The Prophet stands in the very center, his hands in a furry muffler, a knit hat covering his head. A white butterfly plaster is spread across the bridge of his nose.
“My faithful.” He smiles. “So beautiful this morning, all of you.”
I can barely stand, and I lean on Ruth for support. She holds me up, her spine straight as I begin to fall apart.
“But we are here for some ugly business. One amongst us has committed a grievous sin against me. One that cannot be easily forgiven. Atonement is the order of the day.” He adopts a more sober expression. “As the Lord said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book.’” He pulls one hand from the muffler and holds it over his head, then closes his fingers into a fist.
A hard sound rockets through the air, followed by a deep cry of agony. Adam.
I know that sound—a hammer hitting a nail. My knees go, and I drop to the ground. The harsh sound comes again and again—each blow causing more wails. My tears overflow, and I don’t know how I’m breathing. The noise stops for a moment, then starts again. I cover my ears, but I can still hear him, can still feel his torment twisting deep inside me.
“Please, stop! It was me!” I try to crawl to the Prophet, but rough hands pull me up and force me to stand witness.
“Shut up.” A Protector wraps an arm around my middle and grips my throat with his cold palm.
When the hammer strokes are done, the Prophet lowers his hand. “‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.’” He scans the crowd, his gaze landing on me at the very last moment. “And nor do I.” He walks forward as two men mount the four-wheelers.
The four-wheelers start up, then slowly move forward. A chain tightens behind them, and then I see it. Not two crosses, but three. Everything inside me freezes and cracks, and I don’t blink, or breathe, or move.
Adam is nailed to the center one, his hands pierced with spikes, his arms bound to the wood with leather straps. The sun rises behind him, the light blinding as he’s hoisted upright.
His roars of pain shatter the beauty of the new day, leaving nothing but horror in their wake.