Category Archives: Feature Presentations

My Curious Case

If you are here then you most likely have read the story, The Curious Case of Doctor Maundy. Wait, you haven’t?! (dramatic gasp) Please go check it out at this link.

Good.

Are they gone? Are they all gone? Alright, now it’s just us people-who-have-read-the-story-already people 😁. Great, now we can get started. Phew!

I’ve always loved the symbols and pictures the Bible uses to describe how God came to save us from sin and death, and how He works in our lives. Light piercing darkness. A groom courting a bride that felt undeserving. A shepherd seeking a lost sheep. And, the image this story was based on, receiving God’s very life like we eat bread and drink wine.

If the part in John 6 where Jesus told them to eat His flesh felt strange to you, don’t worry. You’re in good company. The people in the room that day felt the same way. Eating His flesh and drinking His blood? “This is too tough to swallow,” someone said, pun intended or not. And I didn’t make that up. It’s recorded here:

Many among his disciples heard this and said, “This is tough teaching, too tough to swallow.”

John 6:60 (MSG)

But He didn’t mean it ‘literally’. It was a symbol of a sacrifice He was going to get done. So that the essence of it could forever be emblazoned on our minds, He solidified at His last supper with His disciples in what Christians call Communion or the Eucharist.

As the bread is broken we are reminded of His body that was broken for us. As the wine is poured we are reminded of His blood that was shed for us, His very life given so that we who were dead could come to life and have a relationship with God. I loved looking at these things, and I still do.

But as I grew and encountered the world outside my bubble, I came to see that the world is complicated. Not everyone sees things the way I do. People have sincere questions about the evil and decay in the world, and how that jibes with the idea of a God that loves us. Questions went all the way back to the beginning in Eden. If God loves us, why did He let us fall knowing it would hurt us? These and more made me consider what I believe, if I truly believed it or if I was just going with something because it felt comfortable.

Sometimes we need our bubbles popped, you know, so that the only thing that remains is what truly endures.

But then this made me come to realise, understand and appreciate the promise of Immanuel, a Hebrew term meaning ‘God with us’. As first seen in Isaiah 7:14, In the midst of Israel’s troubles God promised “Immanuel”, that Someone would come Who would be God with us (that’s what immanu-el means in Hebrew). But it’s so much more, and here’s why.

God has not been aloof from all our suffering. In His love He gave us free will and, when we chose the way that led to destruction, He didn’t leave us to our fate. He came to be a part of what we experience. Our hunger, our thirst, our joy, our pain. He knew no sin, but He became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). He became one of us. God as us. God amongst us. God with us. That is what Immanuel means, and that is what Jesus came to encapsulate.

Like someone once said, that’s why He’s the Word of God: He’s everything God ever wanted to say to us. And it’s true. God has always loved us and in embodying what love is, He wants to be a part of our lives and wants us to have a part in His.

But He is holy, and sin cannot stand in His sight. Friendship with God could not work.

And that’s why God went for the jugular in dealing with our biggest problem first, sin and death. Just as the bread is broken and loses its form, Jesus would be broken for our sakes, dying the death we deserved. Just as the wine is poured out and drunk, His life would be cast down for us. And this one offering would be what saves us from the slavery to death that we had lived in. And now that He is risen everyone that believes in Him and receives His sacrifice receives God’s life just like one swallows something eaten.

It’s as close as it gets.

Like the beloved poem by William Cowper goes

There is a fountain filled with blood

Drawn from Immanuel’s veins

And sinners plunged beneath that flood

Lose all their guilty stains.

This is why my story went the way it did. We were the walking dead and we didn’t even know it, because of the virus of sin that plagued our very souls. Death reigned in us, dooming us to eternal separation from God. But God did everything to end that. He came to have a union with us, becoming Man, so that He could extinguish that virus.

This lover of symbols couldn’t resist using this story to represent the mother of all living, Eve as Eva (well, Eve and Adam, actually) who instigated it all just as we would have. Andy represented Jesus obviously, and the greenhouse was Eden. DIABLO is Latin for devil, and pictures how the devil deceived them and prodded them towards the mistake.

But the story and work of Immanuel is not over yet, and that’s where Lisa’s story comes in.

One of the reasons there seems to be a disconnect between the loving Father the Bible speaks of and the God the world understands is because of the need of this, for lack of a better word, incarnation. People don’t see where the good all-powerful God fits in all the decadence we experience around us. But His plan is that everyone that has the life of God represents Him on Earth. We are the Light in a desperate, dark and dying world. There need not be a disconnect because He has placed you where you need to be to shine His Light. So that when they see your actions and reactions, they’ll see what God is about.

Even in suffering, they’ll see how God delivers us from or sustains us in the midst of the trial. Jesus said,

In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration;

but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]!

For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]

John 16:33 (AMP)

One of God’s children, a man named Paul, told us of a time he also went through a rough patch like this, a problem that didn’t seem to let go. But here’s what God said to him:

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.

Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (KJV)

That’s why the life of a child of God is not dictated by circumstances. God’s grace and power that He provides is enough for us, and that’s why we can trust Him.

Even as believers we may not always ‘feel’ upbeat. There may be more month at the end of the money (no, that wasn’t a typo), or nothing in the bank, or many other reasons to be discouraged. There may be more questions along the way. . While we have a responsibility to always trust in Who our Father is, He knows us – our strengths and weaknesses– and He reminds us of His promise and helps us up. That’s where strength comes from.

…He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]

Hebrews 13:5 (AMP)

We’re human and for now, until the day we are fully united with Him in death or at His return, we see Him and His eternal realities dimly. As clear as it may seem, as close as God feels in our best moments, there is so much more ahead of us than anything we’ve ever experienced.

This is the promise Communion reminds us of. Fully in union with God, that’s what Jesus made us. And nothing can ever separate us from His love.

I truly hope this story has moved you and has been as much of a blessing to you as it has been for me. Thank you for reading this far.

God loves you, so much! Talk to Him today. If you haven’t already, ask Him for this Gift of His Life that He has for you. It’s yours for the asking, and it’s just the beginning.

No matter where or when you are in your life’s journey, He’s right there at that table with you. He knows what you feel. He knows who you are. And He loves you.

May the eyes of your heart be open to see Him better.

He adds life to the mundane.

He makes bland colourful

He calls it all very good.

He makes it beautiful.

Thank you so much for reading once again!

The Curious Case of Doctor Maundy 005

Lisa Bynes put the last of the care packages into her car outside the warehouse.

It had been a very quiet past few weeks, and things didn’t look like they would let up. She was glad that her church had gotten a food bank ready as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant restrictions came up, but sometimes she wondered if this was all worth it. No one on the Welfare Committee had shown up all day and now she was the only one here to make the deliveries to the homeless. And then there was still going to be a Last Supper re-enactment on the church Zoom and she had to be online for it.

It felt wrong. It felt unfair. Times like these made her wonder what she was even doing here or why she even bothered. She just wanted to get back home to her daughter, Kelly.

She turned back into the compound to lock up the storehouse for the day. What an Easter this would turn out to be. No church services except those online, no songs in the streets, no creative drama presentations for the season, no Easter egg hunts (or maybe that one wasn’t so bad). The whole world had paused and, as much as she tried to encourage herself that there was purpose to all of this, it was difficult to remember all the time.

The door of the warehouse burst open and a woman staggered out and fell to the floor.

Lisa started at that. She instinctively reached into her bag for the mace spray, but she couldn’t find it in the midst of the hand sanitizers her bag was stocked up on.

Lord, please don’t let these be one of those looters…

The woman looked dishevelled, but she was laughing maniacally. Probably on drugs. But when she stared up at her, recognition dawned.

What in the world? “Eva?” What was her sister doing there?

“Lisa?” Eva’s eyes widened. “LISA!” She hurried towards her.

Now Lisa had been maintaining social distancing measures all this time so her first instinct was to take a step back. But her little sister looked like she had been through a lot, and she didn’t seem to care. She embraced her and Lisa put her arms around her slowly.

“What’re you doing here?”

Eva seemed more excited than she had ever seemed. “What am I doing here? What’re you doing here?”

Lisa gave her a good look up and down. “Are you OK? How did you get here?”

Eva pointed inside. “I’ve been in there for hours. It feels like a day already.” She grabbed her hands. “Oh, Lisa, you wouldn’t believe all that happened to me in there. Oh my, you’ve got to meet him!”

“I’ll bet.” She sauntered into the warehouse. Oh Lord, I pray my sister’s not on drugs. “How did you get in here? Who else is here?”

But when Eva followed her in she looked surprised. She looked over the stacks of bags with questions on her face. “We were … just here.”

Lisa squinted at her sister’s eyes. “Who else was here?”

Eva looked genuinely worried. “Andy. I mean … he wasn’t really Andy. Andy wasn’t Andy at all. You see—“

“Eva, I’m going to ask this once and you have to be honest with me. What are you on?”

But Eva’s eyes did not look high. If anything she looked concerned. “I was just here. There was a table over there, a-and a window there…” She walked into the room. As long as Lisa could remember this had always been an enclosure. No windows whatsoever. “And there was a hall beyond that wall. Lisa, you’ve gotta believe me.” She rushed to the back wall and knocked on it. “I’m not lying. It doesn’t look like it, but I just came out of this place.”

Lisa measured her words carefully as she approached her. On one hand she was tired and wanted to get home, but this was her little sister. And no matter how stuck-up Eva had been all this time she was really worried for her. “Eva, I’ve been waiting for my church members in this room for hours. There’s been nobody here but me.”

“Oh my…” Eva sank to her knees in genuine wonder and Lisa didn’t know if she should be worried. “I mean I can understand He could do this but…“

“Who could do this?” She stooped beside her.

Eva turned to her, excitement in her eyes. “God,” she said.

Now Lisa had been used to the cynical comments Eva had been making about God all these years so the sincerity of her words now felt weird.

“God?” Lisa didn’t know what to make of this. It was one thing if a stranger gave a testimony about a supernatural miracle, but this was Eva. The Eva she had known all her life.

Eva looked over her shoulder. “See, I don’t know how this works, but you know what happened, right? It was in the news. The thing with the werewolves on campus? It was all my fault.”

Now Lisa was convinced she was on drugs. “Werewolves?”

Eva nodded frantically. “I was doing this experiment a-and it blew in my face. I didn’t know it would do that—”

“And you saw werewolves?”

Eva nodded. “Why, yes! I even became one.”

Lisa put a hand on her shoulder. “Let’s take you home, OK? You must be coming down with something terrible.”

And so as she helped her sister towards the car, wondering what to do with her, Eva launched into the most bizarre story she had ever heard. It was full of monsters and lab mistakes, a pandemic, and the weirdest interrogation she could have ever imagined. She was praying under her breath wondering what to say when it was over.

But as Eva continued, the core of the story began to look familiar. The part about Andy and the things he did, and the things he said. From disbelief Lisa was slowly coming to understand that her sister had truly experienced something. Was it real? Was it all in her head? This couldn’t be the Eva she had known. This could not be really happening.

But then there was so much more in what she was saying. Lisa parked the car along the sidewalk and placed her head on the steering wheel.

“Eva, there were no werewolves,” Lisa finally said. “The things you said never happened.”

Eva seemed genuinely confused. “What do you mean—“

“There’s a pandemic out there, alright, but it’s not the one you experienced.”

“Yes, he did say there was something worse.”

Lisa shook her head. Could it really be? “The coronavirus is out there, but it’s not what he was talking about either.”

Eva seemed to be the only person on Earth that did not know what she was talking about. The confusion never left her face. “I remember that. I remember everything. But, it feels like a distant memory. Like … it wasn’t even an issue where I’m coming from.” She placed a hand on her head. “What is going on? Where was I? Is this real?”

Lisa didn’t know what to do with her. How long had her sister been cut off from the world? “Eva, are you messing with me? Because if this is a joke you have to stop. Now.”

“I wouldn’t mess with you. I would never do that!” Her eyes lit up with an idea and she reached into her pocket for her phone. She searched through her news feeds frantically and couldn’t find what she was looking for. “I don’t believe it.”

Lisa ran a hand through her hair. “You and me both.”

“Andy’s number’s not on my phone. I can’t find our emails either.”

Lisa couldn’t believe she was going with this. “Maybe there never was an Andy,” she muttered.

“Lisa I’m serious!”

“What do you want me to say? That you’ve had a vision or something? So that you can make fun of me again?”

Eva shook her head. “Is that what you think? That I had a vision?”

Lisa clenched her fists. “I don’t believe this. How did you get into the warehouse of all places? It doesn’t make sense!”

“I don’t know! Maybe that was a miracle too?”

Lisa shook her head. Her heart was burning with an idea, but she wouldn’t embrace it. She just couldn’t.

“If God could do anything,” Eva said. “Would it be impossible for Him to do that? I mean, between us both, you’re the God-expert. Does He do stuff like this?”

“But why? Why you? No offense.”

Eva pursed her lips. “Maybe He did that for you?”

Lisa thought about that for a moment. Before she knew it a chuckle escaped her lips. For me? The chuckles kept coming until she found herself laughing. For me?! And then the laugh just wouldn’t stop. She pounded on the steering wheel despite herself. She shut her eyes and kept on slapping her knee at the incredulity of it all. A tear ran down her cheek. And the weird thing about it was that it felt refreshing.

She exhaled and set her hands on the dashboard. She could feel Eva’s confused gaze all over her.

Lisa shook her head. “I needed that.” She couldn’t believe it, but it was true. “All this time I thought I was alone. But God was there. I felt I was wasting my time, but He was there. Working on you, but He chose where I was?” She kept shaking her head. “It’s incredible.” She wiped a tear from her eye. “You have no idea what that means to me. It’s just like Him to do something like this.”

Eva had been smiling shyly. She probably didn’t get the depth of what Lisa was feeling. It was like a love letter to her, a personal one signed by her Heavenly Father. Thank you.

“So this virus is worse than we thought, but you say it’s not what he was talking about?” Eva was now staring out at the empty street.

Lisa was still taken by it all, but she shook her head. “It’s not. If we’re right, he’s probably talking about sin.”

Eva arched a brow. “Sin? Like lying and cheating and stuff? You’re not serious, are you?”

“He is. All sin is worse than any virus. And we all got it. Everyone.”

Eva seemed to be getting it now. “And He is the cure?”

Lisa nodded. “He is.”

“But did I really have to … you know?”

“Eat his body?” Lisa had to admit, that sounded very weird. But then the concept of Communion had always been a symbol to her. To imagine it now brought to mind just how Jesus’ disciples must have felt when He talked about it. But if this what got through to her sister, then it was worth it.

And then she realised what day it was and she couldn’t wipe the grin off her face. “You just wait ‘til we do Communion at home. You’ll get it. It’s just like Him to do that. He loved parables when He walked the Earth.”

“Jesus?”

Lisa nodded. “Jesus.” There was so much she would still tell her.

But all the way she was basking in the fact that God had not left her. This was all worth it. And that’s what made all of this, with all its pain and uncertainty, beautiful.

She had her own questions too, but she had hope, and that’s what made it all beautiful.

Because He is here.

He makes it beautiful.

 

THE END

 

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If you eat this bread, you will live forever.

The bread that I will give you is my flesh, which I give so that the world may live.

Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood live in me, and I live in them.

Jesus in John 6:51,56

For more details, check out some of my thoughts in MY CURIOUS CASE

The Curious Case of Doctor Maundy 004

Eva wanted to scream. She wanted to shout. But all she could do now was stutter because words were just not coming. Andy?

This man, who really could not be here, walked around the table towards her. “It’s always been me.”

How had she not recognised his voice all along? It really looked like him. Same hair, same height, same cologne. She wanted to run. She wanted to cry. Reality and all that was sensible had shattered before her very eyes and this dead man was here.

Is here. Had been here all along.

In the light she could even make out the faint profiles of Mitch and Briella beyond the window. She turned back to Andy. His green eyes were full of life. She could remember his body on the floor, and here he was. “H-how? What’s going on?”

“The room works like your heart. You are free to see, but you could only see what you were able to see.”

“My eyes were open.”

He pointed at her chest. “I meant those eyes. You could have the sharpest eyes, but if the eyes of your heart are clouded in darkness, you couldn’t see me even if you tried. Only the Truth could really make you see.”

“Wh-what are you saying?”

“I came to help you see.”

“I mean, this—all of this! What is this?”

God, it really is him!

“I killed you!” she cried. It was probably not the best thing to say at this point, but it was the only thing she could blurt out at the moment. “I was the one that … I killed you… Are you a ghost?”

He turned his head and pointed to his neck. There was a bite mark. Deep bite marks. “See? It really happened. But I’m not dead anymore. I’m really here. And you know the best part? Because I live, you will too.”

Limp from the rush of adrenaline she sank to the floor but he pulled her up and embraced her instead. She didn’t realise when she started crying, but when she did she couldn’t stop. All the rage, fear, anxiety and uncertainty of the past day and a half poured out and wouldn’t stop.

This guy who had been her assistant for the past few years looked the same as ever, but he now felt more mature and more lived in than he ever had. Every status structure she had kept in place between them before now was broken because right now all she was, all she is, is embraced by Andy.

“I’m really sorry,” she said between sobs. “I’m really very sorry. I was wrong.”

“It’s OK.”

She pulled away. “But who are you? What are you?”

He smiled, and his smile had never felt so rich. “Who do you think I am?”

She rubbed an eye. “But it can’t be. All this time?”

He nodded solemnly. “You said I never have problems, that I’m perfect in all of my ways. I came to show you that your problem has always been mine. You wondered where I was all this time. Eva, I’ve been here all along. I never left you even when you thought I did. In your darkest moments I’ve always been here, and I never wanted you to feel alone. You couldn’t see me, you couldn’t know me, but I would do everything to help you see. To break through the dark and give you a slice of heaven and bring you home to me, always.” He lifted her glasses and wiped a tear from her eye. “Can you see?”

This was all too much for her. She stepped away, steadying herself by her chair. She was still reeling from the shock of seeing the person whose death she had agonized over for hours on end, and now he was implying to be something impossible. Something she would rather not engage.

But engage she did. “But-but why didn’t you stop me? You knew this could happen. Why didn’t you stop all of this?”

“I tried. But you wouldn’t let me. I couldn’t protect you from this and it hurt more than you could imagine.”

She could remember it now. “I said you could never understand it. That I knew what I was doing.”

He shook his head. “Watching it all go wrong, watching you helpless, it pierced me too. I don’t want that for you; I don’t want that for anyone. It’s why I came back.”

“You knew your blood would be the cure?”

“Eva, I’ve always been the cure.”

Everything in her wanted to fight the weirdness that was unfolding. She could not deny that her chains were broken, but this just couldn’t be Andy. None of this could be real. But then it was happening all around her. “But you could’ve told me.”

“I did, but you couldn’t hear me. Not really.”

“But look at you! If you could do … whatever it is you did to not stay dead, why let this happen at all? People are dying! There’s disease, and war, and evil out there! Why don’t you do something about all of that? Where were you?”

She could feel her pulse trembling all through her body. She was in the presence of the impossible, but that went against everything she understood about reality.

He placed his hands on her shoulders. “I could try to explain it to you, but you might not get it yet—“

“It figures.”

“But I’m doing something about it. The world is broken. Everything is dying. Yes there’s disease and yes there’s war and yes there’s evil. Like the virus that’s out there. But I came to bring life, to make all things new. Someday–“

“Why someday? Why not now when it really counts, before we’re all dead?”

He sighed and dropped his hands. She folded hers. Her heartbeat had still not slowed down in all this time. He turned and tapped on the table.

“Maybe you should see this,” he said.

And before her eyes, all the walls turned to glass. Each wall was adjoining another room, but all the walls were all opened up to her and she could see into what looked like probably hundreds of rooms in every direction except the hallway. And in each room, a man or a woman or a boy or a girl was seated under a spotlight. People of different shades and colours sat at their respective tables in their respective rooms, just as she once had.

Just like me.

She could see a man in prison jumpers. There was a woman applying make-up. There was a girl, probably a college student, hunched over her laptop streaming a TV series while eating out of a bag of crackers. Each of them were in different states, but they all had their own rooms.

“What is this place?”

“This is what I see,” he said. “They may not look like it, but every single one of them is shut up in their own rooms. Their fears, their insecurities, their joys and hopes and dreams … all shut up in there. They only let you see what they’re comfortable with you seeing, you know. But I see it all. Suffering hits everyone in its own way. And so do the mistakes they make. Everyone has need. This is what I see every moment, Eva. I look and I see great need out there.” He placed a fist on his chest. “And how I want to bring them home to me. How much I want to hold them close and never let them go, to let them know that they I’m the one they’re looking for.”

“Then why don’t you just do that?”

He shook his head. “They can’t hear me or see me.” He pointed to his chest. “Their hearts, it’s still dark. To some I’m still nothing but a judge. Or an interrogator.” He winked at her. “They can’t see me yet. But I’m there still in the questioning and uncertainties. They don’t know it, but I’m there in the smiles, in the relief after a long cry, in the moments of joy and peace in the middle of storms. Little pieces of heaven in the middle of the darkness. I’m always there.”

“But…” she walked over and placed her hands on the closest glass wall. The man in the next room was playing chess. He was concentrating on the board so hard, she wondered what was going on. He seemed to be waiting for whoever was on the other end of the table to make his own move. “Why don’t you just go in there, like you did to me? Show yourself. Help them.”

He pursed his lips. “I did.”

“But I mean … you know what I mean.”

“That’s why I need you, and more people like you. You’ve got my life in you. My very blood flows in your veins.”

She shuddered. “That whole vampire bit was your plan all along?”

He winced. “I had to make do with the circumstances presented. But see, now that you’ve got my life in yours, you were made free. But they don’t know that they can be. Take this vaccine to the lost, the hurting, to those who walk in darkness. Carry my light to these ones and shine, my dear. Shine and heal their hearts like I healed yours. Light up their rooms. Let them know that there is more. Bring them to me. Let them know it’s going to be alright.”

“But is it?” she turned back to him. “Is it really going to be alright?”

He spread his arms wide. “Can you trust me? Trust in me, that’s all I ask.”

She traced a hand across the glass. “Is this real?”

He joined her at the wall. “Do you perceive it? Can you see it?”

She squinted. “You’re showing me. You could have made this all up. They could be holograms for all I know.”

He nodded. “Maybe. Right now, and for the rest of your life, you will see as through a glass too. But as my light shines in your room, you will see me better. One day the glass, with all its distractions and limits, will be gone.”

She took a step away. “It’s really you? Like … you you?”

He took a deep breath and nodded.

“I’ll admit, this is a lot to take in. I don’t even know if I understand all that you’re saying.”

“But you will. The rest of your life is an adventure. There is so much more you will discover. You won’t see me for now, but I’ll never leave you.”

The glass walls slid back into the opaque frames they once were and now it was just the two of them. She had a feeling her time here was almost over. He had said she was free, and she knew that it was time to go.

“So the thing with the virus, and the walking dead outside … all made up?”

He shook his head. “Oh no, it’s all real. Even worse than this. But not in the way you think.” He tapped his temple. “These eyes don’t tell half the story. Never forget that.”

She placed a hand on her chest. “But this does?”

“If it’s flooded with light, yes.”

She stared at the door. “I still have lots of questions. Like a ton of questions.”

“I know you do. And as you go through this world you’ll have even more questions. But I’m there with you, Eva. And I look forward to the conversations we’ll have.”

She smiled, placing her hand on the doorknob. A moment ago she had been here for manslaughter. The world was in disarray, and he said it was somehow worse than she’d imagined. Her job and career were probably over, but was it really? “What’s waiting for me out there?”

“You are free, and that’s done. But it doesn’t mean it’s a smooth ride outside.”

She ran a finger over the knob. “Will I ever see you again? Does this have to end?”

He walked over to her, opening his arms for an embrace and she walked into it. “I will never leave you, or abandon you. Don’t forget that.”

And then they came.

She was back at her Mum’s burial. A 7-year old girl holding a clump of earth over the coffin that bore her mother’s body. The preacher and all those friends and neighbours all stood waiting. But for her it was the final goodbye to the only good thing in her life. The tears came. She couldn’t say goodbye. She just couldn’t. A part of her still prayed for her Mum to come back to life, but the coffin remained shut.

And then she was a teenager living with her aunt when her big sister, Lisa, was going off to some African country on a missions trip. It was a gap year before college, but Lisa felt ‘called’ to do that. All well and good, but for Eva it was the last smidgeon of the life she missed leaving her forever. She never felt so abandoned before, no matter how much her sister said it wasn’t.

Almost immediately she was back in her college apartment, working through the night on a term paper. Her roommate was out late with her friends for a party. Eva had never felt the need for large social gatherings like those, but it didn’t make her feel any less lonely.

She was at the lawyer’s office with Norman Harrison years later. He had not told her he was married before overseas. Like, who does that?! That had just been four months ago. Right there before Norman and their lawyers she would never give them the satisfaction of seeing her cry. Holding it in was way worse than death. The weight of the love built up over years and the rejection she felt was rolled up in that moment, and it tore her insides.

One by one the darkest moments of her life rushed through her mind, and everything she had ever done to hide them gave way. She balled. She wailed. She cried. And Andy’s hands were around her. He was saying something but she couldn’t quite hear it all. Wait, was he crying too? Goodness, he was crying with her!

She really didn’t know what to make of it. She was just in the moment and there seemed no need to say anything.

He put her face in his hands and shook his head. “Eva, listen to me. When I said that it is finished, I meant it. I suffered so you could have peace. Everything is done. I give you peace. In the midst of the storm, I will be your peace.” He smiled past teary eyes.

She sniffed and tried to smile.

“Do you hear me?”

She nodded. “I do. I do.”

“I’ll never leave you. Even though you don’t see me, I’m always with you.”

“How will I know—?“

“I have sealed you for myself, child. My earnest promise.”

She was used to being sceptical. She was a cynic with good cause. But for some reason she believed him.

It’s going to be OK.

When he let go she didn’t know what to say. “Wow,” she exhaled. It didn’t quite encapsulate it, but that’s how she felt. “Wow…”

Andy was grinning too. “Wow?”

Now she was grinning as well. “Wow.” She didn’t know why she was grinning now but instead of chuckling, she made the mistake of releasing a snort, and that’s what broke the gates. They were thrown into full-blown guffaws now. She didn’t know why, there was no reason to it, but it felt cathartic.

She held on to the wall to stabilise herself, but now she was in hysterics.

It’s going to be OK.

He reached for her hand and opened the door with the other.

“Now?” she asked as she took a breath.

“I make all things new, my child. I make all things beautiful.”

Her world was flooded with light.

The story ends in the next file, CASE FILE-005

The Curious Case of Doctor Maundy 003

A day ago.

Stanley Kirby usually took his lunch breaks at the Circle Q at the other end of the campus. It was his one chance to hang out with his buddies and catch up on the goings-on around. His own corner was probably the most boring because it was the same faces that turned up every day, and they barely ever struck up conversation beyond official greetings.

Not to say he hated his job. Being security guard at the Greenhouse had its perks. For one, it was one of the most beautiful fixtures in Providence with its colourful interiors. Rumour had it that the kids called it Eden because of the exotic plants, like in that story in the Bible. He’d even brought his girlfriend here on a date once and she’d loved the fragrance so, perhaps it wasn’t all bad.

But, today of all days, his car would not move. He was certain he’d gotten that oil change two weeks prior, but even the ignition would not start. He grumbled as he popped the bonnet and checked the oil. Or maybe it was a battery problem…

But then a scream from within the greenhouse caught his attention. He realised he had been hearing that sound intermittently for the past thirty minutes or so, but he’d just assumed it was some over-excited kids in the distance. Now he was concerned.

He wandered in, the plethora of fragrances overwhelming him. Usually the enclosure greeted him with a barely imperceptible hum of silence. But now he was hearing more. A crash. Another crash. Screams coming from Doc’s office. Had someone come in without him noticing?

“Hello? Hey!” He walked cautiously towards the office. “Who’s there?”

Good thing he still had his radio. If he needed backup he would call for it.

Doc’s office was usually quiet, as Doc would usually keep her door closed. There was little if ever any noise or chatter from her until that kid came along. It was uncharacteristically boisterous this time and now Stanley was actually worried. He stopped by the window.

A hoarse growl. And a voice.

“…It’s OK, Eva.” It was the kid. He sounded in pain. He was talking between gasps. “You gotta do this. You don’t understand it now … but I’m doing this for you … AAAAAAARGH! Oh God, Father, this hurts!!!

Good heavens! What crap are these guys into? He wondered if he should bust in or not.

It took another scream before he rushed into the room. Nothing could have prepared him for the sight he met.

“…ohmiGAAAAD, I’m gonna diiiiieeee…” The young man was screaming, flailing as much as he could on the floor.

The office was upside down. Table broken, cabinets wrecked, papers floating, blood splattered on the everywhere. Doc was on all fours facing away from the door, her hair undone. The kid was on the floor before her, fighting for his very life. A choke escaped his lips and he went quiet.

Stanley was frozen. “D-Doc?”

With a swiftness that sent a chill down his spine, Doctor Maundy turned to face him. Her pupils were shrunken to slits and she was breathing hoarsely. Like an animal. Her mouth was dripping with blood, and so were her hands. Before his eyes, Maundy’s pupils dilated and her breathing slowed. She blinked and stared around. The ferocious glint in her face was gone.

“Where am I?” she said, her voice choking. She stared at her hands and then at the bleeding kid in front of her. He wasn’t moving anymore.

Andy was spread eagle, blood sputtering from his neck.

Oh my God!

Stanley couldn’t hold it in anymore. He rushed out of the door and threw up. It was a full minute before his nerves had calmed down enough for him to call for help.

——

Eva, now in sound mind, was cuffed to the desk with her interrogator taking notes. The pictures depicting Eva’s recent beastly episode were strewn on the table. He had shown her the security footage on his tablet, and she never wanted to look at that again. It only brought home further what she had done.

If they didn’t finish piecing this puzzle, many more could turn out like Andy. And worse, who knew how many more would die?

But some things had been made abundantly clear.

Fact One: the rodents introduced into this environment probably carried a pathogen hitherto unidentified that was capable of affecting the nervous system and, as such, made their hosts feral.

Fact Two: they had bitten Dr Maundy, transmitting these hypothetical pathogens to her. She had turned feral and lashed out at her assistant, killing him.

Fact Three: these rats had possibly escaped from the enclosure, infecting other individuals in the vicinity and turning them into feral mindless zombies like Eva once was. And while officials out there were now on the lookout to identify possible bite marks on the infected, there was still one more factor to consider.

Final Fact (for now): Eva was cured within an hour of infection, while other victims seemed to be getting worse. What had made the difference?

“I’m going to jail for this, aren’t I?” she said staring at the glass of water in her hand. Overwhelmed by the revelations, she finally agreed she needed the drink. “Who am I kidding? Jail would be heaven compared to what I’ve done.”

“Day is not over yet, Eva,” he said. “We can work through this. Now did you take any vaccinations within the last three months?”

She was still staring into space, shaking her head. “I’m nothing but a monster.”

“Eva?”

She pursed her lips and looked up at him. “Vaccinations? No. If I did I would remember.”

“Ever been bitten by a rodent?”

“Not that I can remember.”

The man’s tablet was propped with its keyboard, and now he was typing on it. “So there’s no chances you’ve built up immunity over time.”

“Not to this, no. As far as I know.”

“Closest thing we’ve seen that can be caused by rat-bite is streptobacillosis, but that’s majorly a fever and infection, not a catalyst for delirium or psychotic episodes of this scale.”

She wasn’t listening anymore. I did this.

“So what made you different?”

That’s what she was still wondering. A thought made its way through her mind but it was too crazy to even consider. All that was true now was that she had unleased this biological menace. For all intents and purposes, she was an unintentional bioterrorist. “There’s no way I’m moving on from this. My life is over.”

“Eva, please…”

She closed her eyes, trying to focus. But what was the point anyway? “None of the cases have recovered yet?”

“Except you, none has.”

She had a theory, a very weak one at that, but at this point there was no reason to hold on to anything. She had lost everything in her stubbornness. “Nothing makes sense anymore.”

“Come on, Eva. You were on to something. Don’t stop now.”

She bit her lip and exhaled. “The victims, the infected, they’re getting violent. Just like I was.”

“We’ve got fatal injuries inflicted, yes, but no deaths yet. But the cerebral degeneration we’ve detected will ultimately lead to death if we don’t narrow it down to a solution soon.”

“And these injuries were from biting and scratching?”

“Yes. Until now.”

“Any … cannibalistic tendencies?”

The man paused before responding. “Cannibalistic—“

“You know that’s how I must’ve done it, right?” She knew this was going to sound crazy, but it was the only thing she had at the moment. “How I killed Andy? If there’s a reason I’m not infected it has to be tied to that.” She shrugged. “It has to be him.”

He closed his notepad and set in on the table. “Eva…”

“I …” Her stomach churned at the very thought “I … ate him. I bit his neck and ate his flesh. I tasted his blood…” She felt sick recounting it, but it was true. She pointed to one of the pictures on the desk. “This – the cavity in his neck – that had to have been me. I know I sound crazy right now, but that’s the only difference I can think of.”

Whoever thought vampires were an appealing concept? The very thought of what she knew she had done this time was sickening. This is so messed up.

“I don’t know if he knew all of this was going to happen,” she said. “He’d been in my office earlier, and I practically shut him out. But he came back. Did he know what was going to happen?”

“Andy came back.” Hearing him repeating her words to her made her realise just how it must sound. He probably thought she was crazy. She thought she was crazy.

She nodded toward the tablet. “The footage. We saw him show up. Maybe that’s the solution. If any of the victims bite a human, maybe they’ll get cured. Human blood must be free of those impurities. Like a vampire thing.”

He shook his head. “We’ve had three maulings now. None of them have turned back.”

She shrugged. “Maybe it’s just a matter of time. Or maybe it’s just Andy. Something in his body chemistry could have altered something in mine. Ugh, I can feel centuries of scientific pedigree rolling in their graves right now. I’m a total screw-up. I don’t know what to do.”

He cleared his throat. “Let me go over what you just said. So if we identify and isolate the pathogens that caused this incident, and extract a blood sample from your deceased assistant, we can find a cure?”

You do realise you’ve gone insane, don’t you Eva? She shut her eyes, but the thoughts would not stop.

She stared at her cuffs. This was her reality now. “What have I become? Is this what I wanted? To change the world, make us something more. Well, I made us something more alright. Now my life is over…”

“Eva, don’t—“

“I mean, look at all this. I’ve cursed them all. I’m a mental case. A total screw-up! The very thing I’ve always wanted to get away from caught up with me. No matter what, I still fail. And maybe Andy’s right. Maybe I do these things to escape the fact that I really am messed up. Couldn’t save my Mum. Couldn’t keep my marriage. Couldn’t get the job I wanted and I had to settle for this. And the grant I got this time was way out of my league.” She shook her head. “I’m cursed.”

“Don’t do that—“

“It’s just like you said; immortality doesn’t cure evil. It sure wouldn’t cure stupid. If we were screw ups when we could die, we’d be even worse screw-ups when we can’t. Better that there’s an end because I really want this to end. I just want to go home and forget all of this ever happened. But then again, hope … what’s the use?”

She was trembling now. She really had no idea what to do or what would happen here. “And now I’m talking garbage. I’m losing my sanity in front of a total stranger, and I don’t know what to do.”

Her statements hung in the air for a moment when no one spoke. But could it be true?

“Andy knew the danger I was in. And if I’m right, and he knew that he would be the cure, then he did that for me. He came back for me.” She shrugged. “I can’t explain it better. I don’t understand it. But that’s all I’ve got.”

The man turned in his seat and stood as he exhaled loudly, shoving his hands in his pocket. She wondered how much of a nutcase he must’ve thought she was. “If you’re right,” he said. “Then we need to start working on it. How to effectively get it across to everyone.”

The lights in the room flickered on one by one. She had to shut her eyes from the swift transition to brightness.

“But you’d be surprised how much we agree,” he said.

Just take me to prison already! She really didn’t want another long discussion.

“I’m sorry you had to go through all of this, Eva. Really I am. But if it helped you come to terms with the truth then it’s worth it.”

“What ‘truth’? That for all my strengths I was helpless where it mattered? That this was all my fault and now my life is over? That Andy died because of me?” She still couldn’t see well, so she lowered her gaze and blinked away the pain in her eyes.

“It’ll take a moment for your eyes to adjust, sorry about that. See, coming from the dark to light is like when we come to Truth. It hurts at first, but it’s what really sets you free. It makes you free, Eva. That’s when you can really see.”

She ran a hand through her hair, shielding her eyes from the light with the other. “Well if anything, it just makes me see myself for the idiot I really am. This feels nothing like freedom.”

“Your hands say otherwise.”

In that moment she realised something had changed. She actually had one hand in her hair and the other in the air.

Her heart skipped a beat. Her handcuffs were undone.

They lay broken on the table, and her chains dangled as they dropped to the ground. What the –? She jumped to her feet and staggered away.

“What just happened?”

“It will take a moment for you to understand, but you will. Eva, you are free.”

She turned to the man, questions on her face, but then everything changed. She could now see the person that had been speaking with her all this time. But it was impossible! It was crazy!

She placed a hand over her mouth to restrain the gasp building up. It can’t be!

“Andy?”

He smiled. “Took you long enough.”

The story continues in CASE FILE-004

The Curious Case of Doctor Maundy 002

A day ago.

“Yes, Lisa, of course I know where you live,” Eva said, balancing the land line between her ear and shoulder while simultaneously typing on her laptop.

“We’ve been living in the same town for five years, Eva. Five years, and you’ve barely even bothered to visit once.”

“We see at the mall.”

“Yeah, like that’s supposed to be normal … for family?!

“I’m just busier than most, is all. Let’s trade jobs; you’ll get just what a real drag this is.”

On the contrary, Eva loved the seclusion her office afforded. Stationed at the end of the long botanical reserve they called the Greenhouse, she could work without disturbance while enjoying the fragrance of exotic plants and hybrids from across the world. The Centre was studying the medicinal and curative properties of these plants for experimental purposes and, while Eva felt this job was a dreadful waste of her capabilities, the isolation was heaven to her. If her plans turned out well she wouldn’t be stuck here for too long.

On the other end Lisa sighed. “I believe in you, Eva. I still believe you’ll find the cure to cancer or whatever it is you’re doing. But you gotta cut loose once in a while. Even genius needs fresh air. You won’t get that Nobel by cutting us out of your life.”

“I’m not cutting anybody off…“

Just then, Andy appeared at the open door, knocking slightly. She motioned towards the phone to indicate she was busy, but he held a wooden crate. That wooden crate.

Uh-oh.

“Lisa, I’m gonna have to call you back.”

“Yeah, that’s original.”

“I’m sorry, but I really really am busy this time.”

“As opposed to other times when you really weren’t?”

Eva winced. “I promise to call you back.”

Lisa sighed. “You just make sure you do that sometime before 2050, or you’re dead to me.”

“Give Kelly a hug for me, OK?”

“Sure, if she still remembers who you are by then.”

“Lisa! I really have to go now.” Andy was already by her desk, placing the crate on the table.

“Alright, alright. Just don’t … don’t go crazy on me, okay?”

Eva smiled. “Love you too, Lizard-Breath.”

“Wait, did you just—?“ Click.

She took her time placing the phone back in its cradle, considering how to explain the situation to Andy as the squeaking mice in the crates filled the silence between them for the moment. She had not planned for him to know about this yet. He wouldn’t understand.

“I can explain,” she said.

He arched a brow. “I’m not accusing you, Doc.” He motioned towards the crate. “I just found this.”

She really didn’t have time for whatever he was going for. “They’re lab mice,” she said. “Like that’s not obvious. It’s for a, uh, control experiment. Something I’ve been working on.”

He nodded slowly, but he still didn’t seem satisfied, and she really needed him to be convinced so he could get way off her back. He lifted a folder. “And I saw these delivery notes with the crate back in the greenhouse.” It was then that she realised he knew everything.

“You read that, huh?”

“Doc … I really hope you don’t mind me asking, but what’re you doing?”

“Like I said, it’s just an experiment.”

He took a seat. “Please don’t let it be what I think it is.”

“Andy,” she placed a hand on his. “Can you trust me on this one? Please? Just trust that I know what I’m doing, is all I ask.”

“Even if it’s dangerous?”

“Every new discovery was dangerous, possibly even illegal, once. Don’t make me feel like a monster for this.”

“Even if it could cost you your career? Or your life?”

“Gee, thanks a lot, Dad.” She pursed her lips. “Andy … you weren’t supposed to find out about this.” With the look he gave her she realised that had come out wrong. “I mean … ugh, you wouldn’t understand.”

“I’m begging you, Doc … you do not have to do it this way.”

“What do you mean, I don’t—!” Realizing her voice was rising, she lowered it to a whisper. “What do you mean, I don’t have to do this? If I don’t, somebody else would.”

“Then let them! Not you. Let’s say you get the grant. That’s another load on your plate. You’ve got so much already. What else do you need to prove? Not this way. This won’t be enough for you. You’ve got to let go sometime, Eva.”

She remained resolute, sitting up. “Mr Davies, I have given you much freedom and access to me. But let’s not forget who you are and who I am. You can’t tell me what to do, and I don’t have to listen to this. Got that? Now if you’ve got nothing to say, there’s the door. Don’t let it hit you in the butt on your way out.”

In all their time working together she had never needed to pull rank. There had always been an understood modicum of respect in the midst of everything. But now they were just not going to see things the same way.

He just sat there staring, his eyes still pleading. He eventually sighed. “I was going to get some coffee and head home. Wanted to know if you needed anything before I go.”

“I’m fine, thank you.” She turned back to her laptop, avoiding his gaze as he stood and headed out. She really didn’t know what to say, and she was not going to apologise for something she was convinced was not even a problem.

He paused at the door. “Take care, Doc.”

She didn’t bother to look up. “I always do.”

It would be their last conversation.

—–

Eva, now in cuffs and seated under a bright lamp in the dark, could still remember that day. She wished she could go back in time. “Andy was my assistant,” she said. “But he was also my friend. We worked together at the Greenhouse. It’s not actually green as in the colour. It’s—“

“I’ve been there.” the man said. “I know what a greenhouse is.”

“Yes, there’s thousands of exotic plants there. Hybrids from across the world. We collaborated on a lot of research, Andy and I. Did a lot of good. He was always quite nice. Wouldn’t hurt a fly. It’s probably why we complemented each other. Where he would question things I was the push.”

“Your relationship was purely professional, yes?”

She stared at him dryly. “Get your head out of the gutter. He’s like … he was like ten years younger.”

He was actually gone. After a rollercoaster of a day, the reality of this fact was dawning on her more and more. It wasn’t just any dead body. It was Andy.

“I get that. So this young guy with big dreams comes into your world, he gets attached to your corner, and you work together. Ever feel threatened by him?”

“You’re trying to establish motive for homicide,” she said more as a statement to which he just spread his hands wide. “No. We were a team. Where I was the one pushing for new discoveries, pushing boundaries, he was the reality check. He did have big dreams, no doubt. He was just maybe a little too conservative for his own good. He needed me, and he knew it.”

He seem amused. “Have I ever complemented your flawless humility?” Ok, that one deserved at least a smirk from her. He cleared his throat. “So you pushed a number of boundaries.”

She bit her lip. “I admit I have a bit of a reckless streak sometimes.”

The agent flipped through the pages. “Yes, your colleagues testified as much.”

“Oh, really?”

“They did mention something about a spat you had with the dean, Professor Wildsmith, over a comment he made regarding your, uh, gender and your relevance at the STEM Colloquium last year.”

Did she remember! “He had it coming.”

“So … you’re telling me there was nothing you didn’t disagree with Andy about? No fights whatsoever?”

“None that I can remember.” But the one that she did remember was the very reason she was here. And she could feel the agent’s eyes all over her face, drinking in every tic and tell.

Ever since he told her about students exhibiting feral traits she knew that she had done this. How, she didn’t know, but she knew it must have come from her office. But every time she tried to remember what actually happened she drew a blank.

All she could remember was sitting at her desk one moment, and then the next moment finding herself with her office trashed, blood everywhere, and Andy dead. Oh, Andy…

Andy, why do you have to be always right?

“We found a crate in your office, and I assume it was for mice per the labelling. Was he complicit in your eugenics project?”

She tried to hold his gaze without giving away the panic building up. Why did she feel responsible for this even though she didn’t know how? “Mice?”

“Oh, it’s from the STN Foundation Grant. Something about a project on disease resistance, and with rats as your subjects. It was the most recent entry on your case, hence my interest. And Davies’ name was conspicuously absent from the by-line, unlike your other projects. Wasn’t he party to this one?”

She knew hiding information would never do any good. “He … wasn’t.”

“Mm, and what did he think about it?”

“I didn’t … I mean it’s not like we fought or argued about it. We don’t always have to collaborate. Our careers are mutually exclusive.”

“So he was fine with it?”

“He, uh … he was actually pensive about it.”

“How so?”

“He thought it was dangerous. He actually tried to stop me.”

“He ‘tried to stop you’?”

She looked up at him. “Ok, I realise the mad scientist vibe that must have given off. It’s not like that. But, he felt it was a bad idea.”

“And you didn’t.”

“Well I do, now.” It was as he looked up that she realised what she’d said and all it could mean. “I mean, h-his major hang-up was my bringing my pet project into the greenhouse, which is out-of-bounds to, you know, pets. No pun intended.”

“I got it.”

“I probably shouldn’t have done that.” She was leaving out a whole lot of relevant info, she just didn’t know whether it would further condemn her or vindicate her. “Now that he’s gone, I feel really bad about it. Our last conversation wasn’t our best.”

He’s dead, the world is going crazy out there, and even though you really don’t know how or why, this is all your fault, Eva!

It was still so bizarre to accept, let alone imagine. How? Why? And again, HOW?

Something nagged at her mind about the whole thing. Something that was very obvious but that was just beyond her sight.

The man turned a page in his notepad. “The work you’ve done is not as streamlined as usual. From botany to phytomedicine and disease control to climate change to biological immunity and infectious diseases…” He took a deep breath here. “And your most recent interest, Eugenics and the transformation of the human genome.”

She was fidgeting now, but tried to keep herself stable. “What can I say? I’ve got an eye for discovery. I’m science-y like that.”

“You’ve got quite an impressive range.” He looked up at her. “What’s your motivation?”

“Is this really necessary?”

“Please. Humour me.”

She shrugged. “It’s ‘cause I want to make the world a better place.”

“Seriously, Doctor.”

She stared at the table for a moment. “I think … it’s easier to say that I want to make the world a better place, and I really do. I mean, that’s a good thing. I want to save the world. There’s a lot I can do and that I want to do. I want to use my abilities to … stay at the cutting edge. And, of course, to make the world a better place. I’m sorry, hearing myself say all that makes me sound selfish, right? But then, who isn’t?”

“Did you feel selfish?”

“I don’t know. Andy felt I was trying to prove something; that I was pushing myself too hard. Now that I’m the one in a mess and he’s, you know … I don’t know if that makes him right.”

“Your mother passed away when you were 7,” he said, reading his notes. She hadn’t seen that detour coming. “Leukaemia. That must’ve been quite traumatic for you at that age.”

She kept staring at the table. “Well … yeah. That happened.”

“I’m truly sorry for your loss.”

“It is what it is.” She didn’t want to talk about this, and wanted to change the subject whenever the chance came up. “I barely even remember her now, so it’s fine.”

He kept staring at her with that apologetic stare that she had wanted to move on from all her childhood. “Was that what made you want to go into disease control? A deep-seated desire to take away what took your mother as a child?”

She hadn’t thought about that in a long while. “I don’t know. It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do—”

“I mean, your undergrad dissertation was a study on…” he checked his files. “An exploration of natural solutions, and an analysis of the ineffectiveness of chemotherapy in cancer treatments. And your case study? Leukaemia. Bizarre for a degree in botany.”

She shrugged. “So sue me. I got the degree.”

“Yes, and you’ve done well with it too. But you do get where I’m going with this, right?”

She really did not want to talk about this. “What is this? Some kind of therapy session?”

“Like I said before, I just need to know who I’m talking with. Call it a profile. We’re getting somewhere, aren’t we?”

“Are we? What’s this got to do with anything? If you’re right, lives are in danger out there and you prefer to waste the time contemplating our navels? And what’re you writing anyway?!”

He stopped writing. “Does not having control, or not knowing what is going on, tick you off?”

She clenched her fists. “What do you think?”

Actually, even before all of this, she had always been quite the perfectionist. Why trust things into other people’s hands when they could just mess it up? Getting Andy attached to her workstation had been a real pain, but the younger man had found a way into her space by persistence and his usually unbearably cheery disposition.

He turned the pages again, scribbling. “Got any other friends at your workplace?”

“Everyone’s got their own thing. We see when we see.”

“So no close friends. Except for Andrew.”

“I tend to be a bit … introverted, I think. I prefer the solitude of my work.” How Andy became a friend was more to his credit.

“But you like the accolades too.” She gave him a look. “Oh, I’m just speaking off of the framed awards in your office. You are reserved and introverted to the casual observer, but you are basically a torpedo. You see a good prospect and you go after it. And you’re proud of what you’ve accomplished.”

“What’s wrong with that? You make me sound vain. In my world modesty gets you nowhere. People respond to what they can see. I earned it so I flaunt. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.”

This line of questioning made her more nervous because it was only prolonging the inevitable. She was expecting the gavel to drop as quickly as possible, not to be recounting the story of her life.

He cleared his throat. “Alright then. So, tell me: why Eugenics? I’m not an expert, and the only thing I think of when I hear that word is Hitler and the Nazis.”

She snorted at that. Most people didn’t give themselves to do the reading to find out these things, and she loved to show them how much she knew. “We prefer the term Transgenetics. Hitler ruined a lot of concepts just by association. It’s not about killing people or making one race superior to others, as far as my work is concerned, anyway. It’s genetic progress for all humanity. The next step in our evolution.”

He folded his hands. “Really?”

“How do I put this? OK, do you know that many species have resistance to some diseases that plague us? OK, there’s this tumour-suppressing gene we call p53. There’s 20 times more p53 in elephants than humans, and only 5% of elephants die of cancer. Bowhead whales live up to 200 years, and molerats live up to 6 times the total lifespan of their sister species because of these death-defying provisions in their genomes.”

He smirked. “I have to say, you’re good. I feel I’m at a TED Talk. But please go on.”

“Yeah … but just think what would happen if we could modify the human genome. What if we’ve been short-changing ourselves by seeking help from beyond the stars when nature has already provided what we needed? A puzzle for us to figure out? What if immortality was possible and death didn’t have to be a problem anymore?”

She remembered discussing this with Andy. She was amazed how much remembering the things and moments they’d shared made her miss him even more, and it made the grief and confusion of it all pierce even deeper.

“If death could be hacked, sounds like every homicide would be moot,” he said. “Even this one.”

Especially this one! Don’t you see? How could I say no to the prospect? What we could discover about ourselves. I mean, if He even exists, God sure didn’t ‘heal’ my mother, did He? What if we’ve just been deluding ourselves expecting some miracle, when the answer could have been in our hands all along? But we’re too stupid to even try to find out.”

“Speak for yourself.”

“Hey!”

“So we become immortal,” he surmised. “Become like gods?”

“Maybe not ‘Zeus and Hercules’ immortal. More like immune to diseases. Senescence could be delayed when aging is slowed down.”

“And if more diseases come up? Pathogens yet undiscovered?”

“Then we’ll just further the research and find an immunity in nature that the next generation would be enhanced to beat. Evolution in motion.”

“You seem really interested in all this.”

“Oh, you bet I am.”

“I understand that these genetic modifications are not legal—.”

Yet. They’re not legal in the country yet. And I don’t see why.”

“The ethics, maybe? The risk to human life?”

“Gene enhancements are no different from the mind enhancements we all go through in education. Of course we’d need to examine the compatibilities of the enzymes or genetic codes we extract from other mammals, but we don’t even have the freedom to do that. We’re too stuck up behind religious bigots calling it a sin to ‘meddle with creation’. Too stuck-up to smell the science.”

“I take it you’re not a fan of religion.”

“Ethics aren’t the sole property of religion, but come on, are you kidding me? What kind of God would create more p53 in elephants than in humans and still expect us to believe He loves us still? I’m supposed to believe He’s got bigger problems to deal with in His ‘Big Plan’. God works in mysterious ways, so let’s forget how He lets people — good people — die for no reason. It’s a godforsaken world because there’s no way you look at all of this and still believe that a benevolent God exists.”

“Hmm…”

“Maybe if we did become immortal, this Big Plan would make the tiniest bit of sense to us because it’s clearly too complicated for our wee little minds to comprehend. Maybe then we’d understand what problems He’s facing up there that keep Him too preoccupied to show up when we need Him. Oh wait, He’s perfect in all His ways, so He’s got no problems whatsoever. How could He ever relate with ours?”

She wondered why the interrogator was bringing these thoughts and emotions to the surface. Or was she the one going beyond what he asked because of the emotional stress? The last time she had spoken about God this long was with her sister, and was probably the reason she tried to avoid visiting her too often. But she did have many hang-ups about the subject.

“Problems,” he repeated that word. “Like the problem of evil, or pain. Does immortality solve the problem of pain and evil?”

“I was being sarcastic. But what is evil? Who or what really determines morality? Why should I be kind to my fellow man except for self-preservation? You can’t possibly look at this messed up world and really believe there’s some big cosmic plan ‘cause that just makes it worse. There can’t be meaning. There’s no grand purpose. We only do enough to get by until it’s over. Nature is cruel and random, and the sooner we all realise that, the better.”

He tapped on the table. “You don’t really believe that. You make it sound like there’s no hope.”

She was still staring into space when she responded. “Hope is an illusion. It’s baseless.” She stared at her handcuffs. “We’ll be expecting the hour of release, but it’ll never come. Hope is just a fairy tale. This is where we die. This is where I die.”

He exhaled. “Come on, there has to be a reason you want to break that immunity code. If you’re going full-on nihilist, then why pursue something better?”

She was going to respond, but then the awkwardness of it all dawned on her. She was the suspect here, but somehow this man had made her leak. People were dying out there, and now she was arguing theology and reality. “Everything dies,” she said. “We’re all going to die someday, but we really don’t want to. Not just yet.”

The more she thought about it, the more alone she felt. She had had to come to accept the lack of a reason because she had tried to find it. If God was real, He’d really dropped the ball on making a big entrance. Life, the stars, the universe, all of it was meaningless. And temporal. It was all going to end someday, and that made it ugly. Beautiful in its intricacy, but ugly in its totality.

An image of Andy’s dying bleeding body flashed in her mind and it stung. What was she doing? “I don’t want to die either. I just want to live a little bit longer.”

It would be easier to gauge how this man was taking these things if she could see his face. All she had to go on were his body movements.

The man jotted again. “So the rats would be your test subjects.”

She sat back, deflated. This was an interrogation after all. “Mice,” she corrected. “We share a similar homology with the species – all supraprimates do. Makes them perfect for controlled studies.”

But something else wasn’t right. A lot was wrong in all this.

“Eva, don’t mind my train of questioning. But do you know where these mice are, right now?”

Another memory flashed in her mind. “The plan was to groom them in a facility off-campus. I had been collaborating with a foreign fledgling company over the past few months. I just got a delivery of the first batch for tests on Monday. It was in a crate. In the greenhouse.”

He glanced at a page. “You got this delivery from the Daemon Intelligence and Biological Logistics Office. You do realise that DIABLO’s a black market operation unrecognized by most legitimate institutions.”

She snorted. “Call me a snitch, but ask everybody. They all cut corners too. Nobody wants to admit it, but DIABLO’s the shortcut we all take. Go on, ask them.”

He was already shaking his head, probably bemused. “You really aren’t trying to make this easy for yourself.”

“I figure I’ve got nothing to lose.” But she felt light in the head so she held on to the table.

“I inquired with faculty, and usually the college has a perfectly available supply of equipment and facilities for studies requiring livestock testing. Why didn’t you go through those channels?”

She knew she was wrong here, despite the fact that she still felt somewhat right. “It would have been turned down. They don’t see what I see. Yet. And if I were to wait for the approval of the system the grant would’ve gone to someone else. We all want to do the right thing, mister, but sometimes bureaucracy is just a b—”

“But you did it anyway?”

“Yes … yes I did.” A screech. A snarl. What were these memories?

“Do you know what kind of mice you got, Eva?”

The mice. The crate. I opened the crate. She was remembering something. She felt cold all of a sudden.

The man closed his book and placed it on the table. “Eva, the only crate we found in your office was empty. The mice are gone.”

A slash. A bite.

A bite. She could remember that.

She turned to check her right leg but she couldn’t reach it. Only when she placed it against the chair did she feel the wound. It had clotted by now, but it proved this wasn’t a false memory. She had been bitten in the leg! I’m remembering.

And then she realised that she knew what had happened. When she looked at the man again she feared he could see the realisation dawn on her face.

“What would happen if those mice escaped from containment, Doctor?”

It all fell into place now. Her pulse quickened as the memory washed over her, but there was nowhere else to go. No doubt the man was seeing all of this. She had tried to evade everything about the experiment, but now it was glaring at her in the face.

“Are you OK, Eva?”

Dear God! The memories were piling on top of each other. She remembered. She knew.

Oh God! Oh dear God!

“Eva!”

She looked up, all the colour gone from her face.

“Eva, do you need a medic?”

Her eyes watered as the realisation of it all dawned on her. “I swear, I didn’t mean for any of this to happen. I didn’t know … I didn’t know…”

“Eva. I need you to tell me what you remember.”

“Those freaking mice bit me! I didn’t think that’s possible, but they did. I remember now.” Her fingers trembled and her efforts to keep them down didn’t help.

“Do lab mice do that usually?”

“They shouldn’t, right?” She swore under her breath.

“How many were there?”

“I don’t know, four? Maybe five?”

“And what happened after that?”

“I was … I felt dizzy, but it was … there was this rush. I remember toppling through my office. I remember falling to the floor.” She looked up at him. “That’s all I remember. I don’t know what happened after that. You don’t think … Oh my God!”

“So you’re telling me that the mice bit you, and you lost consciousness? Is this like a rabies thing?”

If she didn’t realise before that she was in big trouble, she did now. “Oh my … I don’t know what happened! I really don’t!”

He didn’t argue. “I believe you, Eva. I need you to understand that.”

She nodded frantically. She wished this was all a dream. Maybe this was just a dream.

But the man opened another folder and slid some photographs to her. “This is from security cam footage. We’ve always known.”

Security Cameras?! She didn’t know there were cameras in her office.

From these pics the cameras were most likely in the corners of the ceiling. The time stamp at the bottom matched the timing of the incident. Her office was trashed, framed photos hanging at odd angles, the table toppled on its side, and papers strewn all over the floor. But the one image that drew her attention and crushed whatever spirit she still had left was of the hunched beast at the centre of this mess, its face turned up at an angle. Its very posture was an affront to nature. Its clothes were the only giveaway of its nature because she could remember the very day she had bought it on a splurge run three years ago.

She was a monster.

Somewhere in the back of her mind she had always known, but it all felt like a distant fantasy, a crazy thought that just would not shut up. But facing this reality was more than she could bear.

She tried to lift her hands to her face but the chains stopped short. There were more pictures showing her at different angles.

There are more of me out there. There is more of this out there!

But in the midst of the shuffling and reordering of memories, emotions and realisations, what hammered the final nail in her heart was the one picture that showed a young man standing by the open door. Andy.

I killed him.

She could remember blood flying everywhere. She could remember his body.

Her pulse thumped in her neck. She could barely breathe. He stared at her hands again. Her nails. “What have I done?”

“We knew that you needed time for your mind to relax, so you could remember every detail,” the interrogator said solemnly. “That’s why we did this.”

But she wasn’t all there anymore. Her mind was crowded with so many thoughts she could barely think. “What have I done?!

“The trauma caused you to subconsciously lock up some details. We needed you on the same page with us before we could make any progress.”

She knew she was guilty. She had killed him. Dear God, she had killed Andy! “Oh my God—“

“Doctor, please I need you to calm down.”

Her head weighed heavy on her as the pain of the shock racked through her skull. “I can’t do this. I knew, I just knew, but … I didn’t really know. Oh my God, I’m in so much trouble…”

“Everyone’s in trouble, Eva! Please try to calm down and think. What details are we missing?”

“The mice. They could’ve escaped from the greenhouse, maybe?”

He took notes. “It’s a start. You think they’re the hosts of this thing? Are they contagious? If they infected you and all those students out there, that changes a lot of things.”

“What if they’re still out there? What if other people get infected? No one is safe!” She swore again. “What kind of mice did those people send to me?!”

“Have you worked with this species before?”

I did this…

Oh my God! I actually caused this! All along she thought she had an edge over this interrogation. But now she realised that she was a ticking bomb, and many more people were going insane. Or worse.

She let the tears flow freely. The snarky comments weren’t coming anymore. You really did it this time, Eva.

“I didn’t mean to torture you with this, Doctor. This is a day of Truth, and Truth isn’t always comfortable. Now that everything’s on the table, literally, we can finally get somewhere.”

She couldn’t stop staring at her hands.

Murderer! You’re a bloody murderer! And now the world is going insane because of you!

“Eva, are you listening to me?”

You’ve doomed all those people. You killed Andy.

“Eva, could you look at me? Eva?”

She tried to, past her tear-filled eyes.

“Everything is going to be OK.”

“How can you say that?”

“Because, as far as we know, you’re the only person that has been infected and has returned to sanity. If we can figure out how or why, perhaps we can fight this thing and save the day. Would you like that, Eva?”

The story continues in CASE FILE-003

The Curious Case of Doctor Maundy 001

“Providence State College remains on lockdown as reports keep pouring in of the spread of what has only been described by the administration as a ‘deadly virus.’ The college remains largely quarantined with every gate and entryway sealed off by security officials…”

Every screen in the lobby was reporting on the same incident. It had been much of the same coverage for the past day and all through last night, and they weren’t any closer to solving this it seemed. The man straightened his jacket and continued beyond the lobby. The two guards, Mitch and Briella, stood by the door at the end of the hall. He nodded to them in greeting.

“How’s she doing?” he asked.

Mitch winced, motioning towards the two-way mirror behind him. The room beyond was dimly lit, except for the overhead lamp right over the suspect. Her eyes were shielded from his gaze by the glare of the light in her glasses. She was seated, wrists cuffed to the table but with chains long enough for limited mobility. The tray of food and water on the table remained untouched.

“We did everything you requested,” Mitch said. “She refused to eat.”

“And has she said anything?”

“Not a word,” Briella said. “Her only request was to use the loo.”

“I don’t blame her. She’s been through a lot already.” It was time. He palmed the briefcase in his hand and reached for the door handle. “Let’s see how this goes, then.”

The woman at the table looked up suddenly as he walked in. The circles around her eyes and the shadows cast on her face framed her gaunt appearance. Her hair was in rough tangles and she looked like she hadn’t slept in days. It had only been about 24 hours.

“Doctor Maundy,” he said as he approached. “We haven’t been properly acquainted.”

Despite her dishevelled countenance, her indifferent gaze was enough to make a less secure person feel like a minor inconvenience. “Which one are you?”

Confrontational, he noted. A defensive measure. He stopped at the table. Right now she would not be able to make out his face in the dark. He wondered how long it would take her to recognise his voice. “Sorry, you can’t see my face right now. My identity is … classified. You know how it is.”

“I’d shake hands too, but…” She lifted her cuffed fists but they stopped short over the table, the chains dangling in her wake. “You know how it is.” She smirked.

Humour, he mused. Looked like they were off to a good start.

“Are these really necessary?” she still held up her cuffed wrists.

He sat in the chair. “You tell me,” he said. “I trust Officers Mitch and Briella have been good hosts.” He motioned towards the food in her plate. “It’s not poisoned, you know. We don’t do that here—”

“I’m not hungry.” She set her hands on the table now, pushing the tray away.

“At least take some water. They tell me you haven’t spoken in hours.”

“I had nothing to say.” She didn’t seem interested in any of this. But she was talking, thankfully.

He smiled. “Fair enough.”

“I want my lawyer,” she said. ”If you’re going to make me talk, I want a lawyer present.”

“Funny story. I would’ve brought you that present but then … you’re not a lawyer.” He’d thought it was a good joke, but she didn’t even react.

He leaned back in his seat. “Doctor Maundy, I know you are upset. Maybe even scared. But believe me when I say that … with the craziness going on out there, and the charges against you now, it’s in your best interest to consider me not only as judge and jury, but also your counsel.”

“Why don’t you go ahead and throw in ‘executioner’ to that list? Heck, is this even legal? Who are you, anyway?”

She really doesn’t know. “I don’t think you understand. See, if this leaves my desk and my offices, there’s no way you’re getting out of this mess. Right now, I am your only friend. It would do us both a lot of good if you understood that, and cooperated. We don’t have much time.”

She still eyed him cautiously. “So you’re supposed to be the ‘good cop’?”

“Will you trust me, Eva? Can I call you Eva?”

“So we’re chums all of a sudden?”

He refused to take the bait, but a cynical response was better than none. She was not making this easy. “Will you tell me everything?”

“I gave the cops my statement. What else do you want me to say?”

He exhaled, reaching for his briefcase. This wasn’t going how he’d hoped.

“Can we just get this over with and get me out of these chains?”

He pulled out her statement and scanned through it. “You seem pretty sure that you’re getting out of this.” That actually got her to keep quiet. He’d thought it would. “But, like I said, it’s really up to you now.”

She scowled and definitely rolled her eyes this time. She was every bit a child of the ‘80s.

He placed an audio tape recorder on the table and hit RECORD.

“Didn’t know they still made those,” she mumbled.

“Call me old-fashioned,” he said as he cleared his throat. “Let the record show that today is Thursday, April 9, 2020. This is the secondary review of case file one-oh-nine-dash-five in respect to Eva Louise Maundy and her role, or lack thereof, in the Providence Incident…“

She was shaking her head, looking away again.

He leaned back in his chair, folding his legs. “Are you nervous, Dr Maundy?”

“No?” She raised her voice, probably trying to make it a moot point. She glanced at the recorder. “No I’m not. You try sitting here for hours and see how this feels.”

She kept avoiding his gaze, but there was nothing else she would see in the darkness around.

“I’ll cut right to the chase,” he said. “Right now you’re the most important person in the State. No one out there knows what’s really going on, and everybody wants to talk to you—”

“Careful there, mister, or you’ll make me blush.” Her face was still devoid of emotion.

“Now I know you’re coming out of a very traumatizing experience so I won’t pressure you. We can settle all of this right here, right now, and hopefully save many. I want you to know that I have your best interest in mind, so talk to me. OK? Why don’t we begin with you telling me about yourself? I want to know you.” He placed another file on the table. “Pretend I’m meeting you for the first time.”

She smirked, leaning back in her seat. “What, you trying to ask me out, mister?”

He smiled in spite of himself this time. “Doctor Maundy, I need you to take this seriously.”

She shrugged. “Ok—”

“No, do you get what’s going on? I get that you’re using this cynical sarcastic … whatever-this-is to annoy me, but I need you here — body and mind. People could die, Doctor. There’s not much time.” Now her eyes actually registered the shock he was looking for. He didn’t mean to scare her, but the more open she was to the gravity of the moment, the better. “Now I need you to be serious and answer my questions. Is that clear, Doctor Maundy?”

Now she was more sober. She clearly didn’t know the gravity of the problem, and he was contemplating how to ease her into it. She nodded. “Crystal.”

He motioned for her to go on.

She exhaled, lowering her head. He hated forcing her to do this, especially with the pain she’d experienced over the past twenty-four hours, but whether she realised this or not, she needed this as much as the hundreds out there. She nodded towards the briefcase. “Anything you want to know about me is in your dossier already.”

He nodded, glancing at the open briefcase and files on the table. “Smart. Now you were originally Eva Adams, yes?” She squinted at him, incredulous. “It’s for the recording.”

“Adams was my father’s name. Never knew him. Maundy’s my mother’s.”

“Sorry for asking, I understand it’s a sore subject.”

“And before you mention Harrison, he was a mistake. We’re divorced. Moving on…”

There was really no need to go that route so he allowed that. “Your Bachelor’s in Botany, but you got your PhD in Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases from Penn State.”

“I’m aware of my history.”

“Yeah, congratulations. For the sake of the recording, let’s just stick to yes and no answers, OK genius?”

“Deal.”

“Until yesterday, you worked as lab supervisor at the Centre for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Providence State College. You were caretaker of the Experimental Greenhouse.”

She looked up, a question on her face. “Until yesterday? Am I fired, officer?”

“It’s pending review.”

“Great,” she muttered.

His voice droned on as he read. “Published in up to ten peer-reviewed international journals. Quite commendable. You’ve spoken at conferences on subjects varying from environmental to technological influences on disease control…” He flipped a page. “…with a note of recommendation from the Societe Transgenetique de Nouvele Foundaçion.”

Her head had been lolling at an angle in boredom, her eyes betraying her indifference, until now. “I never heard back from them.”

“That’s true, you haven’t been online all day. You got a mail two hours ago. Apparently you got the grant you applied for.”

For a moment, a glint of apprehension actually flashed in her eyes. But it was only for a moment before it was replaced with the indifferent act she was putting on. He sensed that there was more. What trauma was she trying to avoid thinking of? Even more importantly, why was she trying to hide?

Her official photograph attached to the dossier was strikingly different from how she looked now. The smile of the lady in the picture shone in her eyes and her hair was neatly arranged in a top-bun. She was standing in her lab coat, with her arms folded. Very unlike the dishevelled cynical crestfallen lady before him. What happened to you, Doctor Maundy?

“That is,” he continued, palming through the pages. “If, and only if, we get you out of this case in one piece. Because, Doctor Maundy, this bit doesn’t look good on you.”

She smirked. “Like I care about my looks now—?”

“Eva, are you taking any of this seriously? Because I want to help you out here—”

“And what if I don’t want to be helped?” She slammed her fists on the table, sending her plate and the remaining nuggets to the ground. For a moment that’s where their gazes went, to the scattered grains and the spilled water spreading on the floor. The room was still but the rising tension was so thick you could slice it. She looked up at him. “What if I don’t need your help?”

Perhaps they had been too forward about this. “Would you prefer to see a therapist instead, Doctor?”

She shook her head. “Just get me out of here. The electric chair’s gotta be better than this.”

He sighed, bowing his head. Whatever this lady had done, she was as much a victim of it. He bit back every other comment he could have made. “Let’s start over.” He reached for the tape recorder, snapping it off. “Without this old thing.”

She scoffed. “Right, like you expect me to believe we’re not still being recorded somehow.”

He smiled, stealing a glance back at the two-way mirror beyond which Mitch and Briella were definitely having a laugh. “You didn’t get that PhD for nothing, I can tell you that.”

“And don’t you forget it.” She was smiling weakly now though she avoided his gaze. “Sorry I flipped out.”

“It’s OK.”

“I’m not usually like this, you know.”

He glanced at the smiling face in the folder in his hand. “I can imagine.”

“This isn’t me. The past day has been … I’ve just…” She lowered her gaze. As she exhaled he could tell that whatever was broken inside her was finally leaking. Was she actually going to talk now? She took a deep breath. “It’s messed up. I don’t even know what’s wrong with me. I don’t know what’s going on anymore. It’s like … it’s like I’m outside this body and I’m just watching my whole world spin out of control, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Do you understand that? Do you get what I’m going through?”

He nodded slightly. “Eva, I’m not trying to get you in any more trouble.”

“Can you imagine what it’s like to just, all of a sudden, find yourself with bloodied hands, and your … a … a dead body right in front of you? And now I’m a murderer? A-and I don’t even remember anything that happened! Do you know how violated I feel? And now I’m going to jail for this?!”

Her written statement, where she’d said as much, was in his hands. Considering her amnesiac line was what had opened the door to this particular investigation. He measured his words carefully. “Then why did you run?”

“Why did I run? What else was I supposed to do? There was a body in front of me! Security was asking questions all over the place. I didn’t know what to do!”

That was the second time in a row that she’d referred to the deceased as a ‘body’, he noted. Either she had not been able to accept the personal loss, or she was simply refusing to acknowledge it as a coping mechanism due to the trauma.

“Why don’t you just shoot straight?” She stared over her glasses now, her eyes red from all the stress. “Forget the theatrics for now. Ask me what you really want.”

He winced, staring between her and the file in his hand. He pursed his lips before he read. “Andrew Davies.” He saw her visibly shrink when she heard the name. She had dreaded this, but there really was no way out of this but through. “25 years. Teaching assistant on attachment under your supervision. Do you know this person?”

He could see the tension in her throat veins as she built up the confidence to respond. “Yes. We … worked together. Three years now.” She still avoided the obvious.

“His body was found in your office yesterday, gutted and with multiple lacerations. Reports place you in the same vicinity. Blood splatters in the room were also found on your person by the time first responders got there.”

She was shaking her head already, eyes shut, muttering silently.

“What’s that?”

He heard a sob, despite her attempts to hide it. “I didn’t do it. Whatever it is you think I did, it wasn’t me!”

“DNA results match. It was his blood, Doctor Maundy.”

“It wasn’t me! I don’t understand what happened, I don’t know who it was, but it wasn’t me.

“You do realise how that sounds, right?” He closed the file and placed his hands on the table, folding his fingers in. “Doctor, I could’ve said that I believed you, but it doesn’t help you one bit.”

Her eyes were red now. “Please…”

“Either way we slice it, we’re looking at a homicide. I want to hear your story. We have reasons to believe that this is more than it appears. If we say you didn’t do it, then we have bigger problems because that doesn’t exonerate you. We still have to account for the blood in the room. But if, and just go with me here, if we consider the other possibility that … maybe you didn’t have full control of your body and mind for those few minutes… it gets us somewhere because—“

“I didn’t do this…”

He didn’t have a better way to ease her into it, so he just went full tilt. “Perhaps you should listen to this.” He switched the tape recorder from ‘RECORD’ to actual radio and the reports came pouring in.

“…a total lockdown on information on the particular nature of what is going on in Providence, giving rise to rumours and bizarre reports. The most popular of these peaked with the upload of the now viral graphic video from a student’s TikTok account. It depicts her roommate exhibiting feral and possibly rabid behaviour. The hashtag, #Werewolves has been trending on social media all night long, with accompanying pictures and…”

He turned the dial. This one had a man’s voice. “…on all parents to compel their wards to stay indoors. I repeat, stay indoors. We don’t know where the infected are at the moment, or just how far they have spread. We have no idea if and/or how this is being transmitted. This is not as contained as you think. They could be anywhere. They could be right where you a—“

He turned it again. This time it was a young student that sounded stoned. “…like in the movies, man. It’s like those zombie apocalypse flicks or some sh—“

And another station. “… She’s not there anymore. I don’t know who that is, but that’s not the Cindy I know. She wouldn’t do something like this—”

And another. “…‘werewolves’, for lack of a better term, frothing at the lips, mauling their colleagues, destroying and vandalizing the college. These students are out of their minds…”

Her face was contorted in confusion at the frantic voices she was hearing. It felt refreshing to see someone untouched by the incident thus far receiving its news for the first time. It probably still sounded like something from the world of myth and Twilight to her, and that’s how it had sounded to everyone else too once before. Before their innocence was stripped away and fear had taken its place. For Eva, all of this had only been about a homicide. She didn’t know just how much bigger the problem really was.

He turned it off.

“What’s going on?”

“There may be a chance that what may have affected you may have had more than a localised effect. And it may be spreading. Call it a virus, call it hysteria, MPD, or even demons and sorcery – whatever it is, it’s spreading like crazy.”

“No…”

“Around the same time as your ‘incident’ occurred, we had an increase in bizarre behaviour among students and staff. Got people with … animalistic tendencies. Frothing mouths, clawing with their nails, growling and snarling like beasts. The world’s gone crazy out there, Eva.” With each new revelation she seemed to cringe even more. He could see her facial expressions alternating between disbelief and shock.

He pulled out his iPad, flipped to the trends page and slid it over. “It’s everywhere now.”

She really didn’t know what had been going on, and her widening eyes as she scrolled through the posts and videos gave away her shock. “It’s gotta be a prank. It has to be…”

“In the space of 24 hours we’ve had reported cases of almost 300 students becoming these … monstrosities. We’ve got our smartest trying to figure out what’s happening.”

She looked up at him, probably expecting this to be a trick. But it wasn’t. “You’re saying this is what happened to me?”

“I’m saying that it’s possible.”

“And this is going on out there? Right now?”

He nodded.

“It can’t be…” Her voice was a little above a whisper.

“I’m afraid it is. Right now they’ve got a couple of the infected on tranqs and are examining them for signs of cause and chances of recovery. Best we’ve got so far is an inflammation of the brain tissue and a degeneration of neurons. This could get worse before we even have a handle on what’s going on. Now, Doctor Maundy, I know you’re thinking about your dead assistant but do you see the big picture now? Not only should your expertise be able to sort through this mess, but I also need to know. Do you have any idea how this all could have happened?”

Her face was still overwritten with confusion at the madness she had just been exposed to, but she still looked up at him. “No. No I don’t.”

He understood the pain she must have gone through to dig through those memories over and over again, right in front of him. He knew how difficult it must have been for her to hear how this had escalated, and how difficult it must’ve been to respond under tension.

And that’s why he also knew that, this time, she was lying.

THE STORY CONTINUES IN FILE-002

The Curious Case of Doctor Maundy

Eva Maundy finds her assistant dead, and she’s the sole suspect. Questions uncover mysteries and dark things come to light. Perhaps she’s not as innocent as she thinks. There’s more at work here than meets the eye.

This story is sure to leave you with lots to think about. And, despite its somber tone and tense scenes, I actually had a lot of fun writing this one.

It’s a reminder that in the midst of the dark and uncertain times we find ourselves in, God has not left us and is very much with us. His Light shines, still. He makes it beautiful.

Read online here:

CASE FILE-001

CASE FILE-002

CASE FILE-003

CASE FILE-004

CASE FILE-005

My Curious Case: A (lotta) word(s) from me

Or if you’d rather read it offline and in your own time, you can DOWNLOAD the full story in PDF, EPUB , MOBI or LIT formats

Here’s what some readers said…

“I love the book! I love the scriptural undertones. I love the scenes. I love everything.”– Oyinkansolami


“It’s a very beautiful one. I really did enjoy and appreciate how it reminded me of Christ’s love in a fascinating manner. Excellent!”
– Esther

“It got me curious. At first I thought I was reading the movie Interrogation, then Resident Evil, then I thought to myself this is the movie Evan Almighty or could it be Passion of Christ? It is suspense-filled with an explicit message. And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
– Anu

“…this is different. Wow!!! The twists and turns in the story were intriguing. It shows grace, forgiveness and a whole lot of things. Also, so timely.”
– Joana

“You really can’t separate me from a good book. It’s the best Easter story I read in years.”
– Dr Adeyemo

“This story is full of thought, well done. It’s funny how we chase for the cure of human virus but postpone getting rid of sin because there is no physical devastating effect. At this time when we celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord, may we continually cling to the redemptive power in this body and blood shed for salvation. Well done.”
– Osetemega

Don’t forget to leave a comment, and tell someone about it if you like it too.

Thanks for coming by!

(Photo of woman in glasses by Elina Krima from Pexels)

PORTAL: An Afterword

Hi there! Emmanuel here!

If you’re here too then I assume you’ve read my story, Portal. Thank you so much. I’d really love to hear your thoughts. If you haven’t already, click on the link right here.

The undercurrent of Portal, is that many of us find ourselves held back by things in our past.

Like Tolu, some of us are encumbered by the fear of the future and its uncertainty.

Like Riley, many of us are affected by the pain and hurts we have experienced in the past.

And, like Frank, many of us are held back by the guilt of the wrongs we’ve done, and by the pain we’ve inflicted on others.

Moving on from these is never easy. I have experienced all three of these, and I have seen how they have influenced my actions, affected how I related with people, and determined the decisions I made. Unknowingly, I was trapped in those points in time and was navigating the present from those places. Influenced by the insecurities of my guilt, protective because of the hurts I experienced, limited by the uncertainties of what lay ahead.

I wish I could say there is a portal of some kind that you can pass through that will makes those things fade away. But then, I have found that there is. This story is a picture of how, through Jesus, we can find the confidence, healing and forgiveness we need to face the future.

For those of us afraid of the future and its uncertainty, He encourages us to trust in Him. Trusting Him means following Him. When we do, He will guide us every step of the way. We may not know where we ought to be five years from now, but at least we know He is with us and we know how He expects us to navigate the times. He is our Light, so we never have to walk in darkness. He has given us His Word so that we can learn of Him and know what He desires. His Word is like a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths (Psalm 119:11).

For those of us held back by the pain of our past, who find ourselves responding to people and circumstances from that hurt, He empathises. He promises healing for the broken hearted (Luke 4:18) and joy in the places of weeping (Psalm 30:5). He will carry you and keep you through it all.

And for those of us who can’t get past the fact that we have hurt someone, inflicted pain on someone, ruined something… Guilt is terrible in that it makes us feel we’ve earned the darkness it brings us into. Guilt is painful, no matter how earned it is. And while, yes, conviction is good, Jesus offers to all that come to Him forgiveness. Forgiven, He gives us the strength to forgive ourselves. And for those who we have hurt, we find the strength to apologise, to mend the friendships we can.

As one who is navigating these zones too, I cannot say I have all the answers. Many of these things, I have to keep reminding myself of every single day; that I have hope in Christ, that He has healed me, and that I am forgiven.

Our stories may differ, but there is the One Portal through which, if we take it, He will lead us in the right ways our souls have always yearned for. It’s called ‘the path of righteousness’ (Psalm 23:3). We will find our solace and peace in Him, and we can enjoy every moment of every day, just as He intended it.

In His Light, we see that He had given Time meaning.

Time in itself is seemingly amoral, giving as much opportunities for decay and corruption as it does for growth and development. The difference is what we do with it. When we are in Christ, He gives us wisdom on how to navigate these times and to make the best of them.

Ephesians 5:17 puts it this way:

Make good use of every opportunity you have, because these are evil days.

Don’t be fools, then, but try to find out what the Lord wants you to do.

I take special comfort in one of David’s Psalms in 31:15 where he says:

My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me.

He was confident that, even though he had enemies, he had help because his times were in God’s hands. It reminds me that, it doesn’t matter what season I am in: be it a height or a low, a win or a loss, as long as I am following Jesus, I am in God’s hands.

He will perfect all that concerns me.

From someone who is learning along the way, I pray you find the healing and strength in Jesus to move on. There is so much more to life that He has for you. You’ve got a whole lifetime to discover it.

God bless you all!

PORTAL (6 of 6): Home

It was December 31, the last day of 2019, and Riley Harris was back at the party in Brisbane. The house will flooded with pulsating lights and music blared from the DJs stand.

She blinked, taking in the world around her. She had thought she would die when stepping off that cliff, but here she was.

She was back.

Oh snap! She was back!

She fished out her phone from her pocket. It read 11:52pm.

Shannon tapped her shoulder. “Hey, girl friend!” She had arrived with the shots. “Where’ve you been?”

Riley collected her glass, studying her friend. “Shannon?”

Shannon cocked her head. “Please tell me you haven’t tried the good stuff yet.”

She wasn’t flickering. Riley reached out to touch her arm. She was real! “I’m actually back!!!”

She dropped her glass and embraced Shannon, jumping with glee.

“Shannon, I’m back!!!”

Shannon pulled away, picking her steps among the shattered glass at her feet. “OK, I’m completely freaked out now.”

“Shannon, what time is it?”

“What time is it? Are you OK in the head, Riley?”

Riley didn’t know where to begin. She didn’t know how to begin.

She hurried away, feeling the mass of humanity around her. They were all real.

It wasn’t until she eventually made her way out of the building that she could actually breathe fresh air. There were fireworks in the distance, and music from different buildings all around. Ah, how she had missed the feeling of the breeze on her skin. Back in the Timescape the air was still.

Shannon was not far behind. “Riley, where’re you going?”

“I’m sorry, Shannon. It’s just … all of this is so real.” She raised her hands to feel the breeze.

“OK, I don’t know what Todd put in your drink but you’re high out of your mind, girl. Now you’re going to sit down right now and get a hold of yourself—“

Riley grabbed her hands. “Shannon, Shannon, look at me. I am not high. I just … I feel alive for the first time in a long time.”

Shannon smiled. “I did tell you the party will get you out the dumps, didn’t I?”

Riley knew it wasn’t the party, but she didn’t know how to frame it. “Shannon I’ve needed help for so long.”

“Yeah, we tell you that all the time. You’re sick in the head, but we love ya. This New Year, we’ll make sure there’s no time to think too hard on all the trash that’s bothered you, alright Riley?”

She shrugged. “I, uh … I think I’m just going to sit outside here for a while.”

Shannon frowned. “Why don’t I feel OK about that?”

“I’m not going anywhere, Shan. Look into my eyes. I am fine. I just want some … fresh air.”

Shan actually stepped closer. “There’s a first. Usually you’re the party animal and I’m the sane one.”

“Go have fun, Shan. I’ll be right here.”

“Alright!” Shannon stepped toward the door. “Come in soon, OK?”

She nodded. “Now go!”

Riley sat on the doorstep, staring into the sky. It was so good to see lights again.

But she still had questions. Had all of that really happened? Had she been hallucinating? She knew she hadn’t. She just didn’t know where to go from here.

“God,” she said. “I still don’t know if you really are there. But if You are, they say you can heal me of what has hurt me. I admit, I have carried this pain all this time. I’m really not sure if you are listening. But now I know there is so much more going on than meets the eye. If you really have healing for me, I want that. I want it. If You’ve got something better for me, I really want to know You.”

——

It was December 31, the last day of 2019, and Tolu was back in the car, on the way to church.

The phone was in his hands, and his parents were in front.

I’m home! I’M HOME!

He was so overcome, he didn’t know what to say. He just reached over around his Mum’s seat and hugged her.

Thank you, God. Thank you!

Mum was shocked. “Ah-ah, Toluwanimi? Sho wa okay bayii? (Literally, ‘Are you OK?, but contextually, ‘Are you OK in the head?!’)”

“I’m just happy to see you again, Mum!”

She actually didn’t know how to respond at first. “Aw, my boy. I don’t know how God blessed me with a gift like you.”

Out of the corner of his eye he noticed his father smile.

“I love you too, Dad!”

“Hey, hey, don’t even try and touch me now,” Dad warned as he drove. “Nonsense. I’m still not buying that shoe for you.”

Mum turned to him. “Ah-ah, Honey! Appreciate your son, jo!”

“It’s alright, Dad,” he said. “The shoe is the last thing on my mind right now. I’m just happy to be back … here with you.”

Dad nodded slowly, taking it in. “It’s alright.” He shook his head, wondering what was wrong with his boy.

Tolu sat back in his seat, remembering the last time he had been here. Every second now meant something to him. He just kept staring at his parents as the whispered the rest of their conversation.

He remembered where he’d been, and he remembered what had taken him there. Was the Timescape real?

“Mummy,” he said. “I have a question.”

“What is it, my dear?”

“Is it possible for someone not to enter the New Year?”

She paused a moment to consider that before she hit the chair. “You will make it into the New Year in Jesus Name! Stop using your mouth to say dangerous things like that!”

“No, I mean—“

“Instead of you to be talking with God about your future,” Dad said. “You’re busy thinking about something like that.”

He figured it would be difficult to explain, so he let it lie. “It’s alright.”

“Maybe it’s those cartoons he’s been watching.”

“It haff do,” Mum said. “Oya, start praying in your seat. I must see you praying!”

Tolu smirked at his mother’s training methods, but he knew she meant well. He leaned against the window, praying. As he stared at the world around – living, bright, full of colour and moving people – he wondered what each of them was going through. The fears and concerns and insecurities they may harbour. Just like he had.

He had been quoting prayers he heard a lot when he stopped. It was time to actually have a conversation. “Lord, I don’t know what’s next. But I know You must. I don’t want to stay stuck in the past or in a moment. So I’ll … enter the unknown with You. I will trust You, and I will seek You. Help me find You.”

—–

It was December 31, the last day of 2019, and Frank Aldrin found himself in Times Square, New York.

The sudden change of scenery jolted him for a moment. It was a cold night, with snow all around. Digital billboards on the sides of buildings were lit with motion adverts of upcoming movies and products. Some still had Christmas decorations on.

It worked! Good golly, it worked!

“…so that’s why I took Benny to his cousin’s school, instead.” A lady was walking beside him, talking to him. He wasn’t sure why he recognised her, but he did. It was when he saw her face that he realised who it was.

Her face. Her disfigured left cheek and smaller left eye. The tiny dots where repeated suturing had been done over the years. The girl he had known 37 years ago had grown. He couldn’t believe it.

“Darlene?”

She turned to him. “Hmm?”

He couldn’t believe his eyes. This woman, probably in her mid-thirties, was his own daughter, Darlene!

“You’re … here?”

She seemed confused as to why he would ask that question. “Yeah. I am here, like I told you before. My interview this Friday brought me to New York, that’s why I’m not with them. Brian and Benny understand that I’m here.”

This was his daughter, Darlene, all grown up and now a wife and a mother. Memories of the years since he’d been trapped in the Timescape came filtering in, as though he had been here all along. For some reason, Frank could put faces to those names she mentioned. Brian Pruitt was her husband, who was in Detroit with their son Benny.

“I have a grandson? Benny.”

Darlene looked a bit disappointed. “Gee, Dad, I’m sure he’d love to hear that his Grandpa forgot he exists. It’s not like we send pictures every year.”

They walked on in silence for a while. The crowd was filled with people running back and forth with firecrackers, some huddled together around street performers, some shops still with their Christmas décor still up. And up on a tall building, the ball drop was being prepared for the midnight countdown into the New Year. 2020 was written in sparkly letters at the top.

Darlene sighed. “Dad, I know things haven’t been the best between you and Mum, or you and me, all our lives. But I’m trying here. It took me years to come to terms with the fact that that’s how things would always be, but it never did it for me.”

Frank didn’t know how to respond. He felt like he barely knew her because he actually didn’t know her.

“You know, if I want to be honest Dad, there’s a lot I haven’t said in years that I need to let out. I grew up angry with myself, and angry with … with you, too. My face was a constant reminder that I have a problem. That I would never find love. That this was why our family broke apart, and why I went through life without a Dad. It kept telling me that I did have a father, and he hated me.”

He was shaken. The problem is me, child. Not you. It was me all along.

“But God healed me,” she said. “He heals me. Maybe not my face, but my heart. I’ve still had my periods where I fight with the reality that this face is going with me through my whole life, and I want to get angry. I think of how you never showed up for my graduation, or even my wedding, or every other things that’s important to me. Until I realised that I was trapped. I was letting my pain keep me from moving on to the much more that God has for me.

“But I look at all He’s blessed me with – life, joy, hope, my f… our family – and I see that He’s never left me alone. He’s never left us alone. Dad, I know it doesn’t always have to be this way.” She held his hand. “But I think you need to know that, whatever it is you feel you’ve done, I’ve forgiven you. I want you to know that you don’t have to shut yourself away from us. You don’t have to, Dad. I want my son to have his Grandpa. I know that we can.”

Frank didn’t know he had been crying until he realised he’d shed a tear. “I’m so sorry, Darlene,” he said.

“Me too, Dad.”

“No, I’m sorry for the years we’ve lost. I was so … I needed to get over myself, but I didn’t know how to.”

Darlene nodded, tears in her eyes. “God can help us. We can do this together, Dad. He can help us.”

And she embraced him.

For the first time in 37 years, he felt light. That burden that had been building up for three decades was gone. His daughter was with him. She loved him. They were willing to find a way to make it work.

He didn’t know what would happen, or if they would ever really make it work. He didn’t know what the future held. But what did he have left, except to trust God and see what He could do? If God truly is, and He had a purpose in time, Frank had no option but to wait and see.

Meanwhile, the countdown to the ball drop had already begun.

“5…

“4…

“3…

“2…

“1…”

The End …?

An Afterword.

PORTAL (5 of 6): The Wager

PREVIOUSLY:

Tolu and Riley took the chance of plunging off the cliff, trusting that it would get them into the portal and out of the mad world they had been trapped in.

Frank, the old man, still remains contemplating what has occurred.

Those two kids had been the first people Frank Aldrin had seen here in years. He had initially feared for them, hoping they would not risk the pain of having their hopes dashed, but the boy had sold them his pitch. Watching them take the plunge off the cliff was a twist he had not foreseen.

Frank Aldrin blinked as Justin approached with that annoying smile of his. “Will they make it over there?”

Justin settled beside him. “From this point, there’s really no way for you to tell. Why don’t you take the plunge as well?”

“I already know what’s waiting on the other side. But it’s not for me.”

“How can you even say that? You don’t know that for a fact.”

“What? Platitudes and promises of a better tomorrow are for mindless weaklings, victims of a ruthless world. It’s all meaningless. There is no hope. And you should be ashamed of yourself for even insinuating otherwise.”

Justin fiddled with his fingers on the bench. “Do you ever wonder why I rhyme all the time?”

“I don’t care.”

“You’re not bothered? You’ve never wondered?”

Frank stared him down. “My guess is you’re going to tell me, anyway.”

“It’s because there is an order to my existence. I’m not left up to chance. God made me for His purposes. Time goes according to His plans.”

Frank wagged his head. “Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard it all before. So if there is purpose, why is there pain and suffering in the world? Why are men prone to so much evil? Why do good people, great people, die in the worst ways while criminals get rich? Why do millions die in tsunamis, when ‘He’s got the whole world in His hands?’ To think that there should be some purpose to all of this is to shut my eyes to the reality.”

“No, Frank. It’s a broken world, we know this. But God doesn’t leave you in the abyss. He adds His light into your stories. Your existence is anything but ordinary. Even when it doesn’t make sense, He asks that you trust Him. He’s promised to work something glorious out, and He’ll start in you, from within.”

Frank shrugged. “I don’t need this.”

“You know, I had hoped that seeing those two find their exit would help you see, even just a little bit.”

“And what exactly would it help me see?”

“That there is help! That there is grace. That there is a way to move on from this place.”

Frank chuckled. “I’m not like them. They’re not like me.”

“Why do you think so? It’s been 37 years, Frank. I really want to know.”

Frank looked on at the cottage across from him. “I deserve to be here. I choose to be here.” He folded his arms to end the conversation. “I want to be here.”

“For your pain—“

“Stop it, kid! I’m not a gullible victim looking for healing.” Something in his peripheral vision caught his attention. It was from the cottage.

Justin followed his gaze.

“I’m not the victim here,” Frank said. “I’m the monster in this story.”

For the first time in a long time, a window of the cottage lit up. As they watched they saw a man through the window. It was Frank, a much younger version of himself. He still had a head full of hair, and his clothes fit him too.

“What … is … happening?”

Justin looked up at him. “It means that you must be remembering.”

“Whatever it is you’re trying to do, stop. This is in vain.”

“I’m sorry, but somehow you’re the one thinking about it again.”

“I think about it all the time,” Frank snarled. “It’s why I stay here watching this cottage. What, you think being face-to-face with this moment will change my opinion? Like those kids did before?”

Justin squinted. “I think you’re seeing something more.”

As they watched, the Frank in the house was in an argument with someone. It was his daughter, Darlene. Watching it now he could not remember what she had done, but whatever it was, he had been angry.

He covered his mouth. Was it worth his anger?

“Take this away,” he whispered.

He watched as the man grabbed the bottle from the table. It had been in a fit of rage, a momentary burst of anger. It was not supposed to have happened.

He shut his eyes, but the scenes played on in his mind as clear as day. He stumbled off the bench, scampering away, but he could not escape it. He could not escape the memory.

He watched as he smashed the bottle in his daughter’s face. The glass shattered in slow motion, every detail imprinted on his mind in high definition.

It was not supposed to happen. Maybe if the bottle had not been there…

But he knew it was not the bottle’s fault. It was his. It was him that had damaged Darlene’s face for life. It was him that had doomed her to months of suturing and plastic surgery.

It was the last straw that had broken his marriage.

It was the brick that brought his family toppling down.

And it had been his doing.

Frank fought to keep all of this from getting to him, but he felt the emotions washing over him as raw as they’d ever been. He tightened his grip on the back of the bench.

“Don’t you see, Frank?” Justin said.

“Stop it…”

“This was 37 years ago. You haven’t moved on from this moment. You’re hurting more than you know—“

“I’m not the one that’s hurting. She’s the one that’s hurting. Darlene? My marriage? My life? They’re the ones that are hurting because of what I did.”

“So it’s Guilt,” Justin summed it up. “It’s driven a sword into your soul, to the very hilt.”

“And it’s well deserved.” He was heaving now. “I did this to my daughter. Whatever I am going through, I earned it.”

“Guilt has held you down. It just masks the pain inside. It doesn’t matter how you try to cover, there’s no way you can hide it.”

Frank shook his head, still staring at the cottage and the crying girl within. “I’m the scum of the earth, Justin. How could I do that to someone? And how can you even imply that this can be wiped away?”

Justin didn’t respond as Frank let of steam. He held his head in his hands and cried. It was too much. He didn’t know this reservoir had been stuck in there, but it was too much.

Perhaps Justin was right. Watching those kids believe they could trust something, or Someone, and how it took them away from this place got to him. It brought back that hope, but also a feeling of unworthiness. His guilt stared him in the face.

He dropped to his knees. “GOOOOOOD!!!!”

He wasn’t calling on God. He didn’t mean to. He didn’t want to. He was just letting out the exhaustion built up in his chest. But that was what his heart cried. God.

“I don’t know why I’m doing this,” he said. “I don’t know what to say. But, God … I can’t do this anymore. Just … help me.”

Perhaps it was too much to hope for. He didn’t even really believe those words, did he? He didn’t know why he said it. It came up from within him. Why did he expect something more to—

But suddenly, the ground underneath him cracked. He was startled. When he turned to Justin, the boy was smiling.

“It’s like I said, the hardest knocks are with your knees. The portal has been everywhere all this time. Just beneath what your eye sees.”

“What’s going on?”

“You called,” Justin said. “He answered. Your sojourn may be at its end.”

Light shot out of the ground underneath him. Enveloping him. Frank was scared.

“Justin!”

“Goodbye, old friend.”

And he was gone.

>> THE JOURNEY COMES TO AN END HERE.