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It Could Probably Get Worse · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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Atop the Hill at Midnight
The palisade was high, and the only entrance was heavily guarded. But that was no deterrent to him. As a master of burglary, he had already defeated much more complex defences. Aided by the deep darkness that no moonlight dispelled, he easily dislodged one of pales of the fence, sneaked through the chink, and moved uphill as silently as a cat on the prowl.

At the hill’s top several figures, shadows under the shadow, stood silently, their limbs nailed to the perpendicular beams of the crosses. Some were already dead, some about to give out their last breath. But the one figure he has been willing to visit was still very much alive. He had to be.

He stopped at the foot of that one cross, and bowed. “Rabbi?” he whispered. “Jesus?”

The figured stirred, as if snatched out of a reverie. “What? Who? Barabbas?” Jesus replied.

“Shush,” Barabbas replied. “Not so loud, Rabbi. Yes, it’s me. I have come to free you.” He put his bag on the ground and fished a pair of pliers from it.

“It’s too late,” Jesus said. “Too weak.”

“I have bread, I have water for you! I can help you out of here. Just lean on me. I know a way—”

“Not worth it,” Jesus breathed out.


“They don’t want me. They never did, and they never will. They hate me.”

Barabbas swallowed. “You’re wrong. They just…” he paused, looking for words. “It just takes time for your words to sink in, that’s all.”

“Thirteen,” Jesus said.

“Thirteen what?”

“Thirteen disciples. That’s all I could muster in ten years. Such a puny number. And out of the thirteen, two betrayed me, as I foretold they would. And I’m sure the others would have also, had they been tried.”

Barabbas sighed. “They’re men, Rabbi. They’re weak, and easily frightened. They do their best to follow in your steps, but they’ll stumble. They’ll fail. But they still need a candle to guide them out of the darkness.”

“I gave them all I could. They lacked fish, I gave them fish. They beseeched me for bread, I gave them bread. I even raised Lazarus from the dead. To no avail. No matter what I did, they rejected me. They’d shut their eyes at noon rather than bask in the light of the sun.”

A hush fell.

“You can’t give up, Rabbi,” Barabbas said. “I know a sailor. He will take you away to any place you want in the empire. You can start anew. You’ll find other, stronger disciples. You will—“

“It’s too late,” Jesus cut in. “That ship has sailed.”

Barabbas felt, rather than saw, a smile play on Jesus’s lips. “Go now, Barabbas,” Jesus added in a weary tone. “Don’t risk your life for me. One’s better than two. And may my blessings go with you.”

“Is there really nothing I can do for you, Rabbi?” Barabbas asked.

“I’m tired,” Jesus replied. “So tired. They simply aren’t ready. Maybe I will return, later. When they have grown up. It was too soon. And it’s not their fault. They didn’t fail me, Barabbas. No. I failed them.”

“I can’t let you die here, Rabbi,” Barabbas protested. “You need help. You need rest. Come with me, and I shall save you.”

Jesus giggled, then coughed heavily. “I wouldn’t have expected you to say that to me, Barabbas,” he said.

Barabbas didn’t respond. He didn’t move either. Silence wrapped them both in secrecy.

And when, at dawn, the first legionary climbed the hill to check on the sentenced criminals, he froze in amazement when he saw, under Jesus of Nazareth’s dead body, the hunching shape of a sobbing man.
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#1 · 6
· · >>Monokeras
Angsty Jesus is my favorite Jesus.

Something I liked:

Very simple, but also very effective. Knowing who Barabbas is going in helps, but I think even without the context of his relationship with JC (Denton), you get the strong impression that he's a man suffering from survivor's guilt. The people chose (or rather were encouraged) to save him instead of Jesus, despite Barabbas certainly not being a saint, and I can imagine that weighing on any man's conscience. There's also the fact that Jesus is portrayed as very self-doubting in the final hours of life, which I always found more interesting than a Jesus who wholeheartedly believes in himself.

Something I didn't like:

There are a few things that threw me off, though. Being caught up on the Jesus Christ extended universe is generally a good idea when reading this sort of entry, but some details here ring as questionable to me. I'm pretty sure Jesus did the savior business for way less than ten years, for one. And when referring to being betrayed by two of his disciples, I'm assuming he's referring to Judas and Peter, but "betrayal" might be the wrong word to use in Peter's case. As much as I like the stripped-back prose, there's also the occasional odd turn of phrase that pulled me out of it.

Verdict: You'll notice a pattern where I like an entry because it's right up my alley, and this is the first of those.
#2 · 3
· · >>Monokeras
I really like the concept here! It's definitely an inspired idea to have Barabbas feel guilty over Jesus' crucifixion, and likewise, inverting Jesus' traditional depiction during the crucifixion is also interesting to see. Overall, you manage to put in a lot of emotionality into a retelling of what could be western society's most well-known story, so kudos for that!

Now, in terms of criticism, I will have to mention that like No Raisin, I was also distracted by the changes you make to the canon of the crucifixion that don't seem to be related to any other story elements. Giving Jesus thirteen disciples instead of twelve (which could be a call to Matthias?) and having two betrayers instead of one (a reference to Peter's denials?) both seem to be odd changes to make without any apparent reason. I understand the possibility that they may be there just to signal to the reader that this is an alternate universe, but this fact is kind of already made apparent by the premise itself, so I'm really not sure if it's necessary.

On a smaller nitpicking note, I'll just quickly mention that according to the four canonical gospel texts, Jesus had many more believers and followers than just his twelve closest disciples, and his rapidly growing disruptive influence is said to have been the cause of the Jewish leaders asking the Roman government to execute him. So I'm assuming that in this alternate universe, there's a different reason behind his crucifixion, but I don't think that's immediately apparent here.

So overall, I think my suggestion would be to give us the juicy explanation behind these deviations from canon. When you're dealing with alterations to a work that many people have a lot of familiarity in, it becomes really important to justify or to satisfyingly explain the changes you decide to introduce. Similarly to how I'd like an MLP AU fic to be handled, I guess I wish the general set-up of this story and its links back to canon were a little clearer.

Thank you for submitting!
#3 ·
Well, I will be less nit-picky that my two illustrious predecessors. The idea of having the Scriptures somehow reversed, i.e. Jesus being offered to be saved by a thud, is rather appealing to me. Now, of course, I'm no Christian, so I'm not really involved religiously with this piece, which maybe affords me more freedom in the reading than a believer. To be honest, I have little else to say. Maybe the end would've been stronger if instead of using the word 'man' you would've chosen 'thud' or 'brigand' or 'thief' or whatever, which would've put a further stress on the absurdity of the situation. But, except from that, I agree with Raisin that this is both simple and effective.
#4 · 2
· · >>Monokeras
It's a shame one of the stories with the fewest comments is one that I'm least dispensed to review. I'm a godless man, you understand, so I'm not sure who Barrabas is or what their relationship with Jesus was. Or I didn't until I asked someone about it. But after-the-fact doesn't have the same effect, of course.

Still, I can say this is pretty swish, I liked the progression of it, and the ending hits home nicely. I was less taken by the inversion of Jesus's character (I at least know this guy!) then others were, however, because the impression I've always got from J-man is someone who knows way, way more than everyone else around him. The crucifixion, at least how I was taught it in school, wasn't something he was necessarily worried about. His response seemed to be "Hey chill guys I'll get over this in, like, 3 days, so don't worry, all part of the plan. And make sure Simon doesn't throw away my baloney sammich cuz I'ma be be hungry when I resurrect."

My point is he always seemed aware of his resurrection, so the lament at what's happened doesn't mesh with me. Again, though. Godless wretch.

That's all I got. Well done! It's very *well written*.
#5 ·
· · >>Monokeras
I don't have much of an understanding of the biblical background to get more from this than what's presented. That said, what is presented is very good. Crisp, quick, great dialogue and a good ending.
#6 ·
>>Miller Minus

Darn I had begun to write a short retro, then I hit the wrong shortcut, closed the window and lost everything. You'll have to wait tomorrow. Take care, guys