mud

I walk in fearful steps below a sky which threatens me with day. I would hurry my pace for fear of the coming light that would bring me into the world’s vision. Yet I would hurry to what? Judgement? Chains and execution? Why do I follow this path tasked to me? Why do I not run away once more? As the hare, I have flitted and flown to forget and to feast away this stain. But the wolf has discovered me in the very pit of my escape.

There in my pit I was found, sleeping under the smoke and tangles of sin. A man, a golden man in the fog of my waking, made instrument of a platter, striking it as a gong. Heads raised, heads slept, I shrunk. But it was to me he brought his proclamation. I lost many of his words to my illness, but this I took in: the King’s man awaits me at my home. He had come during the day and finding me out had sent to find me. He lays in wait for my coming. And this hunter had thus tracked me. Through the worlds of my vice he had pursued me. An untraceable trail this seeker had taken and there before me he stood. He stood amidst and yet separate from the room about him. There was a wrath I could feel under his presence, a wrath upon my scene. I did not speak and he did not ask a promise. He divulged his duty and departed, or so I assume. In my stupor he merely disappeared. I was caught yet free.

I am the hare, and the black wolf calls.

***

The sky begins to break under the strain of the coming sun. I have not seen the world under the assault of light for many months. I dare not expose my hands to the sun. I cross my arms to cover my hands, and I begin to run to the extent my troubled body lets me. Why do I run home? Am I so weary that I simply want an end? The King’s man, a judge no doubt, sits in my home. The place of my blood. The place of my guilt. I now run to the site that condemns me along with my waiting judge. I feel the fangs already in my pelt.

Before my home I find a spectacle. And fear puts it’s cold dead hand on my heart. Four royal guards await me: attentive but a sign of dismissal in their posture. They look a farce amidst the poor hovels here about. Far more ridiculous are the three apparent courtiers in heated debate before my door. Fine robes scraping the dirt, faces in a constant snarl from the disease of this land, they cast their haughtiness as a stage from which to look down on these mean dwellings. I stop and desire to flee, but I see the creeping point of the sun chasing me at my back. I must seek shelter. And so I go forward, hiding my hands and my eyes from those upon my doorstep.

Their notice brings them to silence. Without looking at them I see all their eyes, all their questions. Of what worth is this worm? They have been here all night! Of what worth am I? I cast a fearful gaze to the guard before the door; a bolt of sun hits the top of my home. I twitch in anticipation. And the guard steps out of my way, with a stern question in his glance. With shaking hands I open the door, rush in, and close it behind me; collapsing upon the door. I burn with tears.

“I greet you.”

I lose my air. I startle around. A man, a boy, a wise youth, stands before me. The judge? The prince... Upon his finger is the royal ring. I reposition my collapse into a prostrate bow.

This is not the black wolf of my dreams but a noble beast of whitened gold. Far more dreadful than my terrible nightmare is the thing in flesh; in my foolishness I had feared the judgement of a will and desire. Far great peril I find in this child’s eyes, for in them Truth I see, and with this Truth he sees me.

“Rise.”

“Master.” I remain.

“Rise.” A laugh in his voice.

“Master.” I remain.

“This is your home, here are not you master?” He waits a response but then continues. “My Father has sent me. I do His work. As I believe you see, I bear his seal.” He crouches to touch me but I shrink away. Though I am forced out of my prostrate position, I stay kneeling, but like a rabbit ever prepared to run.

“In my task I could use your talents.” He remains restfully crouched ever gazing at me.

I do not understand his words.

“My Father has tasked me with a great endeavor. The King would use you to help me. Would you assent?”

“Assent?”

“In aiding me.”

“You are my liege... Why do you ask of me? You could command.”

“Do you assent?”

“A-a-assuredly.”

“Why do you fear me?”

“Oh noble prince, you speak to the lowest of your slaves. You should not stain yourself by my presence nor my hospitality.” My eyes flash to the back room, the room it very much appears the Prince may have just come from. The room where...

“You fear my judgement. You fear my hand lifted against you. I have stayed this day in your home. I have prepared it for your return. I have cleaned it for your coming. You shall need it for what lies ahead. You fear my judgement. I have seen every corner of your dwelling. I have found all of the dust and ash that has touched this home. The man who sought you out and found you returned here first to inform me of your being discovered. He instructed me in your journey these past months. He intended to warn me. But my Father already knew and so did I. We do not turn to you in ignorance. I do not beseech you in folly. I know you. I know the story of the room behind me.” He points as I cry. “I know what your hands wrought. I know the escapes that you pursue.”

He pauses. I can no longer run. All of me is known. All of my hiding has been fruitless. All of me is known to my King, the holder of the laws. And His son stands before me, my dirt on his royalty. I see a cut, a rip, his blood exposed for his labor upon my home.

“Come.” He beckons, but I cannot move. “Come.” He approaches. With a smile, “Come.” And he lifts me to my feet. I slump but walk with him. I lose myself. I lose my knowing, my understanding, my senses. We journey and wander. I lose all time. And I sleep.

Water. I am sinking. I am drowning. No. I return to myself.

He is bathing me. He merely walked me to the basin. He is bathing me. Assured and gentle. He bathes me. My prince bathes me. He casts a cloth into the basin, soaking up water and strikes the water upon my flesh, breaking the dirt and blood of my skin. I shake in the fear of it; the awe of it. He toils and strains. It hurts me. In my nakedness, I tremble. In my shame I despair. But he does not falter. Upon the floor, I see the mud of me drifting towards a drain. I weep openly under his care. He is long about his work. Until all at once, I feel his loving scrape no more. Instead it is his hand upon my shoulder.

“Rise.”

I stand up in trembling. In cold and newness I shudder. It is my hand my eyes seek first, though with timidity. A timidity that turns into disbelief. I lift my hand above my head, looking up at it.

And in through the Western window breaks a beam of sunlight; upon my hand and against my face.

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