by J. P. Flores
Table of Contents|
parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
The next morning the alarm was raised. Charlie had entered the room to prepare a bath for Mud when he discovered the room was empty. A blanket where Mud had slept through the night was folded neatly in the corner. The Bible was sitting on the folded cloth.
Peter was awakened and immediately alerted grounds security. Footage from the security cameras were replayed and scrutinized.
Mara heard the commotion from her room and called Peter. “What is it?” Mara asked.
“It’s Mud! He’s gone.”
“No,” she said, “he’s down by the pond, working the grounds with the gardener.”
“Are you sure?”
“Peter, I know my job.”
Mud had awakened two hours before dawn. He was used to completing his chores in time for sunrise meditation. The night before, at the impromptu dinner party, Adam the groundsman had promised Mud he could help with the lawn maintenance. Mud had mastered the riding lawn mower and felt a sense of pride having tamed a symbol of man’s technology.
“Do you know about Jesus?” Mud asked Adam while they were taking a break by the pond.
“What about him?”
“Do you believe who he was?”
“I want to believe, but the older I get, the more I tend to believe things that I can see and touch.”
“Do you believe in love?”
“But you can’t see it or touch it.”
Adam laughed. “I guess you got me there. I had a son. He was a little older than you when he died. It was a car crash. It was the worst thing that anyone could ever go through. My life after that was never the same. A part of me hopes I will see him again. My heart hopes, but my brain isn’t too sure.”
“You mean to see him in this world Jesus spoke of after death?”
“Yeah, heaven or whatever. There’s got to be something there, and I hope I see him again.”
Silence fell between them.
“I hope so too, Adam,” Mud said. “Thank you for teaching me to operate the mower. I had fun. I don’t have a father; so, thank you also for being my father today. I think your son was fortunate to have you for the short time he spent in this world.”
Adam didn’t know what to say as Mud walked away.
When he had showered and dressed, Mara met him in his room. “I understand what Jesus did,” Mud said, “and it wasn’t about the miracles.”
“Jesus was giving the people hope. He made their lives worth living because there was a promise of something better after death.
“I fear, Mara, that this man from which you have made me was not a god. He was simply a very insightful person. And I fear what will happen to me when you realize this.”
* * *
An hour later they arrived at the hospital.
“I work here three days a week,” Peter said.
“What do you do?”
“I’m a Doctor.” Peter led them to the oncology department.
“Doctor Peter!” a tiny voice squealed as a little girl ran up and gave him a hug. She was twelve years old and her head, hairless from chemotherapy, was wrapped in a purple cloth.
“Sarah,” Peter said, “these are my friends. This is Mara, remember her? This is... well, we call him ‘Mud’.”
Sarah hugged Mara and when she faced Mud she stopped and looked at him. Her mood became somber as she touched his shaved head. “I’m sorry,” she said.
“We don’t talk about that here,” she said quickly perking herself up. She took him by the hand and lead him to a room where other children waited for treatment.
“Is your name really Mud?”
“Cool,” she said and then addressed the others. “This is my best friend and do you know why he is my best friend? Even though I just met him? Because his name is Mud and I’ve never met anyone whose name was Mud. He lived in the mountains.”
An hour went by and kids came and went. Most of the kids were friendly with Mud. Joey, a twelve-year old showed Mud how to play a POV warfare game on his hand console. Joey showed Mud how to tell the bad guys apart by their uniforms.
Mud also learned all about the current batch of comic superheroes as well as who the best football and baseball teams are.
Most of them were upbeat and positive. No one talked about the state of their health.
Later, when Peter explained cancer to him Mud could not understand how men could invent things to make walking easier but had not discovered a cure for this disease.
“Some things only God knows,” Peter said.
“God?” Mud said, “Do you mean the man on the cross?”
“The man you think I am? This is why you brought me here?”
“Mud, Jesus said that he would one day return. Maybe this is how he meant it.”
Mud thought about Peter’s words.
Hours later, back at Peter’s estate, Mud skipped dinner and stayed in his room for hours. When he came out, he called Peter, who gathered everyone back in the theater room.
“I know the purpose of today’s activities,” Mud said. “You want to awaken something you think is inside me. Is this true?”
Their silence was their answer.
“There is so much pain in the world today. So much unanswered violence. We need you,” Rinaldi said.
“We need Jesus,” Rinaldi corrected himself.
“When I was with Sarah and the others, I knew they were sick, and I wanted to cure them. Inside my mind I willed it to happen and yet nothing did. Nothing changed. It caused me to think about something and I wonder if you have thought it as well.”
“What?” Mara asked.
“Do you believe in God?”
“Of course we do,” Rinaldi said, sounding annoyed.
“Mara?” Mud said.
“I believe in God.”
“Then I have a question for you all. Why hasn’t he done anything about these problems? You’ve shown me footage of men committing atrocities in the name of their own version of God, but your God, whom you say is all-powerful, has allowed it and has done nothing.
“When you all decided to bring me here, what did you expect me to do?”
“We expected nothing but to facilitate your arrival,” Rinaldi said.
“To force God’s hand. The God in whom you must believe is either unwilling or unable to do anything. Why do you want your god to do differently?”
“We can’t begin to understand God’s ways,” Rinaldi said.
“But you have proven to your God that he has not lived up to your expectations. You are worse then Lucifer, who saw himself as equal, and you have made me your unwitting accomplice.”
“It’s not that simple,” Rinaldi said. “The faithful petition God every day, and miracles happen. Cancers go into remission. Victims survive critical surgical procedures. People survive incredible circumstances.”
“But it is not enough for you,” Mud said. “I just fear that somehow we will all suffer for this. If I were you, I would pray that I am nothing more than the product of a clumsy woodcarver.”
* * *
“Perhaps this will change your mind,” Peter said. “I had the techs working over at the lab. One of tests had exceptional results. I then sent a team to the young girl’s house for another blood screening. The results showed her protein levels were normal.”
“What does that mean?” Mud asked.
“The girl you said you willed to be cured,” Peter said, “Sarah. She is no longer sick. The cancer is gone. We will be performing another biopsy to make sure, but personally, I need no more evidence. I knew when I first saw you so many years ago when you were born.
“Mud,” Peter said, “you are the incarnation of Jesus. You are the word made flesh. You have returned, as you promised; and this time it doesn’t end with your sacrifice.”
“You said that sometimes cancer goes into remission. How do you know it wasn’t all that therapy she was getting?” Mud said.
“John,” Peter said, “what do you say?”
Rinaldi stepped up to Mud. “I am sorry I doubted you, but now my heart trembles. I am in the presence of the Lord. You were there, Jesus, when the world was formed and here you are now. In front of me.”
John dropped to one knee and clasped his hands. “Please forgive my doubts,” he said.
“Mara,” Peter said, “what do you feel?”
“That’s not important,” she said. And then she addressed Mud. “How do you feel, Mud? Has anything changed in your memory?”
With a sad look he slowly shook his head. “I’m sorry, all of you. I don’t want to disappoint you, I still feel no different.” With that, Mud walked out.
“Keep a close eye on him, Mara. Tomorrow is a very important day.”
“Just make sure he’s still here in the morning. After tomorrow there will be no doubt in anyone’s mind, not even his.”
* * *
Mara’s room was in the west wing of Peter’s mansion. Before the Mud project was reactivated with the decision to bring Mud from the monastery, she had been living in her own apartment in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles.
Mara was a police officer, and she had taken a six-month leave of absence in order to work with Peter. Neither Mara nor the other people on the project, with the exception of Father John Rinaldi, were even aware of the subject of the project and were not advised until the very last minute. Mara had been briefed on the cloning process and was also aware that Peter, in effect, had spirited Mud away shortly after he was born, right out from under the Vatican overseers.
Peter had financed the venture in order to gain access to the amulet that held the blood of Jesus. Mara had originally thought the whole idea was insane, but her curiosity had been piqued. She was not sure what to believe. If Mud was in fact Jesus, then he certainly was not acting the way she would expect him to.
To Mara he was just a sweet but lonely kid who was very intuitive. The curing of the cancer in the oncology ward was starting to change her mind, and she was certainly considering the possibility was a reality.
When the knock came at her door at two in the morning, she had been well warned by her security team that he was coming.
“I am afraid,” he said. The troubled look on his face touched her heart.
“I’ll be right there with you.”
“It’s not that, Mara, I’m afraid it might all be true, and I don’t want it. I don’t want to fill a role that I had no part in making.”
“Everyone needs to feel in control of their own lives,” Mara said. “You’re no different. Even Jesus tried to back out of what he had to do.”
“What will happen to me if I walk away?”
“Peter will try to persuade you not to.”
“When I joined this project, it was as your advocate and protector from outside forces, but I will not help Peter stop you.”
“Tell me, Mara,” he asked, “do you think I am Jesus, as Peter says?”
“No,” she said, “you’re a boy, and your name is Mud. You may have something in you that is linked with the divine, but I see you as your own person.”
Has he detected something about my true responsibility in this project? Mara thought.
“You are not a religious person, are you?”
Mara didn’t answer.
“I can tell by the way you treat me. Peter and John reserve a little space in our interactions for reverence, but you treat me normal. Like I’m one of you. I appreciate that.
“But my point is: what kind of world would this be if God had an active, physics-bending, daily-miracle involvement every single day? Can free will exist in such a world?
“I fear that people’s idea of heaven is very much like a totalitarian government. I can’t see how it would work. People would no longer be free to practice religion as they wish.”
“Why not?” Mara asked.
“They wouldn’t need to. I would be the proof that there is only one faith.”
“But would you allow them to follow their own hearts?”
“Of course I would. But I am still Mud. What will happen if the God consciousness is within me and it takes over? If Jesus had exerted his power and come down off that cross and destroyed the Romans and all other followers of different faiths. What would have happened? Would we simply exchange one form of tyranny for another and label it ‘good’?”
“I will tell you this,” Mara said. “I have faith in you. Not in the god that you might be, but in you, Mud. What are you going to do?”
“Whether it was right or wrong, I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Peter,” Mud said. “I suppose I should be grateful for that, and I will continue to cooperate with him for now.”
He went towards the door. “Good night, Mara,” he said. “I think you are my only true friend.”
* * *
Copyright © 2015 by J. P. Flores