May 1, 2021, 9:31 p.m.
26.5 Years Ago
Paul woke up in a hospital bed. His leg and arm each had a cast. Despite his grogginess his eyes darted around for his mother. Instead, they found Nobody, sitting in a plastic chair next to his bed.
“Your mother is fine,” he said. “Or at least, she will be.”
He was dressed exactly the same as he was moths ago. The same gray slacks. The same black pea-coat. As messy as Nobody’s black hair was, Paul wasn’t sure a single strand had moved from when he’d last seen him. The opaque mask Nobody wore still made it hard to see any details in his face.
“So dad stopped?” Paul’s father had come close to killing him twice, and the man nearly killed his mother at least three times. They’d get rushed to the hospital and treated for what was always somehow described as an “accident.” They’d move after the “accident” to be sure the hospital didn’t have an accurate record of how many times the family had visited.
“No,” Nobody answered. “The police showed up. By the grace of God there was an officer near the house when you called. Your father is in holding. He’s been charged with domestic abuse, assault, and attempted murder.”
“I don’t think he was really trying to kill me,” Paul said. He was confused just an instant after he asked the question. Why was he defending the man who’d just beat him and his mother to within an inch of their lives?
“He had a knife on him when the police entered your home,” Nobody said. “Apparently, he saw the phone you used. One might debate if he really intended to use it or not. Even your father claimed he had the knife to attempt suicide.”
Paul’s father had done that five times that he knew of. His mom would threaten to leave, and he’d pull out a knife and threaten to kill himself. A part of Paul truly wanted that to be the truth. It was one thing for his father to pull one of his typical self-threatening displays, but another part of Paul knew that the knife was meant for him.
“How do you know all this?” Paul asked.
“The same way I know everything else.” Nobody said it as if it were an actual explanation.
“And you didn’t do a damn thing!” Paul yelled.
“Please don’t use that language around me,” Nobody said.
“Fuck off!” Paul shouted. “You appear in my bedroom and hand me a Bible when you could have knocked on the door with a police man.”
“The language you use is a reflection of your own heart,” Nobody said. “And you’re trying to make me angry and defensive. It won’t work. Tell me honestly what would have happened if I had shown up with a cop? If you hadn’t had called the police and your father didn’t actually kill you, what would have happened?”
Paul opened his mouth, but no words came out.
“I imagine, if he hand’t killed you, he would have taken you to get patched up. He’d have claimed there was an accident. Then you’d move.”
Paul’s mouth remained open in shock. It was almost exactly what Paul thought his father would have done.
“Did God just magically teleport the Israelites out of Egypt?” Nobody asked.
Paul jerked his head. The question felt like it came out of nowhere. On moment, we’re talking about my dad, and the next moment he’s asking about Exodus?
“Moses led them out of Egypt,” Paul said. “I’ve been reading like you asked.”
“Why?” Nobody asked.
“Why what?” Paul asked. Why did Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt?
“Why have you been reading?” Nobody slowly rubbed his hands against one another. It seemed like a habit. The room wasn’t particularly cold.
“I don’t really know,” Paul admitted. “I mean you asked me to, but a part of me was just curious.”
“And your other reading? Any luck finding out how I do it?” Even through the mask, Paul heard Nobody’s amusement.
“I think you found some way to teleport,” Paul said.
“Have you considered perhaps that God moves me?” Nobody asked.
“No,” Paul said. “What you’re doing is real.”
“And the Bible isn’t real?” Nobody asked.
“No,” Paul replied. “Science has proven there isn’t a God.”
“Really?” Nobody cocked his head. “I should like to see that scientific evidence.”
“The world wasn’t made in six days,” Paul said. “We didn’t descend from just two people. There aren’t miracles.”
“There aren’t miracles?” Nobody asked. “How then, do you explain the fact that you’re alive right now?”
“I’m alive because I called the police,” Paul said.
“And what were you thinking when you made this call? What was the last thought you had right before you pressed that emergency button?”
It was unnerving looking at the man’s opaque mask. Paul couldn’t really see the man’s eyes even if they were as intense as Paul felt they had to be. More strangely unnerving was the last question Nobody asked.
I asked for help.
“And who were you asking for help from, Paul?” Nobody asked as if Paul had spoken out loud. “After you asked, who helped you?”
“I did it myself!” Paul said angrily. No all-powerful being gave him the strength to press a button. He’d pressed buttons all the time. There was nothing supernatural about a phone call.
“And what about every other time you could have done it?” Nobody asked. “Why this time? Why did you gain the strength and courage this time?”
He emphasized the words, implying he knew exactly what verse was running through Paul’s mind when he made the call.
… to be continued …