THE PACIFIC OCEAN | 1889
It was Fox’s turn to awake disoriented in his cabin berth, a piercing pain in his head. As he tried to rise, he was gently admonished and held back by a firm hand.
“You gave us quite a scare there, sir,” a voice Fox did not recognize came through the haze. “How about you just relax and lie back awhile? I want to make sure there are no residual effects from your spell.”
“Spell?” Fox managed to mutter. “What spell? What happened?”
“Mr. Fox, I’m Dr. Coleman Whitaker, the ship’s physician. Do you have a history of fainting, or perhaps migraine headaches?”
Answering my question with a question, Fox thought. That’s never good.
“It’s Reverend Fox, and, no, never,” he answered. “Why, did I faint?
“Not exactly, Reverend,” Whitaker chewed his bottom lip. “What is the last thing you recall from this evening?”
Nice tell there, doctor, Fox thought as he cradled his forehead in his hand. Too bad we are not together at the poker table. St. Augustine! Fox entreated the patron saint of drunkards. Did I drink too much at dinner? No … I did not drink at all.
“I was with Philomena … Philomena! Where is she?” Fox panicked. The doctor began to prepare a shot to calm his nerves.
“The child is fine, Reverend. I entrusted my staff to keep an eye on her until we were sure that you were going to come around. You were saying … ”
Fox rubbed his temples as he tried to fill in the evening’s missing blanks, but came up empty. “I was with my daughter on the afterdeck. There was an astronomer there with a telescope pointed at the comet. Everyone took a look and I stepped up to take a turn and … I don’t remember anything after that.”
“You don’t remember speaking gibberish before prognosticating that the comet was going to hit the Earth, killing everyone?”
“Gibberish? Certainly not,” Fox denied. “That’s ludicrous.”
“Perhaps it is,” Whitaker agreed, “but I assure you, that’s what you did do. Several of the other passengers were quite upset.”
“Are you telling me that I spoke in tongues?” Fox asked, his headache worsening by the moment.
“I suppose you could draw a parallel. I’m not really familiar with the vagaries of the more Pentecostally-inclined religious sects. Is that your métier, Reverend? Are you given to speaking in tongues?”
When the doctor received nothing but antagonistic silence from Fox, he continued. “I have to say that I am more concerned that you may have had a seizure of some kind. If you have experienced a history of this—revelations aside—I would start to suspect a brain lesion, perhaps a tumor.”
“Stop right there,” Fox struggled to speak through gritted teeth as what felt like the mother of all migraines ripped through his skull. “I’ve never … I’ve seen men and women filled up with the Golden Light to the point that they made water where they stood. I have seen men handle deadly snakes like babes in arms, and others perform feats of strength that would astonish you; but myself, no. I am but a humble messenger. I can’t claim to have the inside track on what God’s plan is regarding that comet.”
“Very well, Reverend, I’m glad to hear that. It was a pretty grizzly story by all accounts,” Whitaker drew back the plunger in his hypodermic needle. “I want to give you a little something to help you relax, if that’s all right with you; maybe get rid of the pain you are experiencing in your head.”
“I thought you’d never ask,” Fox capitulated. “Will you send my daughter in?”
“Of course,” Whitaker soothed. “She can keep an eye on you for me. Now lie back and try to relax. This won’t hurt a bit.”