Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Healing Touch

This is a story I entered for a monthly online flash fiction competition and it was the winning entry! The parameters were that the story needed to be under 715 words, the genre was Fantasy and the theme was "Heroes".

Here is The Healing Touch:

People were dying. Corpses of the young, old, and in between filled the streets. The stench was overwhelming, the swarms of flies even worse. The Bubonic Plague or the Black Death is what this horror had been named. These were dark days indeed.

Alesya had the power to slow the disease and to heal the sick, but she dared not to. Her mother possessed the same curse and ignited a wave of hysteria after displaying her abilities. Alesya was just five years old when she was forced to watch her mother die at the hands of the village leaders. Years later, the smell of burnt flesh still haunted her. Orphaned and fearing the same fate, she had hidden on the outskirts of the community and stayed there. Only at night did she venture in and scavenge for scraps of food or seek temporary refuge in the church.

Despite her harsh environment; her teeth didn’t rot, her skin remained clear of pockmarks, she never fell ill and she flourished into a beauty that rivaled any of the other young women in her village. Still no one wanted to have anything to do with her. She received glances brimming with suspicion and fear whenever she crossed anyone’s path.

Once the plague hit, the villagers had something new to fear. They forgot about Alesya and didn’t even notice when she started venturing into the village during the day. She was drawn to the sickness. Every cell in her body itched, practically vibrated, with the need to heal. Yet she fought it. These people didn’t deserve it. Plus, her mother’s death served as a warning of what would happen to her if she did try.

It was mid-day when Alesya made her way through the center of town. The usual bustling marketplace was empty. The heavy, wooden vendor carts were overturned; abandoned. Dead bodies lay in the street decomposing into the dirt. A man stumbled past her unseeing, his eyes clouded with disease. Alesya covered her nose and mouth with her hand, but nothing could mask the odor. Death had settled in and was here to stay.

She walked up the stone steps to the church, surprised to find the doors open. The pews were empty; a fine layer of dust muted the usual luster of the black walnut. Along with life, the plague claimed faith.

Alesya took a step towards the aisle when a low moaning caught her attention. She turned in the doorway towards the noise. The itching in her body manifested in her palms and grew stronger, pulsing out to her fingertips, as she took in the scene below.

A young girl and her mother had collapsed at the base of the steps. The daughter struggled to pull her mother to her feet, but didn’t have the strength. The mother, the source of the moaning, lay on her side. The skirt of her dress had bunched up around her knees, revealing grayish skin mangled with bruises and sores. The woman’s breathing was labored and wet, like she was drowning in mucus.

"Please help my mother,” the little girl pleaded, reminding Alesya of how she had tried to save her own mother’s life.

She descended the steps, knelt down on the cool stone and took both of the mother’s hands in hers. The itching in her palms stopped the moment they made contact. She closed her eyes and let her body take over.

As if traveling inside the dying woman, she saw the cells under attack, the organs bloated and toxic. One by one she drew the sickness out. Alesya’s body, a vessel immune to the plague, absorbed everything.

When only healthy pink tissue remained she opened her eyes. The mother, her breathing restored to normal, stared at her.

Alesya hung her head, waiting for the accusation. She took a risk saving this woman.

“It’s a miracle. Are you an angel?”

“No. I’m just a girl.”


The legend still exists to this day - when an angel in the guise of a young woman, with skin as white as ivory and possessing unearthly beauty, descended from the church and delivered the land from the grips of Death himself.