First Brian heard the voices, the inchoate rumble of a million languages spoken together in the harmony of a million different tongues. The sound grew from a whisper to a tempest, even as Brian experienced the sensation of being lifted, of floating. Brilliant, blinding light flooded his senses, growing brighter in accompaniment to the roar of the voices. Then the light faded, or else Brian’s eyes became stronger, and he could make out new surroundings. The breeze became sweet and warm, a feeling of peace settling over his distressed soul like a salve to a wound.
Brian found himself standing in a meadow of downy grass sparkling with perfumed dew. Though the sky formed a dome of cloudless aquamarine and the land stood revealed in golden light, Brian could see no sun. He stood in a narrow basin between two hills, the mingle of voices seeming to emanate from his right. Brian began to climb that respective hill.
Brian gasped as he crested the rim, looking to right and left as he took in the scene before him. On either side rose chalky white cliffs, jutting out into an ocean of dark waters as placid as glass. Between the base of the hill and the shoreline, flanked by the mountains on the opposing horizons, spread a great plain, a plain crowded as far as Brian’s eyes could reach by people. In unison, their voices ceased as Brian stepped up onto the hilltop. Brian sensed millions of eyes fixed upon him.
The throng burst into a simultaneous cry so loud the force of it almost knocked Brian backward. An exclamation of joy, hands waving, fists shaking, clapping, jumping up and down. It reminded Brian of the reaction of a crowd at a rock concert, when the band first takes the stage, but multiplied beyond anything he’d ever experienced.
“They have been waiting a long time for you,” a voice spoke from behind him, as the tumult began to subside, leaving Brian’s ears ringing. He turned around. An old man, dressed in the rubber wading pants and checkered vest of a fly fisherman, smiled at him through a thick beard. He tipped a hat decorated with colorful feathered lures.
“Well, now,” the man said. “Look at you. All grown up. No disguising the Greek blood, either. A regular Perseus, you are.”
“Do I know you?” Brian asked.
“Oh, you wouldn’t remember me,” he said. “You were much too young.”
“Wait,” Brian said. “I do know who you are. I saw your picture. The fisherman, Jacob something, right?”
“Just ‘Jacob’ will be fine,” he said.
“Right,” Brian said. “So, if that before was Hell, then I guess this is Heaven?”
“More like the Elysian Fields,” Jacob said. “Suited to your unique case, you see. This is just a stopover point for you, with you being ready to get back into the physical world and such.”
“So why am I here?” Brian said. “And why are you here, for that matter?”
“What, me?” Jacob smiled. “I had to come see the conquering hero for myself. I knew from the beginning there was something special about you, and I was right.”
“You came here to see me?” Brian asked.
“Yes,” Jacob replied. “And so did they.” He gestured, taking in the hordes on the plain below with a sweep of his hand.
“Who are they?” Brian asked, lowering his voice as he looked out over the plain, in awe over the sheer numbers.
“Victims of your Enemy,” Jacob said. “The ones from this world, at least.”
“There’s so many,” Brian said.
“Yes,” Jacob said. “Very many. They have been waiting for you, the one who will avenge them.”
Brian stood in silence, whether unsure what to say or unable to say it, even he did not know.
“Do you understand now?” Jacob said.
“Yeah,” Brian said. “I think I do.”
“Then you are ready,” Jacob said.