Once the group is settled, Michael begins to speak. “There’s been a change in plans. Midnight was the deadline for the gates of Heaven to be closed. The Tribulation has begun. The gates will remain closed for the next seven years, with a short opening at the midpoint to awaken the souls of Almighty’s followers who have died on Earth from this day until then and to call home the bodies of those already in Heaven. Their souls will be called from their sleep and they will be caught up in the air with their bodies as the sea and the grave give them up. He will also call home the living who follow him. Outside of this event that will happen in the blink of an eye, only angels can travel through Heaven’s gates to set up the events of the Tribulation.
“Excuse me?” Tova sounds upset. “Are you saying that while we were held in prison for retrieving the keys, the gates of Heaven closed, and trapped us here on Earth? Michael, what will we do? We aren’t exactly designed for living here. We will be like tamed animals released into the wild. Why didn’t Almighty rescue us last night?”
“There is no need to fear. Almighty could not interfere with the events of the evening. He is forbidden by the rules of the Great Game to interfere with the activities that surround the rescue of the keys. Lucifer reigns here now. Almighty was expected to close the gates of Heaven at midnight when the deadline for the keys was met. Though the keys were returned, you were not at the Portal for the final call. As you learned in training, Lucifer and Almighty will rectify things at the end of the seven years. You will be returned to Almighty’s care when her reign has ended.”
My body feels numb. I’m not afraid, but I am disappointed. I was looking forward to seeing my father and living in the comforts of Heaven. I certainly did not want to be on Earth for the war and all the miseries to come with it. “Michael, what do we do? Where do we stay? Will someone from Heaven stay in touch with us? We need more information.”
“Yes, Grayson, I will stay in touch. Gabriel will bring you messages as well. Find a safe place in the mountains of Jordan. This nation will be very important in the battle between good and evil. You must not involve yourself with the things of man unless told to do so by one of Heaven’s messengers. Gather together supplies to meet your needs for the years you will be here. Prepare for extreme weather and dangerous wildlife.
“The people who remain will be given over to their sinful ways and to reprobate minds. They will come under the terroristic reign of Lucifer. The good and faithful will be at home in the Heavens when the Earth becomes a dark and hopeless place. There will be wars, famine, disease, shattered economies, and broken people. There will be no relief as Almighty is contractually obligated to withdraw.
Yet, some will come to follow Almighty through these dark days. Most will be martyrs for their faith. Hope is impossible to destroy within the human soul. Those who choose to fight back will face a difficult path, but they’ll be clothed in white robes and be among Almighty’s most beloved when the battle is over and Lucifer has been defeated.
“There is no need to fear for your families. The first half of the seven years will be lived in peace. There will be great prosperity, good health, and lives lived in abundance. This will be the quiet before the storm. Lucifer will be active behind the scenes. She will be collecting information on every person on Earth through microchips. Everything will be uploaded into BEAST. Lucie doesn’t have a system in Hades to track collective data, so she will tap into BEAST to take control of the banking system, healthcare, and the religions of the world.
The rest of the unveiling can be found in the book of Revelation. Never doubt Almighty is still on His throne. The faithful will be taken home at the midpoint. If we can reach your family members and be assured they walk with Almighty, they will be taken to the Heavens before the war begins. You have time to reach them.”
When he finishes his speech, Michael leaves in a flash of light. The seven of us exchange some concerned looks. I step up with new orders: “Tony and Sterling, I’m sending the two of you to be our scouts. Go to Jordan and find a place for us to live in the caverns near the Petra caves. Find us some generators, and fuels to keep them running. Put in overhead lighting, cooking surfaces, and install heating and cooling systems. Also, seek out some high-powered vehicles that can climb steep terrain and have enough interior space to move supplies. Hummers come to mind. Which brings us to the financing of all of this: Seiko, find us a company that lacks business ethics and set us up with some corporate accounts, credit cards, and traveling papers.
“Guys, when you choose a cave area for us, make sure we have enough space to store the vehicles out of sight of planes and satellites.
“Kimmy and Liam, gather up food, clothing, and any comforts we’ll need. Make sure we have plenty of water, and medical supplies. Get us maps of the world in case we need to move around, and the satellites go down. Store enough supplies for seven years—and allow for twenty people in case some asylum-seekers find their way to us.
“Seiko, gather us all the technology tools and gadgets we will need. We will have some time to gather things during the three-and-a-half years of peace, but it will become increasingly difficult to move around without being discovered. The implanted microchips will eventually block us from buying and selling, so we will need to move quickly.”
Tova speaks up. “What about me, what will I do?”
“You’re staying here in Jerusalem with me. We are going to meet your mother. I sense that the Ambassador can help us.”
“What? We can’t just walk up to her. She buried me. The shock will be too much.”
“I disagree. We will figure it out once we arrive. She’s staying in a hotel right now and doing the whole political thing. Word on the street is she cannot return to the United States for a time because of a treason scandal. We will track her down at her parent’s house. I think she will end up there in a few days. They are very close.”
“It would be great to see them all again. I hope that you are right.”
“Everything will be fine. You’ll see.” I hug her close to me. I’m not even sure why I feel the pull to take Tova to see her mother, but I sense it is something I need to do.
“Prime Minister Marcus, thank you for standing with me in the battle with the Press and for welcoming me into your home. You and your wife have been so gracious. I’ve enjoyed being here in my homeland for a few days. I hope you understand my need to go visit with my parents for a week before I head back to New York. I haven’t seen them in a while. With everything changing in the world, I feel the need for an extended visit with my parents. Does this make sense?
“It makes perfect sense. Many people are gathering with their families right now. I believe many people sense the coming storm. We’ve enjoyed hosting you. I’m happy to see the political environment has calmed for both of our nations. Let’s hope that it continues to defuse.”
“Yes, I agree. I fear emotions will rise high again next week when the Thirteen Mandates are voted on at the U.N.”
“And, you will not be there voting?”
“No, the President decided to send Vice President, Belle Brooke, in my place. He knows I’m not comfortable with most of the Mandates. At first, I was offended by being left out of this ground-breaking event. Now, I am relieved. I think it will be a very sad day.”
“I understand. Israel will not be voting affirmative on eleven of them. Our two nations seem to be more and more separated from the thinking of the rest of the world. It is very disconcerting. Those of us who walk in faith can say we are disappointed, but we cannot say we’re surprised. We knew this day would come. Travel safely, Madam Ambassador.”
As I climb the steps to the home of Tova’s grandparents, my legs feel a little shaky. I haven’t been here for fifteen years. After the last phone call with her grandmother, I didn’t think I would ever be here again. I fully expect I will not be welcomed. It has always been clear her grandparents blame me for Tova’s suicide.
Tova and I decided the best approach to this reunion is for me to talk to her mother and grandparents first. Tova believes hearing I am alive in another form should happen before they see her standing before them. She doesn’t want the shock to harm any of them. I agreed with her reasoning. We confirmed her mother is visiting for the week. This adds to the complexity of getting in, because the Ambassador travels with a security detail. Her security has been doubled for this international visit.
I walk to the door and ring the bell. A security officer greets me. “Hello, I am a friend of the family from years gone by. I am hoping to visit with Mr. and Mrs. Parker. Could you please let them know I am here? My name is Grayson Cunningham from the United States.”
“Alright, I will check with the family. Please wait here.”
This is so awkward. We know Ambassador Jagger has kept the existence of her daughter a secret from the Press. I must get her in without anyone asking, “Who is this girl?”
“Mr. Cunningham, the family is wondering why you are here?”
As I am trying to think of a reason, the door behind the security guard is pushed open. It’s Tova’s grandmother. “Hello, Grayson. Please come in.”
She leads me through the foyer to the family living room. Her husband is in the room as well. I cross the room to shake his hand. “Hello, Mr. Parker. Thank you for seeing me.”
“Please, have a seat. What brings you here?”
“Well, as you know, I love your granddaughter. I know I handled my departure from her very poorly many years ago. I know you blame me for her death, and I wanted to apologize again for any role that I played in this tragedy.”
“It’s something we have left in the past, Grayson. It does us no good to keep reliving it. It won’t bring our darling girl back. Are you here to seek our forgiveness and closure?”
“Well, actually no. I’ve come for another reason.”
From around a corner, Ambassador Jagger enters the room. “Hello, Grayson. I am Janet Jagger, Tova’s mother. I, too, am curious about your visit. I wanted to listen in a bit to see what you were up to. I want you to know I don’t blame you for Tova’s death. I blame myself more than anyone else. Her diaries told me much about her love of you—and you of her. You made her very happy. We may never understand the suicide, but we have decided to stop placing blame, and simply live with the love she brought to our lives for seventeen glorious years.”
“That’s beautiful—and nicely said.” Janet takes a seat on the sofa by her mother. I sit on the loveseat facing them. Tova’s grandfather sits in a large armchair to my right. All eyes are on me, so there doesn’t seem to be a reason to delay. “I don’t know where your spiritual belief system takes you, but I have had to face mine fully recently. I think what I am about to say will seem impossible even as I say it. I assure you it’s true.”
Janet leans forward and puts her elbows on her knees. “Grayson, in the last week, I have seen some incredibly impossible things. I may be shock-proof by now, but let’s hear it.”
“I died on a military mission in Yemen three weeks ago. My soul passed onto Heaven and I awoke in this new body. I have been a follower of Almighty since age six. Even so, I was still taken by surprise to wake up in Paradise.” I can tell these three people have now put me back on the insanity watch list. They haven’t asked me to leave yet, so I continue.
“On a tour of Heaven, I was surprised by Tova. She was already there and living a very happy life. I thought you would want to know this. She is beautiful, at peace, and not holding any anger towards any of us. She says she will explain her reasoning for suicide when we are all together.”
Janet leans back into her chair and begins to dissect my message. “Grayson, it seems to me you want to convey that Tova is alive and well in Heaven. I wanted to jump up and cheer when you told us she’s happy. I hope you can understand my hesitancy to believe you have interacted with her. On the other hand, I want to be open to discussions of life after death. This week, I’ve experienced evidence there is another dimension and I believe human souls do exist there. Mom, Dad, do you have any thoughts you want to share?”
Rebecca shakes her head. Levi leans forward and clears his throat. “Young man, I’ve had a tough time liking you from the beginning. I once thought your only redeeming quality was your willingness to fight for your country. Like my wife, I feared you’d break Tova’s heart. When she took her life, I cursed you. In retrospect, I know I just needed someone to blame. You were convenient. After much study, I realize Tova was suffering from a pain too deep for any of us to reach. In time, we will have our answers.
“Moving on, I want to say that I believe in the afterlife. I’ve felt Tova near me on a couple of occasions. Like all of us, I am watching the world deteriorate and can sense the dark shift. Something big is about to happen. I have no doubt we are living in the final few years. It’s in this spirit I say I believe you. I believe all of it, including your interaction with her. In your eyes, I can see the two of you have rekindled your love for one another. And, that’s some very good news you just laid on us.” Levi reaches for my hands, does a four-hand shake and smiles.
“Thank you, Mr. Parker. I need to tell you something else—Tova is here with me.”
Janet lifts her head and furrows her brow. She lifts her hands and places them on either side of her face. “What do you mean by ‘she’s here?’ Do you mean in spirit?”
“No, in body. Would you like to see her?” I can see the fear in their faces. They’re afraid I might turn out to be mentally off-balance and pulling the cruelest of jokes. I agree with Tova, they will have to really believe she lives before they see her in person, or the shock will be too much for them.
Levi moves to the sofa and sits down between his wife and his daughter. “Are you two alright? Do you need a break and some water before the young man continues?”
Janet doesn’t hesitate. “No, I want to continue. I want to see her. Mom?”
Rebecca nods. Levi squeezes her hand. “We want to see our girl.”
I walk outside and knock on the car window. As Tova lowers the car window, I see fear again. I smile and tell her the good news: “They want to see you.”
“Yes! Let’s go.” She practically jumps out of the car. She grabs my hand and runs to the stairs and leaps them two at a time. Inside the foyer, she freezes. She runs her fingers through her hair and pushes it behind her shoulders, corrects her posture, and steps into the living room like the young Jewish lady they raised her to be.
When Tova steps into the room, Janet’s eyes water. “Tova? Is it really you, baby?” She walks across the room and places her hands on both sides of her daughter’s cheeks.
“Hello, Mother. I’ve missed you so much.” Janet grabs her and starts jumping up and down and laughing. The rest of the room breaks into tearful cheers. Tova reaches for my hand and pulls me into the hug circle.
Two hours later, we’re enjoying food trays and conversation. The Parkers have unending questions about Heaven. Janet is listening intently. I sit back in awe. I look forward to seeing my family reunited like this. The family invites me to stay the night in the guest room. As I drift off with my thoughts, I can hear Tova, her mother and grandmother giggling in the bedroom above me.
I watch the sunrise from my room. I make my way to the kitchen when I hear someone moving in my direction. It’s Levi, and he offers me a cup of coffee. “I just took some cups out to Janet’s guys who spent the night out there. What do you say about enjoying this on the front porch?”
“That sounds wonderful.”
Once I sit in one of the rocking chairs, I survey the lay of the land. The Secret Service men are sitting in two hummers enjoying their coffee as well. I can see horses in the distance galloping and kicking up their hoofs with the sunrise as a backdrop. Very few things on Earth look as majestic as horses running freely on open land.
Janet’s father stares in the same direction and begins to talk. “It’s a tough life Janet lives. I know it looks glamorous, but most days she awakes to hear of another nut case threatening her life. I think she’s happy doing this, but I also think she was a lot happier in the Peace Corps.” When Levi suddenly stops talking, it catches my attention and I turn to look at him. “You’re awfully quiet, son. What’s on your mind?”
“Well, right now, I am thinking about the threats to Janet’s life—I had no idea. I lived with threats everyday in the military, but didn’t think about a civilian facing it. Before you mentioned that, I was thinking about my parents. I always think about my mom when I’m sitting on a front porch. She loves her swinging chair.”
“Where does she live?”
“Will you see her on this visit?”
“I’m not sure, maybe. We’re still adjusting to an unexpected turn of events keeping us here longer than expected. We missed the opening window to get back to Heaven. We veered off course and aren’t sure what happens next. If we get the details mapped for the next few years, maybe I can travel to see my mother and my grandfather.”
“Son, I may not be as young and worldly as you, but I know enough about the Creator to know you were not left on this side by accident. You were left here for a very important reason.”
“We certainly came here for one. We completed our mission, but still missed the exit. We haven’t been given any other instructions.” Levi doesn’t respond. Just as I finish the last sip of my coffee, I see Janet’s Secret Service team jump from their vehicles and space themselves around the property.
“Gentlemen, please step back inside. We have an unidentified vehicle approaching. It ran through the police roadblock a mile back.”
From inside, Levi and I watch the action through the kitchen window. A black hummer is speeding towards the house with police cars on either side. The sirens are off, but the lights are flashing. Once they come to a halt, a man gets out of the hummer and shows a piece of paper to the head of Janet’s security team. “What are you guys looking at?” Tova and Janet have walked into the kitchen. “What’s going on?” Tova hugs me from behind.
Janet is immediately concerned. She walks across to the living room to get another angle. “This doesn’t look good. The police have obviously accompanied this suit. This means he outranks them. I’m going out to see what this is about.”
“I wouldn’t do that, Janet.” I hear the words leave my mouth before I even know why I am feeling uneasy.
“I’m not sure, but this guy seems out of place. He’s in an unmarked vehicle that appears to be bullet-proof and he felt comfortable enough to ignore a law-enforcement roadblock. The police around him seem uneasy. Look at them. They’re fidgeting. You stay here, and I’ll go out.” As I reach for the door knob, Janet’s Security Director pushes me back inside. “What’s going on? Why did you push me back in here?”
“I’m not sure we’re secure. This guy is demanding to see the Ambassador on some sort of state business. Janet, he’s got a warrant for you. It’s signed under the authority of the United Nations. I wasn’t aware the U.N. has the authority to serve warrants. Janet, has this changed?”
“There was talk of granting international U.N. officers the authority to arrest at the time of the introduction of the Thirteen Mandates. Even so, this can’t take effect until the Mandates are voted on and adopted.” A second member of Janet’s security team walks into the house with a piece of paper. “What is the warrant for, Chad?”
The officer hands the document to his supervisor. “You’re being brought up on charges of treason. It says you betrayed the United States by exposing their drone warfare technology and threatened the stability of the nation of Israel by exposing elements of classified biological warfare and germ-line editing advances.”
Janet is visibly shaken. “Chad, what should I do?”
“I think you should run.”
“As the rule stands, he can try to scare you into surrendering, but he can’t arrest an American Ambassador in Israel. It would be very complicated. If they want you, they can serve you in the United States. Here, take these keys. There’s a Hummer out back. It has a few days of supplies in it from a fishing trip, and weapons if you need them. It’s full of gas. Take the kids with you. It’s a five-hour drive to Jordan. I’ll call border control and tell them to clear you. We will stall this guy as long as we can.”
Janet looks at her family with a look of helplessness. She hugs her mom and dad. “I’ll be back as soon as I can. Thank you for everything. I love you both so much.”
I lead the way to the vehicle. Janet takes the back seat, and Tova takes the passenger seat beside me. I ease the Hummer through the cornfield and disappear into the northbound traffic flow.