Visits From A Man Named Nobody 88

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 88

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They looked at each other.

“You mean she’s in remission.” Jordan’s comment was strangely equal parts statement and question.

Paul smiled. “I meant what I said. The doctor said it was almost like she never had it.”

He proceeded to tell the story about the visit to the hospital. They both leaned forward as he went back to explain his night in the hospital religious services area, his prayer, and his current efforts to read and understand Scripture. 

“God could have taken my mom,” Paul said. “He could have let her linger in pain. He could have done anything, but he gave me this. He … he gave me that and so much more—“

Suddenly there were four arms wrapped around him tightly. “That’s cool, man,” Jordan said. 

“I’m so very happy,” Lidia said.

Paul laughed. “Happy?” 

They let him go and took a moment to sit back down. 

“Paul, I want you to figure out teleportation,” Jordan said. “We both want you to find someone, to have happiness like we have. But this, accepting Christ, that’s what we want for all our friends more than anything else.”

“That’s just it,” Paul said. “Am I saved? I don’t feel different? I mean, I’m not … It’s hard to explain.” He took a breath to try and find a way to break it down. “I’m reading the Bible. I know God is in charge of my life, and I want him to be, but … like, is that it? Aren’t I supposed to like, say something or … Maybe I should have started in the New Testament. What’s so funny?”

Jordan needed another minute to calm down. “Listen, ultimately God knows who he’s chosen or who he hasn’t. If you’re asking how to know you’re saved, that’s way more complicated, but there is something critical.”

Paul sat up, waiting to hear what his friend had to say. 

“Do you understand that you’re a sinner?” Jordan asked.

“Of course I am,” Paul’s face screwed up in confusion. “But I’ve given my life to Christ, and because he paid the price for my sins, I’m forgiven.”

Lidia’s jaw fell open. Jordan looked over to her. “He’s a scientist. That’s a process that makes sense.”

“Of course it makes sense,” Paul said. 

“I’m just … That’s the part I struggled with.,” Lidia said. “You just stated it like it was perfectly rational.”

“It is,” Paul said. 

Lidia smiled at him again. “I’m glad.” It sure seemed like she had more to say, but she didn’t.

“But after that, like, there’s more, right? I can’t just sign a card and move on in life. I have to do things? Is there like a checklist or something? Why do you keep laughing? Dude, I’m trying to understand!” Jordan’s chuckles, no matter how enduring, were starting to bother him.

“The same thinking that made the doctrine of justification so simple to you is a problem you’re going to face,” Jordan said. At least he’d stopped laughing. “If you’re asking for what to do, the answer is both simple and complicated. First, if you’re saved, you should be baptized as a demonstration of faith. But the danger is in turning worship of God into a series of checks and tasks instead of a life change, an attitude change. You can’t just pay a tithe and serve in a church and build up some sort of metaphorical Christian credit. What you do is far less important than why you do it, but it is important. You can’t ever sin to honor God, but a guy can give to the church and feed the orphans and pay for widow’s fees for his whole life and never know God.”

“What?” Jordan was right. That made no sense. “If I do everything I’m supposed to do.”

“Were you saved because of anything you did?” Jordan asked.

“No,” Paul said. 

Jordan nodded. “Then you can’t work in that manner. You do what you do to honor God. If your every thought and intention is to act like Christ and honor God, then you’re fine.”

“Then I’m screwed!” Paul flung his hands in the air. “I’m pretty sure I’ve sinned like, four times today. There was this girl I saw jogging on the way over here, and she had on this —“

“That’s enough!” Lidia cut in, raising her own hands in the air. 

“Sorry,  but my point is that didn’t honor God, so I sinned. Does that mean I should like baptize myself every day?” Paul asked.

“That’s the part that will take some time for you, I think,” Jordan answered. “Let me try it this way. Salvation is not equal to sanctification.”

Paul nodded. 

“Salvation occurs the moment you acknowledge Christ as your savior and submit to his rule over your life,” Jordan continued.

Paul nodded again.

“Sanctification is the process by which you continue to live, slowly working to eliminate the sin from your life.”

“Ohhh!” Paul said. 

“Wait,” Lidia asked, “That actually made sense?”

Paul and Jordan looked at her. “Of course,” they said together.

She laughed. “You two are ridiculous.” 

Paul shook his head. “So is there, like, a certain number of sins per year I need to stop? I mean, how do I know? And if you start laughing again, I’m going to sin against you!”

“Also sinful … “ Lidia muttered. 

“Sorry,” Jordan said. “It’s not a checklist. It’s not a list of dos and don’ts. Yes, there are sins, and we should never sin, but we’re human. Our very nature means it’s inevitable. One would have to be fully glorified to be fully free. Our task, is to try to be more like Christ. We never just sin because he’s cool with it. He’s not. We stumble, and we recognize that sin. We repent and ask forgiveness, and we work to never do it again. We call those who sin without ever trying to stop, ‘lost’ because they have simply accepted the pattern of sin in their lives and stopped doing anything to grow. But those who truly repent, those who stop and work to turn from every sin they can find, and they do it because they love Christ, and they never want to do anything to disappoint Him, those are the ones who are blessed.”

“Think of it like having a friend,” Lidia said. “You know it annoys him when you bite your fingernails, but you just keep doing it because you figure he’ll get over it. Why would you ever do anything to annoy your friend?”
“I wouldn’t,” Paul said. “Wait, was I biting my nails just now?” 

Lidia shook her head. “It’s just a hypothetical. If you are the one who’s annoyed by it, you  might try to get over it, but it means more when you see your friend make a genuine effort to stop, and eventually, he does.”

Paul finally leaned back in the recliner and rubbed his head. “I think I was happier when I was studying theoretical physics.”

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 87

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 87

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Twenty-Six

June 8, 2038, 11:52 a.m. 

13 Years, 179 Days Ago 

Paul stood before a red door wondering why it was so hard for him to ring the bell. He’d spoken to Jordan a few times, but he’d grown more and more distant, especially since his mother had gotten sick. Paul finally took a deep breath and rang the doorbell. 

Paul expected the chime, but that chime set off a series of other noises Paul hadn’t even realize he’d forgotten about. A dog started barking. That woke the baby, who started crying. 

Right, Paul thought, the baby must have been born a few weeks ago. 

The door opened to reveal Lidia wearing a simple t-shirt and jeans. Paul started at her. This could have been my house if I wasn’t such an idiot. Of course, if that were true, Jordan would probably be alone. A part of Paul still felt like this was better. 

“Paul!” The momentary staring contest ended as Lidia wrapped her arms around him. “Jordan, Paul’s finally come to visit!” She nearly blew out an ear drum rather than pulling away to call her husband. 

Footsteps thundered down a flight of stairs revealing Jordan, who held his child in his arms. 

“Hey! Man I’m so glad you’re here!” Paul thought Lidia would pull way, but Jordan just fit himself beside Lidia and further encircled Paul. It was like being wrapped in a blanket of love. They were genuinely happy to see him.

Paul lingered there, enjoying the group hug even though he couldn’t actually return the gesture. 

They finally let him go. Jordan smiled at him. “I guess you’re here to meet your godson.” 

Paul stammered as Jordan gently set the baby in his arms. Even as he tried to say, “No thanks,” he wound up holding the child and looking at it. 

Everything went still. The baby was so small and helpless. It had stopped crying. It was strangely alien and beautiful. 

“Paul,” Lidia said. “We’d like you to meet your godson, Paul.” 

Paul’s head jerked up, fixing the two in a state of awe. “You …”

Jordan laughed after Paul failed to say anything else. “There really wasn’t even a need for a plan B, unless of course it was a girl.” He rubbed the back of his head with his hand. “I mean, we probably would have gone with Paula or Pauline, but we’re sort of glad it was a boy.”

“I don’t know that we’ve really talked in … how long?” Paul was more thinking out loud than talking at the moment. 

“It’s been a while,” Jordan said. “And you typically need time, but once you get that, you usually come back around. You did come to see him, right?”

Paul looked down at the boy. “Actually …  my mom.”

“Oh, God.” Lidia wrapped her arms around him again. “Please say she’s OK. She’s not …  She’s OK, right?”

“She’s fine,” Paul said. “That’s … I don’t know how to explain this.”

Jordan carefully took his son back. “Maybe we should go sit down.”

The couple led Paul into a living room centered around a polished long coffee table decorated with a white vase filled with sunflowers. A corner couch wrapped around the coffee table. A recliner sat on the opposite side of a large glass door covered by flower-pattered curtains.  

Paul sat on the recliner. Lidia vanished into the kitchen and came out with a Dr. Pepper and a glass of ice. She set the drink next to Paul and sat beside her husband, who had just put their baby in a small, portable pack and play just in front of Paul’s small coffee table. 

“So your mom is doing better?” Jordan asked. 

“That’s why I came here,” Paul said. “She’s not doing better.”

Jordan and Lidia’s faces fell as they gripped each other’s hands. They looked at him with such sympathy. 

“She’s healed.” Paul let the words ring in the air. They felt so good to hear and even better to say.

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 86

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 86

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“Paul?” 

Paul’s head jerked. Both Feniker and his mother were staring at him. “What?”

“You’ve been staring at nothing for at least a full minute,” Feniker said.

“I … I don’t believe it.” Paul said. 

His mother chuckled. “It is almost too good to be true.” She gave a more nervous chuckle. “But I’d like to believe it.”

“That’s not what I meant. I know you’re healed. I … “

Paul stared at her for another long moment. 

“What is it, son?” She was trying to encourage him, but he couldn’t wrap his head around a single thought.

“I just didn’t want you to be in pain anymore.” Paul stepped up to her. He realized tears were falling down his face, but he didn’t bother to wipe them away. “I thought you were dying, but it would be OK because you weren’t hurting.”

“I don’t think I’m going anywhere, at least not because of cancer; right, Doctor?” Mary looked at Feniker.

The man shrugged in a gesture that looked like a poor wire-frame coat hanger had just buckled under the weight of a pea coat. “Apparently, you’re as healthy as anyone could ask to be.”

His mother took his hands. “See … I’m fine. I’m fine!” She had to have been, her grip actually cut off some circulation.

Paul didn’t care, he was trying to articulate thoughts he was still trying to understand himself. “I know. it’s just so much more than I asked for, more than I’ve been asking for.”

Her eyes widened. “What do you mean?” 

“That night, when you got real sick, I ended up in the hospital religious area. That’s why it took a while for anyone to find me. I was just … I just didn’t want you to hurt. I couldn’t imagine you dealing with this pain anymore.” Paul was rambling, but his mother just nodded as he spoke. “I told God it was OK if he took you. I told him he could do whatever he wanted. I had to admit he can do whatever he wants. I just begged him to end your pain. I thought I was praying for your death to be peaceful.”

His mother’s smile grew wider by the moment. She practically leaped up and flung her arms around him. “Oh, son! He always gives us more than we deserve, and it’s almost always more than we could have hopped for.”

A strange sound drew Paul’s attention to Feniker. It sounded like he’d burned himself, or maybe a teapot somewhere had just started to come to a boil. 

“Is something wrong?” Paul asked. The man’s eyebrows looked like they were trying to point as his chin. 

“I’m certainly glad you’re OK, Ms. Autumn, but I highly doubt some being just wiped the cancer from your body.” He sounded legitimately angry. 

Paul gently pulled himself away from his mother, who sat down, and walked over to the MRI negatives. “Then where’d it go? And how?”

“Like I said, the treatment must have been even more effective.” Feniker actually raised his voice. Why was he so mad?

“So how often has it worked this well? Has it worked this well ever? Do you intend to tell other patients about my mom and expect the treatment to have this same effect?” Paul couldn’t keep the smile off his face. Clearly the doctor wanted to defend his treatment, and maybe it did work. Maybe that was the medical cure, but he was every bit as baffled. 

“We need to do more tests.” Each word came out like a jab. “When we understand more, I’m quite sure we’ll understand it better and use this treatment to help all of our patients.”

“I’ll be excited to see it,” Paul said. Maybe that was it. Maybe the cure was just groundbreaking. Maybe in five years, brain cancer wouldn’t be nearly as horrifying as it had been. But Paul doubted it, even as he truly hoped it would be the case. 

“So what do you need from us?” Mary asked. 

Looking at Paul’s mother did something to reset Feinker’s demeanor. Maybe years of bedside manner training kicked in. 

“We’ve already run a full set of tests,” he replied. “We’d like to see you once a week, at least for a month, just to see how things develop.”

She nodded.

“Until then, congratulations!” He gave her another smile and turned out of the door. He actually turned in a direction that allowed him to avoid looking at Paul.  

Paul chuckled. He couldn’t blame the man. A bit more than a month ago, Paul would have shouted at himself. He looked back at his mother, who stared at him with a face that somehow conveyed equal amounts of joy, wonder, and bewilderment. 

“You … you prayed?”

Paul laughed. “I’ve been praying since that night. Just for the one thing. And I’ve been reading again.”

“Again? Reading what?”

Paul shrugged. “A little before that night I called the police, back with … him, I …  someone gave me a Bible. He’s the one who made me want to think about teleportation. It felt like a challenge, so I read it. But back then it was just like reading any book. I was just doing it to show him I could.”

She nodded as he spoke, letting him drive the conversation. 

“I only read it the one time, and after Bill … Mom I was so angry. I’m still angry, but I realize that God has all the power. He can do what he wants, and sure, I can feel however I want about it, but what’s the point of it? I thought he wanted me to hurt and suffer and be angry.”

He took the round chair that Feniker usually used and scooted up in front of her. “But when you were hurting, I just wanted it to stop. I was willing to let you go, and I thought he’d take you like always, but he didn’t.”

She gently used a hand to wipe the tears from his eyes and wrapped him in her arms again.  

“I still don’t understand it. I’m just happy!” He gripped her, forcing himself to be gentle. “For now, let’s just go home.”

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 85

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 85

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Twenty-Five

June 1, 2038, 2:00 p.m. 

13 Years, 186 Days Ago

Paul fidgeted in his seat teetering between rage and fear. Yet again people brought his mother into the lab. Yet again his mother was carted around like a delivery of groceries some new employee couldn’t quite get to the right shelves. They even sent them back to the original hospital. 

This time, they shoved his mother in at least three machines that he knew of. Each time they would walk in, mutter a few words about how something just had to be wrong, and then they’d cover her in another machine. 

They’d been working since 5 a.m., and not a single person cared to do much more than mutter about how they’d get everything set, and then start over again. Paul passed the time reading the Bible. He was careful to hide that fact from his mother. A part of him kept having questions he wanted to ask, but simply revealing that he’d turned to scripture would lead to anything from some sort of elation that he’d turned a corner to pointed questions he didn’t have a single answer for. So he kept the Bible in the bag they brought his mother’s change of clothes and snacks in, and he was careful only to pull it out when he was sure they were moving her to and from one of the machines that apparently refused to work. 

However, with his mother suddenly sitting and waiting right there with him, Paul found himself out of things to do aside from sit and/or stew. He bit his lip, trying to avoid asking his mother if they’d said anything to her. He’d already asked the question a number of times, so there wasn’t any point in asking again. 

She was reading her own copy of the Bible, which was projected from her PID. That created a new stress. Every now and then, she’d mutter a verse out loud that Paul had questions about.

It wasn’t the same as it used to be, though. Instead of wanting to disprove every passage he heard or reveal it as nonsense, Paul wanted to see how one verse connected to another. Given he hadn’t so much as looked at the Bible in years, he may as well have been reading it for the first time. 

Paul stood up to pace, if only for some reason to be moving, but Doctor Feniker burst through the door, giving both Paul and his mother a shocking jolt. 

“Good afternoon.” Feniker stepped over to a backlight and flipped it on. He opened an off white folder and started hanging MRI negatives up. “Frankly, I don’t know how to explain this other than trying to show you.”

Paul listened as each image slid out of the folder and flopped on the back-lit portion of the wall. 

Feniker hung the last one and stepped back, pointing at the first image he hung. “Do you see that dark spot?” A bony finger pointed at a spot on the right side of the image. 

“Yeah,” Paul said. 

Feniker nodded. “Huh, so I’m not seeing stuff.” He actually sounded relieved. “So here’s the question. Point out the same spot, or anything at all, in the other images.”

Paul stepped up to the remaining five images. He looked intently in the same area. “I can’t make anything out.”

“Neither can we,” Feniker said. “When our techs here failed to find anything, they assumed our machines were broken. That’s why we gave you a referral for another lab. We genuinely thought we needed to order repairs for our machines until earlier today, when the technicians over there called to ask me why I thought I had time to prank them.”

“Prank?” Paul repeated the word as if he didn’t know what it meant.

“I’d have thought the same thing if I took these images of someone who’s supposed to have a tumor.” Feniker smiled. 

Paul scrunched up his face in confusion. “I don’t understand. My mom’s been in treatment for months. Everyone here knows she has brain cancer.”

Feniker shrugged. “Which is why we were trying to figure out what was wrong with our machines. But you’re a scientist. You know that if five tests show the same result, it has to be true.”

Paul practically fell onto his chair. “You’re not saying … Doctor, are you really saying.”

Feniker gave another shrug. “We had had some small hope for these treatments. Tests showed they had a great impact on reducing the size of a tumor. Which is why we tested your mother’s blood as soon as you got here. Apparently, this treatment worked better than we could’ve hoped.”

Paul heard the doctor mutter under his breath. “Or I would have thought possible.”

“You’re saying,” Paul sucked in a deep breath. He didn’t know what to think or feel. “Doctor, I need you to say it plainly.”

Feniker gave a huge grin. “If you wish.” He looked over at Paul’s mom. “Mary, I’m happy to tell you that you’re in full remission.”

She brightened, and her eyes shone with unshed tears. “You mean, I’m cured?”

Feniker looked from her to the images and back again. “Honestly, if I hadn’t have seen it myself, I would have thought the same thing that other lab did. I had to send the original scans with all your information just to prove to them I wasn’t playing a trick on them.”

“What are you saying?” Paul wished he’d remembered any other word in the English language than those four.

“If I’d looked at any of those five images, I’d say whoever that patient was had a clean bill of health. There’s just no evidence anything was there to begin with,” Feniker said. 

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 84

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 84

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They followed the technician’s directions, and while they waited for their paperwork, Paul used his PID to set up a ride home. 

Paul thought he was just checking on his mother now and then, but once they were in a car on the way home, his mother smiled at him.

“Assuming my health could turn for the worst in another thirty seconds, I promise I’ll let you know if that happens, but this has to be the fiftieth time you’ve asked if I feel OK, and I have to admit it’s starting to make me nervous,” she said. 

Paul stared at her. 

“I know you’re worried.” She put a hand on his shoulder, probably in an effort to spare some of his feelings. “I really do feel better. I’m tired, and honestly hungry. If I feel any pain at all, I’ll tell you.”

He shrugged, supposing he’d get self conscious if someone kept asking him if he were OK. “Do you at least want to shut your eyes a bit on the way home?”   

Her eyebrows furrowed in though. “That would actually be nice.”  She leaned over to rest her head on her window.  After a few moments, her breathing slowed. 

Of course she’s exhausted. Even setting aside how long they were at the hospital, the sheer punishment her body went through would be enough to make anyone want to sleep for a week. 

Paul felt guilty having to gently shake her awake when they got to the house, but it was only a few minutes until he had her in her own bed and resting comfortably. She muttered a few times that she was still hungry, which was odd given how her body recently treated any kind of food, but she never really came awake enough to do much more than that. 

Once she was back asleep, Paul went to the kitchen to set up some food for her so it was ready when she woke. The motion of it gave him a chance to think. She’d said time and again that she really did feel OK. She hadn’t needed to vomit. Maybe she really was feeling better. 

Paul immediately set the package of saltine crackers he was arranging for his mother to eat down. “Um … thank you.” He shut his eyes. “I feel like an idiot. But I asked that she not be in pain, and she says she feels alright, and I’m grateful for that. I know what I said back at the hospital, and all of that is still true.”

He fought back a surge of emotion that was some odd combination of relief, fear, and sadness. “Whatever else happens. She’s not feeling that incredible pain anymore. She’s not asking for death. I just wanted to thank you for that. I hope she doesn’t go through that again. Whatever happens, just don’t let her feel that sort of agony again. Um … Amen?”

He felt foolish, but he codlin’t deny what just happened. Of course the doctors gave her medicine. Of course they did whatever tests they thought to do, but it was more than that. They were a part of something that was so much bigger. He had to admit what he’d felt all along. There was a God. Maybe that God hated him. But even then, he’d asked God for something, and God answered.

Paul finished setting up his mother’s snack while his mind raced to try to understand it. He hadn’t felt this curious and energized since he’d first met Nobody. Only instead of trying to figure out teleportation, he was trying to understand a being who, if he really, truly existed, would be so far beyond human understand as to be laughable to try. Except just like back when he first met Nobody, the place to go for answers remained the same. 

Paul walked as if in a trance to his room. His mother had made a few changes over the years. But the old wooden nightstand remained. Paul hadn’t so much as looked inside since Bill died. The room had new carpet. The mattress and bed frame were new. While the nightstand was still there, surely its contents would have been emptied. 

Paul’s hand shook as he reached for the drawer. He pulled it open, and there sat the Bible that Nobody had given him so many years ago. 

“Why not replace this nightstand?” Paul wondered aloud. “Why is everything else here new?”  

His mother hated things looking out of place. If she started working on something, she almost always finished. But in more than 10 years, she’d just never gotten around to replacing a simple night stand, and Paul had never even thought to look in it since Bill had died. 

He lifted the Bible up and opened it. A slip of paper fell to the floor. Even as it floated to the ground, Paul let out a wry chuckle. He stared at the note as it lie on the carpet. He sat on his bed and reached down to pick the paper up. 

Don’t just read it. Read it with an open heart. Ask Him to open your mind as you read. He is listening. Now it’s your turn.

P.S. I’m glad she’s feeling better, too.

Paul looked up from the paper. He didn’t see the tell-tale spot of water condensation anywhere, but the last part of the letter confirmed it was delivered that day. Paul felt the urge to call out to him, but Nobody wouldn’t be there. Nobody had never wanted Paul to listen to him; he wanted Paul to listen to God. Bill had wanted that, too.

Paul sat back on his bed and opened up the book. The first time he’d done it, he read it just to see what the big deal was about. But it was more an exercise in reading. This time, he’d read it again, and he’d read it hoping to understand a being he feared hated him. 

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 83

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 83

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A tear fell down her cheek.  “It hurt so much.”

Paul moved to her and wrapped her in his arms. “I’m sorry. I hate that this is happening to you. But don’t feel guilty. You don’t have to put yourself through pain.”

His voice cracked, but he managed to get it all out. They held each other there, unsure of how much time passed, until Dr. Feniker walked in. 

He smiled down at them. “It’s obvious the treatments are having an extreme effect. With only one treatment to go, I think the best thing to do is at least take a look at your scans to see if there’s been any impact.”

“What if there hasn’t been?” Paul asked. “She couldn’t possibly go through all of this again.”

Feniker grimaced. “I wish there was something I could say. For now, there are too many questions, and the answers won’t come until we see what’s going on. We’ve prepared the examination room for her MRI, and someone will be in soon. Once we get a look, we’ll at least know what we’re up against.”

“Does she have to do it now?” Paul asked. “Can’t she get some sleep?”

“I slept for hours. Once they gave me all that medicine, I fell asleep, and they went looking for you.” She pointed at his forehead, where the red mark from sleeping on it was probably still present. “Looks like you were getting some sleep, too, wherever you were.”

“I thought I’d only dozed off for a minute.”

Feniker coughed. He’d probably wondered if they had forgotten he was there.

“Looks like we’re as ready as we’re going to be,” his mother said. 

Feniker nodded. “A tech will be here shortly.” He left.

True to his word, for once, a tech arrived after another few moments. The slender woman brought a wheel chair with her. “Let’s get you into the examination room.”

She helped Paul get his mother situated on the wheel chair. Paul pushed the chair, following the tech to the lab. They hadn’t done any additional scans since his mother was diagnosed, but he felt comfortable helping to place her in the machine. The tech pointed to a waiting area, and Paul went and sat there, waiting for them to finish their work. 

Paul rested his head in a hand, rubbing at his temples with his thumb and middle finger. Please, let it be that the tumor is small enough. Please don’t put her through any more.  

Without anything else to do, Paul felt strangely comfortable each time he prayed. However, to his mind the prayer was over. As he waited, he was more or less thinking in God’s direction, and he wasn’t sure that counted. It would be pointless to try and work or rest. His thoughts kept jumping to his mother. 

After a while, Paul realized that it had been a long time. He figured he was just worried, so he checked his PID. Then he waited another hour. It wasn’t as if he could go to anyone to ask what was going on, but he started tracking the time. Another hour passed. By that point, Paul was willing to talk to the first person he could find. He stood up to do just that when the technician came through the door with his mother. 

“I’m so sorry for the wait,” she said. 

“What happened?” Paul asked. 

Her face scrunched up. “I don’t actually know. We tried to do the scan, but something must be wrong with our machines.”

“Machines?” 

“We have two, so we brought her to the second one, but whatever is going on is happening to both,” she explained. “We tried each machine at least three times, but we can’t get  … “ she paused as if thinking about how to explain her point. “We can’t get a clear reading.”

“So whatever is happening is affecting the reading?” Paul asked.

The technician shrugged.

“They must have put me in there a half-dozen times,” his mother said. “But after each time, they just asked me to do it again.”

Paul must have glared at the technician because she put up her hands defensively. “We were only trying to get a clear reading. But there’s nothing else we can do.  Maybe the scan was affected by what we gave her for her pain. Maybe it’s the machine. Either way, we know the fastest way to get results is to send her to another hospital. We’ve set up an appointment for you at another laboratory.”

“Are we heading there now?” Paul asked. It had already been 16 hours at this hospital. Nap or no nap, Paul knew his mother had to be exhausted.

“The appointment is in three days,” the technician said. “That way, the pain medication will have had time to leave her system. So if that’s what was affecting the scan, we’ll know it won’t this time.”

“How could her medication affect her treatment?” Paul asked.

“Sometimes different medications had an impact on the brain. It can cause MRI results to be hard to make out,” the technician answered, turning to look at Paul’s mother. “As long as you’re pain free, we can wait.”

“What if the pain comes back?” Paul asked. 

“You’re mother says the pain and other side effects are most severe the night of a treatment, so there’s a good chance to worst of it is over. We just want to get that scan done before the next treatment is supposed to happen.”

Paul looked at his mother, who shrugged. “You still feel better.”

She gave him a weak smile. “I’m just tired, and there really isn’t anything these people can do.”

Paul nodded. “So we can go home?”

“We just need to finish off the paperwork, and you’ll be on your way,” the technician said. “When you check out, you can pick up the referral for the new scan.”

Book Review Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson

This image was taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair use doctrine.

Spoiler free summary: In Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson, Spensa is trapped in the Nowhere, which, as it turns out, is somewhere. It’s a strange place composed of various fragments from various planets. Spensa must travel a path that will help her unlock her powers, but each step forward brings her closer to the Delvers she’s trying to defeat.

Character: Spensa and M-Bot have always been a cute duo. This book takes their relationship with readers to a new level. There is one particular scene in this book that down-right forced a tear (just one mind you) from my eye. It’s one of those horrific moments where you realize what’s about to happen, but you’re helpless to do anything about it. We meet other characters who are equally charming. These characters are why the series is so strong, but it’s not what make the book special.

Exposition: For a third book in a series, this book doesn’t have the inordinate amount of exposition one would expect. Given how much I read in that universe before this book came out (see my previous reviews on Sunreach and ReDawn), I think I just kind of mentally skimmed over it. Given the worldbuilding, there is a lot of dialogue-based exposition, but it’s spaced out in a manner that keeps the pace moving.

Worldbuilding: This is what sets this book above others. This book reveals not just a more expansive universe, but also a historical aspect that’s really intriguing. For me, just this worldbuilding wouldn’t have been enough. To be blunt, the plot line is essentially a travelogue through the history of this universe. So while interesting, it’s not compelling to me. However, this connected with compelling characters (and a few other bits of mystery) really flesh out what would otherwise have been a flat (if still enjoyable) read.

This image of Brandon Sanderson was taken from his author bio page on his webite.

Dialogue: Sanderson reminds me of Koontz in how his dialogue can seem witty and fun. It’s a style I try to emulate. This only happens when the characters are well established. Spensa’s relationship with M-Bot remind me a lot of Buffy’s relationship with Xander. I’m not really sure why, but it does. There’s a element of innocence mixed with admiration (though not romantic in this case) that I find lovely. The playfulness is charming, too. That tear moment I mentioned above, that was in dialogue. It all came together well. Yes, the inevitable “teacher” shows up, and that individual has to give all the expositional data on how the Nowhere works, but it’s still presented in a charming fashion.

Description: While I was happy with the description in the story, I think, perhaps, hard scifi fans might be disappointed. It’s a balance I don’t worry over too much, but it exists. I saw what I needed to see. Sanderson unlocked my imagination and let it do the rest. I feel like scifi fans want more. They want to see what the author sees, where as I just want to see enough to let my mind do the rest of the work. I’ll probably blog about that in the future. Regardless, I was happy.

Overall: This book is equally underrated as Redawn is. I’m honestly hard pressed to put one above the other, but I’d give this book a slight edge. This series is better than the average YA book series out there. It’s fresher than the Divergents and Hunger Games, and also less dark even though it’s still dystopian and still has some deep content to consider. Frankly, I still think this series should get some Hugo consideration.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 82

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 82

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It took Paul a few moments to orientate himself after a nurse shook him awake. His arm, and probably forehead, had a red spot from where he’d slept on it. He took in the pews and the religious stained-glass windows. He looked from the cross back the the nurse, a rather rotund young man, who woke him. 

Then his mind finally came fully awake. “What’s wrong?” Paul leapt to his feet looking around.

The nurse scuttled back a few steps. “Everything is fine,” he said. “I’ve just come to tell you your mother is in her room resting. It’s room 2201.” 

Paul hoped whatever he muttered sounded like a thank you as he rushed in the direction of his mother’s room. He glanced at his PID. It had been two hours since he brought her to the hospital. The nurse said everything was fine, but what did that mean? Did it mean his mother was just comfortable, or did it mean that she really felt better? 

Paul took the stairs, wanting to be moving instead of waiting for an elevator. He took them two-at-a-time until he got to the right floor. Then he sprinted to the room, ignoring anyone who shouted at him. 

He entered the room, startling his mother, who was sitting up in her bed with her back against the headboard. She was reading. That didn’t mean too much. His mother would read the Bible if she were on fire, but she didn’t look to be in any pain.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “What’s going on?”

She smiled at him. Something about the smile struck him. Then he tried to remember the last time he’d seen her smile. It might have been before that first reaction to the treatment. She probably smiled between treatments, once the side effects wore off. 

“I’m waiting for an MRI,” she said. “They examined me and gave me a bunch of doses of drugs I’m not certain I can pronounce, but I feel much better.”

“Then why do they want to do the MRI?” Paul asked. He pulled up a nearby chair and sat as close as he could to her bed.

She shrugged. “They said they want to see what’s going on. I only have one more treatment to go, and they’re hoping the treatment has had an effect already.”

“Maybe they’re hoping to skip the last treatment.” Paul was essentially thinking out loud. He looked at his mother. “So you feel better.”

She took a deep breath, which meant she was thinking carefully about what she was going to say. 

“I do right now.”

They stared at each other. Neither of them were likely to forget what she’d said. 

Paul broke the silence. “You don’t have to fight for me.”

She gave a look that was full of guilt, verifying that she wanted very much to stop fighting. 

“I don’t want you to be in pain. I don’t want you to hurt. I don’t want you to suffer.”

… to be continued …

Book Review Redawn by Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson

Book Review Redawn by Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson
The cover for this book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler free summary: In Redawn by Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson, Even as the Galactic Superiority offers peace and placation, the last remaining humans receive a warning in the form of Alanik, the alien who crash landed on Detritus to warn Spensa of the coming threat. She’s woken up, and now she wants to defend her own home, and that will require a different alliance. Secrets are revealed, and everything will change before this battle for Redawn is finished.

Character: The characters and their arcs are the main reasons why this book is surprisingly wonderful. I don’t mean that I didn’t expect it to be fun or good. I just didn’t expect it to be this good. Jorgen absolutely steals the show. The weird part is that the story is told from Alanik’s point of view, an there are times when I feel like I’m reading her summary of Jorgen’s story, and that is awkward. Alanik’s arc is far less interesting than the things going on around her.

Exposition: Other than the necessary reviews that happen with any book in a series, this book is pretty seamless. Honestly, this book flew by for me. It’s probably my second favorite book in the saga (Cytonic was cool for a few reasons). So any time the pages fly, I know it wasn’t bogged down by needless data dumps.

Worldbuilding: We see a new planet and a new culture here. There are some interesting cultural elements in Redawn that I enjoyed. I liked the scope this story created. We’re starting to see the greater universe of this story, and when that’s combined with compelling characters, the story is exponentially better.

This image of Brandon Sanderson was taken from his author bio page on his webite.

Dialogue: One of the biggest character and plot points actually happen as a result of dialogue. Honestly, if one wanted to study up on how to use dialogue to develop character and plot, this book (heck now that I think of it, there are two) is a great case study. The impact moment occurs during the plot. A big turning point. (Now I’ve thought of three!) This book really is packed full of beautiful moments (both good and bad) that work well because of how the dialogue worked.

Description: The description here worked just fine for me. I wonder how fans of hard science fiction would feel about it. Most of the historically best-selling science fiction novels I’ve read have an amount of description and details that annoy me (but not too much). The books I hated are the ones that just annoy me to no end and seem to freeze the plot. This book never comes close to freezing the plot. I’d say there’s probably more description than an average Sanderson novella, but given the amount of new characters and locations we see, it makes sense.

Overall: This book is severely underrated. Yes, it’s a YA novella, but man is it compelling. It exemplifies that a book doesn’t have to be large to be great. If I were a voter, I would actually strongly consider nominating this book on its own for a Hugo in the category. I don’t think it would hold up. Frankly, most Hugo winners are more … contemplative than narrative, but I think this book is fantastic despite what it is (not “for what it is”).

Thanks for reading,

Matt

p.s. I worked very hard to get an image of Janci, but whatever is going on, I can’t seem to save her image.

Vits From A Man Named Nobody 81

Vits From A Man Named Nobody 81

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The door burst open, announcing the EMTs. 

“Mom, you’re going to be OK,” Paul said even as he moved back to allow the to emergency responders to do their jobs.

“I don’t want to be OK!” She sounded as if she were in agony. “I want perfect peace. No pain. No tears.”

Paul stood there staring as the emergency responders worked on his mother, muttering to one another. It might have taken a few minutes; it might have taken forever, but eventually they got her up on the gurney. 

One of the women approached him. “She’s reacting to chemo?” She must have talked to his mother a bit. 

Paul nodded. He was regarded as quite the scientist, but he couldn’t even think about what medications his mother was taking. His intelligence was failing. He had his wretched father’s build and strength, but that couldn’t fight a single cancerous cell. “The list of medications is on the fridge.” The words came out like he was back in college trying to remember a particularly tricky formula. 

The woman nodded. 

“Where are you taking her?” Paul asked. 

Of course, they were taking her to where she got all of her treatments. Why would take her anywhere else. 

The woman helped her partner raise the gurney and they moved toward the ambulance. Paul wasn’t sure if he locked, or even shut, the door behind himself. He just followed the EMTs out to the ambulance. He didn’t know if people were allowed to ride in an ambulance or not, but no one stopped him from climbing inside. 

The trip was quiet. Whether they gave his mother something to help her sleep, or the pain had faded, she seemed to be breathing deeply in sleep. Paul realized he was watching her chest rise and fall again. Every breath was somehow a relief and a threat. 

The ambulance came to a stop, and Paul tried to stay out of the way as they pulled out his mother and rushed her into the emergency room. Paul stopped in the waiting area and watched his mother be carted away. 

She wants to die. Death is a release to her.

A part of Paul remembered something about death being a good thing to Christians. It had to have been something someone said during Bill’s funeral. 

Paul stumbled around, stunned. A distant part of him knew that it would be a long time before anyone knew anything. He just wandered, trying to process what his mother had said. She was obviously in a lot of pain. Was she fighting just to stay with him? Did he want her to suffer like this just for the chance to live longer?

He didn’t even look up as he walked. The white-tiles on the floor of the hospital was the only way he knew he was moving. 

He didn’t want to lose her, but he didn’t want her to suffer. 

The tile floor suddenly turned into a dark, thin carpet. Paul looked up to see a religious area. He certainly didn’t know enough about Christianity or Catholicism to know which the room was built around, but the stain glassed windows that lined the walls to his left and right certainly depicted scenes even he could remember from reading the Bible all those years ago. 

A strange chuckle escaped Paul. One day ago, he’d have grumbled and turned around. He would have been annoyed at just being around a church. That day, Paul realized he would have had to wind up right exactly there. The room was empty. It was strangely quiet given that it was tucked inside a deep corner of a hospital. Four rows of pews led to a small stage where a cross hung behind a podium. 

Paul walked to the far-back pew and sat down. 

“Are you here?” 

Silence responded. 

“Figures,” Paul said. “You never really wanted me to talk to you; did you, Nobody?”

Nobody didn’t want Paul to seek him for guidance. Bill didn’t give advice based on what he thought. They always wanted Paul to go to the one being Paul never really wanted to acknowledge. 

He looked up, and tears flowed from his eyes. 

“I think you hate me.” The words came out in a soft, chocking manner. Even though he wanted nothing more than to sit there and weep, he didn’t know what else to do. 

“I know I said I hate you. You made that man my father. Then you gave me Bill and took him away. I was so angry.”

His head sank. It took him a few moments to gather himself. 

“I am angry. I’m angry all the time, and I don’t want it. But if you are there, then you’re really in charge. If I live in a universe created by an all-powerful God, I have to acknowledge that, that same God is in charge of everything. So I’m powerless. You can do whatever you want. Bill said that what you want most is people to come to you. Nobody said that, too.”

He wasn’t really sure what he was saying. His words were more about collecting his thoughts than anything else. 

“I’m alone. My mom is in there, and she wants to die, but even if she survives this, we all die.”

His voice cracked as more tears fell. “You can do whatever you want. Just please don’t let her hurt anymore.”

He fell forward, resting his arms on the pew in front of himself and burring his head in his arms. 

“I don’t want to lose her. I don’t want to be alone. But I don’t want her to hurt either. I don’t know why you took Bill. I don’t even know who Nobody is or why he hasn’t appeared in so long. All I know is I love my mother, and if anyone is going to save her, it has to be you.”

He looked up. “I’m sorry I hated you. If you’re there, you’re the being in charge of everything, and all I’ve done my whole life is try to fight you.” Paul spread his arms. “I’m done. You can do whatever you want with me. You can do whatever you want to me. I deserve it. I’m angry. I’m violent. I push everyone away. So I I deserve it.”

Paul looked out the door of the church, or whatever it was called. He couldn’t really be sure where his mother was, but he wanted to believe he was looking in her direction. “But she’s done everything I know a person who follows you should. And she’s tried so hard to get me to surrender to you. She’s been patient. Sh—“ He needed another few moments to collect himself. “If you’re there, you’re the one who decides when a person lives or dies. Just don’t let her hurt anymore.”

He waited another moment. 

“But please save her. I need her. I know, that if you’re real, it’s moronic to fight you. It’s just plain stupid to go against you, so of course I need you. I just … please don’t take her from me now. But please don’t make the time I get with her painful.”

He gave another of those odd chuckles. “I keep saying ‘if.’ I don’t know anything. But I think … I think you’re real. And that wouldn’t change if you saved her or you didn’t. I’m just asking, even though I’m the last person you should ever do anything for. My whole life I thought that if you were real, that you owed me, but that was never true. You don’t owe anyone anything. You didn’t have to make us. So I get it. This isn’t a trade. This isn’t a bargain. All I can do is ask, so I’m asking.”

Paul let his head rest on his arm again. He’d said all he could think to say. He didn’t know where else to go, so he just sat there. Eventually, his tears ended and sleep arrived. 

… to be continued …