Everyone Froze. Every one. Every eye turned to stare. Every eye. Everyone held their breath. Every breath. The entire room turned to stare. Nothing moved until the Supervisor’s voice broke the spell.
“What in the name of all that God created is HE doing here?”
No one answered. No one could. Because no one knew why HE was here. Or how.
“Where am I? What is with all the numbers? Who are you people? What is this place?”
The questions came out as an uninterrupted series. First one, then they all gushed out at once. When HE wore down, (finally!) One of the Clerks asked a question of their own. And they didn’t ask the Supervisor. They asked HIM.
“Are you…are you..are you…a..a.aa…Mortal?”
HE didn’t answer the way they thought he would.
“My name’s Bob.”
Three of the Clerks fainted. Two sat down heavily holding several decades of numbers on their laps. One just shook her head as she continued the detail work of filling in a Number with the moments that go with it. She turned to her section and spoke in a tone that combined a “I hope we didn’t miss any moments” and blended it with a “get back to work and catch up” gesture. The Clerks did. Filling in every second, minute, hour, and day before changing the number in front of them.
“Well, Bob. I would say: “Welcome”…but you are not. What exactly are you doing here? How did you get in?”
The Supervisor was past the shock of seeing a mortal, and the surprise of seeing one…here. His voice wasn’t filled with anger any longer, just sheer curiosity.
“I don’t know. I got hit by a car. I remember the ParaMedic saying: “It will be okay. You’ll be fine. Then there was a light that hurt so bad (everyone in the room nodded. They all knew that light) I couldn’t shut it out. Then I was in a Hallway with the softest floor ever.”
Everyone in the room smiled. They walked in that Hallway every day.
The Supervisor egged Bob on with a smile that said: You are safe here, among friends, so please keep talking.
All of which was true…in a way.
“And I saw thru the door all of you beautiful people (waving his hands to encompass them all) so I came in to ask where I was.”
Everyone in the room kept working, smiles were breaking out everywhere. Even a few tears of joy. Being called beautiful was sweet, being called people- well, that stifled an honest laugh. It had been a long time since anyone in that room had been “People.”
The Supervisor shook his head. What was he to do? Should he tell Bob, where he was? And that he shouldn’t be here? That his number wasn’t up yet? A quick glance at the wall covered with Numbers about to expire proved that Bob wasn’t due here for until several thousand numbers had passed.
Just then the door burst open. It was the new guy from Admitting. He hadn’t been on the job more than a few thousand years. He was frightened. Out of breath. And flapped his wings twice to slow himself down or for sure he would have blown right over the Supervisor. Instead he curled them up just a few inches from the Supervisor - and put a gentle hand out to pull Bob back with him. Bob started to cry. Angels, it appears, aren’t meant to be seen by mortals.
The look the Supervisor gave the new guy was one that demanded an answer. Now.
A sheepish smile crept on the new Guys face, his wings blushing in a way that moved Bob to mutter through his tears: “I love you.” Bob was not quite ignored…let’s just say the whole room AND the new guy let that slide.
“Well, he was in a car wreck. They tried to restart his heart. He came to for just a second and saw that his twelve year old daughter was covered with a sheet, and a ParaMedic was crying softly as she removed the IV and breath bag.
I heard him and you know who (pointing up with a tip of his wing) having a discussion. I distinctly heard Bob bargaining with you know who. He said: “If my number is up…can’t you give the rest of my days to my daughter? She has so much in front of her…and can’t she please have all my days?”
Well you know how you know who is…(everyone in the room whispered a silent prayer. Yes they did.) And…well, I heard distinctly a command to tell Bob his Number wasn’t up. Neither was his daughter’s. So I accidentally (and now the blush on his wings went almost scarlet) sent Bob to get more numbers. I meant to get them myself, and send him back…but I was also getting a text from you know who (and they all offered another little prayer) giving me the number for the little girl.”
The Angel handed the Supervisor a number on a card. It glowed. The Supervisor whistled.
“You know who really wants these two to live a long time.”
He lifted the card to show the folks in the room what number was on the card. Not a few whistles held disbelief as a note.
“Well, okay. Get Bob out of here. Everyone, back to work. Their days are numbered, yours are not. “
It never failed to get a laugh. And it didn’t this time either.
Bob faded from view.
Bob’s daughter perched on the side of his bed. The Nurse had put the railing down so she could sit by his side. She held a little cup of Pepsi with a straw in it up for her Dad to take a small sip.
“Dad, Mom says that you can get out of here in about two more weeks.”
“I hope a bit sooner. But I will be glad to get out of here.”
She squeezed his hand. A memory flitted across her face. He recognized it instantly. It was the same memory he had. A memory of thinking his number was up.
“I am glad they let me out after only three weeks. I am sad you had to stay here much longer than me.” She squeezed his hand again. A tear started to form…and he used a think knuckle to catch it before it could fall.
“They thought we were both gone. They were wrong. Our number just wasn’t up yet.”
Her head jerked. She got an intense look in her eyes. A moment of indecision, then a decision.
“Dad, did you remember someone telling you through a blinding light that your number wasn’t up yet?”
She was trembling. She hadn’t told anyone about the light, or the hallway, or her Dad in the Arms of an Angel walking by her and telling her to “go back, your number isn’t up yet.”
She searched her Dad’s face for some sign. A hint. A widening of the eyes. Anything that would reassure her that she wasn’t making anything up.
He squeezed her hand hard. Then he smiled.
“That’s the same thing the Angel told me too.”
She didn’t care about rules. She climbed up next to her dad and lay her head on his chest…just like she used to when she was little. She could feel his heartbeat, and his arm closing around her back. No words were necessary.
Up in the room, everyone looked over as that moment was hung on the clip for the number of that day. It glowed. Even the Supervisor (who had witnessed many a moment until someone's Number was up) smiled and said: