“It is important for people to remember,” Miss Anna explained, “That the Spirit is always close at hand, even when everything and everyone we know is no longer to be seen. It binds us together.”
Lamont joined Anna Lightfoot-Owens where she stood by the large window at the fore end of the colonist deck. The window was composed of four panes of transparent composite, each about fourteen feet wide. Together, they commanded a panoramic view over the top of Westward’s crew deck and into space. More than that, the window panels were curved overhead, so that, standing under them, one could look upward at the stars and almost feel as if one had stepped outside the ship and into space. It was a rather luxurious feature and, Lamont reflected, one that was little-known and rarely enjoyed by two-thirds of the ship’s occupants. At the moment, the view was especially spectacular. A minute or more passed in silence as the two watched the two-pronged prow of the ship, 250 feet ahead of them, cut through the vibrantly-colored clouds that filled the system like a canoe making its way through the mist on the surface of a lake. Miss Anna stood a half-pace ahead of Lamont, her smaller stature allowing her to fit deeper under the curve of the window. From behind them, occasional murmurs and exclamations drifted across the colonist deck from the meeting hall to their ears.
Eventually, Miss Anna turned toward Lamont and looked up at him. Her piercing, wide-set eyes scrutinized him closely. “You’re closed off,” She concluded after a moment’s reflection. “You give the Spirit no foothold. That’s why you felt nothing.”
“Or perhaps there’s nothing to feel,” Lamont retorted. His tone was more defensive than he had intended.
The older woman inclined her head toward the meeting hall. “The Spirit is everywhere. No amount of distance can separate us. Only our own hard hearts and closed minds.” Her voice was thin and reedy, almost a purr.
“You do this every Wednesday?” Lamont asked. “For how long?”
Miss Anna’s slender shoulders lifted in a shrug under her shawl. “I suggested a midweek service for those who were interested some weeks after we set out. It has grown and evolved since then. It operates quite independently of me now.”
“From what I’m told,” Lamont suggested, “you have an influence on nearly everything up here.”
“We are a small group,” Miss Anna deflected. “Everybody influences everybody. That is why we are so concerned with maintaining unity.”
“Is that what this is about?” Lamont asked, indicating the meeting. “Maintaining unity?”
“It is important for people to remember,” Miss Anna explained, “That the Spirit is always close at hand, even when everything and everyone we know is no longer to be seen. It binds us together. Is that what you wanted to talk to me about?”
Lamont shook his head. “I wanted to ask about your visions. How often do you—do you see things?”
Miss Anna shrugged, turning back toward the window. “I sense things frequently; the Spirit is always speaking to those willing to listen. But a vision is more rare.”
“How many have you had?” Lamont asked.
“Two since we began our journey,” Miss Anna answered.
“And did you have any before that?” Lamont pressed.
“Only once,” The older woman replied. “When I was so young, I didn’t know what to make of it.”
This piqued Lamont’s curiosity. “What did you see?”
“This,” She replied. A hand emerged from beneath her shawl to sweep around toward the colonist deck.
The newspaperman narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “What exactly do you mean? Are you saying that—” He paused then, his gaze flickering past Miss Anna to the window. “Hold on. When we first started talking, the sun was just here, in front of us.” He pointed a finger over the woman’s shoulder.
“It was,” Miss Anna agreed.
“Now it’s over there, closer to the center of the ship. And moving.” His finger traced a line to their left, following the pale pinkish beacon that pierced through the veil of clouds.
Miss Anna nodded. “I was watching the stars move as we spoke. We appear to be changing course.”
Next: Times of Transition