“Jesus, you don’t look yourself tonight.”
They were all in the upper room, lying on cushions all over. James was playing the harp. The others were talking in twos or threes. John was with Jesus, eating figs from a bowl.
“I haven’t been sleeping,” said Jesus. “I keep having visions of this body being tortured and humiliated, whipped and mutilated.”
“Are these visions,” John put the figs away, “Are they the future.”
“Yes they are, my friend. My father is out to get me. He wants to reclaim me. But this pain. It’s nothing for me. I am a spirit, not a body. I am a god. It’s nothing compared to what I see from one end of this planet to the other. It’s nothing compared to the torture He… The torture I bestow on people who broke my commandments. It’s nothing compared to the way I torment their souls.”
“I don’t like it when you speak like that, Jesus. People should not know you said it. It’s unsettling. Your words should bring hope.”
“Do you believe I am the Son of God?” Jesus said slowly, looking John in the eye.
John was quiet for a while. He let his eyes wander.
“I don’t know,” he said finally, “I know others believe it. Or they act like they do.” Then, after a long pause “Do you believe you are the Son of God?”
“I honestly do. I am sure of it. In fact, I know I am God. But so are you, in a way. All of us and all things. He is through us and beyond.”
“That is beautiful,” said John.
“When have I ever told you it was beautiful?” Jesus was angry for a second, but then he managed to compose himself. “The Lord God is a parasite on the face of this Earth. He is a tyrant and a bully. Punishing people for not believing in Him even though He does not allow them to find any evidence He exists. Punishing them for the way they are, even though He claims He created them!”
All the disciples were listening now.
“No,” said John, “You cannot tell people that. What kind of religion tells people the Almighty God is a monster and they have nothing to look forward to except eternal torture? That is madness? Do you really think the world is like that?”
“I sound different when the Sun is up and its warmth touches my face. I tell people they will live forever. But they won’t. I see it clearly when the night falls and the demons roam free. There are no eternal souls. That is comforting, because at least His… my torture is not forever. You can escape my grasp by simply dying. His grasp,” he buried his face in his hands, “I don’t know anymore. Night has fallen and I can see… I can hear my sheep bleating.”
John put his small, soft hand on Jesus’ shoulder. “Hey, it’s all right. Just breathe, it will be over soon.”
Jesus looked up and stared into the boy’s eyes. “Thank you, John. You have always been my favorite.” There was no threat in his voice, but everyone understood what he meant.
John moved away.
Peter got up, “What have you done, faggot?”
John eyed him nervously, then the carving knife on the table. “Hey, easy, Peter, don’t fly off the handle.”
“What the fuck did you do, you fucking sodomite?”
“Hey, you hear how he’s been sounding lately?” John was trying to justify himself, “You all hear what he’s been saying. He’s starting to talk like that to others.”
“Where the fuck is Judas?” demanded Peter, his enormous hands gripping the boy’s neck.
“He could have been a great leader. Well, now, he can be a…”
“A martyr,” said Jesus morbidly. Then he laughed long and hard, repeating the word. Then he suddenly got serious, “That is brilliant. And then you can all keep telling yourself I died for the cause of free Jerusalem.”
Peter let go of John, turned to Jesus, suddenly weak and helpless. The others kept looking at one another, full of shame.
“You can keep telling yourselves that I would not like you to do this or that. That you have to accept me into your heart and you will have life eternal. That’s a good one. You can tell your kids they shouldn’t masturbate because I cry when they do.”
“Master,” said John.
“Yes, I can see the future, don’t you know? Waiting for my second coming. Wait all you want. I love you, but you are just slightly smarter apes. He won’t let me get out anymore. Not ever.”
Thomas was sitting by the window all along, distancing himself as usual. Now he said “Judas is coming back. With a group of people.”
Jesus laughed an insane laugh. When he finally got himself together, he got his hair out of his face and stood up straight. “Let’s not make them wait then, shall we?”
John was left alone in the upper room, he sat down on a cushion and an idea started crystallizing in his mind. A few words kept repeating themselves over and over, until they lost their original meaning.
“Blessed are the… Blessed are the… Blessed are the…”