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The Leper (standard:other, 4046 words)
Author: A.M. SneadAdded: Apr 09 2003Views/Reads: 1795/1062Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
When hope becomes the desperate must the hopeless be to reach for it?

I clutched the sturdy walking stick weakly with both hands and slid one
foot laboriously ahead of the other.  Dust plumed up around me as I 
peered down the dusty road through the strips of rotted garment I had 
wrapped around my face long ago.  Matching strips encased my hands, but 
I could barely feel the binding material or the stick my fingers were 
squeezing.  The feeling had since faded from my hands and my feet 
almost entirely. 

The scorching sun was doubly merciless beneath the concealing cloak that
had become my identity.  It was an identity shared by the others like 
me.  But I really didn't know them, and they didn't know each other or 
myself.  We weren't friends, congregated together of our own free will; 
we were strangers thrust upon each other because we were outcasts, 
feared and loathed...diseased. 

I watched my own wrapped feet scuff through the thick dust.  I didn't
raise my head to see how far I still had left to go.  If I looked over 
my shoulder, the fenced village would still be within view.  How far 
had I come since I had pushed my way weakly through the high gates for 
the first time in five years?  Fifteen feet?  Twenty?  Already my 
useless body threatened to collapse.  I thought about turning back, but 
five-year-old images danced through my mind, urging me on.  Images I 
hadn't allowed myself to think about since the day I came to the fenced 

But I tentatively let the faces emerge in my mind once again and
discovered that five years of suppressing them had not faded their 
beauty and innocence.  My wife's pretty smile and warm dark eyes filled 
me with longing and stung my eyes with tears.  Baby Anna and little 
Jacob, still basking in their innocence and youth. 

With each forced step, a new memory surfaced to strengthen my next;
Jacob bursting out the front door as I came in from the fields, leaping 
into my arms; cuddling baby Anna close to my chest as she clung to my 
fingers with her tiny fists.  And lovely Rebecca.  Even now, I could 
still feel her comforting arms holding me close, her caressing touch.  
Her love had been unshakable, undying.  Even at the end. 

I squeezed my eyes shut as I shuffled forward.  My hell had begun the
day I tried to pick up Anna and found my hands no longer possessed the 
strength to do so.  Then the lesions began to appear and I could no 
longer deny the truth.  To do so would have been to put my family in 
mortal danger.  My good-byes to my cherished family had been in words 
alone.  I could not touch them, hold them close one last time or even 
kiss their cheeks.  And when Jacob fought his mother's arms and begged 
me not to go, I was unable to comfort him.  Five years of living in 
exile, away from the only life I had ever known, had not been as hard 
as turning my back on the tearful little boy who wanted only to feel 
his father's arms hold him close and tell him everything was going to 
be okay. 

The second hardest thing I'd had to do came about on the day that
Rebecca had shown up at the village gates.  I had went to the gates but 
didn't go out.  The tears in my beautiful Rebecca's eyes had only 
shattered me more when she swore her love to me forever and told me she 
would beat the gates of Heaven until the God of Abraham, Isaac and 
Jacob heard her plea for her husband's healing.  But I had sent her 
away, making her promise not to come there again.  Our life was over 
and to let her think otherwise would have been a grave wrong.  To 
encourage her to pray and exist on hope would have been just as wrong.  
Since the creation of man, no one had ever been healed of such a 
disease.  It was not possible. 

I faltered in my steps.  Was I making a mistake?  The city streets were
not a place for a man of my offensive estate.  When my feet and legs 
had surged with strength, and I had walked those streets with 
confidence, I had not missed the looks on the faces of the town's folks 
when a diseased shell of a man showed up in town.  Folks cringed and 
hid their children away, they walked on the far sides of the street to 
avoid being inflicted.  But I had to go on.  The whispered rumors that 
had drifted back to the village of unwanted souls could not be ignored. 
Not by me, a man with nothing to lose and so much to gain. 

The others, imprisoned there by both their condition and fear of belief,
had watched with pity when I had shoved my way out of the gates and 

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