Fiction Museum, July 2003
Starship Chiron was an ordinary interstellar
vehicle, traversing the
byways of the galactic cosmopolis. It had a Time Warp Factor,
Rather Warped Factor T, used by the commander at his discretion to set
right what appeared to be appalling in the cosmic timeline.
Stardate: March 12, 4193 BC. Starship Chiron had been ordered to the
village of Ur and environs. Starship Command has notified Commander
Ben Enterman that an instance of child abuse was on the verge of
occurring. Enterman's instructions were explicit: "You are, at all
effect the survival of the child."
It was midday when the starship emerged from Rather Warped Factor T
onto a scene that could best be described as barren. A bush here, one
there, an occasional camel, a few sheep and several tents -- one with a
quarter moon cut into the entrance flap.
Ben Enterman settled the starship behind a hillock, took his Recording
Pack V, and made his way stealthily to a position from which he could
observe the tents, camels, sheep and surrounding area without drawing
attention to himself. No one was about. People in this part of the
apparently slept around midday, or maybe they were busy begetting,
He had been keeping a watchful eye on the peaceful dreary scene when an
old shabbily dressed man emerged from one of the tents, not the one
the quarter moon cut in the entrance flap. He was talking softly to a
pleasant looking youth of perhaps twelve, one arm draped across the
shoulders. An old lady was grabbing at his arm.
She was screaming obscenities that would make a camel driver blush, and
trying to pull him back toward the tent. She soon gave up, and grabbed
boy instead. The old man, however, gave her a shove that sent her
and left her stunned, but not too stunned to continue a string of
"Schmuck, G-d isn't talking to you. Even with a capital G, G-d isn't
to you. How come only you hear voices out here? And now you're going
to sacrifice our son. Putz! I waited ninety years to have a child; you
one hundred years old when he was born. What do you think I am? You're
not coming near me again, you do this insanity. I'll even tell the
a crazy person. The camels too. Then what are you going to do come
siesta time? You hear me?"
"I hear G-d, or his angel. Sometimes I mix up the voices. And He said,
token of my obeisance, I have to sacrifice my son. It's that simple. I
believe. And I will do..." -- and here the old man looks up out of
eyes into the glaring sun -- "...what He commands."
The old man and the youth continued in the direction of a huge flat
The old lady struggled to her feet, muttering a string of obscenities
would make a sailor blush, if there had been any sailors in that
G-d-forsaken patch of earth. But then a camel is the "ship of the
perhaps a camel driver is a sailor of sorts.
By now, the youth was beginning to hang back. Ben Enterman watching
from the edge of the hillock definitely got the impression the kid was
becoming a bit reluctant to go along with, "Honor your father."
"You're not really going to sacrifice me, are you pop? I mean, really.
all some sort of gag. You know, this is now, today, modern times, not
"It will only hurt for a little while, " said the old man. "I will
ritual as painlessly as possible -- a quick plunge of the dagger into
heart, and an upward twist. It'll be over in a few seconds. You don't
have to keep your eyes open. Holler if you like. It would be braver,
however, to suffer the ordeal in silence -- for Him." Even at this
Enterman knew the old man's eyes had rolled skyward.
"Him, who?" Now the youth was definitely holding back, struggling, and
old man, surprisingly strong for his advanced years, had resorted to a
pressure in guiding his son toward the stone-cum-altar.
"Him who commands me to show I believe. Him who says you must be
sacrificed as the ultimate test of my belief in Him. Then everything
"For you, maybe. For me, definitely not." And now the youth's feet
stopped moving forward, and the old man was dragging him, ever more
slowly, to the rock. Meanwhile, the old lady had regained her feet and
rushed toward the two. Reaching them, she hurled herself at the old
"If you kill him, who's going to take care of me in my older age, when
The old man gave her another shove and she fell hard and collapsed, out
cold. Now the youth was actually becoming scared. You could tell by the
trail of moisture accompanying the drag marks being left by his feet in
sand. "Hey pop, you can't. Maybe the voices weren't real. Maybe it's
your mind. Maybe you ought to see a shrink."
The old man laughs -- a crazy laugh. "A shrink? Here, in Ur? And you
I've gone round the bend."
Ben Enterman, observing from round the bend and the top of the hillock,
had to act. His instructions from Starship Command were unambiguous.
"You are, at all cost, to effect the survival of the child."
The commander had been, with increasing apprehension, taping all of the
events on the W-Band of his Recording Pack V. The old man and his son
were some twenty yards from the altar, and the sun was beginning to
Enterman a headache. The wheels started turning in his facile brain. He
pretty much on his own. Having used the Rather Warped Factor T to
back in time, he was out of contact with Starship Command; it won't
exist for another six millennia or so.
Enterman considered the alternatives. He could kill the old man, thus
the child, but that seemed rather drastic. He could cold-cock the old
but that would probably be a temporary solution; the old man would just
wake up and resume the trip to the altar. Enterman could help the kid
escape, but the youth would probably perish if left on his own. The
had to be flawless - and Ben Enterman and the kid were running out of
The old man had dragged the youth onto the sacrificial stone. He was
holding his son down with a powerful knee on the kid's stomach. The
dagger was raised high, and the old man's rheumy eyes looked upward to
the high blue sky. "Must I do this, oh Lord?"
The old man seemed to hear something, something in affirmation, and the
dagger began its descent toward the heart of the struggling youth.
Ben Enterman acted. He grabbed the voice transporter from the Recorder
Pack V, and pressed a button marked "Project." He had remembered
something the old man had said. "Sometimes I mix up the voices." It was
It was Ben Enterman's voice that echoed out from the barren hills just
outside of Ur.
The old man's hand was still descending, but he heard the voice, and
stayed the blade inches from Isaac's chest.
"Here I am."
"Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, do not do anything to
For now I know that you are in awe of G-d - you have not withheld your
son, your only son, from me."
"Whew," perspired Isaac. "That was close."
"Hey Sarah," shouted Abraham, "make it three for supper."
©2002 Larry Centor