I don’t know how long I sat there, staring blankly at those pieces of bread, but I was brought back by a sudden movement out of the corner of my eye. One of the men from earlier came bursting out of the house and ran down the street. Soon after, Jesus and the rest of his friends came out of the house as well, though not in as much of a hurry. I got up and followed them at a distance, making sure to not be seen. They went into a garden at the edge of town. I considered going in after them but decided instead to wait outside.
Time passed and I found myself nodding off until I was awakened by a flicker that caught my drooping eyes. I opened them fully to see a river of armor, reflecting torchlight and rushing toward me. A hundred soldiers, with Jesus’ friend—the one who had ran out of the house—leading the way. I cringed. They’ll either arrest me or trample me, I thought! But they ran past me, into the garden. A few minutes later, they emerged with Jesus bound between them, like a criminal. I was too startled to move. I noticed one of the soldiers had blood on his shoulder, but no wound. Once the soldiers were all gone, Jesus’ friends carefully snuck out of the garden one by one, skulking through the night like criminals themselves.
The burly one I had spent the day with came out last, and I followed him to see where he would go. We ended up in the front yard of a house where Jesus could be seen through the window, along with a sizable group of priests and government officials. The situation inside did not look favorable for Jesus. He was still bound and did not seem to be part of the conversation that was taking place. Outside, there was a fire pit, at which a handful of people had gathered to warm themselves. The burly man joined this group, as casually as he could, rubbing his big hands together and holding them out to the fire. I did the same, sliding into another part of the circle, so as to not attract his attention.
I held my hands out to the fire, glancing back at the window where Jesus stood. The officials inside were arguing with one another and then turning to Jesus and berating him. For being so pomp and proper, they looked in the moment like ravenous coyotes, eyes red, spittle flying from their teeth as they screamed in Jesus’ face. And he just stood there, calmly taking every bit of it. I wondered how he could do that, how he could just stand there and take such hate. I wished I could see his eyes then, to see if the hurricane was still there.
Movement at the fire brought me back as the burly man stepped away violently, shaking his head and covering his face. I had missed what happened, but looking down at the fire, I realized something else. My hands were mere inches from the flames, and yet I felt no heat. I could even see my breath rolling off my lips into the icy night, but I felt no cold and no warmth anywhere on or inside my body. I stumbled back from the circle into darkness and fell hard to the ground. Still, I felt nothing; the dirt beneath me, the pain I should’ve felt when I hit it, the cold air away from the fire. Nothing at all. I was numb and deaf, with no taste or smell to guide me either. My eyes alone remained with me in this nightmare I was living.
With only my sight left to keep me aware, I refused to fall asleep. I leaned myself standing against a wall not far from the front yard, and watched bitterly as the world went by uneventfully through the night. Eventually, the sun came up, pulling itself over the rooftops of Jerusalem, and the town came to life with its usual hustle of the day. The burly man was long gone from the fire pit, and so was Jesus from the house. I had seen them both leave, along with the officials and a troop of soldiers, but I had not followed. I didn’t care anymore. I had resigned to stand against this wall until I fell, and then to lie there where I fell until I died, whether hunger or sickness or some dog would take me first. Why should it matter what killed me if I couldn’t feel any of it to begin with? And so I remained standing there numbly, practically dead already, a watching corpse as the sun rose higher.
From where I stood, I could see most of the town, so there was no way I could miss the ruckus that stirred up in the late morning. A mob of people gathered in the streets, similar actually, to the parade I had witnessed earlier in the week. But this one was not joyous like that one had been. No, this one was angry and rebellious, by the looks of it. People were laughing and singing, but there was something about their faces and gestures that told me these were not the words of praise they were shouting before. And who was their mockery aimed at, I had to wonder. I tried to stretch to see, but the crowd was too great.
The mass seemed to be moving to the town’s edge, and some were gathering already on a hill I could barely see in the distance. Before I could even think about what I was doing, I pushed myself off the wall and stumbled to another, then another. I had to get to a better view than this, to see what was happening out there. Everyone in town was migrating through the streets toward the hill, but I went a different direction. That was going to be too far for me anyway, in my current state. I half ran, half fell down side streets and alleyways until I came to a hill of my own—a graveyard, empty on a day like today when there is something exciting to see elsewhere. But from here, I was high enough up and away from the crowds to make out what was happening there.
It was Jesus! He was being raised up into the air like a scarecrow on a cross. He hung with his head low, ragged and tired. Soldiers stood around beneath him, playing games and shouting insults up to him. His friends also gathered there beneath him, holding one another and weeping. The rest of the crowd didn’t seem to know what to do. Some threw things at him while others covered their eyes, but some just looked on with sad confusion.
I was somewhere in between all of them with my own emotions. I was angry, but I didn’t know who to be angry at; I was sad but I couldn’t figure out what I was most sad about; and I had a longing deep in my soul, but what I longed for exactly, I couldn’t say. So I watched, with all of my emotions, as the soldiers raised a sponge to Jesus’ lips. I watched as Jesus spoke, with what little strength he had left, to one of his friends below and to an old woman at the friend’s side. And I watched from my hill in a graveyard as he lifted his eyes to the sky and open his mouth. He shouted something…
And then everything went black.
I could no longer see, nor hear. I couldn’t feel anything to know where I was. I couldn’t even smell or taste to give myself a clue. I don’t know how long I laid there, if I was lying at all, or sitting or whatever it was. I hadn’t died. That much I knew for certain. This was worse than death. The world had been pulled out of under me. All was gone. I had nothing. I was nothing. I no longer existed.
I hung in this void for what seemed like eternity. My thoughts broke down as time melted away into emptiness. I was alone, but to such an extent that the concept didn’t even apply anymore. There wasn’t even anything left of me to be alone, and so my absence drifted along in a sea of nothingness until that nothingness suddenly shook.
In a flash, I felt the rocky ground beneath my hands and feet as it trembled. Sand and pebbles bounced around my fingertips, tickling my knuckles and getting under my fingernails. Every bone in my body ached with stiffness, and bruises pulsated on my chest and shins where I’d fallen while running. I smelled sulfur, or something like rocks grinding together, and I tasted it on my tongue, too. As the earthquake came to an end, I realized I was lying face down on the ground, my eyes squeezed shut as hard as I could. I kept them that way, afraid to open them and find I was still blind.
But a hand came gently to my face and lifted it toward sunlight. The thumb of that hand wiped away dust from my eyes, and I had to open them to see who would do this. I was met with the face of Jesus, the hurricane still in his eyes—satisfaction for what he had just done, and joy at what he was doing now. He smiled and spoke to me.
“Good morning,” he said.
And for the first time in my whole life, I heard.