The wind billows sand up into the faces of the damned, they hardly seem to notice. Beneath the circling crows a man in a common hooded cloak approaches the recently crucified criminals. The two Roman Vigiles Urbani pay the passerby no mind, or care not to. Nor do the two weeping women as he struts past.
His leather sandals crunch as he comes to a stop beneath the three crucified yet living corpses. His steely eyes examine them, stopping on the furthest to the right. A gangly black haired man, who the flies had already made a home of.
Two living corpses it is then. He rubs his chin with a smirk on his face, Two thieves and a prophet. Must have been a slow day for the Romans, he thinks ruefully.
He brings his attention to what remains of Jesus of Nazareth who is slumped upon the cross, barely grasping to life. A crown of thorns sits upon his bloodied head. Dark streaks of blood run down his face like sprawling rivers. His face is swollen and resembles tenderized meat.
The man shakes his head. “Jesus, look at what they have done to you.”
The only reply Jesus gives is but the rise and fall of his stomach.
“You should've listened to me, you should have taken my deal. The world already would be better off if you did. But no, you chose to die for their sins. To be tortured by them, crucified by them. What kind of loving father would let his son die for such a people?” He punctuated his sentence with the squeeze of his fist.
“Yes, what kind of father?” He fights a sudden gag reflex back down his throat.“Just so his beloved creation, these locusts can continue to sin their way into oblivion, eventually along the way forgetting about YOU in the process; and meandering their merry selves into my realm regardless.”
Jesus shuttered, letting out an almost inaudible moan as he attempted to shift his body weight on the cross. The thief to his left shakes in and out of consciousness, likely unsure if if the voice he is hearing is in his head or real.
The man kneels down to a knee, digging his hand into the ground retrieving a fistful of sand. He watched the grains slip through his fingers. “You see Jesus, there have been many prophets before you, there will be others when you're gone.” He glances up with a glimmer in his eyes, “Which will be soon enough.” The last bit of sand escapes his hand, “You are nothing but another grain of sand in the wind my friend.” He grunts to himself, rising back up to his feet and claps the remaining particles from his hands.
“My kingdom will extend its reach to Earth and eventually to Heaven; especially with you dying.” The man lets out a dejected sigh. “You see this is the kind of shit I left the kingdom for.”
After hearing Lucifer’s rambling thoughts Jesus stirs, his head raises inch by inch. His eyes are hardly able to stay open. One was nearly closed with dried blood from an old wound, the other from sheer exhaustion. He finally musters up words, “Why are you here Satan?”
Lucifer gives an animated applause. “Ah he lives! The son has risen! You see, I've been here the entire time. I was there in the hearts of the men who did this to you.”
Jesus looks to the sky, grunting his retort. “Forked tongue as always.”
“Now, now. Don't be sour.” Lucifer smiles mournfully before letting out another sigh. “You could have been so much. Could have done so much. Sure you saved some souls, gave sight to the blind, hell you even turned water into wine. But you could have ruled over this world and made it into a new heaven.”
Lucifer frowns. “We could’ve.”
He steps closer as if he were sneaking up on a hare. Tentatively he puts a soft hand on the knuckle of Jesus’ foot and looks up at him. In a gentle tone he says, “I only come to help. That's all.”
Jesus grunts in pain, whimpering as he tries to adjust himself in vain for every extremity is nailed down. He still does not make eye contact with his enemy.
“I can make it stop, you know? You only need to ask.”
Jesus’ breathing hastens, and grows more labored. He almost looks to consider the offer. “You offer no help, only misery.” He grunts down.
Lucifer shrugs, a puzzled look on his face, “This is misery.”
He relents,“You do know my way however. I'm going to make you ask. Yes that's right, the son of god, the supposed savior of the world is going to beg me to end his pain. To end his suffering. To end his life.” Lucifer smiles again, but this time it isn't mournful. It is a smile filled with contempt, and venom. One that is the smile of serpents.
In the distant plains thunder rumbles beneath rolling black clouds. Jesus raises his head once again, his breathing a hollow rattle, however this time he makes eye contact with Lucifer catching him by surprise.
Lucifer is first struck by the beauty of them, every color seemed to reside in his eyes. Lucifer could’ve swore that Jesus’ eyes were brown, and yet now he felt as though he were seeing the gentle turquoise waves of a surf. A brilliant ruby hidden amongs't the dirt. The green from an unspoiled cedar wood tree. All the colors of the rainbow were present but for a moment.
They stared into each other's eyes for what felt like an eternity but in the terms of the universe it was a meer blink. Lucifer feels something like a pull of gravity. In Jesus’ eyes he sees the beginning, an empty nothing, followed by a sudden eruption of blinding light. He sees his own creation even, followed by his damnation.
He sees a time where he indeed seems to rule, he even comes close to winning. Lucifer's eyes widened beholding the glory to come. A wicked smile curls along his face.
A smile that does not stay long, he watches as the glory comes, and then like a castle made of sand as it goes. His teeth grind together as he watches himself come so close to victory, only to not.
Lucifer attempts to hide his surprise as Jesus speaks again, “I love you, and I am sorry for what you feel, I'm just more sorry for what you are now. Alas, what saddens me most is what YOU could have become Lucifer; Lord of Darkness and Lord of the Flies.”
Jesus pauses, maybe even catches his breath…. “and that you will never know what it is to love, or be loved again.”
Lucifer winces from what is said and as a vision comes to him. A universe where he did not lead a rebellion and become an exile of heaven. One where he stayed. A universe that he helped to build into something beautiful, a forever Eden.
A tear rolls down his cheek. The thing that moves him the most in the vision is not the building of a perfect paradise, but the fact that he is happy in doing it.
Lightning blinks in the distance and Lucifer stifles a gasp. His hand recoils from the foot of Jesus and he stumbles into a fall. When he falls he seems to plummet for an eternity. Lucifer screams for it to end. He feels a ferocious heat getting closer, and closer, slowly sizzling his back. Before he sees the glow of the flames the smells come first. One of death, decay, and a putrid smell of rotten eggs.
Above the coming roaring flames, he hears the groans of thousands, maybe millions of tortured souls. In that moment he felt the heavy weight of guilt that they were in this place because of him.
A light coming from the top of the pit grew in its brilliance, causing Lucifer to wince. He could no longer keep his eyes open, he couldn't tell if he were falling any longer, the only thing he could feel was a growing warmth.
A warmth he hadn't felt in eons.
Lucifer thuds heavily onto the sand, he coughs and gasps for air. Overcast skies greet his vision now.
Jesus takes a deep breath before continuing. When he speaks his voice is similar to the thunder that follows. “Just know every choice you make, leads you closer to ruling over nothing but a pit of sulfur.”
As much as he can, Jesus lets himself smile. In his eyes, there is love, tears even, all for his mortal enemy.
Lucifer glares back, he rises to his feet and with an angry grunt slaps the sand from his cloak. He stomps away, looking back once more with his face twisted into a look of malice.
Jesus watches him go, he inhales and lets out one last deep breath and embraces the sudden tranquility and solitude of the moment. He observes the sand spiraling in the wind. It reminded him of the spiral of galaxies, far and vast.
The smile stays as one last thought comes to him while he is completely engulfed in the desert’s parched silence, I was nothing but another grain of sand in the wind.