FIVE SIGNS: A short story. Copyright © 2018 by Tracy M. Kubiayk – Read time: 15 min.

Beyond the cracked sidewalk, and the telephone pole with layers of flyers in a rainbow of colors, and the patch of dry brown grass there stood a ten-foot high concrete block wall, caked with dozens of coats of paint. There was a small shrine at the foot of it, with burnt out candles and dead flowers and a few soggy teddy bears. One word of graffiti filled the wall, red letters on a gold background: Rejoice!

This was where she had given birth to him. The doctor had said she had a less than five percent chance of getting pregnant. Her pregnancy was a miracle– the first sign this baby would be special. Hannah was fair, with blue eyes. Her hair was often a wild mess of golden threads, but she sometimes pinned it up like her mother used to do. The baby’s father, Uli, short for Mawuli, was forty-six. He was tall with broad shoulders, had black skin and chestnut brown eyes.

Both were liked by everyone because they were patient, caring neighbors, and they were extraordinarily beautiful. The entire neighborhood celebrated her pregnancy. But when the child came into this world, it was just Hannah and Uli. Uli delivered the baby that misty Tuesday morning, right there on the side of the road beneath the Holton Street bridge, at 12:13 am on a hazy April 23th, 2019…

They were on their way home from Bradford Beach, a nice area on the shores of Lake Michigan, where they had just watched an incredible meteor shower. Shortly before midnight the clouds came in and covered the star streaked sky, so they decided to head home.

The city bus bounced up Bradford Avenue and over the Milwaukee River. Hannah noticed the moonlight reflecting off the water and hoped the clouds had dispersed so they could see more meteors. She suggested they get off at the Kadish Park stop. Uli, seeing the sparkle in her hopeful eyes, agreed.

They sat down on a park bench with a bronze plaque mounted on the backrest, dedicating the bench to a Patrick Kelly, with the Thoreau quote: “Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.” It seemed the clouds had cleared away just for them to share a private moment with the moon. Hannah’s golden hair shimmered as Uli ran his fingers through the ends, twirling strands around his fingers. She smiled and kissed him beneath the moonlight.

Uli started humming the song “Moondance.” It was his way of asking her to dance– a secret code they used for years. Hannah was about to accept when she saw one more meteor. She pointed to the sky. The falling star arched over the moon, first red, then white, then blue, it shot across the sky like an arrow on fire. “Make a wish,” said Uli. They both wished for a healthy baby.

Hannah suggested they walk the rest of the way home. It was only three blocks and she assured Uli that she would be fine. She wasn’t too big or awkward for a walk, even at eight and a half months. Plus, she believed walking was the best form of exercise for pregnant women.

As they strolled, they talked about their hopes and dreams. They were both excited to see what their new baby would look like. Uli hoped he or she would look like Hannah, and Hannah hoped he or she would look like Uli.

The birth itself was the second sign. The labor pains came on suddenly. As Hannah dropped to her knees, Uli held onto her under her arms. He was stricken with fear. She could see it in his eyes. “I’m fine. My water just broke,” she said right before another labor pain hit. After that one passed, Uli helped her up and guided her a few more feet forward so they were beneath the bridge. He laid his coat down and Hannah sat with her back to the wall.

He looked around for help, but Hannah shook her head, no, and motioned him to her. The baby was born only nine minutes later. However, when the baby was born they couldn’t see what he looked liked because he was born in a halo of golden light so bright it lit up the entire area below the bridge. The baby emanated a feeling of peace so serene they were not afraid.

There was no one around. As the minutes ticked on, they noticed that the glow began to fade. An inner voice told the couple to keep the child hidden. So they went home, cleaned up, swaddling little Samuel in a blanket and waited. It took three days for his glow to fade away, although he still had a unique sparkle in his baby blue eyes. Yes, his eyes were blue like his mothers, and his skin was a beautiful light brown. When they introduced their new baby boy to their neighbors, it was not a surprise that Samuel was absolutely breathtaking.

Samuel became even more lovely as he grew past toddler age and started talking. He loved to talk and wasn’t at all annoying as some children can be, because even at that young age he asked questions people needed to think about before answering. Whenever something strange occurred to him, he would squint his eyes and ask a question. For example, he wondered why do people with apple trees sometimes buy apples at the store, or why did people put birds in a cage when they have wings and should be flying, and why is dinner so special when we should eat dessert after breakfast and lunch, too, and why don’t they allow rollerskating everywhere?

He asked so many questions he developed a crease between his eyebrows from squinting too much. In a certain light it gave him an angry look, but then he would tilt his head in his curious way or his eyes would sparkle as they did, and you knew he was all love.

Because of his enthusiastic personality and natural charisma he became well known, and people called him simply “the kid.” He learned to read people quite well and often knew exactly what to say to make them feel good. If he could make one person smile, he felt good inside.

Sometimes it seemed like the kid knew what was going to happen before it actually happened. For instance, he told his friend Paul to wear a bike helmet and later that day the boy wiped out on his bike but was protected by the helmet. He convinced Leroy to buy tulips for his new girlfriend instead of lilacs, and it turned out the girl was allergic to lilacs. So, if the kid suggested something to someone, they often took his advice.

This popularity did not affect his development in a negative way. It was not the attention that mattered to Samuel, it was his interest in the subject matter and in people themselves, the naked truth of it all, which impacted his heart and his mind. As he grew, so did his concerns.

Into the school years, the kid started developing more specific passions. He also realized that he could make a difference because people noticed him. One of his biggest passions was revealed when they noticed his constant cleaning up of things. The kid walked or roller skated the neighborhood with a trash bag, picking up what others carelessly left behind: sticky cans, empty bags of chips, dirty napkins, smelly cigarette butts, every piece of trash that littered the streets. He would spend his allowance on paint and work all day painting the cream colored city walls a fresh white. He planted seeds and grew them to small trees which he then planted wherever he felt some green life was needed. The kid also went so far as to make signs and protest in front of the factories that polluted the air, as well as the city sewage building that polluted the lake.

Not surprisingly, the kid had words with people, too. If he saw someone littering, he told them to pick it up and throw it away properly. He wanted people to see the bigger picture. “It starts by doing your part to keep our city clean,” he would say in encouragement. The perpetrator usually listened because the kid was adorable even with the indignant crease in his brow.

During his “campaign” to clean up the city, the kid had a few followers at first, including his parents. Some adults helped him raise money for community porch repairs. They went around the area asking people to donate items for a silent auction and had a productive outcome. They also had a bake sale. But the most profitable results for their charity came from the 50/50 raffles. It turned out that nearly every house in their ward received a newly built porch for their homes. After that, everybody took notice of the kid. He was inspiring, hard-working, caring, smart, and only nine years old.

The third sign came shortly after the porch project. The kid went around the neighborhood asking everyone to come to the park the following day at high noon because he had something he wanted to talk to them about. People were eager to hear what he had to say, so they agreed.

It was a warm Saturday in summer. Hannah and Uli were not aware of what their boy was up to, but they always gave him freedom to be himself and trusted his process. After all, they knew Samuel was special; the things he said and did did not come as too much of a surprise to them… until this day in the park.

Next to the city’s Home Inspection offices was the small park with a fairly large evergreen which the city decorated at Christmas time. Two rusty bubblers poked out of the concrete slab adjacent to the sidewalk, one close to the ground for kids and one slightly higher for adults. In the center of the park was another concrete slab, this one a complete circle upon which stood an abstract sculpture titled “Shining Tower” by George Kubiayk. It stood about five feet tall, consisting of three vertical ellipses. Each tower had a different color of inlaid glass: orange, yellow, and reddish-pink.

On July 22, 2028, Samuel walked over to the center of the park carrying a bullhorn and a black heavy-duty milk crate. The sun shined through the stained glass, casting streaks of color across the pavement. The kid placed the crate beside the sculpture. His parents sat on one of the dedicated park benches encircling the area, waiting with their son for the people to show up. Soon the small park was crowded with people who had come to support the kid and hear what he had to say.

The kid got up onto a milk crate and raised his hand. A murmur went through the crowd and then it fell silent, except for a few people shouting words of encouragement at him. The kid acknowledged them with a nod and a shy smile. In the full light of day, he looked less angry and more beautiful. He waited until people stopped shouting. A siren could be heard, maybe five or ten blocks away. The kid raised the bullhorn, pressed the button, and began to speak:

“I love you all. I… I see a place filled with love. I see it here among you all, and I encourage you to spread the love. There’s another place, though, where I must go. A place where the wind smells like a garden wherever you go, trees grow taller than our highest buildings here, and the birds are bigger, too. They sing louder. They soar over crystal waters and fields of green. Green grasses, green trees, and green houses.”

Hannah felt short of breath. She wondered if her son was really going to leave. As she tried to calm her racing heart, the sunlight moved and the glass reflected the orange and pink rays away, casting yellow light onto Samuel. This warmed her heart. The memory of her son being born in the halo of light calmed her worry.

The kid continued: “The people are connected. Their eyes are open, and they are smiling. It’s not that I love them more. I love you so much that I have to leave. But, I will come back some day. Right now, I’d like you to please grab your neighbor’s hand. Go on. Grab hands. Good. Feel the earth beneath your feet, see the blue sky, and relax for a moment. We are all connected,” he said. The crowd did as he asked, and the looks on their faces began to change. Nearly every person became relaxed and felt a tingling sensation travel through their feet, flowing up to their heads. They felt grounded, yet light. They looked up at the kid. Standing on the milk crate he was as tall as the sculpture. And then, right before their eyes, he began to fade. The kid disappeared.

The astonishment broke the connection and they never got it back. But they knew it was possible. They knew what the kid had said was true. They were all connected in a way more significant than they had ever imagined. Hannah and Uli had felt the connection, too. They were sad, of course, that their son was gone, but they took comfort in the fact he had said he would come back some day.

The fourth sign was the result of a dream. A few months after Samuel vanished, he visited his mother in a dream. He gave her a hug and told her she and his father would live a lot longer than the rest of the world. This was a gift. He added that he was giving her another special gift. She would be able to help people see one of three things depending on the person: 1) the connectedness of the world through love and nature; 2) a truth they needed to know; or 3) their purpose. He also told her she would pass on this divine gift– when the time came, she would know when and to whom.

The years passed and there was no sign of their son. However, things began to change. Samuel, The Kid, became well known throughout the entire world. There were stories about him. The most popular one was that he was an angel boy who warned the world to clean up their act, literally. He didn’t start the new revolution, the Green Revolution, but he gave it the push it needed as well as giving people something else they were losing: belief and faith for a better world. For the next one hundred years, people began to see the world with open eyes and open hearts. They began to love the planet more and more and to invent better, cleaner ways of doing just about everything, and they voted for the leaders who would help make that happen.

It wasn’t just in the United States. Other counties, like India and Japan, started to focus on the environment. Worldwide love became a repeated concept. Eastern medicine became just as popular in the west, education and agriculture charities blossomed for underdeveloped countries, and the air became cleaner everywhere. Soon, every single country, except Russia and China, ran on 100% renewable energy. Things were really starting to look up.

Hannah and Uli watched the world change, and they knew their son had a great deal to do with it. They did their part to spread the love, too. Uli started a blog that became famous, and Hannah became a volunteer teacher at the community center. They missed their son, deeply, but they knew he was watching over them, and they wanted to do their best to make him proud. They tried to be patient as they waited for his return. As Samuel had instructed, they followed their hearts, used their minds, and connected with their spirit

After one hundred years, Hannah and Uli didn’t look much different; they had probably aged more like fifteen years compared to an average person. Then, in 2129, they witnessed a terrible thing: Russia invaded Alaska, and the United States went to war. When allies got involved and megalomaniacs started dropping bombs, it turned into what became known as “The Decade of Darkness.” They targeted energy crop farmlands, solar power plants and wind farms, as well as solar panel and wind turbine companies and electric motor vehicle factories, all for no good reason. It escalated into a third world war. Many countries had to turn back to coal and gas sources for electricity in order to survive. It finally ended when Norway came to the rescue with a new green energy source invention that cleaned water while converting the flow into usable energy. They shared their invention with many countries, including the US, in order to increase their strength and end the war.

Over the next hundred years even Russia could feel the world peace that was spreading. Then, a civil war broke out in China and the country ended up split in two. North China joined the rest of the world by going completely green, while South China remained a solitary country intent on doing its own thing.

Meanwhile, in the United States, in the year 2240, Hannah and Uli decided it was time for them to split up. They had been through so much together, but it had been 222 years since Samuel disappeared, and Uli felt a calling to leave and start new somewhere else. Hannah didn’t want to move, she couldn’t. She felt stronger than ever about staying right where she was.

A couple weeks after Uli left, a great rain storm hit the area and the following morning the streets were flooded with water. It stopped raining and Hannah made her way down the sidewalk. She felt very alone and wanted to get outside to recharge and take some comfort in the fresh air, to be near the trees that lined the streets she knew so well. The sun came out and the feel of the warmth on her face also helped. She had to walk on the edge of the sidewalk, away from the road so she didn’t get splashed when the cars drove by. She walked to the park. As she circled the statue, it seemed to rotate, but the movement was just an illusion created by the artist. She sat for a moment at the bench. Looking at patterns of orange, yellow and red light on the pavement, she was glad the sculpture remained, but it also reminded her that things change and time moves on. It wasn’t easy, but she took comfort in her memories. As she continued her stroll through the city, she could hear the echos of her son’s voice: it all starts here, in our homes, in our neighborhood– we must each do our part.

She rounded the corner onto Holton Street where she came to the bridge. She looked up at the red letters proclaiming “Rejoice!” and down at the soggy teddy bears. Even after all these years, people remembered The Kid, her Samuel. She said the word aloud, “rejoice.” She said it again, louder, and again a third time with more energy. And she felt it. The energy, it touched her. It was joy! With a new energy and youthful enthusiasm, Hannah turned around to go home, jumping over a puddle and skipping a few steps past the park and back to her house. As soon as she got home she put it up for sale.

She ended up buying a storefront property with an apartment on the top floor. Hannah opened up a shop. Uli had moved to Multnomah Falls, Oregon where he became a pastor who preached about how science and religion are intertwined. He remarried and bought a house, but never had another child. While he was living his new life, Hannah sold essential oils, homemade lotions and soaps, and all natural cleaning supplies. She also baked homemade cookies every morning in her apartment upstairs to give them away to her customers in the shop. She was happy, too. She kept a picture of Samuel in a sparkling pearl frame on the counter behind the register for all to see. The sign displayed in the storefront read simply, “Hannah’s Shop.” Her dog– yes, she had adopted a friendly Shepard mix with golden white fur– she named Roxi. And, as time continued to move forward, as it tended to do, her store evolved.

Hannah’s Shop also sold local artwork, such as pottery, paintings, furniture and photography. Her own handmade greeting cards with watercolor pictures and cute wishes or famous quotations were a hot item, but mostly what brought people into her shop was Hannah herself. She still used the gift her son had left her to help people. She did make a difference in many peoples’ lives and she believed Samuel would be pleased. Through the generations, she became known as many things: a witch, a saint, even a mermaid! Currently people speculated that she was an immortal with ESP, possibly a Fairy. Out-of-towners were amazed by her age, and they wanted to meet her. Others were afraid of her and started awful rumors about her eating children and such. Hannah laughed at those, they didn’t bother her.

The gift from Samuel came alive by looking into people’s eyes or holding their hands. But she also had developed her own skills and was able to give people more advice. She sometimes used tools to do so, such as her angel tarot cards or her pouch of divination runes. The readings were free. People would usually buy one of her soaps or handmade jewelry items in appreciation.

One morning a dreadful feeling came over her– an unexplainable sadness she just could not shake. She decided to close the shop and take a walk to try to cheer herself up. Thirsty, she stopped at the corner market to buy a drink. When she walked in, she noticed a crowd of people were encircling the telelaser, a hologram television device common in every store and household at the time. Hannah walked over and discovered the cause of her melancholy. South China had attacked Norway and was threatening to release missiles on the US. The empathy she felt for Norway and from the people in the store was overwhelming.

At first people were very quiet. Then they started speculating that it was ridiculous to be worried. The crowd started mumbling: Fear is our worst enemy. But our military isn’t as strong as it once was. We have nearly the whole world on our side. Those poor Norwegians, look at that fire. And so on and so forth. Hannah suggested they join hands in a moment of solitude. She then guided them to feel the sensation of breathing and to expand the awareness to the next person. She felt them connect and relax as she, too, felt better. Hannah then left the store and went home. She didn’t reopen the shop until the next morning.

A few weeks later, on November 11, 2270, a teenage boy walked into Hannah’s Shop. Hannah was in the process of fitting together semi-precious stones into a long piece of jewelry and she could not look up or the piece wouldn’t work out, forcing her to have to start all over again. The boy said he wanted to buy something for his mom. They had just moved to the area from Chicago and her birthday was the next day. He picked out a birthday card right away. As soon as he saw the watercolor of the meteor over the moon he fell in love with it. He talked on and on to Hannah about the new apartment he lived in and how he was excited to start at a new school because he hadn’t liked his old school. He pet Roxi and started talking to the dog about his pet turtle, Max.

When Hannah fit the last stone into the wires, giving the piece of jewelry the final balance she sought, she looked up and smiled. “She seems to love you. Her name is Roxi. What’s your name?” she asked. The boy patted Roxi on the head and walked over to Hannah, holding out his hand to shake and telling her his name was Ben, Benjamin Williams. Upon shaking his hand, Hannah immediately felt grounded, safe, unstrained. She looked into his blue eyes and they sparkled with a distinct twinkle she immediately recognized. The handshake ended and she fainted. Ben caught her before she fell to the floor.

He carried her over to a sitting area by the window and gently laid her down on the sofa. She came to moments later. He offered to get her a glass of water. She declined. “It’s you,” she said. And he again offered to get her a glass of water. This time she accepted, instructing Ben to retrieve her cup near the register. He placed in on the coffee table. They sat in silence.

Finally, Hannah spoke. She told Ben that she had the ability to help people see one of three things depending on the person: 1) the connectedness of the world through love and nature; 2) a truth they needed to know; or 3) their purpose. He told her he felt the connectedness when he shook her hand, and he had a feeling this was the shop where he would find his mother’s gift. Those words caught Hannah’s breath, and her hand gravitated to her heart. Ben said it would be nice to know his purpose because he wasn’t sure yet what he wanted to do when he was out of school.

Hannah grabbed hold of Benjamin’s hands and told him his purpose was to accept her gift. He simply nodded, yes. And Hannah let the gift pour out of her through her hands and into his. Then she released his hands and Benjamin began to glow. He looked at his arms radiating light. His eyes grew wide with wonder, but he wasn’t afraid. A moment later the glow faded.

Hannah stood up and walked over to her worktable. She retrieved the necklace she had just completed and placed it into a padded box, offering it to Ben for his mother’s birthday gift. He accepted and held out his wrist to pay (during that time money was exchanged via watchbands). Hannah shook her head, no, insisting it was her treat. She gave him some chocolate chip cookies and sent him on his way.

After that, Benjamin visited often. He brought a new spark to the neighborhood. He ended up becoming the school superintendent, making a strong impact on the lives of hundreds of children. After that he went into politics and became the next president of the United States. He even managed to convince South China to go green. And, for the rest of his life, Ben continued to use his special gift to help people.

The End.

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