Recently, I started my foray into Wattpad, putting up a horror story, The Faith Healer, that I wrote as part of a writing prompt exercise a little while ago. While I’m working to post some of my longer work there in serialized format, I decided to publish my first story here as well. Here’s the teaser, followed by the story itself after the jump:
Moving into an old folks home doesn’t need to be the end of the line, as Walter can tell you. Thanks to his enterprising grandson, and a little faith, the dying Walter may just have found a new lease on life. But this sort of healthcare doesn’t come for free. . . .
Walter suffered from all manner of afflictions. The middle of the night found him wheezing in his living room as he sat on the recliner, illuminated only by the fish tank. Sleep, as always, was out of the question. He was startled by the knock on the door, even though he had been shaking with anticipation.
“Come in,” he said. He had to say it again before his grandson entered the house.
“Did anyone see you?” Walter asked. Phlegm gurgled in his throat as he spoke.
“Nah, it was easy.” As a luxury assisted-living townhouse complex, Oakview Terraces required visitors to check in at the gatehouse but, as Walter suspected, security was more for show when it came to truly determined intruders. It was imperative that no one knew Brandon was here.
He motioned for Brandon to have a seat on the couch nearby.
“So. . .” said the young man, brushing a long brown forelock away from his face, “how was your day?” Removed from the glare of the porch light, his eyes strained in the darkness to look at his host.
“Do you have it?” said Walter.
Brandon took the backpack from around his shoulders and dropped it to the floor. He drew out a small Ziploc bag filled with weed.
“It ain’t called the God Bud for nothing. Enough for a month at least. Even brought you some rolling papers.”
Walter smiled. He held out his hand, but Brandon kept the bag in the air for a moment.
“You want your money.” Walter reached into his shirt pocket and handed Brandon a hundred dollar bill. There was a slight flinch as he felt the icy cold of his grandfather’s hand. Brandon wavered, then focused on the money.
“That’s way too much, gramps.” Walter wondered if the epithet was affectionate or his way of referring to all old people. This was only the third time he’d seen Brandon his entire life.
“Take it.” There was no argument.
Brandon shifted in his seat. “Can we get more light in here?”
Walter opened the bag to sniff.
“Here,” said Brandon, “let me roll you one.”
“You want to sleep, right?”
Walter knew it was not a question of what he wanted. He watched Brandon’s handiwork. “No, no, start from the middle. Now it’s too loose. It’ll burn too fast.”
“I think I know how to do this.” Brandon sparked it up with his lighter and took a drag, passing it to Walter’s frail grip. He scanned the tastefully inoffensive décor of the room. Some painting of an English pastoral scene and an emergency call button were the only things on the flat beige wall.
“Well. . .” he said, putting the straps of his backpack on again.
“Stay for a drink.” Walter creaked out of the recliner, going circuitously by the fish tank to the kitchen. He came back with two glasses of Glenfiddich.
“Aw, no, gramps, you don’t have to. I mean, at least let me give you some change first.”
“What? Because I’m pouring you a drink? We’re family, aren’t we?”
As Walter sat down, they briefly raised their glasses. Brandon choked back the first sip. He slid the tumbler onto a side table and turned to roll a joint from his own stash.
They both looked into their glasses as a cloud of blue haze drifted around their heads.
“How’s this place treating you?” Brandon finally said.
“The nurses don’t leave me alone. They try to feed me pills every day. And if it’s not insomnia, it’s narcolepsy.” Walter coughed heavily for a moment.
“Pills?” Brandon said.
Walter squinted at him, reminded of his son. There was always an angle. His grandson fiddled with his pockets, then took out his smartphone.
“Damn, no signal,” said Brandon.
“You people with your i-this and i-that.”
“Don’t knock it gramps. This thing is my ticket to billions.”
“Me and a buddy, we’ve got lots of ideas. That’s how you gotta do it. Throw a bunch of ideas against the wall, eventually one of them sticks, you get your startup cash, then you’re off.”
“Shouldn’t you have lots of money of your own?” Walter said.
“I’ve been disowned.”
“Ah. . . .” After a silence, Walter added, “Just like I was.”
“I thought my dad’s money came from the family.”
“It did. He took the company back from his cousins.” His eyes gleamed. “He fought them for it.”
“So it was supposed to be yours?”
“It always seems to be one generation fighting the next.”
“So that means we gotta stick together right?” Brandon snickered.
“Your great-grandfather was the one that started the company your father now runs. His own parents were wealthy. But he didn’t agree with the way they found success. They were very traditional, set in their ways from the Old Country.”
Walter looked at the corner of the room. “He turned his back on them and volunteered during the war. His patrol got ambushed by Japs. Only he survived. That’s when he truly learned what’s important. When he got back, he embraced his legacy, married a girl from the Old Country. That’s when he started the company.”
“Were you like him?” Brandon said. “Did you turn your back on the “old ways”?” He used his hands to make air quotes. Walter sneered.
“No, it wasn’t like that at all.” Walter coughed for a long moment, and brought a handkerchief up to catch the phlegm.
“My health has never been good, right from when I was a child. Fevers, fits, you name it. My parents believed I was punishment for my father’s past transgressions. But for a time, it didn’t matter. My twin brother had all the health and vitality.”
“You had a twin?”
Walter fell silent for a time. His grandson took a long drag from his joint and listened.
“When I was twelve,” Walter explained, “I fell under the spell of yet another fever, more terrible than the others. I was delirious. Having tried everything under science for two weeks, Mother prevailed on my father to ask for the faith healer.”
Brandon giggled, oblivious to Walter’s scowl. The older man thought about snatching the joint away, but it was irrelevant, he reminded himself.
Walter continued, “There was always a healer with our people, ever since the first of our family came to these shores, and even before.”
“Faith healer?” Brandon smirked. “Like one of those bible thumping TV guys?” An image popped into his head of this crusty relic of a grandfather dancing and waving his hands, shouting “Hallelujah!” The incongruity, like a picture of Hitler smiling, made him laugh out loud.
Walter suppressed a moment’s rage. “We called her Mama. She was like no one else. Young, the way this country is still young.” He remembered the smooth porcelain skin. Eyes, orbs of blackness. “When she came, she brought one of those old doctor’s bags, that close with a snap on top. She sent everyone away and locked the door to my room.”
“Was she hot?” said Brandon, a smirk pasted on his face. “I bet she was super hot.”
“She was perfection. I had little sense of others who came and went that night but her presence was crystal clear. She set down the bag and opened it. There was power in it. Have you ever beheld true power?”
“Yeah,” said Brandon. He sounded like he hadn’t heard the question.
“I felt something right away. Something taking hold of me. I thought clearly for the first time of my own illness, and felt an overwhelming urge to survive. Mama smiled when she looked at me, and she asked ‘What is most important to you?'”
Walter closed his eyes, smiling at the memory. Brandon’s lips responded, curling up in his own smile, but the old man’s near ecstatic expression made him shiver.
“I didn’t have to answer for her to know,” said Walter. “I felt my strength returning. The lights were still on, yet it was dark. In the shadows, I saw my brother, Terence. I knew, without words, that among the two of us, I needed to prove more worthy of living. The thing in the bag was hungry and needed to be fed.”
Brandon’s jaw dropped open. “Whoa,” he grunted.
“The look of fear on Terry’s face thrilled me. It was him or me. Though I was weaker, I knew what I needed to do.”
Walter stiffly rose to his feet. He stepped forward, leaving his cane leaning next to the recliner. “Oh, I never liked Terry. He was a bully. My childhood tormentor. It was a delight to make an offering of him.”
Brandon’s breathing grew laboured.
“Afterward, I emerged from the room, healthy and hale. My mother said it was a miracle. Only later, they discovered Terry was missing. They tried to make me like him, but I could never be him. Father disowned me. So faithless in the end.”
He looked at Brandon who was motionless now. “What is most important to you? You have no idea, do you? Everything it costs to sustain my life makes it worth that much more. I cannot simply let it fade away.”
Whatever Brandon’s reaction was, Walter would never know. It was the capsule Walter had slipped into the scotch, something he’d pocketed from the nurses. The joint dropped from his grandson’s hand to the floor. The embers went out as the door opened. The meagre light shone on a glimpse of porcelain skin and dark coals for eyes.
Mama stepped into the room and shut the door behind her. She set down her bag and snapped it open.
I hope you liked The Faith Healer. And don’t forget to check out my page on Wattpad. If you are signed up, you can also follow me at the link on this page’s sidebar. I’m hoping to have more stuff up there soon.
Thanks for reading.