The rubber ball covered in felt bounced on the tennis court. Anthony, a young man, dark haired, with an athletic body couldn’t react with enough speed and he lost the game.
“You won again … Congratulations!”
“You know my motto,” said James triumphantly. “I want it and I will do it!”
Anthony went to the edge of the court where a dry towel and clothes were waiting for him. James followed him. When he got close to Anthony, he said:
“Yesterday evening it happened again. The wall…’
Anthony returned to James and told him:
“Again? Hmm… I was reading few days ago about that phenomenon called déjà vu. And I was thinking it is accompanied by a feeling of fear, as you say it happens to you. And that it also lasts for a short time. However, in your case it is not only a feeling or a sensation. You effectively see something with your eyes. And, the other persons for sure will not believe what you tell them that you can see.”
“I told it only to you and….to Betty. Yesterday evening. And it’s worthless to tell it to others. It is impossible to believe such a thing.”
“Betty will have time to think about it when you are away. Indeed, it is an opportunity your departure to Switzerland, as you said.”
“Yes, I am glad that Betty had a positive reaction when I told her. I think I am a lucky man. A beloved husband with a sympathetic wife.
“Lucky you! If only I could find such a wife, too…”
“You will find her, for sure, Anthony. The woman tailored to your soul is already waiting for you. She is somewhere in this world. It does not matter where. Soul mates do not know the word, ’distance’.”
“What nice words! When you come back from Switzerland, there is a party for you to go to. It is going to be my birthday, have you forgotten? I will invite you both, you and Betty. Do not make the mistake of being late! You see that I cannot accept you missing it.”
“How could I miss the party of such a good friend? This party is most welcome.”
“It will surely be welcome. Good luck in Switzerland! And do not dare to let Betty forget you!”
Both friends smiled to each other.
The day arrived, James was at the biggest airport in the United States, accompanied by Betty and ready to leave Denver city. Switzerland was waiting for him. But he did not know that what was waiting for him there was exactly what would dramatically change the path of his life. If he had known it, he would have given up immediately on the magazine, his journalist career, even to Betty… But he did not know it…
Basel is a city less known by tourists, but, anyone visiting Basel may enjoy its beautiful medieval center, renowned art museums, or the spectacular carnival (the Fasnacht) that can be compared even with the one in Rio de Janeiro.
In fact, even with only few days, anybody has the possibility to see enough in this beautiful city in the North-Western part of Switzerland.
During the long flight to Europe, James spoke a few times with Betty on the phone. He still kept in mind the moment on the airport, when Betty was holding him tight, as if, in fact, she would never let him go.
But his profession required him to make this trip. Betty was unable to hold back the tears that fell onto her soft cheeks, tears that she wiped away quickly and replaced with a warm smile. James promised to call her every day.
When he reached the Mulhouse Freiburg airport in Basel, James said to himself that it was high time he focused on what he was supposed to do. An important event was waiting for him. Lloyd had put all his trust in him and he did not have any intention to disappoint him.
The distance from the airport to Basel was about 4 kilometers. Following the instructions received from the magazine, James chose, in the arrivals terminal, to pass through the Swiss customs.
It was the early hours of the morning. James was feeling very tired after the flight, and the transport ticket provided by the hotel where he was supposed to stay was indeed welcome, sparing him from the effort of looking for a taxi (which were very expensive in this country) or of waiting for the bus in the station located in front of the arrivals terminal.
Even when he arrived at the hotel Les Trois Rois, James was pleasantly impressed by the warm welcome. The manager himself, a short man with fair hair, very neat and with impeccable manners, welcomed him in surprisingly good English:
“We wish you a pleasant stay here, at us, Mr. Hoover!”
“Thank you very much,” answered James, smiling politely. “Before leaving for Switzerland I read about the wonderful view over the river Rhine that this hotel offers. Could I stay in a room that would provide me with such a view?”
“Of course, Mr. Hoover. You can enjoy the most beautiful views anytime. I hope your stay with us will be unforgettable.”
James felt relaxed, enjoying the scent of another type of life. “For God’s sake! This world can also be very beautiful!” he said to himself, overwhelmed by a small euphoria and ready to taste the experience of a week that seemed to be interesting enough.
As night fell, the sky blackened even more from the dust raised by the wind. Harisha, a man a little over 50 years of age, with grayish hair, and of average height, was lying on the plush armchair, where he felt the most comfortable, under the covered balcony at the Summer Palace. He was wrapped in a long white garment (the traditional Indian dhoti), and wore a dark green coat, worn from back to front, crossed on the chest, with the two ends thrown over the shoulders.
Nala, a man with an oblong face and a small wart on his right cheek, just below the eye, was walking respectfully close behind in silence, stopping about two steps behind Harisha.
“The assistants are now ready,” said Nala. “The details were established. Everybody is waiting for his mission to be accomplished.”
Harisha nodded his head, engrossed in thought.
“Thank you, Nala. Soon, everything will start … Soon… the burden is heavy and nobody can understand it. I was just meditating about the seed of thought that was predestined to me. I feel that I am required to be as hard as a rock and not to yield a single step. Nevertheless, there is incertitude. What we have in front of us is hazard. We must direct an ’orchestra’ consisting of ‘players’ that are only now learning how to ‘play’. Weird as it may sound, this ‘orchestra’ will have to play the ‘perfect symphony’. Could it make it?”
Nala, the servant who had served him for more than 34 years, told him:
“We will make it, my master. A destiny that requires to be accomplished and will be accomplished.”
“There will be much suffering, Nala.”
“A big man said that, sometimes, suffering gives birth to lights…”
“I know, Nala, I know…”
After two hours of sleep James decided to rest a bit on the bed in the room where he was staying, and take the opportunity to call Betty.
“How are you? Can you talk?”
Betty’s face lit up.
“Yes, James. I was waiting for your call. Have you arrived? How is it? Tell me!”
“Everything is all right. I am now in the hotel. Indeed, it seems that this one is the best hotels in Basel, just as I was told. I had breakfast in the brasserie here and then I slept for a while, I was exhausted after the flight. I just woke up and I wanted to call you, to let you know that I am ok.”
“I am glad that you thought to call so quickly. It was important for me. Anyhow, you could not have seen many things until now. I am looking forward to you telling me how the conference is unfolding.”
“Yes. Today, participants and journalists from all corners of the world are expected to arrive. The event will start tomorrow. I will call you, as I promised.”
“I am looking forward to you coming home, James! I already miss you. Alice has kindly invited me to visit her more while you are away. Yesterday evening I popped in to see her. Laura, her daughter has a dog, a small poodle. He is very funny.”
“You should know that I thought it was better for you to pass your time like this. For me, nothing is monotonous here. And I will have a full program. Firstly, a lot of trust was invested in me. From what I wrote, I realized that I will have access to some extremely interesting information, in a pretty exciting field. It is indeed an opportunity.”
“Then I am really glad, you know. You will call me tomorrow, won’t you?”
“Of course, my love. I will send you a sweet kiss!”
“Kisses from me, too. I am waiting for you. We will talk tomorrow.”
After the conversation with Betty, James lay a few moments more on the bed, thinking about what to do during the rest of the day, He started to think how it would be if his profession would really commit him to be so far from home.
How would Betty get used to such separations? Maybe she will get accustomed to this thought? But, in the end, he should think seriously about this? If Betty is a really sympathetic woman, she will understand it. But what if she isn’t? …
Oh, he must definitely banish these thoughts. Too much circumspection for something that has not happened yet. James decided to take a shower, get dressed and to go down to the reception of the hotel.
“Make way! Make way! For God’s sake, make way! We want to pass. A man is in danger!”
Martin, even though he was not in his youth, was running together with the few assistants dressed in white overalls and who were carrying the mobile stretcher covered in fake leather. The person on the stretcher was completely covered in a white sheet. On the sheet, in the chest area, a red spot as big as a palm could be seen. That red spot could be nothing but blood.
There were too many people in the hall of the hospital. Martin kept asking himself what was with so many people in this hospital where he spends every day working to help the ones that are suffering.
The assistants that were pushing the stretcher were making desperate efforts to make their way through the crowd of people in the hall, who were not wanted nor needed in that critical moment.
One of the assistants called to Martin:
“Mr. Doctor, I do not think we will make it in time!”
Martin cast the glaring glance of a man disposed to do whatever it took and for whom giving up is the last thought that would ever cross his mind.
The assistant understood the message and swallowed the words that he would have liked to utter, resigned to continuing to push the stretcher.
In the end, they reached the operating theatre.
“But why don’t you unveil the patient?” cried Martin.
Instead of listening to him, the assistants ran out one after the other, casting compassionate glances at Martin. He was standing bewildered, not being able to understand.
He started screaming: “What’s up with you? What do you think you are doing? Why are you leaving? Hey! Can’t you hear me? The patient is in a critical state! Remain here!”
But there was no one to listen to him. All the assistants had left the operating theatre.
Martin was alone next to the stretcher occupied by a man completely covered in a white sheet, spotted with blood…
He noticed that the patient was not moving at all.