by Stephen Faulkner
red wine spritzer over crushed ice
As I walk through the door and it slaps shut behind me there is not a sound to be heard in
the room but a deep, stentorian voice. Right away, no waiting, the pronouncement of guilt is made: Suicide.
I am allowed to make a plea on my own behalf and I do: Not guilty.
I request to stand ground in my own defense. An unusual request, says the voice. I say that I realize this but that is my request. Answer?
A pause and then: Granted. Are you prepared?
Yes, I say. I am.
Stand for examination, says the voice. I stand, testimony at ready.
The light in the small room, this waiting chamber, dims and the voice, heard in the mind, as if only a thought: State your case, then.
A pause as I gather my thoughts, the memories still so fresh…. Gethsemane, the garden, lost in prayers, the beseeching, pleading, belaboring, sobbing -- all for naught. It is all there before the eye of the mind and spirit. The unseen rival on his way to the market, seller of my
flesh, my blood, the one with whom I had just broken bread, who I trusted…to do as he had done. Testimony in hindsight of those chances not taken to escape, to flee, to hide when I knew that I could, yes I could have, you see, the power was at my disposal. I was an exceptional man, a divine man though I thought myself normal in most respects. But to use them, though, those powers over others in that special time, that only time, would have been to abdicate and lose everything. Life, then, would have lost all meaning and I would have been dead, then, anyway. I would have been dead even though living if I had chanced to run, to hide and outwit my fate. The choice had already been made, you see, at another level, not by me. Not my will, but thine, oh Lord, my heavenly Father. There were no more chances to take, choices to be made, no other possibilities to pursue but to allow…the inevitable.
So, instead of death in life I chose it to be on that day, that day when the dying would be done and done only once. Instead, then…I cried. Powerless, bewildered, prayerful, I allowed myself that final human emotion of sheer terror at the thought of what was to come to assail me, sweep over me and be done, once and for all.
Chances, possibilities, all abandoned at once, then, the power I had once held dispersed in fear. The force that had held them away while I spoke that last time with the One was broken and they entered the garden. I was kissed (Hadn’t I loved him enough? What malice had he dreamed up and attributed to me that I might have done to him?) And I was taken.
It was then that it truly began and was totally out of my hands, out of my power to control. A pause. Testimony concluded.
But, why…? begins the voice in the room, but it does not continue. Another pause elapses.
The door ahead of me swings open to the blinding light – blinding to the eyes, to the physical senses of the living, but not to the spirit. Through the light I see the path and the way. I see home over the low rise there, just as I had left it. This, then, is the verdict and result, all in one.
I would be afraid to go in there, says a new voice behind me. Bedraggled, listless, a puppet driven by sensation, perception and mind, he had walked in without my hearing his coming. Intent on the light from the door, my true direction, I had not been aware of his entering behind me. I would be afraid, he says again. I am so afraid of the dark.
Do I know you? I ask. But of course, Brother, of course I do. Thirty silver pieces and you were rid of me, weren’t you?
Rid of myself is more like it, says he. But I knew what I was doing. It seemed a good deal to make at the time. And later? He pauses, taking a shuddering breath. The halter made a strong rope, a taut noose for my neck. I died quickly.
He points to the door through which I shall pass and shakes his tousled head. You go through there with such joy. Not I. I shall be terrified. It is so dark and cold through there. I can feel it already.
I follow his gaze to the open door, to the light pouring through as from a beacon, and the light dims to black as his eyes become my own. Devils, unseen dangers and tortures lurking in the undulant shadows, at every turn, all paths of molten clay, rich with pain, yes. That is what he sees.
I turn to him and smile toward this man who is quaking in his tracks, knowing his turn to be next at the bench. Nothing to fear, I say.
Huh! He gives a death’s head laugh. Not for you!
Nor for you, friend, for I shall be with you.
With me…Master? He uses the old title he had for me in life, but hesitantly. You?
Take my hand, Judas. Where I go, thou shalt be with me.
And so, hand in hand like children we step forward through the door. Fear and joy, light and dark, warm and cold, love and hate – all. We enter.
Life, again, for my beloved Brother and me.
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