Size / / /

Four for the Gospel makers.

Every night I dream of my tomb given over to Him, rolling the boulder shut with the Christ buried within. Would that I had found a way to die in His place.

Now I empty my belly into the bottom of the hide boat. A naked Pict with a blue-inked face screams gibberish. I, who know five languages, am at his mercy.

Memories: Nearly drowning off Britannic Dumnonia. Fever in Gallia's forests. Wine in Massilia with Mary Magdalen, Philip, and Lazarus.

Where are my disciples? There is only this angry Pict. I touch my staff, my robe, my pitiful sack of goods. At least I have Mark's goatskin parchments, witness to His words. And His precious blood in its silver cup, last relic of His body.

I miss my ship, a good Roman gaulus so unlike this wretched leather scow. More yelling as my guts twist anew. The blue man lives for anger -- he has so little else.


A muddy beach, a high hill beyond. I have bought tin in such places, and silver for the Temple in Hierosolyma. The blue man smiles, pointed teeth glistening like salt. I have no coin, but he seems satisfied to be rid of me. His tiny boat bobs away.

My head clears of fever. Time to find people, bring word of Our Lord. I stagger toward the high hill, surprised to find my staff still in my hand. Then my disciples pour from the trees, ragged and footsore. How did they precede me here from our vessel's foundering? I must have fevered long in the Pict's care.

"Joseph of Arimathea!" they cry. "You have been delivered!"

"Weary, I am," I say. "And you, weary all." I jab my staff into the slope, claiming succor from this land. The wood bursts into flower, one last miracle after a lifetime of miracles. I have seen the dead rise, lepers healed, water flow like wine, but this spray of white hawthorn shatters me to tears. My Lord is close now, as close as He has ever been since I sealed His death away in my own tomb.

Then a man steps from a crack in the world, teeth pointed as the Pict's, skin as green as the narrow-eyed man from Sin had been yellow that I once saw chained to a millstone in Alexandria. The miracle of the flowers belongs to this green man.

Like a lover, the green man whispers in my ear. "Welcome to my Britannic shore, though you bring a thousand years of pain."

"Pain is of this world. Grace lifts it from our souls."

He takes the Grail from me. "Grace is as grace does. I'll keep this safe. You have churches to build and pagans to slay." Then he slips beneath the earth, just as He did.

My disciples clutch at me. "You seem unwell."

"Where is the green man?" I ask.

They trade worried looks. There was no green man. "Rest, sir. Please."

I check. Mark's gospel is still safe, His words made text. I sit beside my flowering thorn and drink a little wine. Something else is missing, but I cannot think what. In memory, my now-vacant tomb rolls shut once again. Later, in the desert, Simon Peter and I shovel dirt into a fresh grave in order to ensure the ultimate miracle. Moonlight picks out His face, soil crusting His lips as they seem to shape my name.

 

Copyright © 2003 Joseph E. Lake, Jr.

Reader Comments


Jay Lake lives in Portland, Oregon, with his family and their books. In 2003, his work is appearing in diverse markets such as Realms of Fantasy, Writers of the Future XIX, and The Thackeray T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases. For more about him and his work, see his website.

Previous:
Three the Rivals
  Next:
The Symbols at Their Doors


Bio to come.
Current Issue
11 Nov 2019

Osnat went back to talk to the dybbuk again.
By: Rivqa Rafael
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Anaea Lay presents Rivqa Rafael's “Whom My Soul Loves.”
You’re the girl with the basket full of bread and cream, who wandered somehow into this life.
your spongy tongue | as political as begging the world to drown
By: Mary McMyne
By: Ugonna-Ora Owoh
Podcast read by: Mary McMyne
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Ciro Faienza presents poetry from the November 11 issue of Strange Horizons.
Wednesday: A Spy In Time by Imraan Coovadia 
Friday: Tell Them of Battles, Kings & Elephants by Matthias Enard 
Issue 28 Oct 2019
By: Kelly Stewart
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Kelly Stewart
Monday: Aniara 
,
Issue 21 Oct 2019
By: Omar William Sow
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Amy H. Robinson
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 14 Oct 2019
By: Kevin Wabaunsee
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Ruben Reyes Jr.
Podcast read by: Ruben Reyes Jr.
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 7 Oct 2019
By: Charles Payseur
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Davian Aw
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 30 Sep 2019
By: Kali de los Santos
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Heitor Zen
Podcast read by: Julia Quandt
By: Sérgio Motta
Podcast read by: Sérgio Motta
By: Isa Prospero
Podcast read by: Solaine Chioro
Monday: 3% 
,
Issue 23 Sep 2019
By: August Huerta
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 16 Sep 2019
By: Marie Brennan
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Hester J. Rook
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Hester J. Rook
Issue 9 Sep 2019
By: Shiv Ramdas
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Sarah Shirley
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
31 Aug 2019
Brazil Special Issue call for fiction submissions!
Issue 26 Aug 2019
By: Cynthia So
Podcast read by: Cynthia So
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Load More
%d bloggers like this: