The Healer | Teen Ink

The Healer MAG

April 20, 2008
By Anonymous

Ekkehart sees her for the first time on the bridge, in the carriage he has ridden for four frostbitten nights. The moon is a sliver of old corrupted lime, casting its light onto a city pearly with cold. Snow falls in dagger crystals, knifing through the air. It slashes at the top of the carriage, at its fur-lined curtains. It slashes through them and into Ekkehart’s lungs, and he coughs.

Ekkehart’s teacher turns, ancient and worn, his pale face a desiccated star. He speaks in a low rice-paper hum. “This wind carries pestilence. You of all people know.”

Ekkehart knows, and pulls the curtains tight. He tries not to remember, but still the images flow, like the ebb of blood in the heart-tides, like the rush of textures when he feels for disease. Mother bent over a bubbling brew, in the time before he learned to feel, the happy time. Father singing nonsense rhymes as he set a child’s bones with a delicate spell. Then the first prickles of disembodied pain. ­Father shivering in three woolen cloaks, Mother coughing blood into her hands. Their funeral pyre, amidst the lacy winter trees.

And later, the fraying of blood cells, the fires of fever, in the sick and dying his parents left behind. Feeling the growth of germs in strangers’ tissues like blows to his own flesh, until he cried. He learned to prick away at them with needle-bursts of power, until his pain deadened and his patients stared with awe at this prodigy healer, this miracle child who couldn’t save his own …

Unthinking, Ekkehart snatches at the curtain with wrathful hands. The snow is a mouthful of angry crystals and a stinging in his eyes, and there’s a girl walking through it, wearing a thin shawl. It looks like fever kindling and pathogens writhing; he thinks of her agony torching his own nerves, and he shouts.

The wind steals his voice, but she turns to face him. His anger plummets into eyes of crystal and slate, eyes with the harsh glitter of rock that not even winter could destroy. She stares back serenely, and her wind-chapped mouth curves into a secretive grin.

Ekkehart closes the curtain. His teacher’s rice-­paper voice brushes his awareness, a chastisement. Ekkehart smiles, certain he has found someone who would survive the cold.

***

Hannelore feels his gaze on her back and turns. She sees an ordinary boy with eyes like clear water and hair like frost. Then she focuses her eyes.

The past envelops him, faint frost-haired figures each smaller than the one before. Hannelore sees him at three, watchful before a surgery table, at five, giggling at his father’s magical star showers, at 11, pressing a kiss to his dying mother’s brow. She sees him at 12, gripping an emaciated patient’s arm, tinkering with death. Until the woman stops groaning and the bloom returns to her cheeks, until she thanks him with a supplicant’s reverence in her face.

Hannelore focuses her eyes again and the future ­unfurls from his frame, a tall shadow with that same pale hair and watery gaze. Hands that drip blood and opiates from a thousand surgeries. She sees him at 16, standing vigil over a dying king, at 18 ringed by broken arrows and broken knights. At 19, bowing before a crowned woman, who gazes at him with such wounded love and naked evil in her eyes. She sees him survive it all, until his mouth turns upward in a victor’s smile, and the light softens a little in his eyes.

She sees all this in the second before the curtain slaps shut.

Hannelore smiles, certain she has found a saint, the boy with hands deft enough to save the world. Found him like her sister’s husband, the man Annegret’s ­future-image lifted her wedding veil to kiss. Found him like her father’s killer, whose dagger lodged two inches above his future-image’s heart.

Hannelore stops smiling and starts to feel the cold.

***

They meet at the university door. Ekkehart reaches into the carriage to help the teacher down. Hannelore has walked for two miles. She leans against the doorframe, panting pale clouds into the night.

Ekkehart turns and sees those eyes, their stony ­glitter undiminished. He reaches reflexively for her gloved hand, feels instinctively for disease through the lambskin. The remnants of past sickness and old injury are a slurry of soft blows, but the health of her cells whirls through his senses.

He remembers himself and drops the hand, blushing at his secret knowledge of her past pains. And she turns away, shying from her secret knowledge of his future fame.

“Sorry,” he says. “I’m Ekkehart.”

“Hannelore.”

Ekkehart’s mouth flutters open, as if to speak, but the teacher is staggering toward him. His owl gaze rivets on Hannelore’s face. “Where is the scholar who identified you, child?”

She shakes her head. “There is none.”

“Then you have no business at this university.”

In answer, Hannelore focuses her eyes.

***

They meet other children as strange and powerful as they. Madhava, whose spirit wanders the living ­tissue of animals and plants, bidding them twist, grow, leap, and dance. Octavian, who reshapes his lungs to inhale water and honeycombs his bones to fly. Phyllida, whose dreams come awake in the night to fill the hallways with sun, blood, smoke, and rain.

Winter flees as abruptly as it came. Wildflowers bloom across the fresh-dug graves, and Ekkehart ­studies them from the castle windows. In the evenings, when the sky is rosy and his mind is soft with sleep, he dares to hope they cover his parents’ grave.

***

Hannelore slips into the observatory and finds Ekkehart by the vaulted window, telescope in hand.

“Look at the stars,” she says mechanically, turning her gaze toward his face instead of the sky.

She leans in to catch his whisper. “They look like the future.” She sees a change in him, a widening of the eyes. “It’s so distant and inscrutable.” And she feels his voice like the heat of a too-close flame and thinks vaguely of escape. “You have telescope eyes,” he says.

Hannelore wonders if it’s a challenge or a plea.

***

She decides the next morning in the underground library called the Paleocrypt, amid the dripping of subterranean water and towers of ancient tomes.

“Ekkehart,” she calls, and he whirls, wearing a look of cautious surprise.

She draws close to whisper in his ear. “You’ll save lives.” His breathing quickens; his shoulders tense under her hands.

“I feel so helpless sometimes,” he murmurs.

“I’ve seen the future. You’re hardly helpless.”

His pale head sinks, and Ekkehart crumples, sobbing. The other students are drawn from their studies, all gasps and murmurs of concern. Before their curious eyes, Hannelore embraces Ekkehart and he winds his trembling arms around her neck.

“Thank you,” he says, two mornings later. They are eating breakfast together, amid muffled speculation about their sudden friendship. “You told me what I needed to hear.” He smiles sheepishly, handing her a fritter.

She bites into it. “It was true.”

“I think that’s what I have to do,” she continues. “You were born to heal, and I was born to tell the truth.”

***

Ekkehart awakens to screaming and wonders if one of Phyllida’s night-ghosts has run loose. Then he hears the plink of shuffling glass and rolls his sleeves up. He grapples in the darkness for his needles and knives, but the screaming swells, and there is no time.

In the hallways he can see no blood-slicks, but his temples are throbbing with disembodied pain. Follow the pain, he thinks, winding through corridors and down the cellar stairs.

It leads him to a broken flask on the stony floor, splinters of glass and a pool of emerald liquid. He recognizes it with a prick of anguish as dragon-ichor, a heavy acid, and the agony burns at his crown.

Ekkehart lights the sconce with a candle. Hannelore materializes from the gloom, face-down and fists clenched. The blood pounds at his temples, but his nerves deaden into crystals of ice. Slowly, clum­sily, he clasps her hand to seek the point of her pain. Winding through the spaces between her cells, he finds her skin unburned, although a section of hair has been seared away. No acid in her digestive system, lungs functional, pumping the air out in frenzied sobs. Nerves fine, and …

He stops, blank.

“Ekkehart,” she whispers, “I’m blind.”

***

The teachers storm in, and Ekkehart is screaming.

Old hands shake him gently, then roughly, until the teeth rattle in his skull. He groans, pressing his temples, where her blindness is now a conflagration, now a snowfall of wintry knives.

The face of his first teacher wavers before him, and the rice-paper voice crackles with urgency. “Only you can heal her.” Ekkehart tries to shake his head, but fear holds him immobile with cadaver hands.

“Like I healed my parents?” He tries to scream, but his voice is a weak whisper, hollow even to his ears. He trembles, remembering warm hands and smiling faces, remembering a wind that carried the scent of roasting flesh.

***

Then he’s kneeling beside her, hands on her temples. He sings nonsense rhymes like his father, smooths her forehead like his mother, until her ragged breathing levels. Then he winds through the disordered nerves, the sundered sensory cells. Slowly comparing her remarkable ruined eyes to his ordinary whole ones, he nudges the cells, prompting synthesis, encouraging regrowth.

After two hours, Hannelore’s breathing softens, and she sleeps. After three hours, Ekkehart is interrupted with breakfast and he waves it away. After four hours, the pain in his eyes – in both their eyes – fades. Ekkehart tells the teachers. Gravely, wearily, he accepts their praise. But he worries he has robbed his dearest friend of her greatest gift. After five hours, Ekkehart collapses on the cellar floor. He dreams of ruined prophets and healers dead from grief.

***

After nine hours, Hannelore seizes Ekkehart in a jubilant embrace. He awakens reluctantly, then he remembers and bolts upright. “Your eyes?”

They glint. He sees her tear stains, and under them the pink blooming of new skin. “All better.”

“Completely better?” he persists.

Hannelore focuses her eyes.



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This article has 128 comments.


on Nov. 9 2010 at 6:38 pm
BeatleMania16, A, Delaware
0 articles 0 photos 12 comments
oh--the comment below was mine, i just couldn't access my account then so if u want to read my work click on BeatleMania16 for this comment. thx...and again, i love this piece!!

on Nov. 9 2010 at 6:35 pm
CRAZY GOOD!!!! like millions of people have said, you have manipulated writing into something fitting with your setting and characters...i hate to do this, but if anybody's bored, check out my work...

on Oct. 19 2010 at 7:23 am
Tabitha-Mariah BRONZE, Ossipee, New Hampshire
2 articles 3 photos 10 comments
The world you've created here is exquisite. Gorgeously written. I could easily see this expanded into a novel, one that I would read in a heartbeat.

on Oct. 18 2010 at 9:23 pm
writergirl13 GOLD, Cherry Hill, New Jersey
11 articles 8 photos 261 comments

Favorite Quote:
All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusions is called a philosopher.
Ambrose Bierce

This is very inspirational. You manipulated time as can only a master of the art of writing. This read almost like a song.

on Oct. 18 2010 at 5:23 pm
Dragonscribe BRONZE, West Lafayette, Indiana
4 articles 0 photos 303 comments

Favorite Quote:
"A Person's a Person no Matter how Small"
and
"A Rose by Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet"
and
"God helps those who help themselves"

Yeah....mine took forever and one piece just disappeared, like maybe they rejected it but they never told me or anything. What's up with that?

on Oct. 18 2010 at 5:21 pm
Dragonscribe BRONZE, West Lafayette, Indiana
4 articles 0 photos 303 comments

Favorite Quote:
"A Person's a Person no Matter how Small"
and
"A Rose by Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet"
and
"God helps those who help themselves"

I love this! The writing is excellent. But...I didn't really understand what was going on. Don't worry about it, though. I wasn't thinking about it hard enough, maybe.

PLEASE CHECK OUT MY WORK! NO ONE'S COMMENTED ON IT YET!


on Sep. 26 2010 at 10:07 pm
Lilybird SILVER, Lexington, Massachusetts
8 articles 0 photos 11 comments

Favorite Quote:
sometimes you put up walls not to keep people out, but to see who cares to break them down.

WOW!!! This is fantastic!It really pulled me in! Please write more!

on Sep. 26 2010 at 7:18 am
mskullgirl GOLD, Waban, Massachusetts
14 articles 0 photos 33 comments

Favorite Quote:
All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream -Edgar Allen Poe

This is amazing! Please keep writting!!!!!!

on Sep. 4 2010 at 6:49 pm
Amazing!!!

DA BRONZE said...
on Sep. 4 2010 at 9:43 am
DA BRONZE, Mangalore, Other
1 article 0 photos 9 comments

Favorite Quote:
They conquer who believe they can-John Dryden

AWESOME!!!!!!!!

care said...
on Jun. 30 2010 at 11:22 pm
It pulled me in.I could feel the pain and fear. your characters felt real

on Jun. 30 2010 at 10:21 pm
haventy0uheard PLATINUM, Kings Park, New York
28 articles 0 photos 186 comments
THIS. IS. AMAZING. i loved it! you have such a way with words :] this took me to a whole other world, simply magical!

korhel said...
on Jun. 30 2010 at 6:50 am
korhel, Rockhampton, Other
0 articles 0 photos 46 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I wish I had the guts to walk away and forget about you... But I can't because I know you won't come after me... And that's what hurts the most."

:D

 

 

(too awesome for words)


Dackary said...
on Jun. 8 2010 at 8:17 pm
Hi you don't know me but I was wondering if you could read and rate my writing piece. It's called Jack's fence. Thank you

alsjdlfaslhg said...
on Jun. 8 2010 at 1:57 pm
amazingggggg ")

on Jun. 8 2010 at 12:12 pm
toxic.monkey SILVER, Tashkent, Other
6 articles 0 photos 210 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Homo homini lupus"

this is the most amazing piece of writing that I've ever read on this site! I love this! it's just great!!! okay i don't dish out praise like that- you've got  GIFT of writing! go on with it! i love your style of writing btw

kohakus SILVER said...
on Jun. 3 2010 at 3:29 pm
kohakus SILVER, Ajax, Other
9 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Like stones, words are laborious and unforgiving, and the fitting of them together, like the fitting of stones, demands great patience and strength of purpose and particular skill."
-Edmund Morrison

I'm sorry but I need to know, how old are you? :|

This is gooood.


grasslova GOLD said...
on May. 17 2010 at 4:44 pm
grasslova GOLD, Highland, Utah
19 articles 43 photos 48 comments

Favorite Quote:
When you learn to die, you learn to live - Morrie

I know, right? This story was completely amazing! She definitely has an amazing writing career ahead of her. :) Such budding talent. Gorgeous. ANYWAY, you mentioned that your still waiting for your writing to be put up on the website? And that your work is still pending for approval? No worries, you are not alone. Most of my writing took about a month to be approved, or longer. It mainly depends on how long your entry was. :) Keep your chin up! Keep checking your email, and you will be approved any day now. Ha ha, I sound like a fortune cookie. ;) xoxo

grasslova GOLD said...
on May. 17 2010 at 4:40 pm
grasslova GOLD, Highland, Utah
19 articles 43 photos 48 comments

Favorite Quote:
When you learn to die, you learn to live - Morrie

hey, no worries. you are defininetly not dumb. it took me a second too. :) I think you have to have had the same sort of mindset as the writer did to fully understand it. :D which is why i completely LOVED it!!! This is exactly how i think, and i have never found another person that writes like me. Her writing is incredibly beautiful.

grasslova GOLD said...
on May. 17 2010 at 4:37 pm
grasslova GOLD, Highland, Utah
19 articles 43 photos 48 comments

Favorite Quote:
When you learn to die, you learn to live - Morrie

Oh my goodness. That was amazing. YOU are amazing!! I have never, in all my seventeen years of life, read anything like what you have written. Your style is completely your own--never before has the world seen anything like the way you  paint your words, your thoughts; your poingent and vivid imagination. Your words melt like butter on my mind: as I read your story, I did not even notice my mind translating the sentences into what I was seeing. It was exactly like watching a movie, or a play. Like I was really there. I absolutely love the way you express yourself through your writing--and through it I can tell you are such an wonderfully bright and intuitive person. Thank you for opening up enough to let others benefit from your gorgeous, poetically exotic writing. You are amazing. Truly. Dont ever forget it! You honestly have touched me in ways that no quantity of words could ever describe. I have been inspired. :) I thank you with all of my heart, dear friend for showing me what I have been looking for. I have been enlightened. Please continue to grace the world with your beautiful, imaginative words. You are such a fantastic artist! I thank you dearly, once again. :) Keep it up!! <3