Tuesday, February 28, 2017


   Joseph awoke early, intent on heading to Callicles’ caravansary for woven sacks of lime whitewash, and the exotic creation imported from northern Europe, soap. Hitching the horses, he was greeted by Brutus, who asked him where he was going.
   “I’m heading to Callicles’ market to pick up more items before he leaves.”
   “Would you like me to come along to assist you?”
   “Sure, I could use the help and the company.”
   Brutus climbing aboard, Joseph drove to the caravansary. Callicles’ slaves were taking down tents and awnings, and packing unsold merchandise in preparation for leaving town. The trader was standing by his personal wagon with his nephew, going over inventory lists, as Joseph and Brutus stepped from the wagon and walked up.
   “Good morning Julius,” Callicles said with a weak smile, having another hangover.
   “Greetings Callicles, did you enjoy yourself last night?” asked Joseph.
   “Definitely, but I always end up paying for it in the mornings. You’re here for the merchandise?”
   “I had my slaves pull it from the wagons, ten soap bricks and 15 sacks of lime whitewash. It’s sitting next to this wagon on a cart.”
   “The price is?”
   Callicles smiled and answered, “For you Julius, 40 denarii will do, just so my slaves won’t have to load it back in the wagons.”
   “That’s a deal,” said Joseph, handing him coins from a leather pouch.
   “Thanks,” Callicles replied, again looking to his inventory list, “Do you need a slave to haul it?”
   “I have Brutus.”
   “Good, I’m rather busy, so forgive me if I seem preoccupied, we have to pull out at three.”
   “Where are you heading?”
   “South, stopping at Daphinos for a few days, then onto Heraclea and Mansahir, then to Antioch, Damascus, and Jerusalem, then to the port of Caesarea for resupply. That’s our last stop, we start back on Mare Internum coast road for Nicomedia and Chrysopolis from there.”
   “When will you be returning?”
   “Five or six months, depending on sales and availability of stock,” Callicles answered, looking Joseph in the eyes, “You’ll have more meat for me when I get back here, right?”
   “Yes indeed.”
   “Well, I thank you again, for the fine meats, and for your fine hospitality,” said Callicles, shaking his hand. As Joseph walked off with Brutus hauling the cart of goods, the trader called, “We’ll see you in late summer or early fall Julius!”
   Joseph turned and waved, Brutus opening the door of the wagon.
   Summer 34 CE arrived a few weeks later. The slaves had planted three fields of grain, with Joseph, rising at dawn, assisting every day, as every able hand was needed. Planting another field with vegetables, herbs and opium poppies, the sap of the latter used at the time for pain relief, they accomplished the task, working from dawn to dusk. While the men did the heavy work, Electra and Penelope cared for animals, wove cloth, mended clothes, tanned leather and tended other chores. Brutus, acting as overseer, reported to Joseph that although the planting was somewhat late in the season, a relatively bountiful harvest should arrive by late September or early October.  
   Jesus, true to his word, assisted Icarus and Ganymede with building the forge hearth, completing it over several evenings, the slaves watching him set the stone masonry. Mary continued in her pregnancy, tended to by Ruth and the Magdalene, along with Electra and Penelope, she treated almost as a queen by her slaves.
   Joseph delivered the smoked meat to Gavinal, earning 60 denarii, and finished installing the windows. Brutus and Cyril, once the planting was completed, whitewashed the house, the latrine, the slave quarters, the smokehouse buildings, and Icarus’ forge, over several days. Cyril received his literature gifts, grateful for the works of poetry and philosophy. During early evenings, Jesus visited him, discussing the sciences and arts, the two becoming fast friends.
   As summer wore on, life on the farm settled into mundane routine. The slaves continued working at tasks assigned to them, with Jesus’ pregnant mother usually sick in the mornings, though as time progressed the severity was lessening. Joseph and Jesus got drunk occasionally, sometimes in the kitchen playing latrunculi on the weekdays, sometimes with Gavinal on the weekends, or at other times at the forge talking and drinking with three of their male slaves.
   In late July, Joseph provided funds and gave Icarus, Ganymede and Brutus permission to head to Antigone’s brothel, where they enjoyed themselves for several hours on a hot afternoon, finishing their lascivious revelry relaxing in the town bathhouse.
   Cyril flatly stated that he wanted nothing to do with prostitutes, Joseph raising eyebrows, surprised at the reply from the stoic slave. Nor did the teacher ever drink wine, as he was a cerebral man, shunning many pleasures of the flesh. Proving he was still human, he and Electra had been close for many years, and when the need for physical contact arose, she had always been there for him.
   Jesus and Mary continued in their predatory ways, killing people and animals by sucking their blood, filling the ravines or the smokehouse, depending on the victim, with the by-products of their depredations. They also continued to fill their pockets with loot taken from human victims. Having amassed another hundred aurei, in mid August they decided to take a vacation. Informing his parents that they were leaving for a few weeks, they flew south.
   After several hours flight, they appeared in the vicinity of the decadent, blighted town of Mansahir, where Jesus had helped traders Euripides and Thales. They had considered Antioch before the trip as there were always plenty of victims, but the criminals there never seemed to have money, while those in Mansahir were almost always loaded.
   In an unusual turn of events, the vampiric Christ was openly confrontational with his victims, he and Mary walking into taverns and gambling halls in the middle of the night, looking for criminals to feed on. More often than not, he found them, and after some fun, they gave them the fate they deserved. Cunning, Jesus rented a room in a different hotel, making certain they weren’t recognized, each evening heading out, looking for trouble along the dark and lonely roads. Easily finding suitable victims, by the tenth night they had slaughtered over twenty people and fattened their pockets with several hundred denarii.
   Walking from their room shortly after sundown on a cool evening, Mary asked, “So, who’s on the menu for tonight?”
    “Who knows, maybe thieves, rapists, or even simple troublemakers. We seem to have run out of highwaymen for the time being, and from what you’ve said they’re all the same to you anyway.”
   “I was just wondering,” said Mary as they strolled into a tavern.
   “What’ll you have citizen?” asked the Roman bartender, Jesus stepping up to the bar.
   “Gallic wine, undiluted please.”
   “Sorry, all we have is Egyptian beer or Anatolian grog.”
   “Make it grog,” said Jesus, settling for the inferior drink.
   “Anything for the lady?”
   “I’ll take a beer,” Mary replied, having no taste for grog, looking about and sizing up other customers, noting two men, one very muscular, sitting in a corner at the far end of the tavern.
   “Coming up,” answered the bartender, quickly returning with the drinks. “That’ll be four dupondii.”
   “Have a denarius,” said Jesus, tossing a coin to the bar top, one of the men watching intently from the corner.
   “I’ll have to make change.”
   “Keep it and bring a couple more drinks when we need them.”
   “Thank you sir!” the bartender exclaimed, leaving to tend to another patron.
   “Look at that rich Roman and the good looking bitch he has with him,” a burly Anatolian thief named Darius growled, looking in the direction of Jesus.
   “She’s wearing a stola, that woman is his wife,” a much smaller man named Paris observed.
   “So what, they’re both as good as dead,” said Darius, not realizing how accurate his statement was.
   “He’ll be easy pickings,” Paris agreed, ogling the Magdalene, more interested in her than any money they might have. With those words the thieves made their fateful decision – that before the night was out they would rob and murder the placid man sitting on the barstool, afterward raping his woman to death, waiting to strike after they left the tavern.
   “It’s the clowns in the corner isn’t it?” Mary whispered, finishing her second beer, Jesus nursing a fourth cup of grog.
   “Exactly. Tell you what, we’ll let them follow us out of town.”
   “May I finish my drink woman?” asked Jesus, annoyed at her impetuousness.
   “I’m sorry.”
   “Don’t worry about it,” Jesus replied, downing the grog. Leaving another denarius as a tip, they left the tavern, pretending not to notice that the Anatolian trash had left their table and were shadowing them.
   “What do we do now?” Mary asked for the benefit of their pursuers.
   “I imagine we should rent a room since I have all this money with me.”
   “You’re laying it on too thick,” said Mary, concerned he might spook their prey.
   “I am?”
   “Let them come to us, they will.”
   “I thought you were hungry.”
   “I am, but even stupid thieves can see a trap like that.”
   Walking further, just outside town they observed the thieves skirt past, running through low brush, seeing them by body heat.
   “They’re going to try something soon,” said Jesus.
   “No shit,” replied the Magdalene.
   Appearing in front of them, the thieves blocked their path. “What are you doing out here?” asked Darius, ogling the Magdalene.
   “Enjoying the night,” Jesus answered, eyeing the pair for weapons.
   “You shouldn’t be walking around here with folks like us around,” said a smiling Paris.
   “Yes I should, I’m a Roman citizen and can walk anywhere I want.”
   “You’re also stupid if think you can do something like that,” said Darius, chuckling.
   “Where are your daggers boys?” asked Mary.
   “I don’t need weapons, I use my bare hands,” the muscular Darius growled, clenching his fists, “I’ll break your man in two and tear you a new asshole Roman bitch!”
   “I’m not Roman, I’m Hebrew, half Benjaminite and half Jew.”
   “Pussy’s pussy,” said Paris, confused by Mary’s Roman appearance and unconcerned demeanor.
   In disgust, Jesus pushed her aside and threw off his toga, looking down at Darius, remarking, “I’m sorry Mary, I’m tired of this. Come on thief, try me.”
   “Are you kidding?” asked Darius, looking up to a man striking him as a taller and thinner than usual Roman, easy pickings for a man like himself. At 5’11” and 190 pounds, he was considered a tall and muscular man in those days.
   “Go ahead, you and your friend, I’ll take you fair and square, no tricks,” Jesus declared, clad in a tunic, holding up his fists.
   Darius, never intimidated by anyone, saw his words as a bluff challenge. He laughed heartily and replied, “Prepare to die!” He threw a fist at Jesus with all his might, punching him hard in the face, the vampiric Christ’s face flying to the right from the blow. Following through with a hard left, he struck him again, and then hit him with a hard right uppercut, an unfazed Jesus smiling at him afterward.
   “That’s your best?” Jesus asked.
   Darius stood dumbfounded, not understanding how his mighty hammer blows that had killed others hadn’t bothered this tall Roman at all.
   “You fight like a woman does,” said Jesus.
   “Kiss my ass!” Darius yelled, lunging for him, Jesus sidestepping the foolish thief. Falling to the ground, Darius rose, brushing dust from his clothes and glaring at him. His partner Paris, smelling defeat, turned and attempted to flee.
   “Not so fast,” said the Magdalene, grabbing the small man by his tunic.
   “Let me go,” pleaded Paris, looking her in the eyes.
   “No, I want you to watch my husband flatten your friend,” Mary retorted, shaking her head.
   “Hit me again, see if you can hurt me,” said Jesus, holding out his chin for another punch.
   “I’ll kill you!” Darius screamed, hitting Jesus in the face with all his strength, breaking several bones in his hand as he connected, the Christ not moving this time, his face like a slab of granite.
   “Not likely,” said Jesus, looking to his crippled assailant.
   “What the hell are you?” asked a confused and frightened Darius, clutching his broken hand.
   “I’m a vampire.”
   Darius, terrified, continued to stare at him, his shattered hand starting to throb. Using his left, Jesus struck back, punching him so hard that his fist went through the man’s head as if it were butter, sending flesh, bone and brains flying everywhere. “Take that you son of a bitch!” he exclaimed, the nearly headless body hitting the ground with a heavy thud. Shaking gore from his hand, he spat in disgust, “This is ridiculous, I have to remember that I’m stronger than these idiots.”
   “You took his head off!” Mary exclaimed.
   “Yes, and I see you’ve learned to entrance them quickly.”
   “It just took time to learn how to do it, that’s all.”
   “I understand,” Jesus replied, looking to the statuesque Paris. “So, what should we do with him?”
   “The other one’s blood is running all over the ground,” said Mary, looking to the headless body, the blood sinking into the sand.
   “Feed on him.”
   Mary flew to the remains of Darius, gulping blood from the jugular as it was pumped from the torn arteries by the dying heart. Sated, she sat heavily on the ground, laying her head on the chest of the body.
   “Mary,” called Jesus, no response forthcoming.
   “Yes?” asked the Magdalene, turning her face to him.
   “It can’t be that good, I should know!”
   “It is,” she answered, feeling dizzy.
   “Never mind that,” said Jesus, “I think we should torture this little bastard like we did with Judas.”
   “Forget that, kill him and get it over with.”
   “He seems deserving of it, they wanted to rape you.”
   “Who cares,” said Mary, relaxing and snuggling up to the cooling corpse.
   “Goddamnit snap out of it woman!”
   “What?” Mary asked, shook from her rapture.
   “What do you want to do with this asshole?” Jesus asked, the terrified Paris standing helpless, unable to move.
   “Kill him,” said Mary, remembering the last blissful moments, “Don’t waste time torturing him, it’ll give you a bad attitude like it did in Jerusalem.”
   “But – ”
   “No buts, finish him off,” said a sighing Mary, clumsily rising to her feet.
   Knowing she was right, Jesus lifted the little man with one arm. “How do you like this you little bastard?” he asked, the entranced man unable to utter a word. Jesus plunged fangs into the neck, sucking the blood until Paris died, the lifeless body collapsing in a heap. Looking at his left hand, he wiped the remainder of Darius’ gore on the tunic of the little thief. He looted both, not finding much, but enough that it was worthwhile. Mary following him, he dumped the bodies a few hundred yards from the roadside. Pausing, he asked her, “What was the matter with you back there, you acted as if you were enthralled or something.”
    “Sometimes taking them does that to me,” she answered, not realizing Darius had been high on hashish that he had eaten, his blood intoxicating.
   “It’s never been that way for me.”
   “Perhaps each of us react differently,” said Mary, looking to the bodies.
   “You can be really violent can't you?” she asked, observing the mutilated corpse.
   “That muscle bound bastard pissed me off, thinking he was so much,” said Jesus, folding arms across his chest.
   “I’ll say,” Mary replied as they headed to the road to pick up his toga.
   Having difficulty arranging it, Jesus asked, “Will you please help me with this thing?”
   “You should use a pin or clasp to hold it on instead of these folds,” she answered while assisting him, still high on Darius’ blood.
   “No Roman uses pins to hold on a toga,” said Jesus, getting the cumbersome garb in proper arrangement.
   “I use pins on my stolas.”
   “That’s because it’s customary for a woman to do so,” said Jesus, the couple starting back to town.
   “If you ask me, togas are a pain in the ass. Why do you bother to wear one?”
   “I don’t most times, you’re the one who suggested that I start wearing them,” Jesus replied as they headed through the gates of Mansahir.
   “You could pin it from the inside, that way no one could see.”
   “Good idea,” said Jesus, looking to her with approval. Returning to their room, he remarked, “We’ve been gone a good while, we should return to the farm to check on mother and dad.”
   “Yes love, but before we take off I’d like to pick up a few things for the slave women first thing tomorrow evening, if you wouldn’t mind me doing so.”
   “I don’t know, perhaps some things you’ve said have rubbed off on me.”
   “You’re still a good teacher, many things you say do make sense, especially after one thinks about it a while,” Mary answered, the hashish-laden hemoglobin clouding her thoughts.
   “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
   “Oh yes, it’s much more pleasant when you treat people well, if they deserve it, instead of treating them like shit under your feet.”
   “Well put, so I figure what you did for the male slaves, I would do for the women.”
   “I understand,” said Jesus, surprised at her sudden altruism toward mortals, particularly lowly slaves. “It’s really because you don’t approve of slavery isn’t it?”
   “Perhaps,” a yawning Mary replied, moving to the bed, “I’d just like to pick up some items for Ruth, Penelope and Electra.”
   “Such as?”
   “Maybe fancy cloth like silk, and perhaps jewelry and cosmetics for them to use in their leisure time,” said Mary, her eyelids heavy.
   “Sure,” replied Jesus, “I have no problem with that.”
   A snore was the reply, he joining her in the bed.
   They awoke early the following evening, so Mary could purchase gifts for their female slaves. As soon as the sun dipped below the horizon, they headed for downtown Mansahir, a block containing shops, salons, and a pair of brothels. Walking into a tailor’s shop, she inquired if he had silk cloth.
   “Certainly,” the tailor answered, “Imported from Cathay by way of India, but it is not inexpensive, ten denarii buys only a square cubit.”
   “Measure off thirty square cubits,” said Jesus, fumbling in a tunic pocket for money.
   “Yes sir,” the tailor replied, reaching for a bolt of silk and his shears. “That will be 300 denarii,” he added after carefully measuring off the cloth, “I’m sorry sir, I must be paid before I cut it.”
   “Will twelve aurei cover it?” asked Jesus, holding out coins in his left.
   “Of course,” said the tailor, staring at the gold.
   Sitting coins on the counter, Jesus retorted, “There’s your money. Cut it, we don’t have all night.” The tailor quickly cut the cloth, wrapped it in a piece of cheap burlap and handed it to Jesus.
   “I thank you sir,” said the tailor as they left.
   “Yeah,” Jesus replied, passing through the doorway.
   “You were a bit rude to him weren’t you?” asked Mary while they headed to a jewelry store.
   “He was a jerk, demanding money before he cut the cloth.”
   “You always have to pay for expensive cloth before it’s cut,” said Mary, having dealt with tailors many times.
   “You do?”
   “Everywhere,” Mary answered, a taciturn Jesus ruminating on the statement and finally agreeing with her. Walking into a jewelry shop, she picked out several necklaces made of electrum, otherwise known as amber, and three made of pearls. Spending 11 aurei at the jewelers, they headed to a salon where she picked up henna, kohl and other cosmetics, along with three polished silver mirrors, hairbrushes and three pairs of shears.
   “Mother said she was interested in henna too, perhaps we should buy some for her,” Jesus suggested, placing their selections on the counter.
   “I can even show her how to use it properly,” said Mary, returning to a shelf containing jars of the cosmetic.
   “You’ve used henna?”
   “Of course, I used to be a whore you know,” the Magdalene answered quietly, heading to the counter.
   “Oh yes,” said Jesus, recalling her colorful past.
   “That’ll be a hundred denarii,” the clerk declared, figuring the total using an abacus.
   “Here you go,” Jesus replied, dropping four aurei at this establishment. “You have very good taste when it comes to clothing and accessories Mary, where did you learn such things?” he asked, the couple heading to the hotel.
   “Thank you, remember, I was a whore once and know how to make a woman look her best.”
   “I’ll say,” said Jesus, looking to his smartly dressed, beautiful consort, attired in a tight fitting light blue stola and delicate leather shoes. Returning to the hotel, he remarked as he closed the door to their room, “I imagine we should check out and fly home woman.”
   “We’ll have to find someone to eat first,” Mary observed, tucking some purchases into a small leather bag, others into nooks in her stola.
   “That should prove easy around here,” said Jesus, checking the room for mislaid belongings, both walking out and heading for the office. Handing the clerk the key, they bid farewell and left town. Heading north, they came across and dispatched another pair of society’s dregs, looting the bodies and heaving the remains over a hillside, adding another fifty denarii to their kitty. Alone, they assumed chiropteric form and began the long flight home.
   Near ten, they flew over Callicles’ wagons, stopped in Heraclea, Jesus observing Callicles far below, showing another customer his many wares, nephew at his side. Five hours later they arrived at the farm, transforming on the porch. Taking seats in the dimly lit kitchen, they conversed until dawn, heading to their room and settling in for the day.
   “If it isn’t the return of my prodigal son and his pretty wife,” said a smiling Joseph while they walked into the kitchen the following evening.
   “Hello my father,” Jesus replied.
   “How was your trip?” asked Joseph, embracing his son.
   “It went well, thank you,” answered Jesus, returning the embrace.
   “You were only gone a little over three weeks but we all missed you,” said Joseph, looking to him.
   “You did?”
   “It certainly wasn’t the same here without you. You’ve made quite an impression on the slaves, especially Cyril. He’s been asking when you would return.”
   “Really?” Jesus asked, surprised but pleased that the old slave would be so intent on associating with him.
   “You underestimate yourself son, even as a vampire people love or hate you, there are no in betweens, just like when you were alive.”
   “Is that good or bad?”
   “Who knows. But here we love you, and are all joyous at your return, just like your mother and I were when you returned to Nazareth the first time.”
   “What about the second time?”
   “That time you almost gave me a heart attack, considering you were a dead man, but your mother and I got past that pretty quick.”
   “I’m still a dead man father, Mary and I are vampires, and vampires are not truly alive, nor really dead for that matter, we are undead.”
   “I know, remember I’ve read Herodotus, according to him you and your lady are in an ageless stasis, for lack of better words.”
   “Stasis?” Jesus asked, pleased that his father was becoming familiar with Greek, as he had become, conversing with Cyril in that tongue for the past few months.
    “What I mean is you may be dead in a fashion but you're far from a corpse, after all, you’re not rotting away,” Joseph observed, arms in the air.
   “Yes, that’s quite true,” said Jesus, Mary looking to him.
   “Further, you and your girl may be undead, vampires, going around killing folks and sucking their blood and all, but you’re still good company.”
   “I am?” asked a confused Jesus.
   “Of course,” said Joseph, pouring a goblet of wine, “Even when you were alive, I and your mother always enjoyed the conversations we had with you in the courtyard, sitting with a finger in the air, saying, Verily I say unto you – and so forth.”
   “But you thought I was lazy too,” Jesus replied, thinking of his days in Nazareth, the Magdalene standing quietly in the background.
   “That didn’t mean you were stupid,” said Joseph, waxing philosophical.
   “What did it accomplish, all it did was get me killed.”
   “I told you that would happen.”
   “I remember.”
   “I’m going to look in on your mother,” said Mary, wanting to leave, heading to their bedroom.
   “Want wine?” asked Joseph, holding the bottle while Jesus sat down.
   “That would be nice,” said Jesus, his father taking a seat.
   Joseph poured him a libation, Jesus asking, “How’s the farm doing?”
   “Very well, the wheat and barley are almost ready for harvest, Icarus is running the forge with work sent from the centurion, and your mother’s sickness has finally stopped.”
   “The baby will come soon.”
   “In another four months or so. She only has trouble in the beginning, the child should be here by early December.”
   “It’s a boy you know.”
   “It is?”
   “Don’t worry, I won’t tell your mother,” said Joseph. Sitting quietly for a moment, he smiled with satisfaction and said, “A boy, I’m going to have another son.”
   Later, the Magdalene presented her gifts to the slave women, starting with Ruth, the girl dutifully tending to Jesus’ pregnant mother. “I thank you Mistress Maria Hittica,” she said, looking at her reflection in a silver mirror.
   “Please Ruth, call me Maria will you?” 
   “Yes Maria.”
   “Now then Ruth, please follow me to the slave quarters, I have gifts I wish to present to the three of you.”
   “You do?”
   “You will be pleased, I promise,” answered a smiling Mary, heading for the door.
   Ruth nodded, following the Magdalene to the slave quarters. Knocking and entering with Ruth, Mary greeted the slaves, Cyril looking up from a scroll he was reading.
   “Good evening Maria the younger,” said Cyril.
   “Greetings Cyril,” Mary replied, “Are Electra and Penelope here?”
   “They are in their quarters, I shall fetch them for you,” Cyril answered, rising from his seat and walking to their rooms. A few moments later the slave women appeared, Cyril returning to a seat and resuming reading, a scroll penned by Herodotus.
   “Good evening, I’ve brought gifts we purchased during our trip south, jewelry, cosmetics, and fine silk,” said Mary, producing the items from a sack.
   “Silk fabric?” asked Penelope, “Why?”
   “Why not?” the Magdalene replied, “In your leisure you can make fine dresses with it, and using the jewelry and cosmetics, can make yourselves the best looking slaves in Tibernum.”
   “I knew it, master Julius is going to open a private brothel, using us for the whores,” said Electra.
   “No,” a surprised Magdalene protested, shaking her head, “That’s not my intention, you’ve helped us, so I’m rewarding you for your efforts.”
   “Why?” asked Electra as Cyril looked up from his scroll, “No one gives anyone gifts without a price, what do you want from us in return?”
   Mary fell silent for a moment, gazing at the slave women with a compassionate look. “You must realize by now that we are not your typical slave owners, we look at you as members of our extended family, good people helping us tend our farm. The least we can do is to make you feel more at home with us,” she replied, hurt by Electra’s candid remarks.
   “They are truly different, especially Julius the younger,” said Cyril, looking to Electra.
   “But – ”
   “No buts my dear woman, they are very different,” said Cyril.
   Electra looked to the floor and replied, “I’m sorry mistress Maria, life has not been kind to me. When I was younger I was sold into slavery as a prostitute by my uncle, having been raped for several years by my father.”
   Mary pursed her lips in reflection and answered, “I understand.”
   “You do?” asked Electra, staring at who she saw as a pampered, wealthy Roman woman, thinking of terrible nights when she had been violated by up to fifteen men at a time, many of them Roman soldiers.
    “Not personally, but a long time ago a close friend of mine had a similar experience in Rome,” she lied, thinking of her past employment in the trade of prostitution, until Jesus of Nazareth happened upon her in Magdala, just as the townspeople were about to stone her.
   Saving her from certain death, the Christ had walked up with disciples John, Judas, Peter and Thomas; livid at the scene he was seeing. “May he who is without sin cast the first stone!” Jesus exclaimed, grabbing an arm of a zealous Benjaminite, pulling a rock from his hand and throwing it to the ground. “Verily I say, stone me first you hypocrites, if you have the guts!” he shouted, moving between Mary and the hypocritical people of Magdala.
   “But you haven’t…”
   “Really?” asked Electra, breaking Mary from her reverie.
   “Her parents died when she was young and her aunt threw her out in the street when she was a teenager. She had to sell her body to live, life was cruel to her too.”
   “Where is she now?” asked Electra, looking for an end to the story.
   “She is dead,” Mary replied. Cyril looked to her, raising an eyebrow at the statement.
   “Oh,” said Electra, having nothing further to say.
   The Magdalene talked with the slave women for several hours, gaining their confidence, leaving near midnight while an exhausted Cyril snored in a chair. His scroll of Herodotus had dropped to the floor – the treatise on legends. They returned to the house, Ruth heading for the bedroom to tend to Jesus’ mother.
   She met Jesus in the kitchen. He remarked, finishing a goblet of wine, “This is a change woman, I was heading out for supper without you.”
   “I have before, I was talking to Electra and Penelope.”
   “Electra thought we were going to make them into whores when I showed her the cosmetics and jewelry.”
   “What about the silk?”
   “That only added to it, Electra was a whore in the past, forced into doing so as a slave.”
    “Unfortunate, verily I say, if there is a God somewhere he must not care at all about man, with pain, death and misfortune all around us.”
   “Jesus Christ, your words sound like the utterances of an atheist!”
   “I’m damn close to atheism now,” said Jesus, rising from his chair. They walked into the dark night, transforming in the shadows, finding and killing a trio of highwaymen fifteen miles west of Tibernum, enriching themselves physically and materially. A heavy bag of gold and silver, amounting to nearly 300 aurei, was in the haul, the vampiric Christ having to walk back due to the weight.
   “Why don’t you throw some of the gold away?” Mary asked after walking several miles.
   “Because it’s gold. At this rate, given a few years, we could buy Tibernum.”
   “What else have we to do?”
   “We don’t really need an entire town do we?”
   “No, it was just a thought,” said Jesus.

* * *

   The harvest came a few weeks later, all the slaves working the fields, tending to the bountiful crops of wheat and barley. The herbs and other vegetables were coming in too, assuring the Chrysippus larder would be well stocked for the winter. Jesus and the Magdalene did their part, killing and draining deer, boars and aurochs of their blood, stocking the nearly overflowing smokehouse with another fifty sides of meat and providing skins for the slave women to make into leather. Ganymede built a granary shed, assisted by Joseph and son, erecting and completing the structure in less than four days. Jesus, now a skilled mason, had built the foundation the first evening, assisted by his consort, and during the following three days, Joseph and the slaves completed the wooden floor, walls and roof.
   While crickets, the charges of Artemis, saluted summer’s end, the slaves finished cutting grain, the men separating wheat from chaff, the women plucking barleycorns from stems. Joseph smiled with satisfaction, watching his slaves tending their chores; his newly built granary shed later filled nearly to the brim with wheat and barley. In the span of a little over eight months, Jesus and father had created an efficient, productive farm, tended by seven slaves, with ‘Julius the Elder’ as he was known, considered a pillar of the community. Nodding to various townsfolk, he stopped by Gavinal’s office one fall afternoon and paid his property taxes of seven aurei, rounded by Jesus from a little over six and a half.
   “The taxes are only six and a half aurei for this year Julius, you’ve given me seven, let me make change,” said Gavinal, staring at coins in his hand.
   “Forget it,” Joseph replied while the prefect handed him a receipt, “We have plenty of money, keep the extra if you like or apply it to next year’s bill.”
   “I shall apply it to next year’s bill.”
   “Right,” said Joseph, walking from the office.
   Callicles’ caravans came to town from the south a little over a week later, with the red-faced trader hawking his merchandise for only a week as he had to return to the Hellespont for resupply by November, and then to a one-month vacation at his palatial villa in eastern Thrace. That is, he was selling his wares in Tibernum between getting drunk with other local lushes, good people like Gavinal Septimus, Jesus, Joseph and the town notary, Marcus Pertinax. The evening before he left, Callicles made his way to Joseph’s farm, naturally while inebriated, and purchased eighty sides of smoked meat for 650 denarii.
   “Thank you friends,” said Callicles, standing on the porch while his slaves loaded a wagon with meat, shaking Jesus’ and Joseph’s hands.
   “You’re quite welcome,” answered Jesus, “Care for a drink?”
   “Need you ask?” Callicles replied, walking into the kitchen.
   Sitting at the table drinking Gallic wine, Callicles remarked, “Do you know about the new road west of here, it leads straight to Chrysopolis, saving my caravan 200 miles in travel!”
   “Yes, Procurator Vitellius Caius Africanus opened it about month ago,” said Jesus, familiar with the western Roman highway ‘Via Tiberius Romanus’ and its ruthless hordes of highwaymen and cutthroats lurking in the shadows.
   “We’ll use that road from now on, it’ll cut a week from our schedule,” Callicles replied, slurring his Latin.
   “Be careful friend,” said Jesus, knowing the caravan was well protected, “Once you’re fifteen or twenty miles west of here many thieves lurk by the roadsides.”
   “That’s why I employ mercenaries like my buddies Kago and Aeschesles,” Callicles answered, narrowing eyes in contempt of thieves while downing another gulp of wine. “Get this,” he added, holding out his goblet for a refill, “Anyone crossing our path with intent to rob gets nothing but death for their efforts. My men are heavily armed and have no qualms about killing thieves.”
   “Really?” asked Joseph, unaware that Callicles was not only a shrewd businessman, but had been using his men for years to slaughter thieves prowling the highways. For this service, he received a bounty from the procurator for heads of criminals killed during their travels.
   “Some of my men fought as professional gladiators in Rome and Capua. I let them loot thieves who attempt to rob us, naturally after they’ve killed and beheaded them of course, it makes them a lot of money,” said Callicles, Jesus refilling his goblet.
   “Is that so?” asked Joseph, smiling and looking to Jesus.
   “Yeah, I get 250 denarii in bounty for each one killed, I had fourteen pickled heads in a barrel I dropped off in Antioch two months ago.”
   “A proper method for handling thieves,” said Jesus, thinking it was exactly the same method he used to deal with such people.
   “Indeed, but my men usually spend all they make from robbers on wine and whores, I guess that’s why they tag along and keep working for me,” replied a chuckling Callicles, rising unsteadily from the table.
   “Leaving so soon?” asked Joseph.
   “No, I have to take a piss.”
   “So do I,” said Jesus, the group heading out to answer nature’s call.
   “You and your folks are good people Julius,” said Callicles, relieving himself by the chimney. “Tibernum colony is my favorite of stops, a pleasant place, with you and your father, friend Gavinal, Drusus the Illyrian, Caius Felix and that silly Marcus.”
   “He does tell good jokes,” Jesus replied, adjusting his tunic.
   “I don’t know where he gets them,” said Callicles, heading to the porch. He tripped up the steps and landed on the porch with a heavy thud.
   “Are you all right uncle?” Demosthenes asked.
   “Yeah, I just drink too much,” he replied, rising unsteadily. Enjoying the warm night, Callicles stood on the porch getting drunk, later falling to the floor unconscious, his goblet shattering beside him.
   “I’m very sorry, we will replace it from our stock at once,” said Demosthenes, the fine crystal goblet having been expensive, imported from Rome.
   “Forget it,” Jesus replied as his father rose from his chair, “We’ll buy more from you next time, no point worrying about broken glass.”
   “But it was a crystal goblet.”
   “Who cares,” said a drunken Joseph, skirting the shards and weaving through the door.
   “If you say so,” the incredulous lad replied while looking to the doorway, knowing the goblet had cost at least five denarii.
   “I do indeed say so,” Joseph called from the kitchen.
   “Are you sure?” Demosthenes asked, looking to Jesus.
   “It’s nothing,” Jesus replied.
   “My uncle drinks too much,” said Demosthenes, looking to his unconscious form.
   “Yeah, what can you do?” replied Jesus, rising from his seat and walking to the snoring trader, rolling him on his back.
   “I’ll help you carry him to the wagon,” said Demosthenes.
   “That’s the idea,” Jesus answered, the pair moving Callicles from the floor, an arm over the lad’s shoulder, another over Jesus’ shoulder. Demosthenes took the reins after Jesus lifted the unconscious trader into the wagon.
   Bidding farewell, the lad said they would return in late March or early April, depending on availability of stock.
   “Take it easy kid,” Jesus replied as Demosthenes took a deep gulp of wine, following in his uncle’s footsteps.
   “I always do, and guess what – I got laid for the first time two weeks ago by a slut in Daphinos!”
   “Good for you,” said Jesus, the boy cracking a whip over the horse’s heads, galloping away over the bumpy road leading from the farm. “We’ll have to get the road fixed before somebody gets killed,” he added, watching the wagon heave to one side on two wheels.
   Heading out with the Magdalene while his father snored in a kitchen chair, the couple flew to the west road, finding and killing a pair of thieves seventeen miles west of Tibernum. After a few lean months, they had found a windfall, flying off for a few days to prey about Mansahir, or to stroll the newly opened highway from the west. This much-needed road ultimately connected to a distant city named Nicomedia, many hundreds of miles away on the Sea of Marmara.
   Staying far enough from Gavinal and his centurion’s grasp, thieves had taken up residence by the roadsides, providing Jesus and Mary with plenty of blood and cold cash. From the increased amount of money they were acquiring in Mansahir and the heavily traveled west road, Jesus took time to visit his cave every few weeks or so, instead of once every other month as he had since moving in with his parents. Each time they entered the dark labyrinth, he added more booty to his treasure trove, a princely sum amounting to nearly 4,500 aurei in coinage, not counting priceless jewels and jewelry, their value perhaps three times that. Thanks to their newfound preying ground on the west road, they were growing richer with each passing night.
   One evening in early November, Jesus brought another sack of denarii to the cave, weighing nearly fifty pounds. “We’re loaded now aren’t we woman?” he asked, dropping the sack, “My dad always thought I’d be poor, and now I have enough money to buy a thousand slaves.”
   “I’ll say, and then some,” Mary replied, looking to the glittering pile of treasure.
   Staring at silver menorahs stolen from the rabbi of Nazareth, sitting next to a pile of aurei, Jesus frowned, reminded of the Hebrew faith he had turned his back on immediately following his death and triumphant vampiric resurrection.
   “What’s wrong?”
   “Nothing,” Jesus answered, not wanting to bother her with his contemptuous opinions regarding religion, “It’s just we’ve been concentrating on acquiring money and jewelry, those menorahs and goblets are out of place.”
   “We haven’t been robbing anyone’s homes lately, maybe we’ll get more later,” said Mary, not understanding why he was so annoyed at a pair of menorahs and two goblets.
   “That’s not what I mean, we have no use for them. I suppose I’ll have Icarus melt that crap down,” Jesus replied, pointing to the menorahs and goblets. Since they were not money or jewelry, he considered them useless gold and silver scrap, better suited existing as ingots of precious metal.
    “That can wait, we have a ton of money, besides, you could give those goblets to your parents as a congratulatory present for the baby.”
   “Good idea,” said Jesus, lifted from his dark mood and breaking into a smile, brushing aside the offending menorahs and lifting the goblets from the pile. Presents in hand, they headed for the house, walking into the kitchen as Ruth was clearing the table. “Where’s my father?” he asked.
   “In their bedroom talking with your mother,” she replied.
   “Thank you.”
   Knocking on the door, Joseph let them in, walking to a chair and sitting down next to his wife, lying in bed. His mother was very pregnant, having less than two months to go before her new baby, a healthy Hebrew boy, would come into the world.
    “Good evening father, how are you my mother?” asked Jesus, he and Mary entering.
   “I’m fine,” his mother answered, Jesus taking a seat beside Joseph.
   “She waddles like a duck and looks like she’s about to burst,” his father observed, smiling and laying a hand on his wife’s arm.
   “Carry this much weight in front of you and see how you walk,” Mary retorted.
   “I don’t mean anything by that woman,” Joseph replied.
    “I’ve brought a gift, in honor of the baby,” said Jesus, producing the pair of goblets from behind his back and sitting them on a nightstand.
   “They’re beautiful,” replied his mother.
   “Expensive too, worth a small fortune I’d say,” said Joseph, lifting one of the heavy goblets, “Where’d you get them?”
   “We took them from a rabbi we killed in Nazareth, we robbed his house,” an unthinking Magdalene volunteered, Jesus looking to her darkly.
   “Oh well, I suppose he didn’t have any further use for them,” said Joseph, placing the goblet on the table.
   “Samuel Bar Saklas, the rabbi who wanted to have you stoned for blasphemy,” said his mother.
   “Exactly,” Jesus replied, still frowning.
   “Please don’t feel bad, he got what he was asking for. They’re very nice goblets too, thank you very much,” she added, accepting the stolen gifts.
   “You’re welcome mother,” said Jesus as Ruth entered the room.
   “The kitchen’s cleaned up already?” asked Joseph, looking to lift Jesus from his darkened mood.
   “Yes Julius the elder,” Ruth answered.
   “Let’s have wine son,” said Joseph, rising from his seat.
   “Are you coming my woman?” asked Jesus.
   “I want to talk with your mom for a while if you don’t mind.”
   “Suit yourself,” said Jesus, following his father to the kitchen.
   Entering the kitchen, his father reached for a bottle of wine and two crystal goblets.
   “Sometimes Mary says things she shouldn’t,” Jesus observed, sitting down, Joseph opening the bottle and pouring libations.
   “She is a little blunt, but don’t worry, your mother doesn't care about that anymore.”
   “Be that as it may, it’s disrespectful, she isn’t used to hearing such things.”
   “That’s not exactly true. Your mother’s seen a lot more than you may think, especially before you were born.”
   “What do you mean?”
   “Killing’s one thing she may not be comfortable with yet, but regarding thievery, when your mother was pregnant with you there was a census taken in Judea by Caesar Augustus. Back taxes were being collected in Bethlehem where your mother and I were born.”
   “I know, that’s where I was born too, in a stable near an inn.”
   “Right, but what you don’t know is that I robbed a publican’s house to pay off my back taxes, otherwise they would have sold your mother and I into slavery.”
   “I always thought you were a successful carpenter.”
   “Successful because I stole enough money from the publican to move to Nazareth and buy tools and a house.”
   “What happened to the publican?”
   “Him? I heard they crucified him for absconding with state funds,” Joseph answered, a guilty look crossing his face.
   “Oh,” said Jesus, thinking if his father hadn’t stolen the money, the tax collector probably wouldn’t have been crucified, but also realizing if his father hadn’t stolen the money, he and his parents would be lowly slaves, a paradox Jesus figured had turned out for the better.
   “So, what do you think of that revelation?” asked Joseph, finishing his goblet.
   “I suppose you did what you had to do, and I’ve never cared for publicans, excepting for my friend Matthew.”
   “He was one of your disciples wasn’t he?” asked Joseph, pouring another and refilling Jesus’ goblet.
   “Yeah, I wonder what he’s doing now,” Jesus mused, his mind drifting to his ministry in Galilee.
   “Didn't you kill him?” Joseph asked, goblet of wine in hand.
   “No, I only killed Peter and Judas, I haven’t the foggiest notion of what happened to Matthew.”
   “I guess that means there are ten of your people blundering about Judea, telling folks you’re God.”
   “I suppose, along with my brother James; I’m sorry father, I truly thought I was God once.”
   “Don’t let it bother you, everyone has the right to be crazy sometimes, people have believed stranger things,” said Joseph, an elbow on the table, resting his chin in a palm.
   “They have?”
    “Of course, don’t think you have the sole claim to looniness, many others in this weird world make you look like a piker.”
   “Are you serious?”
   “Come on, you’re a hell of a lot smarter than me; you know what I’m talking about. You’ve been over half the world in your quest for the truth, whatever that is. Like for example, people down south who think burning babies to death in furnaces will make the rain come and the crops grow.”
   “They do that in Syria,” said Jesus, taking a deep drink of wine.
   “Yeah they do, and other crazy folks worship carved blocks of stone or the chirping birds, or toothy crocodiles from Egypt. Some people even pray to stupid dogs and cats, for what reason, who knows.”
   “I get what you mean, in Kush and India they worship odd looking cows that have humps on their backs, and some people in Rome say the emperor is a god.”
   “I’ve heard that too,” said a sighing Joseph.
   “People are strange aren’t they?” Jesus asked after a few moments of silence, pouring another goblet, forgetting he was once in that category.
   “You don’t need me to answer that, after all, they killed you because you told them the truth about themselves.”
   “Mary has said the same thing.”
   “She’s a smart woman.”
   “Yes she is, but lately I’ve been changing my mind on religion. I told her a few months back I was drifting toward atheism, she didn’t seem to care for those remarks.”
   “She’ll get over it. Just remember, even as a vampire she’s still a woman, and women seem to need a reason to explain existence, so they turn to a god who controls all things.”
   “That’s the truth, in some ways I feel blind faith is a woman’s province, men question everything too much.”
   “I’ve thought that too.”
    Jesus nodded. “I’ve been wondering since we talked in Nazareth last year, what do you think of religious philosophies, do you think they bring man closer to God, if there is one?”
   “I’ve no idea, my answer to that would only be an opinion.”
   “I know, but what do you think?”
   “Honestly, I doubt it. I’m not a believer anyway and I’ve felt that way since long before you were born.”
   “Really?” Jesus asked, refilling their goblets, father and son growing drunk on Gallic wine.
   “Yes, I haven’t believed in any religion since I was a teenager,” said Joseph, looking him in the eyes.
   “I loved my father Jacob very much, and if you recall me telling you as a child, your grandmother died giving birth to me, after she died he was all I had.”
   “I know,” said Jesus, putting his hand on his father’s in an attempt to comfort him.
   “And when I found him dead in his bed when I was thirteen, God went out the window,” a frowning Joseph spat, pulling his hand away, recalling finding his father’s body on a fall morning in Bethlehem, finally letting Jesus see more of his true self.
    “But you scrupulously followed the admonitions written in the Torah, even having me circumcised, and you went to Temple every Saturday when I was a child,” said Jesus, looking at the table where his father’s hand had been.
   “That doesn’t mean anything, it’s tradition, rote bullshit one does to fit in with the herd. When you’re part of a culture, willing or not, you have to abide by its rules to avoid problems with the simpletons who really believe it,” retorted Joseph, shaking his head at his son’s naïveté.
   “That makes sense, you don’t believe there’s a God either?” asked Jesus, thunderstruck at his father’s words.
   “Not really; I simply realized a long time ago none of us know the answer to the mystery of life and death and what may lie beyond this, if anything. Life’s much too short to determine such incredible things.”
   “We’re nothing but foolish mortals, with the obvious exceptions of you, your woman and perhaps others like you.”
   “Yes,” Jesus replied.
   “Further, if there is a God, he, she or it will do as it pleases with us, and there’s nothing we can do about it,” declared Joseph, arms in the air.
   “I agree, Protagoras said that too.”
   “Who was he?” asked Joseph, downing a gulp of wine.
   “A Greek atheist from the past.”
   “Really? I think he was right; well, I wish you’d listened to me earlier, it certainly would have saved you a lot of problems,” said Joseph, rising from the table.
   “I’ll say,” Jesus replied, thinking of his crucifixion.
   “Why do you let such shit bother you?” asked Joseph, walking to a cabinet, grabbing and opening another bottle of wine.
   “I don’t know,” said an exasperated Jesus, thoughts of God crossing his mind.
   Pouring another libation, Joseph replied, “Simply remember this, none of us really know anything. Accept that and get on with your uh, life.”
   “You’re probably right father, but I’ve always wondered – ”
   Appearing in the doorway, the Magdalene remarked, “Let’s find someone to eat.”
   “Yes, go out and kill someone evil, it is your very nature to do so, and to deny your nature would be foolish,” said Joseph, pointing a finger at Jesus.
   “You’re a wise man,” Jesus replied, emptying his glass of wine.
   “Yeah right,” answered his father, draining his goblet while Jesus and consort walked from the house.
   “What were you and Joseph talking about?” asked Mary, walking along the road leading from the farm.
   “Various things,” said Jesus, troubled by his father’s admissions, particularly regarding his atheism.
   “You don’t feel like talking about it?”
   “Perhaps after we have someone to eat,” Jesus replied, his slight inebriation quickly wearing off.
   “Let’s fly to the west,” said Jesus, the couple transforming, flying to the highway leading to Nicomedia. Alighting at their usual spot fifteen miles west of town, they assumed human form. Raising an eyebrow, the vampiric Christ noted that the garbage of humanity had selected the same spot another pair of thieves had, until they came along one dark evening. Having encountered highwaymen at this very place just over a month earlier, they had relieved them of their lives and twelve aurei. The latest pair had moved into a clever trap that Jesus had set, he having moved several fallen trees next to an overhanging sandstone promontory, creating a convenient place for thieves to hide.
   “Hold it there,” one growled in Anatolian, coming from the brush, gleaming gladius in his right hand.
   “What do you want with us at this time of night?” asked Jesus in kind, familiar with the language of the thieves of Turkey.
   “We want tribute,” the thief answered, his partner appearing at his side.
   “I’m Roman and pay tribute to no one.”
   “In other words, go screw yourself,” said Mary, she having also picked up the tongue of the indigent population.
   “You will pay us to pass.”
   “This isn’t a toll road, make us pay you,” Jesus replied, folding arms across his chest.
   The thief raised his sword, Mary moving like lightning toward his partner, ripping his throat with her fangs and gulping blood as he died in her arms.
   “Top that,” said Jesus, the thief dropping his sword and turning to run. “Not so fast,” he added, grabbing the robber by his tunic and pushing him to the ground.
   “Evil vampire, by the holy god Baal I banish you and your murderous Lilith to Gehenna!” shrieked the thief.
   “Baal, the brother of El, or Elohim, Yahweh of the Hebrews,” said Jesus, looking to his victim.
   “Baal is the one true God, I banish you and the Lilith in his holy name!”
   “Holy my ass, Baal’s bullshit like his brother Elohim; crap dreamed up by idiots.”
    “He is?”
   “Why don’t you see for yourself you stupid bastard,” said Jesus, lifting him, plunging fangs in his throat, sucking his blood until he died and throwing the corpse to the pavement.
   “He pissed you off didn’t he?” asked Mary, dropping her victim beside his lifeless partner.
   “He was a damn fool,” Jesus spat, staring at the corpse.
   “That’s obvious,” said the Magdalene, looking to the body.
   “Tell me something I don’t know.”
   “You feel like a fool too, because you once bought into that stuff.”
   “Yeah,” said Jesus, “Let’s loot these bastards, it’s too bad we can't sell their heads to Callicles.”
   “I don’t think he’d buy them would he?”
   “Sure he would, if we could sell them to him for 50 denarii or so, he gets 250 each for the heads of thieves from the procurator in Antioch.”
   “It’s not worth it, too many questions would follow, we should just loot and dump them.”
   “Of course, get serious woman, it’d be hard to explain to that drunk how we took them wouldn’t it?”
   “I’m sorry,” said Mary, understanding his macabre jest.
   Finding only a few denarii on the pirates, Jesus hurled them by their legs from the road, the bodies landing in crumpled heaps in a dense thicket. Not uttering a word, he started back to town.
   “You’re not yourself tonight are you?” asked the Magdalene, putting a hand on his arm.
   “I’m all right,” said Jesus, pulling his arm from her.
   “It’s what your father said at the house isn’t it?”
   “Why do you say that?”
   “I’ve known you a long time, I can tell.”
   “You're right,” Jesus replied, annoyed that she could so easily read his emotions.
   “My father told me he’s an atheist.”
   “Big deal, so are you.”
   “Not quite, but close,” said Jesus, “It just bothers me that my father never told me he was an atheist. If he had, perhaps I wouldn’t have begun my ministry, and would’ve saved myself a crucifixion in the process.”
   “You wouldn’t have listened to him, you thought you were God.”
   “Yeah,” a wistful Jesus answered.
   “And you wouldn’t be a vampire today.”
   “That is true.”
   “I like being a vampire, we’ll live forever,” said Mary, smiling at the thought.
   “I don’t mind, but we can never have children.”
   “That’s the way it goes, maybe you’ll bring others to our realm like you did at the graveyard with me – they can be your children,” said Mary, having gotten past her regrets of not having offspring.
   “It’s not the same thing,” Jesus replied, thinking of his brother in his mother’s womb.
   “Perhaps not, but if we’re careful, we can bring others to our realm, if the situation warrants it. Further, we can know the world of the future, existing on this earth hundreds, if not thousands of years from now! I think that’s exciting, who knows what lies in the far off future!”
   “Man will be the same through all times in history,” Jesus declared, “A miserable creature whose foremost predilection is blatant hypocrisy of the first order, most of them, male or female, nothing but cunning, deceitful, disgusting liars and rogues.”
   “We’d have nothing to eat if they weren’t.”
   “You're right,” said Jesus, “My woman, what would I do without you?”
   “If you kept this attitude up you’d probably kill yourself, if you could.”
   “You think so?”
   “Definitely,” the Magdalene answered, changing the subject, “You know, that clown back there thought I was the Lilith.”
   “I heard that too, who knows, maybe you are,” said Jesus, pausing and sitting on a boulder near the roadside, looking to the night sky.
   “The Lilith?”
   “Well, maybe not the Lilith, but I’ll tell you one thing, we sure scared the piss out of him didn’t we?” asked Jesus with a slight smile.
   “Yeah,” said Mary, recalling the robber’s terrified face, Jesus towering over him.
   Talking for a few hours sitting by the roadside, the Magdalene finally lifting his crestfallen spirits, they transformed and returned to the house, Jesus dumping the paltry amount of silver he took from the thieves on his nightstand before going to sleep at sunrise.

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