Visions taunted me as I navigated the predetermined path. I do not know if God or Satan sent them. I am inclined to think Satan, but God is just as likely. This task I undertook was an honor, or so I was told. I am a priest dedicated to the Temple in Jerusalem, a sacred office I revere, even revel in. I have vowed to live as God requires, a representative of his holiness and perfection to the weak. The visions taunt, Then why did you sin?
I have always been ever careful and watchful. I don't work on the Sabbath. I tithe a tenth of every seed and herb. I sacrifice. The sacrifices, perhaps repulsive to some, had never bothered me. They were for God and so I did what I did, slaughtering the birds and lambs for Him and the people. The free people. I watched them very closely. They labored. Maybe as a carpenter, a farmer or even a moneylender. They played. Nights in the taverns were always loud and the sleepy on Sabbath obvious. Never had I gone to those places. I knew I was above them. I was a holy priest of the Most High God. I prayed on the streets. I fasted in ashes. I tore my clothes in grief on behalf of my adulterous generation. I knew I was a holy one. And so are my brethren. Oh, they are most holy, like me...or like I was.
I had never committed any sin. A priest could never do that. I had learned the law, and it was written on my heart, etched in my soul. I made sure to follow every single letter of it. So I did not commit sin. I was pure.
But then, I beheld my Bathsheba. She appeared on a Sabbath day, a tall, slim siren with long, shockingly dark hair flowing freely down her back, save two side braids intertwined with gold. Actually, there was gold all over her. Bracelets on her arms, a necklace around her throat and anklets that clinked whenever she moved. Her eyes were so very brown, a veiled darkness beckoning of mysteries yet to be uncovered. She was a city prostitute.
I should have walked past her, but I didn't. I wanted to look at her. So I did. I think I pretended I was praying, but I was looking. Suddenly her eyes locked on mine. She smiled. It was an invitation. I should have thought, "How dare she look at a priest this way!", but I didn't. I kept staring, captivated by a desire in her gaze that reflected my own. I thought farther, imaging my lingering touch on soft curves. I needed to be with her!
A stray foot moved her direction, but the impossible happened. She turned from me to a man on the street, and they ambled into a small, darkened doorway. How could she? She was supposed to be mine! How could she turn to a common man?
I walked on, but I saw her everywhere, in every woman I met. She filled my mind and flesh. She tainted my every hour. Nothing satisfied me anymore. I hated prayer. I hated fasting. I hated the blood of the sacrifices and the pungent incense. And I envied the common people. They were free. They could work on the Sabbath if they so chose. They could thresh and carve and knead. It didn't matter, because I would go to God and atone for their sins with a sheep or a bird. And if they wanted, they could walk with the prostitute and enjoy her for an evening. But I, I could not.
I hated it from then on when I walked the streets and people parted for me or bowed. How I wanted to part for them! I wanted to bow to them! They had the greatest gift! Freedom to do what they wanted! I wanted to stop the man who pardoned himself profusely for bumping me in the street. I should have pardoned myself for being in the way. Yes, I was in all their ways! Day after day they repented to me. They repented! Why? They knew they would go and commit their sins again. They should have stopped coming...and I should have stopped giving.
All this came back to me on the path. It had been cleared just that morning. I had been picked to lead the scapegoat out to the wilderness, an honor on the Day of Atonement. The little goat trotted beside me. He was dirty white. He stopped and sniffed the brush once in a while, but mostly he obediently followed. The crimson cord was tied around his head. He looked so small and helpless, oblivious to his fate. And they put the sins of all the people on him. It seemed so absurd to me now. This goat would be killed for the sins of a people who would commit them again. And he was supposed to carry mine away. But he couldn't, for I never confessed. How could I? I did not want to forget the prostitute. I longed for her arms and her love. And I hated my work and envied the people. This goat could not bear what I could not give up.
We reached the deep ravine and I looked down. Jagged rocks covered the bottom. The goat peeked over the edge, then backed against my leg. He was afraid. So was I.
And then the vision came. I saw half the crimson cord tied to a rock, and half bound to the goat. I saw myself push the goat from behind, and it tumbled down, crushed to pieces. I saw his blood splattering the rocks. And I cried.
I escaped the vision and I cried for that poor, innocent goat. He should not die for nothing, for a people doomed to repeat sin, for me, unwilling to stop what I knew I should not do. He looked at me with his peculiar little yellow eyes, and I did the unthinkable. I reached down and pulled the crimson cord off his head.
"You're free," I said, "Go and live!"
As if he understood he bolted into the wilderness. I watched him until he was just a gray dot on the horizon.
I walked back towards the city. I could not go back until night, as tradition went. As the author of the goat's demise, I was impure. I reached my booth and I picked up the white cloth inside that would signal the goat's death. I waved it at the watchtower. The deed had been done.