Lazarus Expanse

The humbled whisper of sorrow,

lives not in the hot flame.

Just as,

a tear shed in compassion

for another

is perhaps

 a vast lake, able

to quench

the dry throat

of the repentant.

. . .

A lavender scent filled the air as the rich man slid the new purple fabric over his shoulders.  The horizon was slowly swallowing the last beams of light.  Dinner would be laid out soon and tonight like every other night was going to be a feast.  A servant showed him the guest list.  Scanning the names with his eyes he saw that no one on the list was wealthier than him, “Very good,” he whispered under a smirk, “very good.”

The cool night air sent breezes over the dinner party.  They all sat in a circle around a large fire controlled by ornate stones.  Laughing they gorged themselves past the emptiness of hunger, past the dulled pressure of a full stomach, and into the realm of vomiting onto disheveled plates. “Get me more!” the rich man shouted, “Get me more at once!”

Below the balcony in the darkness was Lazarus.  He pressed his rotten body against the cold stone of the palace.  He was engulfed in pain.  Sores littered his body like wet leaves stuck to his gray flesh.  Weakness prevented him from being able to walk or sleep.  His last night on Earth would be spent groaning in a pile of trash.  All the while he whispered, “Dear God, I am so sorry.  I am so sorry…”

The servants emptied the trash from the dinner party onto the trash heap.  Warm vomit and chewed bread splattered all over the dying beggar.  Far above, the rich man laughed watching his servant take no notice of the beggar in his trash heap.  Dogs heard the clanking commotion of the plates and hurried over to eat the scraps.  They licked Lazarus’s body as he died.

Lazarus felt his soul slip his out of his body, like a weary traveler shedding a tattered and soiled coat.  He pain was instantly forgotten and he fell asleep in his new home of light and peace.  He stood upon a balcony of light overlooking a great void.  He noticed a ball of purple light falling into a distant lake that glowed red with flame.

Death tore the rich man from of his young body like a scab being removed from a wound.  The shock of the moment was over in a flash.  He felt his soul become engulfed in flames as if it were his very own skin.  Pain overwhelmed his senses.  His throat soon became dry from screaming. Seeing Lazarus across the  expanse he began to call out.  “Please! Get me water! Lazarus dip your finger in water and bring it to me!”

“No one can traverse the expanse that separates us,” an old man answered as he walked up and stood next to Lazarus.

“Then, at least send Lazarus to my family!  My brothers, I need to warn them about this awful place!”

“If they haven’t listened to those who were already sent with the message, then they would not listen to someone who has returned from the dead.”

The rich man became angry at the old man and began shouting and cursing.  Soon he began puking purple filth, as searing flames licked all over his burning body.

. . .

Copyright © 2019 Zachary W. Gilbert


I sat at my thick banquet table.  Cool night air danced in my hair.  I another great year, another great feast.  I ran my fingers over the cold speckled stone of the table.  The food was warm and rich.  I could tell my friends were impressed.  A large fire housed in ornate stone, warmed my guests.  There was laughter and the clanking of expensive silverware.  My dogs waited beneath the tables in perfect obedience.  I love the taste of meat, and so do they.  Even though they usually have to settle for cold scraps.  I savor the warm juice, and the way it melts in my mouth and makes my belly feel full.  I think I ate more than I should have, again.

Later that evening, I look down on my open court banquet hall.  Every night I see the same wounded beggar.  Something is wrong with him.  I don’t know what.  The servants are drunk again.  They don’t see him stealing food.  My dogs are licking the sores on his body.  There is no meat left, if there were, my dogs would kill him.  I’d enjoy seeing that.  But, all that is left is cold hard bread.  Sawdust really.  I make sure not to leave left overs.  My eyes catch the last glow from the dying fire.  The blackened wood has orange lights dancing on it.  He looks like a dying ghost crawling on my stonework.  Leaving rank blood in the wake of his crawl.  I wish he would go away and respect my privacy.

In the night, my body surrenders its last breath.  The morning finds me dead.  My spirit is flung off of the earth.  In a moment, I see it spinning away from me in vast cold space.  I think I am falling, but I am being pulled.  I am given no time to take in what I see.  I feel like I have fallen into my fire at home.  It is the size of an endless ocean.  I hit the surface hard, it is thick like molten rock.  Churning and boiling.  I am bounced and tossed.  On the horizon there is a distant light.  I scream in pain, as I swim though fire.  I arrive to a rocky face.  I look up into the sky.  In the clouds, I can see people at a banquet.  They are far away.  A vast darkness separates us.  A man, I have never seen before but somehow recognize is holding the beggar.  They have water.  I shout, and shout.  Somehow they hear me.  I ask, simply for a drop of water.  My mouth is so dry.  A burning, sticky, hot kind of dry.  I feel the heat of the fire.  Melted rock, falls from my lips.  Toxic gas vapors swirl out of my nose from the back of my throat.  Why don’t I ever burn up.  Doesn’t this nightmare end?  I am locked in a moment of pain.  I keep thinking my skin will melt off, but it never does.  I am trapped in the moment when fire first finds flesh, and bites.

The man lets the beggar go.  Somehow he can walk.  Somehow, in the night…  He must have died too.  He looks fit.  Younger.  Alive.  The man tells me I can’t go back to warn the living, I can’t leave.  I must stay, wrapped in eternities blanket of fire.  I am a orange ember trapped twisting in burning rock.  Pain, shouting, and flame are all I have left in  my new reality.  I burn in the privacy of death.

Copyright © 2017 Zachary W Gilbert