Last Rights

Please God, let me die.

Samuel Wood couldn’t mouth the words — too weak and drugged to move. On a good day, he might’ve had the strength to at least move his head. He heard the steady drip-drip of the morphine.

Most days, he waited endlessly for someone to enter, if only to turn him over or fluff his pillows. He welcomed any visit, no matter how short. But mostly, the door remained closed, and he remained alone.

Flowered wallpaper plastered the walls and curtains of pink and blue framed the window. A tiny bronze Crucifix was nailed to the wall opposite his bed. That Crucifix was his only real companion.

His family used to visit. But those trips had become infrequent and finally, non-existent. Yet the Crucifix was always there, the tiny Jesus nailed to a bronze cross, head lowered in anguish, a crown of thorns upon his brow.

Kill me.

Sam thought he may’ve spoken those words aloud, if that were possible. But when he tried to speak again, his voice and lips failed. So he lay still, counting the seconds. His mind retreated into itself, reliving distant memories from a different life.

Wood vibrated against wood.

The Crucifix had moved.

Wood rattled again. The Crucifix jumped and this time, Samuel saw it. It banged and clattered, suddenly animated in an otherwise still room. And then the Crucifix was motionless.

Jesus raised his head, the eyes open, staring. Samuel’s breath caught. The Jesus met his gaze, eyes narrowing. The bronze idol tried to move towards Samuel, but suddenly realized that it was pinned to the cross.

The idol cursed, rattled against its restrains and relaxed.

The Jesus took several deep breaths, refocused, clenched. Its right arm shuddered and Samuel realized it was trying to pull itself free from the nail. Christ screamed and flexed. With a splatter of blood, Jesus ripped his right hand from the nail. Now his left.

Except that nail proved more resilient. Jesus yanked and twisted but couldn’t free his left hand. The cross rattled with his efforts. Jesus cursed and shook until the entire cross skipped from the wall peg. The cross and Jesus plummeted to the linoleum, bursting apart in a chorus of brass and wood.

Samuel wanted so badly to smile. Jesus was coming to free him. God had answered his prayers. Finally, his husk of a body would be cast away, allowing his spirit to be free.

But there was only silence.

The Jesus did not reappear.

Samuel’s new found hope wavered. What if Jesus had perished in the fall? What if his tiny bronze body had broken apart with the impact?

He couldn’t stand another moment of life. Couldn’t stand it.

Please, I can’t take anymore.

He felt tiny feet on his leg.

Jesus wasn’t dead! Unsteadily, the Jesus scaled up his body until he stood at Samuel’s waist.

“You want me to end your life?” the Jesus sneered.

Yes, end it. Just turn off the machine and I’ll die. Just turn it off.

The Jesus shook his head. “I don’t have to do anything.”

But the Jesus climbed from Sam and clambered to the monitoring equipment.

Thank you. Thank you.

His muscles seized.

Pain arced through his arm, into his torso, down into his legs.

His body, once unresponsive, was now alive from torment. His teeth clenched, his hands gripped the sheets. His heart hammered against an invisible fist clenched across his chest.

“I turned off the morphine, Samuel.”

No!

“I turned it off. You’ll die now, from the pain. You wanted to die, didn’t you?”

Not like this.

More than just the pain, Samuel felt something else. Heat. The temperature in the room flared.

Jesus was on his chin, his crown of thorns clutched tightly in his left hand.

“You wanted this,” the idol spat.

The soft floral wallpaper burst into flames. Heat washed across the room, the blankets on his legs smoldering. Samuel watched as the exposed flesh on his arms bubbled and bloomed into blisters.

The cinderblock walls dissolved as if onion paper. Beyond was a landscape of hell. Crags, blasted rock, rivers of magma.

“This is all there is, Samuel.”

“No,” he managed to croak.

“Isn’t this what you wanted?”

“Please, God…”

“You expected death to be something else? Something more…glorified?”

The bed tilted upright. His eyes widened as he realized his bed was perched above the lake of fire. Samuel’s feeble hands grasped at he tumbled toward the magma. The Jesus was by his ear, whispering.

“God is dead, Samuel Wood.”

*

The bed was remade with fresh sheets and the room fully sterilized. The nurse finished her duties and prepared to leave. She paused, staring at the tiny Crucifix mounted on the wall. She frowned, reached out, and straightened the ornament.

The door closed.

Jesus hung on the wall, waiting patiently for the next patient.