JESUS OF THE SCARS


            If we have never sought, we seek thee now;
            Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
            We must have sight of thorn pricks on Thy brow,
            We must have thee, O Jesus of the scars.

            The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
            In all the universe we have no place.
            Out wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
            Lord Jesus, by Thy scars we claim Thy grace.

            If when the doors are shut, Thou drawst near,
            Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
            We know today what wounds are, have no fear,
            Show us Thy scars, we know the countersign.
            The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
            They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
            But to our wounds only God's wounds can speak,
            And not a god has wounds, but thou alone.

            Edward Shillito,  1874-1948

PROLOG

   Hidden behind dark clouds, a wholesome moon failed to illuminate the twisted, gnarled form of a demon that watched over a child. The old one knew the human’s sleep was wrapped in a thin mist of incoherent images that would be forgotten after the first wash of sunlight culled the child into his first waking moments. Noting the gentle rising and falling chest of the boy, Satan arched an eyebrow and let his thoughts run with anticipation.

    Anticipation that Heaven's end would begin here amid this stillness where innocence would be corrupted in such a way that his Ascension upon the throne of Heaven could not be denied.

   Under the warmth of a thick comforter, the child shuddered against a chill.

   Satan smiled, understanding the boy would never lose the cold. No matter how hard the child might fight for his life, no matter in what direction this child turned, he would always carry the cold harsh thoughts of his master, even when under the guise of warmth and well being.

   Satan rolled out his breath to drift thick and rank over the boy before settling over scattered toys in a heavy mist. A weathered hand curled that mist as he bought several fingers to rest against parched, leathered lips hiding urine colored teeth. Running fingertips over the coarseness of his lower lip, Satan paused, and then gently kissed the width of his old, misaligned fingers.

   With the delicate movement of one born to deceit, Satan lowered his hand, carrying his kiss to rest upon the child's exposed cheek. Again he paused, allowing his touch to linger in the excitement of live flesh.

   Satan abruptly removed his hand, knotting his long fingers into a fist as his emotions stirred with possibilities this child held. This flesh, which lay innocent and naked before him, was to be only the first. Soon, perhaps years, even decades as humans passed time, all would lie subservient. The thought caused another smile, this time not reflected in his upturned lips, but in the dull yellow-red pricks of light that marked the old master's eyes.

   It had begun!

***

   Dense and suffocating, lush yellow-green foliage invades, filling the child's sleep. Deep in the dark places he does not dwell, there is a thought that these colors strangle. Overhead, the sun drives the moisture in the air deep into his pores, and then his attention is caught by a naked foot sinking deep into cold water followed by the hold of cool, moist mud.

   The child tugs his foot loose, placing the muddied sole on a small path that is nothing more than a thin strip of swollen earth and standing water that disappears ahead, deep in the lush interior. A cold wind bristles from behind causing an abrupt rash of hardened goose pimples and what sparse hairs exist on his forearms, stand on end as his focus is turned to the sky by a distant rumbling.

   Gone is the comfort of heat and sun. In its place a deep purple tinged atmosphere pours forth bilious clouds whose light gray tops reflect a waning sun. Underneath, they are threatening, inhabited of stark, charcoal streaked underbellies.

   Passing by a puddle, he glances to see a reflection distorted by dying ripples among the muddied waters. There is something he cannot resist, a temptation, as he squats on his haunches.

   Thrusting both hands deep until the soiled water laps snugly against his fragile wrists, he works both hands into fists full of large clumps of mud. Pulling free with his treasure, he is delighted in the feeling, the pliability as he squeezes his palms tighter, letting the mud ooze out between clenched fingers.

   Against the coming darkness, a sheer yellow thread plays out overhead, dividing the foreboding clouds. Seconds later the thread is followed by a brisk roll of thunder which causes the child to again turn his face upward where the first drop of a coming storm falls against a clean cheek.

   The boy swipes his face leaving a swath of mud while his sight wanders over the heavens. The rainfall grows heavier; he does not know what he is looking for, if anything. Returning to his mud puddle, he notices the drops plop heavier, thicker, producing random little circles, which he obliterates as he places both hands back in his puddle and tries to wash them by swirling his hands.

   Unbothered by the coldness of the water, he enjoys the rain, which is given a voice by large drops falling with hollow thuds against broad leaves or dull pit-plops upon the path. Wiping his hands against a purple striped shirt, he leaves telltale streaks of mud and water.

There's a sudden bristling and he's conscience of movement ahead, of leaves and overgrowth being pushed aside, a stirring of another walking the path, coming his way. Without thought to danger, in one swift motion he rises from his world of mud and water. His short-cropped hair is matted; water beads are gathered about his brow and begin to run in tangled rivulets down over his ethereal face. One such stream trails off his upturned nose and he moves unconsciously to wipe it dry.

   Behind a growing veil of water, the youth watches, aware another is approaching. Shading both eyes, the boy attempts to block out a portion of the downpour with an open palm. Squinting, he makes out a blurred and incomplete shadow behind the broad leaves and narrow reeds, which are clearly being pushed aside from the width of the path.

   Closer the figure comes and the boy lets his mouth drop open. He watches another child, roughly his own size, his own age and with the passing of more steps, he notices that this child too is barefoot when he comes to stand on the opposite shores of his rippled little puddle of mud.

   Satan stood before the child, knowing what words he would use to buy at first, a parcel of this human's friendship. A parcel which would be his, forever along the long dark path that lies ahead.

   Satan recognized dreams were essential to all humanity, that their hidden meanings were analyzed for whatever unknown benefits and purposes. Perhaps there existed hope, Satan wondered, of truths to be uncovered. Hope that beckoned humans to carelessly flitter about the light.

   Children have no such illusions, dreams just are! So it was with this young and rambunctious child that he accepted what was. No questions, no refusals or denials of reality.

   Awaking in the comfort of his own bed with the bulk of blankets pulled tight about him, he remembered. Never exact conversation or defined content, rather only a stark, rough texture. He did not know, nor care, that in years still yet to come his way, time would open these dreams, allowing much more than texture to be remembered.

   But for old men, childhood dreams come far too late in life to be realized.

   He glanced to his window, watching the morning sun drift from behind the last wisp of a cloud to flood into his room and erase the dim shadows, which had lived far too long upon the bedroom walls.
Outside his closed door, he heard another door slam shut and he knew his father had left for the day. A violent wince nudged the thought along as he caught a foul wrenching smell. Thinking the lone toilet had backed up again to spew waste about the stained and cracked linoleum, he pushed both feet out from under their cover.

***

   "Ma... awmmmmm," was shrill and drawn.

   A naked foot shot out toward the floor coinciding with his yell. Aware of the uncommon and dense coolness rising up from the floorboards, it was not enough warning as he sunk a foot lightly into a soft, pliant substance.

   Quickly withdrawing his foot, the boy bought his leg up near bedside, holding it uncomfortably out, careful not to touch his bed as he peered down over the side.

   His eyes widened, not understanding how this had happened. Knowing only his father would beat the hell out of him.

   Unless, he thought, he could scoop the mess up before his mother found out.

   Light footsteps made their way outside his door, traveling the length of the hall and he held his breath, hoping his mother would not enter. She would tell, she always did. Every and any little thing he did or said, she told.

   Glaring down at the large stinking pile, he heard the whiz of a fly, and then a floorboard squeak. The one outside his door and he lifted his head in time to catch the doorknob turn.
 

Prologue                                             Chapter 1                                     Chapter 2

 

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