bad dreams

Ramiel was working franticly. The page was filled with sketches: a woman, standing by a well, talking easily with her neighbours. A little girl, skipping after a butterfly; her mother hanging the bedding and whispering her joy. A man, carrying a mat. Healing after healing. Meals shared. Laughter. No pattern to the drawings, no coherence: just whatever came first to mind.

Raphael was surprised. This was not how Ramiel usually worked.

‘You called for me?’

That too was surprising. They often worked together, Ramiel and Raphael — but it usually just happened. They each knew their task. There was no need to plan.

‘You need to see this.’ Ramiel said, as he looked up from his drawing.

And sure enough, as soon as his pen stopped, the images began to change. Not healing, but grudges. Not shared meals and laughter, but bickering and anger. Judas shouted in his sleep, and Ramiel’s pen flailed.

Raphael didn’t like what he was seeing. Ramiel was afraid.

‘Keep drawing. Let me see the earlier dreams.’

Ramiel went back to work, as Raphael turned through the notebooks.

The first years were filled with wonder: Judas and Jesus walking by the lake side, keeping passover, studying scripture late into the night. For years Judas had waited for this —  friendship. Purpose.

Then, there were more confusing dreams. Judas’ first meeting with Peter. Mary Magdalene. The people whom Jesus loved, whom Judas was trying to love too, but who stirred his jealousy. Ramiel had worked hard then, weaving garlands of friendship around people who eyed each other warily. For a time, it had worked.

But then there was a dark dream: Judas smashing rocks, and screaming, as Peter jangled a new set of keys. Anger. Quarrelling. ‘Surely, Lord: not him?’

The recent notebooks were confusing. There was a lovely dream of a hillside — people stretched out as far as the eyes could see. Bread for all, and fish salting the air. The next night, it began again, but this time it was gold, not bread, that was in infinite supply as Judas reached into their store chests.

Raphael was confused. ‘Gold?’

Ramiel looked over. ‘You see?  That’s how it began.’

As Raphael flicked the pages, he saw the dreams shimmer and change. At first the gold wove with dreams of justice.  Judas had been given the purse — more important than the keys, surely? He would use it for the healing of the nations.

Raphael saw page after page of conversation with Jesus, Judas setting out his plans. Here and there the paper was rubbed raw where Ramiel had tried to erase certain paths, re-direct Judas’ dreaming.

Then, there was the night of Jesus’ anointing. Judas saw the woman with her jar of nard, and imagined welcoming her. At last: a gift that would release their potential.  He knew just how to use it; just what they would do. Raphael saw the gentleness with which Ramiel drew the woman, as she bent down and broke the jar so that the fragrance filled the room.

And then he saw the violence of Judas’ response. The dreams that Ramiel couldn’t stop, of Judas throwing the woman out, feeling satisfied as she ripped her clothes, and felt blood mix with dust.

Raphael turned back to tonight’s drawings.

Judas was dreaming of revolution. He and Jesus were riding into Jerusalem with all the world following him, as the people of Jerusalem lay down their cloaks and branches to welcome the king.  Ramiel quickly rubbed out the war-horse, and set Jesus on a donkey. He scaled down the crowd.

And then, Ramiel saw him: the one he had been dreading. The Roman soldier. The dream shifted and Judas’ breath quickened. As Ramiel paused, Judas’ own visions filled the page. Judas walked towards the soldier unafraid, carrying the purse, the vast treasure he had raised for Jesus. Now there would be revolution. Now, Judas would change the world.

Ramiel quickly scrubbed out the gold chests. He scaled down the purse. Judas tossed and turned: one dream fighting with another. Just as he drew near to the soldier, Ramiel seemed to win: Judas looked down and the purse was empty.

The Roman Soldier was amused. ‘What is it?  What do you want me to do for you?’

Judas stared down at the empty purse, and Raphael flinched as the dream filled with hissing.

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