The Penitent Thief

“The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left.”

This was a project that I was given on a writer’s page that I frequented back in 2014 — to take the above line and turn it into a piece of flash fiction. I wasn’t “feeling” anything from the line at first, but I stewed on it a bit while I listened to a podcast. I can’t remember who was preaching on the podcast, but it had to do with the Crucifixion.

And then it hit me who “Tag” might be!

I beg your pardon if the story feels “rushed” — there’s only so much you can do with flash fiction to make it flow right. 😉


The way Tag judged his circumstances, he could die if he stayed or die if he left. The unconscious body on the floor behind him all but sealed that fate.

“Thagellus, don’t,” the teacher insisted. He raised a bloodied hand through the bars, stopping Tag’s own hand halfway to the door lock.

“But you’ll die,” Tag argued, though not moving toward the lock again.

The prisoner, broken and bruised, yet mustered a smile and a quirked eyebrow. “Would you let the world die so that I might avoid a death that has always been reserved for me?”

“You… you don’t deserve this. Not this,” Tag argued weakly.

“No, I don’t,” the other admitted. “But my family does. My friends do. You do. Those guards that will soon be upon us — they do. I do this for them, not because they deserve it, but because I would see them escape what they deserve, to know the Father as I do.”

Tag nodded his head, defeated. As if the argument could’ve ended any other way. The keyring fell from his hand nervelessly, and he followed shortly thereafter, collapsing against the bars in bitter tears. Behind him, he heard a groan. Gaius, the jailer, was waking up. He was out of time.

“You could still leave,” the rabbi said with a sad smile. A knowing smile. Tag wasn’t going anywhere. After all, where could he go that he wouldn’t see his master’s face everywhere?

No, he’d stay right here. He looked up into the prisoner’s face, broken and beautiful, and felt a resounding peace. Sure, he’d be arrested — for the theft of Gaius’s keys, if nothing else. And he’d own that theft, without hesitation, and likely die right along side his master. But in that moment, even as he heard Gaius the jailer gaining his feet and declaring his arrest, there’s no place Thagellis Dysmas would’ve rather been.

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