banner art above by Charles Carter

Friday, March 26, 2010


by John Shirley

art by Shasta Lawton

Jesus, then called Yeshua, was nine years old when his father declared that the family must move to abide with relatives in a far off place: Alexandria, in Egypt

"O, these bumps," Joseph said. "We should have taken a Roman road…"

Joseph disliked travel and, judging from the way he shifted on the tanner's cart, from time to time, his bony backside was sore, this day in early summer, their fourth day of travel. A foul smell followed the poorly-tanned hides, just behind them in the cart, but Jesus had grown used to it. This was the only ride to the sea that Joseph could afford, or so he said.

"This way is shorter," the tanner said. Joseph, Mary, Jesus and his brother James rode on wooden containers, behind the tanner. He was a stocky, swarthy, perpetually grimy man who had sworn that the hides were not unclean.

While Joseph coughed in the endless dust raised by the creaking cart's two wheels-- wiping it from his eyes, combing it from his beard-- Jesus and his younger brother James were so enchanted with the notion of traveling to Egypt that they scarcely noticed the smell, the bumps, the heat, nor even the yellow dust, though it made them cough.

Jesus grinned slyly at his younger brother, and kicked at James with his bare feet. James playfully kicked back. James was slender, his face more delicate than his brother's—more like Joseph's. His hair was in dark chestnut ringlets, like their mother's. Jesus began to realize, looking at him, that it might be obvious to some who had seen Panthera, the Roman soldier, that Jesus was not Joseph's son. James looked little like Jesus, and Jesus had Panthera's eyes.

"All manner of foulness…" Joseph muttered, looking at the feces in the ditch beside the rutted road. "Perhaps this was foolish, Mary…This journey."

"Now we are underway, it is the will of the Elohim," she said softly.

"Father…when do we take ship?" Jesus asked, choosing his words without thinking.

"I have asked you not to call me father," Joseph said irritably, and Jesus felt a sinking within him.

This great journey to Egypt was dangerous, was indeed foolish, they all knew this—any long journey was a great risk to life. And yet all morning Jesus had felt as if he were soaring, instead of bumping slowly along. But that feeling was gone now—because Joseph had said what he had said: Don't call me father. It didn't matter that Jesus knew Joseph was not his father. He was the only father left to him. But Joseph had chosen to remind him that he was not even that.

The tanner glanced speculatively at Mary, his eyes lingering on the outline of her substantial bosom. Mary frowned down at her feet, clasping her hands in front of her robe to cover her womanliness. Perhaps Joseph's remark had made the tanner suspect she'd lain with someone other than her husband. All this—Joseph's bitter rebuke, the tanner's look, Mary's quiet shame—struck into Jesus like three arrows, one after another.

"Joseph," said Mary, almost whispering, "we discussed this, did we not? Whatever you think, he must be acknowledged…"

"I said I would not repudiate him in public, but I need not hear the falsehood echoing in my head," said Joseph.

Another arrow. Jesus tried to turn his attention away from his bickering parents. But Joseph's voice, becoming high pitched with bitterness, nattered on, as if in conversation with the cart's squeaking wheel.

"And do not speak to me of dreams or destinies or doddering travelers. Wise men? Magi? They were unclean foreigners, pointing at the sky and chattering in the mud-speak of Babylon, trying to foist their poisonous oils on us…"

Squeak…squeak-squeak went the wheel.

"…and do not speak again of the magi gold, and how it bought my tools, and the apprenticeships of my sons, it was my shame to accept it and little enough it was. Let him learn to be of use, for once, in Alexandria. There will be much to do when we arrive."

Squeak, squeak-squeak…squeak.

Then they rattled around a curve, and came to a low place in the road, just before a steep, rocky hill; lining the road was thorny scrub; there, perched between two thorns, was a desert lark, looking at Jesus as if it wanted to tell him something. He caught the flicker of a gecko in the shadows under the brush; slinking behind a dying, lone cedar tree in the sandy, knobby soil beyond the thorns, a jackal turned its green-gold eyes to look at them before vanishing behind an upthrust root. Jesus felt his heart contract within him, and he wanted to get quickly past this place. Surely some dark spirit lurked here.

"Oh the Unnamed, protect us," Mary said, even as a stench rising from the ditch rolled over Jesus and he saw what made his mother cry out: a man, emaciated and naked and scabbed with blood and feces, lay awkwardly in the ditch, one of his arms turned impossibly backward; a crow perched on his chest, pecking, in a leisurely way, at an open wound edged in green, at the base of his neck. Jesus thought the man dead—and he had seen many dead men—but the man moved, his torn lips rasping against one another, his blood-caked eyes searching for them as he heard the creak of their wheels. His voice could not be heard, not with the ears. Yet Jesus heard, distinctly: Mercy. Have mercy, travelers, have mercy on me.

James looked quickly away, squeezing his eyes shut and plugging his nose.

"He asks for mercy," Jesus said, looking desperately at his father, "Please—may we not help him?"

"Ha!" the driver of their cart cawed, though there was no real sound of laughter in it. "You'd have to walk to the sea, after touching that one! You would not get back into my cart!"

"He is right, Jesus," Joseph said. He scowled, but Jesus could see in Joseph's eyes that he too felt pity, and regret. "No. He is unclean. Diseased. And doubly unclean, a Gentile: I see he is not circumcised. No."

They rolled on past. The crow squawked and set about its business. Joseph glanced behind them once, then turned determinedly to look at the road ahead.

Jesus had to try again. "May I not go back and help him? I can catch up with you. I might take him water."

"No!" Mary said, sharply. She looked as if she wanted to weep. But she compressed her lips and reached out and squeezed Jesus's hand. Then she too turned to look at the road ahead. Joseph only snorted and shook his head.

"Why did you say he asked for mercy, Jesus?" James muttered. He was hunched into himself, on the hides, as if he were cold. Staring straight ahead. "He did not speak. He had given up, that one."

Jesus shrugged. He had not imagined it but he also knew that the man had not spoken aloud. He did not know how to explain.

Jesus let out a long, straggling breath, and began the inner process of abandoning the man in the ditch. He knew the process well—it was a turning away, a muting of inner feeling, a kind of numbing. He had learned it from Joseph and Mary and from other children and adults in Nazareth. It was something everyone learned.

He looked at the sky, and tried to think of the sea, and Egypt.

Another shaking, squeaking two hours passed; and the memory of the dying man in the ditch receded even as the features of the countryside behind them faded into distance. By degrees, Jesus was able to think about their journey again, and the prospect of Egypt. Only in the back of his mind, now and then, did he hear the cry: Mercy, travelers, have mercy

They rolled through a straggling village where a few near-toothless women slapped at dough in the sun behind their huts, and children threw ox-droppings at the cart so that the tanner shouted imprecations. They left the village behind, and crossed a rocky plain that slowly rose to a line of low hills; a thin stream snaked to meet them, the shallow creek edged by slender, droopy silver-leaved trees.

As they climbed the low hills, Jesus caught a new smell—rich with life and decay both, tangy with salt, and he knew instinctively it was the smell of the sea.

And then they topped a rise, and Jesus saw the sea, below them, blue and white and vast. It was a chaos that was somehow impossibly orderly: waves that surged and curled and fell apart, yet arranging themselves in lines like an army on the march; the whole sea heaving, yet its misty blue distances were caught up tidily in the horizon's curve. Jesus seemed to feel the vast fulsome heaving living bulk of the sea at once, as he gazed at it.

"If the sea is possible," Jesus said to James breathlessly, as he strove to take in the sea's immensity, "then anything is possible."

"If the sea is possible?" James said, frowning, not having seen the sea yet—he was fishing in a sheepskin bag for dried figs. "How can you speak so—we know the sea is possible, we have always heard of it." He was groping in the bag with as little motion as possible so that Mary would not see—they were to conserve food on this trip.

"That! The sea!" Jesus said, standing in the cart to point.

The cart lurched, and Jesus fell from it, and struck his head, his mind plunging into darkness….

~ ~ ~

"Have I fallen to this place?" Jesus asked sleepily, of the man standing by the stream. "Can I have fallen so far from the cart?"

He found that he was in a ravine that was also a kind of garden, for though the stone walls of the ravine were steep, they were terraced with narrow paths that ran in crooking strokes along their faces; and each path was lined with flowers, many that he'd never seen before—though he was to see them, again, one day.

The man at the stream wore a robe that was white if you looked right at it, but it changed colors when you saw it from the corners of your eyes. He hadn't answered Jesus, but only stood there, gazing into the stream. Jesus found that he was reluctant to look directly at this man.

Instead, Jesus looked up at the sky, between the top edges of the ravine, and saw that it was black, up there, midnight black, and crowded with stars that seemed ready to drip down onto him. Yet the ravine was not in darkness. There were no torches, no lamps of any kind, but it was somehow illuminated like a cool, slightly overcast spring morning.

Jesus began to suspect that he was dreaming—or dead. But surely the time of the resurrection of the righteous had not come, and he was, in any event, not of the righteous: he had been told so many times. So he was not likely dead…

He could feel, somehow, that he was in two places at once, that he was lying on the Earth somewhere, and he thought to feel hands lifting him up; and yet he was also walking toward this figure at the stream.

"Are you one of the prophets?" Jesus asked.

"I am just a son of man, like you," said the man. The slender, bearded figure did not turn toward him; he was gazing down into the stream. Jesus saw him only in profile, but the face was somehow familiar. Jesus could see that the leanness of the man was not his nature. He had not eaten much, for a time, Jesus guessed.

"If I could bring you back to my family, we could give you food," Jesus said.

"Oh, child," the man said, as Jesus approached to within a few cubits of the man. And Jesus saw there were tears on his cheeks. "Do not look into this water: it is the stream of your life."

But Jesus looked, he could not help it. He saw blood swirling in the water, from a thing of iron lying in the pebbles of the small, bright stream: a large nail, not quite a spike, like something Joseph sometimes used.

Jesus looked away from the blood, feeling a throbbing at the back of his head. He looked again at the sky. "Why is it night up there, but daytime here?"

"Between the worlds it is always darkness, and yet it is alive with light," said the man at the stream. Jesus saw, now, the marks on the man's hands…

At last the man turned to look at him. His face, which Jesus knew at once, was alight with tenderness. "All is well, child. Your course is…" He looked upward. He pointed. "That star there. That's your course. It moves to coincide with others, and in coinciding redoubles its light, like the marker over your birth."

The man looked over his shoulder, as if hearing something Jesus could not hear. "There, they come for me: my good servant brings them, as I bid him to do." Without looking at Jesus again, he said: "Wake up, child. You dream. Find the path and follow it and we'll meet again, here. Remember to be kind to Mary."

He walked away, down the path, and Jesus—his head throbbing as if a nail were driven into it—tried to follow, but found himself rooted into the ground…

He looked down and saw that his legs had sunken into the ground past the ankles, were sinking more and more deeply, the grasses twining up to wrap around him, and draw him down…as he sank he disintegrated, his flesh becoming one with the soil.

All flesh is grass, he thought.

~ ~ ~

"Up, Jesus, wake up!" came the voice of Jesus's brother, issuing from a lamp. A small flame was all there was to rectify the darkness, a taper on a squat Augustan lamp swinging in slender brass chains from a wooden rafter. It swung slowly back and forth though no one touched it. Then James materialized beside it…stepped into its light. "You must come and see…"

"What are you doing, James!" Mary said sharply, coming into the room. Jesus saw that he was in a small wooden room, lying on a narrow bed of some kind, and his mother was stooping to enter. "Don't disturb him!"

"I'm alright, Mother," Jesus said, sitting up—and immediately wincing with the pain in his head.

"Lay down!" Mary insisted, forcing him back.

"He will be well, but he must sleep today," said a deep voice, in poorly accented Hebrew. The face that went with the voice materialized beside the lamp, a fearful face that Jesus had never before seen. It was dark, perhaps a Nubian, tattooed with lines around his eyes, and two vertical stripes on each of his cheeks. Two dark eyes, feverish with life, looked unblinkingly at Jesus.

Jesus shrank back in his cot from the stranger, but his mother put a reassuring hand on his arm and said, "That is Asclepius, Jesus. He's a physician. It was he who put the bandages and ointments on your head…"

"Where am I?" Jesus asked. "I mean—I thank you, physician. But—"

"But where are you?" The man's grin showed white teeth, edged in gold. "You are in a ship, boy. Was that not your intention? To take yourself to a ship?" The smell of olive oil and naptha draped the room, but under it was the smell of the sea, and the rank odor of ship's bilge.

"Yes…" Jesus said. His feelings shifted, like the swinging of the lamp, between ebullience and simple nausea. "I want to go up above…to the…the roof of this room…"

"The deck!" James said. "Come to the deck!"

"You may not, not yet!" Mary said, pressing Jesus firmly back.

"But of course he can!" declared Asclepius. "After he chews this up for me…" He took something that looked like a dried fig from a pouch and pressed it into Jesus's mouth. It was a fig—but with something inserted into the middle, something bitter-tasting so that Jesus nearly spat it out. Asclepius chuckled and put his fingers over Jesus's mouth; his fingers smelled of eucalyptus. "No, boy, don't spit it out. Chew and swallow…good."

"Now I may go up above?"

"You may as soon as you wake."

"But I am awake, I…" A heaviness was already drawing Jesus into itself, and the lamp seemed to dim with that heaviness. "In a moment, I…"

"Yes in a moment," the physician said, as the drug took hold.

Jesus slept…

~ ~ ~

…he slept the rest of the day, and all through the night, and into the next morning. He did not even quite wake when he was moved to a new place. Still he slept—till at last a beam of light, sudden as a stroke of lightning, struck through his eyelids, and he opened them, squinting, to see the outline of a man in a square cut into the ceiling; a man silhouetted by brilliance. The man spoke in a dialect Jesus did not know and gave out a high pitched titter, his bushy hair bouncing, spinning the light. Then he drew back and the dazzle of the sunlight and the living sea air washed full over Jesus…before the hatch-cover of the hold was again replaced. It was left open just a crack.

He was in sudden darkness and reek again, spots floating before his eyes. He sat up—and this time his head scarcely hurt at all. His eyes adjusted. A little light came through cracks, up above, and he saw he was sitting on woolen blankets in a hold filled with amphorae; some containing wine, some honey, judging by the marks in Greek on them. The sealed urns were cushioned by leather sacks smelling of grain. To his right he made out the dim shape of a steep, narrow stairway. He got to his feet and went teeteringly to the stairway—so steep it was almost a ladder--stepping between the amphorae as carefully as he could, in his initial dizziness. The heavy feeling was still on him, stupidness like a slow mudflow in his head, but he could smell the sea air from the top of the wooden stairway, and it drew him upward. The flight of steps seemed to shimmy like a snake, but he pressed his hands to the wood and steadied himself, climbed the steps one by one. It seemed like a long ways, though of course it couldn't be. He drew a lungful of air, and looked toward the light through the partly open door up above, and ascended, waking up a little more with each step. He reached the hatch cover, and pushed it aside, blinking in the light.

In a few moments he was on the tilting deck, swaying, and James was running to him, calling his name in delight. "Jesus!"

Jesus saw little of the ship itself at first, or the other people on it—his attention was so drawn to the horizon. He let James help him past the single mast, down the deck to the bow…

"I've been talking to Laetus, he was a slave in Rome and he ran away and now he works on the ship and he can speak some of our language," James chattered happily. "He steers the ship—he's the gubernator. You see that thing in his hand, it's a clavus, it connects to the steering oar—do you see how much I learned, while you slept? Ha! Do you see that big square sail? That's the velum, the triangular one above it is the siparum…They have eight sweeps but they don't need them now because we have a following wind…They can carry forty tons in this ship—it's thirtyfive cubits long! You were sleeping in the ship master's cabin but the physician moved you to the hold…are you listening?"

"Yes…" Jesus breathed. But he was scarcely attending.

He stood there, holding on to the ropes at the railing, feeling the deck shiver like a living thing under him, and gazing out at the silver-blue reach of the sea. Far, far away on his left was a shore, hazily azure with distance; to his right was a distant bank of cottony clouds. It was the sea ahead that fascinated him: an unspeakable endlessness of waves, and more waves, each seeming almost exactly the same as the others, yet getting smaller, like numbers counting down from high to low, and never quite coming to zero.

"That land there," James said breathlessly, waving at the shore, "that's Africa—we're coming to the delta of the Nile! Soon, Laetus says, we'll see the sea turn 'brown and bloody' from the mud of the Nile—Egypt itself! And ahead—the great sea—"

Jesus shook his head. Ahead sea and sky came together: there was no end to it. In Nazareth he had seen far horizons, a vastness to the world, but the sea and sky together--one made of two-- was the very definition of endlessness. Herodotus had told him--through Judah's books—that the North and South shores of the sea gradually pressed toward one another, narrowing to the Pillars of Hercules, and then the sea opened wide again, no one knew how wide. That endless openness seemed to mariners an opening to terror; thus, it was said, someone had carved Ne Plus Ultra on the pillars: No further beyond

Yet it was as if that impossible "further" was calling to Jesus. This ship was headed in that direction, though it would stop at Alexandria long before reaching the Pillars of Hercules. But in Jesus's mind the ship sailed on and on, past the pillars and into the greater sea. Into the infinite itself. He moved to the bow of the ship, staggering a bit as the ship rose on a wave and ducked its head down again. He clasped the railing, feeling the grain of the wood under his hands, breeze and spray on his face; tasting its salt on his lips. He peered downward, trying to see into the depths of the sea: first was a layer of crystalline water; deeper, it shaded into blue, then blue-green and green-black. Life flickered down there, wriggling momentary into view, then coasting down again, out of sight.

Suddenly frightened, Jesus looked up at the cresting waves on the surface. He seemed to see the whole body of the sea in a single rising wave, the sea's substance echoed in that wave before him, and in that echo he felt all the creatures swimming below the ship, fish and octopi, which he'd seen only in books, and—there! A gelid thing, like a billowing skirt of translucent skin, trailing streamers, drifting by, liquid itself: a living thing almost indistinguishable from the element in which it lived.

So was he, now: he felt the wind, the spray, the reverberating body of the ship connecting him to the sea, and, gazing into its signatory endlessness, his fear melted away when he felt that he was the sea, could feel himself lifting in waves and crashing on rocks, rumbling in his deeps. He knew the sea had been here before men had been in the world and would be here afterward. Was anything forever? Perhaps only God. But this sea was at least the signature of forever. It stood for eternity, in that moment, and contemplating it Jesus felt himself carried, as if on a wave, above all limitations; he was washed clean of the restriction of names and families and tribes and nations. He was not just the wave some called 'Jesus son of Joseph', he was the sea, a greater sea: part of a sea of mind. This other, fuller self, the sea of mind, went on forever and ever, beyond limits, just mind endlessly ramifying; constantly churning and yet deathless.

No death. The mind that lived in this place somehow transcended death, even as it changed like the river Heraclitus spoke of. He remembered a quotation from Moses: Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.

This sea—the sea of water, the sea of mind--was a glimpse of the One—and the possibilities--


Someone was shaking his arm. He felt himself drawn, dizzily, sickeningly, back into the world of time. He felt heavy, disoriented by a whirlpool of physical sensation…

James was shaking his arm. "What's wrong with you? Mother is calling us!"

Jesus turned and saw his mother on the deck, her head under a shawl, clutching the pulley blocks beside the mainmast with one hand, afraid of being in the open on the boat but wanting to come to Jesus and James. She tilted to the left, compensating, her face tense with anxiety, as the deck shifted the other way under her feet. Then the vessel wallowed, as a crosswind tossed the waves, and a wave of nausea rolled through Jesus, followed by another, stronger yet, and he turned just in time to empty his belly messily over the prow…

~ ~ ~

"Who creeps up behind me?" Asclepius asked, from the stern, as the ship drifted, making leeway in a crosswind, the following morning.

"I am called Jesus, physician: my mother told you this." Jesus could no longer restrain his curiosity, and he drew up beside Asclepius and looked over the railing. The physician was trailing a net in the water, a rather long one with four lines on it attached to handles of leather gripped in his hands. It stretched out behind the boat a few feet before sinking—but not sinking too far. Someone, perhaps Asclepius, had sewn what looked like coconuts into it, in four places, so that it was somewhat buoyant, only sinking about five cubits. Jesus could just glimpse the net out in the water, though the sea here was darkening with the drift from the Nile's delta, still some distance to the southwest.

It was a bit maddening, being so close to Alexandria, but unable to go much farther. The wind had died, and though the ship had a set of oars, Joseph had discovered that most of them were cracked, would probably break against a hard current, and there weren't enough crew to man them anyway. The ship's master—a pot-bellied, wine-bibbing, scowling Gentile who claimed to be a Phoenician, improbable though that was, had lost three of his slaves to ship's fever, and hadn't hired enough crew to man the sweeps.

The boat was making just enough headway—and leeway—to trail the net a trifle; enough to tantalize Asclepius. "Oh, I shall have to take two of the floats out…" he muttered in Greek.

"Those are the great nuts from the tree?" Jesus asked in Greek, not knowing the word for coconuts.

Asclepius glanced at him in something between annoyance and surprised interest. "Yes. You speak Greek?"

"Some. What can you hope to capture, sir, in this net? I've never seen its like."

"I designed it myself!" said Asclepius, in his oddly accented Aramaic. "It can capture anything in the sea!"

"Anything?" Jesus, aware that he was giving in to an impulse to show off, could not resist a quotation. "Sir: 'Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook, or press down his tongue with a cord? Can you put a rope in his nose, or pierce his jaw with a hook?'"

Now Asclepius stiffened, scowling, and Jesus thought he'd made him angry. He hooked his net around the base of the steering oar, and turned a searching glare on the boy. Jesus took a nervous step back—he had forgotten what a barbaric appearance Asclepius had—with his tattoos, the rings in his ears and hair.

"Jesus, I heard that," said James, walking up from behind. "You're showing off again! Father told you not to do that!"

Nettled, and a little ashamed at his own hubris, Jesus turned on James. "I did not show off! I wished to warn the physician that the Unnamed may take offense and send leviathan to test his net and then we'll all be pulled into the sea!"

James's eyes widened. He looked at the net, and the sea. "Do you think the Lord might do that?"

Asclepius was smiling now as he gave out a ripe chuckle. "The Great God has forgiven me many worse remarks, and many worse pretenses," he said, in Aramaic. "I don't think he will send leviathan today. Though I would be charmed to see such a thing…" He turned a long slow look at the sea, seeming to scan for a whale. Then he leaned casually against the rail, as if to disarm Jesus's fear of him, and cocked his head, taking the boy in. "I have not truly seen you before now, boy. You are an old soul."

"What does that mean, an old soul?" James asked.

Asclepius shook his head. "I should not have remarked it. Not all teachings are for children. But Jesus is learned for a child. This quotation of yours—I have heard it once, I think, but I cannot place it."

"It's from the Tanakh," said Jesus. "The story of Job."

"Oh yes, Job. The wager between the dark spirit and God. An instructive tale. I have heard something of it from a certain teacher to the East. One of your people, he was, in many respects."

"Where, in the East, did you go?" James asked.

Asclepius gestured vaguely. "I have just come from a place of learning in old Babylon, and there are still 'people of the other side' there." Meaning Hebrews—people who'd crossed to the other side of the Euphrates. He chuckled. "Even though they were on the wrong side of the Euphrates to be 'people of the other side.'"

James and Jesus looked at one another, and instinctively both took a step back—a step which brought them closer together. Asclepius seemed to be flirting with a mockery of the chosen people.

"Oh but I have only respect for your people." Asclepius said, seeing their reaction. "There are many great teachers among them. Who taught you this Tanakh so well?"

"Oh, Jesus can read books," James put in, rather grudgingly.

"He can read?" Asclepius continued his nearly unblinking appraisal of Jesus in silence.

Uncomfortable under that appraisal, Jesus cleared his throat, and answered, "My teacher was Rabbi Judah ben Ezra, of Nazareth."

"Judah ben Ezrah! I have heard him quoted! So!" His gaze shifted—he seemed to be looking at Jesus's bosom. As if he could see into it. "You are bound for Alexandria…and so am I. Interesting!"

"Yes. If we get there!" James said. "There is no wind!"

Asclepius grunted, looking at the sky. "It is the fault of our imbecile ship's master. He did not keep his slaves fed and cleansed, nor allow them the freedom of the deck. I warned him on the trip out that they were in danger of falling ill. Lo, they caught sick, and died. I suppose that if the wind does not come soon, we will all have to man the sweeps, though the current from the Nile will make going difficult unless we go out of our way to the north…"

Jesus looked at the sky too, remembering his vision of the oneness of things, represented by the sea; of the innate presence of living eternal mind. He had always had thoughts that soared to strange places, almost since he could formulate thoughts at all, and he had learned not to speak of them—even to Judah. He suspected, somehow, that he might speak of these thoughts to Asclepius; he might ask if the things of the hardened, dull lower world, where death reigned, could be touched and changed by the breath of eternity. If a man combined his mind with the sea of mind, and if that sea connected all the world, might a man not change the world? He wondered if a rain could be summoned, if a wind could be called up; perhaps it could, if one were to reach out with the essence of one's heart and call to the great Fatherly mind that he had sensed when he'd gazed on the sea; if one might make an echoing cry in that great mind, so that it was then echoed in the lower world, thought becoming reality…

Oh Lord, if this I call for in my hear, will you call for it too? If I call for a wind to drive this vessel, and if it is your will

He shuddered, and felt a little dizzy, contemplating the possibility. He realized that Asclepius was once again staring at him.

"Were you praying, boy?" Asclepius asked.

"Was I?" Jesus asked, not sure himself.

"Your lips were moving," James said. "This is not the time for the daily rituals…"

Jesus nodded, feeling dull and distant and weary. He turned away, to go in search of his mother, perhaps a place to rest…

And that's when the wind blew over him so strongly that he staggered on the deck. He caught his balance, and looked up to see the sails filling, the ship's workmen laughing and clapping their hands…

As the ship began to plow through the sea toward Alexandria...

We continue Monday, March 29 with
as our serialized splatterpunk novella
by Vincent Daemon
goes into its final week

only on the Freezine
of Fantasy and Science Fiction


  1. I really liked this. One of my new favorite stories. This is a wonderful area to explore, at once playing with the unknown time of the early life of Jesus, and also showing the folly of religion in a graceful, articulate manner.

  2. An excellent read!
    I really enjoy reading the possible events of ancient notables. This is very good - whether you are Christian or not!

  3. Superiour writing, Jesus was a great shaman imho!

  4. Great story John, bringing humanity to an all encompassing spirituality regardless what box it gets put in. Too bad more don't reflect on it this way. Excellent writing.

  5. This is the first one of your stories I've read for years, John. An excellent piece indeed! And very scholarly, as well!


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Edward Morris's

Edward Morris's

Edward Morris is a 2011 nominee for
the Pushcart Prize in literature, has
also been nominated for the 2009
Rhysling Award and the 2005 British
Science Fiction Association Award.
His short stories have been published
over a hundred and twenty times in
four languages, most recently at
PerhihelionSF, the Red Penny Papers'
SUPERPOW! anthology, and The
Magazine of Bizarro Fiction. He lives
and works in Portland as a writer,
editor, spoken word MC and bouncer,
and is also a regular guest author at
the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival.

Tim Fezz's

Tim Fezz's

Tim Fezz hails out of the shattered
streets of Philly destroying the air-
waves and people's minds in the
underground with his band OLD
FEZZIWIG. He's been known to
dip his razor quill into his own
blood and pen a twisted tale
every now and again. We are
delighted to have him onboard
the FREEZINE and we hope
you are, too.

Daniel E. Lambert's

Daniel E. Lambert teaches English
at California State University, Los
Angeles and East Los Angeles College.
He also teaches online Literature
courses for Colorado Technical
University. His writing appears
in Silver Apples, Easy Reader,
Other Worlds, Wrapped in Plastic
and The Daily Breeze. His work
also appears in the anthologies
When Words Collide, Flash It,
Daily Flash 2012, Daily Frights
2012, An Island of Egrets and
Timeless Voices. His collection
of poetry and prose, Love and
Other Diversions, is available
through Amazon. He lives in
Southern California with his
wife, poet and author Anhthao Bui.


Phoenix has enjoyed writing since he
was a little kid. He finds much import-
ance and truth in creative expression.
Phoenix has written over sixty books,
and has published everything from
novels, to poetry and philosophy.
He hopes to inspire people with his
writing and to ask difficult questions
about our world and the universe.
Phoenix lives in Salt Lake City, Utah,
where he spends much of his time
reading books on science, philosophy,
and literature. He spends a good deal
of his free time writing and working
on new books. The Freezine of Fant-
asy and Science Fiction welcomes him
and his unique, intense vision.
Discover Phoenix's books at his author
page on Amazon. Also check out his blog.

Adam Bolivar's

Adam Bolivar's

Adam Bolivar's

Adam Bolivar is an expatriate Bostonian
who has lived in New Orleans and Berkeley,
and currently resides in Portland, Oregon
with his beloved wife and fluffy gray cat
Dahlia. Adam wears round, antique glasses
and has a fondness for hats. His greatest
inspirations include H.P. Lovecraft,
Jack tales and coffee. He has been
a Romantic poet for as long as any-
one can remember, specializing in
the composition of spectral balladry,
utilizing to great effect a traditional
poetic form that taps into the haunted
undercurrents of folklore seldom found
in other forms of writing.
His poetry has appeared on the pages
of such publications as SPECTRAL
CTHULHU, and a poem of his,
"The Rime of the Eldritch Mariner,"
won the Rhysling Award for long-form
poetry. His collection of weird balladry
and Jack tales, THE LAY OF OLD HEX,
was published by Hippocampus Press in 2017.

David Agranoff's

David Agranoff's

David Agranoff is the author of the
following books: Ring of Fire (Eraserhead
Press, 2018), Flesh Trade (co-written
w/Edward Morris; published by Create-
Space, 2017), Punk Rock Ghost Story
(Deadite Press, 2016), Amazing Punk
Stories (Eraserhead Press, 2016),
Boot Boys of the Wolf Reich (Eraserhead
Press, 2014), Hunting the Moon Tribe
(Eraserhead Press, 2011), The Vegan
Revolution...with Zombies (Eraserhead
Press, 2010), and Screams from a Dying
World (Afterbirth Books, 2009).
David is a hardcore vegan and tireless
environmentalist. His contributions to
the punk horror scene and the planet in
general have already established him
as a bright new writer and activist to
watch out for. The Freezine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction welcomes him and
his defiant vision open-heartedly.

David is a busy man, usually at work
on several different novels or projects
at once. He is sure to leave his mark on
a world teetering over the edge of
ecological imbalance.

Sanford Meschkow's

Sanford Meschkow is a retired former
NYer who married a Philly suburban
Main Line girl. Sanford has been pub-
lished in a 1970s issue of AMAZING.
We welcome him here on the FREE-
ZINE of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Brian "Flesheater" Stoneking's

Brian "Flesheater" Stoneking's

Brian "Flesheater" Stoneking currently
resides in the high desert of Phoenix,
Arizona where he enjoys campy horror
movies within the comfort of an Insane
Asylum. Search for his science fiction
stories at The Intestinal Fortitude in
the Flesheater's World section.
The Memory Sector is his first
appearance in the Freezine of
Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Owen R. Powell's

Little is known of the mysterious
Owen R. Powell (oftentimes referred
to as Orp online). That is because he
usually keeps moving. The story
Noetic Vacations marks his first
appearance in the Freezine.

Gene Stewart
(writing as Art Wester)

Gene Stewart's

Gene Stewart is a writer and artist.
He currently lives in the Midwest
American Wilderness where he is
researching tales of mystical realism,
writing ficta mystica, and exploring
the dark by casting a little light into
the shadows. Follow this link to his
website where there are many samples
of his writing and much else; come

Daniel José Older's

Daniel José Older's

Daniel José Older's spiritually driven,
urban storytelling takes root at the
crossroads of myth and history.
With sardonic, uplifting and often
hilarious prose, Older draws from
his work as an overnight 911 paramedic,
a teaching artist & an antiracist/antisexist
organizer to weave fast-moving, emotionally
engaging plots that speak whispers and
shouts about power and privilege in
modern day New York City. His work
has appeared in the Freezine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction, The ShadowCast
Audio Anthology, The Tide Pool, and
the collection Sunshine/Noir, and is
featured in Sheree Renee Thomas'
Black Pot Mojo Reading Series in Harlem.
When he's not writing, teaching or
riding around in an ambulance,
Daniel can be found performing with
his Brooklyn-based soul quartet
Ghost Star. His blog about the
ridiculous and disturbing world
of EMS can be found here.

Paul Stuart's

Paul Stuart is the author of numerous
biographical blurbs written in the third
person. His previously published fiction
appears in The Vault of Punk Horror and
His non-fiction financial pieces can be found
in a shiny, west-coast magazine that features
pictures of expensive homes, as well as images
of women in casual poses and their accessories.
Consider writing him at,
if you'd like some thing from his garage. In fall
2010, look for Grade 12 Trigonometry and
Pre-Calculus -With Zombies.

Rain Grave's

Rain Graves is an award winning
author of horror, science fiction and
poetry. She is best known for the 2002
Poetry Collection, The Gossamer Eye
(along with Mark McLaughlin and
David Niall Wilson). Her most
recent book, Barfodder: Poetry
Written in Dark Bars and Questionable
Cafes, has been hailed by Publisher's
Weekly as "Bukowski meets Lovecraft..."
in January of 2009. She lives and
writes in San Francisco, performing
spoken word at events around the
country. 877-DRK-POEM -

Icy Sedgwick's

Icy Sedgwick is part writer and part
trainee supervillain. She lives in the UK
but dreams of the Old West. Her current
works include a ghost story about a Cavalier
and a Western tale of retribution. Find her
ebooks, free weekly fiction and other
shenanigans at Icy’s Cabinet of Curiosities.

Blag Dahlia's
armed to the teeth

BLAG DAHLIA is a Rock Legend.
Singer, Songwriter, producer &
founder of the notorious DWARVES.
He has written two novels, ‘NINA’ and

G. Alden Davis's

G. Alden Davis wrote his first short story
in high school, and received a creative
writing scholarship for the effort. Soon
afterward he discovered that words were
not enough, and left for art school. He was
awarded the Emeritus Fellowship along
with his BFA from Memphis College of Art
in '94, and entered the videogame industry
as a team leader and 3D artist. He has over
25 published games to his credit. Mr. Davis
is a Burningman participant of 14 years,
and he swings a mean sword in the SCA.
He's also the best friend I ever had. He
was taken away from us last year on Jan
25 and I'll never be able to understand why.
Together we were a fantastic duo, the
legendary Grub Bros. Our secret base
exists on a cross-hatched nexus between
the Year of the Dragon and Dark City.
Somewhere along the tectonic fault
lines of our electromagnetic gathering,
shades of us peel off from the coruscating
pillars and are dropped back into the mix.
The phrase "rest in peace" just bugs me.
I'd rather think that Greg Grub's inimitable
spirit somehow continues evolving along
another manifestation of light itself, a
purple shift shall we say into another
phase of our expanding universe. I
ask myself, is it wishful thinking?
Will we really shed our human skin
like a discarded chrysalis and emerge
shimmering on another wavelength
altogether--or even manifest right
here among the rest without their
even beginning to suspect it? Well
people do believe in ghosts, but I
myself have long been suspicious
there can only be one single ghost
and that's all the stars in the universe
shrinking away into a withering heart
glittering and winking at us like
lost diamonds still echoing all their
sad and lonely songs fallen on deaf
eyes and ears blind to their colorful
emanations. My grub brother always
knew better than what the limits
of this old world taught him. We
explored past the outer peripheries
of our comfort zones to awaken
the terror in our minds and keep
us on our toes deep in the forest
in the middle of the night. The owls
led our way and the wilderness
transformed into a sanctuary.
The adventures we shared together
will always remain tattooed on
the pages of my skin. They tell a
story that we began together and
which continues being woven to
this very day. It's the same old
story about how we all were in
this together and how each and
every one of us is also going away
someday and though it will be the far-
thest we can manage to tell our own
tale we may rest assured it will be
continued like one of the old pulp
serials by all our friends which survive
us and manage to continue
the saga whispering in the wind.

Shae Sveniker's

Shae is a poet/artist/student and former
resident of the Salt Pit, UT, currently living
in Simi Valley, CA. His short stories are on
Blogger and his poetry is hosted on Livejournal.

Nigel Strange's

Nigel Strange lives with his wife and
daughter, cats, and tiny dog-like thing
in their home in California where he
occasionally experiments recreationally
with lucidity. PLASTIC CHILDREN
is his first publication.

J.R. Torina's

J.R. Torina was DJ for Sonic Slaughter-
house ('90-'97), runs Sutekh Productions
(an industrial-ambient music label) and
Slaughterhouse Records (metal record
label), and was proprietor of The Abyss
(a metal-gothic-industrial c.d. shop in
SLC, now closed). He is the dark force
behind Scapegoat (an ambient-tribal-
noise-experimental unit). THE HOUSE
IN THE PORT is his first publication.

K.B. Updike, Jr's

K.B. Updike, Jr. is a young virgin
Virginia writer. KB's life work,
published 100% for free:
(We are not certain if K.B. Updike, Jr.
has lost his Virginian virginity yet.)