|The Leper (standard:other, 4046 words)|
|Author: A.M. Snead||Added: Apr 09 2003||Views/Reads: 1965/1211||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|When hope becomes the enemy...how 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 village. 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 Click here to read the rest of this story (334 more lines)
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