Prisoner of Life

If you are a prisoner of life, then life shall be denied you and death will be your punishment.

If you are a prisoner of death, then death shall be denied you and life shall be your punishment.

Twilight took its first breath as the sun yawned into the horizon and the heavenly stars above began to play their tune among the nightly choir.

'What a beautiful thought', Marcus said to himself as he stumbled down the village path. His eyes were so filled with stars and his mind with liquor that he failed to see the protruding stone before it caught on his sandal. Down he plunged, head first in the dirt road. But he didn't curse, nor feel all that surprised at his typical clumsiness, for tonight was a night to celebrate. His wares down at the markets sold better than he expected and his congratulatory friends thought to celebrate by testing his poor tolerance for wine. He winced as he lifted himself up onto his knees and looked himself over. A few minor scratches grazed his hands but he was no worse for wear. His robe however, the robe his wife spent days carefully knitting and preparing for the monthly harvest festival, was torn and dirtied.

'Oh dear', Marcus muttered. 'Rosetta is going to kill me'.

On wobbly knees he lifted himself to his feet and considered himself blessed that he had nothing more than a sack of gold coins to carry back to his farmhouse in the golden green hills of Eden, just below the ruling city of High Court. He dusted himself off and continued, albeit a bit more warily down the road to his family, anxious to announce the good news. However it wasn't long before his drunken mind began to wonder again. There he was, embracing the welcoming arms of his beloved Rosetta as he danced through the door. Even now he swore he could smell the scent of her blossom red hair in the twilight breeze and see her smile, radiant like the moon, as he told her of his success. Then in ran his sons, and oh how they would rejoice when they saw their fathers gold spread out on the kitchen table.

'It won't be long now until I start taking you boys with me. It's time you started learning how to handle the market business. Maybe next time, you could even help carry your poor drunken father home', Marcus said with a vociferous laugh.

Then there was the apple of his eye, Monique his youngest and only daughter. Thou the boys may be dismayed when they learned that a good portion of the gold would go to her education, they would understand in time. Monique was as rare as an emerald rose, twice as beautiful and thrice as bright. Soon she would be ready to move to High Court were her God-given musical talents could grow and be appreciated by gifted people like herself.

'One day you will make your family very proud, my sweet Monique' he said. 'There will be no farmer's life for you. In fact, one day you'll be earning more than...Aargh!'

Marcus suddenly jerked as his foot caught another stone and he plummeted once more into the dirt track.

Bruised but still in high spirits, Marcus would have thought it strange, had his mind been sober, that the candles by the windows of his home were out so early in the night. Oblivious, he swaggered up the stone path toward the farmhouse that rested upon a high grassy knoll overlooking a field of apples, wine grapes and the best cedar woods this side of High Court. He reached for the handle only to stumble and knock it open with his shoulder. He caught himself on the frame before he could fall and further and chuckled softly. But as his eyes followed the moonlight's glow that stretched inside his home the sounds caught and twisted in his throat.

'Dear God, what is this..?'

Glistening red pools of blood partially soaked into the timber floor boards surrounded the still forms of two lifeless bodies lying awkwardly together. In an instant the drunkenness was gone and replaced with bewildering terror as Marcus lurched desperately forward. His sack of golden coins dropped unnoticed from his hands as his dirtied knees splashed into the blood of his maimed and slaughtered sons. Saul, his eldest was huddled over his brother, Emmanuel with a pained look etched in his face and a bloody knife still clutched in his hand. They had not gone quietly but had died brutally, helpless before an unthinkable evil.

Tears and screams swelled within Marcus' body, but his face was too rigid with shock to allow either to escape. Meekly, he rested his hands over their faces and eased out their tortured expressions. He gasped painfully, then took in a hard breath and called out.

'Rosetta! Monique! Please, where are you?' he cried. Then he noticed the footprints, stained with his son's blood, leading across the kitchen and into the bedroom. 'No...Oh, good God, no…'

His knees gave out an agonizing crack as he bolted for the bedroom door, stumbling he crashed into it and once more fell to the floor in horror. Under the window, surrounded by wretched moonlight, laid the bodies of his wife and daughter, naked and destroyed upon his bed.

'No, no, no…' he sobbed as he crawled across the floor and up onto the bed, taking both the woman and child in his arms. 'Dear God, what has happened to my family, my love?'

Finally the pain was too much for his body to bear and his voice cried out with a sorrow that echoed a bitter chill and silenced all the creatures of the night.

'Dear God, forsake this horror and forsake my life! Oh why, God! Why have you taken my family and left me here to suffer! Take my gold or my land, and give them back! Or please, I beg of you...take me with them'.

With his soul torn, his body exhausted and his fate forfeited to God, Marcus collapsed into darkness.

As the night moved on and discarded gold coins were swallowed up in the growing pools of blood, sinister shadows slowly crept toward that dark and lonely farmhouse upon the grassy knoll.