ProseShort Stories

The Voice (2)

Inch by inch, she crawled her way through the sting of his barbed words towards the light. She crawled, beckoned by hope and blind faith. She refused to listen to the voice of reason, the voice that seemed true. She believed she would receive something and was determined to die trying.

“Don’t open that door!”  the voice warned. “The crowd is full of thieves. They will rush in and take the little you have left…”

She reached for the wall and helped herself up. Her hands strained for the edge of the door and pushed it open. Light streamed in, and with it the noisome voice of a multitude of eager voices. Another wave of nausea washed over her and she laid her head on the wall too weak to move.

The people were shouting outside. She could hear them.

“He is coming this way….”

“I have seen him before….”

“He is kind….”

“He healed my little boy!”

“Where is he going?”

 “…Jarius’s home….”

“I need him to touch me…lay his gentle hands…”

Snatches of conversation broke through the barriers weakness had erected in her mind but the voice was there as well, taunting her.

“Don’t go,” he said. “Don’t listen to them…”

The yearning to do the opposite pushed her out through the doorway. She raised her arm to keep the light from her eyes. The sounds, the lights, the smells, the sensations were too much but she pushed on, unsure where to go. She dragged her feet, eager to be as far away as possible from the door to her home, as far away as possible from the voice.

The crowd jostled with themselves, people pushing here and there.

“Clear the way! Clear the way!” The cry broke through the crowds as the messengers fought to get a message to their master.

“Jarius!” They shouted above the noise of the crowd. “Jarius, wait!”

She climbed up the stone steps that led to the street, each step a battle on its own. Exhaustion was a weight she carried on feeble shoulders, a garment she wore daily. Her strength lay not in her limbs, but in the simple fact that she could no longer hear him. Hope called to her, hope that she would somehow find him in the crowd, the miracle worker whom she had never seen before.

“You need to go back!”

She turned and saw the grey robes of doubt standing behind her. ‘No!’ She thought. She had never imagined that he would follow. He had followed her into the streets. ‘Stay away from me!’

“How do you expect to find him in this crowd? How will you know which one of them he is? This crowd will trample you to the ground.”

“I would rather die in the streets,” she muttered and turned.

She began to push with the people thronging the street, mothers, babies, men, women, children, donkeys, asses, goats, old, young, the poor and helpless, the sick, the lame, the blind, the deaf, and the crippled. The crowd, they followed in droves seeking the one they had heard about, the one who could give them another meal, another limb, and another chance at life. She followed them, her steps slow and steady, her womb dripping with the stale stench of blood, her body purging itself of life. There was a tree nearby, a gnarled, knobbed ancient tree. The people pushed her about as they hurried past her, but she moved sideways towards the tree and held it for support.

“The voice of reason is greater than the voice of hope,” he said as he came to stand beside her. They watched the passing crowd together. “Hope is nothing more than a desire which may or may not be fulfilled. Reason with me, hear the facts. This crowd will trample you, this unknown healer will not hear you and yet you have wasted your remaining strength.”

No! She shook her head. No! She whispered and cried out to the God of Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob, her forefathers. No!

“The fact is that you will die in the streets. I warned you, but you would not listen.”

“Help me,” she prayed. “I have heard of a healer come from you. Help me for I do not know who he is. But if you can show him to me, I need only touch him. I cannot run, I cannot walk anymore, I cannot move from this tree. But If I saw him, I need only grab the edge of his garments and I know that you will hear me. I know I will receive healing. I know I will be made whole. I know I will not die.”

He turned to look at her and she saw his face for the first time. It was shrouded in a mysterious hood, malevolent, bitter and angry. She knew he was angry at her because she would not give up.

“Look around you!” He cried. “Many are sick, lame, deaf, blind. You are calling on a God who no longer cares for his people. He stopped hearing prayers a long time ago. There is no healing for you.”

She turned and surveyed the scene before her, the desperation on different faces, the longing and need, the stench of the twin sisters of poverty and illness, and the blinding sting of oppression. The people had needed their God and he had abandoned them for a long time.

“He is still their God,” she said to him. “He is not a man that he should lie. He said he would come. Maybe he has sent this healer in his stead.”

“No. God abandoned you a long time ago. He is not coming.”

A soft wind blew just then. She clung to the tree and felt its supple touch on the skin of her face and heard a voice.

Immanuel!’

It was a whisper at first but she heard it. A still small voice, a new voice, a different voice. She saw him look up in surprise. He had heard it too.

IMMANUEL.”

It was louder and stronger, the whisper.

“Our God is with us,” she whispered as the revelation birth new hope in her. Her God was there in the crowds with her. He had heard her prayer. “Did you hear that?”

 “It isn’t true,” he said, but his voice was not as strong as it had been. “He left you a long time ago.”

“He spoke to me. I heard him….”

“That was not him.”

“It was,” she said as a bubble of joy rose within her. A tiny bubble of joy.

“JARIUS! Master Jarius!”

She saw the men run up and pull a tall bulky man aside.

There were others in the crowd with them. Fishermen, tax collectors, even a zealot. By their garments she recognized them. She saw the men fall at the feet of another, a short, bearded man in priestly garments and a large red turban. She had seen such on the ruler of the last synagogue she had been to.

“Trouble the teacher no longer,” said one of them. “Your daughter…..she is dead.”

They were so close she could hear every word. She could see their faces and she could feel the anguish of the bearded man.

“She is dead!” the voice said beside her. “Death. All is lost in death. No one ever comes back from death.”

But she heard another voice coming from a young man. He was bearded too, clothed in a long white garment and a rich brown tunic.

“Fear not!” said he, the bearded man. “Only believe.”

She gasped and reached unto her toes to see him better. It was a man, who had spoken the words, but the tone was the same, the message was the same, the voice was the same. The still small voice of truth. He was talking to her.  “Fear not; only believe.”

She believed. She believed with all her heart that the God of her fathers had head her cry and seen her tears and he had responded. She believed that a miracle was possible and that life would be restored to her. She believed in the healing that could dry up the fountain of blood flow.

Then she saw him begin to tremble, the shroud of his grey garments shaking as his face contorted in anger and his hands clenched into fists. 

“You should fear,” he said to her. “You should be afraid.”

His words scattered like fine sand blown by the wind and they scrambled to take hold on her mind. They had lost their grip on her because she believed. She believed in the one who had spoken the words that had snuffed the fire of fear in her. She had to get to the bearded man. He was the one she was looking for.

She unwound her hands from the tree and reached out her hands for the bearded man. It was easy. She felt energy like she hadn’t felt in years and found herself pushing back at the men, women and children around her. She jostled in between the crowd, weak but energized and ignoring the odour of sweat and despair from them. She had to reach him.

“Jarius, do you believe?”

“Master…” He was weeping. “I do believe! I do….”

“She is only sleeping,” said he, the bearded man. “She shall be made whole.”

She clawed through the crowd of shoulders, her hands reaching for him. But he was turning away. He was leaving with his hand on Jairus’s shoulder.

The crowd cried after him. They thrust her back and forth, and shoved her closer to him. She stumbled, weak and tired, but she was determined. She felt the lumps as they trickled between her legs and endured the cramps that accompanied it. She fell and tried to crawl between the array of sandaled and bare feet marching in unison to the one they knew could bind up their broken hearts.

“You will not make it!” The broken voice of reason said beside her, but she couldn’t see him. His grey robes had merged into the crowd and given them power to tear her from the one whom she knew could save her.

“Immanuel!” She whispered and stretched her hands out in front of her. “Save me!”

Then she saw the edge of the brown tunic. He was standing still, waiting for the men around him to clear the way through the people. Many begged, cried and prayed that he would lay his hands on their little ones. She could hear them, but she could not see the faces. Her eyes lay on the frayed edge of the brown tunic.

“I have to touch it.” She said to herself.  “I have to try.”

She crawled closer and reached harder. Then she felt it, a piece of the garment brushed her finger tips and she held unto it for a brief moment before it slipped out of her fingers. She took in a deep breath and felt the air travel down, way down, further into her than she had ever breathed before. It was the breath of life, the breath that spread through her body bringing relief from the pain of the cramp that had held her for so long. It was the breath of healing, the breath that stopped the flow of life out of her for she could no longer feel it. She could no longer feel pain, she could no longer sense her blood draining and she could no longer hear the horrid voice of doubt and reason.

“I am healed,” she whispered to herself. “I am healed! I have been made whole! He heard my cry for mercy. He turned his ear towards me. I am not going to die!”

She looked around herself and saw the crowds and the confusion as they shoved and pulled at each other, but she was no longer a part of that crowd, she was clear minded and full of joy, she was healed. She raised herself from the ground, seemingly in a world of her own for she could hear nothing and feel nothing as the people brushed past her. She touched her abdomen elated by the absence of pain and the presence of strength. She was still weary but the flow had stopped. She could still smell the blood but the new odor of life had found its way inside her. She stood still and straight and felt the bubble of joy well up into laughter in her mouth. She was alive, more alive than she had ever been in years.

“Who touched me?”

The question broke through her happy, private thoughts and brought her back to the outdoors. The shoveling crowds had ceased pushing one another, and the people were standing still and on edge. The bearded man was looking around, the men beside him as confused as he looked. She could see them, but they couldn’t see her. Her face was merged with the hungry looking crowd peering at them from every angle.

“Master, this is madness,” the burly one spoke. “Look at the crowds, look at the number of people in the street today, we can hardly move for want of space. Everyone is touching you!”

“No!” the bearded one replied, his gentle eyes scanning the crowds. “Someone touched me.  I felt it. I felt power drain out of me.”

The cries from the crowd continued.

“Touch me, lay hands on me Master….”

“Heal my child!”

“My husband is in prison, help me free him.”

“I am hungry! My children and I will die if we have no food…”

The voices raged on and on around them, but the bearded man seemed not to have heard. He was searching for the one who had touched him differently and released power without permission. He was searching for the one who had possessed a different kind of faith. He was looking for her.

She stopped her silent laughter and raised her hand above the crowds. “I did! I touched you!” She shoved through the crowd with her hands raised. “Master, I did!”

She was surprised. The voice had been silenced. His grey robes of doubt were nowhere around. No longer was he telling her not to go to the one who had saved her. She was surprised, the crowds parted. One by one they looked back at her and parted at the sound of her words. There was now a clear path towards him and she took it gladly and fell at his feet weeping.

“I did touch the edge of your robes and I was healed. I have been waiting for you to pass by but the crowds were too much. I had no choice.” She burst into fresh tears as the story stumbled out from within her. “Twelve years I have been this way with blood pouring out of me. I prayed to the God in heaven and He sent you to me…”

His face softened as he took he hand and lifted her up. “Daughter fear not, don’t cry any more but be of good cheer. Your faith has made you whole.”

“Thank you, thank you,” she whispered head bowed.

“Go in peace, your faith has saved you.”

She raised her head and watched as he turned around and resumed his journey with the nervous Synagogue ruler whose daughter was only sleeping. The men with him stared at her, the surprise dropping their jaws only for the moment it took them to stare and then follow on after their master.

The people around were staring. She knew she looked the same, weak, dirty, smelling and covered with garments that still carried the stench of death. Within her however, she could sense the change. She could no longer hear the voice and no longer see him. Peace had replaced despair, gladness, mourning, strength, helplessness, rationality, confusion and the voice of truth had replaced the voice of reason.

She was returning home to bathe and change her garments of ashes for beauty. She was whole, made complete by the new fountain of life within her.

The End.

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