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Sunday, August 11, 2013

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By the Dead Sea

This is a fictional story I recently wrote. For historical context, this story is about a real group of Jewish Essenes who fled religious oppression in ancient Rome and ended up writing famous documents now known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

There are so many things I don’t know because I've just never figured them out. I haven't figured out whether we'll ever get saved, I haven't figured out what Rome was actually like, and I haven't figured out if I would have liked it or not.
I guess it doesn't matter that much. I mean, maybe Rome isn't even real. Maybe the whole world is just rocks and sky and sea and our town is the only town, because nothing lives in the rocks or the Dead Sea and nothing except a few birds lives in the sky. Maybe everybody else just invented Rome and the rest of the world. I asked my mother about Rome once.
"In Rome,” she told me, “A man named Caesar ruled over us, calling himself a god and killing any Jews who spoke out or tried to worship the way we must. It was terrible. Before you were born, we fled. I thank God we escaped and live here in safety.”
I didn't understand much of what she said when she said it, since I didn't care about it then, not like I do now. And I do care about it. My mother lived in Rome, and my father and my older brothers and sister and everyone else, but I never lived in Rome, and I think that if I'd actually been there then I would like it here more than I do. I've lived here forever—well, for all seven years that I've lived at all—and that's why I think about Rome so much.
After I think, I always stop thinking and go back to bathing or helping people cook or learning to read.
It comes back, though. I'll be doing something and it'll just pop into my head: What are we all doing here? I want to go other places and stand on that horizon and swim across that salty sea… and well, I've never told anyone, but every now and then I think, Maybe I want to look at Rome!
My father says that what we're doing here is waiting.
"Someday," he told me, "a savior will come to rescue us and we will never need to fear Rome again. I may have died by then, and you may have grown old, but eventually, my son, we will be delivered. Until then, we need only pray and be good. We need only wait."
I think I don't want to wait. What if no savior ever saves us? Maybe we'll just keep waiting, talking about how bad Rome was and how good salvation will be. My father will spend his life out here and I'll spend my life out here and all my kids and everyone will spend their lives waiting for something to come even though there's nothing in the whole world but us!
My father doesn't, but some of the other men in the town write on scrolls. They put them in big clay jars and store them up the hill in a cave so the things they write stay safe. Sometimes, I think that the scrolls in the jars in the cave are going to be all that's left of us.

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