Storm clouds boiled over the hills and rushed down toward her with unearthly speed. Claudia barely had time to brace herself before the dark wind swept over her with deafening thunder and blinding bolts. The sunlit meadow became a black abyss beneath her feet. Another flash cracked and parted the sea of darkness at her feet and she looked down upon a centurion as if from above. He held a blood tipped spear as rain washed his face. No. Not rain, but tears. She saw the weeping soldier from behind and over the shoulder of someone between them, someone he saw face to face, a man hanging limp upon a cross.
Wind, rain, and tears blurred her vision as the scene before her swirled and that lone cross multiplied into hundreds filling the Roman Circus before a jeering and mocking crowd possessed by vengeance and hatred. Claudia reeled as if swept by a whirlwind as the crosses remained but the location transported to the walls of Jerusalem and the jeers turned to wails of mourning. From somewhere within that lament, a voice pierced the wailing of the wind and the mourners,
“Woe, woe to Jerusalem! Woe, woe to Jerusalem! Woe, woe to Jerusalem!”
A blaze of fire snatched Claudia's attention back to the victims whose crosses had now become stakes, pitch covered torches with human fuel providing light for Caesar's garden. As victim after victim burst into flame, a new storm engulfed her dark visions with a conflagration consuming the City of Rome. As it burned, she heard the strums of a lyre and an eerie voice lamenting the destruction of Tyre. The tsunami of flame mercilessly devoured the old city, moving toward a strangely familiar temple that did not belong in Rome. As the firestorm surged over the structure she realized she was back in Jerusalem witnessing the total destruction of the Jewish Temple. In the midst of the flames she saw her husband, his face perplexed, anxious, angry. He called for a basin of water into which he plunged his hands to wash them of responsibility, guilt, shame. He tried again and again but each time his hands came up out of the water blood stained. He looked at her helplessly as an angry mob shouted,
“Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”
She screamed to her husband, “No!” shaking her head violently in warning. She sat bolt upright in her bed, the morning sun flashing her awake as her dream scream became a barely audible whisper. In the courtyard below she heard the angry mob calling for crucifixion.
Rushing to avert the portents of her dream, she hastily scribbled out a note to her husband, Pilate,
Have nothing to do with that innocent man. I have suffered greatly as a result of a dream about him today.
“Antonio! Antonio!” She had been calling her servant before she had left the bed but had no time now for reprimands. “Upon your life make sure my husband gets this without delay!”
Bowing his apologies he took no time to respond, but for a nod, and sped away.
Claudia paced the hours-long, passing minutes awaiting Pilate. She knew that he would come to her as soon as the ordeal was over. Then she heard the unruly mob crying out the name Barabbas over and over. Her husband must have raised his hand for the shouting subsided and in the lull she heard his voice, and though she could not make out the words, she knew it was a question. The response was immediate,
“Let him be crucified! Let him be crucified! Let him be crucified!”
Claudia was stunned, confused. Barabbas could not have been the man in her dream. A murderer, a thief, an insurrectionist. Maybe Pilate had found a way to avert the tragedies her dream foretold. No one, Jew or Roman, would have any pity on Barabbas. It would be a victory for both Jew and Roman to be done with the man. Pilate's countenance as he entered her chambers crushed the hope that had begun to rise in her.
“Have you freed him?”
“I had him scourged,” he said through clenched teeth.
“And then you freed him? You offered them Barabbas, did you not?”
He half smiled at her perceptiveness. Had she been a man, she surely would be his equal. He knew he would not evade the full force of her scorn, when he finally confessed. “I did.”
“So the righteous man is free?”
“They chose to free Barabbas.” He still could not believe it. She flinched as if he had slapped her face.
“And the righteous man?” She could only be at peace when she heard him say the explicit words she needed to hear. He was too much the politician otherwise. “Tell me the truth.”
He looked away from her through the window toward Golgotha, the place of execution. Truth, he thought, just cannot get away from truth, but he said, “I am free of him.”
Her patience was gone. Her voice intensified without a rise in volume, each deliberately distinct word hit him like the mallet that would drive the nails through flesh of the man he had failed to save, “What did you do?”
He faced her and said, “I washed my hands of his blood before the multitude..”
“They took his blood upon themselves and their children.”
Finally, just as in the courtyard moments ago, he had been pushed to the brink and there was nothing left but the plunge, “I delivered him over to their will.”
He could not read the emotion on her face which had gone to stone, but the disgust, the horror, the shame, the fear in her voice made him shudder, “Do you realize what you have done?”
He stood in defiance of her dreams and his fate and made the angry defense, “I quelled a riot. I saved that rabble from a Roman massacre. I saved my career and,” pulling down her curtains, sweeping the golden candle sticks from her table, then turning the table over, “and your luxurious manner of living.”
His anger broke against her like surf against the rocks and with as little affect. In the same voice, though now a mix between a wail and a whisper, “You have brought destruction upon us, and upon this people and upon this city.”
A concerned young boy, crippled from birth, hobbled through the door fearful for his mother, but halted in fear at the room's disarray and and his father's face contorted by shame and anger. Claudia walked over to him, knelt, and wiped away the tears that had escaped his eyes brimming with terror. She took his hand and walked from the room leaving Pilate to the servants rushing to the commotion.
Pilate, knowing the accuracy of his wife's uncanny gift of dreams, straightened the crumpled note he had held clenched in his fist throughout their conversation and read it again with trepidation. He knew his trouble had only begun. He looked up at the bewildered servants at the door, “Well clean up this mess!” As they began he let the note drop to the floor and gave another command, “And bring me a basin, I need to wash.”
41And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it,
42saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
43For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side
44and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Inspired by the screenplay for an upcoming movie, Roar, The Jaws of the Lion, concerning the events of 62 AD to 70 AD.
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Deep calls unto deep, while the world in shallow sleep, awaits the coming dawn.