I don’t normally walk up the hill, partly because it’s a rotting cesspit of death, and partly because it’s a hill and no one needs my calf muscles to get larger.
But I did today.
You could smell it well before you saw it. Dead flesh, maggots, years of human blood, layer upon layer, drying in the sun like decoupage from hell.
I don’t know why I went, only that the story of this man was too compelling. I wanted to see him for myself.
I followed the crowd, some seemed to be in an excited frenzy as if death had crept into their soul with writhing anticipation. Others were full of fear and uncertainty, astonished that this man was to be executed. What had he done? Why didn’t he save himself?
I shuffled along, somehow buoyed by the crowd, over rocks, and through the overgrown weeds. As I came to the top I lifted my skirt and worried that my shoes would never recover from walking through the trash and filth. I covered my mouth as flies started to swarm around me and the air became think and dark, as if death was taking possession of life with sly suffocation.
My stomach churned as I came to the summit. I couldn’t see him at first, a hefty crowd surrounded him. I squeezed my way through, my morbid fascination drawing me towards him.
I should have stayed home, perhaps.
My foot crunched beneath me and I looked down to see myself standing on the bones of others that had gone before him.
I pushed on and stepped up onto a rock to see him.
And I did.
There were three of them, hanging like meat in a butcher’s shop from putrid logs of wood soaked in blood, vomit and human waste. They were pinned there with well worn nails, straight through their hands and feet.
I looked away, and as I did I heard one of them say “Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom.”
I swung around, keen to hear the man’s response.
Surely he will tell him it’s too late for him, he is a thief, he deserves his fate. Or perhaps he will ignore him, choosing to preserve each painful breath, to prolong his life, to keep his final moments for himself.
I’m still reeling from what he said.
He pushed up against the nail in his feet, giving himself a brief moment of breath from his lungs and in agony and compassion he whispered these words of comfort.
“Don’t worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise.”
Who is this man?
A realisation swept over me and I jumped down from the rock and started to run. Fear followed me as I ran, I tripped and fell to the ground. Tears fell into the dirt as I pushed myself up, willing my legs to carry me home. I scuttled down the hill and fell into the darkness.
The sky enveloped me. Darkness. Separation. Silence.