The Healing Man

By Albert Kim

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A frail old man treks into the hamlet, his filthy, grotesque rags covering only a miniscule portion of his body. His long hair protrudes beneath his knees, and a scent similar to that of a skunk emanates from the fragments of his crude clothing. The flesh of this man is reduced to the outlandish outlines of bones.

Upon his entrance the hamlet morphs into pure silence, the sun illuminating the various wrinkles dwelling upon his withered brown skin. The villagers evacuate to avoid his presence. Perhaps the villagers view him like a wild beast, a presence of gut-ripping fear, a monstrosity. Or perhaps the villagers view him like a fungus, a contagion of disgust and malaise.

Despite the emptiness, the bedraggled man advances towards the hut in which desperate moaning and the strident sound of pain leaks through its rigged opening. A young man lies across a straw mattress: his eyes closed, his arms thin, his legs bloody, his chest mottled with bumps, his body static. The hut is nearly empty; food, water, images, decorations — all nowhere to be found. Rhythmically, the ill man cries for help, only to be received with silence.

The old man now positions himself next to the body of his new patient. His arms shake in remorse as he extends them over the body. A slight brush against the skin of the patient and the malady vanishes. The patient sits upon his grimy bed, filled with sweat and blood from the terrible barrage of the disease. His mouth remains fixed open as the disease flutters away instantaneously. His eyes remained stuck upon the healer’s stark, brown, droopy eyes.

“W-what did you do to me? Who are you!”

The healer opens his mouth as to retort but balks. Instead, he stands in silence and nods towards the patient to savor the moment. Accepting the terse response of the healer, the patient occupies himself with the new transformations of his body. With his eyes wavering across his unrestrained body, he perceives his filthy-ill skin morphing into a lush, peach color, the color of a ripe mango. His bloody lesions vanish as patches of new skin replace them. Excitement pours into the patient: never before has he been free from agony.

“My disease! My impairments! They are gone! Come and witness my revival!”

With this, the villagers hastily bolt into the once vacant hut. They shove the healer onto the floor to see the cured patient. Energy rushes into the patient’s legs as he demonstrates his acquired health, performing various stunts: backflips, twisting jumps, handstand flares, cartwheels — any movement can he do. Some villagers gape upon such vigor, wiping their eyes repeatedly in astonishment. Others encourage the performances of certain stunts, clapping and cheering as if his demonstration was a show. But one thing remains clear: this once shunned man now becomes the center of attention, his vigor sealing away the former prejudices of the villagers.

How can such a disease disappear from a person? Clearly there is a reason.

With each instance of cure does the healer receive a consequence, an imprint that will remind him of the choices that he has made. This patient fails to grasp that concept; he fails to perceive the newly darkened, crinkled skin of his healer following the disappearance of the patient’s disease. He does not notice the inability of the healer to walk or the blood dripping from nasty gashes. The disease, which had seemed to disappear, he has clearly bestowed upon another personage.

Amidst the clamor and chaos that ensued, the healer flounders out of the hut and into the dark expanses of the world. Not a single villager notices his departure. Not a single voice of gratitude reaches the healer.

Albert Kim