I turned onto the freeway and hit cruise control, trying to ease up a bit. There was plenty of time to meet Wil at the airport. So I forced myself to relax and take in the autumn sunshine and the rolling southern hills. Not to mention the flocks of crows slinking along the shoulders of the highway. The crows, I knew, were a good sign, even if I had been battling with them all summer. In folklore, their presence indicates mystery and an impending rendezvous with one’s own destiny. Some say they will even lead you to such a moment, if you chance to follow them long enough. Unfortunately, they will also show up in the early mornings to eat the young pea plants in your backyard garden— unless, of course, you make a deal. They laugh at scarecrows and shotguns. But if you give them their own row of plants near the forest, they will tend to leave the rest alone. Just then, a single crow flew over the car and out in front of me. Then turned completely around and headed back the way I’d come. I tried to follow it in the rearview mirror, but all I could see was a dark blue SUV about a hundred yards back. Thinking nothing of the vehicle, I continued to watch the scenery, taking in a deep breath and hitting another level of relaxation. A road trip, I thought, nothing like it. I wondered how many people, in how many places, were experiencing this exact kind of moment—getting away from the stress of an unsure world, just to see what might happen. Only, in my case, I was also looking for something. For months now, I had been running into total strangers all talking about the same thing: the secret release of an old, unnamed Document. Supposedly, it had come from a coalition representing the world’s religious traditions, and word of it was already widespread, at least among those with an ear for such things. Yet no one seemed to have any details. Rumor had it that it was now being released ahead of schedule, out of necessity. For me, the rumors were both intriguing and slightly humorous. The idea of a coalition among the religious traditions was hardly new, but it had always proven to be all but impossible in reality. The differences in beliefs were just too great. And in the end, each tradition wanted to prevail over the others. In fact, I had been ready to dismiss the rumors when something else had occurred: I received a fax from Wil. He sent me two translated pages, ostensibly from this old Document. In the margin of the first page was a notation in Wil’s handwriting saying, “This has both Hebrew and Arabic origins.” As I read the pages, it seemed to be a treatment of modern times, proclaiming that something important was going to begin in the second decade of the twenty-first century.
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