DAVID A. RICE
Hell stared out through human eyes. Satan, the ancient enemy, now incarnate in the body of a man called Jesus. It was the ultimate coup; in the battle that had raged since before time, he was the victor.
He sat at a dressing table in the Royal Waiting Room. Like the surrounding temple, the room was magnificent. The trappings of royalty surrounded him, gold and silver, jewels, priceless rugs, and paintings worth millions of Euros abounded in overstuffed abandon. He was no Shepherd born in a stable; he would have none of that.
As he stared at the human face in the mirror, he thought how the open wound above his right eye made him look like that Shepherd from Galilee. Although not scarred beyond recognition, he too would have a visible scar. It pleased him to think that this was a more handsome body than the Nazarene had used. This body was tall and solidly built. Light skinned with the features of an Arab prince. Only that open sore kept the visage from being perfect. The wound proved the resurrection; it was enough.
It was his Coronation. Today was his day. The Scriptures of Jews and Christians had given him magnificent titles, "The Prince of the Power of the Air" and "The God of This World." Today mankind would crown him "Supreme Leader" and worship him. He felt anxious but he had waited millennia and he could wait an hour more.
Outside, in public view, a second figure waited. Chained spread-eagled to a wall, his feet inches above the ground, Jeremiah waited. His muscles cramped and pulled against the chains; he was in agony; he had fought hard and long but he had lost.
Today the man Jeremiah knew to be the Antichrist would be crowned. Today the first truly "One World Government" since Babel would be empowered. Even his beloved Israel had lowered the Star of David in exchange for this temple. He knew his future; today he would die. The crowd taunted him, holding up their golden programs; showing where his execution fit into the ceremony. Even the sure and certain knowledge of a future in Heaven could not remove the fear from his stomach or the shame from his heart. It would be over in an hour; he had no choice but to wait.
The battle is ancient and the victory is sure but we must go back six and a half years to where my story begins.
Three men lay dead on the bloody dessert sand; their heads in disarray, separated cleanly by a sharp and heavy sword. A fourth man knelt in front of his executioner. He was not bound; he could have run but he only knelt obediently, waiting. If it were Allah's will that he die today, he would die with dignity. The man with the sword, sensing his power, dropped it near the condemned man's right hand. There was no movement, only the softly uttered cry, "Allah is great." The executioner pulled out a long curved knife. Grabbing the man by his hair, lifting his head, he drew the blade slowly across the throat. When he heard no cry of pain or fear, he quickly finished the job. Killing a man like that excited him and he felt his manhood rising.
Now that the last man on earth who knew Ishmael Mohamed was dead, Ishmael too was dead. Tomorrow he would have a different name. The peoples of the world would call that name in many different ways; in English, they would call him Jesus.
The spirits, speaking plainly, urged him to hurry. In religious mockery, he first arranged the bodies so that the feet pointed to the southwest. Then, carefully, he placed the heads on the dead men's chests, facing the feet and Mecca beyond. Removing his blood stained clothing; he dressed in a new white robe and turban. Only then, did the man, nameless for the moment, mount a large, white, Arabian stallion and head off toward the lights of Babylon and destiny. He must be there by dawn, they said; the future of mankind lay in his hands.
She was short and slender. Her skin was black, her features distinctly European. Her mother had been a prostitute in an African port. Her father was an Italian sailor; a secret whispered from her mother's deathbed. She had a name but no one living knew it. She was called Spirit from birth.
For form and public consumption, Spirit was a Muslim; it was the law, the tradition and the culture. In her heart, she was an Animist like her mother. She had called out to the spirits before she said "Mama." They had always been there; they consumed her. In the spirits, she found power. Through the spirits, she could bless or heal. Speaking to the spirits, she could curse or kill those she opposed. Frail in her humanity, Spirit spoke with her Jinn as one would with close friends. Allah had decreed that she would have a part in the salvation of the world. The jinn had told her this, and even the taunts of her schoolmates could not dissuade her from speaking of her destiny.
Today, she was in Babylon. Tomorrow, Jesus would come. She would not leave her house or contact anyone until he came. Conversing with Jinn, she was very much in control. There was no need to work with the people directly; everything would be ready on time. In her veil and simple Muslim dress, she would be invisible in the crowd but it was Spirit who had scripted every detail and her jinn who would bring it to pass.
The great-grandson of Holocaust survivors, Jeremiah Goldberg was tall and strong with the distinctive features of a European Jew. In his early forties, Jeremiah had accomplished much. With a PhD in Political Science, he had moved rapidly up the ranks at The Institute. The Mossad had been good to him and he for them.
His superiors had said nothing but Jeremiah knew when to quit. His wife's conversion to Christianity and her vocal attempts to convert others brought his loyalty into question. Jeremiah's career was over and he was angry. A friend arraigned the interview and, almost overnight, Dr. Goldberg was a Professor of Political Science at the University of Jerusalem. In this more open setting, his brilliance did not go unnoticed. Soon he was a Counselor to the Knesset on matters of international intrigue and a friend of the Prime Minister.
Things changed when Jeremiah's wife and his six year-old daughter, Ruth went missing in The Great Disappearance. It was then that Jeremiah made a decision. Confusion followed the disappearance of millions of people. The media published photos of a giant space ship with what appeared to be bodies floating up in some kind of a funnel cloud. The armies of the world were placed on alert. The United Nations issued an order that all nations prepare to defend the earth. Jeremiah could have made better photos on his home computer. It amazed him that the world chose to believe such an obvious lie. At that moment, all the stories his wife had told him came together. Jeremiah fell to his knees. In agony of soul, he cried out to Jesus. He could not have known the far-reaching consequences of that awful hour.
Six months passed and every news source in the world was reporting the same story. Jesus was to return and make a speech to the world from Babylon on Saturday morning. They all seemed so certain and there was an unreal level of excitement everywhere. It didn't make sense to Jeremiah. Nothing in the Jewish Scriptures put the Messiah in Babylon. He did not yet know much about the Christian Bible but he was sure that nothing in it placed Jesus in Iraq. The Scripture used much in Mossad circles said, "Where no counsel is, the people fall, but in the multitude of counselors there is safety." Jeremiah needed counselors but there were none. He would go to Babylon and see this Jesus for himself.
Before the Great Disappearance, American Forces destroyed Baghdad. The Islamic militants had lined up two hundred captured American soldiers and Machine-gunned them to death on television. The response was swift and violent. When it was over, eighty percent of Baghdad's population was dead; not one building was standing.
The world turned against the United States. Weakened by the Second Great Depression, they did not even put up a fight. The United Nations moved their headquarters to Babylon and declared it the capital of Iraq. OPEC moved to Babylon and shut off all petroleum exports to the United States. The miracle called Babylon was birthed in one angry moment and the balance of power shifted eastward.
Babylon was two cities, really; there was the Ancient City, restored to its former glory, and the New City. The New City was an instant mega-city. It grew from the empty dessert sands into a city of eleven million inhabitants in three years. There were many reasons for the rapid growth, the offer of free fossil fuels to any company relocating its headquarters there, not the least of them. After the Great Disappearance, Islam unified and established a united front in the city. More than a billion people had converted to Islam in the six months following that catastrophe and they were flocking to Babylon.
Now, three years since the establishment of the New City and six months following the Great Disappearance, Babylon was the de facto capital of the world. The United Nations had reformed itself and had announced the formation of a One World Government that would rule the world from Babylon. With Babylon in complete control of the world's oil reserves, the nations were falling at its feet. The United States and Israel were among a handful of nations holding out. Israel was a mighty midget but with the whole world in opposition, no one knew how long it could hold out. The trade embargo, imposed against the U.S. by the United Nations after the destruction of Baghdad had effectively reduced that once mighty nation to third world status. In spite of the threat posed by their nuclear arsenal, few believed that Americans had the heart or the will to use it. They were isolated and out of oil. Babylon considered the U.S. neutralized and was certain they would join the rest of the world in a very short time.
It was Friday night. Jesus was riding his large white horse across the dessert with a mandate from Allah to be in Babylon by sunrise. It was a little cold but the sky was clear and the lights of Babylon left no need for a compass or navigation device. The horse was strong and its rider sat in the straight pose of royalty enthroned. One who saw him riding in the moonlight would have thought him to be prince or king. They could not have guessed that, beyond what had just happened and the mandate from the Jinn to be at the Royal Gate by sunrise, the man was clueless. He knew neither the future nor even his own name. Had he known his destiny, he would never have made that ride.
Jeremiah was making his way through the main bus terminal. With all the excitement in Babylon, there were no hotel rooms available and no taxis. Soon, he would walk the twenty odd blocks to the square facing the ancient Temple of the Moon. He did not know what would happen there; he simply knew that something deep down in his bones was burning. He could not explain it but Jeremiah knew he had a mandate from Jehovah to be in that square at sunrise.
Spirit had been kneeling on her prayer mat for hours listening to reports from jinn and dispatching them on new errands. The time had come; soon she would leave for her rendezvous with destiny at the gloriously rebuilt Temple of The Moon. Her legs ached and she struggled to stand. Limping to the spacious kitchen of her modern apartment, she gulped down a tiny cup of coffee. Her long time companion, her personal Jinni leaned against her. He appeared now in human form and offered to pleasure her. Tempted only for a minute, she quickly dismissed him. Today, even if through the body of a man, she would rule the world, love could wait.
The Royal Gate faced the morning sun and an unbroken expanse of dessert. This was by design; royalty should not fight through traffic and sprawling suburbs to reach the gate and the temple just inside. It was a lone rider who approached the gate. The road was a well worn but unimproved dessert path; in the predawn glow, it was deserted.
That rider, dispatched by jinn, was on a mission for Allah. He knew neither his new identity, nor what would happen when he passed through that gate. Allah had sent a holy messenger and decreed that he, the man known yesterday as Ishmael, was to be here; for that man, it was enough.
As he passed through the gate, the sun made its appearance, a great red ball of fire, behind him. To the thousands of people gathered on the square, the effect was electrifying. The billions watching on live TV saw only a gray colored silhouette surrounded by a light so brilliant that it confused the video and created spectacular special effects. The presence of hundreds of unseen potentates and warriors made the atmosphere heavy. The sense of religious awe spread from the square and overpowered the television audience around the world. The crowd was silent and more than half the world's population heard the horse's footsteps on the ancient square. Jinn, unseen, opened a way through massed humanity; a demon's hand led the horse to the foot of the steps.
Understanding nothing but aware of the importance of the moment, the man dismounted with the flourish of a king. The invisible hand, that had led the horse to the Temple, now pushed the man slightly as he mounted the steps of that ancient pagan shrine and approached the podium. The crowd in the square heard a loud voice in Arabic. The English translator followed for the TV audience, "Allah is Great, Behold the Prince of Allah, Jesus the Christ."
For a moment, Jesus felt confused. Then, it was as if the man slipped into a coma and a mighty Jinni stepped to the front overpowering his human senses. The man had never heard the words that issued from his lips but they were scripted and well rehearsed, in the burning fires of a lower Hell. He began, "In the Name of God, amen."
The speech, though more than an hour in length, could be condensed into two main points: Allah is God and Allah is setting up his government with Jesus as the head. The commentators, who always tell us what we just heard, would say that they were the words of God. In dark corners, old men whispered how he reminded them of Hitler or Stalin.
Across the square, behind a pillar, Jeremiah fell to his knees and quietly swore his allegiance to a different Jesus. Destinies were set and the battle had begun. It was 7: 13 AM; Jeremiah looked at his watch and began to make his way towards the Bus Station. It would be a long ride home.
TEMPLE OF THE MOON
The name, Saddam Hussein was inscribed on almost every brick that made up the wall of the Temple. It was he who started the restoration long before the fall of his regime. The crescent moon is the most pervasive of Islamic symbols. Allah is not a name; rather it is a generic word in Arabic for "the god." It is for this reason that Christian Arabs refer to Jehovah as Allah. Muslims use Allah as the name for their monotheistic God who created all things. The word Allah, in Muhammad's time, was used to address the chief god of the region, Hubbal, the Moon God.
The interest in rebuilding the Temple of the Moon confounded Muslim Scholars. It was the largest and most magnificent building in the old city but the historical value of the site could not explain the religious fervor with which the Government in Babylon pursued its reconstruction. Billions of Euros had been spent and the result was awe-inspiring.
It was into the grand sanctuary of this building that the Secret Police lead Jesus. The echo of his final words had not settled when two men took him firmly by the arms and led him through the small access door at the bottom of the huge, ceremonial door that towered over the podium.
The front of the room was dominated by a polished stone alter twenty meters across and two meters deep. It was the height of a man's waist. A curl of smoke rose from the center and the smell of last night's sacrifice permeated the air. Behind the altar was a simple, stone column about three meters tall. Above the column, suspended from the ceiling was the magnificent, solid gold, crescent moon and morning star. The artist had used more than two hundred kilos of gold in its founding. Visitors could not take their eyes off the object and often stumbled over the simple stone benches that filled the room.
The men led Jesus to the front and stood him facing the altar and the pillar. Bowing slightly, they quickly exited, leaving him alone. The man, now called Jesus, was very much afraid. He could not comprehend what was happening. The jinni that had spoken through him was gone and he suddenly felt like a little boy, lost and motherless.
A statue representing a human or an animal would have offended Muslims everywhere; the stone pillar behind the altar was an acceptable substitute. As Jesus' eyes lowered from the golden moon and morning star, they focused on that polished, marble shaft. He was about to lower his eyes again when something caught his attention; suddenly, a thick burst of steam or vapor ejaculated from the rounded top of the pole. The vapor slid down the sides of the pole shaping and molding it into something else altogether.
What the man saw caused him to fall prostrate on the polished stones of the ancient floor. A mighty Angel stood behind the altar. A terror never felt by man or jinn filled his heart. A mighty weight seemed to push his face into the stone; he could not move.
Seconds or maybe hours later, he could not tell, a voice spoke. The sound of the voice, though not mechanical, was more than human; it was deep and guttural. "Look on my face, mortal!" the angel commanded. Crawling and clawing his way to his knees as quickly as his trauma-wracked brain would allow, Jesus obeyed.
A shepherd, growing up in dessert tents, does not often look in mirrors but at thirty, the man knew his own face. Looking up at the being behind the altar, Jesus saw a fiery, inhuman but unmistakable version of himself. Shocked he began to examine the creature before him. The appearance was that of a man almost three meters tall. He was dressed in a white, dessert robe. There were what appeared to be white, feathered wings folded by his side. Forming a halo above his head, and an aura that emanated around his body was an eerie orange glow. His eyes could not be seen; there was a glow like that of a blast furnace where they should have been. No mortal could endure that presence without fear. Jesus was awestruck. The heat coming from such a fiery being should have warmed him but Jesus felt a sudden chill and shivered visibly.
"I am Gabriel; these are the words of Allah the merciful, Allah the just." 'When you sit on the throne you shall be silent. By my Jinni I shall speak. The words spoken through you shall be the words of Allah'." The voice continued, "Swear by the moon that you shall remain silent on the throne. Swear by the daystar that from the throne you shall not speak."
"I swear," his voice cracked. "I swear, by the moon and the daystar that I shall not speak from the throne," he said, amazed at the strength he suddenly felt. "What is Allah's will?" he asked. "You are the Chosen One. You shall rescue men from chaos. You shall restore the language and the glory that was Babel." The angel continued to speak, "Allah's jinn will show you the way, and I will speak with you often. There is a woman named Spirit, she will take care of your needs and desires. Behold, she is here now."
Startled by the presence of the woman suddenly at his side, Jesus turned to look at the diminutive, dark skinned woman. When he turned again to see the Angel, he saw only a stone post. Turning to the woman, he said nothing. Spirit, too, was silent. Taking the man by the arm, she gently guided him towards a small door behind the altar.
THE RIDE HOME
The bus was full and Jeremiah took the last seat somewhere near the back. He was asleep before the bus left the station. In spite of all that troubled his mind, he slept peacefully for several hours.
Waking slowly, Jeremiah found that he had fallen to one side and his head was resting on the shoulder of the passenger seated beside him. Slowly, he pulled himself erect in his seat. Only when he was comfortably upright did Jeremiah steal a glimpse at the person beside him.
The woman was in her twenties, neatly dressed, and, to a trained eye, very Jewish. She was staring at him and crying softly. "Are you OK?" Jeremiah asked quietly. Trying to find her voice, she said, "I was dreaming that you were my husband; I'm sorry." "I'm sorry I leaned against you that way. I was asleep." Jeremiah apologized. He felt embarrassed. Something about her tears and the pretty face, backlit in the window, stole his voice and it cracked, "You are married?"
"My husband and my baby disappeared." She said bluntly. He did not need to ask when or how. "My wife and daughter are gone too." He said. "Your husband must have been a Christian." Suddenly secretive and quiet, she whispered, "How did you know?" "They all were." Jeremiah replied softly. "All the babies, all the children, but the adults were Christians; they were all Christians! I've looked and asked everywhere; I can't find a case where any adult who disappeared was not a Christian."
"Were you there?" she asked, "Did you hear that Jesus guy?" "Yes, you?" he returned the question. "Yes," she said, "What did you think?" Jeremiah pondered for a minute, "That wasn't the Jesus my wife knew." he replied candidly. "No, no it wasn't, was it?" the question was whispered. Without giving time for Jeremiah to answer, she continued, "You're a believer now, aren't you?"
This time Jeremiah was caught off guard. "Me?" he choked, "a believer?" "Yes, you," she spoke firmly, "a non believer wouldn't answer that way. Besides, I can see it in your face." "You too, I guess?" he asked. "Yes, of course." her voice softened, "there is no other way, at least, not for me."
Her name was Sandy Isaacs. She had been sent, she said, by a group of believers in Jerusalem. She was to attend the speech by Jesus and report back to the group. Jeremiah knew he had to meet that group. He had been silent about his conversion and he was thrilled to know that he was not the only believer. It was a Divine appointment and the next step toward destiny.
SPIRIT AND JESUS
The door led into a formal sitting room. Spirit indicated that Jesus sit on a couch and then took a seat in a chair facing him. Jesus looked uncomfortable in that setting. To tell the truth, he would have been more comfortable seated on the floor of a Bedouin tent. He had not been chosen for his social status or breeding. It was his sensitivity to the jinn and his face and royal bearing that had brought him here. They would build up his self-esteem. It would not take long to acclimate the man to his surroundings. He would feel important enough but in the end, he was only a tool.
Spirit addressed the man, "You will be called Jesus; you will learn your role." She continued, "You may speak freely to me and to the household staff. Anything you desire will be provided. Do not leave the palace without your protectors and do not speak to outsiders. If your jinni is silent, you will be silent in the presence of visitors. Do you understand this?"
"Yes," Jesus said, "but who are you and why should I listen to a woman?" "I am Spirit," the woman snarled, "I am your contact with Allah; without me you can do nothing!" Jesus did not question this. Fear knotted his gut so tightly that an answer was impossible. Jesus would be the face but Spirit would be the power behind the man. He would learn this truth well.
Spirit rose and left the room without another word. Two young women entered the room. Long black hair hung loosely down their backs; their faces brazenly unveiled. They were foreigners and spoke a language this newest of messiahs could not identify. For Jesus it had been a long time. He did not question why they were there. Taking a large draft from the bottle one of them carried, he quickly and roughly had his way.
He was dressed again when a young man appeared. When Jesus spoke to him, he opened his mouth revealing the still swollen stub of his tongue. Silently motioning with his hand the servant led him down a maze of hallways to his quarters. The savior of the world was starved, and for religion, if not for hygiene, he would need a bath.
Churches still met around the world; even in Jerusalem there were churches that met every Sunday morning. They paid, however, a heavy price. They reported to the government every month. Members paid heavy taxes simply for being Christian. Sermons were edited and approved in advance and members were limited to the most menial jobs with no hope of promotion. Unauthorized meetings were very much illegal and simply attending could bring a prison sentence. Organizing a meeting not approved by the government could bring the death penalty.
Jeremiah knew it would be very dangerous but Sandy had set up the meeting. And so it was that on a Tuesday evening, some three weeks after Jesus and established himself in Babylon, Jeremiah found himself in a taxi headed for the Arab side of town.
The loud, cigar smoking, taxi driver commented both on the neighborhood and on the danger to a Jew walking alone on such as street. It was dark and Jeremiah, former Mossad agent, armed with a pistol, felt fear as he stood alone on that corner. In less than a minute, however, Sandy Isaacs joined him, appearing quickly from out of a darkened doorway. Jeremiah followed silently as they walked through darkened alleys.
Some 10 minutes later, they arrived at what appeared to be an abandoned warehouse. Producing a key from the small purse she carried, Sandy quickly opened the door and stepped back to allow Jeremiah to enter first. It was dark but the large building appeared to be empty inside. A dim light escaped through a crack in a door at the top of the metal staircase just off to Jeremiah's left. With Sandy again in the lead, they quickly ascended the stairs and entered a dimly lit room.
A dozen people sat in folding chairs and a dozen empty chairs waited for people to fill them. The chairs faced a small stand on a slightly raised platform. Sandy motioned Jeremiah to take a seat on the front row, then ascended the platform, and quietly took a seat on a worn leather chair behind the podium.
The former officer from the Mossad carefully examined his surroundings and the people sitting silently in their chairs. They were a curious bunch, all dressed in dark clothes, hunched down in their chairs as if crouching low would make them invisible to the secret police who even now might be in their midst. He could not tell if they were rich or poor, Arab or Jew, he could only sense their fear.
They sat in silence for more than 30 minutes while one by one people silently entered the door and took their seats. The last seat taken, a man, seated close to the door, quietly rose and locked it with a key. It was only then that Sandy stood and took her place behind the podium. Quietly she led the group in a prayer asking for divine guidance. Then, without warning, she introduced Jeremiah to the group and asked him to say a few words. Jeremiah, though surprised, was not speechless. He quickly began to address the little group. His voice was hushed but strong. He shared with them a little of his background, how he met Sandy and of the hope in his heart. He spoke of resistance to this Jesus of Babylon, this Jesus of Allah, and of how this little group, of new and frightened Christians, in that darkened room could represent Jesus the Christ the Shepherd of Galilee.
It was a long meeting and several people spoke but before the end they had elected this newcomer, this former super spy, as their leader. He was, after all, the most educated and the most eloquent of the group. His passion and his purpose came through. There was not a soul present who did not recognize that God had sent them a leader, a pastor, a Shepherd.
There were no theologians in that group. They did not yet know of martyrdom or destiny. They knew neither their own future nor the pain and suffering to come. They did not know how many of the people seated in that room would soon forfeit their lives for the cause. The only thing they knew was that Jesus, the real Jesus, the Shepherd of Galilee, the Nazarene had called them and that they would follow him to the very end. Big things often start small and the resistance started that day, in that darkened room, in an empty warehouse, would grow and become a mighty force for Jehovah and for his Son.
Eighteen months had passed since the Jesus of Allah had made his presence known in Babylon. In spite of its early promise, this new government had done poorly and confusion reigned in Babylon. Spirit, who had been so sure of the future, was today in a bad mood. Her jinn, so faithful at first, were lying to her. She, making decisions based on their reports, had begun to feel foolish. She was tired, angry and more than a little confused.
Mother Nature, she had been promised, would heal herself and the world would return to normal. Much to the contrary, things had gotten worse, much worse. Smog and smoke from a million forest fires made breathing difficult, even in the desert cities of the Middle East. Life had become so difficult, that in many of the world's cities, entire neighborhoods lay abandoned. Global warming had raised sea levels, inundating the world's coastlines, sending tens of millions of refugees inland.
Somehow, hundreds of new Christian evangelists had spread out from Jerusalem and were inciting rebellion around the world. Governments and nations, so willing to fall at the feet of Babylon in the early days, were now infiltrated with new Christians. Even the threat of death and enforced poverty now seemed to fall on deaf ears. Angry and jealous jinn, each trying to outdo the other, had made false reports. Spirit had not heard of the rebellion in time to stop it. No longer able to rely on her jinn, Spirit fell on her face and appealed to Allah.
A LONLEY LEADER
Surrounded by wealth and beauty, dressed in the best of Royal clothing, eating the finest of foods and in possession of a harem overflowing with beautiful women; Jesus was lonely. Spirit, it seemed, was the only person in his world who spoke his language. The eunuchs, who served him, had had their tongues removed. His harem, filled with foreign women, offered no opportunity for even the simplest conversation. He sometimes went weeks without seeing Spirit and, even then, the conversations were brief and to the point.
Every Saturday morning, following morning prayers, Jesus found himself dressed in royal apparel, seated on a throne. The Throne Room, seen by the whole world at least once a week, was, in reality, an elaborate television set. Lighting, backgrounds, elevations and depth of field were all carefully designed for maximum effect. Sitting on the throne, Jesus saw rows of lights, a bare concrete floor filled with people, cameras and microphones. This was a show, nothing more.
Somehow, Jesus always felt fear in the minutes leading up to show time. What would happen if the camera and lights came on and the jinni didn't show up? Not only did he have no idea what to say, he was under oath to say nothing. Just the thought could make him sweat. The jinni always showed up right on cue, however, and left the second the lights went out. This too was frightening because one reporter or the other would throw a last minute question at the exhausted and quite ignorant man still seated on the platform.
Islamic courts had long ruled that a man has a right to be pleasured in anyway he chooses. Child pornography (as long as the children were not Muslim) was now legal. Sharia courts refused to enforce minimum age laws. After all, Mohamed married Aisha when she was nine years old. Bibles, however, and any religious material not strictly Islamic, was illegal and possession could bring long prison sentences or even death. This gave rise to the world's first absolutely free black-market. Believers copied and freely shared Bibles and other Christian materials one with the other.
Three years after the meeting in Jerusalem, the hundreds of evangelists, who had gone out, had little or no communication, with Jerusalem, or each other. Those in leadership had used prepaid cell phones once or twice and then destroyed them. Even this communication, however, was now gone. New legislation required that users register prepaid cell phones before use.
Secret police and soldiers had martyred tens of thousands of Christians around the globe. Horrible and grotesque executions had produced thousands of new believers. The new identity chip and tattoo were having a much more chilling effect on the Christian community. No longer facing martyrdom by public execution, Christians, unable to buy or sell, simply starved to death. Hunger, it seems, could accomplish what no army ever could. Visibly stooped and graying, Jeremiah's body shook constantly; cold and hungry he fell on his face before his God.
It was Saturday morning, and this week's broadcast from Babylon was not coming from the throne room but rather from the Temple of the Moon. Allah had spoken; something new was about to happen. Spirit said that Jesus was to make the introduction. This made no sense whatsoever to Jesus but spirit had promised that the jinni, who spoke through him, would not fail.
Cameras from the government television station had been moved into the Temple Sanctuary. Multiple rows of powerful lights now lit the normally dim and smoky, room. Everything focused on the altar and the pillar beyond it. A small podium stood, 20 feet or so, to the right of the pillar.
The secret police, whom Jesus often suspected were more guards than protectors, led him into the room and left him standing behind the podium. If he could have seen beyond the lights he would have known that the room was empty except for a small camera crew and spirit who sat quietly on a bench near the front.
The deep and powerful voice of an unseen announcer boomed suddenly through the hall. "Men of the world," it said in Arabic, "Jesus the Christ of Allah." The man behind the podium felt only a moment of fear before the jinni inside stepped forward and began to speak."In the name of God the Merciful the Just, Allah himself has decided to speak to you tonight through the person of his mighty Angel; Brothers; the Angel of the Lord."
At that word, the jinni left him. A turbaned man, in a white robe, escorted Jesus quickly down the steps and seated him at Spirit's side. All cameras, and with them, the eyes of the world, focused on that marble pillar behind the altar. The smoke or vapor, flowing down the sides, quickly transformed the pillar. The marvelous apparition, seen so often by Jesus and Spirit, was now made visible to the world.
The speech was powerful, the words hypnotic. It was the miracle the world had been looking for and millions, previously unsure, now believed. Who but God could make a statue speak? Rebellion ceased and jinn, by the thousands, lined up, on Allah's command, and apologized to Spirit. The Angel, who became known as, "The Talking Statue", would now speak frequently to the peoples of the world. The rebellion would never again wreak havoc in the Kingdom.
The Last Week
It was winter in Jerusalem. The strange decorations of the New Christmas were everywhere. The Christmas Message to the world had been impressive, even if the speaker was unaware of what he had just said. As Jesus was escorted from the room, a guard quickly raised a pistol and fired. The bullet had not yet exited the rear of his head when Ishmael Mohamed found himself in the Devil's hell. The pain was real but secondary. Suddenly, like a man looking down on a parade from a tall building, his whole life was before him. The weight of his offense crushed him. The pain inflicted by the flames paled as his guilt drove him toward the insanity he longed for but could not reach. He was a minute into eternity.
Her body in the ground, her soul resting in Heaven, Sandy Isaacs was dead. Her body starved and wracked with pain, she had fought hard to remain alive to the end. She came so close. Too many people came to see her buried. It was at her grave that the police found a frail and battered Jeremiah. He was not half the man they had known in the Mossad. They arrested him for unlawful grouping; it was the next day before they knew who they had. So strong was his reputation as a super terrorist; so bent and weak the man in custody, no one would have put the two together.
They had carried him from the wall to the grand entrance. Through the pain his eyes had seen the Star of David now flying beneath the Babylonian Banner. The fire burning in his chest gave Jeremiah super human strength. The guards fell back in awe as he struggled, first to free himself from their grasp and then to stand erect, in the posture of the soldier he was. The crowed hushed as the man in rags marched toward the altar. The guards followed, closely at first but slowed, and then stopped altogether, as he centered himself and faced the altar.
It was an awesome sight; the dead but resurrected Jesus sat on a throne, not massive but designed to make him look larger than life. To his left, and a few paces forward, stood Gabriel of the Pillar. His wings were spread in fierce extension; fire danced in his eyes and mouth. If Jeremiah felt fear, it did not show. Rather his countenance glowed as that of Moses descending from the mountain.
Spirit, dressed as a man, stood behind the throne. The sight of Jeremiah's face caused her to involuntarily slide toward the shadows. Lucifer, incarnate in the body that had belonged to Ishmael or Jesus, was enraged. Choosing to cause the statue to speak, rather than address the man from his human form, Satan roared, "Allah has spoken, you are to be the first and great sacrifice in his Temple.
Untouched by human hand, Jeremiah's body rose from the ground and centered over the altar, where it hung, suspended a half meter over the flames. Slowly, accompanied by music of Pomp and Circumstance, Jesus rose to his feet and approached the altar. With great ceremony he pulled a curved knife from his belt. It was the same knife that had silenced the last witness in the dessert. Grabbing Jeremiah by the hair he carefully drew the blade across his throat.
The crowd was on their feet. The applause was deafening. A drop of blood fell into the flame, a trumpet, not choreographed, sounded, drowning out the audience, and all hell broke loose.
When it was over, only Jeremiah stood on the pile of rubble that remained. He was staring into the eyes of Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords!