by J. P. Flores
Table of Contents|
parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
When Mud had insisted on cleaning the plates, Peter helped with the drying after dismissing Charlie and Sarah early.
“You’ve had an exhausting day and we have a great deal to tell you. We can wait until tomorrow if you’d like to get a good rest,” Peter said after the last of the dishes were cleaned.
“With all respect I don’t want to wait another day. But I am your guest, if that is what you want.”
“I don’t want you to think of yourself as a guest. Consider this your home.”
Mud became silent. He didn’t want to think of anywhere else other than the monastery in that way. The thought brought his heartsickness back. Mara noticed the change in his face.
“Maybe this could be like a second home,” she said.
“If that is so,” Mud said, “am I free to leave?”
“Of course you are,” Peter said, “but I ask that you remain until I have fully explained why you’re here. And after you’ve answered a few questions.”
Peter led Mud to a theatre room with four rows of seats and a small stage. A thin man in his forties was waiting for them. He wore glasses and had a head of thick black hair.
“Mud, this is Father Bruno Rinaldi.”
“It’s a title, like ‘Elder’,” Rinaldi said, “and I am very pleased to meet you. I have a story to tell you. Some of it you will not understand, and some of it will be difficult to accept, but we have faith that it will all work itself out. First, do you know your name?”
“I am called Mud.”
“Do you have another name?”
“Why are you called ‘Mud’?”
“Elder Tak said when I was a child I loved playing in it.”
“Who is God?” Rinaldi asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Who do you think he is?”
“I think God is something that each person defines for himself or herself.”
“Did the Buddhist monks teach you this?”
“Do you mean the Elders?”
“I don’t recall anyone telling me that, but it seems to make sense.”
“Making sense is important?”
“It is certainly more important than making nonsense,” Mud said.
“We had hoped that they would not influence you in your beliefs.”
“As you have tried to do?”
“You have provided a label to men whom I’ve known only as my family, and you assumed that because of this label they have taught me something contrary to what you believe.”
“I am only saying that we wanted you to come to your beliefs on your own,” Rinaldi said, “without influence.”
“I have heard the Elders speak of God but never once did I hear them provide God with a gender as you have.”
“Is God a woman then?”
“I think God is neither and both, which confirms my first answer, that God defies explanation by one person for all people.”
Silence filled the room.
“Why are you asking me these questions? Why did Elder Tak ask me about God? You have all experienced so much more than I and yet you ask me as though I should know.”
“I will show you.” Father Rinaldi activated a projector system with a multi-media powerpoint. The first image was a depiction of Jesus.
“Many of us believe that this man was God incarnate. He preached a message of love and patience in a world where free thought was a capital crime. It wasn’t until he began to claim his divine nature that he ran afoul of the law of the Romans.
“It is believed that man’s nature is inherently cruel, but to overcome his original sin of arrogance, his soul had to be washed in the blood of an innocent victim, much as the ancient people sacrificed animals to appease God for minor violations of morality and religious restrictions.
“This man, born of a virgin through God’s grace, offered himself up as a sacrifice for us. All we need to do is call upon his name, and thus we are free from the sin of our fathers. We have been waiting for over two thousand years on his promise of returning.”
“Where did you hear this story,” Mud asked.
“The Bible. It’s a book or, rather, a collection of accounts of this man’s life and of the life of some of his followers.”
“And he still has followers such as yourself?”
“There are millions.”
Rinaldi displayed the next photo of the crucifixion. “This was his sacrifice. To be nailed to a cross and left to die like a criminal. This is Rome,” Rinaldi said, continuing with the presentation, “the seat of the Church of the followers of the man. We know him as Jesus the anointed one.
“This is the Vatican, where the current leader of the church resides. Deep beneath the building there are several vaults where ancient writings are kept. Many of the original manuscripts on which these stories are written are preserved here.”
A close-up photo of a small wood-carved fish on a leather strap appeared on the screen.
“In the early days of the faith, followers had to go about in secret. They adopted the symbol of the fish to identify each other. A wealthy follower took the body of Jesus and placed him in a tomb, and it was from this tomb that Jesus rose from the dead and eventually returned to Heaven in his resurrected body.
“This man was named Joseph and he was from Arimathea. Joseph later travelled across the world to a place called Britain. It is rumored that Joseph possessed the Holy Grail, a receptacle that held the last drops of the blood of the savior.
“Several years ago while digging a foundation for a new building, British construction workers uncovered the remains of an ancient home. A box engraved with the name of a King, who we thought was only a myth, was found. This King, named Arthur, devoted his life to searching for the Holy Grail. Within this box were found three artifacts, three carved wooden charms in the shape of fish.
“An old parchment within the box explained that the amulets were carved from the very cross on which Jesus was crucified. While dating the wood to check the validity of these finds, it was discovered that these amulets contained remnants of dried human blood ingrained in the wood.
“One single amulet is a true holy grail.”
* * *
“Now we come to you,” Rinaldi said. “We’ve gone over this issue again and again over the years and we have concluded that we should reveal all to you whatever the consequences might be.
Peter argued that you are perhaps too young to truly grasp the implications and that you should be given more time.”
“More time for what?” Mud asked.
Rinaldi started to answer but Peter interrupted. “We haven’t seen the results that we expected.”
“Results of what? And why are all these people making decisions about me?”
“Our blood contains a tiny record of who we are,” Rinaldi said. “It is stored in clumps of amino acids called DNA. We were able to extract the DNA from the blood on the amulet, fuse it with donor cells and charge it to produce a viable fertilized embryo. This was implanted into a surrogate mother, and the embryo grew to full term.”
Mud knew little of what Rinaldi was saying but he understood the gist of the message. “You created life?”
“God creates life,” Rinaldi said. “We only cloned it.”
“What does this have to do with me?”
Rinaldi was silent for a moment. “We cloned the man,” he said, “but did we clone the God?”
Mud’s furrowed brow returned.
Mara faced him, took his hand gently. “Mud,” she said, “it’s you.”
He stared at her and the realization of her words blossomed in his head.
“You were... brought forth from that blood,” Peter said. “We decided to raise you away from the influence of world. Elder Tak agreed to watch after you and he promised not to influence your beliefs in any way,” Rinaldi said.
“When Jesus was twelve he spoke with great clarity of his mission to the Elders of the synagogue in Jerusalem. We were hoping that you would have a similar epiphany at that age,” Rinaldi said. “But there was nothing. We thought the project was a failure, but Elder Tak convinced us to let you stay on and he would watch for any other sign that you were becoming aware of your true self. Years went by, but again, nothing.”
“No,” Mud said, “my parents died.”
“The woman who acted as your surrogate died at your birth,” Rinaldi said. “That part was true.”
“And my father?” Mud asked.
The room was silent.
“My father was a process in a scientific laboratory.”
“Yes,” Rinaldi said, “then you understand. I knew you would.”
“How could you mock the creation in which you believe?”
“Don’t you see how important this is?” Peter asked.
“Do you have any memory of your life before the monastery? Before the process?” Rinaldi asked.
“I’m not that person on the cross. I don’t know anything about that! I’m just me. I am Mud!”
“Why don’t you reveal yourself to us? We’ve worked so hard all these years!” Rinaldi said letting his pent-up enthusiasm and frustration show through. “I think that maybe you need to be pushed or forced. Is that what you need?”
“Father Rinaldi!” Mara exclaimed.
“Don’t you trust us?!” Rinaldi said.
Peter placed a firm hand on the priest’s shoulder to calm him. “Forgive us, Mud. We shouldn’t have rushed this.”
“Maybe that blood,” Mud said, “is from some obscure woodcarver who cut his hand while making the amulet. Did you consider that before you brought me into this world? Suppose I was that person who was on the cross? What then did you expect? What would you want me to do?”
“There were those who wanted to control you,” Peter said. “We were forced to take you and hide you. We decided that you would come to a decision on your own about what to do.”
“I think Mud has had enough for today,” Mara said.
When the session was over, Mud requested that a Bible be brought to his room. When he received it, he shut himself in for the night.
“You should have given him more time,” Mara said.
“Another four years, maybe? And another four after that?” Rinaldi said. “Or why don’t we just wait until he’s thirty years old, like the last time he was here?”
“I know, why don’t we nail him to a cross and see what happens?” Mara replied sarcastically.
“That’s enough,” Peter said. “Tomorrow I want you to stay behind. You can’t control your emotions and it’s detrimental to him.”
“What if he never awakens?”
“Maybe he needs to be emotionally challenged to trigger the divine in him.”
“If it’s there,” Rinaldi said.
* * *
Copyright © 2015 by J. P. Flores