It is no longer uncommon to hear them digging at night, so when he hears the scratching and panting coming from the field beyond, he is not surprised. He stops and waits until a figure stumbles onto the road. By the silhouette he sees she is female.
“Good evening,” he says as gently as possible.
“Where am I?”
She is naked—they always are—and the night is cool. He turns his back, pulls off his coat and offers it to her. Long ones are in style now, and it reaches to her feet when she puts it on.
“Thank you.” She says the words carefully, too conscious of their forms. “But—what language am I speaking?”
He tells her the name. She doesn’t recognize it—they never do.
“What’s the last thing you remember?” he asks.
“I was in the ground…” Her voice chokes in terror. “And I pulled my way out…and before that…white light.” She whispers it in awe. “Amazing light—peace—before that…I was lying in bed—I was sick—I was—” With a shriek she stops, and for a moment there is silence. Then she starts sobbing.
“You’ve risen,” he says.
“I…I…” She had held her face in her hands, now she wipes her nose on the sleeve of his coat and looks up.
“Come with me,” he says. “I’ll bring you home. I’ll explain everything—all I know…though it isn’t much…” With a soft laugh, he offers his arm. She takes it with only the slightest hesitation. There is still earth under her fingernails.
“This has happened to others?”
“Everywhere. There are many of you—maybe you’ll even know someone. I’ll introduce you to the ones I know in the morning. We can go into town. Everyone will be glad to see you, especially the teachers—someone is writing a book, a history—”
“But why?” she whispers. “Why is this happening?”
“I don’t know.” Silence but for their footsteps. He breaks it hesitantly. “Some say, this is the beginning… of the Kingdom of God.”
She makes a sound that might be a sob, or might be an incredulous snort. He knows why. Sometimes the ones who rise don’t believe in God.
“Or,” he adds, “It might only be the end of the world.”