I feel it before I can see it.
The pulsations begin at the tips of my fingers. They slowly travel to my palms. Sweat breaks out. The tiny spiders broach my arms. Each hair follicle prickles in turn.
Ringing in my ears. Steel clashes against steel. The hairs on my nape rise in alarm.
I clench my fists. And open my eyes.
Breath gets caught in my throat. My vision is blurred in the flood. Flashes of silver. Hounds and horses. Shadows. Shadows everywhere. With each shout, yell, blood-curdling scream, the spiders jump upwards upon my arm.
I am cold and hot at once. The shadows—the men—are getting closer. They ring me, and they are closing in.
Steel against steel. Grunts. Shouts. Screams. The screams do not discriminate. Men. Women. Children.
Bodies lunge against one another.
My heart is beating faster—faster—faster. The spiders release their webs. They spread, interweave, covering my upper body. Constriction. Squeezing the air out of my lungs. My heart. Faster—faster—faster.
The bodies threaten to brush against me. I know if I reach out I will penetrate the shadows—piercing flesh and blood.
A face materializes in front of me. A woman. The smear of muddied blood does not hide her ferocity. Her teeth are bared. Her eyes wild. A flash of silver in her hand. She lunges toward me. My heart. Faster—faster—faster.
Everything freezes. The screams. The shadows. The thrusting arm. The webs. The spiders. The throbs. My heart.
“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”
My breath returned. I raised my eyes to the hill. The cross stood tall.
Weeping filled my ears. I lowered my eyes.
The blood-stained field was littered with bodies. There was no discrimination. Men. Women. Children. Broken. Bloodied. Weeping.
I took a step forward, and something brushed my ankle. I looked down to see a woman. Her face smeared with muddied blood. Her eyes shed tears of weariness and hopelessness. Her lips parted once and closed. I bent down to her. Placing my ears to her charred lips.
“What?” I asked.
The hoarse breathe finally took form: “Help.”