By Susan Diamond
He woke one day and instead of thanking God (which was his usual custom) he took a vow in God’s presence. “Today is the day I will change my destiny.”
Marcus was a slave. He was strong, smart, and hardworking. All qualities that worked both for him and against him. He was valuable chattel owned by a master whose pockets were lined by the blood, sweat, and tears of young Marcus with no last name.
On this day, after Marcus made his vow, he silently stole away just before sun-up on what was to be a blazing hot day.
Unarmed and unprepared for the dangerous journey ahead, our hero felt sure he had the might of right within him and the hand of God guiding him.
He walked swiftly and surely heading west, away from civilized man and into the den of beasts and critters.
At nightfall he surrendered to his bodily needs, stopping to pluck berries from a thicket in the jungle and quenching his thirst from the clear stream of a waterbed.
Sated, he found shelter in a cave to take his rest. Sleep came quickly. Dreams of open roads and welcoming arms accompanied him on his first night of freedom.
MEETING THE NEW
Hours later he awoke. This time thanking God with every fiber of his being. He finished his morning prayers and heard a noise. Marcus knew he had company. Fortified and fearless, he looked around in the still darkness and could find no source of the sound. On and on went the noise growing from a whimper to a feverish pitch.
Marcus deduced it was not man, but beast. He smelled his cave mate before he saw him. Senses are heightened in such circumstances and there was something feral mixed with fear coming from whatever sat at the mouth of the cave.
His options for escape narrowed greatly. He stayed low and slid on his behind slowly inching up to the source of the sound.
He was at arm’s length from the beast.
Now upon it.
Marcus extended one hand and delicately with three fingertips touched the fur collar of a giant lion.
The lion yielded to his touch and the thunderous wailing retreated back to the whimper that startled him earlier. The two sat like that for hours. Marcus stroking the lion and the great lion whimpering like a baby.
At noon, daylight reached the cave’s opening. Marcus silently asked the lion’s permission to come even closer. In the same silence the lion consented. Marcus searched for the source of the beast’s pain. He looked for blood on the lion’s coat and found none. He felt gingerly around each limb, examining for broken bones – all were intact. And then he noticed the right forepaw.
It was swollen and discolored at its bed. Marcus inspected it carefully and found a sharp thorn wedged in to the side of the dewclaw.
With careful manipulation, Marcus was able to remove the thorn from the lion’s foot.
Immediately the whimpering stopped. The lion turned his great head until he was face to face with Marcus. He opened wide his enormous jaws.
This must be how Jonah felt moments before he was swallowed by the whale.
An enormous tongue came through the finely chiseled teeth of the lion’s open mouth. It rippled forth until it reached the right side of Marcus’ face. With a strong yet sweet motion the lion licked Marcus first on one cheek, then the other and over and over again with gratitude for the good deed that was done unto him.
The two new friends sat for a while in comfortable companionship. With the lion feeling better, and Marcus well-rested, they left the cave, and worked as a team to find food and drink. It was the beginning of a life spent happily together.
ALONE AND IN TROUBLE
One fateful day Marcus and the lion were separated. A storm was brewing and Marcus stayed behind when the lion went hunting. The lion did not return. Marcus was devastated and alone.
His faith sustained him. God gives and God takes away.
It was hard surviving on his own. These were tough times in a cruel world. Marcus ventured farther and farther outside of the safety and security of the cave he called home. It was half a day’s walk west when he was kidnapped by a band of robbers.
They sold him to a crafty fellow who would use him for sport. He was well fed and groomed for competition. He was not free.
Six months went by and the seasons changed. It was winter – cold, dark and gloomy. Marcus was dejected. He was chained to five other men who would be fighting alongside him at the games. They were forced to walk in the freezing rain, behind a cart carrying their provisions. Marcus knew he was marching to his end.
He prayed for death. Lord, set me free in Your Kingdom of Heaven.
The coliseum was a ten day journey. He was far away from the cave and the only real home he knew. The landscape was foreign to him. It was ugly and bare.
The stands were filled with thousands of spectators. Upon the dais sat the Emperor and his entourage. Marcus and his cohorts found their place in the arena. He was among an elite group of fighters. The rules were simple: Kill until you are killed. The men had no weapons, only their
bodily strength and the wits they walked in with.
But Marcus had a secret weapon as you will soon find out.
The games began with cockfights. It was a warm-up to the main attraction. Marcus held his own and came out barely scratched. One
poor fellow had an eye scratched out by a particularly aggressive old cock. The crowd cheered.
The second round was a pack of grey wolves. Marcus armed himself by yanking off a piece of wooden post framing a viewing platform. He beat back the wolves’ attack two and three at a time. Two of his comrades
were killed in the fray.
And now there were four for the grand finale. The men muttered among themselves.
What would come next – vultures?
No – the vultures were to be an encore. Entering the arena was a ferocious, starving wild beast. It was ten feet in length and stood taller than any human. It looked to weigh close to a thousand pounds of pure muscle. Its head was enormous with teeth like daggers in its open mouth.
All the men screamed in a hysterical chorus, except
Marcus smiled as he recognized his friend.
Let’s put on a show. He said silently to the lion.
Game on. The lion agreed.
A RIGGED COMPETITION
The lion quickly took care of the combatants. It was just Marcus and the lion in front of the blood thirsty crowd. The Emperor was standing his eyes fixated on the pair.
The lion charged right, Marcus dodged left. Marcus taunted his friend with the wooden plank and popped him on the snout. The lion roared with a thunderous intensity and pounced on a set of bleachers where some spectators tumbled to the ground landing right at the feet of the dangerous beast. Marcus jumped in front of the lion and with a crusader’s cry he shooed the lion away from the men, women and children struggling to escape.
It was bedlam in the Coliseum as the action expanded beyond the arena. Thousands of people created a stampede to find a safe spot away from the danger. The Emperor would not be moved. He stood firmly in place and watched the spectacle with intensity.
After another spurt of even more convincing theatrics between Marcus and the lion, the two were ready to wrap it up.
Ready? Marcus asked the lion.
Ready. Was the simple reply.
The lion overtook Marcus and pinned him to the ground spread eagle. The great jaws opened and with a swipe of the tongue Marcus was half in the mouth of the lion. The crowd moaned.
Just as Marcus had only his head, shoulders, forearms exposed, he could be seen prying open the lion’s jaws by gripping onto the incisors. With an emphatic thrust, Marcus escaped, unscathed. Once he had his two feet on the ground he faced his worthy opponent. The lion whimpered and lowered its body, laying flat to the ground. Marcus took the lion’s right forepaw in his own hands and shook it in a friendly gesture. The crowd was stunned. No one moved. No one spoke.
Marcus mounted the lion’s back and the lion rose. He rode the lion to where the Emperor stood.
“With honor to my Emperor and glory to God, I give thanks.”
The Emperor responded by presenting Marcus with a gift.
“You are surely under the protection of the Divine. Take this sack of gold, and be forever free.”
The lion trotted off with Marcus on his back. They returned to their home, the cave of happier times. They were never separated again. In fact, when the good Lord called them home, it was on the same day at the same hour, within minutes of each other’s death. Marcus and the lion spent eternity together, eternally free.
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