(For Good Friday, here is an excerpt from a short story I wrote which ends when a present-day man finds himself transported through space and time to Calvary. At first he does not know where he is . . .)
With my eyes closed, the first thing I became aware of was the smell. The stench stung my nostrils. The air was redolent of rotting meat, of the acrid stink of shed blood.
This all happened in an instant and my brain raced to make sense of it all. The grass of the lawn had given way to bare ground. Dirt and sand pushed by an arid, unforgiving wind buffeted my face. I began to sweat in the heat.
I opened my eyes slowly. It was no longer night. The warm glow of the street lights had been replaced by the blaze of the sun. I didn’t see anything at first – it was like coming out of a movie theater matinée – my eyes had to adjust.
I became aware of the groaning.
I looked down away from the sun and noticed something shiny beside me in the dirt. I picked it up and felt the sharp point. It was a large nail.
I looked up and as my eyes continued to get used to the sunshine I saw that there was a tree in front of me.
I heard the sound of weeping behind me, and further back the sounds of a large, angry mob. In front of me was only the groaning.
My gaze was drawn up the trunk of that tree. The sun was almost directly behind the top of it. I blinked against the light. For the first time, I saw HIM hanging there.
I could make out only his silhouette. The shadow slowly, rhythmically, rose up and down. He breathed in deeply with every movement upward. Each time he eased himself down he let out a long, low moan.
I felt moisture on the wind now. It picked up speed. A storm was blowing in. In the distance I heard rolling thunder.
Clouds began to blot out the sun and I could see him more clearly. I wanted to look away but my attention was locked on his suffering. I pushed the point of the nail hard into the flesh of my hand to fight the urge to faint.
I saw . . . everything. His pierced wrists and feet and his blood and his sweat filled my awareness. I was so alive, so awake to what was going on that I could hear the drops of blood that ran from his wrists and plopped into the dusty ground.
I dared to look him in the face. He had the most beautiful, most knowing eyes I had ever seen. As his eyes turned to meet mine I was first filled with awe. But then I was filled with terror.
He knew me! He knew me better than I knew myself. He knew beyond my ability to condemn myself how many times I had let myself . . . let him . . . down. I searched his eyes and all I saw was a hint of accusation.
His rise and fall was much slower now. He seemed to have to gather up all his strength just to take in a breath.
I couldn’t take my eyes off of his. I began to see that I had misread those eyes. I had seen them through a gauze of self-condemnation. What was there wasn’t accusation at all. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
I felt myself fading away from the scene. I had seen just what I needed to. I cried as I drifted away, but they were tears not just for his suffering but also for my joy. My last perception of that place and time was when he spoke what I saw in those eyes. He pulled his body up, took in another deep breath, looked deep into my being, and said this in a harsh whisper that was all he could manage: FOR YOU.