Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Another bit of imagination

He lounged on a hard bench in the narrow shadow of the overhang above him. Precious little shade was cast by the bit of flat roof that stuck out farther than the wall, but it was enough to keep the burning sun off his face. His legs, propped farther out, caught the full force of the sun, and even though their bronze shade showed they had spent much time in the heat, they glistened with sweat, just like the rest of him.

Vitus played idly with the whip in his hands, using the very tip to flick a nearby pebble and send it bouncing several feet away. It was not often he had a few minutes to sit and watch the traffic of Philippi flow by. His brown eyes flitted from figure to figure in the market area across the street. It was one of many in the large city, and contained mainly finer goods.

Vitus spotted a small group of men who were talking earnestly beside one booth, and recognized them as the travelers who had been in the area for several days now.

"Philosophers of some sort." They preached a strange sort of religion that followed but one God, and yet also followed a dead man. Vitus had heard only bits and pieces of what they said. "And I would not even give them that were it not for the attention focused on them from another someone."

"There they are!" It was her. She had spotted that group of men again. Threading her way through the crowded street, she headed for the market area. Her shimmery golden wrap fell in her hurry, exposing one shoulder and a long pale neck. Black curls cascaded down her shoulders in an alluring manner. Many men considered her beautiful, but Vitus shivered when he looked at those black eyes. They did not see what was before them; they saw something evil and vague. Everyone knew that Aeola could foretell the future.

Vitus glanced over his shoulder at the prison door, just feet from where he sat, remembering the day Aeola had been placed in his charge there. She had been seized by the authorities when she first came to town, wandering around in a confused state, sure to cause trouble. No one knew where she had come from or what had made her the way she was, but when a rich father and son had offered to buy her as a slave, rather than letting her rot in prison cell, the authorities quickly sold her. Her new masters let her wander as she pleased during the day, and she told fortunes to those who paid her. A young man - also a slave of the same masters - followed her at a distance and kept an eye on her. She gave all the money she made to her masters. She seemed not to know the value of the coins she was given.

"There they are!" Again Aeola cried out, staring at the philosophers with her empty black eyes. "Listen to them!" She grabbed the sleeve of the man nearest to her, but he, accustomed to her presence and odd ways, laughed, shook her off, and turned back to his haggling. She tried the next man. "These men are servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation!" she sang in her strange, high, voice. He rolled his eyes and motioned for the lad who followed her to take her off somewhere else.

Aeola darted forward, passing very close to Vitus, and headed for the market area. Once there, she stood in the very group of men and women the preachers were talking with. "These men are servants of the most high God! They show unto us the way of salvation!"

"She's been at this for days," Vitus mused. "Salvation. How can such as she know anything about salvation? She knows nothing of any god - only the strange and awful creatures she deals with in order to learn the future."

"Salvation! They are servants of the most high God!" Aeola's shrill voice rang out much louder than that of the preacher's. One of the men who was not speaking leaned over and whispered something to the main speaker, who shook his head. Vitus was amazed at the patience of these men. Aeola had been following them around for many days now, yelling during all their attempts to preach.

Apparently they were giving up for the morning. The preaching stopped. The crowd disbanded. The men turned and headed toward the street again. A few interested men of the city walked with them, discussing what they had heard preached. Aeola followed.

"Give heed to these men!" she shrieked.

The oldest of the men, who was deeply involved in a conversation with a man of Philippi, finally stopped in the middle of the road, only a few yards from where Vitus sat. He turned to face Aeola.

She stood with her mouth not quite closed. Her eyes were as empty as ever, but fastened on the man who had turned to look at her. When their eyes met she jerked suddenly, and her delicate hands fluttered. She seemed to be incapable of speaking.

Vitus tore his gaze off the woman to look at the man. His face was very grave; almost...sad. He was studying the woman.

Vitus suddenly realized how quiet the street was. He sensed that everyone in the market area was staring at this man and woman, but he dared not look away. He could not. Not a donkey brayed. Even the gurgle of the fountain seemed muted.

In a slow, deep voice, the man spoke. "I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her."

The change was instantaneous. Those black eyes were suddenly clouded. Anger, hatred, and putrid, evil things passed behind her pupils, fighting in some sort of battle. Her face muscles convulsed in terrible ways, and her body shook. With a loud scream that chilled Vitus' very bones she covered her face and sank down on her knees in the dust.

Then she was still. The man watched her for a moment, then turned and continued on his way. His companions followed him; a few of them casting backward glances at the woman who knelt in the street.

It was not until they had disappeared from view that Aeola moved again. She slowly sat up and looked about her. By chance, her head turned towards Vitus, and she met his eyes for a moment. A second later she seemed to gather her strength, for she sprang to her feet and ran down the road the preachers had taken. The young man assigned to watch her had been hanging back with the rest of the market-goers, but he now grabbed her arm.

"Aeola! You will leave them alone now! You have caused enough trouble."

"No." She shook his hand off, her voice clear and earnest. "I must speak with him." She ran out of sight, her bare feet as fleet as a gazelle.

Her young guard stood for a moment in shock, staring after her. Then he turned and ran in the direction of his masters' home.

A hand touched Vitus' own arm, and he jumped, then turned to see his wife. She had come out of their home, which adjoined the prison where Vitus was keeper.

"Did you see that?" she asked.

"Her eyes."


"Her eyes," Vitus whispered. "They saw mine."

"I've never heard her voice so clear and...knowing as it was when she spoke just then. Do you suppose - do you suppose, Vitus - that she possibly has regained her senses?"

"Her eyes knew what they were seeing. They saw mine," he repeated. "She will never look into the future with those eyes."

"But how did he do it? How is it possible?"

"I don't know. He used the name of his God. Jesus Christ."

"Then it is a new God he preaches. There is something behind what he is saying. You have heard him more than I, Vitus; what has he said?"

"He says we are in danger. He says this God will judge the world sometime soon."

Alarm crossed his wife's face.

"Do not worry. I do not believe everything he says."

"...But Aeola...?"

"I know." Vitus stood and flicked his whip again. "There is something going on in this city - and I don't like it. Those men will cause trouble. Did you see Aeola's keeper dashing off to find his masters? They will come to find her. And when they do, do you think Aeola will go with them any more than she would go with her keeper? They will be paying those philosophers a visit soon - and not a pleasant one."

"What do you think - "

"Agathi, I am only a jailer. I do not meddle with these things. Now, I have my rounds to make, and you have our evening meal to make. Begone with you."

Vitus looked once more where Aeola had disappeared. His insides still shook with the tensions of the scene he had just watched. Those men had uncanny powers. They were going to cause trouble. He just knew it.



Leah said...

Amber, this is wonderful! Even though I know the story, I can hardly wait for you to post more. God bless you sister.

SavedGirl said...

Dear Amber,

I really enjoyed reading this and all your other bits of imagination. You have a great gift of making them come alive and I appreciate your taking the time to write them down for us. I cannot wait for the next part. Have a great week.


Amanda said...

So... are you going to finish this? :) You really ought to publish a book of all your Bible stories - I would probaly buy one for everyone I know!!! (Well, at least lots of the people that I know!! :) )