Crucify and Burn


Author: May Amelia Shapton – First Place Senior Division 2020

Confined in my body are only ten colors, but when the light dances over me it might as well be ten thousand. All those brilliant shades of red and blue, green and purple, pink and orange, each shape bound by black metal, they come from within my soul, given life by the light that scatters them on the floor below. I am a window, seven hundred years old. I have seen two hundred and fifty thousand sunrises.

Below me people pass. On one side they bustle, trade, love and travel, on the other, they walk in silence, cry, kneel, and pray. They are beautiful though, no matter what age, for the fact they can do these things at all. Even the pigeons that have their wings do not love or cry; they can’t even talk. But I hear the voices proclaiming their faith at all hours, and the confessions of faceless people meant only for the priest, I hear those too. And when they have left I hear the strange, melancholy ramblings of the priest who is just as lost as those he tries to help. It’s all so wonderful it makes me wish I knew what it was like to have tears come from within. I’ve heard that crying hurts, but I wouldn’t mind because I’ve had my share of pain. No one hears my confession, my plea to the heavens each morning. Today is no different.

One child I’ve watched since he was only just born is getting scolded for using his phone and not paying attention. The guest speaker is nervous even though he’s been here before, while a stranger in the back tries not to be noticed because they haven’t. Laughter is floating around and it seems I could almost see it if only I looked a little closer. I am trying to distract myself. A fly buzzes around the chandelier. Seven hundred years has not made me any better at waiti. . . No no no no no! AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!


Or at least, you know, that’s what I would say if I had vocal chords. Every bloody day! Why does it have to be like this? All the people are gone now. I never get to see them leave. Has it been an hour? Two? Five? I don’t know. But each day I live in fear of that time when the sun clears the edge of my pane, for it is in that moment, when the light comes streaming through in all its unfettered glory, that I am crucified by heavenly fire. Every inch of my being burns with agony. I last only long enough to see the pulpit become illuminated by the light of my sacrifice, to see a radiant spotlight fall on the faces of the people I’ve watched, to see the priest tilt his head and smile up at me. Then it all becomes too much and I wake up only after the sun has passed.

It’s that smile. I know it is. It’s what confuses me, and angers me, and pleases me all at once. They’ve all done it through the ages, not just this one, and I want to know what it is they see in me. I want to know. But I can’t because in that smile is also the truth. The truth that he smiles because he sees my beauty and not my pain, and the truth that he can leave and have free will to ask another being for help if he needs it. That smile mocks me and makes me hate people even though I love them, which just makes me hate myself. Yet nothing changes. I want to speak and to see, but every time it’s the same, crucify and burn, crucify and burn. Crucify and burn!


I’m tired of this cycle, tired of this fear. The soft moonlight filters in and soothes my pain now. The silver light reflects off of me instead of burning through me. Yes, the moon has always been my friend. Two hundred and fifty thousand sun rises is also two hundred and fifty thousand moons. One side facing in to feelings I don’t want to face, the other facing out only to be beaten by rain and wind and ice. Who am I to ask for what I want? I, who try to love, but secretly despise. Empires have changed hands and names around me, but I am still here. Crucify. . . and burn. . .


The stranger from this morning has returned. It’s very dark now. Perhaps they want to ask the priest a question about their faith? Perhaps that is why they were uncomfortable this morning. Because they are thinking of converting, but aren’t sure yet? This morning they sat too far back so the angle was wrong and I couldn’t see them properly, but I see now from their slight frame that they are a woman. A thick black cloak hides her movements and a hood covers her head. She walks along the edge of the wall until she is almost parallel with the center shrine, then turns and walks out into the middle of the room where she kneels. I don’t understand. I’ve never seen anyone act like this. She seems to have some reason for being here, but is scared of something. I think. And now from the shadows within the side of the cloak she has been keeping against the wall, she withdraws her last hope of not getting caught. It’s clear now why she’s been so cautious, so uncomfortable. There is a black bag next to her on the floor, and inside it is a bomb.

Her hands shake as she takes it out and sets it on the ancient stone floor. And then she takes off her hood. To help her see, perhaps? I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. She is the most beautiful creature I have ever seen in all my two hundred and fifty thousand days. The moonbeams filter through me and illuminate her face as she turns to look up at me. For a moment in time we are connected by the light and I could swear she knows what I’m thinking. Her skin glows gently and I see tears in her eyes. They shine like pearls as they slide down her cheeks. I was right after all. She is scared, scared of life and death, of pain and responsibility, of failure, rejection, knowledge and ignorance, and most of all she is scared of whatever has brought her to this place tonight. She is terrified of everything and it has broken her. She is like me. She understands what I’ve seen, what I’ve been through. We acknowledge each other in silence, but it feels we have spoken a thousand volumes.

She shakes as she stands, and I watch my reflection tremble in her dark, hopeless eyes. Then the world shatters into ten thousand colors and there is nothing but pain unlike anything I’ve ever known.

Falling Falling Falling Falling Falling Falling Falling Falling Falling Falling Falling Falling Falling Falling Falling

Hundreds of versions of me are plummeting toward the ground. Tiny fragments and huge jagged shards, once a single entity, now free at last. And onto all of us, over and over as we fall around her, is reflected the face of the beautiful woman lying now almost dead.

There is smoke, flames and chaos all around us when at last I pierce her chest. I feel as her heart tries to beat around me, feel her blood well up at my edges. I know that for the first time in many, many years, perhaps her whole life even, she is happy. Somehow, I think I finally understand what the priests saw in me all those years, the Divine beauty of things beyond control or understanding.

Then the other bits of my former self come crashing down and a hundred glass knives slam into her body, killing her instantly and pinning her to the floor where she lies. The tears in her eyes, knocked free, mix red and run to the floor. They might as well be mine though, for I feel them as my own, and that ability to cry that I had so coveted is finally mine in my last moments before the shock wears off, and the pain of my body being shattered, and of my splintered soul that can no longer keep its light becomes oblivion. The fire caused by the bomb engulfs us and there is nothing more to tell. Only crucify and burn.

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