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.”
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—“
“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