So after much speculation and debate I have come to the conclusion that Autumn is my favorite season. It is a season like no other. It’s mixture of mildly warm days and bitterly cold ones is a perfect combination for writing and adventuring. You can seize the carpe out of some diem when the sun comes out and the air is crisp (more on that later) without sweltering away in a matter of moments (you can also wear beanies which are my favourite form of headwear, running a close second to Carmen Miranda fruit hats) and then when the cool air suddenly turns more aggressive and invasive you can hole up somewhere and get to the writing or snuggling or coffee drinking. Also coats, without the constant drizzle of winter.
Yep I’m an Autumn man. People crap on about how great Summer is and how it’s the be all and end all of the seasonal calendar. But to me Summer is kind of like that friend you don’t see very often who occasionally shows up for a few weeks and you’re really excited to catch up with them, and it’s great when you do because you’ve forgotten how zany they are and you have an excellent time but then it slowly starts to get a bit grating after the seventeenth vodka and Red Bull and you realise that sometimes they can be a bit of the dick and you remember why you didn’t really like them in the first place.
Autumn on the other-hand is a combination of hopping into bed with your special someone (or cardboard cut-out with their head attached, am I right guys?) after a long day of Uni/work/species enslavement as you cuddle up to watch the latest Game of Thrones and finding money in a pair of pants that you haven’t worn in ages. Autumn is that friend who you don’t see much but who doesn’t mind and who you feel like it hasn’t been six months since you last spoke, and you don’t mind that they shed leaves everywhere as they walk around because the leaves are so pretty…wait what?
Anyway this is a long-winded way of me saying I done some more writing. Like my last attempt at Flashing My Fiction, this too stems from a challenge from Mr. Chuck Wendig (you can suss out the challenge here). This time the task was to somehow incorporate psychic powers into the story, and there was a list of twenty powers to choose from (seriously just click on the link, he explains it way better than I am right now). My randomly assigned psychic power was Faith Healing…it’s a little over the word-count because I am bad at editing. Yes I am just full of excuses. Excuses and Milo cereal.
Atticus Saint: The Anti-Faith Healer.
The house leans hard to the right. There are two mohawked women, standing on either side of the crowd slowly ambling into the backyard, searching people for contraband. A sign looms over their heads with red slashes through cameras of all kinds.
This is strictly an eyes-only event.
However that isn’t the only thing not allowed through the gate.
There are also several red lines through what appears to be a crucifix and another through the Star of David. I notice that one of the girls has a small basket overflowing with various religious necklaces and pendants.
I reach up to touch vacant space around my neck. The collar’s not there of course. I’m not that stupid but as I’m waved through the gate, I can feel the lack of it burning into my skin. It feels wrong.
I mutter a little prayer of apology.
The crowd is dense and a lot of the people here today move around on crutches or are in wheelchairs. There’s one woman dragging an oxygen tank behind her. All of them are here to see him.
Gradually the flow of people moving into the backyard stops and the mohawks begin ushering people to a take a seat under a marquee. I have to admit, for all the anti-religious sentiment the whole set-up feels a lot like a travelling Gospel show.
I shuffle onto a row of seats and find myself sitting between a girl with a crooked legs and a blind man.
The girl smiles at me.
“What’s wrong with you?”
“Oh…oh I’m just here to…”
I wave my hands at the rickety stage. She nods.
“Just watchin’ huh? Lotsa people here are just watchin’.”
I go to ask her what’s wrong with her when a hush falls over the crowd and a handsome young man walks out onto the stage. He grips the microphone and casts an eye over the crowd. He looks different up close. But then I get a glimpse of a group of people waiting backstage and realize I am mistaken.
He does indeed look different. The man waiting in the wings is a lot sicker than I imagined.
“So…ladies and gentlemen, Atticus can only do one showing today. We are sorry, all of us. Especially Atticus, but it takes its toll… Somethin’ I’m sure you all understand.”
There’s a general hum of agreement from the audience and the young man lets the apologetic grimace slip from his face to be replaced by a broad grin.
“But enough of that, please put your hands together for the man himself. The man you came all this way to see: Mr. Atticus Saint! The Anti-Faith Healer!”
There’s rapturous applause and I can’t help but feel excited.
He shuffles slowly across the stage, visibly aided by two people. He’s leaning hard on a cane, mirroring the house.
It’s hard to remind myself that he’s only 26.
He looks sick.
His hair is thinning and his eyes are sunk right into his head. Whatever youthful energy he did have, it’s been sapped out of him. His knuckles flare white over the top of the cane. He’s putting a lot of effort into remaining upright, but despite his outward appearance, you can feel something bubbling underneath.
He gives an appreciative smile and waves his free hand over the crowd. The hubbub dies down immediately. Anticipation replaces adulation.
Atticus Saint is different to the other healers I’ve gone to watch. Different from the others I’ve read about. Beyond the obvious anti-religious sentiment he preaches, he doesn’t mess around. No preamble beyond a simple thank-you for coming and being so understanding bit. Just straight down to it.
I guess you can get to it quicker when you don’t have to thank God for fourteen minutes before the show starts.
He extends a finger at the woman I saw earlier. The one with the oxygen tank.
What happens next is also very low-key. There are no theatrics. He asks her for her name, it’s Jennifer, and where she’s from, she’s a local actually.
“What’s wrong with you Jennifer, why are you here?”
Her reply comes between gulps of air, “Emphysema.”
Atticus nods solemnly at this and then asks her to remove the mask. She hands it over and I watch as he reaches out and takes hold of her face, delicately at first and then squeezing down hard, Jennifer cries out suddenly and her body contorts a little.
Atticus’s grip on the cane slackens and he is sent reeling away from the woman. Two handlers are right by his side, propping him up. He’s panting hard but he doesn’t leave the stage, despite the insistence from the MC.
His words come out with an emphysematic wheeze, “Jennifer…Jennifer? How do you feel?”
But it’s obvious from her face. She’s breathing. She bursts into tears. The crowd bursts into thunderous cheers. The girl beside me lets out a whoop.
Atticus’ face is a mixture of pain and relief. Jennifer throws her hands up to the sky and lets out a joyful yell. “Praise Jesus! I’m cured!”
She realizes what she’s done as soon as the words are out of her mouth. The crowd does too. The cheers dribble out. An angry buzz fills the yard. Jennifer clamps her hand over her mouth, terror filling her eyes.
Atticus’ face twitches into a hard mask. He looks at the ground. Speaks at the floorboards.
“No Jennifer. That’s not how it works…”
The yard is quiet. No one makes a sound. Jennifer goes to apologise. She trips over the syllables.
“NO! That’s not how this works!”
He pushes himself from the grip of the handlers and wheezes over to Jennifer.
“This isn’t a miracle Jennifer. This isn’t an act of God. I am a man. I am just a man.”
Jennifer hasn’t moved from her spot on the stage.
He shakes his head, anger swirling across his face.
“You know what happens now Jennifer. If you want Jesus to save you, then I can’t.”
Jennifer is still whimpering when he grabs her. He crushes her face under his boney fingers and you can see her starting to struggle. To panic. And the crowd is silent, but Jennifer is howling.
And something is happening.
As the woman’s body twitches and contorts in pain, Atticus’ body twitches and contorts too…but it’s different. You can see it clearly. He’s getting healthier. The sunken eyes are swelling in their sockets. His hair is growing and the pallid wash that covers his skin is starting the glow. Jennifer’s body on the other hand is crumbling.
Everything that was wrong with Atticus is now wrong with her.
When it’s done he lets her go, she drops to the stage, shaking and coughing up black blood. She’s barely alive.
Atticus is the picture of health. Fit and handsome. Wiry muscle visible beneath the open shirt. Alive but his eyes are cold and angry.
He looks out over the crowd.
“I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea here. This isn’t God’s doing. This isn’t some holy power. This is just a man.”
And with that he strides off stage.
The girl beside me is as white as a sheet, she grabs my hand. The blind man finally makes a sound.
“No…there’s no God here.”
And I agree with him.
There’s just a man.
He can take all your ills away from you…
And he can give them all back…
Ahh because there’s not a more pretentious way to end something than that. Have an excellent Autumn.