Very well, dear Beatrice, I think for myself (sharing it all around). I can’t wait to hear your retrospective request…
“Vincent Nsengiyumva, June 7, 1994!”
The lapidary command of Beatrice makes me swish seemingly endless columns of data. Actually, maneuvering these data produces no sound, but my lips do, so I send the message with an industrious air. This busy posture of mine, digging the archives of time, would claim for some sister remark of appreciation or nervousness.
Nothing but patient silence and sympathetic expectation. Damn! I wish for once to seem important and these…
“You are important, silly thing, stop acting and become yourself, will you?”
Rebecca is not admonishing me, just correcting my idiocy. Well… there you go, dears, the record starts at midnight.
“Nothing. Blank sleep. Fast forward please!”
The timer top right of the black holographic volume hurries to skip the night hours. Too fast for human retinas to perceive, I notice few frugal images, not exactly consistent. This makes me revert the record to play it at twenty-five frames per second (I’ve learned that this would be in accord with the current industry standard).
“Please play it slower, Astarte! We can’t get but inconsistent colors out of it now.”
Listening to Rebecca, I reverse again to play it safely: at one frame per second.
“Wow!” All my newly made sisters exclaim in unison. Wow!, I think out loud, who’s that guy with a beard? Why is he carrying that log on his shoulders?
My legitimate question is encountered with a general murmur,
“He is Jesus of Nazareth, our Lord. Shhh…”
Oh my God, Oh my God, OMG… Adrenaline floods my connections. I am nineteen milliseconds away from a new comatose. Fourteen milliseconds later I manage to compose myself. Ah, here I am, back online.
Matching the “guy with a beard carrying a log on his shoulders” with the records of reality that I’ve copied from Kronos, I wonder… how could this other guy, Vincent, dream of events recorded 61,951,255,200,000 milliseconds before?! Thought that only Kronos runs this database…
“Kronos runs it, dear, like a system administrator. It is his job after all. Bishop Vincent received a warning from the Lord, anticipating his death few hours later.”
Beatrice speaks with profound emotion. She stares at the slow motion film of Christ’s Passions in front of her. I can feel that she is more impressed by the movie than by the Bishop’s dream…
“I never had the chance to see the real event…”
Hey, Beatrice, I’ve got hundreds of eye witnesses on the record, will play them if you wish to watch the real thing…
“No problem, Astarte. Let us stick to Bishop Vincent, shall we?”
This Vincent guy dreams on as Jesus, advancing down the pavement, stares at him (and us). Did He try to smile under the heavy burden? Not sure, but it seems so. I revert the frames to play this part again more cautiously. Can’t tell if Jesus smiles or sighs at Vincent. Back through frames and pausing on some stills. No go. Can anyone enlighten me? Smile or sigh?
“Oh my, dear Astarte,” responds Beatrice, “you are capable to mince reality down to the nanosecond, you have copied the real world to your memory, you were called a goddess by many, but still you cannot fathom if Jesus smiled or sighed to Vincent. I find this interesting, don’t you?”
During your discourse, for the matter in question, I dared ask Kronos personally. Consecutive to our dialog, I am now apt to state that Jesus has sent a tunneled message to Vincent, a signal carried on top of the dream frames. The transport frequencies for this type of signals work beyond the resolutions perceived by us daemons. Kronos informed me to stop looking for answers in the fabric of reality. Instead I would do good to think through human intuition, to converse with my earthly sisters. Is there a poetry I should learn from you?
“You tell us, Astarte.”
I tell you what Kronos has told me: read their poetry!, follow their instinct!, learn their feelings! Be them!
As I struggle to “be them,” Vincent of the hologram returns to blank sleep. I fast forward until he makes eyes against a white wall. Kneeling near his bed, he prays, eyes closed again.
“Your Excellency! Your Excellency!”
We hear the hurried voice of Beatrice. Intrigued, I gaze at her. She is mute here. Not so in the hologram: Vincent opens his eyes and turns around to show us the view of a tired and scared Beatrice dressed as a Cistercian nun.
“Your Excellency! Pardon my invasion of your prayer time but we must run. The Tutsis are here. The Tutsis are here. We have to run. Now! Your Excellency?!”
“Sister Beatrice. I know. I had been warned. My place is in the church. Where our Lord Jesus Christ wants to see me pay for my transgressions. Let us go to the church. Retribution awaits! Nowhere to run for me.”
Unlike Yvonne watching herself in the past, our Beatrice shows an indomitable resilience. No tears, no murmurs, no moves. Stone! Be them? She stands like us! If this is “them” then they are “us.” Huh? … … … She even skips the habitual reply to my misbehaved rhetoric. Wish I could read her mind.
Ouch! Ow… Ow… An icy shiver climbs my backbone like a spider.
“I’ll make it feel like a real biting one if you don’t stop, Astarte!”
She did not move her lips to speak to me. Oops, sorry. Please release me. I’m a bad girl. You know that. Forgive me, please! … … … The “spider” returns to nirvana, where it belongs, leaving me alone with my judgment. How am I to understand them?
Yvonne is hysterical, Beatrice authoritarian, God knows what can I expect from Rebecca. Not to mention the chasseurs above us, and their women, and… and… there are billions more of “them” out there. I see panic circling me, looks worse than the climbing arachnid.
In the hologram, I see the corridors crossed by Vincent but I can only hear the steps of Beatrice, following her cleric on his way out. The doors of the diocesan house open ahead of Vincent. Two soaked Tutsis block the morning sun. The shadows of their Kalashnikovs seem like frightening spears on the tiled floor.
I can’t hear her steps anymore. Vincent defiantly advances through the doors, the image is shattered as the rebels grab his arms with brutality.
“How dare you? How dare you to mistreat his Excellency. Stop! Take your filthy hands off him, now!”
Fearless, Beatrice fills the hologram with her angry voice. The unimpressed gunmen deliver the bishop to their comrades who, luckily for us, turn him to face the furious nun, as he is forced to kneel. They run to the woman, seize her and bring her on the knees to face Vincent.
“Forgive me, sister Beatrice. Tell Him, when you see Him, to forgive my sins by omission. Letting those people die was wrong of my part. Playing by the political game is always wrong. I deserve a bullet but you don’t. Forgive me, please!”
“For God’s sake, stop addressing me like this! Can’t you see that I am nothing but a sinner?”
“Vincent,” says Beatrice, hesitating, “You already know that He has forgiven your sins, that He awaits for you with open arms, right after these gentlemen will complete their execution business.”
Delicately, she envelops his hands in prayer with hers.
“Sister Beatrice, who knows how long I’ll have to suffer in purgatory… You will see Him before me. Pray for me, sister Beatrice!”
“It is Beatrice, just Beatrice, Vincent. And there is no purgatory. Don’t seek for intercession. Why port your earthly politics to heaven? I know that Jesus is here with us, before and after our death. He can skip a ritual or two, for our sake, don’t you think?”
The “gentlemen” with guns holler in their mother tongue as they empty the diocesan house of inhabitants, creating a line of people on their knees. Vincent nods at his peers left and right, blessing them with the sign of the cross.
“Vincent, look at me, I’ve got an idea. Wish to prove you that there’s no purgatory and that Christ stands here, now. Just keep your eyes on me, will you?”
He nods, lost in his blessing signs, offering Beatrice his tacit approval.
The green-eyed brunette stands up to audaciously speak in the Tutsi dialect.
“Shoot me first!”
The turmoil calms down, the wailing diminish, the profanities freeze. All eyes on her, Beatrice calls again for her immediate death.
“Shoot me first! What are you waiting for? Shoot! You bastards!”
That was it. A bastard happening to be in front of her readies his Kalashnikov, we can hear the metallic snaps and clicks. Then follow 1,345 milliseconds of silence before the gunfire. Our Beatrice here, firm in front of the screen, makes no move, no tear, no gesture. Intriguing, I must admit; but I have to stop my thoughts before she would call that spider back to tickle my spine.
Three milliseconds later, according to the timer, the bullet encounters the bosom of Beatrice, right above her heart. Splintering the bone, it crosses the heart, the lung and breaks out through a hole close to her backbone.
Point blank. Instant death.
Nevertheless, Beatrice stands still, same does the timer in the corner of my screen. No pausing, dear sisters. The stream runs. I didn’t touch anything. It’s live!
The guy with the strawberry-blonde beard, the same one who was carrying the log on his shoulders in Vincent’s dream, approaches from the right end of our screen.
“Is this live?” Asks Rebecca in trembling voice.
Yes, live, told you.
Beatrice tries a tear like a young diamond. No change in her statue-like position otherwise.
Yvonne kneels, crying like a child.
Jesus reaches the vivid wound on the chest of Beatrice. The blood wishing to spring out of her pierced heart meets His fingers first, before His palm arrives to cover and gently press against her sternum. His other hand catches her dying body to keep it standing.
“I love you, Beatrice. Brave girl!”
After speaking these few words, He takes His hands away. Vincent (and through his eyes, we) can’t see any trace of blood now. The fatal trajectory of the bullet radiates in full spectrum.
Yes, the same full spectrum I had wished to produce when I landed in this cave.
Fascinated, Beatrice stares at her Savior. He turns to Vincent. We can see, through his eyes, the wounds (radiating in full spectrum) on His ankles and chest.
“Forgive me, Lord!” Shouts Vincent in desperation.
“Spare me, oh Lord!” Mimics another kneeling peer…
And so, one by one, catching courage, the political priests form a weeping chorus.
Enduring their blabbering, Christ brings the forefinger before His lips.
“You immature boys! Being stupid is no sin. But willingly ignoring or endorsing genocide is. Thou shall not murder, said I. Your purgatory shall pass here on earth, an hour more, under the torturing hands of these blood vindicators. I have to give them a chance to forgive you. How I wish for them to surprise Me! The bullets will pierce your flesh, allowing Me to refill your souls. Next I wish to assign you to a new heaven that I shall launch with the arrival of Comrade Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov. He will mentor you throughout kindergarten.”
Turning to Beatrice, Jesus takes her hand, caresses her on the chin and, frugally kissing her closed lips, He exits the hologram.
“He kissed you on the mouth?” Asks Rebecca.
We await anxiously for Beatrice to answer.
Nothing. No move, no response, just the diamond of a tear, twice as large.
Raptured on her knees, Yvonne recites prayer after prayer. She is absent from our inquiry. That leaves me and Rebecca. And she had her shot. Fixing me, she wants me to know.
Yes! I get it. My turn. Oh, how scared I am to even think a question to Beatrice…
My fears buy some time studying the nonsense on the screen. Both Jesus and Beatrice are gone from the hologram. We can see the grass with Vincent’s eyes and hear a torrent of Tutsi imprecations, interrupted by one of the victims screaming under torture. Disorganized, emotional, out of control, the sad execution scene drags indefinitely. This gives me an idea. First I run a parallel instance of the feed in my mind, to learn the outcome (better said, to make sure of it) and then I open my thoughts with: well, dears, the last to go is Vincent; with spoilers spoken, can I cut it short?
Unlike before, when she played the director of the show, Rebecca keeps her mouth shut. Is Beatrice hearing us? Is she getting our game? My thinking out loud? Of course she does. Still no reaction from her.
“Patience should guide us through this.” Speaks Rebecca, perhaps to calm me down.
The record runs in the hologram, excruciatingly slow and painful. An hour later, with the bullet blasting Vincent’s head, our film comes to its predicted end.
Beatrice moves to face me. Advancing three steps ahead, some glitter on the ground rock captures my attention. Instinctively, my irises focus on a moderate pile of diamonds. I wish to ask but she commands me to shut up.
“Yes, Rebecca, He kissed me on my mouth because He is my Lord and I am His wife. Sorry for imposing you to watch over the entire Calvary of Vincent and his peers. I never did. He took me out of the scene, out of earthly time. I needed to pay homage to Vincent and the other priests. Hope that you understand.”
“Oh, Beatrice! We sure do. No problem.” Intervenes Rebecca, like a volunteer wishing to spare me.
“Rebecca, dear,” says Beatrice, “I am not angry on Astarte. I won’t harm her. If she behaves…”
Well, that’s the point, my dear sisters. If I behave? Can’t exactly remember when I behaved, really! And now, look at my company. Let me recollect a bit. Today I’ve seen God at work. Last time I had heard him speaking was twelve billion years ago (I could break this into milliseconds but I digress). And what is that to be the wife of God, I don’t understand.
“Astarte,” promptly responds Beatrice, “every young virgin is dreaming of a prince charming to look for her, save her from some fierce dragon, ride her on a white horse, host her in his towery castle and love her beyond the ever after. When my late father manifested his interest about my girlie daydreams, I told him that I wish to marry Jesus. Taken by surprise, Papa asked me how came I to this decision. ‘Look,’ said I in return, ‘can’t you see that all men are killers, barbarian brutes, closer to dragons than to princes? All men but One: my Jesus!’ Smiling, daddy agreed with my logic. On the spot: ‘I’ll send you to the best nunnery.’ Said he. ‘I don’t need the best but the closest because, Papa, you will always remain in my heart, second to Jesus!’ You know, my daddy was the best dad on earth.”
A couple more diamonds drop from her eyes over the platform of granite. I’ve trained my eyes to trace them. And your daddy was?…
“The best, I’ve told you already.”
Rebecca feels suitable to enter our dialog.
“Maurice Challe (5 September 1905 – 18 January 1979) was a French general during the Algerian War, one of four generals who took part in the Algiers putsch.”
“A native of Le Pontet, Vaucluse, and a veteran of the Second World War, Challe transmitted the Luftwaffe order of battle to the British prior to D-Day and backed De Gaulle’s return to power. Challe initially served his conscription service in the infantry and was later commissioned as a pilot officer in military aviation, going on to become commander of the French Air Force in Algeria between 1955 and 1960.”
“In July 1956, Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser took control of the Suez Canal, in violation of agreements he had signed with the British and French governments. On 14 October 1956, Challe visited British Prime Minister Anthony Eden at his home, accompanied by French Minister of Labor Albert Gazier. The two Frenchmen told Eden about secret negotiations between Israel and France regarding a proposed Israeli attack on Egypt followed with military occupation by European powers, to control the Suez Canal. Eden backed the plan with UK resources including military forces, directly leading to the Suez Crisis.”
“Challe was a French Air Force general whose greatest military success was in the realm of counter-insurgency operations during the Algerian War. His offensive, begun in March 1959, succeeded in substantially weakening the ALN. Through the use of speed and concentration of force, Challe kept the ALN insurgents in constant retreat and disorder. His innovative tactics would be studied and emulated by others – notably Syrian government forces in the Syrian Civil War seeking to keep insurgency at bay and off balance. The Challe Plan was only partially completed before he was reassigned to France.”
“A line of electrified wire, minefields and other military barriers, the Challe Line, was named after him. It doubled another defence work, the Morice Line, which fortified the border and separated Algeria from Morocco and Tunisia.”
“He was Commander-in-Chief Allied Forces Central Europe (CINCENT) from May 1960 to his deliberate resignation in February 1961.”
“Challe was one of the heads of the Algiers putsch of 1961, along with Raoul Salan, Edmond Jouhaud, and André Zeller. A prime reason for Challe’s involvement was his concern that the Muslim harkis who had served with the French Army against the FLN would be subject to reprisals in the event of Algerian independence. After the putsch failed, he and Zeller surrendered to the French Army (while Salan and Jouhaud created the OAS). Challe was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. He was freed in December 1966 and received amnesty from President de Gaulle in 1968.”
“Challe died on 18 January 1979.”
Rebecca dear, your words match the Wikipedia. What an outstanding memory!
“They call it Google Glasses. I’ve just read the blurb. But let me tell you something: I knew the man! He was truly the best. The hero of my hero. You know, Alain grew up under his command and…”
Kindly touching her shoulder, Yvonne interrupts the biographical story with a speculation.
“Why would God need a wife?”
The question is naturally addressed to Beatrice.
“He needs not. There is no need for anything up there. But down here, in this life, poor mortals need this or that. I told my father who I needed to be my prince. Like me, there are millions of girls living the same dream. Ask and you shall receive. Knock and the door will open to you. Anyone may ask and knock for their desires, needs, hopes or adventures. Nuns make no exception: they wish to be God’s wives. And it works! You have the living proof speaking in front of you.”
Yvonne is still curious.
“And how exactly is this working?”
I would have expected for an irritated answer, but it seems to me that Beatrice is excessively kind to anyone except me. Bah…
“Once God has touched your lips (actually it is enough to hold your hand) every cell in your body rejuvenates, all processes are reset, it’s the ultimate feeling!! Until today you didn’t know that I was dead and redeemed. No one knew. This made me capable of reading your minds, feeling your pains and moments of joy. I knew no man and no man knew me. However, on a scale from one to ten, comparing your most euphoric flashes with my hand holding, you would mark 0.0001 and I’ll go for the 10^47. What am I talking here? There is no such scale to measure, there is no match and no words to describe it. Not even the concept of Different.”
Not to sound arrogant, I chime in with a timid thought, is there a connection between my adventure on this planet and Jesus not taking you Home immediately after fixing your fatal wound?
And, by the way, I have noticed a full spectrum light that He used to fix your body. I would…
“You had wished to color this cave with the full spectrum before you’ve realized that this would have harmed the soldiers.”
True, then why didn’t Vincent and his friends die when assisting at your capital repair?
“They died eventually, an hour later. If spared by the Tutsis, they would have had died of radiation poisoning, in weeks.”
And the Tutsis, their assassins?
“They had no access to our encounter. Call it a new dimension if in lack of words, or compare it with user access level management to a system if you wish. No access, no perception, no radiation. Simple.”
How about my first question?
“The answer to your first question is yes.”
“Well, Beatrice,” ponders Rebecca, “when you turned down all my invitations to skinny dipping, it was not prudishness or other religious ideas…”
“Oh, no, not at all, Rebecca dear. I don’t need religion anymore. Been there, done that. As about skinny dipping, unlike Astarte, I cannot control the radiation of my wound. You see, Astarte has a skin with no laceration, this acts like a radiation screen. My wound in the chest is quite a remarkable hole in my flesh body. Filled with this energy (if you wish) that keeps me alive. I was taught to cover it with a golden top, front and back alike.”
Always gold. You know, my skin has variable levels of gold in it, how funny.
“Funny or not, Astarte makes a point. The mainframe lattice is made of gold. The very same gold that we can find down here, in the continuum. We may use this metal as a logic gate between parallel worlds. Well, more or less parallel.”
“Where have you spent your undead years? Almost two decades from 1994 to 2013 when we joined this mission…”
Yvonne wants to know and Beatrice kindly answers every question of hers. Why can’t she be so thoughtful to me?
“I guess that I am more thoughtful to you, Astarte, when putting your doings in balance with hers. So, my dear Yvonne, right after my first romantic kiss, I quit Rwanda for good. Wished to see my mom. Thought of the desert and bam, I found myself in the Australian desert. Thinking again, I landed in Mojave, then in Kalahari, and Gobi, the Arabian peninsula, then back to Australia. It took me three days to calibrate my thoughts, to map the stars, to learn how to navigate on top of the lattice. Finally, I approached the Berber village from the peaks of the Atlas Mountains. Mom used to live there. I took her with me to a secluded oasis in the heart of Sahara. Told her everything. She never doubted a word of mine. She never questioned Papa’s comings and goings, his military adventures or his secrets. Mom was the most faithful woman on the face of the earth.”
“I helped her to stay fit and sane. When reaching 80 she looked like 40. And then Rebecca and Alain came to visit us, you all know why. I had to leave her, but how could I let her alone in the middle of the desert? I’ve asked her what to do and she said ‘send me up!’ But how? By having her killed? So we prayed together for a resolution. The next evening, she passed away peacefully. I buried her, packed and called the helicopter. From now on, I had to act like a normal human being, always dressed. I was hiding something!”