The Ark Mission Part II

Lieutenant Bargh goes to the building where the natives are being held captive. He also instructs three of his team members to quietly travel back to meet with Levion and report on the situation with the radio communication anomaly and that Smith is delusional and taken a dozen natives captive. He instructs the rest of his men to watch Smith’s men very carefully and be prepared to take them out if he gives the order or if they feel it is necessary for protecting the mission. He has them put on their head gear that will filter the air they are breathing as a precaution.

Bargh enters the room with two other soldiers where the natives are being held. He instructs his men to remove the restraints from the natives.

“Thank you, human. Now, you should go and leave us in peace. You false gods have already killed us all.”

Bargh is confused. “Help me understand your situation, friend. I am here to help. We are all here to help your kind. I apologize for my fellow human’s behavior towards you and your kind. We do want to help. And perhaps you can help us. What is your name?”

“I am Esua, human. There is no help for kind like you. You are wicked, and your kind has brought death upon us all.”

“Well, you can call me, Norman. Your planet is dying, but that’s not our fault. I know it might seem like that. We arrive and then soon your planet is doomed. I understand. Your planet’s death is not because of us.”

“You are a fool, human. Your own kind has deceived you as well as us. I wish you peace in your short life. May we now leave to enjoy our final days?”

Bargh motions that they may leave. “I am not holding you prisoner.” Bargh says to the natives as they begin to exit. The native he is speaking to remains.

“You are the prisoner, human.”

Bargh instructs his men to leave him and the native alone. “Enlighten me, friend.”

“You should go. There is not much time left. My god’s judgement is coming”

Bargh sits down in a chair and lifts up his arms. “You strike me as the smartest being in this room right now, Esua. And that’s not a position I’m particularly comfortable with when I also have my own men wanting to harm you. I’m guessing that you told my friend Smith something pretty bad.”

“I told him only what I have told you. Your people are wicked and have brought death upon us all. He held us captive. There is no more to tell you.”

“Well, I might not be a Mohcia, but I sure can tell when I’m being deceived.”

“Then you know that your people have deceived you already.”

“Yes, Esua. I know that my people have deceived me. I just don’t know what they have lied to me about. I also know that you just deceived me when you said there is no more to tell me, and I think you want to tell me but don’t want to tell me or are afraid to tell me. I also think you don’t fear anyone but your god.”

“I do not fear my god. He has given me life and a family. And he shall give me death too.”

Bargh pulls out his flashlight and tosses it to Esua who drops it. “He didn’t give you a thumb though. Why do you think that is?” He holds up his hand and wiggles his thumb back and forth as Issa tries to pickup the flashlight.

Esua stares at Bargh’s thumb with his large blue eyes. “My god took them from us because of our sin. I have no need for such an appendage, Norman.”

Bargh walks over to Esua and at 6’6″, he’s towering over the less than 4 foot Esua. He bends down on one knee, picks up the flashlight and then hands it gently to Esua , wedging it between the last and second fingers on Esua’s six-fingered hand. He places Issa’s free finger on the button and presses it down to turn on the flashlight. Esua looks on in amazement.

“Help me see the light, Esua.” Bargh says softly to Esua who is moving the light around and shining it on the walls and ceiling in amazement.

“My people had honored our powerful god since the dawn of time, and he has graced us with a plentiful planet, long lives, and peace. Our god also warned us that one day we will be face to face with false gods. Gods who look like him. Gods with magic almost as powerful as him. But it will all be deceit. Your kind is the deceit, Norman. Your only role in saving my people is that you will bring us to the final judgement of my god.”

Bargh stands up and is trying his best to keep a poker face as he now is thinking that the original Earth crew was not the first humans to make contact with Mohcia. He sits back down in the chair. “Tell me more, friend.”

“We lived in peace for countless generations. Then your kind arrived. Your kind corrupted the minds of my family above and below me. Just as my god had said would happen, your kind is the false gods he said would come. My god spoke to my family through me and said we must make your false god kind leave our world. But my family bowed down to your false god magic and rejected my true god. I was banished to the center of this world. The most uninhabitable portion of the planet, but my god provided for me and my family. We have thrived and grown.”

Bargh crosses his arms as he’s digesting what Esua is telling him.

“Then your kind built this monument to your own false greatness, and even my own family here in the center of my world began to reject me. So, my god came to me and told me that since I had not rid my world of these false gods, he will strike the sun from the sky and cast my world into cold death in 200 years.”

“And let me guess, Esua. That was about 200 years ago?”

“It will be 200 years in 27 days.”

“You are right. We don’t have much time left. You don’t have to choose to die, Esua. I can save you and your family. I am not a god, I’m just a soldier who wants to help you.”

“The best way you can help me is to let me be, Norman.”

Bargh stands up and starts walking towards the door.

“Your light.”

“Keep it, Esua. You’ll need it in 27 days.”

#

Levion arrives at the home of the native who he now knows was named Issa by his uncle. The home is built into a massive rock at the base of a large mountain with a huge water fall about 100 yards away. There are two buildings behind a large wall with an open entrance. One of the buildings looks much like a chapel with a large double door entrance and a bell in both of the towers in the front of the building. It is by far the most advanced structure on Mohcia after the Earth bases.

The second building is a traditional Mohcia hut to the left side as they enter and Issa tells Levion that is where his family lives. Levion directs his troops to have the helper robots take care of Issa’s family while he visits the other building with Issa.

Levion is a bit baffled by the chapel looking building. There’s no possible way the Mohcia could have constructed a building like this or made the ball or even the doors. They live in huts and don’t have the tools necessary to make such a building.

“Who made this building, Issa?”

“The original gods, master. The gods before my master arrived.”

“You ever meet these original gods?”

“Oh, no, master. They are not real. They were created by the wretched outcasts of Esua so that they could prosper while others went without. Those with the power abused it, so we revolted and banished them to the center of our world.”

Issa opens the large double door to the building, walks inside, and motions to Levion to enter. As Levion steps through the threshold he swears he hears a voice say something to him. Chills run down his spine. He pauses and steps back out of the building. He looks upward in the inside of the building. There is nothing unusual about the building other than it being so advanced compared to all the other native made buildings.

Levion steps across the threshold again and hears the same voice say slightly different words. He doesn’t understand the language, and the translator device is not registering that anything is being said.

Issa is all the way on the other side of the building and motions to Levion. “Come master. The gift from my master awaits you.”

Levion steps further into the building and looks in all directions to see if he can find a source of the mysterious voice, but he cannot find anything. “Issa, what is that noise you hear when you enter the building?”

“That is my master’s god. Your god, my master.”

Levion walks into the back of the building and stands next to Issa. They are standing in front of an altar of some sort of worship. Levion looks over at Issa who is holding his six-fingered hands in prayer and mumbling words that his translator device is not picking up.

“I will bring you to my master now.” Issa points at a door to their right.

Levion walks over to the door and unhooks the latch that’s holding it closed. He opens the door to find his uncle sitting in a chair with his arms folded in front of him. He walks in and closes the door behind him.

#

“You’re a sight for sore eyes, Andre! I was wondering if you were going to make it in time.” John says as he stands up and reaches his hands out for a hug.

Andre backs up and extends his hands to keep John at a distance. “What’s with all this bullshit, Uncle?”

John steps back and looks at Andre’s uniform. “What the hell happened, Andre? You’re infrastructure? You’re supposed to be military. What the hell did you do?”

“My life choices are my life choices. I’m an adult now, Uncle John. I’m not your naive little nephew anymore.”

“If that were only so, Andre. You have no fucking idea what the hell this mission is really about! Shit!” John paces back and forth for a bit.

“What’s going on, Uncle John?”

“Well, Andre, there’s a lot more to this world and this universe than you might realize. God dammit! Why didn’t you follow my guidance?”

“I wanted to be my own man! I was tired of being the nephew of the great John Levion. Do you have any idea what kind of shadow you cast?”

“You’ve put me in a very difficult situation, kid.” John pauses as he keeps pacing back and forth. He then stops and places his hands on Andre’s shoulders, staring deep into his eyes. “You need to listen to me VERY carefully, kid. This mission is complete horse shit. If you had stuck to what I told you to do and stayed military instead of infrastructure, you’d know what’s really going on. All your friends up on that piece of shit Ark that you’re commanding… They’re all dead! You’re dead. Everyone non-military on this mission is dead!”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“We weren’t the ones to make contact with the Mohcia. Someone made contact with this planet about 2000 Mohcia years ago. When we arrived 300 years ago, we thought this was some primitive planet with a species at the top of the food chain who had maximized their evolutionary potential millennia ago. These Mohcia were never going to evolve beyond their primitive state. Then we discovered this building. I’m sure you noticed a few odd things about this building, right?”

“Ya, there’s no way these Mohcia made this building.”

“That’s the obvious one. That voice you heard when you came and that chill you felt… Those are the result of some very clever engineering to psychologically manipulate the natives into believing the makers of this building are gods with some special powers.”

“You found the builder?”

“No, but we did find the envoy he left behind. Physically weak. Total pussies, but these guys are super smart. I’m talking about guys that make our best scientists look like they are in grade school. That’s when things got hairy, kid.”

“What are they?”

“They’re human!”

“That’s impossible! 2000 Mohcia years would put them arriving 100 Earth years before we had interstellar travel capabilities.”

“Well, they sure as hell bled like humans when I killed them, Andre. That’s why my team was sent here. My team tracked down every single one of them and eradicated these fuckers and studied their DNA. They’re humans.”

“You said, they were an envoy left behind?”

“Ya, we had no idea they had been here as long as they had at first. We thought they were just some rogue settlers who went out on their own. Maybe a private space adventure not long before we arrived. We actually thought they were dumb because they had no weapons and no real defense system. We’ve seen that before on other planets. Some rich ass kid takes all their parents’ money and moves to some planet with a one way intersteller ticket. Originally, they seemed like a bunch of dirty hippies to me. Little did I realize that the joke was on me.”

“That’s why you made the distress signal?”

“That’s complicated, Andre. Really complicated. And something I can’t tell you right now. Bottom line is, all those people on this mission are dead.”

Andre looks at his uncle with contempt. “You’re going to war with the other humans and this mission is just a ruse to get Earth to back your next military glory!”

“Andre, I don’t expect you to understand…” Andre cuts off John’s train of thought.

“Jennifer is the Admiral of this whole mission, John!”

John pauses. He drops his hands from Andre’s shoulders and looks down and shakes his head. “Fuck!”

The Ark Mission Part I

The Ark Mission Part I

The Ark Mission fleet emerges from hyper space and begin to slow themselves down as they arrive near the heliosphere of Zathustine Major. Just like Earth, Mohcia is the third planet from the star at the center of their solar system. One of the cargo ships has a malfunction and does not slow enough before entering the heliosphere and reports damage to the main fleet Admiral, Jennifer.

“Start working on a full analysis of the damage. We’ll send a repair shuttle to you once we enter the heliosphere. In the meantime, since your launch bays are working, continue your course as best as possible and deploy the outer probes you have onboard so we can start collecting data. Then hold up position in the same orbit as the 4th planet and await shuttles to take your crew aboard Ark I while repair crews make the necessary repairs.” Jennifer records the commands to the damaged ship.

As the rest of the fleet makes a safe, steady entry into the heliosphere, the leaders of the mission meet aboard Ark I to review the plans. The primary directive is to take aboard as many of the inhabitants of  Mohcia who choose to evacuate onto the seven Ark ships in the fleet and relocate them throughout a set of planets that humans have come to know as inhabitable over the last several hundred years.

Jennifer enters the secure meeting room and all of the ship commanders rise. Two of the seats are empty. One from the damaged ship (Skyros I) and the other for Ark II. The commanders all sit and begin with a standard rundown of the status of their ships, supplies, and troops. Commander Andre Levion enters the room late with a clumsy walk and a smirk on his face.

“Pardon my tardiness, kind peers. My space legs are getting the best of me.” Levion jests.

Jennifer scowls at Andre and continues on with the meeting. Communication ships like Skros are to arrive ahead of the Ark cruisers so that they can establish the communication network in orbit around Mohcia . Each Ark has specific positions they are to take up in orbit around Mohcia to land their cargo shuttles that will be performing the transport of the evacuees. The military ships will accompany the Ark cruisers and provide them planetary security forces should the need arise.

Jennifer adjourns the meeting and requests that Levion stay behind to speak with her.

#

“What’s with the buffoonery, Andre?”

“Guess we’ll skip the pleasantries, eh?”

“This is a serious mission! Lives are at stake here, and you’re clowning around like we’re back in the academy.”

“Oh, the good ol’ days. Back before you got engaged to some weirdo science guy. Back when we’d hold hands looking at the sunsets in orbit around Jupiter.”

“Ya, you were a drunk then, and I’m guessing your space legs are you being a drunk after coming out of hibernation.”

“No way, Admiral! I’m on the straight and narrow. Have been since you left me. I have clearance from my ship’s doctor about this ailment plaguing me today.”

“I expect to see that report from the doctor before you can resume command of your Ark.”

“Are you kidding me? After all we’ve been through and me getting my uncle to help you out with getting a Admiral position in the first place! You’re going to treat me like some guy you weren’t in love with 10 years ago.”

“10 years. 10 lifetimes.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Levion’s face is turning red from upset.

“It means I’ll be happy to see your uncle again when we pick him up off Mohcia. Maybe spending the next nine months with him will do you some good with growing up. Infrastructure missions are quite a bit different from the military missions you are used to.”

“Ya, well…” Levion pauses and holds back his comment. “Ma’am, I’ll have my doctor send you his report as I’m heading back to my Ark that I will resume command of once you have authorized.”

“God willing.” Jennifer smiles at Levion and pats him on the shoulder and smiles. “Andre, I always believed in you, and I believe you have a beautiful destiny in front of you. It’s just not going to be with me the way you want it, but please know that I will always support you as the man I know you CAN be rather than this kid you pretend to be.”

Levion looks at Jennifer and glances down with a bit of shame and then looks back up at her and smiles. “You changed my life forever, Jennifer.” He sighs. “Thank you for everything you’ve done and always believing in me. I can’t wait to have dinner with you and Uncle John once we get to Mohcia.”

#

The communication ships arrive in orbit around Mohcia and begin setting up the satellites for network communications on the planet. They have still not been able to raise communication with the Earth base on Mohcia which had sent out the distress signal starting a year ago. The distress signal is still being emitted from the base.

The surveillance satellites deployed quickly determine the native inhabitants are going about living their regular lives, but none of the facilities built by Earth’s people are showing any activity. Jennifer options to send down military ships in advance for further surveillance.

Jennifer is sitting in her study when she receives notification from her robot assistance that an encrypted channel is being received from Ark II.

“Jen, you gotta let me go down there!” Levion tries to hold back his upset.

“Not a chance, Levion. This is a military mission right now. We need further information on what’s going on before anyone from infrastructure steps foot on Mohcia.”

“My uncle is down there, Jen. He’s the one who triggered the distress signal. You know that’s the case.”

“Military only, Levion.”

“Then dismiss me from my infrastructure duties and put me on military or you’ve got your first mutiny on your first mission as an Admiral!”

“You threatening me?”

“I’m promising you that there is no way on hell you are keeping me from going down there and finding my uncle. C’mon, Jen! He was like a god damn father to you!”

“I can feel your pain, Andre.”

There’s a long pause. Levion is holding his breath…

“You are relieved of duty of the Ark II. Instructions will be sent to Commander Nielson to take over. You are to rendezvous with Apollo 7 on Mohcia. They are at the base where your uncle was operating.”

Levion cheers! “Thank you so much! We’re going to celebrate when I bring him back. I promise!”

“Good luck, Andre.”

“You were always my lucky charm, Jen. I can’t thank you enough!”

The communication line drops and Jennifer sends the orders to Ark II to give command to Nielson and relieve Levion of command and provide him with a military shuttle.

#

Levion lands his shuttle at the airdeck at the Earth base on Mohcia where his uncle was in command. The military forces who arrived earlier greet him and escort him to the command center. All of the weapons, munitions, food, computers, and personnel are absent from the base.

The Lieutenant in charge reports to Levion. “They definitely didn’t follow protocol, sir. Everything has been evacuated according to protocol, but they did not leave behind any information to indicate where they went. One of the other bases on Mohcia are reporting the same thing. Full evacuation protocol followed with the exception of leaving behind the encrypted destination devices. No word from the central base yet.”

“Any ideas how long ago?”

“We’re estimating maybe a few weeks before we arrived. They definitely stuck around for quite some time after setting off the signal, sir.”

“You think any of the natives might have taken the devices?”

“Not likely, sir. The natives are fairly primitive, but we have sent some men out to ask a few questions.”

Another soldier enters the room, “Sir, there’s a native at the front gate asking to see Levion.”

“Have them let him in. I’ll speak to him in here.”

Both soldiers leave and then the native is brought into the room with Levion. The native is a blueish grey skinned bipedal creature with two arms, each with six fingers and no thumbs. He’s about four feet tall, making him appear like a child standing in front of the 6’2″ Levion.

A soldier brings in a bag with a few items. “These are the items we found on him, sir. We also performed a weapons scan of his body. He’s clean.” The soldier takes up position a few feet behind the native.

“What’s your name?” Levion speaks into a device that translate to native tongue.

The native looks behind him and then back at Levion. Then back to the soldier. Then back to Levion and then places one of his six fingers in front of his small mouth. Levion motions for the soldier to leave, and he does.

“My master has given me an important task, son of my master.” The device Levion is holding translates the native’s speaking.

“I’m not sure I understand what you mean.”

“My master is Levion. You are son of Levion. This I know because master has give me the promise that you will save my people from the destruction that has been prophesied.”

Levion thinks to himself, “These computers can’t interpret worth crap.” Then he looks in the bag with the items taken from the native.

“The image of my master lives in that gem.” The native points to a metal pendant with a gemstone in the middle. “If your magic can create the light, you will see my master.”

Levion pulls out his flashlight from his utility belt and shines it underneath the gemstone. A hologram shows him an image of several objects, one of which is a figure who looks like his uncle as well as another picture who looks like him. The other objects, Levion does not recognize.

“Where is this man?” Levion points to the figure of his uncle.

“He is my master. He has ascended and promised my family salvation. You are my salvation, master. Just as my master has prophesied.”

Levion realizes that his uncle must have given this native some insight into where he went. “Did your master give you any gifts?”

“Oh, yes, master. I have them in my home. I have kept them for you, son of my master. My master prophesied that you would arrive and ask me for the gifts he has given me. I have protected them with my life.”

“Where is your home, friend?”

#

Two of the military envoys dispatched earlier report to Levion that most of the natives are very friendly and that the soldiers were being treated like saviors and given many blessings as they spoke with natives near the bases. The third envoy in the central part of Mohcia has not reported back, so Levion asks for satellite surveillance to get additional intel and sends a second envoy manned by Lieutenant Bargh to the central region’s Earth base.

Levion reports back to Jennifer that they have not been able to identify where the members of the Earth base went but that the natives don’t appear to be hostile in the north and south. The central part of Mohcia is undetermined. He recommends that the Ark cruisers should undergo their rescue mission outside the central regions of Mohcia, which are mostly dense forest and a logistical nightmare anyway.

The Ark cruisers position themselves in low orbit around Mohcia and begin to deploy the rescue shuttles. Each rescue shuttle contains worker robots to help each native community with their belongings. Plants and animals are all closely evaluated for health to ensure that only the best animals and plants are taken during the evacuation.

On Ark I, Jennifer is receiving information back from the solar surveyors that were deployed ahead of their arrival on Mohcia to monitor the star. None of the data points are showing anything wrong with the star, and all signs are indicating that the star is healthy with no signs of instability.

Jennifer asks for another set of solar surveyors to be deployed to ensure that the information being collected is valid. She also orders a non-military speed pace convoy to make a visit to the other side of the star as quickly as possible and deploy surveyors and then speed back with the information.

The second envoy to the central region of Mohcia arrives at the Earth base to find the first envoy holding several of the natives captive and an irrational Lieutenant Smith rambling about conspiracy. The base is in the same evacuated condition as the north and south bases. Attempts to radio back to Levion, result in no response. Satellite communication, has no signal.

Lieutenant Bargh from the second envoy meets with Lieutenant Smith. Bargh asks Smith what he’s doing taking natives prisoner and why he didn’t report back to Levion.

“Something doesn’t feel right about this whole situation.” Smith confides. “I started asking myself why the original team just disappeared. Part of me wants to think these natives whacked the whole team and then covered up everything, but they aren’t that smart. The natives are a bunch of savage idiots.”

“Our job is not to police these natives, Smith. Our job is to ensure that our men are protected.”

“I AM protecting our men!” Smith yells!

“What good does it do to bring these natives in like a bunch of prisoners? What do you think you have done to help this mission or protect our men?”

“Ya, you think these natives are so peaceful, right? They don’t like us. They don’t want us here. Ask them. Ask them yourself!”

The Father

Jennifer watches her father lying in the emergency room, doctors frantically working on trying to revive him. She looks to her left and sees a glowing figure. It’s Gabriel. She feels Gabriel look at her and smile, but she cannot see his figure move with her eyes. She hears the EKG machine ring out a persistent, dreadful tone. She looks back at her father lying on the table and sees him get up from the table while his body remains.

The doctors in the room are moving diligently around the room, trying to revive Jennifer’s father. Jennifer looks again to Gabriel with tears in her eyes. She feels a warm sense of love from Gabriel and begins to smile. Gabriel lifts his right arm and points it at one of the doctors in the room. It’s Fredrick.

Jennifer looks again to Gabriel with confusion on her face.

“There’s more,” Gabriel says.

It’s suddenly black.

Jennifer can hear herself breathing and feels her heart racing as she sees a tiny light off in the distance. The light is quickly becoming brighter and larger, brighter and larger. She is suddenly in another room.

It appears to be an operating room. It’s the cleanest operating room she’s ever seen. There is a man lying on a table who looks familiar, but she cannot remember who he is. There are robots operating on the man’s brain and Fredrick is standing in front of a computer where Jennifer can see the cube she had previously helped Fredrick find floating in a glowing green field.

Jennifer looks over at Gabriel as everything begins to make sense. She’s filled with knowledge of additional, seemingly unrelated, events that are suddenly making sense. Some of the events she has memory of and others she does not have memory of.

It’s suddenly black.

#

A doctor enters the room and sits across from Jennifer’s father. Jennifer begins to float over the top of the room and then is standing directly behind the doctor and can see the chart.

“What’s up, Doc?” Jennifer’s father laughs.

The doctor smiles. “Fred, I have always loved your sense of humor. I don’t have the best news for you.”

“The Cardinals aren’t going to win the World Series?”

Jennifer smiles as she looks lovingly at her father. He always had the best corny jokes. She looks over at Gabriel, and she can feel love emanating from him.

The doctor smiles, “You’re probably right about that…” She frowns, “But I’m afraid that your second test result is also showing that your brain tumor is inoperable.”

Jennifer’s father looks down for a few seconds and then looks up at the doctor. “I knew I shouldn’t have asked for a second opinion.” He laughs and smiles. “You know something, Doc?”

“What’s that Fred?”

“I’ve lived a great life. Maybe it’s not going to be as long as I hoped it would be, but it sure has been great! I’ve gotten to play my piano in some of the most amazing venues in the world. Even the robots like my music.”

“Somehow that doesn’t surprise me.”

“But you know what the best part about this simple fool’s life will always be?”

“What’s that, Fred?” The doctor smiles big in anticipation of Fred’s punchline, but there is no punchline.

“I brought the most amazing beam of light into this world! I just know my daughter is going to make this universe a better place for everyone. She’s a spaceship pilot, you know? And has the best husband you’d ever imagine. He’s almost as cool as me!”

“I thought you had two daughters.”

“I do! And Jennifer is going to make this universe a better place for everyone!”

“What about your other daughter?”

“Jennifer’s going to make the universe a better place for her too!” Fred laughs with the doctor until he begins to cry. “Please tell her that I love her.”

“Fred, you’re not dying right now. You have at least 3-6 months ahead of you. I recommend you spend as much time as you can with your family. If there is anything you need from me, just let me know.”

“There is one thing, Doc.”

“What’s that, Fred?”

“When it’s time for me to go, I don’t want to have them put me in that machine. I was talking to one of the doctors here, and he convinced me not to do it. Just light me on fire and put me on the moon.”

“That’s something for you to take up with your family, but I am going to document it that as your final wishes as expressed to your medical provider.”

#

Jennifer is watching herself from a year after she got out of the space academy sitting in the hospital where her father died. She’s heartbroken by the news that her father has passed. Tears fill her eyes as she watches herself sob in her mother’s arms. She remembers that moment just as vividly as it is appearing to her in the moment. She hears Gabriel tell her to lookup. Both she and her younger self lookup in the direction Gabriel is pointing.

She can see Fredrick standing in the doorway to the room where her father was. The corners of his mouth are drawn down and forehead wrinkled.

“If I didn’t know better, I’d think that asshole was about to cry!” Jennifer thinks to herself.

Fredrick walks away, and she’s filled with rage, knowing that Fredrick was involved with her father’s brain tumor. Then she sees her husband come walking around the corner and both her and her younger self are filled with love and begin to smile. She turns to Gabriel and notices that he’s smiling to.

Suddenly, she’s back in the observation deck, floating with Gabriel above her.

“You must go now, Jennifer. When you destroy me, I will leave behind two small gems. You must guard both of them until the time is right. You will know when the time is right for each of them.”

Jennifer is puzzled, “I don’t know what to make of all this.”

“Your grandmother is safe, and you have nothing to worry about but the two gems I leave behind. Fredrick will have to take you back to Cheebs. Take them with you and find the Guardian of Cheebs.”

Gabriel forms a large white glowing orb in his hands and places it into Jennifer’s suit. Her suit powers back up.

Jennifer looks at Gabriel and holds back tears, “I can’t do it, Gabriel.”

“You must. What will happen to me if you don’t destroy me now is far worse.”

“I know.”

Jennifer reaches towards Gabriel and as her suit consumes him the door to the observation deck opens. She hears Gabriel say, “I love you. Thank you.” She places the two gems in between the joints in each of her suit’s elbows.

Fredrick enters the observation deck. “So, I guess you didn’t figure out which one was the good guy?”

Jennifer holds back her contempt to Fredrick. “Ya, well, you didn’t really give me much information to go on, Fred.”

“I’m sure your grandmother is safe now.”

“How would you know for sure, Fred? How am I going to know? Can you get this observation deck to work without an observer?”

“No, but I know where we can find someone who can!”

The Carbon Footprint Challenge

Laura sits down in front of her computer and activates her webcam. She checks her makeup in the image on her computer and makes a slight adjustment to blush and primps her eyelashes. There’s a little too much back light coming from the window of her second story bedroom, so she gets up and draws the curtains in slightly while checking to see the adjustment to the lighting on her webcam. Perfect!

She sits back down in front of her computer, looks down, and let’s out a big sigh. She opens her social streaming application to get ready to broadcast her message through all of her social media accounts at the same time. She smiles. 80K followers!

“This is going to be the most important live stream I have ever delivered,” she thinks as she pauses for a moment to reflect on the profundity of her upcoming address. She opens her notes she’s been writing in preparation for her important address and reviews them, sometimes mumbling a word here and there allowed. She reads a few lines several times, practicing her intonation. She looks at her social media follower count… She smiles. 320K followers!

She looks at the time on her computer: 9:50 AM. There’s a knock on her bedroom door, and she hears her mother and father ask if they can come in. She gets up and opens the door and gives them both a big hug.

“I’m so proud of you,” her father says cheerfully, while simultaneously holding back tears.

“I love you, Laura.” Her mother steps back from Laura to look her in her tear filled eyes. “You are so courageous!” she says, holding Laura’s shoulders and smiling the biggest smile Laura has ever seen before.

The three of them talk a bit more about her speech, and her mother shares some tips with her on what words to emphasize more than Laura had planned. “Thank you for the advice, mom. I love you so much!”

Laura looks passed her parents and at her much younger brother standing at the other end of the hallway. “I love you Phillip.”

Her brother stands with his arms folded and a scowl on his face and says nothing at first. Their parents both turn to him, and he quickly unfolds his arms, adjusts his posture and smiles. “I love you too, butthead.”

#

Laura sits down in front of her computer, checks her makeup again, and primps her eyelashes. The back light has changed a little, so she gets up and opens the curtains slightly while checking to see the adjustment to the lighting on her webcam. Perfect!

She sits backs down and opens the top drawer in her desk and pulls out a box with a label of Xavier Environmental Technology and places it on the desk directly in front of her. Her heart is racing. She holds her hands around the box and closes her eyes for a couple of minutes to meditate and relax.

She sits back in her chair, takes a deep breath, holds it for a count of seven and then let’s her body completely relax as she exhales. She looks at her social media follower count… She smiles. 480K followers!

Her phone rings. It’s a video chat from Rebecca! “Right on time, Becks!” Laura says as she accepts the call and holds her phone up so that her friend can see her.

“Oh my God, Laura! I’m so excited for you! Have you seen your follower count?”

“Yes! This is going to be so amazing! So, tell me everything!”

“Laura! I’m really at a loss for words for how amazing this place is! Remember that time we went to Belize and got lost in the rain forest and saw that family of sloths? I went back there as soon as I arrived! It was just as magical as it was when we went. So green! No pollution! No logging destroying the rain forest anymore!”

“That sounds so amazing! I can’t wait to be there with you!”

“Oh, and all the other people here are just awesome! Completely helpful, beautiful souls! There’s beauty all around, and it’s going to be even more beautiful once you’re here!”

They both let out glee as they smile at each other. “I love you so much, Becks!”

“I love you too, rawr-bear! Now get your butt here! We’re going to Europe as soon as you arrive.”

#

Laura’s eyes begin to water as she looks at her social media follower count… 800K followers! She holds back her tears and looks at the time on her computer: 10:30AM.

“Time to go viral!” She starts her live stream.

“I’m here to save the world, and I’m not going to apologize for it!” Heart and thumbs up emojis go flying across her screen, and Laura smiles.

“When my friend Becky called me out on the Carbon Footprint Challenge a month ago, I initially didn’t know what to think or do. I have to admit…” She pauses as tears fill her bright blue eyes. “I was a little angry! But I realized that I shouldn’t be angry with Becky. I should be angry with the excessive deforestation that she’s calling attention to. I should be angry with the excessive pollution that she’s calling attention to. I should be angry that I haven’t used my position of economic and social privilege to do more about the exploits and destruction of our environment and the environment of the underprivileged.”

A tear rolls down her right cheek. She looks at her social media follower count… She smiles. 1.5M followers! Heart and sad emojis go flying across her screen.

“I’m taking a stand for our planet! I’m staking a stand for the oppressed! I’m taking a stand for those who don’t have the privilege I do, for those whose lives and families are effected by my excessive carbon foot print!”

Heart emojis go flying across her screen. Laura smiles and lifts up the box in front of her. “I’m going to read you these beautiful words from this great company that’s going to help save our planet.”

Congratulations on making an important contribution to help save our planet. Enclosed is your pathway to a reduced carbon footprint and a better world. This will reduce your carbon footprint to 1/100th of the expected carbon footprint based upon your DNA testing and social privilege scoring. The nanotechnology enclosed can ONLY be administered by Laura Elizabeth Harris. To activate the nanotechnology, first place your finger on the fingerprint scanner. This will allow you to then enter the 5 digit PIN you selected when you ordered your Global Climate Administration approved Carbon Output Reduction & Utopian Technology system. Upon entry of your PIN, you will then be prompted to state your full name. Only YOUR voice under no duress can activate your uniquely created nanotechnology and unlock the box. Remove the pill inside and swallow with 4-6 oz. of water. Lay down in a safe space with the box on your chest. Relax. Thank you for being a world saver! You will be greeted by an on-boarding specialist upon arrival. See you soon.

Laura follows the instructions. The box opens and reveals a fingernail-sized light blue pill. She swallows it with a cup of water lies down on her bed, which is in-frame of her webcam. She gets comfortable. Then she jumps up and walks over to her computer.

She looks at her social media follower count… She smiles. 5.1M followers! Heart and sad emojis go flying across her screen. She looks into her webcam “I love you all, and I challenge each and every one of you to the Carbon Footprint Challenge. I hope to see all you fellow planet savers soon!” She turns to go back to her bed, pauses, and turns to face her computer. “I’ll see you soon, Becky!”

#

Laura lies down on her bed, places the box on her chest, places her hands by her side, and closes her eyes. A green light on the box begins to flash faster and faster until it turns to a solid green. Laura opens her blue eyes and her pupils widen. She smiles. The green light turns to blue and Laura’s eyes close as her body goes limp.

The Observers

Fredrick opens the door to a room that looks like a spherical medical observation deck. Four observers are floating in all directions around a central point in the middle of the room. Jennifer enters the room with Fredrick, and three of the observers fly passed them and out the open door into the hallway. The door closes and Jennifer enters a vortex that has her floating around the center point just like the observers.

Fredrick smiles and laughs as Jennifer is tumbling in all sorts of directions. “You need to stabilize your thoughts and focus on the observation point.” Fredrick tell Jennifer as she continues to swirl and spin in all directions.

Fredrick floats over to the remaining observer as Jennifer begins to slow down as she concentrates on the observation point in the center of the room. At first, it was just a white light, but as she focuses she’s able to see slight changes in color and eventually figures moving around within the observation point.

She hears her grandmother’s voice and loses concentration and begins to fly out of control again. Fredrick reaches out and grabs her by her leg and brings her spiraling down next to him. He holds her steady next to him and continues speaking to the observer.

As Jennifer steadies herself next to Fredrick, she has this eerie sense that she’s being watched. “Fred, something doesn’t seem right. I feel like I’m being watched.”

“Great, Jennifer! Now, look into the observation point and focus on that feeling of being watched.”

Jennifer looks into the observation point and can see herself laying in the spaceship her and Fredrick have been traveling on. “Fred, I see myself on our spaceship, but I don’t see you.”

“Focus more on being observed, Jennifer. Focus on that feeling of being watched.”

Jennifer focuses and sees herself now lying in the spaceship but being observed by one of the observers in another observation deck. “It’s one of the observers on this ship, Fred!”

“Look for the deck number near the door.”

Jennifer sees herself open her eyes on the spaceship and then sees herself observing herself through the observation deck. “Deck 37!”

Fredrick and the observer fly out the door as Jennifer is suddenly whisked back into her body on the spaceship. She takes one last look at the observation deck and noticed the deck number is 23.

#

Waking from what seemed like a vivid dream, Jennifer blinks her eyes a few times and then sits up from her reclined chair. Fredrick is not in his chair that was just across the room from her. She frantically logs back into the computer sitting in front of her to check the status of the ship and the logs of all the activity on the ship.

The familiar smell of coffee begins to fill the room, and the computer logs confirm that Fredrick had entered the mess room and made two cups of coffee just a few minutes earlier. Jennifer is startled as Fredrick placed the coffee in front of her.

“I had the craziest dream, Fred.”

“Tell me about it.”

She takes a sip of coffee and savours the flavor and aroma.

“We were on some kind of ship that had a bunch of rooms where these angels would be flying around and observing people.”

“Interesting. Anyone you know?”

“Well, my grandmother but when she was younger. And then at one point I was observing me observing them observing me. If that even makes any sense.”

“Sure, dreams can be weird. But those weren’t angels. They are the observers.”

Jennifer was curious. “Who are the observers?”

“The observers are more of a what than a who. They are entities that exist in the dimension above yours, and they are mostly benign…” Fred pauses. “With the exception of a few. Were there any numbers you remember from your dream?”

“I remember the numbers 23 and 37.”

“Which one was associated with your grandmother?”

“Both. Well, I was in a room 23 where I saw and heard my grandma, and I was being observed from room 37.”

Fredrick’s face shifts to one of worry. “Jennifer, your grandmother is in grave danger!”

#

The doors open to a massive long, dark metal hallway. Jennifer and Fredrick are like ants floating along the hallway with observers passing overhead and entering observation decks along the way. They are standing on a platform that is surrounded by a transparent shield that Fredrick has explained to Jennifer allows them to be invisible to the observers.

Jennifer is wearing a bright yellow armored suit with two small black goggles that allow her to see. She’s holding a large glowing white ball. Fredrick is wearing his usual tattered clothing. Their platform comes to a stop in front of the door for observation deck 23.

“Jennifer, make sure you remember to do exactly what I told you. This door will open. This shield will drop, and you will immediately fly into the room and push the white ball into the chest plate in your suit. You will then be able to see everything inside the room as if you are observing the room from above. The observers will appear as blue objects on your screen. You want to capture all but one of them before the power boost runs out, but you may not be able to distinguish between them. If you capture all of them it’s going to be a lot of work to separate out the one we want to save.”

“I’ve got this, Fred. Remember, my grandma is at stake here!”

“I know Jennifer, but there’s not a second chance for you in this scenario. If you don’t capture each of the observers, it’s game over for you.” Fredrick looks Jennifer in her eyes as if he can see through her armored goggles and straight into her soul. “And it’s game over for your grandmother.”

Jennifer lets out a deep, relaxing breath and gives Fredrick the thumbs up. Nothing happens. Jennifer looks back at Fredrick.

“I believe in you, Jennifer.” He says as he opens the door, drops the shield, and presses the launch button that jolts her into the observation deck!

The four observers instantly head towards Jennifer as she pushes the white orb into her suit’s chest plate. The suit begins to emanate a light yellow glow, and Jennifer is suddenly able to observer the spherical observation deck as if she were at the highest point in the room. The observers heading towards her try changing course, but it’s too late for one of them as it is absorbed into the suit.

“I sure hope that wasn’t the one!” Jennifer screams as she goes flying after the other observers and catches one of them immediately. The other two observers are making quick moves and able to avoid capture.

Jennifer tries to anticipate the observers’ moves but is off the mark and one observer is able to get farther way from her. She’s hot on the trail of the other!

Knowing that she has limited time, she goes to the top of the spherical room and the observer she was chasing begins to slow as it no longer has a bearing on her location. Jennifer descends from atop the sphere directly onto the path of the slowing observer.  Captured!

She then notices that the one remaining observer is on the other side of the sphere. Her suit begins to flash, and the observer begins speeding directly towards her!

“I guess I already got the good one!” She yells as she goes full speed towards the observer!

Right as Jennifer reaches the observer, her suit’s power runs out and she passes directly through the observer.

Jennifer feels like she’s floating slowly through outer space. Her suit is completely unable to move as she struggles to get it to do anything. She wishes she could bang on a wall to let out her frustration for having failed her mission, failed her grandma, failed her husband, failed Fredrick, failed herself. She let’s out a long, loud yell of rage and frustration that doesn’t even escape her suit into the vast observation sphere.

“My name is Gabriel. I mean you no harm, nor your grandmother.”

Her utter frustration turns to peace as she hears Gabriel’s peaceful voice. She feels a surreal sense of love and peace as she floats aimlessly within the vast observation deck with tears welling up in her eyes.

K-9 Forensics

Detective Katie Williams stands outside the house with her partner by her side as the final investigator leaves through the front door and walks down the rain slicked porch steps towards her. She smiles at her colleague as he gives her a nod to acknowledge the crime scene has been cleared for her arrival. He then goes and stands under the large tree next to the sidewalk with the rest of the police officers who had just finished up their work in the house.

“Let’s go.” Detective Williams and her partner walk up the porch steps. She stops at the top of the steps and turns to her partner who sits on the porch, eagerly awaiting her next move. Detective Williams places her suitcase down on the porch, unlatches the case, and opens a virtual super computer center with a small cap with an antenna on the top of it.

The other police officers look on with tremendous anticipation as she reaches down and pulls the cap out of the suitcase and places it on her partner’s head. Panting, with practically a smile on his face, Detective William’s K-9 partner waits for her to strap the cap onto his head. Detective Williams turns on the cap and looks back at the computer in the suitcase. She hands her partner a treat, and the computer displays vital information about the chemical composition of the treat. She hands her partner a different treat, and the computer displays different information about the chemical composition of that treat.

“Obi unit to base, please confirm the correct information regarding the randomly selected treats for baseline.” She turns on the 360 degree camera on Obi’s cap and presses a green button in her suitcase. She can see all of the high-resolution images from Obi’s cameras along a panoramic imaging screen in her suitcase.

“Obi unit, treats accurately identified. You have an all clear for case 26439367.”

A picture of the box of treats is displayed on one of the other screens in front of Detective Williams. It’s the first treat that she gave to Obi. The address of the store selling the treats is displayed along with the address of the factory where the treats were processed and a handful of farms where the ingredients came from. Same happens for the second treat

Detective Williams motions to Obi to enter the home. Within seconds, the computer is displaying readouts of information that she’s scrambling to make notes of. This is the most amount of data Obi’s readings have ever returned. This was a very active crime scene.

The cap on Obi’s head reads Obi’s brain activity and has been programmed to instantly take recognized brain patterns and submit them to police headquarters for analysis to confirm the recognized brain activity. Brain patterns that are not recognized go through a different process where the imaging from the 360 degree camera are included with the submission of the data. That data is then going to be used by Obi’s handlers back at the headquarters to try to identify the substance that created the brain pattern for Obi.

This crime scene is a slam dunk! The scent of the victim is easily identified as are the scents of the two assailants. They are both past offenders, so their K-9 odor pattern is already registered in the criminal justice database.

“Got ’em, sir!” Detective Williams shouts over to the police officers who have been waiting for her. She relays the information to the police, and they hurry on their way to the last known location of these two criminals.

#

Detective Williams sits down on her sofa with Obi and turns on the evening news. “A K-9 forensics unit has led to yet another quick resolution to a murder in the Clarion suburb of Los Angeles today.” She smiles as she changes the channel to Animal Planet.

There’s a knock at the door. Detective Williams is expecting her fiance, so she jumps up eagerly to get to the door. There’s a police officer at the door, and he informs her that the mayor was in an accident on the way home. The mayor and the other driver died at the scene, and they want to inspect for foul play.

She grabs her suitcase and loads it up with Obi in her car and heads for the accident location. Along the drive, it begins to rain. It’s a rarity in Los Angeles, but her shot at getting evidence with Obi is quickly getting flushed away. By the time she reaches the scene, there’s no chance of being able to find evidence as the road is covered in rain, and the gutters are flowing with water.

“This couldn’t be an accident, Obi.” Detective Williams looks at Obi as she pulls to the side of the road to take in the scene. She runs through the scenario played out by the police officer who stopped by her house earlier. She’s picturing the sequence of events in her head as she stares at the rain falling on the road in front of her.

#

The junkyard foreman walks Detective Williams and Obi over to the intake where there are two cars. She recognizes one as the mayor’s and thanks the foreman for showing her the cars. She finds a location sheltered from the rain and unpacks Obi’s cap. She goes through the usual setup procedure, starting with the treat baseline steps.

Obi walks over to the mayor’s car first and begins his inspection. Katie doesn’t see anything out of the ordinary in Obi’s findings. The expected higher than normal bodily fluids in the car from the mayor’s injuries and scents of high stress in his blood found in the car. She directs Obi to the other car.

The driver’s information comes up on one of the screens along with a list of several chemicals found in trace amounts in the car. Katie notices something peculiar about him and the chemicals found in the car. The chemicals trace back to a distribution warehouse in downtown Los Angeles, and it’s not a warehouse where the other driver worked.

“I knew it, Obi!” Obi is almost smiling back at Detective Williams as he comes walking over, tongue halfway out of his mouth.

#

Half a dozen unmarked police vehicles arrive outside the warehouse and a slew of detectives head towards the entrance of the building. Detective Williams and Obi are sitting in the back of a vehicle talking with another two detectives who are remaining in their vehicle to keep watch on the outside of the building.

Obi starts barking aggressively as the detectives head into the building.

“Get them out of there!” Detective Williams screams at her colleagues in the front seat.

It’s too late! An explosion blows the building apart and pushes the car back a couple of feet. Shrapnel from the building lands on top of the car, pinning both of the detectives in the front. Detective Williams’ vision is dazed by the sudden shock and sees a man wearing all black and a hoodie walking towards their car.

Obi is cowering in the foot well of the back seat as the man forcefully breaks open the trunk of the police car with a crowbar and removes the suitcase containing Obi’s cap and machine. Detective Williams reaches for her gun and sees the man raise his glove covered hand with a gun she’s never seen before. “You don’t want to do that, Katie” he says.

Detective Williams stops in her tracks as her eyes widen and her breathing pauses in shock. She’s never heard his voice before. How does he know her name? As quickly as she can think those thoughts, the man pulls out a gun and shoots the detective in the driver’s seat. She’s startled and closes her eyes, fearing she’s next. After a few seconds, she opens her eyes, and the man is nowhere to be seen. Detective Williams looks at Obi as he lifts his muzzle towards her and starts licking the tears from her face. She can hear fire, ambulance, and police sirens in the distance as she closes her eyes and lets out a sigh of relief that at least her and Obi are still alive.

The Blue Light

The front door creaks open as Aunt Bethany welcomes Jessica and Gerald home to Grandma’s house. The living room is abuzz with nieces and nephews running to greet them at the front door. The anticipation has been building all day for their arrival, and everyone is joyous as they come through the small foyer of Grandma’s house. They can barely enter with so many nieces and nephews lined up for hugs.

The 20 hours of driving has left them both yearning for the comfort of a soft, warm bed, but they are here for a purpose. As they round the corner of the sofa, there she is: Grandma! The scene is far from their visit just a few months back. Grandma’s body is frail and the signs of Stage 5 Parkinson’s along with arthritis are more evident than ever.

Grandma’s weak body lies as comfortably as possible on one branch of the L-shaped sofa that has cushions replaced with aerated memory foam support pillows and throw pillows replaced with support foam. Her oxygen tank is in easy reach next to a table that holds her oximeter, blood pressure monitor, water cup, treatment log book, and (most importantly) fresh flowers from her daughter’s best friend’s award winning flower garden.

“Jessica and Gerald are here, ma” Bethany says to Grandma.

Grandma tilts her head as far as she is able to her right, which is barely more than a couple of degrees. A big smile arises on Grandma’s face as Jessica kneels down next to her Grandma and holds her right hand. Grandma lifts her left arm over to Jessica and places her clutched hand with shaking thumb and index finger against Jessica’s cheek. Jessica’s eyes begin to well up with tears of love for her grandma as she holds her grandma’s hand against her cheek.

“I love you so much, Grandma.”

“Same here,” Grandma whispers.

“She’s pretty hard to understand with losing her voice a couple of weeks ago.” Bethany catches Jessica and Gerald up on grandma’s condition, which has continued to deteriorate rapidly from day-to-day over the last couple days that they have been on the road. Uncle Gene enters the room and asks Bethany to discuss a few things in the other room.

Jessica continues holding Grandma’s right hand as she lifts her left hand and struggles to point forward. “Blue light.” Grandma utters. Everyone looks around for a blue light in the room, but there is no light. Just the television, which is showing the Chicago Cubs game.

#

Nurse Madison arrives for the routine check on Grandma. She performs the regular vital checks. Grandma’s blood pressure is on the low side, but she’s doing well for Stage 5 Parkinson’s disease. Madison reminds Bethany, Jessica, and Gerald about what to expect for this late stage of Parkinson’s.

“Grandma’s body will continue to fail. The oxygen will help her body, and remember to make sure she is also drinking plenty of water. Just remember that she will have increased difficulty with swallowing as her Parkinson’s progresses further. It will help to sit her as upright as possible while she’s drinking as well as for at least a minute after. Let gravity help.” Madison gives them some additional tips on what will make Grandma as comfortable as possible and then goes on her way.

Gerald walks over to Grandma and sits down at her feet. “You want a foot massage, Grandma?” Grandma nods.

As Gerald begins to massage Grandma’s feet, she utters, “Blue light”. Gerald looks around the room for a blue light or even something with the color blue. The front window curtains are open, and the sky is bright blue. Perhaps that’s the blue light that she’s talking about.

Jessica comes back into the room and sees Gerald massaging Grandma’s feet. Tears well up in her eyes. Over the last couple of days that they’ve been at Grandma’s, Gerald has become Grandma’s favorite caretaker when it comes to moving her. Gerald’s physical strength and love of Grandma makes him the ideal candidate to pick her up and move her when Grandma’s getting sore.

“Move, me.”

Gerald stands up beside the sofa. “Okay, Grandma. Which direction do you want to go?”

Grandma moves her left hand in the direction of the sofa. Gerald reaches behind Grandma’s back and under her legs and gently scoops her up. He slowly places her back down.

“How’s that?”

Grandma shakes her head, and Gerald gently scopes her up and asks Jessica to help adjust the pillow under Grandma’s tailbone. He slowly puts Grandma back down on the sofa.

“How’s that?”

Grandma doesn’t say anything, but Gerald can tell by the look on her face that she’s still not comfortable.

“Grandma, are you lying to me?”

Grandma nods, and Gerald gently scoops her up and tells her, “I’m gonna do this until you’re comfortable, and I don’t want you to lie to me either.”

Jessica adjusts the pillow again, and Gerald places Grandma down in just the right spot. “Now, I’m going to slowly pull my hands away from underneath you. If anything changes and you feel like you’re not in the right position, just let me know. I’ll do this all day if I have to.”

As Gerald starts to stand back up, Grandma reaches for his hand. Gerald pauses and kneels next to Grandma as Aunt Bethany enters the room and starts talking to Jessica. Grandma lifts Gerald’s hand to her mouth with her cold hand and kisses his hand over and over. Gerald’s eyes begin to tear.

He leans over and kisses Grandma on her head. “I love you Grandma.” She slowly lowers her hand holding Gerald’s hand, and he reaches over with his other hand to wrap it around Grandma’s cold hand. “Your hands are very cold, Grandma.”

He sits with Grandma, holding her hand, thinking of all the fun times they’ve had since he met Jessica. Grandma’s body softens as she starts to relax, and Gerald smiles at her. She lets out a deep breath, and her entire body sinks as it relaxes completely. Gerald feels her hand loosen its grip. He looks at Grandma’s face, and something seems different. Her face is completely relaxed; complete peace.

Gerald is eagerly awaiting Grandma’s next breath. He’s carefully watching her torso, waiting for her chest to rise. He leans closer to Grandma’s face, trying to hear her breathing. There’s a quiet noise from Grandma’s torso, and Gerald feels her hips sink slightly underneath his hands that are resting on her lap.

He looks back at Aunt Bethany and Jessica having their conversation and then back to Grandma. Still no movement by Grandma. “Did Grandma just evacuate her bowels? Isn’t that what happens when someone dies?” Gerald thinks to himself as his mind begins to panic.

He rubs Grandma’s hand as a tear falls down his cheek. “It’s okay, Grandma.”

#

Grandma’s mouth starts moving, but she’s not making any noise. Gerald is elated! “Would you like some water, Grandma?”

Grandma shakes her head while she continues to mouth something without making any noise.

Jessica comes over and Aunt Bethany leaves the room. “Can you spell it, Grandma?”

“F”

Gerald is so elated that Grandma isn’t dead! He’s focused on every breath coming out of Grandma’s mouth at the moment.

“A”

Jessica is a bit bewildered by Gerald’s excitement in Grandma spelling something, and she smiles at him, thinking he looks like a kid in a candy store.

“R” Grandma pauses for a couple of breaths.

Jessica leans in towards Grandma. “Are we too far away from you, Grandma?”

Grandma shakes her head. “T!” she says with excitement!

Gerald and Jessica look at each other with a question mark and then back at Grandma. “Do you need to fart, Grandma?”

“I just did.”

Gerald and Jessica’s nostrils start to flare as the both quickly stand up. Gerald starts laughing and tells Jessica the story about watching Grandma’s body relax and stop breathing.

“I really thought she had died in my arms.”

Jessica laughs, “She probably stopped breathing because she knew how bad it smelled!”

Grandma starts to laugh, and the two of them look at Grandma with love in their eyes and smile. She’s still a practical joker!

“Blue light!” Grandma points to her feet.

Jessica tells them that she thinks Grandma is seeing Grandpa as a blue light. Gerald has his own theories about the blue light.

“Blue light!” Grandma points to her feet, and everyone can tell she’s getting a bit frustrated.

Aunt Diana comes around the corner and starts giving her two cents on the blue light, and the three of them are walking around the room looking for anything that has the color blue. One by one, each item is rejected by Grandma.

Aunt Bethany walks into the room and asks what the commotion is all about. Everyone shared their theories about the blue light: it’s grandpa, it’s the sky reflecting on the mirror, it’s the angel of death welcoming her.

Aunt Bethany solves the puzzle, “The humidifier has a light on it, and Grandma likes the blue light the best.” She reaches down by the end table at the side of the sofa where Grandma’s feet are closest and turns on the humidifier. Everyone starts laughing.

“So much significance about the blue light that we all made up, and it’s just a humidifier?” Gerald can barely get the words out as he’s laughing.

Everyone looks over at Grandma who is smiling. “Blue light.”