Fiction, Monologues, Plays & More
The following is a excerpt from Sean M. Kozma’s work-in-progress novel Lazarus. Feedback is welcomed!
My name is Lazarus and I was born in a small hillside village in Judea called Bethany, where I lived with my sisters until I grew ill and died while still a young man. Or so I am given to understand, for I no longer have any memories of that life, if indeed I ever did. Two millennia worth of memories since that day now strain at my skull, threatening to burst it apart. I can recall every experience with perfect clarity, but whatever I knew, whoever I was in that first life, died with me that day.
My first memory is of being dead. Of Nothing. Of blackness, eternal and unchanging. No pain, or fear, or discomfort, just the endless dark of the void. Into that darkness came a voice. His voice, clarion and strong. Like a light, pure and blinding, piercing the nothing and calling me back. Calling me out into the light. Into day. Into the world again.
“Lazarus, come forth.”
A sensation like rising filled my being. Being filled my being. Lungs expanding. Breath inhaling. Linen and limestone touching electrified skin. Light stabbing through burial shroud and eyelids. Muscles stiff and sore, but alive, screaming in contraction as I rise, sitting, spilling, tumbling from my ossuary niche, pulling the linens from my face.
I have often wondered if the experience was not unlike being born.
My legs were unsteady under me as I stumbled naked from the cave to find Him standing before me, the traveling rabbi who could heal the sick, with my sisters standing alongside him. He had come to Bethany many times before, and my sisters and I had often listened to his sermons. He had eaten at our table and slept at our home. He had a light about Him that drew people to Him, and when He spoke His voice sounded like love, and peace, and all the good things of the world. As I lay sick and dying, my sisters had sent word to Him begging Him to come and heal me, but He came too late.
As I stood before Him, newborn from the grave, I saw Him anew. His cheeks were streaked with fresh tears, but no grief or sadness was in His face. Only joy, and love. I recognized him as the source of all radiance. His light had pierced the darkness. His voice had called me back.
I fell to my knees, laughing and weeping, as my sisters clutched me in their arms, laughing and weeping with me. The small crowd that had gathered upon His arrival pressed around us to touch His garment and beg for His blessing. I could barely stand to look at His face, but neither could I look away. He too laughed and smiled as He lifted me back to my feet.
“Come, Lazarus,” He said. “We have much to do.”
It is difficult to think back on that time, even though the memories are as fresh and vivid as if they had happened this morning. It is difficult to remember the joy and the ecstasy of traveling with Him and His followers to Jerusalem. I thought those feelings would last forever. I thought we were going to Jerusalem to overthrow the Romans and start His kingdom, a new era of Heaven on Earth. I had no way of knowing He would be dead within a matter of days. He tried to tell us, but we didn’t listen.
I never imagined I would outlive Him. I never imagined I would outlive the empire that crucified Him. I never imagined I would outlive the empire after that, or the one after that, or many more besides and all the dark times in between. I never imagined that any one person could live so long and see so much, let alone that it would be me.
Although I do not look it, I am old now. Far older than I can describe. I do not know why death does not come for me, but is doesn’t. I have been cold, sick, hungry and thirsty. Hungrier and thirstier than you can conceive. I have been beaten, whipped, stabbed and shot. I have been adrift at sea, and I once fell from an airplane in flight. Still death eludes me.
I think I might welcome death like an old friend after all this time, yet after two millennia of witnessing war, cruelty, torture, and horror unimaginable, I lack the courage to attempt the deed myself.
There are others I have met far older than I. Angels and demons here and there, but it is difficult to relate to them. They lack a sense of personal mortality, a sense of humanity, that would make their age meaningful. Older humans exist as well, but they are few and reclusive. As far as I know, the two oldest still roam the earth. Perhaps, like me, the act of their creation was so potent that it cannot be undone by most normal means.
When last I saw Adam he was a hermit, living deep in a primordial forest as far from civilization as he could get; barely more than an animal. As for Lilith…
I saw Lilith on the street the other day. Not a sign of her in over four hundred years and there she was, sitting outside a cafe, drinking a latte and reading a newspaper someone else had left behind. For I moment, I thought I was mistaken. Her hair was different, her clothes were different, and I could not see her eyes behind her sunglasses. She gave no indication that she saw me as I waited for a bus across the street, but it had to be her. I spent centuries waking up next to that face, caressing that face, kissing that face. It had to be her.
As if for emphasis, a child in a stroller began wailing inconsolably as she and her mother wheeled past the table where Lilith sat. A wicked smile curled at the corners of her mouth. She got up and walked away, leaving the newspaper on the table behind her. I lost sight of her when she rounded a corner.
I waited for traffic to clear and ran across the street to where she’d sat. The paper was open and folded to a particular article. The headline read, “World’s Oldest Woman Turns 124.” I have no doubt she knew I was there and had placed herself in my line of sight, and left the article behind for me to find, on purpose. To what end I do not know, and that troubles me.
The world teeters on a brink. The signs are hard to see, but they are there. There have always been wars and rumors of wars. There have always been madman ranting that the ends is at hand. The world remains. Yet this time there is something different, something unseen. Forces are gathering and battle lines are being drawn, and dark dreams disturb my sleep.
I has been almost eight centuries since I slept well, or through the night. I can get no more than a few fitful hours a night, and sometimes not even that. Dreams are the seams of my mind that my memories strain against. Too many memories that refuse to be forgotten. Too many horrors witnessed. Too many things that cannot be undone. Time takes its toll on us all.
Of late when I sleep I dream more and more of those first days, and what we saw and went through. I dream of those first memories from this life. I dream of the darkness of that cave and the nothing of the void. That voice, His voice, haunts the moment between sleep and waking, calling to me in the dark and throbbing in my ears.
“Lazarus, come forth.”
“Lazarus, come forth.”
“Lazarus, come forth.”
Sean M. Kozma is a writer, sound designer, and audio technician living in Los Angeles, and working in professional theatre. He also works behind the camera on independent films as production manager, assistant director, and line producer. Originally hailing from southeast Michigan, he has worked as a dishwasher, a fry cook, a delivery driver, a taxicab driver, a dispatcher, an engraver, and an office drone. He is currently writing a novel, among other projects.