Monday, April 08, 2013

Healer (Chapter 1)


By Michael F. Mercurio
 
 
1.
 
It is out of desperation that I write this.  The journal is meant to keep me from finally going over to the side of myself that I’ve been avoiding all my life.  Up until now, I’ve been pretty successful at it.  As I sit here, in the dark of my unlit sanctuary, I can’t help but to think back on the events that led me here.  Even now, as I write these words, the failures of my past infringe on my present thoughts – keeping me from putting pen to paper.  The candle burning next to me serves as a reminder of what little light I have left in my heart.
It is going out.  There is no denying it anymore.  Inevitably, it will go out.  All of us within the Order are taught this from the beginning.  I just…never imagined that mine would go out.  A foolish supposition, of course.  I only wish that I had more time. 

Well no, that’s not quite true. 
Time is the enemy of us.  When we’re given too much time, this is what ultimately happens.  Because of this, it’s for the best that we of the Order have our lives cut short.

When one of our own loses their flame, it is always a tragic, scandalous affair.  Each of us look upon one another with knowing glances, and are then forced to set upon the transgressor.  In my lifetime, I had never held this responsibility until the arrival of Jodan one year ago.  I have been chasing him ever since.  And now, as a result, I fear his fall from grace has corrupted me.
It is only a matter of time now.  My light will go out.  I must act before that happens.

 
***

We force ourselves to do these things – more out of compulsion and habit, rather than for any logical purpose.  The rituals, we’ve been taught from an early age, are important.  No one has ever thought to question them.  I never questioned them.
This changed the day that I met him.  He was tall – so much taller than I was.  I recall that much so very clearly.  Fifteen years my elder and he held an air of such celestial radiance.  We all felt that he could do no wrong.  Many in the younger caste idolized him – I included.  I remember he would walk into a room, and all chatter between us would cease.  We would look upon him with wonder, and he would return our gaze with a smile.  When he disappeared into the antechamber, we would often sneak glances into the meeting room as he conferred with the Circle.  We watched him as he would passionately voice his viewpoints with the rest of his brethren.

His views were usually met with contention from at least half of the Circle.  While the other half – nervous, yet intelligent and thoughtful – were eager to embrace the merits of what he had to say, at least on theory if not on principal.  The exchange of ideas between them all was fascinating to watch.  I suppose, looking back even that far, we should have known what was to come.  He had shown us where he stood, and many of us would follow him as if carried by a stream of rushing water.
“What are our motives?”  That was the question which he was so fond of asking them.  He declared it, rather than asked – almost as one would don a battle cry.  “What are our motives,” he repeated with enunciation.  “Do we act because we truly want to help them, or are we merely trying to leave our mark upon the world?”

His brethren would glance at each other with slight trepidation imprinted on their faces.  They did this every time he opened with that question.  He was quite fond of it.  And though most of them knew where it was leading, they also knew they needed to hear it.  The reminder was like a salve over a muscle that had begun to ache.
“My brothers, it is with good reason that we remain in the shadows.  Our works must remain unseen.  And do any of you remember why this is so?”

Malik, the stout one, two bodies to Jodan’s left in the circle, cleared his throat.  The fire in the center of them threw shadows of his roundish figure dancing along the walls.
“Brother Jodan, we do this so that the Power may never fall into the wrong hands.  And…with respect brother…we know this already.”

“Ah yes…’the wrong hands.’  And tell me Brother Malik:  Who pray tell, do these wrong hands belong to?”
“Why, anyone not in the Circle, of course.”

It was then that Jodan stepped out of formation from the gathering, as he continued to press his points.
“I see.  And tell me, Brother Malik:  Why is it that members of this Circle have a right to wield the Power when others do not?”

Jeremiah, Gailen, Seth, and Luthan shifted uncomfortably as the exchange continued.  They had heard Jodan’s argument before.  Kal, Sona, and Marsif however, nodded their heads in quiet agreement.  Were Jodan to finally convince Malik, his view would hold majority within the Circle.
Malik cleared his throat once again, hoping to take the discussion into a different direction.  His robe fluttered slightly from his portly stature as he spoke.  “Well Jodan, the ones within the Order simply are not ready.  Were one of them to ever be discovered, we—“

Grinning, Jodan interrupted him, wagging his finger softly.  “Brother Malik.  You know full well I was not referring to those within our Order.  Tell me:  What harm would truly come, should our power be made public to the world?  Taught to the world, even?
Malik began to respond, but Jodan continued.  “Do we not have a responsibility to help them in the greatest capacity afforded to us by our gifts?  And if they knew how to use these gifts themselves, would they not benefit far more greatly from this than from what we mere nine can do for them?  I ask you Malik – I ask all of you,” as he said this, he glanced not only about the room, but also to the silent gathering that had amassed outside of the antechamber.  When his gaze met my own, I was enraptured.  “What harm could there possibly be in that?”

Gailen spoke up then.  “It would be chaos, Jodan.  What you seek would bring--
“What I seek is to heal the world.  That is what everyone in the Order seeks.  But we cannot do that with only nine healers at any given time.  It is a question of mathematics, as well as principle.  By what right do we keep this gift a secret to them?  Had they the ability to perform miracles on their own…why, it would surely bring about a golden age!”

Seth then voiced his opinion.  “It is power, Jodan.  Power has a nasty tendency to corrupt.  How many people in the world do you suppose would misuse it?”
Enflamed, Jodan responded.  Misuse?  How on Earth does one misuse the power to heal?  If a doctor discovered the cure to an illness, were he righteous, would he not share his findings with the rest of the world?  What possible reason could he have to withhold it?  Profit?  Personal gain?  Prestige?  By giving everyone the means to help themselves, we eliminate the existence of such people.  And if we do not do this…then…my brothers…I submit to you, that we are no better than unscrupulous medicine peddlers of old, seeking to profit from the suffering of others.”

That brought murmuring, both from within the Circle and from those of us standing just outside the antechamber, witnessing the spectacle.  Then, it was old Jeremiah’s turn to express his concern.
“But Jodan, what you are talking about would change everything.  It is one thing to introduce a medicine to cure a common illness.  If we were to do as you suggest, it would be a major shift in the natural balance.  There is no way to see what possible consequences this would bring.  I’m sorry my brother.  I know your heart is in the right place, but what you propose is simply too dangerous.  I cannot agree with you on this.”

Jodan took a minute to compose himself, and then addressed his elder.  “Jeremiah, you know I have always valued your opinions.  Your objectivity is a resource that this Circle has relied upon for two generations now.”
He walked to the old man, placing his hand on his shoulder.  “You yourself brought me into the Order.  And it is because of you that I am allowed to use the gift at all.  All I ask of you is that you let me use it to its full potential.  Let me teach others.  Let me show them the power that has always resided within themselves, just waiting to be unlocked.  There is so much potential for good in this world.  And yet they are so limited by their own lack of illumination.”

He began to pace as he continued.  “My brothers…please understand.  I have faith in humanity.  For us to continue to coddle them as we do…to treat them as somehow inferior to us…it is a grave injustice.  They cannot truly thrive until they are made aware of what they are capable of.  I ask you, how many of you can say that you felt ‘whole’ before joining the Order?  Before one of the Circle came to you, recognized your worth, and taught you that you were special?  Don’t you see?  I want to offer all of them that same embrace.  Only then can the world be healed.  And is that not our supposedly unreachable mandate?  ‘To heal the world?’  What I offer is a literal answer to what we have always strived for as a merely spiritual quest.  Long have we been the cloistered monks seeking perfection, knowing that there can be no such thing as perfection.  And here I am, showing you that it does indeed exist – a sphere, if you will, that can be held in the hand of any child.  I dare each of you to measure the circumference of said sphere, and find any flaws upon its surface.”
He paused for a moment, catching his breath.  “My brothers…my dear and wonderful brothers…”  Jodan looked at each of them – each of them a Healer.  “At long last, our philosophical mandate will no longer be philosophical!”

The room was silent.  Around me, nearly every student of the order was pressed close together, and had been listening to the passionate exchange.  Only the sound of the torchlight could be heard, as its embers flickered along the walls.
Then, Jodan addressed Malik once again.

“Brother Malik.  Whether I have swayed any of the four this night remains uncertain.  As they have yet to alter their vote, only your decision remains.  What you decide now will set the course for the rest of us.  I will swear to follow that course, regardless of my stance.  But I beg of you.  Consider what I have said.  I understand how tempting it may be to resume status quo and remain ever slow to evolve and progress.  What I ask of you is difficult.  I am asking for change.  This is an opportunity, brother.  I pray you will not forsake opportunity in favor of fear.”

 ***

The wax of my candle dwindles as I write feverously.  Sleep is beginning to overtake me, try as I might to fight it.  Jodan’s words from that day still ring in my ear each night.  The haunting dreams of the reality that his rhetoric did not predict – yet somehow instigated – encourage me to contest slumber for as long as possible…

For none of us were prepared for the horrors that were to follow in his wake.


Michael F. Mercurio
Copyright 2013
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