The Soviet Union’s spectacular, utter collapse left America isolated as the remaining superpower, and now China, Japan, and the EU moved to take not only the Soviet Union’s place but to supplant America too in the process. How could Western Europe, with all the pride of her ancient cultural heritage going back to the Greeks and Romans and Minoan Cretans, allow the upstart Americans to dictate to the mother civilization indefinitely? It was unthinkable.
And as for Asia—which was far older in civilization than Europe, how could the birthplace of Civilization itself be dictated to by either Europe or America? It was unthinkable.
Failing to solve the Middle East crisis, America remained strong in the 1990s as the premier economy at the moment, but the cosmopolitan EU, absorbing more and more member states, and representing more than double America’s population, gained the universalism and acceptance that America lacked.
As the century turned and the new millennium began, it was not toward New York and Washington as before but toward Brussels, then increasingly Rome, the so-called “Eternal City” that power began to flow, and along with the power went almost unlimited wealth, the control of which was concentrated in the hands of a few EU bureaucrats at the top.
With all the trappings of world empire still in place in Europe-—left over from the imperial Hapsburgs, Napoleon, Charlesmagne, and the Romans-—Europe took naturally to the claim of her right to rule the world again. It was her “divine right.”
Modeled on classical Roman foundations, EU’s power structure looked democratic and parliamentarian, but that was a mere façade for a very thorough-going absolutism that would have made even Louis the autocratic Sun-King blush.
Technologically, however, the EU’s prospects could not look rosier. I.T.S., the International Transit System—the darling project of the EU construction and communications industries called Enlargement, Peace and Stability Services (or E.P.S.S.)—had proved an unqualified success at the start, shuttling hundreds of millions of people with rocket speed to all points of the globe, until of late certain anti-world government elements began to target the system, resulting in a return to relatively safer, more conventional travel systems such as the airlines.
It wasn’t what a thing was that mattered any longer, but how it was made to be perceived. Enormous power fell as the prize to the most adept manipulator.
No wannabe world ruler could hope to aspire to world leadership if the spin shamans failed him—this was where the EU absolutely surpassed every other power on earth in its sophistication.
Requiring the unique Octopus-Loader (an “Olly,” to the service personnel), the El Al airliner was a modified BWB, a blended-wing aircraft pioneered in the 1920s in Los Angeles by Jack Northrop.
Unlike America’s Stealth bomber of the 1980s and various fighter series that had used the design in the 1990s, the airliner was not phantom black but a stunning white, and the fusilage was really a giant wing reinforced by two more wings--rivaling in design the multi-winged seraphim in the Bible's book Revelation.
Her feet even felt more like icy lamb chops in her shoes than living feet. How could that be? Though it was mid-September, the temperature hung in the sizzling 100s outside.
Some tough over-comer she was!
Without Shari and other highly capable aides going ahead of her and behind her escorting every step she took, she stumbled about alone trying to find the aisle that led down through the first level of double-decked passenger compartments.
Here six seat sections were divided by an aisle that ran only partway before becoming a lateral aisle every twenty rows.
Toward the broadest stretch of the aircraft, the number of seats decreased in a line to three. And all along the sides, there were three seaters as well as automated steward stations dispensing food and drinks from the forward galley.
This design insured, it was hoped, a speedier evacuation, since there could never be enough attendants on board to handle all the passengers personally.
Her eyes rolled up into her head momentarily. Now she would get no real view except in the video monitor in the back of the seat head.
Further cutting her off from the outside her seat was between two others—that sort of seating always made her feel claustrophobic. She knew this wasn’t going to work well.
She sighed and sank into the seat, trying not to think of the mess some travel agency or computer software had made with her reservation. She had left all her designer clothes and shoes behind.
With dark glasses and her mother’s old-fashioned wagon-wheel pattern ranch dress and sun/wind-breaker, would anyone recognize her now? The dress was out of style too; her mother seldom wore dresses and women’s apparel. More at home in the yard than in the house, she preferred a cowpuncher’s working jeans even years after leaving the Texarkana ranch to “dressing up lady-like,” as she called it. It was perfect, however, giving her just the middle-class, western American look nobody could connect with her TV image.
But now, with no one’s conscience to offend, why not something her nerves craved? Unfortunately, a steward was never in sight when really needed. Other times they were constantly in one’s face, she reflected, running a dry tongue around her teeth.
She glanced about at other passengers. They all seemed to be on a first name basis and wore name badges modeled on the classic peace sign. Two boyish women bounded in dressed in rhinestone-decorated jogger’s pants and footwear. Twins, their windbreakers emblazoned with the big letters: “P.L.U.R.!”
Both waved to everyone and the cabin burst into excited babble. Then Heloise remembered.
Their high-gloss brochures were spread around freely in the best hotel chains and she had seen their pictures in numerous TV and Internet ads as well. “Dixi and Trixi’s Share the Peace Guided Tours,” truly a “Four Star” Holy Land tour business in a highly-competitive industry.
Of course, they had enjoyed lots of help in promotion. Besides highly-publicized endorsement from the annual convocations of the International Peace Prayer Day in sacred Native American land in the Jemez mountains of New Mexico, they had won approval by the World Council of Churches, the so-called “Wiccan Church of North America,” Amnesty International, and the Lesbian-Gay Liberation Alliance-—the “Big Four” who never endorsed her because of her high-profile conservative politics and evangelical religion.
She had been branded as Zionist, extremist, or “far, far right”! She had even been targeted by “heretic hunters,” critics who branded her on their websites as a “Satanic prophet and teacher” and “perpetrator of hate crimes.”
They paid little attention to ideological tags, pro or con, because all many bucks you could pull in had always been American business’s bottom line.
As long as her fund-raising techniques proved successful, her growth was unlimited, so that was the reason why the shock waves from her ministry’s collapse had given the Dow Jones average such a sickening downturn for several days. Nothing—even her investments in the bluest Blue Chips, in the most promising of the Fortune 500 software Internet and software giants—had saved her.
Enron and Martha Stewart in one bag, her fall had cracked a number of high-placed investment portfolios of the big foundations wide open to serious question of viability. How could that happen? Analysts, she knew, were even at that moment developing ulcers over her case, which was a major concern of stock firms from New York to Tokyo and London because multiple billions were making signs of vanishing.
But how could she get by without being recognized? They were going to be on the same flight, six hours long, all the way to Heathrow, London, and then from there to Tel Aviv, another four hours in the air. The seats filled rapidly, and the aisles were jammed.
With full occupancy, 800 passengers, there was much less room to maneuver past one another, and she knew the moments for a successful escape had gone and she would have a tough time getting through the incoming mob. Should she still try it? Could she find the strength to get another flight and wait for it--it could be hours, even a day or two?
Feeling breathless, she put her head down and inhaled several times. In that position she stared down at her mother’s old green leather bag on the floor—the one with the Indian beads and braided strap her mother won in some rodeo drawing in Texas or Oklahoma.
“Ugly as a Texarkana whorehouse toilet,” her mother had said in her colorful way, but she loved it, because it was so big it could carry most anything. It wasn’t what she put in it that mattered so much—the scent of her mother’s things was still in it blended with the smell of leather—she had only to put her face to it and she was with her mother again! In it she had crammed, in a frantic moment to escape her husband’s last remarks, everything she thought she might need, all from her mother’s stock of things in her bedroom and bathroom. The thought had comforted her--the more of her mother’s things and identity she could smother herself with, the less heart-broken she felt at losing her.
The moment the pathetic alias popped out of her mouth, it seemed to land with such a thud on the floor, Heloise fully expected she would be challenged on it and tried to slip her mother’s handbag out of sight.
Then she added: “Just call me Evelyn—Evie for short. That’s odd. I know everybody, but 'Helen Green' doesn’t ring a bell. Why, come to think of it, it sounds like-…like something from an old comic strip, if you know what I mean—the strips nobody ever read but kept going for years and years. Are you really from Dallas? I’ve lived in the area all my life, and never forget a name.”
Evie really began to peer at her, in a most rude way, making Heloise feel like she were some kind of freak.
She would have crossed swords with her, not just paths! But then the “homebody” she had claimed to be was partly true—though rarely home, she hadn’t mixed much with local Bellwood people, being so busy with her international ministries.
“Hurry up on that classic coke, bubba!” Evie said as the steward wrote on a pad. “No diet pop for me! And I don’t like waiting all day while you take illegal smoke breaks in the can! Hold it, buddy, until after you bring my order! If I gotta follow you in there and drag you out to get my order, I will! Trust me!”
“Here, sweetie,” she said, quickly handing Heloise a bottle of Rain Forest banana milk, startling Heloise with a voice that was exactly like a little girl’s frozen in time.
“Take it, please! I have an extra! Evie won’t touch whatever I like though it would be good for her and it saves the precious, precious rain forest too that keeps us all breathing air instead of fumes, you know. Just once I got her to try it. We were some place in Rome, I think, a big church I guess—the one with the statue of Michelangelo out front. Anyway, the poor dear took a big gulp, then spit it all out over her front! Everyone in the tour group stopped to look at us, and laughed! I was never more embarrassed in my life! But it’s just the thing for this germ-y, super-dry cabin air since it’s packed with anti-oxidents!”
“Thank you very much!” she said. “I couldn’t get the steward to help me.”
The Good Samaritan grinned at Heloise, then shook her head like Shirley Temple. “You don’t get out much in public, do you? That’s why I always come prepared with my own drinks! Don’t mind me, I overheard you two talking just now. Helen, I’m Claire, and I’m so glad to meet you! I am so excited. Don’t mind Evie—she’s always a little sour at the start if everything doesn’t go exactly right according to her thinking. Despite the act she puts on, Evie’s a real world traveler and absolutely loves seeing places if not the people in them! She’s been to Israel four times, lucky girl, for peace missions mainly, but this is my first! Her employer really treats its personnel right, by offering paid vacations for exceptional staff like her! Can you imagine how many women and teens she’s helped in the area of reproductive rights over the years? But where is your badge and tour jacket? Did they forget you?”
“Hi, everybody!” he began cheerily. “This is Captain Goldstein speaking—but please call me Troy, won’t you? Now before you all dig into some great steaks with an onion and sample our outstanding wine list here’s the perspective on this flight we of El Al have planned with you especially in mind--”
To Heloise a captain trying so hard to please as this one was did not prove at all reassuring. He also pronounced steaks “stykes,” giving away his Australian roots.
After “Troy” the Australian-born Israeli chattily signed off, after welcoming as special guests a delegation of “Women in Black,” a global peace organization, a squadron of feminine-looking stewards in tight uniforms and male-looking stewardesses with butch haircuts and manners began the usual safety procedures demonstrations.
Apparently, a single year of rigorous enforcement of the “anti-hate crime” legislation put out by the UN and the EU had produced an entirely new professional class in Israel, at least in the air!
It was possible to ignore the attendants, but her fellow travelers? She looked again at the people around her, most of them members of the same tour, it appeared and all classic types representing the world’s most fashionable ideologies.
“A cabin full of raving peaceniks, vegetarians, and activist feminists, with a few hashshish-addicted Suffik dervishes thrown in?” It was going to be long flight, she thought, her spirits sinking even further.
“But I am plain barn ugly!” she insisted to his face. “Do you think I’m blind too? Think again!”
“I could love a man like that,” she thought at the time.
Yes, indeed, how could she not fall in love with a man who accepted her, “barn-ugly” as she was? Her heart was his from that moment, at least for the first term of hard, rough and tumble years of setting up a new household.
“Hey, ladies, whatever you want, it’s on the house,” the boyish girl next to the girlish boy informed them coldly. “American microbrews? We’ve got a cool selection!”
While they waited Heloise dug in her mother’s bag for pain-killers and sedatives she had tucked away. She nearly let the purse drop as jasper star earrings in a clear case seemed to pop up into her clutching fingers!
She stared at the earrings—could they be the ones she had lost years ago, the ones she had bought in Nablus, on the West Bank? No! she thought. Her mother, she knew, would have told her if she had found them, since she had asked her mother if she had seen them over at her condo. Yet they were perfect replicas of her lost ones!
Too surprised to do anything, she stared at them, and Claire looked over at her and chirped, “My, those are lovely! Why don’t you put them on? Here, I’ll help you. Just give them to me!”
Strangely, the earrings jumped from Heloise’s fingers just as Claire reached for them. They fell to the floor, and as Claire reached for them, it happened once again, the earrings leaped out of her hand. This time Heloise thought something strange was happening, so she said the moment she had them back in hand, “Oh, no, thank you. I can do it fine myself!”
Then she went back to the purse, trying not to think of the little miracle of finding the earrings and how rudely they had treated poor Claire. Why hadn’t she seen them before when she looked through her mom’s contents, taking out whatever she didn’t want and adding her own things? And…how strange now they felt on her ears! It was as if they were telling her things—like a bridge between two lives—between what she had been and what she was now…
Fumbling with the capsules, she finally got them down, and then leaned back in her chair.
A short time later she felt the pain-killers and sedatives were finally kicking in. All the distractions were working—distancing herself from Evie with her lumberjack manners and poor Claire Evie with her eager helpfulness and preposterous little girl’s voice as the plane jockeyed to a place for takeoff.
The rush of stewards to their posts for liftoff, the last instructions about coordination of curtains and wallpaper over the intercom, the excited babble of terrified passengers who were wondering who would be collecting on their flight insurance, Dixi and Trixi ignoring the flashing buckle-up signs to pass out some last-minute printed tour info--it was all too familiar--and she couldn’t stay conscious if she had wanted. She simply passed out.
“Oh, no thanks,” she said. Just the thought of it, connected with that voice, was too horrible for some reason. It was, come to think of it, like having pecan pie ala mode pushed into your face after consuming a Texas-sized steak and lobster dinner.
Suddenly, she was inspired.
“Say, sorry to bother you, I’m not feeling at all well, “ she told the two, rolling her head a bit. “I think it is the Singapore flu coming on. I hope nobody catches it!”
Evie grunted something like “Just my luck! She’s sick as a dog! Just so she doesn’t puke on me!”
Suddenly, the things Harry had said to her over the phone, not bothering to come in person, and she almost choked on the gum. She had hard few moments breathing, in the increased cabin pressure. She reached to the back of the seat in front of her and flicked on additional oxygen, and let it spray her face. Feeling a little better, she glanced again at her companions. Evie had turned to plugging herself into an audio-book with the same cover and illustration Claire was holding.
What could these two women be getting from the book? She wondered. Neither appeared to be very intellectual or scholarly. Evie looked like a solid Louis d’Amour fan, and Claire was the type who probably preferred nurses’ romances mixed with a few feminist/lesbian magazines thrown in to keep in good standing with her fellow activists. Her thoughts were interrupted by Claire, who in her reading had evidently forgotten Heloise’s flu bug.
“I don’t want to intrude if you want to rest a bit, but I need to get this book finished before we land in Tel Aviv. You see our tour leaders are organizing a book discussion contest for us all with the press invited and I would prefer to see me and Evie shine a little if we can for everyone watching back home. Dixi and Trixi said we could possibly win a free love-boat cruise if we--”
Heloise nodded, showing compassion as the visibly desperate Claire shuddered, her tiny voice quavering, “I can’t imagine what Dixi and Trixi were thinking of! The book we’re all assigned is five hundred pages long! I should have started a week ago at least! And it’s so deep and full of big words! Maybe--”
She peered at Heloise’s sun-shaded eyes more closely. “Maybe if I show it to you, and you read a passage I can’t get, you might help--? Evie won’t do it. She says I should work it out on my own and not cheat. Yet she always cheats on her crossword puzzles, using a book she bought!”
Overhearing, Evie gave them both a look for disturbing her, then went back to her five-hundred audio-book which, Heloise noticed, was only the shell of the assigned book, the CD removed and replaced by the CD of a blood-and-guts Western thriller.
Claire, not hearing her, with one hand dipping into a bag of peace cereal, turned on the audio track loud enough for Heloise to hear a particular passage.
“Now what on earth is he getting at there? Adam? Enoch? Who in the world were they? If they lived so long ago as he says, why should we care who they were? Surely, you can make it a little more plain. I never made it beyond high school, being just a single Mom and raising my adopted kids after graduation, and then working as a files clerk for the Environmental Impact Department of the Federal Public Lands Administration for twenty years! Of course, the whole division I was in has been taken over by the UN and everything’s changed! I’m thinking of an early retirement—they want too much out of us, I think!”
He had been Senior Lecturer and Professor of Assyriology and Comparative Religion at Dallas Metroplex Theological Seminary over a span of thirty years—an authority recognized by both right and left political camps. He was, she had found despite the furor he had created among the heretic hunting camp for his views on Enoch and Adam, too dry and scholarly to interest her tours. She preferred to use her own more contemporary-styled audio-books and videos and do explanatory talks herself at the various sites. Now why had the Pynooses chosen him of all people? They had plenty of New Age gurus to draw from, teaching all sorts of “technologies of Kundalini yoga, Ayurveda, health, nutrition, and peace therapies.”
Were they trying to impress the the governing bishops of the World Council of Churches and various Wiccan organizations that their tours promoted true scholarly research and were not just out to make a buck from their connections with save-the-planet activism?
But Heloise wasn’t listening because her mind was whirling with her own thoughts. “...meaning yet to be realized”? The phrase struck her at the heart like cold steel. She had yet to realize the full impact of the collapse of her ministry and life, forcing her to flee to Jerusalem of all places--anyplace but somewhere in the states where everybody knew her from her primetime prophecy shows! Her mind flew back to the still throbbing sources of her pain.
It was incredible! Her world-class international headquarters, the arboretum featuring a recreation of the Garden of Eden, the fleet of limousines and chauffeurs for important guests, the swimming pool on the roof beneath the giant neon-lit cross with the revolving “Crown of Thorns 24-hour Prayer Line and Crisis Center, the contracts, engagement offers to speak for high figures, TV talk show dates, magazine editors wanting her remarks and articles, a possible visit to the White House to advise the First Lady, known to harbor some conservative religious views and sentiments, on some personal matters.
The offers kept pouring into her voice mail, fax machines, and mail box like a Niagara, keeping her secretaries, though used to high volume work, challenged. Yet it had gone belly up, even before the people making all those wonderful, lucrative offers knew it!
If she had thought about it, it was only that in case the attacks of the heretic hunters and the hostile world media got too much for her nerves and she retired from public life, she thought she always had one option: Harry’s nice, big church.
It boasted 5,000 well-heeled members and an impressive new sanctuary and office building—no small potatoes for her to fall back on if need be.
But how mistaken! Harry showed, in his last remarks and the priority mail envelope letter, he entertained no such idea of providing her a convenient hole to crawl into in case one was ever needed. He wasn’t having her or her ministry! The moment she was in a bind and actually needed him, he resigned from both! What a coward! What a dead-beat husband! A real traitor!
She had raged as she listened to his recorded phone message. How dare he initiate divorce proceedings, charging her with “criminal and inhuman neglect” and “alienation of feelings”, “no intimate relations for ten years,” and all the rest he accused her of!
It was incredible he could say such mean things to her, she thought. They had worked as a splendid team for years, and not one complaint out of him! Not one--or not one she had deemed worth-while dealing with, that is. Yes, he had cooled over the years, she had to admit.
It wasn’t exactly steam-filled Honeymoon Days, but she wasn’t in the most amorous frame of mind these days, eating like she did on the run so often, and her mind racing with schedules and speeches she had not yet given but needed to dictate to Shari for a quick typing and then revision before she settled on the right message for the particular audience.
Booked up as she was, how could she devote time to the little signs that Harry, the man and husband, was not as happy with the arrangement as he had been in the past when things were just opening up for her new ministry?
Then, “blinded”! How could he say such a thing? And hadn’t her own mother used that same term? What were they talking about? Hadn’t she always done her best? Why wasn’t that enough for them?
Tears of outrage for herself ran down inside her glasses. She paused, the page swimming too much for her to try to explain it to Claire.
Little sweetie-girl Claire seemed almost hurt as she put her book away in her carry-on bag. “Oh! I didn’t think. I forgot you weren’t feeling well! And you have eye problems on top of it all? Your glasses! Poor thing! I should have known. How thoughtless I--”
Heloise, craving relief of any kind, evem of was Claire's version of "woman to woman," let her think it, and both Pynoose devotees let her alone for the rest of the flight, burying themselves in their tour books and schedules. She lay back in her seat, resting for the first time on the flight.
But her memories, once pricked to the quick, came back all the stronger, jabbing like knives and forks.
Somehow a dessert was served her at mealtime, despite her trying to say she didn’t want anything, and she toyed with the non-fat yogurt-cheesecake that carried an ecology stamp of approval, that featured a legendary Hollywood star's smiling face and said the cheesecake was supposed to raise “international consciousness” and also help save the threatened rain forests of Sumatra if she ate it.
She took a deep breath. “I’ve got to handle this better. Best not to think of Turncoat Harry just now. Maybe he just needs time to reconsider the mean things he said. It couldn’t be as bad as he made it out. It couldn’t be. You would think he was describing some bloody South American dictator, not the head of a world-wide ministry that helps so many orphans and starving old people--”
But if not Harry Turnbull, her enraged husband finally breaking from her hold on him, then it was her daughters who kept coming to mind. They had said the most hurtful things, even without Harry’s vocabulary. And what they said jabbed her like sharp butcher knives.
There was the only thing she knew to do in the circumstances, something uncharacteristic but now inescapably necessary in her circumstances: Run, rabbit! Run as fast as you can! And when it’s safe, you can come out. So she had begun running, gambling that if she put enough distance between herself and the chief sources of her pain, then maybe she might be able to regain control.
Yet words shaped like swords and arrows could fly just as fast as the Israeli wing-jet, she found, despairing. Heretic hunters, with their hate mail and venom-dripping websites, were bad enough. But it was far worse to come from your own family! Words such as “Admit it, mother dear, all you want from people is money!” from Cassia. “What you’re doing has nothing to do with helping them find God! It’s all about money!” Those were her very charges, spoken with venom and absolute assurance they were the truth, only to be followed with Harry’s icy, cold, “You really cared nothing for me or our children, your real loves were yourself first, then money, showing your unrestrained cupidity--”
And “Unrestrained cupidity?” She could laugh, almost, at that now. Her mother’s bag held a little jewelry and about four thousand in cash--savings, she guessed, for some mother’s idea of rainy day emergency.
With that--all she dared to take with her, deliberately leaving the whole of her ministry and its assets to the vultures, the lawyers and attorneys pouring in at every door of the International Ministry building--she was now a virtually penniless fugitive.
Let her process her through like so many million others-- middle-aged, average-looking . Otherwise, if word of her coming leaked out, the gate would be jammed with press corps.
That would force her to primetime news to say something or other, and then papers would be filed, and courts would make judgments forcing her back to the U.S. for some arraignment or other dealing with the collapsed ministry giant! No....!!!!
Freshened up, her face dabbed with a wet towel, she went back to her seat. She found Evie and Claire, who had just been going over their horoscope readings together, staring at her, eyes widening. What was wrong?
Then she realized her big mistake. She had left her glasses. Dashing round back to the restroom, she retrieved them from a woman who was going to take them to a stewardess, and stayed there a long time, hoping the women would not be able to confirm their impressions and would decide they had been mistaken.
“What am I going to do if they really are sure about me?” she thought.
Finally, with a concerned flight attendant knocking on the door, she was forced out and back to her seat. “I just felt a little dizzy, “ she explained. “Nothing but a little motion sickness I always get whenever I fly. Later, I’ll feel just fine.”
Where were the deadly-serious videos and magazines on the rain forest or gay rights? Evidently, such subjects bored them to tears.
Heloise sat down with hardly a breath in her, she was so relieved she was safe for the time being. Obviously, they had decided they had been dead wrong, that no Heloise Turnbull, star of televangelism and Bible Channel End-Time prophecy, could possibly dress and act like she had!
“Thank heaven for the grace of human hypocrisy!” she sighed, settling into her seat as her terror slowly subsided. But once that happened, she must have dozed a bit, for the horrible monsters in her closet, not the “grace of hypocrisy,” returned to assault her.
He was so tender, so forlorn in tone, so caring, her jaw, stiffened to take more assaults, dropped.
She remembered something else, as her mother passed in front of Harry and her daughters, holding out what looked to be the letter she had seen falling from her own book of prophecy, the one that sold twenty million copies at top prices back then--her mother was not looking at her but was saying something to herself, it appeared.
She’ll need vast strength of soul and spirit to do it too. She won’t be able to do it on her own resources...no...no...all that has to go first, then Almighty God, and His Spirit, can take over completely!”
Was that it? But what did it mean?
Roasted by her daughters, made to feel a monster by her own husband of twenty six years, heart-broken by her mother’s vanishing and leaving behind her coffee cup and her green purse, stung to the quick at the thought she had missed the Rapture she had preached to millions all over the world--then made to feel Harry’s own hurting for her, and her mother’s mysterious vote of confidence...it was too much. Heloise found herself shaken awake in her seat.
In order to keep Evie and Claire at bay, she quickly started crying, her head in her hands. It was a desperate attempt to avoid having to explain anything. “Maybe she lost a loved one, poor thing,” someone suggested. “Should we call a steward?” said another. “I think we should!” said Claire to Evie. “If you can’t get one, I’ll go myself and bring someone back here. What she was saying—I couldn’t quite make out—but she was evidently very disturbed about her daughters and a man I think she called Harry.”
“No, thank you all,” she managed to gasp out. “I will be all right. Yes, I must have dozed off and was having a nightmare about my husband leaving me, that’s all. It isn’t easy having to cope by myself after all those years of marriage--we were just going to celebrate our 30th.”
Fortunately for Heloise, who couldn’t have taken more attention, the Pynoos twins stood up to speak a word on the coming events in Tel Aviv. They passed out some literature as well on them. Claire was especially excited when she got the literature packet, which featured an international peace dinner with headlining interfaith speakers, and so on.
“Fantastic!” Claire exclaimed to both Heloise and Evie. “This means peace is a success, and we are actually going to take part—“
Heloise’s ears couldn’t absorb it all, but Claire handed a dozen or so pieces of tour promotion literature to read, which Heloise couldn’t politely refuse.
She glanced through some of it. It wasn’t promoting lesbianism or gay rights, but to Heloise everything she saw reeked of the lesbian rights scene. There was Dixi and Trixi in pose after pose, one by a Tivoli fountain with classic sculptures of various breasty Roman or Greek goddesses, and captions spouting the usual sugary platitudes of classic liberalism about P.L.U.R. mixed with campaign placards such as “Ban Hate Crime Christianity”. In others photo shots she saw them tour-guiding a 500 voice choir in Washington, D.C during major events of the Million Lesbian and Wiccan Women’s Peace March. The choir had been invited by the president to sing the Wiccan-feminist-gay rights-New Age religion anthem, “If All Were One” at a White House civil rights gala.
it sickened her to the core of her being. But she was also envious of their obvious, single-minded push to turn their agenda into social reality in everything they did. If it hadn't proven so successful in the public sphere, it would have been seen in its failure for what it was: a mishmash of idiocy and third rate liberal philosophy.
She too had been successful—-to a point—-in projecting her point of view. Was she wrong? Was she the one who was out of touch? She had heard those same Pynoos platitudes about peace and love, and felt that same old unreality, many times before--even on her tours. But maybe times had changed. Maybe this was the hour when the cotton candy dreams of people like Claire and Evie would spin into nightmarish reality!
“If that is true,” she thought grimly, wondering how “Captain Troy” with all his chattiness and warm affection would hold up in an emergency, “then God help us!”
But how could she be wrong?
Had anything changed since she was last in Israel? The airlines catered to the international scum, but had the entire nation swung over to accept the Pynooses’ hair-brained New Ageism and witchcraft over old-fashioned Zionism? The tide was turned the Pynooses’ way, she could not deny. But the tide wasn’t completely in yet, was it?
The facts still were, that things had grown more tense and hostile between the deeply divided Arab and Jewish populations the more they were bombarded with peace and love propaganda form the Left.
Until there really was some more real agreement, how could anything like this group dare come, bearing cellophane-wrapped sprigs of olive as peace banners, when nothing had really changed in people’s minds and hearts? Any day a bloodbath could erupt in Israel or the West Bank to bring the whole world into it, unleashing a nuclear holocaust!
But why couldn’t the fools see that? Could they be that stupid to think that mere feelings and radical lesbian activism will prevail over Middle Eastern pathologies??
Putting her peace, love, and understanding literature away, Claire got up to go to the back, offering her prized view seat to Heloise.
“I just can’t bear to see you deprived of a real view, dear, after all the marriage abuse you’ve had to endure,” said Claire, little compassionate tears glistening in her eyes. “
“No, but thank you anyway,” Heloise said declining the offer as Claire passed by her and Evie and headed down the aisle. “I can look at the video if I need to look out.”
A minute or so later, she happened to glance at her monitor. At the moment it was showing some blue sky and the right wing.
At least that was what it was supposed to show!
She stopped breathing. Before her eyes at that moment the wing, or half of it, disintegrated--flying away in a bright flash. As soon as that happened other bright flashes attached to the remaining half--and she saw what looked like men dangling from it. No, they weren’t dangling, they were actually flying along with the plane, gripping it with their bare hands!
She drew in her breath with a horrible sound like someone with apnea. Still wondering if she was crazy, she looked at the videos in the backs of the seats nearest her, and they all showed the same scene.
She had to get to the captain! She couldn’t just sit there. Why wasn’t he announcing the loss of a hundred feet of the right wing? She wanted to cry out, but when she looked at Evie, she was lying back, mouth open, snoring like a logger!
And when she turned to the other passengers, they too were all fallen asleep, or, more disturbingly, they sat, eyes wide open, with fixed expressions and unmoving like statues with screens in front of them telling them they were all doomed to crash!
She scrambled out and into the aisle, and rushed toward First Class. Just as she entered, a statue came to life, and it was one of the First Class flight attendants. “I absolutely must see the captain about something important, “ she gasped, not even thinking.
But would the flight attendant ask what it was? she wondered, the next moment. What would she say then? God in heaven, what would she say when she was told no passengers were permitted there during flight?
Heloise stepped down into a huge, dark compartment something like an orchestra pit, everything around her throbbing with the sound of instruments and guidance computers giving instructions with either flashed visual signs and instructions or digitized and computer voice messages.
Where would she find the captain? Her eyes were hardly able to adjust to the darkness when she took several steps up and then passed through a curtain into a more lighted compartment. Slowly making her way she felt her way past a number of seats, trying to reach the nose of the plane. At last she couldn’t go any further, for the cabin opened into another lighted space and terminated in two wide windows flaring around the cabin, and at the head of it sat two men with four men sitting just back of them.
This was the nerve center of the aircraft, she knew at once. The captain had to be one of them! she thought.
She expected the captain and his co-pilot and assistants to turn to her, but they too were frozen in their seats like store manikins! As light as the windows were above, the tint for UV cast the nose compartment into a semi-gloom, while the glows of screens and instruments, spelling out unintelligible symbolic messages and graphics, ran across their rigid wax museum faces as Heloise stared at them.
She nearly fainted. How could they be flying blind, with no one conscious at the controls? They were finished!
Her breath coming and going like a winded rodeo animal’s, she got there and was rewarded with the same scene that had sent her forward: the angels, still holding to the shattered wing, what wasn’t blended with the plane body, with one making up for the lost half.
It did her no good to stand there, her already too big eyes bulging out, unable to save herself or anyone else, so she collapsed back into her seat.
She wanted to pray, but what? She had no idea. Besides, as she continued to stare at the angels, they seemed to have the plane in firm control. The flight continued, evenly, without even a loss of elevation.
Yet, as minutes passed, she felt the plane began to lose elevation, gradually. Then came a slow turn. Then a further drop in elevation, all gradual. Where was Claire anyway? she wondered for the first time. Frozen to a statue in the toilet? Or could she have suffered a heart-attack?
In a minute or so they would coming to the airport, which lay just a few miles beyond the shore!
The two angels supporting the remnants of the double wing group lowered their bodies perceptibly as if acting like giant brakes, and the drag on the air stream began to show. But were there only these three? Why hadn’t she thought of it before?
She felt almost like giggling like Claire could only giggle.
“Well, isn’t that dandy? They seem to have things under control,” she thought, even if that was a silly way to describe such a gigantic miracle. Shaken, but feeling somewhat relieved, she felt her rubber-band legs giving out again and hastily returned to her seat.
She buckled herself in, still wondering what had happened to Claire, then felt the plane eased in for its landing.
Closing her burning eyes, she practiced her breathing techniques to reduce her still high stress level..
The wheels touched down. Suddenly, all systems came on--including the passengers’ conscious awareness of their surroundings, though it wasn't instantaneous.
Heloise could tell nobody had a clew the moment they all started talking wherever they had left off in their conversations before the big freeze.
Claire returned to her seat, looking visibly disturbed about something.
“I feel so cold and numb on my—on my poor old back,” she complained to Evie. Then still standing she glanced out, and saw half the wing gone. She began to sputter as she turned to the video monitor in front of her. She called to Evie, then to Heloise. “What--what--is it? I don’t understand--it’s extinct! Absolutely extinct! Look! Look, everybody! Look!”
Heloise tried not to react, and Evie, gruffly remarking that her companion’s monitor was not trustworthy, turned on her own. What she saw made her whole body stiffen Evie began to swear, then shout “Hey, what has happened to it? What's ging on?”
Others now found their voices, and they were just as shocked. The commotion they caused created a sensation through the whole upper level. It was a scandal, and nobody had any explanation.
Somebody thought to push buttons for the flight attendants and call them back to see.
Several steward came, but evidently they had already been informed, for one told them, with a deadpan expression, that the captain would handle it and would soon be giving them an announcement. In the meantime, everybody was to remain buckled in.
They looked out and saw emergency vehicles with two parts of a single loader still unattached to each other rushing out to the plane. For some reason, the regular giant loader wasn’t working right, and what looked to Heloise like an emergency escape ramp or shute for baggage was run up against the side as men in open cab airport vehicles shouted and gestured wildly. Steward and stewardesses stationed themselves at the emergency door.
The passengers needed no further encouragement to exit the wreck of a plane. Even as he was speaking, they had ripped off their seat belts and were filling the aisles. Surprising those close at hand, a man in a head bandanna dashed out of the captain’s cabin, pushing several elderly ladies aside. “Oh, Captain Troy, wait!” a steward called, but he had already gone out down the shute.
In the hurry, panic, and commotion to escape the damaged plane the captain himself had just abandoned, hardly a soul could think to wonder aloud how they had landed with half a wing.
Claire's lost clothing was hurriedly retrieved and rushed to her to put on, and with that accomplished they made it to the terminal on foot, since there was no back-up transport available as yet in the badly confused airport. To Heloise the airport personnel, all she saw, all looked the same way at them—-absolutely dumbfounded, as if they had had no warning the plane was even coming in.
Amazed, she was about to pass round him, but she found her legs and feet wouldn’t cooperate, and she felt rooted to the spot.
“What?” she blurted out. “Who are you?”
Then her face went pale, and she would have fallen but the man’s hand on her shoulder seemed to be supporting her with powerful strength.
“Who are you?” she demanded. “An angel?”
He smiled and shook his head, which he had held slightly cocked, as if he could not believe altogether the type of vessel God had chosen.
She stood there a moment, wondering if she had really seen him, or had just imagined the whole thing.
“Daughter of Zion”? “Kiseh El”—Lamb of God? “Wait for him in Jerusalem”? Heloise couldn’t believe what was happening to her after everything her name stood for had collapsed. Around her, everyone was frozen in place once again, and there was this powerful man restraining her by his one hand from moving one inch!
She wanted to struggle and cry out, but she could not.
Suddenly, he appeared again, just as quickly as he had disappeared.
Around her life did not stop for one moment. Everything was moving rapidly along as before, as people like sheep milled by the hundreds at the gates beneath the big sign, “Welcome to Israel,” and pushed this direction and that, either toward boarding planes or to the baggage pickup. Swept along, Heloise looked back. But the young man had vanished!
She tried to turn and look again, but people were all over her, and she had to keep going or be trampled. They all cleared the first security check, with officials standing by the security counters waving them through as if it were Walt Disney World and not Israel! “Welcome MJ and World Peace!” they all said, with young women handing each incoming passenger a sprig of packaged olive. It was incredible to Heloise who knew how tight Israeli security was normally.
Left to itself, the Pynooses’ tour group trooped behind the pros, Dixi and Trixi, with one very reluctant Heloise Turnbull, alias Helen Green, following Claire and Evie. With every step, she was wondering why had the man—or angel—said what he said to her. It was incredible, to think for a moment that the Lord had a plan for her, after all that had happened, after being left behind!
But Heloise was further astounded an announcement in English finally came over the intercom that their flight had arrived and that they were to proceed directly to Baggage Pickup.. Even more strangely, the announcer, a young lady with cultured accents, no sooner said this when her voice was drowned out by excited, arguing male voices all speaking Hebrew.
That had to be the explanation, she decided.
Claire turned to her at that moment, pulling her arm for her to continue with them a few more moments. Around them other tour members had already passed clippings and exchanged ardent assurances about the man of the hour--the bearer of the Peace Proposal as they waited for the baggage at the revolving counter.
“Surely, with all his charm and good sense, he’ll make them see reason at last,” some woman said in Heloise’s hearing. “We can’t let them go on disturbing the whole world like they have been doing!”
“Yes, he will make them see reason and save the planet!” another voice spoke up. “He has us and Mother Gaea on his side this time! No one can stand in his way. He’s got everybody together on his proposal!”
Not having followed the news the last week due to her shattered nerves over her ministry’s collapse and the divorce papers she was served, Heloise listened, her mental ear to the ground, to catch up if she could on developments.
Over the years, nothing his increased involvement in politics, she had followed his career in detail, referring to him increasingly in her standing-room only prophecy seminars. “Could this be the Anti-Christ, the Lawless One, the cruel, bloodthirsty, head-piling throw-back to the Assyrians who will rule the world and almost destroy it?” she had challenged her audiences. “I know he doesn’t fit our traditional Pentecostal and evangelical conceptions, but wait. We will be able to tell soon, if he is! How? Well, look and see if his Peace Proposal goes forward, and if he goes to Jerusalem for the signing, prepare yourselves, children, for the End!”
“I’ve got to get out of this madness,” she thought, her eyes darting about in her head like a hunted animal’s with its neck in a noose. Then, using her breathing techniques, she calmed herself somewhat enough to think. She forced herself to be concerned, not with running, but with finding some place to stay.
Flustered, Heloise smiled, saying the first thing that came to mind, “I thought it was my mistake, I was saying, taking a flight alone like this, but--you’ve all been so very, very kind--”
Heloise stared at her rudely, not sure her eyes were seeing correctly, but the lady, unperturbed, went on blithely. “You’ll find it gets better as time passes. That’s my experience after losing my dear Drew Archibald McNulty after thirty-four years of co-abstinance, partnering only for the the sake of my involvement in women’s rights and protecting the environment--”
Still unable to part company with the pathologic, clinging-vine Claire in the packed terminal, Heloise despaired of getting free to fill her lungs with night air after the long, hectic and exhausting flight. Seeing her sagging Claire stroked her cheek. “You must come along with us, dear Helen. Don’t even think of going alone! You’re just one poor, weak, abused woman, remember, among millions of men! You’ll never make it alone over here among all these woman-beating, chauvinist Mideast Orientals. Besides, their latest government has fallen—haven’t you heard? I hope it doesn’t affect room service!”
Imagine! she thought. Having to accept such a chip in one’s body, or off with your head! Couldn’t people see what was happening, that they were being swept in to a net of destruction? Of course, she knew the answer, and also why.
Fundamentalist and Pentecostal Christians had been harping about 666 and the Anti-Christ’s diabolical Chip implant for decades with hardly a blip upwards to show on various polls taken on the subject, but when it was actually happening, who was actually recognizing the truth of their warnings? Apparently, no one but herself and other authorities on Pentecostal eschatology! The world, despite all the tapes, books, and movies churned out by her and others on the subject, saw the chip as just an economic convenience, and nothing more.
To the man in the street, it was just plain crazy to connect the chip to anything like a world dictatorship, the absurd “anti-Christ” evangelicals were always talking about! Millions had been turned off from evangelicalism by that message.
The impression it gave people was a crudely exploitive, fanatical hysteria, not a reasonable warning of something really bad they needed to avoid at all costs. Voluntarily, without any coaxing by government, many people were having chips implanted purely for medical reasons, since the chips contained all their medical information in case of an emergency in which they were rendered unconscious.
Her whole body ached, as she waited in the crowds for something to happen so they could leave. She couldn’t stand much longer, and every seat had long been taken.
An angel-guide appeared, and somehow she found herself in a robe and was shot into the northern sky faster than any rocket. A moment or less later, she found herself gazing upon what had to be Paradise, a precinct of heaven that put every earthly paradise to shame. One second was all the time she was allotted to see its glories, and then she found herself, in a wet robe, sitting on the edge of her bed, weeping because she wasn’t allowed to remain in heaven.
She soon recovered, however, and on return to the office ordered a video made of her experience.
How the heretic hunters descended on her like howling wolves when the video broke all the records at Walmart and other big chainstore outlets. It grossed four million the first week, and was a great hit along with her books and tapes. What made the experience even more stunning was her discovery that two hours had elapsed, earthtime, while she spent one second in heaven.
Just as suddenly as she appeared above it on her magic chip, it plummeted, with her stuck to it. Down she went, before she could even scream, and the chip folded around her so that when she plunged into the water and then the earth it was like a needle through butter. She felt nothing, and could see only blackness.
She knew she was going down at the same fantastic speed, but could see nothing. She had only time to think of hell when she found herself there. Immediately, the falling sensation ceased, and she could see.
She gasped when she saw that the writhing movement on the vast, reddish-hued plain in the black distance had to be masses of humanity—all captives in one single vast wild beast cage. She was moved closer and closer, beyond any doubt. She saw faces amidst the flames. Hands on fire, bodies twisting in grotesque contortions, but the faces—they were the most terrible sight. They were screaming soundlessly, without air to draw into their lungs. The people were clawing at their own bodies as they fought against their own body flames. But Heloise was even more appalled. In the midst of their bodies she could see blackened ash, and in the cavities of their chests and pelvises were masses of worms!
Then Heloise saw two she could recognize. Her own voice startled her, a wrenched out name coming from her lips: “Claire!” Then “Evie!”
Transfixed, she watched as hey were clawing each other, tearing at each other with blackened, bleeding stumps of fingers, seemingly all the more fiercely intent to hurt one another for having been such close friends in their former lives. They screamed at each other.
Evie screamed as if a million pins were stuck into her: “There is no Gaia! You deceived me! There is no such goddess! Gaia is only a devil! He had long hair like a woman, breasts of a cow, and a scorpion tail that stung me terribly! How he mocked me! He told me he was Gaia, deceiving the whole earth and stupid people like me! But you are responsible for me coming here! You! You monster!” Evie screamed back the same words. Over and over, they repeated the same things and clawed at each other.
Heloise then did something she had not done before in her life. She fainted.
All she wanted to do was get on her feet and get away.
It took all her speaking and acting skills to convince the nurse she was fully recovered, and could get on with the tour.
“Thank you,” she said firmly. “I had a relapse of the flu, and this was to be expected, since the serum doesn't give full coverage.”
Claire accompanied her out of the nurse’s station.
“Thank Gaia, you’re all right!” Claire cried. “I was afraid we might have to leave you behind! We supposed to be let go any minute now.”
Claire’s reference to the widely-popular mother goddess of the environmental and neo-pagan earth-cults promoted by MJ brought Heloise back to her vision in a terrible moment. She looked at Claire and saw her in flames, with Evie clawing at her. It was happening before her eyes again. But she clapped a hand over her mouth, turned away, and held on to herself until the vision faced.
“I’m okay,” Heloise said. She pulled away. What could she possibly say to Claire or Evie or any of the others anyway that would convince them? They would think she had gone mad, that’s all. After years of promoting End-Time theology, she couldn’t find one credible word of warning! What was the experience, the guided tour to Hades or Hell for? She had no idea.
And as for MJ, Claire, Heloise discovered, was dead wrong. MJ never did anything on other people’s timetables. He was famous for making people wait for over two hours, if he had a headache or his hair wasn’t done right the first time, or his pet rain forest iguana was needing special attention.
Then, when it seemed nobody could endure another minute, rockets erupted, deafening everyone. The Israelis had either opened fire on the crowds cordoned off from the runways, or they had fired a salute. Which was it? everyone inside the terminal had to wonder. But then cheering sounds of jubilation and exploding fireworks came from outdoors and passed into the building, and the cheering was taken up by the mass of people imprisoned within. It was madness before, but now it became a scene of crowd hysteria the like of which Heloise had never seen. The long, hellish wait had produced the expected results: Arabs, Israelis, World Council of Church officials and clergymen, Unity Church delegations, Bahai, Buddhists, and Shinto priests, MJ and “We are the People” NARAL and Gaia-tee shirted fans, peace activists, animal rights activists, anti-fuel injection engines and anti-industrial complex Green World activists, all hugging, cheering, waving banners, and crying, “MJ! Peace! Love! MJ! Peace for all! Women’s Exclusive Rights to Their Bodies and Womanly Secretions! Love for all!”
The seeming unthinkable had just happened, expressed by a mass chorus of “He’s leaving us!” The word got out to everybody somehow in a moment’s flash, as only it could pass through so many people screaming MJ over and over. What had he said, if anything could be heard above the uproar both inside and outside of the terminal? On huge digital monitors set up for the occasion his prepared arrival remarks had been caught and passed along too, playing over and over—
“Yes, one in Gaia--!” “One--!” “One--!” The monalities of the speech seemed to hynotize the whole multitude and make it one person. His words became a chant that thundered throughout the airport facilities among the crowds that must have numbered several hundred thousand. Spontaneously, old fighting classics such as "We Shall Overcome" and "We are One in the Spirit" started up and spread quickly, with hundres joining in, linking arms, and swaying together to the rhythm.
“The Jews, to prove they were true children of Abraham and truly revered him, would sign, and so would their arch-rivals, the Palestinian Arabs, who had just as much or even more reason to sign on as his children too! Then with the Gaia-worshiping power block headed by MJ holding the pen—“
The sacred Abrahamic covenant—would it be enough to hold the Eastern and Western worlds together? Only time would tell if clay can weld with iron, she thought, or oil mix with water! Her eschatology, based on John’s Revelation, said the world union would last only seven years! Then they would be at each other’s throats again just like Gaia-tormented Claire and Evie in her terrible vision of hell, and World War III would erupt. Meanwhile, because of the world’s cult idol MJ, she was being tortured, forced to stand in a mob of people because she couldn’t find one foot of open space on which to walk.
The smiling agent walked swiftly down the aisle, and half the people were still reaching for their passports when he quickly exited.
Again! All normal security was being waived! Heloise thought. And for what reason? Was Israel throwing off all sanity for the sake of hosting the Peace Proposal? Had MJ guaranteed full protection for Israel while waving the olive branch in one hand as an alternative to the blackmail of nuclear holocaust in the other?
Then it dawned on her. Why had she taken so long to see it? The Israeli government as a free, independent state had, even before MJ landed, caved in to the EU’s nuclear blackmail!
Utterly abandoning the former Prime Minister Sharon’s iron-fisted political stand—“No Palestinian statehood!—-and its own top-rate national security system for MJ’s supposely invincible nuclear umbrella! Decades of UN condemnation and branding Israel as a pariah in the international community had finally paid off.
Israel, given the chance, had leaped into the EU’s embrace, in order to be accepted back into the human fold.
With her parliament fractured beyond repair and paralyzed before the threat of anarchy, Israel’s morale and her will to defend herself against all comers—utterly collapsed!
What else could explain what she saw happening around her? Unable to vote any single party and policy of state into being, Israel’s top generals, meeting in some secret cabal, had cast her entire destiny into the soft, designer-nailed hands of Gaia-worshiping MJ.
In exchange, they believed they had at last plucked safety from the mouth of the EU’s greatest rival for world hegemony, the adamantly anti-Zionist, United Nations!
She had purposely brought nothing in the way of luggage, just a change of clothes and a few personal items stuffed into her mother’s big green handbag of a purse Her passport was in order, and the airport customs and security personnel evidently wanted them out of the congested terminal without any delaying search, so they were moved quickly along to the gate. Then, doors open to them, they passed into the outdoors.
The bus was stalled in traffic, and moved a foot at a time. Once out of the airport area they moved more freely, and the driver kept his hand down on the horn and shouldered the bus through what looked to Heloise like impossibly jammed situations. Tel Aviv lay dead ahead, a hotel for her if they would take her, and nothing else--nothing that her badly rattled mind could possibly grasp at the moment.
Heloise, still amazed at the sight, felt like she would burst if she didn’t let it out First, a team of four angels saving the plane by making up for the shattered wing and flying the whole thing without the captain, crew, or the instruments and guidance systems! Then an angel from with a Midwestern twang prophesying to her right in the airport. Next a tour of a flaming zoo of burning human souls somewhere deep beneath the Caribbean! And now this: an angel at the wheel! Though dressed in the tour bus uniform, his features were exactly those of one of the angels on the damaged wing.
Angels—or so they appeared to be--were everywhere in the Post-Rapture society! She couldn’t escape them! It was one thing to read about them in the Bible accounts, and even give seminars on them, but she knew she had to get alone, and rest a long time, if she was going to make it through and keep her sanity intact. It just didn’t compute for her: why should God be giving her so much attention, after leaving her behind?
“Oh God, it’s me! Heloise! You left me behind, and I still don’t know what to think about that, yet now you sent your angels to keep our plane in the air and even speak to me personally and—and drive this bus!. Now just one more little thing. Please help me get away from these doomed people—Claire, Evie, Dixi and Trixi, and all the rest of these crazy New Age peaceniks and airheads!. I simply must get away!”
But where? “I may be heading for the same destination under the earth!” she thought. And, to be practical, who would take a lone American woman in a city packed with MJ worshippers? And, who else could he really be, but the Anti-Christ? Yes, the Anti-Christ! The Devil in human form, made as attractive to his constitutiencies as cosmetology and spin artists could possibly render him!
Yet, in simple need of room and board, she knew she had given the Almighty—if He was listening to her--a tall order. She had no reservations, and she knew hotels would be wondering who she was, coming from America with so little baggage. A hotel manager might even report her to the secret service. After all, the slightest thing out of order was reason enough for them, she knew from experience. For decades they had had to face insurrection and suicide bombers from a hostile Palestinian Arab population every day and every hour--and could not afford to overlook anything suspicious or out of the ordinary. If reported, what could she say for herself being in Israel, leaving her well-known TV ministry in the U.S. and arriving alone, unattended?
As it turned out, they failed to connect up with the scheduled dinner. The bus took so long to get into the city that they were driven directly to the conference.
Dixi and Trixi stood to make an announcement over the bus’s intercom. Dixi took the mike.
“Fortunately, our support staff thought this might happen, and we are so glad we can provide you all with sack lunches. The Golden Temple-approved holistic grain pocket breads and vegetarian fillings are simply delicious! You have no idea how many acres of Iowa cropland presently used for feeding beef cattle and animal protein production can be turned back into beautiful, ecologically diverse native grasslands if you continue eating these foods! Isn’t that exciting? My dear sister will help me pass them out! Everything at the hotel can wait, as we can’t miss this special occasion at the conference for all the world! Everyone, show me by a show of hands if you concur with this plan, or if you wish to go directly to the hotel!”
With the traffic no better, they found plenty of time to eat the eco-lunches the driver’s assistants brought out from the back of the bus and distributed. Extras had been provided, so Heloise was not left out. Meanwhile, several women went to the tour leaders and explained her presence. Not caring really, she watched them smile and wave back encouragingly at her.
Trixi came back for a special word with Heloise. “Hi, I’m Trixi, and I must say you are certainly welcome, Helen, as long as you like,” the Pynoos twin warmly assured her. “Evie and Claire have explained everything, so you don’t need to say a word! Not a word! The hotel is a nice big one, for this small a country, and surely they won’t mind if we put you up with us. We’ll have an extra bed brought in, if necessary. If you aren’t feeling right, that’s all the more reason why you should stay with us. And you need women’s protection, while all this is going on over dear MJ! You know how the men all are over here in the Middle East when it comes to dealing with us women—they’re got nothing but rape on their minds! They’re fanatical chauvinists too! Every one of them!”
Relief flooded Heloise. Trixi hadn’t recognized her voice. And though Heloise couldn’t express herself, the thought of bunking with so many feminists and gay-peace activists that she had just seen populating the flaming prison under the Caribbean was unthinkable. No, she had to slip away at the first opportunity! Otherwise, she might blurt out something she would instantly regret!
Finally, her opportunity came. She walked straight away from the group the moment it was unloading at the Tel Aviv International Conference Center. Hearing Claire’s call, she quickened her pace, afraid they might run and try to catch her. But the crowds swiftly swallowed her up, and she turned several corners and felt, at last, she could breathe real air.
It took the concierge forever to get the records all filled out, which took him some time to locate and pull from various drawers. She had to lie a hundred times, to put off any secret service hounds from the scent. It didn’t help that her passport told the truth. She had to explain a number of things, why she was traveling alone, why she had chosen to come to Israel, and a dozen other questions. The more she struggled to remain calm and answer his questions, the more questions he thought to ask her.
Finally, she realized she was not getting anywhere, her feet stuck in something like hardening cement in a dream. She grabbed her bag and stalked out, as if he had insulted her.
It wouldn’t work, whatever she said, at the next hotel she could find, and she turn, despair in her heart, back toward the city center. “I’m still too Christian and can’t lie well enough for them!” she realized. “They’ve heard it all before, and can tell an amateur any day!”
What was she going to do? Would she have to wander the streets all night? She’d be picked up as a vagrant! Taken to the police and interrogated. As soon as they submitted her name and social security number to Interpol, they would have everything they wanted to know and share it with the C.I.A. and F.B.I. in the states. It would be all over for her. Since she had falsified her testimony at customs, she’d have to return to the States on the next flight. They would see to it.
She found a taxi willing to go that direction, and got in, and the cab crawled in the jammed streets of the major boulevards, but she knew if it was still that bad the tour group wouldn’t be making any more progress than she.
An hour later, which made over two hours since she had run away from them, she got out at the conference center. From the angels’ intervention saving the plane, to now, it was another miracle: the buses for the group were still loading. MJ’s procession had taken another route, it was told to her by the Evie. They hadn’t heard him at the conference after all.
His rain forest iguana, named “Liz” for a dear departed friend, the now deceased Hollywood legend who had championed many of his own causes in past years as well as saved his career a couple times, which he always took with him, had gotten pneumonia from the limousine’s air conditioning! It had been a waste of time, in her opinion, but they still hoped to see him at upcoming events in Jerusalem.
She wanted to sit down. She just had to sit down! But there was no place there in the courtyard of the conference center, with every place swarming with the crowds come to see MJ and not wanting to leave until they saw him.
While she looked as if she might faint, and Evie grabbed her arm to steady her, a tremendous earthquake hit the city, or seemed to. Roars, both from the people and the military stationed to prevent riots, erupted, just as they had at the national airport, but this was much increased by the sheer size of the metropolis. Had the world gone mad it would have sounded like this one city as it roared its excitement and possibly its oriental admiration for the man of the hour, Michael the superstar-diplomat from the world’s throne.
Not to speak, surely, she thought, but just to show his own glory, for the benefit of the impression he would make in support of his peace offensive and peace talks coming up in Jerusalem the following day.
“We’re going to Jerusalem, aren’t we? To hear him speak, I mean!”
“Of course, “ Claire assured her, “we all wouldn’t miss it for the world! Would you?”
Cavalcades of riot police in two motorcycle columns cleared the avenue enough for the peace procession to pass through on way to the main, heavily guarded and decorated arterial to Jerusalem. All along the route, just as throughout Tel Aviv, banners were hung on special arches, emblazoned with Peace Doves, giant-sized, holding olive wreaths in their beaks, and sparkling with all-white holiday lights at night.
As they approached, the crowds, cordoned off by police and militia, proved beyond their match, and the people pushed through into the street just as the big cars came in close to the conference center. But all this was orchestrated and choreographed by his corps of spin shamans, Heloise’s practiced eye told her. How else could it be explained that one of the limousines, a classic white stretch-Mercedes Benz, swung smartly up to a platform over which huge banners proclaiming PLUR—“P” (for Peace), “L” (for Love, “U” (for Unity) and “R” (for Respect), and a flock of thousands of white dove shaped balloons were released just at that moment?
A show-stopping sight in an abbreviated costume of rain forest loin cloth, shoulder enhancing pads emblazoned with "PLUR," elbow length gloves, and Native Indian leather fringe, MJ might have stood there for only a few moments with his latest exotic pet, a leopard on a gold and diamond leash, but the crowds took it for what a favor it seemed to be: their chance to view the world’s savior with their own eyes--a chance afforded few of the world’s billions.
Cheering, shouting, crying, dancing and leaping up and down, hugging, both citizens and police joined in the jubilation, the adoring masses could not show the celebrity-diplomat enough how much he meant to them. Zen Buddhists, Animal Rights organization heads, Save the Ocean Bottom Ratfish Society members, Women’s Rights leaders, NARAL representatives, all threw flower bouquets at his feet.
It was like the Second Coming—but not exactly the Christian version. A great poet of Ireland had prophesied that a beast would slouch to be born at Bethlehem instead to start a New World Order. And now, with Tel Aviv serving as the New Bethlehem for the New Millennium, a bright red light materialized overhead in the sky, shining intense, gemlike beams down upon Michael Jayson in a display that provoked instant, thunderous applause. What could be plainer proof that this was the onset of that New World Order everyone who had his head screwed on right wanted?
To the crowds it was perfectly clear: the moment was truly divine. Heaven itself, or so it seemed, had endorsed and anointed Michael Jayson as the World’s Prophet of Peace and Love!
Was he increasing in size too? It appeared he expanded in height and power at the same time. A moment later, he turned triumphantly back to the business at hand, facing and crowds and making the peace sign and throwing his famous signature kisses that had caused so many riots among his more worshipful, fanatical fans at mega-concerts in previous years.
She staggered, feeling so much void inside her that she might have collapsed except that bodies all around her were packed too tight for her to fall.
“MJ!” “Peace!” “Gaia! “Love everybody!” the crowds roared. How long this went on, several moments or several minutes, Heloise could not tell, she felt so desolate and out of it.
Suddenly, the spectacular star-like light above them shot away eastward, and platform was swarming with secret service and thrown bouquets.
The living fountain color display ended, and the limousines pulled away, the riot police clearing the way ahead.
After looking like an enchanted vision of universal beauty and hope, suddenly it all turned shabby and violent, in a matter of moments!
Some of the secret police, Heloise noticed, were just standing looking up in the spot where the red-beaming star had last shone, their cameras videotaping empty space.
They didn’t seem to know what it had been, by the looks of their expressions and body language. Well, neither did she!
The procession left the conference center ‘s outer court, with its riot squads hacking their way through the masses.
It had all been staged so wonderfully, but now it seemed turned to a nightmare! the star-and-destiny abandoned, former queen of eschatology thought.
Stunned by the revelation, she could not think what in the world to do. She had been an utter dupe, for years, and hadn’t known it! The heretic hunters were absolutely right about her, even if they were only haters on their way to their own reserved cabins in the same ante-room of hell Claire and Evie would share together!
By this time, the peace tour group was boarding the two buses with people still talking with the greatest excitement about MJ and his wonderful, red “Star of Peace” holograph. Feeling like a junkie that had lost her fix, Heloise followed meekly, after explaining when she could get a word in, that she had gone to see an old friend she knew in town. That was the reason for her separating from the group, she said, hoping that would end the matter.
She took a cue from the spin doctors who were obviously on a roll, staging MJ’s every move with brilliant successes. It was clear to one of the world’s greatest experts on spin that she herself had been beaten at her own game. And, worse, for the past twenty years she had served nothing less than a Satanic angel, which had just shown itself openly as a red star.