"WHAT IS TROUBLING YOU?" Maryam asked.
"Well," said Melanie, "if I was wrong, if Allah is real and not Jesus, then what's going to happen to me?"
"I don't know everything, dear. But don't worry. Allah is good."
"But I thought that you—that people who believed in Allah—thought we were bad, and should be punished."
"Are there not people who believe in Jesus who say the same about us?"
"You are right, my dear. There are those among us who think that anyone who does not accept the teachings of the Koran will be sent to the fires of hell, as well. But I am quite sure they are mistaken."
But what if they were right? What if her punishment for believing in Jesus instead of Allah was to be sent to Hell, to suffer for all eternity?
An open safety pin.
Suddenly she was angry at the unfairness of it all. How was she to know? She had only believed what she had been told. She had only done what she believed to be right.
It it was so important, if everything depended on it, then why would Allah allow her to be told lies? For a brief second she was furious at Allah, but she stepped quickly back from the edge of that precipice.
A broken toothpick. Lipstick.
Then she thought of Tom, and the children, going to church every Sunday, learning the wrong lessons, trying to follow the wrong path, just because they didn't know any better. Her fury returned.
Glasses—and some metal thing she didn't recognize.
And, just as suddenly, her fury was swallowed by a sense of urgency. She had to do something. Send them a message, or...
...or maybe this was a test. Maybe it was a final exam of sorts, to see whether she would hold on to her faith.
She stole a glance at Maryam, so calm, so confident. She wished she had Maryam's faith.
Could it be that it was all about faith in the end? Could it be that your world was whatever way you believed it to be? Was Allah displacing Jesus only because Maryam had more faith than she did?
Then if she could only believe she could save herself, and Tom, and the children. She could make it true again, just by believing more strongly, more fervently than Maryam.
She would. She would do it. She concentrated, believing, shutting all doubt from her mind. God the father, Jesus, his son, the Holy Spirit. She conjured them up, then prayed to them, desperately, for faith.
"We're here, dear."
They had stopped. They were standing before two giant doors.
The angel raise a hand.
The doors swung open.