- 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.
I recently visited my family at our farm in the western part of Massachusetts. The town is situated on top of a mountain surrounded by forests and pastures. There’s an abundance of peace and quiet. There was also an abundance of snow and general cold weather on my trip.
On the third day of my visit, after taking a brisk walk in the north forest with the dogs, I sat down in front of the fireplace and thought about my friend, Erin.
It had now been a few weeks since she took her own life and while I had been trying to ignore that fact, the ramifications of her actions were now settling upon me. Depression mixed with anger mixed with a sense of abandonment. All towards a woman who I had barely spoken to recently and yet, like a lot of my friends, is always there in the back of my mind. She’s part of my own mental health issue which manifests itself as a chorus of voices which all whisper, “Worry about me.”
In my life, I’ve fallen into very deep chasms of anxiety and depression but I’ve always managed to fight my way out. I didn’t always escape unharmed but I’ve survived, nevertheless .
So why couldn’t she?
It’s unfair to say, but I wish she’d been stronger. It’s unfair and terrible of me because I know that’s not how it works. She was incredibly strong, but she was exhausted and weary of the years long and constant fight to stay sane. And now, this talented, funny, and beautiful person is gone. Leaving only pictures and memories.
I scoured my phone for messages from her and read through our last conversation. She seemed happy and productive. It’s one of the scary things about being bi-polar; the seemingly quick switch between extreme highs and devastating lows. After reading through the chat, I broke down. Mourning made me feel better. It made me feel human.
As the heat of the fire washed over me, I remembered happier times. Meandering through the Ramble in Central Park and making our way to the Turtle Pond so we could make some new, slow moving friends. Hiding under trees during a downpour. Drinking at my apartment until the early hours of the morning and sharing very occasional moments of intimacy.
I wanted another day with her. A picnic in the park with whiskey and chocolate, perhaps? Or maybe sitting by the same fire I was enjoying now. Would we laugh? Or would I have yelled at her for hurting me? Would I have been angry for what I was about to lose or just happy to have a little more time?
As these thoughts swirled around my head, our black lab came into the room and slumped down next to me. I scratched her head and she licked my face in response.
“Who needs a drink?” I asked the dog. She yawned at me which I took as an affirmation that I shouldn’t be thinking any of these thoughts sober. “Let’s go find some wine, girl,” I said, standing up. I wandered to the kitchen with the dog trotting behind me and left what thoughts I could with the fire.
In which Judas and Jesus travel through India and learn about road building.
Jesus and Judas walked down a road, side by side, in quiet contemplation, the silence broken only by the sounds of nature or the occasional ramblings of a civil engineer. (More on that shortly.) The reticence reminded Judas of happier days, when their little retinue would walk from village to village preaching. In the long stretches of land between the farms and outposts, nobody spoke. Instead the group would save up all of their philosophical musings regarding life, the universe, and everything, until they made camp.
Judas usually preferred being in his own head, although as the day wore on, he was having a harder time staying there. His mind was venturing towards darker and more disturbing thoughts and he decided to seek his way out of them.
He stopped walking for a moment and looked inquisitively at the sky before finally speaking.
“Hey. What day is it?” he asked.
“Twenty days past the equinox,” Jesus replied
“Huh. It’s my birthday.”
“Oh, happy birthday, man! Do you have anything planned?”
Judas turned his head sharply towards Jesus and frowned.
“I mean. Um. Did you have anything planned?”
Judas sighed and turned back towards the road. “I would be doing the same thing I always do. Sit at home, drink wine, and wait out the year with my wife. I assume Mary would also find her way over, despite my protests.”
Judas would have continued, but the aforementioned civil engineer had turned towards them.
His name was Pusan and he was the god of roads. He was also chief engineer of a number of infrastructure projects in areas which previously had none. The god bent down and pointed a small knife towards something.
“Here’s an important tip, chums. Never install paving bricks over a mortar bed if you expect heavy traffic. Your bricks will break and the uneven path will cause further strain to the road as well as anything traveling down it. Do you see the cracking here and here,” he said, pointing out the fissures. “These stones were a poor choice. Metamorphic rocks are often the strongest, although without the proper support, even they can falter.”
“I hate this guy so much,” Judas muttered.
“Don’t be a dick, Judas.”
“I’m not being a dick. This guy doesn’t seem to care what we say. He just talks about rocks. Remind me again why the hell we’re here, listening to him blather?”
“Come here and look at this, lads,” Pusan continued, talking over them. “Watch what happens when I scrape my knife along the interior of this brick. Do you see the dusting? This stone is tainted with some sedimentary rock. A huge weakness which should have been discovered when it was chipped out of the quarry. Now if you’ll follow me a little further, I can show you some samples of where sedimentary rock actually should be used.”
Pusan stood up and began walking down the road again. Jesus waited until he was out of earshot before speaking.
“Whether or not he is paying attention to what you say is beside the point. It’s still rude. But to answer your question, we’re here because I want to learn everything I can before I leave this world. Building things is an important and very human trait.”
“So let someone else learn it. You’ll be gone in two weeks. And if you do return it won’t be to build roads. You could have spent your remaining time with your loved ones. How is this guy,” Judas waved his hand towards Pusan who was grunting and attempting to pry a large stone from the ground, “more important?”
“We’re beyond the needs of my immediate family at this point. And this stuff is important because people like the high priest wish that everyone and everything would stay the same forever. They hate progress, but hating that is heretical to how we were made. In the short time I have left I will learn math, cosmology, geology and yes, road building. And I’ll be better for it. Your options are to learn with me or be abandoned here and spend the rest of your days in India or try walking the twelve million cubits back home.”
“No need to get hostile, Mr. Peace and Love.”
Jesus sighed. “I’m sorry my friend. I know it’s hard now, but it’s for the greater good. Besides. In a few short years we’ll all be together.”
“Dude, we both know that God isn’t letting me into heaven. My job is to literally break the sixth commandment whenever the High Priest pays me to. I sacrificed my soul a long time ago. I’m never seeing you after this journey and it’s fucking weird to think that you’re here now, perfectly healthy, but in two weeks you’ll be gone. I’m going to miss you and it sucks, man.”
“Look boys!” Pusan had come running back to them carrying a large stone. He placed it at their feet and smacked it with a tiny hammer which broke the stone in half. “This is a wonderful example of an igneous rock. Made of pure magma from deep in the bowels of the earth. By looking here,” he said, indicating the inside. “You can see that no crystals have formed. That means the magma which made this must have cooled very quickly. How did you get all the way to the surface, little rock? That’s a mystery for another day, lads. For now, let’s keep moving. Lots to see!”
Judas waited for Pusan to skip off and turned to Jesus. “Can I ask you something, else? It’s been bothering me, but I haven’t wanted to bring it up,” Judas said.
“Sure,” Jesus replied.
“It’s regarding Mary.”
“What about her?”
“What’s going to happen to her? She knows you’re coming back, but does she know it’s only going to be for two days before you wing your way up to Heaven?”
“When we met with Gabriel, he told me he’d pass along the message to her. She should be aware.”
Pusan turned around and yelled out. “Boys! It’s important to understand the need for proper drainage on any road of consequence. Drainage and a closely fitted surface! You don’t want all of this work to be washed away by one big storm!”
“Right you are, Pusan! We’re right behind you and totally paying attention,” Judas replied before turning back to Jesus. “You’re leaving her behind and she has to find out second hand from a stranger? After watching you die on the cross?”
“Judas, everything happened really quickly. And not for nothing but I had planned on explaining things to her at the Passover, except that somebody,” he said giving Judas a sharp glance, “made their way to the grove late and inadvertently led the Romans to the gardens where we had set everything up.”
“You’re blaming me?”
Jesus sighed. “It’s not about blame. Everything presumably happened the way it was supposed to. I just wasn’t aware of the order of events and how they were going to unfold. I never wanted Mary to witness the crucifixion. And for that matter, I never wanted to have to feel every lash of the whip, the nails piercing my limbs, nor the final spear that ended things. To your point, I wanted more time to explain things, but it didn’t happen. I can either bitch and moan about it or I can move forward on the well paved path we’ve been given.”
“It’s still a shitty thing to do. I know that it’s for the greater good or whatever, but here and now, it feels shitty. I’m angry and frustrated and sad and it sucks. That’s all.”
“Dude, I know. I’m sorry. I really am.”
Judas remained silent and kept walking. Jesus looked at his friend who was clearly suffering and spoke up. “Tell you what Judas. We’re only with Pusan here until the end of the day. We’ll eat dinner and then take a little detour and we can meet a goddess I think you’ll like.”
“I doubt it.”
“No, really. You once told me your opinion about mind altering substances. Drinking and drugs and such?”
Judas stopped and contemplated a moment. “I believe I told you that I was for ‘em.”
“Right. So how about this. There’s a goddess named Teotihuacan. I wasn’t planning on meeting her during this trip, but you look like you need a break. She’s a spider goddess whose hair is made out of hallucinogenic morning glory vines and she tends a garden full of marijuana. How about we take a break for a day and experience a little peace on earth and goodwill towards all of god’s creatures? She’s on a continent on the other side of the world, but I think we can swing it.”
“You want to travel across the globe to do drugs and get wrecked?”
“My father gave unto us all of the herb which bears seed. Might as well take advantage while I can.” (Genesis 1:29)
“Is there none in heaven?”
“I have no idea what’s on the other side. Right now I’m still human and I don’t think it’s possible for humans to actually know what goes on up there.”
“While I walk the earth, that’s neither here nor there. Let’s go get lit. I know that I’m leaving. But instead of grieving that things are ending, how about making some new happy memories?”
Judas looked out towards the horizon and then to his friend. “Sure,” he said, shaking his head.
Jesus smiled back at him and the two continued down the path listening once again to the wind, the birds, and the occasional, excited outburst from the god of roads.