Immediately the girl stood up and walked around…at this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
My mother taught me that the dead should stay dead. If spirits are good, they go to heaven, and if they’re not, they go to hell and they become a demon.
My mother would have said that this man is a demon. The Devil himself, or using his power, perhaps. She wouldn’t have approved of him at all, because this man can do things. He can heal people. Close up their wounds, banish their sicknesses and their demons. By the power of the Devil himself, perhaps, or maybe God as he says he is - but right now, my mother’s words are the least of my concerns. My daughter, my precious Keziah, does not have long to live, and I don’t have time for this…
The crowd does not seem to care, of course. All the crowd wants is their own sicknesses cured, their own injuries fixed. They are all gathered, shouting, pressing, jostling, the rough fabric of their clothes scraping against my skin, the mud from the ground sticking to my fine shoes…they do not seem to notice as I push desperately past them. I need to reach that man. He is my last hope - it matters not who gave him the powers he has.
After what seems like an eternity, spent in a stinking, sweaty, shouting mass of humanity, I break free of the crowd, and look up, and there he is, just like they described him! He looks at me calmly. The gang of fishermen standing around him are less so, but he is superbly unruffled, even as I stumble up and fall to my knees at his feet.
“My..my little daughter,” I gasp out. “She’s dying. Please, I’ve heard things…you’re my last…I’m begging you –“
I am not a little unnerved by his calm, flat gaze, a faint smile on his face.
“Please come and place your hands on her so that she will be healed, she will live –“
“Wait, hang on!” one of his disciple people from behind him says. “You can’t go around pushing to the front of the crowd, there’s a line and everything –“
He indicates the line. It’s a pretty big one.
“Oh, no,” says Jesus. “Jairus’ daughter needs me. She is sick, you say?”
“I said she was dying.”
“Yes. Deathly sick, she is indeed.”
I nod, bemused. “Right then…well…thanks. My house is up there…”
I point up the hill. One of the men snorts. Jealous of my wealth, I assume.
And so we set off, up the hill. Jesus doesn’t ask me any questions about my daughter. Perhaps he already knows.
The crowd is shouting, following, still pushing around us, desperate for healing, guidance, peace. For a moment, I wonder why Jesus is coming with me, and not the crowd. Perhaps he heals simply everyone, everyone who simply comes straight up and asks.
And then Jesus stops walking. I stumble, and nearly fall onto a group of people.
“Who touched my clothes?” Jesus said, and though the crowd’s voice is filling my ears, I can hear him clear as a bell.
“Um,” I say, “pick a person. Any person. Je – Master, there are so many people crowding around you…”
He is not listening. He is not craning his neck, or asking. He only needs to ask once. And now he waits.
“Master,” I hiss, my whole body jumpy and tight – “my daughter, she’s dying – please, does this even matter –“ And then unspoken words are: What if these few moments cost my daughter her life?
“Oh, that will not be an issue,” Jesus says.
Not quite knowing what to say to that, I settle for just waiting, tapping my feet impatiently. After a few moments that seem to stretch out forever, a woman shuffles forward, old and withered and bent. No – on second glance, she is not that old. But she is sick.
Her clothes are covered in blood.
She stammers out broken sentences, quivering, looking quite petrified under Jesus’ calm smile. He simply waits for her to finish. She ends up trailing off, clasping her thin hands together.
“Daughter, your faith has healed you,” he says calmly. “Go in peace and be freed from…”
I stop listening. There are shouts, from farther up the hill…I crane my neck to see.
My heart, already pumping wildly, seems to miss a beat, and it feels like boiling water has been poured down my throat and has settled in my stomach.
I can recognise them. They are servants, from my house, and they are calling out to me.
“Your daughter is dead!” I hear over the roar of the crowd, and my world stops and I grab Jesus’ wrist and I have drawn breath to shout, to yell, to scream my lungs out that they’re lying and it can’t be true –
“Don’t be afraid,” he says, and once again I can hear him over the shouts and yells. It does not calm me, and it does not remove my fear. It makes me shut up, though.
“Just believe,” he adds.
Believe in what? I assume he means God. I hope he’s not telling me to join a cult of the Devil.
But he is so calm that I find myself following on behind him, and I cannot believe that my daughter is dead. Literally, cannot believe, cannot accept, cannot comprehend it. She is not dead.
But we reach my house, and there are hired mourners there already. They are mourning, of course. Wailing, shrieking, crying - making a dreadful racket. She is dead, they lament, and I fall to my knees and stare at the ground.
“What’s all this?” Jesus says. “Why are you crying? The child is not dead, but asleep.”
He’s not human, I manage to realise through the haze of my thoughts. The man isn’t even bloody human.
The mourners’ cries trail off and they stare at him, some laughing nervously.
“Leave here,” he says. “Jairus orders it.”
I do? Oh. Indeed.
He guides me into my daughter’s room. I dimly sense that my wife is there, and Jesus’ disciples. And my daughter, Keziah, my beautiful child, is lying there on the sleeping mat, and she is not asleep, but dead. Dead.
She is still, she is cold, she has no pulse, her skin is too pale. Her eyes stare blank and empty. I know death when I see it.
Jesus steps forward, and kneels; and he picks up her hand, probably still warm. He is calm, utterly calm, and that faint smile rests on his face.
“Get up,” he tells her calmly, and then he waits.
Jesus does not force, he does not yell, he does not check to see if you heard. He just assumes that you heard. And then he waits. In this case, he does not need to wait.
Immediately, in swift, jerky movements, Keziah swings her legs around, and stands up.
Jesus straightens up and turns and smiles. I try to smile back, but there is no feeling of relief rushing through me to salvage the pain of loss. This feels too sudden, incomplete, wrong. There is only shock running through me, and acute unease.
Keziah has not blinked once. She walks stiffly to my side and takes my hand.
“See? She is awake now,” Jesus says.
My wife clutches Keziah, trying desperately to convince herself that her daughter is warm, alive, that she truly has woken. But her hand is cooling in mine.
“Don’t let anyone know about this,” Jesus says.
Keziah stands, stiff and still, eyes open in death. My hands shake. My mother always taught me that the dead should stay dead…
“You should give her something to eat,” he adds.
Yeah, we have a word for the undead. Zombies. *shudder* Never got over their obsession with feeding on brains.