Set sixty years after “Humans Untied” the story begins with the death of Beatrice Michaelson, the last of the Michaelson sisters. Her great-grandson, Paul, raised in the Independent Christian State, which has become a backwater pariah of territories on New Earth, travels to Casiti to attend the funeral. He meets more of his famous family, and begins a journey that will change his life permanently.
Follow him and his cousins Ke’lir and Glor, as well as a family on Hilcyon, descended from those touched by Beatrice during her time there, as they stumble through another interaction between Casitians and Kinder, the foundational conflict keeping humans out of the Galactic Community.
Independent Christian State, New Earth, November 27, 2103
Paul sat in the back of the church, fidgeting. This was, by far, his least favorite time of year. Starting with Thanksgiving week, which was full of fasting, and praying, and a service every single day, then on to Advent and Christmas, his family was basically in church every day for more than a month. He hated it.
Everyone rose, and he followed suit.
The pastor intoned, “We have sinned against God, and have been banished from Heaven.”
The congregation answered, “Forgive us, oh Father.”
The pastor said, “It is only by being pure, that we can return.”
“Help us, oh Father, to be pure.”
“When we die, pure and sinless, we will return to Earth.”
“Help us, oh Father, to remain pure until death…”
He knew the prayer. It was said in every service, and at every occasion, such as funerals and weddings. The expectation was that if you lived your life in purity, when you died, you would get to go back to Earth. He stopped repeating the words years ago.
When he was young, Paul had been very interested in theology until he ran into a wall once, talking to his father, when he was about ten.
“I’m confused about something.”
“What is it, son?”
“Why is it that we believe that people get to go to Earth after they die?”
“Because that is where God is.”
“But I thought God was in heaven.”
“Earth became heaven, son. God is there.”
“When we were on Earth, where was heaven? Why don’t we still go there?”
His father looked at him sternly. “Son, Earth is heaven, and we sinned, and were banished here.”
“Stop asking me stupid questions and listen to the pastor, alright?”
After that conversation, Paul lost whatever little faith he’d had that what he’d been taught resembled the truth. It wasn’t even logical. And every time he listened to this prayer being intoned just made that more clear.
Finally, the service was over. He got up, and left the church building, making his way home. As he was walking, he heard steps behind him. He turned to see his older brother Matthew looking at him.
Paul said, “What?”
“Why don’t you sit up front with the family anymore?”
“I like sitting in the back.” Paul slowed his steps to walk alongside his brother.
“I worry about your soul, brother.”
“Go ahead, worry away. I’m not.”
Matthew shook his head, and went back to walk with the other family members.
When he arrived back at the house, just ahead of the rest of the family, he saw the stout frame and dark brown hair of his mother’s cousin Re’liro. He was talking to Ke’lir, his daughter, who was a few years older than Paul.
“Re’liro!” Paul said with a smile. He was happy to see him. They hugged.
“Paul, you certainly have grown since I saw you a few years ago! You remember my daughter, Ke’lir?”
“Hi, yes I do.” They hugged as well.
“Re’liro! What are you doing here?” Paul turned upon hearing his mother’s angry voice.
Re’liro said calmly, “hello, Julia.”
“I asked you, what are you doing here? You don’t belong in the ICS. I tolerate your presence when you travel with grandmother, but now…”
Paul could see his mother’s hands balled up in fists.
Re’liro said, “It is grandmother I am here about.”
“What happened?” His mother seemed even more taut, if that were possible.
“She died yesterday. It was not unexpected. She was old, you know.”
Julia said, “So why bother to come all the way here?”
“Ke’lir and I are on our way to New Orleans, to meet Zrel, Joan and their family, and Kira and Khalid and their kids. We’ll all travel together. We wanted to tell you in person, and also welcome you and your whole family to come with us to the funeral. I’ve even arranged for all of your tickets to Casiti.”
“You already know that I would not set foot on that evil planet!”
“Julia, you were born there.”
“That doesn’t matter. We’re not going.”
“Julia, the whole family is gathering. I mean absolutely everyone. Beatrice was the last of her generation, and we need to honor that. Isn’t it time you mended…”
“There is nothing to mend nor honor! Please go on your way.”
Re’liro shrugged. “OK, as you wish. You and your family will be missed.” Re’liro and Ke’lir got up.
Paul got an impulsive thought. “Wait!” Paul yelled a bit louder than he wanted to.
Julia looked at him sharply. “Paul, go in the house with your brother and sister and start preparations for the break of our fast, please.”
Paul said, “I want to represent our family at the funeral.”
Paul’s father’s face hardened into a mask, and Julia said sternly, “You will do no such thing.”
“Mother, I turned 16 three months ago. According to the Church, I am an adult. Re’liro, can I come with you?”
His mother shouted, “No! I will in no way support this.”
Paul turned to his mother, “It’s my decision. My choice. I want to go.”
Paul’s father gripped his upper arm, and said quietly, “If you leave this house with those heathen, you will never be welcome in it again.”
It didn’t take Paul long to make the decision. He shook off his father.
“Re’liro, please wait a few minutes while I gather some things.”
“Of course, Paul.”
As he walked to his room, he could feel his father following him. When they arrived, his father closed the door.
“Son, you are making a huge mistake. It could cost you your soul.”
Paul turned toward his father as he said, “You and Matthew seem to be so worried about my soul. Don’t bother.”
“We have insulated you from the wretched evil of the Casitians. You can’t stand on your own in the face of it.”
Paul could feel his anger growing. “Dad, I’ve heard enough about it from you and everyone. It’s time for me to see for myself, and make my own decisions. I know that you and Mom don’t respect our family, and its legacy, but I do. I loved great-grandmother Beatrice—I want to be at the funeral.”
“What kind of legacy is it if it caused us this destiny? It is the great sin of your family.”
“Dad, enough! I’m going. Let me just go, please?”
“I will morn you as lost.” He turned and left, closing the door behind him.
Paul gathered a few personal belongings that he wanted to keep. He figured that he’d never set foot in this house again. There was no sadness, nor regret. He had been working up to this for a very long time.