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Submitted by Russ Towne

Tom came out of curiosity and a sense of adventure. He knew almost nothing about the woman he stood in line for an hour to meet. It was clear Baaza was from another country and culture, and she appeared to speak little English. She wore a colorful outfit and sat cross-legged on bright pillows in the center of the stage, briefly greeting each person in a long line of folks waiting to meet her.

Baaza was known as the “Toucher of Hearts.” Tom understood why when he felt all the love filling the huge room. The energy felt unlike anything he’d experienced in such a large crowd. Love. Pure love. It felt good, as though if he were being bathed in it. He wondered whether those with so much love in their hearts were attracted to Baaza or whether she was the reason they had so much love in their hearts.

When it was Tom’s turn to meet Baaza, he knelt in front of her as he saw the others do. She looked in his eyes and placed both hands over his heart. In an instant, his body and spirit felt light, like huge burdens were lifted from them. The room began to spin. He noticed a look of shock and amazement on Baaza’s face, and heard her exclaim, “You’re the one!” Then he blacked out.

When he came to, the room was nearly dark, and empty except for Baaza, an interpreter, and him.

With the help of the interpreter, Baaza said, “I’m glad to see you are okay. I had a dream many years ago. In it, I touched a young man’s heart, and the joining of our energies created a great gift within him. You are that man. I knew it the moment I touched your heart and felt the joining of our energies. Did you feel it, too”?

“I felt something amazing when you touched me. I felt a great lightness; my worries and problems disappeared.”

“That is good to hear because along with the great gift comes a terrible burden.”

“What is the great gift?”

“You’ll have the gift of healing.”

“Like a doctor?”

“No, far more powerful and immediate than any doctor.”

Tom laughed nervously. “Surely you’re joking! I’m no healer!”

“You might not have been one before but you are now.”

“Even if I believed you, and I’m not saying I do, what’s the catch, that terrible burden you mentioned?”

“When you cure someone, it will require great energy and life force, so you’ll sacrifice part of your life and health each time you do it.”
“Oh.” Tom thought for a moment. “I don’t want the gift. I don’t want to be faced with such choices. Whatever you did, please undo it!”
“I truly wish I could, but I can’t, no more than you can. What’s done is done. I’m sorry.”

Dazed, Tom said goodbye and walked back to his car. He felt a light tap on his shoulder. It was the interpreter. “I’m sorry to ask this of you, but I’m desperate. My sister’s baby is dying of an inoperable brain tumor and not expected to live much longer.” She started sobbing. “Will you please help me? I know I’m asking a lot, and what it will cost you, and I have no right to ask, but ….”

Tom cut her off. “I doubt I have the power to heal but, if it will make you feel better, I’ll try.”

A look of great relief swept over the interpreter’s face. “Thank you, thank you, so much! Can we go to the hospital right now?”

“It’s 2 a.m. and I’m exhausted.”

“Emerald may not make it through the night. Won’t you please come now?”

Seventy-five minutes later, Tom awkwardly held the dying baby while Emerald’s parents and aunt hopefully looked on with desperation etched on their faces. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do and was terrified of disappointing them. He cradled Emerald in one arm, and lightly touched his forehead with the fingers of his other hand. He felt like he was about to blackout again and quickly handed the baby to her mother.

He came to in a hospital bed after sleeping for nearly twelve straight hours, and he still felt tired. His room was covered in thank you notes, flowers, and balloons. He read the cards and couldn’t believe it. Baby Emerald had made a full recovery and there was no trace that there had ever been a tumor.

He smiled. It felt great emotionally to have helped Emerald and her family, but it physically hurt him. Every muscle and joint ached. He decided he’d had enough of this healing business and got dressed to go home. “I’m no hero. I just want to live a normal life, without all this pain. I’m going to let doctors do the healing.”

As he headed for the door of his room, he noticed the interpreter had just gotten stopped by security guards that must have been guarding his room. She said something to them and she walked in beaming. “I came to check on you. I’m so glad you’re okay. You gave us quite a scare. Thank you for healing Emerald.”

Tom nodded, a bit embarrassed. “I didn’t really do anything but touch her. By the way, I never learned your name.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I’m Bethany. Most people call me Beth.”

“Thank you for checking on me. He nodded toward the door. “Are they here to keep me in or keep someone out?”

Beth laughed, but caught herself, and cut it short. “They’re to keep others out. Word got out that you can heal people and a lot of folks have been trying to talk to you. It’s a hospital after all. There are a lot of very sick people and their relatives here. The hospital posted guards so you could rest and the staff wouldn’t be pestered.”

“I want to get out of here.”

“You’ll get mobbed at the front doors if you do. Someone leaked the story to the press, and I heard a crowd has waited for several hours in front of your apartment. Even your car in the parking lot here has a crowd around it.”

“This is a nightmare!”

“I feel responsible for getting you into this mess. I’d like to help you if I can.” She thought for a moment. “I’ll be right back.”

Five minutes later she came back with the uniforms and ID badges of two interns.

“Don’t ask how I got ’em, just put ’em on. The surgical face mask and stethoscope, too. They’ll help us slip out a side door that a staffer has disarmed for us.”

As they quickly got in their disguises, she said, “You can’t go to your apartment. I can take you to my place until things settle down.”

“Thank you, Beth.”

“Let’s go!”

They got to Beth’s place without incident, but his disappearance was now making news and keeping the story alive. “It’s time to get out of this city.  Maybe I’ll fly to my parents in Denver.”

Someone knocked on the door. Beth answered it to find a man holding a child who appeared to be about 11 but was wasted away so badly she couldn’t stand. Her mother stood beside them. “One of your neighbors saw the miracle worker come here. She works with me and knows about our Susan. Please, may we speak to him?
Beth stood in the doorway unsure what to do. Tom walked up. “Please come in.”

“Please sit down, folks. I’ll help you but first you’ve got to promise that you won’t tell anyone how your daughter was cured or where I am. Will you do that for me?”

“Wait Tom, remember what happened last time? You better sit down first.”

A minute later, Susan was cured and Tom had blacked out. He stayed unconscious for fourteen hours this time, but he felt even worse than he did with Emerald.  Weaker. Older. He couldn’t stand up.

At 2:30 a.m., they were awakened by a pounding on their back door. “Someone must have crawled over the back fence,” Tom thought as he went to see who it was. A gun was jammed in his face by someone who looked to be in his late teens. He’d been shot in the shoulder and had lost so much blood that he fainted a moment later. Tom took the gun, healed the gunman, and blacked out.

When Tom awakened late that morning, Beth said, “He’s gone, but he told me what happened. His name is Dwight. His dad’s in prison. His mom borrowed money from loan sharks and they’d been leaning real hard on her. He bought a gun to try to scare them off, but they pulled out their own guns. Dwight got scared, shot one in the leg, and ran. They shot him from behind.  He knew better than go to a hospital with a gunshot wound right after there’d been a shooting so he came here. He saw how much it damaged you to help him, and he asked me to thank you for him. He said he hoped he could do something for you some day.”

Beth’s phone started ringing. Word got out about where Tom was and the lives he saved. They disconnected the phone after the sixth caller in ten minutes. A steady stream of people knocked on her door. A small crowd gathered.

“One of the people who came to the door while you were unconscious offered you $20,000 to heal his mother. I think it was every penny he had.”

Tom rested his head in his hand. “I don’t know what to do. I can’t help everybody, and I don’t know how long my body will be able to stand the strain. It’s like the more I help people the more I get punished for doing it.” He looked at Beth. “And now I’ve dragged you into this mess. I’m so sorry.”

Beth sat next to him and gave him a big hug.

“Thank you, I needed that,” he whispered.

“We’re in this together and we’ll deal with it together,” Beth said with conviction.

She went to the window. “Crowd’s growing. I’m going to call the cops.”

Soon the police had dispersed the crowd, or, at least, broken them into smaller groups a bit further away. Another knock on the door. Beth looked through the peephole and was relieved to see it was a police officer. She opened it. “Please come in.”

The cop looked down at his feet, and appeared to be building up his courage to say something. “I could get fired for asking you this, but our son, Johnny, nearly drowned eight years ago when he was seven, and his brain was so badly damaged that doctors say he’ll never mentally mature beyond the age of a seven-year-old.” Tears filled his eyes as he fought to maintain control. “It’s killing me to see him like that. Please, I beg you, please help him. I don’t have much money, but you can have all my savings if you’ll help him.”

Tom read his nametag. “That won’t be necessary, Officer White. Bring him here and I’ll do what I can.”

Officer Stan White was so relieved by his son’s immediate transformation and so concerned at what happened to Tom when he healed Johnny, that he blurted to Beth, “I have a month’s leave coming. You’re essentially trapped in here. My family and I would like to offer our services to you. I have three sons. Johnny is the youngest. I’m sure some of my buddies on the force will be happy to help, too. We can help keep watch on you, and my wife and her friends can bring meals for all of us.”

“That’s a wonderful offer, but we can’t pay any of you.”

“Tom and you already have. Please let us pay you both back in some small measure for saving my son.”

By the time Tom woke up, everything was in place. Some of Beth’s friends also pitched in. Tom was new to the area, but his two closest friends jumped on the first available plane when after he called. They were shocked to see their friend. He looked twenty years older than when they’d seen him five months before. His hair had thinned and was more than half gray.

Tom decided that, since he couldn’t help everyone, he would focus only on babies, children, and pregnant mothers when their babies were at risk. In that way, the most life and years could be gained in exchange for the time and life he lost with each healing. The team set up a system of triage where he’d heal the one who was closest to death that day.

Sadly, some didn’t live long enough for him to save them. It broke his heart with every loss, but he knew if he didn’t pace himself, he’d save fewer children before he died.

Tom’s joints ached all the time now. He tried several times to cure himself, but it never worked.

Tom and Beth grew to love each other, and the feeling grew stronger every day.

“Let’s get married, Beth said one afternoon.”

“There is nothing more I’d like to do if I was healthy, but I’m not, and you’d soon be married to a corpse.”

“I’ll treasure whatever time we have left together as I’ve treasured all the time we’ve had until now. Please.”

They were married at her place on a hot day in July. The wedding made headlines around the world.

A week later, Beth said, “Baaza’s coming back to town. Maybe we can meet with her.”

Tom smiled weakly. “If I last that long.”

Beth begged him to stop healing people, at least for a while.

“I can’t. Too many people are counting on me. Too many lives at stake.”

Beth arranged for a meeting with Baaza to occur on a Saturday afternoon. By then, Tom was so weak that Stan White and one of his friends wrapped one of Tom’s arms over each of their shoulders and half dragged, half-carried him to the door.

They’d arranged a full police escort. On the way, just before the car carrying Tom and Beth got to an intersection, a drunk sped through a red light and slammed into a small car carrying a young mother, an infant, and toddler. The police vehicles stopped, called for ambulances, and began to administer first aid. Tom opened a window and heard a senior officer say over the radio, “Their car is crushed. I don’t think any of them will survive.”

Tom yelled, “Bring me to them.” He was carried over to the young mother and her children as they were extricated by the Jaws of Life. “If I black out after the first one, please touch my hand to the foreheads of the other two.”

“No! That could kill you,” Beth screamed and began sobbing.

Tom came to in Baaza’s arms. She smiled at him and touched his heart with both her hands. His body and spirit felt light, just like the first time. But something felt different. It took him a moment to realize his joints no longer ached. In fact, he felt fine, young, healthy, and alive! Beth held his hand. She was crying, but they were tears of joy.

As Beth translated Baaza said, “I had another dream. Remember that young man you saved named Dwight who’d been shot? I saw him in my dream, tracked him down, and scheduled a meeting with him for when I came back into town. We met an hour ago. I told him everything. He asked me to touch his heart. When I did, our energies mixed, and he now has the gift and the burden that you carried so well. He touched you while you were blacked out and you became as young and healthy as when you and I first met. When you were cured, you lost the gift and the burden; he now carries both.”

“But … but, the same thing will happen to him that happened to me.” Tom looked around and saw Dwight blacked out on a couch.

“He knew that, Tom. He said he owed it to you for giving up so much when you saved him. He was grateful to be able to do the same for you.”

Tom felt immense gratitude and relief.

Baaza paused. “Who knows? Maybe I’ll have another dream in time to save him.”

Beth added, “I hope so. I feel sad for him.”

“I want to be here when he wakes up,” Tom said through a huge yawn.

“We’ve got a bed made up for you and Beth.” She pointed to a room down a hall.  “Get some sleep. I’ll let you know when he wakes up.”

“Thank you,” Tom and Beth said in unison. They held hands as they walked toward the bed and a new life together. Their nightmare was over.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.

One comment on “Touched

  1. Powerful story! I was weeping! Thanks for the read.

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