Destiny is deferred, leaving Chloe to conquer Heaven's biggest challenge.
| The next day proved to be something unusual, to say the least. In spite of getting a restful night's sleep, Chloe's thoughts seemed to race miles a minute. When Edna woke her up, she woke up so quickly she nearly fell out of bed. Still, she made herself get ready, as Edna told her to be showered and dressed immediately.
Opening the closet, Chloe saw that most of the clothes in there were the same color as the room: navy blue. She also saw a large carton with "SHOWER" scrawled on the side. She went up to the carton and opened it, only to find a large supply of what looked like baby wipes.
Looks like I get to give myself a spongebath, she thought.
After her "shower", she went back to looking at the clothes. Her hunch told her that she was going to be involved in very important events. So, she opted for a navy blue pantsuit and matching flats. Grabbing a white velvet satchel, she looked over herself in one of the rooms many mirrors before leaving her room.
Outside the room, Edna had been waiting for Chloe. When Chloe emerged from the room, Edna was very startled.
"Chloe!" she exclaimed. "You're...way early."
"You told me to get showered and dressed immediately," Chloe said.
"Well...immediately in heaven means to go at a moderate speed," Edna replied. "You acted as if I had told you it was an emergency."
"Oh," Chloe muttered as tried to hide her blushing face.
"Now, now. Don't be so embarassed. We can go somewhere for breakfast."
With that, the two females left the room in pursuit of breakfast.
At a round table, thirty beings sat. In the middle of the table was a statue of a man in an archer pose. Well, it looked like a statue, but immediately it shifted into an upright position. It banged its bow on the table, and the other beings immediately hushed.
"The meeting is now in session," it said.
"Yes, God," the other beings replied.
"Now today is the beginning of a weird time for us," God began. "I barely had time to revise plans. Had Chloe come to sooner, we'd be in even deeper crap."
"Then why am I here?" a slate blue chimpanzee-bat hybrid asked.
"Well, Sal, Chloe was going to be successful in the area of animal rescue, but now that she's with us, you need to oversee the salvation of thousands of jungle species," God told the minion of the animal kingdom.
"And how do you explain business?" asked a small, thin Asian man in a black suit.
"Chloe was going to bring the film industry to Florida, but now the economy of Florida faces grave danger without her."
"So basically because someone expired ahead of schedule, we have to completely alter everything," piped up another Asian man.
"Yes," God said. "All of you gathered here were going to have large plans associated with Miss Severson, but the other reason I called you together is because Vale and Kirsten face one of the largest challenges ever."
"Yes," an ivory skinned male said. "I have an infant apprentice, something I can't change under our system."
"And her absence will cause some serious problems in the fate of America," added a brunette lady with her grayish brown hair tied up in a bun.
"Her appreticeship is also a perplexing situation up here," God said. "I face jealousy in the ranks. Plus, this puts pressure on the detectives to find out what happened to Chloe that brought her here so soon."
"So we all need to help quell any uprisings," the second Asian man said.
"Perceptive, Nguyen," God said to the leader of Asian fate. "I know this will be hard for some of you, especially the Fate and Death leaders. After all, we have new residents pouring in due to the wars. From the rest of you I expect diligence in keeping things under control here."
"Yes, God," the beings said, and the meeting was adjourned.
A while later, Chloe and Edna arrived at dome shaped building.
"What is this place?" Chloe asked.
"This is your new workplace," Edna said, and then she rung the doorbell.
"So I get to meet Saint Valentine himself?" Chloe asked.
"Yes, you will, " Edna replied.
As she said that, the door opened to reveal Saint Valentine himself. He was of an intimidating height, but his ivory skin and lengthy white hair made him somewhat approachable.
"Morning, ladies," he said. "You're right on time."
With that, he ushered Chloe and Edna inside. Upon their arrival inside, Chloe saw even more navy blue. She looked down at her pantsuit.
What is this, a uniform, she wondered.
"Chloe, I presume," Vale asked.
"I am," said Chloe. "And are you...?"
"I am Saint Valentine," Vale said.
"Known as Vale in the department," Edna said.
"Enough formalities," Vale said. "Shall we proceed to take the tour?"
"Sure," Chloe said.
The three were in what looked like an archaic library; many documents were held together with heavy duty string, dust had settled on the shelves, and the overstuffed chairs were covered in leather. A couple people milled around, looking through books for a nanosecond before shelving them again.
"We are in the library," Vale said. "I know it's archaic looking, but we found it easier to manage the archives like this."
"What purpose would someone have to wander in here?" Chloe asked.
"We like to monitor all the pairings Earth has seen," Vale replied. "Since we don't like to put two people together in a century, we consult the records to see if we're about to make a mistake."
"The reason we try to separate traits is to keep Satan on his toes," Edna said. "If he sees that we repeat patterns, he can disrupt our future plans."
"All present cases, meaning cases of this century are kept in our computers," Vale said.
"Why do I have all those computers in my room?" CHloe asked. "Is it so I can research present cases?"
"Actually," Vale began, "those computers are used to track your cases. As an apprentice, you only have a case or two, depending on how much I feel you can shoulder. Once you become a minion, you're in charge of over a hundred cases."
"Cool," Chloe said.
Luke knocked on an oak door, one ornately carved into the scene of Albert Camus being pulled from a car wreck. The door opened, revealing a muscular blonde woman dressed in forest green. Her hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail, but some stray strands obscured her scowling face.
"Look, forget it, we haven't found out a damn thing," she said.
"Whoa, Sally! Hold up. I wasn't going to ask about that," Luke told her. "I actually come with a clue."
"Like what?" Sally growlingly asked.
"When I went to pick up this old guy in a Sebring nursing home, I happened to find a piece of paper dropped by one of Satan's subjects," Luke said. "It mentioned the man that would've been Chloe's husband on Earth."
"Yeah," Sally asked. "What's that got to do with Chloe coming up too early?"
"Well," Luke continued, "this guy, Scott Foster, has been depressed lately. He just found out his girlfriend is a lesbian. Satan wants Scott to kill himself."
"What's that got to do with Chloe," Sally asked.
"Chloe was going to save Scott's life after a suicide attempt," Luke replied.
"Interesting. How would she find him?"
"I'm not sure. The paper didn't say."
"Well, Luke, thanks for that bit of info. I'll get someone on that."
Later that night, a party was in full swing at the Tree of Knowledge ballroom. While hundreds of Heaven's denziens feasted and danced, Chloe sat with Vale sipping a club soda with lemon twist. Despite the fact this party was celebrating the inauguration of ten new apprentices such as herself, Chloe wanted to get down to business right away. For a good while now, she and Vale had discussed what she would be doing in her apprenticeship.
"So," Chloe began after sipping her drink. "do I have a case?"
"As a matter of fact you do," Vale said.
"Yes. The couple is in Florida."
"Where in Florida?"
"Avon Park. Why?"
"But it is a good question to ask. If I had you working in Sebastian, they might think you were a roaming spirit stuck on Earth, and then a million more urban legends would spring from the humans' imaginations."
"But wait a minute. I thought we were humans up here."
"Well, Chloe, we're a variety of human that has transcended the obstacles God had created."
"Hmmm...so this couple. What's the scoop on them?"
"They're about your age."
"Isn't that a little young to put two people together?"
"It is in some cases, but this...isn't one of those cases."
The music began to pick up tempo and change key. People began to clear the dance floor, but several pairs of dancers remained. A tenor saxophonist stood facing the dance floor and began playing a low pitched melody. Unlike most tenors, this one was very smooth and flowing in tone, never honking the melody. Such a sweetness clashed with Chloe's bitter drink which she had been sipping when the tenor player had begun his solo. It reminded Chloe of home, and she began to feel homesick. Vale looked over at her for a second, then patted her on the shoulder.
"I know you miss it down there," he said. "It won't last."
At that, telltale tears slipped from Chloe's eyes. This was the only sign Vale received of Chloe finally realizing the odds stacked against her.
A clarion trumpet call rang through the ballroom as the dancers moved to the vivacious pace of the bassline. The girls swayed their skirts to the sixteenth notes, and some of the gentlemen in the audience could be heard singing along to the melody:
I hear your voice as it calls to me, my dearest Lord.
But how can I believe that it is you when I n'er knew you were there.
Yet you claimed me, saying 'You're not done',
so I went slowly along.
Now I am here toiling 'neath your watch
as you play me like a pawn.
Hearing the voices of the singing gentlemen disturbed Chloe even further, and she began to wonder if her Earthly conceptions of Heaven were right after all. Was it all work and no play? After all, God never said what eternal life would entail. As the piece winded down to its final eighth notes, Chloe polished off the bitter elixir as the dancers made their final steps. They paused on the soft stinger, sending the audience into boisterous applause. Chloe and Vale, meanwhile, sat at their table stoically, knowing that after this party they'd be taking on the ultimate challenges of their lives.
March-Tempo di marcia