The Gloaming (Short Story Version- Part III)

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
Photo by David Cain on Unsplash

Part III:  A Key Conversation


The next town is so near I can hear some commotion overtaking my own thoughts.

“What’s going on here?” I manage to ask as I stumble upon someone wearily.  It doesn’t help people are pushing me as they strive to run past me.  I ask again what all the excitement is about.  None have yet to answer. They are too harried to bother with someone of such low estate. I know how unimportant I am, but would it be such a travesty for them to answer my simple question?

My eyes strain ahead, desperately trying to figure out what could justify this gathering mob intent on a destination I am unaware of.

“Hey, watch it!” a man demands irritably.

I look around but can’t seem to find the man in question.  Finally, I look down and see him crawling near me and glowering at me.  His legs seem to have given out.  I apologize profusely and offer to help him.

“No, thanks.  I don’t need help from the likes of you. I’ve made it this far on my own and I will continue doing so.”

“Where exactly are you going, sir?” I inquire, while noticing his long, unkempt beard, scarred hands, and bloodied knees.

“Well, not that it is any concern of yours…” he replied with scowling eyes and disposition.  This stranger, the first one to speak to me since I left this morning, seemed living proof that “smiles hurt too much, and frowns are easier to come by.” He paused, looking at me suspiciously, pondering whether to entrust me with the secret of his destination.  He seemed afraid to tell me, as if I would only get in his way, or arrive ahead of him and steal whatever it was that he sought. After a few uncertain moments, he finally decided to answer me.

“If you must know, I am going to see a physician I heard about.  All the others could do nothing for my condition. They say this one is different.  He is supposed to be in the town just ahead, except I heard he is leaving once the sun goes down.  They say he mentioned something about being needed in other places.  Seems to me he could just stay in one place and everyone could come to him, instead of making us chase him all over creation.”

“Do you know his name?” I venture to ask timidly.

“No.  Whatever his name is, he is unconventional, you understand.  A friend told me about him and said if I found him, he could help me.  Some friend, he wouldn’t even help me find this supposed miracle-worker.  We’ll see.  But I decided it was worth a try.”

I couldn’t think of much of a reply, only notice how similar we were, even if our afflictions were different.

“Are you sure I can’t help you in some way?”

“I said ‘no’, once.  What makes you think I would change my mind?!”

“Maybe because the sun will be setting before long and I don’t want to leave you out here, like this, all by yourself.”

“I can take care of myself! Take my advice and go on ahead.  Maybe at least one of us can get to this physician before he leaves.”

“Alright, I will respect your wishes.  I am indebted to you for your help.  Thank you.”

“What help?” the man grumbled and picked up his pace, trying as hard as he could to get to the town.

Shortly I passed him, tempted to wave good-bye but thought against it- he seems resolved to forget we had ever met, just as most people I have known.  I wonder if this physician will be the same way.  Even if I could get a few minutes alone with him…would he care enough to help me?  I found a new faith engulfing me-maybe only out of curiosity.  Maybe because I had no other option, and like my prior companion, nothing left to lose.

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