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Ben Patrick Eden
Ben Patrick Eden is an award-winning author and a police dispatcher in Denton, Texas.
Congratulations to Ben for being in the Top Ten in the Thriller Category for The Tower of Sarah and for being a finalist in the 2015 Epic Book Awards.
New Titles by Ben Patrick Eden
Welcome to Capernaum, a shimmering city at the edge of Galilee. Raf can show you around. Sure, his legs don’t work and he smells of animal droppings, but for a few coins he’ll point out all the best deals. He can be found near the market, along with a mishmash of beggars. There’s Garon, an ox of a man afflicted with blindness. And Sagi, the short-tempered leper. The young woman is Gilia, a newcomer to begging since her husband cast her to the street.
Word Count: 61,300
Pages to Print: 233
Josiah stumbled below deck, clutching his stomach. Water cascaded down the steps, making his descent a treacherous one. The bile in him rose, and more than anything he was surprised. Josiah had been a shipman for twenty years and counting. Seasickness had long since left him. But here it was, threatening to send what little food he had consumed back the way it came.
But this wasn’t his fault. In twenty years and counting he had never witnessed a storm like this.
It wasn’t the constant rain, though it was constant, or the darkened skies, though they were blacker than a demoniac’s pupils. It was the overpowering will of the beast. This storm wasn’t on a rampage. It was after their boat in particular—Josiah was certain of it.
The calamity had started not long after leaving shore and continued without cease. As hours ticked away, the storm toyed with them. It roared until every man trembled, and then subsided, making them believe the worst had come and gone. Now too far out to turn back, the storm’s ferocity was unveiled. Blackness reined the sky. Bruise-colored waves slammed the boat’s sides like battering rams. The rain was fiercely cold and turning to hail. The lightning was the general, bellowing its orders with a voice even Satan would find hard to match. The storm was honing in on them, readying its next charge, setting its trap. And Josiah knew the next trap would be fatal for everyone aboard.
The grungy shipman clutched his belly and gulped. Another shipman staggered through the door ahead him. The man was Doran, another long-time member of the crew, swaying like a scarecrow in the wind. Josiah helped the man right himself. Doran lifted his head and spewed all over Josiah’s chest. Josiah tried to scold his crewmate, but the smell was a slap in the face. His stomach flipped, and he was suddenly forced to hunch over as chunks of half-digested fish bubbled up his windpipe. He threw up on the man as the man threw up on him. Neither of them moved to avoid the other. Both were too busy retching. Once their stomachs were empty and the two were reduced to drooling, dripping messes, Josiah peered into his shipmate’s bloodshot eyes.
“Sorry about that, Doran.”
“Yeah. Me, too,” the other one whispered. “It’s just . . . it’s just—”
“I know. This storm will be the death of us.”
Doran nodded, glancing down at the chunky bits of nastiness in Josiah’s beard. Then his eyes widened. “That’s why I came to get you. You’ll never believe it.”
Doran bumbled around like a sleepwalker. “Come on. You have to see this.”
He started back into the dimly lit corridor, grabbing at the walls to steady himself. Josiah watched and slowly followed. He still marveled at the sight. Veteran sailors reduced to infants by a single storm. How could such a thing happen? His father, long since dead, always spoke about real men taking power over their lives, no matter what the conditions. Was there no power here? Had all control been stripped away?
As if to answer, another wave exploded against the aft side, sending Josiah to his knees—no, forcing him into submission. That was it, he conceded. He was nothing but a follower now. Josiah pulled himself up, hoping whatever Doran was excited about might inspire hope or, even better, control.
But what he first saw gave him neither. When Josiah entered the crew’s quarters, he couldn’t understand why Doran had pulled him there. The room was full of swaying hammocks and scattered bedding. The others inside were mere reflections of Doran and himself: staggering idiots holding their stomachs. The smell of vomit and urine hit him, almost forcing Josiah back to the deck. Maybe it was Jonah’s curse outside, but that was better than the swelling stench of fear in here.
“Doran,” Josiah mumbled. “I don’t want to be here.”
“Tell me about it,” another shipman grunted in the darkness.
Doran came back to Josiah, this time taking his arm. “You have to. I’ve seen an omen, but I don’t know what kind.”
Doran pulled his arm, and reluctantly Josiah followed. So that was it—superstition. Of course, every shipman was superstitious. And on any boat there was a faction of the crew that was very superstitious. On this vessel, Doran was the leader of that faction. He saw signs in everything. What amused Josiah was how Doran’s signs always meant calamity. A floating plank of wood in the water meant smugglers ahead. An unwelcome spray of water in Doran’s face meant a wicked storm was on the rise. If a bird crapped on his shoulder it meant they were all doomed. Never did a sign mean a day would proceed normally, which was often the case. Josiah had made fun of him once. Doran had been holding his sides one morning due to constipation. After listening to him moan through lunch, Josiah asked if constipation was a sign he was full of it. The rest of the crew laughed. But Doran took him seriously and confided in him ever since.
As he stumbled forward, Josiah realized he wasn’t in the mood for ominous signs. If this storm would end their lives, he didn’t want to spend the remainder of his listening to Doran explain why. He again considered turning around, and then decided against it. Following Doran was useless, but so was every other activity on the boat. Anything taking attention away from death was time well spent.
Their path led them past three rows of hammocks. It was on the fourth Josiah finally saw.
A man in a hammock—sleeping peacefully.
Doran nodded in the man’s direction. “What do you think it means?” he said, his voice barely above a whisper. “Certainly it isn’t natural for a man to sleep during a storm like this.”
“I’d say not,” Josiah said, scrutinizing the man. “But he is. I can hear the bugger snoring.”
“Is it a sign?” Doran’s voice went lower, as if the notion might tear the boat in two.
“A sign of what?” Josiah growled. “It could mean we’re saved, or it could mean we’ll all be sleeping that peacefully soon.”
“Maybe we could wake him—you know, ask him. Maybe he’s a prophet.”
Josiah grunted. “He doesn’t look like a prophet. He doesn’t look like much of anything to tell you the truth.” He scratched his vomit-coated chin. “But you’re right. We should wake him.” He put a hand on Doran’s back and shoved him. “Go ahead.”
“Me?” Doran’s voice rose to a shrill whine. “What if it puts a curse on me? What if waking him makes the boat sink?”
“And what if not waking him makes the boat sink? Did you think about that?”
The look on Doran’s face said he hadn’t. He turned and stared at the sleeper again. Outside the thunder ripped another order, and every man quivered at its intensity. Josiah looked up at the ceiling boards, where water bled through in a steady stream.
“Go on, Doran,” he said, more urgently this time. “Wake the man up. Call him by name and ask him if we’re all dead or not.”
Doran looked from the sleeper to Josiah and then back again. He nodded, wrapping his head around such a solemn thought. He peered back one more time.
“What is the man’s name?”
“Oh, in the name of all that is dry and land-based, wake the man up!”
Doran stepped back firmly. “No. If this man sees a stranger when he wakes up the boat will sink. I feel it in my gut.”
Josiah grabbed Doran by his tunic. “You’re about to feel my fist in your gut if you don’t—”
“Hey,” another shipman said. Josiah turned toward the man, unnerved to find every sallow face in the room turned toward him. They were all dangling from this one strand of hope now, and it in no way felt strong enough to support them. The man sat up in his hammock, scratching his head nervously. “He came aboard with another man, someone who called himself an apostle.”
“An apostle?” Josiah frowned. “An apostle of what?”
The man shrugged. “I think he’s up top, helping anyone who needs him.”
“We need him,” Josiah said. “Go get him before it’s too late.”
“I’ll do it!” Doran jumped away from Josiah’s grip and scrambled toward the door. Josiah watched the man go, wanting to call his shipmate a coward but not finding the will to do so. He couldn’t blame Doran for quaking like a child. He was only a few minutes from doing the same. They all were.
He turned his attention back to the sleeper—a sleeper who didn’t even twitch in his sleep, much less quake with fear. Who was this man, and how could he sleep so peacefully?
“It’s like he’s not afraid to die,” Josiah said to himself.
“Maybe,” said the other shipman, his voice so hollow it sent a shiver down Josiah’s spine. “Or he could just like storms.” Back to A Beggar in Capernaum