Thursday, April 14, 2011

Friday Fiction for April 15, 2011

The ever-imaginative Sara is our hostess for Friday Fiction this week. Visit her Fiction Fusion blog for her story, and to find the Linky tool with the list of other great submissions.

In just a few days, the anniversary of the Lisbon Massacre will occur. There is a custom among some Jewish sects, that on Purim (The Feast of Esther), one should get so drunk as to not be able to differentiate between righteous Mordecai, and wicked Haman. The Rabbis who promote this tradition teach that it is to show us that the potential for good and evil exists in everyone, and that what defines us is the choices we make, not the circumstances of our birth or our heritage. We hear a great deal about violent, radical Muslims, but as the Lisbon Massacre should remind us, we as Christians also possess the potential to descend into horrific violence. When I wrote the novella, “If I Forget Jerusalem” for the Peculiar People Heirloom Chronicles, I set my story during this massacre. While the main characters are fictitious, the events referred to are real. From Sunday, April 19, 1506 through Tuesday, April 21, between two thousand and four thousand were slaughtered by a mob, encouraged by a pair of Dominican monks that wanted the Inquisition to come to Portugal. Since the entire story is short, this will be the last excerpt I post from it, but I wanted something to coincide with the anniversary this week.

Chapter 3

Hayom Asara Yamim – Today is Ten Days (of the Omer)

Sunday, April 19th, 1506 – late afternoon

“Sh’muel! Open up! Quickly!”

He opened the door to his friend. Shalom aleichem, Baruch. Have you come to say the blessing for the counting of the Omer with us this evening?”

Baruch entered the house and closed the door behind him. “Keep your voice down; has not the recent arrest of those observing the Pesach taught you anything?"

“They were released unharmed, were they not?”

“That has not helped us. It only made our enemies angrier.” He placed a hand on Sh’muel’s upper arm. “I’ve come to warn you.”

“Warn us? What is happening?” He led the man to a chair and offered him some wine. “You are trembling, my friend. What is wrong?”

“There were a few of us up at St. Dominic’s, and some of the Christians claimed to have seen a miracle on the crucifix in the Jesus Chapel.”

“A miracle? What kind of miracle?”

He waved his hand as if the information was of little consequence. “They say the wound on Jesus’ side was shining with some heavenly light, but Shaul disagreed. He said it was just dry wood and that nothing miraculous was happening.” He gulped his wine and sobbed. “They fell on him, Sh’muel. They dragged him from the church by his hair, ripped him apart, and burned his body.” The tremors in his back returned anew. “Hide your family, Sh’muel. The Dominicans are inciting the people against us, and they are already starting after those who could not get away from the crowd. It will not be long until they are here.”

Hurrying to the door, he opened it just a crack and peeked out. In the direction of the marketplace near the church, columns of smoke were rising and a dull noise penetrated the distance. “What of your family, Baruch?”

“My sons were with me; we ran when we heard the Dominicans calling for the people to avenge the heresy on us. We split up in order to warn as many as we could, with my youngest running as fast as he could to home and warn the women. We are to meet there.” He shook his head. “They were promising that those who killed us would be granted a hundred days of absolution in the world to come.”

“Hurry home; I fear we have little time left before they reach us. Thank you for bringing us this warning.”

Bolting the door after Baruch left, he hurried to find hiding places for each member of the family. Perhaps God would calm the mob before any of the homes were reached; still, it would be prudent to not present any ready targets for their rage if they did come that far.

He paired the children up, hoping the older ones could keep the younger ones from becoming too afraid. His wife took their infant son to one place of seclusion, while he cradled their toddler daughter in his hiding place.

The sounds of people shouting were near enough to discern voices; some angry and others fearful or pleading. Holding the child close to his breast, he whispered calm assurances and hoped she would not get too restless having to stay in one position for too long.

The sound of wood breaking was closer, and he could not stop his imagination from seeing his neighbor’s door being kicked in by a mob. He began to quietly daven; rocking back and forth and muttering prayers for the safety of whoever might be in the home being invaded.

His walls did little to muffle the screams that echoed down their narrow street, and his daughter gave a fearful whimper. He tried to reassure her, hoping he sounded calmer than he felt. “Hine, lo yanum, v’lo ishan, shomer Yisrael,” he quietly canted the Psalm to her. Behold, He does not slumber, and He does not sleep, Who watches Israel. The desperate cries of someone in the distance pleading for mercy, made him realize he was singing as much to reassure himself as the child.

He kissed the top of her head and rubbed one hand gently across her back. If You would send a deliverer, oh Most High, this would be a good time to do so.

* * *

You can read more about the Lisbon Massacre here.


Debra Gray-Elliott said...

As always left me wanting more.

Sara Harricharan said...

Wow. So much tension in the atmosphere with this one. It was so real--and so sad too. Glad I didn't miss it!

Catrina Bradley said...

I was right there, hiding and holding my breath, and hoping the little ones would be still.