“You’re not getting this one.” Nessiah glared at the winged creature that stared at her from across the dim room. Its feathered limbs spanned a good portion of her small stone home, its complexion was the fairest of all creatures living, though it existed in a less corporeal state. Its icy-white eyes narrowed, and it appeared to look down its fine nose at her.
Nessiah worked over the old man as he continued to hack great globs of blood and dark mucous into his kerchief, his face paling from fright as he saw the approach of his demise. “Pale… devil… corner—” he labored.
“Pay no attention to it, sir. It’ll not have you.” Nessiah’s hands glowed from within, luminescent, silver-blue light radiating gently from her palms and into his backside. The rattle that had suffused his chest settled, but the hacking remained.
Another globule escaped his mouth, sliding from his quivering, puckered lips. “I’m—dying!”
Nessiah pressed the glow into his body, willed it to seep further, deeper, and urged it with her mind to soak in, like sunlight across the faces of greedy spring flowers. His breath caught, he hacked once more, and then he calmed, having become transfixed by the absolute light that she gave him. The Light was not a conscious thing, or one that she knew in and out, but the Light was a familiar friend, one that she did know she controlled, and that life responded. Nessiah’s Healing had made the old man whole again.
“Not today, you’re not, sir. You are well again.” The old man stood as far as his arthritic joints, more limber from the effects of her ministrations, would allow. He pulled his cap from his wispy pate and clutched it to his chest. His eyes brimmed, but he said no words. He weakly backed out of her door and left. Nessiah watched his progress, wished he would not fear her now that he was better, but let him make his way. She made sure her door was well latched once he’d gone, let her hands and forehead rest against the dense wood.
The angel shook its elegant head. “You’ve made a mistake, human. Not that it surprises Father, who you continue to disobey.”
Nessiah picked up her head from the door and stoically met the angel’s gaze, a small curl in her upper lip, and sent it back her thoughts. The angel’s eyes widened, and when it stretched its wings she felt an answering twinge in her back, and it faded from view.
Later that day, Nessiah was nestled in her wash tub, having soaped and rinsed it so that she could draw a bath from the store of water she’d trapped above her roof. With a simple pull of a rope, she could move the small plug that blocked the water flow from a bin that sat on her roof, and fill her bath. The woodcutter, who was enamored by her charms, both the mundane and the etheric, had devised the contraption one day and had assembled it while she gardened. She appreciated his help, but she did not care for his attention. She would not be a marrying woman, no, since he’d have lordship over the way she ran things. She’d be bound to a husband, trapped, her say-so stunted by the township’s warped sense of propriety.
If not for what she could do, the old man, like many others she’d kept from the Other, would have died. The township, however—when it suited them—either spoke ill of or praised her gifts as it pleased them. Should a child be sick, a worried mother would come for a potion, and he would be much more comfortable by nightfall. A panicked father would rush his small, waifish wife to her doorstep, the poor woman on the cusp of bleeding to death from an unfortunate breech birth, and her Light would seep into her womb and her Will would shift the child so that it came out right, and then she’d keep the mother from God’s door, too.
That way lay death. Surely, the Grim had his job where it led him, but Nessiah figured her job was to prevent it. How else, knowing what she knew, could she live with herself? Nessiah looked past the brim of her wash tub, looked towards the stained glass sun catcher that was given her for helping—discreetly!—the headwoman of a neighboring village deliver her illegitimate heir. She had wanted the little daughter, who would be several months older than her legitimate grandson, to ascend her position in the village. The headwoman had not cared for her corrupt son-in-law who drank to his lees each night and beat her daughter each day.
If only Nessiah could escape the politics and grievances of every folk who got to know her. Whether she liked it or no, her Light set her apart. She could not hide it, for its compassion and need to be used shone from her face like the perpetual glow of a sunburn, even though her skin was evenly olive, like the gypsies who sometimes camped nearby and then moved on with the next dawn. Her eyes often darted over those she met, and she could see the dark patches—illness, sadness, strong yearning, absences, physical wounds—where they needed help. She might not be drawn to any certain person, but those who came to her and asked her aid were certainly within her jurisdiction, as were those she Felt pulled toward.
Nessiah pulled her hands from her bath water, looked at how they’d pruned, let the sweet musk of rosemary herb she had added to her water enter her awareness. Her thick mane of dark brown hair hung straight into the water where it blossomed into weightless fog beneath its surface. She studied her own palms, the few lines that crossed each of their spans, studied the small swells of flesh that defined the pads of her hands. She looked at the blue veins that branched from her forearms into her palms, and she stared for a while at the ways in which the lines of her palms differed. She primarily used her right hand. Once, she had crossed a gypsy’s palm with her coin to learn her life Path, and had learned that the lines of her left hand were those of her lives Before and To Come, and her right hand predicted the Now.