"Last Words"

Just a set of short pieces on the Crucifixion I’ve been writing right now. I’m not a writer so please don’t expect high quality here. :blush:
(WARNING: some strong language)

I. Forgive Them

The morning sun got in HIS eyes. Above HIM, murders of crows cried out in loud voices, wailing like mourners in a dirge. HE was in a forest: a forest of wooden posts and gibbets on which dead men hung. The smell of rotting flesh and human waste which wafted in the area was unbearable. Swarms of flies darted past HIM and sucked on HIS gaping, open sores.

HIS vision was blurred. HE would have wiped HIS face, drenched with sweat and blood, were his hands and arms not outstretched and fastened with nails to the wooden beam. Not only HIS hands, but also HIS stretched-out legs and feet were also pinned on the post which supported the beam. From these wounds came intense pain every time he tried to move his fingers and shifted his feet. Those who nailed HIM there were experts: HE was leaning on a ‘seat’ attached halfway down the beam. It helped relieve HIS legs of HIS weight, but it in itself was another device of torture: it served to prolong the victim’s life, and with it, his suffering.

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Everything was silent though just off at the roads at a short distance came the faint sounds of passersby, going in or coming out of the city. For a brief moment, HE thought HE could some shouts and sounds of weeping. HE squinted hard to look and saw a small gathering on the roadside, near to where HE was.

“Come down! Save yourself! Call upon the Lord!”
“Yes, come down from there, King of Israel! If you come down I’ll be your disciple!”

One sounded like an honest plea, the other a mocking sneer. More voices, some loud, some hushed, came in and went.

“Shut up! Let this man be!”
“Oh, so you’re standing up for him? Why not go there and take him down, for a start? If you dare go past those guards there.”
“You whoreson, you corrupt city-dweller!”
“At least I’m not like you, you ignorant country hick!”
“If God really loved him, why doesn’t he send down his Messengers to rescue him now?”
“…treating an innocent person like this…”
“Save yourself, Prophet!”
“They’re executing people again, at this holy season!”
“What!? They’re killing even him?”
“O God of Hosts! Save this holy man!”
“Don’t even look there!”
“Michael, Gabriel, Suriel, Raphael!”
“What a horrible way to die, I could tell you…”
“They’re at it again. They never really know how to respect us.”
“Son of God!”

Nearer to HIM sat down three to four men. They have tried to busy themselves with gambling, but they have soon gotten tired of it. The heap of rags which until a while ago were HIS clothes lay stacked at a corner, as a scruffy, unkempt street dog which roamed about the area sniffed on it.

“This is the part I don’t like…waiting for these b******s to die here outside.”
“You still have posca there? 'Fraid my ration’s about to run out.”
“No wonder; you’ve been drinking ever since we got here!”
“Shut up!”
“By the way, what is that man in for?”
“Can’t you read the sign, you idiot? Says he’s been claiming titles for himself. Says he’s the ‘King of the Judaeans’ or something. Instant death penalty, that one.”
“Is he now? I don’t see his armies!”
“Oh, perhaps they’re just hiding, lying in wait.”
“Great. More victims mean we spend more time here.”
“You think anyone would dare come near here?”
“Nah, they never do. They content themselves with shouting, but really they’re just cowards, these Judaeans.”

“Oi. You.” One of them came near to HIM. “What a fine king you are. You must be thirsty. Want a drink?” He splashed the contents of his bowl down HIS face. (The gibbet HE was affixed into was not very tall – HE was only a foot or less above the ground.) “King of the Judaeans,” he sneered as he sat back down, refilled his bowl, and slurped loudly.

They do not know.

[INDENT]You do know why you are here, do you not? Your high priest says that you’ve come to this city being hailed as a king and have, by your words and actions, performed seditious acts against our Empire. If that is true, you are just as dangerous to the Roman Peace as, if not more than, the brigands who roam the countrysides. Surely, I need not remind you that claiming titles and fomenting rebellion would make you eligible for a death sentence. No need for a trial: I could just say the word, and you’ll be dead in no time. Let me then ask you: is this charge true? Are you a king?
[INDENT]If my kingdom is here, don’t you think my followers would have prevented my arrest? No, my kingdom is not here. Not on earth.
You have never answered my question. LISTEN TO ME! Tell me in plain words: are you, or are you not, a king?
King - that’s your word. I have but one purpose: I came here to give witness to the truth–
What is this? Have the priests been playing tricks with me again!? I’ve no time to deal with madmen and their delusions. Stop feigning ignorance - I’ve no time for jokes. What ‘truth’?[/INDENT]

No, they do not know.

FORGIVE THEM…ABBA, THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING; FORGIVE THEM.

After croaking the words with HIS parched throat, HE slunk HIS head, as if being driven to sleep by the chorus of birds and insects, and everything went black.[/INDENT]

II. Lēstēs

The sun was higher up in the sky, as the heat of the day increased in intensity. The handful of passersby that had watched until a while ago from the roadside had now gone off. The great feast called Passover was set to begin at that evening, and in the city nearby, huge preparations were underway. No - those on the road hurried as if on urgent business, never stopping to look, acting as if the dead and dying men that hung near the roadside were not there at all.

Contrary to the taunts and the wishes, no one came to HIS aid. Not Michael, not Gabriel, not one Messenger of the Most High made any appearance. There HE was still, HIS head slunk low as the flies continued to dart on HIS chest. One guard checked to see if HE is dead or not, prodding HIM with the wooden twig he was clutching in his hand. HE was alive, at least: unconscious, yes, but still alive.

HE was not the only one who was being put to death at that day. On two similar gibbets, each located respectively at HIS left and right, hung two men, who, like HIM, were wounded and naked. Their hands and feet were bound by ropes and fixed with nails to the T-shaped trees of death. Each of them moaned and writhed in pain as they squirmed like worms stuck by a needle.

No one knew where these two men came from. Even under interrogation, they would not even give their proper names. All that is known about them was that they were lēstai, cutthroat bandits, the robbers who congregate in remote places and organize armed rebellions against the Empire and their collaborators. These marauders are feared, as they would treat anyone who stands in their way - be it Roman or Judaean - without mercy.

These two men were under the wing of a man known among the local gossip mill as ‘Abba’s Son’ or ‘the Teacher’s Son’: Joshua son of Abba. Not much is also known about him, but rumors circulate about how Joshua inherited from his father Abba, a lay teacher known in his native village for his holiness, a devout respect for the ancient Law. Yet apparently his commitment was so extreme - fanatical, to put it simply - that he decided to actively take up arms. This is where the stories diverge from and even contradict each other. Some report that his father died of grief because of the path of violence his son took. Opponents report that Joshua himself killed his father in a fit of rage when he refused to give his blessing to the cause. But the more sympathetic circulate the tale that Abbas himself was an influence to his son’s ideology and gave his express approval.

In any event, Joshua, with a few other like-minded men, started a campaign of what could be termed as ‘heroism’ if you were on his side and ‘terrorism’ if you were on the other side. He would often give rousing talks to his men, saying that their victory is preordained by God and that they should not be afraid to murder their enemies, for the Romans and anyone who aligns with them are not human. In fact, it is their obligation to rid the holy nation of its enemies.

But all things, good or bad, come to an end: his band was ambushed by Roman troops, and most of his men were killed in the onslaught. The remaining survivors - Joshua and the two - were taken before the prefect Pilatus, who pronounced them as guilty of armed rebellion and sentenced them to death. The original plan was to kill all three together, when HE came into the scene and took the place of the son of Abba.

One of the two swung his head back and forth in an effort to keep the flies from darting to his face. This pain is unendurable! They were not joking when they said that this form of death is the most horrible a man could ever experience. His back ached from the heavy beating he was subjected to before being brought here to die in uttermost shame. He felt sick with the overbearing stench of death: he thought he was going to puke. Why, oh why, was he so foolish to join that son of Abbas? Was it because of his promises of a better life once the Romans are driven out? Was it because of all the talks of forthcoming redemption?

He looked at HIM. He has heard of this Man: they said, that HE was a holy man who cured the blind and the lame. They said that HE provided a whole crowd with food when none could be found. They said that HE even raised dead men. If HE could do all those things and perhaps even more, why doesn’t HE do anything now?

Craning his neck, he tried to look at the sign posted above HIS head. He could never read it completely - being born in extreme poverty he was illiterate, and could only read a few letters. All he could get that he was apparently a ‘king’. He snickered in disgust. HE was no better than them. He’s had had enough of kings and holy men. Liars, the whole lot of them. The rage built up within him, intensified by the pain, and then, something snapped.

http://www.wearysloth.com/Gallery/ActorsC/52125.gif

He laughed maniacally as he growled. “Hoy! You…They say you’re…you’re a…‘king’! …They…say you’re God’s Son! Why don’t you do something? You who…gave sight…to…the blind…save us!”

No answer. HIS head was still bowed down.

“Come on! Show me one…of your wonders! You…multiplied the bread and…fed the crowds…didn’t you? Come on…this should…not…not be too difficult, I hope!”

Still no answer. HE was now regaining consciousness and slowly lifted HIS head up to look at him. He was getting very impatient and angry.

“You…you know…what you are? You’re…a CHEAT! LIAR! YOU ARE ALL LIARS! You…you all speak of…of the Power…but why doesn’t He save you now! LIARS! DAMN YOU! DAMN ALL OF YOU! I CURSE YOU, FALSE PROPHET! IF YOU ARE GOD’S SON, WHY CAN’T YOU SAVE US? WHY DON’T YOU SAVE US!”

The guards below them looked on at the bandit, then at HIM. They chuckled. “Now this is interesting!”

But he won’t stop. His eyes glinted with a slight hint of madness as he continued to recite his litany of curses.

“LIAR! YOU DAMNED LIAR! IDIOT…COWARD OF A MAN! What’re you looking at? What? You…want me to…bow down before…you first, your Majesty? If you’re…so holy…come down! Come down I beg you! I don’t care who you…call upon! Come down…and I will believe you–”

“SHUT UP!”

Everyone was startled and looked at HIM. But it was not HIM who spoke. It was the other man at the far side, his former comrade. They were comrades-in-arms, but they rarely, if ever, agreed with each other.

“You shut…up now! Can’t…you…see? That man…he is not…like us! We…deserve this…but he doesn’t! He - He is…He is…He did…nothing wrong –”

What is he saying?

He turned to HIM. “I…ask you only…this, O King…I did evil…I am not worthy…ask…for anything…but I…ask only for remembrance…please…remember me…remember me in your Kingdom!” He started to weep.

HE looked at the other victim. HE gathered a little strength to speak.

“Listen…to me…I tell…you today…you will…”

You will what?

“You will be…with me…today…with me…in the Garden of God!”

You’re crazy. All of you are. Has the sun got into your head? You can’t even break free and rescue yourself, yet here you are, handing out empty promises…you’re no different from the son of Abba. Go down and die, all of you.

Exasperated, he turned his head away. At a distance, he saw patches of green contrasting with the whites and browns that predominated in the area: little garden plots and orchards. He clicked his tongue with annoyance and bent his head. What a horrible way to die indeed…

Love one another as I have loved you

Thats is the law of love, all life on earth he has teached us that we love each other.
Love your enemy. Pry for your enemy.

III. Woman

Dreary moments passed. Still no sign of any heavenly or earthly intervention coming to HIS - or to anyone’s - aid could be found in sight. The guards tried hard not to doze off out of boredom: sleeping on duty was a crime punishable by death. All except one, who was wide awake and energetically paced back and forth in front of the three victims, all the while looking sternly at the gibbets and the victims that hung thereon, then at the guards who stood or sat in front of them. Time and again, if he caught one who started to doze off, he would whack the offender with the wooden staff he held in his right hand and order him to stand up as punishment. The only thing he ignored was the street dog, who trotted off only to come back again and scratch on the legs of one of the victims, leading him to curse loudly.

We have, up to now, neglected the presence of this man, a tall, slightly paunchy, middle-aged man with a face fixed in a perpetual scowl. Yet he was the one who headed the guards.

An execution squad was regularly composed of four soldiers under a commanding centurion (in the tongue of the Romans) or an hekatontarch (according to the Greeks), a commander of a centuria. It is their job to hang condemned men, to keep strict guard over them until death, and to ensure that the victim is indeed dead.

Unlike his men, who mostly wore with their plain, round bronze helmets white tunics slightly soiled with dust and blood, plate-covered belts from which dangled studded strips of leather, and heavy, hobnailed leather sandals, the centurion was in full gear: an armor of iron mail, decorated by rings and circular plaques of silver over a linen tunic dyed crimson red, tucked by a plated belt very much like that worn by the others. In addition to this were greaves of brass on his legs, leather sandals on his feet, and a helmet of iron, of a different, more ornate design than that worn by his subordinates, topped by a crest of horsehair.

He never seemed to feel any discomfort wearing all this: despite the heavy load, his movements were quick and energetic. On the contrary, he seemed to be the epitome of a hardened veteran: long-enduring, unflinching, stern, like a graven image. He perspired heavily, stopping now and again from his rounds to wipe the sweat from his brow with his hands, but he never gave any indication of thirst or tiredness. At least, it never showed in his face.

At last, the centurion, apparently satisfied that his men are now wide awake and that no intruder would dare break in and take the victims down, stood still by an unoccupied wooden post stained black with old blood.

At the same time a young man somewhere in his late tens to early twenties rushed out of the city, squirming his way past the pilgrims on the road. The total opposite of the captain he was: short and wiry, with curly black hair, a hooked nose slightly disproportionate to his long thin face, deep brown eyes, and a heavily-tanned complexion. He wore a simple, rough woolen tunic, slightly off-white in color, decorated down its length by two reddish-brown parallel stripes. Over him was draped a rectangular cloak, which may have been originally white but now stained yellow, tassels dangling down its corners. His footwear was made of rushes, now in such a bad condition that it looked like that they could fall apart at any time.

He was running full speed toward the direction of the execution area. Only one thing was on his mind: get to the Master before it’s too late.

The events of last night remained fresh in his memory. How an armed band of soldiers came and arrested the Teacher. How they tried to defend HIM, to no avail. How most of HIS disciples who were in the scene fled away. How from the midst of the band, a familiar face stepped out with a wide grin…Judah son of Simon from Kerioth.

Judah! That Keriothite, that traitor, that dog! How could he? After all this time…!

For some reason, he kept recalling Judah’s grinning face in his mind vividly, like an unwanted memory of a terrible nightmate, and gritted his teeth in grief and anger as he did so. He always suspected Judah as stealing from the common purse. He thought that the Master already gave hints that he was up to no good…how could he be so blind? If only he knew…

But not only with Judah––he was also disappointed with the others, especially Simon. Simon, whom HE dubbed ‘Rock’. The two of them secretly followed the soldiers who took the Master captive up to the High Priest’s house. But then…

No, I don’t know what you’re talking about!

The oaths and denials lingered in his ears. His eyes stung. “I don’t know what you’re talking about”? “I don’t know him?” Weren’t you the one who said “You are the Anointed One” to HIM back then? How could you? How dare you?

He never got to say it out loud to Simon’s face though, because he went off, he knew not where. But he never felt like trying to search for him. Notorious for his fiery, short temper (like his elder brother) - something he was fully aware of - he was afraid he might lose his cool when he saw him or Judah. No, it would be probably better if they don’t show up before him now.

Everyone had proven themselves cowardly and ran away. Now, everything was up to him, the last disciple. He wanted the Master to see him, to know that everything was not lost: someone is still loyal to HIM. Youthful courage sprang from him as he dashed out of the city gate. He no longer cared if they found out that he was a follower. He no longer cared if they arrested him on the spot and execute him as well. Unlike the others, he firmly resolved to prove faithful to his word and be ready to die with HIM. He, Johanan son of Zabdai, will stay with his Master to the very end!

With these thoughts, he had finally reached his destination.

What they had said about the area was true. By the looks of it, the area seemed like a huge stone quarry, filled with scarps and caverns cut into the rock. Parts of the quarry was filled over with brownish soil - in fact, he could see small plots of cultivated land, from which grew a few olive and citrus trees. In the midst stood a very steep finger of rock, towering over the area. From a certain angle, the white, rocky area, with its caverns, resembled a gigantic, flattened human skull, grinning morbidly at passersby. It was for this reason that the locals called the area simply as ‘Skull’.

At a clearing close by the road stood a row of wooden posts and gibbets, mostly shaped like a T. Most were empty, but at the rightmost end of the row there were three gibbets upon which hung three naked men, their bodies completely covered in blood. The one in the middle had a whitened wooden placard over his head, upon which was written in large bold letters: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JUDAEANS.

That’s HIM! How horrible, he thought. So this is how the Romans put people to death. Since his childhood, he had already seen people being put to death in this manner, but it was the first time that the gruesome sight had any real impact on him.

Johanan?” Came a whisper from behind his back.

He turned back to look. The speaker was a woman: she was tall and slender, with her hair gathered in a woven net. Behind her, two women were supporting a frail-looking, elderly lady, whose eyes were puffy with tears. She was Miriam of Migdal, another disciple of the Master. And the old lady was the Master’s mother herself, also named Miriam.

He was slightly surprised. “Miriam? What are you doing here?

We have heard the news: we’ve come here to mourn for the Master.

Praise be to the Name. So he wasn’t alone after all.

Are the others with you?” Miriam asked.

For some reason, the words were at the tip of his tongue. “No. I’m…I’m afraid they’ve…run away. Simon was with me, but he went off somewhere.” He can’t bear to speak of what Simon did, or Judah. Certainly not now.

They positioned themselves at the front of the Master. The soldiers who guarded the area never seemed to pay particular attention to them. The centurion looked briefly with his scowling face, then turned his face away.

Johanan gazed at the Master. HE seemed to be unconscious, but HE was still breathing. HIS was leaning HIS head on HIS left shoulder, HIS mouth agape. HIS face, slightly obscured by HIS matted hair, the blood and grime, and the insects, was swollen and barely recognizable.

The sight brought back the painful memories in Johanan’s mind. Judah. Simon. The others. How could they – the ones personally hand-picked by the Master – all allow HIM to suffer, abandon HIM in his most critical hour?

Then, the question shifted. How come YOU allowed this to happen? He addressed the Victim, not with words, but in his mind. Why? Why didn’t you save yourself? Why did you allow those whom you trusted to abandon and even betray you?

Suddenly, as if in reply to his internal turmoil, the Master slowly stirred. Slowly lifting HIS head and opening HIS bloodshot eyes, HE gazed directly at him, penetrating his very soul. And then, vivid memories flashed into his mind’s eye, dispelling away the darkness felt by his soul.

[INDENT]“‘Eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth.’ Isn’t that what our fathers have taught us? ‘Love thy neighbor but hate thy enemy.’ So it has been said. But I tell you this now: that you must love YOUR ENEMIES.
Love the man who beats you to death and steals your clothing. Love the magistrate who unjustly takes the fruit of your toils from you. Love the soldier who forces you to go one mile - no, go with him two miles. Love the toll collector who cheats on you. Love those who slap you on one cheek - in fact, allow them to slap the other cheek! Love the slanderer who mocks and taunts you. Yes, even the man who draws his sword and drives it into your belly!
Listen to me! You must love your enemies! Pray for them even. Love those who hate you, and you will not have an enemy. If you only love the men who love you now, what reward is in that? Even the toll collectors do likewise, do they not? Even pagans do that! No…you should all be perfect, as the Father - who bestows the sun and the rain on good and bad alike - is perfect!”

Teacher, the two of us have, uh, something to ask of you, if it’s, uh, okay to tell…suppose that you, uh, start reigning and all, can you let us, uh…
Let the two of us sit at your left and at your right in glory? If that’s…wait, I guess not.
You two don’t know what you’re asking. Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?
Jacob, Johanan, sons of Zabdai, I’ll say this to both you you: you will indeed drink from the cup that I drink, and you will undergo the baptism. However, the right to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant.
Listen to me, all of you! You all know well that those who are regarded as kings and rulers over the nations lord it over their subjects. But not so with you: you must all become slaves first if you wish to be great. Whoever lifts himself up high will be cast down, and whoever lowers himself will be lifted up!

Take a look at this child. Whoever welcomes him welcomes me; and everyone who welcomes me welcomes the Father who sent me. Also, unless you all become like children, to whom the Kingdom of Heaven belongs, you will never be able to go there.

Teacher, I’ve seen someone who exorcised demons out in your name. He wasn’t one of us - didn’t even look like a follower - so I told him to stop. Wasn’t cooperative at all when I confronted him, so unfortunately I, uh, had to resort to other means.
Johanan, why did you do that? No one who uses my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me. Simply put, whoever is not against us is on our side. Remember that.

Those dogs of Samaritans! They’ll get what’s coming to them.
What an ungrateful lot. We’ll see who’ll have the last laugh when the Kingdom comes, the b*****ds!
Teacher, why not call down fire from heaven and destroy them? That’ll teach them a lesson.
Stop it, all of you! You don’t know what you’re talking about. I haven’t come to destroy lives.

This is how you must pray:
“‘Father in heaven, may your Name be sanctified: let your kingdom come!
Give us the bread that we so need today,
and forgive our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And allow us not to come to the testing; rather, deliver us from evil.’”[/INDENT]

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