Epilogue: Ever Oaks' Diary

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10 Thanksgiving Month (?)

I came down from the mountain in a haze. I barely remember it, even though it wasn't an easy climb, up or down. I remember telling them something about what I'd seen, but I got choked up: all of a sudden I just couldn't stop crying. Jared held me—tightly and intimately. No one said anything about it afterward. I still had the ball—the compass—in my hand, though Lia had ended the simulation. She told them what I couldn't, encouraged them to hold the ball themselves and see.

She showed them what she showed me, and more, because they were more patient. Rolan watched it a few times before we finally made him give it up. The others talked about it all the way down to the Valley. Only Sephine and I were silent.

I can't be sure of the date, so I estimated. I lost track at some point. Maybe Jared or Acel knows—I'll ask them if I think of it. I suppose it doesn't matter, really.

I don't fully understand what it is I witnessed on that mountaintop. I understand the plain meaning of most of the words Lia used, the regular words, anyway, but there's a larger message here that I keep missing.

If I'm being honest, the whole idea of this "enterprise" fills me with dread—a sense of foreboding like I've never felt before. It reminds me of Thayne, really: it's all too new and alien and dangerous. I don't know what to do. We left Bountiful to look for a place to move our village, just a new place to live, away from murderers and evil men, and instead we stumbled onto some kind of lost magic that promises the very stars while answering none of our real questions. Why us? Why now? Why me?

It's all too much. It's all just too much.

12 Thanksgiving Month (1)

We gathered today for a memorial service for Mother Greta. The entire Valley was there; I met many of its people for the first time, though they all knew me already. Sephine spoke, tearfully, about Greta's life, and her dedication, and her selflessness. I wanted to listen but I couldn't help but think about the weight on my heart. It's selfish, I know. I should be grateful to Greta, who gave her life for mine, though no one would have known it but for Sephine and I telling them, who sacrificed everything she had just for the dim hope of saving her people. Shouldn't I feel the same way? I wonder now if Greta liked being a leader, or if she wished things were different. I suppose she did, at times, just as I do now. I want nothing but for things to go back to what they were: to wake up in my bed in Bountiful, before Erlan, before this pointless quest. I want to wake up and smell the eggs and bacon Sister Orton is cooking on the griddle, and hear Dallin and Airie laughing in the yard. I want to come out of my room and find Elder Orton buttoning up his vest before heading out to his workshop. I want to wake up and find that my parents never died, and I can still walk down to Brokeneck Beach with my father and hear him tell me stories about the Old People on Golden Neck.

I want. I want to want less.

12 Thanksgiving Month (2)

Jared found me in the woods, in the same little clearing Sephine led me to before I went up Tripyramid. I didn't have to tell him what was wrong. He knew, just as he always seemed to know. He just held me, at first, but before either of us knew what was happening we were kissing. His lips were hot on mine and he tasted of the wild mint that Valley people put in everything, and his arms were around me like a vise. I remember wanting him to wrap them tighter, to squeeze until I couldn't breathe anymore; maybe then I'd feel safe.

We stopped, after a while, and lay down among the little star-like flowers and looked up at the sky together. It was a beautiful day. I sent up a wish that we were back home, together like this, that we were to be married...it faded before it reached the treetops. I can't hide from this, I know that much. I've got to face it, somehow, or die trying.

Neither of us had really spoken the whole time; it was only as we walked out that Jared said something.

"Have you prayed about it?" he asked.

I'll admit I was surprised: surprised because Jared, as worthy as he is, is usually not one for prayer and reflection, and because the suggestion honestly hadn't occurred to me. When was the last time I prayed? I asked myself, not just wished for something but really reflected in reverence. It had been so many days ago that I couldn't remember exactly. I felt ashamed, and set out to right it. Half an hour later, kneeling in the field near the gazebo, I twisted my hands in frustration and felt tears coming to my eyes again. It had never been this hard, before. Why now? Why, when I need it most, did it refuse to come?

It was Sephine, in the end, that pointed me in the right direction, though she doesn't know it. I saw her, tall and pretty in the sun across the fields, and I remembered the Scriptures she gave me. Without thinking, I had transferred the little book from my pack to one of my pockets after I got down from the mountain. In hindsight that seems rather providential. I took it out, and opened it to a random page, and this is what I found:

"And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them."

It's from the Book of Isaiah. Greedily, I closed the book and opened it again, and found: "Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you."

We Blessed may be devout, but we are not a superstitious people. We don't see images of the Savior in our oatmeal, or look for the crucifixion wounds on the hands and feet and sides of our religious leaders. On any other day, had I opened that precious copy of the Scriptures to those two particular passages, I probably wouldn't have thought anything of it. But on that day, at that moment, it was exactly what I needed to hear.

Perhaps there is a place prepared for us. Perhaps it just takes a bit of faith to find it. Perhaps all my people need to get there...is someone to lead them.


THE END

of Part 1

The story is continued in Part Two of The Book of Ever, Extinction. For news and updates on The Book of Ever and other books by James Cormier, sign up for Jim's mailing list at http://www.jamesdcormier.com.    


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