Once upon a time, during the age of the Roman Empire and the lifetime of a man named Jesus; there lived a shepherd by the name of Hillel.
Hillel did not have very much in the way of property or money, but he was happy anyway and every day he thanked God for blessing him with a beautiful wife named Bluma and a young son named Judah.
He himself had been blessed with fair looks and he often was forced to make some women cry when they asked to be another wife to him. His hair was like the sun, streaked with softer tones of brown throughout. High cheekbones made him look almost exotic and his eyes were the kind of blue only found in the ocean on a clear morning.
Hillel's life was blessed and filled with happiness.
Until the soldiers came.
A few days earlier, a Roman soldier had been ambushed on the road and killed and because it had happened near Hillel's village, the people were forced to live in fear as soldiers chose a random home every night and slaughtered all but one of the people inside.
Hillel's home was spared the first week of slaughter, but one night the soldiers came into his home while he and his wife were putting their son to bed, promising him that God would protect them.
They tore the house apart, taking what they wanted and destroying what they didn't. Hillel's flock was butchered and their entrails were flung around in a macabre kind of decoration.
They then went after Bluma and Hillel was held back and forced to watch as the Roman soldiers raped her without mercy, using their own bodies as well as various foreign objects.
When the Romans were done destroying the house and violating his wife, they forced the family outside to finish their business with them that night.
Bluma held onto Judah tightly, Hillel's arms around her tightly in a vain attempt to shield his wife and son from harm.
"Please…Just kill me if you have to." He pleaded. "Don't hurt my family."
He was grabbed by the hair and yanked away from them, falling onto his knees as he was forced to look up at the leader of this group of soldiers.
"Would you do anything for your family?" he demanded.
"Good. Kill them."
A swift knee in his chest silenced him, and Hillel was bent over in pain, gasping for air as his wife and son were tortured to death in the street like animals before their house was set aflame.
Hillel lost everything that night, but he refused to lose his faith in God.
He had heard that there was a man named Jesus going around healing the sick and raising the dead in the name of God, and this man was coming to his village in a few days.
Hillel was relieved at this news, knowing in his heart that this Jesus would surely raise his wife and son from the dead for him. He had always been a good man, and he doubted that the man would deny his humble request.
When Jesus and his Apostles arrived, they were surrounded by a crowd of people, and Hillel was too nervous and unsure of himself to just walk up to him during this time and make his request.
He waited until the end of the day, when Jesus was being led to a home to stay at for the night, taking a deep breath before walking up to him.
"Are you the one they call Jesus?" he asked softly, looking down at the ground as he wrung his hands nervously.
"I am, but I doubt that the sand is also called Jesus." The man answered with a soft laugh and a small smile came to Hillel's lips.
"Can…Can you help me?" he asked, slowly looking up at him. When he looked into his eyes, everything seemed to come back to him and he started to cry.
Jesus looked at the former shepherd sadly and he placed a hand on his arm.
"Tell me what is wrong."
Closing his eyes, he took in a deep breath to relax his crying before he then began to tell Jesus his story.
Jesus listened in silence, frowning when he heard what had taken place here and had only ended a few days earlier. No one else had told him about what had happened with the Roman soldiers and the people had in fact forced the victims out of their village, believing that they would bring bad luck again to the village.
Hillel had refused to leave however, and was now considered an ugly burden when once he had been considered attractive and a hard worker.
"I…I don't care about the property I had or even my flock…" he finished, his cuticles bleeding from all of his picking and fussing with his fingers. "I just want my Bluma and Judah back with me."
"You want me to raise them for you?"
"Yes!" he said, his eyes growing wide with hope. "Please…I would do anything to have them back in my life!"
Jesus looked away and Hillel's heart started to sink when he saw the look on his face.
Hillel blinked, and he tilted his head slightly, thinking that there was something wrong with his hearing.
"Wh-What?" he asked.
"I cannot raise your family from the dead." Jesus repeated, resting a hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry…"
Hillel pushed away his hand, shaking his head as if in a daze.
"Why do you say that?" he asked. "Why do you say that you can't raise my family?"
Jesus sighed and looked away.
"I can only raise those who were not meant to die yet."
"Judah was only four…"
"But my Father wanted him now." Jesus pointed out. "All of those I raised died before their time."
Hillel shook his head as angry tears started to burn in his eyes.
"You've raised the daughter of a tax collector, but you stand here and refuse to raise my only son!" he snarled.
"I know this is hard for you…" Jesus tried, resting his hands on his shoulders.
"Don't touch me!" Hillel shouted, attracting attention to himself as he shoved Jesus away from him.
"You're nothing but a fraud!" he said as he pointed an accusing finger at him. "If you truly are the Son of God, give me back my family!"
Jesus could only look at him sadly and Hillel left in disgust.
A few weeks later, news spread that Jesus had raised a man named Lazarus from the grave. Not only that, but the man he had raised was the brother of Jesus' woman Mary Magdalene
Hillel was furious when he heard this and his life changed completely. He no longer prayed to God and in his heart, he hated God and the man named Jesus.
He became a wanderer and a beggar, going from place to place as his heart burned with hatred and cried for revenge.
Jesus had lied to him, he was sure of it. Why else would he refuse to bring back Bluma and Judah, but then raise the brother of his woman Mary Magdalene?
The only time he smiled was when he watched children playing in the streets, but his heart would soon start to hurt as his son's screams rang in his ears and he would look away from their games.
He wanted Jesus to suffer for lying to him and so when he heard that he had been arrested and was to be on trial; Hillel went to the city where he was being held with a glad heart beating in his narrow chest.
He met up with a group of people who had come to watch out of curiosity and they welcomed him into their gathering gladly, giving him food and letting him share a room with them.
He had shouted out Jesus' name the loudest when the crowd was asked who they wanted dead and when the scourging was taking place, Hillel had smiled and whispered to the old man beside him that the fraud deserved every blow he got and then some.
As Jesus was forced to carry his cross down the streets of the city and towards the hill where he would be crucified, people spat at him, hurled insults at him, and threw rocks at him.
Hillel waited patiently, looking for a good sized rock to throw. He soon found one the size of his fist with a sharp end and he took it up and aimed before he then hurled it at Jesus' face.
The rock hit its mark and made him fall to the ground, causing the crowd to burst into laughter.
"Why did you do that?"
Looking over his shoulder, Hillel found himself looking at a young woman who seemed to be a reluctant member of the gathering.
If he remembered correctly, her name was Cayla.
"Why did you throw that rock at him? Can't you see that he's suffering enough as it is?" Cayla asked sadly.
"Why shouldn't I make him suffer? He refused to help my family while he goes around helping Romans, tax collectors, and members of his whore's family!"
She looked at him sadly, but she said nothing else.
Shaking his head, Hillel looked back and watched as a man was forced to help Jesus carry his cross.
The rest of the process seemed to speed up and Hillel stared with wide eyes as water flowed from the wound in Jesus' side when one of the soldiers pierced him with a spear.
"But…how is that possible?" he whispered.
When it was all said and done, Hillel's anger had burned away as everyone but him and the gathering of curious onlookers left the sight of death.
The next thing that Hillel remembered was a painful light burning his eyes and a booming angry Voice entering his head; condemning the group for watching His only Son die.
The gathering was cursed from then on to live forever and watch people die. They would feel nothing, pain and emotions would forever be taken from them.
Hillel's punishment differed from the others' however.
In his head, the angry Voice scolded him for his blind anger towards His Son and that the fires of hatred in his heart would always leave him branded.
His hair was changed from gold to dark grey, as if it had been turned to ash from the fire inside of him.
But the Voice was not done with him yet and It softly whispered to him that while the others would feel nothing, he would be cursed with feeling sorrow, regret, sadness, and all of the bad emotions that He had given to mankind. However, he would never be able to express his emotions, and so they would fester and burn in his soul.
And so…The Gathering was created.
It was not until the year two thousand and two that an actual cure for the curse was revealed to the Gathering.
The only reluctant member of the Gathering named Cayla had somehow been woken up from her stupor and because she had taken pity on a group of mortals and saved their lives, she was allowed to pass on in peace.
Inside of his blank eyes and face, Hillel burned with jealousy and he wished that someday he too would be woken up somehow and allowed to move on like Cayla and Dan Blakeley (formerly known as Danyl).
He would find it through an unusual source five years later…