Nathan and I are past due to post a story. The book is making good progress and we’re really excited about it, but in the meantime we really enjoy the satisfaction of making and sharing short stories. It challenges us and sharpens our skills in various genre’s of work.
This is Malefactor. A tale we spent quite a good bit of time perfecting and that we’re pretty proud of. It takes place during the time of Christ, attempting to look at situations from a different perspective than we might be used to. Hope you enjoy… Gav
A short story by the Brothers Seim.
I follow crowds. You see, in time, crowds disperse. I can generally spot the ones who are wealthy, careless with their purse. Sometimes I can get it without them noticing, but more often I cut the cord and run. I am not a subtle man, not usually. I have my moments, but more often I just use brute strength. I know how to fight, though I’ve always been careful about violence. I’m not afraid to hurt people, but I can never tell who might have citizenship. If they catch me and they can prove I’ve murdered someone under the emperor’s protection, they will crucify me. Otherwise, they’ll just sell me into slavery.
Not that I intend to get caught. No. But I’ve seen crucifixions. They draw crowds and so they draw me. I remember that first wretch. Some Egyptian who murdered a centurion. They dragged him out of his cell. He kicked and screamed and resisted, but the guard knew how to use his whip. In the end I watched him carry it up to the hilltop and then they… Gah, I don’t want to think about this.
For the past three years I’ve done well around here. There’s this Jewish teacher, and he draws crowds. I can’t describe what it is about him, but when you hear him you understand. He’s not a lawyer, but there is something about the way he talks. He’s brutally blunt and the Jewish leaders hate him. Really hate him. Pharisees hate anyone with a voice who questions them. Saducees do to. I think that’s why they hate each other so much.
These Jewish leaders are such hypocrites. They’re no better than me. They steal, they cheat, they lie, they even kill, but when they can’t hide what they do they always come up with some sort of law or tradition so the people will tolerate their crimes. I wish I was so cunning. But even so, when they trouble this teacher, he seems to come out on top. I often hear what he has to say while I watch the crowds. I admit, I like it when he tells the leaders that they will spend eternity with Lucifer. He’s the Hebrew demon lord.
Today the teacher is riding into the city. I have a perfect place. This crowd is so thick and the people are going wild. They won’t even notice me. Here he comes. That group of Pharisees over there are watching whats happening. Ha, they look furious. That one walking away is quite wealthy. He’s my man. Well worth the extra risk. His purse chain is made of metal. I cannot cut it. I’ll just wait till he goes into that alley. Here’s a rock that will do the job nicely. I’ll just stay at a reasonable distance until I can catch him alone. I had better wait for that cloud to move overhead. No reason to risk him seeing my shadow. My, But it is a beautiful day. Look, that flower cart is here today. I’ll buy one for mother once I’m finished.
It’s time. I’ll not hit him too hard. Just enough to knock him out. Run quietly… Caesar’s stones, the suns coming out. My shadow, he’s seen it. He’s shouting for help. Run around this corner. Damnation, there’s a soldier. Now those fool Pharisees are yelling that I am a thief. Can my day get any worse? Their catching up. Hands off me, roman scum. Take this rock in your face. Haha, that will stop you. Time to go, the soldiers are coming in force. Three more. I’ll duck down this alleyway. Ooomph! Who tackled me? Gah, my head’s ringing. They must have slammed it on the pavement. Someone’s yelling. Something is…
Where in Hades am I? Straw and stone floor, barred windows, locked door. A prison cell. This lump on my head is the size of an egg. They must have knocked me out. Least of my troubles though. At least I didn’t kill anyone. At worst, I will be sold. Then I can escape. Slavery is not so bad, compared to the alternative. There is nothing I can do but wait. Better get some sleep.
The door is creaking open. How long have I slept? my head feels clearer.
That guard in the doorway is motioning to me.
“Come with me.”
He’s binding my hands and leading me out of the cell. We’re in the halls. I hear a room full of people ahead. The judgement hall? Is that Pontius Pilate, the Procurator? He’s looking me over. Why would they bring me to Pilate?
He’s speaking to me. “You know what you’ve done.”
Should I respond? No, better to just shrug and say nothing.
“You killed a roman soldier with a stone.”
“Killed him? No, I only hit him once! I didn’t kill anyone!” How can this be happening.
“Really? the soldiers who witnessed the murder said differently.” Pilate motions with his hand, as though I am of no importance. “Take him and crucify him. ”
“No! I won’t die like that, you Roman…”
A soldier’s gauntlet smashes into my mouth. I have to fight the wails of pain and terror rising in me. I cannot. What does it matter now anyway? I’m choking. My vision is blurred by tears. Crucifixion! It has come to this! Finally I regret the way I have lived. I could have worked. I have an able body, but not for long, not now. My guilt, the regret, it’s more then I can bear. My life has been a lie, but I didn’t kill anyone. I didn’t. Did I? I have robbed the poor, taken everything they had. I have assaulted people and left them on lonely roads. But surely I do not deserve what’s coming.
I’m breaking down. Everything that has happened. It’s playing over and over in my mind. I don’t know how long I have been laying here, sobbing, but the door is opening again. I cannot face this. What choice is there?. Pull yourself together!
The jailor is shouting at me.
‘“Get out here!”
I can’t move. He’s dragging me. I have to force myself to look up. Somehow I do, only to see a long log with a beam across it near the top. “Carry it!” The jailor growls. I shake my head. Aah! A searing pain rips across my back. And again. And again. I pull myself to my feet. They lay the cross on my back and I trudge up the hill, I can hardly think. I can’t make it to the top. I am stumbling under the crushing weight of this beam. What if I just lay down and let them beat me to death? It might be quicker. No, he’s coming with the whip. I have to keep moving.
I must have reached the hilltop, because a guard kicks me down. They pin me to the wood and tie me there. Suddenly I can think clearly. It’s all real. Horrible images, that Egyptian, the look on his face.
a soldier is coming with the spike. I close my eyes and tense my body. The tip of the nail is cold. I hear the mallet strike the nailhead. I can’t even hear the scream that’s ripping from throat. My mind is overcome by the pain. That alone provides some tiny relief, but too little. Now they have hold on my feet. I can’t kick free. Their pinning them down. He has another nail.
They’re lifting me into the air. Ah. I know what’s coming. I grit my teeth hard, and only a grunt escapes me as the cross is dropped into its place.
I know I’ve been up here for a little time. I am still in horrific pain, but it is becoming all I know. The rule, not the exception. I look about me. There are two other crosses on the hill. I am on the right side, on the left, another murderer. At least I’m not the only one suffering. Who is that in the middle? If I twist my shoulder I’ll be able see. It’s the Jewish teacher. What has he done? The plaque over his head reads IESUS NAZARENUS REX IUDAEORUM “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”
The Pharisees and Saducees are inciting the crowd. They’re mocking him. I decide to give it a try, maybe it will take my mind off the pain. “If you are the Christ, save yourself, and us!”
He turns and looks at me. I expect hate, a returned insult, but that is not what I see. He’s looking at me like a shepherd would if he found a stray sheep, dying. Does he truly feel sorrow for me?
His teachings, I heard them, but they were nothing… No, they were something. I knew he had the words of life. I just refused to listen. Now it is to late. He won’t forgive me. I have openly mocked the son of God. I deserve what I am getting, and worse. But this man is innocent, innocent in a way that no other human being can be. I know that is was within his power to save me. Not this body, for it is not worth saving. The unspeakable terror! Now that I believe his teaching, I know that death is not the end. I dare not imagine what awaits filth like me.
He’s looking at the crowd now. He’s going to speak. “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”
Is he praying for me?
The other victim is taking up my insult and calling for The Christ to come down from the cross, and rescue us and him.
I cannot not bear to listen to my own foolishness repeated. I’m going to scream at him. “Do you not fear God? You are going to die with us. This man has done nothing wrong.”
He is God. He is innocent. But it does not matter. God will not hear me now! I have try. I’ll call to The Christ. “Jesus!”
He turns to look at me again.
“Lord, when you are with your father in his kingdom, remember me.” It isn’t pity in his eyes, not anymore. It has become warm, radiating love. Then he speaks, not to the crowd, but to me.
“Truly, I say to you, today you shall be with me in Paradise.”
My self pity is draining from me, like the blood that runs from my wrists and feet. I know that he speaks the truth. The son of God has told me that I will be with him. The pain is nothing now, nothing compared to what I know awaits me. I am forgiven! I want to smile. Even as I dangle here on my cross, I know that no earthly suffering is worthy of comparison of where I am going.
A woman is at the foot of Jesus’s cross. Beside her one of his disciples. He looks at them and says “Woman, behold your son!” Then to the man “Behold, your mother!” A spasm of pain wracks his body and he cries out I do not understand the words, but the tone is clear. He is utterly alone, forsaken. I feel hot tears running down my face. It is as though everything he suffers, he suffers for me. He’s gasping. He’s trying to speak again.
Someone is shouting for a sponge. They’re dipping it in something. Their putting to mouth, but he’s refusing to drink it. I would rather be ten times crucified than watch him suffer any longer. He’s looking to heaven.
“It is finished! Father, into your hands I commend my spirit!” His body goes limp. I feel so relieved.
I’m feeling the earth shake beneath me and it’s getting dark. It’s never been this dark. I do not care. I’ll just close my eyes to wait for the end. I can hear a voice from the ground. It is the centurion who nailed us here.
“Truly, this man was the son of God.”
I cannot shout, but if I could I would cry out in agreement.
A soldier is coming to the centurion. He’s talking to him. The centurion is handing the soldier his mallet and motions towards our crosses. What is happening? The soldier is standing below me. He doing something with the mallet. He’s smashing it into my legs. I’m so numb, but I know they are broken.
I cannot support myself any longer. I can draw small breaths, but they are to little. Joy! Any second now…
The pain is gone. It’s all gone. Where are my bonds? The place I am in is beautiful. There are people all around me. Who is that man. Abraham! Everyone is waiting expectantly for something. I am on grassy ground. I’ll just kneel down with the others to wait. The thick clouds above us are sundered by glorious light. It is radiating from a person, like a man. It’s Jesus! But not like he was. He’s so radiant. I don’t want to look away. He’s embracing Abraham. Now he comes for me. He places his hand on my shoulder. “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the rest I have prepared you.”
(c) 2011 The Brothers Seim. Please do not copy this story. Please share it by referring readers this this page.