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In the aftermath of her father's death Kimberly Zinter stopped going to school. Sofie and Dory came over after a couple of days to see if their friend was well. She was not, but their visit elevated Kim from her grief a microscopic bit and her mother Clara noticed that. After Sophie's mother came to pick her daughter up Clara asked her to wait until Dory's parents arrived as well, because she had a request to make of all of them. When everyone was together Clara said, "I'd like Sofie and Dory to be with Kim for her father's funeral."

Susan Krause shook her head. "I don't think so. They're just school girls and a funeral is a very solemn thing."

Dory's father Seth agreed. "Clara, this should be a private family time for you and Kim."

"But we have no family here," Clara said. "My folks are back east."

Jaden Twofeathers pointed out that Clara still had in-laws, but she shook her head. "They're Bunner Incarnate. They always held me at arm's length. Kim is taking the death of Erik very hard but when Sofie and Dory came over today I saw how they were like a family to her."

Seth said, "I'm not worried about Dory. I'm worried more about Sofie and Kim. When you are on the other side of the Final Rite, Clara, you will no longer have the childlike faith that our Lord said was more blessed than the faith of who believe because they have seen."

It was a gentle and friendly negotiation. Clara got permission for Kim's friends to be with her for the funeral, Seth persuaded Clara to have Kim sit out the actual Final Rite, and rarely in history have so many future lives been so deeply affected by so trivial a choice.

It would have been unseemly to run around and play while the body of Kim's father was sent to his long home along with three other Greendomites from around the country, so they sat around in the Temple basement while volunteers prepared dinner for the families of the dead. Jerry Shybear joined them after breaking away from a group of boys smoking outside. Che seemed to know a lot of secrets about the Temple. Jerry led the girls into a sup- ply room which wasn't locked. Kim, Sofie, and Dory tagged along because there was nothing else to do.

There was no electric light in the temple attic, only a window with blinds and it was a gloomy January day outside. There was an old piano which was probably broken. Kim avoided the urge to play it. There was a map of Headwater and many of the usual church odds and ends. The kids found unused hymnals, stacks of old temple bulletins, empty mason jars, and dozens of stacked folding chairs. Sofie found a cane carved from gnarled wood and shifted it from hand to hand to get the feel of it. Jerry stopped moving and went, "Shhh! What's that?"

The children froze but the only thing they heard was organ music and the choir bleeding through the ceiling from the main sanctuary upstairs.

"Very funny," Sofie said, giving Jerry a friendly shove.

One of the walls was unfinished. Jerry moved aside a piece of plywood.

The plywood had concealed another dark space beyond. It was so black inside it drank their vision like a sponge. "I've never been in there," Jerry admitted.

None of the girls wanted to go in there but Jerry dared them to go. Naturally Sofie was the first one through. Jerry immediately followed Sofie to show che wasn't afraid. Dory and Kim were afraid of the dark hole and unafraid to admit it, but they didn't want to be left behind so they squeezed in also. Jerry burned through ten matches before Dory brought in a candle from the attic.

The kids found they were in a space that was about four times larger than the attic but there was no wooden floor, just natural stone and dirt rising halfway to the ceiling. Something like a rocky igloo reached nearly to the ceiling from the center of a circle of stones.

The ceiling creaked as someone walked to and fro overhead. Jerry did a complete circuit of the space, then said to Dory, "This is part of our family history!"

She said, "This must be the very summit of Green Dome. Wanica built that cairn, and the altar right over it."

When Jerry saw the blank faces of Sofie and Kim che was astonished. "Did you forget what they taught us in Sunday school? This is the Island in the Sky where God gave Chief Wanica the Golden Gift."

"And God gave Moses the stone tablets," answered Kim. "I read that too."

Dory pointed to the ceiling. "What do you think is happening up there right now?"

Kim considered her answer, because she didn't wish to offend her friends. Then: "It's a simple cremation of my father's body and the bodies of three other Greendomites, spiced with ritual."

Dory said, "Kim, you saw Jerry when we went swimming once at Lake 13 and you still think the Buron is just a bunch of stories they invented?"

"I went to the library and looked that up," Kim replied. "Jerry's a hermaphrodite. It's not a big deal. Sometimes it happens."

Jerry rolled up hez sleeves and approached Kim, flipping both hands over a few times to show they were empty. Che said, "Hold out your hand." Jerry clasped her hand, and when he took it away again there was a stack of 1942 silver half-dollars. "Explain that, if you can."

Kimberly put the coins in her purse because money was money and if Jerry wanted to give her ten bucks then so be it. She said, "Magic tricks, Jerry, just like what they're showing Momma upstairs right now. Why can't people just be amazed at God for what he really did do?"

Dory threw up her hands in mock despair at her heathen friends. "White Wingers," she muttered.

Jerry moved toward the cairn. "We'll never have the chance to be in here again," che said. "I want to see if it's really there."

"And you'll go straight to hell," warned Sofie.

"There's no hell in Greendomism," Jerry snorted, and che picked the boulder most likely to be easily moved. As soon as it did a mouse escaped. Dory and Kim screamed together when they saw it. Without a word Sofie let her cane fly in an arc over her head upon the creature.

Sofie was just hoping to scare the mouse away but she ended up hitting the critter instead with a lucky shot. "This is a church right? So there's your church mouse."

Dory shifted immediately from fear to maternal concern. The animal was in obvious pain. "You crippled it!"

"I didn't mean to actually hit it!"


They all took a closer look at the creature. The head of the mouse was misshapen with a huge white bump on the back that was nearly as large as the mouse's head itself.

"Look what you did, Sofie!" Dory complained. "Look at that bump!"

"That isn't from anything she did," Jerry said. "He didn't go in the cairn like that. He must have waited for someone to crack a gap in the rocks wider so he could get out, the poor little guy."

Sofie finished him off with the end of her cane. "This is better for him."

Its head was now a flat furry coin. Nobody knew what the white bump meant. Sophie scratched the dirt with her cane and dug a little grave for the dead mouse "Rest in pieces," she said, then remembered, too late, that they were at the funeral of Kimberly's father. "Sorry."

Jerry returned to the cairn and tugged on the stone once more. Sophie gave him a hand, and the boulder slowly swung open like a hinged door, just enough that they could squeeze inside the stone igloo one at a time. Dory brought light. A featureless white dome lay inside.

"So that's God," said Kim.

Jerry shook hez head. "No, but God made this. And don't say God made every- thing, Sofie, even you know better."

The skin of the dome was dotted with thousands of little holes. Some of these sported needles, like a cactus. Kim touched it. That was something Kim ought not to have done. With a sound like a tiny squirt of steam her fingertip was instantly skewered. Kim pulled her hand away involuntarily before the pain even registered. After that the white dome sported another extruded spine from its surface.

Dory was a little more wise. She grabbed a pencil out of her purse and leaned over the artifact with the eraser tip prudently standing in for her finger. She verified it was ready to defend itself at any time. Jerry thought about kicking it but che was wearing moccasins.

Sofie was not afraid. She allowed her own finger to be skewered by the white dome and doesn't even wince. "Here we go, Kim. Whatever trouble you're in for getting stung by this thing, I'm in the same trouble." So she has the final victory over Jerry in the test of courage.

After that they began to slide back out of the cairn, but they heard footsteps in the storage room next door. Dory put out the candle as everyone held their breath and tried not to make a sound. Deacon Paul looked into the dark gap and could just make out two silhouettes. Paul Bergin screamed at them to get out. Blushing, Jerry, Kim, Sofie and Dory scrambled out from beneath the altar, then out of the supply room. They sat together in the basement lunchroom. The deacon locked the supply room tight, and true to Jerry's words they never return.

Dory's only casualty was a pencil with a soggy eraser. She said, "Thanks for that little adventure, Jerry. I always knew the avatar of Chokhmah was real, but actually seeing it is something I'll never forget."

Just then the attendees began to filter in from upstairs.

During the meal after the Final Rite Kim thought her mother seemed very different. The grief was gone. Clara said, "It's all true, Kim. Everything in the Buron, it's really true!" She no longer needed a leap of faith to give her assent to the things taught in the Buron. Kim knew her mother had been a nurse in the First World War and had seen things in France so terrible she refused to even talk about them, things which would crush the faith of anyone who believed in a good God. It was good to see some semblance of hope restored in her.

But Kim and Sophie needed more convincing. Over the next few days they grew bumps at the back of their head just like that poor church mouse. Dr. Wahkan said not to worry but Clara disagreed to the point of quitting her job at the little hospital and taking Kim to Lusk. Two days later Sofie's par- ents brought her to Lusk as well but the doctors there could do little more than watch the girls get worse. The bumps opened up like flowers to reveal stiff black hairs inside. By June 1942 the girls were under federal quarantine in parts unknown.

Kim and Sofie had no idea where they had been taken, but it was a new place. There was no use mincing terms, they were in prison, but it doubled as a clinic. It was an odd combination of almost magical science and shabby construction with nails sticking through the walls. There were no windows in the clinic where they were held, but from June to August of 1942 the girls could hear furious construction outside that only ceased at night. During those months their captor, Dr. Ian Trochmann, learned maddeningly few things about their condition.

The white D-shaped cup emerging from their scalp was made of bone. The cups had exactly fifty-five graphite bristles growing out of a floor. If the bristles were crushed or snapped off they grew back like the lead in a mechanical pencil. Dr. Trochmann had two cables made. The b'nei elohim would call them Purple Cables, even after many copies were made that weren't actually purple. But for Dr. Trochmann's purposes the cables proved to be useless. He would print squiggles from the girls on a fat roll of paper but didn't know what they meant. When Trochmann put a 15 millivolt level on the pins both Kim and Sofie reported strange total-body sandpapery sensations they found very unpleasant and refused to endure again. Hooking the girls together with the Purple Cable was thought too risky in the early evaluation.

One time Kim and Sofie were playing Eights, and Kim heard a silent shout in her head that, despite its silence, sounded exactly like Dory. She said, "DISCARD THE QUEEN!"

Kim replied to the voice with a mental shout of her own. "IT'S NOT EVEN THE RIGHT SUIT!"

"DO IT!"

Kim obeyed the voice, dropped the queen, and Sofie's eyes went much wider than it should have done from a bad play. Dory's voice now told Kim, "SOFIE WILL DISCARD A SIX OF HEARTS, WATCH!" And that's exactly what she did. Now they both knew their friend's voice was real.

Lest watchers suspected something meaningful in their mutual glances (and they were being watched) Sofie covered by saying, "You don't even know how to play this simple game." She retreated to one corner of the clinic, Kim to another, and they both conversed through Dory.

Dory had to smooth over some hard feelings about keeping this strange talent a secret. She did this by calmly pointing out that both Kim and Sofie would have thought her plain nuts if she said she could hear voices, plant voices, and even ride behind another person's eyes.

When Sofie asked about Jerry, and what his talent was, Dory replied, "DO YOU REMEMBER THAT TRICK YESHUA DID WITH THE LOAVES AND FISHES? JERRY COULD PULL THAT OFF!"

It didn't sound like something that would help them get out of the windowless clinic that was their prison.

Kim suggested punching every number on the lock until the door opened. Dory relayed that to Sofie, who shook her head. They were being watched. One time she killed the lights in their space and saw a glow coming from the "mirror" that stopped soon after. It was a window.

Kim came up with an idea to end the surveillance. They had to embarrass Doc Troch by making him think that two girls, ages seventeen and confined to- gether for months in a small space, had fallen in love with each other. Sofie thought she could swing it. Dory said behave.

Kim and Sofie went on strike and did not cooperate with their captors at all. They said no words, but just sat in the clinic all day doing nothing. There were two ways of dealing with all the dead time. Kim let the clock appear to race and her heartbeats to become a low hum. Kim sped up, cruised for a while, then slowed back down. Her muscles got sore from staying in one position but four hours were burned up in as many minutes.

Sofie thought the time-lapse method was gross because she could feel her bladder fill up and food moving inside. She preferred to take a series of hour-long jumps in time with her consciousness simply turned off. After four meals, two showers, and many other stops to use the restroom or drink some water Kim and Sofie had a rather busy day that compressed a full week of real time. Another three weeks and the lunatics won. The asylum-keepers brought in their biggest gun, the self-styled Controller of what he styled DECON. It was the only time Clyde Tolson ever met Kim Zinter and Sofie Krause in person. He said, "Ladies, time for a heart-to-heart."

"Fine," said Sofie. "Start by telling us who the hell you are."

"My name is Clyde Tolson. You and Kim are under the jurisdiction of a branch of the US Department of Justice called DECON, which is short for Domestic Enemies Containment, Observation, and Neutralization."

Kim was pissed off. "Domestic enemies? You must be joking. My father lost an arm fighting the Hun in W.W. One. My mother was a Red Cross nurse Over There. Every Sunday morning after Temple I lead the whole congregation in a rip-roaring rendition of God Bless America."

"You and Sofie have contracted an unknown contagion in a time before there is a proper federal response for that. Bad luck for you, bad luck for everyone. But there are certain Presidential executive orders which could be read, very loosely, as offering such a response."

"You don't seem afraid to talk to us face-to-face," Kim pointed out. "Doc Troch and Nurse Ramsey ain't scared either."

"If we thought it was transmitted by sneezing you'd be totally isolated. Telling us how you got sick would do much toward getting you home."

"Alright Mr. Tolson of DECON," Sofie said, "you've explained why you won't unlock the door, now please tell us where we are."

"You're not very far from Headwater," he said. "Just one state over, in fact, near Cody. This is called the Heart Mountain Relocation Center."

"Relocation center? I don't understand. Who's being relocated?"

"It's easy to understand, Sofie. Last December after Pearl Harbor FDR authorized the incarceration of Nips living on the West Coast. In January DECON stood up. Last February the first camps were built."

Kim said, "When you say 'Nips' I presume you really mean American citizens with a Japanese ethnic background."

When Tolson had nothing to say to that Sofie said, "Hey Kimmie, I think I'm in the wrong camp. My great-great-great-great-great-great-granddaddy was a German."

Tolson wagged a finger. "This camp is the third biggest city in Wyoming but only seven undesirables out of every ten are Nips. The President's executive order was the kind of gift that comes around only once in a genera- tion, but strike while the iron is hot, they say."

Sofie said, "So I'm one of your 'undesirables' but I don't even feel sick."

"Sophie, your brain isn't even alive anymore!"

"Then how could we even be having this conversation?"

Tolson turned to Dr. Ian Trochmann. "Please tell the young ladies what we've learned so far."

"It spreads like a virus," the doctor said, "but I've never seen anything like it before. It literally remodels nerve and brain cells. No more potassium and sodium ions pumped by ATP through a membrane. Your neurons are now little gadgets with sliding levers and the like."

"What do you mean by gadgets?" asked Kim.

"Both of you girls have been hooked up to an Offner Dynograph and it shows nothing. You're literally brain dead. Special Agent in Charge Tolson thinks you may be the first victims of a nasty Nazi weapon we've never seen before."

"I don't like you very much," Sofie said, directing her glance at both men in turn, "But I can see you want something. Well, we want something first. We want the windows disguised as mirrors removed from our living space."

Dr. Trochmann tried to play dumb. "What mirrors?"

"Come now, Doctor," said Sofie, "you must think we're just stupid girls. But we've had a lot of time on our hands locked up in here. Naturally we found your two filthy peeping-Tom mirrors and people looking in on us."

"I see there's no fooling you, Sofie," Tolson said.

"Sometimes I call Sofie a scrub," Kim said, "and she knows I'm only kidding. But Mr. Tolson, I'll match a scrub at Green Dome against any B student among the publics anywhere."

"It damn well better be that way, Kimmie, the amount of money daddy shells out for tuition."

"The one-way mirrors are not used for what you think they are."

Kim said, "Look, Clyde, yeah maybe we're infected and you have some order that says you can hold us in this quarantine of yours, but we still have one fundamental right."

"What do you mean? What right?"

"Like plain old-fashioned privacy!"

For the first time Tolson and Trochmann became aware that Kim and Sofie were holding hands. The doctor blushed.

Sofie saw the opening and moved tighter up against Kim. "What did you expect? We're seventeen and cooped up together."

"I hope you get what we're trying to say here fellas," Sofie said, fluttering her fingers. "I hope we don't have to spell it out."


"I know exactly what you mean," said Tolson, and he truly did. "We've started out on the wrong foot."

"Let's begin once more," offered Kim.

The mood of the men brightened visibly at this breakthrough. Tolson said, "I need to tighten up security a bit but I'll let you have your privacy. Curtains on your side of the mirrors."

When Tolson left the clinic he never saw the girls again, but not for lack of trying.

The girls were attentive to the tighter security arrangements Tolson mentioned, but the only real change seemed to be how their tormentors would look at a scrap of paper from their pocket before punching the buttons that would let them out, which meant a daily code change. Sofie almost despaired but Kim explained (via Dory to maintain secrecy) that the change did not make their task any harder at all. They just had to pick a range and try all the combos in it night after night until the daily shifting combo happened to fall into that range.

Next to the door leaving the clinic was a square keypad with the digits 0 through 9, and the letters A through F, and Kim knew from listening that the combo was only four keystrokes. But as soon as she started trying them a very vivid daydream of time appeared in her mind. To Kim her future was like a self-assembling house of cards. She could see the top, ten nights later, when doing the range from 7000 to 7FFF she punched 7BC6 and the door clicked open. But Kim wanted out that very night, so she started trying the range from 1000 to 1FFF. The house of cards collapsed and assembled itself again. This time the answer was four days away. Kim began trying higher ranges, and got jackpots ranging from two days to two weeks. Then in her mind she saw the number that was their ticket home that very night: D1FC.

But it was November and they were wearing nothing but slippers and hospital gowns. That in itself was part of Tolson's security. Kim told Sophie to gather blankets and towels and whatever else she could find to create make- shift extra clothing to shield them from the cold.

"This is going to frighten Agent Tolson to no end," said Kim as they both bundled up. "This, and especially what we do after this." She could visualize the events leading to their escape from the camp stacking up in her mind.

"Good," said Sofie, "let him shit his pants."

Sofie Krause and Kimberly Zinter saw the two Purple Cables hanging in a rack on their way out of the clinic and requisitioned them as belts to make their ad hoc ensemble of blankets almost sort of hang together. Then they stepped out into Wyoming on a cold November night.

The girls could see the clinic was one of hundreds of long single-story sixplexes with tar-paper walls, each one surrounded by drainage ditches crossed by gangplanks. Some had their interiors lit. Sofie wanted to knock on a door begging for help but Kim shook her head. Instead Kim chose a greenhouse that was empty but locked. She quietly told her friend, "We have special talents now just like Jerry and Dory do. You can break anything you touch. So break that padlock."

Sofie didn't believe her, but the lock broke in her hands anyway.

"How do you like them apples?" Sofie husked. "If I knew I could do that we'd a left that hellhole any time we wanted."

Kim shook her head again. "No. It was an electric lock, right? So if you broke it, we'd still be in the clinic."

"So how did you get us out of there?"

"I'll explain when we get inside."

Sofie was disappointed that the greenhouse was cold. There was a vegetable garden inside, but the glass only kept away the snow and wind. Kim seated herself, plugged one end of the Purple Cable into her head, and offered Sofie the other. The D shape of the connector ends ensured they could only go together in the correct way. In the first Sharing by two of the b'nei elohim, Sofie replayed Kim's memories and learned how the winning door combination appeared in Kim's mind as soon as she started punching out.

After that, Kim's mind latched onto a much more elaborate scenario for getting out of the internment camp. Sofie could see that also, in all its absurd glory. In just one half hour they would be discovered by the fellow who maintained this greenhouse, one George Kaneko. Mr. Kaneko's initial anger at finding Kim and Sofie hiding in his garden would fade to pity when they told him that they had been held prisoner in the clinic since June. Not even the first wartime internees arrived until August. And the girls would learn three new words.

Mr. Kaneko's parents were issei. They had been born in Japan, but immigrated to America. Mr. Kaneko himself was nisei. The US was the only country he had known, yet George, his parents, his wife and even his three sansei (or third generation) daughters were in the camp. The extended family of George Kaneko, through hard work, had made a good life on their Washington State strawberry farm. But in the confusing legal tangle after the internment was announced they were tricked into selling their land to whites for pennies on the dollar. Now the Kaneko family was forced to crowd into a single-room in the barracks, lit by a single bulb. Now they had to shit, shower and shave with other families in community facilities with no partitions for privacy, and eat in a common mess hall that served the whole block.

This happened out of fear in the wake of Pearl Harbor, and Kim would remind Sofie how Tolson bragged of making it come to be. Sofie would ask Mr. Kaneko if his daughters had any clothing to spare, but he would say they were too young to have anything that would fit her. Instead Mr. Kaneko would give them spare garments of his own, even shoes and jackets, and when they were captured, as he was certain they would be, they could claim they stole them from the greenhouse. And Kim would ask why he was so certain they would not escape the camp.

Mr. Kaneko would bring up the barbed-wire fence that began to go up in October and was nearly complete, much to the bewilderment and dismay of the Japanese-Americans in the camp who thought their perfect acquiescence to the internment would prove their loyalty to America. He would say the only gap in the fence was along the west side of the camp away from the train station. It was guarded by two towers with high-power searchlights, and soldiers on horseback to run down any who made it through. Seven lesser-equipped towers guarded the rest.

Nevertheless, Kim and Sofie would thank Mr. Kaneko for the clothing, depart his greenhouse, and make for the fence line along the train tracks, choosing a section equidistant between two guard towers. They would be spotted but none of the guards would shoot right away. Sofie, by simply touching a lamp post, would take out the light overhead by remotely pulling the wires. After that, she would merely touch a fence post to snap it off at the base. The fence would dangle suspended by the two nearest posts permitting the girls to roll under.

The guards would begin firing, but none would score hits in the darkness as the girls ran for the tracks. There they would find the manual turnout switch used to move trains onto the siding to unload new internees for the camp. Sofie would break the metal left/right sign. With the reflective sign no longer indicating the position of the switch Sofie would throw a lever to divert traffic to the siding just before the next train arrived in a ridiculously opportune coincidence that would say much more about Kim's new sense of timing than luck.

The train would veer onto the side track as expected, and the engineer would apply the brakes with a will, causing an empty gondola car to stop right in front of the girls just long enough for them to climb inside and get out of sight. Then the train would go into reverse. When the train was entirely on the main line again the engineer would manually move the shunt from left to right. The guards couldn't leave their posts and would report the fence breach by telephone. The train would resume its voyage east before anyone knew one had stopped.

That, in any event, was the elaborate escape scenario Kim had foreseen, but the half-hour was up. Mr. Kaneko turned the lights on within his greenhouse, and it was time for the girls to carry out everything Kim had day- dreamed to the last detail without a single deviation.

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Strangers In Paradise