Tag Archives: Short Stories

Enna, the Dragon Tamer

It would be much easier to tame a wolf pup if I didn’t have my little brother with me. Finn trudged beside me, bundled in caribou-skin coat, tan round face nearly hidden by the fur trimming the hood around his face.

My own hood was down even though the chilled air turned my bare ears to ice. Step one in taming a wild animal was to keep a keen eye on your surrounds, and I didn’t want my hood to block my view.

I pushed my mitten-covered hand into my pocket to make sure the dry meat I was going to feed the pup was still there. I didn’t want my brother to know, but I was feeling a little nervous. I may have read Taming Wild Things from cover to cover at least fifty times and knew the steps for taming all the animals listed by heart, but I had never actually tamed an animal before.

“Don’t you think we should get one of the older ones to help us?” Finn asked. He meant our older brothers and sisters, Bennjim, Sennori, Minnsy, and Ivinn.

“That would ruin everything,” I said.

“It would ruin everything if a wolf bit your hand off and you couldn’t knit anymore.”

“That, actually, wouldn’t ruin anything,” I said, blowing out a sigh that fogged the frigid air in front of me. I wasn’t good at knitting or needle work like Sennori, our eldest sister. She was so talented, that the trader that came in the spring would take the beautifully designed scarves and blankets she knit and sell them to villages miles away. After he brought her thirty-five silvers from her in payment for the things he sold for her, she was known to the village as Sennori, Silver Needle.

And everyone seemed to forget my name. I was just Sennori’s sister.

Then Bennjim, our eldest brother, killed the fierce white bear that roamed the mountains and brought terror to the village with a single roar.

Polar Bear Claws | How Long are Polar Bear Claws? • Polar Bear Facts

He became Bennjim the Bear Slayer. And I became Bennjim’s sister.

The twins, Minnsy and Ivinn were known for their skill of music. Minnsy had a voice more beautiful than any in the village and Ivinn’s played his lute so well that it brought tears to people’s eyes.

They were the Twins of Golden Melodies. I was the twins’ sister.

The only thing I was good at was being braver than Finn, which wasn’t very hard. He was only eight, three years younger than me, and mam said he worried as much as an old man. Which is why I couldn’t believe he wanted to come with me when he caught me sneaking off to tame a wolf pup.

“You smell like cheese,” I told him, catching a whiff as a gust of icy air blew around my uncovered head. Finn believed in that superstitious nonsense about cheese being a lucky food that warded off bad luck and was constantly slipping some into his pocket.

I hoped the smell didn’t make the wrong animal come to us and ruin my chances of finding a wolf pup. Today was the day I became Enna, the Wolf Tamer.

“I think we are being watched,” Finn said, ignoring what I said.

I rolled my eyes. “You always think that.”

“I’m always right.”

“Like that one spring when you thought there was a bear in the blueberry bush and it turned out to be Bennjim hiding in the bushes to scare us?”

“That was when I was a kid,” Finn sulked.

“What about the beginning of this winter when we were at the market with mam and you said someone was watching us. It was just the vender’s toddler under the table.”

Traditional Snowshoes w/ Monoline weave - Lure of the North

Finn frowned down at his snowshoes, seeming to concentrate harder on each step. “Who cares who it was? I was still right. Someone was watching us. My neck prickles every time, and it is prickling now.”

“So, what is watching us this time?” I teased. “A fluffy rabbit? An old woman with steaming hot tea?”

“You’re not funny.”

Before I could tell him that I was actually quite hilarious, something came flying towards me. I thought that Finn threw a snowball at me from the glimpse of something white, about the size of my hand.

Whatever it was came whizzing back from behind me, nearly hitting my shoulder. It didn’t fall to the ground, as a snowball should, but hovered in the air right above my head.

It blinked.

“Enna?” Finn squeaked. “What is that?”

I was trying to determine that very thing. The creature before me was no bigger than a bird, and had wings like one too, but that was where the resemblance ended. Instead of feathers, it was covered in white, fluffy fur. Unlike a bird, it had four legs, each ending in small claws peeking out from its fur. It had a tail that swished back and forth like an excited puppy’s. Its ears were hardly bigger than blueberries and were shaped a bit like a doe’s. Right above its fuzzy ears sprouted delicate, silver horns, twisting in twin spirals the size of my pinkies.

“It’s a dragon,” I breathed, scarcely able to say the words.

The dragon seemed to understand, doing a kind of hop in the air and making a series of sounds that reminded me of the yipping of playing foxes.

“Dragons are bigger,” Finn said in a confused, yet awed voice.

“Not snow dragons. The largest ones are only as big as a man’s hand,” I said, remembering the words from our village’s only book on dragons. I had read it a dozen times, like every other book in our dusty book shop. I ran through the facts it listed about snow dragons and realized that it had, unfortunately, left out the ones about how to tame a snow dragon. Taming Wild Things didn’t have anything about taming dragons either, so it looked like I was on my own.

I held my hand out.

“Don’t do that!” Finn yelled. “It will bite you.”

His voice startled the dragon, who took off flying towards a cluster of trees.

“You scared him!” I tried to hurry after the dragon, but hurry wasn’t a pace you can go in in snowshoes and I ended up falling, mittened hands sinking deep into the snow.

“You can’t run in snowshoes,” Finn said, unhelpfully.

“This was the most exciting thing that has ever happened to us,” I huffed, struggling to pull my arms from the snow, “and you ruined it.”

“You were going to get bit,” he insisted.

“I was not!” I yanked my arms from the snow. One of my hands came up without a mitten. I rolled over and collapsed on the snow. “We’ll never find it now.”

A yipping sound made me sit up. A little, white puff ball was diving into the hole my arm made in the snow.

“It came back!” I crawled to peer into the hole and nearly got my head smacked as the dragon came whizzing out with my mitten captured in its mouth. “It got my mitten for me,” I said, delighted. I reached to take it, but the little dragon darted away, letting out an excited yip.

“It stole your mitten,” Finn said, sounding horrified.

“It can have it,” I said. “It’s Minnsy’s old mitten and it is too big for me anyway.”

Nature weather cold Stock Images - Search Stock Images on Everypixel

But I knew mam would be angry if I lost it, so I made another attempt to snatch my mitten from its pin-sized teeth. The dragon darted out of the way again and I nearly fell face first into the snow.

Finn, who was standing behind the fluffy dragon, tried to sneak up on it and capture it between his hands (which was quite brave for someone who is as scared of everything as he is). The dragon made a chortling sound and flew out of Finn’s reach.

I thought it might disappear again, but it came to hover in front of my face, huge silver eyes blinking at me.

“I think she is playing with us,” I said, grinning.

“How do you know it’s a girl?” Finn squinted at the dragon.

“Silver eyes are girls. Blue are boys,” I said. “Haven’t you read any of the dragon book?”

Finn didn’t answer because he was too busy toddling on his snowshoes towards the dragon who bobbed playfully in the air.

I grinned and joined him.

Finn and I did our best to get the mitten back from the cheeky little dragon. Our snow shoes slowed us down, but the dragon always came back for us if she got too far ahead. Soon, we had gone back down the mountain, and I had forgotten all about taming a wolf pup.

“I am going to keep her,” I said, reaching my bare hand into my pocket. Instead of Enna the Wolf Tamer, I would be Enna, the Dragon Tamer. That title was much more impressive.

“How are we going to keep her?” Finn asked, “She is too fast to catch.”

“Watch,” I said. I pulled out the dry meat intended for the wolf pup I was going to tame and waved it in the air. The dragon’s eyes widened and, with a happy squeal, she dove toward it. My glove fell at my feet as the dragon traded it for the meat.

“Thank you,” I said, scooping my mitten up and pulling it over my icy hand.

The dragon landed softly on the snow and used her two front talons to hold the meat to her mouth. Her small teeth worked at the tough meat, but she didn’t seem to be able to break into it.

Frustrated, she dropped it on the snow and tried to shred it with her claws. When that didn’t work, her silver eyes turned up to meet mine and she let out a disgusted yip.

I laughed. “That’s what I think of it too.”

She looked back at the dried hunk of meat in front of her and a stream of light came from her opened mouth.

Not light. Fire.

I hopped back and watched as the dragon made more tiny bursts of flame appear until the dried meat was black and the flame sizzled out by from the snow.

“I guess that made her mad,” Finn said.

I stared helplessly at the burned meat and ball of white fluff that was my only chance at standing out from my brothers and sisters.

“Here,” Finn pulled something out from his caribou coat pocket and knelt down to offer it to the dragon.

I was surprised that he wasn’t afraid of the dragon after its display of fire, even if its flames were only as big as a candle’s. Even I was wary of sticking my hand next to its mouth like that, just in case it decided to char my fingers for giving it an insufficient meal.

“Dragons like meat,” I said, seeing what Finn was offering. Cheese.

She took the cheese in her tiny claws, took a dainty sniff, then nibbled. She made a humming sound in the back of her throat, which I guessed meant she liked it because she stuffed the rest of it in her mouth.

“She likes it.” Finn looked up at me, delight playing all over his round face.

“Let me try,” I said, eager to win the dragon’s favor. Finn let me have a piece of cheese and I offered it to her.

We took turns feeding her until Finn ran out of cheese.

The dragon must have still wanted more because she fluttered to my shoulder and perched there, large silver eyes blinking at me.

The dragon licked her mouth and nuzzled her face against my cheek. It was as soft as the baby chicks we had running around our yard every spring.

“You’ve just made me Enna, the Dragon Tamer,” I told her.

I just made you a dragon tamer,” Finn corrected. He paused, face scrunched in thought. “Actually, I’m a dragon tamer too.”

I pursed my chapped lips for a moment, wondering if letting him share in my accomplishment would mean I was back to just being “so and so’s sister.”

“More like Finn the Cheese Hoarder,” I snort.

“You’re not funny.”

“I’m absolutely hilarious,” I said, and the dragon rubbed itself against my neck and made a purring sound. “See, she thinks so too.”

Finn shook his head in mock annoyance, then began clomping towards the village, snow shoes crunching on the snow. “Come on,” he called, his voice strung with anticipation. “We have to tell everyone that we are dragon tamers now.”

Never in all my daydreams about winning a title for myself did I end up sharing a name with Finn. But I never would have thought that Finn’s pocketed cheese would be useful, especially for taming a dragon.

“Slow down, Finn, the Dragon Tamer,” I called after him.

“I bet I can beat you to the house.” He laughed and made his voice deep and important, “Enna, the Dragon Tamer.”

 

pinterest buttontwitter-buttonInstagram

Want fun writing videos delivered to you every quarter? Join my newsletter!

The Song

She was innocently beautiful.  Her hair was a golden waterfall cascading over her slender shoulders and falling to her waist.   Long lashes framed sapphire eyes and her lips were like a soft pink petal.  She had a quiet, smooth way of moving that should have made her invisible, but instead brought every eye to her.  Daron wondered if she was quiet because she was too modest to want attention or because she thought herself so above everyone that she didn’t care if she was noticed by them of not.  Her face held no trace of scorn, but neither signs of bashfulness.  She was as impassive as a marble statue as her willowy form walked through the city at his side.  Perhaps that was what drew the stares—the mystery that lingered beneath her serene gaze.

Daron knew her secret.  She looked years younger than him, fifteen or sixteen at the most, but she had lived thousands of years.  She was one of the Old Ones.  The ones who lived since the beginning of the world and were gifted with ancient wisdom that humans did not have.

The Old Ones once lived among them and shared their wisdom, and the land was prosperous under their watch.  But that time passed long ago.  The Old Ones journeyed across the sea to a land they could make their own after mankind refused to practice their ways and heed their guidance. Mankind declared they didn’t need the Old Ones.

Only they did.  Thousands of years after the departure of the Old Ones, drought and famine plagued the land.  It was why Daron left on an impossible mission to cross the sea and find an Old One who was willing to come back with him and help their dying land—to sing the ancient songs that would call down rain for their withered crops.

Daron looked at the Old One beside him and thought how lucky he was to find her. He was warned that not all the Old Ones would be helpful. There were some who resented humans for their arrogant ways. Their disdain for humans festered inside of them and blossomed into a hate so strong it changed them.  These Old Ones grew cruel and vain.  They were so intoxicated with their power and eaten with thoughts of revenge that they were sent away from their own kind. If Daron had stumbled on one of them, it would have meant death.

But the danger and uncertainty of that journey had passed.  Daron would soon present the Old One to the King as proof he had succeeded in his mission.

—–

They stood on the steps of the front of the castle, looking into the courtyard filled with hopeful faces.  The bright-haired girl stood in the center with the king standing to the right and Daron to her left. She didn’t address the crowd but closed her eyes and hummed. It was so low that Daron could scarcely hear it even at only a few feet away.  It didn’t change in pitch but grew in volume.  Then her soft, girlish lips opened and a melody of words drifted past them and filled the courtyard.  Daron didn’t understand the words.  She sang in an ancient language that the Old Ones alone had mastered.  Even without the knowledge of the meaning of the song it was entrancing.  The song rose and fell in somber minor notes.  Her voice softening, then swelling to portray first sorrow, then urgency.

Daron thought that he would be watching the sky during the Old One’s summons for rain, but he couldn’t look away from the girl.  From his peripheral vision, he saw that the others were equally entranced with the golden-haired singer.   Her eyes remained closed and her face focused as her silky voice bounced off the courtyard walls.  Small pricks ran up Daron’s arms.  As the song went on, he almost forgot why they were gathered or the reason for the song.  There was nothing in Daron’s mind but the captivating melody spinning sorrow and hope.  He shook himself when a shadow passed over him.  Rain!  Rain clouds were forming and blocking the sun.

He looked up and was confused.  Something was blocking the sun, but it wasn’t rain clouds—not unless rainclouds were ebony black and moved as one shimmering mass.  Wait.  That wasn’t shimmering.  It was flapping.  Thousands of crows filled the sky.  Gasps and whispers filled the courtyard.

“What’s going on?” demanded the King, but the girl continued singing.

Daron tried to get her attention. “Old One, the skies are filled with crows.”

She didn’t acknowledge him.

“Thousands of them,” he continued.  “They’re coming at us.  Take them away!”

Her chilling song mingled with the people’s confused cries.

“Is this some trick?”  The King asked, red faced.  Daron was sure it wasn’t a trick, but a mistake.  Maybe the Old Ones forgot how to call down rain.  Maybe in all their years of isolation, they lost their skill.  Or maybe this particular Old One didn’t know how to call rain.

The sky was getting darker.  The birds would land soon and what little crops they had left would be destroyed.

Daron strode forward to shake the girl out of her trance.

As his fingertips touched her shoulders, a shock went through his bones and he staggered back.  The girl’s blue eyes opened.

“Don’t touch me human snake!”  It was her voice, but it didn’t come from her lips which were still forming the words to the ominous song filling the air.

Confused, Daron tried to form words.  “The crows will eat our crops.”

Her laugh filled his head.  The harsh sound didn’t match the softness of the girl before him.

“The crows aren’t going to eat your crops.  They are going to eat you.”

He must have heard her wrong.  An Old One wouldn’t speak such words.

“You, the humans who destroyed the land and drove the Old Ones out with your erroneous ways.

In an instant, Daron understood who the girl was.  Not an Old One, understanding and willing to help mankind like the Old Ones thousands of years ago, but one of the wayward Old Ones he was warned about.  She pretended to help them so she could destroy them.

Before he could call out a warning to the others, the crows fell on them.  Shrieks mingled with the incessant cries of thousands of crows.  People ran or fell to the ground and covered their face as the winged terrors swarmed them.

Daron ran, but there was nowhere to go that wasn’t already filled with crows.  Sharp beaks picked at his arm and shoulders.  They pulled his hair and bit the tender skin on his neck. He kept his arms in front of his face but their sharp beaks jabbed at his chin and cheeks.  He wanted to cry out, but was afraid they would poke their nasty little beaks into his mouth and rip his tongue to shreds too.

He tried to keep moving, hoping he could find a door that would bring him into the safety of the castle, but the crows were so thick and so many wild thrashing bodies kept jostling him that he didn’t know if he were moving at all.

He fell. He didn’t know if he tripped from the crows gathered around his feet or if his legs gave out from the panic that snared him.

He laid in a huddle, feeling wet, sticky blood run down his back and arms.  He was screaming now.  His mouth pressed to the ground and his tongue tasted dirt.

He was ready for death.  Anything to stop feeling hundreds of holes being dug into his body.

Everything began to fade, until one last sound remained.  A haunting melody sung by a sweet, smooth voice.


I hope you enjoyed my spooky story! If you want to go on a dark adventure–keeping with the Halloween mood– check out Zorok, the story of a murderous pirate who may not be as invincible as he thinks.

Happy Halloween!

Join me for tons more fun, writing tips, and a glimpse into the daily life of a writer!

pinterest buttontwitter-buttonInstagram

The Pact

7 years old

She looks like me. That was the first thing Tyler thought when he saw girl who was moving into the house next door. He wondered if she moved here straight from China or if her family had been in the U.S. for generations like his.

She was sitting on the porch steps, chin in her hands. She didn’t look very happy. For some reason, he wanted her to look up at him.

Tyler grabbed the scooter leaning against his house down his driveway then stopped at the street. He wasn’t allowed cross the line where the light cement of the driveway ended and the black pavement of the road began. But she was watching him now, and he didn’t want her to think he was a baby, so he crossed the line and let the wheels roll over the road.

He stopped when he reached the next driveway.

“Can I ride in your driveway?” he asked. She nodded and he scooted his way right up to her porch. He stopped in front of her.

“Did you just get here from China?” Then he remembered how every new kid at school would always ask him that and how it annoyed him, so he added, “Or has your family been here for generations? Mine has been here for four. I’ve never even been to China.”

She blinked at him. She probably wasn’t used to having people actually realize that just because she was Chinese didn’t mean she came from China.

He was sure she was impressed until she said, “I’m not Chinese.”

Now it was Tyler’s turn to blink. But she looked…Oh. “Japanese?”

She shook her head. “I’m from the Philippines.” She said words strangely. She had an accent.

To keep from feeling silly, he changed the subject. “I’m seven. How old are you?”

She brightened. “I’m seven too. That means I’ll be in your class at school right?”

“Yeah. I can show you the ropes.” He’d heard that phrase in a movie. It sounded cool.

“You will show me around?” She seemed confused. She probably didn’t know what “show you the ropes meant.”

“I’ll show you around and tell you everything you need to know,” Tyler explained, feeling important.

“Oh, good. I’ve never been to an American school before.”

Tyler remembered his fist day of school and how nervous he’d been. “We’ll make a pact,” he said, because he’d seen a boy and a girl make a pact in a movie once and always wanted to do it. “I’ll be your partner for everything that happens at school.”

“Ok,” the girl said.

“Shake on it?” Tyler asked, holding his hand out. That’s what the boy and girl did in the movie. The girl put her hand in his. He grinned, and she grinned back.

Tyler rode home on his scooter feeling very satisfied with himself.

Then he relized he didn’t know the girl’s name.

 

12 years old

“Marie!” Tyler called as he rushed down the hall, dodging the other kids to catch up with her. She turned around and smiled. She wore her hair differently and she wore different clothes, but that smile hadn’t changed since she was seven. Changing the look of her smile would be like changing the flavor of chocolate chip cookies.

“I’m going to be in the talent show,” he said. “Want to be my partner?”

Marie’s face fell. “Amber just asked me.”

“Well, I’m sure she’ll understand. We’re always partners.” Ever since the day of their pact, they’d been partners for everything. The science projects in the third grade that got baking soda and vinegar all over Marie’s new shoes because Tyler wanted their volcano to have the biggest explosion. The fifth grade book report that was almost a disaster because Marie wanted to read Charlotte’s Web and Tyler wanted to read Bridge to Terabithia. Luckily, The  Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe saved the day. It had animals and magic.

“I already told her I’d do it with her,” Marie said. She no longer had the accent she had when she was seven.

“But we’re always partners,” Tyler said lamely.

“We can be partners with other people sometimes.” Marie looked apologetic.

Tyler paused, hoping she’d change her mind, but she didn’t say anything. He shrugged. “I guess I’ll find someone else.”

She smiled at him. That smile that didn’t change. Somehow it hurt to look at it.

 

17 years old

It hurt to watch Marie talking with the guy by her side. Laughing, smiling that killer smile of hers. He’d probably asked her out to the junior prom already. It shouldn’t bother Tyler. He was already taking someone.

Still, somehow he’d imagined taking Marie, even though they’d slowly drifted apart over the years. His family moved to a different neighborhood when he was in eighth grade, then came junior high and different class schedules. They still talked, but Tyler wasn’t sure it was enough to ask her to be his date.

He’d daydreamed about asking her. He’d even thought about reminding her of the pact they made when they were kids, but he wasn’t even sure if she remembered. He would end up looking stupid. So this morning, a day before the junior prom, he asked a girl in his math class that didn’t have anyone to go with. It was safe. His friends said she’d had a crush on him all year long. It wasn’t Marie, but at least he wouldn’t make a fool of himself by asking and getting turned down.

Tyler turned away from Marie and the annoying guy by her side and opened his locker. He pulled a notebook out and a folded piece of notebook paper fluttered to the floor.

Thinking it was some stray notes, he started to put it back in the notebook. Then he saw his name written on the front.

He’d seen that handwriting nearly everyday in elementary and middle school. He’d watched it change from block letters to the rounded ones that spelled out his name.

Marie’s handwriting.

He slowly unfolded it, feeling like he was unwrapping a Christmas present he’d waited all year to open.

 

Hey Tyler! 

I know it’s a bit late, but I was sort of hoping you’d get around to it first. Then I thought, “Why does it have to be the guy that does the asking?” I tried to think of a fancy way to do this, but then decided to keep it simple. You always did like to keep things simple (unless it’s a paper mache volcano). 

You can probably guess what I’m about to ask you, so I’ll just go ahead and say it. 

Will you go to the prom with me?

You can’t say no because you made a promise that you’d be my partner for anything school related. 😉 

Anxiously waiting your response,

Marie

 

Tyler grinned. She remembered the pact they’d made.

Then his smile dropped. He’d already asked someone else. It was too late.

Maybe he could get out of it. Maybe he could explain it to the girl he’d asked.

Explain what? That they’d made a pact when they where in second grade to always be partners in everything. That they hadn’t been partners for anything since they were twelve, but now all of a sudden it was important for him to go with Marie even though it meant rudely dumping the girl he’d asked?

He couldn’t do that, even if this was what he wanted. He would have to tell her that he was going with someone else.

Tyler’s stomach knotted at the thought. Never in all his daydreams did he have to turn Marie down.

He sighed and folded the note. Why hadn’t he just ask her? Why couldn’t she have asked him just a few hours earlier?

Maybe she’d waited so late because she was hoping someone else would ask her. Maybe she was only asking him because she didn’t want to go alone. What was that last line? You can’t say no because you made a promise that you’d be my partner for anything school related. What if she was only asking him because she knew he’d say yes? He was nothing but a back-up plan.

Well, he wouldn’t be a back-up plan. Hadn’t she been the one to say that they should have other partners?

Tyler shoved the note back in the locker and pretend he never saw it.

 

18 years old

Tyler hurried through the empty school halls. He’d left his jacket in one of the classrooms and hadn’t realized it until he’d stepped into the fridges air. He was getting a ride home with one of his friends because his car hadn’t started that morning. First his car wouldn’t start, then the girl he asked to prom already had a date, then he forgot his jacket. What else could go wrong?

Tyler opened the classroom door. He froze.

Marie was sitting in one of the desks.

They hadn’t talked since last year when she’d slipped that note in his locker. Tyler felt so guilty about the whole thing that he avoided her. It wasn’t hard to do. Tyler suspected she was avoiding him too. He wished he’d at least written a note back, explaining why he couldn’t take her. But the more time that went by, the more awkward it seemed to approach her.

As if the distance between them weren’t uncomfortable enough, Tyler could tell she’d been crying.

She quickly wiped her face and gave a weak smile. It made Tyler’s heart twist. It wasn’t her smile. It was like chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips.

“I forgot my jacket,” Tyler said, feeling the need to explain why he was invading her privacy.

“That one?” She pointed to the jacket hanging over the back of the desk right in front of her. Of course it would be right next to her. It couldn’t be right by the door so he could grab it and leave.

He made his way over there, keeping his eyes focused on the jacket as if it would disappear if he lost sight of it for even a second. He felt he should say something, but didn’t know what. It was her business. Whatever he said would probably make it worse anyway.

Marie stood and scooped her backpack up from the floor, getting ready to leave. By then he was already in her row and just a couple of steps away from his jacket. She picked it up and held it out to him.

His fingers brushed the tips of hers as he took it. His stomach fluttered.

He realized that he was standing there, blocking her way, but instead of moving he said, “Are you alright?”

Marie shrugged. “I’m fine. Just a rough day.”

She wasn’t fine. She looked like she did after the goldfish he’d won at a fair for her died and her mom flushed it down the toilet. “It wasn’t such a great day for me either,” Tyler said.

“Can’t be that bad,” she said. “Unless you got dumped too.”

Dumped? She’d been with that guy since Christmas. All that time together and he broke up with her a week before prom? The jerk. She deserved better than that. “My car wouldn’t start this morning.”

She laughed. The sound made Tyler grin.

“I think I’d rather take a stubborn car than a brake up right now,” she said. The smile faded and she sighed. “I guess I just don’t have luck with these things.”

“Yes you do. I mean you should. I mean he’s the unlucky one. Who wouldn’t want to go to prom with you?”

“Quite a few people actually,” she said, sharply. Then she looked down as if she hadn’t meant to say that.

Tyler knew she meant him. It’s not as if that note could have gotten lost in a little locker. She knew he saw it. She probably wondered why he never brought it up, even after the prom was over, to explain. It didn’t help that he’d avoided her. Of course she was mad at him.

“I should go,” Marie said, hinting that he should move. But he didn’t. He couldn’t let this opportunity go. What were the chances  that he would run into her right after that jerk broke up with her, and before someone else asked her? Tyler silently thanked the girl who’d turned him down earlier.

“I have to tell you something,” he blurted. “I saw the note you left in my locker–”

“I know you did,” she said. “I was walking by you as you reached your locker. I looked back as you opened it up.”

Tyler swallowed. He remembered her walking by, but he didn’t know she’d seen him.  “I’m sorry.  I’d already asked someone else and didn’t know how to tell you.”

She shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. Junior Prom is over.” She smiled. Another smile that wasn’t hers.

“It does matter. I should have told you. I shouldn’t have let all this time go by without explaining.”

She shrugged again. “People get crushes on people who don’t like them back all the time. It’s just one of those things. We don’t have to make things awkward.”

He grinned on the inside. She had a crush on him. Then the feeling faded. She had a crush on him last year before he’d ruined his chance with her. What did she think of him now?

She took a step forward, as if to make Tyler get out of her way.

He didn’t move. She was standing so close. “Yes,” he said.

“What?” She looked up at him, startled.

“I’m answering your note.” Tyler’s heart beat. She’d probably slap him. “I’ll take you to prom. If you’ll go with me.”

She raised her eyebrows. “Are you trying to be funny?”

“We made a pact. We’d always be partners for anything that happened at school. So, it may have taken me awhile, but I’m making good on that pact.”

“You don’t have to ask me to prom because of a promise we made when we were kids.”

“That’s not why I’m asking you.”

“You don’t have to ask me out because you didn’t answer my silly note.”

“That’s not why–”

“I hope you aren’t asking me because you feel sorry for me because my stupid boyfriend dumped me right before prom.”

Tyler smiled. It had been a while since he’d talked with her. It was nice to hear her voice again. Even if she was a bit mad.

“What?” Marie asked.

“I’m asking you because I like you.”

Marie blinked up at him, registering his words. She didn’t say anything and he wondered if she was going to push him out of the way. Then, she smiled. She smiled her smile.

______________________________________________

Hey Epic Dreamers! I know today was supposed to be a post on writing tips but since Thursday fell on Valentine’s Day it seemed a waste to pass up the opportunity to do something special. I hope you enjoyed the story!

Miracle Santa (Part 2)

This is a contunation of a little Christmas story I wrote. Read part 1 here.

_________________________________________________________

Miracle Santa (Part 2)

Within four seconds, everything in the coffee shop was gone.

Shapes and colors appeared around us. And soon I was standing in the middle of a mall.

“How did this happen?” I turned to the man with the scarf beside me. “Did you bring us here?”

“I said I could change your mind.”

I didn’t have time for this weird stuff. I had to get my coffee and get to the hospital.  “But…” I started.

The man held a finger to his lips. “You’ll miss it.” He pointed to a line of children waiting to get on Santa’s lap.

Great. All I needed to see was more spoiled kids.

A little boy climbed unto Santa’s knee as his grandma stood by and watched. I waited for him to start his long list, but instead he pulled a picture from his pocket.”

“Who’s this?” Santa asked in his cheerful voice.

“She’s my sister,” said the boy. “Her name is Sarah and she wanted to come with me to see you so bad.”  He looked at his lap, “But she can’t. She’s really sick and can’t leave the hospital.”

I was touched that a little boy would think to mention his sister, but I didn’t see how this was supposed to change my mind.

Santa gave his condolences and then asked the boy what he wanted for Christmas.  When the boy was done telling Santa, his grandma came and helped him off of Santa’s lap. The boy ran to the elf who was giving prizes to everyone who visited Santa, but the grandma stayed.

“I know it’s too much to ask,” she said to the mall Santa, “but my granddaughter, the girl in the picture, has leukemia and isn’t expected to make it even through the holidays.” Her eyes began to glisten. “I was hoping that you would visit Sarah. She only asked for one thing for Christmas. To see Santa.”

Even through the fake beard and curly white hair, I could see that Santa was swallowing back emotion. He told the woman to leave the information with the elf, and he would visit the little girl.

Suddenly, the bright greens and red of the decorated mall began to fall away just as the coffee shop had and the bright colors was replaced by white walls. I was standing in a hospital room.

The boy and his grandmother were there along with a man and woman who must be her parents. They were gathered around a hospital bed that held a pale young girl. Her light hair was thin, and there were patches of her scalp that were bald.

I looked at the man in the scarf.

“Won’t they be upset to see some strangers in their room?”

“Don’t worry. They can’t see us.”

The door opened and in walked the Santa Clause from the mall.

“Santa!” Sarah’s eyes lit up. She stretched her frail arms out and Santa came close for a hug.

“I knew you’d come!” Her blue eyes stared at him admiringly.

Sarah chattered away to Santa oblivious to the tears in the adult’s eyes.  My own eyes had tears in them. The mall Santa wasn’t getting paid for this. No one was applauding him.  He did it because he wanted to make a little girl happy. He did it because it was Christmas.

Before he left, Santa leaned to the little girl. “Now, Sarah, you have a job to do.” He told her seriously, “You have concentrate on getting well. I expect to see you this time next year.”  Then he asked, “Do you believe in angels?” Sarah nodded. Santa took Sarah’s small, frail hand in his. “It may be easier to get well with some help, so I’m going to ask that angels watch over you.”

Sarah smiled. “They will Santa. I’m sure they will if you ask.”

The white room swirled away and I was back at the mall in front of Santa.

“What happened to the little girl?” I asked the old man in the scarf.

“Does that matter? What matters is that someone took the time to reach out to another person who was hurting.  That man had his own kids to buy presents for, his own family to spend time with, but he chose to take the time to do something nice for someone else.”

I looked at the man in the Santa costume and thought that maybe Christmas did bring out the good after all. As I was watching, a girl with short blond hair walked up to him.

“Hi, Santa remember me?” she asked. “You visited me in the hospital last year.”

My mouth opened. It was Sarah. She looked so different. Her hair was healthy and her cheeks pink.

Santa’s reaction was much like my own. He looked at her for a moment, then he pulled her into a hug and his eyes filled with tears.

“Christmas is what you make it,” said the man in the scarf watching Sarah and Santa.  “You can choose to only see the ads, the companies trying to sell their products, and spoiled children. Or you can see the good that Christmas brings. And what’s more important is that you decide what kind of Christmas you experience. You can join the commercialism, or even ignore Christmas completely. Or you can do something that will change another’s life.”

With those words, the malls rearranged itself and I was back in the coffee shop.  I shook my head, feeling disoriented.

The seat across from me was empty.  I scanned the room for the man in the scarf, but he wasn’t there.

My name was called and I hurried to get my coffee. I would have to be fast if I was going to make it to the toy store and still be on time for my shift. I couldn’t be Santa, but I maybe a few small gifts would make staying in the hospital for Christmas a little more bearable for the kids in the children’s wing.

I stepped outside, excited to carry out my plan, and whispered to the cold air, “Looks like you win the bet.”

——————————————————

*This story is all I’m posting for the month of December. Our regular posting schedule will continue in January. Hope you all have a wonderful holiday! 🙂

This is based off of a true story you can read here:

http://academictips.org/blogs/christmas-miracle-real-story/

 

Miracle Santa

In the spirit of the season, I thought I would share a little Chirstmas story I wrote. I hope you enjoy it! Merry Christmas! 🙂

————————————————————-

Less than an hour ago, I thought Christmas was commercialized nonsense.  It was just an excuse for parents to go into debt and kids to act like brats. Christmas wasn’t about peace and joy, but Xboxes and iPhones.  Everyone was focused on out-getting or out-giving everyone else.

I distanced myself from the holiday was much as possible. The only reason I was inside the coffee shop on a Christmas Eve was because my driver side window didn’t roll down. I was forced into the little shop crowded with last minute shoppers getting a caffeine buzz to finish their frenzied search for merchandise.

I wouldn’t have stopped at all but I’d volunteered to work the night shift at the hospital and I needed the caffeine. The debts nursing school left me with needed to be paid, even if that meant working Christmas eve.

Miraculously, there was there was an empty table and I slid into the seat before anyone else could. As I waited for the barista to call my name, I watched the chaotic scene in front of me.

A young mother tried to keep her screaming baby quiet while her five-year-old made his three-year-old sister cry by telling her that Santa was bringing him a ton of presents, but she was only getting coal.

Two little boys argued over who was getting the most presents this year. A man talked loudly on his phone: something about looking everywhere, but none of the stores had it.  Whoever was on the other end (probably his wife) didn’t believe him. I could hear her shrill voice coming out of the speaker.

Didn’t people have enough stress in their lives without Christmas? It wouldn’t bother me if the Holiday was canceled, well, I would miss the extra pay that came from working on Christmas Eve.

A middle-aged man with a scarf wrapped around his neck pulled out the chair across from mine. “Mind if I sit down? There aren’t any more seats left.”

I kind of did mind, but he wasn’t arguing on his cell phone or carrying an armload of kids, so I nodded my head.

“You look like you could use some Christmas cheer,” he said.

I frowned. Just because I let him sit here didn’t mean I wanted an evaluation.

“I could use a little less Christmas cheer,” I told him.

“You don’t like Christmas?”

“I don’t like what it does to people.”

He raised an eyebrow.  “What does it do?”

“It brings out their worst. Suddenly the only thing on everyone’s mind is getting, getting, getting. Parents have to get more toys for their kids, because if they get less than last year, they’ll throw a fit. Kids want more toys even though half the toys they already own are unused. Everyone is rushing around trying to get everything on their list before stores run out. Heaven forbid you step outside your door on Black Friday.”

The old man nodded, making the white stubble on his chin brush his scarf. “Christmas may bring out some people’s bad side, but it can also bring out their good side.”

“I don’t think trampling people because big screen TVs are on sale is the nice side of people.”

He chuckled. “That wasn’t exactly what I was thinking about.” He leaned in. “I bet I know something that will change your mind about Christmas.”

“I’m pretty sure nothing will change my mind,” I said.

“I’ll right, it’s a bet.” He held out his hand for me to shake.

“You’re on.” He could talk all night and still not be able to pull the wool over my eyes. Christmas was a sham to get people to spend more money. There certainly wasn’t anything good about it.

As I clasped his hand, the small coffee shop began to swirl away. First the crying baby and mother scolding her son for making his sister cry. Then the boy and tearful small girl. The table between me and the old man vanished.

“What’s going on?” I asked, voice high with panic.

“You may want to stand up,” he said, getting out of his seat.

“Why?”

Just then his chair disappeared, and I jumped out of my seat to avoid falling on the floor when mine did the same.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Part two is coming next week!

*This story is all I’m posting for the month of December. Our regular posting schedule will continue in January.

The Criminal (Part 3)

The burning in my lungs chased away thoughts of miracles and prophets. My breaths in were difficult, but breathing out was impossible with my arms stretched out and over my head. I needed to pull myself up, but I couldn’t move. My muscles weren’t responding to the command. Up. I need to breathe.

Did I need to breathe? Why not stop breathing and end this misery now? Cramps assaulted me. The muscles around my chest and shoulders angrily squeezed themselves into tight balls of fire.

Instinct took over, and even though my mind told me not to prolong this agony, my body began to rise. Fiery swords twisted into the holes in my wrists and feet. I was sure I could hear bones grinding against the iron spike. The assent rubbed my back against the rough timber, scraping it until there was blood running down my legs.

I reached the top, and my lungs moved up and down. The cramps subsided. Then my arms began to shake and I let my knees buckle beneath me. The movement jolted the spikes in my hands sending searing pain through my fingers and arms. I would have to go down more slowly.

“Father.” The zealot carpenter from Nazareth was talking. “Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.”

The angry mob paid little attention to the man’s words—they continued to hurl insults—but I wondered why he would say such a thing. Was he trying to play the crowd? Pretending to be the merciful messiah to the end, hoping that someone would believe his act and get him down?

No. I felt my body pulling apart just as he, and pain like this didn’t leave room for acting. It stripped a person of all pretending and exposed who they truly were. He meant it.

I looked to the soldiers who gambled over his clothes. Did he mean them too? The ones who held him down and drove spikes into his flesh? What person would forgive that? Unless, he wasn’t just a person.

I’d seen a miracle once. I don’t even know why I went that day. I think part of me hoped that there was a prophet among us again. There was a mob there to hear the man preach. Such a vast crowd—it was like one I’d never been a part of. If that many people believed in him, then maybe not all the rumors were false. I don’t remember much of what he said, but I do remember the taste of the fish and bread. It looked ordinary, but it had a taste like no other fish or bread I’d ever eaten before or since. Maybe because it wasn’t the food of this earth.

I saw what the man had to feed the massive crowd—five barley loaves and two fish. It was hardly a meal enough for one man but somehow, as his followers broke the food into pieces and handed them out, the food didn’t run out. The entire crowd was feed on such a meager portion. It was food coming out of nowhere, like the manna my forefathers received in the desert. There was a prophet amongst us again.

My taste buds remembered the meal as I thought of that day—a small pleasure in the middle of my torment. I glanced at the bloody face of the man next to me. The misshapen face didn’t look like the man that spoke that day, but how many carpenters from Nazareth could there be claiming to be the Messiah?

“Your name is Yeshua? Isn’t it?” I gasped.

The man nodded.

A soldier heard my question. “You’ve heard of him, huh? What is it like to be put to death beside a king?” He gave a roaring laugh, then turned to Yeshua. “That’s what you are, isn’t it? It’s what your sign says. Well, if you are really king of the Jews, then why don’t you save yourself?”

“Come off your cross,” said another soldier, “Aren’t you their messiah? Don’t you have the power to help yourself?”

“Where is your power?” called someone from the crowd, “Where is your army of angels? Can’t you call them to save you?”

“Why don’t you call them?” I recognized that voice. It was Jesse, hanging on the other side of Yeshua. He would join our tormentors in berating this man? He had no decency, to turn on a man dying in the same way we were. Would he start yelling insults at me too?

Jesse continued his mocking. “If you are God, then save yourself. While you’re at it, save us.”

The solders laughed and one said, “Your fellow criminals want you to help them. Are you going to disappoint them?”

“We’ll be your most devoted subjects. Won’t we Johan? All hail the King of the Jews,” Jesse gave a laugh that sounded more like a cough, “What’s wrong oh king? Come, we don’t have all day.”

Let him mouth off to the Romans if he wanted to. They deserved it. But what did he know of Yeshua? I balanced shakily on the spikes so I could breath. “Don’t you have any respect?” I asked him. “We are under the same sentence. At least we deserve it.” I hung my head and took a breath. “We are punished justly. But this man isn’t like us. He has done nothing wrong.”

“He’s still dying ain’t he? Just like us.” He snorted. “He’s no different than we are. Even if he does have a fancy crown.” He gave a hollow laugh. “Death. The great equalizer.”

Death wasn’t an equalizer. Yeshua wouldn’t be going to the same place as Jesse. Or me.

This man was a king. Not just King of the Jews, but king of an other-worldly realm. If anyone could help me, if anyone could change my destination after death, it would be him.

I let my head roll in his direction.

“Yeshua.” The man looked at me. “Lord. Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

The soldiers laughed. “He wants the king to remember him.”

One of the soldier nudged another. “He believes the carpenter has the power to come off the cross and hopes he’ll get him down as well.”

I paid them no attention. Yeshua was pushing himself up, grimacing as the wood peeled away the flesh of his back. Once he caught his breath, he would give me an answer.

Suddenly, I dreaded his response. What chance did I actually have? It was too late to go back and live my life in a way that would ready me for death. Did I spend time reading the Torah? Had I prayed twice every day with the scriptures tied on my arm and head? Did I recite the Shema every morning and night?

But he was a man of compassion. Even if he wouldn’t do what I requested, he would respond with an indulging answer simply to comfort me in his time of death. Perhaps a kind lie was more than I deserved.

“I answer you truthfully,” said Yeshua, “today you will be with me in paradise.”

My muscles where shaking. I slunk down the wooden stake and let my weight again hang from my arms. I was too out of breath to say anything.

“You’ve earned a place in a paradise with the gods!” bellowed a soldier.

Another looked at Jesse and said, “What about you? Are you going to join them in their kingdom?”

“Fool.” Jesse spoke to me, not the soldiers. “Fear of death has addled your mind.”

I closed my eyes. My muscles tightened, then teased me by slowly releasing before squeezing even harder in a jerking movement. I fixed the word “paradise” in my mind so that it blocked out all other words. It soothed me. Soon it would all be over, and a new life would begin.

Now, all that was left to do was die.

———

Time was my enemy. It moved slower and slower, stretching infinitely. I pushed myself up, and eased back down. I breathed. I bled. This went on for days. No, not days. It was only hours. Sometimes consciousness would slip away. I was always disappointed that it came back.

Why was I still breathing? My back scraped up and down along the wood so many times I wondered if my ribcage showed.

Finally, relief came. A club smashed against my legs until my bones broke. My tongue was swollen and my mouth so dry, screaming was difficult.

Now I wouldn’t be able to lift myself to breath. I would suffocate.

This small mercy was only given to me because whoever was responsible for our burial was impatient to finish his job before nightfall when Shabbat began and work wasn’t allowed. Any other day, and I could have hung for days before drawing my last breath.

My arms were out of their sockets, but the ache of their stretching was overshadowed by pressure in my chest. I could inhale, but couldn’t exhale. My lungs were going to explode.

My head was floating. The people still gathered meshed and wavered like a candle.

This was it. What would happen after the end? My panicked mind fought to hang on. Me in paradise? It would take a miracle to get me there.

Something filled my mouth. It was a taste that I’d only savored once before. Bread and fish. Miracles did happen. And I’d met the one who did them.

Then, everything was still. My muscles were free of cramping. My body wasn’t being torn apart.

A circle of light appeared in front of me, and out of the light walked two men.

It was him! The man from Nazareth was standing free of blood or bruise wearing a white and purple robe. There were no thorns on his head, but a crown that glimmered with more jewels then even Solomon himself could have had.

Behind him was a man I hadn’t seen in years. My father. A huge grin lit his face.

Yeshua stretched out a hand. “Come Johan. Let me lead you to the kingdom.”

______________________________________________

Part 1

Part 2


Hi everyone! I hope you enjoyed this three-part story that tells an age-old tale from a perspective not often seen. The two criminals hanging side-by-side with Jesus is a powerful visual for the options each person is given. Both men were beside Jesus in the darkest moment in their lives, and both would have been given the comfort of everlasting life, but while one dared to ask the unthinkable, the other could only spew insults. Even at death, all he could think of was temporal things that wouldn’t count as soon as he breathed his last. By joining in the catcalling, he put the views of the people gathered that day ahead of his soul.

 

Interesting facts:

Johan means “God is gracious.” I chose this name because God was gracious enough to give him everlasting life in spite of anything he did.

Jesse means “God’s gift.”  The greatest gift was pinned to a tree, bleeding before his eyes, but he chose to refuse it.

The Criminal (Part 2)

The soldiers hoisted a wooden beam onto my bloody shoulders. My body swayed slightly as it adjusted to the weight. It wasn’t enough for these pigs to simply kill us. They had to humiliate and torture us as well. Perhaps so that when death came, we would welcome it.

Earlier this morning, Jesse and I were flogged with a nine-tailed whip riddled with bone and glass. The claws of the whip didn’t stop digging into my naked flesh until I sagged unconscious, dangling from the rope that tied my hands above me. Now that half the life was beaten out of us, we would have the privilege of carrying our own instrument of death.

Beside me, the soldiers placed a beam on Jesse’s shoulders. He spat at their feet and was rewarded with a fist in his jaw. Jesse laughed wildly as if he thought it was funny that a punch would mean anything to him when the worst death imaginable awaited us. It was a slave’s death we were sentenced to. A death only given to the worst and lowest of society.  It wouldn’t be a quick one.

Another prisoner was lead out. He looked dead already. His own blood covered every inch of him, including his bruised and swollen face. Maybe he’d spit at the Romans too.  He must have done it more than once by the look of his face.

The people in the crowd began to boo as soon as they saw him. He must have murdered many people, or maybe of a very loved and important person judging by the crowd’s reaction. Whatever he’d done, I was glad he was being executed with us. The crowd saved all their insults for him, and Jesse and I were left alone.

After the murderer’s beam was secured across his back, the centurion ordered the procession to begin. The centurion lead the way with the badly beaten murderer next, then me, then Jesse behind me. Soldiers walked beside us, as if ready for us to try to escape. Like that were possible with a hundred-pound piece of wood on my back.

The Romans lead us down a highway, so as many people could see us as possible. On either side of the street, people stopped what they were doing to gawk. Some ran to join the crowd that was forming behind us. Others stood to the side shaking their fist and yelling.

“Die! Kill them.”

The murderer in front of me stumbled and fell. Jesse cursed under his breath. The soldier beside the fallen man kicked him.

“Get up!”

“Yeah, get up,” Jesse said. “We have an important appointment to keep.”

“Come on,” I grunted under my breath. Every moment this man sat there was a moment longer I had to stand with the weight of the beam cutting into my shoulders.

“Can’t you lift yourself from the ground, oh great Messiah?” taunted someone from the crowd.

Messiah? So this man wasn’t a murderer. He was one of those mad zealots that told everyone they were the Messiah as a ruse to get followers. No wonder the soldiers beat him so much. He was encouraging people to rebel against Rome.

The soldiers must have realized the zealot didn’t have the strength to get up because they pulled a man out of the crowd and had him carry the beam. I was surprised he complied. It seemed everyone in this crowd hated the zealot. He didn’t really have a choice though. Argue with a Roman solder and he might be joining us for more than just the walk.

Freed from his burden, the zealot shakily stood and began walking again. I stepped forward, my bare feet treading on the street’s worn stones, wet with his blood.

I don’t know how long we walked before we left the road and were led over a rocky path. The ground inclined and I had to stoop even farther forward to keep the weight on my back from toppling me backward. I cursed the Romans for putting their killing ground on the top of a steep mound. Jesse grunted behind me as if agreeing with my thoughts.  The beam across my shoulders rubbed at my open flesh making fresh blood pour out. My leg muscles burned and began to shake.

Finally, we reached the top and the centurion gave the order to halt.

My body sagged in relief as the beam was lifted from my shoulders. My eyes wandered to the eight-foot stakes rising out of the ground like naked trees. I would hang on one of them in just a few minutes. I wondered if the Romans knew what Moses wrote, “Cursed is the man who hangs on a tree,” and picked this tortured death just for us Jews.

A soldier offered me a drink of wine and myrrh, as was custom. I knew it would do little to numb the pain, but it was better than nothing, so I drank. The myrrh left a bitter taste.

The soldier moved to the zealot, but when the ladle was put to his lips, he shook his head. He was refusing?

“Stupid,” said Jesse beside me, “Does he think that refusing the drug makes him tough? Or does he think his little act of defiance insults the Romans?”

The soldier came to Jesse and he drank, keeping his eyes locked on the zealot who watched him. He swallowed once, then filled his mouth with more. When the ladle was pulled away he spewed the wine mixture out on the Roman. The soldier backhanded Jesse so hard he stumbled back. When he regained his balance he looked at the zealot.

“That is how you insult.”

The man didn’t have time to answer. A soldier came and pulled his clothes from him.  More came and stripped Jesse and me. The blood on my back had hardened so that the cloth was part of the forming scabs. As the garment was pulled over my head, the cloth took my dried blood and pieces of skin with it. I hissed as my back was ripped off with my clothes.

Once I was naked, I was pushed to the ground, the beam I’d carried was beneath the back of my neck and my open wounds pressed to the rocky ground.

They pulled my arms out so that the back of my hands rested on the beam. My right arm was held down and a metal point pressed into my wrist. I knew what it was, but I turned my head to look anyway. The spike that rested against my skin looked longer than the seven inches it actually was. How many hammer strikes would it take before all of it went through my wrist and into the wood beneath?

Pain. It took my brain a second to realize that the pain that shot through me was related to the slightly shorter spike. It was a moment before I realized that I’d seen the hammer fall and it was already coming back for a second blow. My body jerked, and I yelled as the hammer struck the head of the spike. I heard the metallic zing this time. It was the loudest sound there was.

My hand twitched like a separate entity as the spike burrowed deeper into my flesh. My arm was a betrayer, sending wave after wave of pain. I didn’t want to watch the blood bubble out of my wrist and spill over the wood beam anymore, but I forgot how to move my head.

Finally, the spike was gone. It was nothing but a flat bit of iron resting on my skin. It was over.

But had it only started. My other arm was held down. I didn’t look.

Once I was pinned to the beam, soldiers lifted each side and hoisted me to the top of one of the stakes already in the ground. My entire weight was hanging from my staked wrists.

My feet were placed on top of each other and my bottom foot made to lay flat against the wood. My knees were left slightly bent. I tried to brace myself for what would come next, but nothing could prepare me for the pain that coursed through me as a third spike entered my body. Every blow slowly moved the iron through my muscle. First my top foot, then it broke through the skin at my foot’s arch and in the same movement cut open the top of the foot beneath. The hammer struck again, and again. It would never end.

Then, I realized that it had. The hammering was done. The sound of the crowd came in a rush, their angry voices slapping me in a demand to be heard.

This is not how I should die, pinned and mounted, stretched out like an animal hide at the tanners. Hanging naked for all to see while people hurled insults. I should die peacefully with a family gathered around.

But was that the death I gave the man on the highway? It wasn’t the death my father got.

Father. If only he hadn’t died while I was so young. I would have grown up to be respectable like he was. He would have taken me to the temple at my thirteenth birthday for my bar mitzvah. I would have become a man by reading the Torah before the congregation instead of by swiping food in the midst of beggars. I wondered if the man I put a knife through had sons. Did they have a mother? Or would it be the streets that raised them, turning them into criminals instead of sons of the law?

A sign was nailed above my head. It let everyone know what I’d done so they could scream their indignation at me. I waited for their cries to come, but the word murderer didn’t arrive.

“King!” someone shouted, “What kind of king are you?”

I scanned the crowd. They weren’t looking at me. I followed their gaze to my left where the zealot hung. All of their anger was for him. He claimed to be a king? The ring of thorns that crushed into his skull made since now.

“You said you could raise the temple in three days,” cried another, “Well coming down from the cross shouldn’t be so hard then should it?”

“Prove to us your divinity. Are you the Messiah? Or are you the carpenter from Nazareth?”

A carpenter from Nazareth who claimed to be the Messiah? I’d heard of him. Who hadn’t? All of Judea was talking about the man who could make crooked legs straight and blind eyes to see. I’d even heard that he cured the incurable leprosy.

None of it was true of course. There were always rumors of messiahs. The people were hungry for a deliverer—someone to get them from under Roman rule. Someone who would build a vast kingdom and usher in a great age like that of Solomon. Miracle workers only existed in people’s minds or in the times of old when prophets were in our land. Still, there was that one time…

_________________________________________________

In honor of Easter, I’m sharing this three-part story telling the crucifixion from a nontraditional point of view: the thief on the cross.

For some of us, the crucifixion story is so well known that there may be a tendency to sort of “zone out” when hearing it again. I wanted to write something that would trick our brains into paying attention before it went into I-don’t-have-to-pay-attention-because-I-already-know-it mode.

I hope this story will allow those of you who have heard about Jesus on the cross many times to have the chance to experience it like someone hearing it for the first time.

If you haven’t read the first part, here it is.

Part 1

Look for part three tomorrow!

 

Interesting facts:

The nails used to hang criminals to the cross were often reused. The materials used to make the nails were too scarce to waste by leaving them in the dead body.

The stake that went in the ground (the part of the cross that stood upright) was also reused because trees that would yield beams that large were in short supply in the area. That’s why the stakes were already in the ground when Johan reached the top of the hill.

The Criminal

The soldiers shoved me, and I fell through the opening of the cave-like pit below.   My hands and knees took most of the impact. The smells left by the previous inhabitants filled my nose: sweat and urine. My fellow thief, Jesse, landed on top of me. I grunted as his kneecap slammed into the middle of my back.

“Get off,” I grumbled.

“Am I making you uncomfortable Johan? Terribly sorry. The whole purpose of this prison is our comfort.  I wouldn’t want to ruin that for you,” said Jesse as he pushed himself off of me. I scowled at him.

“I’ll show you comfort.” I thought about punching the grin right off his face. How he could smile with death looming over us was beyond me.

“What’s wrong, eh? This prison isn’t up to your standards?” Jesse asked. “Do you hear that?” he called to the Roman guards standing above us in the entryway, “My friend doesn’t like your prison!” He cackled. I hurried to my feet and grabbed his shoulder.

“Shut up,” I hissed. He turned to me.

“What? What are they going to do to me? Kill me?” He snorted, then in a flat tone added, “We’re already dead.” Jesse turned and walked to one of the rough rock walls and slumped to the floor. He sat, one leg sprawled out and the other pulled in so that his arm flopped over his knee.

“Don’t be stupid,” I told him, “There is a lot they can do before they kill you.”

“Are you scared Johan?” Jesse sneered. I again resisted the urge to punch him. I didn’t hold myself back because I was afraid of Jesse’s fists. He was two inches shorter and weighed a good deal lighter than I did. It was a habit of mine to spare Jesse even when he deserved a hit. Through the years, I’d learned Jesse couldn’t keep his mouth shut, and he became especially mouthy when things were dangerous or he was cornered. Besides, I only had a little more time to live, and I didn’t want to spend my last moments beating the daylights out of Jesse.

But what did I want to spend it doing? Praying? Reciting passages of the Torah? A few hours of scripture recounting couldn’t erase an entire life. I didn’t even know if I remembered the scriptures my father taught me. My father…. It was a long time since I’d thought of him. I taught myself to ignore his image looming in my mind early on. It was too painful.

My father was beaten to death by robbers while traveling to Samaria. My mother died some years before, so at nine years old, I was left to take care of myself. Life on the streets was cruel. I tried begging for money, but I didn’t get much. There were droves of orphaned children on the streets of Jerusalem and the ones who made the most money were the blind, or crippled.

It didn’t take me long for me to I realize that some of their disabilities were fake. Once we were huddled in our tunnel for the night, blind folds would come off, canes and crutches were thrown to the ground, and  “lame” legs were suddenly strong enough to walk.

It would be easy to tie a strip of cloth around my eyes, but it would be dishonest. My father would never do something like that, and even if he wasn’t with me physically, he was alive in my mind. I wouldn’t disappoint him.

After a few weeks, the hunger in my belly became more real than the memory of my father. I tore a strip from the bottom of my tunic and tied it around my eyes. Why should I starve just because people were naïve enough to give money to a fake blind kid?  Honesty got me nothing but hunger pains.

The blindfold wasn’t enough to keep the gnawing hunger away. I’d watched other children swipe a fig from a cart or bread from a bakery, but I never tried. It was wrong to steal. But my aching belly told me it was wrong that people should have so much food, and not share it.

The first time I stole a barley loaf, I thought that the Almighty would strike me dead, but the moment I put it in my mouth, I didn’t care if he did. With a bite of stolen food, I banished God and my father from my mind.

Now, hours away from my death, they came back.

I slumped against the wall, tired of pacing. I had learned to live one day at a time, keeping all thoughts of life after death out of my head. Now, with nothing to do but wait for death to come, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to me after my lungs breathed their last.

When I was a boy, I would have said that I would go to the bosom of Abraham like all my forefathers. Like my father. Even if I could go there now, I doubted my father would want to see me. He wouldn’t be able to stand what I’d become.

I eventually outgrew snatching food from the market and graduated to patrolling the highways for unfortunate travelers with Jesse. One day, we got lucky and a wealthy man rode by. His clothes were fine, and he was riding a horse instead of a donkey. Best of all, he was alone.

The man put up a fight. He charged at me with a knife. I knocked his arm aside and plunged my own dagger into his gut. Blood gushed over my hand. I pulled my dagger out and watched his body crumple to the ground. What was the fool thinking? He could have lived. We wanted his money, not his life.

As l looked at his blank eyes staring wide at the sky, I wondered if that’s what my father looked like when he was found. Then I realized what I’d become.

I was a murderer. No better than the one who killed my father.

No prayer could save me now. When the Romans put me to death tomorrow, I would go straight to hell.

Part 2

____________________________________________________________

In honor of Easter, I’m sharing this three-part story telling the crucifixion from a nontraditional point of view: the thief on the cross.

For some of us, the crucifixion story is so well known that there may be a tendency to sort of “zone out” when hearing it again. I wanted to write something that would trick our brains into paying attention before it went into I-don’t-have-to-pay-attention-because-I-already-know-it mode.

I hope this story will allow those of you who have heard about Jesus on the cross many times to have the chance to experience it like someone hearing it for the first time.