Among the tombs

Matthew 8:28-34

Storm on the lake today. Bad one. Beautiful. Wind whipping the lake, screaming through the rocks up here as loud as the voices in my head. The waves out there are as tall as me. Lightning rips the sky open. Thunder like boulders smashing on each other. Today I can't hear them. The voices in my head.
I hear the pigs. When the thunder dies down I hear the pigs up on the hill grunting and screaming like demons, and it makes me laugh. Bad day for the pig-herders, bad day for the fishermen, beautiful, beautiful day for me. Today I can't hear them.

Anyone out there on that lake is a goner. I should know. That's why they made the graveyard here, among these rocks—this is where the lake brings the bodies, here to the tombs. Handy. They come white and shriveled, or green and bloated, with fish-bites out of the legs. I don't touch 'em. Let them bob up and down bumping the rocks.

Anyone out on that lake is a goner. But I stand here between two rocks with the rain soaking through me and let the thunder crash over me and I can't hear the voices. I can't hear them. It's almost like I'm alone.

I love storms.

The rain's falling so hard it stings my eyes and mouth but I don't move. I stand here with my arms stretched out looking up into the raging sky and the water running down me in sheets. Any sane man would be crouching under a rock ledge, or huddled in one of the caves where they bury the rich dead, to be out of this.

I am not a sane man.

I am Legion.

My demons are a legion, an army in my head, marching in step one-two one-two. Too many of them to count. One-two one-two one two and then suddenly they scream, they shriek their battle-cry and charge, and I am trampled under their feet and I know nothing; those times are my rages, the times I've torn chunks out of any man that dared set foot among my tombs. But I don't remember them.

I wish I did.

It doesn't matter. I am Legion. They scream until I can't hear myself, can't feel myself, until I'm not myself, I'm lost under their trampling feet; but I am Legion. I am them.

It's more than I've ever been.

Try to understand. I was nothing. Nothing. My father was the town drunk of Gadara, lurching and drooling and falling down in the streets, a laughing matter. It was very funny. The things he screamed at my mother were funny too, especially when they were true. Hilarious, until the neighbors got tired of the noise. That was my world—listening to him scream, watching his hands, nowhere to hide. He beat me. My back was a mess of scars. And to them it was funny.

I walked through town with my head down, lugging my mother's water jar because my father wouldn't let her out of the house—and the other kids would trail after me, chanting, laughing, reminding me my mother was a whore. Having contests to see who could hit me square in the back of the head with an apricot pit; that bastard Lucas leading them. Loving it. I was the best joke in town.

I kept going, with my head down.

Fight? Yeah. I was big for my age. You think it mattered? Listen: a joke doesn't fight. Boys fight, they fight fair, one on one; but who'd fight fair with me? No. If a joke dares to turn around and face the laughter—ten, twenty of them to one of me—he ends up with his face in the dust. No matter how big he is. And that is funnier than anything.

I stand up to my full height and the wind whips the rain against my body, it runs down in rivers through the long scars on my chest and arms.

I am not funny now.

They are afraid of me. Afraid? They're terrified. I don't know anymore what a face looks like that is not filled with fear. And they should be afraid.

I am Legion. No one can take me. They know now; they know what it costs to take me on. They know I am afraid of nothing. Pain? I feel no pain. I take the rocks that lie on this hillside and run their sharp edges down my chest and bleed, and I feel no pain. Nothing at all. Just the trickling on my skin as warm as tears.

They thought at first they could bind me, they thought I was still a joke, a raving screaming lunatic joke—and they found out how wrong they were. They tried to tame me, tie me like a goat to a post—I tore their ropes to shreds. They tried to chain me up and I pulled their chains in two, I chased them through the tombs whipping the broken chain around my head, strong men screamed and ran from me.

No one can look me in the face and not be afraid.

No one can bind me.

I stand and shout it to the storm as the thunder booms around me: I am Legion! No one can bind me! And the rain runs down my scarred body and the wind whips my tangled hair around my face and the lightning rips the sky and the thunder cracks again—and—

And within the space of a breath the storm is gone.

I saw it happen, saw the clouds pull back, draw themselves in and up into blue sky. Sunlight shooting down as sudden as lightning. The waves on the lake flattening out into calm, like the fur on a dog's back sticking up, and then lying down again at the sound of his master's voice—

And I am afraid.

There's something out there. Something that's bigger than the storm, that can drown out the thunder as easy as the thunder drowned the legion of voices in my head. I can feel it out there—getting closer; so can they.

The legion stands up and screams.

And I am on my knees with my arms wrapped around my head, rocking, screaming, glass shattering in my head. All my thoughts were glass and now they're broken, all my thoughts in the safety of the storm were lies. As if I was happy. A naked, bleeding, screaming man that no one loves; alone among the graves of the dead. A dead man still walking. As if I was master of my life because I can break iron, and cut myself with rocks.

As if I was not afraid.

I am afraid. All the time. I am not Legion, I am Legion's food. They laugh. I am theirs and they possess me. One day, when they feel like it, they will drive me up onto the cliff and throw me off.

As if I was lord over those people whose eyes fill with fear when they see me. I know the truth and Legion knows the truth. You see those pigs up there, up where the bank rises steep—a thousand, two thousand, a legion of them? I serve the people of Gadara still, the people who laughed. They want me here, out in the tombs, out with the pigs, here day and night, my eerie screams echoing from the rocks; nobody comes here. They know what kind of place this is. Any man who wants to steal a pig would have to creep up this hillside of tombs—it's the only way up there—looking over his shoulder for me every second. No, the rich men, the pig owners of Gadara love me. I'm their little guard dog, mighty Legion.

I look up. There's the horizon, the strange clear horizon and the sunlight coming down, and on it there's a sail. Riding the wind. Coming this way. I stand up and stare.

Someone's made it through the storm.

Boats don't come here. No one's that stupid. There's big rocks out there under the water, and then there's the tombs, unclean and dangerous, and you can see 'em from a mile away even if you don't see the screaming raving maniac—they're coming this way. They can't be. They're coming this way.

I'm afraid.

Who are these men? Through the worst storm of the year they come—they sail right through—and the sun comes with them, and the calm—a storm just doesn't stop that fast. It doesn't. Something's not right.
They're pulling into the shore. Right through the rocks as if they weren't even there. They're reefing the sail, it's still dripping, their boat gleams soaking wet in the sun, they're still bailing the water out of it, they were right in the middle of that thing. And now they're here.

And one of them turns, and looks straight at me.

I stand tall. I am Legion. They will remember this day.

Someone points, someone shouts, jumps back in the boat, but the first man does not listen. He is walking toward me. As he comes he is looking at me, straight at me, he sees nothing but me.

Legion rises screaming, shrieking, thousands of voices strong; they see him. He sees them. Who is this man? A wild fear and a wild hope rise up in me like the wind. And over the screams of Legion a voice cracks like a whip in my mind: Come OUT of him!

Legion yelps like a dog its master has kicked. Legion screams. Legion charges—furious—scared—I'll lose myself in a moment, I'm already charging him, my tangled hair whipping my back, a rock clenched in my hand—but I look up because I have to see him. And before I am lost to myself I see his face, his eyes, and I see the one thing I will never forget.

He is not afraid.