Asylum – A Caleb Prophet story
By: Walter G. Esselman

Caleb Prophet awoke with a start. He glanced around swiftly to reassure himself that he was not in a jail cell. He was still on a train, which was heading South in a leisurely fashion.

The former thief looked at the archangel seated next to him. Michael was perusing an old ‘Woman's Day' magazine with apparent interest.

"How long was I out?" asked Caleb, and his voice felt rough.

"Not long," said Michaell. "Thankfully…since you snore."

"I do?" asked Caleb.

Michael did not answer, but spoke on. "We're almost there."

"Great. Wherever there is," muttered Caleb, while he stretched out the kinks in his back. "You know, they have these really amazing devices called aero–planes. Those big metal birds in the sky."

"I'm familiar," said Michael, who had not looked up from his magazine.

"Well, if I'm supposed to be writing a new gospel for the Lord— this ‘Turning Point' gospel— it wouldn't hurt to travel in a little style, would it?"

Michael chuckled. "If you wanted to ride in style, you took the wrong job."

"Maybe," huffed Caleb. He eyed the magazine. "You know, you should get a phone. They're all the rage with kids these days. And that way you won't be stuck reading old magazines."

Micheal took an Iphone 4 from his jacket, but then he put it away without a word.

"Wait? You have a phone? With email and everything?" asked Caleb.

"…and everything," replied Michael drily.

"Hold on a second," said Caleb, and he pointed up to the heavens. "Does that mean that… does He have email?"

"I'm not going to give it to you," said Michael.

"Hey that's okay," said Caleb, who raised his hands in supplication. "I mean, it's not cool to hand out other people's email without their permission."

"Actually, it's more that he doesn't check it very often," said Michael. "Father is busy. But he does go onto some sites."

"Like what? Facebook?" asked Caleb.

"Hasn't logged in for years," said Michael with a shake of his head. "I think Instagram is his new favorite."

"What does God follow on…," began Caleb, when the train shook, and started to slow down.

"We're here," said Michael.

"Yippee," said Caleb without enthusiasm.

As soon as the train had stopped, they walked through the station and out onto the street. Caleb looked up and down. There were a lot of boarded up storefronts.

"So…," said Caleb petulantly. "Are we just supposed to…"

He froze.

Slowly, he turned South, and started to move down the sidewalk.

Michael gave a smug smile.

It was not long before they heard the staccato fragments of an argument. The difference of opinion was in front of a defunct big box store. A letter had fallen off the sign, so now it just read ‘alMart'.

A priest, with several parishioners behind him, was standing outside the locked doors and speaking to two guards from ‘Shepherd Security'.

"We just want to go in there for a few minutes," pleaded Father Simon. "You can inspect the blankets. There's nothing in them but that."

"We're not allowed to let anyone in," said the first guard, Rick.

"Can you check with your supervisor?" asked Father Simon.

The guard appeared more than happy to call on a higher authority.

Caleb and Michael stopped at the outer edge of the conversation.

But when the supervisor came out, he just repeated what the guards had been saying.

"We're not supposed to let anyone in," said the supervisor, Mark.

"But sir, please…," began Father Simon, and he went into his impassioned plea.

While they were talking, Caleb sauntered closer. The guards noticed him, but Caleb was working very hard at being non–threatening. Suddenly, he stopped and looked past the guards, almost as if he could see inside the building.

"There are children in there? Aren't there?" asked Caleb during a pause.

"Well, yes…," admitted the supervisor.

"But do they have everything they need?" asked Caleb.

"Look, who are you?" asked the supervisor.

"Someone worried about the kids, that's all," replied Caleb.

"Well, we have it all under control," said the supervisor dismissively, and he looked from Caleb and Michael to the priest and his people. "Now, if you can all…"

"Did you know that Jesus was once a refugee himself?" asked Caleb.

The supervisor faltered. "…what?"

Caleb looked a little shocked at his own words. He looked back at Michael, but the angel just nodded encouragingly. Turning back, Caleb turned to the supervisor.

"Joseph and Mary had to take the newborn Jesus, and run for their lives, or more precisely, the child's life," said Caleb.

"That's…I don't remember that," said the supervisor.

"It's in the Gospel of John," said Father Simon helpfully.

The supervisor turned back and distantly, he realized that Caleb's eyes were suddenly a vibrant purple as Prophet began to speak.

***

Joseph walked through Nazarath with a happy heart.

He saw Mary and his steps quickened.

"Joseph!" boomed a voice from above.

Swinging around, he looked up and saw a man with bright wings descending quickly towards the street.

"What?" asked Joseph in surprise.

The angel landed hard next to Joseph.

"You must go!" said the angel.

"What? What do you mean?" asked Joseph.

"King Harrod wants to murder every child under the age of two!" said the angel.

"That…that's…," sputtered Joseph in horror.

The angel pointed to the Southwest. "You need to take Mary and the child to Egypt."

"Egypt?" asked Joseph in surprise.

"Yes! And you must go this very moment!" said the angel. "Now!"

With a start, Joseph sat bolt upright, wide awake. A great sweat covered his forehead. He turned to look at Mary, who was still sleeping, and then at little Yeshua. The child just looked at him with bright, brown eyes.

***

"Wait a moment?" asked the supervisor Mark. "I thought we were talking about Jesus."

Father Simon cut in. "Actually, Yeshua would be what his parents called the one we know as Jesus."

"Oh…sorry," said Mark.

"No, no. It was a fair question," smiled Caleb gently.

***

"Mary! Mary!" said Joseph as gently as he could. Fear weighed his chest down like stones.

"What's wrong?" asked Mary, and she sat up quickly. "Yeshua?"

But the child burbled happily.

"He's fine, but…," started Joseph.

"What's wrong," asked Mary in concern.

"Maybe it was just a dream," muttered Joseph.

"Just…just start at the beginning," said Mary.

Joseph explained about the angel in his dream, and what they had said.

"I don't think that was just a dream," said Mary as she got up.

The sun was not even a glimmer as they slipped out of Bethlehem and headed towards Egypt.

The donkey was very put out at having been woken up. Joseph had to tug extra hard, just to keep him going. But they could not go very fast regardless.

Mary was still healing from the birth, but she did not complain. Instead, she cooed and sang to Yeshua in her arms. Even though Mary did not have a good voice, the lyrics were infused with a tender love.

An hour into their trek, Joseph stopped because he heard someone crying behind him. He swiveled around in alarm.

"Are…are you okay?" asked Joseph.

"I…," started Mary. "I just feel so bad for all those other mothers."

Joseph's heart fell. He had been so focused on getting them out, that he had not thought about the other families. People who had no idea what terror was coming.

"Why couldn't the angels have warned the rest?" asked Mary.

Joseph stepped up to her and wrapped his arms around her and Yeshua. Mary cried for a few minutes for all the young mothers, but then she stepped back from Joseph. He looked at her in concern.

Mary wiped her eyes on her shawl, and then straightened. "Okay, we need to keep going."

After a moment, Joseph nodded. He took the donkey's lead and tugged him along. Perturbed, the donkey tried to go as slowly as possible.

Nevertheless, they made good time to Egypt.

They soon stopped before the city of Pelusium where two guards were watching them curiously.

Joseph looked at Mary.

"I'm going to go and see if there's work here," he said.

"Be careful," she replied.

And Yeshua burbled something happily in babyspeak.

Steeling himself, Joseph stepped away and walked closer to the guards. He kept his hands open at his side.

"Hello. Do either of you speak Aramaic?" asked Joseph.

***

"I thought Jews spoke Hebrew?" asked the first guard, Rick.

"They do now. But Jesus spoke Aramaic," said the second guard, Frank. "Don't you remember Sunday school?"

"They mostly told me to keep quiet," muttered the first guard.

Frank looked back at Caleb with interest. "So, what happened?"

***

"I speak enough," replied the first town guard, Netjeraperef, outside Pelusium.

Joseph smiled. "Ah! My family and I need asylum. We have travelled all the way from Israel. "

"Are you on the run from the King's law, or that woman's father?" asked Netjeraperef with a chuckle.

"King Herrod wants to kill my son," said Joseph.

"What?" asked Netjeraperef in surprise, and his smile disappeared.

"What did he say?" asked the second guard, Pahemnetjer, in Coptic, but he was ignored.

Netjeraperef looked past Joseph to the little bundle that Mary was holding.

"Unless your son is the donkey, why would the king want to kill a baby?" asked Netjeraperef.

Joseph made an aggravated noise. "King Herrod believes that the King of the Jews was just born, so he ordered all the children under the age of two murdered."

"So, the King of the Jews wants to kill the King of the Jews?" asked Netjeraperef in disbelief.

"What's happening?" insisted the second guard, Pahemnetjer. Netjeraperef switched languages and explained quickly.

"That's horrible!" exclaimed Pahemnetjer.

Netjeraperef switched back to Aramic and spoke to Joseph.

"I'm glad you got out of Israel then," he said sincerely.

"I'm not looking for a hand–out either," said Joseph. "I'm a good carpenter. My tools are on the donkey. I can show you."

"That's okay," said Netjeraperef quickly. "We're not going to turn away a mother and her baby. Our mother…" And the first guard motioned to the second. "…would never forgive us."

Netjeraperef leaned around Joseph and motioned to Mary to bring the child and donkey.

Mary hesitated. But Joseph turned and waved her over.

"It's okay," said Joseph. "They might have work."

"And milk for you and the baby," added Netjeraperef loudly.

***

"But, Jesus came from Nazarath, not Egypt," said the supervisor, Mark.

"When he was older," said Caleb. "But little Yeshua and his family were allowed to stay in Egypt, until it was safe to return to Israel."

"But…those guards didn't even know them," said Rick in puzzlement.

Father Simon spoke gently. "They knew that a mother and her baby needed food, and a safe place to sleep. And we just want to make sure that these children have warm blankets."

"Which are clean," said Caleb pointedly.

The supervisor swiveled his head around in surprise.

Caleb's eyes were brown again, but boring into him.

"How did you…," started the supervisor, Mark.

"Allow just me and the Father to come in," said Caleb. "We will make sure that the children get clean blankets, and then we leave peacefully."

Father Simon look at Caleb, and then at his people.

"Um, I'm not sure about leaving my people out here," said Father Simon. "This isn't the best of neighborhoods."

"They will be safe," said Michael with quiet authority.

Father Simon looked like he was about to object, but something in him said to trust Michael.

"Okay," said the priest. "Thank you."

Caleb and Father Simon looked back at the supervisor expectantly.

Mark's shoulders slumped.

"Just…just don't tell anyone about this," he said quickly.

Caleb took the bulk of the blankets, since the priest was older.

"You okay there?" asked Father Simon in concern.

"No problem," said Caleb. The blankets were not that heavy, but still he did not want to stand around all day and chat. "But can we go?"

Defeated, Mark let Caleb and Father Simon into the former store.

***

Caleb wrapped a clean blanket around a little 3 year old girl from El Salvador.

"You will be okay," said Prophet kindly in Spanish. Then he turned to the other children there. "I wish I could bring you all with me, but I can not. But please know that the Lord has not forgotten about you."

And the children stood a little straighter. A few smiles even appeared.

"Okay," said Mark nervously. "I can't have you seen here."

Father Simon looked torn, but Caleb put a comforting hand on the priest's shoulder.

"It will be okay," said Caleb softly.

The priest's hands clenched into fists, but then he reached down to scoop up all the dirty blankets that the children had been using. Father Simon and Caleb left the room.

Mark locked the steel door and turned around.

Father Simon was immediately on him, ramming the filthy blankets into the supervisor's arms.

"I will return with more blankets and clothes for those children," said the priest in a hard voice.

"And what he sees," added Caleb. "The Lord sees."

Mark swallowed hard.

***

Caleb walked randomly through town, without direction.

At his right, Michael, paced him quietly.

"You're a badass angel," said Caleb suddenly. "Can't you go back in there and get those kids out?"

"And then what?" asked Micheal.

"I…I don't know," said Caleb. "Get them back to their families, or at least a good home for now."

"That's not why we're here," said Michael.

"But…shit, I just feel like such a failure," said Caleb.

"Why?" asked Michael.

"Because, while I was in there, I…it was weird, but all I could give them was a sense of peace. That's all," said Caleb.

"Sometimes a measure of peace is all that you can give," said Michael solemnly.

-

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