A scream awoke me in the dead of night. Through tired eyes and a narrow slit between my curtains, I peered outside. I could not see anything move, but yet again, I heard a noise. Metal on metal, pounding fiercely. Wearily and reluctantly, I left the warmth of my bed, the comfort of my home, and I ventured to see what it could be.
Only the moon was visible that night, and barely at that, for a thick fog had floated through the land, dimming nature’s night light and illuminating very little before me. Looking not far in front of me, I found a small pathway, which led in the direction of the sound. As soon as I took my first step, a “clang” rang throughout the night sky… followed by a terrifying scream.
By a power I did not warrant, I stepped forward, shivering from the icy floor, the chilly air, and the frightening power of the scream. Looking side to side, I could scarcely see trees and branches waiving faintly as midnight breezes kissed the leaves as if to give them life, but yet many of those leaves fell to the ground before me, dead. I tucked my arms in tightly and gingerly stepped forward on the path.
“Clang! … Clang! …Clang!”
With each careful, cautious step, the hammering sound became rhythmic and louder, and still followed by a shriek unknown to human ears. As I glanced around, I began to see something like stones littering the earth around me. I could not tell what they were, but through the faint moonlight, they appeared as nothing more than stepping stones, leading nowhere.
The screams occurred again, but this time, I heard words.
“Eli! Eli! …” a language I did not know, “lema sabachthani!”
And then the hammering stopped.
I continued down the path, even more careful of how much noise I made, for I felt someone’s presence watching me. A twig snapped to my left, I startled and spun in that direction, only to hear a faint chuckle back to my right. My heart vibrated my body in that cold, dark night. I reasoned with myself to turn back and go home, where my bed awaited me, but something compelled me to continue, something seemed to beckon me onward. And so, tenderly, I stepped forward.
This pathway had wrapped around a massive tree and turned back into an open area, I could tell for the wind whistled less in this small area, no bigger than a campsite. My foot caught something ice cold in front of me and I peered down to see a hammer laying at my feet. I stared at it for some time before realizing that it was covered in blood.
“Curious are we?” a voice called out from across the open area.
“Certainly you aren’t on some routine, night stroll now are you, barely dressed in any clothing at all?”
My fear held my tongue.
“You need not be afraid of me, young man; if anything, I’m out here to protect you, to guard what’s in your best interest.”
The moon’s light began to shine just a touch brighter and I could see a figure sitting in the shadows of a dead tree. His voice seemed trustworthy.
“And… what’s in m-my best i-i-interest?” I stammered.
He now stepped out, directly towards me.
“You don’t know what’s in your best interest? Well, what do you want most in this world? Comfort? Security? I can sense right now you’d rather be back home in your bed; surely you know that these two are your most desired possessions.”
I wondered at how he knew what I wanted.
“But… how are you… protecting me… out here?” A chill stung my spine and clenched my heart.
“That’s simple; I was getting rid of someone who wanted to manipulate you and use you for his own good.”
My feet were stained with his blood.
The one with whom I spoke was inching closer to me. I could not see his eyes or anything about his face, but his voice seemed gentle enough to be trusted. As he approached, the moon shone brighter and brighter still, illuminating the ground around us. Suddenly my eyes were caught by the stones I noticed earlier; they were sticking out of the ground as though they were placed that way, as if to mark something. And then it dawned on me; they were tombstones.
My feet stepped backwards, slightly.
“Who – whose are these?” I stammered.
Whoever this man was approaching me, he was much faster than I, for now he stood but feet away from me.
“These are the graves of the men who have failed to obey me. It was because of their foolishness that they died; I tried to protect them. But they wouldn’t let me. They chose the influence of that other person and surrendered their freedom to do his bidding. But now, as you can see, that man is dead, too,” and he pointed my gaze at a massive boulder, covering a freshly-made tomb. My mind wanted to trust the man talking to me, but something told me I just walked into a murder scene and that I was talking to the murderer.
He walked past me, though, down the pathway I had come down. I gazed at a tombstone that stood out to me and I had to kneel closer to read the name. When the letters became clear to me, the fog all around me suddenly lifted, revealing all the tombstones as though it were bright as day. The man who was walking towards my home was still a shadow, but I called out to him.
“This name is the name of my father!”
His eyes suddenly appeared to me, but weren’t human. They appeared green – a hateful, angry green. He stepped turned back towards me, a dozen yards away.
“Yes, yes it is. But that happened before you were born. I was keeping him from you so that he would not influence you. As I said before, I’m here for your best interest.”
My heel struck another tombstone, but this was the big boulder I had seen earlier, the one freshly put in place. I had been moving back faster than I realized and the one with green eyes was now but ten feet from me, causing me to back up even farther. I turned and struck my foot against a wooden beam. The moonlight flickered briefly, revealing a deep, dark liquid covering the wooden beam. This is where the man had died!
But wait a minute, I thought. This beam is inside a small cave, a hole carved out in the bank. I stood up and glanced around me; I was standing in the man’s tomb!
“How did you open this tomb?” the one with the green eyes asked me, nearly growling.
“I – I – I don’t know! I didn’t open anything! I – it was already open! I swear!” I shrieked.
“You must be honest with me if I’m going to protect you!” he growled.
I cowered to the ground and feared the worst. This man’s voice was a terrifying sound – one that I had hoped never to have heard. I sensed that he was to punish me or even murder me as he had the man who woke me with his screams. I thought about why I hadn’t turned back, why I had kept going even when I discovered it was a graveyard. But then I thought of all those tombstones; the graves of my ancestors. Something terrible seized my heart; a deep pain awoke a deeper anger. This one had taken my father before I ever knew him and left me to grow up confused and lost and self-destructive. All those years without my dad around, I blamed myself and all my mistakes. But now that I knew what really happened.
“How dare you!” I screamed and stood to my feet. He still seemed to tower over me with his fierce green eyes, but my anger was seething. “How dare you deprive me of a man who could have taught me how to grow up in this world! How dare you make my decisions for me! How dare you deprive me of the freedom you claim to give me! You are a tyrant and I want nothing to do with you!”
I felt his hot breath inches away from me as he chuckled.
“You don’t get it do you? You don’t realize who I’ve killed; who I’ve conquered? Do you remember that hammering and screaming that woke you up? Or how about the bloody hammer you stepped on? Or how about the tomb you’re standing in? I killed your king; the only one who was capable of stopping me!”
“But,” I asked rather impulsively, “If that man is dead, how are we standing in his tomb?”
My remark infuriated him and he seized my throat. But a shadow appeared in the entryway to the tomb; a tall figure outlined with a crown upon his head, and I could see the moon’s light through holes in the man’s hands. The dead king had risen!
“You weren’t killing my king,” I gurgled, “You were forging a sword out of Him!”
He threw me against the wall, but I laughed.
“Don’t you get it? The bloody hammer you used to murder my King, the hammer whose sound echoed throughout the night sky and mingled with the shrieks of a dying man, will now haunt you for eternity!”
“How could you possibly know that?” he sneered.
“Because in the moment you killed my King, you sealed your fate; you have lost!”
“No! I have killed him! He died right here upon this bloody cross and I buried him in this very tomb!”
He apparently did not see who was at the door.
“But,” I replied quietly, “He’s standing in the entryway with a sword in His right hand, a crown on His head, and an army at His back. The bones that littered this graveyard have now risen against you, at His bidding. You have lost!”
In the years that followed, that graveyard became a vibrant city, being taught, fed, and led by the King, as a Father leads and loves His children.