A hand pushes up through the earth, the flesh rotten, the nails broken and black. For a moment the dead thing stays there, sticking up, like a discarded piece of bony litter. Then the fingers flick and twitch as the first shocks of life spasm through. And a second hand emerges. Half the thumb is missing, and a gorged worm spirals around the index finger. Overhead the sky blackens, as dark shapes of gloom blot out the light. The earth trembles and nearby rocks splinter and crack. Then another mouldering hand punches through soil and protrudes as one by one more corpses escape the world of the dead. Several heads appear now, coated in mud and grit and mire, the flesh grey and hanging in strips. There’s a groan as another body emerges. Little by little, one by one, the army of the dead rally to a silent call. And as the earth trembles again the unthinkable happens. Flesh reshapes, wasted tissue regenerates, sinews and muscles reform. There is a sudden cacophony of spluttering as the corpses stagger to their feet. Dust flies from grey lips in clouds as the lungs begin their work again. Moment by moment the dead flesh turns pink, and unseeing eyes flicker and sparkle once again. The graveyard, only this morning full of broken graves and shadowy death, now teems with strange life. The dead reborn, the lost found. One by one they wipe mud from their smiles, and brush the worms from their burgeoning hair. They breathe, they look, they live again. One raises a single silent finger and points towards the town. The people are in for a shock. The long dead are about to go door knocking. Resurrection is in town. And meanwhile, on a distant hill, a soldier discovers that he need not break the legs of his crucified prisoner. He is already dead.
Matthew 27 vv 50-53
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It was a dark and stormy night, the wind rattled the tiles on the roof of the house and whistled down the chimney. Somewhere in the distance a wolf howled as it called to the murky moon. I had just settled into my bed for the night, alone after my family had left to stay with friends. The night was full of chilling screams and howls, it was not a good evening to be alone. I pulled the covers over my head and hid beneath them. A couple of candles flickered sending ghoulish shadows dancing across the ceiling. The sound of a rat scratching a nest together near the wall outside. I feared I’d get no sleep that night. The wind began to die down a little, the howling wolf quietened too, I began to drift off when suddenly… thump! There was the sound of a fist on the wooden door. Thump! Thump! I tried to pull the covers further over my head but they were too short. I couldn’t hide properly. Thump! Thump! Thump! I lay there, frozen in fear. Silence fell. I waited. Nothing. I breathed out a little. All was well. Thu-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-mp!
A knock at the door louder and longer than ever. The whole house seemed to tremble. My blood ran cold. I wondered if I could make it out of the back window without being seen. There was the sound of rain suddenly lashing the window, thunder cracked. The storm was building again. Thump! And the sound of a cry outside, a strange kind of voice, otherworldly. Not human. Thump!! ‘Open up!’
I climbed out and sat on the edge of the bed. There was a creaking sound and I saw the door handle begin to turn. It was all right, the door was locked. It would hold. The handle turned back and forth. Again and again, increasing in speed. Whatever was out there was desperate to come in. More rain lashed the windows, like a dozen fingers drumming the glass. Lightning flashed. Another thump! More attempts at the handle. I stood up and walked towards the door. I knew what to do. The same kind of thing I always figured when I could sense danger approaching. Don’t open the door. Whatever you do, don’t get involved. Don’t investigate.
I opened the door.
The hunched figure on the doorstep looked up at me with eyes blazing. A jagged fork of lightning split the sky behind his head as he spoke. His face was masked inside a dark, drenched hood. A husky growl of a cry.
‘Let me in!’
And before I could reply a clammy hand grabbed my shoulder and pushed me aside. There was a musty smell about him. A smell of the undead perhaps. I collided with the doorpost as he swaggered in and hurled himself at my bed. He sat there, dripping mud and water onto the sheets, gasping for breath. He shoved back the hood in a spray of grey murk. His face was streaked with grime.
‘Got some folks coming round, I need some food to give them.’
I stared at him, barely believing my eyes. I couldn’t speak. Here he was again. Haunting me. I said nothing, went to the larder and filled a bag. I handed it to him, he took it with a damp dirty hand, grunted and left. I wouldn’t have minded but it was the same thing every week. My next door neighbour coming round, knocking on my door whatever the weather, begging for food to entertain his friends. He never gave up and he never went away until I gave him what he needed. On and on and on. No escape. My persistent neighbour at midnight.
Luke 11 vv 5-9