Monday, March 23, 2009

"Paul in Arabia: A Novel" by Tucker Cordani, Part One

Chapter One: A Street Called Straight

Saul was impatient. He could see the walls of the city, the overarching of the Jupiter temple, cutting into the desert skyline. He wanted to reach the synagogue soon so they could pray. It was about noon.

His zeal as Saul the persecutor increased with success. The more he killed, the more he wanted to kill, felt entitled to kill. Threatening and slaughter had become the very breath he breathed, like a warhorse that sniffs the smell of battle. He breathed on the other disciples the murder that he already had breathed in from the deaths of the others. He exhaled what he inhaled. Jacob had said: “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; mornings he devours the pray, and at evening he distributes the spoils.” The greatest son of Benjamin was fulfilling this prophecy.

The taste of blood in the death of Stephen was pleasing to Saul, and now he reveled in the slaughter of the saints, both men and women. He was exceedingly mad against them.

He wanted to kill more Christians, to stamp out this sect. Filled with heresy, it defiled the sanctity of the Temple. In his rage Saul prayed to the Lord to take vengeance upon the malefactors, the men and women who followed the Way.

The leather pouch slung around his shoulder bore the letter written by Caiaphas authorizing Saul to take these interlocutors back to Jerusalem in chains.

Saul remembered the sight of the crucifixion, the criminals hung high on cross set against the sternness of the sky. There they stood along the roadsides between Jerusalem and Damascus, dozens of corpses fixed upon the crucifixes, the sight of Roman-style justice deserved for offenses committed against the Empire.

Suddenly Saul was thrown to the ground. A great light flashed in the sky and he heard a voice calling his name.

“Saul! Saul!”

“Here I am, Lord,” Saul said.

“Why are you persecuting me?”

The voice spoke to him as a man reprimands his son. He spoke to Saul in Hebrew, called him by his Hebrew name.

Saul held his hand before his face, to shield his eyes from the sun. Too late. The light continued to ring inside his head and he knew he could do nothing.

“Who are you, Lord?”

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

The Lord looked upon Saul from his seat in the sky, loving him, pitying him, but wanting him to understand his message and to know he was the truth by the very sound of his name.

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