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 …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 80

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 80

PT1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 // PT 33 // PT 34 // PT 35 // PT 36 // PT 37 // PT 38 // PT 39 // PT 40 // PT 41 // PT 42 // PT 43 // PT 44 // PT 45 // PT 46 // PT 47 // PT 48 // PT 49 // PT 50 // PT 51 // PT 52 // PT 53 // PT 54 // PT 55 // PT 56 // PT 57 // PT 58 // PT 59 // PT 60 // PT 61 // PT 62 // PT 63 // PT 64 // PT 65 // PT 66 // PT 67 // PT 68 // PT 69 // PT 70 // PT 71 // PT 72 // PT 73 // PT 74 // PT 75 // PT 76 // PT 77 // PT 78 // PT 79 //

Twenty-Four

May 29, 2038, 10:34 p.m. 

13 Years, 189 Days Ago

Paul gently held his mother as she retched. Her heaving stomach had long since emptied itself of it contents. She wept. 

“It hurts!” The statement was barely a whisper, but it still carried with it the implication of immense pain. 

She heaved again. Despite doing so for at least five minutes, nothing came out. Each time she finished convulsing, she fought to take in a breath before another wave of nausea hit her. It was like she was being suffocated by the illness. 

“I’m here,” Paul said. “I’m sorry. I … I don’t know what to do.”

Each bout of nausea got worse after each treatment. This session, the fourth, there was no optimism as they sat the treatment room, and Derek administered the treatment. They waited for the inevitable aftermath, and it came just five hours after they got home.

This time, Paul’s mother didn’t even sleep. She didn’t eat. She just went into her bathroom and waited with Paul, and the nausea, as expected, hit harder than ever. 

Paul stared at his mother as she heaved again, but this time, something plopped into the bowl. 

Paul glanced inside and froze. Dark red blood swirled in the water, changing it’s color in a terrifying moment. 

“We’re taking you in,” Paul said. 

He tapped his PID, activating it so he could press the emergency button. After a few painful moments, during which his mother coughed more blood into the toilet, a man’s face appeared on the PID.

“Emergency services. An ambulance is already on the way. My name is Don. Please tell me the emergency.”

“My mom’s coughing up blood,” Paul said. “She’s been going through chemotherapy, and they told me to report any blood immediately.”

Don’s holographic head nodded. “Someone will be there soon. Are there any other symptoms.”

“It hurts,” Paul’s mother whined. “I feel like my head is going to explode. God, I don’t want to do this any more. I don’t want this pain. Lord, I’m ready. Call me home and end this suffering.”

Paul fell back against the bathtub as if he were shoved. Did she really just ask to die? Is the pain that bad?

A siren screamed in the distance, and Paul shook his head and sucked in a breath. “Let’s get you up.”

He reached over to help his mother up, but she tried to push him away. “I said I’m done!” Though the comment was barely audible, the anger in her tone was clear.

“OK,” Paul said. “I’ll just go let them in.”

He rushed to the door. Coincidentally, the ambulance came to a stop in front of the house right as Paul opened the door. The large white vehicle’s hybrid engine seemed to both rumble and whine at the same time. Red lights flashed on the top of the vehicle. 

Two people, both women, exited the front doors and quickly walked to the back. They opened the rear side of the ambulance and rolled out a gurney. 

“The door is open!” Paul shouted. “We’re in the bathroom in the master bedroom.”

Paul didn’t wait for any reply, rushing back to his mother. 

He got to the bathroom and found her sitting on the stool crying. She held herself, awkwardly crossing her arms in front of her chest and yet still twisting her hands around so they could clasp together. 

“I can’t do it anymore!” Her comments came in quiet whispers of agony. “Please take this pain. Please don’t make me go through any more.”

“The ambulance is here,” Paul said. “They’re going to get you to the hospital and make you feel better.”

She looked at him, her full lips trembling, holding in a scream. She took a deep breath. “I don’t want to feel better,” she said. “I want the pain to stop.”

“That’s …” Paul didn’t understand. 

“I don’t want comfort,” she said. “I want it to end.”

“I … “  Paul couldn’t think.

“I love you,” she said. “I’m sorry I can’t fight any more. I just can’t do this any more.”

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 79

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 79

PT1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 // PT 33 // PT 34 // PT 35 // PT 36 // PT 37 // PT 38 // PT 39 // PT 40 // PT 41 // PT 42 // PT 43 // PT 44 // PT 45 // PT 46 // PT 47 // PT 48 // PT 49 // PT 50 // PT 51 // PT 52 // PT 53 // PT 54 // PT 55 // PT 56 // PT 57 // PT 58 // PT 59 // PT 60 // PT 61 // PT 62 // PT 63 // PT 64 // PT 65 // PT 66 // PT 67 // PT 68 // PT 69 // PT 70 // PT 71 // PT 72 // PT 73 // PT 74 // PT 75 // PT 76 // PT 77 // PT 78 //

Each time she took in a deep, restful breath, he took a bite, but he didn’t realize that was what he was doing until he was halfway through his meal. He set the bowl down and just watched her.

A series of agonizingly long minutes passed until he picked up the bowl and went right back to rewarding each of her breaths with another bite of food. It was literally all he could do. Sure he called the hospital and helped her get back to bed, but he was utterly powerless in this situation. 

He set the bowl back down; there were only a few stray noodles remaining. Paul pulled out his note pad. The truth was no man every really had any power in any situation. A person could exercise, eat right, see a doctor and dentist regularly, and still end up killed just as easily as anyone else. 

Paul imagined most people understood all of that, but the illusion of power gave comfort. Paul’s mother was aways strong and beautiful, even now. She ate right and lived a life most people would describe as good no matter what their beliefs. Regardless, there she was, lying in a bed and completely helpless to do anything. 

Paul threw the notepad down in frustration. The slap it made on the hardwood floor caused his mother’s eyes to burst open.

Idiot! He couldn’t even reign in his temper for the sake of his mother?

She looked around, smiling when her eyes met his, and then smiling wider when she saw the bowl still steaming on her night stand. 

“Is that for me?” she asked.

Paul smiled. “I wasn’t sure if you were hungry or not, and I didn’t mean to wake you; I’m sorry.”

She gave a soft chuckle, and Paul grimaced as she winced in pain. “I’m sure whatever it was won’t do whatever it did again.” She must have noticed his concern as he stood. “I just felt a moment of discomfort.” She reached out a grabbed his hand. “I’m OK, and I’d love a few sips of that broth.” She pulled back her hand.

Paul nodded and sat back down. He picked up the bowl and scooped up some of its contents.

Paul had created machines that could generate vacuum fields without the aide of any containment device. All of that required skill and dexterity, but in all his life, he’d never been so cautious and gentle than he was in those moments. 

She opened her mouth, and he guided the spoon to her lips, letting her slowly sip the liquid in. She gave a thin-lipped smile and let out a contented sigh. “I’m truly blessed to have a son who cares for me so.”

Paul let out a frustrated chuckle, but her eyes caught his.

“Should I focus on the pain?” she asked. “Should I focus on my concerns? Am I such a fool for choosing to be grateful for what I do have? Am I so stupid and naive for counting what good things I can count?”

“Of course not,” Paul replied. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to laugh like that.” He completed his apology with another spoonful of broth.

“I know you’re worried about me,” she said. “And I love you. And I’ve had my fair share of doubt and sadness and even anger. But if I just think for a minute about all the wonderful things I have, I can smile.” She did so, looking at him. “The first thing I always think of is you.”

“I was the worst son ever.” Paul scooped up more soup. 

She accepted another bite but them lied down. “I could say the same about my parenting skills.”

“Don’t go there,” Paul said. “We talked about that. What were you supposed to do?”

Her eyes were almost shut when the question came out, but they popped back open. “Care for you. Protect you.” A single tear rolled down her cheek. 

Paul thought for a moment. “You believe in forgiveness.”

“I have to,” she said.

“Whatever you may have done, whatever you’ve done in my life, know that the only thing I think about is how wonderful you’ve been to me.” The tone and forcefulness in his voice seemed to increase as he spoke. “I don’t think you need my forgiveness because I don’t hold it against you, but if that’s something you’re still holding on to, then know that I forgive you.” 

“Thank you,” she said softly. “And, you, who said you were such a bad son, you’ve made me so proud. I want the world for you. I love you, and I think you’re a wonderful son to me. Whatever you think you’ve done, I forgive you. You are my son, with whom I am well pleased.”

That last part tickled something in Paul’s mind, and he couldn’t understand why the phrase hit him as hard as it did. Whatever the reason, Paul had to scrub at his face and sniff in a suddenly runny nose. 

“So it’s settled,” he said. “We’ve forgiven each other, and I’m going to take care of you until you’re healthy.”

“That’s nice.” Her eyes drifted shut.

“I’ll be here when you wake,” he said. “I won’t leave you.”

“That’s … so … kind.” 

“I love you.” 

“Mmm hmm mm hmmmm.” 

Paul watched her sleep, careless of the time. He sat by her side and just watched until sleep came to claim him, too.

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 78

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 78

PT1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 // PT 33 // PT 34 // PT 35 // PT 36 // PT 37 // PT 38 // PT 39 // PT 40 // PT 41 // PT 42 // PT 43 // PT 44 // PT 45 // PT 46 // PT 47 // PT 48 // PT 49 // PT 50 // PT 51 // PT 52 // PT 53 // PT 54 // PT 55 // PT 56 // PT 57 // PT 58 // PT 59 // PT 60 // PT 61 // PT 62 // PT 63 // PT 64 // PT 65 // PT 66 // PT 67 // PT 68 // PT 69 // PT 70 // PT 71 // PT 72 // PT 73 // PT 74 // PT 75 // PT 76 // PT 77 //

“Yes.” Paul’s mother actually found a gasp of air necessary to join the conversation. 

Paul watched her take a few shaky breaths. “What?” He hadn’t paid any attention to the holographic projection.

“I asked if there was any blood in the vomit.” 

Paul looked in the bowl. The green and yellow mess didn’t have a hint of red in it.

“No.”

“Please make sure,” the woman said. “It might look black or even like coffee grounds.”

Paul looked again, half terrified that he’d find specks of black in the vomit, but no matter how hard he looked, all he saw was green and yellow. 

“I’m sure,” Paul said. The relief at what he didn’t see helped him get a handle on his temper. “That’s good, right?”

“Yes.” The woman actually smiled. “It’s horribly uncomfortable and painful to vomit, but as long as there’s no blood, then it’s very likely just bile.”

“Very likely?”

“Almost certainly,” the woman said. “How much has she had to eat?”

“Not nearly as much as she’s vomited,” Paul said.

“Some fruit,” his mother added. “Just a few servings here or there.”

“OK.” The woman gave a smile as she nodded. “What’s probably happening is something called delayed nausea, which is very frightening, but not terribly uncommon. That combined with fruit and the color of the vomit indicates that it is just bile.”

Her eyes glanced down, and Paul herd some distinct clicking, fingers pressing keys on a keyboard. 

“I’m sending you a list of food that will probably go down better and will be less likely to come up.” A small envelope appeared in the bottom right of the holographic projection to indicate the file had already arrived. “Give her some water and maybe a bit of broth, and try to help her get back to sleep.”

“That’s it?” Paul asked. 

“You can always bring her to the hospital to get checked up, but it seems like the worst of it is over, and what she needs right now is something to ease her stomach and help her rest,” the woman replied. 

Paul gently rubbed his mother’s back. “Do you want to go to the hospital?”

She shook her head.

“OK,” Paul said. 

“How should I know if I need to take her in,” he asked the hologram.

“Bleeding or blood in any situation is cause for concern. The darker the color of that blood, the more serious it is,” she said. “I want to be clear that you can and should always visit the hospital if you feel it is an emergency.”

Paul nodded as he listened. She stayed on the line for what had to be a full minute, watching Paul’s mother. 

Paul looked at the woman. “Thank you.” It was clear she was just giving his mother a bit of attention. 

“Your welcome,” she said. “Get some water and broth in her, just a little, and see if you can get her back to sleep.”

“OK,” Paul said.

The hologram blinked out of existence. Paul gently helped his mother up and into her bedroom. Just a few weeks ago, his mother seemed so vibrant. Now he worried he might break something if he gripped her too hard. 

And this is just after one treatment? How bad is it gonna get?

He tried to hide his concern as he covered her up. He went into the bathroom, flushed the toilet, washed his hands, and grabbed the PID before coming back out. He set the PID back on the night stand next to her bed.

“I’ll be right back.” 

True to his word, Paul fought himself to avoid sprinting to get his mother something to drink. He filled a pitcher with ice and water and brought a small cup back to his mother’s room. Some small part of his mind reminded him to snag a hand towel as he walked, and he set it on the night stand to catch the condensation of the water in the pitcher. His mother would go insane if something put a ring on any of her furniture. 

He poured water into the small glass, and helped his mother drink. She only managed a few sips. The cup couldn’t have contained 8 ounces, and she still only drank half of it, but at least she drank.  

“It’s right here for you, and if you need help, just tap your PID. I’m just going to make you some broth.”

Paul waited for his mother to nod before heading to the kitchen. He grabbed a can of soup and got to work cooking it. Once he had the contents heating in a pot, he made his way back to her room.

She was there, sleeping. Her hands were still folded together in prayer. She was clearly exhausted, but she didn’t look uncomfortable. Paul took a moment to finally head to his room and grab his PID. Then he returned to his mother’s side and watched her sleep until the soup was ready.

He quickly went to the kitchen to turn off the stove. He carefully used a lid to pour the broth into one container and the rest of the soup, vegetables and chunks of chicken, into a bowl. He covered the broth to keep it warm and set the bowl on top. He carefully walked back to his mother’s room, breathing out a relieved sigh when he saw she was still sleeping. He set the broth and noodles down and pulled up a chair. 

He left for another moment just to get two spoons. She was still resting comfortably when he returned, so he picked up the bowl, deciding to eat the noodles and chicken while he watched over her.

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 71

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 71

PT1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 // PT 33 // PT 34 // PT 35 // PT 36 // PT 37 // PT 38 // PT 39 // PT 40 // PT 41 // PT 42 // PT 43 // PT 44 // PT 45 // PT 46 // PT 47 // PT 48 // PT 49 // PT 50 // PT 51 // PT 52 // PT 53 // PT 54 // PT 55 // PT 56 // PT 57 // PT 58 // PT 59 // PT 60 // PT 61 // PT 62 // PT 63 // PT 64 // PT 65 // PT 66 // PT 67 // PT 68 // PT 69 // PT 70 //

Twenty-One

March 5, 2038, 4:05 p.m. 

13 Years, 274 Days Ago

Paul sat next to his sleeping mother. His knee bounced as if he’d had four servings of the world’s largest cup of coffee. He watched her every breath. Her chest rose and fell. There was always a horrifying pause before her chest would rise again. It rose; it fell. Paul waited, worried that something happened. An agonizing moment would pass. He’d jerk forward intending to call for help, until he saw his mother take another breath. 

Her head was wrapped in bandages, but her face was free. That was at least something. Paul figured his mom would have been afraid to wake like that. 

“I really figured you’d be here.” Paul kept expecting Nobody to show up. “Where’s your sermon? Where are all those piffy thoughts and fortune cookie Bible versus?”

A part of him truly hated Nobody. He’d become this person who was always there when Paul needed, but he was there less and less. His mother was sick and possibly dying. There was a tumor in her brain that would consume her if no one did anything, and nothing was being done. 

“What am I supposed to learn?” 

The room was too quiet. His mother was still sound asleep after hours of people just poking around her brain. He watched her chest rise and fall and nearly panicked until her chest rose and fell again. 

“What I’m learning is that I’m cursed,” Paul said. “If you want me to believe in a God, then I have to believe he hates me. Not only does he take everyone I love from me, he does it in the worst possible way. Bill was killed in a stupid car accident before he could even marry my mother. Jordan is happily married to Lidia, and I’m left alone. The project is dead in the water. Now my mom is lying here helpless.”

He stared at his mother some more, feeling intense relief with every breath she took. 

In a rush of frustration, he flung his hands in her direction. “She turned to your god! And look what he’s done for her! Is this the great life of a Christian? Serve a God, and he’ll watch you pray to him all day just to give you some terrible disease and kill you. No thanks!”

He shut his eyes, pointlessly trying to keep himself from screaming. He let out an exasperated chuckle that somehow managed to keep him from breaking down. “Of course you’d remind me I had them in the first place. He gives and takes away, and all that. But if he takes what he gives, was it ever a gift in the first place?”

A tear rolled down his cheek. He couldn’t hold it back. His lip quivered as he sat helplessly watching his mom. 

“Am I supposed to learn I’m powerless?” It came out in a whine. He rubbed his face with his hands until the urge to sob dwindled away. “I get it! I’m the weak mortal, and God is the all powerful being. But why follow a God who’d let all this happen?”

He let out another laugh. “Oh, yeah, I forgot. This is all my fault. This is humanity’s fault. We ate some stupid piece of fruit, and now everyone has to suffer and die. The all powerful God who can do everything can’t just wipe it away. So I’m supposed to learn I deserve it. Well I do. I admit it. But she doesn’t!”

He looked at her again as more tears fell. “She didn’t deserve to be beaten. She didn’t deserve to lose Bill.”

“Of course you say no one is good. My mom isn’t perfect. Of course she isn’t. No one is perfect, so am I supposed to learn that we all deserve to die? If that’s the case what’s the point? What is it all for?”

His mother stirred, letting out a low groan. Paul shot to his feet, using the bottom of his t-shirt to wipe his tears away. 

“Mom?”

She clenched her eyes. “Are you talking to someone?” Her voice was dry and raspy. 

He swiveled his head around until he found a pink plastic pitcher of water. He grabbed one of the pink cups and filled it. 

“No, just thinking out loud,” he answered. “Here, have some water.”

She was still grimacing, but even with her eyes shut tightly, she held out her hand for cup and drank it all in one tip of the cup. She handed the cup back, and Paul moved to fill it again, but she finally cracked one eye for a second to see him. She shook her head, clenching her eyes shut again.

“No thanks,” she said.

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 66

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 66

PT1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 // PT 33 // PT 34 // PT 35 // PT 36 // PT 37 // PT 38 // PT 39 // PT 40 // PT 41 // PT 42 // PT 43 // PT 44 // PT 45 // PT 46 // PT 47 // PT 48 // PT 49 // PT 50 // PT 51 // PT 52 // PT 53 // PT 54 // PT 55 // PT 56 // PT 57 // PT 58 // PT 59 // PT 60 // PT 61 // PT 62 // PT 63 // PT 64 // PT 65 //

Nineteen

February 25, 2038, 11:02 a.m. 

13 Years, 281 Days Ago

“It’s not working,” Doctor Endinger said. 

Paul stood in front of the man’s ostentatiously large desk feeling like a criminal pleading his case. From one point of view, he was.

“The vacuum spheres have already created several new avenues of study in quantum physics.” Paul had to fight to keep the urgency out of his voice. 

“Which is why I’m not firing you.” Edinger was a lanky man with wispy gray hair that never seemed to look the same way twice. It sort of looked like a button up shirt and tie had sprouted hair and started walking. “You’ve shown promise in your theoretical studies, and we encourage you to continue the research, but we can’t afford to fund any further experiments after this year ends. We won’t be budgeting for your project after this.”

“But I’m so close!” Paul stepped up and planted his hands on Edinger’s desk, though he still had to be about four feet away.

“We all thought that a year back,” Edinger admitted. “You came to us with your degree and the ability to generate self-contained vacuum spheres, but no amount of research or money has helped anyone, including you, figure out how to connect those spheres to allow for instantaneous transport.”

Paul’s head sank. There was no denying that truth. There were a few basic theories that might allow for two fields to connect, but none of them had any practical application.

Paul looked up, desperately playing the only card he had left to play.

“I’ve been thinking about one last thing,” Paul said. The formula made a kind of sense, but he wasn’t sure if it mattered. “If we created the fields in the same place, they would be connected that way.” 

The formulaic data had some odd issues. There was a variable he couldn’t reconcile, but Paul hoped the viability of the concept would give him just one more year of funding.

Edinger offered a patronizing smile. “What would be the point of teleporting to a place you already are?”

Paul stepped back, finally slumping down in the leather chair behind him. It was over. His life’s work had reached its final conclusion, and there was nothing else to do. 

“I imagine you’ll still spend a lot of energy working on this concept, and I’m not forbidding you to, but I am telling you that you need to start considering areas of study that have more immediate applications,” Edinger said.

He’d accepted a fellowship in the company’s applied physics division offering them a way to expedite shipping and delivery methods for the world. Edinger proved to be the only one even willing to hire him under those conditions. 

Jordan and Lidia happily found other jobs, thus ending their friendship, or at least degrading it to nothing more than an occasional meeting for drinks and reminiscing. Paul was the last one left trying to do something he knew was possible. The problem was, the only person capable of doing it kept it a secret. 

“I know how disappointing this is for you,” Edinger said. “Why don’t you take a week of paid leave to consider options and come back fresh. I understand what it is to set aside a long-held passion project to move onto something else. But I think in time you’ll be happier developing projects that bare more immediate results.”

Paul looked at Edinger, trying to appreciate what the man was doing. Paul nodded. He force himself up and headed to the door. He managed to mutter thanks and a promise to be back next week with some ideas.

He left the building in a daze, catching a ride to his condominium. He plodded up the flight of stairs that led to his particular unit and got inside. He finally realized what he was thinking when he stepped into the second room, which he’d converted into an office. The walls were covered with white-boards, papers, and formulas. The white-tile floor was hardly visible given desk and numerous stands that also had more and more formulas and theories covering them. 

His most recent concept was on the desk. He was pretty confident he could indeed create a field that would form a sort of frozen moment in time. In that field one could travel from one spot to the other. Once the field went down, he’d have effectively teleported. Sure, all that really happened was that time didn’t pass in the vacuum sphere, but it would have the same result. 

The problem was that field could only be so large. There was also the odd variable he couldn’t reconcile. For some reason, the space dimension worked exactly as he planned, but the dimension of time kept unbalancing the equation. 

“What’s it matter?” Paul pulled the small rolling chair away from his desk and sat staring at his life’s work. 

It was all over. He’d probably keep doing the math, but without funding for any experiments, he couldn’t prove whatever theory he showed. And without any experiments, he couldn’t verify if his theories would work. Sure, he had a little less than a year of funding, but he didn’t have any clue what to try. 

“I guess you win.” Paul didn’t expect Nobody to appear. When he first moved into his condo, Paul thought Nobody would have a place he could teleport to. Of course Paul covered his home in sensors and measurement tools hoping for just such an event. But Nobody had never shown. Still, the man somehow knew what was going on, so it felt right to talk out loud.

“Why did you use such a wonderful thing just to pester me for all these years?” Paul asked. He could imagine what Nobody would say, but he didn’t want to think about the man’s sermons or viewpoints.

He waved his hands around the room. “This could send food to every homeless person. It could make shipping and traveling obsolete. Friends and family could visit each other in less time than it would take to open a door. And you use it to yap at me.”

Of course, he also helped. A small part of Paul understood that. He’d dressed Paul’s wounds when he was a child. He’d encouraged him to build friendships and bonds that were precious. 

Of course they were all gone now too. Paul was alone. He was unsuccessful. He was angry and sad. 

His PID buzzed. He glanced at it, seeing that his mother was calling. He briefly considered letting it go to voicemail, but his mother might be the only one left who cared about him, so he answered, linking his PID to the earpiece he always wore.

“Hey!”

“What’s wrong?” His mother asked. 

“What do you mean?” Paul asked. 

“You said, ‘Hey,’” she replied.

“Yeah, hello. Hi. How are you? What’s up?” Paul gave a list of other greetings as if any of them would have worked.

“I hear it in your voice,” she said. “Something’s wrong. What’s up?”

He chuckled. “I just had a real bad day at work, Mom,” he said. “I’ll get over it. But what about you? I haven’t forgotten to call or visit.”

He’d called her pretty much every week and visited more and more just to spend time with her. It started to feel right in a way. It was just them against his father. It was just them before Bill and Jordan, and now it was just them again. He made sure not to let her feel the way he’d felt when all the other people in his life faded away for one reason or another.

“I know,” she said. “That’s why I’m calling today. I know it’s soon, but I was hoping you could visit again this weekend.”

“Sure,” he said. Maybe that would help him. He could talk to her about his job. She always made him feel better. “Why so soon?”

“Oh, I just felt like having my son around,” she said. “Is that OK? Are you too busy?”

“No,” he said chuckling. The more he thought about it, the better it was. He needed the chance to recharge and relax. “I’ve actually just taken some time off work to relax. I could be there tonight if you want.”

“Oh that would be perfect!” She sounded genuinely excited.

“What’s going on?” he asked again. 

The line was quiet for a moment. “Why don’t you come down, and we’ll have some dinner. Then I’ll tell you why I’m so excited to see you.”

Did she have news? Did she finally meet someone new? More likely, she’d found some new project at her church she could work on, which maybe wasn’t the great news she always thought, but it mattered to her.

“Sure,” he said. “I’ll see you tonight.”

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 65

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 65

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Paul considered the thought. It was good moral premise. It even made him consider the religion for an instant, but that made him think of Bill. The next moment, he was a teenager hearing the man he’d thought of as a father had died. The most exemplary Christian Paul could ever name was ripped away from a family. 

He opened his mouth to ask how his mother could love the same God who took Bill away, but that would only hurt her, and he didn’t want to do that. Instead, he changed the subject.

“I think about you plenty,” he said. “I’ll do a better job visiting and calling more often.”

“I appreciate that,” she replied, “but I understand you’re busy, and you’re building a life for yourself. When you were a child, I had a greater role in your life, and you had fewer influences. Frankly, the size of your world was much smaller.”

She smiled  at him, causing her brown eyes brighten. “I remember when your world was little more than our house and a video arcade. You’re older; your world is bigger; but I know you love me.”

“You’re saying I should let Lidia and Jordan have their space, and that they still love me,” Paul said. “Whether I’m the same size in a bigger world or they’re just with me less, it still feels like a loss.”

His mother shrugged. “Nothing in this world is permanent.” She pointed her fork at him. “And that’s why it’s important to make the most of whatever time you get with anyone. Let the time you have with people be about love and fellowship. That way, when those people aren’t in our lives anymore, for whatever reason, we have all those happy memories to hold on to. Isn’t that better than just being angry and resentful and arguing?” She returned to using her fork to eat rather than emphasize her words.

Paul chuckled at her. “No matter what happens, I love you, mom.”

She looked at him and smiled. “That’s so sweet. Now, eat your food. I figure we could enjoy some nostalgia tonight.”

“Nostalgia?” He cocked his head in confusion.

“I still have our game. It’s saved on the console just where we left it,” she said.

“Does that thing still work?” Hadn’t he thrown it away? Maybe that was an older system. No, he distinctly remembered …

“I started it up and played a second or two,” she said. “Still seems to work.”

“But didn’t I throw it away?” Paul was more certain every second he thought about it.

“I don’t know what anybody else did with it,” she said with a bit too much innocence in her tone,” but I found it, and when I realized it still worked, I put it away for just such an occasion. I suppose I’ll finish it alone if you don’t want to play it with me.”

“I didn’t say that!” The thought of her finishing the game on her own gave him a strange blend of remorse and betrayal. 

“OK then,” she said. “I think it’s been far too long since we’ve finished that game”

“Have you even touched a controller in the last six years?” He couldn’t keep the grin off his face.

“I just said I played a few seconds, so yes. Besides, how many video games have you played in the last six years?”

He stared at her. She had a point. The project had taken up pretty much all of his time and effort, at least when a girl wasn’t involved.

“Let’s do it.” He dug into his food, genuinely excited to play a kids game with his mother.

… The End of Chapter eighteen …

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 64

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 64

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She smiled at him. “Of course I miss you, and, if I’m being honest, sometimes I get a little jealous. I just have to remember that while you are my son, you’re not my property.”

Paul chuckled. It was very similar to the point Nobody had made. But it didn’t answer his question. “But how do you remind yourself that?”

“I think I’m different from you there. You’re supposed to leave me to find a wife,” she gave him another shameless grin.

“Mom, I told you-“

“You’re making up excuses because you don’t think you’re worthy of having a wife.” Her face hardened the moment she said it. She gave him stern look. “That’s a lie! Life is a series of choices. Sometimes people make the wrong ones. A lot of people fail to make the correct ultimate choice. But even if you never make that choice, you don’t have to be like your father, and this nonsense that you’re destined to be like him is only a self-fulfilling prophecy if you focus on that rather than just giving your love to the woman who is lucky enough to choose you.”

“Stacy was a wonderful girl,” Paul frowned as he looked down and picked at his food with his fork. 

“Wonderful girls don’t cheat on their boyfriends,” his mother replied. 

“You’re being inconsiderate,” Paul said flatly. “Yeah, she shouldn’t have cheated, and the most painful part is she apologized for doing it. Meanwhile, I ignored her. I never spoke to her. I pretty much only used her.”

“So learn from that,” she said. “For one, remember to truly invest in whatever partner you choose. Don’t use them to gratify your physical desire. Simply appreciate them and care for them. The thing you should learn from her is something we should learn from anyone who sins against us.”

“What’s that?” Paul asked.

She looked at him. “No amount of wrong someone does to you permits you to do wrong.”

He rolled his eyes. “So you’re saying a guy should let someone steal or assault him and just let it go?”

“Or a guy could lock his house and buy an alarm system and maybe defend himself without attacking, smart guy.” She furrowed her eyebrows, annoyed at his half-hearted witticism.  “It’s not OK to lie just because others lie. It’s not OK to kill just because others kill. It’s not OK to commit adultery just because others commit adultery. If one person hurting another made it OK for people to respond in kind, then the world would devolve into a planet of animals.”

Paul tried to press his lips together. This conversation was a set up, and he knew it, but she’d gotten him bantering, and she knew he could’t resist the debate. Eventually, he caved. “So what are we supposed to do?”

“Forgive.” She said. 

He stared at her as if she just suggested a person learn to sprout wings and fly off. “That’s it.”

She nodded. “The hardest thing to do is learn to forgive, but it’s what I wanted. It’s what I needed. So why, if I’m so hungry to be forgiven, shouldn’t I find it in my heart to forgive?”

“If that’s true why don’t you call-up the bio-dad and tell him you forgive him.” The words flew out of his mouth. They were insensitive. It was a crass, hurtful thing to say, and for no other reason than to win an argument.

“Actually,” she said softly. “I went and visited him in prison to offer my forgiveness.” He stared at her. His mouth opened and closed a few times, but he couldn’t possibly imagine what he would say. 

“I only visited him one time,” she said. “I’m not really sure what else to do, but I didn’t want that resentment anymore. I didn’t want that anger. So I let it go, and the way I did it was remembering all the things I’ve done.”

“You’ve never done anything as bad as what he did.” Some of the words sounded more like an animal’s growl than actual words. It was all Paul could do to keep from shouting.

“Oh if only it were that simple,” she said. She held a hand in front of herself horizontally. “This is all the wrong I’ve done in my life.” She placed her other hand far below the first. “And this is your father. At least as you describe it. Sure, I’ve done wrong, but the things your father did are so much lower and so much more awful.”

She raised her first hand almost like a student in class and pointed upward. “But how does any human look compared to a perfect and holy God? All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Paul flung his hands in the air in frustration. “How perfect and holy can a being be to allow that man to do what he did?”

“Would you rather be a machine?” she asked. “Would you rather have no choice? Would you be human if you didn’t have the capacity to choose? People always get that question wrong. They ask, ‘Why would God allow these things to happen?’ But the better question is, ‘Why do we keep choosing to do the wrong thing when God gave us a way to do the right thing?’ We can’t cry out for freedom to choose and then be shocked when some choose to do evil, especially when we want to use the sins of others to justify our own.”

Paul stared at her. It wasn’t blind religion. It wasn’t pseudo philosophy. It was simple reason. 

“Did you plan this?” he asked her.

She chuckled. “I’m not nearly so calculating, but I’m your mother. Anyone who’s talking to you better be very careful with what they say and think. But don’t miss my point, Son. I forgave your father because it was the right thing to do, but more so because that’s what I wanted. I want to be forgiven for how I let him do what he did to you. I want to be forgiven for so much more than that. And if that’s what I want, then that has to be what I’m willing to give. That’s what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.”

… to be continued ..

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 62

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 62

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Nobody turned off the freeway at the exit to the university. 

“Your friends love you, but their lives are changing, just like your mom’s life changed when she met Bill, and your life changed when you and Jordan went to college,” Nobody said. “You’re not losing Jordan and Lidia anymore than your mother has lost you.”

For some reason, the comment made Paul feel a touch guilty. Sure, he’d called her at least once a week just to say hello. They even played an online game or two just to spend time together. His guilt grew as he tried to remember the last time he’d gone to visit. 

Before that day, he’d just been thinking about how busy he was and how much fun it was to hang out with Jordan and Lidia. Now that he’d felt ignored for a while, he’d wondered if his mother felt the same way, cast off for the new and exciting life as if she’d never mattered. He stared at his PID, but he decided not to call her right there. He’d visit her tomorrow or the next day.

“It’s confusing when you visit,” he said quietly as he let his arm drop to his side. “On one hand each visit gives me a chance to see how your teleportation works. But then you get to talking, and I just want to rip off my own ears.”

“Has nothing I said ever helped you?” Nobody asked.

Paul gave a wry chuckle. “In a way I suppose a lot of it helps.”

He found the strength to call the police when his father was at his worst. He made a friend out of Jordan. And then there was Bill. Losing him hurt, but would he really rather never have met Bill? Wasn’t the life they had together worth holding on to?

But I miss him so much! I’d wouldn’t feel this pain if I didn’t know him.

“You wouldn’t feel loss so strongly if you didn’t have such a great relationship to begin with,” Nobody said. “One day, the pain fades, but that love, it lasts forever.”

“Stop!” Paul said. “Stop reading my mind.”

“I’m not,” Nobody said. “It only feels that way from your point of view.”

“What does my point of view have to do with anything?”

“Honestly, everything,” Nobody answered. “And the way you choose to look at the relationships in your life will have a tremendous impact on the anger you still struggle to control. Your anger comes from two placed, pain and possessiveness. If you can let go of just one of those, you’ll see a remarkable change.”

The car pulled up to Paul’s dormitory. “I have to return this car.” He didn’t say anything else until Paul reached over to open his door. “Are you in control of your life?”

The question froze Paul in his place. He wanted to argue he certainly wasn’t any god’s pawn or play thing. The problem was, he knew he didn’t have any real control. His scholarship was controlled by the board. His friends were pulling away. He’d pulled away from his own mother. He didn’t know if he’d ever have the thing he really wanted. 

“Life is life,” Paul said. “And if I can’t have the thing I want, the least I can do is try to be happy when people I love find it.”

“And what is it you want?” Nobody asked.

“Why do you ask questions when you know what I’m thinking and what I’m going to say?” Paul sank back in his seat and ran his hands down his face. “It’s pointless talking to you.”

“No it isn’t,” Nobody said. “Sometimes a conversation is more about helping a person understand what they’re thinking. I’m asking you to just say it out loud.”

“I want someone in my life I can keep!” He didn’t shout. In fact, it almost came out in a sort of whine. Admitting it felt strangely good and painful. “My mom, Bill, and now Jordan and Lidia, I love them, but I know they’re not mine. I feel like some sort of cool game I played as a kid. Sure, it’s fun to play for a while, but eventually you beat the game or get bored and move on. When will I meet someone who wants to be with me and not go or die?”

Of course, as soon as he said it, he realized how impossible that was. No one has control over when they die. 

“I suppose it’d be nice if there was a being who was eternal and willing to always be with you and never let you go,” Nobody said. “Of course, that means you’d have to believe in Him.”

Paul rolled his eyes and got out of the car. He didn’t even feel guilty about slamming the door. If God had been there Paul’s whole life, why let him get beat as a child? Why take Bill? Why give him such great friends if they were just going to go off on their own one day? And how did a person have a personal relationship with a god anyway?

Paul didn’t even bother looking at Nobody. He just stormed into the dorm and tried very hard not to think about how rejected and alone he felt. 

The End of Chapter Seventeen.

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 61

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 61

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In that moment, Paul reconsidered walking home. He shut his eyes, taking deep, slow breaths to try and reign his anger in. Lashing out wouldn’t do any good. 

“How do you know what I’m thinking and feeling?” Paul asked. 

Nobody didn’t answer. 

“I’m close to figuring out how you teleport,” Paul continued, “but that doesn’t explain how you always know.”

“You’re close to figuring out teleportation?” Nobody sounded more curious than nervous.

“Yeah,” Paul said. “I’m very close.”

“That would be impressive,” Nobody said. 

“And so all that’s left is to figure out how you’ve always known what I was thinking or feeling, and it’s not just that you’ve been in a similar situation or something like that. You’ve demonstrated knowledge of the actual thoughts in my head in the moments I was thinking them.”

“I can’t read your mind, Paul,” Nobody said. 

“Don’t lie to me!” Paul shouted. 

“I’m not lying, but wether or not you believe me is a choice you have to make,” Nobody replied. “But since I’m right about how you feel for Lidia, then consider where this path might lead.”

“We worked it out,” Paul said.

Nobody didn’t turn to look at Paul, but it was easy to see his head shake. “There isn’t some sort of group agreement one can make to control his own heart. If you resent him for dating her, and her for taking his friendship away, you’ll inevitably come to hate them both.”

“No I won’t,” Paul said. 

“If you say so,” Nobody said. 

“Jordan is my best friend,” Paul said. “We’ve been friends forever.”

“And now Lidia, a woman you suddenly want, is taking more of his time,” Nobody said.

“They’re getting married,” Paul said. “It’s not like we were never going to get married. But it’s  possible to have friends and be married. People do it all the time.”

“It is possible,” Nobody said, “if you’re willing to give up the idea that you own them.”

Paul sat in silence. He had always thought of the people in his life as his in a way. His mother. His friend. The man who should have been his father. 

“So people aren’t supposed to care about others,” Paul finally said.

Nobody let out an odd chuckle. “Christians are commanded to love their neighbors.”

“That’s all I want,” Paul said.

“No it isn’t,” Nobody said. “Consider this question, ‘What is love?’”

Paul sputtered for a few moments. “It’s love. It’s wanting to be around people.”

Nobody shook his head again. “In every reference to love in the Bible, every single one of them is tied to one of three things: Obedience, patience, and sacrifice. God the Father loved us so much, he gave his only son. God the Son, Jesus Christ, loved us so much he laid down his life for us, and he loved the Father so much he obeyed the commands of the Father. The one thing love is never about, is the individual. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. First Corinthians 13, Versus four to seven. Of course that first part was John.”

“Always the Bible,” Paul didn’t bother hiding the derision. 

“Of course,” Nobody said, “but is that definition so horrible? Think of your mother or Jordan. Aren’t they wonderful examples of that definition of love?”

“What’s Jordan giving up for me?” Paul was shocked the words came out of his mouth, but he couldn’t stop them from pouring out. “He’s leaving me. He’s probably leaving the project, and to top it all off he’s taking Lidia with him!”

“And the center of every one of those accusations is you,” Nobody said. “And if you continue thinking in that manner, you’ll only come to hate those two people, one who has ever been loyal and steadfast to you and the other who would support you if you thought of her as anything more than an object of lust.”

“So I’m doomed!” Paul said. “I’m just some wicked, selfish, angry man who is going to end up hating everyone. So why are you here? Why did you ever visit me? Why do you keep pestering me?”

“To show you that you don’t have to be doomed,” Nobody answered.

“I just have to obey a God who has no problems taking,” Paul said.

“He takes,” Nobody said, “and he gives. People tend to focus on the taking, but we wouldn’t have so many wonderful things unless He hadn’t given them first.”

… to be continued …