Spiritual Fiction posted January 15, 2013

This work has reached the exceptional level
a stunning rebirth

Leavened with Love

by Writingfundimension

A massive black cloud cut through the wide expanse of blue sky. It advanced on the riders as if borne on the backs of winged horses. Thunder sounded in the distance, and three of the four men pulled amulets from beneath their cloaks. They touched reverent lips to metal, more afraid of a vengeful pagan God than their pious leader's rage should he witness their superstition.

The stiff spine and square build of the lead rider had given rise to the nickname, Stipes (stump). He'd heard the name used once when his followers thought him sleeping. He smiled at the crude reference and was pleased it acknowledged his implacable disposition. It bothered him not at all that his fiery personality and sharp intellect inspired confidence but little affection.

His stallion's muscles rippled with fear when another crack of thunder sounded directly overhead. Those behind worked to keep their own animals from breaking stride. Instinctively, Stipes reached to tighten the girdle, filled with Roman coins, beneath his tunic.

"Steady, Akil," he urged of his steed, but the words were swallowed by a blast of wind screeching like a robbed whore.

The Zealot's followers gather tonight. This is my chance to snatch their leaders from under their noses. On the blood of my Fathers, I swear I will not fail.

Driven by sudden anxiety, he spurred his horse with a sharp flick of the switch. Akil grunted in surprise at the rare cruelty. The animal pressed forward seeking only to satisfy.

The three behind struggled to maintain the pace. Benjamin, the oldest, wondered why they had passed no other travelers on the busy road to Damascus. The thought was swallowed up by terror at the sudden descent of a thick grey pall.

Ahead, the lead stallion reared, pawing the air to beat back an invisible foe. The horse's reins were jerked violently from Stipes' hands and he was hurled to the ground. A sound like the beating of a thousand wings was followed by a light to rival the sun which encompassed the fallen figure.

The crazed horses of the other three men demanded their full attention. Finally, they were able to secure them to nearby trees and ran to assist their stricken leader. He lay on his back, and as he turned towards the sound of their approach, they were horrified by his appearance. Thick scales completely covered his eyes, rendering him blind.

Benjamin could not hide the fear in his voice. "What has happened, Master?"

"God's judgment is upon me." Stipes's hoarse voice and stricken countenance gave rise to panic among the three men. 

Benjamin led the three off to the side. "There's sorcery at work here," he whispered. "One of us should ride ahead for help."

"I say we leave him here and return to Jerusalem before whatever struck him down does the same to us," Nathan, the brother of Benjamin countered. "One of us will need to ride with him," he reasoned, "and that devil horse of his will never allow anyone but his master on his back."

They all turned at the approach of  a donkey-drawn cart where the road forked to Damascus. Benjamin pulled a knife from his girdle and hid it among the folds of his riding tunic.

The cart halted alongside the prostrate figure on the ground. Two men alighted and approached. One bent and whispered in the fallen man's ear. To the amazement of his companions, Stipes allowed himself to be led to the cart without any protest.

Benjamin brandished his knife and ordered them to halt.

One of the two turned. His countenance was bathed in peace, and his words rang with authority.

"We mean your master no harm, though the same cannot be said for him." Gesturing to where the man lay like a sack of grain in the back of the cart, he continued. "Return to Jerusalem and assure the Sanhedrin that their man, Saul of Tarsas, can be found in the house of Jude."


The vision of a crucified figure on a high hill haunted Saul day and night. "Why do you persecute me?" the figure incessantly demanded. Each time the Pharisee's chest would burn as if pierced by a flaming sword.

Sobs coming from the upper room were beginning to wear on the mistress of the house.

"What are you waiting for?" Nadine asked her husband. "The man is a danger to all of us. Send him back to his own people."

"No, wife, I cannot," Jude replied. "The Lord has told me to wait. He has a plan for this man, though by all that's holy, I can't imagine what use He'll make of a madman."


Ananias of Damascus rarely questioned his visions. When the Voice told him to go to the aid of the notorious Saul of Tarsus, he thought it must be the evil one in disguise. After all, good men had been executed solely on the Pharisee's testimony. But the voice persisted and finally Ananias set forth to the house of Jude.

He knocked three times on the door, waited and knocked once more. Nadine opened the door with caution and was thunderstruck to find the holy man, Ananias, on her doorstep.

She bowed her head out of respect and stepped back to allow his entrance. Jude materialized at the sound of their voices.

"Peace be with you," he said as he clasped hands with the elder man.

"And with you, Jude. You know why I have come?"

"Not the details, of course. But, I received guidance that someone would be coming before the end of three days. He's upstairs. I must warn you, he's weak as he would not accept our offers of food or wine." He stopped to make sure his wife was out of earshot.

"He's begged me repeatedly to kill him, Ananias, and, God forgive me, I have been sorely tempted."

The elder man rested his hand on Jude's shoulder. "Our Mighty Savior has seen fit to save the wretch's life. Only time will reveal for what purpose."

Ananias entered the room alone. He'd seen Saul of Tarsus on one other occasion and had to agree the man was but a shell of himself.

"Have you come to watch me die?" The voice of the man on the pallet was weak but still held a hint of its former arrogance.

Ananias approached the pallet without speaking. He bowed his head and when he felt the power's crescendo, he laid his hands over the other's blinded eyes. Saul's body convulsed beneath a searing heat that surely must melt his flesh. Ananias kept Saul pinned to the pallet until he lay still. When the healer lifted his hands, the scales were gone and Saul could see.

He sat up and looked with wonder at each object in the room. "How can this be?" he exclaimed.

Ananias pulled the man to his feet and sternly addressed him. "Jesus, the Christ, has seen fit to extend to you His merciful arm. Can you now accept Him as your Savior?"

"I swear to you, I will serve Him the rest of my days. Tell me, I beg you, what must I do?"

Pictures flashed before the eyes of Ananias: Saul's body beaten and abused, Saul covered by rats and left to rot in a forgotten hole and, finally, Saul's headless body tumbling to the blood-soaked earth.

"You will begin your service as you began your life, Saul of Tarsus - bathed in the waters of new birth." 


I have attempted to keep this fictionalized account of St. Paul's (Saul of Tarsus) conversion in line with the many historical accounts. At some point after the conversion experience, Saul's name changed to Paul. It is believed that St. Paul was on his way to Damascus from Jerusalem to continue his attempt to completely eradicate Christianity. The fact that he was blinded and, three days later, redeemed, through the ministrations of Ananias, seems to be a consistent fact in the varied accounts.

Another contest entry gone awry! I simply could not keep this story to under 800 words for the flash fiction requirements. Sometimes my muse can be a real pain!

I would refer the reader to the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament (Acts 9:7) for a more detailed description of the conversion of Paul.

Thanks so much to crystal clear for her awesome artwork!
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