Shana’s soul trembled as it incorporated an iota of Phoebe’s light-filtered grief, sighed inwardly, and dimmed a fraction. Karma attached a magnet of endless lifetimes of obstacles and servitude, a rehabilitation price tag for murder. Every soul owned several potential exits when housed in a human, an allowance granted by the law of free will. Sequestered in their barred galaxy, Tri-Eloh sensed the friends’ soul bond shred yet hold, except for a singular ancestral golden thread unraveled at the hem of one Angel’s’ Mother skirt. Death’s triumph threatened an Anamchara, a bold attempt not tried for eons. The Tri exhaled stars into the inky center of their galactic home, then settled in the corners of a triangular cavern as light glanced off a breathing scroll of silver sheets cradled in golden fleece. Alive with a deep baritone hum, 3 ruby chains encircled the Divine scroll, each link embossed with sleeping faces of their descendants on Earth-as a newborn, as a child, as a mother or father, and as an elder. Easy to spot, the links they sought displayed a break where Shana’s older faces had been. Although expected, their prior intention of “If we find an error in Shana’s debts versus karma plus Death’s receipts, the Office of Terminations might pass her on for an audience.” quickly evolved into “We will find an extra somewhere and THEN, we will audit ALL contracts.”
A hard knock and expressionless face at the door at 3 a.m. instead of Shana laughing about losing her key again, dead-panned words in a staccato of blasts to her heart, a piece of paper shoved in her hand, all of it a living nightmare Phoebe resisted to her core. Accusing eyes scanned the loft while she sobbed, unable to catch her breath, “Shana, nooo, nooo”. The Tri’s foresight didn’t extend beyond Phoebe’s fierce denial, her wild bedhead and snotty t-shirt in sync with ugly news, the officers who tossed the loft and took her prescription sleeping pills “for testing”, and her desperation with a weary social worker who seemed stuck on repeat, “Did you and your friend use heroin together? Where do you get your heroin?”. No one mentioned towers of textbooks-biology, anatomy, European history, Spanish poetry and 19th century lit, on the dining table between them, two of each, undisturbed sign posts to their future. The next day Phoebe would go to the county morgue in a daze and identify Shana’s body per parting instructions from cracked lips and also in bold letters on the piece of paper. Further down the sheet she would see an 800 number for survivors “if needed”, and wonder how a stranger with an intact life could possibly understand her blown up world. An 800 number to heaven, she’d think, if I could just talk to her, tell her I love her, I need her. They knew she would be handed a bag of Shana’s belongings including the rose boots she’d given her for Christmas. What Tri-Eloh didn’t see were hellish visions in her mind, massive guilt about staying home, about not really wanting to be with her friend lately because Doyle was always in the mix. She’d felt too embarrassed to tell Shana she wanted her to herself for an afternoon, so she hounded her about studying together. They didn’t know Phoebe would wash her anguished guilt away with two cups of Shana’s belladonna tea, or they may have acted sooner.
Nothing and no one in the entirety of the universe escaped El’s all-seeing/feeling/knowing, yet nothing and no one could confidently relate a reliable description of El. For this reason, Tri-Eloh hurriedly reviewed Shana’s contract. “Delivering her soul in time for bandaging prior to the hearing will render this small transgression into nothing at all, you’ll see.” The other two angels intuited in tandem, “Count the addiction aspects first, then betrayals, then a sum total of abuses. We’re tallying Death’s receipts. No way we have time to figure in Karma. Those records are in The Halls under Archangel guardianship.” In truth, El forgave them instantly and moved on to universally important matters.
While hierarchy did not exist in the ethereal realms, Blissful missions and Divine missions existed as rewards, both assigned eons after a soul fully ascended.
In the underworld, hierarchy was strictly observed with brutal punishments meted out as rewards for souls addicted to pain, and admittance may be earned in as few as ten lifetimes if the soul lusted after power enough. Death, giddy at their success with Shana, asked again why the demon before him sought punishment and lowered it into the icy salt water when it tried to reply. “Kazmir!”, Death bellowed. Often sidetracked by its desires, Kaz should have returned with a report by now. One of Death’s oldest and most effective demons, Kazmir often took liberties, but also delighted his boss with tales of surprise cruelties undetected by most Guardian Angels. It was dedication like Kaz’s that drove the wheel of life downward, into unconscious competition, violence, and for the long game-thwarted dreams and grief. For a while, Death thought they might lose, but they were an ultimate pessimist. Kaz appeared before them with a rush of decaying stench. “May I congratulate you, Boss, on winning such a prize soul today”, it went on, eager to please, “Soon enough, it will be your pet”, one bulging eye swung out of its’ socket to point at a cage made specifically for Shana’s soul when she was ten years old, a cage of human bones where she often found herself in nightmares. Death would have ordered its’ construction sooner, “S” etched on each bone, but discretion was crucial when tormenting a young soul before puberty, the allowed starting line for their race with life. El disqualified an enraged Death every three seconds for cheating demons who often caused souls to cry out for El’s help. “Did you twist up the other half’s mind yet, Kazmir?” “Not only did I gift her with torture audio and visuals of an endless fiery sea, I also sent unhelpful humans to harass her, and set her up for lucid dreams tonight. Would you like to draft her nightmare?” Once again, Kazmir became Death’s favorite. “You know me so well, Kaz. Let’s involve Doyle. He showed promise, but took too long in pushing Shana to break her contract. See to it, while I console Phoebe”, he laughed.
Doyle Regan dreamed of Shana, her heart-shaped face smiled up at him framed by her raven curls reflecting dappled sunlight, her deep golden brown eyes looked into him with a smile and acceptance; love he didn’t deserve, never asked for even. She took his hand in her small one and together they walked through the park as they’d done dozens of times over the past year, down the winding path by the flowering trees where they stood as petals floated down on them. Tears slowly made their way single file to fall from his chin as Doyle saw the red and purple marks on her neck. When he awoke, the dream lingered and his guilt grew as he recounted their last conversation. In the shower, scalding water did nothing to fade the image, but rinsed away his sobs until he was empty. Doyle wondered how Phoebe was handling her first day without Shana. Phoebe seemed so capable, so responsible, so reasonable. He thought about calling, but decided instead to bring her some of the lemon chicken soup she loved from the Coney Island. Doyle had to make her understand it wasn’t his fault.