She pulled the shade down and rested her head against the window, sighed, and started to cry.
“Damn you for dying, Joe! Damn you… I miss you so much.” Mary looked up at nothing, brushed the last tears from her eyes, sniffled, pulled back her gray hair with trembling hands, and picked up the gun.
The neighbors called the police when they hadn’t seen Mary out and about – in her garden, mowing the lawn, waving to everyone in her wide-brimmed hat and smiling.
It took 3 days to clean up the place.
“Hi, Josh… this is the Hillsboro police… I’m sorry, but your mom died. You have our deepest condolences.”
Josh dropped the phone and put his hands on his head and cried for the first time in 5 years.
He hadn’t seen her since Dad died. He’d see her and feel the tears welling up in his eyes, and would lose control of himself. He couldn’t.
“You sonofabitch!” Ponch came running from across the street shaking a rake at him, dirt falling off his gardening gloves. “After all this time!” He shook the rake and poked Josh with the wooden end. “She *needed* you. We thought you were dead.”
“Hey, Ponch. You smell like cigarettes.” Josh’s face was flat as Ponch searched for any feeling, any remorse, any emotion at all. Josh turned away, put his hands in his coat pockets and stared at the house. “It’s been hard for me.”
“YOU! What do you– How can you– ” He shook his head, pulled off his gloves and stuffed both of them into a pocket. “You always were a worthless little shit.”
Josh laughed and looked at old man Ponch from over his shoulder. “Even gods get no respect around here.”
“Hey, Jude,” he always liked the sound of that, even though he was hardly a Beatles fan. “Hey, can you stop by my folks’ place? I need some help packing things up.”
“Josh? JOSH? Well, hey, I thought you were — well, shit… sure, man, I’ll be over after dinner.”
Jude rang the doorbell and watched his breath come out in foggy clouds. He could smell Josh’s place before the door was open. A dry, woody, pine-like smell. He always thought it was Frankincense but never asked.
Josh opened the door and let him in, led him up the half staircase of the split-level and across the living room to the kitchen table.
“Hey, man, I’m so sorry to hear about your mom,” Jude said as he cracked open his Bud Light. “You’re looking good, though. Not partaking these days?” Jude nodded to Josh’s glass of water and let a wan smile crack across his leathery, stubbly face.
Without looking, Josh picked up his glass and swirled it. The water darkened to a deep, purplish red. “I don’t have time for games and parlor tricks, Jude. I asked you here because I need something.” Josh never broke eye contact. “I want it back, Jude.”
“Aw, you know, that… that was just, that was just… look, man, I didn’t know, I swear, if I’d have known, I never would have…” Jude’s eye twitched as he scanned the room and pushed himself back from the table.
“Yes, you would have, Jude. Who was it that said, ‘Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot?'”
Jude was nervously fondling something under the table. “Don’t,” Josh sighed. “Let’s not make this difficult.” Josh stood and held his hand out, palm up, still not breaking eye contact.
Jude stood and pushed up the table, towards Josh, who put his hand up, waved it to the side and the table followed his hand and landed on its side.
Three quick slashes of a knife and Josh dodged them all without ever breaking his gaze or looking at the knife. Josh sighed again and Jude lifted up into the air, twisted his head back, and began to grasp at his throat.
“Your games tire me, Mr. Iscariot. I want something, however, or you’d be dead already, having served your purpose long ago.” Josh looked at the floor and folded his hands behind his back, pacing. “I want the secret knowledge back.”
Jude fell to his knees and rubbed his throat, craning his neck up to look at Josh. “They will come, and they will kill you.”
“Death, it seems, Mr. Iscariot, does not become me,” Josh raised one brow. “The Illuminators do not scare me, but now that both of my Earth parents have passed, it is time to reveal what lies in darkness.”
“You’re fucked in the head, Josh. I watched you die.”
“And I did, indeed. Have you not gotten over that? You were simply doing what I asked of you. You were my favorite, you know.”
Jude pulled himself into a chair and remembered how much he hated the smell of Frankincense. “The Illuminators will come. And the people will find a new savior to obsess over and to sanctify. They will burn the churches, they will forget –”
“I know all this. I’ve always known the second coming didn’t mean *me.* It is time. The secret – give it to me.”
I’m not religious but I’ve studied the Christian bible quite a bit. I was fascinated when the Gospel of Judas was discovered and the text was released, forever changing the zeitgeist around Judas.
I also recently finished reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, so lots of ideas have been floating around my head surrounding old gods and new gods and culture clashes.
This story was probably the most planning and research I’ve done – it took longer to research than to write.