Dan and Jay slept on the fold-out couch while Bob retired to his bedroom. Jay said nothing to Dan of the visions he’d seen outside. Jay could not even decide whether he had actually met Faith, or if his mind conjured her image because he’d smoked a bug-stick.
In the morning Bob woke them both with bowls of cereal. “The college is a short drive away.”
“Dan,” Jay asked over the cereal, “have you thought about your thesis?”
“Your thesis. We came to Wyoming to investigate the Sheridanian Virgils, so you could write your Religious Studies thesis.”
“Oh, right.” Dan pushed floating flakes across his milk with a spoon. “Maybe visiting the college will give me some inspiration.”
When they finished breakfast they walked to Bob’s truck. Jay pulled out his phone. “I’ll call Ms. Lyn to tell her we’ll be there soon.”
“Who?” asked Bob. Dan sat in the back.
“The college event coordinator. We arranged to discuss the Virgils today.” Jay held the phone to his ear and sat shotgun. Bob revved the engine and pulled onto the road. “Hello, Ms. Lyn? Yes, I’ll hold.”
As Jay waited he pulled his notepad and pen from his pocket and found a fresh page. He dated it at the top. Bob steered his truck towards the mountains.
“Hello, Ms. Lyn?” Jay asked again. “Yes, it’s me, Jay Diaz-Jackson. I called you the day before yesterday to ask if we could meet.” He nodded at Ms. Lyn’s response. “I should arrive soon. Just wanted to let you know.” Jay nodded again, then knotted his brow. He lowered his phone in thought, then returned it to his ear. “I’m sorry, could you repeat that?” Jay nodded slowly and uneasily. “Thank you for your help. I’ll see you soon.”
“What did she say?” asked Dan.
Jay stared at his phone’s screen and shook his head before he hung up. “She said we’ve got company, and they’ve arrived ahead of us.”
Bob drove so quickly up the winding mountain road that Dan clutched the truck-door. He removed one of his black gloves and chewed his fingertips in terror. The speed didn’t bother Jay, who was only anxious about the company they would meet at Sheridan Cliff-Side College. He watched white clouds peek over peaks like boiling cream.
“We’re almost there!” Bob pointed to buildings dotting the mountainside. “You see that big lecture hall with the clock-tower? That’s the one! That’s where Virgil Blue said all that nothing!”
Bob parked with such enthusiasm Dan’s body rocked forward. Jay’s gaze was fixed on the distance. As he stepped from the truck, a woman in high-heels walked up waving an arm. “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 the campus. “Hey, wait,” said Bob, “aren’t we looking for the lecture hall? We’re walking the wrong way.”
“I couldn’t reserve the lecture hall,” said Ms. Lyn. “I managed to book you into a private room usually reserved for one-on-one counseling.”
Dan finally recovered his color from Bob’s blanch-inducing drive. “But we’re supposed to see where Virgil Blue sat.”
“I’m sorry?” asked Ms. Lyn.
“I think there’s been a misunderstanding.” Jay explained while Ms. Lyn ushered them into an administration building. “I wanted to meet you, Ms. Lyn. I wanted to discuss the Virgils of Sheridan.”
“Oh.” Ms. Lyn put her hands on her hips in consideration. “But they said they wanted to see you.”
“The Virgils of Sheridan wanted to see me?”
“They called minutes after you did,” said Ms. Lyn. “I assumed you wanted me to arrange your meeting.”
They rounded a corner and Ms. Lyn pointed down the hall. Virgil Jango Skyy waited patiently, sitting in a school-chair attached to a tiny desk with his hands in his lap. His cane leaned on the wall beside him. Jay gasped and hustled to Jango holding his notepad to his chest. “Virgil!” he said. “Virgil Skyy!”
Jango opened his good eye and smiled at Dan, Jay, Bob, and Lyn. Without a word he stood, took his cane, and bowed his head.
“Hey, that’s one of the guys,” Bob said several seconds late. He followed Jay and gestured for Dan to join. “You’re writing a thesis, right? You gotta get a selfie with this dude.”
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 as she approached the group. “The Virgils arrived by bus only half an hour ago.”
“The Virgils?” Jay looked at the door beside Jango. “How many are here?”
“All both of us. Me and Blue.” Jango brushed wrinkles from his sky-blue robes. “Jay, I hope our abrupt arrival has not caught you at a bad time.”
“It’s an honor to meet you again,” said Jay, “but why?”
Jango took air through his teeth. His good eye scrutinized Jay, and Dan, and Bob, and Lyn, as if judging their worth. “There is a story,” he began, “of a sage who knew how the world would end. This sage lived in a cave, and men would climb to the cave to ask the sage how the world would end. But the sage would never answer.
“One day,” continued Jango, “someone climbed into the cave and asked, ‘great sage, how will the world end?’ And the sage, as usual, said nothing. They just sat facing the cave’s rear.
“And the climber repeated, ‘great sage, how will the world end?’ and again the sage said nothing.
“And the climber repeated, ‘great sage, how will the world end?’
“And the sage turned and said, ‘the world will end when the Chain and the Wheel are one, and there are no souls left to salvage. Then the Eternities are over.”
“The climber was thrilled, but had to ask: ‘why did you answer me, when you answered no one else?’
“And the sage said, ‘because you asked three times.’”
Jango beamed from ear to ear. Dan and Jay just looked at one another. Bob cocked his head like a curious 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, when the moon was fullest, Faith met me on the main island of Sheridan once more.” Jango produced, from his sleeve, the card which Faith had sent with Jay. He opened the card to display the fox 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 that if I made the barest effort, I would find the visitors I expected. So!” He clapped his hands joyously. “Where is Faith? Where is the one foretold?”
Dan and Jay and Bob shared a glance. “Um.” Jay put one hand over his heart. “I’m afraid Faith died just a few days ago. She was struck by lightning.”
Jango’s expression deflated. He looked down the hallway as if Faith would appear from around a corner. “Impossible.”
“I’m afraid so,” said Bob. Dan wiped his eyes dry. “Sorry you came all this way for nothing.”
Jango Skyy covered his mouth. “But the Mountain must have arranged this meeting.”
“I arranged this meeting,” muttered Ms. Lyn.
“The Mountain didn’t do too badly,” offered Jay. “We’re Faith’s friends and family. You’re here to hear of Faith’s death directly from us, in person.”
“I suppose.” Jango rapped his cane on the floor. “Thank you.”
“Geez,” said Bob. “Can I buy you a bagel? I’d hate to send you home empty-handed.”
“Wait,” Jay interjected. “You said Virgil Blue was here? Now?”
“Yes, right here.” Jango pointed to the nearby door. “Waiting for Faith.”
“May I interview them?”
Jango raised the eyebrow over his clear eye while squinting his cataract. “I doubt Virgil Blue is in a speaking mood. The Blue Virgil is rarely in a speaking mood.”
“Then I’ll just take pictures.” Jay shook his camera. “You can supervise me, if you’d like, so I don’t disrespect the honorable Virgil.”
Jango sighed. “Nah, just go on in.” He lingered beside Bob. “I’ll take you up on that bagel while we wait.”