Bible Snaps: Episode 22 … Gilead Girl

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

Gilead Girl

I gouge deep into the flesh until reddish-brown ooze seeps out. The scent released is unmistakable.  I’ve found my treasure.

After a while, my headscarf loosens with the effort of harvesting, so I set aside my cuttings and climb onto a massive rock to sit and retie the knot. Without the muffle of my covering my ears pick up every sound. I linger in the freedom, letting the wind sweep through my hair and cool my neck.

I’m glad to be alone.

All the warring and the close quarters of tent life make me hungry for peace and my own special place in life. I don’t want to be someone’s girl or wife. I want to cure the sick. I want to make potions and medicine and have people come to me to be healed.

From my vantage point, the new land spread out before me seems endless with discovery.

Suddenly, the brush behind me snaps. I slip off the boulder and crouch beside it, waiting motionless for what seems like an eternity. When I stand again, I’m cautious, and I scan the secluded grove for signs of life. When black birds return to settle on the branches above me, I decide the noise I heard is nothing unusual.

A flash of light in the shade seems to worry the birds, and they fly off again.

I’m not alone.

“Who’s there?” I grip my knife to counter my fear and step forward.

“The same question I would ask you.” The answer comes from behind me.

I whirl around to see the speaker, a woman dressed in fine linen embroidered in gold

along the hem and sleeves. She’s perhaps as old or older than my cousin, but shows no sign of the wear and tear of nomad life.

In awe, I scramble backward, putting safe distance between my plainness and her glory.

The woman does not move, but instead seems to be glancing furiously about. Then her gaze returns to me. “Are you alone?”

“My brother shoots blackbirds just over the ridge.” I lie without hesitation. My cousin’s warnings about inhabitants of this new land fill my head. A rich woman such as this one does not travel without guards.

“You wouldn’t harm me, now would you? After all, it’s you who’ve trespassed in my grove.” Her voice is stern, and she tilts her head as if listening to sounds like a bird.

“I mean no harm. I thought trees had no owner.”

The woman gives me a fierce look and pats the tree whose leaf buds I’ve been harvesting. “Of course trees are owned. The one who creates them is their master. Do you worship him?”

“Who?” I’ve been told people of this new land worship all sorts of gods.

“Peor. The God of the Opening. His power is released when life is made to open, which of course you’ve done when you cut into the tree’s flesh to get the sap.” She yanks off a small branch and places it on the massive rock and pounds it with a stone. Then she holds up the bruised twig and waves it under my nose.

“There’s nothing better for healing and aging than potions made from this sap. Come with me, and I’ll show you how it’s done.” The woman beckons for me to follow her and turns and walks out of the grove.

I hesitate. I wait for a sign. But all looks the same in the wind and the trees, so it is my heart that concludes the matter. What harm can it be to see where the woman lives and then persuade my cousin to let me learn her methods. The woman is a native to this land, and I’m only a newcomer.

My dream is coming true.

I follow the woman, and soon we are joined by a man with a jutting chin and missing right ear who steps out from the underbrush onto our path and points the tip of a dagger in my direction. “Who have you brought us, Divinah?”

“She’s my guest, Sorcret. My understudy in the ways of balm making.”

“How about instead she learns the ways of Peor. She’s ripe for it and likely needs a great deal of education.” He sneers at me.

Sickness wells up in my throat. The reference is disguised, but even in my ignorance, I know I’ve made a deadly mistake.

The man lunges for me and I scream. I kick and struggle, but he overpowers me. His companion, a man who reeks of sour fruit, produces leather strips and binds my wrists. The world turns white and foggy. I feel as if I will faint.

“You’ll bring vengeance on us, Sorcret. Her people will seek her.” The woman is calm in her protest.

“What of it? Peor is greater than their god. They tread in our land, so they need to learn how to honor our god.”

Sour Fruit holds me so close to his side that I cannot see the woman. Instead, I hear her say, “Perhaps they do worship Peor. They built a great alter to worship him beside the Jordan. Ask her.”

I know what I should answer, but in fear, I agree.

The men release me but not without advice. “Take her to the alter. Let her be among the worshippers. Then she can illuminate the matter for her kinsmen.”

They blindfold me to lead me to the place of worship, and when they take off the scarf, the sights before me are unspeakable. To keep my disgust and fear from turning to panic, I close my eyes and recite in my mind whatever details of facts I can recall, including names of family and the laws.

After this I’m led away to a feast, but I’m too sick to eat. I want nothing more than to be safe with my people, but I keep up my pretense of being a rebel girl seeking a new place in life. The worshippers of Peor are more than happy to recruit me.

Finally, the sun is low in the sky. It seems even revelers get tired. The woman in pink and gold leads me to the top of a hill and points out the road.

“I’m sure you’ll find your way back. Just remember, should you harvest again in my grove, I’ll expect a portion of your effort for pay.”

Wordless, I nod. In my hurry to get away, I stumble and fall sideways into an animal trough. My gown turns dark with the water. She reaches to pull me up. Her touch feels icy hot. I gasp and look into her face. Her features are twisting into something sinister.

“Who are you?” I gasp scrambling to get away.

“The question is not about me. It’s about you. Will you be one of usssss?” Her voice becomes guttural, and she draws out the s sound into a hissing noise.

The effect is so startling. At the same moment, all of the land of Gilead gleams gold behind the darkness of her form.

Gripping my dagger, I spit out my answer and rush to put distance between us, “No. Never. I’m a Gilead girl.”

I run as if I’m being chased , never stopping to be sure.

I’m so focused on my escape that I unexpectedly overtake a caravan moving slowly through a narrow place. Before I can hide, I’m seen by the travelers, and they grab me. They insist that I’m a thief or a spy, but when I tell them of my kinsmen, they scold and turn me over to the caravan women. The women warn me of my foolishness and rash behavior. But the words are not near as vivid as the true memories of my day.

I listen to their talk as we approach the camp, and I learn that the leaders of the caravan are chiefs of the other Israelite clans coming to investigate the great alter built by my father and uncles. They believe the alter is built to honor new gods, and they say it is a rebellion against God and must be stopped.

I know that their thinking on the matter is wrong, and I beg to talk to the men, but the caravan women will not let me speak. “Our leaders must hear the truth for themselves. They cannot trust the word of a wayward girl.”

I tell them that the alter was built for the children to remind us who we are to worship. “When you see it, and it’s truly very large, you will see that it is an exact copy.” I give the description proudly, but then, I realize the women are frowning at me.

“No more words, girl!” A thin one dressed drably in sackcloth snaps at me. “You know nothing of worship. and you bring shame to your family by your wandering.”

Tears sting my eyes, but I swallow my protest. It seems best to keep the horrors of the day to myself.

When we summit the final hill, I see the blaze of torches at the camp entrance in the valley, and I want to run to the warmth. Instead, we move at an adult pace.

Before the men can greet the guards, a woman runs out wailing. It’s my cousin. She rushes up to the caravan screaming about me to the leaders. People try to calm her and fingers point back to me. The caravan women shove me into the light.

When she sees me, she pulls me to her in a death-grip hug and then shoves me away and slaps me. “You could have been killed or worse!”

Later that night, I lie in the tent listening to the adults talk.

I wish I could erase this day. I pull my cover up to my neck. The smell of the sap still clings to my fingers. It reminds me of my mother. She was two when her mother died after the wilderness journey began, but she told stories of the balm shop back in Egypt where my grandmother worked for the Egyptians. My mother carried a dream for a new balm shop when we reached our land, but life took over.  She grew up, lived, and died as a traveler. Her circumstances left no place or opportunity for balm making.

Now I carry the dream.

Tears come as I stroke the softness of the blanket remembering her last day. I pleaded with her to stay and reminded her of our plan. “The dream, momma, the dream. She shook her head and instead called me her dream. I tried to bargain with her. I made her a promise. “Please stay. I’ll do anything.” She shook her head again and whispered, “If the cost of a dream is you, then something about it’s not true.”

Her words puzzled me. But today I know the meaning. Still, I can’t let it go. I punch against the bedding. I’m restless for hours.

Then I decide.

In this day of shameful new things, I’ll try something else new to chase away the shadows.

I’ll pray.

Men pray. Women pray.

I’ll be the girl who prays.

I start off hesitant. “My mother. She knew you. My grandmother, too. I don’t know who you are. I’m so sad and scared. I need something—teach me what to do. Help me God. I want to be your girl. Your Gilead girl. Nothing more. Nothing less. Amen.”

 

This story is inspired by Joshua, chapter 22.

 

 

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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