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 he’d actually met Faith or hallucinated it. In the morning Bob woke them for breakfast.
“Dan,” Jay asked over cereal, “have you thought about your thesis?”
“Your thesis. We came to Wyoming to research the Sheridanian Virgils for your Religious Studies thesis.”
“Oh, right.” Dan pushed floating flakes across his milk with a 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 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? Yes, I’ll hold.”
As Jay waited he pulled out his notepad and pen and dated a fresh page. Bob steered his truck toward the mountains.
“Hello, Ms. Lyn? I’m Jay Diaz-Jackson. I called you the day before yesterday to ask if we could meet.” He nodded. “I should arrive soon. Just wanted to let you know.” Jay nodded again, then knotted his brow. He lowered his phone, then returned it to his ear. “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 shook his head before he hung up. “She said they’ve arrived ahead of us.”
“Who has?” asked Dan.
“She didn’t say.”
Then Bob took a turn so quickly up the winding mountain road that Dan clutched the truck-door and chewed his gloves in terror. Jay watched white clouds peek over peaks like boiling cream. “Almost there!” Bob pointed to buildings dotting the mountainside. “See the lecture hall with the clock-tower? That’s where Virgil Blue said all that nothing!”
Bob parked with such enthusiasm Dan’s body rocked forward. As the three 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 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 in 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.
“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. “But they said they wanted to meet you.”
“The Virgils of Sheridan want to meet me?”
“They called two days ago, minutes before you did,” said Ms. Lyn. “I thought you wanted me to arrange your meeting.”
They rounded a corner. Virgil Jango Skyy sat with his hands in a school-chair attached to a tiny desk. Jay gasped and hustled to Jango. “Virgil!” he said. “Virgil Skyy!”
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,” said Bob. He gestured for Dan to follow. “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. “The Virgils arrived by bus only half an hour ago.”
“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 squinted at each of them. “There is a story,” he began, after judging them worthy of hearing it, “of a sage who knew how the world would end. Men would climb to the sage’s cave to ask how the world would end. But the sage would never answer.
“One day,” continued Jango, “someone climbed to the cave and asked, ‘great sage, how will the world end?’ and the sage, as usual, said nothing. They just sat facing the darkness.
“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 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 did you answer me, when you answered no one else?’
“And the sage said, ‘because you asked three times.’”
Jango beamed ear to ear. 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 on the main island of Sheridan a third time.” Jango produced, from his sleeve, the card which Faith had sent with Jay. He showed 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 a hand over his heart. “I’m afraid Faith died just days ago. She was struck by lightning.”
Jango deflated. He looked down the hallway 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 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.” Jango pointed to the 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 me, if you’d like, so I don’t disrespect the honorable Virgil.”
Jango sighed. “Nah, go on in.” He lingered beside Bob. “I’ll take you up on that bagel while we wait.”
“Me, too,” said Dan. They left Jay to the door.