desjardins: I'm looking forward to Smedleyman's response.
biffa: This seems very much like a particular flavour of thread on the venerable soc.history.what-if usenet group. [...] This one is not particularly outstanding.
clavdivs: I would bet you find Octavian fleeing to the temple of mars and bitching out Aggrippa for not having the proper abbreviated attire.
The story begins with Karl's violent arrival in the Holy Land of AD 28, where his time machine, a womblike, fluid-filled sphere, cracks open and becomes useless. By interpolating numerous memories and flashbacks, Moorcock tells the parallel story of Karl's troubled past in 20th century London, and tries to explain why he's willing to risk everything to meet Jesus. We learn that Karl has chronic problems with women, homosexual tendencies, an interest in the ideas of Jung, and many neuroses, including a messiah complex.
Karl, badly injured during his journey, crawls halfway out of the time machine, then faints. John the Baptist and a group of Essenes find him there, and take him back to their community, where they care for him for some time. Since the Essenes witnessed his miraculous arrival in the time machine, John decides Karl must be a magus, and asks him to help lead a revolt against the occupying Romans. When he asks Karl to baptise him, however, the latter panics and flees into the desert, where he wanders alone, hallucinating from heat and thirst.
He then makes his way to Nazareth in search of Jesus. When he finds Mary and Joseph, Mary turns out to be little more than a whore, and Joseph, a bitter old man, sneers openly at her claim to have been impregnated by an angel. Worse, their child Jesus is a profoundly retarded hunchback who incessantly repeats the only word he knows: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Karl, however, is so deeply committed to the idea of a real, historical Jesus that, at this point, he himself begins to step into the role, gathering followers, repeating what parables he can recall, and using psychological tricks to simulate miracles. When there's no food, he shows the people how to pretend to eat to take their minds off their hunger; when he encounters illness caused by hysteria, he cures it. Gradually, it becomes known that his name is Jesus of Nazareth.
In the end, determined to live the story of Jesus to its decidedly bitter end, he orders a puzzled Judas to betray him to the Romans, and dies on the cross. His last, agonized words, however, are not Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani, but the phonetically similar English it's a lie....it's a lie...let me down...
After Karl's death on the cross, the body is stolen by a doctor who believed the body had magical properties, leading to rumors that he did not die. The doctor is disappointed when the body begins to rot as any normal human would.
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