by W.M. Pienton
Ever since reading John Bellairs when he was ten or eleven, he wanted to be a writer. He worked as a ghostwriter and wrote for the local paper, The Sturbridge Villager. For about a year, he worked as a freelance writer. He has a self published novel, “Swampscott Fitzgerald” available on Amazon.
“Don’t know how, but it wasn’t some God.” Christina spoke into the phone. “You know I’m an atheist.”
“How could you not believe? He gifted you healing abilities. Explained what happened again.”
“Really Mother?” Christina sighed. “Fine. A few days ago the girls and I went to Ricci’s for a few drinks after work.”
“That domdaniel? You know better.”
“Ricci’s is a bar, not a brothel. Drinks at bars are not sins. We needed to unwind from a stressful work week. May I continue?”
“Fine.” Her mother sounded wounded.
“We didn’t go to Patrick’s because I don’t like that name’s taste.”
“Your synesthesia acting up?”
“It doesn’t ‘act up.’ It’s always there.” Christina counted to three and exhaled. Mother always exhausts me, she thought. “Anyway, I was on my second beer and felt odd.”
“Odd? You were drunk. A sinful path.”
“You want to hear the story or not?” snapped Christina.
“That’s why I asked.”
“Then shut up and don’t interrupt. All you do is criticize my life.” Christina cleared her throat. “As I said, I felt odd. My hands tingled. At some point we heard tires screech and an engine rev outside.
“My friends and I left the bar to see what happened. Someone hit a cat. I felt bad and went over. The animal twitched but was dead.
“Electric blue build up within me. I reached out and touched the feline. My energy lept into the cat.
“It got up like nothing happened. It trilled, rubbed against my leg, then trotted away.”
The line was silent a moment. “Well Dear,” said her mother. “Since you don’t believe in the Lord, He wouldn’t give you powers. The cat was knocked out, not dead.”
“It was dead, Mother. I saw it.”
“You were drunk. You don’t know what you saw.”
“Don’t belittle me. I had two beers. This is why I don’t talk to you. This is why it’s been a year since we spoke.” Christina hung up, not about to let her mother get the last word. She plugged in her phone and got ready for bed. My hands still tingle, she noticed.
The alarm blasted Christina awake. Hate it when that happens, she thought. The young woman staggered into the kitchen and poured a coffee. Work’s gonna suck, she concluded.
Christina parked, climbed from her vehicle, and strode into the hotel. She punched in without a moment to spare. “Cut it a little close, huh?” said Jackie, her coworker.
“Reviving dead cats really takes it out of you, huh?” The woman smirked.
“Not funny.” Christina glared at her. “I know what happened.”
“Heal the guest in 305. She’s here for that hip operation. Her hospital’s nearby. You’ll see her when you clean her room today.”
“Who told you about the cat anyway?”
“I have my ways.” Jackie grinned and left the room.
The young woman knocked on 305. “Mrs. Zappratta? It’s Christina the housekeeper.” The door opened a minute later.
The septuagenarian stood at the entrance with the help of her cane. She smiled. “Come in. I’d have answered sooner, but my hip.” Mrs. Zappratta hobbled to the couch and eased onto it.
The electricity in the housekeeper increased as if eager to help the old woman. Should I try? Christina wondered. “I’ll clean fast and get out of your hair.”
“Don’t worry about it. Need someone to talk to. My friends are several cities away.” The old woman chatted idly. She rested her cane on the couch by her side.
Christina got to work. Was the cat a fluke? questioned the housekeeper, a coincidence?
The young woman finished the bathroom. Was Mother right? she considered. Christina started the vacuum.
Damn it, she thought, I’ll try. The housekeeper switched off the machine. “Mrs. Zappratta? I’m told I have magic hands. If you want I could massage your hip quick, see if that helps.”
The septuagenarian stopped mid-sentence. “Oh Dear, you don’t have to trouble yourself.”
“Well if you don’t mind and if it’s no trouble, sure.”
Adrenaline surged through the young woman. Here I go, Christina thought, didn’t think she’d agree. “Okay, lie back on the couch.” The housekeeper removed her gloves.
Christina’s hands pulsated with energy. She placed them on the septuagenarian’s hip. The housekeeper massaged. Power lept into the old woman.
“Wow. My hip feels brand new.” Mrs. Zappratta stood and slowly put weight on it. The old woman took an experimental step, then another.
She put aside her cane. “I don’t know if I need this.” Mrs. Zappratta walked about the room freely. “Let me tip you. It’s the least I can do.”
Christina Pike finished her room assignments. She washed her hands in the laundry room. The housekeeper smiled. It works, she thought, I really can heal.
Her coworkers prepared to leave. Smirking, Jackie approached. “I saw Mrs. Zappratta around the hotel without her cane. Lemme guess, you ‘healed’ her?”
“Ask her yourself.” Christina punched out. “Shift’s over. I’m outta here.”
Christina parked her car and sighed. Ready for another workday? she asked herself. The young woman climbed from her vehicle and entered the hotel.
“The old woman in 305 wants you.” Jackie got ready for her shift.
“Mrs. Zappratta? Why?”
“Says you fixed her hip. Ol’ bat brought her friend for you to see. So, did you heal her?”
Christina ignored the question and left the room. She went to 305 and knocked on the door. Mrs. Zappratta answered.
“A coworker said that you wanted to see me?” asked Christina.
“Yes, yes, come in.” The septuagenarian stepped aside. The housekeeper entered. An ancient woman with a walker before her rested on a chair in the corner.
“This is my mom.” Mrs. Zappratta gestured to her parent. “I wondered if you’d work your magic on her? Every year she has a harder time walking.”
The housekeeper approached the Methuselah-like woman. “My name’s Christina. You want me to fix your hips like I did your daughter?”
“Hell yeah. Ethel won’t shut up about how she feels like new.” The old woman fixed her dull eyes on Christina. “Let’s do this.” The matron hoisted herself up with the walker and shuffled to the bed.
“Alright,” said Christina. “Lie down and I’ll get started.” Her hands pulsed with energy.
The housekeeper massaged the old woman’s hips. Energy lept into the dowager. It looked blue and tasted of electricity to the young woman. “I’m done,” said Christina.
“You barely touched me.” The old woman sat.
“Try walking.” Christina held out her hand. The matron waved it away. She took a cautious step.
Surprise flooded her features. “My God, I suddenly feel fantastic. Not just my hips. My eyes, my back, even my arthritic hands are great.” She gazed at Christina in awe. “You did more than ‘massage’ me, young lady. You healed me.”
The ancient woman skipped around. “Mom,” cried Mrs. Zappratta. “Don’t overdue it.”
“Oh hush child.” The old woman stopped and put her hands on her hips. A knock came at the door. Mrs. Zappratta answered.
Christina’s boss Jolie Lewis stood at the entrance, arms crossed. “Miss Pike, did you plan on working today?”
“Mrs. Zappratta asked me to massage her mother’s hips, sorry.”
“Don’t be hard on her.” The antediluvian matriarch stepped forward. “She only wanted to help.”
Jolie’s features softened. “I won’t. Let’s go Christina.”
“Glad you’re better, Mrs. Zappratta’s mom.” The young woman stepped out of the room.
“Call me Gladis.” The old woman smiled and closed the door.
“Must be some massage,” said Julie.
“Those two liked it.” Christina motioned to 305.
“One used a cane; the other needed a walker. They look fine now.”
Christina shrugged. “Guess I’m a good masseuse.” The housekeeper’s hands tingled.
“I talked with Mrs. Zappratta at church today,” Christina’s mother spoke into the receiver. “You should attend.”
“What’d she say?” Christina flopped onto her couch.
“She says you healed her and her mom.”
“Maybe I did.”
“You don’t believe in God. The Lord never gives an atheist power to do miracles. It must be something else.”
“Thanks for that Mother, bye.” Christina hung up.
Mrs. Zappratta told Mr. Brown. Gladis told Mary Zephra. Mary told Norman. Word spread faster than a dry field fire.
Christina parked her car and sighed. “Another shit workday.” She trudged inside.
Twenty people were seated in the lobby. They rose as one. “It’s her,” said someone.
“Please heal my leg.” A man on crutches approached. “Doctor says that I’ll never walk again.”
Christina gazed into the pained man’s eyes. She smiled. The housekeeper knelt and touched his leg. Power jumped into him.
He put down his foot. The crutches fell away. The man took several test steps. “Praise God, it’s good as new.”
The group almost mobbed Christina. “Form a line,” she shouted. “I’ll get to you one at a time.”
Christina sagged into a lobby chair. The people were gone. Jackie approached. “Well ‘Oh Holy One,’ will you start work now?”
“I’m beyond exhausted.” Christina stood, wobbly. “I need to go home.”
“Guess being a fraud takes it out of you.” Jackie strode away.
“Hate that bitch.” The young woman slogged from the hotel and drove home.
Christina awoke in the dark. What time is it? she wondered. The young woman checked her phone. Twenty voicemails? she thought, holy crap.
She paced about the apartment. One message from work, she noted, the rest from the church congregation. Christina collapsed into an armchair.
They want to meet me after the service, she thought. The young woman sighed. I need to soak in the bath and think, she concluded.
Christina stepped into the church. “Hello?” The young woman crept along the aisle toward the alter. “Anyone here?”
A man in a suit entered from a side door. His hair was poorly dyed black. “May I help you?”
“Several parishioners wanted to meet me here.”
“You’re Christina Pike?” He raised an eyebrow.
“Yes? What’s wrong?”
“Your mother said that you’re an atheist.”
“The Lord would never give power to an unbeliever.”
“My new ability has nothing to do with your religion.”
“Leave.” The man pulled himself up to his full height. “Blasphemer.”
The young woman made for the exit and shook her head. “Moron.”
“Christina Pike?” Several people entered. A man with a cane limped over to her.
“Would you heal us, please?”
“She’s an atheist,” proclaimed the man in the suit. “The Lord would never grant her power.”
“I’ll take my chances.” The crippled man gazed at the young woman and limped closer. “The things they say you can do.” He dropped to his knees before her.
“Oh get up. I’m human like you.” Christina helped him to his feet. Purple power flooded the cripple.
“My leg.” He took several cautious steps. “You healed me. Thank you.”
“She wields demonic magic, Tanner,” warned the man in the suit. “Christina’s here to lead you astray.”
“Anyone that heals another is not demonic, Pastor Nicholas.” Tanner smiled at Christina and held out his hand. “Name’s Bailey Tanner.”
“I will say no more on the subject.” The pastor strode out.
“Well.” Christina clapped her hands and rubbed them together. “Let’s get the rest of you fixed up.”
The phone woke Christina. It was ten past midnight. “Hello?”
“This is Anya Vaughn.” The woman sobbed a moment. “We met at the church.”
“What’s up.” Christina switched on her nightstand lamp and sat.
“My son.” Anya broke down and cried. “My son was killed by a drunk driver on his way home.”
“Little over an hour ago. Please, please, help.”
The women entered the hospital morgue. “Like I told you before,” said Christina, “I don’t know if I can help, but I’ll try.”
A mortician wheeled out a sheet covered cart. “You sure?” he asked. Anya nodded. The man pulled back the covering and revealed the blank stare of the youth.
The mother cried. “Give us a couple minutes,” Christina said to the man. The mortician left the room.
Energy crackled through the young woman. She looked at Anya. “A cat’s one thing, but a human? I don’t know.”
“Just don’t get your hopes up. It might not work.”
Anya nodded. Christina placed her hands on the body’s head and heart. The young woman closed her eyes.
Power built up in her already pulsing hands. They glowed blue in her mind’s eye. Christina willed the energy into the body.
A moment passed. More energy. Color returned to the youth. More energy.
The young man gasped and coughed. “Wha–”
Anya embraced him. “Oh God, Spencer your alive.”
“What happened?” The young man returned her hug.
“You died, but you’re back.” Anya looked at Christina. “Thank you.”
The young woman collapsed.
Christina awoke in a strange room. She was in a bed. “Where am I?” The young woman sat.
Anya and Spencer rushed to her bedside. “You passed out,” the woman answered. “We brought you to our place.”
“What did the hospital say?” Christina asked.
“Nothing, they stared at Spencer. Rest now.”
Christina was shaken awake. “Phone for you,” said Spencer.
Christina sat and took the phone. “Yes?” The young woman massaged her temples.
“Anya told me you performed another ‘miracle,’” said her mother.
“So, do you believe in God yet?”
“No. I wanted to help. If I have the power I will. Religion has nothing to do with it.”
“I need to see you at my church. I fell down the stairs and hurt my back.” Her mother hung up.
“Odd.” Christina handed back the phone.
“She wants to meet at her church. Seems fishy.”
“Don’t you trust your own mother?”
Christina entered the building. “I’m here.” A backdoor opened.
“Thank God,” said her mother. She limped toward her daughter. “I’m in so much pain.”
“C’mon,” said Christina, “have a seat.” Her mother did as instructed. The young woman’s hands vibrated with power. She saw pink in her mind’s eye.
Christina touched her parent’s back. Energy flowed into the older woman. Her pain evaporated. “You finally believe in God?” her mother asked.
“Why would I?”
“That’s all I needed to hear.” Pastor Nicholas stepped from an alcove, a rifle aimed at Christina. “Exodus 22:18: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. We had to see it for ourselves. Your mother voluntarily threw herself down the stairs to give you something to heal. Didn’t want you suspicious.”
“Always knew you were devil spawn.” The older woman smirked and backed away from her daughter. “You never liked church.”
Christina was too shocked to answer. Pastor Nicholas fired. The last thing the young woman saw was her mother’s smug grin over her.