Why does this keep happening?  I looked around and saw the wilderness once again, endless miles of sand going on past the horizon.  I stood up and dusted myself off.  I was uncertain of what to do next:  the last time I had been in this spiritual realm I had been near the mountains.  Now I was once again in the middle of nowhere and I had no idea which direction to go.

            I suppose I should have been frustrated.  After all, I had intended to hunt Reza across the continent until I could end his sinister life.  Now I had been prevented in my intention, removed from my own world once again.  Yet I knew that these spiritual journeys had a purpose, and so I guessed that I was back in the desert for a reason.  I stood still, trying to think if I had any clues as to direction.  Where I was supposed to go from here?

            I could see no landmarks.  No rocks, not a single cactus, and there were no signs of mountains on the horizons in any direction.  I could arbitrarily choose to go anywhere I wanted, or I could stay where I was.  Remembering the best way to get found when you’re lost, I stood still and waited.  The hot sun beat down on me, and sweat began trickling from my brow, but still I waited.

            In retrospect, I suppose that I could have prayed.  It had helped me before, after all.  However, I reasoned that, if I was here for a reason, then that reason would be made apparent in time.  I was not going to ask for help when I was not really in trouble, because the place I would call to for help had put me where I was already.  Does that make sense?  Heaven had put me here, so I was not going to ask Heaven why, I figured they would tell me when it was time.  Otherwise, I was going to stay where I was.

            It was rude.  No matter that I didn’t feel any annoyed or angry emotions, I knew that they were moving me around like a pawn on a chessboard and I did not appreciate it.  Standing still was my only means of expressing that I was an independent entity, capable of thinking for myself and refusing to be manipulated.  I was a faithful servant of God, and was willing to be obedient to the Lord’s will, but I was not about to ask for Heaven’s help to get out of a situation Heaven caused.  If they wanted me to be part of the plan, then they could tell me, I wasn’t going to ask.

            My mother always said that I was a stubborn child, I would never just meekly do what I was told.  I always asked why I had to do it.  She learned early on to explain things to me, give me a reason, and then I would quite often accept her reasoning and do as she asked.  I would never do anything I didn’t understand.  I was too independent.

            I remember my friend Angelina joking that I could never make it in the army, back at university.  A friend of hers from the Royal Military College was visiting, and she remarked that I could never do that.  I asked “Why?”

            Her answer was “You always have to ask ‘why’ for everything!”  She simulated a conversation between me and a drill sergeant (as Angelina was a drama major, play-acting featured in a lot of our conversations):

            “Pitney, drop and give me fifty!”

            “Why, sir?”

            “Pitney, do twenty laps!”

            “Why would I do that, sir?”

            “Pitney, shoot the enemy!”

            “Why would I shoot him sir?  What did he ever do to me?”

            She made me laugh, I have to admit it.  I also have to admit that she hit the nail on the head:  if things weren’t explained, I didn’t buy into them.  I never responded to authority for authority’s sake.  If someone had proven their leadership skills, earned my respect, had a good reason for what they were asking, then I would listen.  But Heaven had interrupted my plan, one I thought was part of my overall purpose, and until someone told me why I was not going to budge an inch.

            My mother once told me I couldn’t get up from the table until I ate everything on my plate.  I sat there for several hours, just to prove a point.  It may have been the most boring evening of my life.  I could have ended my misery at any moment, but that was the point:  What I did with my time was up to me, not to anyone else.  Of course, proving that point left me tired and bored.  I said I was stubborn, I didn’t say I was smart.

            I wondered, however, if this time it would leave me starved, dehydrated, or worse.  Could someone starve on a spiritual plane of reality?  Did the usual rules still apply?  I wished Mara were here.  She would know.  Plus, she had an uncanny talent for making me feel better.

            I suddenly felt a tap on the back of my head, so I turned swiftly.  There was no one there, so I immediately swerved back around to my original position, to see Mara, hovering upside down, her hair askew.  She smiled warmly and kissed the tip of my nose.

            “You’re awfully stubborn.”  She laughed.  “Staring eye contests, silent treatments, you just don’t give in easily.”

            “And what you’re doing is physically impossible.  Wings create lift, they don’t hover, especially upside down and without flapping.”  I countered playfully.

            “Physics don’t apply here, this plane has different rules.”  Mara giggled, and tickled my armpits from her odd position.  I laughed, and before I fell over I grabbed her by the forearms, pulling her down on top of me as I hit the sand.  We squirmed and laughed as we tickled each other.

            “Stop it before you make me pee!”  She said through her laughter.

            “Can angels pee?”  I asked, and reached to tickle her some more to find out.  Mara slapped my hands away with a giggle.

            “Not most of them.  I’m kinda unique.”  She said.  “And if you asked my uncle Raguel, he’d say I wasn’t very proper, either.  Angels probably aren’t even supposed to say words like ‘pee’ I think.”

            “Well, I’m ‘kinda’ glad you’re unique.”  I smiled, kissing her softly.  “I’d say that I missed you while I was on Earth, but I was pretty sure you were there helping me the whole time.”

            “Well, I DID miss you.”  She said emphatically.  “Do you know what it’s like to wait your whole life to hold someone in your arms, and then all you can do is watch them?  I missed touching you.”  Mara ran her fingers through my beard and into my hair, wrapping her long legs around my waist and kissing me with meaning, showing me just how much she had missed me.

            After a blissful eternity like that, I reluctantly broke the kiss and smiled.  “Okay, I admit it, I missed you too.  Being able to kiss you is a lot better than just thinking about you all the time.”

            She moved to kiss me again and I heard a familiar polite cough.  We turned to see her father standing there, his eyes slightly averted, waiting for us to make ourselves “appropriate.”  We stood and I could see Mara’s cheeks flush while we brushed sand off our clothes.

            “Hi Dad,” she said sheepishly. 

            “Hello, Mara, Ethan.”  Raphael said warmly.

            “Hello, sir.”  I said, feeling like a teenager picking up someone’s daughter from their house.  Then I remembered that he (or someone in Heaven, anyway) had lifted me out of my reality and my plans to this desert place. 

            “Why are we here?”  I asked him, coming straight to the point.  “I was kind of intent on a purpose.”

            “I know, but there’s plenty of time for that later.”  Raphael said. 

            “Later?  Reza is a killer, and my visions showed me that he’s really a beast!  I can’t just let that monster do his work out there in the world, wearing my face.”  I argued.

            “There are forces at work that you are not entirely aware of.”  Raphael said, not unkindly.  “It’s not as simple as it might seem to you.  I know you want to stop him, and you will when it’s time.  But you’re not ready yet.  You just have to trust me on this one.  Heaven has a purpose here, and when it’s time, I’ll be able to tell you about it.”

            “So what do I do in the meantime?  Wander through the desert some more?”  I waved my hand at the empty wilderness. 

            “No.  I have been empowered to make an offer.”  Raphael said, his voice tinged with some unnameable emotion.  I couldn’t figure it out, but there was something about this task that bothered him.

            “You’re going to make me an offer?  For what?”  I asked.

            “Not you.  Mara.”  Raphael locked eyes with his daughter.  She had been standing beside me silently, letting us talk, and I appreciated her supportive presence.  Now her demeanour visibly changed, as she stiffened as if with a sudden shock.

            “Me?”  She said, her voice filled with a mixture of curiosity, hope and fear.  Her father’s jaw clenched.  Mara’s hand slid into mine for comfort.

            “God the Father has given me a message for you.”  Raphael told her.  “He says that your time to choose is coming.  You can be whole.”

            “Now?”  Mara asked, and again there was mixed hope and fear.

            “You have time to make up your mind.  Follow the path, at its end you will have to make your choice.”  Raphael finished speaking, and abruptly unfolded his wings and flew off faster than my eyes could follow.

            Mara’s hand squeezed mine, and she looked at me with tears in her eyes.  I said nothing, trusting that she would explain when she needed to.  I only smiled and gently squeezed back.

            We looked to the east and saw a green path, like the one Gwen and Genevieve had created that had led us to the mountains.  I guessed that this one led back towards my childhood home, on the earthly plane anyway.  For now it was just another faithful path for us to follow.

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