|BLOOD OF JUDAS by GK Murphy|
Casper Dame was a divorcee currently working part-time as an English teacher at Workington University, yet in his infinite wisdom, had embarked on the difficult route towards wannabe author, forever embroiled in the fantasy of striking it rich upon publication. The very first fabled debut novel so many of his literary ilk worked towards.
Tonight, in his writer’s Master Class held by stuffy but likeable tutor Miss Carey Newman, he sat at the back of class, alert and listening to her intently as she referred to the blackboard and gave her thoughts and ideas on the art of turning out a good readable tome. Of course, for Casper, it was going over old ground, and this being Module One of the course, he reckoned he could have done a better job and more or less have stood up there and instructed the classroom three times better than Newman on his own.
It was unusual for an English teacher to take such a course. Yet, like so many, he considered himself forever the student, never satisfied with the rudimentary rigmarole of blatant popular opinion passed around in literary circles. He believed that that no one man could harbour knowledge and meaning of every aspect of ill-gotten deed—every crook and cranny—of the English language and its cultural power-play in the modern world, or the vast and ever-expanding sphere that seemed was the global literary bonanza teeming with those like him, working to earn a crust.
Sitting there, he seemed oblivious as he drifted off into a magical and mystical excursion of deep thought now and then, where he gazed out the window next to his desk every so often whilst his eyelids blinked and fluttered, almost in a dreamy sense. Yet, this was for good reason in tonight’s tutorial, for earlier this afternoon he had stumbled across a strange and utterly bizarre discovery at home. Oddly, it was in one of the crumbling walls of his basement no less. It was something that befuddled and flummoxed him beyond all reason. What he had held in his very own hands, in fact, he dared to imagine may have been worth a lot of money and the solution to his financial woes, or at least something deserved of a place in a museum or art gallery. However, uncertain of this, Casper merely decided to drop his find off at Professor Silas Robertson’s house on the way to tonight’s class on the off-chance that the old bugger knew what the scruffy old thing was. Whatever this ancient piece of yellowed parchment was, the inscription daubed on it in red ink (or blood, perhaps) wasn’t scrawled in English—in fact, if anything, it was Arabic.
“Are you awake this evening, Mr Dame?” the tutor enquired, having some of the class chuckle and giggle. She continued, “We’re considering Characterization and Personalities, and how to weave them together in the beginning of the story, and pinpoint certain Quirks and Disabilities the main character may have… can you elaborate?”
The class went silent. Dumbly, Casper shook his head yet curtly replied, “I believe Characterization is the crux of every story, and Personality is integral to this, whereby it should be the author’s responsibility to make prevalent from the outset apt clarification of his or her main character’s major as well as minor Quirks and Disabilities. Yes, this might be laborious for any self-respecting or astute reader, so most of the time this ideology is not always a necessity. But if they are portrayed in the designated print with a peculiar or entertaining gusto, henceforth it will hopefully serve as an engrossing and refreshing opener to the tale presented and keep readers suitably enthralled and eager to keep turning pages.”
The class were in awe. Some were slack-jawed and opened mouthed whereas others simply wanted to administer a round of applause.
The ageing tutor seemed to grimace as she blew her tiny pointed nose into her hankie and turned to the blackboard. She said, “That is all, class…next session I believe will be Thursday night at seven-thirty and so see you all then…including yourself, Casper…” she said. Absently almost, she quipped with a wry smile, “…perhaps you might bring a pillow with you next time?”
The class were too busy exiting to laugh at this latest comment.
However, Casper heard it and gave a thumbs’ up to the teacher. Head bowed, he headed for the door before then hurriedly heading along the corridor. By now, he was eager to see Silas Robinson to get the low-down on his basement discovery.
On arriving at his home on the edge of town, the Professor was standing in the doorway at the end of the garden path, yet to Casper, the 73 year old appeared a shadow of his normal self, worn out, tired, subdued. But he managed a rickety smile of sorts for his younger friend.
“Come inside, Casper,” Silas said, ushering him in, “I have some very important news for you…news that will thrill you to the core, or rather if you are of my disposition, chill you to the core. You have made a fantastical discovery!”
“I’m intrigued, Silas!”
Silas led Casper Dame into his darkened study, out the back beyond a sizeable kitchenette. As ever, it stank of farts and cigar smoke.
“Can I tempt you into a brandy, sir?” he asked Casper, adding, “You will need one, I’d say.”
“No, I’m driving,” Casper chuckled, pointing out, “One brandy would likely lead to two or three more, meaning I might sleep the night on your couch.”
The professor gestured for him to be seated in the bouncy leather armchair facing his mahogany desk. The room was dark and somewhat squalid, roomy yet crammed with papers layered on top of each other on surfaces and panels, his desk and surrounding shelves, articles that had not been touched or moved—let alone read or examined—in decades probably. There was a thick layer of dust and muck on everything.
Silas had been smoking cigars, Casper recognized this straight away, covering his mouth as he spluttered and coughed upon entry. Did the old bugger never open a window?
The Professor sat down and studied Casper for a little while. His face was craggy and pallid, gaunt and skeletal, almost Gothic looking. He remained silent for quite some time before (finally) he decided to break the growing monotony and disclose his recent findings on the sacred parchment Casper had found in an old wall in his basement.
“For starters, the inscription on the paper appears to be Arabic and yet after close inspection I have concluded it is not. It seems it is not written in any language. If anything, it is written in code. It is a complicated and obscure code only wise, clever men would even struggle to decipher due to its style and age, or determine the era in which it was written. I can assure, though…I have also concluded that it is from the era of Christ, and I think I know who wrote it, due a tiny scrawl—almost like an initial—at the very end of the document. It is a signature, one which is dubious I admit. Yes, granted, yet this particular signature disturbs me, and it would disturb the entire world’s population if your find was to ever entered the public arena—which I think, must.”
“Is it valuable?” Casper asked.
“Priceless…” the Professor said, “…in fact, it should not exist. Museums will bite your arm off for this ancient relic, Casper.”
“Who wrote it?”
“In earnest, Casper, I have an idea, judging by the signature alone, as that is the only sense this document offers. As I say, the entire offering is unreadable and could be just plain nonsense—but I sincerely doubt that—since, to be frank and honest, I truly believe it is the most important find of the twentieth century and modern times. It is not written in red ink, that’s for sure…” He paused, biting on his lip, adding suddenly, “…it is written in blood, and the parchment is not paper, it is human flesh.”
“Wow, holy shit.”
“Holy shit, that’s exactly right.”
Casper frowned deeply. He said, “So, where is it from?”
“My research—and I’ve been engrossed in this all day—leads be to believe the Knights Templar discovered this during the Crusades and brought it back to the homeland, Sacred Albion, but somehow—perhaps, perhaps—it was misplaced, or even STOLEN—and then HIDDEN—or PASSED AROUND to different crucial sources—or just MOVED ALONG amongst dignitaries and those of importance, or those with considerable wealth.”
From a brown envelope on the desk, the Professor extracted the mystical piece of flesh. He lifted it for Casper to observe as he pointed something out. “See that mark there, Casper? That is the initial of the piece’s author…”
Nonplussed, Casper shook his head.
Clearing his throat, the cranky Professor said gravely, “It is the mark of Judas, the traitor, the one responsible for Jesus Christ’s death at the hands of the Romans.”
Stunned, Casper was speechless.
“I can’t believe it.”
The Professor reached into the drawer of his desk and extracted his old service revolver. Seeing it, Casper realized he was about to be shot and killed by his old friend. Perhaps, with this important discovery, the Professor had turned greedy and wished to reap the entire reward the relic might fetch at auction. Perhaps he was angry or confused over something else—nobody would ever know. Here, Casper could only pray and surmise…either way it was surely the end of the line.
“Our souls are damned…” the Professor muttered, his eyes glazed with tears.
Suddenly, Silas placed the tip of the revolver’s barrel under his chin and pulled the trigger, making for a massive bang which instilled the fear of God in Casper as he watched the senior’s brains explode across the bookshelves behind, mixed with fragments of skull.
As he sat there shell-shocked and silent, something happened equally shocking, for the sacred parchment on the desk before him seemed to glow a neon blue, then green, then orange, until deep within its light and mesmeric glare, a pair of dark yet beautiful eyes formed in the misty ether, for these were the eyes of Judas Iscariot. It was the most terrifying thing Casper Dame had ever experienced in his entire existence on the planet—a planet, with its climate trouble, as doomed as the Professor, and like him, also an old friend.
In one huge spasmodic jerk, Casper was suddenly held by invisible forces and lifted from his chair. Swiftly, he hovered above the room until thrown through the air until he crashed against one of the study walls where he momentarily was rendered suspended, when abruptly, he experienced something HOLDING him—HOLDING HIS ARMS AND LEGS.
The huge iron nails came from nowhere. They entered and pierced his hands and feet. The young English teacher squealed in agonized pain as each one was hammered into his flesh and cracked his bones. Yet, this was no ordinary crucifixion, or one popular storytelling explained at times. No, it was different in so many ways—most notably because he had been brought here to this house and suffered being crucified UPSIDE DOWN.
Through bloodied vision, just about to die, Casper watched as the fully-garbed solitary ghost of the Templar appeared from the misty smog to retain the spirited Judas document, which the knight placed in his leather pouch for safety. Casper had no idea about any of it. A curse, at the end of the day, was simply a curse. And what better magician than Judas?