Darkness had descended on the hills. Darkness in the cave. Darkness in his heart. His chest began to heave great gulps of the dank air. The pounding of the earthquakes, the dirt and dust falling from the ceiling of the earthen cave were matched by the pounding in his heart and in his head. “Fall on me!” a blunted, visceral utterance from somewhere deep within him. It rose like vomit through his intestines and stomach until it erupted again in a violent, throat shredding scream, “Fall on me!” and again, “Fall on me!” Again and again it erupted from his insides. Racking sobs came. The walls of the small cave echoed lurid, hideous wails of the insane. Two days passed.

Peter awoke to the putrid smell of death. Outside, the sky had begun to pale in predawn emptiness. His eyes, accustomed to the darkness, could barely make out the form of Judas decaying in the loose dirt on the floor of the cave. Something scurried at Peter’s movement. Somehow a logical thought entered his mind, “I must find stones for the entrance.” As he tried to stand, he struck his head smartly against the cave’s ceiling. “Damn!” he cried. And then he thought, “Cursing comes too easily these days.”

“You’ve been doing that your entire life.”

At first he thought he had imagined it. “What?” he answered, absently.

There was mirth in what he heard, “Bumping your head against things, never taking into account your own pig-headedness. Trying to walk on water, trying to get me not to do things, the thing with the foot washing, and then cutting that man’s ear with your sword, the denials; shall I go on?” Despite the harshness of the words, the old fisherman felt a smile beneath them. Of course, Peter recognized the voice the instant he heard it. His stupefied response had to do with his inability to comprehend the reality of it. He was overjoyed and terrified at the same time. He wanted to fall on his knees and worship but the casual, matter-of-fact manner seemed so comforting, so inviting. Here? In this dark hole? With the body of Judas rotting at his feet? He felt elated . . . and ashamed. He felt utterly destroyed yet triumphant, immeasurably triumphant!

“Lord, I . . .” he began, thinking of something, anything, he could say. There were no flashes of lightning. There was no shining glory. Peter could only see a form in the gloom. But the love he felt, the compassion. “Lord . . .” His knees began to buckle.

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