The true believer grew so impatient at last that he bent down and picked up a large sharp stone, which he hurled with all his senile might at the hare-lipped girl. It did in fact hit her, and she staggered and raised her spindly arms in a rather helpless way. The mob gave a wild shriek of approval and the true believer stood looking down at his work, clearly well pleased with it. Barabbas, stepping right up to him, lifted his mantle slightly and stuck a knife into him with a deft movement that bespoke long practice. It happened so quickly that no one noticed anything. And, besides, they were all so busy casting their stones down on to the victim.
Barabbas pushed his way through to the edge, and there, down in the pit, he saw the girl with the hare-lip stagger forward a step or two with outstretched hands, crying out:
—He has come! He has come! I see him! I see him!…
Then she fell to her knees, and it was as though she seized hold of the hem of someone’s garment as she snuffled:
—Lord, how can I witness for thee? Forgive me, forgive …
Then sinking down on the blood-stained stones she gave up the ghost.
When it was all over, those immediately around discovered that a man lay dead amongst them, while another man was seen to run off between the vineyards and disappear into the olive-groves over towards the Vale of Kedron. Several of the guard gave chase, but were unable to find him. It was as if the earth had swallowed him up.
Then he went and stood in front of Barabbas, and as he turned over his slave’s disk in the same way he asked:
—And you? Do you also believe in this loving god?
Barabbas made no reply.
—Tell me. Do you?
Barabbas shook his head.
—You don’t? Why do you bear his name on your disk then?
Barabbas was silent as before.
—Is he not your god? Isn’t that what the inscription means?
—I have no god, Barabbas answered at last, so softly that it could hardly be heard. But Sahak and the Roman both heard it. And Sahak gave him a look so full of despair, pain and amazement at his incredible words that Barabbas felt it pass right through him, right into his inmost being, even though he did not meet the other’s eyes.
The Roman too seemed surprised.
—But I don’t understand, he said. Why then do you bear this “Christos Iesus” carved on your disk?
—Because I want to believe, Barabbas said, without looking up at either of them.
The Roman looked at him, at his ravaged face and the gash under the eye; at the hard, coarse mouth, which still retained much of its strength. There was no expression in the face and he was not sure that he would find any there even if he lifted up the head as he had done with the other. Besides, it would never have occurred to him to do so with this man. Why? He didn’t know.
Barabbas was conceived and born in hatred of all things created in heaven and earth and of the Creator of heaven and earth.