30 Sep

RUINS photo: ruins roman_ruins_palmyra_syria_photo_gov.jpg

The skies were blue and the road dusty and a dry heat washed over the world as the ebony black man walked down the centre of an ancient road, past the crumbling remnants of long forgotten buildings, towards the centre of town. His face gleamed with the effort of all that walking, but he slowly made his way past the curious eyes that seemed to shine from the shambles and detritus of the ruins, frowns and scowls aimed at him because of his very blackness. He was difference, and here where God ruled difference had always been hated.

In this part of the world there never had been seen such black skin. It was, to the eyes of the hidden watchers, everything that skin shouldn’t be. Skin, they thought, should be like theirs, white and shining with cleanliness and holy: yes, holy, for wasn’t the lamb of God himself a pristine white man? So the pictures said, and pictures are never wrong, not if the ancients painted them.

Eventually one of the watchers detached himself and strolled with a quiet malevolence towards the visitor. This, he thought, must never be! There can be no room in their town for one with skin like this!

He arrived before the black-skinned man and stood before him, blocking his progress

“Yo jus’ turn yoself round and git outta here,” he drawled. “There ain’t no room in this ‘ere town for a man like you, if man you be! Outta the jungles o’ Afric I’ll be bound, down fro’ the Afric trees and’ ‘ere to spread your wickedness an’ sickness amongst us clean good folks!”

The black man eyed him curiously, an innocent enough look, one that had about it a certain charming naivety.
“I’ve come to help,” he said, quietly. “I’ve come to put things straight.”

“Yo daft black bugger!” exclaimed the other. “Standin’ there like an ape fro’ the forests o’ Afric an’ tellin’ us real folks stuff like that!”

Then he turned towards the crumbling buildings where shafts of sunlight from the dry blue skies cut through the ribs of old roofs that had lost their tiles and slates, and over piles of dusty debris to spread like cruel butter on a dishevelled world. “We’ll ‘ave t’ get ‘im, folks,” he drawled. “We’ll ‘ave t’ put things right! Get you them there stones like they do in Muslim lands and let’s sort that black bastard out once an’ f’r all!”

Half a dozen scruffy figures detached themselves from their background and made their way towards the confrontation.

“Let ‘im ‘ave it, let ‘im ‘ave it for good,” growled the white man, and he picked up a stone, heavy as a clenched fist, and drove it at the ebony stranger.

With a whoop and a shout of anger mingled with what a stranger might have taken for insanity the others joined in. They picked up stones, jagged fragments of the broken buildings and shattered streets, and hurled them at the stranger.

There was a cry of pain, but he did nothing but stand there, bemused, wondering what he might have done to precipitate such anger. There was a ferocious light in the eyes of the aggressors, one that might have been confused with insanity in any other land, though here it was nothing but the cold light of righteous anger.

Mere moments later the black stranger lay on the dusty broken road surrounded by a motley collection of old stones, a pool of blood spreading from him and drying like blood does when the sun is hot in a morning sky and there hasn’t been a drop of rain for days beyond count.

“I’m off t’ give thanks t’ the Lord,” muttered the original aggressor, and the others grinned at each other and nodded their heads, following him.

The little group of dusty men made their way to the only building that was still intact in the old town, and sat in a seat at the back whilst the pastor droned his message out.

“And the Lord said all must end,” he intoned. “He said that there would be a second coming when all things were arriving at an end, and that Christ would stand before the righteous and the wrong and judge them, and the world would be healed and our enemies smitten down like all enemies should!”

The dusty aggressor on the back pew grinned at his comrades, and sniggered.

The pastor continued. “And he’d better come soon enough,” he muttered, tearing his eyes from his hastily scribbled notes for a moment. “For it is said that war is coming this way! The foreign foe even as I speak is preparing to send powerful weapons this way, for he needs our lands, his own being flooded by the rising seas! And though the roads and fields are not his he will take them, of course he will, take them from us and enslave us! But it is said in the old books that the Saviour will come again…”

The aggressor grinned, and nudged his companions.

The pastor coughed, and stared directly at him. “And when he comes the pains of our world will be healed, wars will cease and we will be given a golden time,” he whispered, “but you, my friend at the back, sitting there in so much righteous dignity, you know that he will never come, not now, not since you stoned him on the road from the old world, not since you let the Christ bleed into the old road and die like a strangled rabbit into the broken concrete….”

The aggressor was going to stand up, to protest that all he’d done was what any man might when he saw a black bastard daring to walk the sacred streets of their town, but all of a sudden there was a roar in the world outside, one that stole his voice from him, and beautiful as a new statue wrought from gold and ivory a column of dust and fire and the flesh of thousands rose into the late morning air, and a wind blew from nowhere as the gigantic cloud spread out, above their church and the road and the blood-dried remnants of a black man, and out of it a few spots of toxic moisture fell down to splash like rain does onto a world that might have been a desert, but wasn’t quite.


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