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Oct. 23, 2027, 11:51 p.m.
18 Years, 145 Days Ago
“Are you him?” Paul asked.
Nobody shook his head. “I’m not half the man he is.”
“This whole time, you never visited,” Paul said. “And now you show up.”
Nobody leaned back in the chair he was borrowing. He let out a sigh that seemed all the more morose because Paul could hear it through the transparent mask Nobody wore.
“I come when you need,” he said. “And with Bill, you didn’t need me.”
“What does that mean?” Something cold seemed to slide down Paul’s spine.
“The people in our lives are gifts,” Nobody said, “but they aren’t ours. For those who believe, those who were separated can be reunited.”
“What are you saying?” Paul asked. “What’s going on?”
The doorbell rang. Paul looked at his own door and then over to Nobody. “What’s happening?”
“Everyone has to learn how to deal with pain,” Nobody said. “I wish I could do more than offer these stupid words. Those of the faith, mourn with hope.”
“No!” Paul heard his mother scream from all the way downstairs.
He burst out of his door and down the stairs. His mother was on her knees weeping. A pair of police officers were standing outside the door.
“What happened!” Paul asked. A part of him knew, but he didn’t want to believe. Everything Nobody said made more sense as Paul thought about it. He didn’t need to be here as long as I had Bill.
“Young man,” the officer on Paul’s right said, “we’re sorry to have to bring this news to your mom.”
“It can’t be true,” Paul’s mother wailed. “Why now?”
“Someone tell me what happened!” Paul screamed as loud as he could.
The officers looked at each other. The one on the right shrugged and looked at Paul. “Your mother is listed as the next of kin for William Arnall.”
“His name is Bill.” Paul clenched his fists. “And what does it matter who his next of kin is.”
It can’t be! What did I do? Why would this happen to me? Paul looked at his mother. Why would it happen to my mom?
“There was an accident,” the officer who seemed to want to do all the talking said. “Mr. Arnall died before anyone could get him to the hospital.”
Paul stood there and stared at them. His jaw moved a few times, but he didn’t even know what to say.
“Did … did you hear me?” the officer asked.
What a stupid question. Of course Paul heard. What was he supposed to do. Part of him wanted to console his mother. Another wanted to lash out at the police, but neither of those felt right. They didn’t do anything but their job. His mother shouldn’t need comfort. His mother deserved to be happy.
But there was someone who deserved something.
Paul rushed up the stairs. He practically kicked in his own door, but of course, that coward was gone.
“What? No verses to quote? No five minute conversation to make it all better?” Paul screamed into the sky. He didn’t know how, but Nobody always knew what Paul said and did. Well, let him hear this. “It’s all stupid!” Paul said. “And it’s all crap! If there were really a God, he wouldn’t send us someone like Bill only to take him away! Bill was more Christian than you were, and God takes him before he can even be with my mom? I say screw you and screw your God! I know you hear me! Don’t come back! I don’t want you!”
By the time he was done shouting, he was sitting on his floor weeping. “I just want him back.”
It came out a soft wimpier.
… to be continued …