“It is done.”
He closed his eyes and the pain simply stopped. There was no fading, no gradual lessening. The pain was just gone. His arms previously numb from hours of hanging felt neither tired, nor sore. Even the oppressive heat of the day was gone. He opened his eyes.
It was night although far on the horizon a glow, signaling the start or end of another day, seemed partially hidden by fog. The sky lacked a moon, or even stars. He was sitting on the ground but felt neither its roughness nor cold. Standing, glorious as it was without pain, gave him no sense of firmness. It was as if the ground, even the night around him, lacked substance. His eyes sought some feature to focus on. His toes, wiggling, sought to distinguish between grass, or rock or sand with no success.
Finally, a sound like a low murmur heard through a wall. It was voices but he could not determine their source or number. Craning his head first one direction, then another did not change their volume or tenor. Like his eyes seeking something to see, his ears strained to catch a discernible sound.
Another sound, like the faint rustling of leaves in the softest of breezes came from behind him. A sigh made without breath. He felt no wind, no cool change in the air but turned, hoping.
No longer facing the horizon, he saw, campfires? In the distance the faint glows did not flicker nor flare. Steady points of unmoving lights seemed to stretch into the sky.
Was he in a valley? Looking back at the glow on the horizon, it did not offer any clue as to the shape of the land between it and his position.
The voice, when it came, was a whisper that sounded as if it were spoken directly into his ear. His quick turn towards the voice upset his footing and he fell over but did not fall down.
“You glow,” it said.
It was the voice of his mother yet; it was of the same spirit as his Father. That was not possible for he knew his Father’s voice and this was not it.
“You’re brighter than the others though.”
“What others?” he asked.
“The others that glow.” It was said so matter-of-factly that any question he may have had died before getting a chance to be spoken. He looked again at what he thought were campfires and realized they had shape and they were not as distant as he first thought.
“Why?” he asked.
“Don’t you know?”
He looked down at his hands. There was no pain, no bleeding, but a definite brightness that varied only slightly around the wounds. His feet showed the same variations. He did glow, but it did not add any illumination to the surrounding ground.
“I have my Father with me,” he proclaimed.
“No, you are alone.”
“He is with me always, even as you are now.”
“He is not, nor am I.”
He knew the second the other spoke that it was the truth. His Father was not here. He could not feel the comforting presence, nor hear the whisper of his approval. Even his eyes still sought focus onto the other with no success. And once again he felt the despair he felt on the cross. The pain had become his companion, his foundation. In the absence of his Father, he held onto the only thing he felt, his pain. And now, with it gone, the loss of his Father came rushing back to him.
“Why are you doing that?” the other asked.
The pain of the loss grew. He felt it in his chest and squeezed his arms together in a tight embrace.
“If you continue you will join the others.”
He did not want to listen, the pain spread and he fell to the ground.
“Was that him?” asked a new voice in the distance.
“No. See. The glow is fading already.”
The pain quieted the voices. The pain was familiar. He could feel the spikes again in his hands and feet. The shouts of the crowd boiled in his ears and he could feel the warmth of the blood on his face. The pain was like strength, it flowed back into the darkness.
A sharp scream turned his head, pain momentarily forgotten.
“NO, NO, it’s mine, MINE!”
A figure came running from the direction of the glowing horizon. It did not block the view of the horizon so he is not sure why he knew where it was coming from, but the outline of the figure was running very fast.
“MINE I tell YOU, MINE!” it shouted.
Like the voice that had been talking before, he knew this voice. Again, it was like the spirit of his Father but not his Father. He wanted to reach out to the figure as it ran closer. His pain forgotten, he could see and hear the pain coming from the shouts.
“NO ONE ELSE, MINE, LEAVE ME ALONE!”
He stood and moved towards the figure.
“No, don’t do that!” yelled the first voice he heard.
The figure slammed into him, knocking both of them down. He, he was sure now it was a man, was freezing. Every touch seemed to drain heat from his body.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING? TRYING TO TAKE IT AWAY? IT’S MINE, LEAVE ME ALONE, MINE!!”
He was kicked and struck and the man jumped up and resumed running.
“FOREVER MINE, NO ONE CAN TAKE IT, MINE!”
The figure quickly was lost in the darkness but he saw others that were glowing move away from the direction of the shouts.
“What were you trying to do?”
“He was in pain.”
“So were you.”
His pain. Forgotten for the moment had fled again. This time he knew if he wanted he could bring it back but shook his head. Why seek out pain? Why take on pain when you did not need to?
“Because it was yours,” said the other. “You’re glowing again.”
He looked at his hands and feet and saw that the blood and spikes were gone, the glow had returned.
“Could not have been helped. He wanted his pain, he would not have given it up now. He can see and feel and hold it like a treasure of immense wealth. If he were to give it up, he would cease and he will not.”
“Do you know him?”
“No, but there are many like him. Soon you will see and hear them often.”
“How do you know?”
“I’ve been here awhile.”
“What is your name,” he asked.
“Yes, your name?”
“I had a name. It was…”
“Asrith. Your name is Asrith.”
“How do you know my name when I can not remember it?”
“I am,” he replied. And the glow grew.
“Is he the one?” whispered the voice.
“Maybe,” replied Asrith.
“How long have you been here Asrith?” he asked.
“Time has no meaning here. I have been here. Before, I hunted. My brother and I were close to killing a wildebeest and I awoke here. I have been here since.”
“Where are you from? Palestine? Greece? Rome?”
“I do not know those places. My village is Antgara. It is by a river near the White Mountain.”
“There is another by your side,” he proclaimed.
“He was here before me, he does not have a name, or does not remember his name,” responded Asrith.
“I know him. He is Weiyou.”
“It is him!” exclaimed Weiyou.
“Who am I Weiyou?” he asked.
“You are the one the will end the night!” Weiyou said.
“How?” asked Asrith. “Can you?”
“The night is part of the day. To end one is to end the other. Why would I end the night?” he asked.
“So that we might wake up,” cried Weiyou. “The Sun sits below the horizon, not moving. No stars guide us, the Moon has failed. There is no warmth, no food. We do not sleep. We sit and wait. Some glow as yourself, but most sit and wait.”
“Except the runners,” added Asrith.
Weiyou seemed to move closer. His voice spat, “Runners, always runners. More and more. They burn if you touch them. And they make you tired. Not enough to sleep, but a lot.”
He could see an outline of both Asrith and Weiyou. Like a new moon on a clear night. Darkness on darkness. But neither drained heat away like the ‘runner’.
“Do the runners always run away from the horizon?” he asked.
“I have never seen any do otherwise. They always shout, although it is not always the same, but often it is. I have never seen one that glows run.” Weiyou added.
“How long have you been here Weiyou?”
“Why do you ask again? Asrith was here after, you were here after, others were here before. I have seen no sunrise, no moon. I was left by my tribe, I was here. Has more than a day passed? When were you here?”
“I just arrived,” he said.
“Really? I have known you longer than Asrith.”
This shocked him. He knew the truth of it. He had known Weiyou longer than Asrith but he met Asrith here first. But he knew both. Asrith had many children but Weiyou only had a daughter…she too was here. His eyes looked over towards the horizon and rested on someone with a glow within and knew it was Shuwei. He turned back to Weiyou and looked at him.
“I know you Weiyou,” was all he said.
Asrith turned and moved away.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“Runners are coming.”
Weiyou and he turned towards the horizon and heard the shouts. “Many of them. We need to move out of their way.”
“Why?” he asked.
He followed them as they walked neither farther nor closer to the horizon. “Their pain will become yours and you will run with them if too many run into you.”
“How do you know this?”
“Did you not like your pain?” Asrith asked.
He thought of his embracing the pain and how easy it was to want to feel, something, anything, again. But he remembered that he stopped seeing and hearing everything else also. And he had a name for the pain.
“Call it what you will. Pain. Sin. It is the same thing. It takes away the world from you. It becomes more important than anything else. It takes away from anyone that touches it. Runners never let go. They would rather have their pain than to give it up. Your pain did not belong to you. You welcomed it, but it wasn’t yours. If you had kept it, eventually it would have become yours. But when you heard the runner, it fled from you.”
He looked at Asrith. There was no glow in Asrith but he knew that Asrith understood. He reached out and touched Asrith.
Weiyou gasped and both turned to him.
“What have you done?” he yelled. Weiyou fell to his knees and appeared to be crying.
He and Asrith looked at him and then back towards each other. He was astonished. Asrith was glowing.
They stood over Weiyou for a long time as he cried. When the crying became slow sobs Asrith knelt beside him.
“Come on my friend. Why are you crying?”
Muffled, but strongly, Weiyou replied, “My daughter. I see her in you. It is as if I see you and her as one. I know you are not her, but I know you as I know her. It is not sorrow, or it is but not pain, that I know that she glowed even in the brightest day. And I know now the source of the glow.”
He stood and put his hand on Asrith’s shoulder. “My friend.” Weiyou turned to him. “You are the one. You are the source. You will end the night.” He sat down but continued to look at him. “I can wait.”
Asrith looked first at Weiyou and then at him. “He is right. We can wait.” He said down next to Weiyou and looked expectantly at him.
He looked at the two men and sat next to them. The runners passed by shouting but he did not have the desire to go towards them. At first he thought he should be ashamed for not wanting to help but knew he could not even if he tried. They were lost in their pain.
He thought about the runner that had run into him. Why did he feel so strongly about that one. It was his voice. Like Asrith and Weiyou, his voice was familiar, but different. He knew their voices, but he remembered the runners….Judas.
The runner was Judas! NO! He bowed his head and started sobbing. Asrith and Weiyou waited for a time before speaking.
“You knew him.”
“His pain is his choice.”
“That does not make it any less.”
Asrith sighed. “Do not make his pain yours. Runners do not wait for the day. Their focus is turned inward. He had a chance to make a choice. He made his choice.”
“If I had given him more attention, maybe it would have been different.”
“And who would you have given less attention?” snapped Weiyou.
“Was that my choice? To give one more attention than another? To say this one is more worthy than another? I would rather none make that choice,” he cried.
“Really? Because it seems you did make a choice. You took all that pain and started to make it yours. Why didn’t you keep it? It was comfortable. You knew it well. Why did you choose not to stay in that pain?” yelled Weiyou.
“Because it was PAIN!” he yelled.
Weiyou stood up and leaned over him. “Right. Amazing how comfortable pain can be when you don’t think anything else is there. But you know there is something else, don’t you. Or do you? What are you waiting for?”
He was confused. “What?” he asked.
Asrith said, “Weiyou asked what are you waiting for?”
He looked at them both. “I….”
“We are waiting for you. What are you waiting for?”
What was he waiting for? He looked at the horizon and then back to his companions.
“You have been good friends,” he said. “I would like to spend more time with you….”
“Oh really!? And how much time have you spent with us so far?”
He could see a smile on Weiyou’s face. Like Asrith, Weiyou had started to glow and the light from within he knew had always been there, became visable to Asrith also.
He turned to the horizon and knelt.
And dawn broke…