Melissa sat on her favorite lakeside hill, amidst a field of daisies of such beautiful colors that it looked like a rainbow stretched across the ground. The celestial city rose up beyond the sparkling water, its spires reaching into the deep blue sky.
A warm breeze caressed Melissa’s face.
“Hello, child.” Jesus, wearing His usual wise and loving smile, strolled up the hill. He always called her child; not because of her age, whatever that was. It was simply a sign of His great love.
A trio of angels circled high above, shouting, “Glory to the One. The Alpha and Omega.”Melissa raced over and threw her arms around Jesus, just like always. Some of the others fell on their faces before Him. But not Melissa. It wasn’t out of disrespect. No. It was simply that her love for Him was so great, she had to throw her arms around Him.
A strand of hair dangled across her face. Jesus brushed it to the side. “I have a task for you.”
Her heart leapt. “The choir. You’re going to let me sing with the angelic choir? I love listening to them.”
“No. I’m sending you on a mission.”
“A mission?” Her eyes widened.
“I have a message I’d like you to deliver.”
She clapped her hands against her chest. “I’ll be your messenger?”
“I’ll be like an angel?” She looked up at the trio and a smile burst out on her face.
“No.” He spoke with the love and patience a parent would have, explaining something to a small child. “Angels are a different creation. You’re human.”
“What’s the message? Where am I going? This is so exciting!” A dozen questions rolled off her tongue.
The Lord allowed her to ramble on for a moment. Finally, He spoke. “This is the message. Remember, it’s important that you get this right.”
Melissa bounced and fidgeted.
“Listen.” He rested a hand on her shoulder.
She gazed up into His eyes. He’s sending me, a human. It must be terribly important, otherwise He’d just send an angel!
“My message is this: ‘The Lord loves you, and I forgive you.’”
It grew very quiet, as even the hillside itself seemed to be waiting for more of the message. But nothing else was said.
Is that it?
Jesus gave her a look that seemed to say, I know what you’re thinking. “Is everything all right?”
“. . . I was hoping for more.” She looked at the ground and nudged a daisy with her foot.
“But that’s the greatest message you could ever deliver.”
“Are you ready to go?”
She tipped her head and gazed up at Him. “Go where?”
“To Earth. That’s where you’ll be delivering the message.”
Her mouth dropped open. “But I’ve never been to Earth. At least, not since I came here.”
“You’ll do fine.” Jesus smiled. “Plans have been set in motion. You’ll be taken care of.”
“But you usually send angels to Earth.”
Was it her imagination, or did Jesus hesitate before answering? “This time, I’m sending you.”
Melissa leapt forward and threw her arms around Jesus’ neck. “This is wonderful! Exciting!”
“Child.” The Lord spoke with a loving firmness. “Remember.” He gently pulled her away and stared into her eyes. “This is going to be all new . . .”
“Yes. And exciting. But remember your mission. And when you need help, I’ll be there. Can you remember that?”
The Lord gave her further instructions. For several minutes, He shared things she would have to know. But His voice was soon drowned out by one single thought. Earth! I’ve always wanted to go there; always wanted to see where I came from. Others have memories of Earth, but not me. Now I’ll see it for myself.
“I said, can you remember that?” the Lord patted her shoulder.
She shook herself back from her daydreaming. Jesus was staring at her, waiting for an answer. She nodded. Then, once again, she threw her arms around His neck and hugged. “Thank you for choosing me. I won’t let you down.”
“I know you won’t. Are you ready to go?”
“Now? Right now?”
“Yes. It’s time.”
Her heart raced. “I’m ready.”
Jesus took her by the shoulders, and backed her a step away from Him. “Remember. ‘The Lord loves you. I forgive you.’ It’s important for you to remember that exact message.”
“I remember! I promise!”
As He spoke, the world began to dissolve. “The Lord loves you.”
Colors twisted together.
“I forgive you.”
Sound and sight merged.
The Lord faded.
The sky faded.
Everything around her faded.
Until it was all gone.
Dr. Henry Winters was following his morning routine: a quick jog before breakfast, which always consisted of toast, poached eggs, and a glass of orange juice. Then he’d sit in his study and go through yesterday’s mail. Most people would come home after a hard day’s work and take care of this chore right way, but not him. Once he left the Center, he liked to put all work behind him and devote a couple of hours to his wife.
“Bill, bill, junk . . . ” He flipped through the stack, separating it into piles of important, not important, and throw right out. One envelope was addressed with big block letters . No return label. That would usually place it in the junk pile. But his address was handwritten. He gave it a wary look. It might contain a white powder.
All those post-9/11 stories of poisoned mail.
Finally, using a small letter opener, he gingerly sliced through the seal. He took a deep breath and held it. Dangling the envelope at arm’s length, he peered inside for any hazardous or dangerous material. Nothing. He held the envelope on end and shook. A letter fell to the desk. He unfolded it. The words were written in the same big block lettering as the address on the envelope. As he read, his jaw tightened. “Murderer. I’m watching you. You will pay for your crimes.”
He shrugged his shoulders. Just some nut job blowing off a little steam. Nothing to worry about. In his line of work, he got hate mail all the time. Crazies and ultra-conservatives all had a vendetta against him, but it never amounted to anything more than an occasional letter and dirty looks.
He picked up the envelope to crumple and trash, and a 3X5 photo fell out.
How’d I miss that?
He scooped it up off the floor. His eyebrows rose. It was a picture of him and his wife, relaxing in the backyard by their pool. The particular day the picture was taken, it was oppressively hot and they had decided on what he had laughingly called ‘alternative beach apparel.’ Which basically meant skinny dipping. He blushed slightly. He’d assumed they were safe from prying eyes. Two adults, enjoying a relaxing afternoon in their own backyard. Then the lines between his eyebrows deepened. He clenched his teeth. Someone was watching us. How dare they invade our privacy?
He scrutinized the picture. “How did someone . . . ”
The backyard was surrounded by tall hedges. Impossible for someone with a telescopic lens to take this picture from a far distance.
Whoever did this had to be in one of the neighbor’s yards. Yet, the only one close enough to get this shot belonged to a retired judge. Not the kind of person to risk incarceration on charges of being a Peeping Tom. Besides, the man was well into his eighties.
Don’t think he’s up to the task.
Doctor Winters smirked at the image of the octogenarian battling through the privacy hedges with a machete.
“What are you looking at?”
He jumped at his wife’s voice. The tall blonde entered the room, walked over to the window and opened the blinds. The brilliance of the sunlight outlined her shapely body.
“Nothing,” he tried to sound nonchalant. “Just some mail.” He slid open the top drawer of his desk and swept the envelope and its contents inside.
His wife walked behind him and kissed the top of his head. “Don’t take too long. You don’t want to be late for work.”
She strolled out the study door. After a few seconds, Dr. Winters pulled the picture back out. Something else on it caught his eye, or more appropriately, his fingers. A smudge or stain of some kind. He held the photo close and squinted. A reddish-brown line was drawn across both their faces.
“Reddish-brown. Like dried . . .” The muscles in his neck tensed. Maybe this is more than a harmless crackpot.