‘How could he? After everything…’
Before dawn, the fugitive known as Thomas sat in a dark room, alone. He waited with his friends in their hidden place. He smelled cooking and heard low voices.
‘How is this even possible? After all his promises… It shouldn’t be like this. Our great future is forever receding. He allowed it to fall apart. The Master failed us. We were to be princes, not cowering dogs. Now he’s dead. Death freed him. But we will pay.’
Commotion in the outer room drew his attention. Stifled shouts. Urgent words exchanged. Two men ran out.
Someone yelled, “Be sure you’re not followed!”
Thomas went to ask about the news. Still bundled against the chill morning, Mary met him at the door.
Breathless, she spoke. “They’ve stolen his body.”
He regarded her. She wasn’t known for hysterics. ‘After everything, now this…’
“But how? You’re sure?”
“I came from the tomb.”
“Were you followed?”
“At this hour?” She smiled. “A silly woman?”
“But how? To what purpose?”
“Bait? The guards abandoned the site.”
“To draw us out?”
She shrugged. “Maybe…”
Andrew entered. He hadn’t slept either.
“This is bad. We need to go.”
“I don’t know. Split up. Disperse for now. They fear us.”
Thomas laughed. “Like wolves fear scattered sheep.”
Mary said, “He always said not to fear…”
“Easy for him. He’s dead.”
Mary left them.
Andrew continued. “We can always regroup. We need to buy time.”
“I need to escape this suffocating city.”
“You have reservations at Club Med?”
Andrew scoffed. “No…”
“You know what they’ll do if we’re caught…?”
“Don’t care if they kill me outright. But torture…”
“You know what they did to him. We’ll be lucky to be thrown into a pit.”
“At least he got a trial…”
“Not fair, but…”
The men nodded grimly.
Andrew asked, “So, what? Give up?”
“There’s no more ‘Big Picture, Andrew. No forward movement. Matter of time before they get us.”
Thomas glanced around. “Can’t rule that out. That would end it, for sure.”
The other sighed. “I’ll head up the coast. Sail away. Can’t be tracked.”
“I grew up here. All I ever knew. A stranger anywhere else.”
The outer door briefly let the morning light flood in. Peter and John slipped in and quickly secured the door. Everyone gathered.
“Were you followed?”
“We split up. We’re safe.”
The group waited.
“Mary’s report is sound. He’s gone. The tomb desecrated.”
Everyone spoke at once. John silenced them.
“He’s gone. Only sign of the guards is scattered cigarette butts.”
“Why though? Won’t people…?”
Peter spoke. “We’re guessing they expected us to take him and declare him alive.”
Thomas spoke, almost to himself. “I saw him. Washed him. Wrapped the shroud… What’s happening?"
Someone called out, “Storm the court! We have weapons. The people will rally to our cause!”
Several of the men ran to grab clubs and the few firearms they’d cached.
Thomas waved his arms and shouted. “Guys! That’s what they want! Don’t play their game. They’ll massacre you.”
Their energy faded.
Mary said, “That’s not the master’s way.”
“Of course, the master left us in the lurch…”
Mary gave him a sharp look.
“…broken promises, Mary. He could have prepped us. Instead, left us hopeless…”
“Don’t disparage him. He did nothing wrong. You forget the betrayal…”
“Right! Betrayal! He should have known. They could burst in here at any moment. Then what? Tell a gang of thugs about the master’s way? As they beat us senseless?”
No one spoke.
“Good luck with…”
Peter wailed. “I should have stood by him. We could have prevailed. I’m not a fearful man. But I couldn’t move. My tongue lay asleep. Words evaporated. Fear conquered me.”
She said, “We did what we did. That doesn’t matter now. Only moving forward.”
“But what does that look like…? I mean really. Someone please, point out for me, which direction is forward. We can’t… insurrection would be suicide.” Thomas stared at them.
He circled the room, gesturing wildly, addressing each in turn.
“I can’t drive off to a new life. Catch a plane and forge a new identity in Brazil? What life awaits me, after this? Fishing? Farming? I’m suited for neither. I can’t live on the run, glancing fearfully behind, dodging whoever’s on my trail.”
No one could answer him. His agitation increased as he prowled the room. People shrank from his erratic gestures.
At the brink of despair, he shouted, “What then!” He pounded the table. “The master! I always hear about our master. He knew it all. Well, where is he? We followed. We sat at his feet, listening to every word. Did he forget to mention a few details?”
He tipped a chair and raged.
“We believed him… believed in him. And he left us to clean up the mess! Tell me how we do that! Did I miss something? We need him! But he’s dead! We’re on our own. More alone than ever in my life. He’s dead. Don’t even know where his body is.”
Thomas let out a great sob as he sprawled across the table.
“I need him. What can we do? I need to know what’s going on. How can I move forward without answers?”
People tried comforting him. But he wouldn’t have it. Sloughing them off, he rolled back to his feet.
“Need to think. Before they come for us, I need to clear my head and set my course.”
Thomas retreated to the back room, to be alone. It was too much. He rested his head against the cool wall and listened to the murmur of the others. Tears welled up. But he wanted to scream, not to weep.
‘We’re clueless. The darkness has quenched our light.’
Did he doze? A shout jarred him. He felt hours had passed. ‘Time is so slippery.’
John knocked and leaned into the room.
“Thomas. Someone is here for you.”
“They’ve come for me, and not the others?”
“Just come.” He withdrew.
Thomas tried to shake the sleep from his head. He stretched. He wanted to be presentable for what, he had no idea.
‘Who, or what could be so important? Nothing matters now.’
He went to the door. There, surrounded by the others, stood the master. ‘Impossible…’ He smiled at Thomas and reached out.
No one but the master ever called him that.
He could barely speak. “This cannot be… I buried you. How…? Did you…?”
“Come sit. There’s food. I’m told you have questions. We have much to discuss.”
The others made room and the master explained it all.