“Madman” Chapter 1
Saturday is Story Day
Madman is a serialized Christian novel with 28 chapters. One chapter will be posted each Saturday. The first three chapters are free to read and form a short story on their own. To access a new chapter each week, please join Medium using my membership referral link. A portion of your monthly fee will be credited to me.
Madman is based on the life of an historical figure. This fictionalized account offers insights into personal rebirth in Christ.
What is madness in a world of lies? Where does society draw the line between those allowed to roam freely and those confined for their own safety or for the safety of the community. Why does one have to be criminally insane to be brought up on charges of harming others. Don’t extremists harm others. Doesn’t the tyrannical leader harm others. Isn’t one who seeks too much intoxication, too much sexual gratification, too many material possessions or the power to control it all, isn’t this person insane?
Yet savants and visionaries are also declared to be mad. Their contemporaries often find their ideas so dangerous that the very ones who lead society forward are executed for their efforts. What about the mundane individual who clings to the center, to the basic bland actions that barely indicate life. What is a life without madness. Is it even worth living?
Ask anyone. Most claim to seek the truth. However, the one willing to lay down his own life for ultimate answers is rare. Egotistical extremists seek to deny free choice and even the life of those who disagree with them. The one who sets aside his own life to be used as a testing ground may be revered or condemned but will definitely be judged.
Consider a martyr, a saint, an apostle, or a committed disciple and madness is revealed. For a few, the divine madness is extolled as an example. For most, it is condemned as an extremism to be avoided. If one wants ultimate answers, the absolute won’t be found in the gray areas of safety and comfort. The Truth is only found in the extreme, where black is opposite of white and the full spectrum of colors within the rainbow have been compressed to smallest of centers, a line between good and evil.
With a raw openness to the concept that ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ examine the life of a mystic. Timeless yet lived at a specific time. Exotic yet intimately familiar. By choice and by compulsion, the madness examined in this tale is found in a young man who asked the hard questions over a lifetime. While still a teen, he was bound by the call of Christ Jesus. Once his mind was convinced, he determined that he would imprison his body in a tomb. His Egyptian Coptic Christian name has long been forgotten, but his memory is promoted under the name of Anthony. His experience is authentic and not for the immature or faint of heart.
His lack of interest in a worldly life attracted the curiosity of others. Christians around the Roman Empire who practiced their forbidden religion under the threat of death told stories about the young man who lived in a tomb. Fantastic tales fueled a growing interest and people began to travel to see for themselves. They made a pilgrimage to see Anthony. They hoped that he would heal their illnesses and their handicaps. Desperate sojourners demanded personal miracles.
In the deepest sarcophagus room of the stone tomb, Anthony sat crossed-legged in the dark. His fingers found a piece of flint. Then he struck a spark to light the wick of an oil lamp. The lone flame warmed the pale brown color of Anthony’s skin. The dark brown skin of his youth had faded and his muscles atrophied during the years he had spent living in the dark. Like an apparition, he had become a shadow of his former self.
In his solitary isolation at the intersection of death and the afterlife, the sensitivity of his senses had increased, especially his hearing. The thick bedrock above him groaned when the heat of the sun made the surface expand in the day and then it would crackle and pop as it contracted in the cool night. If there was a heavy rain outside, the stone made pinging and snapping sounds. Solid earth was as alive as the wind moving through air or the water flowing down the River Nile. Creation was formed by the Word and the Word was alive with sound. Anthony was connected to the earth more than to the passing dramas of the people living on its surface. Whenever his thoughts dropped from the perception of God, it considered mundane questions. Anthony contemplated.
“What is death? The breath stops. The mind leaves. The body begins to rot. My ancestors were experts at preserving the body. They stopped the decay and built elaborate tombs to take the dead body from this life into the next. Until the resurrection.”
“What happens when thieves break into the tomb. When the possessions are stolen from the dead. What happens if the well-preserved body is burnt or destroyed. What happens to those who cannot pay for the embalming rituals. Like conception, death is surrounded by mystery.”
“The boar knows how to mount a gilt and by some miracle new lives are conceived. After a short time has passed the gilt gives birth to her first piglets. The same for a man. With no previous experience, he knows how to take a woman. He doesn’t need to be trained. Yet neither the man nor the woman knows how the new life, their child, takes hold. It’s a miracle. It’s God’s miracle.”
“When the boar mounts a stone, no piglets are created. If a man rubs against his bed sheets, no new life is created. The miracle of life is mysterious. And the mystery of the second birth, the resurrection after death is unknown. None of the well-preserved bodies in the tombs have risen. Not my parents. Not my ancestors.”
“We know that Christ Jesus is risen. Many have seen his form. Yet none witnessed the miracle. Like the moment of conception, no human eye has seen the process of resurrection. There have been no witnesses. I went to the tomb, the gateway from death to the second birth to witness the miracle of resurrection.”
As the years passed, countless stories about the Egyptian follower of Christ who took up residence at the gateway to the afterlife spread around the Mediterranean Sea. Anthony was mocked by Romans and Jews alike. Non-believers argued that any belief that led a wealthy man to make such a rash choice had to be evil. The traditional gods of the Romans, the Greeks, and even the Jewish God made more sense than Christianity to Roman intellectuals and bureaucrats who were proud of their educated minds.
For Christians Anthony tapped into a question that was haunting them all. Christians wondered why no one had risen from the dead in the eight or nine generations that had passed since Jesus walked the shores of Galilee. Those who followed the teachings of Jesus were curious to know when he would return and when they would become citizens of his kingdom on earth. Anthony’s extreme action of moving into the tomb made sense to many. Like him, they wanted proof of physical resurrection and what better place to look than in the place where life meets death.
Due to persecutions, Christians practiced their religion in homes or in secret places in the wilderness. Official oppression fueled nearly three centuries of explosive growth. However, disconnected communities that were no longer counseled and chastised by direct Apostles cultivated divergent belief systems. Some communities emphasized the death and resurrection of Jesus, while others focused on his parables and his commandments to practice unconditional love. Each of the communities believed that they were “right” in their beliefs and practices. When remarkable stories of instant healing, of horrific demons, and perhaps even the living presence of Jesus was spread by those who visited Anthony’s tomb in Egypt, Christians listened.
Once a week Anthony met his friend Macarius at the entrance to the tomb to get fresh supplies. Travelers camped in the valley surrounding Anthony’s tomb and waited to get a glimpse of his wiry form. A common conversation between one who visited Anthony at the tomb and a curious Christian went like this:
“Did you see Beelzebub?” asked a curious listener.
“Not the evil one, but I heard his demons. You see Anthony battles evil inside the tomb and when the stone is opened, the sounds of battle blast out like thunder.”
Non-believers shook their heads and walked away at this testimony of a human battling spirits. Even Christians who believed had their doubts that it could really be true. Over the years a growing number of Christians made the trip to Egypt to see this Abba Anthony for themselves.
On this day more than a decade into his residence in the tomb, Anthony lit his oil lamp as he had done thousands of days before. He ignored the African Boy who stood still in the shadow of a distant corner. The Boy’s naked form was shiny obsidian black. Today the Boy’s eyes had no whites, no iris, no pupil, just a swirl of the red, yellow and orange flames. Anthony wondered what that change might indicate.
Anthony stretched and exercised briefly in the small space. He brushed off the top of his mother’s sarcophagus with a palm frond. Then he did the same to his father’s sarcophagus. Once satisfied that the graves of his parents were clean and undisturbed, he chose a few supplies from a satchel. Carefully, he picked out nuts, a handful of dates, a cube of halva, and a bladder filled with water. With the supplies in one hand, he picked up the oil lamp with the other and headed into the corridor that sloped up towards the antechamber.
As he entered the corridor, he stopped and looked back at the African Boy.
“What are you doing today? And why are you naked? And what happened to your eyes?” Anthony smiled as he spoke. The sight of the Boy always appealed to Anthony’s compassion. During his years in the tomb, Anthony accepted the African Boy’s presence.
“It’s a great day. Today you will be mine. You stole your invitation to heaven. You have not been chosen.” The African Boy gloated.
“God is great.” Anthony shrugged and headed up the corridor. As he walked away, Anthony offered an indirect invitation, “I’ll be in the antechamber, near the entrance.”
“Today you will join me. Your Christ Jesus has not chosen you. You are mine.”
“Don’t you worry about my relationship with Jesus,” Anthony countered.
The Boy’s words, “today you will be mine” took Anthony by surprise. The African Boy usually offered personal criticism of Anthony or a base temptation. Over the past few years, the Boy had argued with Anthony for hours. In most of the intellectual arguments, the Boy claimed that Anthony was a sinner and that any salvation was beyond his reach. Humans were born for the sole purpose to serve evil. Humans were damned by wrong choices, through mistakes, and through continual failures.
“Every man is a sinner, so every man serves me,” the African Boy would argue.
“A sinner may indeed serve you, but every man is a son of God. The man who has been redeemed belongs to Christ Jesus,” was a common retort that Anthony would offer. “But I agree that all sin belongs to you.”
Today, the Boy’s tone was different. He spoke with the empty flatness of finality. Walking up the corridor from the deepest sanctum towards the entrance of the tomb, Anthony wondered if what the Boy said could be true. The Boy was the Liar spoken of in the Torah. He appeared to Anthony many times both in spirit and in body throughout the past decade. Lately, the African Boy made his presence known every day. But Jesus had not appeared to him in a flesh and blood form. Only once, Anthony heard the voice of Christ, but he never met him in his resurrected person. When a body is resurrected, it remains always resurrected, Anthony believed. He longed to see the Messiah face to face.
“I’ve arranged for someone to join you.” The Boy now stood in front of Anthony blocking his entrance to the antechamber.
Continue with Chapter 2: https://edsharrow.medium.com/madman-chapter-2-49fa7e675f3
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