- Iscariot: Chapter 1 – In which we meet Pontius Pilate and learn about an obscure Goddess.
- Iscariot: Chapter 2 – In which we meet Jesus of Nazareth, his brother James, Simon the Zealot, and Donny, one of King Herod’s slaves
- Iscariot: Chapter 3 – In which Judas splits a bottle of wine with Mary Magdalene, daughter in law of the almighty.
- Iscariot: Chapter 4 – In which we learn that Jesus is not scared of lightning. Also Kelsey, the formerly barren lady from Chapter 2, has become fertile and now it’s a whole thing.
- Iscariot: Chapter 5 – In which we learn that just because you have love for all things, doesn’t mean you can’t get annoyed by certain peoples antics.
- Iscariot: Chapter 6 – In which Menahem asks, “Are you there, God? It’s me, Menahem.”
- Iscariot: Chapter 7 – In which Pontius Pilate learns who King Herod is and what King Herod do.
- Iscariot: Chapter 8 – In which we meet Martha, wife of Judas, and she’s a delight.
- Iscariot: Chapter 9 – In which we meet the remaining apostles at the Passover feast.
- Iscariot: Chapter 10 – In which Pontius Pilate reminisces about the good ol’ days.
- Iscariot: Chapter 11 – In which there’s a bit of exposition until the angel Lucifer shows up and has a brief chat with Judas.
- Iscariot: Chapter 12 – In which we are made aware of the political situation in Rome.
- Iscariot: Chapter 13 – In which the Passion of the Devil.
- Iscariot: Chapter 14 – In which we meet the rice goddess Inari and a fox named Mrs. Noodles.
- Iscariot: Chapter 15 – In which Mary, Martha, and Kelsey meet a Behemoth and the story passes the Bechdel test.
- Iscariot: Chapter 16 – In which Judas and Jesus travel through India and learn about road building.
- Iscariot: Chapter 17 – In which (much like in Game of Thrones, Season 3, Episode 8) there’s a wedding.
- Iscariot: Chapter 18 – In which crucifixion shmoosifixion. Jesus and Judas are back, baby!
- Iscariot: Chapter 19 – In which we extrapolate upon the Ascension a little bit.
- Iscariot: Chapter 20 – In which Judas and Mary have a pre dinner drink, and we leave them there.
Jesus was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his crucifixion was signed by the High Priest, Herod, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Pilate signed it: and Pilate’s name was good upon anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Jesus was as dead as a door-nail. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. (Borrowed liberally from Dickens 18:43)
Keep all of that in mind and indulge me a moment. With this work, I’ve been attempting to write a comedy about people. That these people started a church which now has 2.2 billion people is irrelevant. They didn’t know what was going to happen 20, 200, or 2000 years later.
Unfortunately in order to make the story work, I had to operate within a certain framework of the narrative which traditionally includes the brutal torture and murder of a man into my larger story, which again, is trying very hard to be amusing while also not being offensive to the true believers.
It’s an interesting exercise. Ultimately, the arrest, trial, and passion are not a funny subject.
However, before we get back to people chit chatting about life, religion, and whatever pop culture references I can find from the amazing year 33, it deserves at least a passing mention.
So here it is. Jesus was crucified and killed. Pontius had been out maneuvered by Herod and despite trying to save everything, didn’t.
Afterward, Jesus’ body, had been stolen off the cross by his friends and moved to a cave which acted as a temporary morgue until they could find a place to bury him properly. To save face, Herod’s soldiers had planned to go retrieve the body but didn’t know exactly where it was. While searching for its location, a large fire broke out on the far side of the valley. (See Chapter 13.) The inferno was big enough and high enough that everyone could see it for miles around and everybody put aside the issue of Jesus long enough to go have a look-see. All save Judas, Mary, James, and a few others who kept making their way towards the cave where Jesus’ body was being stored.
In which we meet the rice goddess Inari and a fox named Mrs. Noodles.
Ever so slowly, the flashing lights which pierced through Judas’ eyes like knives began to subside and the knot which had developed in his stomach ebbed. The heavy pounding in his head had also begun to fade and he slowly began to feel more human. Human enough that he could wish for death instead of just encompassing the definition of unhappiness and pain. Through the cacophony in his head, Judas began to hear a new sound. A breathing, panting sort of sound. The noise stopped when he felt something wet against his ear and cheek. He rolled away from whatever new hell was occurring and sat up shakily to inspect it.
When his vision cleared a bit he found himself staring at a small, red, dog like creature. It seemed to smile at him, although Judas was unsure if that was a good thing or bad thing. “What the hell sort of creature are you?” he asked the beast.
“That’s Mrs. Noodles. She’s a fox who doesn’t normally like people. So that’s a small mark in your favor,” said a voice from behind him.
Judas jumped in surprise. He spun around and attempted to stand and position himself defensively. The voice was from a lady. She was clearly foreign and had extremely strange features which Judas didn’t recognize from anywhere. She wore robes of a sort, but they were a bit more billowy than was the norm in Judea. White garments which fluttered underneath a sort of green smock with gold-embroidered symbols. He’d never seen anything like it. He also noticed that she seemed to be carrying a large staff.
The woman looked him up and down and Judas became aware that the staff she held had an extremely long blade affixed to the top. She pointed it at him. Judas wasn’t extremely worried as he was no slouch in a fight but one could never tell what one was up against. Particularly if the fight was in close quarters with bladed weapons. He subconsciously reached for his own dagger and was dismayed to discover that it was missing from its sheath. “Ok,” he thought. “New tactic.”
“Um. Hi,” he said.
“You are not supposed to be here,” she said. “There was only supposed to be one person in the cave.”
“The cave?” Judas asked. But even as the words came out of his mouth he began to remember. He remembered the cave. He had gone there with Mary to move Jesus’ body before Herod’s forces arrived. The cave was a temporary measure until they could find a spot to bury him for real with a proper ceremony. Herod was going to desecrate the corpse and they had gone there to prevent that from happening. The last thing he remembered was going inside and then…being here.
“My bad,” he finally blurted out. “I seem to be a bit lost. If you could just point me where to go, I’ll be on my way.” As he said it, Judas tried to indiscreetly locate any of his other knives, all of which seemed to have disappeared as well.
“That’s going to be a bit harder than you think, Judas Iscariot. You’re far from home.”
“You have me at a disadvantage, Madame. Have we met?”
“I am Inari, Goddess of Rice, as well as a bunch of other shit. I know every single living human on this planet. I don’t need to have met you to know you. You are Judas Iscariot. Astarte only told me to expect one human from Judea. This sort of thing is typical of her, you know?”
“Not…really? Who is Astarte?”
“I’m good at planning things. I’m good at entertaining, but I won’t have enough chairs now. Someone is going to have to stand. I cannot just craft a chair out of whatever detritus is lying about,” she said, sort of waving the bladed staff at him. It wasn’t exactly a threatening wave, but it wasn’t non threatening either.
“Vulcan could do it, but I’m sick of inviting him to parties. Because if you invite Vulcan you need to invite his cyclopses and I’m not even going to talk about that automaton woman he invented for himself. I’m the goddess of fertility. I prefer a warm body instead of some cold thing.”
“I thought you were the goddess of rice?”
“I told you, I’m the goddess of a bunch of shit. Pay attention to me when I speak, mortal! My word is law!” she yelled. “But I suppose there’s nothing for it. I can’t have you walking around here alone. You’re likely to step on a butterfly and screw up the whole time line. And I can’t kill you because that might also screw up a timeline. You will come along with me. We can go see your friend.”
“Jesus of Nazareth.”
Judas winced. “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Jesus isn’t going anywhere or doing anything. He was tortured and killed by Herod and his mob.”
“Oh hi,” she said sarcastically. “My name is Judas and I’m a human and I know more than the fucking goddess of rice.” She pointed the blade directly at him. “You don’t know shit about shit. You are not correct about his current state vis-a-vis being alive. You will follow me or you will be killed. Inari has spoken!” With an amazingly balletic movement, she twirled her staff around and in a heartbeat the blade was touching his throat. Judas was completely still except for where Mrs. Noodles was tugging and chewing at his robes.
“I would love nothing more, Goddess Inari,” he said quietly.
“Good,” she said, moving the blade away. “Come along, little human. You too, Mrs. Noodles,” she said to the fox who moved away from Judas and trotted after her mistress.
Judas followed the woman…goddess? Through the woods for about an hour until they came to a large clearing. Mrs. Noodles took off in a sprint towards the middle of said clearing in which there was a table set for three. And there, at the far end, stood a dead man. A dead man who clearly seemed to be alive and drinking something from a steaming cup. The fox barked at him and he scratched her head.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” Judas said out loud.
“Judas?” Jesus said in surprise. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“What am I doing here?” he exclaimed. “What the hell are you doing alive?! I saw you! I saw you die! Why would you put me through that without telling me it was fake!” Judas continued yelling as he walked up to Jesus.
“I did not fake my death, friend.”
“And yet here you are not dead. So you bloody well did something.”
“Judas. You have no idea what the hell I just went through so unless you know what it feels like to be tortured to death and can vividly remember every second of it, you can shut up and sit your ass down.”
Judas was about to retort something rude, but Inari interrupted.
“There aren’t enough chairs,” the goddess explained.
Jesus sighed. “You’re right, Inari. My apologies. Judas, I am sorry for snapping at you. It’s been a rough few days. To answer your question, I did die, I’m sort of not really alive now, and we’re simply waiting for things to calm down a bit before I go back to Judea. My father is…unhappy with how I did things. Though to be fair, he’s the one who made me half human. He had to know that free will was a part of it, so I think subconsciously, he wanted me to do what I did.”
“And what exactly was that? To die on the cross? To leave Mary a widow? Was it the nonsense that Lucifer was talking about? What happened to the plan of freeing everyone in Judea? What happened to enlightening our people?”
“It started out that way, and then it got…bigger. I can explain it all but that aside, you being here isn’t part of the plan.”
“Well why am I here then? And, where the hell is ‘here’? I have a lot of other questions, too. For…after this one.”
“I’ll answer as best I can. First answer is that we are in Japan.”
“I’ve never heard of it.”
“Unimportant. Inari? Is it possible for Judas to go home?”
“Great! Can you send him there?” Jesus asked.
“No,” she replied.
“But you just said…”
“Do not purport to tell me what I said, half god. You’re not done on Earth and I outrank you, yet. You are scheduled to return to Judea in forty days. Judas may accompany you in your travels from here to there.”
“I can’t be gone for that long. What about my wife and kid?” Judas asked before Inari jumped towards him and he once again found himself with her blade at his throat.
“Listen and listen well, maggot. You don’t talk back to the gods. You don’t complain about the gods nor their actions. There are far worse fates than a pike to the throat and I can ensure that you experience them. Be grateful that you are alive. Be grateful you are going home. Shut up, smile, and drink this sake,” she said, suddenly holding a small, steaming cup.
“Yes, ma’am,” he responded, whimpering a bit. He took the proffered cup and drank. It was hot and burned on the way down but filled him with an almost instant calm.
“Good boy,” she replied.
“So…what exactly is the plan?” he asked, after she moved her weapon away from his neck.
“I have to travel a bit and meet some of the other gods and see as much of the world as I can before I return home and ascend to heaven, there to sit for eternity by my father’s side. Unless shit goes sideways and I have to return to the Earth for some reason and bring about the end times. But my father doesn’t think that will happen for a few thousand years.”
“Right. Right,” Judas replied. “And your more immediate plans?”
“Oh, Um. I have a meeting with the archangel Gabriel about logistics of traveling from place to place and Inari is going to explain how time works. Again.”
“Why are you having trouble with this? Time is merely an ordering of various realities which are inexorably entwined with space. Each instance of existence can be seen as separate from previous and future instances and yet somehow everything simultaneously exists as a continuous aggregate of all the temporal parts which are possible. This is not difficult. Everyone knows this.”
Judas turned and gave a blank stare to Jesus.
“Right. A little chit-chat about that and then you and I go on a road trip?” Jesus offered.
Judas rubbed his eyes. “All right. Whatever, man. Is there food?”
“I’m glad you asked,” Inari replied. “How much do you like rice?”
Judas merely closed his eyes and sighed. As he did so, Mrs. Noodles bit his ankle, spun around three times and then fell into a peaceful slumber at his feet.