The clouds rolled in like tumbleweeds, at times completely obscuring the ominous orange moon that stained the otherwise picturesque midnight sky. It was cold and the air was stale, and the shadows that mirrored the movement of the clouds cast a foreboding pall on the pastoral setting. The two men dressed in black, and did their best to travel unnoticed. They stopped briefly at the top of the ravine. They glanced at each other uneasily, neither one having any desire to move first.

Jesus moves the boulder from his tomb
"Free at last! Thank Dad Almighty, I am free at last!"
Finally Simon spoke. "Let's go." They carefully navigated the steep path down the hill, and though the on again, off again moonlight made it difficult to see the ground before them, they reached the floor unscathed. Aaron shuddered, clutching his arms to his chest and shuffling back and forth uneasily.

"I've got a bad feeling about this."

"He's dead. You've got nothing to worry about."

"Then why are we going to see him?"

"We're grave robbers. Naturally, we're going to rob his grave."

"Are you sure we should be robbing this grave?"

"Of course I'm sure. Whatever you've got, you can't take it with you, so why shouldn't it go to someone more deserving? Someone breathing?"

The rock was still in place, lodged in a narrow opening and nearly impossible to move by one man alone. It was not so impossible for two men, though they knew the consequences for doing so would be severe. They would move the rock, verify the deceased, and meticulously return the rock to its proper place. No one would ever know they were there.

Simon braced himself against the outer wall of the cave and prepared to push. He looked to Aaron expectantly, but Aaron hung back.

Jesus inserted the rusty key into the rusty lock and opened the door to the dingy motel room. Was he supposed to take this stupid thing with him everywhere he went? "Look," Simon said calmly, "Just help me move the rock, and I'll go in and check. You can stay out here."

Aaron thought for a second, sighed heavily, and joined Simon on the far side of the rock.

They pushed hard. The rock was lodged tight in the opening, but once it started to give, things became much easier. Eventually, the boulder tumbled to the side, teetering a bit before collapsing in a cloud of dust. Aaron stepped away from the opening and looked at Simon, inviting him to keep to his word.

"Alright, alright, just keep an eye out. I'll make this quick. Give me the flashlight."

Aaron reached into his belt and pulled out the industrial flashlight he'd been saving for a place where it was sure to go unseen and handed it to Simon. He watched Simon vanish into the pitch black cave opening. He saw the glow of the flashlight dart around quickly, disappear, and a second later Simon was back at the entrance, empty-handed. Aaron didn't like the look on his face.

"And?" Aaron said nervously.

"There's nothing there."

"No gold? No jewels?"

"Well no, no gold and no jewels. But no body either."

"That doesn't make any sense."

"I know it doesn't. But I'm telling you, there's nobody, dead or alive, inside that cave. You're more than welcome to take a second survey if you'd like."

"No. I'm not going in there. Let's just forget it. Let's put the rock back and get out of here."

A hand came to rest on Simon's shoulder. Aaron's too. They both felt warm, and the sensation that accompanied the comforting touch was pure sublimity. They were paralyzed, not from any lack of physical control over their bodies but from a sense of purity that neither had any desire to depart.

A thin, finely sharpened blade pierced the back of both men's necks simultaneously. They were killed instantly, and their bodies were lowered to the ground with great care. The corpses were left as decoration, and the rock remained in its place a few meters from the cave entrance. He wanted them all to know he was up, and he wanted them to know he was pissed.

*  *  *

Jesus inserted the rusty key into the rusty lock and opened the door to the dingy motel room. He'd made a comment when he checked in about the management not springing for key card locks, but the clerk either didn't get it or didn't think it was very funny. The key was attached to a cylindrical wooden rod about a foot long, as though it were some gas station bathroom key, and the giant tether was meant to deter someone from driving off with it and leaving other bladder beaten patrons to share the women's room. Was he supposed to take this stupid thing with him everywhere he went? Luckily he'd only planned to stay one night.

Jesus recognized the intro to Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive" instantly. He always liked that song.  He was tired. The bedspread was a ghastly floral pattern, and even the busy decor didn't do much to camouflage the various stains that contributed to the overall ambiance of the place. Hopefully they'd been washed recently, he thought.

He stepped into the bathroom and turned on the sink. The faucet gurgled for a few seconds, spit out a generous helping of putrid brown sludge, and eventually clear water began to flow. Jesus cupped his hands under the faucet and watched them overflow. He raised the water to his lips and gulped it down. It wasn't good, but it was the first sip of anything he'd had in a long time. He splashed water on his face and studied his reflection in the mirror. He looked good for a dead guy.

He pulled the stopper on the sink and watched the cold water slowly rise. He turned the faucet off and placed his index finger into the water. It changed from clear to opaque and from pallid gray to deep crimson. He went to the nightstand and unwrapped one of the disposable cups from inside the ice bucket the motel had generously included as a "perk." He scooped some of the red liquid and tasted it. He made a face. It wasn't a bad skill to have, but he'd never been very good at it. Oh well, he thought. It would get him drunk.

Faucet turns water into wine and drips into wine glassHe realized he'd need a little more than that puny cup to do any serious drinking, so he ladled the rest of his concoction into the ice bucket and sat it on the nightstand. He scooted himself back against the headboard and placed the ice bucket in between his legs. He used the remote control to turn the TV on and flipped through the channels. There were six.

The first channel he stopped on was a series of motorcycle montages set to classic heavy metal music. He recognized the intro to Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive" instantly. He always liked that song. His mood turned sour when the lyrics started. It was a cover. He quickly changed the channel in disgust. Next was some televangelist program, the kind of thing he knew was popular around these parts. Jesus knew instantly that the man was talking about him, or at least the man thought he was talking about Jesus. People were falling down all over the place, the blind were magically able to see, and several women were babbling in what he assumed was being passed off as "speaking in tongues." An advertisement for the man's book scrolled pervasively across the bottom of the screen. Jesus laughed.

"Assholes." He turned off the TV.

He chugged some of his wretched brew, which he thought was probably only marginally better than prison wine. It had been a while since he'd had anything to eat, and the haze was strong and it came quick. He tried to set the ice bucket on the nightstand, but he placed it too close to the edge. It tumbled to the floor, spilling homemade wine all over the floor.

"Shit," Jesus said. The motel was almost certainly going to charge him for that. He leaned over and opened the drawer to the nightstand. He took out and opened the Gideon's Bible, turned towards the back, and tore out several pages. He placed them carefully over the wet floor, and in doing so he realized he was already too drunk to clean this mess up tonight. He'd take care of it in the morning.

As he lay in bed and slowly drifted off into an inebriated slumber, he had what at the time seemed like the greatest idea he'd ever had. If he could turn water into wine, what was to stop him from going the other way? It'd certainly save him a lot of work. He couldn't wait to try it out.

His dreams were vivid. He saw the faces of the men he'd already killed and the faces of those men he was going to kill. They all deserved to die, and he vowed to treat them with the same consideration they'd shown him.

Continue to Part II »