A bottomless groan escaped from deep within him as his fingers twitched against cold, coarse stone- the kind of sound that bursts from the throats of trauma victims without their knowledge. Yet this was not the first time he’d heard the voices. He had intimate knowledge of them. They called themselves Legion and he was their prisoner. ‘Murder!’ They’d hiss one night; ‘Pillage! Torture!’ the next. Often they competed to see who’d be the first to make him wail. He turned his head, blinking in frenzy, hoping the fog in his mind would dissipate. His eyes darted back and forth as he let his face rest on the cool rock for a moment. The eerie glow of moonlight washed over his body as he sat up, trying to block out the suffering he was experiencing and the suffering he had caused. He arched his back, straining for some relief against the fire he felt in his joints. He longed to be in Gilead, massaging balm to both body and soul. He also heard the cries of the ones he’d harmed, pleading for mercy. He never complied. And now their voices haunted him, bludgeoning his conscience in a manner as ruthless as he’d mutilated their bodies. Sinner! they jeered. Condemned coward! Grimy murderer! The blood of the innocent will boil over you in Sheol, they mocked. “Leave me alone,” he begged. “I did as you commanded. Why do you torment me thus?” The echoing of shrill laughter was the only reply he could hear. When the Legion fell silent, he was still accosted by the memories of his crimes. He could see the villagers cursing him as they attempted to flee. He rubbed his wrists, recalling how the men of the villages would bind him with fetters. The chains were never able to restrain him long, serving as temporary impediments to the ensuing carnage. He sat motionless in the corner of the cave, his guilt confining him in ways the chains never could. Eventually he stood at the entrance of a mountainous tomb, the moon high above him, casting dancing shadow. The rocky terrain felt rough. He peered at water in the distance, lapping against a shore. He took three steps forward before everything rushed back to him, like a herd of wild horses trampling him into the soil. He froze as the realization of the Legion’s presence crystalized his spine. They flooded his mind with damning accusations—all of them true. They seized his attention, transporting his thoughts to a precipice that overlooked the homes he had ravaged, the lives he had shattered. This was the abyss. He dropped his head terrified of what he’d become. A scraggly beard drooped into his chest. Scars, old and new littered his naked body. Fresh, deep gashes on his arms glistened next to scabbed wounds, which stood out like earthworms resting on his flesh. His fingernails were long, dirty fish hooks; his hair a tangled mane. He began to weep. He was a monstrosity. He belonged to them now- Property of the Legion. They had taken control of him. He couldn’t move, couldn’t struggle and couldn’t think. For the moment they remained silent, dormant. He had no grasp of how long he’d been in this place, no recollection of how he spent his days. Now he could only see blurred images, like those of a distant dream. He only saw what they wanted him to see. He would awaken much like he did tonight—in a dark, foggy shroud of madness. They fashioned his thoughts day after day, pouring out anger, fear, confusion, depression and bloodlust into the broken cistern that was once his brain. He was a maniac—a wild, mangy beast. And he was afraid. He felt them, their eyes squeezing his soul in a vice. ‘Shall we have him rape the women in Caesarea?’ ‘No, I want to take him to terrorize children in Capernaum.’ ‘Better still—let’s tear apart livestock in Cana before we gash his own flesh.’ Bloodcurdling and guttural, the screams fled from his throat, pin balling in ghoulish echoes off the walls of the dead, dark city. *** Sunlight washed over the hills of the deceased, the shadows long chased to their hiding place. Primal, pained groans still rang through the rocks. No one dared pass through this area anymore, for fear of being slain at the bare hands of the gruesome monster that inhabited these hills. Only the fiends and fallen angels dared to dwell here. At a distance, a tiny speck sailed ever closer through the waves toward this barren hillside. Larger and larger it grew, closing the distance. The maniac paused from grazing on roots and animal carcasses, and whipped up his head with sudden alarm. His attention turned to the distant shore, his stance unyielding and guarded, aggressive. He—or rather they—felt a presence, one they hadn’t encountered for centuries, but its force was unmistakable. The Prisoner snarled and beat his chest at the prompting of the Legion. His feet thundered as he jumped up and down like an enraged ape, yanking out handfuls of hair from their roots. Still closer the speck sailed. When the boat reached the shore, a solemn figure disembarked first. The Prisoner, trapped in his own body, suddenly became conscious of what was happening. Powerless to speak his own words, he listened to theirs, instead. Vehemence. Hatred. Curses. The recesses of his mind buzzed with the madness of a disturbed beehive. Then quiet. Eerie silence, signaling a different emotion. Fear. Theirs, not his. He’d never known them to express fear for anything. His body convulsed and jerked at their command. Men were now wading through the water, pulling and guiding the boat ashore. Many of the men cast wary, cautious looks toward the direction of the tombs. All of them had heard the stories that came from this place. The solemn figure, however, exited the boat and walked without hesitation up the shore, calm and with great intention. Amidst the tombs, the Legion emitted a terrifying shriek, a furious battle cry for blood. Like a lion they lunged onto the path and sprinted in the direction of the shore. The Prisoner heard them more clearly now. They meant to brutalize this solemn intruder and his friends. They charged closer and closer, maddened desperation fueling their move. ‘Destroy!’ ‘Rip him to pieces!’ ‘Kill!’ The distance was vanishing. With every step and leap, the Prisoner heard their thoughts with more clarity. They were frantic, their words revealing the intensity of their trepidation, the dread they were now facing. He heard them say this was Huios Anthropou. And with rapid understanding, he knew who waited for them, for him, on the shore. The solemn man stood motionless on the shore, casting his eyes to the path up the hill. The men with him huddled around him, apprehension painted across their faces. His face, however, was as tranquil as a sleeping lamb. The Legion burst forth, visible on the path to the clearing. They hunched their Prisoner’s shoulders, setting their glare on the solemn man, eyes darkened with hatred. They continued to dart towards the awaiting party, teeth now bared and fierce, irrepressible grunts booming forth. The dozen men surrounding the man from the boat flinched, recoiling at the sight of this nightmarish creature. The man from the boat remained calm and still. The Legion crouched to pounce but stopped. They halted so abruptly, it was as if they had crashed into a wall unseen. Face to face they stood with the solemn man from the boat. The Legion began to shudder, legs shaking like flower petals in a heavy wind. In a heap, they threw down their Prisoner, crumpled and collapsed to the ground. The Prisoner could hear his tormentors panicking. Weeping and grinding his teeth, the Legion groveled at the feet of the solemn stranger. The Prisoner assumed the role of bystander, watching and listening as the solemn man from the boat addressed his parasites. With a quiet, yet commanding word, the boat man commanded the evil hosts to depart the Prisoner’s body. They spoke as one, hissing, refusing to exit so easily. “What will you do with me? Please don’t torment me.” “What is your name?” “Legion, for we are many.” They implored him for permission to invade a large herd of swine on the hillside. He agreed, and with a simple nod, it was done. Droves of crazed pigs rushed toward the steep embankment, drowning themselves in a final display of possessed hysteria. The owners of the pigs, having never seen such a thing in all their life, gawked at the authoritative stranger—some with awe, others with crippling fear. They made off for the city to tell others of the events. Overpowering tears forged muddy trails through the dirt on the face of the Rescued Prisoner. Once able to break iron chains, he had been unable to break the grip of the Legion. What the crowd saw sent a prickling surge through their bodies. There sat the Rescued Prisoner, no longer captive in his own flesh. He was clothed and in his right mind. He spoke to his liberator with a sublime tranquility. As his deliverer returned to the boat with his followers, the freed man begged for a place in the solemn man’s circle. His deliverer bade him instead to return to the village and retell everything that had been done in his life. And within a few minutes, the boat was once again a speck on the horizon.