Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Old Physician

It started as any story, in a land far away. The sun shone bright, the birds sang sweet, and the girl met the boy. It was love at first sight, cupid’s arrows hit true. The two were hopelessly in love and thought the world could not get better. They pledged their hearts to one another, and promised ever to be faithful. The world was bright and sweet. Until.

Until the dream, the terrible dream. She dreamt it on a moonless night, when smoky clouds shrouded the stars. She dreamt that a fire raced through his veins, and consumed him both body and soul. Then she dreamt that time ran backwards while the flames receded in her eyes. She saw them draw back to a single spark, lodged deep within his chest. And she knew, she knew the spark started it all.

The next day they were walking in the tranquil woods, listening to bird song and loving each other’s presence, when he swooned, ever so slightly, and had to steady himself on a near tree branch. He assured her he was fine. He told her not to worry. He said that nothing was wrong, just a sudden dizziness. He got up and walked on and for the remainder of the day he was fine. But she knew better. She knew she had seen it. The spark. The spark that would consume him.

She looked to the wise ones and asked them about her dream and the spark, and after much consulting they agreed to perform the testings, to see if her predictions were true. They brought her beloved before them and gazed upon him. The signs were all there, the slight tremble in his hands, the distant look in his eyes, and even the strain in his voice. All confirmed that he had the disease.

She begged him to see the great physician, the one who could cure him. But her beloved insisted that he was perfectly fine and that the wise ones did not know what they were talking about. He refused to go see the physician and even grew angry at her when she asked him about it again. All the while, her she worried more and more, as her dream became more horrifying with each passing night.

Finally, she went in secret to the physician’s house. He welcomed her in, the old bent man with disheveled white hair. He walked slowly, fixing their tea, as he listened to her tale about her beloved. Then, as they sat down and drank tea, he explained to her that he did have a cure for the disease, and that he could give it to her right now. However, before he would give it her, he asked her an important question.

“What if he still insists that he is well? How will you respond?” asked the physician.

“I-I don’t know. I guess I couldn’t force him to take it, but, to have to watch the disease ravage his body…” she spoke sighing.

“Yes, I think I can help. Here” The old man said taking a white orb from his shelves, “This will aid you. If you can endure it. It will impart wisdom. Just place your hand on it and close your eyes.”

She placed her hand on the orb, and closed her eyes. Instantly, she felt a tremendous force pressing down on her, as if the whole weight of the world was upon her. She felt as if she couldn’t breathe, as if she was about to be crushed by the weight. Finally, she couldn’t take it any more. She knew she would die if she stayed there. She panicked. She opened her eyes and she ran.

She ran out of the old physician’s house and all the way back through the woods where she had first seen her beloved swoon. It was only when she got there that she felt the heaviness in her pocket. She pulled out the vial, with the neat directions printed on its label. “One drop a day will keep symptoms at bay, all drunk with ease with destroy the whole disease”.

She found him. She showed him the bottle. She begged him to drink and be made whole. But he insisted that he had talked to a different physician. A young physician, who told him that he needn’t worry at all. Her beloved insisted that he would not touch the contents of the vial. It was as the old physician had predicted.

For several days she tossed restlessly, wondering what she should do. In the end, her love for him won out, and she began secretly feeding the substance into his food. It smelled so foul that she could only add a single drop, thereby keeping his symptoms at bay while she tried to convince him to drink the rest.

But he never would. And eventually she ran out of the vial’s precious liquid. She returned to the house of the physicians but he and his whole house had vanished without a trace. Then came the agony. She saw the shaking hands get worse. She saw the distant stare get deeper. She saw his life begin to fade. The life of her beloved. And she had no more cure left.

She stayed by his bedside as he grew weaker and weaker, protesting to the last that he was not ill, that as he had gotten better before, he would get better this time also. She never had the heart to tell him that he only got better because of her secret ministrations. Finally, after an extended battle, in which both suffered tremendously, he gasped a rattled breathe and died.

She screamed in anguish, closing her eyes as tears streamed down her cheeks. Then she heard a gentle and familiar voice prodding her.

“Its alright, dear. Just open your eyes.”

She opened her eyes and found herself sitting in a familiar house, across from a familiar figure. It was the old physician. He was extending something towards her. A white orb. And her hand was on it. She remembered, looked up at a wall clock, and realized only a second had passed since she had closed her eyes. It had all been an illusion.

“Why?! Why did you do that!?!?” She yelled, jumping to her feet.

“To show you what would happen if you simply continued enabling your beloved to deny the truth of his situation. As much as it will pain you, you must allow him to see the symptoms of his illness. The real ones. The undeniable ones that will open his eyes to his condition.” The old physician explained, “Only then will he be willing to take the medicine and be cured of this disease. Do not let your love and compassion cause you to harm him and make him go through the torment you have just seen.”

She stood silently and nodded before uttering a whispered thanks and walking out the door with a haunted, vacant expression on her face, still trying to come to grips with the fact that the last month of her life had not truly happened. And as she walked towards the palace, she couldn’t help but shudder as she thought about the possibility. The very real possibility that what she was currently seeing was also just an illusion and the at any moment it would all vanish as she opened her eyes.

No comments:

Post a Comment