• Shannon Aardsma

The Physician

Hey, y'all! So...I know that I missed last week's post. Life has been crazy busy lately. I've started a new job! BUT since I'll be working at my old job as well until September 7th, I am currently working six days a week, and the blogpost just completely slipped my mind last week.

Work isn't the only thing making life crazy. I'm making great progress on publishing my book! The cover is coming along, I found an editor, and finished my own final edit. I'm also continuing to put together a launch team (contact me if you want to join!). Whether you become part of the launch team or not, you can all easily help in this one simple way: share the word! Email your friends, post on FaceBook, etc. Direct people here or even just tell them about my book! Any way you can spread the word would be a big help!

Anywho. I'll keep updating you on 'book progress', but I won't keep asking for help, I promise. (: Now please enjoy this short story!

The Physician

“It’s Deucalion! Deucalion’s here!”

The ragged child ran through the streets, proclaiming the arrival of the beloved physician. Out of nearly every house spilled mothers with their sick or crippled children, flocking around the healer. In their outstretched palms were trinkets, small coins, or anything else of value they owned, offered as payment to the physician. Deucalion calmly traversed to the center of the small village and seated himself on the edge of the crumbling communal well, the people following him shoving their way around him and falling to their knees to beg his favor. A slight lifting of his hand was all that was needed from the physician to silence the people.

“My children,” he began, the words soft and drawn out. “Have I ever turned you away? Be patient. Time allowing, I will do my best to heal everyone in need. And if daylight fades before you have been satisfied, I shall return within a sennight. Now. Bring to me the most severe cases first.”

Thus being assured, the people ceased their disorder and approached Deucalion in turn. The first to come forward was a young boy holding his left arm in the other, blood seeping from a puncture created by a protruding bone. The physician placed his hand over the wound, closing his eyes and murmuring a chant known only to himself. Some wounds were easily mended with a simple wave of the hand; more severe wounds or diseases such as this required more energy and the speaking of sacred chants. When he lifted his hand, the people surveyed the boy’s arm, made anew with no sign that the skin had ever been pierced or the bones ever broken. Throughout the course of the morning, Deucalion performed eight such healings before his energy wore out.

“Might I be bold enough to trouble you dear folk for some food? A bowl of stew perhaps, and some bread? I’ll count it as payment for the next healing, but I must replenish my strength to continue.”

For the physician did require payment, and his price was quite steep for the poor villagers. Most were farmers, growing barely enough for their own families. They made no living, having no excess of goods to sell. Therefore, the mothers jumped at the opportunity to pay so small a price for the wellbeing of their children. Deucalion selected a mother whose young daughter had no more than a fever, an easy fix for the healer requiring little energy.

Deucalion healed the child, then sent the mother for some food. As he waited, he surveyed the trusting villagers. On their faces was written both joy and hope: joy at the renewed health of loved ones and hope of healing for those still unwell. Smiles lit every face. Formerly-indisposed children ran and played in the dusty streets while their adoring mothers looked on with grateful hearts. To this village and many others he was known as a healer, a savior. But not to all the people of the land.

The mother returned, a bowl of steaming stew in hand, its pungent aroma awakening an unknown hunger in every belly. Bowing her head, she presented the bowl to the physician, her little girl hugging her legs and grinning at the man with equal measures of timidity and mischievousness. Deucalion accepted the stew, winking at the child as he raised the spoon to his lips.

The stew was tasteful, yet mild, few spices being available to the villagers. Soon the child ran off to play with the other children, and Deucalion returned the empty bowl to the mother, ready to continue his work. The sun rose high overhead, then began descending into the distant mountains as many were healed throughout the day. Since he had healed the most severe cases that morning, the rest who came to be healed had only trivial cuts and bruises. As always, a few elderly villagers were brought before Deucalion. He reminded them, as he had dozens of times before, that aging was something he could not reverse. He was offered many fine trinkets but said no price could allow him to perform the impossible. The elderly returned to their homes, a shadow dampening their spirits; but the physician knew it would pass as it always did, and they would return with renewed hope upon his next visit.

At last, there was no one left to heal. Many had left the square, returning home for dinner or some unfinished housework they had hurriedly forgotten upon the physician's arrival. Those who stayed hounded Deucalion with questions of his ability. How was it that he was able to remove any malady with such ease and accuracy? Was this a skill that could be learned? Was it magic or science?

One question never asked was 'where do the ailments go?' It was assumed that the diseases and lacerations became nonexistent, that Deucalion erased any trace of them. For what else could be the answer?

Deucalion answered the questions with much mystery, barely giving any answer at all. He supposed the healing would best be considered magic, yes. It was partially learned, though the potential to heal in such a way had always been inside him. He was unsure whether it could be learned by one who did not already have the ability within him.

As evening set on and great shadows from the towering mountains stretched over the forest and reached for the village, Deucalion announced that he must be on his way, lest nightfall be upon him before he reached his home. As he returned through the streets, now heading away from the village rather than into it, he was showered with thanks and blessings for his journey.

For a time, his journey was peaceful. The road was easy, the countryside barren. Deucalion reflected upon his good deeds of the day. The love of the people swelled within him and brought a smile to his lips, and the jingling coins inside his purse, earned that very day, added a merry weight to his steps.

So distracted were his thoughts, he scarcely realized it when he was approaching the outerlands. What first brought his location to his attention was the smell. It was putrid, reeking of disease and death. As he got closer to the small community, the sound of moaning and crying rose to his ears. At the first sight of him, cries for help were directed toward him from the people, yet when it was realized who he was, the pleas ceased. The few whom he passed watched him with horror, shrinking away. And he knew the reason.

One young man dared to go near the man known as a physician to the villagers. To the villagers, he was a welcome sight, a savior, someone to remove their pains and inconveniences. Those of the outerlands looked upon him as something far different. A bringer of pain. A bringer of death. For Deucalion did not have the power to completely remove maladies from existence, but rather to transfer them. And he transferred them here to the people of the outerlands. They were outcasts from society, the perfect victims. His secret would always remain safe with them, for not only were they not allowed in the villages, but any chance passerby would never believe a word they spoke.

The young man stood in Deucalion's path, arms crossed, brow heavy with anger. "Deucalion," he said, regarding the healer with a stiff nod. "I gather many of the villagers were healed today."

"Indeed," Deucalion responded lightly.

Suddenly, the man's harsh demeanor changed to one of desperation. "Please, Deucalion. You must cease this. We outerlanders cannot survive. Never do we know when the next infliction will strike. We have done nothing to deserve such...such evil."

Deucalion scowled. "Evil? I am saving lives! How can that be evil? You people are selfish, thinking only of yourselves. What of the villagers? Would you rather I let them die? Perhaps your lives are more valuable than theirs, eh? Well, I tell you, you are wrong! For they contribute to a growing society. You will never amount to anything, never aid your fellow man, but they will and are. Now get out of my way!"

He cast the young man from the road and trudged on ahead. At last, the physician approached the heart of the settlement. At the outskirts, he had passed few in truth. This was where the majority of the outerlanders resided, huddled around dying fires, tattered shelters their only protection from the ever-changing weather.

A grungy young boy spotted Deucalion, his eyes growing wide in alarm. Feet skidding for purchase on the dirt road, he fled, spreading a warning to his family and friends. Dread and distress were evident in his voice as he cried, "It's Deucalion! Deucalion is here!"

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