Roland is faced with one question... why?
|Chapter I: In Loving Memory...
"What makes you think you're going to find them here Roland?"
The young man's voice was almost inaudible to him... almost. As he stared into the etchings on the neglected granite stones, he felt what was left of himself slowly decay.
Beloved Wife and Mother
Emily... she was gorgeous. A vibrant young redhead that he had fell in love with in his youth. Roland had been married to her for fifteen years. Well... fourteen and some odd days, and then she was so cruelly ripped away from him. Another victim of the war.
Beside her stone, his child Jamie was buried. Only seven when she too was ripped away. Both had died that day in October. It was a Sunday... a sabbath day. Not that that mattered much to him, other than the irony. The first bomb had nerely obliterated all of Liberty Avenue, and everyone who happened to be commuting that day. Perhaps it was fate, but he liked to believe it was something less than that. He liked to believe it was a chance meeting with misfortune, something he had grown used to.
"Roland," the young voice called to him.
"You won't find them here."
If he could cry, he would have. Unfortunately his tears, his eyes, his body were buried somewhere along with the rest of those foolish enough to attempt civil disobedience. No burial, no service, no funeral. Just himself, a hole, and a bulldozer. That was his fate, his destiny. Yet, here he was.
"What am I doing here Michael," Roland asked, staring blankly down at the tombstones. It sickened him to see that the slow neglect of time had begin to wear away the once high polish shine.
"Standing in front of a tombstone," the young man replied.
"No, that's not what I mean... I mean, what am I doing here?"
"Does anyone really know? Roland, that's something you'll have to find out for yourself."
Chuckling under his breath, or what would have been his breath had he had one, he shook his head... he just didn't get it. If he were still here, where were his wife and daughter? They were dead, just as he... but where were they?
"Oh my dear Roland, you've got a lot to learn my friend."
What was that supposed to mean? When it came to understanding Michael, his one and only tag-along acquaintence there in that world, he tried... he really tried. He had just appeared one day... right out of the middle of nowhere. Of course, he was a ghost after all. Or spirit, he really didn't know what to call him. Then again, he didn't know what to call himself either. He was a very interesting person. He was only in his mid teens, but he was wise. Very wise. Much too wise for a youth of that day and age. Then again, he could have been romping and cavorting in the world of death for a thousand years for all he knew.
And all of a sudden, there he was. He had met him in that cemetery, or what was left of it. Staring down at the two tombstones he had heard his voice for the first time.
"Hello, I am Michael. How are you Roland?"
It was a little more than creepy that he already knew his name. Of course, he was a ghost after all, weren't ghosts supposed to be creepy?
"You died a man Roland. Crippled by grief and ignorance, but a man nonetheless," Michael said, stepping by Roland's side.
"You have to understand, you aren't a man anymore. You are something else. You are here. Your wife... your daughter... they aren't."
"Michael, I have to believe that they may one day show up," Roland said turning to face him.
He found it strange that Michael had a sort of inner glow about him. His short blonde hair just seemed to shimmer, despite the dull light that the smog drowned sunlight offered. His cold blue eyes offered some bit of comfort in the strange world that he found himself in. Then again, if it weren't for him showing up, he would be completely alone. That was comfort enough.
"Roland, you can't place your beliefs in that sort of thing. Get rid of those superstitious ideas of yours. That sort of thing has very little meaning here," he replied, offering a gentle smile.
"Where am I supposed to put my beliefs," Roland asked, "God? The same god that has ignored me, my wife, my daughter, humanity?"
Michael smiled as he pointed toward the cloudy sky, "Trust me Roland... he's up there somewhere, wonderring why you're ignoring his calls to you."
"Why would he call to me? What would he want with me?"
"Roland," Michael said, his voice lowering, "He's calling to you because you need it. There are three types of people in the world. Those that believe in him because they are told to. Those that believe in him because they truly have seen miracles. And then there are those that don't believe. Deep down inside they want to believe, but they just don't have a reason to. From all the misfortunes they have been dealt with, they've cast away the ideas that there's something better waiting for them. They are truly the ones that need him the most."
"I did believe in him, until he decided that he no longer cared for me or my family."
"Yes, I'm aware," Michael said, placing his hand upon Roland's shoulder, "Rather than turning to the bible you turned to a bottle after they died."
Roland shot him a glare, "How did you know that?"
"There's a lot that I know. I've been here for a pretty long time."
Michael looked up at the sky as he sighed deeply, "There's a reason you're here Roland. A very good reason. Most people like you don't come here, but you did."
"I didn't come here," he growled, "I ended up here."
Michael laughed gently, "Perhaps, but the point is you're here. Just give it some thought Roland."
"Give what some thought?"
"What were you afraid of most when you were alive with your family," the young man asked.
"Dying and leaving them with nothing. I wasn't the richest man in the world after all."
"What do you mean Michael?"
"Every mortal fears death, yet life eventually leads to death. There's no reason to fear it, yet there's also no reason to embrace it. Death is nothing more than the next step of the journey. You're here now, dead perhaps, but you're still here. You're journey isn't over Roland. This is just the beginning."
"Journey to what," Roland asked, staring back down at the tombstones.
"Oh you non-believers can be so difficult sometimes," Michael exclaimed, "The journey."