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The Museum of Iscariot

Dirk Schmid

     
     Isn't it an utterly sadistic mockery to kneel before a suffering man hanging on the cross? Relishing in his pain, making this naked man bask in the growing desire of his devotees. For what other reason but pure sadism would somebody hang the crucifix on their wall? This ancient instrument of torture and death for non-Roman, political criminals. 10 inch nails driven through the forearms and feet. The victim would slowly asphyxiate under unbearable pain. And now, there are all kinds of twisted truths and ideas, born of blood-stained, festering minds making up prayers in order to make the believer lust for pain and crawl like vermin.
     Magdalene, an eighteen-year-old girl, knelt as the wooden Jesus wept on her wall. Provided before Him was a cupboard turned into an altar, decorated with candles and pictures of saints; hallowed be their names she can't recall. "Lord, the pain you experienced for me, for all mankind. How great your love has been for us undeserving sinners." She dropped her robe, displaying her large, beautiful breasts to her Lord. "Let me show you how much I love you," she said in contemplation. The outstretched arms of Christ embraced her naked body. Jesus wept; Magdalene moaned, "This is my body."
     The moonlight shone through the painted glass window. A mosaic depicting the Holy Spirit in the form of a white dove in a blaze of fire. The burning of incense lifted Magdalene's spirit heavenward. She rose, hanging the cross back in its place. She opened the cupboard and took out a scourge. Magdalene started the flagellation. Old scars were opened once more and new ones were added as the leather tore apart her white skin. "I want to know your pain, Lord," she was breathing heavily, "your holy pain."
     The pain she experienced, along with the smell of incense made her ecstatic; she went wild scourging herself, the sweet thick clouds of incense numbing her senses as the blood dripped down her back. Through this veil of self inflicted pain, she saw the wings of the dove moving, the fires becoming real, burning almost with rage. She had performed her gloomy ritual countless times before. She had to; it was the convents nocturne prayer. But none of her sisters worshipped the Lord with such devotion, with a passion no woman could ever experience or expect from an earthly lover. Nobody ever had visions as intense as she had, if at all. Her visions started three years ago, six months, after she had entered the convent. When she first started scourging herself and couldn't bear the pain anymore, an Angel of Light appeared to her, strengthening and encouraging her to go on. He visited her at times, sometimes caressing her virginal, luscious and voluptuous body. Magdalene was feeling hot; her blood was boiling and she was sweating all over when she broke down. 
     When she opened her eyes again, she saw a tall figure standing before her, dressed in a dark cloak with a hood. Magdalene couldn't see the figure's face. Frightened, she got to her feet, still half naked; she put her robe back on. The stranger signalled her to follow. They went through the heavy wooden door that separated her from the world and its sins. 
     The stranger took her outside the convent, through the endless hallways, through the garden with a rosebush that hadn't bloomed in thirty-two years. They walked through the dark, empty streets of the city. She looked up the hill where her convent towered. The moonlight made it appear like the dark castle of Rome, the home of midnight. Magdalene heard the tune of a violin, playing most mournfully. As she and her dark companion kept on walking, Magdalene came nearer and located the source of the music. Near an alley she saw the restless shadow of a fiddler's elbow, which played his song to staggering feet. Magdalene was curious; she approached the shadow. She stopped in front of the fiddler. He didn't look up or take notice of her. He kept on playing his song. Magdalene looked around. Her guide pointed at the musician, urging her to get closer to him. 
     She stepped in front of him and said, "I heard your tune. It is very sad." The fiddler looked at her; she shrieked as she saw his disfigured, odious face. She wanted to run away, but her dark companion blocked her way. She heard the voice of the fiddler behind her. "Even the looking glass scorns at me and wants to flee from my ghastly appearance." His voice sounded much like the song he had played. "Yet, you, Bride of Christ, aren't you supposed to show compassion? I know why he led you here. Look at me!" Magdalene tried, but was abhorred by the scars, the festering hole where his eye used to be; half of his face seemed to be rotten or eaten away. 
     "When I cowered in darkness," the fiddler continued, "tired of watching autumn leaves covering the ground of the summer of my life; being mocked and scorned like Christ on his via dolorosa; I decided to break this stillness. God, the Ancient of Days, the Creator of Life, He formed me in the womb, but I accused him, mocked him, hated him. Later I realized, I was just a pot of clay. Then, after I had stopped hurting Him and myself, I felt his presence. I heard singing in languages I had never heard before. God held me in his hands while everything around me was trembling by his grace. He said, He made me in His likeness and that I am precious to Him.
     "God is the mother of cripples. His son's cross compels me for he wore it like a crown. Why then should it be a millstone to me? I know he is the breath that gives me life. He is mystery and beauty. Still, I know that once I am no more my body will rest on the soil, uncared and unwept for by Man." He hid his face under a shawl and started playing his song again. Magdalene felt a cold hand on her shoulder; as she turned around she was back in the convent, her dark companion standing next to her. 
     The stranger led Magdalene down a staircase that she never knew existed. "Who was this man?" she asked as they stood in a vault. She was deprived of the answer. She heard screaming from upstairs as well as footsteps. The stranger pushed her gently aside. 
     Magdalene witnessed a band of men, dressed in Roman uniforms, dragging a man down the stairs to a torch-lit room that appeared out of thin air. His feet were fastened with a rope. "Jesus!" Magdalene cried. The stranger nodded. The soldiers deprived the man, the Christ of His clothes, or what was left of them. They took iron joints from the wall and began stinging the man's body. He was bleeding and Magdalene was screaming to stop, but the soldiers didn't respond to her at all. They took the rope and fastened it around the man's body; they dragged Him on the ground from one end of the room to the other. 
     The Romans hung Him on some wooden piece of wood with a slipknot until Christ slipped out and fell down. To her utter despair, Magdalene saw Jesus weeping tears of blood. They tied Jesus to a wooden post, starting to pierce him once more with various arms, spears and their swords, but being sure not to kill him. They continued torturing Christ by striking him with stones and burning him with blazing embers from a nearby oven and torches. The Romans pierced him with awls and spears tearing his flesh, skin and arteries. 
     
     Blood was everywhere, covering the entire floor and the Romans who made Christ stand on his bare feet upon an incandescent sheet of metal, watching him dance in agony. They dragged him down and crowned him with an iron crown of thorns, iron thorns piercing his forehead. They wrapped his eyes with rags they had spit and pissed on. A chair covered with sharp pointed nails appeared; the Romans made Jesus sit down upon it. The nails pierced his flesh. He screamed in agony as they poured liquid lead and resin from the oven into Christ's wounds and pressed his body harder into the nailed chair. The torturers took needles and drove them into the holes in his uprooted beard. They lifted him up, mocking and scorning him. They tied his hands behind his back and led him up the stairs. The figure made a signal to Magdalene to follow. She followed. 
     Upstairs was nothing but desolate wasteland. There were some plants, but mainly sand, rocks, and a cloudless sky with a merciless sun. The staircase was gone all of a sudden. Magdalene saw the band of Romans throwing Jesus on the cross, attaching him so tightly he could hardly breathe. They threw stones at his head as he lay on the crucifix and stepped on him. One of the soldiers took a thorn from the crown and drove it through Christ's tongue. Another soldier held his mouth open while doing so; the others started pouring the most immodest excretions into it, while insulting him in tongues unheard. The soldiers erected the cross, then they disappeared. 
     The crucifix turned into a tree, Jesus still nailed to it. The tree started to burn; yet the flames did not consume it. As Jesus disappeared, a rope with a noose appeared on the burning tree and for the first time the stranger spoke to Magdalene "He might have gone through all this, but I had to betray the one I loved most. I wanted him to show the world the lion He really was; to rise against oppression, but He decided to stay a lamb." "Where did He go?" "Don't seek the living among the dead." With these words the stranger gave her a small leather bag, went to the tree, put the noose around his neck and hung himself. Magdalene opened the bag; there were thirty silver coins in it. When she looked up again at the tree, her companion was gone and the burning had stopped. Instead there was a single apple hanging from it. Magdalene picked the apple and ate it.
     Magdalene's sight faded to black. In the darkness of her unconsciousness, she saw a light approaching her and a voice speaking "My daughter. You saw what they did to me, what pain I had to endure because of you and mankind. I suffered once and for all. Mankind will still suffer, but the gap between God and Man is bridged. I am to bring comfort, not further pain. My sacrifice was meant to bring healing, not further wounds. Mankind should rejoice, not crawl and humiliate themselves. Or have I died in vain? Why, Magdalene, why is it only my suffering that compels you? Wasn't my life important at all? What is most important was the way I led my life, my deeds and that I am alive; not my death. 
     "You are supposed to live, not drown in visions and pain. That's not the way that leads to my Father's house. I Am the way, the truth, The Life. I Am Life…" The voice faded as Magdalene regained consciousness. She got up from the floor, the candles on the altar still burning.
     She ran out of her room, screaming, "Father! Father!" The old priest opened his door, "What is it?" "Jesus, I saw Jesus. I actually met him. Him! He said, all the things that are going on here are wrong. We don't have to suffer to come near Him." 
     The old man said with a twisted smile, "Jesus told you that? Well, let me share a little secret about Jesus. My Jesus lies in my bed, dying." He took the hand of Magdalene; "He has been my companion since birth. But if I see Him like this, I ask myself if He ever really lived. Sometimes I beat Him to make him leave. But then, I love to see His wilted body bleed. If I know nothing else to do, I rape Him. Then He curls up like a foetus and paints His face with sadness." "What are you talking about, Father?" "Come and see."
     He led the girl into his room, and there in his bed lay the man Magdalene had seen in her vision. "Look, Magdalene, He stares at you, as if He expected a miracle from you." She approached the wretched man, kissed His face; the face of Jesus Christ. He died in her arms. As soon as Christ whispered his final words "It is finished!" she recognized the marks of crucifixion on her arms. The priest said to the corpse, not noticing Magdalene's obtained stigmata, "So, you've forsaken me. Calling yourself Messiah, expecting me to follow. Now you're dead and your prophecies with you. Now suffering is all that remains."
     The next morning when Magdalene walked through the garden, she approached the rosebush. It was in full bloom. Magdalene's wounds started bleeding. "He is alive," she whispered.
     
     Acknowledgments:
     - I'd like to thank and apologize to Rowan London of Virgin Black for the inspiration, without him, this story would have been nothing more than plain splatter.
     - Further I'd like to thank Csilla, without her I wouldn't even be at Coe, Terry Heller for his patience and help, those who read my stories in class. 
     - Catholic devotional and radical Protestant websites: stranger than fiction (No offence, I'm Catholic myself, even somehow devout)
     - For soothing my soul while writing responses and stories I'd like to thank Slechtvalk, Underoath, Störkraft, Bound for Glory, Dodgin' Bullets etc.
     - No thanks go out to the virus that knocked me out during J-Term, 
     

 
 
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