Dusk pooled in the valleys, and bled up the ravines; a creeping transition from day to night.
He watched the interminable evening wear on, so slow.
Time, which existed only in thought anyway, stood almost completely still.
He felt every passing second marked only because he felt every single beat of his heart. Slow, thundering pulses flexed his eardrums with every stroke.
The part of him that felt the way others felt desperately willed the darkness to complete its conquest of the weakening day.
That part of him that felt what others felt was simultaneously terrified as the western sky paled from smoky blue to hazy orange, from ashen gray to sooty charcoal.
Watchman, how far gone is the night?
The part of him that no one knew about was untouched by the coming darkness.
Darkness did not exist, except where he allowed it to exist.
But the weakness of his humanity rose in a swelling black tide, ebony waves washing over the solid island of resolution.
Unlight swallowed light, unstoppable.
His mortality betrayed him, wheeling a monstrous Trojan horse into the protected light, and even now, the absence of light was spilling out, blotting out the light.
There was only one who knew, only one person on earth who understood.
Earlier in the evening, they had shared a look of common knowledge.
But Nombre was a comfortless confidant.
The words of prediction that set all the others in an uproar of disillusion had merely sparked the flint in Nombre's eyes.
As they looked across the table at each other, something cold and cynical glinted behind the other's eyes like a sharp rock gleaming an in inch below the surface of an icy, rushing river; indifferent, immovable, a shipwreck waiting to happen.
There was something else there, too.
A look of supreme knowledge, yes, but something else, something he'd not yet encountered in the turbulence of the last several years.
There had been disbelief. There'd been outrage. There was indignation and judgment.
There was fear, hatred, and confused anger.
There had been love, also; misunderstanding, misinterpreting love.
But Nombre knew. He understood what the plan was and he knew the motivation behind the plan.
And Nombre despised him for it.
Looking into his bold gaze now, he saw the stare of his ancient adversary superimposed on the stony eyes.
And he was the recipient of contempt for the first time in his mortal existence; burning, despising, mocking contempt.
Nombre was laughing at him. His enemy was laughing at him.
And try as he might to avail himself of the strength of God within him, his enemy's confidence set his humanity on fire with fear.
He knew better, and he did not know better, because he chose to not know better.
And now, as he had daily, hourly, every second, he gave himself to the uncertainty, the horror of the unknown, sacrificing the part of him which no one knew to the part of him that everyone knows.
He looked deeper into the eyes of Nombre, and saw what lie behind, saw even what Nombre couldn't see.
He heard the whisper Nombre couldn't have heard.
Come. Yes, come and share my lot and taste of my food and drink.
The sound slithered across him.
And you really think that you can touch me and retain your purity? You believe you can carry the filth of these people and remain clean?
. . .a look of mocking admonition and incredulity . . .
This goes against your rules! You are breaking your own law! How can you expect your structure to withstand such a violent transgression of your code?!
. . .the look of ultimate assurance that terrified. . .
Your rule will cease to exist. You will lose control.
He felt himself descending a staircase into a cesspool; a boiling fountain of raw sewage.
The stench already clung to him. It was the smell of rotting, decaying death.
. . .and the slithering whisper. . .
You cannot hope to submerge yourself in my world and ever hope to escape my company.
There it was. The final fear, the wind that drove the storm rushed over him with a incredible fury.
Yes, my comrade, my former co-habitant, my brother, come spend eternity with me in the place you made for me and mine. And you will leave all of these people twisting in the wind, lost in the netherworld.
Their eyes were locked.
It won't work. Your great scheme will fail."
. . . laughing. . .
But then, you have no choice, do you? You promised them.
Someone else was speaking now.
"Is it I?"
The question broke his heart.
He couldn't tell him.
Yes, it was him.
It was all of them.
It was everyone.
Another nightmare visited him.
A line stretched through the ages, through what they called time, a line of people.
Everyone who had ever lived, everyone who would ever live waited in line.
They all looked different, but they all had one thing in common.
They all carried hammers.
Some dangling from one hand, some gripped tightly in both hands, or hefted in one hand and tapped into the other palm, over and over.
There were a myriad of emotions displayed over every face. There were looks of hatred, looks of eagerness, straining forward to strike their blow.
There were blank stares; eyes that held no pity, no expression, just dull anticipation of swinging their hammer.
He saw everyone, and saw not one empty pair hands.
No, not one.
It hurt, it burned, it cut so deep.
He felt loneliness, he endured the isolation of hell. He was forgotten as no one had ever been forgotten.
And now, here in the grove of trees, in the smothering night that came so suddenly, he accepted it. He threw his arms wide and embraced the night. He stepped off the cliff.
He lay down on the altar.
And he felt no peace.
. . .heard only a long, sobbing cry in the distance of his mind. . .
Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?!
Just a note. Jesus was completely God and completely man. Focusing on the man led me to speculate about what temptations and feelings He must have faced in days before the Crucifixion.
And "Nombre" is Spanish, meaning betrayal.
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