Part 1: 2024Dallas,
They told him it was supposed
to be humane; that much, at least, he remembered. But that
was about it. The rest of his life up until now had, for the
most part, been a series of flashes. The older he got, the
more common they became, and lately all he could see were
flashes. But it wasn't always like that, and, despite his
current condition, he had found a sense of peace.
He remembered a time when
he could still think somewhat clearly; when everything wasn't
hidden by these lights. A song ran through his head. Odd time
for a song, he thought, but it was there nonetheless. "Blinded
by the Light." That was a real old song, but he remembered
it from years ago when he was a kid. Hell, that song had been
old back then. He hummed a few bars.
"Didn't know you had
it in you, Charlie. Most men are crying or trying to break
free right about now, but not you. You're humming an old Springsteen
Charlie looked over at the
man who was preparing a syringe. He saw him clearly, and he
knew what he was doing, but then the flash came. Blinded by
the light once again. His body heaved against the weight of
the leather chair he was strapped to, causing quite a commotion.
The prison doctor didn't jump.
He'd seen all types at this final stage of their lives. He
did cock his head slightly to one side, though, puzzled. When
Charlie had been humming, it didn't seem like an act. He seemed
genuinely in the moment, and (strangely enough), content.
Now he looked like an animal, his eyes fierce and his body
language saying that if he got free of his restraints, there
would be hell to pay.
And just like that, the flash
was gone, and Charlie remembered none of it. He continued
humming the Springsteen song again as if nothing had happened.
"You are an odd one,
He'd heard that before.
When he was young, before
the flashes started, he'd had a normal life. He had parents
who loved him and two brothers and two sisters he cared deeply
about. Hell, he was even good at school, with plenty of friends.
He was one of those people who was just born likeable
until the flashes started.
Charlie remembered the day
the first one came like it was yesterday. He was on the schoolyard
at lunch time, playing tether ball when all of a sudden it
was like he was surrounded by one giant mirror reflecting
the most intense silver lights one can imagine. That's where
the memory stopped, but that wasn't where his actions stopped.
Apparently, he continued playing
tether ball with his friend, but his friend's head became
the ball. He'd pounded him so hard and so relentlessly that
he'd broken his nose and both of his cheeks.
At least that's what they
As far as little Charlie knew,
anybody could have done that, and he, well, he just wouldn't.
Andy was his friend, and he'd never want to hurt him. That's
what he told the principal, the police and his parents, but
nobody believed him.
It was explained to him time
and time again that everybody on the schoolyard had heard
the commotion, and everybody saw that it was him who tried
to kill Andy.
Kill him! That's what they
said to him. Kill. All Charlie remembered was being surrounded
by very painful bright lights, and he told them as much, but
nobody bought it. His savagery, apparently, had made quite
an impression on a lot of people, and he could see, for the
first time, fear in the eyes of his parents. He didn't like
that, and he didn't understand it. Young Charlie felt like
he hadn't done anything because he didn't remember doing anything,
but he was having a hard time convincing anybody of that.
"We'll deal with this,"
his father had said.
"I'm sorry, sir, it's
not going to be that easy," a police officer said.
"I'm his father. I'll
take care of this," he said again.
"Sir, the parents of
the other child are pressing charges," the police officer
"I should hope so,"
the principal said, showing exactly whose side she was on.
"So what, you're telling
us we can't take my own son home?" his mother asked,
her voice cracking.
"Yes ma'am. We have to
take him to juvenile detention until a judge hears his case."
"You can't do that,"
his father said.
"Sir, I know you know
about all of the laws that have been put into place in schools
recently. This wasn't just a fight on between two boys."
He shook his head. "You didn't see the condition of the
other kid. He looked like his head had been stuffed into a
blender. We're treating this as attempted murder."
his mom and his dad said simultaneously.
"For the time being,
yes. We're going to have a doctor evaluate him, and unless
he is declared insane, it will most likely go down as attempted
That's when the commotion
started, and that's when the police officer took him out to
the car. Charlie remembered looking back and seeing the policeman's
partner physically restraining his parents from coming after
At juvenile detention, he
was asked a lot of silly questions by a doctor who didn't
seem half as bright as his sixth grade teacher, and that was
when she declared that he wasn't insane, just an "
one. In fact, in all my years of practicing, I've never seen
anything like it. We'll run a CT scan on your head, but something
tells me it'll come out just fine."
Well, had they done the tests,
they would have seen that something wasn't right, but those
tests never happened. Like so many other cases, his got lost
in the paperwork, and as far as the judge or his parents knew,
he was perfectly healthy. Charlie knew he wasn't healthy,
and he still had no recollection of what he'd done to Andy.
He hadn't, however, had another of those terrible blinding
moments since, and he began to doubt himself. That, unfortunately,
wouldn't last much longer.
As he stood before the judge
with his parents at his side and the judge started to read
the verdict, everything in Charlie's world disappeared; everything
except for the blinding lights, that is.
The next thing that he knew
after the lights went away was that he was strapped to a gurney
in a padded room. There was a small window in the padded door,
and Charlie could see a man looking in on him. Once the man
realized he was awake, he came in. But he wasn't alone. There
were three men in white coats and one policeman. Charlie may
have been young, but he knew this couldn't be a good sign.
"Why did you do it, Charlie?"
was the first thing that the doctor asked.
Charlie didn't answer. He
was scared, and, exactly like the incident on the schoolyard,
he didn't have a clue what the doctor was talking about.
"She was your mother,
for God's sake," the policeman said. He was glaring at
Charlie, and Charlie vomited on himself. He loved his mother,
and the thought that he'd done anything to her tore him up
"I guess that's his way
of saying 'I'm sorry,'" the policeman said.
"I think you should probably
keep quiet," the doctor said sternly.
"Okay. You're the boss
here," the policeman snidely answered.
Finally, Charlie spoke. "What
did I do?"
"That's a good one,"
the policeman said.
The doctor gave him a stern
look, and he rolled his eyes. He didn't say anything else,
though. "What's the last thing you remember, Charlie?"
"Standing up before the
judge and then these terrible lights."
"You don't remember anything
Charlie didn't have to think
about it. "No."
"Typical," the policeman
"Will you please shut
up," the doctor said more forcefully than before, although
without raising his voice.
"No, I won't shut up.
Look, doctor, with all due respect, I've seen this thing more
times than I'd like to remember. Somebody goes nuts, kills
"Yeah, kid. You grabbed
her throat so tightly that her neck snapped. And now you're
going to play the denial card to get a free ride off the government
in the looney bin instead of taking a seat in the armless
chair when you come of age."
"Get him out of here!"
the doctor said to the orderlies.
"You're out of your jurisdiction
on that one, doc, but I'll go anyways. I can't stand the smell
of bullshit in here, and the puke on top of it isn't helping
Charlie didn't watch him walk
out; he didn't care. All he cared about was his mommy. He
couldn't have hurt her. "Did I
" He couldn't
finish the question.
The doctor didn't answer;
he didn't have to. "We'll figure out what's going on,
Over the next few weeks, Charlie
went through numerous tests to see what was wrong with his
head, all of which came back negative. None of his family
members ever came by, and he didn't blame them, considering
what he'd done to his mommy. He thought he'd never see them
again, and he was right. At first he didn't blame them, but
the resentment eventually started to build. It wasn't really
his fault; the flashes took away his memory and made him do
horrible things, but these were things that he would never
even think of doing.
Or would he?
As the years went by, he'd
have more flashes, but he was kept alone, first in the padded
cell as an adolescent and then as a young adult in county,
so he didn't hurt anybody anymore. Sure, some of his 'episodes'
were witnessed, but the guards and doctors always wrote it
off as Charlie keeping up the front that he'd used as a kid
to avoid more time behind bars, and he was finally released
at twenty-seventwenty-one years after the incident on
Charlie had nowhere to go
and didn't know what to do, so the state put him on a public
housing plan and gave him a mindless job working for the city.
All of that made him feel better (or at least more human),
and the flashes even seemed to go away, but still that question
lingered in his mind: What made me do those things? Were the
doctors right and was it all a front? Was it a 'coping mechanism'
as the prison shrink (the tall lady with the lisp) had said?
Was he really guilty and in some sort of control the whole
There was only one way to
find out. He knew it was the wrong way to go about it, but
he had to be sure. He had to know if he really killed Mommy
and was covering it up like the 'professionals' said, and
he had to find out soon. The nightmares that he was having
about the playground and his mother were getting worse, and
he needed some peace of mind, no matter what the cost.
That next night, he executed
his plan. He looked in the mirror before leaving the public
housing and evaluated himself. He looked normal, felt normal,
and wasn't seeing any flashes. So how would it feel now? Would
he remember or would he 'cover it up'? Time to find out.
Charlie didn't need to think
it through much, because it was all very simple. He clipped
his buck knife to his belt, threw on a coat to cover it up,
and walked a few blocks down the street from where he lived.
He looked at the names on the apartment directory, and found
a person who lived alone. He noticed her name was Emily Maston,
but he didn't dwell on that fact. This was nothing personal.
If anything, it was a clinical trial.
There was no security system
at the apartment, so he didn't need to be buzzed in. He just
walked to apartment number 202 like a casual friend and knocked
on the door. Charlie heard footsteps as she came to the door
and opened it. "Hi. Can I help you?"
"God, I hope so. I've
been having these terrible dreams and I have to kill you to
see if I'm responsible."
Emily Maston, of the Maston
family from New England, stood there with her mouth open and
a quizzical look on her face, wondering if she'd heard what
this stranger at the door had just said correctly, while she
should have been reacting.
Charlie pushed her inside
and slammed the door as quietly as one can slam a door, pushing
her up against the door adjacent to the wall and covering
her mouth with his right hand as his left went for the knife.
He was going to make this as quick and painless as possible,
but remain observant. He didn't want to kill anybody for no
reason, but he had to know if the shrinks were right. As he
slit her throat and Emily Maston was no longer able to scream,
he was aware of everything. He was aware of the life flowing
out of her as he watched, and he was very aware of the fact
that he did it. That proved he was innocent. Well, innocent
of killing his mother and beating what's his name on the playground
to a pulp. Now, maybe the dreams would go away.
Calmly, selfishly and with
absolutely no real regard for the life that he had just taken,
he walked over to the kitchen and started to rinse the knife
off in the chipped white tile sink. That was when he heard
Emily's boyfriend, who just happened to be a cop, open the
door. And, at almost the same instant, he heard the unmistakable
sound of a gun being drawn from a holster, a sound he'd heard
way too often during his time incarcerated.
Charlie didn't try anything;
he'd found his answer and the last thing he wanted to do now
was get shot. No, he'd be perfectly content going back to
prison (hell, life on the outside wasn't all that he'd hoped
for anyways). So Charlie laid himself stomach down on the
kitchen floor and laced his fingers together behind his neck,
telling the officer exactly where he was, what he was doing,
that he didn't have access to his weapon and he wouldn't resist
Charlie had found the peace
that he was looking for, but that didn't stop the flashes
from coming back. The only difference now was that the 'authorities'
thought he was using them to avoid a new murder rap. It didn't
make a difference in Charlie's mind; he wasn't avoiding anything
and he did murder somebody. And, while it was never Charlie's
intention to get caught, he knew that was a definite possibility.
He also knew what the consequences were: death by the armless
And now was the time.
No fewer than four correctional
officers unstrapped Charlie from the gurney while a fifth
had a gun pointed at him the whole time and strapped him to
the chair. He was willing to go on his own accord, but given
the violence he exhibited during his so called 'fake' flash
incidents, he could understand their security measures.
The armless chair wasn't completely
armless; there was only a piece of the armrest that was missing
on both sides just below where the wrist restraints went and
the middle of his forearm. Poised over the areas where there
was no armrest were two large stainless steel blades, which
reminded Charlie of little guillotines. This was the state's
latest invention of humane capital punishment. The idea was
that so long as the proper amount of Novocain was injected
into the area that was going to be cut, the prisoner wouldn't
feel a thing and would simply bleed out.
And it worked because the
prisoners really didn't feel anything, but it sure played
tricks on the mind, Charlie's included. After the blades fell
he sat there and watched his hands go limp and angle downward
at an angle that just wasn't right. And the blood. There was
so much of it. It was enough to drive anybody crazy, or at
least drive them to see those same damn shiny white lights.
"Good old Charlie,"
one of the officers said. "Consistent till the end."
He looked at his watch. It was one thirty in the afternoon.
Right on time.
The silver lights faded, and
although his eyes weren't open, he was seeing. He was watching
a man and a woman having intercourse on a bed that looked
like an antique, and he knew on some level that this involved
him, but how, exactly, he couldn't be sure.
* * *
Part Two: 1902England
The Berkshires received the
greatest gift possible on March 3, 1902. The baby was especially
special to the Berkshires because they had been trying for
so long, and the physicians all told them that they should
give up hope, and that it would be best not to dwell on the
subject since it was an impossibility. The Berkshires never
gave up hope, and their little baby girl was brought into
this world just after 1 a.m.
They decided on the name Sharon
for their miracle baby, and they treated her like the gift
she was. Even when times were difficult, Jonathan Berkshire
made sure that his little angel was never in need (or want,
for that matter) of anything. This would often mean great
sacrifices on his part, but he was more than willing to do
so. The same could be said of his wife, Eleanor. She was happy
to go hungry during the difficult times so that Sharon would
not, and, like Jonathan, she never once complained.
When Sharon reached the age
where her education was to begin, Jonathan and Eleanor made
sure that she attended school. It was not the fanciest, private
school that they both wished they could afford to send her
to, but it was the best that they could do.
As Sharon grew into a young
woman, she was very happy. Unlike most adolescent girls she
knew, she never had an urge to rebel in any way, because deep
down inside she knew it would be wrong. She could see the
daily struggles and sacrifices that her parents made for her,
and she knew that they had been doing this since the day she
was born. She imagined they'd been preparing for her and making
sacrifices for her even before she came into a real, physical
existence. She never asked them about this; she didn't need
to. Sharon knew that her parents would do anything for her,
and she felt the same way towards them.
Her family wasn't rich by
any means, and although she wanted to see the physician for
a discomfort she sometimes had, she didn't. It wasn't inhibiting
her in any way, but she was curious to know what it was. The
odd thing was that it only happened at a specific time: one
thirty in the afternoon.
On days that it happened,
she would feel a pressure just below her wristsa sudden
and heavy pressureand then, for about ten seconds, she
wouldn't be able to move her hands. It didn't happen often,
maybe twice a month, but she did find the whole thing curious.
Curious and familiar, in some odd way.
For a while, Sharon wondered
if she'd had some sort of accident as a child that she didn't
remember, and she wanted to ask her parents about it, but
she didn't for fear of hurting their feelings. Sure, it would
be good to know if this is what was causing her episodes,
but at the same time she didn't want her parents to feel as
though she was blaming them for anything.
So, she just let it go, and
dealt with it. After all, twenty seconds a month was really
no big deal in the grand scheme of things, and there were
people who had it a lot worse than her.
Besides, her parents had taught
her that God would never give somebody a cross that they couldn't
bear, and if this was her cross, so be it. She would carry
it not with self pity, but with pride.
Even more so than her parents,
her relationship with God was the thing that mattered most
to her in her life, and she was thankful that her parents
had given her this gift, this knowledge, of a higher power
and a higher purpose. Unlike a lot of her friends, she enjoyed
going to church, and even looked forward to it. By the time
she was around twelve, she would even go to church some days
after school because it gave her such a sense of peacea
peace that she couldn't find anywhere else.
It was also at this time that
she decided to give her life to God, and let Him chart the
course of her life out for her. Her plan was to finish her
formal education, and find some way to do His work. While
a woman would never hold a position of esteem equal to that
of a man, she knew she could still do charitable works through
the church that would help her fellow men and women, and wasn't
that what life was really all about?
Sharon debated being a nun
for a while, but decided against it. She was very outgoing,
and the nuns that she saw were usually very quiet and adhered
to strict rules. She admired these women for their sense of
discipline, but she knew she wasn't cut out for this.
Her faith never wavered, and
Elanor and Jonathan couldn't have been more proud of her.
As she grew into a young woman, they noticed that she spent
more and more time at church, reading her bible and doing
her best to serve her fellow man. On more than one occasion,
they had heard her talking to her friends about her relationship
with God, which made them even more proud. She had her faith,
and she wasn't afraid to let others know about it. That was
a gift that would serve her well in life.
And it did, until the world
seemed to be coming to an end and her faith was tested.
She was fifteen when the sickness
started. At first, it was a few cases here and there, but
by the time she turned sixteen, it had turned into an ugly
monster that seemed intent on destroying all of mankind.
The physicians were calling
it the 'Spanish Flu,' but to Sharon, it was something more
than just a sickness. It was evil personified, tearing apart
those around her, especially those who were around her age.
The physicians explained that the disease typically attacked
young adults with healthy immune systems. This made no sense
to Sharon and seemed to refute everything that she'd learned
thus far. Weren't people with weaker immune systems supposed
to be the ones getting sick? And wouldn't that mean that the
newly born or the elderly would be the most prone to sickness?
It didn't make sense to her. Life was fragile enough, and
it just didn't seem fair that those who were in their prime
were being struck down.
Surely this could only be
the work of the Devil? If this was the Devil (and Sharon truly
believed that it was), then why wasn't God stepping in and
doing anything about it, especially now that her father, a
man of faith, had come down with the disease? It made no sense!
This thing, this demon, usually didn't attack those who were
older. There were exceptions, of course, but why did her father
have to be one of them?
"It's just God's way,"
Jonathan told her.
"It's not right."
"Don't you ever question
the motives of God, child!" He tried to yell at her,
but it came out as more of a gurgle because the nature of
the disease was a hemorrhaging form the mucus membrane, the
nose, stomach and intestines.
"I'm sorry, father, but
it pains me to see you here like this. Why won't God help
He smiled at her. She was
so young and full of so many questions. "It's not that
bad," he said as a slow stream of blood started to come
out of his nose again. Sharon was right there to clean him;
to be of service to her fellow man. "And I'm not done
yet. Who's to say that God won't help me?" He coughed,
more violently than he'd coughed before, and this time there
was more blood. So much more blood.
She tried her best not to
let it faze her, but even though it was her father, she couldn't
help but feel a sense of repulsion. This was the Beast attacking
this innocent, God fearing man, and the blood that came out
of him seemed to be mocking her and her beliefs. "Shh,
father," she said. "You're right, God may still
help you." She didn't believe a word of it, but it was
the only kind thing that she could say. Unfortunately, he
didn't hear a word of it.
She screamed and started shaking him at the shoulders, knowing
all the while that he was dead. The Beast had killed him and
God had done nothing about it.
Her mother stood behind her,
crying silently and doing her best to keep her composure.
She'd been standing there the whole time, and knew that Jonathan
had moved on to a better place, and the one that was really
hurting now was Sharon. "It's okay, baby. He's at peace
"It's not okay!"
Sharon said, sobbing. "It's not at all okay."
"It's God's will,"
"Not my God!"
Eleanor had no response for
this. Sharon was the real spiritual one in the family, and
to see her disavowing everything that she believed in was
heart breaking and filled her with anger. But she knewshe
absolutely knewthat the worst thing she could do right
now was get mad at her daughter.
Sharon stepped away from her
father and ran out of their dwelling.
"Sharon! Sharon, please
come back," Eleanor said, but it was too late. She heard
the wooden door open and close, and all she could do now was
wait for her daughter to come back. She looked down at Jonathan,
and collapsed on his body, overcome by grief.
Sharon just ran, not sure
where she was going. She didn't know what to do. She wasn't
a doctor and she couldn't cure anybody. Was her purpose now
to wipe away the blood of those chosen by the Beast and ignored
by God? Was that the best that she could do?
If it was, she wanted no part
of it. Her father was a good and righteous man, and he shouldn't
have died, but God had let him. It was at this point that
Sharon lost her faith completely. She had just turned eighteen,
but had seen too much to ever believe that a God who would
allow this sort of suffering could possibly be anything but
evil Himself. She vowed never again to speak His name or to
step foot into His place of worship, and this made her feel
better: at least now she had somebody to blame.
She stopped running and continued
walking in a daze. Her home was in Plashett, and as she approached
the fields that would lead to Plaistow, she had an idea that
she would never see home, her friends or her mother again.
Her initial reaction to this was sadness, but it was quickly
replaced by anger: anger at herself, anger at the Beast, and,
most intensely, anger at God. She knew she was leaving not
only because of what she'd seen there, but because of her
Plashett was a place where
she saw by example the power of love through all that her
parents had done for her; the sacrifices she knew they'd made
that they thought she didn't know about. These were the things
that she had always held close to her heart, and they were
positive memories, even now.
But that couldn't outweigh
the other experience she had in her home village, because
this was where she learned about God. His Unconditional Love.
His Forgiveness. His Compassion.
Life was a whole different
ballgame, though, wasn't it? When the chips were down, where
She knew this. He was everywhere.
He wasn't just in the Church that she went to, but He was
in the people that she met and all of His wonderful creations.
He was even in the wheat field that she was rapidly approaching.
Yes, this was one of His creations too, and as she got closer,
she didn't want to go into it. She wanted to burn it down
and then pass through. God was everywhere and doing nothing.
Didn't this make him the biggest
hypocrite in the world? He had the power to help people; He
had the power to help her father and everybody else that was
dying from this thing that people were starting to call the
Spanish Flu. (Silly people, it was simply the Beast, but for
some reason, giving it a medical name made it seem less formidableless
But not to Sharon. Her faith
had given her the ability to see things as they really were,
and what things really were was God losing a fight, or maybe
not fighting at all, which would mean he was something lower
than a loser.
She coughed deeper this time.
Sharon now had a clearer idea
of where she was going. It was funny what a clarifier anger
could be. In fact, contrary to what she'd been taught, it
could be a very positive thing, because it let you see things
as they really were. She'd heard of being blinded by anger,
but that was all wrong. All anger did was let you see things
more clearly, and her vision was certainly crystal clear now.
Cough with phlegm. Why was
it a pinkish color?
She was going to cross this
field and go to Plaistow where she would take Poplar Road
to the London Hospital. It shouldn't take her too long to
get to the road, and then the hospital was only a few miles
Sick people went to the hospital,
and although she wasn't sick (another coughthis time
the pink was a red that could only be one thing), she wanted
to bear witness to what the Beast was doing and what God was
not doing. Her faith had taught her to be a beacon, a light,
and to not hide, and she had no intention of hiding now. She
was going to face the Beast. She couldn't do a damn thing
about it, but she could look at it in the faces of those dying
and tell it to go to hell, which was more than her God was
She entered the wheat field,
which came up to her shoulders. Harvest Season was coming,
even if there would be nobody there to harvest the crop. What
a waste, she thought.
As she walked, she started
plucking stalks of wheat out of the groundjust a fewand
held them in her arms like an infant. Somebody cares,
she thought to herself. Somebody isn't going to let it
all go to waste. She had no idea what she was going to
do with the wheat that she gathered, but it didn't really
matter. What was important was that she was doing something,
which was more than she could say of a certain deity.
The sky that had been grey
all morning was starting to get darker, and Sharon felt the
first droplets of rain on her head. It felt good, considering
how hot she was. She took a deep breath, and it sounded like
a gurgle. It must be the rain, she thought. Maybe
I breathed some of it in.
She didn't believe it, but
it was enough to keep her moving forward. She had toshe
would make it to the London Hospital and tell the Beast where
She stumbled on a stone in
the field, landing on her hands and knees as the wheat went
flying out of her hands and mixing in with the rest of the
crop. She breathed deeply again, hot and feeling like she
was under water. I'll just lay down for a couple of minutes
and rest, she thought to herself. Besides, the rain
falling on my face will make me feel better.
It did, but it didn't help
her breathing out one bit. In fact, it made her feel like
she was drowning. Sharon tried to get up, but quickly discovered
that she couldn't. Her breathing became more and more labored,
and with each breath she was getting less and less oxygen.
She knew what was happening, and couldn't be in denial any
more. She was scared. I'm going to die in this wheat field
and then what? They told me if I was a good girl, I'd go to
Heaven and I believed it, yet here I lay waiting for the Beast
to take me away. What now? What now!
As she took her last underwater
breath in a deserted wheat field, her eyes were open and reflected
a fear that was entirely primal.
Her next feeling was that
of light. A light of compassion and love that she had never
felt before. It was something that she innately knew she wouldn't
even be able to comprehend in her previous life. Immediately,
she felt shame, but she also felt forgiveness. The light welcomed
her, but she couldn't accept it; she didn't feel herself deserving.
She had a choice. She could either accept the light's forgiveness
* * *
Part 3: 40 A.D.Rome
John's mother died giving
birth to John, which was common for the time period. Naturally,
Mark, his father, was upset, but he wasn't distraught. He'd
seen too much in his 55 years of existence to be too upset.
Grieving was a natural part of the human condition, and he
did grieve, perhaps just not as much as he would have if he'd
been born 100 years earlier.
Back in those times, nobody
knew what to expect when someone passed on from this existence,
but now, now he knew. He'd been taught, and he believed. How
could he not? Mark was there. He'd witnessed all of it, and
it had changed the world forever.
He'd been fifteen when the
one who came to teach died, and, although young, he remembered
seeing the miracles performed by the Teacher. He'd never met
the man personally, but he'd seen Him from a distance.
Mark had his parents to thank
for this. They were gone now, but when they were alive, they
were devout Jews. He remembered his parents taking him to
see the Teacher, although they could never get very close
because of the great crowds that followed him wherever he
went, up until the day he died. Even then, he was surrounded
by people, although these people had turned on him and sentenced
him to die.
He was fifteen at this time,
and an adult in the eyes of his parents and his religion.
He didn't ask permission to go to Golgotha on that day, and
he didn't regret that part of it. There were things of a much
greater magnitude drawing him to that place, and even if his
parents had said no, he would have gone anyways.
Still, he couldn't get close.
He wanted to be near the Teacher, to show his devotion and
support, but this great man was surrounded by a mob 50 deep,
and those closest to the Teacher were being beaten and sometimes
It didn't matter to Mark.
He would have been willing to die just to be close to the
Teacher, but it wasn't meant to be. But on that morning, the
morning that everything died, he knew in his heart with a
certainty that he'd never felt before that the Teacher knew
he was there. Through all of the beating and suffering, The
Teacher knew he was there. Mark also knew, without a doubt,
that he was loved.
He'd heard all of the stories
of the Teacher coming back, but he never saw Him, nor did
it matter. Like the day when everything died, he knew that
everything was alive again.
So, when his wife died, he
was saddened, but mainly for himself. She had been his companion
for as long as he could remember, and now she was gone. But
where she went was to a much better place and to much better
company; she was now in the house of the Teacher, and he was
still here in the world.
It was a shift, and a shift
that he just had to accept. His wife was gone, but his son
was here, and he felt that his life's work now was to care
for his son and teach him what the great Teacher had taught.
And that is how it happened
that at a very young age, John began hearing about the Teacher
and the wondrous deeds of love that He performed: through
his father. Now, like most young boys, his father was his
hero, and he immediately believed everything he said. But
as John grew into a young man, his belief didn't falter. When
he was at an age where he could think more independently and
form his own opinions, all he had to do was look into his
father's eyes and see his faith.
But it wasn't just his father;
throughout the Roman Empire, there were only two types of
people: those who believed and those who did not, and both
sides were adamant in their ways of thinking. John became
a believer, as his father knew that he would, and decided
when he was still very young that he would tell others about
the great Teacher, and maybe even change the minds of some
of those who still had yet to believe. It would not be an
easy task; he knew that from the beginning. In fact, it seemed
to be getting more difficult every day, but that didn't matter,
as he told his father Mark while he was on his death bed.
"Are you smiling because
you approve of my decision?" he asked as he held his
father's hand, putting cool water from the clay jar on his
warm forehead with a rag.
"Yes, of course that
brings me much joy."
"Are you in great pain?"
"Yes," he said,
still smiling. He actually looked happy because he was. The
pain was excruciating, yes, but it would be over soon. "I
will be with the Teacher soon now, son, and that is the greatest
joy of all." And with that, Mark died.
John had a proper burial for
his father, but didn't spend much time mourning. By nature,
he was much more emotional in that regard than his father
was, but he focused all of his energy on the promise he'd
made to the man on his death bed.
By the year 65, when John
was 25, he had already made quite a name for himself amongst
other Christians. He seemed to know more than others, and
had a way of voicing this to the masses which could be nothing
but a gift. Throughout Rome, he was regarded as a great orator
and a great believer, and he inspired many, both Christians
and non-Christians. Indeed, he was fulfilling the promise
he'd made to his father, but more importantly, John knew he
was doing what the great Teacher wanted him to do.
As he converted people and
became more and more well-known for these conversions, he
also made more than a few enemies. When he'd started his mission,
he knew that there would be obstacles, but the amount of hatred
that was being directed towards Christians seemed to be getting
worse and worse every day. More and more Christians were being
martyred, and he knew that his days were numbered if he continued
on the path he was on.
For a moment, he waivered.
He knew he had done the Teacher's work, and he knew that he
had done it well. What good would he be if he was dead? Maybe
he could keep a low profile until things calmed down and his
name was forgotten. After all, hadn't he just recently been
told that his name was being mentioned amongst some very prominent
Roman officials? John knew that most Romans didn't like Christians,
especially in the government sector. If his name was being
brought up there, surely it was only so that they could make
an example of him. And this thought terrified him, but it
was also the answer to his question, for what could be more
noble than to be made an example of in the name of the Teacher?
That made up his mind, and rather than quieting down, he preached
louder, more proudly and with more confidence than he ever
None of this pleased Nero,
who was Rome's sixth emperor and just a little bit off his
rocker. He was more than slightly paranoid, and suffered from
delusions of grandeur.
It didn't help that he was
surrounded by people who only reinforced his twisted beliefs.
Nero had heard of this man
John, and immediately associated him with John the Baptist,
who had somehow lost his head. He laughed at his little joke,
and told it to those around him, who laughed much louder and
harder than they should have.
"Do you want us to bring
his head to you?" one of his servants asked.
"That's a very generous
offer, but I need to see how that would feel first."
He looked at one of his guards and said, laughing, "Give
me his head!" pointing at the servant who had made the
The servant had a look of
shock on his face, which didn't last long. If you were a guard
of Nero, you didn't ask questions and you didn't hesitate.
Nero got off of his seat and picked up the servant's head
by the hair. "No, this doesn't feel right," he said,
addressing his entourage of servants and guards. Then he moved
the face of the servant so that it was an inch from his mouth
and started screaming. "You want me to mimic Herod?!
And that idea was given to him by his daughter! A woman!"
Spit flew into the dead man's face as he yelled, and when
he was done, he threw the head against the nearest wall. "Somebody
clean up this mess! I've got much more in store for this John
and his like."
One of his servants immediately
began cleaning up the mess that Nero had made. He looked down
at his sandals and saw that there was blood on them. This
he did not like. "And somebody clean my feet and sandals."
He sat back down on his seat, and had his every wish taken
care of, as was always the case. And, in Nero's mind, always
would be the case.
John heard tales of this incident
that happened at Nero's palace, but it didn't really matter
to him. Once he accepted that he was willing to die for his
faith, and in a sense even wanted to die for it, nothing mattered
except his mission. And his mission was preaching. The only
time that he deviated from his mission was in the year 64.
It was during the night of
July 18th when he first saw the smoke rising from a part of
the city that he was close tothe merchants' area of
Rome. People were screaming and running away from the fire
as John ran towards it. He knew that if this fire got out
of control, the whole city was likely to burn, and countless
numbers of innocent people would be killed. With the summer
winds blowing, the fire could not be allowed to ravage the
wooden structures of the Imperial City, so it had to be taken
care of immediately. When he arrived at the location, he saw
that it was much worse than he imagined, and immediately he
began helping people who were trapped in burning structures.
He, along with every other
able bodied person in Rome, continued fighting the fires,
but it was useless. The fire seemed to be alive, and John
kept thinking of it as the Beast. He didn't know why, because
he wasn't one to give human or animal characteristics to something
out of nature, but something in his head kept saying, "This
is the Beast, this is the Beast, this is the Beast."
For six days and seven nights,
the fire was fought, eventually leaving the majority of the
city in ruins. In addition to being exhausted (as was most
every other citizen in Rome who had fought the inferno), his
wrists hurt. The funny thing was, he couldn't remember what
he'd done that would cause this. He'd felt finetired,
but finewhile fighting the Beast, but now, it felt like
there was something sharp slicing at the area just below his
wrists. It went away after a couple of days, and John forgot
about it; he had more important things to do. Not only was
the city destroyed, but so was the spirit of its inhabitants,
and John knew that he could use this to his advantage, explaining
how the great Teacher suffered as well and He knew what they
were all going through. So, while most of the people's dispositions
were as charred as the city, John was a beacon of light.
Nero heard about this, and
it drove him over the edge. His hatred of not only John but
all Christians grew, and he sent out a proclamation saying
that the Christians were the ones responsible for starting
the great fire. He also said that these Christians needed
to be punished, and the bloodshed began. Once it started,
it was as ferocious as the flames themselves had been.
Not surprisingly, one of the
first people he went after was John.
It happened one night as John
was sleeping under the roof of a friend's tenement. The guards
assigned to the task knew where John was staying (Nero had
been watching him extra carefully after the fires), walked
in the door and arrested him. John knew deep in his heart
that he would never be a free man again, and rather than fear,
he felt regret. He thought of all the people he would never
get to preach to, and how many people he might have helped.
He had converted a tremendous amount already, but knew he
had more in him. Then he begged forgiveness, not to the guards
but to the Teacher, for he felt that he had committed a sin
of pride. Who was he to say that he had more preaching to
do? If this wasn't his time to go and there was more work
to be done, the Teacher would let it be. But, if it was his
time to go home, then who was he to be the one asking questions?
Nero's guards had been instructed
not to speak when John asked them where they were taking him,
and were a little bit irritated when John went along with
them without a fight and without saying a word. They were
hoping for some resistance and a little mental torment through
their silence to his questions and pleas, but as it turned
out, they were the ones being tormented.
When they got to what remained
of Nero's palace, they took him down several flights of stairs,
and John could only surmise that he was now somewhere under
the structure. They took him down a hallway that was lit by
torches every ten feet or so, and through the dancing light
of the flames, John saw many who were in cells in various
states of depravity and destitution. He looked at the others
as he passed, but still remained silent even though he recognized
most of the people that he saw, many of whom were people he
had converted. He wondered if they resented their faith nowif,
in fact, they resented him.
At the end of the hallway,
they opened up the last barred gate and he walked in, without
hesitation. The guards were at least hoping for a fight at
this pointwanted one, in factbut John just went
He prayed that night, and
then he fell into a very deep, very peaceful sleep.
When he awoke, he looked out
of his cage and noticed that the cells that were previously
occupied were empty. His sleep must have been so deep that
he slept through the commotion that must have ensued. That's
what he thought, at least. The reality of the situation was
that while he was indeed in a deep sleep, those who were imprisoned
were, like he, willing to give their lives for their faith,
and did not resist when their cells were opened and the guards
came to take them away.
There had been no lighting
in the cell (aside from the torches), nor were there any windows,
so John was quite surprised to see that it was approaching
sunset when he climbed up the stairs that he had just descended
the previous night. He was flanked by guards, both of whom
were carrying the spears that were so common in Nero's regiment.
Once again, he didn't speak to the guards. He'd heard the
rumors, and knew that they were taking him to see Nero himself.
Now, he'd heard that Nero's
palace was quite a spectacle to behold, but most of it was
now reduced to burnt rubble. However, there was one part of
the structure that remained intact: Nero's garden and patio.
They took him to this large
patio area, which was filled with many people and which overlooked
a great gardenmuch bigger than John had expected. And,
even though it was Nero's garden, he had to admit that it
was stunning. Nero caught the look. "Impressed, I see."
"Fortunately, it survived
the fire that you people started. I guess you Christians must
Nero had been blaming the
Christians for the fire from the beginning, but it was understood
by just about everybody in Rome that the fire had been started
by Nero and his soldiers so he would have something to blame
on the Christians. This would therefore give him reason to
retaliate, which is exactly what he was doing. Of course,
he could have done it anyway without burning down Rome, but
he was playing politics.
"We couldn't survive
without it," John said, and the people on the patio laughed.
Nero did not. John looked
at the crowd, and saw that the ruler was having one of his
infamous parties. Most of the people there looked drunk with
the exception of the guards and Nero. Nero just looked insane.
"Must keep you warm,"
"Yes, amongst other things."
"I've got something else
to keep you warm," Nero said, his voice steady. "But
first, you should see my collection of animals. Guard!"
One of the guards pushed on
a lever, and, much to the delight of the guests, three mangy
dogs came out from somewhere beneath the patio. Big dogs.
"This can go one of two ways, John, and the choice is
He couldn't take his eyes
off the beasts. If their size wasn't intimidating enough,
their very ferocity certainly sealed the deal. They barked
and howled and ran, stopping only occasionally to look at
the people on the patio.
"They're hungry, John.
And they need to be fed, but I've got plenty of raw meat for
them. Raw Christian meat that won't make a difference to anybody.
But you, John, you can make a big difference if you just stop
speaking this nonsense of the Teacher and tell your people
to admit to starting the fire. If you don't, I think the alternative
is pretty obvious. Are you really willing to die for this
Teacher you never even met?"
John, of course, had already
made his mind up. "Yes."
The party on the patio clapped
and cheered; they so enjoyed the festivities at one of Nero's
parties. And Nero, being a man of no patience and just slightly
crazy, said, "Guards!" because he had been prepared
for such an answer.
Two guards that John hadn't
seen before walked to the where John was standing. They were
each holding one end of a large piece of fursome wild
beast that Nero had skinned for his own 'entertainment' purposes.
Immediately, they placed the
skin over John's head, letting the rest of the carcass fall
to his feet. Then, one of the guards pushed him over and the
other immediately got to work.
"No, no, no!" Nero
said. "I want to close this one up myself."
He took the rudimentary needle
and thin leather thread from the guard, addressing his party:
"For your enjoyment, I present a first-hand account of
what faith can do for you!"
The stench inside the carcass
would have been unbearable if John's faith wasn't strong and
he didn't believe in what he was doing. He feared he would
suffocate, however, before the real suffering began, suffering
he would endure in the name of the Teacher.
Nero made quick work of sewing
up the carcass, pricking John with the needle more than once.
Much to his delight, John flinched. "Sorry, John, I'll
try to be more careful next time," he said, stabbing
him again. The party was delighted.
When his work was done, he
kicked John over the edge, and he was immediately attacked
by the dogs. Some members of the party had to look away as
different pieces of his body were dragged off in different
directions by the three dogs. Even though they weren't Christians,
the scene was too much for them.
Part 4: Eternity
The spirit was on an upward
incline, in the embodiment of an older person, neither male
nor female. Looking around, the spirit saw that those around
him all looked the same. There was no recollection of getting
here, just the ghastly sounds of the dogs and then this. The
incline the spirit was on looked to be about two hundred yards
long, where it then made a switchback and continued upwards.
The spirit looked behind, and saw that there were many other
people behind him, but the line, if that's what it was, was
The spirit was afraid, and
the others sensed it. "Don't be," the one in front
of the spirit said. "We're going to somewhere better."
The spirit didn't ask how
or why this other knew, but the facial expression of love,
peace, and happiness was enough to be convincing.
It seemed like no time had
passed before he was at the switchback, climbing upwards again.
From this vantage point, the spirit saw that there were many
more people than he/she had initially perceived, but the line
was much shorter at the top of the switchback.
Before the spirit even realized
it, he/she was at the front of the line. The spirit knew that
this time was different than the last two. There was no more
rebirth; there was only the light, and this time, the spirit
knew he/she was worthy. There was a great presence partially
blocking the light, and it embraced the spirit, saying simply,
"Welcome home." Then the presence moved aside as
the spirit moved forward, not near the light, but actually
becoming a part of it.
Charlie/Sharon/John were where
they were always meant to be, and would always remain.