The next morning the movers came while everyone still slept. Sebastian woke them in time to accompany the movers out of the city. They gathered their belongings and caught up with the movers.
Marc had been strapped into a form of stretcher. There were four straps to each limb, three on his head, and five on his torso. Even in his deep sleep Marc did not look comfortable.
“Are all those bindings really necessary?” Joel asked the person in front of the stretcher.
“If he’s coming with us, those bindings are extremely important.” The girl turned her head toward Joel, “Because without them your friend isn’t coming with us.”
“Be kind then,” Joel returned her look, “he is my friend and a very good one at that.”
“You’ve got my promise sir.” The mover returned to her task.
“Joel!” came a voice down the street. “Wait a second please.”
“Stop the carriage,” called Joel to driver. “I’ll be only a minute.”
“What’s he think this is, a taxi?” asked the driver to the girl with whom Joel had spoken earlier. “Make it fast buddy, this isn’t our only pickup today.”
Joan ran down the street toward the carriage. She had changed clothes to that of the locals, an early twentieth century style. “Here. Would you please give this to Marc when he wakes.” She handed him an envelope.
“Sure thing.” Joel took the envelope and placed it in a pocket of his leather tunic. “Are you sure you want to stay here? It’s not exactly the most beautiful place I’ve seen in heaven.”
“No it’s not. But it needs fixing.” Joan smiled. “And I plan to do some fixing.”
“Then good luck to you, doctor Mackey.” Marc waved at the driver to go.
“Wait!” shouted Sebastian running out of the dream house.
The driver murmured something under his breath and gave his partner another look.
“If you don’t mind,” said Sebastian to the three friends in the carriage, “I would like to come along. To make sure everything goes okay.”
When the carriage left the city, Marc started to shake. Then the shaking became struggling and the struggling became more frantic. His face became red, and his veins started to protrude, and his jaw was set for a battle.
“It’s like he’s fighting,” said Lily.
“Fighting to stay in his dream.” Joel looked away from Marc and from Lily not wanting to see either face.
The female mover turned to face them, “Nothing to worry about. I’ve seen this many times. It will stop any time now, and he’ll start a genuine sleep. A sleep without the virus.”
“I hope so,” said Meribah nervously.
The carriage came to a halt as did Marc’s struggle. Marc was removed from it, and brought to a patch of moss. There the movers untied him from the stretcher and left him to recuperate. Then the movers returned to the carriage and were off.
“You know, Joel.” Sebastian smiled thinly. “I really am sorry that this happened to your friend. People aren’t just numbers to me. I wish you could believe me.”
“I do.” Joel faced Sebastian. “Look I’m sorry for being rude yesterday, but Marc was in trouble, and you didn’t seem to want to help him.”
“I have to look out for everyone’s best interest. Can you imagine what a mess it would have been, if Marc would have started struggling with the three of you carrying him in the middle of the night.”
“I know. You were right.”
“I know.” Sebastian looked over to where Marc lay. “It doesn’t make it any easier.”
“Do the movers dream?” asked Joel.
“No, they’ve been specially chosen because they don’t. It makes they’re job easier, but because they’re are so rare it makes them very expensive.”
“Hey you, kid. Can you see me?”
The boy in the wheelchair looked across the white silky room of his mind. The wheelchair was made of black and red licorice and the wheels were made of humbugs.
“Sure can Mister,” the boy nodded. “What are you doing in my dream.”
“Your dream, my dream, does it really matter?” Marc walked closer. “You must find it really hard to move in that chair, square candy wheels and all.”
“Yeah but it tastes good.” The boy ripped off a piece of red licorice and offered it to Marc.
“How about some black?” asked Marc.
“Black is my favourite too.” He put the red back and gave Marc a piece of black.
“Thanks. My name is Marc.” Marc reached out his hand. “Marc Labonté.”
“Robbie West.” Robbie looked at Marc more closely. “Do I know you?”
“We’ve never met, but we went through some pretty rough stuff at the same time.” Marc sat down on a candy-cane bench that he conjured up for himself. “Neat things these dreams, eh?”
“You’re the guy that pushed me away from the truck, aren’t you?”
Marc was not sure whether he should tell him the truth. “Yes, yes I am.”
“I owe you a lot Mister.”
“Yes you do, but I know you’ll pay me back.”
“How am I gonna do that? You can’t pay a ghost.”
“Let’s call me an angel, okay? And you can pay me back by reaching and never settling, by being all that you can.” Marc ruffled his hair.
“How’s that gonna do anything for you?” Robbie stood up on invisible legs.
Marc looked down at where Robbie’s legs used to be. “Let’s just say were attached, and if you’re happy in life, I’m happy up here.”
“Like a guardian angel?” asked Robbie.
“No, not like a guardian angel.” He could see Robbie was a little saddened, but Marc laughed. “I am your guardian angel.”
“Will I see more of you?” Robbie was smiling again.
“Count on it kid. You’ll see me, right here. Where heaven and earth meet, and where we can be alone.”
“Welcome back Mister Labonté.” Sebastian smiled his usual wide smile.
“Hi. Do I know you?” Marc frowned.
“No, but I know your friends.” Sebastian held out his hand.
Marc, are you okay? Marc picked up Lily’s thoughts, and was happy once again that he could. Yes Lily, I’m fine. What’s the big worry. You sound like I’ve been gone for days.
“You have been gone for days,” said Lily standing behind Sebastian with Joel and Meribah.
“Well don’t I get a hug?” asked Marc innocently.
Lily, Meribah, and Joel hugged him at the same time. As the companions hugged and greeted each other, Sebastian walked back toward the city and his first dream that year. While he walked away, you could here his deep laugh for miles.
Marc and Joel walked ahead of Lily and Meribah. The desert, that had surrounded the road, had ended at the city. This side of the city was green with small trees, herbage, and bushes. The road was not paved or treated in any way to keep vegetation from growing. It reminded Joel of a country road where the green vegetation would be cut by two brown parallel paths, and any plants with enough gall to attempt to grow on these paths would by squashed by the wheels of the vehicles that travelled down the road.
Flies, annoyed with the four companions for stirring the grass that they rested on, would follow them and buzz about their heads. The road would turn to circumvent mountains, or to edge away from the unsure ground near marshes and small lakes. Snakes could be heard slithering through the tall grasses as they shied away from the approaching angels, and frogs and toads jumped from the swampy shores to splash down into the weedy waters.
“Why do you do it?” asked Meribah.
“Do what?” replied Lily uncertain of where the question had come.
“Why do you put up with the sexist remarks, or allow Marc to open doors for you?” Meribah fists were clenched tightly. “Or allow females to be the butt of their jokes? Like earlier today, when Marc greeted us. He kidded that Joel would not be able to take care of us alone. We do not need anyone to take care of us. And the added insult of the way he had said it, ‘I was a little worried that Joel wouldn’t be able to take care of you girls.’ Girls, there is nothing girlish about me except of course my physical age. I can add another dozen times that comments like that have maddened me.”
“We’re two different people.” Lily stopped to think about her reply. “When Marc opens a door for me, I’m flattered. Even though it was a custom when he grew up. I don’t believe that there are things that one sex can do better than the other, but I also don’t believe in hiding the differences. I’m a woman and I wouldn’t want to be a man. I enjoy long baths, moonlit evenings, poetry, dancing, talking without really having a purpose. Men need an activity to be close to other men. They play cards, go fishing, shoot pool. Whatever it is they need a reason. Women can just sit down and talk to one another, no activity necessary. There are other differences, and the same can’t be said for all women, but most that I have met are that way.” Lily took a long breath, and then another one. “Sexist Jokes. There’s all kinds, but jokes are part of human nature. They can be cruel, and they usually are at least to someone. It’s been my experience that people make fun of the things that they don’t understand, or the things that they envy. If you’re comfortable with and proud of yourself, jokes aren’t that nasty.”
“It’s just, it shouldn’t be.” Meribah shook her head. “Not in heaven, things should be the same for everyone.”
“Then everyone would have to look the same. God has many images and we were all created with one of those images. Diversity keeps humankind interesting.” Lily smiled and held Meribah’s hand. “Besides what did Joan mean about imperfect people in an imperfect world?”
“I don’t know. I guess she meant that accepting it will help you cope,” Meribah suggested.
“I think so. But I also think that she meant that accepting it is the first way to improve it. In a few weeks, maybe a few months, Joel and Marc will stop saying things that aren’t acceptable to your ears. And when they have, they will help to bring other people to stop saying things that are uncomfortable to their ears.”
“You think so. Cause I find it hard to take when somebody I like hurts me. When it’s a stranger, it’s not so bad.”
“Only better, never worse,” Lily assured her.
That evening they slept under a beautiful sky. The deep smell of vegetation filled their lungs. Before they slept, Lily had a talk with Marc.