Novel, title and cover © 2014 Steve Parton
A historical science fiction story: two students with a camcorder are befriended by Judas Iscariot – in ancient Jerusalem. Can they witness history without rewriting it?
1 (356 words)
The cellar was a dark, damp room with a dirt floor, almost cave-like. Two strong men wielded shovels and pickaxes, working dutifully at removing a stone wall, the farthest wall from the rickety steps that led down from the sunlit store above. A wheelbarrow sat nearby, waiting to be filled with stones and debris. A portable light fixture dangled from a ceiling joist, its lone bulb providing the men with all the illumination required for their task. A radio on the ground was blasting out music, despite the dirt caked onto its speaker grill, emitting Arabic melodies sung by a young woman whose very voice made the men less grumpy about their labour. In a surprisingly short amount of time, they were able to break enough of a hole in the wall to confirm their earlier suspicions, that there was indeed another room beyond the one in which they currently stood.
With renewed vigour, and spurred on by the woman's voice on the radio, the two men bashed away at the hole they had made until they had created a crude doorway. One of the men unhooked the portable light and took it with them into the new room. They were excited, but this was solely due to the idea of having more storage space. Their excitement had nothing at all to do with the fact that this was Old Jerusalem, a part of the world that continued to unearth relics, objects that could fatten a man's purse, objects that could contradict long-held beliefs in events that had transpired millennia ago.
The men swung the light back and forth, trying to establish the size of their new room. What they saw before them was a large mound of dirt, something they knew to mean a large amount of work ahead of them.
After the seventh load of dirt was hauled out, one of the men's shovels clanged against an object, the significance of which would bring about the end of their workday—it was a find that would indeed fatten their purses, a find that would contradict long-held beliefs in events that had transpired millennia ago.
#2 (351 words)
Shauna Campbell marched purposefully through the doors leading into Pearson Airport's Terminal 3: International Departures. In her thirties, she was an important and respected woman, usually comfortable being the smartest person in the room. She checked her luggage at an Air Canada counter and looked at the boarding pass the clerk had handed to her.
"This is non-stop?" She didn't make eye-contact, not out of rudeness, more due to being distracted by the agenda of the week ahead of her.
"That's right," replied the clerk, obviously used to the preoccupied look. "After you get off in London, the plane continues to Jerusalem."
Shauna reminded herself to glance upward at the pleasant clerk's face and flash an acknowledgement, if not an actual smile, before darting off, attaché case in tow, towards the gate printed on the paper in her hand.
Arriving in the waiting area of Gate 21, Shauna sat down in a chair across from where two nineteen year-old young men were sitting. She quickly surveyed the room, not because she had to be suspicious of anyone, but because it was her job to notice the minutiae of what was going on around her. All the faces she saw were of people dutifully going about their own business—except for that of one of the two young men sitting across from her. The blue-eyed one smiled at her, causing her to lock eyes with him longer than she would have liked. She quickly remembered who and what she was, then turned down to her attaché case, inside of which her iPad was waiting to entertain her for a while. She had considered changing seats, but she knew the flight would be boarding soon. She did, however, spare a moment to take in the face of the curly-haired fellow sitting next to the would-be charmer.
To Shauna and the two young men, the exchanging of glances was an unremarkable action. Shauna, for her part, locked the boys' faces in her mind, something she was always able to do, even if she didn't think she would ever have the need to recall them.
#3 (507 words)
Standing in front of Caiaphas, Ben was terrified. The last time he had stood in the area now known as the High Priests' Temple, he and his parents had been part of a tour group. He had been a child then, not the least bit interested in a decrepit old building that came with history lessons. The tour guide had suggested that that structure was built on the very place where Jesus Christ had been tried and convicted by the high priests Caiaphas and Annas. The tour guide had in fact been correct.
That event in his childhood was ten years ago, by Ben's reckoning. And that event was near on two thousand years in the future, with respect to the two imposing men before whom he now stood. Caiaphas was an enormous, intimidating man, giving the impression that he had gained his position partially due to his physical stature. His gaze was steady and penetrating; his thick black beard, large nose and wide mouth made up a face that nobody dared challenge. Annas, beside him, was a slightly smaller copy of Caiaphas, but with eyes that reflected an intelligent and calculating nature. The two priests wore thick ceremonial robes and tall, commanding conical hats. That Annas stood a few inches behind Caiaphas was all that was needed to reveal the hierarchy in the room.
Ben's arms were held in the iron grip of the armed guards standing on either side of him. Two other guards stood close by, to the left and to the right. Six guards to hold him there. One guard would have been plenty to ensure Ben kept himself in line. In fact, zero guards would have been fine; Caiaphas's stare alone would have ensured that Ben behaved himself.
Everyone in the room was upset at how Ben had stolen his way inside the temple.
"Who are you?! What do you want from us?!" Caiaphas bellowed at him, spitting in his face as he screamed, almost knocking him over.
Ben whispered, nearly forgetting how to speak Hebrew, "I am Benjamin, son of Timothy."
"Use your voice, boy! Shout so God can hear you! Why is it you are bothering us?"
Ben fell mute, his lower lip shaking uncontrollably. But he knew what he had to do. He opened his mouth to change history, or perhaps to put history back on track. It was time to deliver the speech he had been turning over in his mind during the last few hours.
That wasn't the speech he had prepared. He tried again. "I have some... information, I think. Um..."
It was going precisely as badly as he had feared it would. Against his will, he found himself thinking about the first time he had had to give a speech in front of his Grade Four class at school. He couldn't remember which topic he had chosen, but he could clearly remember how incredibly frightened he had been at the very idea of public speaking. He had thought his classmates would make for a tough crowd. How foolish that seemed now.