Note: Here’s another unfinished piece. I liked the idea of writing essentially a ‘fanfiction’ version of Jesus Christ Superstar, which is itself a sort of fanfic of the Bible. But I got bored with it pretty quickly. Here’s what I had when I stopped writing it.
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“We can write the gospels so they’ll all talk about us when we’ve died.”
— Jesus Christ Superstar
Forgive me for my scant correspondence of late; I have scarcely a moment to collect my thoughts these days. However much the border agents try to hush the gossip here, I am sure you have heard of your son’s rising infamy in our country; I must be careful what I write to you, but I feel comforted knowing you are well-informed — there is a chance we will have to flee, and I hope your offer for shelter still stands. But for now, destroy my letters when you read them, and we will remain safe.
Your son is a wanted man. Three years have passed and his army is the largest it has ever been, some 3,300 people across the land — as far as our informants tell us. The government finally sees us now. With Jesus at the helm we are slowly gaining stature; we are more powerful than ever. It is only a matter of time before we can change the corrupt course of history our current government is headed down and install a righteous monarchy in its place.
Still, we have been wary of late, with the magistrate’s new edict against large public gatherings. They, too, recognize our power, and are scared of what we might do. Jesus of course denies all, but the palace senses an uprising. As do we, his closest friends. My brother, Peter, and I were among his closest friends in adolescence, as was Judas — you remember Judas? — and we are his closest confidants. As such, we are lucky to know his intentions for his planned civil war, but it at times give me pause to think of our fates. I have followed your son for years, helping to weaponize and mobilize our army, but only now am I beginning to see the gravity of our situation. Never has the magistrate struck down so harshly before — people are saying horrid things about this newly elected man.
We have elected to stay low for now, but I know Jesus is scheming. He never holds group dinners among our friends these days, instead choosing to spend his time alone in his bedroom. Our complex is small, and we notice his absence greatly. Twice this week the prostitute woman has visited; we know not of what they speak, and we all fear her betrayal of our plans.
Until next time, go in peace.
The magistrate still suspects nothing unusual, but I cannot be discreet enough. All our electronic communications are being watched, and I am sure mail coming and going from our house are monitored. To send this letter I walked four miles to a post office with a different code, in fear the whole time someone would know me. Nothing yet, but I fear sending it into the wrong hands.
Every day new men ready to join the militia show up to our house, and we must shoo them away or tell them to return after dark. They are too ignorant to understand the dangers they are in at this time in our history. For three years we were able to accept new recruits and train them well enough without causing suspicion, but with the new magistrate — only elected three months ago — we know we cannot cross the line. He is a military man, like us, trained to quell rebellion. He has cracked down on all dissidents, worse than it was when you were still here. You are lucky to have left the country when you did: no citizens are allowed to leave, and if we are caught trying, we are to be imprisoned. The official dispatches the magistrate sends out are deceiving; you may have seen them even across the border. They are sent to public officials around the world in the hopes of disguising our troubles: No war, no famine, no economic insecurity; everything is fine with the Great Magistrate here to save us.
Was it like this in the past? Was it as sheltered and cold? Was everyone fearful for their lives and their children’s futures? I remember that day in the city, when Jesus and Peter and I were 12. You brought him to see the vibrant metropolitan life there, all the merchants selling their goods and the magicians showing their tricks. We were all enthralled. But I remember Jesus especially being interested in the monastery just outside of the city; the monks there served as his teachers for many years.
You fell out of touch with him shortly after that, and left him to his mother’s graces. Many of us fell out of touch, but my brother and I always remained close to him, for which I am grateful. His presence in my life has been truly revolutionary. Perhaps you did not suspect that visit to influence so severely, as none of us did, but today his mission is bringing justice to those who have been wronged by the regime. I, like so many others, have felt compelled to stick with him over the years, watching his army grow and the magistrate cower in terror.
Every now and then I feel I am deluding myself, and none of this has been worth it. Judas agrees. He feels Jesus has lost his way from the social activism he started with. He says it is nothing but a power struggle now. I am no longer sure what to think.
Until next time,
I do not question your motives in estranging yourself from your son, as I trust you as my own father, but I have begun to understand the rift that grew between you. I tried to bring up Jesus’s childhood trip to the city a few days ago, and he curtly cut me off. I am not sure if it was the memory of his old mission or the memory of you that offended him. He does not discuss the early founding days of our army much, nor his life before that. Perhaps he is beginning to understand how we all see him now.
The woman Mary is here every day. She brings luxurious oils and lotions to show Jesus — she says they were not purchased, but stolen — while the rest of our people dwell in squalor outside. Yesterday Judas slapped a bottle of oil out of her hand, demanding she return it. Everyone went deathly silent except for Jesus, who stood and roared at him to leave. Judas called him “inconsistent,” to be preaching about virtue while letting a woman of her nature cavort with him.
“How dare you?” Jesus said to him. Peter hastily stood behind him, backing him up in every sense of the word. “Who are you to criticize her? Who are you to despise her?”
Everyone only stared at Judas. “These ointments could have been saved for the poor — people less fortunate than you!”
I suspect Jesus knows his support is slowly crumbling. He often speaks implicitly about the future: “Think while you still have me; move while you still see me,” and the like. As far as he knows, he still holds all his followers’ support, but lately I have been agreeing with Judas more often than anyone. No one dares say this aloud, but Judas has built a small following of his own within the overall militia.
Between Judas and I, it is fair to say we understand what has happened to Jesus. Three years is a long time to build an army, and Jesus has risen to the challenge of uniting a faction against the government. But for all his elegant rhetoric and massive rallies, he himself has become the face of dissent, the man who will save the masses from their fate; he has transcended the movement itself. His speeches once were delivered from the heart, but his growing followers began to twist his words, and now have propped him up into being this perfect, infallible figure.
Joseph, your famous son should have stayed a great unknown. He could have been like you, repairing cars during the day and never venturing into the city, never becoming the kingly figurehead all see him as. The militia wants him to lead them to the palace and take the magistrate’s place, and they think he will grant them their place in history.
Judas says they will crush us if we go too far. We are approaching the breaking point; who among us cannot sense it?
Destroy this letter. If the government finds it, our downfall will be much quicker than anyone anticipated. And do not use my name. We cannot be discovered.
The fears I wrote to you yesterday about are completely confirmed. Jesus has been planning a major military coup against the government, and he wants to launch it very soon, he told us. We all knew this day would come, what with three years of pointed preparation, but it was still a shock to hear. Peter was very excited; Jesus immediately recruited him to be, as always, his right-hand man. The entire house went up in cheers when he said it.
For now the plan is to storm the palace and forcibly remove the magistrate, at which time I suppose Jesus will install himself. A terrible idea. I support the coup fundamentally, restoring power to those who will not abuse it, but I do not think Jesus sees what he is up against. Our 50,000 supporters, even if every single one shows up, cannot overcome the vast army the government has at its disposal. Jesus said there are no concerns, that he has thought of this and will let us know our plans later, but there was a hesitant glint in his eye that only Judas and I noticed.
No input from Judas, however. Neither of them have mentioned yesterday’s outburst, but Judas was first to leave after the meeting is over. I will have to talk with him — this standoffishness can be nothing good.
No other plans have been announced for now. The twelve of us in leadership positions in the militia will be first to know the date of the attack, but it seems Peter has already been alerted to the time and tactics. Poor Peter. He is like a puppy, hopeful and naive about his master.