With the One Among the Twelve by Stephen Faulkner

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 With the One Among the Twelve by Stephen Faulkner
Illustration by Sue Babcock

In a dream I was with him, in his own time.

He and I and his company of twelve were in a room that was dank, hot and shadowy. There was an aura of subdued incandescence that lit the bedraggled, bearded faces of all who were present. I will not say that the light came from him or any of the twelve but I shall simply state that it was there in the low ceilinged, adobe room with us, nearer to him than any of the rest of us.

In this dream I was there physically, not just as a watchful specter or ghost. They greeted me cordially as I entered. The coarse, grey linen of my cloak chafed my shoulders as I walked. The rag-fashioned loincloth which I wore underneath tightly cupped my sex, cleaved my buttocks as I crouched to sit cross-legged among them on the floors that I might hear their Master speak.

His soft brown eyes sparkled as he observed the nervous movements that I made in order to get myself comfortable on the hard earthen floor. A short time elapsed as I waited for the continuation of his lecture which my entrance had interrupted, but it did not come. Instead, he directed a question to me: “You are a foreigner,” He said in heavily accented English. “Fair skin, eyes and hair…. Are you from the North?”

“Yes,” I answered and then, quizzically, “You speak English?”

“Only when it is necessary. I had not expected to have had to use it for some time yet. Perhaps not until your time.”

I had expected it to be so, that he would know from where and when I had come, so that his reference to my time travelling (though the dream did not dramatize the explanation of how I came to be where I was, as dreams rarely do) did not entirely surprise me, though he certainly did. He was so vivid to behold, almost as if his features had been etched in skin-tone phosphorous. The twelve disciples seemed to recede into shades of chiaroscuro in his presence, like figures in a painting hung in a badly lit museum. But he (and I mean him no disrespect by not capitalizing the h’s in the representative pronouns as has often been the custom since his passing. He was, as it has been written, a man and surely he would not consent to being capitalized) stood forth from them as a multicolored stone amid its drab fellows at the bottom of a murky pond, an iridescent bauble if one chanced to concentrate on his eyes; a healed blind man’s first sight of life and beauty, the only real truth in the room.

“Have you nothing to say?” he asked me.

“What could I say?”

“Something of your own time, perhaps.”

“But would they understand? I mean, the language barrier….”

“I shall translate for you.”

“Will they believe what I say?”

“Perhaps not. But there is no harm, I am sure.”

He turned from me to his followers and intoned a sentence or two in their common tongue. And then, to me: “You are introduced, friend, as a messenger from beyond the barriers to other worlds. Your time, you see, even though still of this Earth, would surely seem to these men as distant and strange as any star in the universe. Speak now, then. They await your message.”

Message? I thought and my mind froze. Eleven illustrious men of ancient history, another hailed as a grubbing detractor, and him, the one we read about. All awaited my message to them of the future, of my time twenty centuries hence. But what message? What could I tell them? What would they want or need to hear?

I sat stiffly silent. My tongue felt as if it were glued to the roof of my mouth. My teeth chattered like ice in a shaken, empty glass as I glanced from one expectant face to another. I said nothing, shuddered noticeably in my robe until, finally, the silence was broken by a smiling, red-lipped man, asking, as his Master translated for me, “Is our Master, Yeshua, known in your world? It is said that he will be known for all time to come and that, I assume, must also mean that he shall be known throughout all worlds, as well. Tell us, then, Stranger, have you heard of this man prior to your coming here?”

“Thomas,” Yeshua identified the speaker for me and winked. “Always trying to catch me out.”

“Yes, he is very well known where I come from,” I answered. “His words and teachings are respected and adhered to – as well as any can adhere to such rules, follow such an impeccable example – by a major part of the population of my – uh – world. To us, he is Jesus, not Yeshua, and his teachings come to us in a somewhat altered form – most likely due to faulty translations and re-translations and, too, to the….”

Here, the Master refused to translate my next phrase, “the passage of time,” for that would inevitably lead to the question of how much time had passed and a truthful admission of more than two thousand years would leave my credibility somewhat in ruins. He had divined my words, that phrase, before I had even brought them to my lips or considered the danger inherent in their being spoken and, once that subtly incriminating phrase was nigh, he lapsed into silence. He simply stopped translating what I had to say and waited for me to recognize his silence and its reasons. Once halted of my magpie chatter I could not help but see his concern. A man in his position could not allow the truly unbelievable to be uttered in his name for fear of making himself a target of the vengeful wrath of the Pharisees and making the consequences any greater than they soon would be. I thanked him, after a moment’s consideration, with a nod and tried to pick up the thread of what I was saying.

“…Uh, faulty translations and he has been deified….”

“Rightly so!” came a quickly translated call from the far side of the room.

“…Deified to a degree and grossly capitalized on much as your own Lord God has been from time to time.”

“Well, that has been taken care of for now,” called another man with a look of pride on his face for his teacher’s doings. Several of his nearer companions slapped his back and commended him for his observation.

“Ah yes,” I said. “The episode with the money-changers and merchants in the temple.”

“You have heard about it already? But that was only [a swift counting of fingers] three days ago.”

“News travels,” I said. “Slowly, but faster than you might imagine.”

Another man, digging in his ear with a grimy pinky, chimed up and was translated as asking: Tell us, Sir, how you arrived here. We heard not the beating of hooves nor the rattle of cartwheels on the road. Did you by chance walk such a distance as you would have us believe that you have come to be with us?”

I looked to their teacher for instructions as to how I might couch my reply in a manner both truthful and credible to the ears of his gathered disciples. He was serene, with eyes cast sideways towards the daylight that filtered through the dust-veiled, open door. The bleating of stray goats and sheep could be distinctly heard calling to their mothers, masters and to one another from opposite ends of the narrow street. His attention was drawn to his own thoughts rather than on the minor tribulations of a dream-traveler from the future so, whether by chance or design, I was left to my own wit and devices.

“A journey of such a great distance,” I began. “Is not made on foot alone and neither is it made by cart or steed – neither by horse, camel, oxen, donkey or any other beast of this world.”

“Then how do you come to be here?” the original inquirer wanted to know. A mutter of agreement with the questioner rumbled through the room.

Again, I looked to their teacher. A smile graced his gentle lips as he looked past me, again to the door. I followed his line of sight to a child, a girl of about fourteen or fifteen by her face yet a woman by the curves and mature development of her youthful body. She was smiling shyly at him and the gaggle of men from her position in the low entryway. There came a call from an unseen man outside (her father? husband?) and her face became sullen as she moved out of the doorway and quickly out of sight.

The absence of the pretty child seemed to snap the Master awake as if out of a contemplative trance and he directed his attention to the question-posing disciple, answering on my behalf in their common, guttural tongue. He turned back to me with a transliteration of his words to them: “I told them that you come to us in your own dream. Just as the Lord came to Abraham with the word to slay his only son, Isaac, in a dream. So I have told them we have been brought to you and you to us.”

“And they bought it?” I asked, noting the silence which this description of my mode of travel had brought upon the group.

“They – ah – bought it, yes, though without fully understanding it. I told them that I would explain further once you have gone. But I see a question in you. You wish to know how I shall explain away this dreaming thing.”

I nodded.

“They are men, are they not? And when they sleep, they dream – no? And when they dream, what is it that they dream about? Strange lands and the people that reside in those lands, as well as the friends, family and women of their own daily lives. That is what you are doing now, in your dream, I have told them: conjuring up a land that is foreign to your experience, peopled with individuals that you have learned of in stories and legends, in the same unfathomable manner in which they themselves dream.”

“But….” I wanted to protest but was cut short. He knew what I was going to say, to ask. Again.

“Think how they will feel, these men, being a part of an angel’s dream and being so privileged to meet the dreamer himself.”

“Angel? But I am no….”

“What else would you call one who comes among us, as I have told them, from another world? There are only two ‘other worlds’ save this one: the Kingdom of my Father and the low home of His detractor. And these men all know that I would neither honor nor speak at such length with an envoy of the Fallen One.”

I felt my chest swell with pride. Imagine, being introduced to the twelve Apostles as an angel of the Lord. Yes, I felt pretty important at that moment but, as it happened, the brass ring of semi-deification was snatched away from me as quickly as it had been bestowed for, Yeshua warned, “Be aware, friend, that I have told them this for your coming in so strange a manner concerns them much and it will; be the only thing that I might tell them that they will be able to comprehend. So do not let your head swell too greatly with this little lie or you will find it difficul6t to pass through the door without hurting your ears when you leave.”

A moment slid by as I gazed through the taut veil in his soft eyes, seeing the MAN there, as it was and should be. And he gazed into mine and smiled, saying, “I have always found hazel eyes to be so appealing. They change so with the shifting and dimming of light as the day progresses.”

Then he let out a burst of guttural cant, a call for anymore questions, he told me. But there no more, only a request from the one called Simon Peter. “When you get back to your Other World,” he said. “Tell them there that, though we are men and sinners, that we try our best to be of goodness in our hearts and dealings with others, to be of righteous stock and ways. Tell them this when you return to your homeland: that though we fall on our way to the Kingdom of the Lord, none of us has ever hesitated to pick himself up from the filth and try to wend his way forward again….”

“And again and again and again…” muttered a disembodied voice from a far corner.

Simon Peter ignored the interruption. “Tell them this, won’t you?”

“There is nothing for me to tell,” I said. “The ways and pitfalls of the life of men are well heralded and known where I come from. I cannot judge you.”

A rumble of mutters and mumbling queries filled the little room at this last statement of mine, translated and passed over by the Master. He realized the inherent danger of my words too late. Taken by his error of inattentiveness, Yeshua laughed softly and said, “Ah, my friend, you leave me so much to account for.”

I shrugged. “Is it the duty of an angel to judge the lives of men?” I asked and the young Master nodded his understanding. He now knew how to account for my hasty words. After all, he was the Master, Yeshua, called by these that were gathered with him Rabbi and Teller of Truth, later by others as the Son of Man, the Son of God, Messiah and Savior. They would listen better to him than to my inane banter about “ways and pitfalls” that they and all their (my) kind have forever faced. He held the scepter, the torch of their hearts and beliefs, I trusted him in the outcome of the quandary I had so unwittingly instigated. He would do well in this, I knew.

Then, by no sign from Yeshua, only by my own intuition, did I then know that it had come time for me to leave. I stood and raised a hand in farewell. All twelve of the Apostles, even Judas, the one who had counted the days on his fingers back to the Master’s deed in the temple, lowered their heads to receive what they all apparently assumed to be a heavenly blessing.

“Peace, Yeshua,” I said thickly. “Thank you for your kind understanding.”

The Master nodded and smiled. He raised a goblet of wine in toasting recognition of my departure.

As I stepped in and among the seated number, resting a hand here and there on bowed heads to offset my precarious balance as I made my way among them, I caught a whisper in the shadows. It was a comment which, though spoken in the common tongue which I had previously found unintelligible, I now found easy to understand. Dream, I thought amusedly; all a mere dream. I should have been able to catch all of the choked and garb led words these men spoke and been able to decipher them for myself without their Master’s interpretive assistance.

“This will not do at all,” whispered the one man, his face obscured by the converging shadows of his cloak and beard so that I could not discern his identity. “This is too much. This is one aspect of the Master’s life that we must not relate to others.”

“They would think us mad,” agreed the second. “And the Master as well.”

“Dreams of a man from another world, indeed!” huffed the first, his considerable beard bristling. “What sort of fools does this fellow take us for?”

Several more steps as my cloak itched and scratched like a warning from Hell, the tight fit of my loincloth squeezing my genitals painfully as I made my way until I was out of the door. Dust swirled idly about my bare feet and shins. The sun in my eyes blinded me but, unlike the direct glare of the sun in the real world, there was no pain here, no heat on my face though I sweated profusely until puddles covered my eyes and the warm saline water trickled into my mouth. I stood there, blinded raising a hand to rub the perspiration from my face and the burning white light from my eyes. The coarse linen of my cloak caught in my armpit as I did so and, like that, hand to face and seeing the striations on the palm of my hand (life line, head line, heart line, ladybug sized callous at the base of each digit) I awoke. Slowly, I removed the uncomfortable blanket from my shoulder and the offending edge that had lodged itself tightly under my left armpit in my tossing sleep. I lay there, gazing about the room that was dimly lit by the morning sunlight streaming in from between the poorly drawn together curtains. I drew my mind and senses up from the doldrums so often suffered by the newly wakened.

“Angel,” I murmured softly to myself, smiling.

 

BIO: Stephen Faulkner is a guy who loves to write fiction that takes the world apart and puts it back together in interesting and imaginative ways. He also loves to share his talent with all who appreciate his singular style. He lives in Decatur, Georgia with his wife and five cats. Steve has published stories in Aphelion Webzine, Unhinged Magazine, Hellfire Crossroads, Temptation Magazine, Hobo Pancakes, The Erotic Review,Serendipity Magazine, Liquid Imagination and Dreams Eternal.