MELANIE STEPPED through the gate.
Allah? It wasn't possible. This was America, for God's sake. Well, she admitted to herself, not exactly America, not here, not now. But still—Allah? Perhaps she had landed, somehow, in the wrong heaven. Was that possible?
Perhaps she was in an alternative universe—like her cousin read about in those science fiction books. A different universe, where Allah was the creator, instead of God. Where the terrorists were right, and Jesus was just a—just a popular speaker, who never got crucified, never rose from the dead.
Could that be? Could there be different universes where everything was completely different? Where the—the basics, the things you built everything on, weren't the same?
She shook herself. That was just wrong. It didn't make any sense. God made everything. If there were different universes, he would still have made them. So he would still be God there—not Allah. No. There had to be another explanation.
She fumbled around in the depths of her mind for another explanation. It was like trying to find the keys in the depths of her purse.
They were walking along a broad golden road, raised high above the ground. There were just the three of them, herself, the angel, and Maryam, walking quietly beside her with a calm and confident smile.
Melanie could see the whole celestial city, spread out below. The architecture was so—so Middle Eastern.
A sudden panic flooded her brain.
What if she had simply been wrong her whole life? What if Allah did create the world? What if all those people on the other side of the planet had it right, and she had it wrong?
A piece of used tissue. Some chewed gum, wrapped in foil.
What if everything she had been taught, everything she had based her life on, had all been lies? Not lies, really—she was sure her pastor, her Sunday school teacher, the youth director had all believed what they said.
A bunch of reciepts, folded together. Something sticky.
Not lies then, but mistakes—horrible, dangerous mistakes that left her, well, left her here, without any Jesus to save her, to face Allah, and try to explain, negotiate—beg?
She turned to her companion.
"Yes, my dear?"
"I'm not—that is, I was raised a Christian. I didn't believe in Allah when I was alive."
"What is troubling you?"
"Well, if I was wrong, if Allah is real and not Jesus, then what is going to happen to me?"