Dismas and Gestas

(Background to the story ‘Two Thieves’, in the Peacock Cloak collection.  It was first published in Asimov’s SF.)

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes, both awake and in dreams, I have experienced a moment or two of complete peace.  I’m often beside water when it happens.   My worries no longer worry me.  Even the knowledge that the moment won’t last doesn’t trouble me in the slightest.

It seems to me that we should notice these moments more, because really that state is the end of all striving.   Why do we crave things and pursue them so desperately – love, sex, money, possessions, recognition, life everlasting – except in the hope that they will give us some peace?

It’s as if we were all in fast cars, roaring along hungrily in search of peace, with eyes fixed so grimly on the road ahead that we keep missing the very thing we’re looking for lying there quietly on the roadside.

*  *  *

Dismas and Gestas are the apocryphal names of the two thieves who were crucified alongside Jesus, one of them repentant, the other a sinner to the last.

‘You just can’t leave that stuff alone, can you?’ my friend Rowlie observed, when he noticed this.

It’s quite true.  But, even though my work has been called ‘theologically nuanced science fiction’, I’m not a religious person.  I don’t subscribe to any beliefs whatever about supernatural beings, or supernatural events.

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