In the vast hall, filled with a sky-purple shimmer, with columns soaring to a height that is inaccessible to the eyes of ordinary mortals, filled with the energy of the omnipresent ether images flickered on the screen in what seemed to be a waving mirror in a carved wooden frame. It was perfectly visible for the two observers that were standing near this mirror how a male human, inspired by the common combat impulse, was at this point of time blocking a deadly enemy weapon with his own body, thus giving his comrades a chance to climb out of the trench and go to the offensive in this battlefront sector. Here his body unevenly shudders, soaking up a deadly leaden stream, and as if in time with this act, the frosted surface of the mirror shakes in response. Here in the last dying effort, this soldier clasps the enemy machine gun with both of his hands, and his blood-stained lips whisper their silent farewell “hurrah!” After a brief moment, floating in the mirror images forever capture in the ether his fading gaze together with the rushing up to the sky from the mutilated chest light-bearing spirit, who has spread out his wings like a finally released prisoner. The mirror fades out, and the images-waves gradually disappear, as if the sea of colorful information has once again come to a long-awaited calmness…
“You must certainly remember, Orianna, that I did warn you in advance of this possible ending of his earthly journey?” and the elderly, fair-haired angel with the scar on his right cheek stared at his companion as soon as the Hall of Destinies fell silent again.
“Mr. Arael, I remember that according to your calculations, the probability of such self-sacrifice was…”
“Our initial calculations, Orianna. Since then, much has changed both in the external and internal worlds. The death of his brother at the battlefront, the fatal illness of his mother, the beginning of the siege of his native Petersburg… All these events simultaneously seemed to break and strengthen his determination to fight to the end. But in the initial calculations we made, as you must remember, he should have lived almost to the end of this war.”
“Mr. Arael, do you mean that I have failed to pass the entrance test and therefore cannot be admitted to your Department of probabilistic forecasting of the worlds of free will?”
“No, Orianna, they don’t. Many of your calculations were correct for the man’s previous choices – and we, as representatives of the probabilities department, never ask newcomers to be one hundred percent accurate, which is only available to the Almighty.”
“Thank you. I really hope so…”
“Then don’t forget to introduce John to our department. This knowledge will be a reward for the feat he performed on Earth.”
Having that said, the head of the probabilistic forecasting department, wise with many eons of experience, tapped with a smile his future budding colleague on the shoulder and smoothly pointed his wing at the door. The one named as Orianna nodded joyfully and hastily, doing her best to hide the flicker of her smile from her mentor, flapped her small, girlish wings, and tenderly fluttered out of the hall.
* * *
“Looking strange, huh?” Orianna laughed brightly, watching how the etheric-clad spirit of John was looking around in surprise as if he still did not fully understand, or would never admit even to himself, that the life of the soul does not finally end with the death of the body, no matter what these endless and finally ending their journeys earthly materialists and skeptics might say otherwise.
“Oh… What a strange and wondrous vision… I feel as if I have died and gone to Paradise, and the most beautiful woman on earth is bending over me like an angel…”
“It’s all true! Well, almost everything…” Orianna said in confusion, playfully adjusting a curl of her sun-red hair with her wing. “As you can see, having “died” back on Earth, you didn’t die after all. Great, right?”
“Is… is this… always the case here?”
“No, not always. By the way, it depends on you, humans, where you will end up. Oh, and I almost forgot to tell you: “Welcome to the seventh heaven!”
“It must be truly the seventh sky. How beautiful it’s around here!” both parted and still not parted with his life John wondered while looking around and walking on the likeness of sky bridges-rainbows among iridescent pearl-colored islands-clouds.
“Tread carefully, it’s like walking on water… A little doubt in the reality of all that is happening – and you will instantly begin to sink into the waves of the ether,” with a wary look at the staggering John said sunny-red-haired angelic girl, narrowing her almond-shaped eyes. “Let me back you up, I’ve got enough faith in the Almighty for a simple skywalk!” she said with another graceful smile, and hastily took John “under her wing”.
Thus, they went on for some time, no matter how relative time as a concept would be in this world.
“But why I ended up here? And what do you plan to do now?” after a while, John decided to break the long-kept silence.
“And then, according to my instructions, I’ll give you a tour of our improbably probabilistic department. It’s over there, a little way off,” and Orianna waved her wing away. “And you are here, in the seventh heaven, solely because you have earned it according to the Divine Law. For the feat of the spirit. Many of you Earthmen, by the way, never deserve anything like this…” she added thoughtfully, looking down at her feet. “They go straight down there,” she added, waving her wing, “and never come back.”
“And what lies down there?”
“Far, far below us – there lies the Abyss. And demons. Sca-a-a-ry,” Orianna added reluctantly, shivering as if trying to push away an old unpleasant memory. “But you don’t have to think about it. And I don’t want to think about those who suffer there, either. Catch up!” she changed the subject abruptly and started jumping across the clouds.
* * *
“And this is where we make maps of human destinies, do you see?” Orianna winked, pointing to a holographic projection of a library in the center of which at that very moment several dozens of open books were gently floating in the ether.
“Do you want to say that our destinies were predefined by you before we were born?”
“Almighty forbid you, most certainly not!” Orianna flapped her wings, staring at John as if he was an incomprehensible infant. “We give you the freedom of choice and the right to determine your own fate. But that doesn’t mean that we are not allowed to calculate in advance how likely and what exactly you will choose one day in your lives, right?” and the curly-haired celestial girl playfully smiled again. “My last trial job was to calculate the new probabilities of some of your possible choices. But I was mistaken, to my own shame. You people can be very unpredictable at times!” as if being seriously offended, she pouted her lips.
“And what did I do wrong?”
“That’s the point, you have made everything right! But… not in the way I originally thought it would be. And this, by the way, is one of the main challenges in the work of our entire department – taking into account the free will of people. In deterministic worlds, everything is different, simpler. But here…”
“And what does that mean – deterministic worlds?”
“Well, they are those in which there are no beings endowed with a soul and therefore possessing free will. Once your Earth was strictly deterministic too, and we could – not without some effort, of course – calculate what and where would happen on it at any given moment of time. And now, with the advent of another civilization, everything… everything is not the same as it was before,” Orianna sighed sadly and lowered her wings. “I hope you understand me at least a little, even though you’re… a human. You are, by the way, not the first human I’ve seen here. I mean, here in our department.”
“There were others?”
“Of course. We need to somehow convey information about the most probable events we have calculated to the inhabitants of your civilization, right? So, we gave some of them such tasks.”
“You mean that…”
“You call them prophets,” Orianna finished his thought.
“I think I can guess at least a few people who visited your seventh heaven department at least once…”
“In fact, there was an order of magnitude more of them. Unfortunately, not everyone was able to remember their own obligations back on Earth. And people simply did not want to listen to many of them,” as she said these words, Orianna thoughtfully moved the tip of her finger through the air, drawing out unfamiliar figures.
“…And what do these mapped lines mean?” and John pointed to the thin lines of light that intersected with each other like cobwebs and connected the sparkling, shining balls of light on the multi-dimensional map, which, by the whim of an angelic hand, had just materialized directly in front of the slightly startled John’s eyes a few otherworldly seconds ago.
“Lines of related destinies with indicated degree and form of influence. Individuals have fewer of them, and public figures have more. Yet sometimes one in the field is still a mighty warrior.”
“And the light globes?”
“Moments of making fateful decisions. Points of bifurcation, in your pseudo-scientific language. After fixing each such point on the timeline, the destiny map is automatically restructured. This, by the way, is a map of your past life. And this point,” and Orianna pointed to the brightest of them, which no longer emanated light, “describes the moment when you sacrificed yourself for the lives of others and for the sake of their upcoming victory.”
“You mean they are going to finally win this war?”
“It would be more correct to say that the probability of your country’s victory is… But, yes, they will prevail. All our preliminary calculations demonstrated that.”
“That just drives one crazy!”
“I wouldn’t rush it if I were you,” Orianna replied, laughing. “But for beginners, it sometimes truly seems unimaginable and improbable at the same time – the possibility to know the probabilities in advance. And I’m already used to being, so to speak, a celestial accountant. Even though we don’t have such a position here.”
“In other words, you can calculate everything? Up to any point in the future?”
“Everything is known only to the Almighty. That’s why you were once told that not a single hair would fall from your head without his knowledge. Mine, too, by the way.”
“May God forgives me for being tactless, but… but I think I like the way your hair looks… as well as your face… and your eyes… and that smile…”
“Really?” Orianna asked, confused. “You’re not the first person to tell me that, but it’s always pleasant to hear it, especially from humans!”
“Can you tell me if I can… go back to Earth later? Help my beloved ones there?”
“Well, you won’t be able to go back at that time, because the law of ether’s waves won’t allow it. Fifty years from now, it will be. Don’t you worry, time is a highly diverse concept, especially here! You should look around for a while, get used to it, at least change your ethereal clothes, so that you don’t have to wander around the seventh heaven in a soldier’s uniform for five dozen earth years! By then, I’ll have calculated a new fate for you. Whom do you want to become again, haven’t you decided? We could really use some prophets in that world of yours…”
“I… I’ll have to think about it. Thank you for your… kindness. So where can I come up with a new ethereal look here?”
“The hall of embodied fantasies is a little to the left and right of our all-central… well, let me take you there by myself, or you’ll surely get confused with our coordinate system. Give me your hand!”
“I thank you!”
With these words, the spirit of a man known as John, still shining with an otherworldly light, took the warm angelic hand in his own and gently, tenderly and timidly kissed it.
“And this, perhaps, was truly inevitable,” Orianna whispered to herself with a smile.