Friday, September 28, 2012
Cupid lowered the bow. Below him, the two lovebirds suddenly found each others’ eyes to be shimmering pools of moonlight and within moments were sloppily making out. He resisted a gag impulse – when you’d been in the business as long as he had, you knew what was and wasn’t considered a sloppy make out. And this most definitely was one.
Sighing, he looked down at his list and ticked off the pair’s names. Done for the night, thank Christ. Returning his bow to his back, he pulled a Lucky Strike from a pocket and lit up, taking in the scene in front of him (albeit whilst averting his eyes from the dribbling duo, who had broken the kiss and were finding the “I’ve-always-loved-you” to be slightly diminished by the fact they both needed a handkerchief now). Cupid took a long drag and exhaled in satisfaction. Humans – poor bastards. They made stuff like this and didn’t even have the immortal bodies to properly enjoy it.
His phone buzzed. Grumbling, he rolled the cigarette to one side of his mouth and pulled the phone up to his ear. “Yeah? I’m off-hours.”
“You better be, Cupes, I’d think you’re getting old. We’re getting together at the little bar on 5th and Johnson. Interested?”
He took another drag. “That the place with the mint juleps? Sold. Over in ten.”
Mike’s Corner was a dreary little place, really. The signage was creaking and cracked, the glasses never particularly clean, the barstools always a little wobbly. Mike never seemed to have gotten the memo that “corner” didn’t alliterate with “Mike”, or the one that pointed out that the RadioShack on 6th and Johnson got knocked over about once a week, or the one that noted mint juleps had gone out of style along with Jay Gatsby, yet the place hobbled on. A couple folks said Mike must have the luck of the gods to keep it afloat.
Well, he sure as hell didn’t, but he did have the tabs of the gods, which was usually good enough. He was wiping down the surface of the bar with a rag he seemed to have failed to have noticed was dirtier than the wood he was using it on when Cupid strolled through the front door. Mike nodded amiably. “Evenin’, Chris. The boys are back in the corner by the darts. The usual?”
“You know it,” replied Cupid, and sauntered back to a slightly stained booth where Eros was sitting. Off to the right, Artemis was showing off with the darts to their other coworkers as usual. Cupid slid into the booth, and Eros raised a glass.
“You’re getting slow, Cupes. Used to be you’d have caused a net population gain of three by this time ‘a night. Feeling ill or something?”
Cupid scowled and pulled another cigarette from his pocket. “Bite me, Er. You should see the kids these days. Converse sneakers and Scott Pilgrim T-shirts, god. They wouldn’t know passion if it hit them with an arrow.”
Forgiveness by Elijah
"Crucify him." The words rang out in his ears, cold and hard as the eyes of those who looked upon him...except for the sentencer himself. His eyes refused to meet those of the one he had condemned, and tears seemed to stand. The condemned one had no time to ponder this, however, before he was quickly grasped and pulled away.
They led him through the various courtyards, before taking him out to an open area. A single post stood in the ground, a rope lying atop it. Soldiers were arranged near it, and one held a small whip in his hand, with metal balls and sheep's bone braided into the various leather tails.
They roughly shoved him forwards, two soldiers holding his arms still as he was tied to the post before him. He didn't fight back, and he didn't say anything. He merely looked into each of their eyes, cold and hard as before, giving them silent rebuke...and something more.
Then they attacked him. He felt the first burning strokes of the whip, cold, jagged slashes running down his back from the sheep's bone, and hard thumps resounding through his chest from the balls. His breathing quickened immediately, his heart rate jumping up as he felt the first drops of blood begin to flow, seeming to work against him. They struck him again, harder than before. More lacerations opened, more blood would flow. Torment unlike any before he had felt. All for a cause.
Meanwhile, the one who had sentenced him sat in a chair, his hands cradling his head, as though some painful migraine were wracking his body. He shivered slightly, his hands dripping wet as he thought about what happened. The man on the post arched his back in pain, involuntarily crying out, and the sentencer did the same, a breathless gasp from his own mouth that let him know just what was being done before he heard the scream.
It continued. For how long, the man did not know. Next he felt himself untied and pulled up-they spat upon him, striking him upon the face. Roughly was a robe draped about his shoulders, sticking to his back, the blood coming from his quivering, severed muscles bonding the robe to his skin and body, letting the wounds close, for a moment. A wooden staff was shoved into his hand, and a circlet of thorns draped about his ears.
They spat. They struck. From the mockery of a king before them they took the staff, striking him about the head and ears. His blood was pounding in those ears that were struck, pain blinding his thoughts as these men attacked him. They ripped the robe from him again, and he screamed. The wounds opened again, scabs flying away with the robe. The crown, they left, continuing to mock him in his pain.
Then they bent him nearly double, dropping a hard weight upon his back, dragging in the ground behind him. Then they grabbed at him, pulling him along, and blindly he followed. He heard every jeer from the crowd, ever last rock thrown at him by children and adults alike stinging hard against his skin, his lungs struggling to gain air even now, his heart feeling ready to burst.
Now, they took the weight from him, leaving him feeling relieved. He nearly collapsed, but they caught him. Involuntarily he groaned, feeling he could take no more of this. They hoisted him up, and then he felt something new. A cold prick against each wrist. Sudden pain, his vision exploding into white fire. He screamed, as his sentencer cried. His hands curled to claws, as slowly the nails were driven through, crushing his nerves and binding him to the post.
And they did the same with his feet, nailing them flat. Now he knew where he was. He was atop a crucifix, masses gathered and watching his death. Air, air, he needed air! He pulled himself up, getting one gasping breath, before the pain forced him to drop.
His sentencer arched his back as well, clawing at the robe draped about him, his servants backing away in terror of the being before them. He collapsed into his chair, breathing a long, slow sigh, unbidden tears rolling down his cheeks.
The man gasped again, before falling. A single tear rolling down his cheeks. He looks down, feeling a small rag thrust to his face. He sucked eagerly upon it, the vinegar feeling like the purest water, before he spat it out. Too much. He lifted himself again, before he fell, shaking his head slightly.
The sentence buried his face in his hands, having expelled his servants from his room. Crying, feeling the very pain that the man he had sent to death felt. Suddenly, he seemed to hear three words. Craning his head, his tears stopping for a moment, he heard them again.
"I forgive you," the savior said, dropping again. He lifted himself up, to issue this last proclomation.
"I forgive you," Jesus cried, holding himself up to breathe. "All of you." He fell again, his head lolling against his chest. It was over. It was finally over.
The fading sunlight shimmered on her dancing hair, turning her raven-black head to an aureole to frame her cordate, angelic face.
I swung my short legs off the edge of the bench as we leaned back, laughing at the joke I had just told.
“Patt,” she giggled, “you’re such a dork.”
I grinned. “But I’m an amusing dork.”
She tossed her head, and the hair danced even more. “So you say.”
“You’re the one who laughed.”
“I only giggled.”
“You were amused.”
“Oh, shut up.”
We swung our legs in synchronization as the sun continued to sink. The gently blowing breeze was growing in strength and lessening in temperature, carrying night in on black wings.
She raised a hand to point at the first star that appeared. “Look! I love it when the first star appears, don’t you?”
I nodded. “It’s like—like a promise. Of the coming night.”
Her head bobbed eagerly. “Most people wish on it, but my mom says that’s stupid. She says it doesn’t grant wishes; it keeps promises.”
“Like you were saying. It’s a promise of things to come.”
I looked up. “So . . . it keeps promises?”
“Yup! You make it a promise and it keeps it for you. So then you have to come through on it. So you can only make promises you truly believe in.”
My head was on its side, regarding the star with a sudden interest. I had never heard it put that way before.
“It’s magical,” she went on. “Stars have always been seen as magical.”
“I’ve never heard it put like this, though,” I said. “But it’s a beautiful way.”
“Do you want to make a promise on it?” she asked.
“Yeah. Like—like—oh, I don’t know. I’ll promise that I’ll never give up on my dreams! I’ll always write! Someday, someday I’ll write a novel.”
“Well, that’s a boring promise.”
“I believe in it.”
“But it needs to be something that you need it to believe in. It can’t be something easy.”
“Something dramatic. Like you’ll—you’ll never tell a lie.”
“But that’s impossible.”
“Well . . .” She bit her lip, considering. “Okay. I’ve got it! Let’s make a promise together!”
“Yeah! We’ll promise each other that we’ll never be apart, and that we’ll always be friends!”
“But what if--”
“Promise!” she snapped.
“Okay, I promise!” I conceded. Then I added, more slowly, “And let’s promise—that when we are apart—because we will be, someday—that we’ll always be thinking of each other.”
“I swear it.”
“Me too. I promise.”
And she smiled at me. And I smiled back. And we went back to our stargazing, as more heavenly luminaries began to show their faces. As enough began to appear, we started pointing out constellations.
I watched her eyes light up at the sight of each one. I watched her lips curve at their shapes in that way that always made me happier than I could ever understand. And I promised, silently, I’ll always be with you; we’ll always be friends; and someday . . . when the time is right . . . we’ll be more.