and cold . . . but happier than I can ever remember being. I sat up, pushing the heating blanket off of my pale chest and try to steady my vision. My throat, as is typical in my on-again off-again life as a mortal human, is burning something fierce and I know that if I try to talk I’m going to cough my lungs up.
I have to take small breaths, and it is driving me crazy because I have so much to tell Ricky and Ms. Josephine. But I’m a saint now, and I must behave like one. And this saint is hungry.
The blurriness starts to fade as the room becomes clearer. Ricky is standing, using the underside of his arm to squish the healing bag of normal saline. I’m feeling these little lines of heat travel through my veins, working their way around my body. He’s looking over at Ms. Josephine, who is kneeling down fiddling with something on the kitchen floor.
Finally, I gather enough strength and saliva in my throat to speak, “We have to take the book to Damascus!”
Neither Ricky nor Ms. Josephine responds to me, and I kind of feel robbed of the moment. I just crossed the plane between life and death, conversing with troubled spirits about fulfilling my destiny and saving every soul that has ever lived, and I finally possess the answers that we have been searching for this entire time. You’d think they’d be just a tad bit more enthusiastic.
“Damascus!” I repeat.
Ricky turns his face towards me, his eyes still focused on whatever Ms. Josephine is fooling around with on the floor. I so hope that she didn’t drop a jar full of hairy poisonous spiders or snakes, or whatever. Because, even if she assures me that she’s recaptured every last one of them, I’ll never get a single second of sleep in this apartment, ever again.
Ricky, he speaks out of the side of his mouth, “Yeah, that’s awesome, Jack.” But he’s clearly preoccupied.
So I squint over to where Ms. Josephine is kneeling and I have to blink several times because it sure looks like there is a pair of legs lying across the floor of my kitchen. And since this apartment only came with spooks and ghosts, I know that is one pair of legs too many.
“Those aren’t spiders, are they?” I say slowly as my mind tries to make sense out of what I’m seeing.
“No, dude,” he explains. “That detective that came by asking about that toothy retard on the third floor? Turns out he wasn’t a detective at all. He was looking for the book, and after you crossed-over he came back with a pistol and an attitude, and he said he wasn’t leaving without the book.”
“That’s one of the guys who killed Rupert? One of the goons?”
“Maybe,” he said speculatively. “Not sure,” he shrugs noncommittally, “. . . could be, I guess.”
“So, what?” I ask. “Did Ms. Josephine hit him with some voodoo? A jar full of icky bugs? Some spell to freeze his heart?”
Ricky proceeded to explain that with me being on the other side, he had to tell the guy some song and dance about us selling the book to a private collector in Houston. Then, when the guy looked thoroughly perplexed, and there was a small window of opportunity,
“. . . I head-butted him and kicked him in the nuts with my boot! Like a Chuck Norris kick. Hit him so hard his kids will feel it. Dropped his thug-ass to the kitchen floor. While he was trying to breathe, I did the Riverdance on his face and then hit his ass with a thick rig of a barbiturate cocktail that I like to call, ‘sleepy-time’. He’s out for a while.”
Ricky laughed, “Funny thing is, I was saving that syringe for you, you know, in case you started freaking-out. But the goon asked for it first.”
“You killed him? Oh, we’re in deep shit, now! They’ve got institutions for people like us. Not prisons . . . institutions for the mentally deranged!”
“’e’s not dead,” Ms. Josephine said from across the apartment. “And da both of you . . . watch your mouths.”
Fifteen minutes later . . .
I’m still shaking, nearly uncontrollably, staring at this guy who is narced-out on my floor. Turns out Ricky didn’t use the IK-1009 on him. So that’s good. Ms. Josephine did a number on him with a roll of olive-green duct tape.
After the excitement of finding a semi-dead body wore off, I explained to them exactly what I had learned from Rupert and Kristen. How I was the third reincarnation of St. John the Divine, and how the book—like me—is somehow stuck a little bit in both worlds.
“So that book cover might not be leather, after all?” Ricky says, rubbing his chin. His eyes were studying the Book of Sighs.
“That’s the first thing I thought,” I told him. Me and Ricky, we’re starting to think alike, and that kind of scares me.
I recounted for them how, in Damascus there is a gateway, or a door, or something, and that only the book—in my saintly hands—can be used to open the passageway and free all the trapped souls.
“And then you’ll be, what . . .” Ricky says, “. . . a savior?” He says it with wide excited eyes, and I know he’s trying to figure out how he can use this whole thing to pick-up on women.
“Den,” Ms. Josephine said, “. . . ’e will learn who ’e really was before ’e got ’it on the ’ead. And ’e’ll get to be wit ’is girlfriend.”
She makes it sound kind of trite and pathetic when she says it like that. But, yeah, that’s basically the size of it. I save all those souls so that I can learn my past, fulfill my destiny, and get the girl. That sounds like some cheesy movie.
So now, I tell them, I don’t know how, but we have to get to Damascus . . . and soon. The window for being a savior is closing quickly.
“Well,” Ms. Josephine said, “. . . we certainly ’ave to leave dis apartment. Whoever sent dis guy, dey’ll send more. And dey’re not going to be ’appy about what we done.”
I look at the motionless body of the supposed detective, wondering if the two spooks that are looking at him are doing routine work, or just answering some subconscious request of mine. This is something I may need to address.
“It’s time to go, I say. Now!”
“Grab some clothes, and the book,” Ricky barks. “I’ll call my dad and ask him for some help with the travel arrangements.”
As I’m packing I hear Ricky talking to his dad while he is circling my kitchen, stepping over the unconscious body. I grab my duffel bag.
“. . . We need to go to Syria, dad . .”
I pack all of my folded white t-shirts—four of them—sniffing them to make sure they’re sanitary.
“. . . well, I guess we need to go tonight . . .”
I grab all of my socks. They’re thick tube socks and I like the way they make my toes feel warm and safe.
“. . . no, dad. This has nothing to do with a girl. I mean, there is a girl involved, but it’s not like that . . . No, that was a one-time thing . . .”
There are only two pairs of pants in my wardrobe, and they are stone-washed blue jeans. I got them at Old Navy, but I was assured that they were new.
“. . . One good reason? Okay . . . how about saving the fate of all our souls in the afterlife from the overwhelming forces of evil? How about that, dad?”
Of the two pairs of shoes I have, I am conflicted. I guess I’ll bring both the Adidas cross-trainers, and my Doc Martin’s boots—that Ricky bought me so that I wouldn’t look like a pussy when I was out on the town.
Ricky’s voice, it got considerably more serious, “. . . yes, dad . . . it’s important to me. For real, important . . .”
Looking at my choices, I zip-up the duffel bag. I’m going to look like an escaped mental patient. But then, that’s not far from the truth, so . . . whatever.
“. . . Thanks, dad. I owe you one . . . well, okay, I owe you several. Can you call the captain and file the flight plan, we’re on our way over, right now.” Ricky’s doing a lot of nodding at this point in the conversation with his father. “. . . Alright. Thanks. Later . . . yes, tell mom hugs-n-kisses.”
I walk back into the living room with my bag. “Hugs-n-kisses, Ricky?”
He shrugs, shoving his cell phone into his pocket, “Let’s roll, team!”
I ask, “Where are we going?” He says, “Damascus.”
I say, “How are we getting there?” He replies, “Private airplane.”
I ask, “How can we do that?” He answers, “Charter flight.”
Then he smiles, like I’m a little slow, and I need it all filled in for me. “My dad’s hooking it all up. We’re taking a private flight.”
I tell him that I don’t have a passport, and he just smiles like it’s no problem. So then I ask him how rich he really is. And you know what he does? He just looks at me with this smug grin on his Cheshire cat face, and he says that he’s rich.
“When you say rich . . .”
“Ugly rich,” he replies. “We’re ugly gross rich?”
Which, I assume, is a lot.
“Now quit jacking around,” he orders, “. . . we need to burn-off . . . now!”
I couldn’t agree more. I grab the book, give my apartment one last look. Time to fulfill the prophecy. My destiny.