THE BOOK OF INTRACTICUS, THE SECOND PERSON TO BE SWALLOWED BY A WHALE by David K. Gibson

Chapter 1

1. Intracticus son of Gallus the great merchant spake unto his father, saying, “Give unto me gold, that I might make merry with my friends at the temple of Apollo.” 2. And Gallus’ wrath was thereby enflamed, and he spake unto his son Intracticus saying, “No more shall you lie about on my sofa drinking my wine, for you have become a man and my purse shall be closed to you. Labor therefore in my storehouse, that my fortune shall be yours.” 3. Intracticus had heard all this before, but he told his father that he would go down to Ostia where his father’s ships were anchored, and there learn the mercantile arts. 4. But Intracticus’s heart was hardened against that which wasn’t fun and if possible also wicked, and so he got on one of those all-you-can-drink gambling cruises to Sardinia to make some coin for the party at Apollo’s temple, for he had taken a sack of silver from his father for seed money. 5. And lo, not fifteen minutes after the ship had cast off its ropes, a giant Phoenician dropped his last denarius into a brass bucket and Intracticus retired to the bar, where he proceeded to become loaded, even as unto the dice.

6. And lo, a great storm came upon Intracticus, so that he was set to rocking and his stomach rose inside him, and he fell through a pile of amphora on his way to the railing to heave, after which he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. 7. Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us find the jerk who made this mess,” and they fell on Intracticus, and they threw him into the sea, which is certainly an overreaction and probably a gross violation of maritime law.

8. And then a big fish swallowed him.

Chapter 2

1. Intracticus son of Gallus wasn’t totally surprised by this, because his dad used to hire some Israelites and one of them watched him in the office a fair bit before he got all dissolute. 2. And the Israelite told him a story about one of their prophets who was swallowed by a fish while fleeing from a god, of which they have only one, which seems inefficient. 3. At the time, Intracticus thought the guy was just telling him a fable and warning him about disobedience, but now that he was in the fish he spent a lot of time trying to remember the story, especially the part about how the prophet held out for three days until he finally decided that doing what his god wanted him to do was better than living in a fish.

4. And Intracticus was pretty sure than anything was better than living in a fish, which was snotty and smelled like a barrel full of garum, especially with a hangover.

Chapter 3

1. And the word of the Lord came to Intracticus in a column of light, and informed him that he would be trapped in this fish until such time as he submitted to the will of the Lord, and the column of light gave Intracticus the chance to find his sandals. 2. And Intracticus beheld that the place where he was looked inside of a cow’s mouth, but bigger and with no teeth.

3. And the Lord spake again unto Intracticus and said, “Go to the great city of Aetna on the island of Sicilia and proclaim to them the message I give you.” 4. And Intracticus sayeth, “Sure, but what is that message.” 5. And the Lord sayeth, “This I shall reveal to you.” 6. And Intracticus tried to point out that Sicilians are maybe not the nicest people, historically, and that he’d really like to know what he’d be saying in the name of the Lord when he got there, and maybe he didn’t really want to be doing that, for personal reasons. 7. And the Lord sayeth, “Well you’ve got time to think about it.”

8. And Intracticus didn’t like the sound of that at all, and longed for the house of his father, and for his father’s wine, and his father’s sofa, which was dry. 9. And so Intracticus lay himself upon a slimy shelf and slept for what he thought was a day but probably was more like a couple of hours.

Chapter 4

1. And the word of the Lord came a second time to Intracticus, this time with a little more info. 2. And the Lord spake unto Intracticus and said, “Go ye to Aetna, and tell them that in forty more days their mountain is going to blow up because of their iniquity, and that they should put on sackcloth or they shall each be destroyed from the greatest to the least.” 3. And Intracticus made the point again about Sicilians not being the most accommodating people and also having known a few they tend to be snappy dressers, so maybe the sackcloth thing was a little much for a weather forecast, and the Lord spake again and told Intracticus to shut up and the Lord left, but before he did Intracticus found some little crabs swimming around, and you’d be surprised what you’ll eat when you’re hungry.

4. But Intracticus was sorely vexed, for the way the Lord was speaking to him was just as his father Gallus had spoken. 5. And he thought that the Lord was pretty weak with just his pillar of light, and that Gods are supposed to have golden beards and lightning bolts and hammers and get into good greasy fights with each other over who gets to dress up like a duck and screw which particular shepherdess.

Chapter 5

1. The word of the Lord came again to Intracticus and woke him right up out of a sexy dream, and sayeth, “Go ye therefore to Aenta, and tell them the thing we discussed yesterday about the volcano and the repentance.” 2. And Intracticus was trying to listen but he was really thirsty and he told the Lord this and the Lord said, “Maybe you should ask a prayer of forgiveness,” and Intracticus noted that he hadn’t asked for this, hadn’t asked for any of this, that he didn’t even believe in the eleventy-seven gods his dad worshipped and he’d be just fine not believing in one more and the Lord said, “Fine,” and Intracticus said, “Fine,” and it got dark again, and Intracticus was still thirsty. 3. And Intracticus realized that the reason the crabs were so easy to catch is that they were peeling the skin away from the tips of his toes, which he couldn’t even feel anymore.

Chapter 6

1. Then Intracticus son of Gallus prayed unto the Lord out of the fish’s belly, and said, “I cried by reason of I am thirsty unto dying, and out of the belly of hell I cried and thou heardest my voice. 2. For thou hadst saved me from drowning after that incident in which I had been overserved, but I don’t know why you think Sicilians would listen to me, someone who probably owes them money. 3. But if you will promise to get me out of here we can discuss me going to tell them the sackcloth thing, and about the volcano.”

4. But the Lord did not appear unto Intracticus, and so he ate some more crabs, and was feeling very lonely and still very thirsty.

Chapter 7

1. And for a long time there was only the blackness of the tomb, until the word of the Lord finally came again to Intracticus and spake, “Look, child, I didn’t pick you because you are a prophet. I picked you because you were dumb and drowning, and I happened to have a whale on its way to Sicily.” 2. “It’s the only one I have in the area,” continueth the Lord, “So it was kind of a big favor.”

3. And the Lord said, “You’re going to go to Sicily, and there will be people about being iniquitous on the beach, and this big fish is going to spit you out right in the middle of the party. I did this with Jonah and it absolutely killed, and Lo, the Ninevites all knew it was a sign from me.”

4. And Intracticus heard the word of the Lord, and Lo, he was demoralized, like the Lord didn’t recognize his specialness. 5. Then the voice of the Lord left the fish and it was dark again and Intracticus fell into a deep sleep.

Chapter 8

1. The god Mercury came to Intracticus in a dream, and said, “Intracticus, ye who has been raised in the house of Gallus, where he is a pious man unto the gods of his household, how then are ye to speak with the god of the Jews?” and his voice was like unto thunder. 2. And Intracticus tried to explain about the fish thing, and indeed pointed around to the fish in which he was currently swallowed, but Mercury would hear not, and hardened his heart unto him. 3. Then Mercury’s countenance changed unto that of Gallus, father of Intracticus, and he began to scold him as to a wayward child, and cursed him for the shame he had brought upon his house, and for the blasphemy of his relations with the Lord, and for making him worried sick about where he was. 4. Then Gallus spake unto Intracticus in the dream and said, “We should understand gods metaphorically, as anthropomorphized fears and desires, personifications of our ideals and our failures. I guess what I am saying is that whatever you are working out with the Jehovah fellow is fine with me but just don’t let any of my clients know.” 5. And Intracticus was glad in his heart because he thought he understood that his dad missed him.

Chapter 9

1. Intracticus in the great fish was awakened by voice of the Lord, saying, “Arise, Intracticus, for today you are the messenger of the Lord, and emperors shall heed your prophecies. 2. You will no longer be bound by your inadequacies, for your limited natural talents shall be multiplied by the power of the Lord, which is a metaphor for your own father’s social standing and financial power, meaning thusly that as long as you don’t fuck up colossally, your dad has your back and if you’d just let him set you up in the business‚ literally just learn enough to talk about it with the tax lawyers, you’ll be set for life.” 3. Then Intracticus woke up for real this time and realized that the Lord was part of the dream, too, and was vexed.

Chapter 10

1. The Lord came again to Intracticus and sayeth unto him, “From drowning I have saved you, and now from a rain of ash and fire must you save the people of Sicily.” 2. Then replied Intracticus, “Let it be so, the Lord, that I should deliver your word unto the sinful people of Sicily, including the sackcloth thing.” 3. Then the Lord started giving Intracticus the whole plan, and Intracticus zoned out a little bit, which is completely understandable considering that he hadn’t had a drop of fresh water in probably days.

4. And as the Lord was going on Intracticus noticed a place on the wall behind the Lord that was like a little opening in the mouth of the whale, maybe for breathing or for hearing, and it reminded him of something else and so he just stood around silently until the Lord said, “Got it?” 5. Then Intracticus indicated that indeed he had got it, all of it, and you could count on him, the Lord.

6. Then Intracticus sort of slid over the slimy wall back to behind where the Lord had been standing, and started feeling around for that little opening, and he started thinking about this girl he used to know who would come to the storehouse with him, and lo, he was hardened. 7. And she was a virgin but sometimes she would let him put his hand up her tunic and feel around up in there. 8. And Intracticus’s fingers found that crevice he’d been looking at before, and it did feel sort of like what was up under that tunic, and realized he could probably climb high enough to get all up in it, and he did, and so did Intracticus know the fish, though it’s not clear if the fish knew him.

9. And the Lord appeared behind Intracticus and sayeth, “Jesus Christ,” and he spake unto the fish and it vomited out Intracticus upon the dry land.

Chapter 11

1. Then the Lord said unto Intracticus, “Lo, that was disgusting. I don’t even have a category for that particular bit of blasphemy.” 2. And Intracticus was ashamed, and hid his face from the Lord, but was very glad to be back on dry land. 3. Then the Lord said unto him, “Go ye and do those things which I have commanded you, and drive home the forty days part, and we’ll forget about the fish-fucking.”

4. Then walked Intracticus toward Aetna, and he was disappointed to see no inequities happening on the beach, and also that his sandals had fallen apart, until came he unto the port of Catana, and saw there in the harbor a ship flying the banner of Gallus his father, and Intracticus fell upon the captain, and demanded in the name of Gallus that he be taken back to Ostia, and so it was done. 5. At this time, three days had passed.

Chapter 12

1. Intracticus came to the house of Gallus and encountered him in the great hall, and fell to his knees and apologized about the silver and the running away, and told him about his encounter with the Lord and the great fish, though certainly he left out some parts. 2. And he told his father of the forty-day deadline for repentance, and how with Intracticus not there no one would tell them about the sackcloth and the volcano, and Gallus laughed like thunder because he really hated Sicilians. 3. Then Intracticus said unto his father, “Listen, then, for I have an idea.”

4. When the forty days had passed without sufficient sackcloth, the Lord cried out over Sicily, and the greatness of his wrath caused the mountain to spew forth ash and fire, and the odor of hell spilled into the valleys and caused those living there to choke, even unto their horses and cattle, and all the people of Aetna did flee to the water, carrying all their precious goods that they might barter for passage away from the island. 5. And when they reached the port of Catana, the bay was filled with great ships flying the banner of Gallus, and many score ships besides them that were rentals. 6. And the great ships of Gallus and his son Intracticus were filled with the citizens of Aetna, and the holds of the ships were full of gold and silver and jewels, even unto overflowing.

7. And Intracticus did dwell in the house of his father, until such time as he built a palace of his own.


David K. Gibson has been a magazine editor, a travel writer, and a sensitive male advice columnist for the Harlequin Romance web channel. His work has appeared in Wigleaf, Invisible City, Timothy McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and Harper Collins’ May Contain Nuts: A Very Loose Canon of American Humor, and is upcoming in Best Small Fictions 2022. He lives in Orlando with his wife and child and cats and coffee, and can be found virtually at davidkgibson.com and @davidkgibson.

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

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