Peace as a prisoner, by Paul Sohar

The holding tank was already crowded with other messiahs when Jesus was tossed in by the Temple Guards. The others made room for the newcomer without looking at him; everyone was focused on a vision only visible to him, somewhere beyond the cinderblock walls, the steel door, the concrete ceiling and floor. They only looked up to glance at Jesus when shortly afterwards the guards came back for him, to be interrogated out of his turn. His bedraggled, blood-splattered beard and swollen eyes did not speak of a special status, and neither did his soiled pants that he had to hold up in the absence of a belt. His shoes without the confiscated laces echoed their flip-flops in the long corridor long after the steel door had been shut again.

The interrogation room a few floors below was not much different from the holding tank, except it was not nearly as crowded. There was a colonel of Temple Security – a middle-aged man with a lean face made leaner by the silver streaks in his beard – seated behind a desk with a younger clerk at the end; a clean-shaven Roman Army Intelligence officer was standing in the corner with his back toward the room, smoking a cigarette from a silver holder. The guards remained standing on either side of Jesus, even though their blood-smeared boots indicated they had been on duty all night and could have used a rest. But they had to stay ready to restrain the prisoner in case he tried to attack the officers of the law, however unlikely that seemed; without him holding on to his tattered trousers they would have dropped, entangling around his knees. And, of course, he was exhausted. This was not the first interview of the slowly passing night, and there was no chair for the prisoner. Collapsing on the floor was an undignified and cowardly alternative, and besides, those boots would have gone to work on him as soon as he was down.

“So,” the colonel began without looking up from the dossier in front of him, “do you still claim to be god?”

His voice was conversational, almost concerned, and at first it wasn’t clear whether he was addressing the Roman officer or one of the guards. When no one else answered Jesus forced his bleeding lips back into service.
“The son of god.” He sounded weary but still determined.
“The son of god or a god, what’s the difference?” The colonel chuckled teasingly. “They’re both immortal, and you sure look pretty mortal to me.”
“We’re all children of god and immortal in heaven but not on earth.” Jesus replied.
“Don’t try to wiggle out of the charges by talking in these banal generalities.”
“I’m only telling the truth…”
“Your subversive speeches threaten the stability of the state and tend to incite riots!” The Roman officer suddenly broke into the conversation without turning around. His boredom was almost as obvious as his bellowing Roman accent.
“That’s right, sonny boy,” the colonel sneered, echoing the representative of a higher authority. “Your mortality is not in question here, it’ll soon be demonstrated… The son of god indeed… Not even a bastard of god! Just another maniac who stirs up discontent and disrespect for the law with crazy ideas… Delusions of grandeur…”
“I teach obedience to the law and to god…”
“Obedience? Malicious compliance, more like it. If you deny the reality of this world, you teach respect for the laws of a higher reality, then you subvert the state, you sow the seed of disobedience…”
“Is this what I was dragged out of bed for at dawn?” The Roman turned around, squashing his cigarette on the floor with the same movement. “There’s nothing special about this suspect. Just finish him off. I’m going back to my office for a nap.”

When the padded steel door had closed behind the Roman officer, silence continued to purl for another minute while the colonel and Jesus kept staring at each other even though the latter’s eyes were barely open. Yet it was he who renewed the dialog. “Peace in your kingdom is impossible without achieving peace with the world beyond, under peace with god.”


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