Joseph

The ground is soft. No one has ever walked here.

I’ve always thought this garden was the most beautiful—untouched and set apart, like Eden. The light shines through the trees and turns the gray rocks golden and the grass a soft green.

But it’s stained now. The trees cast shadows.

I walk over to the body and stand over it. I stare at the pale limbs.

Nicodemus helps me move it, this heavy and cold, lifeless thing. I’m not sure it has any importance now—his body means nothing without him in it. Nicodemus takes out ointments, and we begin pouring and rubbing them in. I guess I expected the flesh to be different, more firm or resilient maybe. But it’s just like mine. The skin rolls in waves as we rub in the oils. It’s still soft and pliable.

After the body is covered, we begin to wrap it in linen cloths. Nicodemus unspools the strips as I wrap them round and round. Over arms, under legs. Like swaddling a newborn.

Wrapped, he looks dead—like a body that’s meant to be buried. I never wanted to see this. I never would have thought I’d be here now.

But not many know that I am. Here in this tomb, we’re hidden from the world. I feel like I’ve been hiding for a long time—following this man at a distance, marveling at his words. I watched him do miracles. I saw men’s eyes uncross and begin to see. I saw children come back to life. But watching is where it ended. I never had the courage to meet him.

But now I’m doing something. I didn’t act while he was living, but I can act while he’s dead—serve him somehow. All I have is this tomb, this unused space that’s always deserved the best funeral, the most peaceful sleeper. I think it has him now.

Nicodemus packs up his ointments, and for a moment we watch the body lie there still and calm on the stone bed. I think, This isn’t the same man. He walked on water, calmed storms, stopped bleeding, healed rotting skin. Now his skin is rotting.

Wake up, I beg.

We leave the tomb, and I roll the giant stone over the entrance. I seal it, hiding him from the sun, encasing him in pitch black. I make sure it’s tightly shut so the smell won’t leak, so thieves won’t break in to steal the body or satisfy their sick curiosity to see him.

The grass looks darker, the trees sadder. This garden won’t ever be the same. But he seemed to love gardens, I think.

My walk home is the longest it’s ever been. I turn the corner towards my house and see people laughing on the street. I assume they’re talking about him. My stomach churns, and I look away. My feet feel heavy and slow.

He’s in a shadowy tomb. No more palm branches. No more perfume poured on his feet…

But I believe that light will break forth.

He’s only been gone one day.

And I’ve never been in waves that weren’t calmed, in a night that didn’t turn bright. There is always more goodness than horror. I think of that as I sleep tonight—I make myself believe it—as I sit in my home that’s pitch black with no moon or stars. As his body lays in my tomb that’s even darker and more still and silent. But I close my eyes to shut out the darkness and remind myself of what I know.

Darkness is never the end.

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