by CJ Reddick
A poem based on John 8:3-11. And my other awardicon winning writing.
"Great Act of Mercy"
Discovered and broken, publicly known,
I wait for my death, a hurtle of stones,
Unraveled and torn, dragged through the town,
My sins are my dress, my shame is my crown.
Broken in pride, my power has ebbed.
My sin leaves me trapped in a tangled web.
I lie at his feet, I moan and I grieve,
I pray for his mercy, though none I’ll receive.
The stones are at ready, my moments are few,
Jesus rose up, “Who’s without sin among you?”
“Let him be the one to throw the first stone.”
All the men leave, he and I are alone.
No one has condemned me, not even the Jews.
“Woman, where are your accusers? Did no one condemn you?”
“No one, my Lord,” sung my echoed reply.
“They don’t condemn you, and neither do I.”
My heart has been humbled, my virtue restored.
Then Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.”
My life was restored, I was set free,
Because of the great act of mercy towards me.
"Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.
So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
She said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
Face-to-face with you
I stare at you with hatred
Can I forgive you?
I do not like you
You're what I don't want to be
But I'm stuck with you.
You lie and you cheat,
You think poorly of others,
And you are ugly.
I do not like you,
You're what I don't want to be.
But I'm stuck with you.
You are not perfect
You have done terrible things
Can I forgive you?
I do not like you
But I have to live with you
You're me and I'm you.
Sir Henry Dragonfly flew with his wife to an island in the river for their honeymoon. The island had a tall cliff with several pine trees growing from the top. As they sailed over the island, Henry’s wife, Marge, commented on the beautiful stones and trees. After flying for an hour, Henry and Marge became extremely tired and got on a bug bus. The bus drove on the main dirt road, pausing from time to time to let old junebugs pass.
Henry and his wife fell asleep on the bus. They awoke when the bus screeched to a halt. Henry peered through the windshield and saw that a strange thing was in the middle of a road. Now, any human would recognize that this was an old VHS tape with the film running out of it, but to a dragonfly it was strange and a bit frightening. After several unsuccessful attempts to move it, the bugs decided to take an unexpected detour.
The bus turned off onto a small path. They traveled for hours before they came across a small bug town. There was an old painted wooden sign. It read: Margarettville, Population: 50.
Everyone on the bus was let off. The passengers unanimously decided to spend the night, since nightfall was nearing. There was a single motel in Margarettville, and it was filled with bugs from the bus. The old firefly who ran it handed each traveling family a key. He cackled, lifting his bushy gray eyebrows. He smoothed out his red vest. "Welcome to Maragrettville!" All the bugs were slightly creeped out, but they all went into their rooms just as night fell.
Henry and Marge were sitting in their musty motel room. Marge was reading. Henry was getting hungry.
“Margey, why don’t we go get some burgers or something? I think I saw a diner as we were driving through town.”
With that the Dragonfly family left their room and began walking around town. They found it odd that it was so silent. There were no cars driving, there were no couples walking the street, and everything seemed to be closed. They arrived at the diner, but it was closed. As they walked, Henry thought he heard a low murmuring coming from a street drain. It intrigued him, but he wasn’t about to climb into a sewer in front of his new wife.
“Marge, why don’t you go back to the motel? I have to use the restroom, and I can’t make it to the motel.”
“Okay, Henry. Hurry back. This place gives me the creeps.”
Henry walked into a nearby public restroom and watched from the window until he saw Marge disappear around the corner. He got out and climbed into the street drain. The murmuring got louder. It seemed to be coming from the left tunnel. Henry walked and the murmuring got louder. Finally, he came into a large chamber. Henry ducked behind a column, because what he saw something he wasn’t supposed to see.
All of the bugs in Margarettville were dancing around a statue of the sun. They chanted and chanted. Teens, adults, elderly people, even little children. The creepy old firefly from the motel seemed to be the leader.
“Oh Great Sun! We worship thee! Grant thy favor upon the citizens of Margarettville, the members of the Sun Cult. Though you are the light, you are truly the ultimate darkness! For what is dark is light and light is dark! Now, we offer you a sacrifice!”
Henry gasped. One of the sleeping bugs from the bus was tied up and set upon an altar. The old firefly drew a knife and plunged it into the bug’s abdomen. The bug awoke and screeched as green blood flowed all over the altar. Henry took a step back. He bumped into another column. It rumbled. It fell and the columns worked like dominos. One after the other, they all fell.
The dancing bugs stopped and all turned towards Henry. He burst into a full flight, but with several bugs following him, he could barely keep ahead. Finally, a mosquito grabbed one of his wings and brought him down. The bugs tied him up and brought him back to the main room. They sat him in a chair in front of the entire Sun Cult.
The old firefly stepped forward. “Sir Henry Dragonfly, you have discovered the Sun Cult. It has been a secret for over a thousand years, and you are the first outside of it to find it. I believe that you should join us. Your intuition could be a very valuable addition.”
“No! I’ll never join your cult!” Henry screamed.
“Perhaps you need some motivation,” the firefly mused. “Bring out his wife.”
Henry gasped as two muscular junebugs brought out his wife. She was tied in chains.
“Join, or your beloved will die,” the old firefly flicked his hand and one of the junebugs held a knife against Marge’s neck.
“Don’t do it, Henry!” Marge screamed.
Henry began to cry. Between sobs, he said, “I’ll… I’ll join.”
“Excellent,” the old firefly said. He flicked his hand and the junebugs decapitated Marge.
“No!!!!!!!” Henry screamed. The head of Marge rolled in front of him. Just as the firefly untied him, Henry burst into a full flight. He flew as high as he could. He slammed into the ceiling, and fell back down into the mass of bugs. As they scratched and scraped and tore off his wings, the old firefly hovered above him.
“So… how was your day in Margarettville?” he asked.
“Horrible,” Henry gasped. And then he died.
I tipped back my head and gazed at the stars. As I stared in awe at them, I heard the clanking of armor, indicating the approach of another legionary. “The daughters of Astraeus are beautiful tonight, aren’t they?”
I turned around quickly as I recognized the voice. “Yes, my liege,” I said, kneeling in front of the captain of the Third Cohort of the Twenty-Seventh Legion.
The captain smiled and laughed. “Cyprian, haven’t I told you? I wish to be on first name basis with my second-in-command.”
He reached a hand down and pulled me to my feet. “Ah, yes, Renatus,” the name still sounded awkward. After five years of referring to this man as “my liege” or “captain”, it was foreign to me to call him by his given name.
Renatus laughed again. “My boy, you’ll need a more confident tone than that if you wish to be Captain someday.”
I nodded, and tried to add a flavoring of confidence to my tone “Yes, sir.”
Renatus smiled and clapped me on the back. “Good, now, have the scouts we sent out returned yet? It has been almost a week.”
I nodded. “Yes, Renatus. I received a message not one hour ago that they had returned. They are waiting for you to arrive so they may officially recount their tales.”
Renatus nodded. “And may I assume they are in the center of the base?”
I nodded. “You may.”
“Good!’ Renatus exclaimed. “Let’s go meet them.”
“Yes, sir.” We turned and marched off, side by side. “Oh, and Cyprian,” Renatus said.
“Why are you wearing your helmet? We are not in battle.”
I blushed. “I do not know, Sir.” I quickly pulled it off of my head.
“Oh, and Cyprian,” Renatus continued.
“Why aren’t you wearing your helmet?”
Renatus then burst out laughing again, as a sheepish expression covered my face. He doubled over, and caught his breath. “Oh, I’m sorry, Cyprian! That was just too good to pass up!”
I marched forward, looking straight ahead. “That is fine, Sir.”
Renatus seemed too friendly to be a captain. He seemed to enjoy laughter, even laughing on the field of battle. I wasn’t even really sure how he became a captain. This was the Roman Empire, after all. We weren’t exactly known for our sense of humor.
However, I considered myself lucky to have a good-humored captain. At least he wasn’t the opposite. Some captains were ridiculously cruel to their legionaries. As far as captains go, he was probably the most likeable Rome had to offer.
After making our way to the center of the base, Renatus and I came across a huddled crowd of legionaries. Renatus looked at me and raised his eyebrows. I stepped forward.
“Attention!” I shouted.
The legionaries looked up and quickly formed lines. I walked up and down the lines slowly, examining each legionary. I knew them each by name.
“Tertius, your battle tunic is too long! Do you dare go out on the fields of battle dressed as a woman?”
Tertius bowed his head. “No, sir.”
“Take it to the tailor and have it cut to the appropriate length. Is this a new tunic? We have been away from home for six months now.”
“Yes, sir, it is new. My wife made it and sent it for me. She always thinks I am bigger than I am.”
I suppressed a chuckle. Poor Tertius didn’t know I was just making fun of him. One of the perks of being second-in-command of the cohort, I supposed. “Well, since your wife is good enough to send you a tunic, you do her the honor of wearing it, exactly as she created it. You don’t need to take it to the tailor.”
Tertius bowed. “Yes, sir.”
I took a step back from the group. Speaking of Tertius’s wife now had me thinking of my own betrothed, Perpetua, waiting in far-off Rome. As soon as this campaign was over, I had vowed to return and marry her.
“Good, men, at ease! Now, which two of you were the scouts that visited the enemy territory?”
Two men in the front stepped forward. “Ah, yes, the rest of you are dismissed. You two stay.”
The men dispersed quickly, going about their business, jostling Tertius and giving him a hard time. Renatus and I approached the two scouts. Each kneeled. “My lieges,” they said in unison.
“Rise,” Renatus said.
The two men complied. Renatus continued speaking. “Now, Cyprian here is good enough to know your names, but I do not know them. What are they?”
“I am Thiago, and this is Arian,” the first man spoke.
“Ah, yes. Brothers, no? Well, Thiago, please tell me what you thought of the barbaric country.”
Thiago glanced at his brother. “We agree that it will be an easily defeated land. The peoples are divided amongst themselves into different tribes. They war over petty things quite frequently, such as which gods to follow, or even who should lead a tribe.”
Arian spoke up. “Yes, they are barbaric in every sense of the word. Almost no organized government, a weak military, and, worst of all, they are very open with all information. Thiago and I were able to glean all this information simply by asking ordinary people.”
“And did anyone suspect you?”
“No,” Thiago responded. “The garments you gave us allowed us to blend in quite well.”
Renatus nodded. “That will be all, thank you.”
The two legionaries bowed and left. Renatus turned to me.
“What do you think, Cyprian? Should we attack?”
“It is what we came here to do,” I replied, thinking of the long months away from Perpetua.
“So your opinion is we conquer these people quickly and return home? Would you attack tonight, if you could?”
I thought a moment. “If our spies are accurate, and we have permission of the Commander of the Legion, yes. But, last I heard, the Commander was at the base of the Fifth Cohort.”
“Ah, yes,” Renatus smiled. “But I have been keeping a secret from you. The Commander came in last night. He is taking refuge in the shrine of Mars for now, praying for our success. All the other Cohorts agree we should attack. He is merely waiting for our approval.”
I was shocked. Usually wherever the Commander went, there was a large entourage and people knew he was coming from ten miles away. But he was here, in the shrine of Mars, no less?
“If you believe we should strike now, I shall go get his approval.”
I nodded, speechless. Renatus smiled and nodded. “Ready the troops, I will go inform the Commander of our decision.”
Renatus turned and walked away. I was still stunned. Within a few minutes, Renatus returned, and I was still standing there.
“Cyprian, move! We have the approval of the Commander now!”
“I can’t believe… I just… I just declared war.”
Renatus frowned. “We would’ve done it anyway. Now, Soldier, go ready the troops. We are beginning our descent.”
I shook my head to cast out any confusion. I quickly turned and took a few steps into the command center. The dashboard blinked before me, and several Romans sat at their desks, typing on computers, programming our descent. I made my way over to the radio.
“This is Third Cohort. We are clear to attack. Begin your descent.”
The radio burst to life with responding calls from the other four cohorts. “Roger that,” was repeated four times. I looked over the dashboard at the stars and the approaching planet. I pressed the intercom button. “Attention all legionaries! Prepare to attack!”
I let the button go and heard the sounds of clanking armor fill the halls of the ship. I sighed and put my helmet back on, thinking of my Perpetua. “To war we go, for the glory of the Planet Rome.”
Jason tossed the ball to his sister. “When will Mom and Dad get home?” he asked.
His sister tossed it back. “I don’t know. Until then, you’re in ch…. AHHHH”
His sister screamed at something behind him. Jason spun around. He gasped and took a step back. A giant spaceship floated over the rest of the town! He ran to his sister and wrapped her in a big hug, shielding her eyes.
The spaceship came down with force, crushing half of the town. It came within ten feet of Jason. As Jason watched, shivering, the hatch opened downward.
“Just like in the movies…” he muttered.
Sure enough, a bright light shone from behind the door. He heard the sound of marching footsteps. Jason backed away slowly, his sister in his arms. However, when the aliens finally came into view, he was shocked.
“Are those… Romans?”
“We lived in a land of plenty. Ours was the world, and we abused it. We grew and grew, taking everything in our path. Before long we had populated the world completely, and the earth reached its capacity.
Wars were fought for space. It was well understood that there was not enough room for everyone. Our scientists pushed too far. One country developed the nuclear bomb, and used it to end a war. We sat in turbulent peace for years, while the other countries developed more. Then, a volatile country fired. Alliances created a chain reaction and nukes were sent everywhere. Many survived, but even more were killed.
New creatures came, giants so large even their smallest toe was enough to crush us. They made the ground turn into rock. We were driven underground by their sheer numbers, forced to slip between the cracks. The lucky few escaped to the small areas of forest the giants kept, although they would often trod upon it.”
I finished with a sigh and stared at my class of children.
“Does that answer ‘why we live underground,’ Malcander?”
The young boy nodded. The bell rang and the class dashed out the door to the main tunnel. I sighed again and shook my head. History teacher was an annoying job, but all advisors to the queen had to do some community service.
A trumpet bugle echoed throughout our underground compound. I recognized it as a call for the queen’s advisors to meet. I took a quick look back at my messy desk. No time to clean it; this could be important. I snatched up my advisor’s badge and pinned it to my front. Calmly blowing out the three lit candles, I left the school.
Candlelight and glowworms were our only sources of light. Each house and community building was a cave in our large tunnel. The tunnel was actually more of a chamber, curving up to the tip of the ceiling, where a sliver of sunlight slipped through. There was our exit hole, the place where we left to scavenge for food. Our food was in good supply, the pantry was stocked full of delicious morsels.
The one compound that was not a cave was The Hill. The Hill was a mound that echoed the shape of our compound. It was the queen’s castle, where her advisors met and lived. The entire outside of it was covered in glowworms, making it the equivalent to the sun in our colony. I made my way to this place, passing many people, nodding hellos and goodbyes and even exchanging a few glares. At the gates, the guards nodded at my badge and let me in.
The dirt floor of The Hill was the same as the outside. The same as the rest of the colony. I made my way to the antechamber of the throne room, the advisors’ meeting place. I entered and was greeted by the other seven advisors.
“Jolsin! How are you?” Alabanda exclaimed.
“Fine, and yourself?” I replied.
“Alabanda! Calm yourself!” Mistrosis exclaimed. Alabanda frowned and became quiet.
“Greeting, Mistrosis,” I bowed to the head advisor.
“Jolsin, welcome. We have an important matter to discuss.”
“We do?” I asked, surprised.
“Yes, a very important matter,” Mistrosis said gravely.
“The queen,” Mistrosis whispered.
“Is Her Majesty ill?” I asked.
“In a manner of speaking,” Mistrosis replied.
“What do you mean?”
Yetea spoke up. “I have communed with Maia.”
“Maia, goddess of darkness and black magic?” I asked incredulously.
“And the future,” Yetea replied. “She told me that a grave future awaits us. The queen is failing. Neighboring tribes are gathering their forces, ready for war. Only a sacrifice will save us.”
“A sacrifice?” I asked.
“The queen,” Mistrosis replied.
“Wait?” Alabanda demanded. “We must sacrifice the queen! How shameful of you to even consider this!”
“Hold on!” I stopped. “Where is Xeros?”
Mistrosis and Yetea looked at Alabanda expectantly. “Why are you looking at me oddly?”
“You have spoken against Maia,” Yetea responded. “Surely you will die.”
“What? I’m not going to…” Alabanda suddenly screamed. “Erch!”
A flicker of flame erupted in his midsection. WIth a hideous scream, he burst into flames. Melting skin dripped on the ground in awful pools. I watched as the bright eyes were seared shut and the face was molded into a blob of skin. Alabanda dropped to the ground. Without warning, the flames stopped. I took a moment to stare at the horrific tragedy that was Alabanda. The black burn marks began to liquify, melting, spreading about the room and covering what was left of Alabanda in black. A woman stood from the goo. “Twice I have been denied! Follow my instruction, or else!”
“Yes, great Maia!” Yetea exclaimed. The woman fell back into the goo, and flames erupted once more. The goo was burned away. Not even Alabanda’s charred corpse was left when the flames dispersed.
Mistrosis turned to me. “Xeros denied Maia as well. We must continue or grave punishments will befall us.”
I nodded, terrified. “We will kill the queen when she retires for her afternoon nap,” Mistrosis replied.
“I will be there,” I stammered.
Mistrosis smiled. “Good.”
Exactly one hour later we were poised outside the queen’s bedroom. We had drugged the guards and they slept behind us.
“Ready?” Yetea asked. We all nodded. “Three, two, one!” We burst through the door.
I stopped. The queen stood next to her bed. “Hello, my advisors.”
“Hello, Your Majesty,” Mistrosis replied in a mock bow.
“I see. What my guards heard was true. You have come to kill me.”
“It is for the good of the colony, my queen.”
“No, it is for the good of Maia. But, though you serve the dark goddess, I have offered my own prayer to Trust, the god of light. And, he has responded.”
The room began to shake. “I shall die,” the queen spoke confidently. “But I will not be alone. And, it will not be by your doing.”
With that, the shaking became too much for The Hill to bear. The floor collapsed beneath us, and the ceiling above us. Dirt caved in all around us, burying all but me. I somehow managed to jump out of the way of most of the dirt. To my horror, I discovered the shaking was not just in The Hill but throughout the whole colony. Cracks in the ceiling appeared. Dirt poured in from everywhere. People screamed and ran. The more assertive and tactical of the populous directed the woman and children out, screaming at the men to go to the pantry and carry out all the food they could. Cries of “Evacuate!” echoed throughout our compound.
I could do nothing but run. I scurried up the piles of dirt, and above ground. Most of the ceiling was gone now. But, as I emerged on the hard, gray ground, I stopped in my tracks. Many others had run out of the colony and now were running in aimless circles. They had no leadership. Our colony was doomed.
A large pole came down and caught one of my legs. I screamed and struggled with my other legs to free the caught one. I looked up and, to my horror, a giant stood. Its eyes examined me curiously. The pole holding down my leg had dirt on it. This giant had destroyed our colony.
“Jimmy!” Momma called. Jimmy looked up.
“It’s time to go to Grandma’s!”
“Yay! Grandma’s!” the five-year-old dropped the stick and took one last look at the swarm of ants pouring out of the now destroyed ant hill. “Bye-bye, ants!” he exclaimed. He ran to the car to go to Grandma’s, without a thought of the thousands of lives he had just destroyed.
"Day in the Life of Uma the Underachiever"
This Christmas, I think I’ll be lazy
Brand me with names, call me crazy.
Away with the wreath, a bagel will do
If I’m feeling special, I’ll add cream cheese too!
A Christmas tree? I’ll put up a cardboard cutout
If I decide to cut it out.
Presents? They are too pricey.
A counterfeit dollar will do nicely.
Forget lights, that’s what street lamps are for.
You won’t catch me with holly on my door.
Mistletoe? I’ve been widowed for years.
You know what? I don’t want to rhyme anymore.
I’m tired of verse and punctuation?
And form. And speilling.
To much work. Wourk, woerk, worc!
This is Uma, signing of!