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I once read a short story in a magazine (most likely Asimov's or Fantasy and Science Fiction) about reincarnation.

  1. Society has developed a way to identify past lives. I think it was a machine of some kind. It was and "in" fad to find out your past lives and tell people about them.

  2. One of the rules was that a person could not claim to have been the reincarnation of certain souls. Jesus was one, Buddha was another. There may have been others. I think the claim was that no one could be the reincarnation of those people, but the authorities would come for you if you claimed that you were.

  3. I think the story began with two guys sitting in a cafe, one telling the story to another... a journalist maybe?

  4. The story was about a girl who was claiming that she was the reincarnation of Jesus. Over the course of the story, the narrator becomes convinced that she is telling the truth. Eventually "the State" catches up with her and she disappears.

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  • Roughly when would it have been published? – Jenayah Apr 18 '20 at 20:05
  • Oh, man. It could easily have been 10, 15 years ago. – eng_teach Apr 19 '20 at 0:24
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This is "The Gospel of Nate" (2005) by Michael Libling, published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, April 2005. You can read it at the Internet Archive.

"You won't believe who I am," she says.

"I know who you are." I pull her close, give her a hug and kiss.

Sure enough, out come the giggles and the dimples. She was really something special, I tell you. "Jesus!" she says.

I'm a bit taken aback. I'd never heard her curse before, after all. And though I don't claim to be the world's greatest kisser. I'd never had a woman complain because of it. "Was it that bad?" I ask.

"No, no. Jesus," she says. "You know, of Nazareth. That's who I am. I'm Jesus."

"Right." She's pulling my leg. Still, I tell her point-blank. I mean, this is dangerous territory she's treading in. "You can't be Jesus, so just calm down now. You can be anybody, but you can't be Jesus, okay? It's easy to get confused. Maybe you were a disciple. There was once this guy who came in here, this Mr. Tackaberry, and he turned out to be Bartholomew..."

"But I am Jesus. Honest, Nate. Run one of those checks on me. You'll see."

I try to reason with her. "If I do, they'll come after you so fast you won't know what hit you. Nobody can be Jesus. Even if you are Jesus you can't be Jesus." I tear the poster off the bulletin board and hold it up for her to see. "Look. Look at this list. Who's at the top?"

"Me," she says.

"No, Sam. No. Come on now, read it. Who's at the top?"

She's not happy. "Jesus."

"Right. And what's it say up here?"

"'The Dead No One Can Be.'"

"Right. And what does it say down here?"

"'Report offenders immediately.'"

"Now do you understand what I'm trying to tell you?"

"Siddhartha."

"What?"

"The Buddha. I'm also Siddhartha Gautama; The Buddha."

I skim down the list. Shit! This Gautama guy is number six. I mean, what's she trying to pull? "You're not funny." I search her face for the slightest trace of mischief, a twinkle in her eye or something.

"I'm not trying to be funny, Nate. You've got to believe me. I am Jesus and I am The Buddha."

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