Sunday, April 24, 2011

Because it seemed appropriate

from Alive on the Inside

“Tonight, the eight o'clock Ten in One will be replaced by a live Passion Play. There will be no adult show. There will be another Passion Play tomorrow night and a special Sunrise Service on Easter.”

Nick flinched at the notion. He knew there was a hymn-sing and revival service every Sunday morning, but he'd never worked up the nerve to go. He just knew Elijah would throw him out because of Jacob. He gave the idea of a Passion Play some thought. He wasn't sure how they could stage it, since they had very few normal looking people among the crew. The hideous thought occurred to him that it would be a real crucifixion and Jacob would be starring.

He dismissed this as blasphemous and started building the four o'clock tip.

Eight o'clock found him in his usual spot at the back of the Ten in One tent, a little nervous. Giant white scrims had been set up everywhere. The old familiar story began, half rear-projection, half live-action. Elijah addressed the council of the Pharisees as the high priest, the others all just motion picture, but his timing so impeccable, Nick could almost believe they were real. Jene, looking all male,led in the donkey colt to recorded cheers of a throng projected on the scrims at the front.

Nick winced. Jacob was indeed on the donkey. It was going to be a real beating and a real crucifixion and the crowd was going to ooh and ah over the realism and never know they'd actually seen true torture.

Marv was commanding as Pontius Pilate. Nick watched each blow of the whip lay Jacob's back open. The twins, as Mary and Martha, clung to MingXia, dressed in red as Mary Magdalene, and wept. The blood flowed until Nick was sure Jacob couldn't take any more. When Jacob winced at a blow, he
knew it was getting too much.

The tent went dark and Elijah's voice, deep as thunder, narrated the next events. Nick didn't recognize the Roman who was beating Jacob as he staggered under the weight of the huge wooden cross on his back. Then he realized it must be Wolfgang, without the fur. The Phantasmagoria had gone all out for this show.

One of the women in the audience sobbed when a splash of blood hit her face and she smelled the bitter iron of it instead of the sticky sweetness of corn syrup. “It's real,” ran through the crowd at lightening speed.

Wolfgang and Jene, both in full armor, wrestled the cross to the ground and spread Jacob atop it. Nick couldn't watch and from the gasps in the crowd and a thud, he knew others found it just as hard.

The sound of the crudely forged iron nails breaking skin and tendon and small foot bones before thudding into wood sickened Nick. He fled backstage.

The crucifixion went on for an eternity. Jacob bled and writhed and cried out. Finally, he dropped limp, the crown of thorns spattering the front row with more blood. Jene and Wolfgang took him down, none too careful and handed his body to the twins and Mingxia who carried it to the part of the set designated as the tomb. They washed him and wrapped him in white cloth and with some help, got the rock in front of the entrance.

Nick came to the back of the tomb set and helped Jacob sit up, unwrapping his head in the process. He handed over a glass of water. Gently, he lifted the thorns off, puncturing one finger as he did.

“Jacob, are you going to be all right?” He poured another glass of water. After losing that much blood, blood which still seeped through the white cloth, Jacob would need a lot of fluids.

“I'm always fine.” The cold suspicion in Jacob's eyes hurt, but Nick knew he deserved it.

He bent in and kissed one of the shallower cuts, the one at Jacob's temple. “There is no adult show tonight. Come on back to the car and let me take care of you.” He offered a hand and picked up a heavy robe with the other. Jacob stood, exhaustion pouring off of him like the blood. Nick wrapped him in the robe and helped him back to the railcar.

Once inside, he sat Jacob on the sofa and poured more water, adding a shot of whiskey to this one. “Drink,” he said. He ducked into the head and came back with the basin and cloth he'd used in

The girls had washed him, but Jacob had bled again on the walk over. This worried Nick. By now, he should be scabbed over, if not healed entirely.

He washed extra carefully around Jacob's forehead and scalp where the cruel thorns had bitten deep under Jene's crueler pressing. He unwrapped the linen from Jacob's hands and cleaned them, the nailprints in the wrists giving him an odd, twisty sensation in his stomach.

It was how he used to feel as a kid, during the gorier parts of fairy tales or looking at the pictures in his mother's family Bible. Old, full color illustrations of the people dying in the Flood while the Ark sailed serenely on, of Salome presenting the head of John the Baptist to her mother and yes, of the Crucifixion. It was the same odd tingle he had always gotten saying the Apostle's Creed at the words “Crucified, dead and buried.” He knew exactly what he wanted to do.

“ may I stay?”

The hope in his lover's eyes almost burned. “Please stay.”

Nick turned Jacob's hands palm up, washed away the blood and kissed the center of each. Jacob stroked his face, running a light thumb along his cheekbone. Nick took a deep breath and tongued the nail-prints in Jacob's wrists. He looked up with a shudder, terrified he'd overstepped himself.

Jacob pulled him up for a kiss. Nick met him, the taste of blood in his mouth—holy blood, his mind whispered—his passions higher than they'd been for months. He finished stripping away the robe and cloth.

Carefully, Nick washed his lover's back. The whip welts had closed and no longer poured out Jacob's life. He washed the blood from Jacob's legs and feet, kissing those holes too.

Finally, he started cleaning the cut in Jacob's side. Unable to help himself, he slipped four fingers into it, flat, as he imagined Doubting Thomas doing on that long ago day in Jerusalem.

“What do you need, my love?” he whispered.

Jacob opened one eye as if the eyelid weighed as much as the whole world. The exhaustion had not passed, but seemed to grow deeper. Nick wondered if Jacob would survive the next night's show.

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