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Today's Story by James C. Clar

"Disappear, for good. Live the rest of your life in peace and anonymity. The story will spread. You know I’m right.”

Decision in the Dark

“To assume an error in the Scriptures is intolerable, but it is no less intolerable to assume that a random act intruded into the most precious event in the history of the world.”

Jorge Luis Borges


“After yesterday you must realize you’ll be arrested. Maybe tonight, even. You can do or say just about anything but you simply cannot interfere with their means of turning a profit.”

The two men sat with their backs against the gnarled trunk of an olive tree. They conferred quietly, almost in a whisper. Their companions, wrapped in cloaks and light blankets, dozed on the wiry grass that sprouted in scattered tufts throughout the ancient grove. Wan moonlight cast pale, silvery shadows. The entire scene had an ethereal look, as though it were taking place somewhere beyond ordinary space and time.

The man who had spoken first inclined his head toward his friend in anticipation of a reply.

“That’s the plan now, after all, isn’t it?  Who am I to question what I’ve been sent to do?”

“Yes. But are you sure you can trust the one who sent you? Even you must admit that the prospects are rather drear.”

“’Drear’ or not, what option do I have?  The second of the two men looked at his friend beseechingly.

“I’ve been thinking. There is a way. It’s a desperate gamble but it just might work. Let me take your place. When they come for you, we’ll allow them to think that I’m you. It’s dark. With our long hair and beards, they’ll never be able to tell us apart. Once they’re done with me, it won’t matter. You’ve seen what happens to those they arrest.”

Off in the distance an owl or some other night-hunting bird screeched as it pursued its prey. The sound of voices and the tramp of heavy steps were borne on the warm, scented breeze that had arisen from the east.

“I couldn’t ask you to do such a thing, to make such a sacrifice … even assuming it would work.”

“You’re not asking. I’m offering.” The first man grasped his mentor’s shoulder. He spoke now with renewed urgency, authority even.

“You message must endure, your legacy must live on, whatever the cost. This is the only way to authenticate all you’ve said and done. I’ve thought it through. Listen. A day or two after, well, after they’ve done with me what they will, show yourself to the others.” He indicated the sleeping forms around them. “Then disappear, for good. Live the rest of your life in peace and anonymity. The story will spread. You know I’m right.”

The second man remained deep in thought for a time. At some subliminal level he must have already acquiesced to going through with his friend’s reckless, even scandalous, plot.

“What about … you know?” He raised his eyes and asked.

“My cousin. You met him, remember? He’ll bribe the guards and dispose of my, I mean ‘your’, body. No one will ever find it.”

“Your name will be reviled, accursed forever.”

“Yes,” the first man agreed. “But not by you. That’s what matters.”

Their muted dialogue was interrupted by a commotion at the entrance to the grove.

“Quickly, now, the cohort is here. You must decide!”

Dark shapes drew nearer in the sepulchral light of the moon and became recognizable as armed soldiers. The second of the two men stood. He leaned down and, almost without thinking, kissed his former student on the forehead. He drew his cloak around his shoulders and bolted as the others – awoken by the noise and activity – fled to the four winds.

“Put up your weapons,” the remaining man spoke calmly but commandingly to those who now surrounded him. “I’m the one you’re seeking. You need look no further.”

With that, the soldiers bound Judas and led him away.


James C. Clar has published short fiction in places like The Taj Mahal Review, Golden Visions Magazine, Apollo’s Lyre, Word Catalyst Magazine, Everyday Fiction, Long Story, Short, Antipodean SF, Static Movement, Flashshot and Magazine of Crime & Suspense. His series featuring Honolulu Detectives Jake Higa and Ray Kanahele appears from time to time on Thrillers Killers ‘n’ Chillers.


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