A while later the knock on the door came again, more urgent. Michael opened it.
“What is it?”
“There’s one man who couldn’t go in,” Samantha said. “He’s a priest. Marcello something. I forgot. So now people don’t want to go into the tunnel because they think they’re going to Hell and that’s why the priest is not going.” She tried to peek around him but his body blocked the view to the cockpit. “Where is Bianca? Is she okay?”
“Yes, Sam, I’m fine. Did captain Kist go in?”
“I think so. The bigger one was the captain, right? He did go in, yes. And then another captain, the other plane’s. And that first officer.”
“Good,” Bianca said.
“Okay but what do we do with those who don’t want to go in?”
“I’ll be right there.”
“All right,” Samantha said. “I’d hurry,” she added after a tense pause and slipped out.
Bianca and Michael were out a minute later. The plane was packed with people and so was the staircase. At the mouth of the tunnel Rob and Gabrielle were talking to a man who was shaking his head. Next to Rob stood another man, a short, round one.
“Make way,” Bianca said. The people in her way turned, a woman opened her mouth to argue but changed her mind when she saw the uniform. She also saw the face and as numb as Bianca felt her face, it was probably had a scary blank expression. “Thank you.”
As they pushed their way through the crowd the conversation Gabrielle was having with the ones who didn’t want to get into the tunnel became clearer.
“You are not going to Hell. For the umpteenth time, nobody is going to Hell. You just go somewhere else,” Gabrielle was saying.
“Yeah, but you don’t know where,” the man said. “That’s what I’ve been saying. If I’m going somewhere, I’d like to know where it is.”
“You’re going to Heaven.”
The man turned his tall and scrawny body around. Bianca looked up into his eyes.
“You wanted a destination,” she said. “This is yours. And you,” she turned to the woman next to him, “You’re going to be reborn. I can’t tell you who you will be reborn as but that’s where you are going. Anyone else?”
Silence spread over the crowd like a toxic cloud.
“Father?” Bianca stepped around the man who was going to Heaven and shook the short man’s hand. Michael followed on her heels.
“Oh, please, just call me Marcello,” he said and smiled. “Everyone thinks I’m a Catholic priest because of my name. I’m actually with the Church of England. It was quite a joke.” He sighed. “And now for some reason I can’t move on. Would you have any idea why?”
“You’re not ready to go,” Michael said. “You will need to stay with the crew for a while.”
The silence was beginning to crack. Whispers and murmured conversations began bubbling up to its surface and breaking it.
“Oh,” Marcelo said. “I see. Okay. Well, let me know how I can be of help in whatever it is you’re doing. Sending people on their way, correct?”
“Correct,” Bianca said. “If you could just try and make everyone feel as calm as possible, that would be great.”
“Am I really going to Heaven or did you just say this to make me get into that tunnel?” the man who didn’t want to go in said.
Bianca turned. Her head was pounding with the question that occupied most of her attention, one she had to find an answer to urgently. This was not the time for stupid questions from other people.
“There is only one way to find out, isn’t there?” she said. “I know you feel the pull. Why resist it? And yes, you are going to Heaven the way you understand it. I know that like I know your name is Lawrence Blixen and you’re a dentist. Divorced, three years now. Shall I go on?”
The man shook his head.
“Right. This way, please,” she said and gestured to the tunnel. Rob closed his gaping mouth and nodded at the man.
“Okay. Okay.” Lawrence Blixen cast a glance around, swallowed, and stepped into the tunnel. Bright white light sucked him in.
“Next?” Gabrielle said.
The woman to whom Bianca had said she would be reborn stepped forward. The queue started flowing again. Bianca and Michael stepped back. He took her hand. She gripped his tightly. One of the next people that had to go into the tunnel was hesitating. Marcello told him all would be well and his family will be okay. He promised to try and give them a message from the man. The man went in.
“Is that other guy really going to Heaven?” Michel asked under his breath.
“Maybe. How is your itch?”
“Not too bad yet. How did you know all this stuff about that man?”
Bianca kept her eyes fixed on the line of people going into the tunnel.
“I could see his whole life in his head. I can see all of their lives in their heads if I want to see them.”
“Mine too?” he asked after a while.
“So you know I’ve always—”
“I do,” she said quickly.
“Oh, okay. As long as that’s clear.”
A tear fell down her cheek. She made no attempt to brush it away. It would dry on its own. Now was the time for decisive action not for crying.
“I really don’t want to go,” Michael said as they watched people go into the tunnel, one after the other, some hand by hand. “Obviously, you already know this but I wanted to say it. It’s maddeningly ironic we only got back together after we died but at least we did get back together, right? That’s something.”
“It’s not enough,” Bianca said. She could try to make the tunnel disappear the way she had made things appear, as soon as the Pan Am/KLM passengers were gone. Or they could tie Michael up to prevent him from going into the tunnel, even if it meant risking him going insane with the itch. Or maybe, if all else failed, she could pray. The distasteful idea sat like a sharp rock in her mind.
“What can we do, Beans? Tie me up? Stand at the mouth of the tunnel to stop me from going in? I don’t think any of this would work.” He took her hand and kissed the palm. Then he dropped it and winced. “I’m sorry. It’s getting stronger.”
“We’ll do whatever it takes. I will.”
“Never giving up.”
“Not on you, no.”
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