Authors: Angella Graff
The Judas Kiss
By Angella Graff
Book two of The Judas Curse
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, and characters portrayed are used fictitiously, or are the product of the author’s imagination. Any similarities to actual persons living or deceased, business establishments, locales or events are purely coincidental.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be printed, scanned or distributed in print or electronic form without permission of the author or amazon.com.
I’d like to take a moment to thank all of my beta readers for their incredible work in keeping me on track and going in the right direction. If it weren’t for them, I don’t know what I would do.
I’d like to give thanks to all of the people who reviewed The Awakening, whether the feedback was positive or negative; it was those words that gave me motivation to put even more of my heart and soul into the second book, and I consider that a huge triumph.
For my editor and amazing husband, as usual, I couldn’t do this without you, and I love you with all of my heart. For Stephanie, for her final read-through, making sure every last error was found.
For my children, Christian, Isabella and Adia, who keep me motivated on this path. For my family, blood or not, your endless support will never be forgotten.
I’d also like to take a moment here to write a little author’s note to preface this book. Writing on the topic of religion is always tough, and it opens up a world of critique and criticism from people who take the topic very seriously.
This book is, in no way, meant to disrespect any belief system or faith, whether it be eastern, western, whether you’re atheist or agnostic, I respect all forms of religion. This book, while the topics are researched, is meant solely for the purpose of entertainment. While some of the topics are based on factual research, I am in no way attempting to present an idea that I consider factual.
I will note that my research into Isa, a teacher and philosopher believed by some to be Jesus of Nazareth escaped from Jerusalem into Kashmir, India, is the theory I’ve based my Yeshua of Galilee on. For any questions you are welcome to contact me at my website given in the author bio at the end of the book.
As before, and as I will always believe, it is you readers who make my job worth it. So thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your support and your love. I look forward to taking this journey with you, however long it lasts.
February 21, 1013
The sun was rising slowly over the green hills, the clouds in the distance marring the rich blue sky turning shades of purple and pink. In the modern world, finding a place unmarred by the population of people addicted to cell phones, internet, and cappuccinos was nearly impossible, but he’d done it. A small mountain overlooking the city; a place where only ones brave enough to shed their attachment to the modern world would venture from time to time.
It was quiet, though the voices still rose above the peaceful air, high over the busy city streets. People teemed below him like ants, even at such an early hour. They’d forgotten to enjoy the quiet moments; the soft beauty of the rising sun. They’d forgotten that they were part of the earth, part of the universe. It was every man for himself, and it hurt, an old ache growing stronger with age.
Closing his eyes, he could see the glow of red through his eyelids as the first rays of the morning sun shone full on his face. It felt good; it felt like home, when he’d been young and strong. When he didn’t hear the constant barrage of selfish prayers from the masses floating into his being, never giving him any rest, any peace. He wondered how anyone could really survive this.
With a deep breath of the fresh air, he opened his eyes and sat on the ground. So much had happened, so much anguish and loss, and no one seemed to understand the true purpose of it all.
Mark was down below, in the city, asleep. He knew if Mark woke, he would be in a panic, but Yehuda had been desperate to breathe in air untainted by modern vehicles, factories, and humans who treated everything as disposable. Mark wouldn’t leave him alone again, not until they found some way to break this curse and end it all.
He thought about Ben for a moment, and the absolute anguish the detective felt as he mourned the loss of his sister. He hadn’t met Ben, not in person. Yehuda had felt him while he was lying in the hospital, clinging to some form of consciousness, trapped between worlds. He’d felt Ben’s struggle, his desperation and his fear. Ben, ever the non-believer. It made him laugh if he really thought about it, but he liked the detective. He was afraid, yes, and ignorant, but weren’t they all? Ben embraced it, grew with it, and he thought one day he might like to know the man who, in the end, would save them all.
With another deep, cleansing breath, he lay back in the soft dirt. The dry leaves beneath him poked through his shirt, reminding him that he was here; he was on the planet, still alive, still lost, and still alone. He’d spent these two thousand years surrounded by people, but never really part of them.
Staring up at the tops of the trees, he reached out and felt them, the
ones. Lurking inside of the humans, but they belonged to something else. Gods, Mark had explained. Greek gods, from an ancient mythos that was ancient even when he was just an ordinary mortal boy. He’d never really bought into the idea of gods, or God, or any of it, but he could feel them. Sparks, like pulses of electricity, so different from the humans walking the earth.
Even in his unconscious state he could feel them all around him. The one who had stolen Abby’s body, the violent, angry, jealous one, desperate to be known. He could feel her absolute desire for recognition and power. She’d been forgotten long ago, the goddess of victory once, now just a crumbling statue in a far off land that no one remembered. Every part of her being longed for her former glory, and he felt sorry for her.
Even the others he hadn’t been near. Stella, the one Mark spoke so highly of, longed for something she could no longer have. Love. Love and being able to connect, despite not being part of the world. He understood her, all too well. And then there was the human doctor, Greg, and with him the one responsible for bringing his blood line into the world, Asclepius. Childlike, unable to let go of the material world, borrowing the body of his descendant as though it really meant something important. It was pathetic, and he wanted to weep for them. The lost gods, forgotten, but still here, and no one cared. Such was the way of this awful world, and it wounded him.
Sitting up, he moved into a clearing and gazed out over the city. A gentle fog was rolling in early, off the dark waters of the bay, bringing heavy moisture into the air. The rays of the sun wouldn’t last long here, so different from the place he’d grown up in, with the hot, fierce desert winds, and unforgiving light burning down from the sky.
He didn’t feel at home here, but in reality, he didn’t feel at home anywhere. Curling his bare feet into the soft dirt, so different from rough desert sand, he took in another breath, hoping to cleanse the dark feelings inside of him. He wanted to care. He wanted to accept the barrage of prayers and calls for help from the masses below, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it.
Sucking in a breath, he held it until his lungs burned and his head swam. He fell to his knees before it escaped from him with a violent hiss and he laughed a little. How ridiculous he must look, but he didn’t care anymore. Mark had woken him once again from his maddened sleep, from the blackness that stole him away, just as the humans stole his power, sending him into the nightmare where he watched his brother nailed to a cross, tortured, crying, beaten and alone.
He relived the moments when the power came flooding into him, a power he hadn’t asked for, hadn’t wanted, stealing him away from the release of death. Every waking moment was torture, was the pain he felt from every being walking the earth, and there was no way to stop it.
These gods, these creatures grasping at his power, desperate to create something bigger than them, tried so hard, and it was getting more and more difficult not to give in. If there was even a chance that they could end it, that they could take it completely from him and let him go, he was willing to give in, humanity be damned. He no longer wanted to feel them, to feel responsible for answering their prayers, for healing them and bringing those they loved back from the dead. He just wanted to go.
The wind picked up and he heard his name on it, whispering fierce and frantic.
As much as he wanted to ignore it, he could not. They wouldn’t let him go. Mark wouldn’t let him go, and until he found a way into the arms of death, all of the souls on earth would not let him go.
It hadn’t started raining until the cars pulled up alongside the grassy hill behind the hearse. The mortuary had provided the vehicle as part of the funeral package Ben had chosen. The car was old, the black paint chipped and rusted on the side. There was a sticker in the back window, Greenhaven Mortuary Services, and a phone number below. It was tacky and Ben hated it, but it was the best he could get at the last minute.
He hadn’t wanted the funeral to begin with. The team cleaning up the explosion site had retrieved so many unidentified body parts, yet by the end of the investigation, the only person not accounted for was Abigail Stanford.
“The idea that she was vaporized isn’t as crazy as it sounds,” he was told by someone as he sat in the dirt on the ground.
There were still a few people meandering around, gathering what they could for evidence
. Ben had been there all day searching for something, anything, to give him some closure over what had happened to Abby. The thing was, there was no one left to press charges against; Shawn Thompson’s charred body had been identified by his dental records and with the documents the investigators had found, there was no one else to blame.
Ben looked up at the nameless, faceless person talking to him and he gave a weak shrug. “A lot of things aren’t as crazy as they sound, apparently. It doesn’t change the fact that she was the only one who wasn’t recovered.” He sighed and looked across the field, thinking about the last time he’d seen her. Crazed, possessed by some insane force, ready to take the world down with her. It was not his Abby, and this was not the death she deserved.
Four months passed after that and nothing turned up. Ben holed himself up in his apartment when he wasn’t at work. He didn’t take calls from anyone, no matter who it was. Twice Mark tried to call, but Ben suspected it was only to say goodbye, as the very last message he left verified. He mentioned something about Europe, and the school thinking he was going in for corrective surgery for his eyes. Ben just didn’t care anymore.
Stella tried to call a few times, but he couldn’t bring himself to answer. He wasn’t sure what to think about that woman, the woman who seemed to know just a little too much, and yet know nothing at all. He sometimes thought about her, when he wasn’t thinking about Abby, and he wondered if things had gone different, what things might have been like between them.
But all he could really think about was his sister, and it was killing him slowly. He was drinking too much, not smoking enough, and when he was working, he threw himself into his cases with fierce abandon. When his boss tried to warn him that he was taking too much on, Ben shouted at him until he was suspended for a week for mental health reasons. Ben kept himself together after that, but just barely, and only because people gave him a wide berth from that moment on.