“There’s been a misunderstanding,” he told the officials, trying to explain himself without flying into a rage or falling apart. But they dismissed his entreaties as though disgusted, none of them listening to a word that he said. Suddenly, he understood how they really saw him: Peasant. Rabble. Scum.
How had he gotten to this place? He was terrified to think about it now, with the rising sound of the crowd gathering outside, that angry, excited sound of a mob out for blood … the blood of the man who had considered him a friend….
He didn’t think it would go this far. It seemed so simple at the time: tell the authorities what they wanted to know and get out of this fool’s movement that he had gotten himself into. He had been certain that this movement, this group of radicals, would finally achieve what he and his people had been longing for: punishment for the tyrants who had been oppressing them for far too long and justice for themselves. The group would amass arms, mounting a glorious revolution to raise up the disenfranchised.
Their fearless leader, whom they called Teacher, was going to do things that the whole world would notice, and the world would fall at their feet. He was charismatic, intelligent, able to accomplish things that were unheard of, with a seemingly miraculous ability to know exactly who a person was and what they needed to hear, getting under the skin of the establishment and shaking up the middle-of-the-road. Teacher had trusted him, made him part of the inner circle of revolutionaries, treasurer of the group. He would’ve done anything for Teacher — they all would have. They were believers. Comrades. Brothers.
But now … it was all going wrong. It had been going wrong for months. Teacher never instructed him to use the group’s funds for weapons, never raised a violent army to put down the oppressors, and spoke more and more about spiritual things, about forgiveness and mercy. Mercy? For them? Their oppressors, along with the traitors among their own people, deserved fire and brimstone, hell and damnation, not a path to redemption! There was no world in which these enemies could ever become friends.
It became more and more clear to him that Teacher was painfully naïve.
For a long time, the disappointment ate at him before becoming disgust. Entrusted with the money, he started skimming from the top, setting aside funds for a new order, a new movement that would violently overthrow the enemy government and get things done. To make that break, however, he would have to take radical action.
That’s why he told the authorities what they wanted to know — for a price.
From the beginning, they had been gunning for Teacher. They feared the radical words that gathered crowds, crowds that had worked themselves up so much that they even proclaimed Teacher as some kind of divinity. To avoid insurrection, the authorities had tried to discredit and defame Teacher, but the movement only grew larger. Left with few alternatives, they plotted to grab Teacher and trump up charges against him and his followers.
Why not use the establishment’s plan against them, stoking the flames of indignation amongst Teacher’s followers, while also providing funds for a new revolution? So, he had struck a deal, received his pay, and on the chosen night — last night — he had slipped them into a gathering of the group. The soldiers had hung back so as not to be seen, but remained near enough to watch and act. Then he had pointed out Teacher and they had seized upon him, dragging him away bound in chains.
And now … would they really kill Teacher?
Of course they would. That’s what they do to peasants, to rabble, as if they were picking off gnats. Bloodshed was necessary for freedom, he had always believed that — it was the very reason that he had lost faith in Teacher — but the blood of this gentle, trusting man …?
Kissing Teacher’s cheek as a signal to the armed men … why had he done that? Teacher had even asked him why … and he didn’t know… The look on the gentle man’s face … the betrayal, the hurt, the disappointment, the grief……. He didn’t want Teacher to die. That wasn’t his plan.
He made a mistake.
It had all been a terrible misunderstanding.
He fell to his knees before the officials, pleading with them, begging them. He didn’t want the money anymore, they could have it all back. He threw it at their feet as the mob got louder. “Please, please!” But they spit on him and walked away.
Turning, he ran through the murderous mob, ran away as fast as he could. What had he done?! Teacher, the man who had called him out of ordinary life and into his circle of trusted friends was about to be put to death — and for what? For being different? For wanting justice and peace?
Running out of the city, he hated himself, hated the innocent blood on his hands. He was filth. Scum. Nothing. He was the one that deserved to die! He could never face the men with whom he had served these past years to justify what he had done … how could he ever justify what he had done?
It was over. There was no going back and only one way out — just leave the whole stinking mess of his life. That last look on Teacher’s face, that look of heartbreak, of betrayal… of love…. No. It couldn’t be love. Not even Teacher could possibly love a filthy traitor like him, a backstabbing, sellout scumbag like him…
At the edge of a cliff, he found himself panting, shaking. He looked down at the jagged rocks below … he looked down at his whole pointless journey, seeing nothing but hardness, anger, and the horrible demon of hopelessness opening its mouth to devour him….
© 2021 Christina Chase
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.