Aceldama

by Pierce Nahigyan

I met the ghost of Judas Iscariot in Aceldama. His native language was Aramaic but he’d had plenty of time to pick up new words.

I was sitting on a rock in the potter’s field, now reduced to a small square strip of land that led from a courtyard in a fourteenth century monastery. Judas walked past in his sandals, wearing a homespun robe that was brown and rough but was nevertheless clean. His face too, though bearded, was well trimmed. His eyes were black as coals, so that the pupils and the irises seemed one. His lips were wet, and his hair thick, thinning near the crown. He was only somewhat surprised to see me. “You see me,” he said.

At the time I had that queer feeling that arises whenever the supernatural interferes with the waking world. You’ve had it too but you likely shrugged it off as a draft, anxiety, or red sauce. A good deal of modern anxiety comes from the disbelief in ghosts, you know. There isn’t a pill that can stymy their chilly fingers.

Judas sat down next to me and told me his name, and clarified that further by saying which Judas he was. “The Judas, really.”

“That’s odd,” I said. “I heard you were in Hell.”

“I was, for a little while,” he said. “But there’s a door back up to the city. I prefer it here.”

I tugged my backpack tighter around my shoulders, wanting to be kind but not knowing how to proceed in the conversation without asking the question I’m sure he was sick of hearing. Ghosts are not known for their even tempers.

Finally he said it for me. He could read my face well enough. “You want to know if I feel bad about it.”

I nodded.

“Well, yes,” he said. “He was my teacher.”

“So why did you-“

“Because he scared me,” said Judas. “He scared everyone.” The ghost looked at his hands. They were coarse and tan from the desert. He licked his lips. “He scared me,” he said again.

Then he faded away, as ghosts will when their speeches are at an end, or have said all they are willing to say.