The stench of urine and decomposing flesh hung heavy in the air; Darius gagged at the overwhelming odor. He pulled his knees to his chest and began to shiver as he huddled in the corner of the dank prison cell. Lord, why must I suffer? What do you wish of me? He heaved a sigh, grasping his bruised ribs as he flinched from the pain. Give me strength.
Footsteps echoed down the corridor as the light from a torch flickered against the stone wall.
“On your feet.” Silas swung the iron gate open; the clatter echoed through the dungeon. “It is time.”
The beleaguered prisoner struggled to his feet, trembling on his unsteady legs.
The young guard grabbed his arm and tugged him toward the walkway. “Have you changed your mind?”
“Do you not fear the consequences of your actions?” the guard queried.
Darius stared at the jailer with determination.
The escort held his prisoner against the wall. “The king has decreed that we are all to worship his god.”
“There is but one true God, and …”
“Must you always speak of your god?” Silas grunted in disgust. “Why do you defy the king?”
Darius gazed into his captor’s eyes. “Why do you resist the truth?”
“I have witnessed many suffer the consequences.” The jailer released the convict’s arm. “Unspeakable repercussions.”
“The consequences of forsaking my Lord are far greater.”
“Move.” Silas pushed the prisoner, jabbing at the wounds that seeped down his gaunt body. “I will hear no more of your fantasies.” The two men walked in silence through the labyrinth of corridors, their muffled steps drown out by occasional cries from the darkened cells. They paused at a large wooden door. “I do not understand you.” The door creaked as the sentry pulled it open. “Do you not fear the wrath of the king?”
“No.” The frail man squinted at the sunlight as it pierced the darkness.
The guard grabbed his inmate by the shoulder. “The king will force you to bow before his god.”
“His god?” Darius gave an intrigued glance.
“I will kneel before the one true God when I stand in judgment.” The prisoner shook his head in disagreement. “No others.”
“You are standing in judgment now.” Silas shoved Darius into the courtyard; the frail man fell to his knees.
The captive looked up at his escort. “The judgment of man is not what matters.”
“You will be killed.” The guard’s eyes widened with astonishment. “Do you not care?”
Darius fought to regain his footing. “You will set me free into eternal life.”
“Why must you be so stubborn?” Silas gestured across the courtyard toward a large statue glistening in the midday sun. “That is our god. That is who we must worship.”
A small crowd gathered at the foot of the statue jeered the sight of the two men.
“That is but a figure.” Darius gazed into his captors eyes. “Where was your god before that statue was built?” He paused, pointing at the sculpture. “And who created the people who built it?”
“Come.” Silas grabbed his prisoner’s arm. “The king awaits at the altar.”
“To torture me?”
“No.” Silas began to walk across the square. “To kill you.”
Stones and thorns jabbed the convict’s feet. He winced.
The crowd became raucous as the two men approached. Rocks and debris pelted the inmate as they neared the altar. Many began to taunt and ridicule the weakened man, berating his beliefs.
The jailer stopped at the steps of the altar. “If your god is so powerful why does he not rescue you? … Strike us dead?”
“He is a God of love.” Darius smiled. “You are not forced to worship Him.”
“This does not need to happen.” Silas placed a hand on the prisoner’s shoulder. “You can still change your mind”
“No.” Darius shook his head. “I cannot.”
The crowd cheered as the king ordered the executioner to retrieve the detainee.
The sentry stared in disbelief. “Are you certain?”
“I hope your god is kind to you.” Silas nudged the inmate toward the platform.
The prisoner gazed back into the young guard’s eyes. “I pray God has mercy on you.”
The executioner dragged Darius onto the stage. The crowd erupted.
Silas turned his back to the platform.
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