Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What Must I Do? - short story

What Must I Do

Mark came to, his face burning from the hot sand. Through a foggy, slowly awakening mind, he tried to figure out where he was. As his mind cleared, he could recall fooling around in Uncle Abe’s time travel laboratory. Uncle Abe had several experiments in time travel going on at once. He had left Mark in the lab while he went to get a new transformer to replace one he had burned out.

With Uncle Abe gone, Mark couldn’t contain his curiosity, even though he had been warned often not to fool with things in the lab. He could remember having gotten into a capsule looking thing and poking a couple of buttons. And now his face was burning in this hot sand. In the distance, he could see camels and off to the left he saw a couple of grazing, braying donkeys. This certainly was not familiar country.

Mark pulled himself up and began to look around. In the distance, he saw the silhouette of a city against the skyline. He set out toward it across the semi arid and sometimes stony ground. It was late in the afternoon when he started out and as night began to fall, he didn’t seem any closer. A chill begin to settle in as the sun went down and Mark realized he wasn’t prepared to spend a night outside in the dessert. He came to another stony piece of ground and spotted a couple of larger rocks. He wedged himself between them to absorb their heat as protection against the chill. Mark got a few hours sleep before the rocks cooled and the chill awakened him. He started walking again to keep warm. As the sun came up, he saw he was nearer the city.

By mid-morning, he could plainly see what looked like an ancient city: a city like ones he had seen in pictures of old Palestine. He could see a crowd gathered in a field near the city gate.

The people appeared to be dressed in robes with sandals on their feet. He looked down at his Nikes, his blue jeans, and his sweatshirt with “Atlanta Sacred Seminary” on it. As he approached, he knew he would be out of place, so he stood on the edge of the crowd trying to hear what the man was saying.

Much to Mark’s surprise, the man was speaking Aramaic, a language he had studied at A.S.S. A young man was asking him, “What does a guy have to do to be saved?”

“Well,” the man answered, “keep all the commandments of Moses.”

“I’ve done that since I was a little boy.”

“Good,” said the man. “Now sell all your stuff and give the money to the poor.”
Mark watched as the young questioner turned and walked away with a dejected look on his face. “He had a lot of stuff,” the man told the crowd.

Sensing an opportunity to “witness,” Mark ignored his strange appearance and began to work his way through the crowd. As he got closer, he could hear people referring to the man as “Rabbi.”

“Rabbi,” Mark called out, trying to get the man’s attention.

“Who called?”

“Over here,” Mark answered.

“Make way for the stranger,” the Rabbi commanded, observing Mark’s odd clothing; a pathway cleared for him.

“I heard what you told the young man who didn’t want to sell all his stuff,” Mark said as he approached the Rabbi. “The man asked how to be saved. Why didn’t you tell him the TRUTH?”

“What do you mean,” the Rabbi asked.

“You told him to keep the commandments of Moses and to give all his stuff to the poor,” Mark replied. “Sounds like you think he can get to heaven by being good and doing good deeds.”

Not exactly,” the Rabbi answered, “but tell me, what would you say?”

“He has to accept Christ as his personal savior.”

“Huh? How’s that?”

“You know. Like, he has to go to church, you know, a true church, like a Baptist church. When the preacher is done preachin’, he asks people who want to be saved to come forward and accept Christ as their personal savior.”

“What!!,” the Rabbi said. “First, what’s a church?”

“It’s a big building where people worship. The one where I go will seat about six thousand people. It has thickly carpeted floors, cushioned seats, beautiful classrooms, offices for the staff, and a gymnasium, a book store and lots of other stuff.”

“What do you do there?”

“Sing a few songs, take up a collection, and listen to the preacher.”

“What’s this collection about?”

“You know, we’ve got to pay the six preachers. The main man gets $150,000 a year and the others get $80,000 to $100,000. They all have expensive homes that we pay for and they drive fine cars. We want to be prud of the way they represent us.”

“Cars? What are cars?”

“They’re kind of like chariots only they don’t need horses and they go real fast.”

“Oh. What else do you do with the collection?”

“Well, we still owe a couple million on our building. That takes about $15,000 a month.”

“Where do you come from, stranger,” the Rabbi asked.

“The twenty-first Century,” Mark answered.

“It must be a strange place,” the Rabbi said. “What I told the rich young ruler was a sort of test. He failed the test because his stuff was more important to him than Jehovah.”

“Well then, what do you say I must do to be saved,” Mark asked condescendingly.

“You,” the Rabbi said thoughtfully, “must turn from your religion and search for the true Christ.”

With that, the Rabbi laid a hand on Mark’s head, uttered some strange words, and he found himself waking up from what seemed like a deep sleep. He looked around and saw that he was again in Uncle Abe’s laboratory.

Abe was coming through the door carrying a new transformer. “What are you doing on the floor,” he asked.

“I guess I’ve been taking a nap,” Mark answered. He went to the restroom to wash his face and freshen up. When he looked in the mirror, he was shocked to see a hand print singed on this forehead. He then took his Nikes off as it felt like his socks were bunched up. To his surprise, a small pile of sand poured from each one.

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