Joanna stumbled suddenly and unexpectedly upon the field. Instantly her beating heart became still. The silence scared her. Glancing down, she saw that her angular body was shimmering and, simultaneously, she acknowledged that it belonged to her and that she did not recognise it at all. It seemed to glide and hover in sync with her instincts. With a simple suggestion of her thoughts, she would tilt and rear forward and the swiftness and complete integration of mind, spirit and whatever this thing that seemed to be her body was, scared her even more.
As far as she could see to the east, west, north and south, Joanna could make out four gigantic walls. Gold coloured, they rose at 90 degree angles from the yellow brown edges of the colossal field. Instantly, in collusion with the thought that crossed her mind, she reached the south facing wall and began to examine it with her probing, automatic hands. It seemed impenetrable and as quickly as the thought reached her mind, Joanna had circumnavigated its entire distance, checking for a gap or opening of any other kind. Even as she rose slightly from the surface of the ground to examine the towering walls, a bead of sweat, the first reminder of her former humanity, dripped from her temple as she realised that the field was imprisoning her.
Beside her, as before, stood her mother-in-law. The years grew on the old woman's face. Her frail body was now almost willing itself towards the ground. Very soon she would join her family in the cavern.
Next to their mother were the two remaining ben Moshe sons. Isaac and Jacob each looked at pains to show appropriate grief, whilst Elizabeth, the servant, stood a little way back. As the small group listened intently to the rise and fall of the Rabbi's voice, the same question was in each of their minds. Which of the twins would perform the rite of yibbum?
In the fourth field clouds were pronouncing their own eulogy. Joanna felt uneasy and Isaac and Jacob both had a look of cold indifference in their eyes. United in their hatred, they were circling Joanna. Isaac spoke first:
"Ungrateful wretch. I rescued you and my reward is this?"
"And what did I ever do to you?" added Jacob.
Isaac had always been the extrovert brother and he had taken control of the situation, recognising the obligation that the law of Moses left him with. The goal of yibbum, a child to continue the family name, had proved elusive and Joanna, as before, had little alternative but to comply with the Torah.
On the day she married Isaac, and during the short months to follow, she was indifferent to the choice. In her eyes, both Isaac and Jacob were still the boys they had been, back when she had first married Benjamin. Sleeping in the same bed as Isaac, it was hard to shake that image from her head.
"I'm not responsible for this," mouthed Joanna automatically. She could sense that the anger the brothers shared would not disappear.
"I died too. We're all here for a reason."
Her words did not register.
She tried again: "It wasn't me. I promise you. I'm sorry..."
In truth, none of the three had foreseen their arrival in the afterlife.
Jacob spent at least as much time at the villa as his brother and Joanna soon began to feel like she had married both of the brothers. Consequently, she started to make herself scarce at every opportunity. On her return from an errand one evening, she discovered the brothers lying dead in their chairs.
Her surprise was genuine, but judgement from the town's religious leaders was swift. Her life would be required to pay for the murders she had committed. She was destined to die the very next day in the market square just as Daniel had died.
That night she unwittingly took the cup mixed with honey and almonds that Elizabeth had used on the brothers. Trying to rid Joanna of the ben Moshe family for good, Elizabeth had only succeeded in framing her for murder. Unwilling to take the blame, the elderly hand's final gift had been to send her friend painlessly into Elysium.
...As Isaac moved in closer, the wind was sweeping into her. It was calling her and she could not resist. She tried to walk, to keep her feet on the ground, but she was being transported away from the twin brothers' rage. Whirling into the sky, she was taken beyond the golden eastern wall of the field which Jacob and Isaac would share for some time to come.
Her mind motioned her to a hillside above. Between the reeds, she looked down on the endless, connected line of golden walls and the fields they contained. They stretched as far as her eyes could see. From her vantage point, she could make out the shape of bodies shifting around in the fields. In the fields where two or three bodies moved around, Joanna noticed the varying degrees of light that each emitted.
Beyond the wall and the fields, she could make out a lake which glistened and danced with a brilliant brightness, although, for the first time, she noticed that no sun was visible in this place.
The leaves of a nearby tree whispered in the wind and she turned to see that Benjamin and Simon were by her side. Benjamin broke the silence:
"We have come to tell you that you are free. The past is in the past. We leave it there for now. You are free of marriage. Until the day of the Great Feast, you may remain here, but you can go wherever you want to on this side of the wall. If you are called into a field, act with the grace you have shown so far. We will pray for the freedom of all our brothers and hope that one day at least some of them will join us here."
Joanna tried to move closer to her first love, but her legs had lost the energy which had surged through them in the fields below. When she held out her hands to both men, Simon and Benjamin reciprocated, but the touch of their fingertips brought no feeling or sensation to Joanna's body. As the men stood gazing across to the lake, Joanna walked a short distance away from them. She sat down in the tall grass to wait...
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