Paul rubbed his forehead. “I’m not sure what happened. It’s all more than a little bit confusing to me, too. I guess at the time Sarah must have arrived here, she disappeared from home—I mean, our home there. At first, I thought she had just gone to work early—she worked for a construction firm there—and I didn’t become concerned until she didn’t arrive home that evening. First I called her office, but no one was there. Then I called a friend of hers from the office—Jane,” he said, looking at Sarah. “But she hadn’t seen or heard from Sarah that day. That’s the point when I got worried, and I called the police to report her missing.”
Dorcas interrupted. “Two questions: You say you called her office and a friend—I don’t know how you call an office, and was the friend close enough to hear?"
“In this future time, there are means to talk to people who are a great distance away with a device called a telephone. It’s more complicated than what I know how to explain, but sound makes a vibration—here, let me show you with this tableware. He picked up a knife and spoon lying on the table and handed Dorcas the knife.
“Now place the knife next to your ear—no, just one end of it, not the middle,” he said, and barely tapped the spoon on the opposite end of the knife. “You could hear the sound of the spoon striking the knife as though the spoon struck right next to your ear, couldn’t you?” Again Dorcas nodded.
“People smarter than I’m in this future time figured out how to send this vibration through a wire—a very thin piece of metal like a string on a harp or lute—many miles so that it made the same sound where other people were waiting for the sound. It’s called a telephone. Oh, and what I meant by calling her office was that I tried to telephone to the place where she works—worked—but no one was there to answer the telephone.”
“I find that unbelievable,” Dorcas said, “but let the explanation stand for the time being. Now, would you please explain what or who is a ‘police?'"
“Yes. In our time, there are people hired by the cities, states, and country to enforce laws and to find missing persons—they are called ‘police.’ Like guards. The police said usually people who are missing show up somewhere within 24 hours, but they would put the information into their system so police all over the area would be watching for her. She didn’t show up, and I called them back the next morning. I didn’t know if she had disappeared on her own, which would be unlike Sarah, or if she had been kidnapped, or if she had been mugged and killed.”
“Mugged?” Dorcas asked.
“Robbed and hurt by thieves,” Paul said. He reddened, and continued. “Sarah and I had drifted apart in the months before, seldom talking. We just didn’t have much in common any more, and I thought about asking for a divorce. Sarah and I had just lost our only child, Tamara, and both of us were in therapy, and I thought I should wait till we had our lives back on a more manageable basis.”
Again Dorcas interrupted. “Therapy?”
“In this future time, there are physicians who try to heal troubled minds, and the process is called ‘therapy,’” Paul said. “However, the police focused on the notion that we hadn’t been getting along as well as married couples should. When they couldn’t find Sarah they began questioning me. I became their main suspect in her disappearance.”
“They thought you hurt Sarah?” This time the interruption came from Martha.
Yes. No amount of convincing from our friends or from my mother about my sterling character seemed to dissuade them.”
“Explain ‘sterling,’ darling,” Sarah said.
“Oh, yes, well, I guess that means spotless—in other words, my friends and mother were convinced I’d never hurt anyone, let alone my wife. The police weren’t persuaded. They searched the house from top to bottom, turned my car inside out, and they were unable to locate her car. I found it, but she wasn’t in the car—uh, how do I explain cars?” he asked Sarah.
Sarah laughed. “I’m not sure either. The nearest explanation I can come up with is that a car is a little like a chariot that’s enclosed, and it has a method of moving that doesn’t rely on horses, donkeys, camels, or people, and it goes much, much faster than any beasts can.” She shrugged. “I’m I can’t describe it better. It’s as though you tried to describe making purple dye to someone who had never seen the sea or a mollusk before.”
Dorcas gave a tight-lipped smile. “This sounds more and more like a child’s imagined story.. If I appear confused, that’s why. And I’m not sure why, but I believe you. But even if this is all a convoluted lie, it makes for a marvelous story. Please continue.”
Tamara spoke up. “It is all true, Dorcas, honest! Cars are really and truly. ‘Cept I didn’t die, Jesus just carried me through the windy net. The windy net smells like flowers.”
“Jesus,” Dorcas said. “Wasn’t the Man in your dream this morning named ‘Jesus’ Who told you your Papa was coming home?”
“Yes, that’s the One.” Tamara nodded.
“Jesus told you I was coming soon?” Paul’s eyebrows felt like they raised above his hairline.
“Yes. He knows everything,” Tamara said.
“That’s amazing,” Paul said, looking at Tamara. He seemed about to ask Tamara something, but he shrugged and went on telling them what had happened. “The police questioned me on several different days. I think they wanted to arrest me, but they couldn’t find any evidence that I’d done harm to Sarah. They watched me, though. I think they had our house under surveillance—ah, they were watching our house—and they put a tail on me.”
“They did what?” Martha’s eyes were as wide as they would go.
Sarah and Paul looked at each other and laughed.
“That means they had a policeman follow me, like the tail on a dog follows him everywhere. However, now I must be dead there, because I was driving on the freeway and a trucker on my left didn’t see me. He swerved into my lane and pushed me into another truck in the lane on my right.”
“Now please explain a trucker and a lane and a freeway.” Dorcas said.
“A trucker is someone who drives a truck—a very large vehicle, some almost as long as this house.”
Dorcas eyebrows shot up.
“In that future time, there are busy, wide roads called freeways, and vehicles like trucks and cars are supposed to be careful not to hit other vehicles that travel next to them in lanes, parallel roads within the wide road. The vehicles go faster than any chariot you ever saw, Madam, and if one hits you, it’s disastrous, often fatal.
“I woke up looking down on my ruined car, and a Man in shining white robes stood next to me.” Tears filled Paul’s eyes. “He said, ‘Paul, would you rather go back inside that car, or would you rather go to Tamara and Sarah?’ Well, that was a no-brainer—I mean, it was easy to make this decision. I chose to go to Tamara and Sarah. The Man in white took my hand as though He were taking the hand of a child. I smelled flowers and felt this ripping sensation and enough wind to blow over a stout tree, and suddenly there I was standing just inside this gate, and people were staring at me like I had arrived from the moon. You know what happened after that.”
He paused and frowned. “I also have another memory, one of being with an old woman named Mehida who kept calling me her son. I think she saved my life. It’s as though I have two sets of life memories that are melding into one.”
There was a long silence while everyone absorbed what they’d been told. Finally Dorcas spoke up. “And no Hamath.” Her voice was flat, dispirited. “And I told him not to come back without Paulos. Whatever shall I do now?”