84 - Chicago
SEVERAL WEEKS AGO The next several days passed in a blur. At time, I could almost convince myself that the events of that one crazy night hadn’t actually happened. And then I would go to my desk and pull out the piece of pottery and the plane tickets that the mysterious man had left me. It was hard to doubt yourself when you had two nice solid pieces of physical evidence to pick up.
And neither did the Smiths show up again, nor did Mrs. Claire call saying that they’d come to her. I wasn’t quite sure if I found this reassuring or not. I think that at least some part of me was hoping that it had all been some sort of surreal dream–despite the physical evidence to the contrary. The rest of me though was intrigued.
There he had been, solid evidence that life continued on at least in part after death. Being a priest, I’d perhaps always had fewer outward doubts in that matter than most others, but even a priest has moments of doubt. It was nice to have confirmation. What if I could have taken that to the rest of the world?
I could almost imagine Alex going on the six o’clock news, announcing to the world that he was a spirit from the great beyond. A few nice parlor tricks, walking through walls and the like, and he’d give even the most die hard skeptic a run for his money.
Which, all in all, really made me think. Alex was real. I wasn’t doubting that. That meant that Private Jackson had almost certainly been really back as well. What were the chances that one guy, not even that special in the grand scheme of things, should have the chance to meet not one but two figures returned from the grave? And if it weren’t just some cosmic coincidence–or divine planning, I supposed–well that mean that other people out there must have had similar experiences. Lots of them, if my rudimentary understanding of statistics held true.
So why had none of them come forth? Why had absolutely none of them gone on the six o’clock news?
I was so deeply entrenched in my thoughts, sitting in one of the back pews of St. Michael’s, that I didn’t hear the door open. I didn’t hear my visitor walking up and sitting beside me. In fact, I didn’t even notice them until they spoke up right beside.
“Penny for your thoughts, Father?”
I jerked, instinct trying to force me out of my seat and up toward the ceiling. Luckily, gravity prevailed and I turned–only squeaking mildly–toward the newcomer.
“Mrs. Claire,” I said, recognizing her only after a moment. The transition from the garb I’d seen her in at her shop the previous week and the yoga pants and simple white cotton top today was striking. An even bigger change, her hair was slicked back into a simple ponytail rather reducing it’s volume and her overlarge glasses were gone. Either she was wearing contacts or she never had needed them in the first place.
“Father Thomas.” She seemed to be waiting for something.
I thought back, realizing that she’d asked me a question. “Oh, nothing much. Certainly nothing worth paying for.”
She just smiled at me and reached into a pants pocket and came out with a single penny, appearing as shiny as the day it had first come off the mint. She held out her hand, clearly expecting me to take it. “That’s for me to decide.”
I stared at the penny. I definitely hadn’t been expecting that. “I was just thinking about the Smiths.”
She didn’t seem satisfied though and gestured for me to go on.
“About how if Alex really came back from the dead then why aren’t there others like him? Why don’t more people know about this.” She was still holding the penny out, so I took it from her. It was new alright, dated this year.
She nodded thoughtfully, pausing for a few seconds before answering. “Maybe they do.”
“Maybe they do know. Maybe all those stories you hear and dismiss because it just shouldn’t be possible actually do have a grain to truth to them. Maybe no one says anything because they’re afraid that everyone else will think they’re crazy.”
I stared at her. It did make a strange sort of sense. “So what brings you out here?” After all, it was a bit far for a random social call and she did have my number if anything more out of the ordinary happened.
Her face immediately darkened though. “I… I need your help.”
“With that dead boy, Alex.”