They fell to their knees at the crossing, in that place where those who dared to pray knelt at the
boundary, the edge of the sacred. As they rested there they longed to be able to take just one more step forward
but they were frozen, locked in place. The weight of their shame, their abnormality plagued them, rushing over
them in a wave and pinning them to that spot as they stared at the taunting word in the tile before them,
They had mean to whisper the word, or even to avoid speaking it aloud, but instead it came as a gut wrenching sob, torn from the depths of a soul that had lost all sense of purpose.
The single word asked a myriad of questions: Why did you to do this to me? Make me deformed?
Why am I unworthy of love? Of being here? Why did you curse me with breath that I should have to live this life?
The sound of the single syllable echoed through the space, as questions turned to declaration, the
seeds of a prayer bursting from their soul. It is too much. I cannot handle this, please please just make it stop.
Fear flooded their mind, for in this moment there was no more awareness of time, nor even of place.
It was as though darkness and despair had settled on them as a mantle, choking them, with all the words that they
had heard, all the blows and insults they had born. It all flowed together at once, and they felt surrounded,
trapped by the past with no sign of the present, and no hope that a future might ever exist.
Tears flowed down their cheeks, as they stared at the word laid in the floor before them. They
waivered, shaking under the forces that surrounded them before falling prostrate, collapsing under the weight of
Time passed, measured only by the steady drip of tears falling to the stone and the tremor of sobs
as they wracked the prone form. Then came a whisper, as if someone was kneeling beside them, murmuring words for
their ears alone, "look up".
With their eyes locked on the floor, they could not see who had spoken. Yet something in that voice
compelled them to obey. Unsure of what they did or why, they looked up, head tilting back as the rest of their
trembling form shivered on the floor.
Their eyes locked with those of the crucified who was looking down at them. The flicking candle
that had once sent shadows though the space, now appeared firm, and created a golden halo, surrounding the
person affixed to the cross. In those wooden eyes the trembling child did not see a doctrine or creed, nor even
judgment. What they saw was a human, a person in pain, and as they saw that, they heard with their heart the words
of a promise.
You are not alone. I am with you.
They stared at the fine lines of the carving, that were once rough and jagged, now rendered smoother than even the finest sandpaper could create. Transfixed, they saw the figure transform again. It was no longer simply a human in pain, but God, the power beyond all things, present within the simple figure. And it was in that moment that they knew. They knew that the mantle of shadow that consumed them was wrong, bondage wrought of lies.
They knew that there was a place for them, in the world and in whatever was to come.
Slowly they pulled their arms into toward their chest, and then pushed up, rising to their knees. Kneeling there in the crossing, hovering between heaven and earth the battered child said to the darkness, "I believe".
Context Note: This short story was written alongside my 2015 National Novel Writting Month Project.
Copyright © Ari Leigh 2019