Here is Chapter Twelve…
Chapter Word Count: 2118
Monthly Word Count: 9626
“Petros said you spoke in tongues.” Philip was the first to speak for miles and let his sentence float around them as they walked. The sound of their footsteps crunched steadily and Ambigo wondered if anyone would answer the question that wasn’t a question. He concentrated on keeping an eye out for sharp rocks. Father Garcia finally responded, “What do you think he meant by that?”
Philip seemed grateful that there was a response. “He said that you would start talking in a strange tongue that he had never heard before and you could understand each other.” Father Garcia pondered his answer, “Petros knows many languages?” Andrew and Philip looked at each other. Andrew replied, “We see many travelers. We might not be able to speak many languages, but we can identify them by the sound. He said you spoke a strange language.”
Father Garcia was quiet and Tad chuckled awkwardly. Philip finally broke the silence, “Have I offended? I didn’t mean strange. I meant different or unique. I didn’t mean to offend you.” Father Garcia laughed quietly. “We are not offended, are we?” The team agreed with him eagerly. He continued, “What should we say that you don’t already know. You ask if we speak another language, I say, yes, we speak many languages. Father Judean knows over twenty languages. Doctor Thomas only knows two languages and one of them is straaange.” He held the word “strange” as if to indicate that the language was scary, not unique. Ambigo quipped, “Most would say it’s my abuse of your language that’s straaange.” The group laughed lightheartedly.
Simon stopped and looked at his surroundings. “I believe we should stop here for the evening, sir.” Andrew looked at him strangely as if something he recognized clicked in his mind, but Philip argued, “If we continue on at this pace, we’ll arrive in Nazareth by evening. Why should we stop here?” Simon looked at the short man with disdain and addressed his words to Father Garcia, “It is better to enter the town during the daylight hours, sir. If we camp here overnight, we will arrive rested and refreshed at Nazareth tomorrow. Additionally, I believe the healer needs to rest his feet.”
Ambigo was suddenly the center of attention. He shifted his weight. “Don’t bring me into this debate. I’ll walk as far as you tell me to.” Father Garcia turned to Philip. “Do either you or Andrew have acquaintances or family in Nazareth on whom we could impose?” Philip looked to Andrew. Both men shook their heads. Father Garcia decided, “Then I believe it would be wise for us to camp here, even though it’s early. The site is favorable. I can see a stream nearby.” At those words, the team immediately tended to their respective chores. By the time Ambigo came back with the water, the camp was set up. Andrew had taken over Madi’s job of collecting firewood and Philip helped dig the fire pit with Tad.
Jaime and Madi approached Ambigo. In hushed tones, they both spoke at once, voices overlapping uncomfortably, “We need your help…” “Before we get into town…” The only word that matched, the only word Ambigo needed to hear was, “…adjustment…” The three of them looked at the team. Ambigo turned to Jaime. “They will hear us. How can we explain it?” The three of them looked at the team again. Ambigo spoke, “Father Garcia…” he didn’t know what to say to put the new members of the team at ease.
Father Garcia faced Andrew and Philip. “Our brother, Jaime, is sick. Ambigo, our healer, and Madi, his sister, are going to help him. This is very painful. It is like setting a bone that is broken. It’s necessary, but it causes great pain. They are going to go into the clearing to heal him, but we may hear his cries, even from there. You need to understand that this is necessary and Jaime is willing to endure this pain in order to be healed. Isn’t that right, Jaime?” Jaime nodded at Andrew and Philip, but his fear leaked out of his pores, spilling all over the team. A wave of dread filled Ambigo’s empty stomach.
Jaime tried to put them at ease. “It hurts, but it’s really important. I just don’t want YOU to be scared.” Andrew and Philip looked at him questioningly and then back at Father Garcia. The priest assured them, “Go ahead, Ambigo, I’ll explain it to them.” The three of them walked slowly to the clearing. “Madi, do you think there’s any way we could delay this?” Jaime had stopped walking. She placed her hand on his back. “You said the signal on your right eye needed alignment, right?” He nodded. “Then you’re just running on your left eye. Do you want to film Mary and Joseph with one eye?”
The determination chased the fear from Jaime’s face. He resumed walking toward the clearing. Ambigo fingered his medicinal satchel. “Madi, do you think we ought to burn some of the drugs that I got from John the Baptist? Would that help?” She kept walking, her hand still on Jaime’s back and arm. “Absolutely not. The hallucinogenic effects would make him useless for feedback and they might intensify the pain instead of block it.” Ambigo nodded, remembering the feeling of the cave wall on his face.
The second they arrived at the clearing, Jaime lay down. “Ok, I’m ready. I’m not going to scream. I’m just going to dissociate. I’m going to imagine the light of God streaming down on me.” Ironically, the light streamed between the leaves of the trees sending a beam right on Jaime’s face. “See, here’s the light of God now. I’m not going to scream. I’m not going to feel a thing. God will protect me.” He sounded as if he wished rather than believed it to be true.
Ambigo looked to Madi for direction and was surprised at what he saw. She had pulled up the sleeve of her tunic, revealing her left forearm. What appeared to be a prosthetic implant was opened. Madi removed the delicate instruments. “We didn’t know if this would come back with me. You can’t imagine how happy I was to look down and have a whole arm when we arrived here. Can you sit on his left side, Doctor Thomas?” Madi approached Jaime’s right side and leaned over his face. She quietly spoke to him about God and Jesus and the healing light streaming down on him, but the second that the instrument made the first adjustment, Jaime’s entire body contracted with pain.
He held the cry within him, but the tears burst from his useless eyes. He looked at Ambigo, “Doctor Thomas, I’m sorry. I won’t pull out your teeth. I swear it. I know you’re not going to ruin the mission. I know you’re a good doctor.” Madi placed her hand on Ambigo’s shoulder and spoke harshly, “I’m afraid you’re going to have to hold him down, Doctor Thomas.” She softened her voice for Jaime, “I’m sorry, Jaime. Think about Mary and Joseph. Imagine her beautiful face, holding the baby Jesus. The light streaming from their faces touches your eyes and the pain just melts away.” She put the implement to his eyelid.
This time the cry escaped from his lips. It was the gut-wrenching howl of a man unable to escape his fate. Madi continued softly whispering comforting visualizations to him while she adjusted the tiny mechanisms between his eyelashes, but they fell on deaf ears. Jaime was a screeching animal and words would not comfort him. The sunlight that was supposed to protect Jaime beat heavily on Ambigo’s back as he tried to keep the young man still.
Madi asked him for feedback, covering his left eye. “How many fingers?” He answered, “Three?” It was a question more than an answer. She had only held up her index finger. Her soft and comforting voice was replaced with a matronly command, “Jaime Rodrigo Alphaeus! I do not want you guessing. If you can’t see them, you’re supposed to say that you can’t see. If I can’t trust your feedback, we might as well stop here.” Jaime looked to Ambigo, “Yes, yes. Let me go. Let’s stop here. I don’t care about Mary and Joseph. Doctor Thomas, let me go.” Ambigo released him and Jaime curled into the fetal position.
Madi backed away from him and motioned to Ambigo, “We’ll give him a minute. The fact that he can’t see at all is not a good sign. This could take a while.” Jaime whimpered softly and Ambigo stroked his hair gently. He felt so powerless. He had never encountered a situation like this. Even the victims of the Los Angeles Earthquake weren’t as haunting because he knew that he could ease the pain if he could just help them. All of them could be sedated, he had told himself, but this was… this was surely hell if there ever was one.
The clouds covered the sun and Jaime turned onto his back again. “Ok, I’m ready. I’m just going to live through it. I’m not going to guess to make the adjustment stop. I’m just going to survive this. That’s all I’m going to do. I’ll survive it.” Ambigo put his weight on Jaime and Madi approached his eyelid with the instrument. The doctor felt him tense up, but he no longer struggled. “How many fingers?” Through the howls, the answers came, “All I can see are colors.” More adjustment, “How many fingers?” “Two, but they are blurry.” He tensed under the pain again. “How many fingers?” “All five…they look pretty clear… let’s check it with the left eye…” A stream of cursing erupted from him when she removed her hand from his left eye.
“This is always how it is. We need to get the eye adjusted individually and then adjusted to work together.” She signaled for Ambigo to release him and Jaime jack-knifed. He rolled on his back, “I know! I know! I just… I just hoped we could just for once not have to do the final adjustment.” Ambigo pulled his knees to his chest. Then he stood up and paced while Jaime recovered enough to continue. “Madi… there HAS to be another way.” She stood up, shaking out her hands. The scars lining her arms were bright red. “If you find another way, I’m all for it. Next time Simon thinks he’s going to fight our way out, I’m punching him square in the balls. How DARE he get us in a situation where I have to do this?!” Her face was livid and her teeth were bared. They looked shockingly white and Ambigo was distracted by them.
“If it makes you feel better, we thought you were being… I don’t know… I think we were worried that you were being… I don’t know… molested or something. We were trying to save you…” Madi swooped down upon Ambigo before he had a moment to react. She grabbed him around the neck, squeezing the carotid artery expertly, restricting the blood flow just enough to make him light headed. “Listen up, doctor-boy! No one can hurt me. I’ll fucking kill anyone who tries to hurt me. I can protect myself better than Simon could even dream. He’s a soldier, but I’m…” she threw him to the ground and he coughed. “…I’m a survivor. Don’t you fucking forget it.”
Jaime just watched the two of them, “I’m ready.” He lay down and Madi sat to his right. Ambigo cautiously approached Jaime’s left side. They were surprised by Simon rushing into the clearing, “What’s going on?! I heard Madi scream my name.” She stood up and rushed at Simon, but Ambigo was able to stop her before she reached him. Ambigo screamed, “Simon! Madi’s not too happy with you right now…” he struggled against her. “You better just go back to the camp.” Simon was visibly shocked at her reaction, but followed orders, “Yes… sir…”
The second Simon was out of sight, Madi deflated in his arms. She just sobbed and he held her the best he could. They sank to the ground and she cried openly. Jaime inched close to the two of them and hugged her from behind. He whispered, “Until you make the final adjustment, I’m blind. You need to help me.” She sniffled and looked around. “I dropped the adjustor… Ambigo, help me find it.” She and Ambigo ran their hands along the rough grasses until she found it. They repositioned themselves and the final adjustment was made. The light of God never did protect Jaime from the pain that day.