Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Where Angels Fear to Tread (not about the book) (09/08/11)
TITLE: In the Moments Before
By Glynis Becker
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Gaius quietly murmured prayers through swollen lips. <i>Lord, let Lydia know that I loved her. Protect and preserve my children.</i> He was confident that the church would feed and clothe his family once he was gone, but who would play and laugh with his precious Phoebe? Who would teach Augustus how to hunt or teach him a trade? What about the child they had yet to see or name? Would he be a strong, healthy boy like they hoped? Would Lydia name him Gaius in memory of him? He would not cry. They would not see him weaken in these last moments. He knew when He decided to follow the Truth that this might be his end. And he certainly would not look back. How could he? He had no option but to go where His Lord led him. Even if it was a dark and fearful place. He remembered a Jewish song he'd been taught: "If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I descend to Sheol, You are there." Yes, Lord, You are here. I believe.
A sharp kick to his leg made Gaius look up, as best he could through the blood and bruising. His lips continued to move as He prayed blessings over those he would never see again with these mortal eyes and as he prayed strength for himself.
"Go ahead and pray, Christian," the menacing voice was dark. "It won't do you any good. If it were up to me we'd crucify the lot of you, just like we did to Him. But the governor likes the sport. Passes the time until the real games begin."
Gaius did not answer. What could he say? He had always prayed that if this moment came, he would have the words to preach like Stephen had, but now that he was here, he found his throat dry and his voice silent. Would he die well? He could not--would not--give these men any satisfaction by begging for death, but, Lord, how much more was he expected to take?
One of the guards grabbed his arm, pulling him up where he stood, hunched over, holding his cramping stomach. "On your feet! It's your turn." Gaius shuffled his feet but could not keep up with the guards who began to drag him through the dirt to the arena's entrance. He involuntarily squinted at the bright light. How many days had he sat in that light-less cell? The noise of the crowd was louder now and mixed with the feral growls of chained dogs, slavering for blood.
He was thrown into the sunshine, heat bringing fresh pain to his open wounds. Gaius raised an arm to shield his eyes. This was the moment that defined his life, a moment even angels fear. How would he die?
"With faithfulness." The voice was quiet, but it sliced through the crowd's roar like a sword. He saw a figure standing before him, spotless in contrast to the dirt of the arena, light brighter than the sun surrounding him. A glance at the man's hands and Gaius knew it was Jesus.
Through parched lips cracked the words, "My Lord". Gaius fell to his knees.
"Do not be afraid. I am here."
He heard the dogs unleashed, And he saw nothing.
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