September 20, 2005

Chapter 26

"I'm Matthew," he said, "and you're John."

"Matthew? Matt?"

"Yes, Matt, though even you haven't called me that in a very long time."

"Matt is all I remember, and that barely. The memory, though, the memory helped me find my way here. We got stuck outside the gate one night."

Matthew looked startled. "I haven't thought about that in a long time," he said. "I never would have expected it to be useful again."

John nodded.

"John," Matthew began. "You're a citizen again."

"How?" asked John. "All I've known is exile. I'm a farmer."

Matthew shook his head. "Gregory, the leader who exiled you, died the day before you came here. Your exile is over."

"What does that mean?"

"It means that you're welcome back to the city, to work with us and live with us."

John stared. He lifted his hand and looked at it.

"I'm younger. How?"

"Citizens live longer. We've cleaned your body of the many poisons you had absorbed."

"Cleaned? Cleaned?"

"It's a complex process, and maybe Martha can explain it to you. She removed decades worth of poisons your body had absorbed."

"Poisons? No one's poisoned me."

"No, no, no one's poisoned you. Your body had just grown old."

"Isn't it supposed to?"

"Not for citizens," said Matthew. "Not that quickly."

"And Rachel? Is she younger too?"

"No," said Matthew. "And I can't make her younger. But she is alive."

John's eyes gleamed and he sat up. "Can I see her?"

"In a few hours," said Matthew. "Martha needs to make sure you're all right before we let you go roaming around."

Matthew stood up and walked to the door. "I'll talk with you more soon," he said.

Martha was waiting on the other side of the door. "Is he all right?"

"More than all right, I think," said Matthew. "Same old John."


Caleb opened the stall door, stepped in, and closed the door. On the hay bales inside the stall, a man was reading the Bible. He looked up at Caleb, and returned to his reading.

Caleb sat on a hay bale across from the man. "Enjoying your reading, friend?" he asked.

"Indeed," said the man, without looking up.

"Which book are you reading?" asked Caleb.

"Exodus," he replied, continuing: "And the Lord said unto Moses, Depart, and go up hence, thou and the people which thou hast brought up out of the land of Egypt, unto the land which I sware unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, Unto thy seed will I give it."

"Do you ever read the New Testament?" asked Caleb, when the man had stopped.

The man stopped reading, and turned to Caleb. "Sometimes, yes. It's a wonderful vision, but painful. "


"We, humans, have squandered it."

"Squandered?" asked Caleb.

The man returned to his reading. "Squandered," he muttered. "We have to start again, return to the beginning of things and hope God will forgive our horrible trespasses."

"How did we squander it?"

The man kept reading. Caleb sat for a few minutes.

"Did you squander it?" he finally asked.

"I'm too young," said the man. "We squandered it, oh, in 2146. Probably even earlier than that, but 2146 was the end."

"Why 2146? You mean 2146 years since Christ, right? Seven hundred years ago?"

"The temple was destroyed. Time has started again."

"The temple? Which temple?"


"But the temple was destroyed twenty-eight hundred years ago, and time didn't restart then."

"Not all of it was destroyed then," said the man. "Now if you don't mind, I'd like to study. You were kind enough to give me a Bible, now be kind enough to let me read it."

Caleb shook his head, and signaled to Isaac to let him out of the stall.


As the farmers emerged from their prisoners' stalls, they all had similar stories to tell.

"Mine just kept muttering 'Jerusalem is destroyed' while he read Numbers."

"Mine accused us of blocking the Lord's will, saying something about blocking the ways of God, and promising my demise."

"Mine wouldn't say anything. He just kept reading Leviticus, and glaring at me occasionally."

"Is Jerusalem destroyed?" asked Isaac.

"It's been destroyed a few times," said Caleb. "I know the Romans destroyed it in 70, after the events of the Bible. It says that in the front of one of my older Bibles."

"Has it been destroyed since?" asked Isaac.

"The raider claimed 2146, but I've never heard that," replied Caleb. The others were shaking their heads. "I'm not sure what it matters. Jerusalem is in our hearts."


While Caleb and his friends went back to talk to the raiders, Isaac rushed to the library. He found the globe showing the city and Jerusalem nearly on the other side of the world. He'd never visited the history section before, but it seemed to offer all kinds of tales in books covering ancient, medieval, and modern history, and histories of places he'd never heard of.

Isaac looked through the most recent books, detailing wars, disasters, famines, and occasional hope. Jerusalem had been fought over for centuries, it seemed, but the books all stopped in 2143 or earlier, with no word about 2146.


Matthew had wanted to spend more time reading Gregory's notes before discussing John's future, but John seemed to be wide awake and still interested in the one thing he'd always been interested in since meeting her: Rachel.

"How can he be a citizen if he's married to a farmer?" asked Catherine. "How?"

"I don't know yet," said Matthew. "Rose didn't think Rachel would last very long, though, maybe a few days."

"But he'll still have a child who is a farmer. A child he knows and raised."

"You're right, Catherine. You're right." Matthew sighed. The rest of the council was watching them, waiting to see where this would go.

"I think we're stuck," said Matthew. "John is a citizen, whether you like it or not, but in the time he wasn't a citizen he developed connections you despise and which create complications even under the kindest of perspectives. I wasn't even on this council when you decided to revive him" - he looked around, as several members who had been on the council stared resolutely at the table - "but you did the right, and difficult thing."

"So what do we do?" asked Stephen.

"I think we have to let him see Rachel," said Matthew. "If only for the few days. And then we'll have to find a role for him where he can't cause problems. Maybe as a trader again, or something similar."

Catherine nodded. "I don't have any better ideas," she said. "We don't have proper cause to exile him yet, just to watch him. Closely."


Isaac arrived at the barn just as Caleb and his friends were leaving.

"Elders," Caleb said. "Why don't you come along? Did you find anything?"

"Not exactly," said Isaac.

They filed into the conference room. Daniel stood to greet them, and motioned for them all to sit down.

"What have you learned?" asked Judith.

"That they recognize the Bible to be true in its entirety, but that they think the world has begun again," said Caleb.

"Begun again?" asked Leah. "In a way that drives them to slaughter our people?"

"Well," started Caleb, "they think the world squandered its chance for redemption, discarding Christ's message. They see themselves as the loyal remnant, the only people who can revive it. They claim that Jerusalem itself was destroyed in 2146, and it is their task to follow the Old Testament's instructions to create a new Kingdom."

"So they really did think this was Jericho and we were Canaanites," said Daniel. "Fascinating. Horrible, but fascinating."

"Was Jerusalem destroyed?" asked Isaac. "I went to the library, but the books there end in 2143."

None of the elders knew. "We've never studied history, apart from tracking our own progress," said Judith. "We don't even really know the city's history."

"Can we find out?" pressed Isaac.

"We'll consider asking," said Daniel. "Meanwhile, keep talking with these raiders. Find out more of what their plans are, and see if there are any ways we could convince them of how badly they're misreading the Bible. And is anyone talking with the women?"

"Not yet," said Caleb, "but we can start that conversation."

"Please do," said Leah.

Posted by simon at September 20, 2005 09:27 PM
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