Quarantine

By Jim Crace

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A re-imagining of the forty days Christ spent in the wilderness being tempted by the devil. Judea, about two thousand years ago: There were five of them -- not a group, but strung out along the road where earlier that morning the caravan of uncles had passed by. Three men, a woman, and, too far behind for anyone to guess its gender, a fifth. And this fifth was barefoot, and without a staff. No waterskin, or bag of clothes. No food. A slow, painstaking figure, made thin and watery by the rising, mirage heat, as if someone had thrown a stone into the pool of air through which it walked and ripples had diluted it.

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