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.

Three the Rivals
The Symbols at Their Doors

Bio to come.
Current Issue
19 Oct 2020

We wear the masks long after penguins have been extinguished. By now we are hauntresses, hordes of extinction shuffling along the city streets under the excruciating weathers of this brutal world we’ve inherited. Individually, we are called pinguinos. It’s something to do; the world is depressed and none of us have jobs.
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Anaea Lay presents Noah Bogdonoff's “Ask Not What the Penguin Horde Can Do For You.”
I may be eyeless but I can see through the eyes of everyone and everything. My parents put cameras all over the house
By: Aber O. Grand
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Ciro Faienza presents Aber O. Grand's “Marbles.”
Fiction submissions will close for November-December 2020. This means that the last window for general fiction submissions in 2020 will be October 26-27. Get your stories ready or hold them until January 2021. Fiction submissions for the Palestinian Special issue will open in November 2020!
Issue 12 Oct 2020
By: Elisabeth R. Moore
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Stephanie Jean
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 5 Oct 2020
By: J.L. Akagi
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Lesley Wheeler
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Lesley Wheeler
Issue 28 Sep 2020
By: Maggie Damken
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 21 Sep 2020
By: Aqdas Aftab
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: David Clink
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 14 Sep 2020
By: Fargo Tbakhi
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Jenny Blackford
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 7 Sep 2020
By: Catherynne M. Valente
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Bethany Powell
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Bethany Powell
Issue 31 Aug 2020
By: R.B. Lemberg
By: Julia Rios
By: Sonya Taaffe
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: R.B. Lemberg
Podcast read by: Julia Rios
Podcast read by: Sonya Taaffe
Issue 24 Aug 2020
By: Leslie J. Anderson
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Leslie J. Anderson
Issue 17 Aug 2020
By: Emma Törzs
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Liz Adair
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 10 Aug 2020
By: Anya Johanna DeNiro
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Laura Cranehill
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Load More
%d bloggers like this: