Greetings, my name is Aristarchus Romos. You probably don't know me, and few remember me, but history faintly records my existence. I have somehow faded into obscurity, yet I was present at one of the most pivotal times in the growth of the early Christian church.
I had recently been promoted from the 25th Regiment in the Rome's infantry to the court of the Great Herod. It is a position sought by many to move from the front lines into the prison. Many wonder why, but when you consider the fact that your next meal was never a guarantee out in the field, you'll quickly understand why prison is highly desired. The field is always on the move, but the jail remains steady. And if I'm cold or hungry, I just take what belongs to the prisoner and consume or keep it for myself.
Before I tell you about why I'm here in these chains now, I think you should know what got me here. I was orphaned when I was just 11 years old. My father, Apollos Vanitus, was a valiant warrior, and I longed to follow in his footsteps. He was a captain in the Royal Guard. And he was beheaded by Herod, king of Judea, because the two disagreed on a rather trivial political matter. Herod, in his rage, then had my mother bound to a stake so he could easily drive a spear through her heart before my very eyes. It was both a personal vendetta as well as a warning: never question Herod.
I spent the next four years in an orphanage -- afraid, lonely, and hungry. When my year had passed to become a man, I entered the Roman army as all young men my age were required to do. I was a mere 15 years old. I hated it. Common foot soldiers were considered expendable resources, so we were treated horribly. If we were fed, food came in the form of scraps from high ranking commanders. I was taught to fear -- because I had no respect for them -- my commanders. As you could imagine, I had no viable role models in my young, formative years. I was still very afraid, lonely, and hungry. I wished for death, but it would not take me. Roman soldiers were the best of the best, warriors to the core -- because we wanted out of our prisons.
I kept my mouth shut, fought valiantly, and did as I was told. I did many things I'd rather not admit -- all because sick men told me to do them. But when the time came that I was selected to promote, I was ecstatic. I sequestered my elation out of fear of retaliation from the other troops who were not selected for promotion. I was only a soldier for 3 years when I was selected to guard the king's palace.
I had been only post only 3 weeks when I began guarding a rather good man named Petros. I was told that he was to be beheaded 10 days hence, and that I was to guard him with my life. In fact, I was scolded that if anything happened to Petros while under my watch that Herod would see to it personally that I face a gruesome demise.
I'm no fool, so I asked for the help of another young soldier to stand guard with me. We placed Petros in leg irons and shackled his wrists to chains suspended from the ceiling. He was most uncomfortable, since he was not able to sit or lie down. To show you how sick I became, I enjoyed serving him meals because he was physically unable to feed himself. I placed the tray of food on the floor before him, but he could never reach it. He asked for help, but I never would. I, too, was hungry and wanted to eat. When he wouldn't eat the food -- obviously -- I would take it and eat it right in front of him. Smiling and chucking as juice flowed down my chin. Inside, I was disgusted with myself. I had became as vile as the men who mentored me.
Interestingly enough, Petros never cursed me. He never slandered me. I was so ashamed, I didn't even tell him my name. He simply sang songs and told me, "May Christus bless you, soldier." I didn't understand it, because I would have spat at me if I were him. After all, what worse could we do to him if he did spit on me, anyway? We were already starving him and were about to kill him.
By the way, some executioners treated the condemned pretty well, I discovered -- feeding them and allowing them to bathe so they would be strong and lively when the time came for execution. But not Herod; He was evil. He always wanted to prolong the prisoner's torment. It was true that he would order his soldiers to dull their blades on grinding rocks prior to cutting into the condemned man's neck. That way, the cutting was more violent and laborious, causing the most severe pain.
On the night before he was to be beheaded, I remained steadfast in my guardianship over Petros. It was a steamy-hot night in Judea and the world around was still and silent. Only the flies could be heard feasting on decaying flesh in the jail cells. Around 2 o'clock in the morning, I thought I had fallen asleep because I was looking at ghost. A large, man-like creature -- I can't even begin to describe him -- appeared out of nowhere and stood at the end of the hall, staring at me with piercing eyes. I tried to stand stoic and hide my shaking knees. I thought he would kill me.
The large man slowly walked toward me -- I don't even know what happened to my partner, I was too afraid to turn my head -- and finally stopped about an arm's length from me. I dropped my sword and urinated on myself. The creature continued to stare, not saying a word. He reached out as if to touch my shoulder.
And everything went white.
Now, I stand chained with these same shackles that once chained Petros. Yet, ironically, with all the chains around Petros's hands and feet, he was more free than I ever was. I was standing guard, but I was the one in bondage. I hated him for it! It angered me, yet I was envious of his countenance. So, here I stand in complete bondage -- mentally, physically, and spiritually. I cry out to the gods to rescue me, but all I hear are the moans from neighboring prisoners.
Is it too late for me? Was Petros's God -- Christus -- to credit for rescuing him from his chains? Could he rescue me from my chains? After all I've done, both as a soldier and a cowardly guard, could he ever forgive me? Could he give me the hope he gave Petros?
Christus, if you can hear me...
The guards are coming.
My time has arrived.
This is my fictitious rendering in short story form of the life of one guard put to death by Herod, as mentioned in Acts 12:19, after Peter's escape from prison.