POSTED 03/31/2018 13:27:33
"They've succeeded. They've killed him."
And as though it hadn't been a truth they were all aware of, more silence fell on them. The type that leaves you thinking there are insects in your ears. Pete paced around, stopping at the window as if to look out. Instead his eyes shot back at the torch hanging on the wall. Their eyes followed. He appeared to be deep in thought, his eyes thinning.
"What do we do now?" Andrew said. He was the only one who could speak in times like this. Others knew better than to interject when Pete was like this. Only what he had done just very early this morning had shocked them. The way his eyes had blazed when he cut that man's ear. He looked like a killer, experienced. His hair that had stood straight, with his beards that he had refused to shave, had all helped his deadly look.
The room was warm. On a normal day, they would be outside, discussing with the master, listening to his jokes which at times they only laughed at because they were too intelligent to be understood at once. One had to take his time to digest them. Sometimes regurgitate before the laughter came.
But today had been quite a day. They had watched, seen their master naked. Not just them, everyone in the city. His back was like a newly painted wall, red paint running down. Some who Pete would consider cowards never followed. They would break at the sight. And talking about sight, the light was getting dim, but no one bothered. Or seemed to bother. When one looked, it was a helpless impatience for the light to finally go out. The door was shut. Bolted. The windows shut tight as well. And to be further assured of safety, Phil had stuffed shreds of cloths in the corners of the window and in openings that had never really mattered.
Pete walked to the wall. Eyes followed. He grabbed his cloak hanging off a nail and walked to the door.
"What are you doing?" Tom said.
The tremor stood out in his voice. His eyes bulged out as if realizing all of a sudden that they needed space. The lines on his face resembled the lines the master had drawn on the beach representing the tributaries of the river.
Pete drew the bolt. Unshackled the chains. Pushed the stone that sat with defiance before the door. His actions were not as quick as they were determined, cautious, like he had taken his time to ponder on which should go first.
"Pete," Andrew said rising when the first cold rushed in, "they'll kill you too. Don't you get it?"
Pete stepped out, looked back, "Goin' to catch som'air. Any prob'm?" Then he marched away into the dimly lit night, dust from his feet resembling the frost from people's mouth during winter.
In the distance he heard the door slam close. Then the sound of bolts and chains.
Walking down to this place had been easier than standing at the door. A yellow light is sneaking out through the cracks in the window. The voices inside are mushed. Low. A while turns to some time. Then turns to a long time. Somehow he's thinking if he has made the right decision leaving the nine behind. He's turning to walk away when the door opens. John steps out to collect a towel on the line. He stops when he sees Pete. Their stare holds.
Finally Pete looks away, casts a stone at the sand outside. John walks over and hugs him. "Come right in."
"Er...I don't think it's..."
John drags him inside.
Mary is on the bed when Pete enters. She turns over, smiles a weak smile. Her eyes are swollen, like one who caught specks of yeast in the bakery. Pete stares at her, his words disappearing — not that he ever had any, though. Mary turns over again and they start to hear sobs afresh.
"She has refused to eat something," John says, "anything."
There's a knock on the door. John motions to Pete to sit and walks over to the door. His steps are firm. Pete wonders at him.
"Magdalene, she has refused to arise."
"Mary!" Mag does not spare a look at Pete. She just makes for the bed.
"I told you you need not worry too much," Mary starts to say.
"Shhshh, you're my mother too."
Pete sits and watches as they cuddle. He catches himself wondering again at Mag's act. The oil and the hair. He too had condemned her. His fingers lock, his head bowed. The sobs are becoming louder. He wants to shut them up. That's the thing with women, he starts to say to himself when, a tear drops. Then his cheeks well hidden by his bush of beards begin to quake. John fills a kettle with water and puts it on the fire. While he waits for it boil, he paces around the room, stopping at intervals to appear pensive, other times to check the locks.
"Mama," John says lifting the kettle from the fire, "come. It's ready." He pours the water into a basin and follows it up with cold one, dipping his fingers to be sure. Then he pours spices, leaves, into the basin, halves the water and carries the one half to the foot of the bed. Mary is sitting up now, Mag rubbing her back. Tears are streaming down both faces. One would not be able to tell the comforter from the comforted.
John dips Mary's feet into the water and massages them.
"I denied him."
There's silence. Only the sound of the water.
"I denied the master." Pete's head is in his hands. He jumps to his feet like his buttocks have just been pinched by a needle. "I denied...I denied him...the master..."
Silence. Mary is looking up now. Pitiful anger spreads on her face.
"I told'em...told'em I never seen him before." He's banging the wall with his fist, same way a child would beat his mother's laps in a tantrum.
Mag runs to him, embraces him. But he isn't in the mood for hugs. Yet Mag is obstinate. John and Mary stare. Soon John's eyes begin to itch and he blinks more to ward off the tears. This was no time to be let lose. His head drops as the first tear drops.
"Can I be forgiven?" Pete is saying when he falls at Mary's feet. The way he clutches her legs one will think him to be a savage. She strokes his hair with fatigue. John rubs his back, "It's alright. He forgives you." How time controls all, John is saying to himself as he unlocks the door to pour away the water.
"How we are subject to its bidding," he says aloud, unconscious.
"What?" Mag says looking up.
He stops in his track. "Time."
"Just yesterday I leaned into his chest. And today, he's hanging." Tears are running down. "And he's alone. No blankets for the cold."
He remembers the master's instruction, more like a will; "Son, this is your mother. Mother, your son." What effort it would have taken to keep his eyes open and looking. What greater effort to have kept his tears in.
Mary had passed out on their way home. He had carried her the rest of their journey.
"What about his body?" Mag says. Her gaze lies just in front of the basin.
"Joseph has him," Pete says, his face still buried in Mary's cloak.
Everything is silent. The night insects make no sound. The burning torch makes no cackling sound. John sits on the floor, his jaw resting on his knees.
He wraps his arms around his legs.
"But it's only Friday," he is saying. "Sunday's coming." He gazes away into the fire thinking...nothing.
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