The Long Walk to Nowhere
(A Small Dedication to Barry Sadler)
John L Thompson
HO! The trail is near the end!
The writing of the how’s and the why’s of the near end, it is good to stretch the many unused fingers of dilapidated reasoning of the shadows of the mind! I managed to barter for the paper I write on, one in which is a luxury here on this world of the long river, but my story is one in which needs to be told, one that will make one perhaps understand the things on my mind as well as what the reason is for all of creation of this new afterlife.
It is near, this path that will lead me to the end of life.
I have reached the last five hundred miles of this journey, but the paths I have behind me have stretched into the millions upon millions with history as my witness. It is so that many legends and myths have spouted from the minds of those that wish to live forever, not knowing nor understanding the repercussions of such thoughts. It is an age old question of what would it be like to live forever? I ask this for myself: what would it be like to age into an old man facing the very end of life? I ask this question, as I have wanted to know such matters, after all I have no knowledge nor understanding for such things as ageing into an old man, wise and wrinkled like an old prune, one that has reached the end of life. Those that wish to have the truth known on things as retaining a life, a single life, only I can tell it as I have the answer to such matters.
As I drift along this vast and wide river, with the wind blowing full into the sails of this small ship, which I have named appropriately enough, The Rivers End IIV, I remember and feel for the moment the lost feelings of the history behind me. I have seen the resurrection, the Day of the Great Shout, the scramble of the many to resurrect the ways of civilization of old earth and the retention of power to keep it. I have seen many things here on this river, some great and wondrous, others not so as the mad kings and power mongrels have bloody ways to conquer the lesser people; but my story begins on old earth and will end here on this new one.
I have been named many things and perhaps have been named all things, but my true name is that of Herodias Malchus, a one-time shoemaker in the ancient city of Jerusalem. It is strange to hear myself say my own birth name after using so many others. Many myths surround of how I came to be, and I can vouch that the one where I insulted Christ on his way to the cross is most assuredly not one of truth, though I did see his march to death on the Mount of Skulls, along with the two thieves, one of which was a true and close friend. The story is one of interest only to those that care to listen and though it may seem long, it is of historical import and perhaps a lesson is involved.
As I have mentioned, I was a shoemaker in Jerusalem and that I witnessed the death of the Holy Christ. He was a simple wood worker, who bothered no one, but it seemed he had upset the Jewish clergy somehow with alleged miracles of healing and the raising of the dead. He had been tried before Poncious Piolet and a hysterical mob of ingrates who demanded his blood. Either way I was sitting outside my home and shoe shop, drinking deep of a rather rare vintage Greek wine, happy that I had sold a rather expensive pair of shoes that I had modeled after a pair of gladiator footwear. I had saw some of these gladiators in the arena and noted that the Roman dogs had a sure and firmer grip in the loose sands of the blood drenched arenas than their opponents. I took to the needle and made a pair and with a few cosmetic changes, I had made, I believed a new revolutionary change in footwear. A Roman officer had just bought this pair, pleased with his purchase, as he was duty called to fight the barbarians of the North, as the tribes there threatened the Roman boundaries. He said that if the sandals held up well, he would recommend me to many other friends, including some rather high political ones.
I was happily drunk on the warm wine and the heat was unbearable, even under the shades of my porch where I sat on the long wooden bench there. I watched the people move about in the streets and homes of sun baked brick around me, and noted that off in the distance I saw thunderheads of dark clouds rolling and boiling across the desert. I prayed silently that the gods would allow it to rain, for it had been sometime since it had done so. It was perhaps the effects of the wine or perhaps a mixture of heat that I noticed the figure across from my home hidden in the shadows of the alleyway there. He was clad in a long fine silken purple robe with the hood drawn up over his head to conceal his features. It was not so much that the robe was out of place in this poorer section of Jerusalem but the long metallic cylindrical item he held in his hand. I sat up and took notice of this item, as I had never seen such a thing before in all of life. From this distance and the fumes of the wine it was difficult to even tell the difference from the nice round ass of the woman drawing water at the well no more than five feet from me from that of a mule.
Several runners came running through the streets announcing that the Christ was coming through the streets to be crucified on the cross on the Golgotha and this drew away my attention, but not before the stranger had taken notice of me. I stood up from my wooden bench and staggered close to the dusty street to join in the throng of people that began to line up to witness the spectacle. A Roman troupe of guards came into sight and quickly spread out to prevent the citizens from swamping the Christ as he labored through the streets carrying his cross.
I note here that this man was beaten severely and, I believe, unjustly for whatever imaginary things that he had been accused of. I could barely make out his features through the dark, sticky red blood that clotted his hair and beard and ran in rivers over his face. A crown of thorns rested deep on his forehead with the thorn tips buried deep under the flesh to grate against the bones of his skull. He still had enough strength though to carry the large cross, one that he was to be nailed to. He had been flogged ceaselessly and strips of skin hung from his back in bloody ribbons and the blood dripped onto the dusty dry streets. A tough Roman sergeant came and stood by where I was and appeared bored that he had been assigned to this duty of hanging yet another vagrant or criminal. I was more intent on looking for my friend who was to hang beside the Christ for his thievery in breaking into the Holy Temple and stealing some gold ingots there. He was nowhere to be seen though and again my eyes fell upon the cloaked man that had held the strange object. It was hidden now, that object, as well as his hands within the large folds of the sleeves of his cloak, and he stood across the street facing me and paid no attention to the commotion around him. I locked my own eyes upon him and watched him for several minutes. As soon as the procession passed I had made up my mind then to capture this man and proceed to beat him for such insolence as making me feel uncomfortable. If this fool were to be searching for trouble than he would have his hands full by the gods!
The procession passed and another large crowd passed by following after the first and the cloaked figure disappeared from view. I searched for him and did not see him again…at least not right away. If I had known of the following troubles that would plague me over these long years, I would have searched for him then and killed him.
I began to loose interest in the commotion and felt the heavy twinges of sleepy desire wash over me. The skies had darkened with the impending rains that were soon to come and I lazily made my way back into my home to fall asleep on the cot. The heat and the fumes of the wine were too much to bear and I felt it better to rest a little before tackling the three pairs of sandals that needed resoling. I fell heavily on the cot and closed my eyes and sleep quickly overtook me.
It was sometime near dark, when I awoke when I felt something brush up against my arm, and I awoke to the sounds of heavy rain and dark clouds. It had cooled off significantly by then, and it was dark in the room. I sat up quickly. “Who is there?” I cried out. I was more alarmed and angry. There had been a rash of thieves breaking into the homes in this particular area, and at times they would murder the occupants; and here I was without a weapon nearby. Shaking and with a throbbing hung over head, I arose and swung my feet out onto the dirt floor and peered hard into the shadows and the dark to see if anyone was there.
Off in the corner of the room a shadow shifted and again faded to mix in with the darkness. Adrenaline shot through my veins and my limbs felt heavy. “You there!” I cried again. “Be gone before I call for the garrison that is stationed nearby!” I flew up to my feet and swayed there, attempting to look more threatening than I actually was. I heard the shadow speak in a language I had never heard of and was a mixture of gibberish and quick syllables. The shadow moved forward and I noticed it was the figure clad in the purple cloak. I quickly made my decision and lunged forward to grab him but the next moment was an odd one. A light, a strange purplish light shot out from the mans hand and instantly I was engulfed in this light and frozen in place; I could not move a muscle as hard as I tried.
The cloaked figure moved forward and from the purplish haze that engulfed the room I was able to make out that he held onto the same cylindrical metallic device I had seen him with earlier in the day. I reasoned that this device was a weapon of some type. “I regret to this misunderstanding.” The cloaked figure spoke the words as if he were genuinely sorry for this situation. “It is for the greater good of this study that you have been chosen for this experiment.” He paused again and turned to speak into a large thick bracelet of shining silver with a glowing red eye that was wrapped around his wrist. He spoke more of his strange language and then turned back towards me.
The Sentinel withdrew a small pouch and unrolled this; within were various metal objects, not unlike those found in the twentieth century, but to a crude shoemaker in the early AD century it was terrifying.
“I know that you do not understand, such is the simplicity of peoples thoughts, and I will quickly explain that you will live for many years and not age. I will also be studying you over the years and at the end of this experiment, if you chose so, I will allow you to then die in peace. Over time you will understand more.” He then withdrew a thin rod with a large bulb tip and held it up in front of him. The bulb end then flowered open into four sections and there exposed was a sharp and long tip holding in a yellowish fluid. The Sentinel then carefully stabbed this device forward and into my stomach and the yellowish fluid shot quickly there into the muscles and the feeling of burning acid spread quickly over my whole body and sweat pored from every pore of my body. I screamed from the intense pain and passed out.
I was awake. I bolted quickly upright from my cot and looked through the inky darkness of the confines of my shop and home. The Sentinel was nowhere to be seen. A dream perhaps? I quickly stood up from my wooden cot and lit a lantern that was nearby and began to search the home. I had found nothing that even suggested that the stranger or anyone had taken into my home. I set the lantern on the table and quickly searched for the marks that had told of the various punctures into my stomach. None were in evidence and I decided that the cheap Greek wine was responsible for the vivid dreams. At least that was the excuse I had told myself.
Outside I heard a commotion and quickly I made my way to the door and opened it. Outside on my doorstep was a body, a woman’s body with her top robe stripped down to her waist, exposing ample breasts and cold gray skin. She was stiffened within the grasps of deaths cold fingers and I knew not how long she had been there. I examined her and found something unusual on her chest, that of a small burn hole with raised black puckered edges. I rolled her body over and also noted that this hole had burned all the way through as a burn mark was also evident there. People stood by and watched me and whispered amongst themselves that I was the murderer. I roared out that I had done no such thing and that I was innocent, but it was of no avail to explain the truth. A group of Roman soldiers forced a path through the throngs of people and quickly accessed the situation.
I was placed under arrest, but not without a struggle, and convicted of this woman’s murder. I believe that now as I think of this strange twist of situations, that the Sentinel had murdered this woman. I think it possible that the woman had come to my door and witnessed something that she was not supposed to see. I also note here that she had a pair of sandals nearby her and it is just possible that she was a potential customer. What the reason being in her top robe being stripped down to her waist is one of mystery and I have yet the answer to add here at this point.
I was sentenced to the slave galleys on a Roman man of war ship and spent a number of years chained to the oar before the ship sank in a freak storm off in the Aegean Sea with me still chained in place. This was also the first time that I ’died’ and found myself to live again. The heavy salt waters from the angry storm washed over the ship and with the groaning of broken timbers and dying men, I drowned. My bloated and sun scorched corpse must have bobbed around in the Aegean Sea for weeks, until I washed up on the shores of Greece. I was found and buried by the local inhabitants of a small fishing commune and it was then I was to live again. My corpse had been buried in the deep sands of the shorefront, and I fought and struggled against the heavy enclosure of my own grave, struggling to retain clean, cool air. When I erupted from my grave, I inhaled deep of the cool ocean air and also noticed several people that gave a startled shout and had taken to running away, screaming that the dead had arisen. I ignored them and proceeded to pull my self free of my earthen grave, and ventured forward into time and history as a free man yet again.
I cried out to the heavens and called for the Sentinel to set me free of this curse. It was a burden that was too difficult to carry. I cannot explain the feelings I had of that resurrection other than it was a painful experience. I resolved myself to find the Sentinel as he had placed this burden on me and I had no further desire to carry it any more.
I made the best of things and journeyed to Egypt to look at the so-called pyramids, as these Egyptians believed in the afterlife and immortality; I wound up staying in that region for more years than I should have, but my search for the Sentinel drove me on. An interesting note to mention though is the years the Nile River had frozen over. I venture the year to be 829ad, and the weather was cold, exceptionally cold. I have often wondered if perhaps this was a result of the Sentinel and his experiment, but even now there is no way of knowing. It was so that I also noted that the Nile River had frozen over. I have seen this with my own eyes and wondered at this. It has frozen over only one other time in written history and that was sometime later but never since.
I drifted along throughout the years and took up many trades. I was a painter, a dealer in Arabian horses, a soldier, a wine importer and renowned world traveler. Still more than anything I searched for the Sentinel and followed the many clues that may have presented themselves. I followed many legends and tales, more so those spoken over warm fires of a tavern while speaking to the drunken vagrants that inhabited such places, but I was never to catch sight of the purple cloaked clad man again for some time.
In 1096, I had taken up the reins of a donkey and headed north and found myself in France. I had drifted for some years and it was in an old muddy farmers field that I heard Pope Urban the Second deliver his speech to the masses of thousands that had gathered there to hear of the Muslims and the brutality in overtaking Jerusalem. He also spoke that we as Christians had a duty to heed the call of Christ and go there to the Holy City and remove the Turkish yoke that had been placed upon it, after all it was truly God’s will. Also that we as Christians must stop attacking each other as this new threat also threatened the spreading of Jesus Christ and his will for man. The masses of common people began to tear their clothes and beat their chests while crying out rivers of tears, and with the fevered pitch of the speech a great cry began to arise and drift in loud voices.
“Dieu li volt!” It became the Crusaders battle cry for the many months that were to follow. I had not been home to Jerusalem for well over one thousand years, and this call to arms by the Pope for a Crusade against the Muslims, was just the thing needed to head home to see what had changed. It was also promised that those that entered the city would not take any unnecessary life beyond those of the Muslims. I should have known better.
The masses of thousands took up arms and whatever items to help in this venture and the Church began handing out cloth crosses as proof of remission of all sins. I had taken one of these and had quickly tucked it away and had forgotten about it for sometime; I eventually used it as a bandage to stem the flow of blood from a Crusader who had lost his arm during the siege of Antioch.
The path was difficult but the tempers and enthusiasm were running high since the Pope had declared that all that went on the Crusade would be pardoned of all sins or would receive his Papal Indulgence decree. The funny thought occurred to me then, while listening to this speech: how could the common man, and the Pope is not exempt from being a common man, pardon another of all sins? I figured though my motives were of a different design and I had only need of seeing Jerusalem, as it was home at one time. I had taken up with the forces of southern France under the command of Raymond of St. Gilles, and as it later turned out, this was perhaps the largest force to operate during that time frame.
With the crossing of the Bosphorus, the first positions attacked upon the Muslim Turks, was that of Nicaea, a walled in city that had proven itself to be one of the Muslims strongest outposts to their empire. This walled in encampment fell at a cost of thousands and I had partaken in this as an archer. My arrows had felled many of the defenders there and it was only with the words of Emperor Alexius Comnenus, one of the commanding leaders and emperor of this city, which had prevented the city to falling under the mob rule of pillaging the fallen inhabitants. Many of the Crusader soldiers grumbled at this, as they desired to slaughter and rape the cities inhabitants and steal what they could to become rich and wealthy. I had not taken such view, as I was happy enough that food from within the city had been given and dispersed amongst the troops. My grumbling belly was soon filled and I was happy enough and had no desire to see the blood of innocents washed over my hands.
By late 1097, the crusading armies, after the battles of Antioch and Armenia and having survived many hundreds of ambushes from the Muslims, had finally arrived at the gates of Jerusalem.
The city had been quickly entered through an unprotected portion of the walls and those that stood in the way were slaughtered whether they were Muslim, Christian, or Jew. Hordes of the Crusaders rode in on the city on sweating and bloody warhorses slaughtering the many innocents with their swords until the city was literally red with blood. There was no stopping the armies of God from quenching the lusts and desires for blood and gold, and the commanding leaders stood back and allowed the ensuing soldiers to vent their inner most desires of violence. Thousands of corpses lie in the streets along with limbs and many heads that were stacked in giant piles; the rotting smell is still strong in my nostrils as I write these words.
I stood by one Muslim mosque, one of many within the city that had yet to be put to the torch, and I carefully peered inside. There inside were hundreds of Jerusalem’s citizens dead from tortures and beheadings. The severed limbs of thousands lay littered about to indicate the crusaders had been here. It was an appalling sight, one in which I had no more stomach for. I did not believe that God would justify such loss of life as I witnessed during this Crusade. Millions had died for the name of Jesus Christ and yet He had preached of love and forgiveness of which here in this place where was this compassion that everyone claimed to have? Besides I knew him to be a carpenter who did nothing of the sort of slaughtering the millions to enforce the spreading of His word. I set about gathering up items that would make my life easier for a while. A jewel here or a coin purse from the dead there; it was easy enough to blend in with the ransacking that was transpiring around me. I then waited until nightfall and left the dying city behind by way of the open desert. The stench of the killings and the burning buildings hung heavily within my mind and nostrils for many months to come and it was the last time I entered upon any of the other Crusades that followed through out the following years.
I drifted along for several years, eventually taking up a ship bound back to the European soil I had grown accustomed to. I still had to be careful as desertion from the ranks of the Crusades was punishable by death, but not before the lopping off of limbs and genitals. The many people that came in contact with me avoided such, having noted that I was a warrior and no questions were asked. The ship landed at the seaport town of Taranto, and it was there I stepped back onto Italy’s soil. From there I hiked my pack up higher to a more comfortable position on my shoulders and began the long trek northward. It was also there in the year 1103 that I made my first real friend within so many years.
I had taken on the job as a carpenter for a small church within the town of Cremona within northern Italy; it was easy enough work and also put food into my stomach. I had taken the day early; having decided it was better to go home to my small hovel above the local tavern and rest for the day. I had taken the long dark ally, dank with sewage and rubbish that had long in the process of decay. I noted off in the distance several men, one being a priest of the cloth. The other two were low life rabble that had decided to accost this priest. I could hear some of the conversation as the words reverberated and echoed down the dark alley. The one man, dressed in rags and smeared with the filth he had been sleeping in, pulled a small thin fish knife and lunged forward, his intent to scare the priest worked well as the man with the brown frock jumped back and was caught and placed into a hold by the other ruffian. I knew better than to be involved, but to attack a man of the cloth was most assuredly an act of a sacrilegious nature. I still had morals and a high sense of personal ethics after all. I set off at a run, quickly closing the gap between us and rammed into the man that held the priest. I cursed as I slipped and fell to sprawl into the dank sewage on the streets and the ruffian that held the knife took advantage.
He thrust forward in an overhead motion, and caught me in my belly just as I turned over on my back. The burning of the sinking metal blade made me scream in rage. I had not been intent on being stabbed and the ruffian withdrew his blade quickly, but not before I placed an iron grip on his hand. I swung my leg out and kicked him on the side of his knee where he buckled and fell forward. During this the priest had swung his staff of heavy oak and cracked the skull open of the one man. He collapsed and kicked for some minutes in his death spasm while I struggled on with the last man. He had let loose the knife in order to catch himself and I quickly rolled over and grabbed the thin fish blade. With a quick movement, I gathered my feet beneath me and reached over and grabbed him by his greasy hair and yanked back towards me, hard. With one quick motion I slid the blade over his throat, opening all his veins, arteries, and the esophagus. A loud whooshing of escaping air from his lungs and a geyser of deep red blood erupted from the gaping slit and I pushed the dying carcass forward and down into the rubbage. The shit bag knew his life was ending and he turned and looked at me with eyes wide open, while with dirty fingers, he clawed and clasped tight the deadly wound in an attempt to seal off the slit. He died within minutes, drowning in his own rich blood.
The priest was winded but excited and he reached over to help me to my feet. “I knew that perhaps I should not have come here alone, but God has given grace.” He quickly knelt down to the two dead carcasses and recited the small and quick Latin liturgy for the dead and quickly made the sign of the cross. He stood up and faced me. “You too will die, let me see your injury.”
I held my hand over the wound, and knowing that the priest also had seen the knife sink to the hilt. It was an oblivious death wound, but I knew better. “I am well priest.”
He quickly grabbed my hands and pried them loose from the wound. He ripped open the shirt and watched the injury. “Lord of all Mighty Heaven!” He watched in awe and wide eyes as the wound began to seal back up. My secret was out, and I knew that they burned such people as me for more minor things. I pulled away and staggered back, weak still from the stab. He grabbed onto me and helped steady me until the sensation passed. “I know that perhaps you are thinking that you will burn at the stake, rest assured friend that I have no intentions of harm.”
He stood back and held his staff and looked at the two dead thieves. “A man that has saved my life is a true God send. Your secret, what ever it may be, is safe. Perhaps you would like to accompany me on the rest of my journey?”
I did not have any immediate pressing business and decided it best to leave this town. Too many people might know of these two. Some would be delighted that they had died and yet strange as it is, they had friends somewhere that would not take to kindly to their demise and begin asking questions. “Priest, it is so. Let us leave before we are seen here.” Thus we left the town and I accompanied him on his journey.
It was some days passed when we talked of my affliction. We had taken to an inn and had eaten and now we sat by an open fireplace and while I drank of a honeyed beer, I explained my story. Brother Mazzarellos did not interrupt but listened intently as a father would a child.
“So it is that you are to roam the earth until this experiment is ended?” He looked off into the flames of the fireplace, lost in content thought. It was some time before he answered. “I don’t have any real answers for you. As hard as I think on the matter, I realize it is a long term thought process. I can offer this to you though, that of a home, if you can call it home, back at the Abbey of Cremonte de Trellos. There are many people there that could very well help also in this thought process. I can not force you in your decision but I would be honored if you would consider such.”
I thought on it for but a few minutes. “Priest, it is so that I have no real home, but I will do this as I would actually like a place to call home.”
We left in the early morning hours, taking the way of the Fernandina’s road and walked for many days until we reached the Abbey of Cremonte de Trellos. It was here that I was to learn that these monks held a real passion for God and helping of the poor. I was given my own room and, as brother Mazzarellos had instructed to the others at the abbey, I was not to be bothered much and was to be forgiven for any small offenses that might occur during my stay there within the cold gray walls of the abbey.
I knew that I had, at least for the time being, found a place to rest. Brother Perri Mazzarellos knew the secret I held and kept this secret. Every so often he would inquire again on some fact or kernel of history to some of the places I had traveled, in which we would discuss the matters by the fireplace in the main hall, sipping on teas. It was perhaps during one of these discussions he made mention of one aspect that I had never given thought to.
“What if you are not alone in this condition of yours?” He started out one morning, while we tended a small garden of beautiful roses. This part of tending a garden was of a small break from the hardships of tending to the spreading of God’s word and feeding the hungry masses within the nearby towns and villages.
I stood erect, stretching the stiff muscles in my lower back. “I am afraid to ask more of what is on your thoughts Brother Mazzarellos, who can begin to fathom the deeds of your imagination.”
He licked his lips and whispered closer near my ear. “Perhaps, but what if you are not alone in your affliction of immortality? What if there are others that they too have been deemed to wander the ages as an immortal?” He stood back and began to clip away the dead stems from the rose bush; letting his words sink into my brain.
Could there be a possibility of such thoughts? I had never given it a thought at any time. I narrowed my eyebrows and leaned closer to Brother Mazzarellos. “Do you think it could be possible, that there could be others like myself? Do you know of others?”
Mazzarellos lowered his head. “No, I do not, but I have read and perhaps interpreted that from the Holy Scriptures it could be a possibility.” He stopped what he was doing and looked around to make sure none of the other monks were nearby, he then took hold of my arm and pulled me away to follow him. I followed him through the great doors inside the monastery and through the great halls of cold stone into where the library and other monks were busy in writing out whatever they had endeavored to partake on. He then indicated for me to follow him to a quiet part of the library and there on the rickety wooden table was the Holy Scripture.
He thumbed lightly and gingerly through the thick pages of ornate artwork of pictures and scripted words until he found what he was looking for. “Here in this book of Matthew is a passage that perhaps might be of use to you, although I also believe that Cain also was afflicted with your same illness. I have, since you came into my care, researched these great writings, looking for anything that might assist you and I mean no harm in this as I do not wish to offend you.” He then pointed to one passage that of Mathew 16:28. I read the passage aloud.
“As surely as I say to you, there are some that are standing here who shall not taste of death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
I thought more on the passage, but I realized it might be a possibility. I kept the idea in mind and still do even here on the river. I kept busy doing the things of a monk, even partaking in the many ceremonies and morning and evening masses. I even forgot for the time being that I was an immortal, but time has a way of slipping by and again as always, the affliction took hold in my mind once more. The young monks grew into old men and as these passed away, new and more youthful monks took their places. Brother Mazzarellos became Father Mazzarellos, as he was the next elder in line and took his shares of administrative duties seriously.
Some years passed and I watched as Father Mazzarellos grew older and eventually began to decay into an elderly man. He had taken much responsibility upon himself since assuming his role as head elder of the abbey, and I have never met another of his kind who effortlessly assisted in aiding the poor and helping out the other monks to seek a true close relation with God. It was just a matter of time before I knew the inevitable end would come as it did finally during the beginning weeks of spring. He had fallen down a small step out into the garden area where we still tended the roses, which had grown over with many budding red blooms, and had hit his head on the stone door way. By then I ventured to guess his age to be in his mid-eighties, old indeed for this time frame of history. The other monks shouted out in desperation and came quickly to his assistance, where they gently carried him to his chambers. I was away below in the village, dropping off another cart full of vegetables when Brother de Pancallo came running up to me. He had run from the monastery to tell me the terrible news. I quickly told him to bring the cart back to the monastery as I began to run at full speed back to where Father Mazzarellos lay.
I did not stop until, breathlessly, I reached his chambers.
He was near the end, this I knew from the many years of killing and also by watching the many around me pass off into the eternal sleep. He lay on his bed and his breathing was heavy and labored; there was also several other monks within the room, chanting and praying for God to intervene and heal him. He turned his head and opened his eyes and a sense of relief washed over him. He raised his heavily blue veined hand and waved me over to him. I came slowly to him and knelt beside him and we talked for the last time, our last great conversation.
“It is so that soon our paths will separate my friend.”
I could hardly hold back the rising sob within my chest. “It is so old friend.”
We talked of things passed and of his final wishes, for he knew that with a word spoken from me was a bonding word. No matter who the man is or was, it is surely a sin that God will punish those that will and do not respect a dying man’s last wishes. He looked around at the monks within the room and whispered something unintelligible to me.
He took hold of my sleeve and raised his other hand. “This man does not exist. Let my final words be of compassion and let all know that I have given shelter and food to many, but this man is of most import in my life beside the Holy Christ. It is not of jealously nor of bitterness that I die and this man lives, but this man is of a purpose from God, one that cannot be explained in light terms. Give this man all his hearts desire and never question his motives nor his affliction, it is just so.” It was not long after speaking these raspy and labored words that my one and only true friend died. I wept many tears for many days
It was here, at the monastery that the legend grew and it was also the first mentioning of the legend. The one that would remind me of who I was for all time, that of the Legend of the Wandering Jew. It was never mentioned, this rumor or legend openly, although throughout my stay at the monastery the other monks made omens with their hands to ward off evil. It was forbidden, under Father Mazzarellos direction, to write or to speak of my presence there to anyone. This also included the yearly visits from the Bishop of Rome, the emissary sent from there to keep tabs on the monasteries business. Although in all this secrecy, I believe it was just possible that one of the monks took to temptation and penned the story of the Wandering Jew, not really realizing what exactly he was doing and the love of legends and myths proved to much upon whichever monks fevered mind. I have no regret or ill will towards who ever this may have been.
I regretted having to leave the monastery, but the many questioning eyes made the decision so. The residing Abbot Fernandino de Galeotos though was just as nervous at having me around; I was becoming more of a distraction than an aiding factor. With the passing of Father Mazzarellos, the decision was made so. It was perhaps around the passing of the great moon near the end of the season of fall, near dawn that I gathered up my meager belongings and made out on the trail of the uncertain future. I regretted my decision, but it was time to press on.
I have searched this vast river for Father Mazzarellos, but to no avail. I hope beyond hope that perhaps, in the flight full images of imagination that it is he who manages to get a hold of these writings of mine. It would tell him that at least I made the attempt to find him and that I truly loved him as a brother.
I drifted along in the following years and found work wherever I could, making sure to stay in Italy in search of the Sentinel or in finding others cursed with my same condition. I often took up the work of the farmer, tilling the hard soil to plant numerous vineyards that are so common across the countryside. I also married during this time frame to a woman of utmost beauty and spent the next eight years with her until her untimely death from falling off a horse she had always ridden. I moved on, giving the lands over to neighboring farmers and vineyard keepers to maintain and lease for a modest yearly sum of coin. I went off to Florence and made a known presence of my self as an enforcer of the laws of the taverns. At times I tired of being a bodyguard or a bar tavern bouncer and took on work in other fields. In one case I was a male nude model for a marble sculpture. I would sit in all my glory for many hours and for many months, only resting when the hot Italian sun had reached far below the hills of the distant vineyards. The next day it would start again and after several months it was complete. The sculpture was an instant success, but was short lived as an earthquake within that region destroyed it. Another note of interest was in the year 1173; I helped with the initial groundwork on a tower that was to be constructed in the sea town of Pisa. I only worked on the groundwork, carrying out basket loads of granite and rock chips and it proved to be backbreaking labor. It was a few years later while starting work on the third floor that I made mention to the architect, Bonanno Pisano that it seemed to me that the new tower appeared to be leaning.
“Poposterous, it is nothing more than illusion on your commoner brain.” He had said.
I shrugged my great shoulders and went on about my work of casting and chipping away of marble slabs to be used in the tower. I forgot about the conversation, but apparently Pisano must have taken note of what I said and investigated. It was then established as truth. The tower would lean considerably to the South by some three degrees, making it a leaning tower. I took no note of it and eventually quit to move on to do other things. I had caught word that a man had been discovered in the far north as to be alive for some two hundred years in a small town. Thinking of what Father Malchacie had spoken of possible others cursed with my affliction, I quickly went to this town. The rumors proved to be false and disheartened I took to the road as a hermit and beggar.
I drifted off into Spain sometime around 1234, having heard stories of a whole village of people that never aged or became sick. I found more than I bargained for and was caught up in the Inquisition. I was subjected to some of the worst tortures possible and it was also then that my affliction came to light. It was hard to hide such a thing as quick healing and it was deemed that I was possessed by witchcraft and all of Satan’s evil. I was to be burned upon the stake and I was only to find that I would live yet again after a painful bout with recovery. As long as it takes to tell the tale, I left the lands of Spain with feelings of hate for those involved within the Lord’s Work. It was nothing of the sort dealing with God’s work and with my blistered and peeling skin as evidence, I headed off to France where I stayed for the next five hundred years or so.
I made some bad choices in my time, but it was bad enough to arrive in France as it was near the beginning of the Black Death that roared over Europe like a rampaging wildfire. I cannot say how many times I died from this disease, but I know of its symptoms all too much; I did die and my body had been thrown out onto the street gutters more than several times to be disposed of and collected by the gravediggers who went about with large carts to collect the dead. I managed one attempt during the one last ‘resurrection’ and that was to avoid people and civilization. I took to the countryside and took up residence as a farmer’s helper.
He did not ask many questions as he was more concerned with his crops but he did compliment me about my hard work and knowledge of the soil; and upon his death several years later, he left me deed to his land as he had no heirs. I took this as a sign and set about continuing to locate any thing remotely dealing with immortality and of course the Sentinel. Somewhere I believed he was here in Europe, watching me as he had all along though I never could figure out how.
The year 1789 found me within the midst of the French Revolution, and I made the curious inquiry to several guards standing at the great doors of the Bastille, a prison for the King’s political prisoners and the lesser beings of society; now it was home to royalty and the richer accused and condemned men and women who were awaiting execution by guillotine before the bloodthirsty mob.
“I seek to look at the prisoners.” I asked.
The one guard, holding his half filled bottle of wine, stumbled forward. “It is said none shall enter. Await your turn to witness your person beheaded.”
The alcohol fumes clouded my nostrils and I stepped back to breath in some of the fresh air. “It is a small matter that I ask, I wish to see if perhaps one of the people I seek is within. “ I went on to explain that the person I was looking for was my former landlord and he had thrown us off our land the year before. As a result I had lost my wife and child due to the fact that we had to sleep outside in the dead of winter. The two unwashed guards conversed and a moment later the drunkard came up to me again.
“If we do this thing you ask, you must not ever mention it to anyone for we would surly have our own heads upon the guillotine by nightfall.” He took hold of my over coat and led me through the drawbridge and gates to the inner prison. He explained why I was there and quickly led me into the dark jail cells within the stone walls. I searched the many cells looking at the masses of humanity packed within and I recognized not one person as being close to resembling the Sentinel.
There was something most familiar with the man, and it was the luck of the suns radiant rays of light that sparkled off a familiar bracelet he wore on his wrist. My heart jumped up into my throat and I looked closer, taking each step with caution as I did not want to scare nor lead him into believing he was being watched. This did not last long, as with a quick twist of his head he saw me.
I knew it was he and with an excited heart, I ran forward. The Sentinel noted also I was coming at him fast, and he quickly turned to run, narrowly avoiding knocking down a nearby elderly woman. I was not going to be deterred from catching him, not this close. I ran after him for several blocks where he faded off into a nearby cheering crowd of people who were watching a spectacle of a group of men in the process of gang raping a woman of nobility. I had no time to take offence to this macabre scene and looked over the tops of the many bobbing heads, looking for him. I had lost sight of him and grew increasingly frantic as the seconds ticked away. There was a nearby alley way and I reasoned this was the only way open that he could have gone. A drunkard grabbed my coat and pulled me towards him into his drunken embrace, wanting me to sing out his drunken song of French patriotism, and in the process spilled a cup full of red wine on me. I ignored this and yanked myself free and ran for the alleyway.
I entered the dark alley and there at the far end was he. The Sentinel had run into a wall at the end of the alley and he turned quickly to face me. There at the end of the alley, the blockading wall was much too high for him to climb over and he turned to face me just as I hit him low in the stomach in a mad rush. We struggled amongst the trash and wet sewage and I barely managed to place him within a hold that was strong enough to hold him.
“I have you!” I shouted with an angered happiness.
He labored in his breathing and managed to turn his head sideways enough to look at me from the corners of his eyes. “You should be proud. You have proven a success in our experiment. “
I clenched his throat tighter. “If you could only feel what I have felt!” I whispered harshly. “Then you would understand that I am not wanting to be a part of this experiment any longer. Set me free Sentinel, if it has proven a great success, then set me free.”
I noted that he was thinking or perhaps he felt some compassion, either way I knew that it was not to be so. “I cannot do this thing you ask, at least at the moment. Pardon me monsieur, as I also want you to be free, but it will be awhile longer, though not much longer.”
I roared out in anger and loosened my grip in anguish. The Sentinel took advantage of this and quickly slipped free of my hold. He rolled away and leaped to his feet then jumped back and gave a quick kick to my mid section as I was also getting to my feet, knocking the wind from me and turned to run. I had fallen and regained my footing only to halt after several feet. The wind was a long time in coming back and when I managed to draw in air again, I took off after him.
It proved to be wasted effort.
I erupted from the alleyway onto the side street and looked in both directions. He was nowhere to be seen; only the celebrating refuse of the new free French society. I ran any way, tears streaming from my eyes looking for him and finding him not. Victory was to be so close and yet so short.
The years drew on yet again and I swore I would catch the Sentinel. I followed the trails and followed possible clues and felt that I had been close, extremely close several times. There was one legend, the one of the vampire that drew my attention. It had been rumored in the lands of Hungarian, Romania and the surrounding Slovak countries that the Vampire would sleep in a casket and would only come out at night to feed and watch for the helpless; he was also known to have lived for many years beyond the normal human life span. I visited these countries and looked there for clues and it was only one night where I observed a figure cloaked in dark clothing watching the people around him. I drew closer and attempted to grab this fellow but he took note and ran, screaming out that he was being chased down by a mugger. I quickly withdrew as many people began to filter out into the streets. Eventually nothing panned out and I began to hear of the new Americas where the streets were paved with gold. The idea of paved golden streets seemed to me to be an absurd thought, but many commoner and peasant farmers took hold of this legend and marked it truth. I knew better and took a ship from France to England to the new Americas. I knew better than to stay in New York and ventured out westward where I would roam for the next one hundred and seventy-five years. The most interesting time frame was that of the old west as it also had many turns of fate.
I was also part of the Seventh cavalry under Gen George Armstrong Custer. I had taken up the reigns of being a soldier again and found it to be a harsh yet tolerable life. What was one year in the life of the cavalry compared to one day in my life? It was also there that I was to be the one and only unknown surviving member of the massacre at the Battle of Greasy Grass as the Natives called it. Of course no one could know of such things, as I was an immortal and I alone knew of what occurred at that battle. It is perhaps better that I was the only surviving member as this allowed me to follow through the many stories and rumors and theories on the battle over the next one hundred years. I had been killed and stripped of my uniform and belongings and when my heart beat to the drums of life yet again, I sat up under the dark skies and scavenged what was left of my units belongings and headed further west. I became many things during this time frame, from a trapper to hunting guide to living in Alaska panning for gold. I had accumulated a vast fortune while being alive, having shifted monies from one bank to another; I knew I never had to work again if I chose to but the search for the Sentinel drove me onward. I searched the many faces and looked for anything that could be construed to his where about but to no avail. The young America at this time frame entered into the Great World War and though I did not partake in this, I had took up a position as a recruiter and drill sergeant in the Montana territories and even had a hand in the training and development for the many young recruits. Many would never return, but I like to say that perhaps some of my training helped many others to survive. The recruits listened to me as one small child would listen to his father and who better than I to know the properties of war?
The Great War ended and I moved on to Oregon where I built a cabin on the coast and remained there to take up the trade yet again in writing and painting in lonesome solitude. Some people, mostly drifters and vagabonds, drifted my way and kept me informed on world events, but for long periods of time, I remained alone. I continually wrote and created many stories and even began a more detailed accounting of my life, but it was painting that drew my interest the more. I took to many hunting excursions also during this time frame, and I went to Canada for many months on fully guided hunts. Nobody knew who I was though the money I spent was vast and no questions were asked. I spent many years on many hunts, often hunting for larger and the more dangerous game animals. I made my way home again to Oregon only to find that my cabin had long since burned down from a resulting forest fire that burned some 16,000 acres of forested lands. I was unhappy that the many paintings I had done had vanished within the flames. I drifted and took to the railroads as a hobo for many more years, avoiding anyone and staying with my anguish and myself.
The late sixties and early seventies were nothing more than a fog of sexual orgies and great clouds of marijuana smoke. I also was an artist in painting yet again, although I don’t recall any of what I painted. The effects of the illicit drugs never lasted for more than several moments as a result of my condition of immortality, but the thoughts of lounging around as a burnt out hippie while having sex with several women at one time were also enthralling. At least for the time being. It was not to last though as several people I had hung around with for the past ten years or so, noticed that as they began to notice the long lines of age creeping in, they noted that I never seemed to age. When one such female companion, more of a sexual partner than anything else, begged me for the secret to how I stayed young, I knew it was time to move on where I found myself living on the streets of Los Angeles for several years.
The late seventies found me to be, of all things, an adult film star. Many, I am sure, have known my films, far and wide. I had forgotten about this endeavor and it was only some time ago in the lands of Shaka-land, a land inhabited mostly by Africans from some time around the seventeenth century, that one African American man took notice of me and thanked me for being in those films. I have no idea why he was happy to see me; perhaps it had something to do with a connection in his old life. He had lived in the Bronx in New York and strangely enough he also asked me to autograph his food-bucket. I was known for making great sex scenes, and there were many, not that I am bragging, but it is truth. Those that perhaps will remember, will recall I have starred in several hundred of these pieces so it is no wonder that some of the memories will be remembered here on the river from others. Although I will mention here I have yet to see any of the women I starred with along this vast river. So it is.
I tired of this floundering of my body and grew weary once more. I took up stakes and emptied all money from my accounts and began to seek out yet another identity. It was still easy to assume identities, though only proper paperwork was required. I knew of several people who dealt in such things and I paid for the papers such as birth certificates and social security numbers, and I then moved to the vast lands of Montana. I have no idea what drove me there but I found it a quiet change from the everyday hustle and bustling of Los Angeles. I found a nice piece of property and began to take up the work of the artist yet again. I wrote and painted for myself and made several trips into town several times a month. These trips eventually became less frequent until they dropped off to none at all. I had reverted into the state of a hermit. The place had become overgrown and I slowly neglected even to paint or write, or to even taking any care of myself. My beard had grown down to my chest in a great tangled mess along with my hair. I made vain attempts to feed myself and slowly wasted away to the mental state of the wild animals that roamed the area. It was not known to me what occurred next for it had been several years since I had electricity or even running water or heat. The later came from just gathering up firewood and burning it in the fireplace. I remember that I had now not gone to town for at least several years so news never did come to me. I remember waking up one morning, or perhaps it was close to noon, either way I noted the bright light, intense enough to see the bones under the skin of my own hand, and the ground shook and rolled. This startled me and I looked on it with awe and quickly rushed to look outside. It was in vain. I don’t remember reaching the front door, and it was there I died.
At least temporarily.
I was awake.
I sat up and looked around and noted that I was not wearing any clothes and I was as bald as a newborn babe along the shores of some great river. I was surrounded by a mass of other naked and bald people. There were Oriental, African’s, and the predominantly white mix of cultures. I jumped up and felt my heart would burst from my chest. Where was the Sentinel? The one that had promised my permanent death? Most people around me screamed or shouted out in disbelief or fright from their ways of thinking in fear. Some cried out it was the Day of Judgment. What was to happen? Where was God? These were the many questions that were asked. I shouted aloud not for such things, but in rage and anger, as I was yet again alive, and very much cheated in my promise for a permanent death. The Sentinel had lied just as he had when he ran from me on those streets in Paris those many years ago. I remember I searched among this group of naked people looking for the Sentinel among the lost, hoping that perhaps he was here in my group of the resurrected, but he was not, the slimy bastard.
I have searched along this vast river for the many years that followed, searching and gathering as much information about the river and also what occurred during those last moments on earth. I have gathered that earth, as I knew it, had long since ceased to exist during the year 1982, as I have found no person that had lived beyond this timeframe. Also, allegedly, there was some starship that had encountered earth with good intents, but fear of these strange beings from another world set people to panic. Beyond this information, I gathered no more than this. I figure though that in this equation is the actual truth that some how the Sentinel had a hand in this, though I do not understand to what capacity. Perhaps it was time for the end of one experiment to begin another, which would explain why everyone through out all time has been resurrected. I also note that most people have been thrown together, not one culture is the same any where along this river, and even if there is, it is highly rare. Part of the Sentinels or Ethicals as they are known, planning in design to observe how people would interact with other cultures instead of being as closed off sociologically as they were on earth is all I can gather.
Most people search for the trivial things along this river. Some search for power or friends or lost loves that are unobtainable. These matters are trivial and although I mean no harm in these words, they are truth to me though as I search for the more tangible thing that drives me. Death.
I have reached the near end; my travels are just about over. The lands here are vast and I have noted that the fog hangs heavily in the air until near noon. I have docked my little boat near this grail stone as I note also that these are thinning out and becoming less frequent. From here I will travel on foot the rest of the way with my supplies of rope and climbing gear. I have been prepared for this for some time, and thank the Gods of this river that I have lived this long to make it the rest of the way in. After I finish this writing, I will place the yellow pages in a wooden bamboo tube where I will seal off the ends. I will then toss it in the river and allow it to carry on down river to go to whoever finds it. My story is told and I never will get the opportunity to speak of it again as it should be.
I deserve this death, this one death that will be made permanent. I deserve such a thing, as I no longer feel the desire nor drive to live. If it could be done I would gladly choke the life from the Sentinel with my dying hands, but even I realize this is an impossible feat. His death or mine? The answer is as obvious as the river is long.