A story I wrote on a whim. Remember, everyone is Jesus in purgatory. No, I was not on drugs when I wrote this - but I had read The Master and Margarita beforehand. (It's a good book and y'all should read it.)
They sat together like that, man and woman, watching the sunset. He gestured to a decanter on the table, a jug of clear water next to it.
“Wine?” he said. “I’ll water it for you.”
“Thank you,” said the woman, passing him a thin-stemmed glass. Elegantly the man poured in equal quantities of wine and water; her worn hands trembling, she took back the glass and drank deeply, the dying sun shining through the red liquid. “Excellent...is it Falernium?”
The man laughed and shook his head, golden hair flying. “No, it’s Cecubum.”
“It’s really very good.” The woman paused.
“It’s the same wine that your ancestor drank while mine died on a tree.” He pointed to it: an ancient, wizened thing with what looked like bloodstains on its trunk, brownish-black in the last light.
She sighed. Once again he’d brought it up, once again history would go round and round in circles, once again nothing would be changed. “Do you have to talk about that again? It happened two thousand years ago. What more do you want?”
“I want...for you to atone.” He strode over to the balcony, looking out over the desert and the empty city; she followed him, resting her hands on the railing. An evening breeze moved the veil that covered half her face.
“We have atoned,” she replied. “We have atoned two thousand times over and more.” She broke off, struggling not to give into something, then regained her composure. “My family have always been good, upstanding citizens.”
“As have mine,” said the man, not looking at her.
“Not always.” She touched her cheek and stomach. “Though I’ll admit you do a very good job of pretending.”
“I did it...I did it because it was necessary.” He faltered.
“So you’re not only a liar, you’re a hypocrite.” She whirled round to face him, her mouth twisted into a smile, her eyes glittering with angry tears. Her mouth opened as though she were going to say something, but she quickly thought better of it. “You and your acolytes always said that a morally wrong action is never justified, and that one must always live ethically. I wonder how you and them have fared with that?”
“Very well, thank you.” He smiled and nodded. “I’m the leader of a church beloved by its flock. And you? How are you doing in that ungovernable snakepit of yours?”
“Of course the believers would love you and your church. You’re preaching to the choir, you know, and what they don’t know won’t make them question their faith in you. As for my snakepit?” She yawned, stretching out her arms. “Thank you for asking, my dear. It’s doing quite well, just so you know. We’re trying to find out the truth of things instead of lying to ourselves, for a start.”
“It would suit you infidels to call the beliefs my family fought and died for a pack of lies, wouldn’t it?” he hissed. “He died because you were suppressing them!” She fell silent.
“It was part of the job.”
“Is that your best defence?” He laid into her with words. “Is that your excuse whenever you do something wrong – that someone higher up ordered it, that it wasn’t your responsibility?”
“It’s not an excuse,” she replied, outwardly calm but struggling to suppress her anger. “It’s the truth, a truth which you don’t want to see. It’s easier to paint him as an innocent and my ancestor as evil. He...he did it, although it was wrong, because your ancestor was threatening to start civil war. And it’s easier not to see those distinctions, because it’s easier to look at things as though they were black and white.”
“It’s not looking at things in black and white, it’s just shedding some light on them,” he said. “Giving them some contrast...you’re shut up in a world of black and dark grey. You can’t see anything and you treat everything the same way.”
“I can’t say you’re much different,” she shrugged. “You lose the distinctions, and you’d prefer light on everything...so much light that there’s no darkness. You want us all to go blind, I think.”
“Light’s a good thing!”
“Blindness isn’t. And another thing.”
“You have more to say?” He raised an eyebrow.
“Much more, but I’ll keep it short,” she said. “We’re the last descendants. When we die, the feud dies with us – it should have died a long time ago. It should have died with your religion that preaches peace and equality and my city which set out to achieve that peace and equality when – when I saw you’d failed. It should have died, because quarrelling achieves nothing. Two thousand years on and we’re still sitting in the same place, looking at the same view and drinking the same wine while we do it. Nothing’s changed.”
“And?” For the first time he turned towards her, looking her in the eyes. “What did you come here for, if we know all this already?”
“I came to change your mind. I can’t change things alone. Neither can you.”
“What do you want to do so much that you’d come to your enemy’s house and try to persuade him?”
“I want to fix this two-thousand-year-old mess,” she sighed. “Not just us, but...well, everything really. Since he died on the tree, so much has gone wrong.”
“Why do you care?” he asked. “Wouldn’t you say it’s not necessary to fix it?”
“Wouldn’t you say it’s right to fix it?”
“That alone is reason enough to do it, don’t you think?”
“Then let’s do it. We might as well solve this problem before we die.”
“...” He said nothing.
“...” She said nothing either, but she was smiling. In the last of the failing light, she reached for her glass and poured herself some more watered Cecubum, then poured him a glass. He took it, smiling at her.
They drank without hesitation, their eyes sparkling with hope.
They stood together like that, man and woman, watching the last light die. They knew that a new day would dawn, that soon the first light would live.
And far away from them, not knowing they existed, a two-thousand-year-old tree where a man suffered and died toppled over, crashing to the ground.