And the Lie is Sold

Fiction By Aisling // 11/5/2004

The four Roman soldiers hesitated at the door.
“They’ll never believe us,” one said.
“What choice have we?” asked the second.
“None,” said the leader, in a decided voice. “We shall tell the Chief Priests everything, just as it happened. It is our duty. After that, the matter is out of our hands.”
No less anxious, the others agreed.
A servant came to the door, in answer to their knock. Bent over, with an old face and a white beard, he squinted up at them. “What do you want?” he asked.
“We carry important information, concerning Jesus of Nazareth, for the Chief Priests,” said the leader.
The servant eyed them warily. They were still pale and reeling from the shock of what they had witnessed, and confounded over the empty tomb. But it was clear to see that this was some matter of great importance—so the servant let them in.
“Wait here,” he instructed them, leaving them in the hall while he went to inform the Chief Priests of their presence. There was a sound of commotion through the wall. Then, after a moment, he re-appeared.
“Follow me.”
The four followed him. Their sandaled feet make ever so soft a patting noise on the stone floor. The steps of the old servant were scuffled and halting.
He led them to a council chamber, where the Chief Priests were all seated—nervously watching as the Romans came in.
“What news have you?” asked on of the Chief Priests, seemingly their head.
The soldiers hesitated. “Th-There was an earthquake sir,” the Roman leader began. He felt as if he had been brought before his authorities under charge of misconduct, and must give a very incomprehensible excuse, which no one was apt to believe.
“An earthquake?” the Chief Priest repeated.
“Yes,” the Roman said. “And earthquake. And then a bright light—so bright you can’t begin to imagine it. And it hurt. Oh, how hard it hurt! And there we were, blinded and…and dizzy. Nothing was the way it had been. I lost my bearings.” He shook his head. “It was terrible.”
The Chief Priests murmured among themselves.
“Who is this man?”
‘What does he speak of?
“Could you make out any of it?”
“Where do they come from?”
“We come from the tomb,” the Roman said.
Silence fell like a thunderclap. The head of the Chief Priest’s hands tightened on the arms of his tall wooden chair. “What do you mean?” he asked quickly.
“It’s true, I tell you. Something has happened—I don’t pretend to know what. But there, before our eyes, was…some supernatural being! His appearance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. He came down—from…from somewhere, in the midst of the light—and…and he rolled the stone away. And then he sat down, upon it. Such a fear as came over us! And we…we fell down. When we came to ourselves, he was gone—but the stone was still dislodged. And when we looked into the tomb…” His voice failed.
The Chief Priests sat still and pale as stone.
“It was empty,” finished another of the Romans.
As one, the Chief Priests sprang up. All except their head. He still sat, unmoving, staring into space. But around him the silence broke, and havoc filled the room. So quickly and so shakily did they speak that the Roman Guards were unable to understand what it was they were saying.
Suddenly, then, the Romans were told to remain there in wait a moment, while the Priests held a brief council. Then, they were left alone.
“What now?” asked the fourth soldier.
“We wait,” said the leader. “Somehow, beyond my wildest hopes, they believe our story. If they did not, they would have accused us of neglect of duty and deceit, had us reported, and been done with it. But now they call an informal meeting among themselves, and their other elders no doubt, over what is to be done. All we can do is wait to see.”
It was a long wait, but eventually one of the Priests returned. He held in his hand a large pouch full of money. “This is to be yours,” he said, “under one small condition.”
“And the condition?” the leader asked.
“That you four keep to yourselves what you have told us. When questioned concerning the incident you are to say: ‘His disciples came by night, and stole him while we were asleep.’”
The leader shook his head. “Asleep? A Roman soldier who sleeps on duty incurs the penalty of death.”
“And even a Roman soldier, once asleep, does not know what goes on around him,” added the second Roman, satirically.
“Yes. If the Governor hears that, he’ll either kill us immediately or laugh at us first and then kill us afterward,” agreed another.
“If this gets to the ears of the Governor we will satisfy him, and keep you out of trouble,” promised the Chief Priest.
“So,” said the fourth, “we shall get a reward, if only we go out of here and spread such a dangerous and ridiculous lie as that, to explain away the incident of the empty tomb?”
“Do you accept or no?” the Priest asked shortly.
“We accept,” said the leader. “We will do as you have said.”
The Priest dropped the moneybag.
The Roman’s hand closed over it, tightly.

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