by Oren Otter and Draco Dei
There are many stones in the world. A nearly infinite number of us litter the ground of every continent. It's not often, therefore, that you meet a stone with an interesting and unique tale to tell. Yet I do. Let me tell you what happened to me those thousands of years ago.
It was a cloudy day. The weather had been drizzling on and off, and I myself had gotten just wet enough to become muddy but not wet enough to wash the dust away. My neighborhood had become very dusty of late. I lived on a hill outside Jerusalem in those days. It wasn't very exciting. The humans had some sort of excitement going on. One group of them was taking over another group and the other group didn't like it. Rocks seldom take interest in such things. We are content simply to rest in our places and remain where our circumstances have placed us.
There was one thing that really bothered me, though. It was that these humans would take their criminals out to my hill to kill them. In fact, they had named the hill after the calcium deposits that are left when one of them dies and decays. I've watched many a human criminal slowly expire for want of air and water as they were hung on the trees above me, paying their debt to society in a most painful way.
I didn't really mind it when they hung their villains using ropes, as I could pretty much just blank out their screams. Their suffering was not my business, after all. When they used the nails, that was another matter. The rocks tended to end up spattered with blood and gore, which made it hard to ignore. I don't really understand what humans feel, or if they truly feel at all, but I can only imagine that having a nail driven through one's flesh must feel a great deal like being chipped or cracked.
Still, I try as best I can to keep my thought off of the affairs of humans. At least I did, until this one man came along. He acted rather unusual, but then, a great many of them did that. He was very weak, no doubt from the beating he had taken. He had been chipped very rough, and lacked the polished look of most of the humans. He was too weak to carry his tree, as most of the lawbreakers were forced to do. Another man was carrying it for him. He placed the bottom of the tree into the ground, and I knew what was coming next. Rather than fill in the hole around the bottom of the tree with dirt, the humans thought it much more efficient to simply wedge a stone into the gap to hold it in place. I had been lucky until now. I had never been chosen to hold up the tree. That was to change. I suppressed a shudder (it is not very rocklike to shudder, after all) as one of the humans grabbed me and shoved me in.
This would be one of the more unpleasant executions, I knew. They had used nails on this one. Already the blood was dripping down on me. But this was strange. Blood had always made me feel dirty, and yet this blood somehow made me feel clean. It was as if it was washing away every stain, even the ones down in my cracks that had been practically fossilized with age. And for the first time in many thousands of years, I felt something stir in my stone heart. It was a strange feeling, most un-rock-like. I felt joy and sorrow at the same time, as if something wonderful had been gained, but at the expense of something truly precious.
I kept vigil with over the man on the tree until the moment he died, shouting with a loud voice, then suddenly becoming as cold and still as one of us. At that point, the emotion had so built within me that I had to leap. Every rock for miles around was leaping with me, all of us filled with that same strange feeling. I knew that something incredible must have happened, for it takes a great deal of motivation to get a stone to leap.
And then I felt something new. A strange sensation. An awareness of a great length of time. As a rock, I have a good grasp of very long lengths of time, yet as I looked up at the man who had just died, studying his blood-encrusted face in the waning light, I knew that he was very old. I somehow sensed that he had existed for a length of time which made my mind boggle. And I knew that he had understood the condition of rocks. I had never thought that any human could possibly understand a rock, as certainly I did not understand living things. Yet somehow he knew. And even more strangely, I had the sense that he cared.
One of the humans jabbed the man in the side to make sure that he was dead. Blood, and water which has separated out of the blood, flowed out and cascaded over me. It felt strangely wonderful, making even an inanimate stone like me feel alive, and even as it washed me, I knew that it was also leaving a mark of its own. One which even all the volcanos of the earth could never scorch away. And I knew that this mark would be given freely to anyone who wanted to be washed in the blood.
The man was taken down from the tree and laid in a nearby tomb. Soon his body would turn into calcium deposits. Perhaps then I could speak to him and ask him what had happened. A boulder who had been sleeping on top of the neighboring hill was rudely awakened by twelve humans who rolled him down to seal up the tomb.
So that was it? No one would mourn for this man? No one would praise his name for the gift of his blood? The sorrow of it was too great for me to take. Someone had to praise this man. If the humans wouldn't do it, then I would. Quietly, I sang. I knew the humans could not hear me, but that did not matter. This was for the man in the tomb. Other rocks joined with me, singing my song of praise and of mourning. The sky itself cried for the man in the tomb.
All that night we sang, keeping our vigil as the human soldiers kept theirs. When I could no longer sing, I simply cried. All the next day and on into the next night, I cried out for the human whose blood had made me clean.
On the third day that the man had been in the tomb, something amazing happened. Creatures, the likes of which I had never seen before, came to the tomb. Brilliant they were, like diamonds. They frightened the humans, who stood transfixed. For a moment I saw a bit of myself in them, standing like stones amid the wonder of the moment. The strange creatures began to move the boulder, rolling him back up the hill to his bed. The human was alive!
Thousands more years passed, and nothing ever happened that compared to those three amazing days. Around the fourth century, I was picked up by a young man and used in a landscaping project. That lasted only a few decades, after which I was dumped in a river.
After many years, I have become smooth and polished by the river. It has been somewhat painful at times, but never more than a stone can bear. And still, the river has not been able to scour away the mark of blood that I carry.
Despite the discomfort of being polished, I would not trade it for anything, for after millennia, one of the strange creatures came to the river, and out of all of the stones there, he selected me. I was taken and set into a crown of pure gold. The greatest surprise of all came when the crown in which I live was presented to the new king of Israel. It was the very man I had seen die above me all those centuries ago. I learned that this was no ordinary human. This was the creator, who had formed me and my kind from stardust eons ago. I had been selected to be the jewel in his crown. Though I had been an ordinary stone, he had changed me into a thing of beauty, and I would be the ornament in his crown, sharing his glory forever more.