Knowing she is the lynchpin and probably the most receptive, Raisa is my first call.
She and I talk several times a year, developing a positive and warm relationship over the decades of knowing each other. I am much closer to her than I am to my taciturn brother, who mostly replies in terse, semi-humorous, adolescently derisive and sarcastic phrases to anything I say or ask.
Unlike Tom, who proudly claims his conservative political views, Raisa is somewhat socially/politically Liberal. Open-minded on many issues, she seems amenable to new ideas and events. Or, so I imagine….
“Hi, Clara,” Raisa greets me. “What’s going on?”
We always talk on Chanukah, which is December 9 – 16 this year, so our most recent conversation is only about one week ago. She sounds worried about this unexpected call, so I quickly explain, “I have some news!”
I hesitate, wondering how to begin this conversation. “Are you much of a science fiction fan?” I ask. “I know you like the first Matrix movie…” I trail off, waiting for her response.
“Sure,” she says, somewhat gamely. “I used to read a lot of those books, especially before the kids were born.”
“Well,” I continue, “I’m writing a futuristic but realistic science fiction book and I hope it’s going to be published.”
“That’s great!” Raisa enthuses, sounding relieved. “What’s it about?”
“That’s a great question!” I respond. This is going well. I can do it this way, I’m sure. “The story starts with the female main character’s having a visit from holographic representations of beings from the Many Worlds Collective, a consortium of planet and star systems all around the multiverse. Earth is formally being invited to join and this visit is the first one allowed to be made public. Making the story public means many Earthers have to adjust their beliefs and ideas about life, religion, culture and, well, everything they think.” I pause. “I’m wondering if you can imagine what that would be like for you, if that happened? It would really help me with my research to get your perspective.”
“Wow! Great ideas,” Raisa says, pensively. “Hmmm. So, let’s say I know this woman, you mean? And she tells me about it? Is that how I find out about all this?”
“Sure,” I say, “That could be how it goes. What would your response be?”
“Well,” Raisa replies, slowly, “I’m just thinking out loud, here. That’s quite a huge thing to drop on someone. I’d probably plotz!” she laughs. “Then, I guess I’d pick myself up and ask a lot of questions.”
“Okay,” I urge. “Like, what?”
“I’d probably ask, ‘What is the…’ what did you call it, ‘Many Worlds Corporation'? That would be first, I guess. Then, I’d want to know what their intentions are with Earth. I'd want to know if they are dangerous, peaceful, conquering, shopping, you know?” she laughs. “Oh, ‘Do they speak English?’”
“Good, good,” I am grateful for her willingness to play along, so I continue. “What else would you want to know? What else would you do?”
“Oh, that’s a good question. What would I do?” she thinks for a minute. “I wouldn’t call your brother, that’s for sure!” She always refers to him as “my brother” rather than her husband, for some reason, or she calls him by his full name. “Thomas would not be able to handle this kind of news,” she exclaims. “Now, Agam…” Agam is her second-oldest, the son who still lives in New Jersey, near her, with his wife and two children. “He’d be interested. I’d probably call him, first.”
“Excellent! This is really helping me,” I tell her. “So, what would help Tom cope with this kind of information, this much change? How would you help him and your family cope with such immense challenges to Judaism's core beliefs about Creation?” I ask her.
“I really have no idea!” she answers. “He’s not good with any kind of changes. He doesn’t do well when he has to miss his weekly soccer game due to bad weather,” she laughs. Tom has played soccer almost every week for many decades.
“But,” I persist, getting a little desperate, now, “What if you were told by this friend of yours that everyone on Earth who couldn’t cope with these changes would become irreparably mentally ill or be likely to die? You would have to help Tom, your kids, yourself survive and be well through this inevitable transition. Also, what about some of your other friends who also might have a hard time with all of this news?”
“This is a very interesting problem,” Raisa replies. “It reminds me of Exodus.”
“Yes!” I exclaim, “it is similar in many ways! But, Earthers do not have forty years to adjust; they have to accept the new truths right away. In my story, the public nature of the aliens' visit is irrefutable evidence. There is nowhere anyone can go to get away from these events and information. So, what can you say or do to help Tom and others prepare for receiving this, well, jolt to their belief systems? Oh, and what about this: since this is happening, isn’t it all, well, 'Hashem’s will'?”
Raisa is silent for a time. I wonder if we’ve been cut off, but then she says, quietly, “Clara,” she asks, “What is this about, really? Is there a book or is something else going on?”
“Oh, shit!” I curse myself. She must have heard how desperate I’m sounding. “Um, well, actually,” I hesitate, and then decide I have no more time to waste; I have a lot of calls to make and each one is going to take a while. “There is a book. Really. But, it’s based on actual events. The MWC members came to me last night. Their visit is going to be made public in about two weeks.” I wait, but she doesn’t say anything. “I’m trying to protect and prepare you all, especially Tom, and I don’t know how to do that.”
I can hear her breathing into the phone. I wait. “If you are kidding me with this, Clara, I’ll never forgive you,” Raisa says, steel in her voice.
“I wish I could say, ‘ha ha, just kidding,’ but it’s all real,” I explain. “I can only imagine how hard this is for you. It’s going to be immeasurably difficult for Tom, and Lavi and Batel [their eldest and his wife], maybe Moran [their third son] and Keshet [youngest, daughter], too. And, so many others you know are also at risk. I’m counting on you to help. I don’t want any of you to lose your minds or die. But, I’m not joking. That is what will happen to many people who can't cope.”
“What do you mean, ‘evidence’?” she asks, in a shaky voice. “How do I know YOU haven’t lost your mind?”
“In about two weeks, I get permission and invite a journalist in to this. She meets with me and the holographic representations of the five members of the MWC, in my house. She takes photos, makes a video, and writes the story. It is uploaded to many news media outlets on TV and online, including the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, London Times, Japan Times, People’s Daily in China: dozens of print and online media carry it. Within 48 hours, more than half the people alive on Earth know about this and must deal with it. Within two weeks, almost everyone knows.”
I wait for a response, but hearing none, I go on. “The Many Worlds Collective has been around for billions of our years,” I explain. “Whatever 'creation' is, it starts way before 5770!” I make what I hope is a light joke, reminding her of the recurring argument Tom and I have about carbon dating’s authenticity.
“How do you know all this?” Raisa asks, dumbfounded. "How do you know what is going to happen in two weeks or a month? Why, how….?” She is speechless.
“There are lots of reasons they choose me. I put them in the book. Or, we can talk more in a few weeks and I can tell you the whole story. Mostly, for now, just trust me. I wouldn’t mess with you about something this important. As to how I know what's coming? I just do.” I pause, but she is silent.
I go on, in a rush, “Just tell me: what can we do to help your family and friends, and you, adjust?” She doesn’t answer, so I continue. “Let me reassure you: the changes are dramatic, but not dangerous. Having Earth in the MWC is really fun. They’re helpful and Earth gets more peaceful. It’s pretty great, after a while. Really. If you can all stick around and be healthy, you are mostly glad, I think, eventually.” Please, please: do NOT become a Fragmenter! I silently beg.
“You’re not kidding, then?” she asks, sadly.
“No,” I say, softly. “I’m sorry.”
“This is a lot to process,” Raisa tells me.
“This forces some major changes in beliefs and I don’t know how all that plays out, but if you all can hang in there, the modifications and transitions are tolerable, I hope,” I reply.
“I guess I should thank you for calling, for telling me personally, but I don’t feel grateful, yet. I really have no idea what to do, now,” Raisa sounds scared.
“I know this is hard for you,” I sympathize. “I apologize. But, I know you have to be the first to learn to accept all this for your family to do as well as they can. You have to be the one to help them. Otherwise, I’m afraid they just fall apart completely. I am worried that my brother, and, maybe Lavi, do not survive. You know them. You know what you all believe and the main ways that this news, these events, affect everything you hold dear. You know how to help them, if anyone does.”
I feel myself getting nauseated, starting to sweat, with fear. I am so afraid they will join the Trenchers, or, worse, the Psi-Defiers. I could not stand it if they died or were Qed… I have to do better with Raisa!
“What if I can’t?” she whispers. “What if I can’t cope? And, what if nothing I say protects them? You know I lost one of my sisters and our mother to mental illness and too many people to early death already. I can’t have more of that!” she is crying, a bit, now.
“Well,” I answer, also softly, “We do not have a choice about finding out. The only choices we have are the ways to help each other deal with it all, the best we can.” I stop, then go on. “You must have considered, over the years, that we are ‘not alone,’ right?” I ask her.
“Sure,” Raisa replies, “But, only in the abstract. I never thought I’d, we’d, you’d…” She trails off, then rallies. “What do they look like?”
“Well,” I tell her, “I only see them in holographic forms. They are translucent, for now. But, in their individual forms, each of them seems somewhat unique, except two of them are somewhat similar to each other. Five of them ‘came’ last night,” I tell her. “Some of them have no faces, really. That’s very strange. I don’t know where to look when we converse.”
“Weren’t you terrified?” she asks. “I would have been. I would have screamed so loudly the whole neighborhood would have heard me,” she tells, me, laughing a bit. " I would have been completely verklempt!
“Well,” I tell her, “They were really nice. Kind, respectful, thoughtful. Pretty colors.” This elicits a small laugh. “They visited me already knowing my name, knowing about me, having a specific purpose. It was all very formal, in a way.” I begin to explain more, then stop. “I promise, I’ll tell you a lot more about it some time, soon. For now, let’s just say I wasn’t scared because I was somewhat prepared.”
“Really?” Raisa asks, surprised. “How could anyone be prepared for that?”
“I kind of had advance notice,” I tell her. “Let’s leave it at that.”
“Oy! You are full of surprises, aren’t you?”
I can hear in Raisa’s voice that she is calming down and I am greatly relieved.
“Please know, and please tell Tom and your kids: call me, any time.” I remind her, “In the world of karma and coincidence, bizarrely, I, my brother’s ‘weirdest’ sister, am the main contact for Earth. You, Tom, your kids and community therefore have an ‘inside track.’ I have to believe there is a reason for my being able to give you this individual ‘advance notice.’ I choose to believe this means you all survive, intact.”
“That’s true,” Raisa responds, even calmer, now. “You are giving me a lot, here.” She pauses, then, “Thank you, Clara. Really. I’m sure I’m going to say that a lot over the next few months, or years, or whatever. But, now, thank you.”
“You’re welcome. You’re family. I love you,” I tell her. “I’m sorry, but as you can imagine, I have a lot of these kinds of calls to make and only a few days to make them. But, really; call me, any time. Okay?”
“Okay,” she agrees.
"How about if I call you on a night right before it's all going public? It's Shabbat and you'll all be together. Would that be a good idea?" I offer.
"Yes, thanks," she sounds very relieved. “Talk soon, then.”
“I suggest the ‘Clara is writing a book’ approach, if you’re not sure how to start,” I tell her. “It seems that it worked all right with you, yes?”
“As well as anything could, I suppose,” Raisa agrees. “’Bye, now.”
I sit and think, holding the silent phone. Is that enough? Is anything enough? Who else can be a pivotal person and help others the way I believe and hope Raisa can?
I start to make lists of friends, colleagues, other relatives, even public figures. I make two columns. On the left are people I think could be spokespersons, if I contact them soon, or even if I don’t. They’ll help others adjust, I believe. On the right are the people who may be at risk that I think they’re closely linked to as well as the groups they might belong to.
I close my eyes and try to see who will join the Fraggers, the Trenchers, the Psi-Defiers. Who will be Qed? Mostly, I can’t tell. I’m kind of glad about that, for now. The right-hand side group fills faster than the left. Well, I can only do what I can do.
I know about Moran's likely role, moving up through the Excellent Skills Program training for OverSeers to become the leader of the OSOps and Psi-Warriors for Earthers, but I'm not certain of it in this timeline, yet. I plan to call him after that Shabbat call in a few weeks.
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