The sun was high up in the sky when Jennifer woke up that Saturday morning, and she wasn’t eager to get out of bed at all. It had been a grueling week at work, her on again off again boyfriend had canceled their date at the last minute and she knew that somewhere on the coffee table in the living room, which, as usual, was covered in an unholy mess, was the receipt for the blouse she wanted to return. She didn’t understand what had possessed her to buy it in the first place: it was the wrong color and it had a very unflattering fit for her body shape, which made it pull and tug in all the wrong places, making her self-conscious.
The fact that now she had to make an extra trip to return it, if she was lucky enough to find the receipt in that mess, that is, made her gasp in exasperation. She couldn’t figure out what she could do about her life to make it more manageable, as the state of facts stood she never seemed to have enough time to catch up with it. If somebody sat Jennifer down and made her write down all the duties that she had on any given day, she would have understood that it wasn’t feasible to cram thirty six hours of activity in twenty four hours of life, especially if one had to use a few of those hours to sleep, but Jennifer would never waste her time analyzing her life like that, because she was too busy already.
That morning, however, she had decided to cut herself some slack and catch an extra hour of sleep. The sunlight bothered her and she got mad at herself for forgetting to close the curtains the night before, but she didn’t want to let this detail bother her, so she closed her eyes really tight and drew the comforter over her head.
“Are you going to sleep all day?” a voice sounded out from the other side of the room, startling her into a wretched panic. Frozen in fear, she wasn’t able to open her eyes, and she waited for the intruder to make his move, terrified by the prospect of impending death. No other sound emerged from his direction, so she wondered if she’d hallucinated the whole thing, or maybe she was still between dream and reality and didn’t realize it. The mind does play tricks like that every now and again. She opened her eyes slowly, to reassure herself that it was all in her head, and then she saw him sitting in the chair by the window, looking very bored. She instinctively pulled the comforter around herself, in an absurd gesture of self-defense.
“Please don’t be afraid, I mean you no harm,” Möbius uttered the standard phrase recommended in the operation manual for angel-human encounters, and it sounded so unconvincing, even to him, that he wished he didn’t speak at all. Jeniffer, however, seemed to be less terrified, as much as it was possible under the circumstances, so he thought to himself, what do you know, those stiffs at the nanny camp really know what they’re talking about, what a shock.
“Get out of my room,” Jennifer managed to mumble. She tried to sound forceful, but her mouth was dry with fear and the words came out with gurgling sounds due to the uncontrollable shaking.
I knew that was a mistake, Möbius blamed himself. I should have met her at a coffee shop or something. He then realized that if she was so terrified to see him before she even knew why he had shown up, breaking the news that she was, for all practical purposes, a coding error, was not conducive to improving the chances of mutual trust.
“Get out!” Jennifer picked up some nerve, encouraged by the non-aggressive demeanor. “I will call the police right now,” she threatened, playing for time to think of a way to get out of there, and since he shrugged his shoulders she figured that she might be able to dial 911 before he had a chance to approach her. The phone rang for the longest time, while her calm intruder continued to sit in his chair, and when somebody eventually picked up they explained that they don’t get involved in this sort of dispute and wished her the best of luck in resolving the situation amicably.
“Didn’t you hear what I said? There is an intruder in my room right now! Please send somebody! Hello? Hello?”
“Did he hang up on you?” Möbius asked, unperturbed. Jennifer decided to try another approach, to maybe talk her way out of there.
“Who are you? What do you want from me?” she asked.
“I am an angel,” Möbius gracefully obliged.
Oh, a mental patient, Jennifer tried to mask a sigh of relief, even though having to deal with a person who didn’t have a grasp on reality didn’t seem a whole lot safer than dealing with a sane individual intent on malfeasance. Maybe I can talk my way out of this after all, she thought.
“No, Jennifer. I’m afraid you can’t.”
He can’t possibly read my thoughts, I’m so afraid I’m making this up. Everything is going to be fine. Calm down, Jennifer! she told herself.
“Yes, please, do calm down, Jennifer, we need to talk.”
“How can you possibly know my thoughts?” She didn’t even realize whether she had asked the question in her mind or out loud, but it didn’t seem to make any difference either way.
“Well, for lack of a better explanation, I wrote them. The general outline, at least.”
This is going nowhere, Jennifer thought, and as she did she watched with surreal calm as Möbius dipped his hand into the side table as if it were made of water, and then pulled it back out.
“You were about to ask me how I got in here. Rest assured, you did lock your door. I checked after I arrived, you can never be too careful, with all the crazies out there, although right now it probably doesn’t matter all that much,” he frowned trying to figure out if that was in fact the case and didn’t seem to draw any conclusion. “Or maybe it does, I really don’t know.”
Jennifer’s mind was slow running all of the impossible scenarios that would make this bizarre circumstance possible.
I must be still asleep, that’s it. Wake up, Jennifer! Wake up, Jennifer! she closed her eyes, trying to shake herself out of this persistent nightmare.
“You know, logically speaking, if you wanted to wake yourself up you should be opening your eyes, not closing them,” he offered advice, but then he met her terrified stare and reconsidered. “Don’t mind me. Take your time.”
I’m dead! Jennifer embraced this revelation with relief, to her great surprise, baffled that she couldn’t remember the circumstances of her passing, but it made perfect sense, in fact it was the only explanation that made any sense. Oh, my God! My mother! she jumped to reach out to the latter somehow, forgetting about the stranger in her room and about the fact that if her hypothesis was true she wouldn’t be able to pick up the phone. She stumbled and stubbed her toe in the process, and got instantly aggravated about the sharp pain. I’m not supposed to feel pain anymore! Is this what the afterlife is like? I still get to feel pain? Next thing you’re going to tell me that I have to get a job!
“You are not exactly dead,” Möbius attempted an explanation.
“Technically, you are not dead.”
“Oh, so then I’m alive,” she breathed a sigh of relief.
“I wouldn’t say that either…” Möbius tried to soften the blow.
Jennifer tried to pick up the phone and her hand went through it as if it wasn’t even there.
“Obviously, I’m a ghost.”
“Would you try that again please? I thought you said you wanted to call your mother.”
Jennifer picked up the phone and dialed her mom’s number. While the phone rang she stared at the intruder as if to ask whether she was going to get her mother at the other end of the line or a perfect stranger advertising plastic garden furniture.
“You’re starting to get the hang of this,” he smiled encouragingly. “I honestly can’t answer. It’s a coin toss.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“There is a fifty-fifty chance you’ll get your mother.”
The person at the other end of the line, whoever they happened to be, in accordance with the laws of probability, did not pick up.
“You can always try your call later,” Möbius encouraged her with the impersonal pitch of an automated answering service.
“But this is not….”
“Possible? Been there, analyzed that. Apparently, if you see it happening, it is possible.” He got up.
“Well, that’s a lot to process, I’ll leave you to it. Call me if you need me, I’ll be around.”
“So, what am I supposed to do now?” she asked.
“I have absolutely no idea. I’ll think of something.”
(Mobius’ Code – Excerpt)