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Saturday, October 17, 2020

Faith Doubts

It has been a while since I've posted a story here. That's partly because I've ended up distracted from my main writing, fiction, with some non-fiction writing. So I've ended up picking at this story all year. Until, today! Of course, I'll need to go faster if I want to finish the whole series before I leave this world. At any rate, it is done, so here is the short story of the 2020 year! Enjoy.

Note: I've changed the name of the main character from Holly to Ally, in honor of my granddaughter, Alexandria Zingg, who also goes by Ally.


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A clear blue sky greeted Ally as the bright-white light of angel-transportation dimmed, moving them to a new place and probably time. I wonder where we are?

As if he had read her mind—and for all she knew, he did—Joel responded, “This is a place called Earth.”

“Earth?” She shook her head. “Why would somebody name a world after dirt?”

Joel shrugged. “I suppose for the same reasons one might name it after a flower.” He winked.

“Yeah, however, a flower is pretty. But dirt?”

“It is a very valuable commodity here.” Joel licked his finger and stuck it up in the air. “Appears we are in Kansas, United States of America, um, around the year 2008, give or take a couple of years.”

She ignored the strange names Joel spouted out as if she should know where Kansas was, and instead scanned the horizon along the flat plain. Wind whipped chest-high grass in the nearby fields back and forth. “Strange. Not sure why God would have sent us here. There is no one for miles it would seem. How are we going to help anyone if there is no one to help?”

Joel smiled. “You never know who might turn up in the weirdest places.”

Ally started to say something, but Joel held up his index finger. He listened with closed eyes for a moment, though Ally couldn’t hear anything.

Finally, Joel opened his eyes. “I believe at least one reason The Big Man sent us here is there are some very strange things in this world. And one of them will be along soon.”

Ally clapped her hands together. “Really? I’ve always wanted to see a strange thing.”

Joel waved a hand toward her to indicate he wanted her to come. She followed Joel through the tall grass until they arrived at a long, flat, black hard surface stretching into the distance.

She shook her head. “What is this? It looks like a road, but none I’ve ever seen.”

“Indeed. And the things that travel on it are even stranger.” Joel pointed down the road. “And here comes one of them now.”

Ally peered into the distant horizon, and could barely make out the glint of sunlight from a metal object. Though she couldn’t tell exactly how far away the object was on this flat plain, since she knew she could see a long ways, she could tell the object was moving very fast. A lot faster than someone on horseback could ride. “What is that?”

“It is known in this world as a vehicle, automobile, car, or truck. But of course such names would be meaningless to you. All you need to know is that it is a machine designed to carry people.”

“A machine?”

Joel threw his hands up. “If you don’t know what a machine is, how can I describe it? Best you just wait until it comes and you can see for yourself.”

Ally shrugged. The “vehicle,” as Joel called it, grew bigger and closer. As it drew near, a black contraption traveled toward them, with no visible causes for its motion. “So maybe whoever is in there is who we need to help.”

Joel nodded. “Maybe. You never can tell for sure.”

As the vehicle drew near, Joel stuck out his thumb. That appeared to be an odd gesture on Joel’s part, however, it did end up having the person inside come to a stop. The man inside stuck out his head and asked, “Do you folks need a ride?”

“Sure do,” Joel responded.

“Where you going to?”

Joel put a finger to his head and scratched. “Now that is a good question. I guess until the next town, since we don’t know exactly where we are.”

“Hum, so you’re lost?”

Joel nodded, then whispered to Ally, “You sense anything bad in this guy?”

She closed her eyes and then said, “Nothing I can pick up.”

The man in the truck frowned. “Why are you both dressed strangely? You aren’t prisoners who’ve run away, are ya?”

Joel sighed. “That’s a loaded question. If we were, we wouldn’t agree with you. Since we’re not, we wouldn’t agree with you either. So you’ll get the same answer in either case.”

The man scratched his beard. “I reckon you’re right. What was I thinking? See ya later.” He waved, pulled back on the road, and left the two of them standing in the dust his truck kicked up.

After the dust settled and they both stopped coughing, Joel said, “Well. How rude!”

Ally grinned. “Maybe next time you better let me handle the talking.”

Joel shook his head. “I think the problem was with our clothes. He implied that they look like prison garb.”

Ally frowned. “Prison garb? What’s that?”

Joel stared at Ally for a moment and waved a finger at her. “Probably has something to do with my drab colors and your stripped shirt.” Joel snapped his fingers, and a dress appeared over Ally’s body. “There, that should do the trick.”

She examined her clothing. A frilly dress hung upon her along with a big hat. “I can’t wear this?”

“Why not?”

“It’s, it’s, oh, I don’t know. It’s just not me.”

“Looks pretty on you, though.”

Ally scowled. “How about something more practical. Hum?”

Joel rolled his eyes. “Oh, okay already.” He snapped his fingers again, and a set of pants and a frilly blouse appeared upon her.

Ally crossed her arms. “Do you consider this blouse ‘practical?’”

Joel smiled. “But you still look pretty. That’s practical for what we need.”

She wrinkled her nose. “How is that being practical?”

“You’ll get more attention that way.”

Ally thought for a second. “I’m almost afraid to ask. Why do I want to get more attention?”

Joel put a hand to his chin. “Well, let’s just say, you’ll be much more attractive to the opposite sex once another one stops.”

Ally rolled her eyes. “Okay, I’ll play your silly game.”

“Silly game?”

Ally shook her head and shrugged her shoulders.

Joel listened for a bit more, then sighed. “Guess we had better head the direction of the last vehicle. I don’t hear any more coming currently.” He started walking down the road; Ally followed him.

After an hour on the road, a house grew into view. The bright blue paint contrasted with the green, well-manicured lawn surrounding it. The upper windows clued Ally in that it had at least two-stories inside. A possible attic-room could suggest a third story. Outside an L part of the house sat a couple of the strange vehicles that Joel had mentioned, along with some stranger ones sitting here and there, one with giant wheels on the back.

Ally pointed at the house. “Maybe that’s where we’ll find our person-of-interest.”

Joel spun around. “Did you just say, person-of-interest?”

Ally nodded.

“Where did you hear that from?”

She shrugged. “Don’t know. It just seemed the proper thing to say. Why? What’s the big deal?”

Joel stared into her eyes for a moment. “No big deal, really. Just took me by surprise because that is a phrase they use in this world, not in yours.”

Ally continued walking. “Interesting, indeed.”

Joel stared at her, his eyes focused deeply on her.

Ally stopped. “What now? Did I do it again?”

“Sort of. Hard to tell. It wasn’t just what you said, but the way you said it.” Joel continued toward the house. “At any rate, I was thinking the same thing as you. Our ‘person-of-interest’ may be in that house.”

Ally started walking again. “Great! Let’s do this.” Strange, I don’t ever recall saying that before.

That’s because you have never said it before. Something strange is happening to you.

Ally glanced at Joel. “Any idea what is happening?”

“Not for sure, but it like you are becoming more a part of this world the longer you’re here.”

Ally’s eyes widened. “Maybe due to my emotional connection?”

Joel turned onto the walkway toward the house. “As good of a reason as any other. It did start up shortly after you checked out the driver’s emotional disposition.”

Ally nodded. “Curiouser and curiouser.”

Joel grinned. “You’ve got that right.” His grin disappeared. “One other thing.”

“Yes?” Ally stopped at the front door.

Joel knocked on the door. “I can’t do any supernatural things here except to you.”

“Why?”

“Because many people here don’t believe.”

“Believe what?”

“In God.”

Ally opened her mouth, but before she could ask any further questions, or express her shock at the thought of someone not believing in God, or at least some god, the front door opened.

In the doorway stood a woman, medium build, long-blonde hair, about six inches higher than Ally. “Hello? May I help you?”

Joel let out a long breath. “Yes, ma’am. We’ve been walking on this highway for a while, and we wondered if you could spare a couple glasses of water for a couple of thirsty travelers.” Now would be a good time, Ally, to check on her sincerity.

Ally winked. Right. She turned on her emotional connection, and a flood of thoughts impacted her so much that her knees gave way; Joel caught her before she hit the ground. She shook her head to clear the cobwebs to see Joel staring at her, his mouth dropped open.

Joel asked, “Are you okay?”

“I . . . I’m not sure.” Ally steadied herself on the door post.

The lady who answered the door said, “Oh dear! She could use something more than water. I have some tea that is good for this type of ailment. Come on in!” She helped Ally into the dinning room.

“Ma’am, you are a woman after my own heart. I could use some of your tea as well.” Joel bowed as they followed her inside to the kitchen table.

“You’ll both get some of my tea. Oh, pardon my manners, my name is Joy. Joy Quickfeet.” Joy busied herself making tea.

“Hi Joy. My name is Joel, and this is Ally.”

Ally tried to focus on the conversation, but she still reeled from the emotions she had felt, even though she had turned it off almost immediately. It was emotions she had never felt before. The closest she could come to it was emotions of disbelief.

Finally, her head cleared after getting some of Joy’s tea down; the brew really did help.

Joy nodded her head. “You feeling better now? The color has returned to your cheeks.”

“Yes. Thank you for the tea.” Ally rubbed her head. An sense of urgency overtook her. She knew that she needed to get out of this world sooner rather than later. “May I ask you a question Joy?”

Joy gave Ally a glance before returning to her duties. “Sure. Fire away.”

Ally wondered at Joy’s words, while at the same time it made perfect sense to her, though she knew it shouldn’t. “Thank you. Do you believe in God?”

Joy froze for a moment, then slowly turned toward Ally. “I did once.”

“But not now?”

Joy focused on her cleaning. “Well, I don’t rightly know, to tell the truth. Part of me longs for the days when I did, but part of me thinks I might be stupid to continue to believe.”

Then Ally said something she never thought she would hear herself say. “I understand. I feel sort of the same way.” Ally dropped her mouth open and turned to see Joel’s reaction.

His mouth was also ajar. Joel peered into Ally’s eyes. “What did you just say?”

Ally glanced at Joy, who kept looking at Joel and Ally alternately, before she returned her attention to Joel. “I . . . can’t believe I just said that.”

“Especially after what we’ve been through together.” Joel sat back in his chair and scratched his head. “It makes no sense?”

Joy said, “Makes no sense? Made perfect sense to me.”

“Of course it would, ma’am, to you, but . . .”

Joy squinted at Joel. “But what?”

Ally nodded for Joel to go on. He shook his head. She nodded yes. He shook his head no.

Joy sighed. “If you’re not going to tell me why, the least you can do is explain.”

For a minute or more, they stared at each other. Finally, Ally broke the silence. “I think we need to go.”

Joy shook her head. “But you haven’t explained yet. Besides, it is still twenty miles to the nearest town. I can’t have you two walking all that way in your condition.”

Joel shrugged. “She’s right.”

Ally sighed, “I don’t mean just go. I mean go, go.”

Joel’e eyes widened. “Oh, you mean, go, go!”

“Yes!”

“But we can’t do that until,” Joel glanced at Joy. “The Big Man says we can.”

Joy screamed, “Would one of you say something that makes some sense?”

Ally blurted out, “We’re both from another world.”

Joel frowned at Ally, as if to say, “Don’t you dare reveal who I am.”

Ally knew she’d already said too much. Yet, for some reason it seemed right to her.

Joy glanced at both of them. “Hum, I wasn’t expecting that answer. How can I know you’re from another world?”

Joel jumped in before Ally could say anything more. “Like any relationship, ma’am, you would have to experience it before you could believe. We’d have to take you there. But we aren’t allowed to do that.”

Joy smirked. “Of course you cann’t.”

The light of angelic transportation began to envelop them. “Bye. Thanks for the tea,” Ally yelled out before they had totally vanished from Joy’s sight.

Joy’s eyes grew wide as the light dimmed and they were no longer there. She blinked. She stood up and ran her hands over where they had sat. “Must have been a dream or hallucination.” Yet, she couldn’t deny what she’d just experienced. Gradually, it dawned on her. “They must have been angels. Yep, that’s what they were, alright. Angels.

Her eyes grew wide again. “And if they were angels, the ‘Big Man’ Joel had mentioned, must be referring to God. That can only mean that God is real. I’ve got to tell somebody.” She grabbed a hat and her purse and headed toward the door.

Before she reached it, however, she stopped. She remembered the last thing Joel had said to her—like any relationship, she had to experience it first. That had sounded like a cop out, like she knew it would to anyone she told it to. Now, however, it rang with the truth of her own experience. She knew she would probably sound like a crazy woman, just like Ally and Joel had sounded crazy to her initially. But if her testimony would help even one other person, it was worth it. She exited her house, hopped in her truck, and headed to town.

# # #

As the light dimmed, Ally could make out the familiar surrounding of her own house. “Is my time up? Am I in trouble from the Big Man for what I said and did?”

Joel closed his eyes, then opened them. “I don’t think that is the issue. You accomplished the purpose you were sent there to do.”

“But I doubted my faith in God?”

Joel nodded. “You did do that, but I imagine that was more due to your emotional connection with the world you were in than a real belief.”

“I certainly hope so.”

“What do you think about it now?”

“That as much as we’d been through together, I would be crazy to not believe.”

Joel smiled. “There. You see.”

“Hope I don’t ever have to go there again.” Ally looked around her house. What time is this?

Joel responded, “This is the time when we left. You might have noticed a dimming light right over there,” Joel pointed toward the front door. “. . . as we came in.”

Ally nodded. She did recall another light in the room. “So why am I back home now?”

“Hard to say exactly. But if I were to wager a guess, I think you need the time to recuperate after that last episode.” He glanced at his wrist, as if he had a time-piece attached to it. “As a matter of fact, tomorrow is Sunday. I suggest you attend church. I suspect the Big Man has something special for you.”

Ally smiled. “Sounds cool, dude.”

Joel pulled his head back and stared at her.

“What?”

“You did it again. Probably some residual from the last world.”

“Really? Again? Still?” Guess I do need the down time.

“Boy, do you ever.” Joel laughed as he disappeared in a blinding flash of light.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Homecoming

I'm finally back to this story, or rather series of episodes, now that we have finished moving. (Yay!)

This is the fourth episode in this book. A bit different change of pace, along with introducing some dragon lore of this world. So enjoy this free story that will eventually be an episode in a new book, title yet to be decided upon.

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As the white light died off, a familiar site came into view. Holly blinked a couple of times to focus. “Joel, this is your home again.”

He nodded. “I know. I had hoped we’d arrive here. I want to grab Kaylee and we’ll go somewhere on Camellia for dinner.”

“You mean, you eat food, like we do?”

“Not really. It is more of a social thing. At any rate, we can’t merely work all the time. You know what they say!”

Holly scrunched up her forehead. “No, I don’t know what they say.”

Joel facepalmed himself. “Of course! That is a saying in an alternate world. It goes, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’”

She wrinkled her nose. “But I’m a girl.”

Joel sighed. “I know that! It’s the underlying point of the saying. But have it your way. All work and no play makes Jill a very dull girl. There. Satisfied?” He crossed his arms.

She gazed into his eyes for a couple of seconds. “Are all you angels this touchy?”

Joel simply stared at her, as if he was dumbfounded.

“After all, I know what you were driving at the first time you said it. I only questioned some of the wording.” She tried to read him, but for some reason she couldn’t read an angel’s mood or disposition. Though it was apparent enough without her ability. He was so transparent.

“And what, pray tell, was the point I was driving at?”

“If you don’t know, why should I tell you?”

“Humor me.” He stared at her as she stared back.

She shrugged her shoulders after a few seconds had passed. “You think we need a break.”

Joel threw his hands up. “Well, duh!”

She scrunched her nose again. “What does that mean?”

He shook his head, muttering something. Then he said, “I’m not going down that road again. Look, I’m going to get Kaylee. You stay put. I’ll only be gone for a minute or two, I hope.”

She nodded.

He gave her one nod back, and then marched toward his house. He let the door slam shut behind him.

Holly sat on a nearby rock. The feeling of being totally happy while in the midst of having an argument with an angel was very . . . different. Sort of like mixing oil and water and having it blend into one liquid. Just that strange.

“But it was very good of him to want to help you relax,” a voice behind her said.

She twirled around. It sounded like a man’s voice, but instead, she saw nothing. No one. She said, “Who’s there?”

“Just me.”

“Who is me?”

“Doodle.” He became visible.

Holly almost lost her balance when she backed up suddenly upon his appearance. “Who is Doodle?”

“What? You know who Kaylee is, but not me?”

Holly shook her head. “No idea.”

“Well, as they tell us in orientation, it’s best not to focus on who I am anyway. That’s not what you need to know. Even though it appears nearly everyone asks.” He paused as if for no apparent reason. Then he said, “You really have no clue do you?”

“Nope.”

“Well, that’s alright. As long as you don’t know who George is as well.”

Her eyes grew wide. “You mean George of Reol?”

He stared at the ground and shook his head. “You know George, but have never heard of me?” He threw his hands into the air. “Incredible.”

“I don’t know anyone named Doodle from Reol.”

“What? You think only people from Reol are important?”

“No.” She shrugged. “Only that I know the people of Reol. Not too many outside of that area.”

For the first time, Doodle smiled. “So it’s pretty much true what they say about the people of Reol.”

“What do they say?”

“Boy, you’re full of questions. Well, that you are all a secluded bunch, rarely getting out of town save for traders and certain exceptions, like Sisko and his relatives, and Josh.”

Well, it is in a forest, and a mountain range cuts it off from the rest of Camellia.”

Now it was Doodle’s turn to wrinkle his nose. “Camellia? What’s that. Is that Joel’s garden over there?” He pointed at the tea leaves.”

She giggled. “No silly. It is the name of your and my whole world. Camellia. Got it?”

He put fingers to his beard and brushed it with them. “You know, it would be helpful to have a name, now that we have other worlds to differentiate it from.”

Holly smiled. “Exactly what I told Joel.”

Doodle started heading back toward the woods. “Follow me if you’d like to hear more. I’ve got to get back to my house.”

She started to move her feet, but then hesitated. Joel had told her to stay put. But then there was more than one way to interpret what he’d said. Because they were in Paradise, after all. What harm could happen to her in Paradise? So he couldn’t have meant to stay put, as in, not going anywhere else. Rather, he had asked her to stay the hand of anyone who wanted to put something there. That had to be it. So she nodded and followed.

They talked as they walked. Finally, Doodle asked Holly, “I sense that you have already been tested.”

“Tested. For what?”

“What you are here for.”

“Here for? To my knowledge, we came for Kaylee.”

“Kaylee?” He stared hard at Holly. “She wouldn’t qualify.”

“Qualify? I think she’d be very interesting to talk with.”

“Sure, but there’s much more she would need to do, like fly, to qualify.”

Holly thought for a second. “Qualify? Qualify for what? All we’re going to do is go out to supper with her.”

Doodle looked up into the sky. “When, O Lord, did you change the way a person gets a dragon to bond with?”

Doodle’s use of the word dragon sparked a memory the last time she was here with Joel. He appeared a little worried about her presence being here, that it could lead to a bonding to a dragon.

Holly let her jaw drop. “You think I’m here to get a dragon?”

Doodle laughed. “It is either that or you’re dead. Did you die to get here?”

She shook her head.

“Then you are here to get a dragon. I think if you go to the lake over there, you’ll find yours.”

“But, I—”

Then he vanished, leaving Holly in the middle of the forest.

She looked around. “I don’t belong here, I’m only with Joel.” A fear grew in her, as much as it possibly could in this place, that she was lost. She couldn’t remember how they got here. She felt alone, but not alone. As if some unseen force was watching her. She shrugged and headed the direction that Doodle had pointed.

Still, she couldn’t shake the feeling that someone or something was watching her. She decided to use her emotion ability, and willed it to turn on. A sense of curiosity came to her. About her!

She spun around. “Okay, whoever is following and watching me, show yourself!”

After a moment, a rather large and tall dragon, sort of fat, appeared before her. She stepped back a few steps, then tripped over a log on the ground and fell on her back.

The dragon laughed. “Don’t worry. I’m not going to eat you. Especially here in Paradise.”

Holly just lay on the ground, staring at the beast.

“And by the way, I’m not fat. Just bulky is all.”

Holly sat up. “You read my mind?”

“Of course. Dragons are able to do that. We communicate mentally with our bondlings.”

She rose to her feet, dusting leaves and dirt from her skirt and blouse. “Sorry. I just didn’t know what to expect, having never seen a dragon before.”

The dragon frowned, as much as a dragon was able. “You’ve never seen a dragon before? That’s not quite right. You should have seen several at least before putting on the gloves.”

Holly wrinkled her nose. “Gloves? I have no idea what you are talking about.”

The dragon roared for a moment, causing Holly to hold her ears. Then he, or she, Holly wasn’t really sure—said, “I’ve checked you memories, and I see Joel’s been a bit irresponsible where it concerns you.”

“What do you mean?” Holly asked.

“He left you alone in Paradise when you aren’t supposed to be here.”

“He just went into his house to get Kaylee.”

“Yeah!”

Holly turned. Joel stood before her. “Joel!”

He pointed a finger at her. “Didn’t I tell you to stay put?”

She nodded. “The meaning was ambiguous.”

Joel pointed both of his arms toward Holly and talked to the dragon. “See what I have to deal with?”

Then, yet another angelic being popped into the conversation. “Joel.”

Joel gulped. “Yes, sir?”

“Why did you bring a living human into Paradise?”

The dragon sat on his haunches. “This should be good.”

Joel smiled his normal goofy grin. “Well, sir, Michael, sir, it’s like this.” He stared at the sky a moment before pointing his index finger on his right hand up. “The big man upstairs—”

Micheal smiled. “You mean, God.”

“Of course, who else?” When Micheal said nothing further, Joel said, “ He brought me and Holly here together, in order that I might help her deal with her problem, I felt that God wanted us to form a team. Well, a team means I need to take her to my house from time to time. This particular—”

“That’s not what I wanted to know,” Michael said.

Joel said softly, “Well, maybe you shouldn’t be so . . . “ He glanced at Holly. “So ambiguous. What do you want to know?”

Micheal murmured under his breath. “I don’t care that you were on a mission of mercy. That should be a given in our case. What I want to know, is upon whose authority did you bring a living human to Paradise. You know the rules. People only come here when they die and are made righteous by Christ’s blood. That, or they come temporarily to seek which dragon they are to bond with. Which of these is she here for?”

Joel shrugged. “Neither. That’s what I was trying to tell you, sir. I brought her here so that I could get Kaylee to go for a nice dinner in Holly’s world.” Joel turned to face Holly. “It was suppose to be an in and out thing. Instead, it turned into more. A lot more.”

Michael snapped his fingers, and a little bell appeared in them. He rang it. Joel cringed. Micheal said, “Do I need to remind you of the consequences of breaking the rules?”

Joel covered his ears. “Please, Michael. Not that!”

Michael snapped and the bell disappeared. “Just a reminder.”

“Look, Micheal. I know I’ve bent the rules a little. But we are doing some good work lately. Check in with the Big Man on that. Don’t you think you could all make an exception in this case? I mean, she knows that I am an angel.”

Holly almost giggled when Micheal said, “Well, duh!” She figured it must be an angel thing.

“And she’s been to Paradise. So, she knows all about it. The only living human to know.”

Micheal sighed. “I’ll bring it up at our next meeting. Until I contact you to tell you the results, keep her out of Paradise. Okay?”

Joel smiled. “Okay.”

Micheal and the Dragon vanished, leaving Holly and Joel alone.

Joel shook his head and started walking back toward his house.

Holly followed. “Did I goof up?”

“Sort of. I mean, I brought you into Paradise under the radar, so to speak. Now, you’re one big blip on Michael’s radar.”

“I’m sorry. Maybe you could have been clearer why you didn’t want me to wander off. I had no idea exactly what might happen.”

Joel opened his mouth to say something, but then shook his head. “What’s done is done. All I can hope is that an exception will be made. Otherwise, I won’t so easily be able to go home.”

“Why?”

Joel turned to face Holly. “Because, I have to keep an eye on you. You’re a slippery one, you are.”

What did he mean by that? She disappeared in a blinding flash of light along with Joel.


----------


Holly sat at a table in an inn’s pub, chowing down on a good meal with Joel and Kaylee. Though they only picked at their meal. They appeared more interested in the social aspect. They chatted about several things, one of which was the bell that Joel feared so much. Though he had briefly discussed it before, this talk was much more detailed. Apparently, this wasn’t the first time the angel had “goofed up.” Many long years ago, he was put into the humble submission to anyone who possessed the bell. Like a genie, he was bound to grant whoever rang the bell some wishes. He described how he could be doing anything, like taking a bath, and suddenly be yanked away to appear before someone to do their bidding.

Then, in a brilliant move, he had arranged for the bell to be hidden, which gave him a long stretch of free time. That is, until Sisko found it. However, he ended up freeing the angel from his curse. And a much more humble angel resulted. At least to hear Joel tell it.

Holly swallowed the last of her meal and downed it with some water. “So, Joel. What is it with wearing gloves? Something the dragon said when he was trying to figure out why I was there.”

Joel sat back in his chair. “Ah yes. That, my dear Holly, is dragon lore. Are you aware of Cole, Kaylee’s brother?”

“I know of him, that he rode a dragon. Never heard how he came to be bound to one.”

“Well,” Joel started, “I won’t go into all the details here, but one of the steps to be bound to a dragon is to go to Paradise, go through a test of sorts. The way one goes from here to Paradise, aside from dying, is to put on those special gloves. Once they pass the test, their dragon is revealed to them. Then they return to this world and go through the bonding ceremony.”

Holly giggled.

Kaylee said, “What’s so funny?”

Holly wore a big grin. “A bonding ceremony sounds like a marriage.”

Joel nodded. “It pretty much is like marriage. Different, but bonds the two together for a lifetime.” Joel smiled. “One big difference is there is no divorce. Not from a dragon.”

Kaylee and Joel laughed.

Holly grinned. “That’s interesting. However, there is one thing I’ve always wanted to know.”

Joel said, “Shoot.” He swallowed. “Not literally, of course.”

Holly briefly wondered whether an angel could die from a bullet. “Kaylee, how did you end up being a mother to Cole, when you are his sister?”

She pointed a finger at Holly. “Now, that would take at least three books to tell the whole story.”

Joel nodded with his goofy smile, “Yeah. At least three books. Maybe more.”

Kaylee sat back in her chair. “I’ll try to cut to the core of the story, as unlikely as some things will sound by doing so.”

Holly spread her arms toward Joel. “You do know who I travel with.”

Kaylee chuckled. “Of course. Well, it started out right after Sisko, our father died . . .”


Author’s Note: Kaylee above is referring to the story told in Reality’s Fire, the third and final book in my Reality Chronicles series. The first two being Reality’s Dawn and Reality’s Ascent.