“… far-fetched. ”

Gader’el blinked. He sighed deeply before waving his fist in the air and shouting.

“Fuck you! No, seriously! Fuck you! Every time, man! Every time! Would it kill you to give me a little warning? You know, so I can prepare myself?”

“Who are you talking to?” a quiet voice inquired.

Gader’el spun around in surprise.

Jesus H. Christ!” he yelped, “You scared me.”

“I am so sorry, that was not my intention. Do I know you?”

The ascension had taken its toll on Gader’el again. It took him a moment to gather his thoughts.

“Oh crap!” he thought to himself as he pinched the bridge of his nose in an attempt to clear the fog, “It’s bloody Jesus isn’t it. Pull yourself together.”

He looked up at the Lamb of God.

“I would suggest that you know of me I’m sure.” He said laying his most winning smile on the Nazarene.

Jesus regarded him with a blank expression.

“I know of many men.” he said, gravitas dripping from every word, “I have never met one that simply appeared before me, screaming at the heavens.”

Gader’el ruminated on this for a moment.

“Yes. Well, I can see how that might strike you as a little odd, but I am the sort of person that does this kind of thing a lot.”

Jesus continued to regard him with a blank expression. It occurred to Gader’el that he was talking to a severely malnourished and dehydrated individual. The man looked like he might collapse at any moment.

“So, spending some quality time in the desert I see?” Gader’el said changing the subject as he looked around at their surroundings.

They were deep in the Judaean desert. It was an area he knew quite well from past experience. The terrain was marked by rocky outcrops and escarpments stretching as far as the eye could see. It was early morning with the sun barely peeking over the distant hills.

“I am here to prepare my body for the trials to come.” Jesus replied, “I have received the baptismal cleansing from brother John and am now taking my fast in the desert for forty days and for forty nights.”

“Uh huh, that’s really fascinating.” Gader’el said, nodding profusely as he opened up the scroll again and began reading from it. “Please, do go on.”

Jesus was only too happy to continue. He was thirty-five days into his fast and had been hallucinating so much that talking to an actual person was a novel experience.

“The Holy Spirit has led me to this place where, like the Prophet Elijah and Moses, I can meditate and prepare myself before I begin my ministry.”

Gader’el nodded again.

“Uh huh. Amazing. Really?” he said, clearly not listening.

“Oh yes.” Jesus continued, “I shall minister unto the sick and the weak and the poor. I shall deliver them to…”

“You see. The thing is.” Gader’el interrupted, looking up as he spirited the scroll away, “I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling mighty peckish.”

With a flourish he pulled a fresh loaf of bread out from beneath his robes. The loaf was still warm, visibly steaming in the cool desert morning air. To a starving man, the sight alone would have been torture, but this loaf smelled every bit like a piece of heaven on earth. Jesus’s eyes widened and his mouth began to water.

Gader’el split the loaf in two and took a bite of the fluffy white centre. He allowed a look of pure ecstasy to cross his face as he savoured the flavour and texture of the loaf in his mouth.

“Mmmmmm, thash delishious.” he mumbled, mouth still full, “Here, you have thish peeshe.”

He held out the second piece, waving it enticingly in front of the dumbstruck Messiah. Jesus stood staring at the loaf, mouth agape in wonder. His face was a kaleidoscope of emotions. Travelling from surprise, through shock, over to wonder, leaping suddenly to desire then over to doubt and finally settling on the drawn out rictus of horror.

“YOU!” he shouted, waving a bony finger at Gader’el, “YOU! I know you! You are Satan, come to tempt me away from the grace of God. I want nothing which you would offer unto me.”

Gader’el chewed slowly and noisily on his mouthful of bread before finally swallowing.

“Okay, so you don’t want any of my bread.” he said, licking his fingers.

“You must be hungry though. Tell you what. You’re the Son of God right?” he said looking around, “Why don’t you turn that nice looking rock over there into your own loaf of delicious bread.”

He pointed at a particularly loaf shaped rock that happened to be lying near where they stood.

Jesus stared at the rock for a long time. It really did look quite delicious now that he came to think about it. Finally he turned to Gader’el and sighed. A deep soul crushing sigh that left Gader’el feeling almost sorry for the poor man.

“All the bread in the world will not sate my hunger. The word of God is the only sustenance I require.” He said.

“Ooh, well played.” Gader’el acknowledged, “I really thought you’d go for the low hanging fruit, if you’ll pardon the phrase.”

Jesus looked at his feet and sighed again.

“I don’t think it would be appropriate if I did not practice what I… ” he stopped mid sentence, interrupted by Gader’el maniacally waving his arms about and flapping at his chest. Smoke billowed around him.

“Fuck, shit ,shit shit…aargh!” he bellowed, dancing around as he tried desperately to liberate the scroll from the pocket of his robe.

Jesus watched the performance with mild bemusement. Gader’el eventually managed to extricate the offending article and held it at arms length as it finished burning with a soft fizzing sound. The outer layers of the scroll had burned away. Gader’el opened it carefully and inspected the damage. Two tests remained.

“You were saying?” Gader’el said, grinning sheepishly.

“What do you want, Lucifer?” Jesus replied flatly, his hunger forgotten.

Gader’el thought about this for a moment. He did not particularly relish the idea of impersonating the Shining One.

“I want for nothing.” he answered, “That’s one of the perks of the job.”

“Well, if you don’t mind. I would prefer to be left alone.” Jesus said, turning to go.

“Hold up there chief.” Gader’el said chasing after him.

“Listen, I get it, you want to find yourself, blah,blah” he said keeping pace with him as he marched off, “I’m here to help you, you know? Sure I’m the bad guy as far as you’re concerned, but I’m really quite nice once you get to know me.”

Jesus continued walking trying hard to appear not to be listening to Gader’el inane yammering. The sun rose higher and the air got hotter as they walked on, hour after hour, the Messiah and the liar.