On Wednesday morning, the headline on the H.S. L-1378-55 Student's Newsletter declared:
"SECOND DEAD STUDENT RESURRECTS!"
Beneath the headline two photos were printed. The one on the left showed the inside of the Yeshiva High Gym, after Sunday's game had ended. The picture framed Louise Torelli, lying lifeless on the floor; with a wide, deep, fatal gash between her bare breasts. Beneath the photo were the words:
"Among the wounded: 3:30 PM. Sunday".
The photo on the right showed a smiling Louise, standing alive in the crowd at the Glad He Ate Her Lounge. She had her hands on her hips. Her breasts were naked, with no sign of any wound between them. Beneath this photo were the words:
"Among the wounded: 3:30 PM Monday."
Larry asked Sarah and Louise, "Aren't you two afraid, that you're gonna get into trouble with Avery for this?"
Sarah told him, "We expect to get called into Avery's office any time now."
Neither of them was called to the Principal's office that day. They weren't asked to speak with him on Thursday either.
On Friday morning, just before 3rd Period Gym Class, Louise entered the Girl's Locker Room. Before she could change into her shorts and sneakers, Mrs. Ramierez came over to her.
She said, "Would you please come into my office Louise. There's something I'd like to talk to you about."
Louise followed the Gym Teacher into her office, on the side of the locker room. Mrs. Ramierez shut the door behind them.
The girl asked, "I'm not gonna be banned from the Team, and have my family's extra rations taken away, like happened to Karen Bennet, am I?"
"That is under discussion, but no decision has yet been made.
"Louise." The woman told her, "It looks like you, Karen Bennet and I have all had the same experience."
"The same?" Louise asked, "You've been resurrected too?"
"Yes. 22 years ago." The woman told her, "I was among the multitude of Jephthahn Warrior girls and guys, who died in sacrificial Combat Games at the 13th Centennial Commemoration of the Final Sealing of the City Building."
"Yeah, I've heard about that." Louise told her, "I've heard that there were mass immolations going on, on every Level of the City Building that night."
"Yes. A glorious time was had by all. I was chosen to be among a dozen pair of Warrior Guys and Girls, who fought to the death in elimination rounds. In the first round, all 12 pairs fought; and I killed my opponent. In the second round, six pair fought, and I also killed my opponent. Then in the next round my third opponent killed me, with a sword through my heart."
Louise told her, "Then you were as dead as me and Karen."
"Exactly. I expected to be partying in Paradise, among the thousands of Warrior Guys and Girls who were sacrificed that night, while our meat was cooked and eaten by our fellow Jephthahns."
"Yours obviously wasn't, Mrs. Ramierez."
"Yes, 'obviously'. There was also more to the Games, than just the combat sacrifices. Once all the Sacred Combat Games ended, every Warrior Guy and Girl who didn't die received a full scholarship to any Jephthahn School of Higher Education they chose. Along with that, their families received triple rations, for the full length of time that were covered by those scholarships."
"A full scholarship? Triple rations for the full length of time?"
"That's why I volunteered to take part in the Elimination Rounds that night Louise.
"Well, about a half hour after the Game; the bodies of all of us who'd died were picked up by some of our fellow Jephthahns. They brought us to the Temple Arena's kitchen, where our meat would be prepared for the feast in the dining area. When they got to me and picked up my body, I started breathing. I was alive and unwounded."
"This sounds very weird," Louise said, "but it's also starting to sound too familiar."
"Listen Louise', her teacher said, "During the time that I was dead, I heard the voice of God.
"He told me, 'This is not your time to enter Paradise. When you Jephthahns leave the City Building, you will be the Chief Priestess, and you will provide a place for them to worship me beneath the open sky, when the moon and the stars are shining.'
"'Beneath the open sky'?"
"After I revived, I also received the same full scholarship, as the Warrior Guys and Girls who didn't get sacrificed."
"Oh, now I see what you're getting at."
"If a decision is made, to ban you from this School's Combat Team, and take away your family's extra rations, I will recommend to the Jephthahn Priesthood, that you be allowed to take part in the next Jephthahn Scholarship Rounds of Combat. All the Warriors who aren't sacrificed will receive full scholarships to any Jephthahn School of Higher Education. The score you already achieved, on your college entrance exam, will be enough to qualify you for admission to any Jephthahn Institution; along with the same triple rations deal."
"I thought that those scholarships were reserved for Warrior Guys and Girls who are official members of the Jephthahn Religion."
"You are welcome to convert at any time Louise."
"Thank you Mrs. Ramierez. I'll wait to see whether or not my extra rations are taken away. If they are, I'll think it over."
"That's what I'd expect you to do. There is no rush. Take all the time you want."
Louise spent all day thinking it over.
What she was thinking was "I can get that scholarship, if I agree to be one of 24 Warrior Guys and Girls who'll fight to the death in elimination rounds. How many rounds would I have to survive? Is that the only way I can get a scholarship? Would I come back a second time, like Karen did? Or Mrs. Ramierez?"
On Friday evening, around 6:30 PM, Louise hurried into the Glad He Ate Her, which was as crowded as usual. Alyce and Jimmy were already there, sharing a booth with Larry and Sarah.
Louise came down the steps, and hurried through the crowd to their booth.
"Sarah." She spoke before she even sat down. "Get ready to make journalistic history. This time the world really is about to turn upside down, and you'll be first reporter on the scene."
Larry asked, "What's this, another vision?"
"Not a vision." She told her friends, "A phone call."
She slid into the booth beside Alyce and Jimmy. Then she took out her multi-tasker, put it on the table, and switched on her cell phone.
"Now listen to this." She told them.
She turned on the amplifier, and a recorded voice spoke.
"Hello Louise. This is David Krendell."
Now everyone in the booth leaned toward the cell phone. They continued listening to Dave's recorded voice.
"Karen and I are back in that place we told you about. Weehawken."
Larry repeated, "Weehawken?"
"We have other people with us. They've been given official authority to enter the City Building, but it's like I told you, the airlock can't be opened from the outside. We need someone on the inside to open it for us.
"Please give me a call as soon as you can."
The recording clicked off.
"You're right Louise." Sarah spoke. "The world really is about to turn upside down."
Jimmy said, "Or get blown to bits."
"Don't exaggerate Jimmy." Louise said, "All that's gonna happen, is that three dozen people are gonna be contributed to the food supply."
Alyce asked, "Have you called Dave back? What did he say?"
"I haven't called yet."
Louise now picked up her multi-tasker, dialed Dave's number, put the device to her ear and waited.
Then she heard Dave's voice. He sounded tense. "Hi. Louise?"
"Hello Dave. What's going on? You're allowed to get back inside now?"
"We can, but we need your help."
"Just who do you mean by 'we'?"
"Well there's me and Karen of course. Then there's a clergyman from Zabelton, Pennsylvania."
"Yes his name's Domnick Luzak."
"Pastor Domnick Luzak?"
Larry asked, "What does that mean?"
Louise told him, "I wasn't hallucinating. It was a true vision."
Dave spoke again; "He wants to talk to you."
Now a man with a voice that she'd heard before spoke over the phone. "Miss Torelli?"
"I am Pastor Domnick Luzak, from Zabelton, Pennsylvania. I've come to speak with the Government of the City of Manhattan Building. It concerns the future of both the people outside the City Building, and those inside the City Building itself. According to your friends, Mr. David Krendell and Miss Karen Bennet, we are going to need your help, to enter the City Building."
"Yes Pastor Luzak."
Louise looked at Jimmy and said, "We have to let them in. It's too important not to take the risk."
"Okay." He shrugged. "We're a Warrior Team. We always contribute more than three dozen people to the food supply, every other weekend anyway."
She again spoke to the Pastor. "Can I talk to Dave?"
"Yes Miss Torelli."
In a moment, Dave was back on the line. "What is it Louise?"
"Dave. It's after 6:30 in the evening. I don't know what time it is out there, and I don't know how long it'll take for me to get to you. I also don't know exactly how to get to you."
"It's okay Louise. It's getting late out here too. I'll give you directions now, and in the morning we'll be waiting for you, just outside the airlock."
Now Louise spoke softly. "I love you Dave."
There was a silence at the other end.
She asked, "Did you hear what I just said?"
"Yes." He spoke with hesitation. "I heard what you said."
"Is Karen standing there, right next to you?"
"Yes. She's right here."
"Okay. We'll discuss it, when I see you tomorrow."
Dave then gave her detailed directions, telling her exactly how to get to where he and the Delegation would be waiting.
Then she told him, "That's an awful long trip. It could take all morning to reach you."
"Right. So give me a call when you get to the fire doors on Level 10. It took me and Karen about two hours, to get from there to the airlock. So I'll say good-bye now."
She again said softly. "I love you Dave."
His cell phone clicked off.
Then Louise told her friends at the table, "I'm gonna be getting up very early tomorrow morning. Maybe 5:30. I'll be going down to open the airlock for Dave and Karen, and this Pastor Luzak, and anyone else they might have come with. Would any of you like to come along, and take part in one of the most important moments in history; or do you plan to go shopping instead, like last time?"
Larry said, "Well Jim and I had planned to go to one of the Amusement Centers on Level 700. They got a place where you can watch them shoot string bikini tops off women, with crossbows."
Sarah snapped at him. "Larry!"
"It's a Lottery. Takes place every Saturday at noon. You bet on the ones who you'd like to see get nailed. If you get at least four right, it starts paying off."
Jimmy added, "It's ten girls out of 100 who die, and the Lottery Girls who don't get nailed, get paid really good."
Sarah said, "I don't believe it! You two are passing up..."
Larry chuckled, "We're just kidding."
"That's good to know."
Jimmy said, "But if we can get things done early..."
By 7 AM the following morning, Louise, Alyce and Sarah had boarded the express elevator on Level 1380, along with Jimmy and Larry. They'd all dressed in rugged pants and shoes, and wore their yellow and green High School L-1378-55 jackets. Following Dave's directions, they rode the elevator up two stops, to Level 1400. Then they boarded the super express elevator, going down, stopping at every 100th Level.
When they reached Level 700, several full-breasted women, wearing string bikini tops, were among the people who disembarked.
Larry asked Louise, "Are you sure we won't be done by noontime?"
Now Alyce shouted, "Hey guys!"
The elevator continued its long, slow descent. They finally reached Level 10, just after 8:30. From there they had to walk along 39th street. That was when Louise took the multi-tasker out of her handbag, dialed Dave's number and put it to her ear.
After waiting a few rings, she finally spoke. "Hi Dave. Louise here. I'm with Alyce, Jimmy, Larry and Sarah. We've just arrived on Level 10, near the west end of 39th Street. Yeah. I can see the fire doors from here. We're about a block away."
She listened for a few moments. Then she said, "You've got to be kidding."
Louise told the other four, "This Pastor Luzak wants to know if there's anyone from the Government with us."
Larry asked, "Anyone from the Government?"
"Something about being greeted officially."
"Greeted officially? We're just high school kids. Who do we know in the Government?"
Jimmy said, "We know Avery."
Alyce and Sarah spoke in unison. "You're kidding!"
"Well he knows people on the School Board, and that's part of the Government."
Larry asked, "What do you want us to go back and fetch Avery?"
Now Louise spoke into her cell phone. "Sorry Dave. It's just us."
She listened a little more. Then she said, "According to my watch it's 8:43. Okay. We're on our way."
She hung up, putting the multi-tasker back in her handbag.
They began walking toward the fire doors at the end of the street.
"According to Dave," Louise told them, "it should take us about two hours from here, until we get to them."
Larry said, "Then we definitely won't be getting back before noontime."
Now all three girls groaned.
They went through the fire doors, leaving everything they were familiar with behind them. They began descending the dimly lit, damp, chilly, gray stairwell. As they descended further, along the now foul smelling flights of stairs, the sounds of the City Building diminished gradually, until they became a soft buzz far above them.
Alyce said, "I've never been in a place this quiet before."
Jimmy said, "Or a place this putrid. I can't believe this stench."
Louise told him, "Dave said we'd be going past the City Building's waste treatment facilities."
Larry said, "You mean we passed up watching those girls in bikini tops, get arrows shot through their boobs, for this?"
"Larry." Louise told him, "We are taking part in one of the major events in history. Someday everything we say and do may be dramatized for the world to see and hear, and that's what you're talking about?"
Alyce made a gagging sound.
She said, "I want to go back!"
Sarah, Larry and Jimmy agreed with her.
Louise said, "We can't go back! We've got Dave and Karen and people who've come for talks with the Government! They're waiting for us to open the airlock! You're all Combat Team Warriors, so stop being such a bunch of wussies!"
Larry asked, "Did Krendell say how many people it takes, to actually open the airlock?"
"Then all they need is you Louise. As for me, I'm heading up to Level 700."
Jimmy said, "So am I. There's still plenty of time for us to get there before noon."
Alyce and Sarah decided to go with their boyfriends, up to Level 700.
The four of them went up the steps, while Louise continued her descent.
She thought, I'm completely alone. For the first time in my life, I'm totally by myself. No crowd is nearby. There's not one other individual on these fire steps. This is so strange. I think I'm supposed to be upset by this, but I'm not? It actually feels good?
Then she thought, This is what our ancestors called "privacy". I like it. I feel very comfortable this way.
Why am I comfortable with nobody else around?
I know. If nobody else is around, there's nobody here who can kill me. As long as I stay out here on these fire steps, I won't be killed; or at least I probably won't. But why would anybody in his right mind want to stay out here, any longer than absolutely necessary?
On the other hand, while I'm out here, I might be killed in an accident. Then nobody will know about it, and it won't be reported to the Meat Patrol. They won't come to collect my meat, and it'll all just rot away from my bones.
What'd be even worse, is if I have an accident, but I'm not killed; just severely injured.
I'll have to be more careful while I'm out here.
She reached Level 1. The stench was gone, and far above her.
She continued following Dave's directions, and entered the Lincoln Tunnel. She moved along through the shivery cold, black silence, with only the light from her single multi-tasker illuminating the way. Unlike the fire stairs, this was scary. She couldn't see her feet as she walked. She might step into something that would make her trip and fall, and cause some severe injury.
Here in this darkness, she didn't want to be alone. She wanted someone walking beside her. Anyone.
She thought, I'm on my way to meet Dave. Once I get to the end of this total darkness, I'll find him. Then he and I can return together, and this tunnel won't seem as dark as it does now.
She continued walking, and walking, and walking. Her flashlight showed a sign on the wall:
New York""""New Jersey
The halfway point. She thought, The end of this darkness is closer than I thought.
She continued walking through the darkness, until the light from her multi-tasker showed the tunnel wall ahead of her, beginning to turn to her left. She checked her watch. It really had been almost two hours since she'd gone through the fire doors.
She sighed, "It's gonna take me a lot longer to get back, but Dave'll be with me."
Then she finally reached the wall blocking the Tunnel's exit, and came over to the airlock.
Louise smacked the green "OPEN" button, and the door slid open sideways, filling the darkness with a bright, yellow glow, revealing the fully clothed skeletons on the tunnel floor.
She entered the brightly-lit chamber, and heard voices on the opposite side of the outer door.
Louise called out, "Dave?"
She heard a muffled voice, "Miss Torelli?"
"I'm Pastor Luzak. Will you please open the door? It's raining!"
She tapped the "OPEN" button inside the chamber, and the outer door slid open sideways.
The damp coldness was replaced by damp warmth and the silence by the sound of pattering rain.
Four people stood in the doorway, dressed in rugged garments. They all held objects above their heads, to shield themselves from the rain. Louise had seen those objects called "umbrellas" before, in old movies.
In the center of the group was a man in his early forties, who Louise recognized from her vision. He was Pastor Domnick Luzak. Dave and Karen stood beside him. There was also another girl with them, around Karen's age. Louise recognized her from the vision, as Charlene.
Behind them were men in uniforms, also carrying umbrellas.
After a moment, the Pastor, Dave, Karen and Charlene, hurried through the airlock into the Tunnel. Then they folded their umbrellas. The men in uniform remained outside
"You're alone?" The Pastor asked, "Are you the welcoming committee?"
"I am for now." She told him. "The other four whimped out. They and I are the only people who know you're here; at least for now."
Then Dave spoke, "Louise!"
She ran up to Dave, threw her arms around him tight, and kissed him passionately, while he held her tight in his arms.
"Oh Dave!" She said, "I've missed you so much."
They continued holding each other tight.
Karen stood a few steps away from the two, with her arms folded in front of her. She looked at Charlene, who stood by her side.
Charlene told her, "You said you were betrothed."
"In Zabelton," Karen told her, "there's time to be betrothed. Back here in the City Building, there's no time to waste."
"Well she's sure not wasting any."
The sound of a loud beeping came from inside the airlock.
Dave and Louise let go of each other, Domnick and Charlene turned toward the beeping sound.
Dave said, "That means that the 'Environmental Sanction' has been activated again." He asked Louise, "Did you check it out like I asked, and found out what that means?"
"Yes Dave." She told him, "It means that I've just made a very large, anonymous contribution to the food supply."
"Oh." He smiled. Then he called out, "Karen! We're home!"