Bible Snaps: Episode 17 … Stick Healer

Thrillers, Chillers & Sci-Fi Killers. Whether or not you believe the bible is true, it contains stories that trigger imagination.

Stick Healer

The vipers slither first out of a crack in the ground beside the tents of our leader, Aheizer. His men rush around trying to kill the fiends, but the flow of them keeps coming. Soon multiple cracks open. Camouflaged in colors of the dirt, the poisonous creatures undulate like a wave that expands throughout our camp. Chaos ensues.

Families awaken to find their dwelling and belongings converted to reptile havens. Many people are bitten. Sounds of retching and moaning fill the morning air. Blood seeps from the mouths and noses of those who are stricken.

Aheizer begs my father to do something, but three years of wilderness life has depleted our stash of potions. Father shows him the last few sprigs of dried myrtle and empty medicine pots. There is nothing left of the gifts given to us by our Egyptian neighbor, a healer who was desperate to be rid of us after death claimed his firstborn.

When Aheizer leaves, I ask, “What about the healing stick?” I whisper, because our secret about the stick is just between us.

Father must be thinking the same thing, because he starts digging through the goatskin bag of Egyptian curiosities. At that moment, I hear the soft telltale sound of coils rasping against each other.

I yell a warning. A horned viper is coiled at his feet. Father leaps backward, but it’s too late. The brute springs up and attaches to his arm. Father struggles to fling off the beast. It hits the softness of the tent wall and then flops onto the ground.  I grab a staff from beside the door frame and take a stab at it. I miss my target and watch helplessly as it slithers under the tent edge, unharmed. Outside the tent, I make another attempt to crush its skull, but a man passing by beats me to it, and instead spears it through with his winnowing fork.

He holds it up, still writhing and commands, “Run, child, Run. Run to Moses. Tell him to pray that this curse of God be lifted from us.”

The man moves on, but I don’t. We don’t need Moses. We need magic, and I know where to get it. The healing stick is all I need. It will save father’s life and everyone else who touches it.

Back inside the tent my mother wraps the wound. She offers my father a drink, but he refuses and is already writhing in pain from the effect of the venom attacking his body.

“Get away. Get away. I will heal him.” I wave the slender rod of ash carved with the head of a lioness on top of the figure of a woman. My mother does not think much of Egyptian remedies and magic, and I worry that her disdain might anger Sekhmet, the goddess of protection and healing.

I reach to touch the tip of the rod onto the arm of my father, but my mother slaps it away.

“Why do you do this? Isn’t our punishment enough already?”

I become frantic and try to reach his arm again. “You must let me! Father says it’s magic. It must touch him or he’ll die.”

I see my father shake his head at me. He coughs and mumbles something I cannot hear.

“What? What did he say?” I scream at my mother.

My father repeats his words, and there is no mistaking what he says. “I was wrong, my son. You must run to him. Quickly, now. You have the strength for it.”

Hearing my beloved father talk so deliriously frightens me. He is wrong about the stick, but I must obey. His love is everything to me.

And so I run.

The camp of Dan is the rear guard of the entire group and located greatest distance from the central Tent of Meeting. Every section I pass is in tumult because of the snakes. The outer camps seem to be infested the worst, but when I get near the Tent of Meeting, there are banners from almost every section. People wail and cry out, “Moses. Pray for us. We have done wrong and spoken against God and complained. He is cursing us for this. Pray to Him to take away the snakes.”

Moses comes out, and voices become quiet as he prays. Cheering comes at the end, but when Moses offers no remedy and goes back in the tent, men around me move off, disgruntled.

“That’s it? What is to be done? Nothing? Maybe without Aaron, he has no real power.” They hurry away, unhappy, but eager to check on their families. I want to leave too, but surely in the tent there is something that will heal.

Entering the Tent of Meeting without invitation might bring instant death, but love for my father makes me fearless. A magic power from Moses’ God will heal him.

The distraction in the camp allows me to I slip inside. I search frantically for a talisman,

but I freeze when I hear a hiss. The sound of it happens three times, and each time a hot wind tickles my ear. In the dim light, I see no source for the sound, but there is a golden glow deep inside the tent.  I move toward the radiance, but before I can take a second step, I’m blocked by a shadow. A voice booms out from it, “What thief would steal from my house?”
Before I can reply, a different voice answers, “He comes for healing. Right Boy?”

I nod, grateful for Moses’ grace and the fact that he appears and stands between me and the shadow.

The shadow retreats.

“Come. You will be my helper.” Moses grips my arm with strength that contradicts his ancient face.

He takes me outside and around a side tent into a place where a craftsman tends a furnace.

Moses nods at the man and he moves aside. Then Moses shoves me forward to the fiery grate where I can see the molten white center of the crucible.  The light sears my eyes.

I turn away. Moses points to a mound of sand guarded by a snake. “There. You will be the creator of the snake, and he will cast it in bronze.”

The snake is coiled ready to strike, but Moses walks over and lifts it up with his staff. My breath releases when I see the blood on the head where it was crushed. The tail however, continues to move as if the message of death is not received.

“Do this and your father will live.”

I nod and take up the tool.  Into the wet sand, I carve the best replica of the murderous reptile that Moses places in the dirt beside me. It is strange to take such care with the very thing that would see me dead.

After the ore is poured and the image cooled, Moses points to some poles lying nearby on the ground. “Pick the tallest one. We must fasten the snake to the pole.”

The idea excites me. “So it’s a magic stick that we make? Of course it must be big so it can heal all the people. But who will carry it?”

I worry that Moses expects me to help heal everyone when all I want to do is get back to father and heal him. Few survive the bite of a viper. Some survive a day, but others succumb to the poison in a matter of hours. Surely Moses will reward my efforts and let me first take the pole to the camp of Dan where my father is waiting.

“There is no magic in the stick, my boy. It is a mistake to believe magic has true healing power. Jehovah-rophi alone is the one who heals.”

“Then what are we doing?” I’m angry with the old man. People are right to say what they do about him. He is crazy, but his God seems to like him.

“WE aren’t doing anything. It’s the ones who are bitten who must look steadily at the thing that would harm them and wait for the healing of God.”

“They will be healed just by looking? How is that possible?”

“Looking at the right thing changes everything. Look with two eyes. One eye sees the harm, but the other sees the power of Jehovah-rophi, the healer, God. That is the point. All the complaining against God brought out the snakes. IF those who are bitten will steadily look, even to the snake and the death that lurks with it, and expect God to provide, then they will be saved and healed.”

“How long will it take?”

“As long as it takes.”
Loud cries erupt from the street, and I hear the sound of my name shouted by my mother.

“I must go. It’s my mother.”

Moses nods.

When I reach her, she is wailing and beating her chest. She sees me and grabs my face.

“Where have you been?”

She does not listen for me to answer but grabs me and pulls me along without another word. I break from her pace and run on ahead.  A crowd waits at our tent. When I’m close, I see my father on a pallet and men rush to me with the news.

“He is going now. He wants to bless you.”

I rush to his side. There in the tent door, under a traitor sun that shines bright and glorious and mocks the day of our doom, I drop my head and feel the gentle brush of my father’s hand ruffle my hair.

“Listen my son. You must listen to my blessing, now. I’m done in by the snake.” There are tears on his cheeks that mingle with the blood streaming from his nose.

I wipe the blood away and lean close to say in his ear. “No father. You’re to be healed. There’s a healing stick…”

Men around me murmur and shake their heads trying to silence my words.

“What I say is true. Moses had me make a snake, and we put it on a pole. All he has to do is look at it. Those who are bitten— ”

I stand and shift back and forth, scanning the horizon for a glimpse of the pole. Will it be tall enough?

Then someone shouts. “Look!”

I follow the direction indicated, and then I see it. A tiny snake image, almost imperceptible in the distance. Will it work? Can IT heal? Correction. Can GOD heal?

I gather up the bedding on one side “Quickly. We will carry him to a higher place where he can gaze on it too.”

Friends pick up the other side and together we carry my father up a nearby hill.

Defying the risk of additional snake bites, I sit in the dirt with my father propped against my chest holding his head steady, guiding him to look. “Do you see it there? The snake? I made it for you. Look at it father. Don’t stop looking. Please don’t stop looking.”

Time has no meaning. The world is nothing. My father must look and be saved.

His life is all that matters.

He mumbles something.

I lean over him. “What is it?”

“You. You’ve found the magic. My son is a stick healer.” The words slur together, perhaps because of paralysis—the final effect of the viper’s bite.

“No. No!” I practically shout in his ear. “Listen to me, father. Listen! I’m not a stick healer. I’m not. It’s Moses’ God who heals.” I stumble over the phrase and then add, “My God. It’s my God who heals. We must look to the stick and believe that He heals.”

His body heaves, and he wheezes heavily. I look at him with alarm. Death is certain to

come if he gives credit to me or any other source but God. My hand is covered with blood. “Father? Father!” I turn to my mother who sits beside us. “What’s happening?”

She leans close to examine him and then states, “I think he’s laughing.”

With the slightest nod, my father’s affirmation comes. “I said it—you’re the healer—to

see if you know the truth. Now I can die in peace.”

His head falls slack in my hands but I twist it back in position and sputter through clenched teeth, “No! No! “YOU Will NOT Die. Look! Look at the stick!”

Then I chant one phrase over and over to help keep our focus. “There’s only One God. He is Jehovah. There’s no other God and no other magic that saves.”

“There’s only One God. He is Jehovah. There’s no other God and no other magic that saves.”

“There’s only One God. He is Jehovah. There’s no other God and no other magic that saves.”

Mother repeats the words with me as she heaps goat skins against my back to prop me up.

We remain as sentinels, chanting and watching the snake on the stick until the sun goes down.

I must have dosed off because the next thing I hear is my mother crying. The night sky is well illuminated by a full moon. She’s pressed face down beside us, and her long hair is stretched out as a veil. She moans. “He’s gone. He’s gone.”

“Mother?”

She sits upright and lifts her arms to the sky and wails.

Is she right? Is he dead? His body feels cold and stiff in my arms.

I strain to see the rise and fall of his chest signifying life, but there’s no motion.

For a moment, my mother’s cries stop, and the whole earth is silent. Then a quiet hiss comes in my ear and a warm sensation trickles down my neck. The warmness grows into a great wave of heat then dissipates. This happens three times in rapid succession, and the third time I involuntarily close my eyes and bow my head because of the searing burn that reaches my eyes.

When I finally dare to look again, I discover two golden sparks. They are reflections of light from my father’s open eyes staring back at me. I hear him inhale, and gently, I shift his head. Of his own accord, he lifts his head.

My mother screams and then covers her mouth.

“What are we doing sitting in the street under the stars?” He moves away from my support and sits.

“We’re waiting on you to be healed.” I press my hand against the violent thumping in my chest.

He rubs his arm where the snake bite was and asks, “Did the healing come?”

“Yes. Our God has made you well.”

“Then I am well.” My father stands.

He takes my mother’s arm and mine, and the Stick Healer leads us on.

 

 

This fictionalized account is inspired by Numbers, chapter 1-21 and especially chapter 21.

 

My new blog series, Bible Snaps are short fictionalized accounts of the more chilling stories in the Bible. There may even be a few “science fiction” type stories that reference biblical disasters that seem to conflict with the laws of nature. 

If you follow along, there’s a couple things you should know.

My “Bible Snaps” aren’t an attempt to settle the question, “is the bible true?” Each person must decide that on their own. My goal is to jump into the head of bible characters and try to imagine living the experience described in the story and then use fresh and personal words to tell it.

My other goal is to keep these posts “snappy” quick. In doing this, I might only “snap” a portion of the bible story to tell, but I’ll always give you the bible reference so you can read the actual bible text that inspired me.

There are also other reading options on my website.

If you don’t like my Bible Snaps Stories, then check out “Five,” my medical Sci-Fi supernatural thriller story. All 67 episodes (blog posts) are now available, and if you read them from beginning to end, you’ll have read the entire book and will be ready for my sequel, “Six.”

If you don’t like “Five”, then read my other short stories on this blog- (search word, “un-proverbial”) or Psalms blog posts. All of these were posted before January 2015.

Just read me. I’d be honored to have YOU in my audience!

One final thought.

Why do I re-tell the “bad” or chilling parts of the Bible?

We live in rough times. People suffer under injustice. It’s good to see how the Bible, an old book that many value as true, contains helpful stories of people who were oppressed yet managed to live, survive, and thrive.

Don’t take my word or anyone else’s word about the Bible. Give it a read for YOURSELF. You may be surprised by what you find.

Thanks,

Ann

 

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