I do not understand,” Ida managed to repeat through clenched teeth.
“Good. Maybe once you realize how much you do not understand, you will have the humility to begin.”
Ida entered a poisonous calm. “Near as I can tell we are in a bad Star Trek episode where the enlightened crew are trapped in a backwards medieval castle in the clutches of an evil computer.”
The woman looked through Ida with deep sadness and said, “I will leave you both to discuss your options. They are to continue here in hopes of learning what God wishes you to know, or returning back to your lives none the wiser. Call me when you decide.”
“How? asked Simon.
“Ask the evil overlord computer for Angelica.” The woman stood and left the library, closing the door behind her, her delivery either deadly serious or perfectly deadpan, or, of greatest concern, both.
As the door latched shut, Ida unleashed. “Of all the audacious . . . unwarranted . . . ”
“Yeah,” said Simon before he realized what he was saying, “She was like another you.”
Eyes wide with fearful guilt, Simon slapped his hand to his mouth and sat still as a rabbit be-neath the gaze of an owl. Surely, this is not what marriage is supposed to be, he thought.
Neither moved. They sat, stewing in their own juices, anxiety and angst growing with each breath. Just as a rabbit risks death by action rather than impossible waiting, Simon realized action might cost less than inaction. He awkwardly rose from so low and walked out, declaring “I’m game to learn.”
Simon released a sigh as he crossed the threshold of his escape. Instead of the hallways, he stood in an empty white void, like a bad movie of heaven. The old prune of a woman stood be-fore him, arms crossed. “Where are you going, Simon?”
“To catch up with the others. I’m here to learn whatever I’m supposed to.”
“Not without your wife and family, you aren’t.”
Angelica shook her head. “This won’t do, Simon. Won’t do at all.”
Angelica threw her arms up, exasperated. She sighed and gathered herself. “Coward,” she said softly.
Simon stared. He had been called a lot of things for being demure, but coward was new. Considerate. Thoughtful. Sensitive. Coward?
“Your wife needs you to be strong and fight for her.”
“What? She’s got plenty of her own fight! Besides, I did and you told me I was a fool.”
“You aren’t fighting for her. You are fighting for her pride.”
Simon scratched his head. “What’s the difference?”
“Holiness and sin.”
“You defended her sin of arrogance — a sin which blinds her from seeing how desperately she needs to choose to stay here and learn what she doesn’t know she doesn’t know.”
“Is that possible? Can we learn what we don’t know we don’t know?”
“All things are possible, with God.”
“If you say so.”
Angelica smiled. “I do, but it’s not true because I say so. It is true because it is true.”
“If all things are possible with God, why don’t they happen?”
It hardly seemed an answer. Simon shrugged. “How do I fight for her instead of her pride?”
Angelica smiled broadly. “You do what Adam did not. You hold her accountable to love of God and God’s Truth.”
“Riddles? It’s to be riddles? Seriously?”
“You need to discover the simplicity that connects everything.”
“Love and Truth, I suppose?” Simon asked, eyes rolling.
“All right. You’ve met Ida. I’m supposed to hold her accountable?”
“Have you met Ida?” Simon burst.
Simon’s eyes narrowed. “Wait. Who are you?”
“Not what I mean, and you know it.”
“I do. It’s good to see you’ve a bit of fight in you.”
“Congratulations. You got me, a coward, to want to fight you. Now, answer my question before I swing at an old woman. Please.”
Angelica’s wrinkles became smaller as her smile broadened. “Excellent! Your fight’s waking up. Now we just have to help you aim it properly. I’m your guardian angel.”
Simon stared at the stump of a woman in front of him then burst out laughing at the absurdi-ty. “My guardian angel is an ancient pygmy with skin for three and a snarky attitude?”
“I didn’t want to frighten you.”
“With what? More wrinkles?”
Light flashed, heat seared. Simon’s face felt a radiant blast of blistering heat. He flinched and staggered backwards, hands before his face. “St . . . stop!” he stammered.
It did. As though nothing had happened.
Simon felt his face, expecting melted, bubbling skin and pain. No blisters, and even his stub-ble was there. It ought to have seared off in that blast. “Nothing between helpless old lady and . . . that?”
“Creative license,” Angelica shrugged. Seeing Simon’s continued quivering, she added, “I thought it best to err on this side.”
Simon nodded. “Good point.” Simon looked at her, pursing his lips outward in thought. “If I acquiesce to your request that I not acquiesce, aren’t I just exacerbating my cowardice?”
“Acquiescing to God is never cowardice. Acquiescing to God requires great courage and even greater humility.”
(Editor’s Note: Starting in this issue and continuing once a month for the next several months, the Herald will feature excerpts from “Ecsodus Vision,” a novella by Deacon Patrick Jones. Below is Chapter 5 of the novella. To read Chapters 1-6 in their entirety, visit www.apubz.com/pubz/CCH/Ecsodus/index.html )