Expected Visitors

Dan and Jay slept on the fold-out while Bob retired to his bedroom. Jay said nothing of his visions outside. He couldn’t even decide whether Faith had been real or not. In the morning, Bob woke them for breakfast.

“Dan,” Jay asked over cereal, “have you thought about your thesis?”

“My what?”

“Your thesis. We came to Wyoming to research the Sheridanian Virgils for your Religious-Studies thesis.”

“Oh, right.” Dan pushed flakes across milk with his spoon. “Maybe the college will inspire me.”

After breakfast they walked to Bob’s truck. Jay dialed his phone. “I’ll let Ms. Lyn know we’re coming.”

“Who?” asked Bob. Dan sat in the back.

“The college’s event-coordinator. I called her at the bar to arrange our meeting.” Jay sat shotgun. Bob revved the engine and pulled out. “Hello, Ms. Lyn? Sure, I’ll hold.” Jay dated a fresh page in his notepad. Bob steered his truck toward the mountains. “Ms. Lyn? It’s Jay Diaz-Jackson.” He nodded. “Just wanted to let you know I’d arrive soon.” Jay nodded again but knotted his brow. He lowered his phone then returned it to his ear. “Could you repeat that?” Jay nodded uneasily. “Thanks. I’ll see you soon.”

“What’d she say?” asked Dan.

Jay shook his head before he hung up. “She said they’ve arrived ahead of us.”

“Who has?” asked Dan.

“She didn’t say.”

Bob drove the winding mountain roads so quickly Dan clutched himself and chewed his gloves in terror. Jay watched clouds peek over peaks like boiling cream. “Almost there!” Bob pointed to buildings dotting the mountainside. “See that lecture-hall? That’s where Virgil Blue said all the nothing!”

Bob parked with such enthusiasm Dan’s body rocked forward. As the three stepped from the truck, a woman in high-heels waved. “Mr. Jackson?”

“Diaz-Jackson, but please, call me Jay.” Jay shook her hand. “You’re Ms. Lyn?”

“Yep. Follow me.”

Ms. Lyn led Dan, Jay, and Bob onto campus. “Hey, wait,” said Bob, “this ain’t the way to the lecture-hall!”

“I couldn’t reserve the lecture-hall,” said Ms. Lyn. “I booked you a private room usually reserved for one-on-one counseling.”

Dan finally recovered from the drive. “But we’re supposed to see where Virgil Blue sat.”

“I’m sorry?” asked Ms. Lyn.

Jay explained while Ms. Lyn ushered them into an administration-building. “I think there’s been a misunderstanding. I wanted to meet you, Ms. Lyn. I wanted to discuss the Virgils of Sheridan.”

“Oh.” Ms. Lyn put her hands on her hips. “But they said they wanted to meet you.”

“The Virgils of Sheridan want to meet me?

“They called two days ago, just minutes before you did,” said Ms. Lyn. “I thought you wanted me to arrange your meeting.”

They rounded a corner. Virgil Jango Skyy sat in a school-chair attached to a tiny desk. Jay gasped and hustled to him. “Jango!” he said. “Virgil Skyy!”

L1 pictb

Jango opened his good eye and smiled at Dan, Jay, Bob, and Lyn. He stood, took his cane, and bowed his head. “Oran dora.”

“Hey, that’s one of the guys!” Bob gestured for Dan to follow. “You gotta get a selfie with this dude for your thesis!”

Jay struggled for words. “Why are you here?”

“You’re here, aren’t you?” said Jango. “There are no coincidences.”

Ms. Lyn folded her arms. “The Virgils arrived by bus half an hour ago.”

“Me and Blue. Green is busy as always.” Jango brushed wrinkles from his robes. “Jay, I hope our abrupt arrival has not caught you off-guard.”

“It’s an honor to meet you again,” said Jay, “but why?”

Jango took air through his teeth. His good eye squinted. “There’s a story,” he began, after judging the audience worthy of hearing it, “of a sage who knew how the world would end. Men climbed to the sage’s cave to ask about the apocalypse, but the sage never answered.

“One day,” continued Jango, “someone climbed to the cave and asked, ‘how will the world end?’ The sage, as usual, said nothing. They just sat facing the darkness.

“The climber repeated, ‘how will the world end?’ and again, the sage said nothing.

“The climber repeated, ‘how will the world end?’

“And the sage said, ‘the world ends when the Chain and the Wheel are one, and no souls remain to salvage. Then the eternities are over.’

“The climber was thrilled, but had to ask, ‘why answer me but no one else?’

“And the sage said, ‘because you asked three times.’ ”

Jango beamed. Dan and Jay just looked at each other. Bob cocked his head like a dog.

“Twenty years ago,” said Jango, “Faith met me as a fox on the main island of Sheridan. Ten years ago, Faith met me here at Sheridan Cliff-Side College. A week ago, Faith met me a third time.” From his sleeve, Jango produced the holiday-card which Faith had sent with Jay. He showed them the fox which Faith had drawn and signed inside. “I cannot ignore someone who meets me three times, even if the third time is only pictorially. There are no coincidences. I knew if I made the barest effort I’d find the visitors I expected. So!” He clapped his hands. “Where is Faith Featherway?”

Dan, Jay, and Bob shared a glance. “Um.” Jay put a hand over his heart. “I’m afraid Faith died days ago. She was struck by lightning.”

Jango deflated. He looked down the hall as if Faith would appear around the corner. “Impossible.”

“I’m afraid so,” said Bob. Dan wiped his eyes. “Sorry.”

Jango Skyy covered his mouth. “But the Mountain arranged this meeting.”

“I arranged this meeting,” muttered Ms. Lyn.

“The Mountain and Ms. Lyn did their best,” offered Jay. “We’re Faith’s friends and family. You’re here to hear of her death directly from us in person.”

“I suppose.” Jango rapped his cane on the floor. “Thank you.”

“Geez,” said Bob, “I’d hate to send you home empty-handed. Can I buy you a bagel?”

“Wait,” Jay interjected. “You said Virgil Blue is here? Now?”

“Yes.” Jango pointed to a nearby door. “Waiting for Faith.”

“May we interview them?”

Jango raised the eyebrow over his clear eye while squinting his cataract. “The Blue Virgil is rarely in a speaking mood.”

“Then I’ll just take pictures and Dan can take notes.” Jay shook his camera. “You can supervise us if you’d like, so we don’t disrespect the honorable Virgil.”

Jango sighed. “Nah, go on in.” He walked beside Bob. “I’ll take you up on that bagel while we wait.”

“Me too,” said Dan. They left the door to Jay.

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