3:6: “Joseph’s Plaint” by Dru Pagliassotti

3:6: “Joseph’s Plaint” by Dru Pagliassotti

I look at the corpse and want to weep, but all I feel is desperate, desperate hope and fear.

They’re staring, wide white eyes startling against dark brown skin. I look around warily, but nobody raises a hand, picks up a rock, reaches for a club, goes to find a gun. Some weep. I am glad that tears are shed, because my own eyes remain obstinately dry.

“Inter him,” I say roughly, and turn, and leave to go back to my own small encampment out in the jungle. To wait.

The “Boys from Brazil” project was an abject failure, which sorely disappointed the white supremacists, occultists, neo-Nazis and other sinners who’d hoped that unleashing a set of Hitler clones would counter the Second Coming.

There was nothing wrong with the DNA extraction from Hitler’s shattered skull, and the necessary genome reconstruction had gone well. Artificial insemination was de rigeur, with a suitable number of female volunteers. A statistically acceptable number of the implanted fetuses came to term. Of course, the New Unified Christian Church was horrified at the number that didn’t, but science has never considered those failures abortions, simply discards. And the neo-Nazis didn’t consult the Church, anyway.

But the betas didn’t possess the je ne sais quoi of the alpha. A few succumbed to their brainwashing, but they became little more than thugs, lacking the alpha’s vibrant charisma. Others resisted the brainwashing and became nobodies, deliberately losing themselves in the crowd. The worst embarrassment to the movement was Adolf3, who became a neo-Apostle.

The Church, of course, was vocally pleased by the failures. It pointed out that the “Boys” experiment was simply the most visible of the many Incarnation projects that had disappointed their sponsors. Incarnation, the Church declared, was sacred.

The Jesuses simply nodded gravely and continued their work among the poor. Only one gave a statement to the press, and because he provided only another obscure parable, the reporter paraphrased it and buried it beneath the much more accessible statements from Church bureaucrats.

The Church hadn’t condoned the original Resurrection Project, either. The project was carried out clandestinely by a small group of deeply religious scientists. Of a certainty, several highly placed members of the old Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches must have been involved. How else could the scientists have gained access to the holy relics? Nails and shards of the True Cross yielded tiny bits of blood and flesh, enough to reconstruct the DNA. Many were found to be bloodless, probably fake, but all were replaced in their altars and jeweled reliquariums, regardless. Saints’ bone shards and blood yielded even more material. One by one the strands of DNA were reconstructed, genomes manipulated, eggs fertilized.

The scientists broke many laws, both civil and ethical, in their work. The saints’ eggs they transplanted into any woman who volunteered, but each one of the Jesus eggs was transplanted into an amenable virgin. Most of the latter were nuns, again indicating some complicity with the old churches, although each church denied any knowledge of the project.

The failure rate for the saints’ eggs was normal.

Every one of the Jesus eggs came to term.

The saint betas were ordinary children.

Every one of the Jesus betas grew into a wise, thoughtful, and peaceful child of remarkable spirituality, and the world was staggered.

I was a Joseph. A priest chosen to act as a father to a Jesus betas. We didn’t give ourselves the nickname. It came from the press, which dogged us every minute, prying into the lives of our wards. We protected the children’s privacy with all the power of the Church behind us. What the press couldn’t discover, it fabricated. We ignored the fuss and concentrated on providing our children with loving families.

When the children reached adolescence, they began to withdraw. One by one they left. Three vanished into the Internet, wiring themselves to the extent current technology would allow. Seventy-two chose to retreat to remote religious outposts in the poorest of countries. Fifteen surrounded themselves with books, losing themselves within the stacks of the most ancient and venerable libraries around the world. Ten chose internships with major corporations, losing themselves in laboratories, boardrooms, observatories.

We tried to follow them, but they seldom spoke to their families, would not speak to the press, suffered queries with polite but firm dismissals. We grilled their coworkers, we wired their working places, we spied on them wherever they went. The Jesuses were sponges, absorbing every bit of knowledge they could find. Or filters, perhaps. Because no matter what they absorbed, all they produced was good.

They were sinless, practicing exactly the virtues one would expect in the Second Coming.

The Second Coming times one hundred.

Of course there was a rush to clone other major religious leaders. Some religions forbade such tampering and put their relics under tight security. Some religions embraced the idea and their betas grew into prophets, healers, and philosophers, as well. Some religions simply chuckled. Nobody has successfully cloned the Dalai Lama, whose spirit passes from one child to another without the help of modern science.

The religious upheaval was enormous. Many religions declared the End Time. But things were getting better, not worse. For the first time in thousands of years, faith and spirituality became important. The concept of sin was revived. And this time, there was always a Jesus to step in, to call a halt to abuses, to clarify questions.

Years passed. He wrote, once in a while, but my heart ached with his absence. I left the priesthood when the Vatican refused me permission to pursue my son. Yes, my son, my Jesus, whom I raised from infancy to adolescence. I wrote a note to Sister Therese, who had raised our son with me, and scraped together what money I could, and left.

Popular fiction loves to poke fun at the religious, even now. We are called naive, backward. Popular fiction ignores our real work. The religious have always been a part of the streets. We have always worked with the worst elements of society. They have always been the ones who need us most.

I had no trouble buying a gun, obtaining false papers. I knew who to ask, and my friends were delighted to do me the favor, especially when I told them why. It is among the roughest elements of society that the concept of family is the strongest.

Six months passed before I found him here, in ths backward country, studying the native traditions and spreading a gospel of peace and love. I pleaded with him to return. He refused. I asked if I could stay here, with him, to help. And he refused that, too.

I loved him so much that when I looked at him and saw a stranger, I had to kill him.

I had to know.

Dear God, three days seems so long. I will spend it on my knees, praying. I have to know.

My son. I love you. I have to know.

Who is your father?

—THE END—



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