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Easter Rising

by c m

OK. I mean, I can hardly complain.

I knew what the penalties were, but I'd had enough.

Someone had to take a stand.

So I did.

And they arrested me.

The beating and being stripping naked and then the hosing with ice-cold water was a little gratuitous, but if it was designed to break my will, to make me beg them to stop, well, that was never going to happen. And the fact that I just took it really pissed them off. Two of them literally threw me into the cell afterwards.

'Don't get too comfortable,' one of them said with a laugh, 'we'll be back to see you later, pretty boy.'


Fat chance of that.

They didn't even give me a blanket or a pillow.

So here I am, curled up in a corner. Awaiting my court appearance in the morning. I suppose you have to admire the efficiency, but then they don't like dissidents hanging about. Arrest them, try them, find them guilty, lock them up and throw away the key.

Or execute them.

But at least the President was forced to see what I'd done before they arrested me. And the others saw too. It may not be enough. But it's another straw. And eventually there'll be the one that breaks the camel's back.

I suppose they'll give me back my clothes before I get to court.

Though they'll probably rape me first.

That's what happens. Especially to young men like me. All designed to humiliate, degrade and demean. And it's particularly ironic given that homosexuality is illegal here.

Well, let them do their worst. I certainly won't give them the satisfaction of crying or screaming. And I'd be surprised if any of them were as big as my friend David anyway.

And it's because of David that I'm here.

I've been happily and quietly bisexual from the age of about fourteen. And I've kept my male experiences very discrete. David's gay – and he hasn't been quite so careful. Which is why they arrested him. He's probably in another cell somewhere down the corridor, starting his sentence. Twenty-five years imprisonment.

And that's what made me speak out.

Twenty-five years for being true to his nature. He wasn't harming anyone. Consensual sex with another boy his age.

Except this other boy happened to be the son of our President's brother. Who promptly said his son had been drugged and assaulted. The judge agreed.

Except David had sent me photos of him and Jonathan together over the previous months. Photos of them happily smiling at each other. Pictures of them kissing. Pictures of them holding hands. And a couple of more…intimate ones.

I like Jonathan, and I thought long and hard about what to do. But he didn't say a word in David's defence. Just nodded when the judge asked him if David had raped him. Despite the fact that he's bigger and stronger and taller than David.

I have some sympathy for him. He probably had no choice.

But I vowed I wouldn't let it lie.

So I had the photos enlarged. And I unveiled them in front of the President when he came to open the Charity event of which I was a part. It was supposed to be a series of paintings celebrating his Presidency and his charitable works. But I'd replaced them with my photos. To say it caused some surprise when the curtains were drawn back is an understatement. They weren't left on display very long – but long enough for people to take pictures. And that's why I was arrested.

I better prepare myself. I can hear voices coming down the corridor.

I can't pretend it was very pleasant. Two big guys, one holding me down while the other one fucked me. Then they swapped roles. I probably shouldn't have told them that their cocks were so tiny I had no idea if they were inside me or not.

Cost me a broken nose, from the feel of it.

But they did at least leave me a blanket.

It's morning and I'm wearing my clothes again.

And a pair of handcuffs.

And a pair of leg shackles.

Two different guards shove me upstairs and through to the courtroom.

The proceedings are swift.

Very swift.

Well, why waste time when the verdict had been reached before I left my cell?

And guess what – I'm guilty.

Guilty of treason, apparently. I have, they decide, faked some pictures to bring the President and the judicial system into disrepute in an attempt to subvert the State. I am to be made an example of.

I've been sentenced to death.

By crucifixion.

Well, it is Easter.

I've been returned to my cell. But only because my sentence is to be carried out in public and it's going to take a couple of days to sort out building the scaffold in the main square. And to make a cross.

My gaoler enjoys telling me all the details.

Apparently, it will be built in the shape of an X rather than a T as in biblical times. And they'll use a nail gun when they fix my wrists and feet to its arms. He takes particular delight in telling me that the gun is modified so that the seven-inch nails it uses are only driven firmly into the wood and not clean through my flesh.

He also explains – slowly and in detail – that my shoulders will eventually be pulled from their sockets, and that if I try to take the weight on my feet, I won't be able to because my legs will be bent at the knee.

And I will slowly suffocate.

Oh, yes…and I'll be naked too.

Hey ho. At least as far as the crowd is concerned, I suppose it will beat watching yet another repeat of 'The Sound of Music' on TV.

And David's going to be made to stand in the front row to watch.

Beside the President and his brother.

Public executions are rare, but are one of the few outdoor events that the President makes an absolute point of attending.

I feel strangely at peace. I don't particularly want to die, but the thought of it doesn't scare me. I am more afraid of the pain. Not because it will hurt - though I'm sure it will, a lot - but because I want to die well if I have to. I don't want to give THEM the satisfaction of seeing me show my suffering. But if I can't control it, then so be it. I focus instead on what I hope I'll have the strength to say.

The morning of my execution arrives.

It is to take place at midday.

I am dressed in a white, knee-length shift. This will – literally - be ripped from me before I am crucified.

I refuse food and drink. I don't want my death to be messier than it has to be.

I am grateful, for the first time, that my parents are already both dead and won't have to watch.

The square is half-full of what are, I am sure, carefully chosen supporters of the Government. No dissenting voices will be permitted.

The cross, made of ash, is lying pale and smooth on the scaffold. I will be nailed to it before it's raised and locked upright into place.

I am held by members of the Presidential Bodyguard, one on each side, as a third one steps behind me.

He rips the material of my shift from top to bottom.

The guards on either side take an arm each and pull the shift clear of my body.

There is an audible gasp from the crowd.

And a smattering of boos.

As they lay me down, arms and legs outstretched, all I have going through my head are the words I want to say.

Bang. Bang.

The pain as the first two nails are driven through my wrists almost takes my breath away.

I cry out. I can't help myself.

Bang. Bang.

My knees are bent slightly forwards as the nails are driven through each of my feet.

The cross is slowly lifted upright.

The pain is indescribable, and it is only by biting my lip that I can prevent myself from screaming.

And then I'm hanging there.

It is already an effort to breathe. Being crucified with my arms above me at least has the benefit that I should die quickly. Maybe twenty to thirty minutes rather than the hours it can take if they are outstretched level with your chest.

I can feel the blood trickling down my arms.

And the words won't come. I don't have the breath. My gaoler's description was all too accurate.

I weep. Not with pain but with frustration.

I am vaguely aware of light winking off the glass of windows in buildings around the square.

The pain in my shoulders is intense.

I look down and see David. He's crying.

I look across at the President. He's smiling.

And then his head seems to explode.

The guards are next – cut down by a ripple of gunfire from those winking windows around the square. And then there's panic as everyone tries to flee from the enclosed space.

I feel the cross being lowered. Masked men cut through the heads of the nails and pull my hands and feet free. I'm carried to a van and then we're racing through the streets.

A needle is plunged into my arm. And everything goes black.

When I come to, my hands, wrists and feet are bandaged. My body's covered by a blanket and I seem to be in some kind of military hospital. I ache all over and my left hand feels very tingly. I turn my head and see David's face. Then Jonathan's. A look of utter relief passes between them.

'From the looks of you, anyone would think I'd just come back from the dead,' I say.

'Not quite, but you had us worried for a while. The nail in your right wrist had pierced a major blood vessel. You lost a lot of blood. But on the upside, the nail missed your median nerve. Almost the opposite of your left hand where it missed the blood vessel but partially severed the nerve. You may have lost some sensation in your left hand.'

'It just feels tingly…you know…like pins and needles'

'That's a good sign. It will probably recover – although it will take time. Maybe quite a lot of time.'

'And my feet?'

'No major damage. Bit of a mess, but nothing permanent according to the docs. Going to be uncomfortable to walk for a bit, though. And the muscles and tendons in your shoulders are going to take a while to recover as well.'

'At least I'm in one piece.'

'It must have hurt terribly.'

'I'm certainly in no hurry to do it again,' I say with a smile.

They laugh. Out of relief mostly, I think.

'So, we did it, then,' I say.

'Yes, we did it, 'says David.

'And the coup?'

'Successful. The Presidential bodyguards are all either dead or disarmed.'

'And the new President?'

'In place. My father sends his thanks for the risk you took,' says Jonathan. Then, 'Are you in a lot of pain?'

'Uncomfortable. But nothing that won't heal. Come here both of you.'

They move closer and I put an arm - carefully – around each of them. They kiss me lightly on the lips. One after the other.

'We're looking forward to looking after you,' says David. 'Until those wounds are healed, we're going to have to do pretty much everything for you.'

'Everything?' I say.

'Oh yes…everything,' repeats Jonathan with a smile.

Which is just fine by me.

And that night as the three of us are lying in bed together, I think back to when we first planned it all.

The challenge was to get the President out in the open.

The rest was relatively easy. Jonathan and his father have always been close, and his father has known about Jonathan being gay since he was maybe thirteen. And he approves - whatever the law and his appalling older brother might say or think. And Jonathan's father has never been close to his brother. Repression is not his thing, and as his brother became more and more autocratic, so his own belief that the brother he had increasingly grown to hate needed to be replaced has grown. From his time in the army, he has friends who think that way too, but the Presidential Bodyguard has always remained fiercely loyal to the President.

And so we hatched a plot in league with Jonathan's father and his army friends. And his long-term University friend - who just happens to be the country's senior judge.

It was the fact that the President always attended public executions that led us to do what we did.

David's 'carelessness'; his sentence; the photos displayed as protest; my conviction for treason; the death sentence; the choice of crucifixion to give the plotters time to rescue me, and the certain knowledge that the President would be there, out in the open, were all careful parts of the plan we assembled.

It was not without risk, but it worked.

As for David, Jonathan and me, when I said that I've been happily bisexual since I was fourteen, I meant it – until I met the two of them a year or so ago. And we became a three within a matter of weeks. There was just…something between us. A spark. That became a flame. The simple truth is that the three of us are soulmates. It is as if none of us is totally spiritually complete without the other two. Yes, we are all individuals, but together we are more. We are different. A sort of 'three-in-one', I suppose. Or should that be one-in-three? All I know is that we're perfectly suited in all sorts of ways – and not least sexually. David is pretty much a top and Jonathan pretty much a bottom, while I'm very happy to be either. Or both. I still find girls attractive, but I no longer desire them. David and Jonathan are all that I want and all that I need. And we are now free to live the lives we choose. As the thousands of others like us will be too.

And here, with David lying on one side of me and Jonathan on the other, and despite the pain in my hands and feet, I couldn't be happier. Or more satisfied. Our – necessarily very gentle - lovemaking earlier was all the more intense for the danger that we've survived.

And as for our future, it is as if a stone has truly been rolled away, allowing light and happiness to flood into what was formerly the dark cave of our existence.

Hope has been resurrected.

A true Easter miracle.

My thanks to Ben for reading an early draft and for making his usual helpful suggestions - and for his perennial support and encouragement.

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